I’m a male human. I have male genitals, male pattern baldness, and have fathered two children – that I know about. I play video games and enjoy scifi and do all sort of things that are generally considered guy stuff. And yet … somehow .. I manage not to be a complete misogynist asshole to geek women, or, really, any women. Somehow …
Anita Sarkeesian is a woman in San Francisco who has decided to explore the tropes of video games vs women in video games. To that end, she started a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money it would take for her to set aside her own time, probably away from work, and focus on this project. She was asking for, well, a pittance really – especially compared to all the game-related Kickstarters out there – $6000. If just 6000 people were interested in her study and donated a dollar, there you go. Done and done. Instead, she received over $150,000 in donations! Pretty amazing!
Now, I’m not entirely sold on the thesis of her study. There are plenty of video game tropes that stereotype men as well as women, and in general I don’t think there’s anything sexist about the average computer game. Should there be women in combat in the Medal of Honor series, for instance? Hell, who can even tell if half those soldiers are men or women with that armor on? At any rate, it reflects the current state of our military, which is No Women Allowed in combat roles. I’m not sure you can blame the game for that – besides, being male or female wouldn’t have any bearing on the story. I can see how chainmail bikinis are ridiculous and unnecessary in fantasy games – although many male characters sometimes wear very little, as well. Regardless, for every Tomb Raider, there are many more inroads to be taken by developers to make women in games as important as their male counterparts.
But that’s not the point of this post.
While reading about comments a Mr. Joe Peacock made about disparaging female cosplayers (although he later clarified to mean those girls who parade around looking for attention but aren’t really geeks – like booth babes) and the sexual harassement Genevieve Valentine had to endure at Readercon, I saw a comment about Ms. Sarkeesian and the abuse she’s had to endure at the hands of male gamers who seem to be offended that a woman would deign to talk about sexism tropes in gaming. They’ve even created a game where you get to beat up Ms. Sarkeesian. How classy. (I think my favorite part is how offended they got when they were told that a game where the whole purpose is to beat up a woman is misogynistic.)
This, then, led me to another site which is all about the sick and twisted messages male gamers send to random female gamers because, well, they’re female you know and girls don’t play video games. I’m no shrinking violet, and the words themselves aren’t shocking or anything like that. No, the disturbing part is that these boys (not men – men don’t act that way) have no idea who’s on the other side of that screen and are STILL sending these sorts of messages. It could be an adult woman – yes, many of them play video games – and while that is still misogynistic and wrong, at least an adult woman has (probably) heard or seen these words before and already knows what a shit these guys can be. But there are younger women who play games as well, and they don’t need to see that trash. They just want to play games the way young males want to play games, and there’s no excuse for the sorts of things being said.
I was agog at many of the messages males felt were perfectly appropriate to send to these girls and women. At no time in my life would I ever have thought to send anyone a message like that, unless we were already friends, etc and that’s the sort of relationship we had – although I can’t imagine having the sort of relationship with anyone that would appreciate poorly spelled ignorance explaining how they would be raped before they get sent back to their kitchen. I have a daughter who doesn’t currently play any video games – but one day she might. I don’t want to have to limit her because of the behavior of a bunch of adolescent head-cases with shitty parents. I want her to be able to enjoy the things she enjoys with a limited amount of harassment and, hopefully, no rape threats. I know it’ll never go away completely, just like any sort of prejudicial or hateful attitude can’t be completely eradicated. I’ll try to give her the tools she needs to be able to shrug it off and handle it. But it’s not her responsibility to NOT be the victim of hateful attacks when she’s enjoying her geeky pastimes.
Come on, guys. Seriously – are you no better than this? You make me embarrassed to be part of geek and gaming culture when you act that way. I know what many of you look like; frankly, insulting women is the last thing you should be doing. But more than that, you’re making gaming and relative geekery unwelcome to women. I always hear how some geek guy or another can’t find a girl interested in his hobbies – when we allow this behavior, we’re just as guilty, whether we did it or not, and we are driving these women away and keeping them at arm’s length.
Guys, we can do better. We MUST do better. Only by welcoming in new members into the club – men AND women – can we keep our hobbies alive. Scifi media, games, geeky music, comics, etc – they are always just on the verge of dying out. We are the harbingers of a new age of geekery, Big Bang Theory notwithstanding. There’s never a good reason for this sort of behavior.