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Gender and the spirits

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Ameena
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Well, not everyone is going to follow the same pattern - as a kid I sat in my room and played with toy monsters and made them fight each other and stuff, and never owned a Barbie doll or anything like that. I never liked pink because it was "a girly colour" (which shows some gender-based influence right there) and never wanted to wear make-up or anything like that (and still don't). I would sit and watch my dad playing on the computer and would go on there myself whenever it was free (sometimes having arguments with my younger sister about whose turn it was), and look at the Bestiary section of the many Fantasy RPGs we owned just to admire the cool pictures of various monsters with big pointy teeth and stuff. But I've always had this thing where I don't like being told what to do, and I don't like doing stuff if I think it's what someone else wants, because then I'll feel like they'll think I only did it because they told me to. Some people's brains evidently just react to these kind of messages differently but they're there, however subtle, from the moment we're born.

An example from the documentary I mentioned above - some toys were laid out on the floor of a room. These toys included stuff like a doll, a pink teddy bear, a plastic robot, a rocking horse, a squishy worm/caterpillar thingy, and a toy car. Then some children only a few months old had their clothes swapped so that the girls were dressed in things like trousers and baggy shirts which tended to be coloured blue, and the boys were now wearing things like pink dresses. Then each child was given to a volunteer who was asked to play with them for a while. One volunteer was given a child they were told was called Sophie (actually a boy called Edward) and what did she do? Sat the "girl" down and started holding up things like the doll and the pink teddy and trying to encourage "her" to play with them (meanwhile Edward actually seemed more interested in poking around with the robot). So she was somewhat surprised afterwards when she was told the chlid's real name and admitted that her treatment of the child had been influenced by the way that child was dressed and their preconceived notions of what a child of that apparent sex "should" be interested in. It was the same story with the other kids and volunteers - they all tried to get their given child to play with stuff based on whether they thought the child was a girl or a boy (dolls and soft toys for the girls, cars and robots and stuff for the boys).

That's just one example, of course, but all the adults concerned were surprised when they had their thinking pointed out to them and admitted that they were treating their given child differently based solely on whether they thought said child was a girl or a boy. So adults can and do influence children's views of the world (and themselves) without realising it. The teacher at the school shown in the documentary was called out early on on the fact that he kept calling the girls things like "love", "darling", "sweet pea" and the boys things like "mate" and "fella". It all adds up.


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Jeysie
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My parents let me play with or try pretty much whatever I wanted that was in our budget. My dad was a big geek and nerd so he taught me about tech and science and had me watch scifi TV shows with him. I used to watch both Jem and GI Joe, had epic battles with my Barbie dolls and Voltron figures, I still have a picture of me wearing a boy's Nintendo sweatshirt combined with a frilly denim ruffle skirt. I remember how all the shows I watched were frequently either 60-40 or 50-50 in gender split, in an area where the teachers and so on also made sure to let girls do anything and teach in gender-neutral ways.

And yet growing up there was still that gender divide in everyone else. I became "one of the boys" not because I hated other girls but because generally the other girls treated my "boy side" as weird and gross, while the boys didn't care about my "girl side". The "sisterhood" thus ended up as a thing for other girls that it was made very clear I didn't fit into and wasn't wanted in.

So a lot of gender discussion ends up being confusingly wrong to me. The narrative is how women are all peaceful angels versus men being all oppressive and violent, and yet 100% of the physical bullying and 75% of the verbal bullying was done to me by other women, while in turn most of the people who strongly supported me were men. The claims about what men think and do bears little to no resemblance to the men I've known over the years, not to even the jerk men. The narrative is how lady geeks are gatekept and chased off by male geeks, yet again for me the mockery and policing all came from other women, while men in general have been indifferent to or even supportive of my being a geek. (I've certainly met male geeks who were jerks, of course, but they weren't jerks to me because I was a woman.) And it feels like constantly being told by other women how gross and weird my hobbies are has continued unabated, just substitute "problematic" for "gross and weird".

I don't have a problem with other women who weren't so lucky in what they dealt with from men talking about their experiences, but it upsets me that my own experiences aren't even on the radar. Especially when it feels like also bashing the men who were either supportive to me at best or jerks in totally different ways from what's talked about at worst.

There's also an element of "even though we in the sisterhood do nothing but tell you how you're doing being a woman wrong and you're weird and wrong compared to other women, we want you to unquestioningly support the sisterhood anyway" and I'm like, yeah, uhm, I don't know if I'm OK with this. Can you first stop telling me I'm Doing Being a Woman Wrong, and then we can talk about the sisterhood?


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

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To throw yet another piece into the puzzle:

 

A few years ago I had a class where we went to Comic-con to do an anthropolgy study. It was a super fun class, and I decided to tackle an easy subject "Women in Comics" because I'm crazy. However, within the first few days I had to broaden my topic to "Gender in Comics", because I noticed a few things about the male side of this whole equation.

 

The biggest moment for me came from an old comic writer (wolf something? I think he worked on Vampirella) where he shared a story of a comic series he tried to pitch to his boss back in the 70's. The pitch was essentially an all-woman team of superheroes, fighting crime and stopping villainy and doing all the things superheroes do. His boss immediately quashed the idea, not because "women can't be heroes" or something stupid like that. It was because 70% of their readership was male, and "boys won't read something like that, but girls will read anything".

 

Now, of course, girls "read anything" because they weren't really given a lot of choice in the matter, but it was that first part that struck me. Most of my favorite characters in literature are women, far outweighing the men, and they are generally pretty awesome people, but when I was younger and still a fan of anime there were a lot of shows I loved that I never talked about with anyone, because to a degree I was ashamed for likeing them.

 

The big one I remember was "Maria watches over us" which is essentially a slice-of-life story about some girls in an all-girls catholic school. Nothing much happens, there isn't a lot of action, and it is simply how the characters interact with each other. Everything told me this was a show that as a boy, I was supposed to not like it, but man did I love those characters and how some of them were very composed and traditional and the others were goofy and silly and it was a great show.

 

Things have been changing slowly, but I imagine it is still the case that a boy who likes "girly things" like those sort of shows or the Bachelor or who knows what, is still going to be pretty ruthlessly mocked and derided.

 

 

Though picturing it, it would be moslty men who would mock them, and that is pretty indicative. We police our own gender, not each others, as a general rule of thumb. And I wonder if taking a more multi-faceted approach to equality in some areas would yeild better results than just focusing on one gender or the other.

 

Of course, striving for gender equality while another section of society is just working on blowing up the whole concept of a gender divide is kind of difficult in its own right.

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Chaosmancer wrote:

"boys won't read something like that, but girls will read anything".

A few years ago, a friend of mine was flying on the same plane as Howie Mandel, when he was doing the show "Deal or No Deal". She asked him why were there always women on the show, why can't it sometimes be men? Howie gave her the same line. Men won't watch it if there are men on the show, but women will watch it if women are on the show.

 


Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.
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Chaosmancer wrote:

We police our own gender, not each others, as a general rule of thumb. And I wonder if taking a more multi-faceted approach to equality in some areas would yeild better results than just focusing on one gender or the other. Of course, striving for gender equality while another section of society is just working on blowing up the whole concept of a gender divide is kind of difficult in its own right.

Sometimes I wonder if this is the reason for my own oddball experiences. MA being the usually progressive place that it is, it's likely that what happened is that all the laser focus on male behavior is what produced the situation of men who are generally reasonable towards women on gender issues and women who heavily police each other. We "solved" one side of the issue but did absolutely nothing for the other side.

Though I will say I don't think we really addressed inter-gender policing for men either. I remember particularly vividly how I had a guy pal as a kid who was very short for his age (shorter than I was, even), and he got viciously teased for it. He was constantly getting in trouble because the other boys kept always goading him relentlessly until he finally would snap and took a swing at them to get them to shut up, and then they'd act all angelic so only he would get punished. (I tried several times to stick up for him by pointing out to the teachers how I was seeing all the constant teasing the kids were doing to him, but just got blown off every time.)

Chaosmancer wrote:

Of course, striving for gender equality while another section of society is just working on blowing up the whole concept of a gender divide is kind of difficult in its own right.

Yeah, the whole "let's bust the gender binary" confuses me even more in a lot of ways, as someone who is basically "non gender conforming cisperson". I want the right for everyone to do whatever they feel comfortable with and still be accepted as normal, and I'm personally a sort of even mix of masculine and feminine, but I'm also still a woman-person.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Silverleaf
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For me there are multiple issues when it comes to gender representation in games, and to be quite honest I see this as an ongoing process so what I generally ask for isn't what I eventually want the status quo to be.

It would be lovely to snap my fingers and have everything equal, with lots of different and diverse characters representing a wide variety of people. Realistically though this will only happen a little at a time - look how much pushback there is when I just ask for an explorer sculpt that isn't overwhelmingly masculine!

I'd settle right now for just more females to balance out the huge disparity that already exists, but my vision is for much more than that. I want diverse characters in every way rather than just a token black person and a token women in a chain mail bikini, and the male characters could definitely be more diverse too.

 

In real life, I think different people are affected by society's expectations in different ways, and I also think that despite the fact that we live in a world that is much more open and tolerant than when I was growing up, in many ways there is much more pressure to conform to gender stereotypes nowadays, especially for children.

Part of "busting the gender divide" for me is allowing everyone to be the person they are whatever gender they identify as. There's nothing wrong with being a pink and glittery princess girl if that's what you like, and there's nothing wrong with liking those things if you aren't a girl either. I just want to get rid of the idea that you have to like certain things and behave certain ways just because you happen to have been born with particular sexual organs.

And yes, these gender pressures are just as toxic for males as they are for females and no-binary people.


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Silverleaf wrote:

look how much pushback there is when I just ask for an explorer sculpt that isn't overwhelmingly masculine!

My own pushback was less with your desire for a feminine sculpt, and more that you framed it as "people don't see women as competent" when I think it's more "people don't see women as violent". Because the examples of "competence" you listed--and the invaders in this case--revolved around war and violence, and because resistance towards the idea that women can be destructively violent is strong even among progressives.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Silverleaf
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Jeysie wrote:
Silverleaf wrote:
look how much pushback there is when I just ask for an explorer sculpt that isn't overwhelmingly masculine!

My own pushback was less with your desire for a feminine sculpt, and more that you framed it as "people don't see women as competent" when I think it's more "people don't see women as violent". Because the examples of "competence" you listed--and the invaders in this case--revolved around war and violence, and because resistance towards the idea that women can be destructively violent is strong even among progressives.

Correction: I wanted a gender neutral sculpt, not a feminine one. I was arguing that explorers would not just be male and that it was inappropriate for them to be portrayed as exclusively male, just as it would be inappropriate for them to be exclusively female - realistically you'd need both males and females to ultimately create settlements, homesteads, whatever.

I totally agree that women can be violent, there are countless real-world examples of this. The majority of violence is perpetrated by males, but that of course doesn't mean it's an exclusively male trait. I'm totally happy with the portrayal of individuals of any gender as violent (or non-violent) so I think we're on the same page here, but I do want to point out that it's very easy to disrail conversations about gender inequality by pointing out that women can be the perpetrators of violence and abuse too. (I also want to point out that I don't think you are actually doing this.)

I have totally seen examples of gamers on BGG whose problem with certain female characters in other games was definitely not that they thought women couldn't be violent, as they were perfectly happy with something like a female wizard with offensive spells. It was more that they thought women can't be good at traditionally male activities when they were willing to suspend disbelief over much more fantastical ideas.

I also don't see exploring in Spirit Island as inherently violent anyway. Eric says ravaging is basically farming, so I'm guessing that exploring is families building their individual homes/farms in a previously uncolonised place, who will later be joined by other families (building) which will eventually necessitate intensive farming, mining, etc (ravaging). I assume the damage done to Dahan during ravaging represents things like destruction of their hunting grounds, loss of important foraging areas and such, rather than directly killing them. As much as I like to describe the action of a single explorer ravaging as a bunch of people futilely thrusting their swords into the ground or shooting guns into the empty sky, invader actions don't feel like violence as much as unthinking destruction.


Just assume I'm always doing that.

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Silverleaf wrote:

Eric says ravaging is basically farming, so I'm guessing that exploring is families building their individual homes/farms in a previously uncolonised place, who will later be joined by other families (building) which will eventually necessitate intensive farming, mining, etc (ravaging).

Yes - exactly!

Quote:
I assume the damage done to Dahan during ravaging represents things like destruction of their hunting grounds, loss of important foraging areas and such, rather than directly killing them. As much as I like to describe the action of a single explorer ravaging as a bunch of people futilely thrusting their swords into the ground or shooting guns into the empty sky, invader actions don't feel like violence as much as unthinking destruction.

It's partly that sort of thing(*), but also the physical conflicts resulting from that encroachment. As soon as Invaders show up, little conflicts begin; Ravage represents it boiling over into the Invaders taking organized action. They might think of it as "making sure we're safe" / "protecting what's ours" / "reprisal for that time last year", or it might be a horrible misinterpretation of what the Dahan declaring a grievance-war with them means, but it does involve outright bloodshed.

(Though an Adversary which didn't take it that far could be interesting - where in place of the usual damage Invaders + Dahan Push each other. Probably only at lower Terror Levels, though.)

(*) =  Perhaps more 'land appropriation' than "hunting-ground destruction", as the Dahan are more agrarian/herders than hunters.... though they do hunt some.

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This topic is interesting to me as my 9 yr old daughter is facing the street level reality of it right now.

She is growing up in a family where her mother has a master's degree and is a manager, while her dad dropped out of college to help get her mother through grad school and is now a stay at home dad.  We were a bit crazy about making sure she wasn't pinked and dolled, we had wrestle time and caught bugs and played sports and sword fights.  Her brother had a similar push, getting dolls and pink about as much as his sister (read they both got as close to a balance of everything as we could pull off).

Cecily plays 3 sports, is the youngest girl in our schools accelerated program, and is on a great pace in science and math.

But we've already started to see changes.  She doesn't want to run for student council because a very popular girl is running and Cecily is afraid she'd win, upsetting the girl and possibly upsetting Cecily's social standing in school, which went from that weird girl to the weird girl who is our goalie so don't make fun of her.  She's more than once been sad because boys she plays basketball with at recess say she's smart, while they call other girls pretty, even ones that said she was pretty before they talked to her much.  

She ends up handling it well, but we see the changes, and trying to root through what is her becoming herself, and what is her trying to fit into a changing socio-gender world as she and her peers grow older.

These small things matter.  She is pushing against a flow of socialization that hits her stronger every time another girl or boy among her peers buys in.  When a friend of hers from soccer quits because she can be more popular by cheerleading, or a boy with no malice remarks that girls don't play basketball at recess, it pushes her to follow the flow.

We work hard to expose her to reinforcement that the girl she is is the right girl for her to be, and give her neutral space where she can do science or whatever without being special or weird.  (She really dislikes when adults tell her she's exceptional for doing what she does while being a girl)

Every single small detail that says "you are normal" is encouraging to her.  But much more than that, every small detail that says "Cecily is normal" to her peers can give her time to catch her breath as she swims against the current of socialization.  Never mind encouraging them to embrace their individual self as well.

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Has anybody here read Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire?  It's a novella (technically a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, although it can be read perfectly fine on it's own) about two twin sisters and how they learn to find themselves while trying to escape the roles their parents cast for them.


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phantaskippy wrote:

She's more than once been sad because boys she plays basketball with at recess say she's smart, while they call other girls pretty, even ones that said she was pretty before they talked to her much.

This reminds me of how in a world where oversexualization of women is the overriding discourse, it can be really hard to get across how demoralizing being desexualized can feel.

Because while being called smart can feel good, noticing that it comes in an absence of ever being called pretty can make you feel like you don't really count as a woman versus being viewed as a "guy with boobs" or genderless blob or everyone's kid/big sister.

(It also doesn't help that I grew up in the decades where sentiments like "you have a nice personality" were code for "you're so ugly you should put a bag over your head but I don't want to be rude so I have to think up something nice to say instead".)

And when you can't complain about the number of male friends you have, but you notice how as more and more years go by you're the only woman you personally know who still has no husband or boyfriend to go with said friends. (I already have my mom's family starting to stare at me pointedly as "the only cousin who's not married yet" and I just want to go "look it's not like I'm not trying...")

Ironically this is one area where gender studies narratives made it so harder for me. When I was a teenager I just assumed that well it kinda sucks being literally the only girl in my class who can't get a date to save her life but surely I can't be the only woman who struggles with that.

Then I gained knowledge of the wider gender studies discourse where apparently no I really am the only woman who can't get a date to save her life AND on top of it there's all these other allegedly "universal" woman experiences I actually never had (and also conversely experiences I had that apparently no other woman has had) and that's when I really started having gender identity issues and feeling crappy about my being non-gender-conforming.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Silverleaf
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Jeysie wrote:
phantaskippy wrote:
She's more than once been sad because boys she plays basketball with at recess say she's smart, while they call other girls pretty, even ones that said she was pretty before they talked to her much.

This reminds me of how in a world where oversexualization of women is the overriding discourse, it can be really hard to get across how demoralizing being desexualized can feel.Because while being called smart can feel good, noticing that it comes in an absence of ever being called pretty can make you feel like you don't really count as a woman versus being viewed as a "guy with boobs" or genderless blob or everyone's kid/big sister.(It also doesn't help that I grew up in the decades where sentiments like "you have a nice personality" were code for "you're so ugly you should put a bag over your head but I don't want to be rude so I have to think up something nice to say instead".)And when you can't complain about the number of male friends you have, but you notice how as more and more years go by you're the only woman you personally know who still has no husband or boyfriend to go with said friends. (I already have my mom's family starting to stare at me pointedly as "the only cousin who's not married yet" and I just want to go "look it's not like I'm not trying...")Ironically this is one area where gender studies narratives made it so harder for me. When I was a teenager I just assumed that well it kinda sucks being literally the only girl in my class who can't get a date to save her life but surely I can't be the only woman who struggles with that.Then I gained knowledge of the wider gender studies discourse where apparently no I really am the only woman who can't get a date to save her life AND on top of it there's all these other allegedly "universal" woman experiences I actually never had (and also conversely experiences I had that apparently no other woman has had) and that's when I really started having gender identity issues and feeling crappy about my being non-gender-conforming.

I don't think I really got over being unattractive until I realised that most of the physical attractiveness I envied in other people was an accident of genetics which they had no control over at all. (Sure, you can improve the way you look with hair and clothes and makeup and such, but if you start out ugly you're never going to be really beautiful.) I didn't choose my level of attractiveness so I don't need to be ashamed, and my gorgeous friends don't get to be proud of their good fortune genetically either.

But we put so much value on physical attractiveness as a society that I can never actually tell anyone I know I'm unattractive without them falling over themselves to reassure me that I'm actually beautiful (and trust me, I'm not). Most people actually can't understand that I now genuinely don't care that I'm not. Really, I'm over it. Beauty is nice, but it's absolutely not everything, and I would a hundred times rather be complimented on my personality because I've worked hard to be this awesome. ;)


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

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 At the risk of derailing this thread further, I'll note that being attractive is 70% confidence, 20% presentation (eg. how you dress), and 10% raw physical looks. The last one isn't that important, and even that one you have *some* control over through exercise.

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Silverleaf wrote:

and I would a hundred times rather be complimented on my personality because I've worked hard to be this awesome. ;)

Unfortunately until I stop getting told variants on "you're a nice girl but I just don't like you that way" all the time I'm not going to have the luxury of seeing "you have a nice personality" as a legitimate compliment as opposed to a polite putdown of my looks (or whatever else it is about me that makes me be desexualized).

I mean, it's easy to say "beauty isn't everything" when a lack of beauty isn't preventing you from getting some of the things in life that you want. I don't so much envy beautiful women for their beauty as I envy them the experience of being desired and loved that beauty nets them that I don't get to have.

It's a bit like a rich person who never has to worry about being homeless or starving saying "money isn't everything" to a poor person who can barely afford groceries or rent. (Actually, as someone who is also poor, I can say from lived experience it's EXACTLY like that.)

And sorry for derailing things, :X, it's just so hard to read gender studies stuff when so many of the axioms used during the discourses are based on only a narrow subset of people with a narrow subset of life experiences without it ever being disclaimed anywhere that that's the case.

So it's hard not ending up as the person who has to go "well, actually" all the time because I'm often stuck having to be the designated representative of all those other people and experiences the gender studies people haven't taken into consideration yet.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

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When I was at school I filled the role of "that weird kid that no-one wants to grup with or talk to for some unspoken/unknown reason". I never dressed the same way as anyone else or wore the same kind of clothes as them (note that I went to an all-girls secondary school and even though the Sixth Form was mixed, there were very few boys so I never really spoke to any after Junior School). Eventually the most dreaded term a teacher could use when giving us work to do was "group work", which for me meant "sit there while everyone else gets themselves into groups, then get put into one of those groups by the teacher because I don't have one and then sit there bored while everyone else talks amongst themselves and completely ignores me".

I ended up coming to the conclusion that if people are gonna judge me by my appearance and decide not to have anything to do with me just because I don't wear short skirts (or, indeed any kind of skirt or dress) or whatever, then they're just proving to me that they're so shallow as to be not worth bothering with. The whole "trying to attract someone's attention in order to engage in intimate physical activities" issue is moot for me since I've never been interested in that so it's not something I've ever tried to do or would have any clue about anyway.

So yeah...the whole thing where people chagne their appearance in order to attract the attention of other people has never really made sense to me - why would you want to encourage someone to judge you purely on your appearance? Wouldn't you rather just talk to them and stuff and find out about each other that way? This is getting somewhat away from the gender subject now, though, so maybe we should try to veer back onto the original subject of the thread somehow :D.


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Ameena wrote:

The whole "trying to attract someone's attention in order to engage in intimate physical activities" issue is moot for me since I've never been interested in that so it's not something I've ever tried to do or would have any clue about anyway.So yeah...the whole thing where people chagne their appearance in order to attract the attention of other people has never really made sense to me - why would you want to encourage someone to judge you purely on your appearance?

Basically it's because for a lot of things in life even beyond dating, it ends up being a choice between "worry about the things required to get a thing you want or need, or be miserable trying to get by without the thing you want or need".

I would be totally happy if I could get to have someone be attracted to me via doing nothing but being myself and talking to people and connecting to them emotionally, but since that empirically doesn't work, then I don't have much of a choice but to consider having to just learn to put in a bunch of fuss about gaining the things required to be seen as attractive.

I find having to figure out how to do things like grow out and style my hair and put on makeup to be a pain, but I find not having a love life to also be a pain, so it's a question you have to ask yourself.

And as was alluded to earlier in phantaskippy's stories about his daughter, this can lead to even more onerous decisions like having to choose "Do I want to be a smart girl in STEM or do I want to get to have a love life, since smart girls are often desexualized and otherwise viewed as unattractive?"

A similar dynamic shows up in how in order to find a job people are forced to do a boatload of "Playing the Finding Work Game" actions even when knowing how to do those actions will have no relevance whatsoever while working the actual job you're trying to get.

So you end up with similar failure dynamics there, too. Playing the "Dating Game" penalizes people who are bad at improving their looks and performing as their gender correctly, and playing the "Finding Work Game" penalizes people who are bad at social skills or don't have the resources for things like building networks and having internships and diplomas. Even when someone would otherwise make a great boyfriend or girlfriend or even when someone would otherwise be a great worker.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Chaosmancer
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One of the things that bothers me the most about me personally, excepting my general lack of self-esteem, is that I have met many amazing women who are funny and smart and generally great people, that I am absolutely not physically attracted to.

 

I know it is essentially brainwashing, that the images in my head are products put there by a variety of marketing and ad agencies that were pushing an agenda that I want no part of, but... I can't unflip that switch. I can't choose to be attracted to women who should deserve it (that's a weird sentence and sentiment isn't it? I hope my intent is clearer than the language I'm using). It sickens me at times, because it is wrong to how I want to view the world and how I want to be, but I can't seem to change it.

 

Maybe it will get better as I get older, I'm pretty young still, but it is something that eats away at me at certain times when I realize that there is an awesome person I'm talking to, and I wonder about how they look instead of the fun we're having talking about DnD or Fantasy Tropes or TV shows.

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I have the exact opposite thing: I'm only attracted to people once I get to know them really well and feel really compatible with them. So I ended up with a lot of friends I fell in love with (which of course didn't work out) and trying to figure out flirting and our "physical attraction first" dating culture is still a thing of pure puzzlement.

I remember for the longest time as a teen I was pretty sure I was ace or gay, because of stuff like how the other girls would be gushing over the latest popular guy to gush over and I'd just be uncertainly like "Uh... I mean, I guess I can see how he's kinda cute?" and the other girls would look at me like I was bonkers.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Silverleaf
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We can't help what we're attracted to and we shouldn't feel ashamed about it.

I definitely think the media has an influence (particularly on what straight men feel like they are "allowed" to find attractive in women) but a lot of what's traditionally physically attractive has a basis in biology that's hardwired. (Obviously many people have preferences for traits that aren't the "ideal", but the "ideal" is fairly universal across cultures.)

And yeah, it's helpful in many way to be beautiful and to have "ideal" physical characteristics, and it gives you loads of advantages that us uglier types just don't have, and not just in the "finding a partner" part of life. It sucks, but there it is. But there are other traits that will make up for lack of conventional beauty in non-romantic life at least, as long as you're not dealing with someone who's shallower than a kid's paddling pool when all the water's been splashed out.

We all find different things attractive and those things aren't always physical. Sometimes people find certain physical traits attractive that are kind of the opposite of what society says they should like - a female friend of mine has a huge thing for short men, for example, and another friend prefers women that are overweight, and I know a ton of people who are a long way from being conventionally attractive who have romantic and sexual relationships.

Sometimes that "spark" happens with someone who doesn't fit your preferences very well. Sometimes someone is perfect on paper but you just aren't attracted to them for some reason.

Life would be a lot easier if we could choose who we are attracted to, wouldn't it? I mean it would make the life of paedophiles much easier because they could just start fancying adult people instead. Gay people in communities where homosexuality is illegal could just become straight. You could just fill in a questionnaire and get paired with someone compatible and flip the attraction switch and boom! Instant relationship.

Attraction just isn't that simple.


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

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This talk of physical attractiveness reminds me of how confused I was as a young'un. There were these people held up as models of physical beauty, that everyone was supposed to fall in love with on sight. I think I thought there was something wrong with me because I didn't.

I still find standards of physicala beauty, as expressed in, eg, advertisements, pretty blah for me. These women that advertisers seem to think I will find attractive just don't do much for me.

(I'm a gay male, but I do still find women attractive sometimes. Just not those women, or at least not the way they're presented.)

Of course this is all about first impressions, and the attraction that comes with getting to know someone can be much more.

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Silverleaf wrote:

Attraction just isn't that simple.

Edit: Eh, forget it. I was ranting again. :/

Basically this is yet another case where the gender studies explanation just doesn't actually match up to or explain observed reality. In this specific case: Still not explaining why most people actually find it really simple and easy to attract hookups and dates while only a minority of people find it hard to attract people. Also still not explaining what people in the latter category are supposed to do to ever get to have the same level of success as the former category.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Arcanist Lupus
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In my case, I tend to chalk it up to social ineptitude rather than my physical appearance.

Then again, the two are not entirely separable, since some factors of appearance (such as eye contact and fashion sense) are dependent on behavior more than innate physical attractiveness.


"Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?"

- Terry Pratchett, Going Postal

dpt
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Jeysie, perhaps you'd be interested in reading authors that critique the idea of a "shared female experience"? There are some pretty sharp criticisms of that trend from the point of view of intersectionality, people with multiple overlapping non-mainstream identities. The idea that all women have to fight off men attracted to them is pretty strange if you're in a wheel chair, for instance. My understanding is that one of the central parts of "third-wave feminism" is challenging a universal definition of women.

The article The Myth of Shared Womanhood and How It Perpetuates Inequality by Mia Mackenzie is pretty well-known, but unfortunately no longer available in full.

I'm also going to look for sources on the oppression of women by women, which seemed to be another central concern of yours.

Jeysie
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That article's bylines reminds me of how the idea of a shared female experience has also sometimes been used against transwomen to argue they're not really women.

But yeah I think a lot of why I tend to identify more as a nerd than I do as a woman is because I actually have a lot more shared experiences to fellow nerds than I do other women.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

Argent Nightmares
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I'm finding this thread fascinating, as a trans person I've thought rather a lot about gender and I find stuff like the above interesting. All the gender pressures of our society suck so much...

The oppression of women by women is also something which infuriates me. I had a lot of similar experiences to Jeysie at my wonderfully fun all girls school!

dpt wrote:

(I'm a gay male, but I do still find women attractive sometimes. Just not those women, or at least not the way they're presented.)

This is exactly how I feel too... I'm also mostly ace, though, and just don't get the whole super powerful sexual attraction idea..
Jeysie
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Yeah, like I said earlier, my own thing regards physical attraction is weird.

If I look back at everyone I've ever had a romantic interest in, they all have a ton of similarities in personality, but almost no commonalities in looks. Not even all the same gender; I don't crush on girls often in part because for whatever reason it's more likely for me to meet guys who fit my personality preferences, but it's happened.

I have some physical preferences--mostly a fondness for red hair and people who wear glasses--but they're not required for me to like someone.

So this can end up in weird situations where I can recognize that someone's attractive aesthetically but I don't necessarily have any romantic interest in them based on that alone. Or when I've had crushes where the reaction of my gal pals was essentially a confused but polite "OK, you do you I guess".

So... I guess the funny thing is that Silverleaf's "You could just fill in a questionnaire and get paired with someone compatible and flip the attraction switch and boom! Instant relationship" is actually essentially a perfect description of how my attraction tends to literally work (which just makes it that much more frustrating when the other person doesn't feel the same way).


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

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phantaskippy wrote:

This topic is interesting to me as my 9 yr old daughter is facing the street level reality of it right now.

She is growing up in a family where her mother has a master's degree and is a manager, while her dad dropped out of college to help get her mother through grad school and is now a stay at home dad.  We were a bit crazy about making sure she wasn't pinked and dolled, we had wrestle time and caught bugs and played sports and sword fights.  Her brother had a similar push, getting dolls and pink about as much as his sister (read they both got as close to a balance of everything as we could pull off).Cecily plays 3 sports, is the youngest girl in our schools accelerated program, and is on a great pace in science and math.

But we've already started to see changes.  She doesn't want to run for student council because a very popular girl is running and Cecily is afraid she'd win, upsetting the girl and possibly upsetting Cecily's social standing in school, which went from that weird girl to the weird girl who is our goalie so don't make fun of her.  She's more than once been sad because boys she plays basketball with at recess say she's smart, while they call other girls pretty, even ones that said she was pretty before they talked to her much.  She ends up handling it well, but we see the changes, and trying to root through what is her becoming herself, and what is her trying to fit into a changing socio-gender world as she and her peers grow older.

These small things matter.  She is pushing against a flow of socialization that hits her stronger every time another girl or boy among her peers buys in.  When a friend of hers from soccer quits because she can be more popular by cheerleading, or a boy with no malice remarks that girls don't play basketball at recess, it pushes her to follow the flow.

We work hard to expose her to reinforcement that the girl she is is the right girl for her to be, and give her neutral space where she can do science or whatever without being special or weird.  (She really dislikes when adults tell her she's exceptional for doing what she does while being a girl)Every single small detail that says "you are normal" is encouraging to her.  But much more than that, every small detail that says "Cecily is normal" to her peers can give her time to catch her breath as she swims against the current of socialization.  Never mind encouraging them to embrace their individual self as well.

Cheerleading and student council for 9-year-olds? Wow.

My daughter is 7.5, and is getting some of the opposite attitudes - she's smart, and her best friends are boys. Enough so that she has drama happening with a couple of the other 2nd-grade girls (and has more or less since kindergarten). How much of that is fueled by her mother's and my divorce is an open question.

I tried the full-time dad thing, and found it incredibly isolating. You've got my respect.

phantaskippy
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Isolating, yeah.  But I do well with that.  And let me tell you, hormones hit hard, and it hits your daughter and her friends and boys and the universe changes over the summer.  At least ours did.  I'm a child of divorce myself with a sister who was 7 when it happened, and I can tell you the road coming up isn't easy.  Just be honest, my dad for some reason thought my sister and I were unaware of reality, like we didn't live through the process too.

My wife hates the dad among moms stigma, but I understand it, even if it did suck that my daughter had a harder time getting social engagement with her peers.

 

To get back towards the original thread discussion, representation can be a huge positive in helping young people see themselves as valuable by showing success, coolness, and other enviable traits in people that don't fit the normally published imagery.  Breaking those easy tropes is meaningful, even in small ways.  Too many times "I don't look like that" gets tied to "so I can't do X".  The pressure to fit a mold hits hard, even when we break the more standard norms, we often find ourselves pushed to fit a different norm to belong.  I think one of the reasons people love Tachyon is she is just herself.  She's a scientist superhero with a spouse, and who that spouse is matters as much to her character as Legacy's spouse.  It feels real, instead of feeling like a defining trait that she is built around.

Jeysie
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I kind of go back to how I don't really understand "representation" because my identity doesn't revolve around the usual demographics people care about, but my actual personality traits. I tend to identify as things where you become or are those things because of your personality, rather than the reverse where we tend to assign "package deals" of personality traits to identity demographics that almost never fit me.

I have a much easier time identifying with, say, a straight male nerd character than I do a bi lady character who's otherwise nothing like me. So if you're getting rid of the former (or any other male character with traits I can relate to) for more of the latter in the name of diversity, then you're not actually making the cast in a work more relatable to me.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

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I think women get used to relating to male characters for a couple of reasons - often we have no female characters at all or just the one token female so we have no choice but to identify with the males, and also there's more diversity in the male characters so you're more likely to find one like you in some way than you are with the cookie-cutter female(s).

I mean there's not anywhere near enough diversity in male characters, and it's even more egregious with females. We don't see enough skinny, short, fat, or non-muscley men, and we don't see enough women of any shape other than the traditional "boobs on a stick" model. Where are the fat women? The skinny athletic women (think long-distance runners or high jumpers)? The muscled women (from bodybuilders to less-defined-but-massively-strong hammer throwers)? Where are the people of all genders with visible disabilities?

Non-binary? There's nothing for you at all, move along. :(

 

I'm a fat woman-shaped person myself (and even if I wasn't fat I still have a broad build with wide shoulders and rib cage and muscular legs) and I'm pretty sure I've never been able to play a character in a board game that is shaped anything like me and isn't obviously a joke character (because looking like this is terribly amusing, apparently). And even though I'm perfectly happy with the body I have, it can be really tedious to open up yet another box to find the inevitable message that people like me aren't even worthy of being depicted in game art. I can't even imagine what that feels like for a person who is insecure about the way they look.

And it's not even like I'm at some extreme that would be unreasonable to expect to see very often (or at all) in game art. If I had full-body tattoos to look like a lizard I wouldn't mind if I didn't see a lizard-tattooed person in every game, but I don't! I'm just a regular-looking person like you can see every day walking down the street.

And I haven't even started on non-physical characteristics... *eyeroll*


Just assume I'm always doing that.

Damn it, Ronway!

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Silverleaf wrote:

We don't see enough skinny, short, fat, or non-muscley men, and we don't see enough women of any shape other than the traditional "boobs on a stick" model.

I remember because of this I was fascinated by a somewhat recent character where there was a skinny (as in legit scrawny) male character who accidentally gained powers that among other things gave him a measure of energy-based durability and strength... and stayed just as skinny in his body shape afterwards. It was a nice touch.

Silverleaf wrote:

And even though I'm perfectly happy with the body I have, it can be really tedious to open up yet another box to find the inevitable message that people like me aren't even worthy of being depicted in game art. I can't even imagine what that feels like for a person who is insecure about the way they look.

As someone who's been perpetually overweight, giant feet, fuzzy for a woman, giant nose, equally giant eyebrows, and a wide face, I remember having a debate once with someone who tried explaining one way I had white privilege was that there were no shortage of women who looked like me, and I pointed out that the only women who look like me in the media are the ones you see in "before" pictures. Maybe we get to be the plucky best friend of the beautiful, popular main character woman having all the actual cool adventures if we're really lucky.

I only wish I could be the typical petite, thin, blonde-and-blue-eyed, tiny nosed "white woman" we see on TV all the time. I'd give just about anything to be pretty at this point; being smart only matters for anything if you're lucky enough to be smart enough to be a Silicon Valley wunderkind or otherwise super talented.

And really in general, if you're pretty everyone loves you, if you're not pretty you basically have to be the World's Most Amazing Person to make up for it.

I don't know, this is why I've always been cold on identity politics in general. People aren't tidy little package deals based on broad things like their skin or sex. We should focus on individual problems or commonalities in life experiences. Imagine how much we could get done helping people if we stopped spending so much time telling people who have the same problems that they're actually alien from each other.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

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