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an analogy - pie for breakfast
September 26th, 2013
01:48 pm

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an analogy
say there's this really, really popular LARP or ARG or something. sometimes, it seems like everybody is playing all the time.

you're not actually interested in playing, and have only a vague and incomplete understanding of the rules and setting, but, because the game is so popular, everybody always assumes you're playing, and gets confused (or, occasionally, angry) when you don't know how to answer when they ask about what character class you are or what spells you know.

despite being popular, this game has bunch of problems, and there are lots of people proposing revisions. they want more character classes. or they want more options for customizing your character build within a particular class. or they want to make it easier to switch to a different character class. or they want to improve the game balance with the goal of making all the character classes equally playable. this is, of course, all for the good: the game should be fair, and, to the greatest extent possible, should be fun for all the players.

but the thing is, although the proposed improved revised rules sound like an improvement, you're still just not interested in playing the game. it's not that you think it's an intrinsically bad game, necessarily - it's just not the kind of game you're interested in.

now, when you say this, the reformers act like you're one of them, which is a little weird, but whatever. i mean, you're one of them in the sense that you want the game to be well-balanced and have lots of options, because you care about the wellbeing of the people who are playing, and you figure it's better if the game is better, and in the sense that you sometimes get roped into playing, and when you do the proposed revisions make for a game that sounds less annoying to you.

but it's more than that. the proposed reformers have this whole system where they're going to invent a new character class in-game, that's used to classify people like you who don't want to play, so people who are playing can interact with you without breaking character, by treating you as a member of this class. this sounds okay (they get to stay in character, you get to have your not playing recognized), but then you're expected to memorize the name of the new class, and say it when people ask about your character build, and so on, which is not the end of the world, but seems like a weird thing to be doing if the whole point is that you're not playing the game. still, it doesn't sound so bad.

except that there's something fundamentally frustrating about how you keep saying ‘no, i'm just not playing the game. i do not have a character class. i have not allocated skill points. i don't know any spells. i am not playing.’ and it seems like people are not getting it, or are always trying to sidestep this or weasel around it instead of just accepting that not everybody has to play the game.

anyway, that's how i often feel about gender.

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From:rose_garden
Date:September 26th, 2013 07:57 pm (UTC)
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I'd love to share this with some of my friends but it's a locked post.
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From:q10
Date:September 26th, 2013 08:13 pm (UTC)
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fixed.
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From:rose_garden
Date:September 26th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!
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From:q10
Date:September 26th, 2013 08:14 pm (UTC)
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the other side of it is realizing that all these random things you were doing were interpreted as you casting spells by people playing the game, with often unfortunate consequences.
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From:ccommack
Date:September 26th, 2013 08:40 pm (UTC)
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Solidarity.
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From:irilyth
Date:September 26th, 2013 08:56 pm (UTC)
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It's a fair point, although in practice, the idea that one can decline to have a gender is somewhat more modern and unusual than the idea that one can decline to play D&D. Like, it is widely understood that not everyone has a D&D character; and it'd seem deeply weird for me to say that of course everyone does, and that anyone who doesn't just doesn't realize that they do, or something. Whereas I think it's only slightly less widely believed that everyone does have a gender, and if I said that everyone has a gender -- perhaps a complicated non-binary gender, but some gender anyway -- I think it'd be pretty unusual for someone to disagree.

Which isn't say that you shouldn't feel how you feel; just maybe that you shouldn't be surprised that this isn't how everyone else already feels.
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From:q10
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:07 pm (UTC)
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Like, it is widely understood that not everyone has a D&D character; and it'd seem deeply weird for me to say that of course everyone does, and that anyone who doesn't just doesn't realize that they do, or something.

yes, exactly.
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From:sildra
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure it's so much about not having a gender as it is about not wanting to play. "Genderless" is an option in the system, but that's different.
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From:ursule
Date:September 27th, 2013 10:45 pm (UTC)
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I think it's useful to compare one's ideas about gender with one's ideas about social class. I do believe that class is (a) a useful theoretical concept, (b) more about the way people are socialized to react to you & you are socialized to react to other people than about any intrinsic or universal traits, and (c) frequently used to pigeonhole people in annoying ways.
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From:fiddledragon
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC)
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This is a really useful metaphor. I go through phases of deciding that I want to try to present as more emphatically androgynous, but really, my thoughts on my own gender tend to be "meh?". And you're not "allowed" to have "meh?" as a gender identity, so I have to say meh really loudly and decisively to get the point across, which is a bit of a contradiction in terms.
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From:irilyth
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC)
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> And you're not "allowed" to have "meh?" as a gender identity

This seems like the problem to me. Just like you might not care what color your hair is, you might not care what your gender identity is, and might wish other people wouldn't make such a big deal out of it. Why is everyone else so obsessed with it?
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From:q10
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC)
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yeah, i feel like ‘meh’ isn't so much an answer as a denial that the question is applicable, but everybody keeps thinking it needing there to be an answer, and offering to compromise by treating ‘meh’ as an answer.
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From:irilyth
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
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Actually, thinking about this a little more... Well, first, a meta thing: I don't particularly want to argue with you about this, so if this sounds argumentative, feel free to ignore me, tell me to shut up, etc.

Anyway, another way to think about this: What if you think of gender as a way of measuring things? It would seem weird, for example, if you said that you didn't have a height. Maybe your height is complicated: Maybe your height is variable; or maybe you're two-dimensional, and your height is zero; or maybe you exist in ten dimensions, and it's confusing to call one of your dimensions "height" and think that this means the same thing to you that it means to a three-dimensional person; or whatever.

Regardless, height is a way for measuring a characteristic. It might make sense to say that it's difficult or impossible to measure that characteristic in you, or that you don't have that characteristic at all, or something. But that's different than saying that you don't exist in a world where that characteristic can even be defined, much less measured; whereas it makes perfect sense to say that I don't exist in a world where a skill called Argue On The Internet can be defined or measured.

Now, you weren't saying that gender is like an attribute or skill in a game; you were saying that it's like a game itself. That seems odd to me; it makes more sense to me to think of gender as a characteristic that can be measured (even if it's sometimes difficult or impossible to measure).

Does that make any sense, and/or help any?

(As a side note, my anti-gender feeling is more like a belief that gender should be like hair color: Maybe for a lot of people it's simple and permanent, but it should be fine for it to be complicated and flexible if people want it to be, and it certainly shouldn't have to be a critical defining feature that determines many (any?) other things about you. So I'm certainly not arguing that rigid binary gender is a good thing; but I do think it's weird to say that it doesn't exist or is an illusion or whatever.)
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From:q10
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:23 pm (UTC)
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so gender is unlike height in a few ways.

one is that it's founded much more on self-identification. there's no category of measurable (or even non-gender-referencing introspective) qualities that are judged to determine gender identity. (in game terms, maybe it used to be that only really short people could play as druids, but there's been a big push to relax that rule, and that's all for the good.) this is really the big thing - that gender, as understood in most of these conversations, is determined by an expressed desire to be identified with a particular gender, perhaps in combination with the observance of a more-or-less arbitrary constellation of rituals that have been decreed to associate with a particular gender. (if you're playing a druid you have to wear green.)

another is that the gender categories are much more gerrymandered than simple height. like, suppose we focused on the division of people between ‘over 164cm’ and ‘under 164cm’. yes, those are pretty much objective categories, but there's an arbitrary (‘game’) aspect in focusing on that decision. only gender categories are often much weirder than that - they're often more like ‘having a height that, when rounded down to the nearest inch, is either a prime number of inches or a multiple of 8 inches’. so again, the underlying facts of height might be real, but the prioritization of certain really weird discontinuous height categories is largely made up.

Edited at 2013-09-26 09:26 pm (UTC)
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From:sildra
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:35 pm (UTC)
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What does it measure, then?
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From:q10
Date:September 26th, 2013 09:59 pm (UTC)
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there are a lot of more straightforward (although not entirely uncomplicated) categories:

people with only one X chromosome.

people with at least one Y chromosome.

people without a working SRY gene anywhere in their genome.

people with ovaries.

people who have at some point in their life had ovaries.

people who would think of wearing a skirt as cross-dressing.

people with traditionally male names.

...and so on.

some or all of these categories may be useful categories for some particular purposes (although, if you're interested in any particular one of them, people are entitled to press you on why you think it matters), but the game of gender is, depending on who you ask, either independent of any of these categories, and only associated with any of them stereotypically, or, alternatively, associated with some complicated formula based on some cluster of these categories that is fabulously complex and is the result of a lot of nontrivial decisions about how to put it all together. this is different (at least in degree) from the situations with height and hair color.

Edited at 2013-09-26 10:00 pm (UTC)
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From:psocoptera
Date:September 28th, 2013 09:51 pm (UTC)
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"You know, your kids are going to be at such a loss when everyone else knows how to play."

"... buh? We're totally teaching them, they're [class] and [class]."

"But [class] shouldn't [do that]. You know, nobody else is going to know your weird house rules."

a."enh, MFQ"
b."actually lots of people play with that rule, there was an errata"
c."okay, you got me, we don't really care about the game very much"
d. FIGHT!

Well, probably not d. (I like this analogy.)
[User Picture]
From:q10
Date:September 28th, 2013 10:44 pm (UTC)
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[laughs]
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From:naye
Date:September 28th, 2013 11:46 pm (UTC)
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Hard to do justice to an analogy that detailed with a tweet, but I saw this and thought of your post:

Genders are like cars, everyone keeps telling me I abso need one and I keep going "I LIVE IN SAN FRANCISCO"


Edited at 2013-09-28 11:47 pm (UTC)
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From:q10
Date:September 29th, 2013 02:31 am (UTC)
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this is one of those moments where i'm really, really disappointed by LJ's lack of a 'like' button.
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