How Fascism came to Britain?

This is so important.

Feminist Philosophers

I’ve been struggling to write this post ever since last Friday. There are too many things to say. This morning, however, all I want to say is this. The Leave campaign was fought and won, largely on the back of fears about immigration. People worried about immigration come from all sections of British society – including those who are more recent immigrants to this isle themselves. Not all of these views deserve to be called racist or even xenophobic, although they are often summarily dismissed as such. People are worried that there are not enough jobs to go round, not enough houses, not sufficient capacity in the NHS and other services. The country is ‘full-up’. Sharp practices on the part of some employers have meant that it is sometimes true that British people have lost out to cheaper workers from elsewhere. Unions that could show both groups that they lose…

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The Feminist Jackboot Dug Deep in the Buzzer Round

Robinince's Blog

It is just like The Two Ronnies warned us in The Worm That Turned, the women are taking over. It is a putsch by those with a pair of XX chromosomes. By “taking over”, I mean, they will be represented.

I have only read a few snippets on the announcement that BBC television panel shows have been instructed to avoid being an all-male domain. I presume there will be a slew of columns on this feminist fascism and oppression of the penis possessing observationalists. (Personally, I don’t think turning it into a BBC PR announcement was the canniest thing though).

The filthy phrase “positive discrimination” will be bandied around. As a non-Guardian reading Guardianista, I am pro positive discrimination. Why wouldn’t I be, I have been the beneficiary of positive discrimination for most of my life. As a middle class, white, male, I have been brought up in a culture and…

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I believe her. Always.


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Edit: I see I have acquired some visitors from the Mens Rights subreddit. Hi there! Just so you know, this is my space. You can comment if you like (I see some of you have) be aware that I will authorise your coments or not, on my whim. No free speech here.


So, here we are again. Another ‘high profile’ rape case-and by ‘high profile’, I mean involving someone the media can get plenty of column inches out of. Another acquittal. Another round of calls for anonymity for men (and let’s be clear, the vast majority of cases involving sexual violence have men as the perpetrator) accused of rape. Another round of misogyny. More screams of ‘liar’ against the victims (although to be entirely fair to those who hate women so very much, they scream liar whether the defendant is found guilty, or is acquitted. You have to give it to them, they are consistent).

There has been a lot written about this case (and there will be a lot more), by more eloquent women than I. I am just adding my voice to the choir, or at least adding my howl of sorrow and rage at yet more women failed by the justice system.

What can I even say? I can point out that a not guilty verdict does not mean that he was found innocent. It means that the jury were unable to convict beyond a reasonable doubt. And a not guilty verdict does not mean that the victim lied.

I can offer my unconditional support and belief to all women who come forward to say they have been raped or abused. And I can offer the same to women who can’t come forward (and give the appalling conviction rates, who could blame them).

I can hope that one more voice of support and belief can act as a counterbalance to the appalling media coverage. One more voice of opposition to the sympathetic cries of ‘why was this poor pensioner dragged through the courts’ and discussion of ‘false claims like these’. If these are phrases that make my skin crawl and my throat hurt, then I can only imagine how the women in this case feel.

And I can ask, why is it that famous men are so rarely convicted of the rapes and abuses with which they are charged?
I suspect that the answer lies within their fame, and the crimes with which they are charged. Evidence for rape or sexual abuse (especially hisotrical offences) so often comes down to the testimony of the victims vs the testimony of the abuser. And the jury is to decide who they believe, who they trust.
Trust comes with familiarity. With a face you know. Who is the jury going to believe? Women they don’t know (against a background of a deeply misogynistic media which constantly spins them the story that women lie about sex, and they lie about rape), or a face that everyone knows?
Which story will they accept as true-the well written, well rehearsed, consistent script, or the painful, confused recollections of abuse, memories that shift like smoke.
It’s no wonder so many women have feared coming forward. It’s no wonder so many famous men can rape and abuse with apparent impunity.

So what’s the answer? I wish I had one to give. I’m starting to suspect that the jury system may not be the best one when it comes to judging the crimes of famous men. And the alternatives would only work if judges were given mandatory training in how to deal properly with cases of rape and abuse, to stop them spouting the same victim blaming garbage they are prone to.

In the mean time, all I can do is say the same thing: I believe her. I believe them. I believe you.

Why don’t women matter?


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This morning on the Today program I listened to a very interesting segment regarding deaths of children and young people in the criminal justic system. You can read more about it here:

The charity Inquest has worked with the Prison Reform Trust to produce a report
(called Fatally Flawed, can be found here:
regarding deaths in custody, specifically those of children and young people under the age of 24. They report that in the past ten years 163 children and young people have died in the care of the state, mostly as a result of suicide (although there are cases where the cause of death was a result of, for example, the types of restraint used against them). Of those who died, two thirds of those under 18 and almost a third of those between 18 and 24 were being actively monitored for self harm and/or suicidal behaviour. Today’s coverage is as we await an announcement from the prisons minister, Jeremy Wright as to whether he will acquiesce to the charities’ request to hold a full independent enquiry. He has previously refused such calls, but has agreed to look at the request again.

The BBC article states that the heart of the debate lies with the state’s obligation to protect life (Article 2 of the Human Rights Act), and quotes Deborah Coles (the co-director of Inquest),
“The relentless nature of these deaths is shocking enough but the recurrence of depressingly familiar failings year after year should give most cause for alarm.”

Let me be clear here. The preventable deaths of children and young people held in custody are awful, terrible things, and something needs to be done to address them. I agree wholeheartedly. Any death in custody is to be mourned as a waste.
But I wonder at the comparisons we can draw. 163 children or young persons (mostly young persons) died over a 10 year period. That’s 16.3 a year. There is media attention. There are calls for official public enquiries. There is condemnation and sorrow.
How can we compare? Let’s look at the Counting Dead Women campaign, started and run by Karen Ingala Smith. You can follow it on twitter @Countdeadwomen, and read about it here:

How many ways can we count dead women? It is estimated that 2 women a week are killed by current or former partners. But more than that. In 2013 140 women were murdered by men. 140. In a single year. And that only counts cases which were publicly available and acknowledged as being the deaths of women caused directly by men. Women murdered by male violence. That doesn’t include rates of suicide caused by male violence. Women fleeing domestic violence. It is estimated that approximately 3 women a week use suicide as their last resort, their only escape from a violent man. Women traumatised by rape. There are no definitive figures on this, but in the last week a British women ‘fell to her death’ following the acquittal of her rapist. The Counting Dead Women twitter reported another young woman who commited suicide after she was raped, because she feared what her father would say. We don’t know how many women commit suicide as a result of rape or sexual abuse. But we know that around 85,000 women are the victims of sexual violence of one form or another ever single year. How many of them do we lose?
Even if we only take officially recorded figures, almost 300 women a year killed by male violence. And that is in the UK alone.

Where is the media attention for these women? Where are the calls for a public enquiry into this epidemic of men murdering women? It leads you to suspect that women don’t matter. No one cares enough to connect the dots and see that it is men murdering women. There is no official record of male violence against women. The home office doesn’t keep those sorts of statistics. No one cares enough to look.

That last isn’t exactly fair. Karen Ingala Smith cares. She started a petition (found here: If you haven’t signed it already, I urge you to do so.)
Women’s charities care. Groups like Refuge and Women’s Aid work hard, not only to support women, but to raise awareness. The government doesn’t care. The government doesn’t count dead women. But it does (presumably) count the money it saves by cutting vital funding to women’s refuges.

I care. I care about our dead sisters. I care about the survivors of male violence who can’t go on any longer. And I know the problem. I can name it. So can you. Male violence against women.

Women matter.


How can a Brand change his sexism?


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Yesterday afternoon, Russell Brand posted this tweet:

‘And finally, through the love of a good woman, teenage, sexist me was slain.’

( along with the picture you can see below:

Russell Brand NMP3

Entirely understandably, the ‘No More Page 3’ campaign leapt on this public display of support from a very public and outspoken figure. Why wouldn’t they. It’s practically a coup for them. He’s young (ish), male, popular, and a well known ‘ladies man’ (ew). What better way to distance themselves from all those feminists in the background.
(This may sound an awful lot like a critique of the campaign. It really isn’t. I fully understand that the proPage 3 lobby like to frame the campaign as being just about a bunch of prudish, out of touch feminists, relying on the public perception of feminists as being marginal and extremist in nature to carry the narrative for them. Much like the pro page 3 lot needing to have women on their ‘team’, the anti page 3 campaign needs men, if only from a public perception angle. In single issue activism, pragmatism is par for the course.)

But this picture and tweet follows on from what appears to be an attempt from Russell Brand to rebrand *ahem* himself as ‘not a massive sexist’. In a ‘Conversation with HuffPost’ in which he fielded questions from an (undoubtably adoring) audience, he said that whilst he didn’t think of himself as being sexist, that women would be in a better position to judge that than he would.

I’m a woman. So I will judge. And I hate to break it to him (that’s a blatant lie, I’d love to break it to him. But I doubt he would read this, so it hardly counts), but yeah, he has been incredibly sexist over the years. Some quick examples in case you need them:

When he was invited to guest edit the New Statesman recently, he wrote, “I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me”, as well as declaring “I bow to no one in my appreciation of female beauty”.
Objectification is so often couched as ‘appreciation’ or ‘a love for women’.

During an MSNBC morning show interview ( Brand commented on a presenter’s cleavage and made sexually suggestive comments about how she held a bottle of water.
Ah yes, women have breasts, let’s not let them forget that. And also make sure that we all think of your penis too.

His article on the death of Margaret Thatcher ( mostly revolved around what an unloving mother he thought she would have been.
Because women are supposed to be nurturing and kindly at all times! And to not be makes you a monster.

When hosting a radio show in 2008 he thought it would be hilarious to call Andrew Sachs and inform him that he had “fucked” his grand daughter.
Woman as sexual conquest. I think this one is almost the most telling. That is how he sees women.

So yeah, definitely a massive sexist. But he’s changed, so he declares! He has discovered that he suffered “from the ol’ sexism”, so is going to ‘check’ himself from now on. And why has he had this revelation? Ah yes, ‘the love of a good woman’. This ‘good woman’ has made him see the error of his ways, made him change. The trouble is, I don’t believe it. Oh I believe that he is trying. I believe that someone with whom he is currently in a relationship has told him uncomfortable truths, so he’s toning it down. But we all know men who can talk the ‘right on’ talk around women, if they think it will help them ‘get laid’. And I don’t think that he has changed in any fundamental way in himself. It is relatively easy to change outward behaviours (pointing out a woman’s cleavage for example), and a lot more difficult to change the thought processes that underpin them (woman as sexual objects, conquests first and foremost).

So what do we do with men like Brand that declare they have changed? I posit that we should treat them a little like unexploded fireworks: observe the current lack of sparks, but approach with extreme caution. Maybe he genuinely wants to change. Maybe. Maybe we should be encouraging change by acknowledgement, by praise (because men are like puppies? We really don’t want them to pee on the rug, so we cheer them when they pee elsewhere). Maybe. But what we shouldn’t do is act as though everything else he has done didn’t matter. One declaration that you don’t think naked women constitute news does not make you automatically not sexist.

So I am glad that Russell Brand has come out in favour of the No More Page 3 campaign (not least because I think that page 3 is awful). But I’m not putting out the bunting just yet.

The science behind sex differences is still in dispute


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In November 2013 a study was published in the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA’ (link here for those interested, the full paper will be available on open access in May 2014) titled, ‘Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain’. Now if you don’t know what a connectome is, don’t worry, the term was only coined in around 2005. It refers to a map of neural connections in the brain, and it exists as a way of trying to connect the physical structure of the brain with its function (if you are interested there is more on this here Fancy new terminology aside, the purpose of the study was to measure structural connections within the brains of just below 1000 young people (aged 8 to 22) and their results showed some interesting differences. Using a technique called diffusion tensor imaging (an MRI technique that measures the restricted diffusion of water) they found that after the age of 13 there were significant differences in how the brains of men and women were connected. In the study men’s brains were found to connect more within a given hemisphere. and women’s had great cross connectivity (seen below the connectome maps published, showing the male brain in blue and the female brain in orange:

As you can see, the male brain shows more longitudal connections whilst the female brains shows more transverse connections.
The abstract for the study states, ‘the results suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes’, having earlier noted that ‘Males have better motor and spatial abilities, whereas females have superior memory and social cognition skills’.

The publication of this paper resulted in a number of excitable and fairly familiar newspaper headlines.
The Telegraph announced boldly ‘Brains of men and women are poles apart’, (demonstrating once and for all that broadsheets aren’t immune to headline puns) telling us that women’s brains are set up to have better memories (for anniversaries!) and gauge social situations better while men’s brains coordinate their actions with their senses, so can navigate better (not to mention be better at parking cars).
The Independent declared these differences, ‘could explain why men are ‘better at map reading”.
The Belfast Telegraph gets the prize for the best reporting on this, by first reminding us that ‘men are from Mars, women are from Venus’ before going on to declare that the study has shown ‘men and women’s brains are wired in completely different ways, as if they were species from different planets.’

With the possible exception of the Belfast Telegraph (who seem to have got themselves hopelessly overexcited), you can’t place too much fault on the reporting here. It is a clear cut case of ‘science says’, and in this case has the benefits of a peer reviewed journal to back it up. The study itself made reference to differences in male and female behaviours, stating that men have better ‘motor and spacial abilities’ whereas women show, ‘superior memory and social cognition’. Unfortunately, whilst this paper may make that claim, the preceding study (of which the participants of this study were a subset) does not back that up (abstract here Of the 26 behavioural measures made for comparison (for example executive control, memory, reasoning, spatial processing, sensorimotor skills, and social cognition), 11 showed sex differences that were non existent, or as small as 53:47 (the expected sex outperforming the opposite only 53% of the time), Even in those areas where the differences are meant to be the greatest (spatial or social awareness) the performance difference was only 60:40-a measurable and noticeable difference for sure, but hardly enough to declare difference species.

My problem is not with this study or with their results, but rather with the way the conclusions have been drawn, and with the extrapolations. They have shown interesting differences in how men’s and women’s brains connect with themselves, but then rather than taking any further interesting steps, drilling down further into the data, they have attached some male/female stereotypes and called it job done. One of the authors has even suggested that the ‘hard wired’ differences found could explain the ‘gut feelings’ that women demonstrate more than men, and which makes them good mothers (‘intuition’ and ‘mothering’, or indeed ‘nurturing’ was not in fact measured in this study).
There could be other reasons than ‘men are better at map reading’ for the differences observed. Men’s brains are frequently bigger than women’s brains, the difference in the wiring could be due to physical necessity (there are also studies on this).

Then there’s the most interesting part of the study that has been the least discussed: the structural differences are not observed in a significant manner until after age 13. And we have to ask ourselves why. One of the proposed explanations is that this is the approximate average age for the development of secondary sexual characteristics. There are massive changes in the body, hormones flooding everything, the logic seems to be that the brain changes at this time too. However there is a better explanation, and one less routed in speculation. See, there’s this thing called neuroplasticity. It refers to the changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behaviour or environment. Literally as you learn, your brain changes shape. Then we have to bear in mind that gender as a social construct is learned. It is taught. Little girls aren’t born liking pink. They are taught that girls like pink, and that they are a girl, therefore they then like pink. You put those two things together and what you end up with is the possibility that, rather than being innate, related to the release of hormones at puberty, the structural differences in the brains are programmed in by telling girls that boys are boisterous and girls play nice, that boys are good at maths and girls are caring, that boys build things and girls decorate them. But no mention is made in the study of any consideration of gendered activities in their subjects, or indeed any activities that may (and in fact do) influence how our brains are wired.
If you take this into account, the claim that ‘sex differences are hard wired’ seems a little less proven than it was before.

I am very fond of saying ‘peer reviewed journal or it didn’t happen’. But we have to be able to treat even these studies critically. Their data may be fixed and immutable (tho that is not always the case) but the conclusions have more room for movement. And the people making those conclusions are not immune from sexism.

The study may have shown that men and women’s brains connect differently. But it hasn’t shown why. And it hasn’t shown that the differences are innate. It has shown they are learned. ‘Men and women are taught to be different’ is a less interesting conclusions perhaps, but it is a more truthful one.


Post script: If you are interested in this subject, may I recommend the very excellent Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine. Her article on this study was also very useful to me

Grand Theft Auto V – A Feminist’s Review


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Note: In this review I am predominantly going to be looking at depictions and treatment of women in the newest GTA game. Please do not bother to comment on how men are treated or on other problems within the game. These are well enough documented.

Also, there are major spoilers in this review. If you haven’t played the game but plan to, maybe skip this till afterwards.

Thirdly, this is not a game play review. Do not bother to comment that ‘it’s a really fun game’. That’s not what is being looked at here.

Having said all of that, it is worth me saying a couple of things right at the start. Firstly, yes I have finished the game-I have completed the main story mission and the majority of the side quests. And you know what? It is a fun game. As a game, considered solely on those merits, it succeeds. It looks great (if somewhat dated due to hardware constraints-it is at the tail end of current gen after all), the gameplay is fun, and the characters are engaging. I was genuinely interested in where the story was going. The writing was a little shonky, but it’s a videogame, not Umberto Eco. However, there are major issues with the games (and hence its developers’) treatment of women.
I am aware this is a bit of a mammoth post. So I have broken it into a few different sections.


Main game characters

There are three playable characters in the game. You can skip between them at will, or sometimes are required to play as a specific character for a mission. They are:

Michael De Santa-
Michael is a middle aged, semi retired gangster (according to his backstory, a petty thief, sometime pimp and eventually moved on to bigger heists/bank jobs) with a wife (a former prostitute and stripper) and two children. He was given a new identity, along with a nice house and a generous stipend in a deal with a dodgy FIB (the in game equivalent of the FBI) 10 years prior (which necessitated him betraying his friends and faking his own death), but is railing against the enforced idleness. He has anger ‘issues’, and is prone to violent outbursts and is currently in therapy. He loves his family, but doesn’t understand his children, and has trouble relating to his wife. He struggles with the decision he made, but he made it for the good of his family. The deal he made meant that he theoretically never needs to work again. But he can’t help getting back on the horse. When you jump to him, he can often be found moodily staring into a body of water.

Franklin Clinton-
Franklin is a young ‘up and coming’ gangster. He is intelligent and reasonably thoughtful, tho has no problems with violence. Originally a low level local gangster (with a semi legitimate sideline as a repoman), he sees what Michael has, both materially and in his ‘career’ and he wants that. His friends from ‘the old days’ mistrust his new lifestyle and choices, and accuse him of being a fake and forgetting where he came from. When you jump to him, he can often be found sitting in the sun on the porch of his new house, or coming out of a strip club.

Trevor Phillips-
Trevor is…insane. Michael’s best friend ‘back in the day’, he believed him dead, but was alerted to his continued existence by witness testimony of a jewelery store heist Michael pulled. He originally trained as a pilot in the airforce, but was discharged after a pysch evaluation. He is deeply emotionally disturbed, a meth user and prone to violent rampages (indeed his personal ‘side missions’ are literal rampages-you take offence at something someone says and go on a killing spree). It is also heavily implied that he is a cannibal. ‘Deals gone wrong’ usually result in him being personally at war with various other gangs. When you jump to him, he can often be found picking a fight with a random passer by. Or rolling down the hills drunk in women’s underwear. Or vomiting into a fountain. Or masturbating into a toilet (no really). Or staggering round a strip club shouting ‘boobs’. Or semi naked in a dumpster. Or….well, you get the idea.

As well as these three, there are a lot of supporting characters, who can help you on heists, push the plot in various ways (this is not a particularly onerous task), or give you side missions. Here is a small selection:

Amanda De Santa-
Amanda is Michael’s wife, and a former stripper and prostitute. They once had a close relationship but it is now strained. After Michael begins ‘work’ again, she takes the children and leaves ‘for their safety’ (although it is triggered by their son spiking Michael’s drink and telling her he was doing drugs and driving). She appears to be in a relationship with her yoga teacher but after Michael confronts them together in a cafe, it becomes apparent that she really craves Michael’s ‘traditional masculinity’, saying to Michael, oh will you just punch him (or words to that effect). After they are reunited in an odd therapy scene (the scene objectively makes little sense. It is meant to be them getting back together, but appears to be them just screaming at each other with no resolution), it is revealed (heavily implied may be more accurate) that she has had affairs with her tennis instructor, yoga teacher, ‘the juice guy…the dog walker…Jimmy’s third grade teacher…the trash guy…Dad’s proctologist…the guy who thinks he’s Jesus…the hippy bum’.
It is theoretically possible to justify this as the actions of a woman who has lost her place in the world (as she had to leave everything behind when they went into witness protection) and is slowly begining to resent the man she left everything behind for. However the overwhelming feeling I get from it is, HAHAHA, women are such whores…

Jimmy De Santa-
Jimmy is Michael’s son. He is whiny, entitled, fancies himself as a gangster (at one point hiding a large amount of weed in the fridge, presumably for selling) but in reality spends most of his time online playing ‘Righteous Slaughter’ (the ingame parody of games like Call of Duty) shouting abuse down his headset at other players, and trolling celebrities on ‘Bleeter’ (the ingame pastiche of Twitter). He can be proactive in his attempts to get what he wants, spiking his Dad’s drink to make his mother leave, and stealing his Dad’s car. He is in essence the ‘manchild gamer’.

Tracey De Santa-
Michael’s daughter. She appears desparate for fame, attempting to audition for the ‘Fame or Shame’ show iby stripping, removing her knickers and bending over in front of the camera. She works as a ‘sex cam’ operator (using the name Tracey Suxx), can often be heard having sex (it is implied on camera, and certainly inferred by players of the game that it is with random viewers of her sexcam) in her room, and is at one point ‘hanging out’ with porn producers. She seems willing when she is told she can get on a tv show if she has sex with the presenter. She may be seen as Rockstar’s critique on/satire of the ‘new generation’ who are obssessed with fame for fame’s sake. Or, when viewed along with her mother…HAHAHA yeah Rockstar…women….whores….we get it.

Mary-Ann Quinn-
A ‘strangers and freaks’ side mission character and as such, mostly two dimensional. She appears to be a straight pastiche of ‘career women’. She is a fanatical exerciser, completing triathlons regularly, incredibly competetive and angry all the time. She is very dismissive of men, often screaming at them with little to no provocation. She doesn’t want to get pregnant out of fear of getting fat, tho plans children via a surrogate. She is emotionally needy, at one point you interrupt an argument with a man she claims she wanted to have children with who she ‘only met last week’.
On the one hand, well we found one woman who they don’t categorise as a whore. On the other hand it does seem awfully close to a tired cliche of career woman being emotionally stunted and ‘too masculine’.

Denise Clinton-
Franklin’s aunt with whom he shares a house (at least for the first part of the game). She is referred to as being a ‘sex addict’ by another character, and complains on her Lifeinvader (GTAVs version of Facebook) that she can’t get a man because Franklin keeps walking in whenever she invites one home. She is constantly nagging at Franklin, referring to him as her ‘sister’s only mistake’, complaining about his lack of ambition, but deriding his desire to ‘better’ himself as being fake and betraying his roots. She identifies as a feminist, and is seen going for ‘spirit runs’ which involve jogging round the neighbourhood chanting feminist slogans (although she never seems to jog too far). However she is generally treated as a figure of derision.

Floyd Herbert-
The cousin of one of Trevor’s ‘crew’, he shares a flat with his girlfriend Debra and works at the docks. Trevor invades the flat whilst Debra is off on a business trip and uses it as a safe house. He also bullies Floyd into helping him with a heist at the docks, and possibly (it is implied) sexually abuses him, as well as completely trashing the flat. Floyd is portrayed as weak willed, nervy (although with Trevor rampaging around his house, it’s hardly a surprise), and somewhat ‘under the thumb’ of Debra.

Floyd’s girlfriend. We only see her for a very short space of time in the game, tho we do hear about her for a good while before she appears. A lawyer who works away a lot, she is portrayed as controlling and emotionally abusive, belittling Floyd, telling him he’s not a ‘real man’, as well as faintly arrogant (there is a large portrait of her above the mantle). And, in the end, it is implied that she has been having an affair with a colleague. So a ball breaking career woman who is also a whore. This is starting to sound familiar…


The developers have said that the main story in GTAV is about ‘masculinity’. With all three playable characters being men, this means that a lot of the main missions don’t feature women at all. Here are a couple of examples of those that do:

Daddy’s Little Girl/Fame or Shame
These two missions both feature Michael’s daughter Tracey in her desire for fame. In the first you have to rescue her from a party on a boat with some porn producers, where she is dancing for them. In the second Michael and Trevor rush to save her from making a fool of herself on the Fame or Shame auditions. When they arrive she is removing her pants and bending over for the camera. Michael becomes enraged and intervenes when the presenter Lazlo begins to simulate sex with her. In both situations she is deeply resentful of her father showing up, complaining that he is ruining her life. Somewhat surprisingly (since he is so clearly morally reprehensible) Trevor makes no sexually derogatory comments about the situation, but seems genuinely concerned about her being humiliated.

Paparazzo Missions
This group of side missions are definitely amongst the most  problematic in the game. Franklin is enlisted to help a paparazzi photographer in getting the shots he needs. Prior to almost every one of these missions Franklin comments that the photographer is reprehensible, an appalling human being, but yet still accedes to his requests (usually whilst commenting, why am I doing this). The  first mission requires you to follow a limosine and take pictures through the window to catch the female celebrity (it is almost always the same celebrity,  named Poppy Mitchell) taking drugs. The next involves creeping into the bushes behind her house to take video of her having sex. The dialogue with the photographer (which is without a doubt vicisously misogynistic. For example ‘one shot of that dirty little slut monkey and we are in the money’) suggests that it may be anal sex (though quite why this distinction is needed I do not know, except as perhaps an indication of the current apparent porn inspired obssession with anal sex). Following the successful completion of this mission (which does include a totally unsexy sex scene), you get additional quests. One to take pictures of a British Princess buying drugs, and another following Poppy Mitchell as she is chased through the streets by the police and is subsequently arrested (the release of the previous pictures you took having devasted her into a breakdown). As a final haha at the ‘fallen star’ you hear her offering sexual favours to the arresting officer when he recognises her in the hopes of avoiding arrest.
The final mission involves you attempting to be paid by the (now famous) photographer, who refuses, at which point you can kill him, or at least beat him up a bit. Not because he is a nasty, misogynistic amoral scumbag who appears to solely prey on famous women and revel in destroying them. Because he owes you money. And he owes you money because you helped him do that.

Michael is attending a movie premier when he is informed that one of his enemies has sent a team of mercenaries to his house to ‘deal with’ his family. Michael rushes home to find his wife being attacked on the stairs by one assailant. Once he has been ‘dealt with’ he rushes upstairs to rescue his daughter. The lights in the house go out, and in the Michael himself is rescued by his son (who has acquired some night vision goggles) knocking the assailant out.

Talk Radio/Generated world

As well as the missions in the game and the main characters themselves, the game is set in a completely realised world. There are several different radio stations playing different genres of music, as well as a couple of talk radio stations. The talk radio stations provide some interesting, and downright disturbing content.

A talk show with Lazlow and his cohost Michelle. Lazlow is a fixture in the later GTA games, and as well as appearing in the radio in this one, he is also the host of Fame or Shame. In this show, part of the joke is that Lazlow’s broadly sexist schtick  is deemed out of date and not appealing to listeners, so they have paired him with a woman until his contract is finished. Unsurprisingly Lazlow spouts a lot of ‘hilarious’ sexist drivel, including ‘the reason men talk over women is because you yammer on’, ‘I’d much rather be…mistreating women’, as well as commenting at length on his cohost’s breasts and recommending ‘celeb’ underground clubs where they can ‘finger groupies’ (ugh). His cohost does serve as somewhat of a foil, commenting that his comments are disgusting and that he hates women, (whilst fawning over the celebrity callers), but her comments are also seen as somewhat laughable, especially when she says things like ‘don’t you know we live in a new liberal age where we never say anything mean or crude?’. It is clear that Lazlow is meant to be a slightly laughable washed up celebrity, desperate to hold onto what he had. So I guess we are meant to be laughing at him when he says things like the only only score he is interested in is ‘how many hos’ he has had, but, again it feels a little cake/eaty. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Lazlo is one of the most popular recurring characters. Perhaps the developers want us to be laughing at him. But I’m not sure the message got through to the fans.

Chakra attack
Presented by Dr Ray, this initially comes across as stream of consciousness of trite ‘new age’ esque nonsense (with a slightly sexualised bent at times). But then it degenerates into a disturbing description of ‘self pleasuring choking games’ which, we are assured (in part by the female cohost), most women like. I am not going to recount every grim detail here, but it comes across like breathy masturbatory fantasies of choking women half to death. And I really don’t know what the point of it is. I can’t tell if we are meant to be laughing at him, and if we are, why it’s funny.

Beyond Insemination
Hosted by Dwayne Earl. He is a pastiche of your ‘usual redneck’. He is sexist and homophobic as you would expect. But in amongst all the usual talk of ‘steak and grits’ and advice that it’s ‘never about the woman’s pleasure’ that we can all have a good laugh at(?) there are some stunningly disturbing moments. Dwayne Earl advises one caller to get rid of his wife when they don’t agree: ‘I recommend drowning…show your boy what it means to be a man!’, and then waxes lyrical about the joys of ‘deer sushi…all served up on my stepdaughter, just like they do in Asia’. Ah, racism and the acceptable face of incest fantasies. Winner!

Strip club minigame
There are strip clubs in the game universe. At one point Trevor ‘takes over’ running one (he kills the former owner and hides his body in a cupboard) and it becomes a safe house. If you go into the strip club you can play the superfun(!) stripper minigame! The aim of the game is to get the stripper’s ‘Like’ meter to maximum. You can do this in two ways: by continually throwing money at her when she is dancing, or by getting a private dance and sneakily touching her when the bouncer isn’t looking. If the bouncer catches you, he will throw you out, but if you do it when he isn’t looking, it makes the stripper like you more. Yes, that’s right, what a stripper really wants is for men to paw at them. It makes them happy! In the game it makes them so happy that once their ‘like’ meter is full, they ask you to meet them outside, from where you can take them home and have sex with them.

As well as this, you can also pick up prostitutes in game and have sex with them and, as in previous games, you can kill them and get your money back. I don’t know if that’s what the developers actually intended you to do (to be entirely fair, you can randomly kill almost anyone in game and take their money), but some of their fans certainly like to do it.

In game billboards

As you drive around the city, you can see a number of different billboard ads for in game products. Some examples:

Nice, subtle, cos y’see Sprunk sounds a bit like…..oh, you got it, that’s fine.


In case that’s not immediately clear, the ads ‘hook’ is ‘Smell like a bitch’…which is funny because it’s called Le Chien, which is french for dog. Clever, see!

Surrounding Media

It is difficult to shake off accusations of sexism (if not outright misogyny) when your chosen ad strategy seems to back this up. Take the posters advertising the game.


Then there’s this one. Now I think it’s possible that this is meant to be Michael’s daughter Tracey. But she’s not a playable character, nor even a major supporting one. Nope, here she’s just eye candy.


Similarly this isn’t a scene that appears in the game. Again it may be Tracey, but given how little we see of her in game it is hard to be sure. What it isn’t hard to be sure about is that this is a suggestive image (albeit a more clothed one than the last).
These are not the only posters used to advertise the game. They do have posters which contain the main characters. However, given the main bent of this review is to look at how women are treated in the GTAV universe, these seemed the most pertinent.


So what do we have here? Well, one of the first criticisms that we can level is the total lack of a playable female character. Given that you have three to play with, it seems a little remiss that not a single one is female. But the developers said that they wanted to tell a story about masculinity. It isn’t necessarily sexist to want to do that with male characters. It is certainly the case that in the majority of video games the ‘default’ character setting is male (obviously this does not include games where you create your own character), and this, to me, reflects more of a problem with the industry as a whole rather than just the Grand Theft Auto franchise, or Rockstar as a company.
There certainly are female characters within the world, although not that many of them. The problem there lies with the type of female characters they are. I am not saying that all female characters in games need to be ‘good’, there is nothing inherently wrong with a female character that is bad, or flawed. It is even possible to have a well crafted female character that embodies some sexist stereotypes without it necessarily being problematic. The trouble is, all of the female characters in this game are little more than sexist stereotypes of womanhood, or just figures of derision. We have the career obsessed, emotionally stunted woman, we have the harridan oppressing her poor hen pecked boyfriend, and we have the whores. And boy do we have a lot of whores in this game. Taken on their individual merits, again they aren’t necessarily a problem. Quite a lot of the characters have justifications for the way they behave that could, in theory, move them away from just being stereotypes. Amanda de Santa left everything to follow her husband into witness protection, but feels alienated from him and alone, so she seeks comfort. Her daughter Tracey, like so many teenagers, is susceptible to the media which glorifies fame for fames sake alone, and shows her that sex is the way to do it (just look at the paparazzi).However, even with these theoretical justifications, Amanda barely exists as a character, and Tracey is really just a ‘damsesl in distress’ trope with some sex added into it. And in the one quest where Michael’s whole family are at risk, in the end it is only Tracey and Amanda that need to be rescued, and the ‘manchild gamer’ who rides in for the rescue.
When you have so many characters that are barely clothed walking stereotypes, and couple them with the characters who have no story or character reason really for being what they are, you start to think that the writers started with ideas of women, and worked backwards from there.

Then you add in the world that they created. It is huge and impressive and wonderful. And contains so many awfully sexist, and sometimes outright misogynist things. As with the female characters, looked at individually you can argue reasons for some of them. Some you can theoretically argue are played for ‘satire’.
For example, the ‘Beyond Insemination’ radio station, we are meant to be laughing at the presenter. He is a pastice of the ‘traditional redneck’, racist, sexist and homophobic. The joke is on him. So you can chose to view the horrible things he says in that context. Personally I am not comfortable laughing at a character advising someone to drown his wife when an average of two women a week are murdered by a current or former partner. And the line about eating sushi off of his stepdaughter cut a little too close to child abuse for me (tho they make no mention of her age).
As I mentioned previously, Lazlow is meant to be a pitiable, pathetic character. But even saying that, the players love him. That’s why they keep bringing him back (this is the fourth full length GTA game that Lazlow has featured in). Maybe the developers intend us to be laughing at him rather than cheering him on, but how much weight can we really place on their intent when the reality is something different.
The ingame billboard adverts are clearly swipes at ‘real world’ advertising. Real world advertisers know that sex sells, and there are certainly no shortage of horrifically sexist advertising campaigns. So again we can chose to view these as satire. At the very least there is a defined target, even if women are caught in the crossfire.
When it comes to the Paparazzi missios, you can in theory argue that what Franklin says to the paparazzi is the developers comment on this ‘profession’. And he is clearly not meant to be a likeable character, so we coud possibly view his appalling dialogue in those terms, as something that we are meant to see as awful. But it does feel an awful lot like having your cake and eating it. Oh we bemoan his terrible behaviour, but we then go and help him do it. And of all the missions that I completed in the game, these made me feel the most…unclean.Although you can choose not to pick up the missions, there is no option when he asks you for help to say, ‘no’. You can walk away, but then the mission comes up as ‘failed’. The developers intend you to complete them.
But there are things in the game world for which I can see no satirical target. Where is the satire in picking up prostitutes? Where is the satire in going to stripclub full of dancers who really want you to touch them? What is satirical about a man describing how he likes to crush a woman’s sternum?
I guess the other defense that can be offered is what you might chose to term the ‘comedy defense’. Almost all of these things are framed as a joke. The awful female characters, the disturbing radio shows are all in the service of ‘the joke’. The writers, the developers think that these things are funny. But, to me, that is no defense. It almost makes it worse.

Almost any one of these problems on their own can be explained away. Even a few together. But taken together they are almost overwhelming. That is why a reviewer described the game as having an ‘undercurrent of misogyny’. It seems to underpin the whole game. You can chose to not notice it (for the most part). You can not listen to the talk radio shows. You don’t have to pick up the prostitutes (indeed, prior to writing this I have never picked up a prostitue in game. Why would I?). You can avoid having a lap dance. But that doesn’t mean that these things aren’t there. And it doesn’t make the game not incredibly sexist.
I think the final point that I can make here is the games final joke. After the credits are done, you find yourself back with Trevor for one last mission. His mum has turned up and, within seconds, reduced him to a quivering, sobbing wreck. The last word the game has to say about Trevor, the lovable (to a point) psychopath, is that, really, it was all his mother’s fault. The only damaging female stereotype that they missed in the whole of the game, the iconic ‘Mrs Bates’, the smothering abusive mother, the put in as the games final laugh.

Yes, Grand Theft Auto V is a good game. But it is impossible to deny it also appears to be a game that hates women. It shows it in it’s characters, in it’s missions, in the game universe these all occur in, and in its advertising.