Last year, Anita Sarkeesian sparked some incredible controversy with the introduction of her Kickstarter project titled “Tropes vs Women”. There were legitimate arguments, less-than-legitimate arguments, insults, threats and more. For quite a few days this one lady managed to get so many man panties in a wad that it was difficult to tell whether she was serious or just a really successful internet troll. After the amazing fundraising success, she wasn’t heard from until just recently. She finally announced the release date for the Kickstarter project and the fierce controversy is starting again.
I happen to be one of the strongly opinionated people interested in making my case. I have a major issue with many of the people who are quick to label things as sexist, racist or homophobic. That is because the majority of people automatically associate these words with horrible acts of violence or major violations of people’s rights. My main goal in this article is to prove that, no, the vast majority of video games and other products of entertainment are not sexist, nor do they portray elements of sexism. That is assuming we’re using the definition that is inside the minds of most. That is assuming that we see sexism as male or female hate and degradation.
One thing I’ve noticed about people who are very quick to label things as sexist or racist is that they often exploit the preconceived emotional aspects of the words and then use a different, more specific dictionary definition of the words to make their points technically accurate but extremely misleading. When the words “sexist” or “racist” are used, images of slavery, Jim Crow laws and times before women could vote are often depicted in our minds. But one of the actual dictionary definitions of the words simply references “discrimination” which, as I’ll explain shortly, isn’t necessarily a bad or good thing. These tactics remind me of the people who frequently evoke Godwin’s law when making political arguments.
If we use one of the dictionary definitions of sexism or racism, I’ll come out and admit to the world that sexism and racism aren’t bad things. That is because discrimination itself isn’t a bad thing. Every single person regularly engages in sexual discrimination. Unless a person is bisexual, chances are that they engaged in sexual discrimination every time they chose a partner. The vast majority of people also make racial preferences when choosing a partner. Children often seek role models that resemble them in some way. Black children often find role models in famous and successful black adults. Young girls often look up to various famous and successful women. These are just a few examples in order to illustrate my point. Almost everyone engages in sexist or racist behavior (by one definition) but this behavior isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s completely natural and it doesn’t make us bad people in the least. Though, for the rest of this article the specific sexism I’ll be referring to is mostly synonymous with gynophobia.
The reality is that the vast majority of people in the first world today don’t see women or blacks or anyone else as a subspecies of human. Most people in the USA don’t degrade people based on the color of their skin or what sexual organs they happen to have. This is especially true in the entertainment industries. It would be extremely difficult to find a single person who develops video games to admit that they dislike anyone based on race or sex. Because of this, most people aren’t actually discriminating against anyone based on these features when they make their games. Therefore none of these games or any parts of their games are racist, sexist, or homophobic. And if such a claim is made, the accuser should have evidence that the actual intention was to be derogatory. Otherwise the accusation should be thrown out. There are countless accusations made all of the time and 99.999% of them are completely bogus.
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The people who claim that video games and other things are often sexist or racist will usually justify their purpose and say that the developers should be more sensitive and considerate for the feelings of all of the people who might play their games. They should avoid stereotypes and make conscious efforts into equalizing the aspects of the games that involve sex or race. If a game developer actually does this, great. But if they don’t do this I still see no reason why they should be condemned. I happen to hold the view that the people who make the claims of sexism or racism are the ones who should be sensitive and more considerate. When a claim of sexism is likely to have people associate the accusee with a hater of women and women’s rights, the accuser should make sure that they specify the reasons why they made the claim, why they think it is bad and what the person or group should do differently. The people who accuse others of sexism, racism or homophobia should have strong evidence to support their case; not just point at anything that could potentially be interpreted as degrading when you squint your eyes and cock your head to the side.
The interpretation of the originator is the key to determining whether something is actually sexist. Sexism is a state of mind. Calling something sexist because we personally interpret something that way does not magically make it sexist. Tropes may certainly exist but they are far from sexist. And as much as Anita Sarkeesian might like to deny it, tropes for males also exist in video games and they are just as ridiculous. Sexism is a real thing and real people do engage in real sexism and when people actually engage in real sexist behavior it should be pointed out. But Sarkeesian is crying wolf in this instance and it is my opinion that she is doing a disservice to the cause of feminism as a result.
So there you have it. It’s all about the definition we use but I say video games are not sexist. There are certainly minor exceptions here and there but in the grand scheme there are very few instances of real sexism in the mainsteam videogame industry. If and when we call out games on sexism we should be careful to not play with the emotions of our audience or mislead them. Let’s give them a detailed description, explanation and a practical solution with each accusation we make. That would be responsible action to take.