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22Jun/160

The Marriage Equality Plebiscite Dichotomy

Posted by Mythor

Love is Love

A key issue separating the two main parties in the upcoming Federal Election is whether gay marriage should be legalised. Labor seem keen to bring marriage equality to Australia and are promising to legislate to that effect within the first 100 days. The Liberal and National Party Coalition favours maintaining the status quo, but have begrudgingly been drawn into allowing the Australian public an official say in the matter, via a national plebiscite.

On the surface, the Coalition's planned plebiscite seems good. Public opinion polls typically reveal a majority of Australians are in favour of allowing homosexual partnerships the same recognition as heterosexual ones. Discrimination in legislation between the two has been steadily phased out over the last decade as public perception shifted. It was no longer okay for "de facto" heterosexual relationships to enjoy rights above those of equally committed homosexuals.

The actual "marriage" bit, however, has remained a sticking point.

So if the public are generally supportive of the change, or at least won't care, why hasn't it happened? Religion, mostly, and a fear of change. A lot of the arguments boil down to, "God said Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve" or that marriage has traditionally been between a husband and wife.

While there have been exceptions in history - notably, numerous instances of multiple wives for a single husband - for the most part it has been true. One man, one woman. And the lord or chieftain of the tribe gets first dibs on the wedding night. Tradition!

The outdated beliefs held by a minority of the population would not be an issue, but for the fact that organised religion has had a millenia to practice manipulating governments at the uppermost levels. They mobilise their communities and hold the condemnation of God over their heads to ensure obedience, getting desired candidates into positions of power.

A plebiscite cuts out the middlemen. No political branch stacking or dirty tricks, just a straight vote by the public. Marriage equality, yea or nay?

Nay, not quite. The problem with a plebiscite is it's not legally binding on the government. Even if the result came back with 95% of the public being in favour the government can simply ignore it, or cite the 5% as reason enough not to legislate.

Which is garbage. Completely legal but morally and ethically questionable, at best.

The only positive thing that could be taken away from that situation is that the public would finally have very solid, incontrovertible evidence that it should be legalised. And we will know exactly who to blame.

Which is why I am in two minds on the process. I kind of want the plebiscite to go ahead, because the apple cart badly needs to be kicked over on this, though it likely means a longer path ahead for marriage equality advocates.

But then, what if we hold a very expensive plebiscite and the public says no? Then it's an even longer path and possibly another expensive plebiscite in the future.

And all because some people think boys kissing other boys is icky.

4Jan/160

Who’s The Minister For Men?

Posted by Mythor

Towards the end of 2014 the then Abbott Government reshuffled their ministry, including promoting a second woman to the cabinet. But what really got people's noses out of joint was the Prime Minister of the time, Tony Abbott, declaring he'd be the Minister for Women after one was not even assigned in their first year of Government.

Whilst having a man in the role did not especially bother me, Abbott seemed an exceptionally poor choice for a number of reasons, perhaps best highlighted by him having been taken to task by Prime Minister Julia Gillard for a string of misogyny. Another man in the role might have been okay, but nobody outside the Liberals thought he was an appropriate choice. Many among the Liberals probably thought it was ridiculous as well.

In amongst all this kerfuffle something caught my eye, as it has many times in the past. There's a Minister for Women, but there isn't a Minister for Men.

Now, I don't mean to imply there should not be a Minister for Women. Clearly that's a position that needs to exist as there are deeply entrenched biases and discrimination against women in society, from pay inequality to domestic violence rates to reproductive healthcare and so on. Women need a champion for their rights in the political sphere, unquestionably.

But what about men? People like to carry on about men having all the advantages in life already, but there are problems men face that are specific to them and they could equally use a champion for their cause.

Perhaps the best, least controversial, example of this is the simple fact that prostate cancer rates outstrip breast cancer. Prostate cancer is an exclusively male disease yet it gets a fraction of the attention and funding of breast cancer.

Women are typically the victim, not perpetrator, of domestic violence, and it's by a very large margin. Even when men are the victim, it's often other men as the abusers. But the number of male victims is not zero. Yet the support available for such men is nonexistent. Men approaching "domestic violence support" organisations are turned away because they're not women. Not that there's no resources available, they're just not geared towards supporting men, aren't interested in doing so or even express outright disdain for men needing their help.

Many initiatives exist for getting women into science, engineering, techie and other "male dominated" careers, but the reverse is not true. There aren't any, or far fewer, for any career path where men might be underrepresented. Partly because men have, of course, been doing practically all the jobs since forever...

Except for things like home duties and looking after the kids. It's quite normal for women to take on that role once a family is started, but men are frequently looked down on for taking on that role while the woman returns to work after the birth of a child. It's only recently that the idea of "paternity leave" has caught on, not that maternity leave has been any less of a struggle...

Maybe the problems facing men aren't as large as those of women, nor are the inequalities perhaps as pronounced, but it's always seemed clear to me that men face some unique issues that a devoted champion to stand up for them would make sense. Not as a competitor, or counterbalance to the Minister for Women, purely as an advocate for the specific issues facing men today.

Perhaps that's what all the other ministers address and we don't actually need a specific Minister for Men, but given that the Minister for Women role was entirely ceremonial under Tony Abbott... why not, right?

Anyway, I tweeted about this at the time and pinned it to the top of my profile for over a year and only ever got one slightly sarcastic reply that implied I was just looking to cause trouble. I wasn't, I just find it interesting. Have ever since a discussion during a School Council meeting where a Head Teacher for Girls was mentioned and nobody could tell me who the Head for Boys was, and couldn't explain why there wasn't one.

Turned out there was one, it just didn't come up a whole lot so nobody there happened to know off the top of their head.

And now that I've written a blog post about it I can pin something else to the top of my Twitter. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below...

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7May/150

Some Thoughts On GamerGate’s Project DeepFreeze

Posted by Mythor

The latest of GamerGate's "operations" has launched and it's a website cataloguing factoids on games journalists and their outlets. Which is actually not a bad idea, something I suggested in my prior post on why GamerGate hasn't gone away.

On Twitter it has been suggested by those supporting GamerGate that if people have issues with the project they should lay out their concerns, rather than resorting to rhetoric and angry dismissal. Again, not a bad suggestion!

The problem is you don't even have to dig very deep to start finding serious problems with the DeepFreeze.it site.

First and foremost, who is running the site? There is no indication anywhere on the site on who, specifically, is backing this. Is it an individual, group, company or extradimensional being? The site is supposed to serve us as a reference on who can be trusted in the industry, yet we have no way of assessing the trustworthiness of the source? I expect the usual excuses of "muh privacies" or "muh safeties" to be trotted out here, but when setting oneself up as an arbiter of truth it is simply not good enough.

A quick whois search turns up "Stefano Eracliti" as the owner of the domain, which I assume is some form of pseudonym, since the name does not return results on Google, Twitter or Facebook. Or it might be one of those rare, truly unique names that has yet to appear online. Either way, it does not inspire confidence.

Another glaring issue is the lack of any mention of behaviour which could be considered ethical or beyond reproach. Simple things like whether they disclose the provenance of games they review, or whether trips and accomodation were paid for, would be easy to add. Such things may not seem of great import next to other entries on the list, but it would present at least a facade of evenhandedness.

This wouldn't be a problem if the stated goal was to create a list of unethical or otherwise questionable behaviour, of course, but they've gone out of their way to state objectivity as a thing they strive for. If the goal is to include factual information gamers might want to know before deciding whether to trust a journalist, why are all the entries I've checked only credited with "ethically dubious" notes?

Now it may be that over time such listings will be added. If they are genuinely trying to do the job properly, I would expect nothing less. Yet you would think a site aiming to be an important, objective, resource would have spent some time investigating some at least neutral factoids to include on profiles before going public. They've gone to the trouble of creating profiles for people whose only "credit" is being part of the GameJournoPros mailing list, after all.

And on the flipside, they've created an empty profile for Lauren Wainwright, someone who was actually run out of games journalism over ethical concerns.

Conversely, a number of pro-GamerGate commentators are conspicuously absent. John Bain aka TotalBiscuit is not mentioned, despite having a much higher profile than many of the others on the list. He can't even escape that one with the "not a journalist" line since there's plenty of those on the list. Other notable absences include Erik Kain, Milo Yiannopoulos and Stardock CEO Brad Wardell.

I'm not for a moment suggesting any of those men are involved in any sketchy activities, just there's a seeming double standard. Maybe they just haven't gotten around to those guys yet, just as there's no listings for Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu...

Some pretty conspicuous absences, don't you think? There's not even entries awaiting further details, as is the case for a number of others.

Perhaps most tellingly there are a number of entries on people's lists for presumed use of the GG Autoblocker for Twitter. Yet the creator, Randi Harper, does not have her own page. A place where, for example, you could cite her as the creator of the thing you're making note of on other pages.

Obviously such a listing will never be wholly complete. You have to start somewhere. But to parade around as an objective source on the trustworthiness of journalists and to be trumpeted as such, you need to be above reproach. And DeepFreeze seems far from achieving that, to the point of me being dubious they're genuinely trying.

Also, you list people's names in alphabetical order based on surname, not first. Der.

30Apr/150

“It’s about ethics in game journalism.”

Posted by Mythor

It's become the punchline among industry professionals to the movement widely known as GamerGate, and it's kind of vexing me that nobody is taking it seriously.

Oh, not the wider "movement" or the disgusting behaviour being exhibited by many in and around it. No, it's deeply concerning that nobody seems to be taking the notion of ethics in our field seriously.

When asked to cite the genesis of the movement most will posit it was either the beginning of Adam Baldwin's involvement and the creation of That Hashtag, or they will point to the bitter ramblings of an ex-lover and the assorted accusations arising from it. Both have certainly served as nucleation points for the whole fizzing mess, but the truth requires digging a little deeper.

The common thread between both supposed starting points is that of alleged unethical behaviour within the gaming industry. What people initially latched on to was the belief that Zoe Quinn garnered undue attention for her game (Depression Quest) by sleeping with an assortment of men in advantageous positions.

That it was probably untrue never mattered to a lot of gamers. It was the impetus people needed to start digging, looking for further confirmation of a long held belief that games journalists and developers are colluding with one another in a dishonest fashion.

You see, GamerGate may have got its label and a level of coordination due to recent events, but the sentiment behind it has been boiling away for more than a decade. You could see it expressed in comments sections across the internet, where professional journalists would be accused of accepting kickbacks for positive coverage of a game, even when the games were generally well received.

And why? Well, partly we have ourselves to blame. A large segment of the gaming commentary community (journalists, critics, bloggers, et al) are in the business because they're gamers. It's almost an extension of our hobby, even when we're getting paid for writing about it.

And that's kind of a problem. Because it's primarily a fan based medium and the barrier to entry is so low, there's essentially no oversight. There's no central authority checking that everything is above board and nobody to lodge a complaint with, should anything suspicious be noticed.

Equally, there's no central body "we", the commentators, can approach for a tick of approval. We can't pin a badge on our online presences to indicate a respected authority has approved of our standards, nor is there a centralised set of standards we can sign off on upholding.

None of that means we're all unethical scumbags, of course. Far from it. As interested parties I'd argue we're actually less prone to corruption, since we don't want to see it happening any more than the general public. There'll be instances where people accept things they should not or are unduly influenced, but largely the people talking about games do it for the love of gaming rather than money or material goods.

Yet this is why GamerGate persists. For as much as people want to paint the sideshow as anti-women or anti-minorities or anti-gaming, the core concerns run much deeper and have been around for much longer than you might think. And we're probably not making our best effort at addressing those concerns.

Ultimately, it really is about ethics in game journalism. And I think we can do better than sweeping it under the carpet with a shared chuckle.