On the whole Ally Mouthpiece Thing

24 09 2012

I think part of the whole “Ohgod why is this ally saying shitty stuff” comes from how we treat them. I’m not saying that that excuses shitty allyness; goodness knows they fuck up fine all on their own a lot of the time. But when you tell people “just shut up and repeat what we say”, then inevitably you get them repeating the stuff from the more facepalm-inducing members of a given community.

No member of a community is sacred or always right, even when they’re in an oppressed group, talking about things related to that group. This isn’t something we generally talk about, and I think that’s because there’s a subconcious vibe that this is a Dangerous Idea; we’d like to always be seen as right, especially on stuff related to us, and fuck knows we don’t need more allies coming along and saying “No, you’re wrong about this stuff related to you”. That’s a massive problem that we don’t need more of.

But we do need allies to engage their critical faculties, because there are rifts and disagreements and assholes in communities, and if they just signal boost every thing that a community says, then they end up amplifying the shit as much as the good stuff. I can’t comment on other groups, but fuck knows I don’t want allies to go away thinking that Curebies have the answer on autism, or Radfems on women, or Harry Benjamin Syndrome fangirls on trans issues.

So, yeah. I hear “Shut up and listen, then signal boost what we say” given a lot as the general advice for allies. While it can be a good rule of thumb, I think we risk encouraging them to disengage their critical faculties whenever they hear any one of Group X talk on this stuff. Which is never a good idea; It’s bad for us because they’ll parrot the assholes. It’s confusing as fuck for them because there are inevitably conflicting messages.

It’s easy to dismiss the latter as “yeah cis/male/white/straight/abled problems, whatever”, but it is a genuine problem. Some issues you can’t simultaniously hold Position X & Position Y as true without some serious cognitive juggling. A good rule of thumb at this point is “do you really need to hold an opinion on this anyway?”.

Sometimes however it is the case that they need to, as more often than not allies (and other people in positions of privilege) tend to be in positions of power where they make decisions that will seriously affect minority groups. If we just tell them to listen to two contradicting statements and somehow support them both, we just alienate them and they’ll end up either a) wandering off and making their own decision on the matter without any input from us, or b) accepting the first perspective they hear from any community member as true. We need to add an addemendum; “Listen and think about it.” Especially on issues where there’s visable community disagreement on an issue.

They’ll still get shit wrong (and at this point, who the fuck is they? I’m a I-hope ally to some groups, and certainly not a member. I think this applies to all of us to some degree) but it’s better than the idea that we’re always right, even when we contradict ourselves or say blatantly oppressive things.


Role Models, Heroes and Representation in King of Fighters.

2 08 2012

After my article expressing dismay at the disappointing parts of King of Fighters XIII, and the measured, reasonable responses I recieved from the fandom, I’ve thought a lot about what KoF means to me as a franchise, and which parts keep it in the library of games I still play and endure as my favourites.

I think the things that set KoF apart for me and make it worthwhile are the gameplay, the music and (most of) the characters. The latter is what I’m going to talk about today. King of Fighters has most of the best female fighting game characters out there in my opinion.

Read the rest of this entry »

King of Fighters XIII, and what it says about SNK’s views on women and minorities.

10 03 2012

So, I’m updating for the first time in ages. Is it the much-needed dealing-with-DLA post? Is it a protest update?

No, it’s rambling about videogames. Which, fuck, may not seem that important on the surface, but the way that people are portrayed in media shapes the audience’s ideas and behavior. If you disagree with that statement, I’m not going to spend pages arguing the point. There’s a wealth of information out there on how bigotted representations in media affect people’s ideas and behavior. I highly recommend you Google it before you form a response.

Anyway. There’s recently been a fair amount of controversy over sexism in the Fighting Game community. Looking at the most popular fighting games around right now (Street Fighter, Tekken, King of Fighters, Blazblue) it’s fairly easy to form an idea of how this would come about. But to say it’s a problem in fighting game fans is missing the point; it’s a problem in videogames in general. Women and minorities are treated like shit in the majority of mainstream games, regardless of genre. Resident Evil 5. Bayonetta. Batman: Arkham City. World of Warcraft. There are multiple examples in any genre. I’m not here to say fighting games are the worst, I think that’s a fairly pointless conversation. But King of Fighters XIII? Yeah, it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

First off, I have really, really wanted to like this game. SNK have been lagging behind Capcom for a while now, and I have little love for the latter. I got into King of Fighters on the recommendation of a friend after having played Street Fighter on and off for years, and the more fleshed out characters (Street Fighter’s roster are cardboard cut-outs, participating in a plot you’d expect to find on the back of a cereal box) and deeper gameplay system drew me in. So, I was eager to see XIII get a release date, and when it came out I quickly went out and bought it. I’d heard there was racism in XII, but I shared the hope that this (amid XII’s various other problems; not a loved game by the community) would be fixed.

Oh boy. What a treat I got.

Two of the strong, independant female characters (Yuri & King) had been given ‘special’ animations upon their defeat. If you beat either one with a special move, their tops get ripped off, exposing their breasts and underwear. Oh, joy. While blatantly wheeled out for the male gaze, they had precedent within the series, leading to many defending them as a callback to their early days as characters.

The character King from Art of Fighting, showing her breasts and tattered clothing.

Truly a golden time. I can see why any company would want to bring back such memories for their fans. Beaten foes are depicted in many ways in videogames. Angry, hurt, despairing, defiant, disbelieving; What’s creepy is when this is used with female characters to make them sexy.  Because heck, when’s a better time to oggle a woman’s titties than when you’ve literally beaten the clothes off of her, right?

Stills from King and Yuri's special defeat animations.

You would have hoped that during the 20 years since Art of Fighting, SNK might want to show how far their characters have progressed. But, no. Under the paper-thin guise of reminesence (seriously, you’d want to reminesce over misogyny in your old games by adding new, similar misogyny to your new ones?), characters who’ve gained depth and meaning over the past two decades are reduced to delicious female objects for the ‘loving’ gaze of the fanboys.

Then there’s Mai. Mai.. Has always been a fanservice character. I’m really not sure what to make of her. Words fail me, so hopefully a picture will do.

The character Mai Shiranui from The King of Fighters XIII, showing her oversized, bouncing breasts.

Yep. Those are breasts.

Honestly, in a game where there was more equal graphical ‘love’ given to the men, I wouldn’t mind Mai so much. Obviously in contemporary society male and female representation and objectification are hugely unequal, but it would have been easier for me to swallow if, say, Ash Crimson or Benimaru were given similar levels of fanservice. It would have been at least a nod to SNK knowing that women are people, and that they have fans outside of stereotypical male gamers; Drooling virgin post-adolescent straight men. I know plenty of guys who find this kind of thing uncomfortable, not to mention embarressing to play. But apparently the fanbase that SNK seek to cater for are those who enjoy this kind of fanservice, and would feel strange and uncomfortable emotions if they were presented with the possibility that a male could be portrayed similarly. To compound the problem, many of the male members of the cast spend their time slut-shaming Mai for how she acts. So; let’s dress our character up to be a slut, then shame and demean her for it through the voice of our male cast. Women should only be sexy when they’ve been beaten up, right? The image SNK holds of their fanbase is looking to be a pretty fucking unpleasant one.

When I started playing, the first thing that leapt out at me in XIII was the jungle stage. Instead of improving and getting rid of the racism in XII (Chinese people are given all the dignity of a yellow menace propoganda poster), they’ve taken it to even worse extremes. I mean, wow. A jungle full of squat, half-human black people in loincloths, skirts and tribal paint, with pot bellies, puffy lips, blank, unintelligent eyes and.. Fuck. You get the idea. This left me floored when I first saw it, as to how any developer in 2011 could take that design and go “Yeah, this is a really good idea for our game”.

A screencap of King of Fighters XIII, showing the jungle tribe in the background.

Brazil Stage from KoF XIII; Zoomed to show an example background character.


There’s some debate over whether these people are even supposed to be human or not. Some of them seem to have tails, whereas from their use of clothing and tools, they seem pretty obviously meant as having human cognitive abilities. If this is meant as a screen to defend against allegations of racism, it’s a piss-poor one. It doesn’t matter whether they’re meant as human or not; they’re a mess of some of the worst stereotypes of people of colour, and making them inhuman if anything makes that worse.  The confusing part of this being, King of Fighters has a rich history of characters of various ethnicities, who are usually treated as fairly as any others. So it seems like here SNK have specifically created a species to encapsulate their perception of ethnic minorities. People have tried this approach before. It doesn’t work.

So, yeah. I’m not sure how much I can say on this point; I’m not a member of an ethnic minority group, so I can’t speak about how this directly affects me. While it makes me uncomfortable to see such demeaning portrayals, I can only percieve it from a white perspective, and call such instances when I see them. Which is probably why I was able to ignore this aspect for a while and still play the game.
Don’t worry though, everyone! King of Fighters XIII has enough fail for all of us to enjoy!

An audience clapping.

How about some transphobia? The 5 o’clock shadow ugly transwoman is a comedy classic, after all! C’mon, let’s wheel that one out.

Stage from KoF XIII, showing two female-presenting people with shadowing around the beard area.

It’s fairly hard to see here, but those two at the leftmost side of the girls group have been given beard-shadowing. As we all know, trans women are all ultra-feminine, but we always leave our faces covered in shadow for comic effect. Looking closer, they’ve been put at a distance from the other female bystanders, and are the only ones who’ve not been given the ‘classic’ female facial features exhibited in the ones to the right.

The power of zoom compells you!

Stage from KoF XIII, zoomed in, showing two stereotype trans women alongside a group of presumably cisgendered women.

Again, people might argue this one. But then, why would SNK make the colouring on these two’s faces markedly different in the beard area, then seperate them off from the other girls, then give them more masculine facial features (brow, jawline)? I think anyone who argues that they’re still not meant to be trans at this point is looking  more than a little desperate. But hey, let’s look at how SNK treats overtly-trans people! That’ll give us a bead on how to read this, right?

The ending for the Fatal Fury Team in KoF XIII, showing a stereotyped trans woman going to kiss a horrified Joe..


Ending of Fatal Fury Team from KoF XIII, showing a trans woman chasing Joe.

Oh god.

Joe, now kissed and embraced by the trans woman, is visibly emaciated, and his spirit drifts out of his body. His teammates look amused and horrified.

Excuse me while I go headdesk a bottle of whiskey.

So; The same portrayal of trans people. Feminine clothing, overtly male build (compare the two in the stage screenshot to their companions to the right; one looks similar to this example, the other fat enough to be androgynous), masculine features, 5 o’clock shadow. In this scene, Andy and Terry are both embraced by female members of the King of Fighters cast. Joe is instead embraced by this trans woman, who chases him down and kisses him, which apparently horrifies Joe enough to leave him an emaciated husk, with his ghost drifting up out of his body as he tries to pretend this hasn’t happened. His teammates look either disgusted/concerned or amused.

Yes, we do devote our lives to forcing ourselves onto poor, innocent cisgendered men, either through ‘trickery’ or brute force. In fact, our whole aim in life is to evoke disgust and revulsion in others. Our only redeeming trait is that we, by inflicting this horrible fate on others, may induce some humour through schaudenfraude. Laugh at us. It’s all we’re good for.

Or, that’s a sickening stereotype that should have been taken out and shot long, long ago, but is kept alive by shitty writers who can’t be arsed to come up with fresh material, and so trot us out as a cheap and easy shot because they’re bigotted fucks,  and instead we’re actual human beings. Along with other women. And ethnic minorities.

Yeah, SNK can go fuck themselves. I’ve tried to like them, as they’re one of the few alternatives to Capcom in the 2D fighting market, but they’ve gone out of their way to alienate, objectify and ridicule anyone who strays from their target audience, taking the cheapest, most outdated stereotypes and portrayals and making it seem as if the past 20 years in videogame progression had never happened. The ‘ideal’ fans they seem to be catering for are apparently a group of sexually-repressed straight white cisgendered guys, who see ethnic minorities as subhuman, women as objects and trans people as beings of scorn and disgust. Anyone who isn’t a member of this elite crowd is going to be left feeling very uncomfortable by many of the aspects in this game.

Fuck you, SNK. Fuck you.

Signal Boosting an Excellent Article on Welfare Reform: “The Square Root of Nothing”

29 01 2012


On Guilt and Surviving

18 01 2012

This post is for all those disabled people who feel guilty for not ‘doing enough’, even when they’re scraping by on benefits/unofficial support networks, and often living on the edge of financial, physical and psychological ruin on a regular basis.

You don’t owe anyone your life. That doesn’t just mean a plate of bread and a glass of water, that means the things you need to get by. The things that aid you in ways that others may not comprehend. The time you spend with friends. The money you spend making your life bearable. The treats you cherish because they make wading through the daily shitpile worth it for a little while longer.

I know how much it hurts when you see others throwing so much into fights that you know to be vital. The self-hatred that comes creeping round when a dozen threats are looming over you and those you care about, and you can’t be there to raise your voice with the rest. The feelings of inferiority that comes when others are ennobled for giving the energy you never had. What I’m trying to say is that that guilt is misplaced. You are not lazy for not burning yourself out on the bonfire of activism. You are not greedy for spending money making your life bearable, or even enjoyable. You are not less for not being dealt a hand full of aces. And you are not guilty for not giving what you need to The Cause.

This part is just as important to remember. By doing all those things, by surviving, you are fighting, too. It would make it so much easier for those in power if the disabled did not exist, or just curled up and died. By resisting that, by living, you are fighting them. It may be a way so small as to seem insignificant, but it still matters. You are another cripple on the street. You are another disabled person on their registers. You are another stain in their pristine uniformity that won’t come out no matter how hard they try and wash you away. You exist, and thus you contribute to that same fight. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

If all of this sounds like excuses for not being brave, for not being noble or just or great, then consider the noise in the background. We live in a society where we are constantly barraged by the idea that everyone has the same chance, that everyone can do whatever they want with some elbow-grease and some goddamned bootstraps. This is a lie. Meritocracy and all it’s rhetoric comes apart at the seams if you look hard enough, and while it may be ubiquituous in it’s broadcast, that doesn’t make it right. Great people were more often than not dealt great hands at the start, and they always had ones that they could build up with. If you find you can only scrape by with your own, that doesn’t make you a lesser person.

Letter to the Panorama Team at the BBC, in Response to “Britain on the Fiddle”

4 11 2011


I am writing to you to express my disappointment with your program, specifically it’s portrayal of disabled people. You consistently misrepresent the facts (eg: Lumping together fraud & error statistics to make the former appear larger) and paint disabled people in Britain as nothing more than scrounging parasites. You present participation in sports such as sailing or cycling as scandalous evidence of lack of disablement, which is not only a clear error (which highlights the lack of research done by the program makers), but is also an extremely dangerous one to make, as it actively contributes to the atmosphere of violence which is directed towards disabled people in this time of economic hardship. Your program has severely cut short my own attempts to return to the sports I enjoy, as I worry that if I do so I will be at risk of violence, harrassment and institutional persecution. This is a direct result of the misinformation spread during your program.

I had hoped that a program with such a history of journalistic integrity would strive to live up to it’s heritage. I see now that this hope was ill-founded.”

Anyone who wishes to join me on this can contact the Panorama team at: panorama.reply@bbc.co.uk

Signal Boosting: Journeys with Autism Reply to SBC

20 09 2011

An extremely well written article taking apart the assumptions made by Simon-Baron-Cohen in his book on autistic people and psychopaths (“Zero Degrees of Empathy” or “The Science of Evil”, depending on where it’s published). Isn’t it comforting to have this guy as one of the leading professional voices on your mindstate?