Go Make Me a Sandwich

Image with examples of the derogatory language directed at female gamers in game. Courtesy of Delany Bopp

4/23/16

When playing video games, many people hope to escape the pressures of everyday life. Unfortunately, it can just be a bigger source for stress for women, who often experience discrimination in the gaming community and games themselves.

Video games are one of America’s most prolific forms of escapist entertainment. The industry made 61 billion dollars in 2015 according to CNBC. Many YouTubers have taken advantage by playing video games and commentating over them and then watching their subscribers and profits climb.

However, there is an obvious disparity that arises soon after any interaction with gaming culture. Women are under- represented or outright discriminated against in games and in the community.

Matthew Greenbaum, known online as boyinachickensuit, is a lifelong gamer who got into gaming by playing Pokémon: Yellow.

“Usually, if I am playing a male character and I encounter a female character, one of three things is going to happen. Either she’s going to betray me, I’m going to protect her, or she’s going to sleep with me,” said Greenbaum. “It’s not nearly as much diversity as male characters get. So, that is not a very positive portrayal of 50 percent of the human race.”

Greenbaum’s experiences have some quantitative evidence in recent games. In the top five grossing games of 2015, none have a default female main character. Star Wars Battlefront has a choice of characters in the heroes vs. campaign, but five out of the six options are male. The only claim to diversity is the character customization in Grand Theft Auto V, and Fallout 4 the latest Fallout game, where players can fully customize their characters. However, in the case of Fallout 4, this can lead female players to discover just how lazy game developers can be.

“You can just tell in little ways that [Fallout 4] isn’t made for you when you play as a female character,” said Rebekah Salonnen, AKA mad_shelly, a longtime fan of the Fallout series who is disappointed in the latest establishment. “They didn’t bother to f—— record female pronouns, but they specifically went out of their way to make the guards of a certain city will catcall you, and raiders will call you ‘little b—-’.”

The lack of consideration for female gamers goes farther than the top titles and gameplay though. Many female members of the gaming community have been openly discriminated against for their contributions to the community.

For instance, in 2014, actress and avid gamer Felicia Day was targeted after she spoke out against Gamergate, a movement against independent game developers and female critics. As a result of her speech, Day was doxxed- her home address and personal phone number had been discovered and widely shared, according to the Guardian. Day was not the only one doxxed, and others were forced to move from their homes as a result, according to the Washington Post.

The discrimination goes beyond those who speak out. Female gamers who try to use interactive games as they were meant to be often get called out as soon as their voice is heard on a game server. The most common male response to a female gamer is ‘go make me a sandwich,’ implying that the woman’s place is in the kitchen and not in the gamer space.

“I get to interact with a lot of people and they’re mostly male, and since I’ve definitely been in the minority being a girl on a gaming server, there is a certain kind of attention that gets drawn to you,” said Delany Bopp, AKA Stormy, who likes to play more interactive games with large communities. “It’s not that it’s always hostile, it’s just the fact that [the attention] is there at all is strange to me and not ideal.”

Bopp has had dozens of unwelcome advances since she became involved in the gaming community, just because she was identified as a woman on the servers that she plays on. These advances have ranged from inappropriate sexual advances to stalking on social media.

There is hope for equality in the gaming community though. In 2014 a large gaming company, Bioware, released Dragon Age: Inquisition, where both genders are equally represented in variety, from warriors and villains to spies and politicians.

“I always like to try to remain optimistic,” said Greenbaum. “More people are starting to realize that women are just as prevalent in the community as men are, and more games are being made with positive messages of equality all around.”

Permission to Teach

4/4/16

Should schools have to treat LGBT education different than a regular curriculum? A new bill proposed by the Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives might require special permission slips from parents in order to teach LGBT issues to their children. The bill would essentially require an opt in from parents for anything related to LGBT issues, whether it be a lesson, a field trip or a counseling service.

This bill might seem benign, however LGBT groups, supporters and community members consider the timing suspect.

“All of the legislation surrounding information slips, conferences and content stems from the LGBT conference last spring,” said Ruth Ann Gaines, a democrat on the Government Oversight Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives who opposes the bill. “I think it’s a definite reaction to the conference and its influence in the LGBTQ community.”

The bill was only proposed after last year’s controversial Iowa Governor’s Conference on LGBT Youth by the chair of the Government Oversight Committee, Bobby Kaufmann. Speakers and presenters at the conference were accused of “using vulgar language and making sexually graphic presentations to students,” according to the Des Moines Register. However, Gaines is only aware of one teacher who brought forth concerns, while others raised their voices to support the conference.

The worry is, as Rivka Schrodt, a local transgender woman, explains it, that legislators will use the language of the bill to target the LGBTQ community.

“They’re hiding behind the use of the term ‘human growth and development’ to make it sound like it’s not homophobic, transphobic, biphobic, panphobic, when in all actuality, that’s what it is,” said Schrodt. “It’s a horrible bill and it’s a waste of the legislators’ time.”

According to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBT research group, there are 65,835 individuals in Iowa who identify as LGBT, which is 2.16 percent of the total population of Iowa. The fear is this bill would affect the LGBT population in Iowa and deprive non-LGBT students from learning about the community.

Iowa Safe Schools has already spoken out against the bill, and One Iowa, “the state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization” according to their website, wasn’t far behind.

“Often, anything that is LGBT is, by some people, considered sex education,” said Donna Red Wing, the executive director of One Iowa. “What it might be understood to mean is that any conversations around sexual orientation or gender identity might be construed as sex education, and therefore parents would have to opt in, or give children permission to receive any of that information.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, “three states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction.” HSB 647 would make Iowa the fourth state to require that parents opt in to sex education. For comparison, the District of Columbia and 35 other states have opt out policies, and 37 states and D.C. allow parental involvement in sex education.

“The first casualty of this is opt in requirements, and this does not only affect LGBT kids, if affects all kids,” said Red Wing. “It means that every kid, instead of having parents opt out of sex ed, they’re going to have to opt in, which means that most kids won’t get sex education, which is really frightening.”

Although attempts were made to contact the chair and the vice chair of the committee that proposed the bill, no contact was made. There were also efforts to contact supporters of the bill, most notably Bob Vander Plaats, head of The Family Leader, a Christian organization focused on family unity.

According to Plaats’ The Family Leader website, “The Family Leader affirms sexual relations within the bond of marriage, and opposes distortions of sexuality or special rights to those practicing distorted sexual behavior.”

The Iowa House of Representatives is hearing arguments from members of the Government Oversight Committee about HSB 647 Tuesday, April 5th.

“I do have great confidence in the Iowa senate, I think that they’ll see this bill for what it is, and it’s a measure to keep kids in the dark about sexual orientation, gender identity and sexuality,” said Red Wing. “They know that our kids need more age appropriate education, not less.”

Iowa Attempts to Ban Conversion Therapy

4/10/16

There is an attempt being made in the Iowa legislature to ban gay conversion therapy for patients under the age of 18. The bill passed in the Senate in March of 2015 with a party line vote, 26 ayes to 24 nays, and is now sitting in the committee of Human Resources in The House of Representatives. The bill would also introduce penalties for those found practicing conversion therapy on minors.

Conversion therapy, also known as reparative therapy or ‘praying the gay away’ colloquially, is a kind of treatment that many LGBT children are often forced to attend by parents. Conversion therapy is often linked to religious concerns about being LGBT, as it is seen in some religious cultures to be sinful. According to the International Society of Mental Health Nurses, conversion therapy can include, but is not limited to, individual and group therapy, electroshock therapy, exorcism, isolation and restraints.

“There is no conclusive evidence that “reparative therapy” is beneficial to patients,” according to a 2008 report by the International Society of Mental Health Nurses.

However, Joseph Nicolosi, head of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, says that conversion therapy can be beneficial to clients.

“’Sexually questioning’ teens must have the chance to investigate all of their options — not just be encouraged by counselors into adopting a gay identity and living a gay lifestyle,” according to Nicolosi’s professional website.

Senator Bill Anderson, a Republican in the Iowa Senate from Sioux City, is against the bill to ban conversion therapy in Iowa.

“Having parents that maybe have an objection to a particular lifestyle, I’m not sure if I’m phrasing that correctly but, that would take away their ability to make that decision if they wanted to have their child go see a counselor,” said Anderson. “The bill would also put that counselor in a position that, if they did do the counseling that the parents requested on behalf of their child, that they would then be subject to disciplinary action.”

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a representative from Story County and a member of the Human Resources Committee assigned to evaluate the bill, has a different opinion.

“I have had numerous young people come to me and tell me how damaging conversion therapy has been for them, and how much they had to go through to get over that experience,” Wessel-Kroeschell said. “I absolutely think it verges on abuse.”

Senator Matt McCoy, an openly gay member of the Iowa Senate, introduced the bill and voted for it when it went up on the Senate floor.

“It is the worst form of child abuse that a parent can inflict on a child,” said McCoy about conversion therapy, over the phone. “It ends tragically.”

According to Iowa Code section 232.68, child abuse is defined as, “any nonaccidental physical injury… any mental injury… the commission of a sexual offense” and more.

“Services that purport to “cure” people with non-heterosexual sexual orientation lack medical justification and represent a serious threat to the health and well-being of affected people,” according to the Pan American Health Organization, a regional division of the World Health Organization.

Though Wessel-Kroeschell confirmed that there are currently no known instances of conversion therapy being practiced in Iowa, the bill is seen as a preventative measure.

The Iowa Board of Medicine is also looking into a separate petition to ban conversion therapy. Homosexuality as a diagnosis was taken off of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in 1973, according to The International Society of Mental Health Nurses. The state Youth Advisory Council introduced the petition to the board, which has denied it for the time being so that more research could be conducted, according to a recent article by KCCI.

Conversion therapy is banned in the District of Columbia, California, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon, according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ equality group.

Dylan Shirey, an openly gay student at Drake University, agrees with the bill to ban conversion therapy from Iowa.

“Conversion therapy is wrong, it is not necessary, and I think it’s ridiculous,” said Shirey. “I don’t think it is ethically right in this day and age.”

Rock On

How to Enjoy Geology:

When someone jumps out of a car and runs at a rock with a bottle of acid, most people would be concerned. However, there is nothing to fear. This is a typical experience for a geologist.

Kyle Vernon was on his way to a weeklong dig in Arkansas when he stopped for gas. Filling up his tank, he spotted a rock that looked like coral, and grabbed some hydrochloric acid. Even though Vernon and his friend Devin Last discovered the rock was not coral, both geologists got valuable field experience. The geology club that they both belong to is dedicated to field experience and camaraderie between club members and fellow scientists.

“Our entire department is like a family and I am really privileged to get to do all this,” said Vernon, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee geology club president. “I like the micro vs. macroscopic thing geology has going on with maps and stuff you can see around you.”

The UWM Geology Club goes on a spring break trip every year, with notable past destinations including the Mammoth Caves, Graves Mountain and the Little Pine Garnet Mine. This year, the group went to three mines (Sweet Surrender, Coleman’s Quartz Mine, and the Montgomery County Quarry) in search of quartz and wavellite. Arkansas was the desired destination because quartz is quite common there.

The club participants consisted of 14 geologists, one biologist and one journalist, all crammed into 5 cars, along with all of the rocks they could carry.

This year’s trip got off to a rocky start because of an EF1 tornado. According to Arkansas Online, three condominiums, four homes and six docks were damaged by the winds and falling trees.

The club didn’t let the storm get in their way, however. Early the next morning, they readied themselves and drove to Sweet Surrender, a small quartz mine run by Randy Skates. The group swarmed over the rose-colored open pit mine, eager to find samples.Delany Digging

The geologists used a variety of tools to gather their samples including rock hammers, sledgehammers and shovels. They had to get down and dirty in order to surface dig and find good samples.

“It was just really cool and really special to be able to get in there and wander wherever we wanted and dig around and find things for ourselves,” said Delany Bopp, a geology club member and geology major at UWM. “It was a great experience overall!”

The biggest find of the trip happened on the second day, when Emma Rebernick found a quartz crystal the size of an infant and clear as glass. The find was made at Coleman’s mine, when previous hours of digging were thought to be futile after hours of prior searching.

“It’s my baby,” Rebernick said on the trip. “Her name is Big Bertha!”

Big Bertha

Later in the trip, the geology club was looking for a way to find some wavellite, a small green mineral. Luckily, when the group had visited the Sweet Surrender mine, they made friends with the owner, Skates. He offered one of his miners, Mike, to give them an off the books tour of a large local wavellite mine run by Montgomery County. Wavellite is rather unique because of the radial patterns it has when broken, and its bright green hue.

The geology club jumped at the chance to dig for Arkansas’ second most famous mineral. Wavellite is rather unique because of the radial patterns it has when broken, and its bright green hue. The wavellite mine isn’t open for public access, but the possible misdemeanor didn’t stop any of the members on the trip- nor did the 80 degree temperatures and direct sunlight. The club eagerly dug for the unique mineral, some staying in the quarry until well after sundown to find samples.

Students Searching for Wavellite

The next day, the group woke up early and drove seven hours to The Garden of the Gods Campsite. The last stop of the trip, The Garden of the Gods is on the top of ancient rock formations that used to be submerged in a shallow ocean that covered much of America’s heartland. The primary interest to the group was the iron bands that formed strange ripple marks on the sandstone. The club members were extremely satisfied with their spring break, and it concluded with a peaceful hike through the rock formations at Garden of the Gods.

“In the classroom and even on field trips we are very heavily science oriented and it’s good to see the other non college bubble side,” Vernon said.

If any Iowans want to see the “non college bubble side” of geology, Vernon recommends the northeast corner of Iowa, near Decorah. Around 470 million years ago, a meteor fell there during the Ordovician meteor event, and the effects on the local bedrock can be seen in the earth around the impact crater. The evidence is buried deep though, as there is no indication of the meteor on the surface.

A geologist’s version of a fun spring break may be strange, but the group made valuable memories. They traversed the country, spent time with their friends and had a good time. Maybe geologists aren’t so strange after all.