Assassins Creed: Syndicate, Review by Jenni Contrisciani
Assassin’s Creed is an action-adventure video game series created by Montreal based Ubisoft. The games are set in actual historical settings with the protagonists being the Assassins, an organization that fights for free will, with the Templars set as the antagonists who desire to control the world and mold it to their dictates. As of 2015, there have been nine main games, however it is only the latest, Assassins Creed Syndicate, that has a playable female character. Ubisoft is to be congratulated and given positive reinforcement for this change despite taking so long to allow players to play a woman. Over the past year Ubisoft has heard from its fans who essentially demanded a playable female character. In addition, Ubisoft threw in a transgender female to male non-player character (NPC) named Ned Wynart. The beginning of the game now indicates that the game is not only put together by a team with various religious beliefs but also sexual orientations and gender identities. Now that is listening to your fan base. What many reviewers seem to have missed is that Ubisoft featured a crossdressing NPC in Assassins Creed: Unity, in the form of the historical Madame Chevalier d’Eon, an actual French spy and diplomat.
The female character you can play is named Evie Frye, however in a nod to hard core male gamers who might have balked at playing “just a girl” and not bought the game, Evie’s twin brother, Jacob Frye, is also a playable character. The Frye twins have to take over the gang world of London in typical Assassin’s Creed fashion. Evie’s character has a few more stealth skills than her brother, who conversely has a few more brawler skills. Of the two, Evie comes off as more intellectual and focused, while Jacob is portrayed as somewhat impetuous and hot headed. Otherwise, they can be played the same, with the player actually determining how sneaky or frontal assault attacks they wish to do.
Physically, Evie Frye is pleasing to a female gamer. She is pretty without being unrealistically “Hollywood glamorous.” With her black hair pulled into a controlled plaited bun behind her head she looks effectively coifed for an assassin, as opposed to pornstar hair flying around her face obscuring her vision. It was a plus for Ubisoft developers as that type of hairstyle is much easier to mod than Lara Croft’s in Tomb Raider, which incidentally was one of the best hair treatments I’ve ever seen in a video game (non cut-scene.) Evie is fairly well endowed up top, although not comically so, and her bosom is kept under wraps with outfits that show nary a hint of cleavage. Despite how hard boy gamers may try, there is no getting a peak down Evie’s shirt. This is welcome and respectable as far too many game companies think a metal brassiere is enough armor for a medieval female warrior.
Personality-wise, Evie is layered, much more so than her brother, with opinions on topics ranging from Imperialism, to child labor, to strategy and tactics. She shows loyalty to her father and a dedication to the Assassin order that Jacob only gets superficially. She isn’t ever put in a situation where she needs to be rescued, which I half expected to see throughout the game at some point, but was pleasantly surprised not to. There is a slight love interest but very light, and she is the one in charge of it.
Overall, Ubisoft has done a nice job on this latest version of Assassin’s Creed and I hope to see more playable female characters from them in the future. Girls are gamers too you know!
I was born in Flint, Michigan. When people ask me where I was born, I admit it, but I also add “Don’t hold that against me.” I say it somewhat in jest, somewhat as political commentary, and partly of embarrassment. I grew up in Flint at a time when much of GM and the auto industry had left and Flint was on a downward decline. I went to Kearsley High School (Go Hornets!) and my classmates all struggled with poverty, parents out of work, and hardship. I remember my parents struggling to make ends meet, and we had things like pancakes or bean soup for dinner on many occasions. Perhaps that is why I ended up as short as I am. Poor diet will do that to you. We shopped at Kmart on good months, Salvation Army on the bad ones. But my parents were together and our family was full of love. My childhood was happy, despite getting our food from “The Day Old Store.” I look back and laugh now, back then I thought it was really fresh, not past the marked expiration date as it actually was. My friends and I played outside and our games were all make believe and didn’t cost money. All around us, Flint declined. Money left. Jobs left. People left. Yet, it hadn’t reached the levels that Flint is at today. We were careful venturing downtown, but vast areas of the city hadn’t turned into Flintlujjah (a takeoff on Spike Lee’s version of Chicago, I combine Flint with Fallujah, Iraq.) The water was also safe to drink. Flint’s current crisis is caused by a multitude of issues… the economy, poor local government, callous administration by the emergency manager- put in place because Flint couldn’t balance its own books, like Detroit MI, and Pontiac, MI. There was a failure at the local government, the State DEQ and the US Environmental Protection agency. Just like it took researchers from a University in West Virginia to find Volkswagen cheating on EPA emissions tests, it took a West Virginia University to confirm that Flint’s drinking water was unsafe, correcting a safe finding from the EPA. Meanwhile thousands of Flint residents were lead poisoned. It is apropos in a way; the bad luck and continued state of decline and insults that my hometown has suffered, that it also suffer this one. Michigan is surrounded by the biggest bodies of fresh water yet Flint residents are drinking bottled water donated by people like some third world town in Chad or Mali, Africa. Flint may be the canary in the coal mine. There are lots of economically depressed cities across America, all with aging infrastructure, lack of money and poor government. We’ve all gotten used to watching shows like “The Walking Dead” on TV; perhaps we are being conditioned to deal with an apocalyptic landscape of decline and ruthless survival. I don’t know. I hope we still have a choice. It will be a long way to fix Flint, and lead poisoning is permanent so there will be no fixing those kids, but hopefully, just hopefully, Flint can be a warning to the rest of the country. Perhaps then, its people may not have suffered in vain, or died in vain.
The answer is yes. Before you call me a bleeding heart liberal, let me explain. I understand the risks of letting in people; after all ISIS could sneak someone in as a refugee. They could also sneak someone in pretty easily over the Mexican border or the Canadian border or radicalize any number of people within the United States. What percentage of refugees will commit crimes? Will it be any higher than the native population? We already have a high crime rate, how many refugees have committed crimes compared to the general population? Compared to the already existing illegal immigrant population? If we fear a refugee, perhaps we should fear our neighbor as well? Then, you have to ask yourself the question: What would it take to keep us completely safe? The answer is a Government so invasive no one on either the right or left would want to live under it; it would mean no guns, border checkpoints at every county line, registrations of everyone, neighbor spying on neighbor. In effect, it would be 1937 Germany. No one wants that…except ISIS. You see, I believe ISIS knows it can’t topple the United States by killing us; after all we do that pretty well enough already. Think of the people that die from gun violence in the United States, from knife violence, from automobile accidents, by industrial accidents. More people die in the United States as a result of slip and falls than all the terrorism we’ve ever experienced in our entire national history. So can ISIS beat us by killing us? The answer is no, they cannot. They CAN beat us by making us so afraid that we destroy ourselves, by destroying our way of life. You see, that is the real threat- at least to a nation. Oh sure, they may kill you or a loved one and that will be a tragedy, but it is a personal tragedy, not a national tragedy. Too many Americans have died to give us the freedoms we have today for us to demean them by taking that freedom away ourselves. Since 9-11 the war has been on foreign soil; we’ve felt comfortable knowing that “other people” namely our sons and daughters in the military were the only ones at risk. Well, the war has come home; why shouldn’t it? Do you think that you can wage war without being involved? We are all in this together, so prepare yourselves, be ready to confront any terrorist that appears, and be an American. The man who shields you from a terrorist bullet in a crowded movie theatre may just very well be one of those recent Syrian immigrants.
Do you want honest feedback? Really? You should. What your organization produces is only as good as its participation, and no manager is better than the sum of themselves and their employees. A manager has to create a culture that fosters honest feedback. To do this, he or she needs to set the example. At meetings you need to first ask for feedback. You may not get it initially as employees will be hesitant to give honest opinions as opposed to being politically correct in the bureaucratic sense of the word. To encourage honest feedback a manager might say, “Look, I just brainstormed this idea and haven’t thought it through yet. I need you to tell me if it makes any sense at all or is it total crap?” You may start with a relatively minor or unimportant idea in order to enable employees to risk giving an honest opinion. If someone offers an opinion, you can’t reject it. You can be neutral but don’t shut it down. Say, “Good, thanks for that idea! Are there any others?” You can prod participation by saying, “Hey I can’t do this all on my own, I need your help and input.” If no one offers anything, ask specific people, and be gracious to any feedback. You may need to start small and build up trust. If any ideas are reasonable, start implementing them and crediting the people who offered them. You need to show in concrete terms that you are receptive to ideas, and people will get credit for their ideas. Once you have established a culture of feedback, you will be able to put forth ideas and have every member of your team offer an honest opinion. Right or wrong, if all feedback is treated with respect, you will be able to quickly analyze all sides to an issue or problem. Imagine putting forth a problem with a proposed solution and asking for feedback. Within a half hour every member of your team has chimed in and you’ve discovered three angles you never thought about, a completely new idea, and caught a disasterous pitfall that would have killed the project’s success. As you adjourn, everyone feels like they’ve contributed and they trust you will synthesize the best of the feedback into a revised proposal that will again be run through “the gauntlet” of feedback. It may not be quick or easy to arrive at a culture that fosters true feedback, but if you do, you will be much stronger than any of your peer managers. Not only will you be more effective at delivering quality product, but you will be seen as a true leader of people. Remember true leaders lead, they just don’t manage.
At the risk of my consulting business I’ll call out one of the better gender transition policies available for public viewing. In a similar way to being the first Agency to put a human on the moon, NASA has developed one of the first gender transition policies. Other Federal agencies and departments are also crafting similar documents. As they are finalized, they will become public documents without copyright restrictions. The NASA policy is a 14 page document, and uncharacteristic to government products, it is is concise and to the point, and comprehensive. If your company needs to adopt a gender transitioning policy you would be well served to download the NASA policy at: http://odeo.hq.nasa.gov/documents/Gender_Trans_Guide.pdf
Of course, adopting a policy is one step, you would also need to develop an accompanying support structure and at a minimum train your managers to implement the policy. If you have an employee transitioning or planning to transition, a training class for all employees immediately involved in interacting with the transitioning employee may be advisable. A proper transition plan can be effective in not only retaining the transitioning employee, preventing harassment/EEO lawsuits, but also to minimize any potential disruptions with other employees and/or address their concerns regarding the situation.
Jenni Contrisciani, MBA
Transgender Bathroom Access and the Risk of Lawsuits
Jenni Contrisciani, MBA
According to a UCLA Law School study, there are approximately 700,000 transgender individuals in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 59% of the US population is employed. The Human Rights campaign estimates a 14% unemployment rate for transgender workers, approximately double that for the national average. Assuming an equivalent age distribution of transgender individuals and accounting for increased unemployment means there are roughly 400,000 transgender employees in the United States. Statistica.com puts the number of Americans currently employed as 122.47 million people, so approximately one out of 306 employees are transgendered. If you filled the University of Michigan football stadium with workers (115,000) 375 of them would be transgender. Given rampant underemployment in the transgender community this figure may only be two thirds of this number in professional work place settings, however this still represents 200 people in the University of Michigan stadium example, and 264,000 people nationally.
Recent EEOC and court cases have clearly stated that transgender individuals must have access to the restrooms of the gender in which they identify. The Federal Government has issued clear directives to its departments and agencies to this effect. Companies that do not have a transgender restroom policy are at risk of lawsuits by employees, with the accompanying risk of monetary damages. Companies with identified transgender employees must have clear restroom policies adopted and published. Given that many transgender individuals are closeted, but may come out at any time and publicly assert they are transgender, means that even companies that do not have identified transgender employees need restroom policies.
The transgender community is well connected through social media, and aware of recent court cases. The “coming out” of celebrities such as Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and Navy SEAL Christopher/Kristin Beck have raised the likelihood of transgender individuals openly identifying as their true gender and demanding equal rights under Federal EEOC guidelines and court precedent. Therefore a prudent employer needs to establish a transgender restroom policy.
But what about my other employees, employers will ask? The women in my company won’t be happy with “men” in their restroom! If existing experience is any indication, this will be a concern that will need to be addressed in your company. You may need training to both enact a transgender restroom policy and keep your employees happy. There are several key points to emphasize. Just as there are transgender women, who were or are, genetically male, there are also transgender men who are/were genetically female. Transgender men can appear with beards and well developed musculature. A transgender man in the women’s room would probably be more disturbing to women than a transgender woman, who dresses as a woman. Without a transgender restroom policy, forcing employees to use the restroom of their genetic gender may result in masculine transgender men in the women’s room, and transgender women wearing dresses, high heels in the men’s room and applying make-up at the sink.
Second, as with any restroom situation, the company must state that it will police any inappropriate behavior. While there have been no documented cases of transwomen acting inappropriately in women’s restrooms, the red herring of sexual perversion and inappropriate behavior is often raised. In addition to reassuring employees that there have been no cases of inappropriate behavior in restrooms documented to date, company policy is still in effect if there ever was.
Third, most modern restrooms contain a sink area and individual stalls. Aside from shoe size, there really isn’t any way to discern a transgender woman versus a genetic woman in the stall next door, assuming proper sit-down behavior by the transwoman. Even so, there is privacy in bathroom stalls. If necessary, stalls can be further privatized to reassure any individual.
Fourth, it should be addressed that transgender people are desperately wanting to blend in with the gender of their choice, so the only interaction a genetic woman would likely have with a transwoman in the restroom would be if she asked her at the sink how she learned how to do her makeup so well. Again, there have been no incidences of abnormal behavior in professional settings or the multiple school settings where transgender individuals are allowed to use the restroom of their gender identity.
Of course, change is hard and employees may come with very fixed and predetermined viewpoints. This is where training can be effective in dispelling many of the myths and misperceptions of transgender individuals. Not only can you more likely retain a talented transgender employee, but a well stated and public restroom policy may attract talented transgender individuals.
If you do not have a policy in place currently, it would be wise to do so and would demonstrate foresight and fiscal responsibility to do so.
Jenni Contrisciani, MBA
We’re not going to prevent global warming. It’s that simple, and we’re just going to have to live with it. Whether you believe that global warming is man-made or a natural global phenomena; it is happening and we won’t stop it. There are multiple reasons why it won’t be stopped. China is outpacing the United States in terms of CO2 production and shows very little inclination to stop. It simply isn’t in their national interest to do so. A stable economy means a stable political environment and this means the party in power stays in power. So China won’t be reducing carbon production for the sake of reducing global warming. Additionally, there are a plethora of existing industrial countries as well as developing economies that are increasing their carbon production, which means that the U.S. piece of the carbon pie is getting smaller which in turn means that we can’t unilaterally change the global trend toward more carbon production. Even if the United States significantly reduces its carbon production, the net global effect will still be to increase. Even if there was political will in the United States to significantly reduce carbon production, there isn’t personal will. Any appreciable reduction in carbon would mean serious lifestyle changes for Americans that few would be willing to agree to. So we are in a world of adaptation now, now prevention. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be doing something in this country to stop it. We just need to find ways to reduce carbon that are congruent and consistent with other policy goals. The argument needs to change from “Is climate change real” to “What can we do that is good for the country that also reduces carbon?”
Even if you don’t believe that global warming is real, there is one fact that is indisputable. Carbon comes from combustion of energy sources. Energy sources cost money. So if you reduce energy use, you save money and you also reduce carbon. You also reduce your dependence on foreign fuel which results in greater flexibility in public policy and less need to engage in oil based foreign intervention. Strategies that deal with increasing efficiency from vehicle fuel economy to home furnaces to electrical devices are all win-win scenarios for consumers, global warming activists, business people, and climate change deniers. Energy saving technology is often new technology, and innovating new technology is something this country is good at. We should embrace the race toward energy efficiency and use the global warming issue as incentive to produce efficient products that we can sell overseas. Public policy initiatives such as reducing dependence on coal for energy production should be cast in the light of not cleaner energy, but possibly as keeping the coal in the ground as a strategic energy reserve. Fights about oil pipelines shouldn’t focus on whether or not to build the pipeline, but how to reduce the need for the oil flowing through it. We’ve been talking about reducing our dependence on foreign energy ever since the Eisenhower administration before I was even born. Every President since, has mentioned it in their State of the Union address. It’s time we developed a national consciousness and a national program akin to the manned Moon missions to actually accomplish what so many Presidents have pontificated upon.
So ask me if climate change is real, I’ll answer truthfully. I don’t know. I’m not a climate scientist. I don’t know the validity of global warming models and don’t have the time to investigate, and even if I did I suspect I’d find contradictory data and results. What I do know, is that I like my hybrid that gets 48 miles per gallon, and I like not giving the gas station all my money. I like my 90%+ efficiency furnace. I like my small but well-appointed condo by a lake. I like my lightbulbs that will probably outlive me, and I like the thought that members of our military will have even a slightly less need to be deployed overseas and be killed because my country is less dependent on overseas oil. After Sept 11, I went from a high horsepower sports car to a hybrid car. Why? I just wanted to do my part to save energy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And you know what, I don’t feel like my lifestyle has been impacted or my freedom curtailed. I feel good about doing my part. We need to change the argument in Washington, the tone in Washington, and get Americans acting together; because if we act together, there is very little that Americans can’t accomplish.
Jennifer Contrisciani, MBA
Transgender Employment and Job Seeking
Transgender people comprise 0.3 % of American adults, or about 700,000 people, according to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute. Transgender unemployment is 2X the rate of the general population and transgender people are 4X more likely to live in poverty according to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, (n=6,450.) The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that discrimination based on gender identity is sex discrimination, triggering Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. President Obama has also signed Executive Orders protecting federal employee and federal contractor transgender workers. Some states and localities have passed laws protecting transgender workers. Despite this, many transgender people struggle to find work.
Aside from the surface issues of presentation, (how you look) there is the issue of legal identification. Almost all job applications ask for legal name, social security number, and past references. If you haven’t changed your name yet, you face the ugly requirement of putting your legal name on your application instead of your gender conforming name. You may also have to check the dreaded M box instead of the F, or vice-versa. Macy’s, no doubt as a result of the Macy v. Holder decision, has adopted a very trans friendly application that adds a space where you can put down the name you prefer to be called by, in addition to your legal name. Companies can’t get around the legal name issue for obvious reasons. Even if you have changed your legal name you have to deal with all of your references knowing you as you former self. So many transgender people wonder, often with some level of desperation, how they will find gainful employment other than the local street corner. Below is some advice to help you land a decent job.
LGBT Job Fairs
Hey, if companies have tables at these, they are looking to hire you. That should give you a great confidence boost. Even if they are looking for the L or G component, at least you know your odds are better than a blind interview. Affirmations in Ferndale, MI has a LGBT career fair, and many large cities host LGBT career fairs. You may have to travel, but you hook up with some local girls and make a day out of it while you are there. Getting hired will take some effort; be prepared to put some mileage on your car and be prepared (and willing) to relocate.
I have to admit, I’ve been a bit disappointed with this one, but it is obligatory that you at least have a good profile there. Most HR departments will look you up online, and LinkedIn is one of the first places they look, so you need to have some good info on your publicly accessible profile. You can also search for jobs and network there, and it is good for at least seeing the ebb and flow of local jobs in your area.
As transgender people enter the workforce we have an obligation to help each other. Flat out, yes we do. In the same way that there is an old boy’s network, there needs to be a “former old boy’s network,” (or former girl’s network.) Affirmative action, regardless of your political views as to the fairness of it, helped African Americans, and employee support groups, both company led, and privately formed definitely helped move more African Americans into the professional workforce. We need to help each other in the same way, and this includes those closeted individuals who aren’t ready to come out themselves, but can definitely help a sister (or brother) out.
Be That Much Better
You need to be stellar awesome in your communications, interview, and preparation. The cards will be stacked against you, not only from being one of hundreds of applicants potentially, but realistically because of your transgender status. You need to be that much better than everyone else. Proper research on the company you are interviewing with is essential. Preparation, such as practice interviews, and presentation (dressing) skills are essential. Record yourself in a practice interview. You can learn a lot about what the interviewer sees; then work to correct any mistakes and perfect your responses.
Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index
This is a great resource to quickly check up on how LGBT friendly companies are. Companies are rated on a score of 0 to 100. The higher the score the more inclusive the company is. You should also check out the company website and find their diversity and non-discrimination language. If they have transgender listed, then it is an indication that at least someone in HR is aware of transgender people.
Act like you will be an asset to the company, not that they are doing a favor “to condescend” to hire you. Be upfront about your status, don’t hide it, but don’t volunteer it unless something is asked. You may also have to walk the fine line between being a “crusader” and getting hired. Some questions that you are asked may be illegal, but remember your goal is to get hired. Grace and gentle education can go a long way. Finally, always follow up. Proper manners and etiquette are always appreciated.
Take Acton if You are Wronged
If you are definitely discriminated against you are unlikely to sue as that is very expensive, but you could file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. You can also inform national and/or local advocacy groups, such as the afore-mentioned Human Rights Campaign, or your local LGBT organization. At the very least, it will help inform others about how companies treat transgender people.
Hope this helps.
Jenni Contrisciani, MBA
At a recent prayer breakfast President Obama compared the actions of the Crusaders to ISIS. He is correct except in one very important point… the last crusade ended in 1272. Now I wasn’t around in the 1200’s but word has it pretty much the entire world was engaged in savage butchery. The norm in those days was to sack a city, burn it, loot it, pillage it, put the men to the sword, rape the women, and then sell them and the children into slavery. in the old testament the Jews slaughtered half the land of Canaan, torching cities and killing the inhabitants: every man, woman, and child (according to them because Yaweh told them to.) Basically the world was starkly gruesome and without pity in those days. Jump to today. Western powers do their best to avoid civilian casualties. A population is aghast at “torture” such as waterboarding. We use super expensive Smart weapons to make sure we don’t kill the wrong people. Sometimes we let the bad people go if they are too close to good people. So while comparing the deeds in the Crusades to the deeds of ISIS today will show similar actions (sans videotaping of prisoners being put to death) at least a big chunk of the world sees those types of actions as repugnant, hence the comparison fails on a temporal basis. That public opinion acknowledged, no one will deny that civilians get killed in modern fighting, but at least the goal of the military campaign is not specifically targeted against civilians. War prisoners are sent to prison camps, not executed in a stylized barbaric fashion. One may however argue that lethal injection or hanging isn’t all that great a way to execute a prisoner, citing the execution of prisoners in the US, or the beheading of criminals in Saudi Arabia. Hmmm seems that perhaps the comparison might hold after all… perhaps attempting to draw any moral argument is fallacious from the beginning, at least from an arguable philosophical sense. Perhaps the only right… is indeed might. The victors write the history books after all.
News is about trust, and for it to be viewed as honest you need an honest news anchor. In the way that Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow formed a trusted building block of our faith in the American news media, we need this kind of trust to hold the fabric of our society together. The news used to form our national shared value system. We’d all listen to the same broadcasts on a few networks and we’d trust the distinguished men who somberly delivered the news, and just the news. Unfortunately most news has degenerated into a fragmented cacophony of sound bites that scream banally to a far right wing camp (Fox) and an ultra left wing cabal (MSNBC.) CNN is at least attempting a middle course, yet many of its reporters still show a bias. The major networks, NBC, ABC and CBS have all had their cases of obvious bias from CBS’s Dan Rather out and out lying about George W. Bush’s service record in an attempt to influence a Presidential election, to NBC’s Andrea Mitchell who is so blatantly fawnish on Obama one wonders if she has a picture of him next to her nightstand. Maybe she and Chris Matthews (MSNBC) could form a threesome with her Obama picture and they’d both get Matthews professed tingle up their legs. Now add Brian William’s war hero fantasy into the mix and we wonder if NBC stands for Neurotic Brain Condition. Have we reached the point where there is no trusted news sources anymore? I believe so. It seems all media outlets are bought and sold, and we have been willing accomplices by watching only those news shows that pander to our preconceived political beliefs. In Russia there was/is a saying “Pravda nyet Izvestia, Izvestia nyet Pravda.” Translated that is a play off of the two main Soviet era news sources Pravda (truth) and Izvestia (news), wherein Russians believed there was no truth in news and no news in truth. Have we come to that here in America? Apparently so. Although Brian Williams lie doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things, it is yet another symptom of the fact that in American media Izvestia nyet Pravda, Pravda nyet Izvestia. How did we ever sink so low?