Women and science

So being a major nerd for social progress, girls/women overcoming barriers, and science, this article on Jezebel brought a major tear to my eye. Totally embarrassing. In case you’re too lazy to click and read it, let me sum it up for you: an all-girl team just won the FIRST 2012 Championship with a device meant to help pasteurize milk in Nicaragua. Apparently Nicaraguan women don’t have easy access to clean milk, which results in all sorts of nastiness for them. Well, now they can drink their milk with peace of mind, thanks to an intrepid young band of femmy pioneers. Totally awesome.

This has got me thinking about that other article I wrote about about women in gaming. It seems like the STEM field is a major boy’s club. In fact, when I was talking to my doctor about starting life as a woman, the first thing she asked was, “Well, you’re not in any math or computer science classes, are you?” And she’s an MD! Why is it that STEM is such a boy’s club? I know, I know, there’s the whole stereotype of men being more logical while women are more about their feelings, but still, this is the 21st century. Shouldn’t we be past that by now?

I know I don’t really have room to talk since I opted not to go into STEM even though I am both interested in it and very good at it. I am thinking of going to grad school for philosophy of science, but it’s not really the same thing. However, one of my major concerns when it comes to going into a STEM field is the fact that I’m a trans lesbian, which is a triple whammy in that area: gay, transgender, and a woman. Really, I want to study physics and computer science, but I chickened out because I’m a wuss like that. My mistake. I now wish I could go back and start over and be a pioneering queer trans woman in a straight dude’s world, but I really don’t feel like being stuck as an undergraduate for another couple of years. My dad is talking about starting his own web-based software company and wants me on board as a designer, so maybe I can use that as an in to the world of computer science.

Anyway, enough about me, here’s why women should get into the hard sciences: women think differently from men. I know it’s probably not biological–it’s probably got more to do with social conditioning than anything like genes or innate neural differences–but still, the fact remains that there are usually marked differences between the ways in which women approach problems and the ways in which men do. If we only have one type of person trying to solve these problems, we’re only going to get on type of solution, when there may be other, possibly better, solutions waiting in the wings for someone with the right mindset to bring them into the open. It’d be best for the world of science–and the world in general–if we had as many different types of people as possible working on these issues.

Let’s make the world better. We can start by encouraging women and minorities to get into the STEM fields.

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Why I secretly want to become a video game designer

Okay, so to people who’ve known me my whole life it’s not such a big secret. I nearly flunked out of high school because I spent most of my free time writing text-based adventure games for my TI-83+. Anyway, just this afternoon I finally decided to take the plunge and upgrade my lame old Google account to a fancy hi-tech Google+ account, despite the fact that most of my friends are on Facebook or Twitter. You see, I’m a huge Google nerd, especially since I’m either smarter than most tech nerds or much dumber (take your pick) and think that Apple’s only innovation was in combining other people’s ideas into “better” ones and then marketing them better than anyone else so people actually want to pay $1300 for a laptop they could get for $800-$900 if they didn’t just want an obscure Alan Turing reference that they don’t even get. </hating> Anyway, while perusing the Google+ world, I stumbled upon this post lamenting the dearth of women video game designers. It got me thinking about something that really pisses me off about video games, despite the fact that I spend exactly three billion hours a year playing them: they’re not only sexist, but heterosexist.

It’s something that’s been bugging me since I was 9 or 10 years old and my two best friends, the Heistman brothers, turned me on to what is now one of my favorite gaming franchise: Harvest Moon. The first game had just launched on the SNES (yes, they were still making SNES games in 1996) and Casey and Josh had just purchased their very own copy of what I thought would be an incredibly lame farm sim. Turns out, it’s one of the best games ever. Anyway, the one thing that bugged me about it was the fact that you couldn’t play as a girl. You see, even though I didn’t exactly know what transgender was or that people actually could switch sexes (I had just given up prayer as a viable route for fixing what ails you), I knew that I was really a girl, and I’d always had a hard time relating to guys, despite the fact that my two best friends were guys. When I watched movies and played video games, I always felt this disconnect between me and the male characters–and I still do. However, I also got pissed off by the fact that it seemed like the only female characters I had to relate to needed rescuing and marrying–sure, there was Samus Aran, but she was one fine lady in a sea of hairy dudes. That’s the first part of the Harvest Moon franchise that pissed me off.

Later down the road, Harvest Moon added a title with a female lead. This made me happy, however the fact that you could only marry dudes pissed me off. One thing I get touchy about as a trans lesbian is the fact that people assume I’m into guys. If they’re confused when the find out I was born a man yet identify as a woman, I don’t know what the fuck to call what they get when they find out that I am only sexually attracted to women. For some reason I’m into games that allow me to have a virtual love life, probably because I can look up what my partner wants on GameFAQs (that’s probably something I should work on in therapy). However, it’s very rare to find a game that allows me to both be a woman and marry women. The Fable games may be the notable exception, except I didn’t figure this out until after I’d played most of the main story of Fable 2 and realized by accident that I could propose to a lady-time. Sure, I’ve heard about the legendary “Best Friends system” in some Japanese Harvest Moon game, but they dropped that for the American port because they thought it would raise the ESRB rating. Why is it that virtual farmer dude can marry virtual pink-haired lady and make virtual babies and it’s still an “E” game, but when people of the same sex like to hold hands and live together the rating suddenly goes up? Granted, it never actually happened, but the fact that it’s even a major concern of Natsume’s should be a sad indictment of the state of our society.

So, the reason why I secretly want to become a video game designer: I want to make video games for queer folks. Epic fantasy adventures where you choose your own gender (I’ll even include gender-neutral options!) and you choose the gender of the love interest in the story (why does it have to be a love interest? why can’t they just be Best Friends? I’d do more for Josh than for any woman I’ve dated, with perhaps one exception) and you can save the world and marry the guy/girl/androgyne of your dreams in your own style. It would probably be a space opera, since the world is always in need of a good space opera.

So right about now this post is getting way too long and I still have a million more things to say because this is a topic that I’m incredibly passionate about as the Queen of the Über-Nerds, so I think I’ll break it up into parts. In closing, I’d like to say that this isn’t the last you’ve heard on this topic. If there are any enterprising young developers out there, look me up on one of the many social networking site and get in touch with me. My coding is a little rusty, but I’m an award-winning writer. I could make the characters and plot, you could write the code; together, we’d have the queer/feminist nerd market cornered.