I have learned a lot about the games industry and gaming culture from reading other videogame blogs, participating in videogame communities, and interacting with people through this blog. After looking back on old posts, it’s evident that my perspectives and opinions on some issues have changed and developed since I started writing here.
I’ve always been vaguely aware of gender issues throughout my young adult and adult life. In my own family, I was treated differently and held to different standards than my brother because I am female. In high school I was vaguely aware of sexism in social interaction and also in the media. It’s possible that because I read comic books so avidly, I became more aware of these issues just because of how sexist and misogynistic superhero comic books are as a genre, and maybe that awareness carried over to observations in real life.
Having said that, awareness of sexism and gender issues doesn’t necessarily mean that I understood the social structures that underpinned all these examples of sexism I saw in games and other media. It also didn’t necessarily mean that I was aware of all instances of sexism, other types of oppression, or my own privilege.
I have no formal education in gender studies or feminist studies. My formal education in sociology is minimal. I studied social theory and social psychology, which has more of a micro focus than sociology or cultural studies. My background in the social sciences, may have made me marginally more aware of sexism and gender on the individual level, but less so on the institutional level. Despite my background in the social sciences, it also didn’t necessarily follow that I would be aware of other types of oppression.
Most of my knowledge of feminism and anti-oppression has come to me relatively recently and has developed mainly in the context of participating in and observing gaming culture. The past year and a half has been especially educational for me. Discussing social and cultural issues in the context of gaming with other feminist gamers on the Iris Gaming Network has been integral in helping me develop and articulate my thoughts and perspectives. Reading the articles in Cerise Magazine has also widened and challenged my perspectives on gender and oppression and given me a lot to think about.
One example of how my perspectives have changed is that I previously used ablelist language, terms that are derogatory and discriminatory towards those with disabilities. I didn’t know that calling something a variation of “retarded” or “lame” was hurtful and bigoted, though I was certainly aware of other bigoted uses of language, such as using “gay” as a derogatory term. It wasn’t until I started learning more about anti-oppression and ableism that I realised that I had used bigoted language and why it was wrong to use that kind of language. I’m trying to be more aware of the language I use because of this.
Another example of how my perspectives have changed is that I used to blame attention-seeking women gamers like Jessica Chobot for making it harder for other women gamers to be accepted and welcome amongst male gamers. I heaped scorn and disdain upon women like her for using their sex appeal to get ahead, arguing that they weren’t “real” gamers (whatever that meant). I used to think that these women were the problem, rather than indicative of historically and socially constructed structures that went beyond their individual experiences. Rather than examine the reasons why such behaviour is acceptable and rewarded in gaming culture and in society as a whole, I just blamed attention-seeking women gamers for sexism against all women gamers. I was focusing on the wrong things.
These women are acting in ways in which our society encourages and approves of. Sure, they are independent women and capable of making their own decisions in the end, however there is unbelievable pressure for many women gamers to be accepted amongst male gamers, to be “one of the guys”. Women gamers have to prove themselves to be twice as better as male gamers to gain the same kind of acceptance that male gamers have automatically just by being male. Is it any wonder that some women will use whatever means they have to their advantage, either consciously or subconsciously? I realised that the problem was far more complex than I’d initially perceived.
It wasn’t easy to have my perspectives challenged. I cringe when I look at what I’ve written in the past. I feel embarrassed about how I used to think about certain things. It shows that I had a lot to learn then, and that I’m still not finished learning. I have expanded my daily readings to include general feminist and anti-oppression blogs to deepen my understanding of oppression and privilege and how it impacts everyday life, and I continue to have my assumptions, perspectives, and privilege challenged.
What does this post have to do with videogames? Nothing directly, but it does provide some background on how and why the discourse on this blog has shifted.