Women in Games

It’s a new year and time for resolutions that I’m sure to break within the month.  Will it be yoga?  Will it be eating better?  No.  Although those are good and maybe I’ll give them a go.  One thing I would like to do however is re-dedicate myself to some writing.  In that vein, I thought I’d give a few words on a new board game I just purchased.

Thanks to some Amazon gift cards, I got to do a bit of shopping for me and settled on a couple board games.   The one I thought I’d mention today is called Monarch.  The game was created by Mary Flanagan with art by Kate Adams.  A game created and illustrated by women is pretty cool straight off.  I don’t know what the percentage of games created by women is, but I play a lot of board games and I don’t see many women’s names on them.

Even the box is fantastic!

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.” – Ranier Maria Rilke

Monarch is better than a game made by women in a beautiful box, though.  The players also play women – princesses, in fact.  The players become the dueling heiresses of the kingdom of Minervia.

The game layout is simple.


There are twelve land cards used to make a nine tile kingdom with farms to bring in harvest and villages to bring in taxes.  There’s a deck of cards that’s used to make the market from which the players improve the lands, build their court, reap the benefits and demerits of the moons, and even a few unwelcome guests to pawn off on their sisters.

The rules are fairly simple, but the gameplay requires more strategy than it first appears.  I played with my family – myself, my husband, and my son – and we breezed through our first game.  It was so fun we played it again immediately.

The estimated game time is 45 minutes, which we found to be about accurate and happily so.  As much as I love board games, I don’t have an excess of free time on my hands, so if a game says 45 minutes it can often be a problem if it stretches out to an hour and a half.  We didn’t even have to give Monarch the first play through time discount.


I highly recommend Monarch for everyone from a board game novice to a regular player.  It’s a fun and fast fantasy game for the whole family (as long as your family is not more than 4 people)!


“The Party” is You

Since one of the most devastating election results in modern American history, there has been a lot of hand-wringing from the high and the low alike about how awful the leadership of the Democratic Party is and how much it needs to change.  Most recently – at this moment – is a piece by Robert Reich wherein he says that the Democratic Party needs to “clean house”.

I don’t necessarily disagree.  As a Democrat living in a red area, I’d love to see party leadership that is willing to take a risk to expand the board, which is to say attempt to recruit candidates in areas they’re likely to lose.  American elections have become incredibly uncompetitive.

Pennsylvania has a lot of government, or rather a lot of governments.  In the upcoming local election year (yeah, we have elections in odd years too), there will be 100 offices up for election in my county alone.  What this year will bring is anyone’s guess, but during the local elections I have observed, I’ve seen the vast majority of local offices go, without contest, to either the incumbent or a hand-picked member of the majority party.  The same thing is happening across the country.

Sorry, I’ve digressed.  Where was I?  Oh yeah…

The Democratic Party leadership should change.  Yes, Robert Reich is right.  The thing that I haven’t really heard anyone say, though, is that the DNC is nearly invisible to most local party members.  Ask a member of your county Democratic Party how often they interact with the DNC.  Unless they’re from a hugely populous Democratic majority county I bet the answer is almost never.

What I’m trying to say is this, if you want to change the Democratic Party, maybe try getting involved at  the local level.  I know, you say, that’s so pointless until a critical mass of people begins to get involved!  How am I going to make a difference?  What if other people aren’t doing it?

Let me ask you this: what are you waiting for?  Do you not have time?  Neither does anyone else.  Make some time.  Do you think you don’t understand how local politics (or any politics) works?  You’ll learn.  If Donald Trump can be President-elect of the United States, you can help your local party elect school board members and city councilors and borough supervisors, etc.

Robert Reich’s message is exactly what I expect of someone who is so vastly far-removed from local parties that he probably forgets we exist.  What makes me utterly unhinged is when I hear people who aren’t even involved or who are marginally involved spend all their politically-motivated energy on who’s leading the DNC and how awful they are and can’t we please sign a petition to get rid of whoever it is that’s leading the DNC right now (it’s Donna Brazile, and yes, I know that).

I’m not saying you can’t support Keith Ellison for DNC Chair.  Do that, if you want to, but spend about 100 times more effort on making a difference in your county party or – if you’re in an area with more Democrats – your sub-county local structure.  Can’t find your county party?  Try a neighboring county, they might be able to help you.  Above all, don’t sit on the sidelines and think a change in leadership at the DNC is going to solve your problem.

If there is one thing that has happened since Donald Trump won the electoral college vote that makes me happy, it’s the number of messages I’ve gotten from people who now know that they can’t sit by and wait until the next presidential election.  They have to do something now, and I’m happy to assist them in that.

A Paragon of Virtue: The Donald Trump Story


I’ve been MIA for awhile because I’m a busy person and often times as soon as I think of something to write about it just jumps out of my head.  I should carry a journal around with me and write things down instantly.

Sorry, that’s beside the point.

Donald Trump had another episode of tweetarrhia this morning.  I’d like to focus briefly on the tweet at the top, above the .gif of Squidward that accurately depicts the look on my face when I read the tweet.  Know why?  It was one single word.


Virtue has been but one in a toolkit of blunt instruments used to beat women about the head with for – oh, I don’t know – the length and breadth of history.  Virtue is the definition of a woman.  A woman lacking in virtue is a woman of no worth.  That’s what Donald Trump is reminding you.

Just for fun, and because I apparently have very little disregard for my blood pressure, I googled “women and virtue”.  These are but the first of the results that followed:


Men like Donald Trump use the word virtue as a standard which invariably invalidates every accomplishment that a woman has made in her life.  What Donald Trump, in that tweet and elsewhere, is currently having the gall to declare is that Alicia Machado is somehow of less value as a human being because she’s not living up to his standards of sexual morality (for women).

You know what the most aggravating thing is, though?  Alicia Machado’s “virtue” has nothing to do with anything.  Hillary Clinton is not attempting to put her forward as a “paragon of virtue”.

Hillary Clinton pointed out that Donald Trump’s well-documented obsession with women’s bodies.  She pointed out that when Alicia Machado had the unmitigated cheek to – like most regular people – gain a little weight.  He then publicly humiliated her, something he is continuing to do today.

And what is Donald Trump’s response to those people “knocking” him today?

I don’t know about answering calls, but I do know that it seems that there is no time of day or night that Donald Trump isn’t ready and willing to use his public platform to denigrate, degrade, and humiliate any woman who doesn’t meet his personal physical standards or who publicly disagrees with him.

More Than Special Editions

I shop at Target all the time.  Let’s get that out of the way.

The other day I was at Target, buying their special edition of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (ps. I found the packaging disappointingly basic), and while I was there I figured I’d check out the action figures.  A month or so ago I started building my Lady Empowerment Shrine, which is a section of my bookshelf full of feminist literature and woman action figures and Lego figures to pump me up when I’m feeling down.  So whenever I’m out and about anywhere that might have a fun addition to my shelf, I look around.  Besides, Target’s ad displayed some new Star Wars merch which included a Rey figure with her jacket on and lightsaber out.  Clearly I would love that.

Unfortunately, my Target doesn’t have it.  In fact, there are no Rey figures left AT ALL.  She’s totally sold out.  Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought the whole point of capitalism was to make money.


The “Shut Up and Take My Money” Theory of Economics, if you will.

When I say “shut up and take my money,” I do actually expect you to have something for me in exchange.  The problem isn’t necessarily just not having the toys, though, it’s something else.

It’s whether I can really justify spending the money on them.  Take the Rey action figure that I have, for instance.  She is part of some special series of action figures and was thus $19.99. Now, I am not a wealthy woman.  I cannot go spending $20 a pop on every awesome lady action figure in the store, which is what stopped my purchasing three different Marvel action figures.  There is a similarly special series of action figures among the Marvel merchandise which includes Scarlett Witch, White Tiger, and Captain Marvel.  Any of these ladies would make kick-ass additions to my shelf.  If I want to make those additions, however, I will have to spend $19.99 per lady.

It’s not that I wouldn’t love to have them.  The problem is that these are the only available options in front of me in a sea of male action figures from Marvel and Disney.  When I look around, I see multiple sizes and series of action figures of different price points as low as $4.99.  And this, of course, mitigated my excitement about this…

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I mean, awesome, right?  There’s Black Widow.  Finally.  She made it into a collection.  It’s pretty exciting.  Except let’s zoom out…


See what I’m saying?  Did you get it? I’ll give you a second.

There is no stand-alone Black Widow figure.  And before you ask, no, that empty spot isn’t for her.  I checked.  The price tag above it says “Spiderman”.  If you want Black Widow, you’re going to have to shell out $44.99.  I mean, Black Widow is an important enough character to merit this…


…but not like, so important that there needs to be an action figure about it apparently.

You know, a couple weeks ago I was really excited to see Wonder Woman in a character collection as well as standalone Wonder Woman figures.  I bought a cool die-cast Wonder Woman.  They’re all gone now.  Presumably sold, because a bunch of unsold Batmans and Supermans are still hanging out.  What I’m pointing out is that we will buy this merchandise.

Give us options.  Give our female characters the wide variety of merchandise that male characters get.  I promise you’ll make even more obscene amounts of money than you’re already making.



From a Student/Mom to My Supportive Professors: Thank You

You never know what articles are going to really hit you until they do.  Just today I was browsing my Facebook feed when I came across this Huffington Post article:

Professor Comforts Student’s Baby in Class to Let Mom Focus on Studies

I almost started crying, which seems like a weird reaction.  The story is about a 33-year-old college student who, after her babysitter canceled, was forced to bring her 4 month-old to class with her.  When her baby became fussy, her professor picked up the baby and carried her around for the rest of class so that the student could focus.  It is, of course, lucky that the baby found the professor soothing, certainly, it’s possible that the baby could have been really unhappy with the strange person, but probably she was just happy to be bouncing around a little.  Babies are like that.

Probably this story resonated with me because I was also a non-traditionally-aged college student at 33 and I, too, have a child that I had to take to class with me.  For us, we were between the ages of 32 and 34 and 6 and 8, but it’s stressful no matter what.  My husband works a 9 to 5(ish) job, so I dealt with childcare.  In my first semester, I managed to schedule my classes so that I could get my son on the bus and off every day.  Even so, there were days that he was off school and I wasn’t.  That first semester I think I brought my son to two different classes.  He’s honestly pretty well-behaved, but being 10 to 15 years older than your classmates is stressful enough without having that underlined by the the presence of your child.  Even when the child is cute and well-behaved, the stress of feeling like a sore thumb when all you want to do is focus on class is a very uncomfortable feeling.  During one semester my husband and I worked out a schedule that involved my son being at his office on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but it wasn’t really tenable for more than that one semester.

I was very lucky, though.  Never once did I have a professor who complained about my child being in class or tell me that I couldn’t bring my child to class.  In fact, in my very last semester, my child came to almost every session of my History of American Environmentalism class. It wasn’t intentional.  The previous year I’d had him in an aftercare program that enabled me to expand the hours during which it was feasible for me to take classes.  Unfortunately, a daycare center near my son’s elementary school closed down and caused an overload of the aftercare program at his school.  At the beginning of the semester I was left crossing my fingers to get called off the wait-list, and I dropped by my professor’s office before the first day of class to let him know that I was having a childcare issue.  He was so kind about the situation, and at this point I had been able to relax a little about the idea of having my son with me, that I felt a little better about it.

Really, there’s a much bigger story here about the serious shortage of affordable childcare in the United States.  Still, there I was.  As the semester wore on, we had to come to terms with the fact that space just wasn’t going to open up and my son would have to be with me, with a few exceptions.  A few times he had playdates with a friend (whose mom also happened to be a professor/friend of mine).  Mostly though, he came to class.

We shouldn’t have had to do that, but I’m grateful that – like the woman mentioned above – I had professors who were so kind and so generous with their classrooms and whose generosity went a long way toward lessening the stress that I felt in having to bring my son to class with me.  My professors at Penn State Altoona went the extra mile for me, and I’m not entirely sure that it’s possible for me to express how grateful I am to them.  And, although I knew before that I appreciated them, I’m not sure I realized how much until now.



Girl, You’ll Be A Woman…Soon

The question of whether you can call a grown woman girl and even whether it’s okay for a grown woman to refer to herself as girl, is perennial among feminists.  It’s one of many colloquial references to women that seem innocuous at first glance, but connect deeply to the way that women are viewed by ourselves and by others.

Just last summer, when I was eagerly awaiting the premier of Supergirl on CBS and one of the discussions that I had about the show, one that came up again and again, involved a scene in the trailer in which Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) is questioned as to why she named the newly minted hero “Supergirl” rather than “Superwoman”.  In case you didn’t see it, check out the First Look trailer.  The moment happens around 3:06.

Cat Grant, as we can see, embraces the term girl.  In many ways I love embracing the positivity of being a girl.  So often being a girl is denigrated through insults like “throwing like a girl” or “running like a girl”.  So yes, embracing “girl” is fantastic.

But…  At some point a girl is an adult human woman.  At some point “girl” turns into a way to infantilize a woman.  Everyday Feminism has a pretty good list of reasons why using the word “girl” for a woman is indeed infantilizing.

And once you start listening, it’s kind of all over the place.  As I was thinking about this issue – just over a day or so – I ran across these two examples:

“This girl that I’m seeing.” s.6 ep.22 The Good Wife

“I married a Juniata girl.” A minister at a meeting that I attended.

In both instances the women in question are indeed women.  There’s no particular reason other than the convenient excuse of colloquialism for why these two women should be referred to as girls.  This is simply what we do.

So when Hillary Clinton’s campaign uses the term “girl” to describe her, I’m not shocked.  Indeed I expect the particular wording in the email is due in large part to the person who purportedly sent the email.


Probably you’ve heard James Carville talk.  He’s from Louisiana and he’s never made any effort to drop his accent.  In fact it’s part of his whole schtick.  Likely he’s quite familiar with Hillary, given that he was a lead strategist in her husband’s presidential campaign.  Possibly he says “our girl” often and in regular conversation.  I presume this is why the staffer who actually wrote the email titled it thus.  Honestly, there is no part of this that I don’t understand.  Still…  Couldn’t it just say “Hillary needs you right now”?

She isn’t “Our girl”.  She is a woman who is a serious contender for the position of President of the United States.  She is a grown woman.   You don’t have to support her candidacy.  It would be nice, however, if we could at least address her as an adult human being.  This is not too much to ask, certainly not of her own campaign.  The email itself doesn’t hinge on the “our girl” of it all.  It’s not necessary.

You’re trying to make us feel like we’re part of the team.  I get it.  Anyone who got and didn’t immediately delete this email gets that.  Anyone that deleted would have gotten it if they read it.  The intent is abundantly clear.  All I’m saying is that there are ways to do it that don’t call a 68 year old woman “girl”.

As a Hillary supporter, I’d like to see her campaign do better than this.  One of the improvements in her campaign this time around as opposed to 2008 – for me, and many women – has been that Hillary Clinton isn’t shying away from being a woman running for President.  I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to hear “woman card” as long as she’s running, but I can deal with it as long as Hillary Clinton and her campaign continue to understand that – whether we like it or not (ps. We don’t) – there are differences in how Clinton is judged because of her gender.

So, given that, let’s use our words wisely and recognize that Hillary Clinton is not a girl and that’s okay.




Not All Jokes, *That* Joke

Apparently Ricky Gervais hosted the Golden Globes the other night.  To be honest, I can’t really understand why.  He hasn’t crossed my entertainment radar recently so I kind of forgot he existed.  As much as I was once entertained by him, there was a turning point that caused me to move on.  It’s fine, Ricky Gervais is not required to be entertaining to specific people.  He’s got an audience, good for him.

In any case, as a part of his Golden Globes jokes, he said something about Caitlyn Jenner, which is as follows:

“I’ve changed, not as much as Bruce Jenner, obviously.”… “What a year she’s had. She became a role model for trans people everywhere, showing great bravery in breaking down barriers and destroying stereotypes. She didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t do everything.”

There was then backlash about Gevais having used the name Bruce Jenner rather than Caitlyn Jenner.  Many commented that the joke was transphobic to which he later responded…

Nope.  That’s not what it is.  In fact I would imagine that very few, if indeed any, people are suggesting that any joke about Caitlyn Jenner is “automatically transphobic.”  My favorite defense when a comedian disagrees with offense taken at their joke is “oh, so any time I say anything about X it’s automatically <insert oppressive system here>.?”  No.  That is not the case, the offense does not extend beyond the statement in question.

In fact, I would even argue that when he says “she didn’t do a lot for women drivers, but you can’t do everything” is pretty funny.  The joke is not that women are bad drivers.  The joke points to a stereotype about women in juxtaposition with Caitlyn Jenner’s involvement in a deadly car crash.  Caitlyn Jenner, in addition to being a transwoman, is also incredibly rich and privileged and has possibly – like so many famous people before her – escaped justice because of her wealth and fame.  He could totally have complimented her bravery and moved on to the driving thing without preceding it with the bad part which is…

…comparing whatever changes have happened in Ricky Gervais’ life with the alteration of the public presentation of Caitlyn Jenner’s gender identity.  That is transphobic.  When a transgender person comes out and makes the decision to transition (or not), what they are doing is not comparable to basically anything except that.  And of course Ricky Gervais was only saying he had changed as a set up to poke fun at Caitlyn Jenner.  He said “…as I say I’m going to be nice tonight, I’ve changed…” followed by a joke about Caitlyn Jenner’s transition.  That was a joke at the expense of a person’s gender identity.  So, yes, that was transphobic.

Here’s the thing, though, Ricky Gervais is the sort of person who really loves it when you’re mad at him.  There’s nothing that makes him happier.  He’s not listening to any of your reasonable remarks about how “hate-motivated violence against transgender people rose 13% last year.”  He doesn’t care that a survey in 2014 showed that 57% of respondents whose families had cut ties with them had tried to end their lives.  Does he know or care than one in ten transgender people has been evicted from their home because of their gender identity?   I don’t know.  Maybe he does care.  I doubt he’s made of stone, although his personal cause seems to be animal rights.  And that’s fine.  There are lots of problems in the world and we don’t all have to focus on the same ones.

In the meantime, maybe consider that as we progress as a society it may become appropriate to alter the way we speak and there’s nothing terrifying or freedom trampling about it.  Likewise, using language or making jokes that perpetuate a sense that it’s okay to have your fun at the expense of a particular group’s identity is decidedly uncool.  Also, maybe pissing people off for fun doesn’t make you cool or above other people’s petty concerns, maybe it just makes you a douchebag.