Tag Archives: covid-19

Illustration of hands holding a gaming controller with pink and yellow cords coming out of the top and connected to 2 wireless symbols (one green and one red).

Gaming While Girl

By: Elisia Lopez, Junior studying Literary Arts and Anthropology, Special Projects Coordinator at the LGBTQ Center

Since coming back home, one of the ways I’ve been distracting myself from all this stress has been by playing video games. It wasn’t until pretty recently that I had actually started playing them semi-regularly. Before now, before I found a group of supportive friends who encouraged me to start gaming, it wasn’t really something I super felt comfortable doing or even something I was supposed to do. And, to be honest, a huge influence on my relationship with video games has been the fact that I’m not a dude.

Despite the fact that about half of self-identified gamers are women, there is still a lot of stigma around “gamer girls” and a general lack of confidence in women’s gaming abilities. And, while anyone should be able to enjoy a game without concern for how well they do or not, there is still a degree of discomfort when it comes to playing video games, especially if you’re not amazing at it, and even more so if you’re playing alongside or against people who are much more skilled than you.

One thing I’ve been realizing is that sometimes this discomfort is internal, sometimes it’s external.

I remember the first time I was ever introduced to Super Smash Bros, which is basically a culmination of every Nintendo character I didn’t know beating each other up…for some reason. I was probably around ten or so, and I was at a friend’s birthday party when they busted out the Wii. I had been pretty excited to learn how to play this new game that everyone swore up and down was so fun. When all the characters showed up on the screen and we finally got to play, I slowly went from being totally psyched to just bummed out. I remember asking how to play and just not having any of my questions answered. I was feeling tense and–for lack of a better word–shitty because I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t last more than a minute, so I eventually bailed.

And yeah, I know, we were ten. Around ten. I’m not trying to bash on what people did when we were kids because, you know, we were kids. But this is just one of the earlier instances of an ongoing pattern. The same thing happened when I first played Mario Kart. The same thing happened when my cousins tried to get me to play Assassin’s Creed. When this kind of thing keeps happening over and over and over, it becomes something that eventually stops you from wanting to play.

A lot of it had to do with people thinking I just couldn’t be good because I was a girl. Yeah, I wasn’t good, but that had nothing to do with my gender. I just wasn’t socialized to play video games, so I didn’t. It becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy, where girls can’t be gamers because that’s a “boy’s thing,” so girls aren’t really encouraged to game, then when they do of course they’re not as good at it. And sometimes, you start passing up on playing because you know you’re no good, or you don’t have the energy to get made fun of.

In my case, I just stayed away from playing video games entirely.

Of course, that’s not everyone’s experience. But I’ve been in enough friend groups where men patronize women about how badly they’re playing that they just decide to not even try and say they’re just okay with watching. 

It wasn’t until college that I started to let myself play video games, despite how far I am from being good. Being someone who is into creative writing, a lot of the video games that appealed to me did so because of the way that they engage with stories and lore differently than books, movies, or TV, like running around in a fantasy world and defeating evil in Legend of Zelda, trying to figure out my way home from the Underground in Undertale, and just messing around in the futuristic world of Overwatch. And once I had gotten into them and understood the gameplay, I actually began to enjoy playing them–and get better at them, as practice tends to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get super nervous and self-conscious when I’m playing video games. Sometimes I get the overwhelming urge to stop because I don’t think I’m good enough. Sometimes I get so nervous about it that I try to preemptively explain away why I’m so bad. Sometimes I even stop playing something when someone else walks into the room. But that’s only sometimes.

Being able to game with non-cishet men and without dealing with weird gatekeeper gaming complexes has done a lot in teaching me that I am allowed to suck and still have fun at the same time. Right now I’ve logged an embarrassing amount of hours on Overwatch with my friend, and I’m able to laugh at myself when I mess up but also recognize how much better I’ve gotten at it. That’s something I wouldn’t have seen myself doing a couple of years ago.

It might not seem that deep because it’s honestly just video games. But the fact that I have been able to get to the point of enjoying something I hadn’t felt good enough to even try just because of my gender has got me feeling pretty great.

Footnote (some games, game designers, and gamers that subvert gendered expectations in video games)

  • Undertale – Features a protagonist who is referred to using they/them pronouns throughout the game. The game diverts from uber-violent expectations in video games and focuses on solving problems peacefully and with care.
  • Night in the Woods – Features a queer woman protagonist and explores her mental health and relationship with her hometown and her past.
  • Life Is Strange – A game that follows a lesbian in high school with time-altering powers. The game includes potentially triggering content.
  • Tell Me Why – The first video game from a major developer with a playable trans character, also voiced by a trans man. (I haven’t played this game, so I can’t speak to the quality of it)
  • Roberta Williams – A self-taught woman game designer who revolutionized graphic game design.
  • Anna Anthropy – A trans woman game designer who makes digital games, interactive fiction, and zines.
  • Aisha Tyler – A WoC gamer who is very vocal about sexism and racism within the gaming community.
  • Here’s a link to a list of trans game developers from 2018–check it out!
  • And here’s a link to another article with influential women in gaming.

Image credit: Sara Montoya ’21, Graphic Design and Publicity Coordinator at the LGBTQ Center

Logo for the "Rooted Radio" playlists, which includes a radio and radish.

Rooted Radio 004

By Ciara Keegan ’20, Science Technology and Society Concentrator and Jennifer Katz ’20, Science Technology and Society Concentrator and Gender, Health, and Wellness Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

Shortly before we had transferred to Brown, Ciara and I were connected by a mutual friend. I sat on the floor of the library while she spoke to me from her flat in Edinburgh. Almost immediately she brought up music and we started talking about our favorite artists and songs. It wouldn’t become as obvious until we coincidentally (fate?) were assigned as roommates during our first semester at Brown. My memories from that New Dorm double are deep shades of blue, red and purple lit by the whale shaped lamp on her bedside table with Lady Wray’s “Guilty,” Darondo’s “Didn’t I,” and Still Woozy’s “Goodie Bag” on a constant loop. 

We started our radio show, “The Now and Then” the fall of our junior year and it quickly became the highlight of my week. On Sundays we would create the collaborative playlist, piling on songs until Wednesday came along, when we would debate over the layout of the final 50 minutes. We would send it to everyone, knowing that only a couple friends and our parents would tune in. It didn’t matter. And who knows, maybe someone driving in Providence had turned the knob to 101.1 WBRU at just the right moment to hear us fangirling over Hope Tala or Radiant Children. Even during the worst moments of our semester, we made the time to lug ourselves up staircase three to the BSR studio, pressing pause on the anxiety of college that filled every hour of every day, except 10-11 pm on Wednesday nights. 

This past year we submitted to our busy-ness, living off of Wickenden we kept putting off walking all the way to campus for our show, always saying, “next week we’ll do it.” Until there were no more weeks left and we found ourselves packing up the belongings of her room before she flew to California for the foreseeable future. As I’ve put together these Rooted Radios each week, I’ve felt a strong pang of nostalgia for making these playlists together—a nostalgia that competes with regret as I mourn our senior year ending early. 

We both admit to being poor communicators, FaceTime has become exceedingly laborious as every aspect of our days have been converted to digital means. We may never be able to have our radio show at Brown anymore, but one way I know we can always stay connected is through sharing music and collaborating on playlists.

Click here to listen to the Rooted Radio 004 playlist on Spotify

Comment below: What was the last thing you recommended to a friend (it can be anything)? Why did you recommend it? How are you staying connected to your friends during this time? 

Image credit: Rooted Radio image by Katherine Sang ’21

Praise: The Act of Offering Glory To One’s Self

By: Maurisa Li-A-Ping, Coordinator for First Year and Sophomore Programs at the Brown Center for Students of Color

Providence, Rhode Island

While quarantining and social distancing it feels like there are mirrors all around me. The ones you find in the circus, making tall things short, big things small, and oval things square. Everything feels filtered and contorted, even my body. So much is lost and gained in the illusion of shame. Some days I am a soaring acrobat, while others I am a clown walking the tightrope. In the blaring silence of quarantine, I turn to Lucille Clifton for resilience and comfort.

Last night while reading “homage to my hips” I wondered, did she wake up with the utmost reverence for her body? Was it gained over time? Did someone name those parts of her worthy? I am not sure of how but, I too want a body that is magical and mighty. It feels right to start with gratitude so each day I honor the joy and horror of living in my body. 

What has she done for me today?

What has her terror taught me?

Where does love live within her?

I am not sure if you too feel you are being chased by mirrors. If your round has become triangular and your small has been turned big. However, I am sure of praise: the act of offering glory to one’s self as a form of survival. Do it with me: (as said by Lucille Clifton in her poem homage to my hips)

….these hips

are free hips.

they don’t like to be held back.

these hips have never been enslaved,   

they go where they want to go

they do what they want to do.

these hips are mighty hips.

these hips are magic hips….

Image credit: Maurisa Li-A-Ping

Rooted Radio 003

By: Teresa Conchas and Jennifer Katz, Student Coordinators at the Sarah Doyle Center

Perhaps it is the rain that appears to have no end that provoked it. As if I was possessed by some azure calling, I started this week on a quest to collect songs revolving around the color blue. In #72 of the 240 meditations on the color blue in Maggie Nelson’s Bluets, she writes,

“It is easier, of course, to find dignity in one’s solitude. Loneliness is solitude with a problem. Can blue solve the problem, or can it at least keep me company within it?—No, not exactly. It cannot love me that way; it has no arms. But sometimes I do feel its presence to be a sort of wink—Here you are again, it says, and so am I.”

When I spoke to Teresa, by serendipitous chance, she had undergone a parallel excursion into the color blue this week. We joined blue forces. She wrote to me, “at first I had a hard time compiling songs around the color, and then I just couldn’t escape coming across it.” Maybe we are all feeling and searching for a touch of blue right now. 

Plant Parenthood – Growing our Gardens

By: Shanelle Haile, PhD Student in the Department of Sociology and Grad Parent Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

Our home garden in Cranston, Rhode Island

Two weeks ago, I shared why gardening is a practice I continue during the COVID pandemic. I hope it inspired you to get into your own gardens and get your hands dirty!

As promised, in this follow-up post, I share a few photos of the budding plants that will be a part of my container garden this summer. Let my mistakes serve as an example to you. If you have just decided to plant seeds, it’s not too late! I lost my squash plants to frost last week, though thankfully my lettuce survived. As a backup, my daughter and I recently started planting tomato, jalapeno, and habanero seeds to add to our garden.

The first photo below is of my daughter, Hanna, stirring coffee grounds, leaves, eggshells, and grass in our makeshift compost bin. The materials in our compost bin will be mixed with soil when we move our seedlings outdoors in late May. The second photo is of Hanna dutifully watering our tomato seedlings and pepper seedlings under our grow light. She makes it a point to check on her seedlings every morning.

We aren’t the only ones working on our gardens. Many in our Brown community – students, faculty and staff— are getting their hands dirty these days. Below are photos from two students who shared photos of their lovely budding gardens with us.

These photos below are from Brown graduate student Alison Weber. Her daughter, Elanor (age 2), is pictured planting seeds in the first photo and then watering blossoming lima bean seedlings in the second photo (courtesy of Alison Weber).

These photos below were taken by Brown undergraduate student Beka Yang. They show her container garden of squash, lettuce, and bok choy in the first photo. In the second picture, Beka captures her budding Chinese kale seedlings (courtesy of Beka Yang).

The only thing more inspiring than working on my own garden is connecting with and receiving updates from others in the Brown/SDC community who are doing the same. So share your gardening adventures in the comments, or tag us on your gardening photos via Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

Here’s to Spring and new beginnings…

Rooted Radio 002

By: Jennifer Katz, Senior studying Science, Technology, Society and the Gender, Health, & Wellness Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

These mornings I let my alarm go off six or seven times, the end of each snooze interval repeatedly jolting me awake. I am desperate to savor the warm embrace of being perfectly bundled in my blue toile-patterned covers. More than usual, it’s been difficult to convince myself that it’s worthwhile to face the chill outside of my bed,  especially when “outside” is restricted to the few rooms in my home.

While April has been devastated by the damage of this grand flood, from my window I can see evidence that spring is here and the warm days of May are on the horizon. The cherry blossoms are shedding pastel pink flowers, softly gracing the earth’s floor. The hydrangeas in my backyard are just beginning to bloom, painting a blur of amethyst along the lining of my cracked wooden fence. A green-eyed cat with light gray fur gracefully glides behind the room that I have now designated as my office, pausing to meow for food through the glass. Since I’ve last been home, my parents have installed two more bird feeders, incorporating into my every day a rainbow of colorful birds like Northern Cardinals and Blue Jays, as well as their songs, whistles, and chirps.

Rooted Radio 002 is for daydreaming about the future, reflecting on the past, and celebrating renewal. 

Country Living during COVID-19

By: Rae Gould, Associate Director of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative

Leverett, Mass.

Rather than thinking of time at my home in Western Massachusetts as “isolation,” I am working to remain focused on opportunities for reflection, growth and rejuvenation. Although some days are more challenging than others, rediscovering my love of cooking through healthy, home-cooked meals and culinary explorations, combined with rediscovering the great outdoors, have been welcome reprieves from the daily news and associated stresses.

One example is a recent first-time exploration of Catamount State Forest, located in Colrain, Massachusetts. This remote forest near the Vermont border has an even more remote pond in the center, accessible only by foot. Time away from my computer and the confines of my home was a welcome break on the cool spring day I explored this area. Although I have lived in Western Massachusetts for two and half years, I’m finding that the COVID-19 experience provides a new reason to explore this beautiful area of the state and plan to take advantage of socially-distanced activities like walks and hikes in remote areas as warmer temperatures arrive this spring. Another beautiful part of nature in this area, black bears, is perhaps the only other consideration to enjoying the outdoors these days, besides social distancing, of course. I hear from my neighbors that the bears are awake now, although I have not had the pleasure of a visit on my property yet this year.

I think of my colleagues and friends from Brown University daily and remain connected a number of ways: regular meetings with staff and faculty, helpful webinars offered by Wellness at Brown and Talent Development, and continuing to plan projects for when the campus returns to normal. In the meantime, I’ll work to stay healthy and balanced through reconnecting with the beautiful area I’ve chosen to call home, and I’ll keep reminding myself that country living during COVID-19 is a blessing during these trying times.

Image credit: Photos of McLeod Pond, Catamount State Forest, Colrain, Mass. (by the author)

Feminists at Brown: Lessons of Hope and Resilience

By: Ivy Bernstein ‘21, Executive Board of Feminists at Brown

Because most college students sleep in on the weekends, Brown’s campus tends to be empty at 7:30 AM on a Saturday. Such was the case on March 7th, the Saturday before Brown switched to remote learning, the day of the Feminist Leadership and Mentorship for Equality Conference (FLAME). The cold air whipped my hands that were exposed to the open air from carrying boxes of bagels, tote bags, and folders to the student center. My heart raced as if to say, “Today’s the day we’ve worked towards for months! Get ready!” 

My campus organization, Feminists at Brown, meets every Monday from 8:30-9:30 PM in the Sarah Doyle Center. Curling up on the cozy couches and sipping cups of tea provided by the center, we check in with each other by sharing “Ka-Chings” and “Grievances,” or one good and bad thing that happened to us that week. For the three years I have participated in this ritual with Feminists at Brown, it has been a source of comfort for me. The group is a place to vent about something difficult you’re dealing with, but also a community that celebrates your successes with you. Throughout the year, we engage in feminist discussions and plan the annual FLAME Conference for high school students in Rhode Island. With the goal of making feminist discourse and Brown’s resources accessible to young people, we invite high school students from across Rhode Island for a day of workshops, lectures, and activities. We provide a broad range of workshop topics, including climate justice, queer feminisms, womxn in politics, transnational feminism and racism, the commodification of feminism, consent, and sex education programming. 

The satisfaction of spending months organizing for one conference and then seeing first-hand how your work impacts students is an indescribable feeling. However, on the morning of the conference, all I could feel was anxiety. At this point, Brown had announced that events larger than 100 people must be postponed because of COVID-19. FLAME usually hosts about 40-50 students, so the conference was still happening. However, students were canceling the morning of, likely because of last-minute concerns about the virus. In the end, only 16 students attended. Disappointment hung in the air. However, as the day went on, and I was able to talk to the students about their lives and experiences with the conference, my disappointment faded. Some students articulated that because their high school offered abstinence-only sex education, they really appreciated getting sex education programming at FLAME. Others explained that they did not have spaces to talk about feminist issues at their high schools, and so FLAME offered them a unique experience.

The most powerful moment of the day was the “Open Mic” portion of the closing ceremony. At first, the air was still. Who will participate? There was nervous chatter. The Feminists at Brown leaders started to worry if we should do a different activity. Then, suddenly, a brave girl stood up. “I’ll go,” she said. She shared a poem about experiences with sexual objectification and opened up about her struggles. The students supported her, cheering, whooping, and clapping. Now that she broke the ice, students poured on to the stage, talking about what feminism means to them, or personal experiences with gender-related issues. They were so wise beyond their years, so eloquent and poised, that I began to tear up. One girl stood up and said, “I want to thank the Feminists at Brown club for putting this together,” and explained why the day impacted her. I could feel the hot tears running down my face, and I didn’t even try to hide it.

Thinking back to that day, it feels like a miracle that this conference even happened. Everyone’s events were getting canceled, and the University itself ended classes just days later. That day was one of the last days where life felt normal, and while the conference’s impact may have reached fewer people than we expected, the depth of our reach felt profound. In the month since then, we have all (the high school students and Brown students) dealt with new and unexpected things. The sense of community and support that I felt that day stays with me, as well as the support I feel on our cozy Monday nights in Sarah Doyle. While Feminists at Brown Zoom calls may not offer free tea and comfy couches, they do offer me the chance to reflect each week about something good in my life. This ritual of gratitude has been a true gift through these times of uncertainty. 

Image credit: Photo of the tote bag Feminists at Brown gifted to the attendees and volunteers at the FLAME Conference. Graphic design by Jane Freiman ’22.

Rooted Radio 001

By: Jennifer Katz, Senior studying Science, Technology, Society and the Gender, Health, & Wellness Coordinator at the Sarah Doyle Center

Dear friends in the Sarah Doyle Center community,

Wherever you are in the world right now, I hope that you are safe and healthy during these difficult times. With all that is going on, there are moments where the weight of it all has been distracting, and sometimes even debilitating. It has been important for me to find daily practices that help me feel and stay grounded, especially on a day when the noise is too much and the ring of loneliness is even more shrill. These practices can be small: making my bed, brewing coffee, taking a short walk. It is dedicating a moment to stillness to check in with my body and take a judgment-free mental inventory at that present moment. Music, for me, and making playlists in particular, has been one of these grounding practices. I play it while I’m brushing my teeth, cooking with my family, or winding down after a day’s work.

I will be sharing “Rooted” playlists every week for the next month, honoring the SDC’s Women’s History Month theme “Radical Roots: Nourishing Feminist Work.” I’m hoping that we can find refuge in our common humanity right now. I’m hoping that the music that has been centering me, can bring us closer together and help center you as well. I’m hoping to honor that we’re not alone. 



Image credit: Rooted Radio image by Katherine Sang ’21