“I’m tired of being a ‘Woman in Games’.”

Oh, look! The skeptic blogosphere ain’t the only place where being a woman is in and of itself a novelty! Leigh Alexander at Kotaku discusses how she’s treated as a gaming journalist, by virtue of her sex:

It’s just that I’m shocked that grade-school concepts like “diversity is constructive” and “treat human beings equitably” are concepts that somehow still need championing, still need arguing for. I mean, really? I have to explain many times that the convergence of varied perspectives makes creating things-–like video games-–more fruitful? Or more simply: You think boys’ clubs are better than spaces where everyone gets equal respect regardless of their gender? What’re you, five?

Now why does THAT sound familiar?

And yet on a regular basis I hear–-even from you guys who write to me and describe yourselves as my “fans” (sidenote: be fans of the people I write about who actually make things instead of people who just talk about them)… I hear myself described as “one of the most prominent female gaming journalists”, or as a “feminist writer.” When you guys come up to me at events you want to tell me about things you’ve read or games you designed that I might be interested in because they deal with gender stuff.

Which, I mean, okay, is fine. Obviously I’m concerned about gender inequity and prejudice in the gaming space or I wouldn’t have spent words to get us here. I’ve written a lot about sex stuff, too. But again, you guys: I work all day every day and have done so for years. I write about business models, gaming and art culture, gamified apps (just in the past couple weeks!)-–and so many of you still think my gender is my most important adjective.

I suspect it’s partly because she is the vanguard of a new era in the video game world where it has reached a critical mass, such that video games are by and large considered a medium for everyone, rather than for teenaged boys. It’s a touch unsettling that she’s approached for her opinions “as a woman”, where her opinion is valued because of certain parts of her body rather than on her body of previous experience. It sucks. It’s horrible. And it’s valuable all the same.

I’ve personally spent a lot of words about “normalizing” outgroups, suggesting that the best way to go about doing so is simply by making one’s self visible. Not everyone actually sets out to do that kind of thing, though. Personally, when I started blogging, I didn’t have any idea I’d start fighting with theists or woo-peddlers on a daily basis, attempting to normalize skepticism and atheism alike; nor did I ever expect I’d have to expound on the virtues of treating women like human beings, normalizing being a feminist male. And though I’ve made it to Freethought Blogs, it still occurs to me that now and again, I’m not really sure of my actual reach. I see hit counts and repeat visits and comments, but often don’t have the first clue as to whether my words make a real difference to my readers. In that respect, I guess I’m a bit jealous of Leigh — she has empirical evidence that she’s having an impact, it’s just not how she expected.

At the same time, not everyone has the stomach for that sort of thing. Just by being a woman in a field dominated by men, she’s engaging in a revolutionary act, and we ought to respect her right not to have others force her to make her gender the focus of her work. Just because an aspect of someone’s identity is fascinating to you, doesn’t mean it’s particularly fascinating to them. Her being a woman and coming at video games from a woman’s perspective should be evident in the body of her work, or not, depending on her own choices. Don’t pressgang her into fighting the fights she may not want to engage in herself.

She finishes:

Listen to your fellow gamers, men and women alike, with empathy. Discuss with respect. You aren’t ever entitled to discriminate against anybody for any reason. If you ever find yourself arguing that you are, instead of hearing out your peers, just get lost. Go back to arguing on your gamer forum about whether this or that game should have gotten an 8 or a 9 and let us move on without you.

Every word applies to our own schisms, people. I’m just saying. Don’t know if I’ll actually reach any of you with this, but still. I have to try.

“I’m tired of being a ‘Woman in Games’.”
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11 thoughts on ““I’m tired of being a ‘Woman in Games’.”

  1. 1

    Unfortunately, I’m really not surprised. My first career job was in the early 90s, and, yes, even back then, we were well aware that women are our equals and should be treated as such. I was educated even back then that sexist treatment of women was in the past.

    Yet, I witnessed first hand the overt sexist treatment of the project manager and a couple of supervisors towards the project secretary. I was floored, and hugely disappointed.

    As the years have gone by, I have come to realize that we have a very long way to go before we truly eliminate racism and sexism from the masses. I applaud Leigh for continuing on, and hope things improve as time goes by.

  2. 2

    It’s sad that geek culture still singles out women. “There are no girls on the internet.” It’s a common phrase that other gamers toss around.

    When playing video games I’m either not believed to be a woman or I’m singled out because I’m a woman. And while sometimes the singling out is in the form of attempted flirting or special treatment, it’s still insulting. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I need or want special attention when I’m playing a video game. I really can play all on my own and if I have questions I can ask them like an adult and expect to get adult answers in return.

    I also work an IT job. The current company that I work for actually has more women than men but it’s because of the industry the company is in; less men are likely to apply to this company in the first place. This wasn’t true of my previous two IT jobs.

    I’ve actually been very lucky in rarely encountering discrimination based on my gender. But I certainly don’t think it’s something that doesn’t exist just because I’ve had so little personal experience.

    I agree with Ms. Alexander, can we just talk about video games or the newest piece of tech that Apple released? My opinion isn’t more or less valid because I’m a woman.

  3. 3

    I work in banking, and it is still largely a male-dominated field. I had an argument about two years ago with a (now retired) coworker who insisted on calling all the women in the office “girls.” I asked her if she would refer to the bank president (the only man in the office) as a “boy.” She insisted she would, but she wouldn’t and didn’t because she knew it would be disrespectful, although she wouldn’t admit it. I was never able to convince her that it was disrespectful to call women “girls.”

    Regarding whether you’re making an impact, your posts and posts like yours have convinced me to point out sexism wherever I see it and call out people when they’re being sexist, whether it’s intentional or not.

  4. 4

    Reminds me of the Chappelle sketch that Dave prefaces by repeating his grandmother’s advice: don’t ever be the first black person to do anything. You will be singled out for that, and will spend all your time fighting that one battle.

  5. 5

    That post struck a nerve with me as well. I still don’t know if I agree that she shouldn’t be asked to address sexism in gaming, but I agree that is shouldn’t be the ONLY thing she’s asked to comment on.

    Having been through the 70s and watched as society has changed (it really has in a lot of ways) and not changes (it really hasn’t in a lot of other ways), I can see parallels. In the 70s, and even the 80s, minority news reporters covered “minority stories.” I’m sure that part of the reason for that was because those were issues important to them as individuals within their segment of society, and they wanted to see it brought to a larger audience. But I also suspect that it was because they were singled out by their directors to speak for their gender/race.

    I think it’s an often valid point to ask for someone in a position of power or publicity to speak out on important issues. But to only ask them to do that marginalizes them to only be their race/gender, rather than a whole person.

  6. 6

    You think boys’ clubs are better than spaces where everyone gets equal respect regardless of their gender? What’re you, five?

    Why yes, actually. Mentally, they are.

  7. 7

    itchbay, it can be even more insidious than that. I can talk about finance and politics and atheism all I want, with a fair degree of education even. People pay attention when I talk about sexism.

  8. 8

    I created a female character in World of Warcraft a while back, and when the inevitable “a/s/l” tell came in, I stated I was a Canadian woman in my mid-twenties, just to see what would happen.
    In a single evening I got stalked by no less than three male users. One guy was disgusting and so unrelenting that when I blocked him, he jumped onto other ‘toons and kept harassing me. I reported him to the GMs. The experience was so disturbing that I gladly deleted the ‘toon at the end of the evening.
    It was yet another step I’ve made in learning just how sexist the society we live in still is, and is one more reason why I’m sometimes very ashamed of being male, and embarrassed because even if I never acted nearly as bad as that, I know I’ve never done anything to stop assholes that DO treat women that poorly.

  9. 11

    I don’t know that I’d agree with Ms Alexander’s statement:

    You aren’t ever entitled to discriminate against anybody for any reason.

    But going into detail on that is probably too much for a blog comment.

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