Looking back at my 2015 New Year’s post, the overall tone is upbeat. Which is as it should be. I mean, I’d made it. Right? I’d poured myself into getting the best education possible, I’d done the grind of part-time retail jobs and internships, run the gauntlet of networking events and online applications, and I’d gotten where I was supposed to be. I was a professional Digital Communications Something Something, with a healthy income and a nice apartment in a nice city with easy access to the rest of Europe. I had a handsome boyfriend and a good circle of friends, with plenty of opportunities to make more. I was the postcard for “Where Do You See Yourself Five Years After Graduation?”
And I was, to put it delicately, abysmally fucking miserable. Because when I wrote that post at the start of 2015, I failed to mention that I was living with chronic anxiety and every ounce of my energy was going into maintaining a façade of socially-acceptable OKness. Even here, on my blog, which is supposed be an outlet, not a performance.
Shelter. Banished. The Long Dark. Three games, all very different in terms of scope and gameplay, but with a unifying factor that ties them together: the total lack of supernatural threat. There are no zombies, no monsters, no mysterious forces at work in the shadows. Your deadliest enemies are snow, disease and starvation. But to say these game are about man (or badger) vs. nature would be reductive, because nature is also your closest ally in the quest for survival. Most of the time, death is the consequence of your own lack of foresight or intuition.
As a result, all three games are stark and compelling vehicles for emergent narratives; tiny events take on huge significance and the meaning of victory is skewed. Survival is the only quest, the only game worth playing and also the only game you can never really win. These games understand this innately and push the player towards understanding it too. Through your choices, you will spin stories of isolation, struggle and loss. Perhaps, eventually, you will discover your own version of victory.
Are you in the mood to snot-cry over a virtual badger? Then this the game for you! You play as a mother badger trying to guide her five adorable squeaking cubs to a new home, while keeping them fed and avoiding deadly hazards such as birds of prey and forest fires. As you shuffle resolutely through the world, the painted-paper landscape and whimsical music belies the brittle urgency that permeates the game.
I’m not dead! Have some links! Also, I’m killing it on Twitter a lot recently, so follow me @tinyorc IF YOU DARE.
Why Are You So Angry? – Do you ever see those online folk who seem to hate Anita Sarkeesian more than you or I have ever hated anything in our entire lives, and I think “holy shit, why are these people soangry?” This video series from Innuendo Studios starts out on this question, but that’s certainly not where it ends. Watch the whole thing!
Sense8 and the Failure of Global Imagination – Why, even as we actively strive for diversity, does our vision of the world remain firmly centered on the United States and western Europe? As much as I loved Sense8, this article over at Nerds of Colour does a great job identifying where it falls down.
The Dickonomics of Tinder – “Dick is abundant and low value.” If it’s not already your online dating motto, it will be soon. Alana Massey brings dangerous levels of snark to the table in this hilarious article about the dystopian dating hellscape in which women – even women looking for casual sex (!) – have standards.
In the Name of Love – “There’s little doubt that “do what you love” (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time. The problem is that it leads not to salvation, but to the devaluation of actual work, including the very work it pretends to elevate — and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers. Superficially, DWYL is an uplifting piece of advice, urging us to ponder what it is we most enjoy doing and then turn that activity into a wage-generating enterprise. But why should our pleasure be for profit? Who is the audience for this dictum? Who is not?”
Can We Just, Like, Get Over the Way Women Talk? – Recently, the internet has been very concerned about the way women speak. We apologize too much! We use too many qualifiers! We have vocal fry and upspeak and glottal syphilis (probably) and various other afflictions that force men not to take us seriously! Especially in the workplace! But as Ann Friedman points out – much like exhortations to “lean in” (further, lean further!) aren’t getting feminism anywhere fast – dropping “just” and “like” from our speech is not going to help us usher in a new era of equality any time soon.
All (hopefully) of the bad arguments about rape on Game of Thrones debunked – After a mass feminist internet freakout over that rape scene in Game of Thrones Season 5, Amanda Marcotte dissects why those negative reactions were not coming from a place of disciplined cultural critique. This article hits a chord with me because, as a feminist, I emphatically do not want to scrub all portrayals of rape and sexual violence from TV shows. On the contrary, I think they should be there, but I want them to be treated with gravity and nuance, and I want to see the effect they have on the women that suffer through them. In Season 5, I felt Game of Thrones eventually started to get that.
Account Security 101: Passwords, Multifactor, Social Engineering, and You – Much of our personal information is tied up in our online identities, embedded across so many sites – social media, online shopping, productivity tools – that most of us would have trouble listing them all if pressed. Yet most of us protect all that information behind the same simple password we’ve been using for years. With our physical possessions, we’re all about adding extra layers of security. But when it comes to virtual spaces, we don’t seem to understand that a weak duplicated password is the online equivalent of leaving the front door on the latch. “But I’m no one, who would try to hack me? Why would anyone care about my personal information?” The reality is that you can be targeted for something as simple as having the wrong name in the wrong place. This comprehensive post from Crash Override gives you the tools and know-how to secure your online identity.
Vikings is a show that gets its women so very right that it never fails to send my shrivelled little feminist heart a-flutter with each new episode. Season 3 is exactly two weeks away, which is the perfect opportunity to vent some of my excitement by publishing a celebration of the ladies of Vikings that I’ve been sitting on for quite a while.
Before we begin, I want to point you towards Sophia McDougall’s excellent essay on the trope of the Strong Female Character, which is recommended background reading before we dive into Scandinavia circa 800 AD. McDougall’s view is that it’s limiting and reductive to evaluate female characters solely on their strength; especially when “strength” almost always means “being able to swing a sword” or “being feisty and not taking bullshit”. This essay forms the basis of a lot of my thinking on what makes a good female character. When I refer to a Strong Female Character in this post, I’m referring to the trope as outlined in McDougall’s work.
And without further ado, I give you my thoughts on the ladies of Vikings. SPOILER ALERTS FOR SEASONS 1 & 2 THROUGHOUT, so if you’re planning to watch the series and also need some excellent lady characters in your life, just take my word for it, go, go watch it right now, shoo!
Happy 2015, readers! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? “Why has Massive Hassle stopped updating?” you were undoubtedly asking your family over Christmas dinner, shedding distressed tears into your second helping of turkey. “I know, it’s tragic,” your grandmother almost certainly replied, “I fucking love that blog. Pass the sprouts.”
Long story short, a bunch of life happened all at once, but I’m back now and it is the dawn of a new year, which means it is time for an obligatory and indulgent personal post about my resolutions. I usually don’t make resolutions because they are boring and inevitably end up causing me more stress than I would have incurred by continuing to bumble around with no real plan. However, 2015 feels like it’s going to be a turning point in a lot of ways (see also: I have no idea where I’m going to be in a few months time) so this year I have decided to make a concession to tradition.
I have four resolutions, but in reality they are not resolutions at all. Overall, my New Year’s resolution is to be shit at things. That may sound a little counterproductive, but I’m fairly sure it’s going to be an effective strategy. Allow me to explain.
It’s a tale as old as the internet. A piece of male douchery surfaces, one that perfectly epitomizes the harassment and male entitlement that women must navigate in their daily lives. The women gather together to gaze upon douchery and nod and say, “Yes, indeed, this really does sum up the problem.”
Cue the trolls, cue the misogynists, cue the willfully obtuse assholes. But also, cue Nice Guy™, who is hurt and confused by these women and their hostility, for he is sweet and gentle and thinks you really need to know how beautifully your eyes match your scarf today.
This guy will leave a long blathering comment (what is it about sexism that makes dudes so long-winded?) that boils down to: “Let’s make this entire conversation about educating me on how best to approach women in public. I would like a foolproof formula that doesn’t involve me actually thinking about women’s experiences or expending any empathy. Please and thank you.”
And more and more frequently, women reply with a simple “Yeah, maybe just…don’t?”
“Just don’t approach women in public? Like, why do you feel the need to talk to strange women? Maybe just don’t do it.”
Cue the rage.
“Fine, so I’m just not allowed to TALK to ANY WOMEN EVER!? HUFF PUFF FOOT STOMP.”
Or, sometimes, the wounded self-pity.
“But but but if I can’t talk to women in public places, I will be FOREVER ALONE WOE IS ME.”
There’s a lot of stupid in this argument, but I’d like to talk about the main stupid, which is the idea that modern romance – and consequently the human race – will somehow grind to a halt if men are not “allowed” to talk to women in public. You see, by not “allowing” men to talk to them in public, women are thwarting casual encounters, which are the only way people ever end up going on dates ever. If women are not actively seeking a meet-cute, Nice Guy™ is doomed to a life of impotently lusting after potential soulmates on every train platform, in every elevator, across the dusty vinyl sleeves in every quirky secondhand record shop in every city in the world.
Ted: I just gotta bump into her somewhere. Now if only I knew her schedule, I could arrange a chance encounter.
This idea is, obviously, ridiculous and has no bearing on reality outside of romantic comedies. (You know, those things that women purportedly base their lives around.) However, not only does it have no bearing on the reality of dating, it also actively clashes with the reality of being a woman in public.
“There are a lot of readers who pride themselves on not paying attention to the identities of their favorite writers. […] How many books by writers of color do you think you’ll find on their bookshelves? I’d lay odds that if there are any at all, they will be far outnumbered by the books by white authors. Not necessarily because those readers are deliberately choosing mostly white/male authors. They don’t have to. The status quo does it for them.”
#ReadWomen2014 is about challenging that status quo. At some point last year, I realised that despite the fact that I am a self-professed feminist nerd, my bookshelf is both on high on testosterone and blindingly white. I am not going to belch statistics about diversity in literature at you, because you can get them all here and that is not what this post is about. This post is about putting my money where my literary feminist mouth is. Spurred on by the launch of the Read Women campaign, I decided to do exactly that for 2014. Read women and only women for one full year.
Anyone who reads this blog or who has talked to me for more than five seconds knows how I feel about stories. I don’t think stories are simply a way of labeling and processing the world around us. I believe they shape the world around us, that they are the world both around us and within us. Narratives gain a foothold in our collective consciousness and gradually become a reality. Stories are how we explain ourselves to ourselves. And when it’s white men doing all the explaining, you end up with a story of a world where white men are the most important, the most influential, the most powerful, the most heroic, and anyone who is not white or male has trouble getting a word in edgeways.
I think studying English Literature (as I did) exacerbates the tendency to privilege the white male literary canon, especially if you are not (as I was not) a feminist. When you have five fat novels to read every week and you know there is a vanishingly small chance of getting through even half of them, you start prioritizing. And for some totally mysterious reason (*coughpatriarchy*), when it comes down to the wire, the indispensable texts, the keys to understanding the whole era/genre – and the ones that you absolutely must finish if you’re going to survive your next seminar or your end-of-term exams – those books always tend to be written by men. After four years, this hierarchy of importance and this vision of the canon became deeply ingrained in my ideas about what I should be reading.
I remember clearly the moment where I stopped thinking about what I should be reading, and started reading for pleasure again. It was August 2010, the summer after I graduated. I had been hawking around a cheap paperback copy of On The Road by Jack Keroauc, because what better book for a long lazy summer of freedom than a seminal travel novel from one of the greats of the Beat Generation? I’d had it in my rucksack for nearly three months, and it was dog-eared and stained, but I was still only around three-quarters of the way through. Every time I had an opportunity to sit down and read it, I would find something else to occupy my time. However, this day was a sunny day and I wandered out into the garden of my parents’ house with a blanket and a glass of cranberry juice and On The Road tucked under my arm, grimly determined to finish the damn thing.