A Screaming Eye-Cube Helped Me Learn About Gender

Genderwrecked, a 2017 visual novel about trying to find the meaning of gender - which the game styles as GENDER, like a hellish scream-question - promises the following on its itch.io page:

  • Make out with the sun
  • Be mean to a tree
  • Become parent to ONE HUNDRED FIFTY NINE MEATY BOYS
  • Seduce a robot dad
  • Gay worms
  • Secret ending??????????
  • Blood
  • AND MANY MORE

Having read the above list, I was not expecting to come away from Genderwrecked with much more than a smirk and a great deal of bemusement, but it ended up being such a fascinating, deep look into gender - and how people decide their own - that it made me start to finally get a grasp on the damn thing.

Gender is a fuck, friends. Let me try to explain.

The other day, scientists created a new shade of blue.

Perhaps this blue has always existed, nestled inside the colour wheel, waiting for us to notice it. Perhaps it only came into being because someone decided they weren't satisfied with the millions of other blues in existence.

The spectrum of colours seems finite, but it is the opposite: Tiny, almost indiscernible variations that can mean the difference between a living room painted in soft, relaxing Eggshell versus an off-white Elephant Breath that makes you want to vomit.

That's what I picture when I think of the spectrum of gender. Just as some people can discern the difference between shades of grey, and have it mean the world to them, so too does gender work this way. Just because a new blue is discovered, it does not make any other shade of blue less true. It does not water down other colours, or rob them of their brilliance, just by existing.

Like colour, gender is often a preference that is achieved much like painting a room, by smearing different things on the, uh, metaphorical wall, and seeing which one makes you feel at home. Probably. It's sort of… a bit fuzzy. Listen, if scientists are still discovering blues, I think we're allowed to not have this figured out just yet either.

It's with this fuzziness in mind that I began playing Genderwrecked. The hero of the story sets off on a quest to figure out what gender is, and I with them.

They (or whatever pronoun you choose at the start) do this not by reading books, or asking scientists, but by setting off into the unknown and posing the question to whomever they meet on the way, because, after all, books and scientists can't determine or describe the way a person feels about themselves.

However, as the aforementioned list suggests, this is not always easy.

Asking a cube of eyes and a melting goo-nightmare what they think of when they picture gender is a bit like asking the Sun what its favourite cereal is.

"I WISH I DID NOT CARE ABOUT GENDER," screams the eye-cube. "IT IS SO INSIGNIFICANT." Phil, the melting goo-nightmare, says that their gender is a vacancy sign in a run-down hotel. So far, so cryptic, but perhaps that's the point.

It wasn't until I got to Lucy - a sort of bone-demon-goat-thing, cradling maggots in her hand - that Genderwrecked clicked with me.

"I used to not really… feel that great about myself," says Lucy, in response to your gender question. "Some bad stuff happened to me... and it stuck with me for a long time. I'd just pretty much accepted that I wasn't worth anything."

"But with Maggie," she says, referring to the maggot-ball in her hands, which turns out to be her girlfriend, "I never felt pushed to be anyone, so I guess I just… did my best to be myself? She never tried to make me be anything, but every time I was something, she supported it."

"Maybe your gender is about… feeling right? Feeling at peace with yourself? Being with Maggie… I was able to rebuild my outside in order to fit my inside."

It isn't that Lucy only discovered herself when she found Maggie; it's that Maggie, unlike past partners, finally gave her the personal and emotional space to expand into her full self, to decide who she had been all along, beneath the masks she wore for other people, and for society. Gender, for Lucy, is who you already are.

At the end, my character comes to no pre-set conclusion, because gender is not black-and-white but it is the 10 billion shades of grey in between. I get to decide my own conclusion. "Gender isn't any one objective thing," I write into the box that the game gives me for my answer. "It's just what we make of it."

Finally, three options are put in front of me:

"Maybe GENDER only exists when people are together."

"Maybe understanding GENDER means feeling like you belong somewhere."

"Maybe GENDER is too complicated for any one of us to understand."

It doesn't really matter which one I chose, though, because there was a much more poignant ending that comes after the choice: "All of these monsters had a point, and none of them were the whole point."


Comments

    This is satire, right?

    Also, totally random tangent about your new shade of your blue bit because I'm weirdly annoyed with how you interpreted it.
    Perhaps this blue has always existed, nestled inside the colour wheel, waiting for us to notice it. Perhaps it only came into being because someone decided they weren't satisfied with the millions of other blues in existence.
    Yes this shade of blue has always existed. Did Newton invent gravity? It also wasn't discovered by a dissatisfied person. It clearly says in the article you linked that the pigment (not the shade) was discovered accidentally. That's what the article is about. A new shade of blue wasn't discovered, the pure pigment to create that blue without needing to mix other pigments was discovered. You should probably read the articles you link before making weird analogies based off your headline skimming.

    Phil, the melting goo-nightmare, says that their gender is a vacancy sign in a run-down hotel.
    I can't tell if this is making a mockery of the 'What is gender?' debate or a genuine point.

    So, in the 2016 census, there was a total of 1,260 people who identified as being 'sex/gender diverse'. Out of roughly 24 million. That is around 0.005%. Now, let's assume massive under reporting and go off the US estimate of 0.3% of the population... it's tiny.

    Like, i'm never going to be an arsehole to these people, that's how they feel, that's fine. I'm not going to be mean to them about it. But the amount of coverage for this topic seems grossly disproportionate.

    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Lookup/by%20Subject/2071.0~2016~Main%20Features~Sex%20and%20Gender%20Diversity:%20Characteristics%20of%20the%20Responding%20Population~103

      I think its just political correctness gone mad.
      everybody is different in their own way and in that way, we're all the same. im tired of pandering to a small niche and tbh i know most of them are really nice people, just like everyone else, but WHY must... you know what i dont care im going to bed, ive had enough. goodnight.

      You're being an asshole to them right now.

      Why did you feel the need to post this?

      Really.

      'the amount of coverage for this topic seems grossly disproportionate.'

      No, it is not. Media, in all forms, is more than 99.999% focused on 'traditional genders'.

      It really, truly is. From every breakfast TV show, to the millions of adverts, to all the novels written - 'coverage' is a hair off 100% 'straight'.

      It's simply that you're so used to this that your brain flips out and registers the teeny tiny non-straight amount of media as being aberrant and therefore gives it greater precedence that it numerically deserves.

      If an analogy helps, think of Steam.

      HUNDREDS of games about gender diversity, right? Wow, so many!

      Out of near 800 million titles. Do the math.

      The fact that 'normal' people like you feel the need to take time out of your day to cast aspersions, no matter how politely, is why gender diverse people feel crappy in our society.

      You don't need to do it. It isn't actually getting in your way at all. You still 'own' the vast majority of content out there. So why raise even the slightest issue about anything else?

        You're making a lot of assumptions about another person in your post.

          Please explain, showing working.

            "The fact that 'normal' people like you feel the need to take time out of your day to cast aspersions, no matter how politely, is why gender diverse people feel crappy in our society." - Am I?

            "You still 'own' the vast majority of content out there." - I mean, i'm not Rupert Murdoch... that's for sure.

            Last edited 11/06/18 8:18 pm

              - Yes, you are. You stopped whatever you were doing to make a lengthy, 'researched', fallacious statement about something that doesn't really affect you.

              - I'm going to err on the side of decency here and assume you just have comprehension issues. What is meant by that is that all the content is focused towards straight people - they 'own' the direction of it.

                All 1 minute of pulling ABS statistics regarding the topic at hand.

                I'd wager that your issue with content is more that it's made to appeal to the broadest most profitable market, more than any conspiracy that peoe are doing it to exclude minorities.

                You still make plenty of ad hominem assumptions.

    Loved your analogy with colour, I have grappled with gender lately and I find it so great to have games about this difficult subject. I'm going to send this to a gender queer friend of mine I feel like they'd love it too.

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