I know I said I wasn’t going to get political on here, but the politics of popular culture and gender equality are central to gaming. I’m not trying to create an apolitical zone or anything and anyone who knows me knows that I take advocacy for important topics seriously.
I know a ton of women with solid geek cred. They have laminated cards. Just kidding. But they should. Actually, they shouldn’t need any card to prove they are a gamer. We have pretty large proportions of females in our Game Club at school, and they all know their nerdy hobbies inside and out. We need them there. We’re all better when we are exposed to multiple perspectives in life.
There is still rampant sexism in gaming communities, I’m sad to say.
Just like everywhere in life, women are held to a different standard by many men in gaming communities. Men without societally ideal body types are “allowed” to cosplay but women are not. Men walk into FLGS’ and ask to speak to the manager or a man, not considering that she runs the shop. Many gamers just assume that women know nothing about “hardcore” topics like effort values in Pokemon or nuances of pop culture. Many gamers assume that men don’t or shouldn’t like Animal Crossing or Sailor Moon.
Here is some media on this issue that I’ve seen over the last year. I’m glad we’re talking about this more, but I’m sad that these issues exist.
Required viewing in club this year:
Saw this today and it sparked my interest in writing this post. Slap him. Slap him good. He actually deserves it earlier when he just assumes that she isn’t into geek culture because she’s female and beautiful.
Bechdel Test graphic. The Bechdel Test evaluates a movie on whether or not there are two or more female characters and if they talk to each other about something other than a man. We’re not talking about a tough requirement…or is it? You’ll see the movie industry in a completely new light if you really think about this one and not just dismiss it offhand because it makes you uncomfortable.
The body image double standard.
Male gamers frequently hold female gamers to different debate standards than they do their male counterparts. They will agree with a point when a man says it, and vehemently dismiss the same point when a female says it. Perhaps most controversial right now with regards to sexism in gaming is Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency channel on YouTube that deconstructs books, films and video games for sexism.
When Damsel in Distress Part 1 hit, it immediately spawned a total shit storm of backlash from angry men. It didn’t surprise me because gamers in general, male or female, tend to take critiques of their beloved hobbies very hard. But there was a whole other level of crazy straw man, ad hominem and every fallacy in the book being spewed out in a desperate attempt to “prove” her wrong. Look, I don’t agree with everything Anita has to say. I don’t agree with everything that anyone has to say. That is why we converse and it is fun to think together about issues. I agree with a lot of her observations. But no matter where are agreement lays or doesn’t, we should be talking about these issues and they should be deeply disturbing to us. We’re better off for someone, anyone speaking about these things, because our hobbies are worse off without female representation and contribution, or from ignoring that representation and contribution.
Update: Same day and this pops on NPR News:
Jonathan McIntosh is making similar points and the tragedy is that he will probably never be criticized for saying what he says, freely admitting that he’s saying what many people have been saying for years.