An Intersestional Lens on Climate Change

Intersectionality is a lens I like to examine just about every topic with. Using this approach, we can understand that people will experience events differently based on their layers of privilege, oppression, and how they are recognized by society. Looking at climate change intersectionally, we can recognize that climate change has a disproportionate affect on people based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

When discussing climate change, it is important to recognize the social obstacles that come out of the physical environmental changes. These social threats come in the form of infrastructure, health, political institutions, and personal livelihoods. Within nations, communities of color, women, and socioeconomically disadvantaged people have more vulnerabilities to the negative impacts of climate change. People with a lower socioeconomic status not only are more vulnerable to climate change, but they lack the influence in environmental policy-making. Without being represented in policy-making decisions, their interests are therefore not necessarily being met and addressed.

Race is also a factor in addition to socioeconomic status when addressing susceptibility to climate change. Looking at the United States, black Americans are more likely to be subjected to higher levels of air pollution than white Americans. A lot of harmful air pollution comes from the burning of fossil fuels and contributes to disease and premature death. People of color are more likely to be exposed to air pollutants because toxic emission facilities are typically located in low-income, communities of color. We can tie this all back to “The Racism Behind American Suburbia” article I wrote a while back, as it talks about the strategic segregation of white people from those of color. With this legal segregation in place, it is easier to place harmful industrial facilities in communities that consist of people of color.

When continuing the conversation of the unequal affects of climate change, it is important to integrate and discuss gender issues. On average, women still have less economic and political status which makes them more exposed to the negatives of a changing climate. Women who live in areas where they are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods, are most affected. Due to women having on average, a lower socioeconomic status and more likely to live in poverty, they have less ability to respond to natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes. Women also have unequal participation when it comes to policy-making decisions and are not able to fully contribute to climate change related policies and implementation.

With all that being said, climate change is something that affects everybody but disproportionally more towards people of color, the socioeconomically disadvantaged, and women. Even if we don’t feel the adverse effects yet, does not mean we shouldn’t care. We cannot let capitalism and corporate greed run this world any longer. Taking action means changing our individual lifestyles and promoting policy change by getting involved in environmental groups and letting your voice be heard. Climate change is real and if we don’t take action soon, we will reap the consequences. I have provided some resources on where I got all my above information as well as resources that discuss the contributors of climate change and what you can do to help. Just remember; a single person can make a huge difference. Let’s change the world.

Cowspiracy:

http://www.cowspiracy.com/facts/

EPA Finds Black Americans Face More Health-Threatening Air Pollution:

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/01032018/air-pollution-data-african-american-race-health-epa-research

Introduction to Gender and Climate Change:

https://unfccc.int/topics/gender/the-big-picture/introduction-to-gender-and-climate-change

Overview of linkages between gender and climate change:

https://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/gender/Gender%20and%20Environment/PB1-AP-Overview-Gender-and-climate-change.pdf

Race, Class, Gender and Climate Change Communication:

http://oxfordre.com/climatescience/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228620.001.0001/acre  fore-9780190228620-e-412?print=pdf

UN Environment:

https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/climate-change/what-we-do/mitigation

 


IMG_7977Kayla Nessmann is a third-year student at SCSU. She studied abroad in Australia last year and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Writing and minoring in International Relations. Kayla is very passionate about writing, environmentalism, and violence against women’s issues. She wants to use her degree to combine writing with politics, to help make a change in the world. In her free time, she is writing her first novel, doing outdoor activities, interning at the Women’s Center, and being a Human Relations teaching assistant.

 

The Truth About Women’s Healthcare

A couple of weeks ago, I participated in a march put on by the Women’s Center at my school. The march was to protest the fake women’s health center that is located right off campus. Previous to this march, I didn’t have any knowledge or awareness on what these were and that they existed. These places are essentially anti-choice organizations that are pretending to a be a medical clinic. Their goal is to prevent women from accessing an abortion, through misleading and deceptive information. These centers use deception in their advertising and websites by lying about medical facts and the services they offer. They also target low-income areas, students, and young women. These people are in a more vulnerable and impressionable state than other groups of women.

For our march, we protested across the street from the Pregnancy Resource Center. We were there to raise awareness about women’s healthcare and the need for safe, accurate, and unbiased information. Any movement is always going to meet resistance and so of course there were some people that got very angry at us. Lots of people flipped us off, called us idiots, and one man got in our faces and yelled about how bad abortion was. We were there to peacefully advocate for the pro-choice movement and to protest the misinformation coming out of the center.

These women’s health centers far outnumber abortion providers in the United States. Their intention is to mislead women about their services in order to get them through the door. Once there, women are manipulated and lied to in order to persuade them away from getting an abortion. These centers receive direct state funding, depending on what state they are located in. It is ethically wrong for the government to give funding to organizations that are anti-choice and do not give women medically correct information. Women need accurate, unbiased information so that she can make the best-informed decision for herself.

If you are pregnant or know of somebody who is, below are some resources you could utilize to help you along the way to help you make an informed decision. Below that, are resources that provide some more information on the fake women’s health centers.

https://www.plannedparenthood.org/

https://endthelies.com/about/fake-womens-health-center-locations/

https://www.prochoiceamerica.org/issue/fake-health-centers/

 

 


IMG_7977Kayla Nessmann is a third-year student at SCSU. She studied abroad in Australia last year and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Writing and minoring in International Relations. Kayla is very passionate about writing, environmentalism, and violence against women’s issues. She wants to use her degree to combine writing with politics, to help make a change in the world. In her free time, she is writing her first novel, doing outdoor activities, interning at the Women’s Center, and being a Human Relations teaching assistant.

Empathy as a Stepping Stone

What comes to mind when you hear the word “empathy?” Many of us think of putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Perhaps you attempt to see the perspective of another person. Or, maybe you attempt to feel the emotions of another person. Empathy seems to be getting a lot of buzz recently, and I have some reflections to share on the topic.

While I believe it is important to practice empathy, I think we need to dig a little deeper. What benefit comes from empathy with no follow up? Beyond simply attempting to understand the perspective of another person, our responses and actions resulting from this shift in perspective are crucial to the well-being of ourselves and those around us.

One positive response to empathy is compassion, which involves emotional connection along with the intent of helping another person. Not only do you recognize discomfort, suffering, or pain in another, you actively attempt to alleviate the condition. This may be as simple as offering a listening ear, giving someone a ride, or making a meal.

Empathy can also lead to giving someone “the benefit of the doubt.” This entails either believing someone or reframing your perspective to assume the good in another rather than the bad. This process is something that I have consciously focused on in recent years. It doesn’t always come easily, but with mindful practice it gets easier. I’ll share a little of my experience with giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Working in the animal welfare field and caring for hundreds of homeless animals over the years, it’s easy to get frustrated and cynical. For example, if a one-year-old dog is surrendered to the animal shelter because they “don’t have time,” a knee-jerk reaction often includes negative judgement towards the owner. Maybe they should have done their research before getting a breed of puppy with high energy. Maybe they only wanted a cute little puppy, but not the responsibility of providing care to a dog who needs its emotional, social, and physical needs met. But, what good comes from this thought process? It casts judgement on others and it causes personal frustration.

Reframing my mind to consider several possibilities can remove the judgement and frustration. I think to myself, “Maybe the person needs to work multiple jobs just to pay rent and is never home so they feel someone else could give the dog a better life,” or “Maybe this person is going through a divorce and their whole life is being rebuilt.” A number of alternative narratives can give the person the benefit of the doubt that they are responding to life circumstances to the best of their ability. Not only can I help this person in a more compassionate manner, I will carry less emotional turmoil of my own.

I understand there are contexts in which giving someone the benefit of the doubt is not reasonable or perhaps not even safe. But, I challenge myself and others to consciously see the good in others and give the benefit of the doubt when possible.

In addition to helping others, empathy can contribute to improved personal peace. I’m not saying cultivating empathy will simply give you peace. From my experience, having an open heart and looking for the humanity in others has positive effects my emotional well-being. Practicing empathy, compassion, and giving the benefit of the doubt collectively lightens the load weighing on my heart and mind. These approaches to social interactions allow me to engage with life in a more optimistic manner, which is not always easy considering the multitude of social issues the world faces. Letting go of unnecessary skepticism and cynicism is uplifting.

What else can empathy lead to? I encourage everyone to explore the possibilities.


Head ShotRose Hegerle is a senior studying sociology and gender & women’s studies. She chose these disciplines to better serve the St. Cloud community and contribute a more socially-just world. Her passions lie in empathy, social justice, human rights, animal welfare, and environmental issues (among other things). She enjoys engaging in critical and thoughtful dialogue to draw attention to macro and micro power structures that produce social inequalities. Rose lives in St. Cloud with her spouse and several pets including dogs, cats, mice, and a bearded dragon. Hobbies include canoeing, hiking, camping, playing board games, bowling, eating, and sewing. She currently works at a humane society and plans to stay in the non-profit sector long-term.

Try Harder

My name sounds a little heavy on your tongue

Like molasses dripping down the sticky jar.  You

Try. I give you the pronunciation and you hesitate but

You try.  

 

I learned to smile and tell you, “nah, it’s okay!” just say

It like this.  The pronunciation is abrasive with the thick

American accent.  My name loses its culture and its zest.

You try.

 

Try harder.

My name was a gift that is irreplaceable given by my mother.

It’s cultural and religious significance defined my character

And created the future that my name carries.  I will no longer

Go by a name that is meaningless.

 

Try harder.

 

You do have the accent and you have said names harder.  I’ve heard you.

Try harder. Say it with meaning and say it with the flavour that my

Name carries.  Try harder. I’ve practiced your name on my tongue

Until it flowed like liquid silver.  I tried.


Try harder.


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Kholood Abuhadid is a fourth year Biomedical and a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies.  She is Palestinian-American and is passionate about Palestinian rights as well as encompassing feminist intersectional ideology.  Kholood is an avid reader and loves to dabble in creative writing.  She hopes one day to establish herself in the world of medical research as well as have an active voice in the Public Health world.  She also thinks she’s good at knitting but in reality is actually quite horrible! Managing editor.

Panic And Resolution- The Minnesota Midterm Elections

I’ve been reflecting a lot on Kare11’s article about the Republican Attorney General candidate and how he declared, if elected he would take out 42 Democratic attorneys and put Republicans in their place. On one hand, this man cannot be elected due to the blatantly fascist statement–in fact, I have been considering the idea of creating a petition because that idea cannot fall into our government as it would cause more corruption than there is already. On the other hand, I cannot and will not vote for Keith Ellison. I cannot support someone who has such claims against them. It’s not fair to the women who are effected in other situations such as this. It is not fair to the women who suffer at the corrupt hands of the justice system that claim “there isn’t enough evidence.” It is not fair to the women who have lost their lives to the hands of abusers. Or lost themselves to the lies and manipulation that abusers control and are working their way back up. The people who abuse the women in their lives–or anyone, for that matter–should not be allowed to run for public office. We cannot continue with this pattern of “the lesser of two evils.” We cannot continue with this pattern of rich, straight, white men misrepresenting our country.

Then I learned that we actually have that third party candidate who supports many of the things that I support and I’d like y’all to look him up and give him a chance. The party he’s affiliated with seems a little out there to some, Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Now, but I think this is the best candidate we’ve got that doesn’t demean our democratic practices. MPR did this great coverage story of the platforms of each Attorney General candidate.

No matter what happens in this election, it is our duty as students, as community members, allies, and decent people to vote. Vote for who you think would do the best job and who is the most qualified. Vote for the person–not the party–that aligns most with your personal views and morals. Vote for the people who can’t vote–for the individuals who live here who don’t have the privilege. Vote out voter suppression. Vote out those who you think aren’t doing the right job and vote in those who are dedicated to the people, because that’s their job.

Even here in St. Cloud, I did my research and emailed the two candidates for Stearns County Sheriff. One got back to me (but maybe that’s because I forgot to put my name and email on the other). I was asking primarily about his stance on excessive force and brutality in the police community and how they would deal with sex workers–rather than sex traffickers. While he explained his stance, the answers he gave were still rather ambiguous, in my opinion, but also to be expected from a politician–or even as a policeman being questioned on police culture. Regarding sheriff, I’m still not sold on who I’m voting for or if I’m abstaining, but that’s the important thing about the midterm elections.

Midterms are vital to how the US government should function. That being said, Minnesota is very unique and voting is very accessible to the majority. There is still time to register. You can register at the polls. All you have to do is show up and you’re there.

You can make a difference. Exercise your right to vote. Help everyone and make sure that we get the right people in office to uphold and defend the integrity of what makes America great: honesty, empathy, and change


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Betsy (she/her) is a senior at SCSU, studying Gender and Women Studies with a Human Relations minor. She is a member of the SCSU Concert, Chamber, and Women’s Choirs, holding a fundraising chair position in Concert Choir and she is the president of Women’s Choir. When she’s not living in Stewart Hall or the PAC, she is working at the Women’s Center trying to make campus a better place or playing video games, procrastinating on homework, or trying to not get viciously attacked by her cat.

Rethinking Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am conflicted about family gatherings and traditions. Like many folks growing up in the United States, I learned about the wonderful lessons incorporated into the celebration of Thanksgiving. Childhood imagery of “Pilgrims” and “Indians” feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie together in peace paints a fairy tale of the history of white settlers and Indigenous peoples.

I am disappointed by the false and romanticized garbage I was fed as a child. The state-sanctioned ignorance cultivated within me by the U.S. public education system lasted well into my adulthood.

I am disappointed in myself for perpetuating that ignorance throughout my life and buying into the “true” meaning of Thanksgiving. How wonderful it is to take a day to celebrate your blessings by expressing gratitude. The “Pilgrims” and the “Indians” could teach us such an important lesson about tolerance and peace. Blah, blah, blah.

I am disappointed that I didn’t rethink Thanksgiving until only a few years ago. As I’ve come to understand the reality of relations between colonizing settlers and indigenous peoples on the American continent, I can no longer buy into the spirit of blind gratitude on Thanksgiving.

While many white folks happily believe that Thanksgiving celebrates peace between settlers and indigenous peoples in the U.S., there are a few basic misconceptions one should unlearn. Settlers did NOT respect the cultures and religions of indigenous peoples. “The first Thanksgiving” did NOT mark the start of a peaceful friendship among settlers and indigenous peoples (in fact mass genocide of native peoples precipitated from the event). Read more here. Additionally, there is no evidence that turkey was even on the menu, it was most likely venison!

For indigenous folks, Thanksgiving is often viewed as a reminder of the process of violent colonization, genocide, and oppression. As European settlers began infiltrating the land from the east, horrific numbers of indigenous lives were taken, first by disease and slavery, then by war and genocide. Take a moment to read alternative, more accurate versions of the Thanksgiving story. Since 1970, the National Day of Mourning recognizing the violence against Native Americans has coincided with Thanksgiving to bring light to these realities. THIS should be taught in schools and promoted.

After understanding the realities of settler invasion in America, how can we continue to celebrate such a holiday? “The first Thanksgiving” is clearly a story made up to perpetuate white supremacy and hide the violence of colonization and its lasting effects on indigenous peoples. On the one hand I want to boycott the day altogether while on the other hand I want to take the opportunity to educate family and friends on the topic (although I still have plenty to learn).

I will inevitably find myself at a family gathering on Thanksgiving. How will I challenge myself and those around me to reframe the holiday? Perhaps I will briefly speak of the history of Thanksgiving prior to the meal. Perhaps I will have several individual conversations about this topic. Perhaps I will be direct and denounce support for celebration. One way or another I will confront the dominant false story. While challenging long-standing traditions and beliefs of family members is never easy, I believe it’s important work for improving humanity.


Head ShotRose Hegerle is a senior studying sociology and gender & women’s studies. She chose these disciplines to better serve the St. Cloud community and contribute a more socially-just world. Her passions lie in empathy, social justice, human rights, animal welfare, and environmental issues (among other things). She enjoys engaging in critical and thoughtful dialogue to draw attention to macro and micro power structures that produce social inequalities. Rose lives in St. Cloud with her spouse and several pets including dogs, cats, mice, and a bearded dragon. Hobbies include canoeing, hiking, camping, playing board games, bowling, eating, and sewing. She currently works at a humane society and plans to stay in the non-profit sector long-term.

The Mark Cohen Complex (Redux)

About two years ago, a piece of mine was published on Collective Feminism by the name of The Mark Cohen Complex. In the post, I wrote about my experience during my vacation to the Philippines that summer of 2016. In that post, I wrote about the extreme guilt I felt in writing about my summer experience while there are people living in abject poverty.

I called the post “The Mark Cohen Complex” to mirror the dilemma undergone by the character of Mark in RENT of using the stories of those who have less. What I failed to realize two years ago is that the power of Mark’s character and the power of his art comes from the power of his community. I aimed to tell the story of my own community and instead became caught up in a guilt of poverty, that I failed to see the strength and the agency of my people.

In the ending scene of RENT, Mark shows his friends the documentary that he has spent a year making, with cuts of the people he had filmed over the year, mostly homeless people and those diagnosed with AIDS. The clips, however, are those of laughter and overall strength where individuals outside of the community only saw people who were sick and sleeping on the street (as shown by numerous scenes of police officers moving homeless folks forcefully or the raid of a peaceful protest).

Unfortunately, in my piece, I was the latter: thinking about my own community and my own home-country in terms of what they lack versus what they have. I only saw the children in the street, selling garlic slung around their neck in the middle of busy roads and failed to see the work they put into school on top of that. I saw grandmothers sewing dresses and sashes with their shaking and wrinkled hands and didn’t remember the tradition strong in those fingertips.

Even with these realizations, it would do them a disservice to make this piece about my tears over my mistakes. That would only once again take their stories away from them. The story of the Filipino people has always been one of resistance: against Spain, against Japan, against the United States. It is a country rich with our unique culture, delicious food and the best, most loving people on the planet (though of course I’d be biased)!

These truths are the ones that should always be on the forefront of the discussions about the Philippines. History of colonization and the recent obsession of my home country as a tourist destination paints it as nothing more than those two sides of a multi-sided die . Sometimes the mainstream seeps into the simplest discussions which only bolsters the need for critique of the mainstream. Where I myself am concerned and the lesson to be garnered from The Mark Cohen Complex, there is always room for growth when it comes to your own prejudices. You are not exempt from speaking from a place of privilege, no matter your position within the community itself.


CF Staff pic

Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American fourth year SCSU student who double majoring Gender and Women’s Studies and English. Mariam has loved writing from a young age and is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding identity and pop culture today. Mariam is a writing tutor at The Write Place and in her free time runs a personal blog at micarlixx.wordpress.com and is Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games. Social Media Consultant.

 

The Racism Behind American Suburbia

Usually when I bring up housing racism, I get the same typical response; “That’s not accurate because people of color can choose where they want to live, just like white people!” I can understand where that viewpoint may be coming from, but it is also the easy and lazy way to slide out of an uncomfortable truth that America still faces.

Suburbia came around in order to create a segregated living community. We created rings and rings of suburbs that would primarily be given to white people. In order to keep people of color excluded, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), sent manuals to all of the real estate agents that said they were not allowed to sell houses to black people because the homes would depreciate. Otherwise known as redlining, homes closest to black communities had lower values. Homes furthest from black communities had higher values. Since Americans wanted homes with higher values, they fled to the whitest areas where homes were worth more. Here we now have legal segregation.

Now that white people are separated from people of color, we take the easy answer of saying people of color are lazy because they are stuck in the ghetto and don’t have a job. The more complicated answer is understanding how America has constructed institutional racism and has made it legal to discriminate against non-whites. Even today, our suburbs are still very segregated. While the FHA may have changed their rules and regulations, a lot of real estate agents may still have the unconscious bias that they may not want to sell a home to a person of color, just based off the potential buyer’s voice on the phone or their name. Voices and names are unconsciously put with a race and from that, the real estate agent may not want to sell.

To go along with the racism of American housing development, comes the parallels of education, security, healthcare, and the job market. In poorer communities made up of people of color, the schooling is going to be lower quality. Schools get a lot of their money from real estate value; therefore, schools are going to be more under-funded in non-white areas. In addition to poorer education, there is less access to healthcare, more under-funded jobs, more heavy policing, and higher insurance. The heavier policing means that more black people are going to be arrested than white people, which skews our crime rates to make it look like it is inherently black people who commit crimes.

A lot of racism stems from the housing segregation that is still occurring today. People need to be aware of other communities outside their own, and the struggles those other communities might be going through. It is really easy to assume negative stereotypes for people of color and why they are more likely to be in poverty, but we need to assess our poison and have the conversations that highlight all the complications of racism and what we can do to counteract it.

1934–1968: FHA Mortgage Insurance Requirements Utilize Redlining:

http://www.bostonfairhousing.org/timeline/1934-1968-FHA-Redlining.html

How Redlining’s Racist Effects Lasted for Decades:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/upshot/how-redlinings-racist-effects-lasted-for-decades.html

 


IMG_7977Kayla Nessmann is a third-year student at SCSU. She studied abroad in Australia last semester and is majoring in English with an emphasis in Rhetoric and Writing and minoring in International Relations. Kayla is very passionate about writing, environmentalism, and violence against women’s issues. She wants to use her degree to combine writing with politics, to help make a change in the world. In her free time, she is writing her first novel, doing outdoor activities, and art.

Choice

I’ve always claimed to be pro-choice. In high school, I’d engage in passionate debates about a woman’s right to choose and have control over her own body. I was poorly informed on the complexity and realities of reproductive choice and justice for all women. But, that’s where I was as a teenager over a decade ago. Pro-choice was a primary point in my juvenile form of (white) feminism.

Moving forward to adulthood, a friend of mine experienced an unexpected pregnancy. Despite my long-standing claim to be pro-choice, I did not support her decision to terminate her pregnancy. I used the story of how my mother figured out a way to raise me despite becoming pregnant at 16 years old. I guess I tried to guilt her into enduring an unwanted pregnancy. I was a pseudo-feminist and a failed friend. She went through with an abortion, and I was not there for her.

That was a mistake. A big one, one that will stay with me forever. I should have been there for her. I should have listened, helped, supported her. If I could go back in time, I would be the friend I should have been. But, I cannot. All I can do now is recognize my mistake and do better.

I’ve had my own experiences with pregnancy termination. Despite my pro-choice position, I had no choice in the actions of my reproductive system. As my body violently rejected carrying pregnancies to term, I felt a stronger empathy to those who have become pregnant without choosing to do so. The lack of control or choice and feeling helplessly detached from my body uncovered a connection to women whose pregnancies went against their wishes. Losing wanted pregnancies strengthened my support for a woman’s choice over her own body. I intimately understand the feeling of having no control over your body and the associated physical and emotional pain. If we can prevent others from this feeling, we have a moral obligation to do so. A woman should have as much control over her own body as humanly possible.

As I’ve become more educated on the complexities of the pro-choice/pro-life debate, I’ve learned the issue is NEVER black and white. Reproductive choices must be autonomous. No women should be coerced into having a child she does not want, nor should any woman be convinced she should not have a child. I’ve shied away from the pro-choice/pro-life dichotomy and to a broader picture of reproductive justice. A picture which includes the freedom to create the family of one’s choosing. To learn more about reproductive justice, click here. Many abortion myths still exist, and it’s time to unlearn them!

The Otome Game Experiment

Phone app games have gained popularity as a way to pass time and a reason for baby boomers to call millennials and gen-z kids “lazy”.

“Otome” style games (literally meaning “maiden”) are, in essence, romance simulators. Along with advancing the story, the player advances a romance with one of many dashing bachelors.

The first time I can recall otome games finding their way into the Western mainstream culture of gaming was with the game “Mystic Messenger” where the player would get actual texts (not in-game messages) from the love interests. Since then, I haven’t seen a game make the same ‘splash.’ Seeing an ad for one of the games piqued my interest and got me asking questions concerning the lessons that individuals playing the game were learning.

Ikemen Sengoku is the otome game I saw advertised and the game that I decided to download and play. The premise of the game is you, the player character (hereinafter referred to as the “PC), are transported back in time to the Sengoku period in Japan. The Sengoku was a time of immense social and military conflict and the perfect atmosphere to develop a romance with one of the various shoguns. The game itself is a visual novel, meaning the simple mechanic of the game is tapping past the story and occasionally making dialogue decisions that inform the chosen romance.

Ikemen Sengoku offers many options for the PC to romance, including the three real-life unifiers of Japan: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. After the prologue of the story, you are given the prompt to “choose your favorite guy” and embark on their romance route.

I chose the route of Oda Nobunaga (Nobunaga Oda in the Western translation). His title, which I believe is available when choosing the romance route, is the “Devil-King”… We’ll explore why.. Also spoilers follow for Nobunaga’s route on Ikemen Sengoku.

Nobunaga’s romance route starts with a common romance movie/novel/etc trope: “I hate the main love interest who is cruel and rude to me, but I also might like him?” The trope is inherently toxic since it supports the idea that negative behavior is romantic. We see this with  the age old phrase many parents say to their young daughters, “He’s only being mean because he likes you”.

The romance aspect of the story begins with Nobunaga making a bet with the PC. The gist of the bet is if the PC can beat Nobunaga in a game of Go (a Japanese chess-like game) then he will accompany her to the space where she can time travel back to the present (yeah, he believes the time-travel thing right away when she tells him). With each game the PC loses, however, Nobunaga gets to claim a part of her. I’LL REPEAT. With each game the PC loses, Nobunaga gets to CLAIM a part of her. In fact, he calls it “conquering”.

“But, Mariam,” you may be thinking, “if it’s consensual, it’s totally fine!” You’re absolutely right. If it’s consensual. The PC tries to get out of the bargain because she simply doesn’t like Nobunaga and doesn’t like the idea of giving up parts of her body to him. Nobunaga’s response? Threats. He tells the PC that if she doesn’t agree to the bargain, he will lock her up in the castle’s dungeon. How that idea even left the pitch-room for the game is beyond me and how the PC is able to look past this fact and fall in love with him.

All in all, with how far I am with the route now, this particular otome game exemplifies the worst parts of a romance game and the romance genre as a whole. If we are to cultivate a culture where our children (our daughters based on the audience for the otome games) can learn healthy perceptions and practices of a good partner then we need to start with games that employ more feminist ideas such as affirmative consent and pushing back against harmful notions of attraction.


 

 

CF Staff pic

Mariam Bagadion is a Filipino-American fourth year SCSU student who double majoring Gender and Women’s Studies and English. Mariam has loved writing from a young age and is excited to use this passion to bring attention to and start conversations about feminist issues surrounding identity and pop culture today. Mariam is a writing tutor at The Write Place and in her free time runs a personal blog at micarlixx.wordpress.com and is Game Master for her friends’ Dungeons and Dragons games. Social Media Consultant.