Mandatory Monty Python reference!
Hold on a minute... let me put down this cooking pot, untie my apron, put on some lipstick, ask my husband for permission to write this blog and vent a bit. Dammit! Why the hell didn't somebody tell me that I was being repressed? The gaming world is apparently filled with misogynistic male pigs who create female game characters to subjugate and objectify me, it's filled with male gamers who want to ogle my (50 year old) boobs and silence my voice. It's the epitome of the male patriarchal system glorifying male qualities of violence and strength. Why the hell did nobody inform me of this earlier? My own reality is that I never felt repressed in the gaming world until the gaming (and non-gaming) press and feminists came along to inform me that I was indeed being repressed, oppressed and suppressed.
I play online games and use a mic... a lot, well, probably too much. I see lots of other women in these games. Mostly I get conversation and team based dialog about what our team should be doing to win the game, but yes, occasionally I get a "what do your boobies look like" question or the classic "why aren't you in the kitchen making me a sandwich". My husband gets messages too... often to do with his apparently small penis (and I can personally testify that these people are incorrect!). I just assumed that a small percentage of gamers were dickheads, I had no idea that I was being harassed and abused specifically I'm a female, because I certainly see and hear a lot of harassment aimed at everything from someone's accent or their apparent choice in sexual partners (often their mother or sister), to their age, their actions in the game or even just their user-name. There is a culture of harassment in online gaming and it needs to change, but I didn't realize it was specifically a woman's issue. I'm so glad that somebody finally educated me. Wow... I feel rather silly now.
I write blogs and comments on a gaming website. Some have even been promoted to the front page (though none since the e-sports fiasco... though it should also be noted that during that fiasco there were people that called for me to be "fired" from Destructoid, there were comments on my stupidity and my lack of education on the topic... but there were few if any sexist, misogynistic or violent comments, even though it was fairly clear that I was a female). I see articles and blogs and game-related video series by other women on this and other websites, but yes, the female voices are a minority. I didn't realize this minority was because of a subversive plot by men to keep us out of their gaming kingdom of scantily clad big boobed babes, helpless maidens in distress, and unfettered glorious violence. I just thought that more men tended to play video games, just as more women tend to read Harlequin Romances. Did you know that romance novels were a $1.358 billion dollar business in 2010, making up 13.4% of the market - beating out the mystery and sci-fi/fantasy genres? Did you know that for many romance novels (particularly Harlequin Romances) you actually have to conform to various tropes? Each different series has specific themes, characterizations, and plot lines that have to be used. Part of the attraction to romance novels seems to be that they are comfortably predictable. The guideline for a standard Harlequin Romance reads " heroes are alpha but attainable – they're not all super rich international tycoons (although some might be!) but they're successful in their own right and should be a strong man our heroine would aspire to be with". I don't see anyone complaining about this, nor about the fact that most male romance writers tend to use a female pseudonym because of fears that women won't buy romance books written by a man. It's formulaic entertainment by one gender, for one gender - which comprises the majority of the market (rather like console video games.)
In the early days of gaming, yes, there was some resistance when I tried to gain access to these male web-based portals of gaming goodness. Mostly guys seemed to wonder if I was actually a gamer, or if I was there to pick up a male fanbase by posting revealing pics of myself in my white cross-your-heart double lined, full coverage support bra... or if I was gonna start screaming about how I was a "gurl gamer" and was gonna whip their asses because I was the superior female gender. When they realized I was just a regular gamer who wanted to talk about games - well, there just weren't any issues. For the most part I've always been accepted at most gaming sites and given the same lack of respect that men, fanboys, religious zealots and 12 year old kids are given. Again, the overall culture of gaming is pretty antagonistic, but I didn't realize this was specifically a women's issue. Thank goodness that there are now newspaper articles informing me that video game culture is misogynistic and that only women's voices are oppressed - otherwise I would never have known!
I thought part of the hate was when politics get mixed in with entertainment. Jack Thompson wants video games to be less violent - to possibly lessen the impact of violence on our youth. Bobby Kotick doesn't care about the consumer and wants his company to be profitable. EA is just... well EA killed Bioware and they are just plain evil! Anita Sarkeesian seems to want video games to portray female game characters in such a way as to be more politically correct regarding patriarchal gender roles and to forward a feminist viewpoint of the oppression of women through our media - currently focusing on video games. Their interest in games isn't from the simple perspective of a gamer who likes or dislikes something in a game they've played - their interest is from a larger perspective. There's nothing at all wrong with this - but a backlash is to be expected when anyone negatively critiques or wants to change a specific media as a whole or advocates for changes that might affect the primary consumers of the media. While the backlash might degenerate into sexist or violent comments - the initial backlash isn't caused by gender or age or race or any other "ism" - it's simply caused by fear that this person might actually influence the industry in a way that some consumers disagree with. If gaming truly was a misogynistic culture where females had no influence, then the entire issue with Ms. Sarkeesian would never have arisen. In a way, the hate she received is actually a validation that a woman might influence gaming and what the incident evoked was primarily fear - which expressed itself as misogyny because the intent was to hurt, deter and belittle. Once again, a social backlash against someone who wants to change gaming to forward a social, cultural or fiscal agenda that's not popular with some consumers - I didn't realize it was primarily a female issue and that even mentioning the Beat up Bobby or Jack games was co-opting the discussion away from it's proper place - women!
I would like to thank the press, the gaming press, and feminists (of both the male and female variety) for finally letting me see the light! Now that I'm educated and more aware of my own oppression I see it everywhere! When I get that "you fucking bitch" psn note, I know it's only because I'm a female and not because I called that person a dumbass moron for driving our team vehicle into a turret and getting us all killed. I went back to the game that made me fall in love with gaming... and when I type "woman", "female" or "feminist" into Zork
... it doesn't even recognize those words!! In Skyrim
, it was only the female characters that were not fully fleshed out as strong female characters - all the male characters were memorable and perfect! Bayonetta and Juliet Starling... all those women who are cosplaying as those characters are actually making a statement about how sexist men are, and that women should not be objectified. I shouldn't discuss poor game characters in general... because it's derailing the discussion that it's only female characters that need changing. There are no common tropes or outdated themes regarding male characters - duh! In fact, changing male characters to be "better" could never result in better female characters - like that black dude in The Walking Dead
games... making him into a more complex character didn't at all result in some excellent and varied female characters. Nathan Drake was made more complex by his relationships with Zoe and Elena - but the main protagonist of the whole game was still a man!
Oh... and shooter games!! I love shooter games and just saw them as being about working as a team and trying to achieve an objective... but of course now I see the meaning of the guns - they're giant phallic symbols and the true meaning of every shooter game is men running around with their giant dicks shooting their wads or hitting each other over the head with them to prove who has the most powerful cock! So sexist! How did I not see that... where are the vagina guns???
Now that I'm edumacated, I can warn other women not to play video games because they condition us to sexist patriarchal male values. I can warn women not to play online - unless they form a large clan of all women because this isn't at all intimidating to men and they'll be safe. I'll have to be very careful when I participate in gaming websites... I mean really "also cocks
" - it's so obvious that this is a manly man's website and I'll be belittled and harassed. (I mean really... why aren't I being belittled and harassed... am I not womanly enough for you?? I kinda feel a bit offended now.) If we keep screaming in headlines how hard it is to be a female in the gaming world, then women won't game. They'll be scared to try online gaming, or go to a gaming conventions or join a general gaming website - but at least they'll be safe from the misogynistic gaming culture that men have created. If the headlines read that there are the occasional misogynistic incidents and that gaming culture was antagonistic (like politics) or that gaming culture tends to reflect the current majority consumer (men)- then women might actually shift from being a majority in the casual gaming sphere and might start playing more console games. The horror! We'd end up with games like Twilight - The Video Game... or entire Rockband games devoted to Lady GaGa! There is sexism and misogyny in gaming culture... but the best way to combat it is to apparently make sure more women don't game by highlighting this small aspect, because frankly it's just much easier to blame men for everything that's wrong with the world.
I used to believe this crap! It's a good thing everyone is letting me know I'm oppressed!
Thank God for feminists and the gaming press. I thought gaming was awesome... with a vast sea of gaming choices where I could always find a game I wanted to play, with wonderful people that I met at conventions, gaming sites and in online play. I always thought that I could make my own game if I truly wanted to. I thought that if I had artistic ability I could create my ideal female characters and get some developer interested. I thought gaming was freedom... to be a different age, gender, race or even sexuality in a virtual world if I wanted (recently I've had several lesbian experiences!). I thought I could do anything and that there was nothing holding me back from being who or what I wanted to be. How could I have been so wrong??
This blog has been mulling around in my head for several months now and I can't seem to move on to other writing until I get this out. I'm not sure if it's even saying what I want it to say, but basically there seems to be a lot of press every time a sexist incident occurs in the gaming world and I want it known that it's a small vocal minority of gaming culture that is misogynistic. There are women like myself that don't feel oppressed, suppressed or repressed in the gaming world and love many of the games that are being produced. I've always felt empowered by games and comfortable in all aspects of gaming culture - from online play to gaming websites to conventions. Yes, there are gender issues... but they are not specific to gaming culture which simply tends to reflect our more general culture.
Oh... and vagina guns... I have no idea what one would look like and I know it's totally sexist to say this... but I want one!