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This Was Nice to See

October 22, 2010

So. My time has been pretty filled up with my current job here in Shanghai, so I haven’t had a whole lot of time or leftover brainpower to write any posts worth reading (although I do have a music-related podcast in the – slow – works). I’m working on it, I swear. I’ll write again.

In the meantime, however, I will just put up this image of an online educational game I found while doing some "research" at work. (*1) I would hope I don’t need to comment on why this was nice to see in the wide world of online games (which are primarily geared towards U.S. citizens). When I played the game, I found that this was the ONLY princess . . . no tokenism here. It’s just her. Siiighhh . . .

And I’m sure this is where I will now get pilloried for supporting a game that draws clear "gender-roles" distinctions, but I have to say, I will take that, as it’s been a long time when something from the mass media made for child consumption broke the messaging that kids of color usually get (especially regarding beauty ideals). (*2) Would it be nice if this was a PRINCE of color dress-up game (or a curvier princess/prince)? Sure. But in this screwy world, 1 of 2 ain’t bad . . .

(*1) My current job has me designing curriculum and concepts for educational computer games for young (Chinese) kids.

(*2) And it’s an uphill battle, but I swear I’m taking advantage of my role in this company to fight against "genderizing" our games (i.e. designating them "for girls" or "for boys"). The (mostly men, all Chinese) I’m working with don’t quite get it, but I’ve been slowly changing minds on that matter. Any other input on how I can do this (or what to focus on) would be very much appreciated (and applied).

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5 comments

  1. I have nothing useful to add. Just that the cartoon girl is cute, and that’s cool.


  2. You would do well to get a better understanding of what Chinese gender roles are in the first place before you go about changing them. The typical Western gender roles certainly won’t apply — for example, there isn’t any “Math is hard for girls” bullshit in Asia — and you will simply run the risk of alienating your colleagues. Honestly, the whole “foreigner comes to help enlighten locals” deal is so tired.

    If you really want to make a difference, you should be a student before you become a teacher. And really, you should be asking real local PRCs, not people whose main language is English (which implies a shitload of privilege and Westernization) and don’t know shit about China.


  3. @ Maloy –
    You clearly misunderstood my statement about gender difference. I’m not talking about Math at all. I’m just talking about not having games labeled “for girls” (they don’t want to have anything labeled “for boys”; which obviously suggests that they aren’t for the girls). I get why you’d be upset about my comment, thinking I’m doing the same bullshit that I constantly harp on (imposing my cultural beliefs on folks who don’t need to hear it), and I suppose I’ll have to address that more fully in a post.

    As for your second paragraph, I’m not really sure what that’s about. The folks I work with (and for) would be pretty shocked to find out they aren’t “real local PRCs” – maybe just as much as finding out that their “main language is English.”

    Again, though, I (think) I get where you’re coming from, so I’ll see what I can do to address it soon.


    • Thanks for clarifying your statement. Yes, I misunderstood and conflated your example of a Math game with the type of materials you were producing in your company.

      In turn, to clarify mine, I wasn’t referring to your colleagues, but rather your statement asking readers of this blog (which I assume isn’t even viewable in the PRC) to provide you suggestions regarding what to focus on in terms of Chinese gender roles. Even if your readers were Chinese, the fact that they read this blog in English makes them unreliable sources.

      I get really sensitive and het up when it comes to issues like this. Let me explain: I’m Chinese myself and raised in Asia, but my upbringing provided me with so much privilege that I’m not a “real” local anymore. My family’s ethnic, social and economic circumstances put me in a specific niche in the colonial hierarchy where I was educated in English and “elevated” from local culture. There are tons of people like me — Memmi’s half-breeds of colonization — and we are always, ALWAYS prescribing shit to locals, even though we have no clue what it’s really like to be local.

      As such, I am really suspicious of people who can’t even speak any language other than English fluently, who haven’t been raised in the right cultural context providing “solutions.”

      I’m in the arts, and locals often create some of the most progressive, inclusive organizations but because they are local, their contributions are almost always passed over in favour of people like me (or more likely, foreigners) who “know better” and therefore in a better position to tell locals what to do.

      I look forward to your post regarding cultural imposition. You might also want to read a recent feature in the New York Times Magazine regarding social change that seemed torn straight out of an Orientalist text.


      • Sorry, to further clarify, this is the paragraph of concern:

        *2) And it’s an uphill battle, but I swear I’m taking advantage of my role in this company to fight against “genderizing” our games (i.e. designating them “for girls” or “for boys”). The (mostly men, all Chinese) I’m working with don’t quite get it, but I’ve been slowly changing minds on that matter. Any other input on how I can do this (or what to focus on) would be very much appreciated (and applied).



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