Not Just a Game
The label “social justice warrior” is not considered a compliment in the world of serious gaming. It is an insult hurled by video game enthusiasts at those who challenge the sexism, violence and exclusion that mark their virtual realities. And as the gaming industry, which has traditionally catered to young white males, becomes increasingly diverse, more people are doing just that.
Anita Sarkeesian is one of them. In her online video series “Tropes vs. Women,” Ms. Sarkeesian criticizes the harmful and stereotypical ways women are portrayed in many games: woman as damsel in distress, as sexual plaything, as passive victim of male aggression. On Oct. 13, the day before the pop culture critic was set to give a talk at Utah State University, the administration received an email threatening “the deadliest shooting in American history.” “Feminists have ruined my life,” the anonymous sender wrote, “and I will have my revenge.” After the police, citing Utah’s concealed carry gun laws, said they could not provide metal detectors or do pat-downs at the event, Ms. Sarkeesian canceled the speech.
This was not an isolated incident. Women routinely face graphic threats of murder and rape on Twitter and online gaming message boards. For decades the developers and players of video games have denied charges that the gratuitous killing in games could flow over into real-world violence. But when women live in fear of retribution for expressing their views, or leave their homes because their lives have been threatened—as at least three women, including Ms. Sarkeesian, have had to do since August—violence has already been done. If, as many insist, these harassers represent a small but vocal minority, it is incumbent upon responsible gamers to drown out such hateful speech and to create communities—and games—that respect women.
Family on Hold
As many people struggle to balance work and family life, some Silicon Valley companies are offering female employees a new option: hold off on having kids. Starting in January, Apple will offer female employees up to $20,000 toward the cost of freezing their eggs. Facebook offers female employees a similar benefit. The trend is deeply troubling. In “Dignitas Personae,” a 2008 document on reproductive technologies, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated, “cryopreservation of oocytes for the purpose of being used in artificial procreation is to be considered morally unacceptable.”
But secular critics also are concerned about the implications of such policies. Some have wondered whether egg-freezing policies might implicitly pressure women to prioritize work over possible family life and their own personal lives. Others have worried that increased attention to egg freezing may mean companies will devote fewer resources to maternity leave and child care.
The demand for egg freezing has increased in recent years, but the procedure and storage of eggs is costly—approximately $10,000 for a round of treatments—and the results remain unpredictable. And the procedure does not address the root of the tension between work and family that many female employees face. While some companies provide employee “perks”—like free lunches and on-site gyms—employers should also view family time as central to employee happiness. If we are to build a meaningful culture of life, the church must encourage employers to offer sufficient emotional, spiritual and financial support to young professionals who hope to build their families and spend time with them—today.
In a recent television appearance, President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine announced, “Ukraine will have gas, Ukraine will have heating.” Unfortunately, he may have spoken too soon, as a European-brokered deal to provide heating fuel for the winter months fell through because of Russian doubts about Ukraine’s ability to pay its bills. Talks are expected to resume shortly in hopes of overcoming the impasse. This comes at the end of a worrisome year that saw Ukraine’s sovereignty violated by the political and military machinations of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.
Russia cut off the gas supply to Ukraine in June over unpaid bills and a pricing dispute. Some saw the move as another way of punishing Ukraine for turning toward the West. Under a preliminary agreement reached on Oct. 19, Russia would have provided natural gas to Ukraine through next March at a cost of $385 per thousand cubic meters. The deal was reportedly accompanied by progress toward settlement of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine. But Russia backed away from the agreement days later, questioning Ukraine’s ability to pay down its already $5 billion debt and make good on future payments.
Europeans are especially worried that if a deal is not reached soon, Russia will block gas supplies not only to Ukraine, but also to the E.U. member countries as well in retaliation for the sanctions that were imposed on Russia at the beginning of the crisis. How this plays out will depend on Mr. Putin’s ultimate intentions—which are very much in doubt.