Now Read This: Three Articles on Sexism and Games Culture

I read a lot of articles and blog posts about -isms (sexism, racism, etc.) and how they relate to videogames and the culture and community of gamers. Here are three articles I read over the past week that I found thoughtful, insightful, interesting, and which I think you should read, too.

Each article discusses sexism at different levels. The first one talks about sexism and the role of media creators and artists in perpetuating it (or challenging it). The second is a macro-level discussion about the sexist and unrealistic idealisation of the female nerd by male nerd culture as a whole. The third is a personal account of sexist microaggression as encountered in daily life in the game development community.

The Tits Have It: Sexism, Character Design, and the Role of Women in Created Worlds

This article provides an account of a panel at which the Art Director of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete, and the Art Director of Final Fantasy XIII-2 talk about their approaches to characters and how that influences character design. Comments by Jacques-Bellêtete during the panel and his artistic rendition of Final Fantasy XIII‘s lead character, Lightning, revealed unfortunate sexist attitudes in how developers approach the creation of female characters.

I Am a Female Nerd. Apparently.

This is a fantastic article that discusses the difficult waters that geeky women have to navigate in male-dominated nerd communities. This post focuses on the aggravating aspect of nerd culture where it’s okay to be a geeky woman, as long as you’re “right” kind of geeky woman–the kind that doesn’t raise a stink about sexism or make any sort of critique of media that involves equality or the marginalisation of anyone who isn’t an able-bodied, straight, white, cis male:

We are welcome in the boys club provide we acknowledge that is unquestionably male space and kicking up a fuss about it is actually not sexy, so you should just stop.

No Flat Girls: How Allies are Born

This is a must-read story about casual sexism amongst game developers. In it a game designer attends attends a local developer night at which designers can work on projects in a shared space. There, she experiences casual sexism as her fellow developers discuss “the number one rule of game design” i.e. “huge tits everywhere”. Other male game developers at the event have the opportunity to stand in solidarity as allies, to challenge this casual sexism.

One of the biggest obstacles to equality is when men remain silently complicit in the sexist behaviour of other men. Given the fact that women have to encounter sexism in gaming communities simply by participating in communities, and we don’t have infinite (emotional, mental, etc.) energy to challenge sexism every single time it rears its ugly head (which is a lot!), we have to choose our battles carefully. We need help: we need men to stand up to sexism, too. Women cannot and should not alone bear the burden of both suffering under the effects of and being victims of sexism and also bear the full weight and responsibility of ending sexism when much of the power to end sexism lies in the hands of those who implicitly or explicitly perpetuate it.

4 comments

  1. TottWriter · October 26, 2011

    I thought all three of these articles were really worth the read. Thanks for linking to them. The last one in particular shows just how unpleasant sexism can be.

  2. Emma · October 26, 2011

    Awesome – I love reading articles about sexism and the gaming culture. Thanks for pointing them my way.

    To be honest, I do think, yeah, there’s a lot of sexism in this industry with regards to character designs, and player stereotypes, I think it’s the same for guys as well! Maybe not to the same extent, but I do think that many games have male characters living up to a stereotype, as well as female characters. And aren’t male nerds/gamers/geek presented in the same way!

    Just an opinion :) Cheers nevertheless!

    • Brinstar · October 26, 2011

      Hi Emma, thanks for commenting. I’m glad those articles were of interest :-)

      To your point regarding men having to live up to stereotypes and ideals–yes they do, but the types of ideals they have to live up to and how they are portrayed in games is not the same as women, as you noted. In fact, the differences are pretty drastic. In most games, women are portrayed more as objects to use (by men), whereas men are portrayed as subjects to aspire to.

      Here are a few articles that help illustrate this point:

      When Is It Sexist?: A Chart That Doesn’t Get It Quite Right
      To dudes who think gaming is “sexist against men”: YOU’RE WRONG.
      Idealizing Fantasy Bodies

      • Emma · October 26, 2011

        True that! Conversely, maybe some men don’t want to aspire to be like their characters, and some women do :) This is one of those things that almost entirely depends on what the player makes of it! But yes, thanks once again!

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