The Gaming Bitch on Gender and Games

The Gaming Bitch writes about women and games (emphasis mine):

Women identify themselves as Girl Gamers and are proud of the moniker. They put up with the images in games, because they really like to game. Here’s the thing though, women are at a disadvantage in the world of computer games, and no matter what, a man will never fully comprehend it. He might understand some of it, and he might be able to empathize, but he cannot fully understand what it’s like to play a game and have someone surprised that you’re a girl, or worse, tell you that you play like a guy. Oh, it’s usually preceded with “No offense”, but I just can’t get over the fact that my play style is considered to be the exclusive domain of men. Despite being on a vent server with some friends and my voice very clearly belonging to a woman, they were shocked that I was really a girl.

Someone told me to take it as a compliment “‘You’ve gotta be good if they think you’re a guy.’  Someone else told me that they didn’t mean to offend me. Well sure, don’t take offense at an extremely sexist statement, it wasn’t intended to be offensive, so it’s perfectly benign. But it’s not. It’s a stereotype that is potentially damaging. I am a woman who is relatively secure, well-balanced and pretty certain of herself as a woman and yet it bothered me. Imagine a 12 or 14 year old girl is told that she plays like a guy? She is in essence being told that the good players are guys; therefore, she can never be a good player and a girl.

I haven’t got much to add to her post, as it’s very good.

I will note that I am slightly disappointed by her opening paragraph in which she supports the feminist ideals of equality, so long as she isn’t labeled a feminist because she’s an atypical feminist if at all. There are all sorts of feminists, and they all don’t agree with each other on all issues. It’s not bad or wrong to be a feminist, just as it isn’t bad or wrong to be a conservative. The problem is that we probably see the more extreme examples of these viewpoints in the media, and people just assume that everyone in those groups are the same.

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  6 comments for “The Gaming Bitch on Gender and Games

  1. 8 June 2007 at 17:05

    Since this has been such a hot topic lately, I’m just curious… in your opinion, is this something that we can resolve as gamers within our games? Maybe it will go away as more and more girls get into gaming?

    Or do you think that it’s more of a societal problem that won’t go away as perceptions of the gender spread in games levels out?

  2. 9 June 2007 at 10:18

    I think that gamers can have an impact on the culture. If more women take up gaming as a hobby, it can certainly have a positive effect towards cultural change, however I don’t think that’s the entire answer. Men and women have different views on how to approach this, and many don’t think there is much of a problem. The lack of consensus is a barrier to change.

    I think it’s partly due to wider society, yes. Gaming culture is a subculture of society, and whilst it doesn’t share all of the features of mainstream culture (even mainstream culture differs from country to country and area to area), it shares enough that there is some commonality even in different countries.

  3. 9 June 2007 at 14:17

    I found her post very thought provoking and I feel that I always need to take fresh look at gender issues to make sure that I’m aware of it as I try to walk the fine line of recognizing sexism where it exists and seeing sexism where it isn’t.

    Although I found the paragraph on Campbell kind of a strawman argument, projecting biases Campbell that I don’t think exist. Yes woman serve roles in myth, but males serve just as many roles. Plus heroes often come in both genders, if ancient ones. But really, this is more of a nitpick then anything. I agree with her on the whole.

  4. TGB
    10 June 2007 at 11:23

    Wow, thanks for the commentary and comments. It’s nice to see that other people actually read my ramblings.

    Two things though, as far as not labeling myself as a feminist – I get labeled by others as a feminist because of the name of my blog, because of my opinions, and the way I state them. No one has actually bothered to ask me what my views are or instead, I am asked questions that include the phrase “putting all feminist issues aside.” Other female gamers are quick to assume that I am almost militant in my view of of women in gaming – I don’t think that they have read very many of my posts though, and men, but for a handful, assume that I am a man-hater. The first paragraph was an attempt to dilute some of those views and let’s face it, butter up the reader a bit before I swung the 2×4.

    The other issues is about Joseph Campbell. I am annoyed with the way that his name is being tossed around and The Hero with a thousand faces is quoted. I really don’t think that half the people who refer to him actually have read the book or even understand what the collective unconscious is. I happen to enjoy his analysis and refer to him when I am doing research, but his focus has always been about myths and doesn’t give a blanket understanding of all art forms. I think that people are using Campbell out of context because they haven’t fully read his works or understand that he’s dealing with archetypes. It’s not Campbell who I am criticizing, but instead those who throw his name around like conspicuous spenders brandish Hummers and Prada.

  5. 13 June 2007 at 18:30

  6. 14 June 2007 at 03:39

    TGB: I recommend that you read Yes, You Are. I understand what you’re saying about buttering people up, but it’s not the label “feminist” that your detractors are objecting to, really, but that you’re a woman who has an opinion and isn’t afraid to share it.

    All that buying into the strawmen of feminism (like that we’re “man hating”) is going to do is weaken your position. If you express feminist thoughts, you will be read as feminist, and if you put down feminism, then you perpetuate the idea that feminism is bad/”man hating”/etc. all it does in the end is weaken your argument because it will be seen as feminist by those who don’t like women with opinions.

    Personally, and I obviously speak from a biased perspective, but I think you would get farther by owning the feminst label. It comes with a ready-made support network (and an intelligent discussion/debate network, since feminist opinions often differ), terms that can be used and spread that are helpful in expressing your opinions, and is part of the rich history that helped to enable you to express your opinion freely.

    If nothing else, I would encourage you to lurk and/or join Iris’ forums as we’re a feminist-run game site devoted to bringing discussions on gender (and other gaming and culture related issues) to the mainstream, while doing our part to bring equality to the industry and the gaming community at large. Watching real feminists in action will better at showing you the diverse range of feminisms than any explanation I could give.

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