The People Who Treat You Differently After Sex

It’s not your imagination. You had an intimate encounter with a friend, and somehow, it seems that your genitals zapped them through to the Twilight Zone. Suddenly, they are calling you “bro” and “pal”. Or perhaps planning your wedding? Or even serving you up some cold, fresh apathy?

What gives when you give someone head one time and they let it swallow every meaningful thing that previously happened within your friendship?

I thought I had intimacy issues. And I do. I can’t stand to be touched unless I’m very comfortable or familiar with someone. Even then, it’s no guarantee – not by a long shot. Most of the time, proximity is a poison to me, but I have a lot of experience with my own idiosyncrasies and my own inexperience. I try to respect my own boundaries, but at the same time, assure others that the problem is mine and I’m working on it. My own mental health issues and my social unbecomings are points of sharp awareness and clear visibility, perhaps to the entire universe. No matter how embarrassing, I like to explain myself and over-explain myself, just to make sure no one is seeing my issues as a reflection of themselves.

I think lots of people with higher self-esteem and a more experienced touch than me have intimacy issues too, but rather than clumsily acknowledge them, it is far more unspoken. The blame ends up falling upon whoever stumbles into its haphazard path. It’s difficult not to take other people personally in respect to what they make you feel, but it’s important to live through that emotion and observe its patterns. Eventually, the results will come back negative: it really isn’t you, it’s them.

Sure, sometimes it seems initially awkward to interact with someone after a sexual encounter. But it becomes quickly apparent when temporary awkwardness morphs into a completely different beast. Genitals may look like aliens, but friendships shouldn’t feel that way.

I have known some amazing creatures and some utterly bullshit humans. Mostly, though, they have fallen somewhere in between. The complexity of imperfection is that it is difficult to distinguish who is a good person treating you badly, and who is a bad person who treats you well when it suits them. Even my life’s villains have not always been figureheads of cruelty. Generally, they are apathetic, selfish or just emotionally reckless. People don’t tend to realize they’re doing something unkind, either through denial or ignorance. If they did, I like to think that they wouldn’t do it. Nonetheless, the accountability is still there, but so is forgiveness for those who deserve it.

Dysfunction sometimes comes to a head during intimacy – pun intended. Other than their flesh, people are a bit like computers. And while sometimes you might need an expert’s help to tinker and debug you, it’s pretty handy to have some basic savvy with your own circuits and to understand malfunction in those of others. You can’t learn anything about why someone operates in the way they do without cracking open some motherboards to see what makes them tick, even if it doesn’t always go as expected.

Perhaps I cannot expect everyone to be super in-tune with their thoughts and actions at all times, but I can sure call attention to it and see if they respond with a willingness to communicate openly. Sometimes, the plain truth can shock others into sincerity. “Is there a reason for the fact that ever since we fucked, you’ve been refusing to stand without a six-foot buffer zone between us, as if you’re standing at an appropriate distance in an ATM queue?” may sound like a horrifying mouthful, but it’s scarier on the receiving end and its directness commands a similar directness in return. When it incites defensiveness or cock-and-bull excuses, there is an answer in that behavior as well. Bare butts are a lot less frightening than looking someone in the naked eye and owning your words.

Sex shouldn’t have an impact on how humanized or dehumanized someone makes you feel. Hang up on their hang-ups.

If they try to make it weird, make it weirder.

 

Clutter

the house looks like that kind of anxiety you can’t really talk to people about
because it smells like rancid dish water and stale, endless
masturbation
dust and dog fur mingle on hirsute heirlooms
my eyelids feel like the jowls of a bloodhound
I grind my teeth and breathe in peace-scented candles until I cough and cough
and cough up mucus more productive than me
texts to tyran that I feel guilty about
crafting collages until I’m cross-eyed
episodes of judge judy to convince myself that I am fierce
and to-do lists I write over and over so I can forgive myself for never completing them
but now my sheets are crunchy with resentment and if I clog my bin with lists
one day I will need to step outside
and empty it

Kareers 4 Kooks

Job hunting is a competitive sport, and representing yourself accurately is not the winning strategy. Truthful responses fall far short of rehearsed ones. And it is your responsibility to know what trick questions might come up, and how to navigate them. You can flatline your chances with mere honesty.

Frankly, it is difficult to even get interviewed without combing your applications to remove any implicit signs of humanness, of age, or of gender. I’m lucky. I have a unisex name so I can at least evade the latter bias up until the moment they see me. Nonetheless, I resent the existence of a bias I need to carefully evade, not to mention the look disappointment on the interviewer’s face when first meeting me. Not only am I young and female, but my clothes aren’t beige and pocketless, I rarely wear makeup, and my clothes resemble those of a Dennis the Menace who grew up to become a garbage man. It’s not that I’m unclean but simply that I can’t afford to buy a blazer or pencil skirt to impress an executive with a big head and a small mind, nor do I think it should have any bearing on my employability.

As you can imagine, my job search ain’t yielding much love.

It’s illegal to discriminate, but I can’t exactly call the emergency services just because a man who interviewed me looked me up and down, asked, “Did you know you were coming in for a job interview?” then wiped his hand on his slacks after I shook it. Ultimately, they are not only hiring a person, they are hiring an image for their brand. I know I’m a hard worker, but I also know that comes second to my ability to portray myself as bland and pant-suited. From what I have seen, even in creative or presumably progressive companies, the person rich or powerful enough to decide what the company values is often someone who has no interest in what it is meant to serve. Some non-profit companies are run by people extremely interested in profits. Services intended to help people may be owned by those who are completely absorbed in helping only themselves.  I think this is part of the reason why outdated aesthetics and work lives are still the majority – because the fat cats up the top haven’t changed very much either.

There is something particularly obsolete about this process of acquiring a job. All opportunities suddenly hinge on factors that aren’t supposed to matter anymore. The advice people give sounds reminiscent of that once offered to young women trying to catch a beau in the 1950s. Wear high heels. Don’t tell them your age. Don’t ask questions about money. Be confident, but not too confident.

Oh, my stars! They might as well hand me this nifty guide:

men

It feels like I can only score myself a job if I first score myself a selection of lipsticks. Or perhaps if I become well-versed in the art of lying by omission, lest I actually dare to admit that I have any flaws other than working too hard, or that their company is not necessarily better than every other, or that I am afflicted with the zest of having a personality. Although I like to express my admiration for a company if they offer particularly good services or uphold ethical values, I can’t pretend like I’ve followed their business dealings since I was a toddler. I can’t pretend that I want to make a blood oath to live and dream customer service. My pale eyelashes and sincerity seem no match for the eyeliner tricks and blood oaths that others seem to be purporting in their interviews.

Until then, I will just keep sending out applications in the hopes that somehow one of them will not get lost in this space-time glitch that seems to corrupt the job-hunting process, where suddenly people once more work in cubicles, wear nude low-denier stockings and gossip at watercoolers, and where equal opportunities are an empty promise.

Fee, Fie, Foe, Femme

Hags. Landwhales. Monsters-In-Law. Cougars. Psycho Ex-Girlfriends. Queen Bees. Shrews. Bridezillas.

Does imperfection really make us animalistic? Or is it just another excuse to dehumanize? A scapegoat for our apparent cloven-hoofed wickedness?

It’s ironic, I guess. Be too human, and you will be banished as a sub-human she-beast. Maybe I should show them true beastliness. Instead of simply shedding tears, I could tear them to shreds. I could succumb to the succubus of my femininity.

But I will not.

I know that somehow, it’s still my responsibility to prove that I am not a monster. It’s not assumed as a given. I have to be conspicuously, flawlessly human, whether I am faced with a sneering suitor, a domineering dad, or bombastic businessman whose skin tags nearly rupture across his brow at the mere concept of treating others with respect.

I wrote this inside the cover of Black Beauty about five years ago, and while I haven’t read the book itself in since long before then, I think of my own rambled words often:

I don’t like horses because they can’t see behind themselves, and their solution to this evolutionary limitation of their species is to kick backward wildly every time they sense something uncertain or sinister within their peripheral surroundings.

And everyone just accepts this as a part of nature, but when I do, I am apparently a rogue and a menace to society.

I don’t like horses, but I envy them so.

It is not that I necessarily want to kick backward wildly at people. Well, not usually. It’s more that I don’t want to be treated as if I have already done so, when actually, I’ve barely scuffed up a little dirt.

My conviction is crazy. My defiance is difficult. My verity is villainy. My life is a liability. My existence is an Eldritch Horror.

I often think about the jaggedness of my edges. Of my unpolished surfaces and of the unforgiving way I say things even if they make my voice tremble. It seems that the moment I evolve from manic pixie fantasy to regular human being is the same moment that morphs me into a monster. The second I do not click into place, I am pushed out of the fold of humanity.

I guess that’s the thing about edges – I have them. So I might as well use them to sharpen my wits or cut some foolish tongues. I ought to look things in the eye that make other people flinch because so often, I have found myself as one of them.

Playlist: Lady Love

 

Old girls. New girls. Black girls. Queer girls. Please welcome to them all to your earholes!

  1. Jamal – Sampa the Great
  2. Chamakay – Blood Orange
  3. Just a Girl – No Doubt
  4. Midnight – Lianne La Havas
  5. No Scrubs – TLC
  6. iT – Christine and the Queens
  7. Future is Female – Madame Ghandi
  8. Where Does the Good Go – Tegan and Sara
  9. Ain’t Got No, I Got Life – Nina Simone
  10. Put That Ring Away – Danielle Deckard
  11. All the Things She Said – t.A.T.u.
  12. Get Away – The Internet
  13. Never Forget You – Noisettes
  14. Crunches – Alpine
  15. Molasses – Hiatus Kaiyote
  16. Sway – Bic Runga
  17. Citizens – Alice Russell
  18. Hyperballad – Bjork
  19. Nightlight – Silversun Pickups
  20. Team – Lorde
  21. Water Me – FKA Twigs
  22. Begin Again – Purity Ring
  23. I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
  24. Ghost – Tkay Maidza
  25. Hey Love – Emily Wurramara
  26. That Don’t Impress Me Much – Shania Twain
  27. Carnival – Natalie Merchant
  28. I’m In Control – AlunaGeorge
  29. Appletree – Erykah Badu
  30. Foundations – Kate Nash
  31. Kick It – Peaches
  32. Back to Black – Amy Winehouse
  33. I Touch Myself – The Divinyls
  34. Girl Like Me – Ladyhawke
  35. Once – Ngaiire
  36. You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me – Alex Lahey
  37. Luka – Suzanne Vega
  38. I Would Never Have Sex With You – Garfunkel and Oates
  39. Malibu – Hole
  40. Phenomenal Woman – Laura Mvula
  41. Ode to My Family – The Cranberries
  42. Q.U.E.E.N. – Janelle Monae
  43. Chiquitita – ABBA
  44. You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory – Ronnie Spector
  45. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush
  46. Dancing Barefoot – Patti Smith
  47. Angelene – PJ Harvey
  48. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
  49. Beautiful Liar – Shakira and Beyonce
  50. I Am Not a Metaphor – Aristophanes

Xeitgeist

 

trust in authority has melted

into a bead of sweat that settles in the crevice of a brow

bruised blue and Black with brutality

and vanishes in the flash of a policeman’s baton

dripping in technicolor cartoon print and imagined heroism

armed with weapons, ego and

righteousness.

 

reptilian shape shifters slither less convincingly

along back rooms and podiums

but are more popular than ever

disguised as your perfect Mr. White

who just wants what he already knows is best for you

and slinks into bed with women

he believes should remain forever

right-less.

 

mutually assured destruction is an STD

of nations who hatefuck their enemies

and then make sweet, god fearing love

to their own citizens

leaving them screwed and silenced

spreading generations through nuclear seed

and squirting missiles as a money shot

on those who dared to feel

wronged.

Witchcraft in the Modern Workplace

It can sometimes feel difficult working an office job, especially for a whimsically-spirited person, like me, who wishes they could get paid to typewrite pun poems and glitter-glue their eyelids shut as a method of achieving the most glamorous nap. Dolly Parton already hollered all that needs to be hollered about this, but I am grateful that my 9-to-5 generally ain’t so bad. The other day I reminded myself of this as I sat on the floor of my office performing a witch ritual – or “witchual” – with a couple of coworkers.

We mixed a small pot of tea tree honey, Peace, Love and Peppermint tea leaves, and some dry herbs that I had been hanging from an old light fixture above my desk. This sacrificial offering was placed snugly between the gangly limbs of a once-cursed clown puppet we’d somehow found amidst the day-to-day drama of office life. I lit some dried sage as if it were incense. It smelled like weed and Occupational Health and Safety infringements. Fight the Power.

Our witchual involved some simple, makeshift spells for kindness in the workplace, particularly on behalf of a coworker who was meeting with a venomous manager later that afternoon. We expelled these hopes into the universe through clumsy attempts at incantation, in a gesture more for ourselves than for the sake of cosmic causality. It helped and she reported later that it had, in fact, worked. I appreciated that my world would accommodate for the tomfoolery I held so dear. We found out later that a coven of women had attempted a binding spell on Donald Trump that day and felt quietly connected.

Amidst our wishy-washy attempts at witchcraft, I started thinking about the witch trials in 16th and 17th century Europe, as well as Salem. There are times within history that now tend to inspire a collective eye roll at how ludicrous and uncivilised our predecessors seemed to be. Really, though? Because it seems like we still are. I see the witch trials as an intersection of the population’s God-fearing sensibilities and a historical distrust of women (although yes, a minority of the accused were men), which is not unlike society’s modern fears of paganism and female autonomy. We may see this specific form of persecution as far-fetched and antiquated, but much of its rationale still exists within the constraints currently imposed upon women.

The reasons why a woman would be denounced with accusations of sorcery were vague at best and contradictory at worst. Some of these included: breaking any rule in the bible, having a blemish on your skin, being outspoken, being poor or being rich. As you can imagine, this made it pretty easy to be a potential witch. As ridiculous as this all sounds, I often feel that our own era is equally frustrating, albeit veiled by the normalization of modern sexism. Biblical teachings may not be proselytized as overtly in the public arena as they once were, but we are still far from achieving truly secular governments. The fact that abortion rights are still not a simple reality is largely due to religious opposition. Outspoken women are still stifled and women are vilified for exercising agency over their own sexual choices. Instead, they’re expected to conform to male projections of their sexuality. The contradiction of desirable versus undesirable femaleness lives on, although it has shapeshifted its way through changing zeitgeists.

This evolution of Western misogyny, on one hand, feels defeating. But it also gives me something valid to say when it is argued that women are now treated equally and feminism is obsolete. Misogyny is engendered by prevailing cultural norms and adapts to societal advancement. In one century there might be witch trials and another there might be revenge porn. ‘Isms’ can be channeled into different forms as effortlessly as people insist on carrying their bigotry through generations rather than cutting loose this historical dead weight.

It is no doubt a snug little nook in which my professional life sees minds that spark with magical ideas and we can freely set them alight, up and into the vents for all to inhale. Though, shit still ain’t easy for a witch, or a bitch, even if they are different than they once were. All the coolest people of this century would’ve been burned for suspected witchcraft. While I am relieved that this fate is unlikely, that’s not to say we won’t face being burned in one way or another.

Bechdel Badasses

“She’s such a slut. And she’s not even pretty.”

I forgot my headphones on the train today, and this is what I found myself overhearing on the ride home. From what I soon gathered, the teenage speaker behind this snippet had been rejected by her love interest. He had fallen for someone else, and it was that someone to whom this toxic sentiment was intended. The girl’s friends loyally chimed in with a chorus of agreeable murmurs.

I had a strong idea of how the speaker of these words felt. She felt jealous and hurt, but was obviously not yet comfortable taking ownership of those emotions. The result was that of grabbing a pitchfork and impaling her perceived villain upon the crux of it. I had a strong idea of how her friends felt too. Most likely, their understanding of friendship was that of passive conformity. The result was blind support.

It felt sad. It felt familiar. It felt symptomatic of youth, although scarily, not a mindset limited only to those who can claim the naivety of their life stage.

The transition into adulthood entails a steep learning curve in how much responsibility we accept over our own emotions, particularly with the more difficult ones. No human is immune from feeling hurt. No human should be. But it is an affronting indicator of juvenility when someone inflicts their unmet feelings or hurt ego as vicious blame upon others.

We reveal ourselves in the way we treat those who challenge us. Women are generally framed as each other’s competitors, but when we play into this, we are alienated from those who could otherwise be our strongest allies. Rivalry is ultimately a losing game. It serves to validate the many, many (many!) obsolete narratives that work against our best interests. It serves to validate internalised misogyny.

We are judged harshly, and encouraged to judge each other. As a result, when we feel threatened—by insecurity, by doubt, by envy, by embarrassment—the instinct is to avenge the loss of pride, rather than develop a personal sense of understanding and resilience in the vicissitudes of our emotive scope. This vengeance is a misguided endeavour and a displaced emotion.

The word slut does not merely attack the girl you envy. It attacks female sexual autonomy as a concept. To focus on a woman’s aestheticism simply reinforces the connection between female appearance and worth. If you don’t wish that on women in general, you cannot wish it upon a specific woman merely because she intimidates you.

Like most, I’ve been rejected before by men and women who wanted someone else. But I’ve also been a someone else. And been friends with a someone else. If the man or woman who rejects me is so great in the first place, then their someone else is probably pretty wonderful too. It’s not their fault I got rejected. It’s no one’s. That’s the nature of personal choice. And if anyone is blatantly cruel or hurtful within this kind of situation, they probably aren’t as great as I initially thought anyway. Even still, this wouldn’t warrant cruelty in return. Anyone who already has enough reasons to treat the world with unkindness doesn’t need to be provided with any more.

Female companionship tends to be portrayed flatly if represented at all, particularly when subject to the narrow view of the male gaze. Often these depictions only include that which panders to male or heteronormative interests – dull tropes like catfights, “hot” lesbians/bisexuals with no depth of character, and love triangles. Narratives which include more realistic female relationships tend to be written off as a niche interest such as “chick flicks”, “chick lit”, and probably any other form that is likened to a baby animal. As a result, we lack mainstream influences which promote and normalise female solidarity, and which actively reject the notion of these friendships as some kind of a male-centric ploy.

The women in my life are excellent—disgustingly, hilariously, imperfectly, authentically, beyond-belief excellent—but are also hugely diverse in personality, background and life experiences. I crave friendships that are emotionally intimate, open-minded and honest. These are qualities they all have in common, and it is enriching to love people who are equally respectful to each other, but with such a variety of perspectives to share. These differences and complexities are only intimidating if you forget that they are also just everyday people trying to be their best self, and not some cliché that a teen drama show warned you about, or a nightmarish caricature that appears in your mirror if you dare to speak its name. We will only ever misunderstand other people if we neglect to humanise them.

There is a glorious defiance in the refusal to relinquish our friendships to a world that could keep us weaker if we were to stand apart. There is power in acknowledging what has been prescribed for us by society, looking it dead in the eye and saying “no”. The only reason they want to pit us against each other is so we will be too distracted to turn on them instead. Do not chime in with an agreeable murmur. Do not fade into the drone of an insipid chorus.

Bleat out, badass.

Diversity in a Virtual Universe

There were two occasions in high school where I was received an invitation to a party – both being last minute pity offerings via Facebook Events. I appreciated the inclusion nonetheless, and also, the fact that they were costume parties. Although the idea of social shindigs themselves instilled me with a great deal of anxiety, the opportunity to dress absurdly ultimately won me over.

To the first of them, I dressed as the Joker, and received a number of comments about how I should’ve dressed Harley Quinn and been “hot-scary” rather than “just plain scary”. Needless to say, I rolled my eyes so far back in my head that I could see my brain cells dying. I got a lot of ocular exercise, if nothing else.

Not a great start, but I tried again.

On the other occasion, I dressed as Scooby Doo. A kid who was seemingly wearing casual clothes told me I would’ve been so much cuter as Daphne. This was frustrating. Everyone (who’ll listen) knows my Scooby Doo character preferences are ranked as follows: Scooby, Velma, Shaggy, Daphne, the Mystery Machine, Scrappy, Old Man Jenkins, and Fred (look, he’s a sweet goof, he just needs to find the words to describe a girl without being disrespectful). I am open to critique of my costumes, but this needs to be constructive, and I’d prefer it coming from someone who has made their own cosplay attempt too. With that in mind, I asked the kid what he was dressed as, and he told me he was Alan Wake. I bit my lip to stifle some ugly laughing. It made sense. Of course he was.

For those who don’t know, Alan Wake is the eponymous hero of a series of horror games. He is one of the most bland, archetypal video game protagonists ever – and he’s certainly not lacking in some stiff competition there. He is, just casually, a famous author. He wears jeans. He is white. He has brown hair and a short, scruffy beard. His wife, Alice, is a blonde photographer whose interests include her husband and his novels. Alan Wake is the imaginative equivalent to the experience of eating a giant hard-boiled egg, as its dry, black-tinged yolk clogs your throat with vague discomfort and an overwhelming, slow-moving blandness.

Video game diversity leaves a lot to be desired, which is somewhat odd considering the medium – after all, if a character can be an alien, a robot, a domestic dog, a square, a slice of bread or a metaphysical concept, is it so crazy that they could sometimes be a woman of colour? Dare I dream?

Gender diversity in the industry itself is improving, but still leaves much to be desired in becoming a safer and welcoming field for women to participate in. At least progress is being made here – unfortunately, game development has a long way to go in regards to racial inclusiveness. It is largely a Westernized and masculinized industry, but it shouldn’t have to be. Eventually, games should be as socially modern as they are technologically. Slowly, but surely… please, please, surely.

For those who adore video games, and those who may have shied away but are interested to dip their toes in, here are a couple of picks for games with interesting protagonists who exist far beyond the realm of Alan Wake’s cookie cutter nightmares:

Broken Age

1109-4

Broken Age is a story-driven adventure game, with two interlocking tales and separate protagonists to switch between. I enjoyed this unique feature, as sometimes point-and-click games can lose their novelty the first time you get stuck, so having two perspectives assisted with maintaining a sense of progression. The game is artistically delightful, and this is showcased by the variety of landscapes and fantasy elements of its universe. I particularly loved playing as Vella, a young woman of colour who is offered as a ritualistic sacrifice to the monster that has historically been calling the shots on her village. She, of course, resolves to destroy the beast instead. The premise itself is quite classic, but the game brings enough original twists and turns to make it worthwhile nonetheless. While Shay, her male protagonist counterpart, is a likeable character, I find that Vella specifically shines with her loving but strong-willed nature.

Undertale

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Undertale is a character-rich game with progressive sensibilities in the relationships and personalities depicted. Although the gameplay is a throwback to old RPGs, it is revitalised by the influence of player choices – the game differs based on whether it is played as a pacifist, anarchist, or a happy medium between the two. The dialogue is also sincerely funny: I’m talkin’ puns! While it does not overtly push a feminist agenda (unlike myself, let’s be honest), Undertale is refreshing in the way it normalises its own diversity: female characters are not tokenized, non-heteronormative romantic feelings are commonplace, and our protagonist, Frisk, is non-binary and/or androgynous. Simply by rejecting male or straight as the default way of existence, the social narrative of the game feels a little less prescribed. Undertale leaves space for the player to bring their own interpretation, and subverts the argument that representation is a form of pandering or politicising. Rather than the developers of this game asking, “why should we have female or non-binary characters?” it feels like they’ve simply asked “why not?”.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor

20161001075719_1

This is a game of dichotomies. Trash and treasure. Hope and hopelessness. Vibrant and plain. Busy and mundane. Alien and familiar. Individual and society. Haze and clarity. The Janitor, described as a girlbeast, is an enigmatic protagonist who reflects the unique but humble way we each play bystander to the worlds of others, while simply trying to survive our own. It is not climactic in any sense, but is nonetheless compelling to play with a focus on exploration, existence and emotion. It possesses enough intrigue and personal connection to feel invested in, and even touches on some of the complexities of depression and gender dysphoria.

Fran Bow

fran_bow_1

Fran is a girl with a mental illness. Just like me. But also, not. Not at all. She is institutionalised within the hellscape of reality and perception, an experience that entails both an uncomfortable familiarity and a chaotic terror about it. The game, and our hero, are equally unsettling. Despite this, Fran retains some of the endearing and youthful qualities which humanise her. In a game tackling themes of mental illness, it is crucial to establish depth of character and ensure Fran is not a reductive token of “insanity”, but is also engaging to play. The world around her is explicit, darkly humorous, and changes as she self-medicates. It is a point-and-click, but is full of puzzles and minigames which add extra depth to the gameplay.

Dex

dex-rainy-alleyDex is a woman of resistance in a futuristic world, where she is persecuted as a cyborg by a powerful network of governments and corporations. Sound familiar? No, it is not the political climate of 2017 so far, it is a humble video game! The setting holds all the elements to a classic cyberpunk tale – a city bleak but for neon fringing; a focus on advanced technologies, run-ins with hackers, and artificial intelligence; a downtrodden, low quality of life. The community is diverse and intriguing, and the gameplay incorporates elements of a platformer, an RPG, a side-scroller, and a beat ‘em up brawler.

Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)

gaming-never-alone-screenshot-12

Kisima Inŋitchuŋa (I Am Not Alone) is an aesthetically beautiful game about a young Native American girl, Nuna, and her Fox, as they try to save their home from a powerful blizzard. The gameplay takes the style of a platformer with some puzzle elements, particularly in how both characters must be navigated in tandem. The collectibles in this game unlock educational insights into various aspects of Alaskan Inuit culture and folklore, which I find to be a creative way to utilize video gaming as an informative and connective tool. The premise of this game and its focus on Native peoples is a unique strength. It’s also near impossible not to adore Nuna and her gorgeous animal friend.

Gone Home

largeGone Home is a bit of an oldie but definitely a goodie. It was created by a group inclusive of female developers, features a female protagonist, and also incorporates Sapphic relationships. Lots of ticks there for social progressivity, but it is also genuinely fun to play! It’s got a rad 90s nostalgia feel, and a healthy dose of mystery. It plays as an unfolding story that is masquerading as a suspense game. While you begin by searching for a what, as is often the assumption, you eventually come to focus more on the why of your discoveries. This game also subverts the idea of who the protagonist is – I felt that I (the player) was not necessarily the main character, but rather felt more connected to the characters we never interact with, but delve intimately into the lives of. Gone Home reinforces gaming as an immersive and interactive means of telling stories regardless of genre.

Transistor

Our protagonist, Red, is a renowned but controversial singer, left voiceless and with no choice but to fight a corrupt world wielding the weapon that it intended to use to destroy her. The transistor is a unique article which absorbs the consciousness and knowledge of all it vanquishes. It also serves as Red’s ally and narrator to the game. Transistor is visually stunning, and like Supergiant’s previous popular title, Bastion, it offers a melodic soundtrack produced by Darren Korb and featuring vocals by Ashley Lynn Barrett. This ties in nicely with the tale of music as a form of social and political capital, and contributes to a highly-developed gameworld experience.

Sunset

Sunset, like Gone Home, is a game where storytelling is uncovered through exploration and context. We play as Angela, who has needed to take up a housekeeping job in 1970s Latin American during a time of political tumult. There is a civil war, and through Angela’s unique perspective we are immersed into the world of the bystander – of conflict, of wealth, and of class systems. The world outside suffers as Angela watches from the creature comforts of a high rise, albeit as a housekeeper and not a resident. She is between worlds, and this premise allows for greater depth in the developing the plot and the connection between she and her employer. The gameplay itself is simple, but I appreciate the unfolding of the story and how it is incorporated into everyday existence.

 

So, there you have it, for now. Some games to play for when you’re not in the mood to play as some dead-eyed white dude with a bland romantic subtext involving his female equivalent. I hope you enjoy them – they are all available on Steam, which frequently offers sales and discounts. Get gaming!

I am not sorry for the comments I made about Alan Wake.

The Boys Who Stay Golden

You’re at a family event. Your twenty-eight year old brother shoves food into his face, belching and chewing noisily, washing it down with a glass of chocolate milk. An aunt looks on adoringly.

“He’s just a growing boy,” she gushes. Later, she hands you a sliver of cake alongside a large dollop of advice about your love handles. You, it seems, are already well overgrown.

You’re at work. Your colleague is late again, but you’re holding down the fort until he arrives. A manager chuckles.

“At least he’ll be in before eleven today. Good on him!”

You rub your crusty eyes and wonder why you’ve been up since six.

You’re at your cousin’s baby shower. Her husband is parading around the ultrasound photo, tracing out the foetus’ barely-formed genitalia to every guest.

“We wanted to keep it a secret, but I just couldn’t hold it in. A boy! Of course, a girl would have been fine too, but… well, he’s my boy!”

But what if ultimately he isn’t? Will it still be just fine? What does that genitalia actually tell you, other than the appearance of the reproductive organs the child will be born with?

At this rate, all that will be born is a golden child.

###

We tell infants that they are Casanovas and ladies’ men, and they grow up to believe it. We tell sons that someone will wash their dishes and do their laundry, and they look to the rest of us to fulfill this promise. The responsibility to live up to expectation is on everyone else. Entitlement is normalized, while empathy and accountability are feminized.

The world happens the way we allow it.

When a child has a toy gun, they might get shot down while playing in the park. It has, devastatingly, happened before. But when a child has a female body, they will likely get shot down in many other ways, including those which are violent and literal. That has happened too. It happens every day.

Little comments and unquestioned behaviors can—over time—shape a view of the world, particularly in regards to how human beings should value themselves and one another. While daughters can be spoilt within their family structures too, they nonetheless are still exposed to a wider community in which they have historically been given the shorter end of the stick. Men, on the other hand, are exposed to fewer messages which conflict with the idea that others must accommodate to them; that they do not need to compromise; that they do not have to answer for their actions or face consequences. This leaves them unprepared to reasonably cope with a world in which not everything goes their way. They struggle with a lack of resilience, and often elicit anger towards whoever treads upon the shortcomings of this deficiency – people who reject their advances, outcomes that are not automatically tipped in their favor, and marginalized groups or minorities who strive for equitable treatment and opportunities.

Men can be assured that they will still receive respect for any of their redeeming qualities, even if they are otherwise loud, belligerent and juvenile. Women are often disregarded despite their skill or knowledge in a field, on the basis of not being perfect or merely posing a threat to male ego. Assurance is a pipe dream. One common experience of femaleness is that of being punished for being a woman altogether, while concurrently being punished for not living up to the impossible concept of being the ideal woman. The messages women receive offer little room to exist in a way that is varied, imperfect and authentic. Be competent, but only at menial tasks. Be emotionally intelligent, but uncritical. Be attractive, but feel insecure. Be hardworking, but unambitious. Be, but also, do not. Not truly. It has the mechanics of a carnival attraction: you are better off aiming for the token prize and getting it, because if you aim for the real prize, you’ll end up with nothing at all. For women of colour, trans* people, and other minorities, even obtaining the token prize is a costly game rigged in favour of white middle-class cisgender women. The more marginalized the group, the more prescriptive their role in the world with how they must squeeze to fit around traditional frameworks – that is, to make way for the male, the moneyed, and/or the milky-white.

It is difficult to challenge people’s values about child-rearing, masculinity, and the way in which adults project their ideals and expectations on to their children, particularly as this process is deep-seated in cultural beliefs through Australia to the Middle East. However, the global issue of gender inequality will not dissipate without active, informed understanding and teaching through all stages of life, particularly with respect to how these intersect with other inequalities such as race and class.

Male entitlement is sometimes subverted with humour, which can be effective in drawing attention to the ludicrousness of its more casual, covert symptoms. However, many symptoms of the same issue are pervasive and visibly dire, such as government-legislated transgressions against women. These often require a similarly wide scale, serious platform to be addressed effectively. Neither is a passive process, and while no one will ever be perfectly socially aware and informed, too many resign to not making the attempt at all. Especially, and unsurprisingly, when this lottery feels as if it is rigged in their personal favour – whether or not it is that simple.

Humans have a huge collective responsibility to do better by each other. Our species wields so much power, but its imbalance leaves us constantly falling over our own feet and neglecting to invest in shaping the world with greater care. We exist in a way that is underpinned by assumptions about who deserves excess and who should accept deficiency, and then we must answer to people who defend these assumptions as if it were their own little snowflake. Though we may not be personally responsible for how society has come to be, it is on all of us to decide how it will become, in whatever little ways we can.

Remember, one of the few things as devastating as a child who has nothing, is one who has everything.