Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Soapbox on Sexism in Gaming

I won't go into a deep treatise on this, since I have a feeling I'll be preaching to the choir, but the sexism in the gaming industry and the gaming community has got to stop. After I'd read various reports during the event of the "booth babes" phenomenon, yesterday Katie Williams of Kotaku posted yet another story that outlined the casual sexism pervasive at E3 2012 (and presumably all prior E3 events). By casual, I mean the casual assumption that she didn't know what she was doing or couldn't possibly really be interested in covering the world of software based gaming. That is huge mistake given recent studies about who exactly is gaming these days.

It's one thing to fill your game with ridiculously sexy outfits for female characters as a "sex sells" fantasy for horny men. (Protest all you want, "horny man" is a redundant phrase.) It's another thing entirely to casually dismiss 47% of your potential market.

And the gaming community is even worse. In the comments section of the Kotaku article, Ms. Williams was blamed by many for putting up with the situation. What her reaction should have been is not relevant to the issue. The attitudes of the booth presenters were unacceptable. No one should have to put up with that sort of treatment.

Reactions to other women who have tried to bring up discussions about sexism in the industry have ranged from dismissal of the problem to death and rape threats, including sharing the woman's address in a public forum. Those threats, by the way, constitute assault in most jurisdictions of the United States.

The reactions to women in-game also range from mild disbelief to full on sexual harassmen tthat would not be tolerated in any workplace or most public venues either. And I haven't even begun to address the topic of homophobia, racial epithets, etc., in voiced game chat.

I got into two discussions on Twitter yesterday about the meaning of words, and how the choice of some words over others influences the thoughts and quality of a discussion. I added the George Orwell quote to the top of my page to illustrate my point. "But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."

Using improper terms can exacerbate problems in civil dialogue. Whining about "political correctness" is not an effective argument when you're talking about how people should be treated. Even the term "Girl Gamer" which is often used, much like Woman Doctor a few decades ago, shows a sexist bias. They're just Gamers.

I'll have more on this tomorrow.


  1. I disagree with Ms. Williams almost as much as I disagree with Mr. Orwell's quote. But either way I look forward to your followup post.

    1. I've seen Orwell's "maxim" in action in my language studies and personal experience, sio I whole heartedly agree. I'd be interested to to hear in what way you disagree with both Orwell and especially Ms. Williams.

  2. Once thought has corrupted language, language carries the new meaning. So the person speaking may appear corrupted to the omnipotent observer, but they speak the truth of their own thoughts through the language they know. And if they don't, it is because their thoughts pull an otherwise unused (to them) word that they corrupt with their thoughts.

    For Ms. Williams experiences to be sexist, they would need to be experiences that a man could not possibly have had. Since those same experiences (you don't understand this well enough, I need to help you) could be mistakes that happened to a man as well, I am hard pressed to label them as sexist.

    1. Just realized there should be quote marks around the "you don't understand this well enough, I need to help you" part in parentheses. Otherwise it comes off as a sidebar to you...which it is not. (-:

    2. I think you missed the part where she quotes apparently every PR person she encountered, "Well, girls aren't usually into this stuff, you know." If this were an isolated incident, I could see your point, but it seemed to be the running theme of E3 2012.

      As far as Orwell, I think we both need to read the full essay from which the blurb comes. As I said, I've seen it in action, in English and other languages. The words we perpetually hear and use to describe things influence the way we perceive those things. Abstract concepts even more than concrete objects.

      And the altered meanings of the language often happen only within an individual mind or small group—the connotations, not the denotations, of words. Political speech is full of such misleading rhetoric, and the debate about sexism in gaming is certainly a political one.

    3. Actually, she says that was the response whenever she protested that the PR person was being sexist. At that point, it becomes impossible to determine if the affront was sexist in origin or not. And we also don't know how often she protested. I think it more likely that overworked and stressed PR people were functioning on the lowest possible energy level. But I suppose we will never know for sure.

      I'll have to set aside some time to read the essay, but I think you make my point for me: the alterations are internal to the thought process, not externally located in the word itself.

    4. I'm sorry, a gross generalization about women as a response to a protest about women isn't sexist? I'm pretty sure it falls within the dictionary definition.

      As far points, you've made mine, since clearly we are looking at the same set of words and getting completely different meanings from them. As I've said, many of the debates I have been part of on the net and in meatspace hinge on a failure of the parties to even agree on definitions, and that all speaking English. I've both read studies and witnessed first hand how speech patterns in various languages both reflect and reinforce different worldviews. You don't have to agree.

      We are not talking about whether the PR people at E3 or the Industry are consciously, maliciously sexist in a "Women belong in the Kitchen" sort of way. But their underlying attitudes reflect a perception of the audience of computer games that is not accurate. An overworked stressed, low energy PR man working with another man would probalby just lett the guy try the game and only intervene if there is a question. The PR men Ms. Williams encountered actively took the controls from her hand to "demonstrate" the games for her, then when she did protest that it was sexist made a statement based on a faulty assumption that was based on gender. Call it what you want, I'll call it like I see it.

  3. @Hzero I added the link to the Wikipedia Article on Orwell's Essay in the post. Just click the quote. I'l have to see if I can track down the essay itself.