I made my post about subtractive masculinity because I was thinking about fan and gamer culture -- and lo and behold, almost as soon as I posted "Gamergate" (which has been boiling along for months) leveled up to get covered bythe mainstream press. To cut a very long story extremely short, there's been yet another case of self-labeled "gamers" showing that they disagree with a woman ... by inundating her and anyone associated with her with threats of rape, torture, and murder. 
Subtractive masculinity is why the prospect of women being associated with video games gets such an out-of-control, violent reaction. I think a lot of the males (boys or men) who play these games are getting their sense of masculinity from them, their reassurance that they are Real Men Who Do Manly Things. But because our culture's construction of masculinity is subtractive, when girls or women are publicly seen to do something, that thing becomes unmasculine.
In practice, what this means is a guy can get mocked for it by other guys, told that he is "girly" (and that's the least offensive term that might be used). The only way a guy can protect himself from that kind of teasing (which can escalate all the way from little comments to harassment to actual murder, depending) is to do something girls don't do. And that means either picking something with physical demands few women can meet, or something that girls don't happen to do -- and then keeping them from doing it by any means necessary.
And the reason it's worth that kind of effort is that, in our society, men are the default value of "people": only (white, straight) men automatically have the status of "full human being". In other words, if you're not masculine, you're not *really* a person. That's why guys who feel their masculinity threatened can go into a violent, toxic meltdown -- because loss of personhood feels like an actual, life-or-death existential threat.
So what I think is going on is:
Boys see that video games are associated with guys, and that the characters in many games are hyper-masculine: super strong and/or violent, with exaggerated muscles and powers.
Playing these games lets boys (and men) feel as though they, too, are hyper-masculine. This is especially important for guys who aren't stereotypically masculine in physique or actions in real life, guys who don't otherwise conform to a masculine ideal.
Gaming becomes not just part of their personal identity, but of their identity as *men* -- and that means it supports their identity as full human beings.
If women get associated with video games, the whole thing will come crashing down. If they can't rely on gaming to demonstrate that they are truly masculine, they don't have anything left -- they risk losing their status as human beings, defined as "people who don't deserve to be tormented". That's their world and experience, after all: only masculine men can escape torment, it's open season on everyone else.
But though video games *feel* hyper-masculine, they don't actually require any skills at which males have a natural advantage, like physical strength or size. They actual rely on memory, concentration, reaction time, fine motor control, pattern recognition, and planning -- qualities that females share, statistically speaking.
So the only way to keep girls and women from playing and creating video games is to *keep* them out, to make games that aren't designed to appeal to them, and to torment any ones who are interested nonetheless. To the guys who do this, it doesn't feel as though they're over-reacting about mere games, it feels as though they're defending their right to *exist*, their right to be treated as human beings.
The good news is that this is in fact a case where #notallmen, because boys who can see through patriarchal nonsense and men who've matured emotionally won't act like this. The bad news is that they don't seem to have much traction against the rest of the guys in gaming. What would it take?
 The details are tedious, brutal, and IMHO fundamentally unimportant. The serious issue is that women playing online games, talking about them, or working in the gaming industry can expect crushing levels of harassment, and it gets worse the more public they are. As game developer Brianna Wu said in July, there is no skin thick enough to deal with what they often experience -- and just this week the police told Wu and her family to leave their home because the threats have become so serious.
That's not even the worst (so far): Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist video game analyst, had to cancel plans to speak at Utah State University because of emails threatening "a Montreal Massacre-style" school shooting -- and Utah's open carry laws wouldn't let them keep out people with firearms.
 Hey you lawyers -- is this for real? WTF? How are people supposed to protect themselves against this kind of terrorism? Because it sure looks like terrorism to me.
Regulars probably know that I am all about the old sh*t. So here are a list of links to some things that have made my heart go pitter-pat.
This looks like a great book. I much earlier read Celtic Empire, whose title was ironic, because everyone knew the Celts didn't have an empire.
The tomb of Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great, has been confirmed.
The Guardian often has stuff of things discovered, like this and this, and there was recently a Viking hoard (as opposed to horde) discovered, but my search turned this interactive site of a British museum exhibition lets you spin them around.
"She has confirmed that the bones belong to an enormous cow—so big indeed that it is probably off the scale for the biggest known modern cow and into the range for an aurochs."
This is considered big news, because the aurochs, a huge, prehistoric ancestor to the modern day cow, is now extinct, the last one having died in the Jaktorów Forest, Poland in 1627. But even during Neolithic times, they had already become relatively rare.
I've mentioned my theory of subtractive masculinity from time to time, but I want to put it down coherently in one place.
"Subtractive masculinity" means that out of the universe of possible human actions or qualities, the only ones that a boy can rely on to signal his masculine status are ones that are not publicly exhibited by women or girls. Here's a Wiser's Canadian whiskey ad that shows subtractive masculinity in action, in the form of the "cootie effect":
A woman gives her meek husband her very girly, pink purse to hold. After she's gone he drops it, and picks it up inside a plain plastic bag which he holds instead. Then he sees a group of serious-looking men applaud him for "refusing to compromise", and the oldest and most fatherly-looking of them salutes him with a glass of Wiser's, for he has joined the "Wiserhood".
Now, this ad is meant to be funny, so the situation is exaggerated. But it's also an *ad*, it's intended to influence the audience's behavior. And the way it's doing that is by associating Wiser's whiskey with a) protecting yourself from symbols of femininity, and b) the approval of other men, especially a father. It's a very clear, brief example of something I've noticed since I was a little girl: that boys (and young men, and college basketball coaches, and Youtube commenters, etc etc) act as though femininity is something males can "catch" by association, and that this is degrading.
Subtractive masculinity wasn't really a problem 150 years ago or more, when women were constrained from doing a lot of things. When women aren't allowed to vote, own property, join professions, get higher education, take out loans, hold public office, or work various jobs, there were many ways for men to be indisputably masculine.
But as the constraints on women have relaxed, it's become ever clearer that subtractive masculinity is fragile and unstable. It's fragile, because as women are seen doing more things, the set of safely-masculine activities or qualities keeps shrinking. And it's unstable, because whether something is "masculine" or not is not actually based on male actions, it's based on what women *don't* do. Any time your identity is based on what other people do, you've got a problem. So boys see themselves having a choice between doing things that are in some way repellent (so that girls naturally wouldn't want to do them), or trying to control or restrict girls from doing "boy things", to keep those things safe from accusations of "girliness".
This is definitely a case where #notallmen is significant. Most of the men commenting here at Obsidian Wings are adults, who've worked out your own ideas of how men should behave -- enough so that I bet most of you would just laugh in the face of a guy who called you "pussified" for doing something like holding a purse or changing a baby's diaper or crying when you're really sad. You're (for the most part) too mature to feel threatened by things like that -- and that's probably why Obsidian Wings is one of the few places on the internet where Lewis' Law is *not* in force.
So now when I ask you whether you agree that our culture's construction of masculinity is subtractive, I'm really *not* asking about you personally, but about your experiences when you were growing up, or what you see in boys or immature men now.
I'm also asking about other cultures, because I don't think subtractive masculinity is a universal. When I started noticing manga and anime (back in the 90s), I was struck by how much wider the range of masculine behavior, body types, colors, etc., seemed to be in Japanese material than in American comics and animation. It's as though the line between masculine and feminine in US culture is foggy, so the only way to be safely masculine is to exaggerate certain "core" traits:
Most of the male Young Avengers characters have exaggerated upper-body musculature. The Naruto characters have body types that are much more normal -- even though both groups are super-powered fighters, and both series are for the young male audience.
My guess is that Japanese culture constructs masculinity (and femininity) to have a harder, clearer line between them, so it's possible for a Japanese boy to go closer to his side of the line and still be safely masculine. I'd like to hear more informed opinions, though.
A recent blog post at the Economist looks at a comparison of the financial impact of obesity. And compares it to the impact of a college education. (The Swedish study that they look at finds them to be of the same magnitude. (And even being just overweight apparently has negatives, just not quite as large.
Which leads me to a question: why does a college education go with higher lifetime earnings? The assumption, especially among parents pushing their children to go to college, seems to be that the relation is causal – getting a college degree allows you to earn more. To some extent, and in some fields, that is doubtless true. After all, you have to have a college education to become a doctor or a lawyer.
But overall, how true is it? My suspicion is that there are certain personality traits which are generally necessary in order to get through college successfully, i.e. to get a degree. And those same traits are valuable, in any job, in getting ahead and earning more money. Which is why some people drop out of college and get rich – they have the traits, and grab the opportunity before finishing off the degree. And why some people who never attended college still do well. They have the traits, but either didn’t have the academic inclination, or just didn’t have the economic resources which would let them do college.
To wrap this back to the economic negatives of obesity, some of them may be due to discrimination (just as the lower incomes of women do). But some of them may be due to the fact that the traits needed to earn more are the same ones needed to avoid obesity. So, causation, or merely correlation?
And if the latter, how do we convince parents to stop stressing out their kids by pushing the wrong things?
I posted this on TiO almost three years ago but thought I'd bring it up here because of ESPN's 30 for 30 film on a point shaving scandal in college basketball from the late 1970s (and involving Henry Hill of Goodfellas fame no less). So I thought I'd again ask: why is point shaving illegal in college sports? Or more specifically, why are point-shaving players subject to criminal penalties for that act?
First, gambling on sports is generally illegal in the United States outside of Nevada. But I get the feeling even if it wasn't legal in Nevada, point shaving would still be against the law (although maybe not). And, it seems points shaving is against federal law - is that really necessary to protect gamblers and casinos in Nevada?
Even if we're worried about gamblers/casinos in Nevada, what duty does, say, a college basketball player have to those interests? Is he (and it's generally a he) obligated to always go out and play to the best of his ability, lest the point spread be inaccurate?
Or, more generally, what duty does that college basketball player have to anyone at all, especially in the context where it's point shaving and not out and out losing? This seems especially relevant to the amateurism debate, since supposedly the college players are in this to "get an education" and thus whether or not they play well enough to cover a point spread should be irrelevant. That is, I can see the players have some duty to try to win the game, but whether they win by more or less than the spread shouldn't really matter to the college providing the scholarship - and they are supposedly not employees, after all. I can see a stronger argument for making point shaving illegal in professional sports as a kind of fraud upon the employer.
Perhaps the players owe a duty to the people who bought tickets? But again, if they're winning just winning by less, why should anyone watching care (unless they have money on the game, of course)? I mean, does anyone come away from a game where your team was favored by 20 but only won by 10 somehow horribly disappointed? Indeed, it may have been a much more interesting game.
The only theory I see is that the players are engaged in a conspiracy to defraud casinos with sports books in Nevada. But even then that assumes the individuals paying the players to shave points are placing their bets in Nevada, as opposed to with the local bookie. Further, the casinos set the spread (and the spread is not always the same in every casino), and no one is compelling them to offer sports betting.
But outside of defrauding casinos, is there any compelling reason to make point shaving a criminal offense?
I haven't posted in a while because it's harvest season for my vegetable loves. Today was Green Bean Day:
The "family share" at our CSA was 4 quarts of PYO beans, which translates to "as many as you can stand to pick". I ended up with about 6 pounds' worth, which I was able to pick in about 20-30 minutes.
When I started picking, I was careful to only pick the best beans, the ones that haven't matured so much that they're a little woody. After a bit I said to heck with that, and just -- picked.
At home, we sorted them into "perfect" and "mature", and I prepped only the perfect ones for freezing -- they're in the bags in this picture. The mature ones, the heap on the right, have been blanched for about 3 minutes, but I'm not going to freeze them, we (and the people we split our share with) will just eat them over the next few days.