Tag Archives: Gaming

A female and male human character from The Old Republic: both are the maximum size allowed but the female model is much thinner

When does diverse hiring become tokenism?

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers:

When people from video game development talk about making game development more inclusive and diverse, it’s often taken for granted that more diverse teams will be better able to bring out a well-rounded game that avoids or at least minimizes stereotypes.

However, I wonder to what extent this is true, and to what extent it represents tokenism. In a sense, this might be a case of developers not wanting to try – i.e. “Let’s just hire a woman or two, and then things will sort themselves out.” Then again, I can also see this being true, i.e. a diverse team *does* bring different perspectives to the table.

So what do you think? Do gender-diverse teams tend to create better/more unique/more inclusive games? How high is the danger of tokenism and/or essentialism here? Can you point us in the direction of real experiences made by gender-diverse development studios in these regards? Is it helpful for a developer to actively seek out female developers in order to create a more diverse team, or does this lead to problems?

See also an AAGF question from 2010 on being on the receiving end of tokenism.

What do you think?

A female and male human character from The Old Republic: both are the maximum size allowed but the female model is much thinner

A Jedi Needs Not Games To #Fail: Ableism, Fat Hatred, Heterosexism, and Misogyny in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Annalee is a gamer and general-purpose geek. She can be found on Twitter as @leeflower.

Like most feminist gamers I know, I have learned to give myself permission to love problematic things. If I didn’t, I’d pretty much have to give up on video games entirely.

The fact that I’ve grown accustomed to the whiff of garbage that comes with almost every game on the market doesn’t mean I can’t smell it, though. So while I’m having a heck of a lot of fun playing Star Wars: The Old Republic, I am also slapping my forehead a lot and going “really Bioware? Did you seriously just- I mean, really?

Because boy howdy does this game have some issues. Minor spoilers ahoy.

Ableism.

On pretty much every world you visit in SWTOR, there’s at least one sort of stock mob-usually some kind of aggressive animal-standing around to attack you on your way from one quest area to the next.

Then there’s the prison world of Belsavis, where mobs of escaped prisoners rove the landscape between you and every objective. Lest you get the impression that all of these prisoners are, as the story suggests, the very worst of the worst criminals the republic has to incarcerate, some of them are helpfully labeled for you as “lunatics” and other charming ableist slurs. Because people with mental illnesses are totally the same as vicious animals, amirite?

(Also, Seriously? The great Galactic Republic, shining beacon of justice and equality, has no facilities for people with mental illnesses who are a danger to others, and instead throws them in with the general prison population? What?).

Fat Hatred

When you create your character, you have a choice of four body types. For a guy toon, your options vary from lanky to football coach. When you play a woman, your choices are bratz doll, barbie doll, she-hulk, and one that I guess passes for plus-sized in mass-media land.

Here’s what I mean-these are the two “plus-size” models, side by side:

A female and male human character from The Old Republic: both are the maximum size allowed but the female model is much thinner

Yeah, so apparently Even Longer Ago in a Galaxy Not Quite As Far Away, ‘plus’ was a bra size. Because everyone knows fat women can’t be heroes, amirite?

As you zoom about the galaxy, you’ll encounter many fat guys. They’re soldiers, wardens, shopkeepers, spies, smugglers, community organizers, and Jedi. You’ll see not a single flippin’ fat woman anywhere. They just don’t exist.

And if erasing fat women from the galaxy wasn’t enough, the protocol droid on my ship helpfully informs me every once in a while that he’s put my crew on a diet. My crew of athletic guys and one skinny woman; all of whom spend their time sprinting across strange planets, getting into fistfights with monsters, and kicking the forces of evil in the face. God forbid these folks exercise their own discretion about how much fuel their bodies need. Not when BioWare can get in a cheap shot at fat people and call it a “joke.”

Heteronormativity

After the great strides BioWare made towards including gays and lesbians in Dragon Age, SWTOR has felt like a big step backward. All romance options are heterosexual, and if any of the non-player-characters are in same-gender relationships, they never mention it. Heterosexual relationships, on the other hand, appear quite regularly.

Back in 2009, there were reports of people being banned from the game’s official forums for questioning why words like “gay,” “lesbian,” and “homosexual” were on the censored words list. Banned, that is, after being rudely informed by a BioWare staffer that those words “don’t exist” in Star Wars. Classy.

(I guess we all just imagined Juhani the lesbian Jedi from the original Knights of the Old Republic, then?).

Last September, they changed their tune, releasing a statement saying that same-gender romances will be available as a post-launch feature, and citing the “design constraints” of a fully-voiced MMO as the reason they weren’t able to include it at launch. I took that as fair enough-they hadn’t committed the resources for the extra dialogue they were going to need, and it was going to take some time to fix it.

That is, until I encountered the first character that would have been a romance option if my toon were male. If you’re playing a dude, she initiates a relationship, and you have the choice to take her up on it. If you’re playing a woman, there’s an entirely separate, fully-voiced conversation in which she awkwardly asks to adopt you as her sister.

So, in fact, they spent extra time and effort to remove the same-gender romance option. I’m not sure heterosexism really counts as a “design constraint,” BioWare. But I guess a statement reading “We made a horrible mistake and are working as hard as we can to fix it, and we apologize to all our players for the bigoted, hostile statements we’ve made in the past about this issue” would have taken a little more courage than they had on hand.

LOL slavery, amirite? [TW for violence against women]

If you play a Sith Warrior, one of your companion characters is an accomplished treasure hunter the Sith have enslaved. Your dark side options involve [Trigger Warning] torturing her with a shock collar and either making her watch you have sex or forcing her into a threesome (it’s not clear which).

I know, I know: dark side Sith are supposed to be evil, so slavery, torture, and sexual harassment/assault are just part of their alignment, right? Bullcookies. Any writer worth hiring is creative enough to come up with dark side options that don’t involve turning slavery and violence against women into a punchline.

(h/t Club Jade for that link).

Objectification

If you pre-ordered the game, your character starts out with a handful of mostly-useless toys, like a flare gun and a droid that buzzes around. Oh, and a holographic burlesque dancer.

A woman dancer, of course. I imagine some of the guys playing the game might start feeling vaguely gross and uncomfortable if they had to run the risk of seeing a mostly-naked dude shaking his thang every time they entered a populated area. I imagine this because that’s exactly how I feel about that flippin’ hologram.

And since we’re talking about feeling vaguely gross and uncomfortable, let’s talk about the slave bikini.

For the most part, I have been quite impressed with BioWare when it comes to armor options for women. Unlike most games (where full-body armor magically morphs into a bikini when you equip it on your woman toon), all but one piece of armor I’ve found in the game has looked perfectly sensible and protective on my lady knight (the exception was a piece of low-level armor that magically lost a midriff when I put it on, but kept its sleeves and neckline). Women characters start off wearing pants and a shirt (PANTS! It’s amazing! It’s like they know that most women don’t do their butt-kicking in bathing suits, or something!).

But of course, it’s Star Wars, and you can’t have a Star Wars property without some kind of reference to Leia’s slave outfit. So if you’ve got the extra in-game cash to burn, you can buy it and equip it on your character.

Well, if you’re playing a woman, that is. Unlike every other garment in the game, which can be equipped onto either available gender, the slave outfit is ladies only. Also, I say “your character,” but really, I mean “your companion,” because so far, every time I’ve seen it, it’s been a player with a dude character, who’s equipped the bikini on their female non-player companion character.

At first, I thought maybe they included it as a joke, and just didn’t account for people actually wanting cheesecake enough to take massive armor penalties to have it. Sadly, I was mistaken. Because rather than making people live with the consequences of forcing their companion to walk around in metal underwear, they decided to make Leia’s slave outfit armor.

In fact, it’s not just armor; it’s orange-grade armor, which means it’s some of the best armor you can get. You can have your character walking around in a bikini that protects her as well as anything else she can put on.

So no, it’s not a bad joke gone wrong. They actually incentivized using it. The fact that I have to put up with other players reducing their companion characters to sex objects is no accident at all. And of course there’s no version for guys. Like the bikini itself, that gross feeling that comes with being subjected to someone else’s demeaning fantasy is reserved for ladies only.

There are a lot of things to love about this game. It’s well designed and well-paced, with engaging stories and gorgeous graphics. The mechanics are smooth and easy to learn, and the details are delightful. As a gamer and a Star Wars fan, I’m having a heck of a lot of fun with it. I don’t even want to know how many hours I’ve clocked playing since launch.

As a queer woman and feminist, however, I’m having to close my nose. Because there is an undeniable whiff of garbage.


This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

100 yr old Kit Connell playing Nintendo DS

Quick Hit: 100-year-old woman feels 80, thanks to Nintendo DS

100 yr old Kit Connell playing Nintendo DS

100 yr old Kit Connell playing Nintendo DS

Kathleen “Kit” Connell, dubbed “Britain’s oldest gamer” by The Sun, claims that gaming keeps her mind sharp. Watch her speak about it here:

Read more: 100-year-old woman feels 80, thanks to Nintendo DS

I absolutely love the idea of playing DS and then taking a break for tea before playing again. What’s your gaming routine like? Mine often involves texting my sister and seeing if she wants to play together!

Countess Ada Lovelace, by the Ada Initiative, CC Zero

Wednesday Geek Women: Moran Paldi, game designer; Leena van Deventer, gaming writing; Catriona Wimberley, medical physics student

This is a guest post by Ben McKenzie. This post appeared on his blog for Ada Lovelace Day 2011.

On Ada Lovelace Day we celebrate women working in technology and science who have inspired us. I have been definitely been inspired by women in science, from the famous like Ada herself and Marie Curie, to more recent heroes like student astrophysicist Amelia Fraser-McKelvie. But I’d like to talk about some of my friends, and in the wake of my participation in a discussion about feminism and games at Cherchez la Femme this month, specifically those working with computers and technology, like Ada did. All are inspiring to me, for their drive, their outlook, and their success, so I thought I would ask them a few questions to find about about them, and their inspiring women, in their own words.

Moran Paldi (ranpal.com.au)

Moran has over a decade of experience in the games industry; now living in Melbourne, she builds and designs video games, and teaches others to do the same. To spend even a few minutes talking games with her is to uncover an incredible depth of knowledge and passion for games in every facet of their existence, from code to controller.

How did you get into the games industry?

I studied mixed media practice at uni in London, originally planning to be an investigative journalist. I got hooked on animation at school and managed to land a job as an animator at a small indie studio when I graduated. Since then I have worked professionally as a games developer at companies like Sega and THQ,  and have now come full circle to back to my independent roots. I also teach at RMIT University on the Games Graphic Design course where I lecture in maths and games design theory.

Why video games? What do you love about this work?

I love the technical and creative challenges that making games presents. They are multilayered digital puzzles, and there’s this cycle of figuring out what you want to do, and then figuring out how to make it happen. They are fractal beasts. The more you explore them the more there is to find. Plus, the technology is always evolving, so you have to keep up with it, and that pushes you. I love exploring the boundaries of what is possible, and finding new ways to tell familiar stories. Oh, and it’s also hella fun.

Who would you be writing about for Ada Lovelace Day?

Obviously Ada! She wrote the worlds first computer program for a then theoretical analytic device. Her work is the basis of modern computing, and she deserves to be better known. Similarly, it was a group of women who built and programmed the ENIAC, which was the first electronic computer, not that you’d know that from most of the histories. Coding used to be considered women’s work, until it became high value. Now it’s perceived as a masculine pursuit. Women in tech have been made invisible for too long now. We need to break that pattern.

Leena van Deventer (grassisleena.com)

Leena is a freelance writer, both for and about games; though she only started eighteen months ago she’s already written for MMGN.com, The Age“s Screen Play blog and a whole bunch of gaming sites, and is co-host of the GamePlayPodcast and the games correspondent for Tech Talk Radio. The first game to be released with her name in the credits will be the seventh Gamebook Adventures title for iOS, Temple of the Spider God.

How did you become a games writer?

I started with a blog, just quietly doing my own thing until people seemed interested in hiring me. I then cast out a net and worked for anyone who would let me, paid or unpaid, for the experience to then make it into a proper job. I went to as many industry events as I could find and talked to as many like-minded individuals as humanly possible. Much scotch was consumed. Oh the scotch. From there I’ve been offered amazing opportunities to work in a field I’m quickly falling head over heels in love with.

Why the love affair?

I love having an opinion. It was always a negative growing up. The over-opinionated only child stereotype was in full flight and it was always treated as a personality flaw. Once I grew up and mellowed a bit I realised I could temper it to be a powerful force – and one that could be capitalised on, at that. Taking what was once considered a flaw in my personality and turning it into a positive, constructive “thing” I had to offer was extremely rewarding, and mirrored my feelings about my favourite pastime. Playing games was always either a little bit geeky, or something only the boys in the street did, or something I was scared to talk about at school for fear of scorn. I love the fact I’m “out” now as someone who loves games so much, and that I can embrace my voice and my opinions about them. The thought of utilising those strong feelings to help make great games one day is something that inspires me immensely. Working in this industry makes me feel less broken.

Who would you write about for Ada Lovelace Day?

Brenda Braithwaite is a powerhouse of a woman – a stalwart of the games industry – who inspires me greatly. She stood up when people were saying that consoles would ruin the games industry and said “That’s bullshit”. She’s now standing up when people say games on social networks will kill the games industry and says “That’s bullshit”. She’s paving the way for many great game developers to come after her and to me that’s a lasting legacy that will stick and is something to be truly proud of. We need people to stand up and say when something is bullshit. Our industry is still in its infancy, and despite that there are many issues ingrained deeply into it. The only way we’re going to move forward and improve on our weaknesses is for people to stand up and say “That’s bullshit” and stop accepting the mediocre. She inspires me to want more from the industry and ask “Can’t we do better?”.

Catriona Wimberley

Catriona is a PhD student in medical physics at the University of Sydney, currently working at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Though studying science, her career has been heavily entwined with technology, from computer programming to electronic engineering. She’s travelled around Australia and the world to present her work, and was featured in the Cosmos Ultimate Science Guide 2011 for prospective science students.

What are you working on for your PhD?

I’m working on kinetic modelling and parameter estimation in PET (positron emission tomography) imaging. In a nutshell, I take the images/data from scans and do some interesting mathematical modelling to find information about how the body/brain is working, or more importantly, not working, so that we can study how different neurodegenerative disorders (eg. MS or Alzheimers) progress.

How did you reach this point of your career?

A winding path where every opportunity was taken to explore exciting areas of research!

Before finally settling on the area of research I am currently in, I had worked in a biomedical engineering division (doing repair and maintenance of medical equipment), in a cardiology lab, a respiratory lab and a sleep lab (all doing clinical work). These placements helped me realise that I need more than a clinical or repair and maintenance job – I need to be able to think, create, analyse and innovate!

In final year uni, an opportunity came up to do a placement at the Bionic Ear Institute and I jumped at it. It was a great placement, gave me a taste of the research life, I was able to find out how part of the brain works using the computer and programming! But still… before I settled, I knew I needed to explore my other science love: physics.

I applied for the Nuclear Futures graduate program at ANSTO and was accepted into it. This program was what helped me decide that I truly did want to be a researcher. It was a rotational program so I got to work in an engineering project management role creating devices and upgrading safety systems, in the maintenance team for the OPAL research reactor; I wrote computer programs for physicists to interpret their data, I wrote reports about nuclear power for the Australian Government, I designed equipment to improve the quality of medical imaging – and from all of these adventures, I decided I wanted to specialise in medical physics – where else do you get the combination of physics, computing, maths and the end result is figuring out how the brain works?

What drives your passion for science?

I do it because I love finding patterns and meaning in data. I do it because I love programming and I love making programs that work and make life easier for people or elicit information. I do it because I get to think and discover new things about how the world works. I do it because it is fascinating and I couldn’t not do it.

I do it because I am curious and I need to figure things out. I love that I can lose myself in thinking and designing and analysing and interpreting.

Who would you write about for Ada Lovelace Day?

Marie Curie, for her ideas, her hard work and her drive to never give up. My PhD lineage can be traced back to her! Marie’s daughter Irene Joliot-Curie was also a chemist, and won a Nobel prize in 1935. Irene’s son Pierre Joliot is a biologist and was the PhD supervisor of Marie-Claude Gregoire, who is supervising me.

Also Elizabeth Blackburn [winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Medicine], for showing people that it is possible to have a highly successful science career and have a family.

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Want to highlight a geek woman? Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Pillar covered by colourful advertising bills

A long time ago in a linkspam far, far away… (10th December, 2011)

  • The Wikimedia Foundation’s paid 12 month Community Fellowship positions are open for application until January 15. This time the proposals are encouraged to focus on improving editor retention and increasing participation across Wikimedia Projects, a perfect focus for people interested in increasing women’s participation.
  • Tired of outlandish requests on your time to review every half-baked project a man thinks of? Try the wiki’s new Free feminist consulting form letter (at least for a laugh).
  • The Problems With Geek Girl Con – And Some Solutions: For the last few years, I’ve artfully dodged involvement in a number of geek feminist movements and events because of my severe allergic reaction to second-wave feminism.
  • Inspirations in science: It’s very, very personal. On the public television channel, though, I found the real magic. Sesame Street, only a year younger than I. Electric Company. And Jane Goodall.
  • Jailbreak the Patriarchy: Jailbreak the Patriarchy genderswaps the world for you. When it’s installed, everything you read in Chrome (except for gmail, so far) loads with pronouns and a reasonably thorough set of other gendered words swapped.
  • She’s Just an Attention Whore: The conversation was going well until my friend (who I always considered a pretty not sexist guy) said this: There are two types of female gamers: ones who actually like games, and ones who are just trying to get attention.
  • Racism And Meritocracy: What accounts for the decidedly non-diverse results in places like Silicon Valley? We have two competing theories. One is that deliberate racisms keeps people out. Another is that white men are simply the ones that show up, because of some combination of aptitude and effort… The problem with both of these theories is that the math just doesn’t work.
  • Lynn Margulis, Renowned Evolutionary Biologist and Author at UMass Amherst, Dead at 73: Margulis was best known for her theory of symbiogenesis, which challenges central tenets of neo-Darwinism.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

A d20 die showing the number 20

All My Nerd Ladies, Put Your Hands Up

This is a guest post by Aminah Mae Safi , a recovering graduate student and a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA.  She reviews albums over at Listen Before You Buy  and makes delicious baked goods visible on her Tumblr.

I’ve read a lot recently, about the state of being a lady in the nerd world.  Most of these articles I’ve strongly identified with, though, some I haven’t.  There’s respect issues, misogyny issues, body image issues, personhood issues, as well as a whole host of other problems that are impossible to sum up in short, catchy quips. In short: it’s tough being a girl in a boys’ club, for any number of reasons, particularly the boys’ club of Geekdom. But I recently found a means of quiet rebellion, not a revolution, mind you, but a personal epiphany: Ladies Dungeons & Dragons night.

Like a knitting circle, my Ladies D&D night felt to me like a real starting point.  I know you might say segregating away from the boys can do more damage than good. I know you might say that it’s no better than women in the early twentieth century being forced to attend women’s colleges instead of being allowed in coeducational institutions.  But let me tell you something: sometimes, you have to start at the beginning.  And you don’t have give up your spot at the boys’ table forever when you sit with the girls.

Last night, we had our first meeting.  We began the processes of picking out our characters, and, obviously, learning much about one another in the process.  We drank cheap wine, discussed who we’d take to the Yule Ball, made esoteric references to Tim the Enchanter, got excited about speaking Draconic and hacking shit up in dungeons, all while feeing free enough to admit excitement over planning our characters’ costumes and buying pretty dice.

No one derogatorily accused anyone of being “girly” the entire night, despite swooning over a couple notable nerd-girl heartthrobs (Han Solo, Sirus Black) or waxing nostalgic on old boy band crushes.  It was the most comfortable I’d felt around a larger group of nerds in years.  I was free to be a girl, in my own sense of the word, and free to be a nerd, in my own sense of the word as well.  There were pumpkin Rice Crispy Treats and there was a suggestive drawing of Matt Smith on the walls.

What I’m trying to say, rather wordily, is that I felt actually a part of a community for the first time in my geeky life.  I didn’t have to prove myself by quoting an entire Monty Python sketch or discussing my favorite extended universe character.  I didn’t have to show up with wet hair and glasses to gain anyone’s respect.  I didn’t feel as though I’d only been invited because half the people there wanted to hook up with me. I’d found that elusive, ethereal thing for a nerd girl: belonging.

I don’t mean to say women should have to be segregated from men in the nerd community.  Some– not all, but a quite vocal some– of male nerds need to change many of their cherished views that have been making nerd girls feel so frustrated, worn out, and downright shitty.  But maybe we need to figure out who we want to be, as nerds and as women, away from the boys.  Maybe we need our own a girls’ clubs as well.  Maybe it’s easier for us to find mentors when we feel as though we’re in an environment of people who truly understand our hesitations, understand the mask we wear around others– be they nerds judging us for our so-called “girly-ness” or non-nerd friends judging us for geeking out. Maybe we need to shatter the misconception that all girls are out to fight to the death to steal each other’s boyfriends in a competitive rage, but hey, that’s just a thought.

Look, I don’t know what it’s like to be a gay male videogamer, or even a gay female nerd for that matter.  I can sympathize with how hard dealing with homophobic slurs across the nerd community may be, but I cannot empathize.  My own personal experience lies in being a lady nerd. But I do know that one of the best ways to tackle the injustices we see in Geekdom are through speaking out and coming together.

What I mean to say is that women in nerd communities often find themselves isolated in a sea of men who don’t always seem to understand.  So one solution is to reach out to one another.  Create our own bonds.  We do not always need to be exclusively away from the guys, but the best way to stop feeling like a nerd-impostor is to remember we also belong.  Because just one night with my nerd ladies provided me with enough feeling of community to assuage my general anxiety around other large groupings of nerds. Finding a space where I don’t always have to fight to be heard means I won’t be so exhausted the next time I do need to stand up for my own voice.

So, don’t give up your spot in the boys’ club of Geekdom.  I know many women, as well as other outsiders to the nerd herd, have fought hard for those spaces.  But, if you are a nerd girl, do carve out a new, extra space in your geeky life for your fellow nerd ladies.  You won’t regret it.


This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

Quick Hit: Sexism In Games Bingo

Tired of hearing the same arguments regarding sexism in games? Here’s a sexism in games bingo card by @fireholly99.

Trigger Warning: Includes mention of violence against women.

Additional Warning: This card has been copied verbatim and includes slurs and other derogatory language that we wouldn’t normally allow here because I felt it was more effective when allowed to parrot inappropriate comments than it would be if I reworded. This is not going to be extended to the comments, however, so please adhere to our comment policy there.

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But men are all super-buff, they’re sexually objectified too! But it’s not FOR women. If they can’t deal with it, they shouldn’t be here. She might play games, but she’s not a REAL gamer, she’s just attention whoring. Chainmail bikinis are unrealistic, but’s not realistic for a woman to be fighting anyway. YOU’RE the one who hates women – you’re saying they can’t be both sexy AND tough.

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But they call her a ‘bitch’ because they’re the bad guys. No-one gives a shit about this sexism stuff, I’m just here for the review scores. I am a feminist and love women because they are inherently too nurturing and responsible to play video games. The only reason a guy could have to care about sexism is so women will think he’s sensitive and want to fuck him. But we have equality, there are nonsexualised female characters, like… Samus except when she takes off her Suit…

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But there are sexualised male characters, like… uh, Marcus Fenix is sexy, right? I don’t know, I’m not a fag. Men want to WATCH desirable women and women want to BE desirable women, so no-one wants sexy male characters except gay guys. GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN AND MAKE ME A SANDWICH There are women who get their genitals ritually mutilated and you’re complaining about video game boobies? So you think all female characters should be ugly and dress in burqas.

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Girl who likes video games? You only have interests because you’re not thin enough to have a real boyfriend. Yeah, the story, dialogue and character design is all sexist, but everyone can enjoy the amazing gameplay. As a woman, it doesn’t bother me, so no-one else is allowed to be bothered. Why should I care about this so-called ‘unfair’ depiction of women when women have more rights than men nowadays and feminists are trying to destroy capitalism? But trash talk is normal on XBL. Women are just too sensitive to rape threats and feigned masturbation.

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How can it be sexist when women in REAL history were their husband’s property? How can it be sexist when women in REAL life are weaker and wear less clothing than men? If you didn’t want attention for being a girl you wouldn’t be using a female name in your tag or speak with a female voice. Everyone knows ‘sex sells’, and the developers are just making things they think will sell. But I’ve suffered oppression too, as a black/ poor/ gay/ nerdy/ girlfriendless MAN! What about my feelings? It’s just a game. No-one cares.

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Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Rising above our sordid linkspamming nature (9th September, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

A vending machine containing RPG cards

Geeks as bullied and bullies

Warning: some misogynist and ableist slurs quoted, and links may contain comments with additional slurs.

Background:

Alyssa Bereznak went on a date, discovered her date was a champion Magic: The Gathering player whose life centred on it and thought it was uncool of him not to mention that in his OKCupid profile. She didn’t really spare the snark:

At dinner I got straight down to it. Did he still play [Magic: The Gathering]? “Yes.” Strike one. How often? “I’m preparing for a tournament this weekend.” Strike two. Who did he hang out with? “I’ve met all my best friends through Magic.” Strike three. I smiled and nodded and listened. Eventually I even felt a little bit bad that I didn’t know shit about the game. Here was a guy who had dedicated a good chunk of his life to mastering Magic, on a date with a girl who can barely play Solitaire. This is what happens, I thought, when you lie in your online profile. I was lured on a date thinking I’d met a normal finance guy, only to realise he was a champion dweeb in hedge funder’s clothing… Mothers, warn your daughters! This could happen to you. You’ll think you’ve found a normal bearded guy with a job, only to end up sharing goat cheese with a world champion of nerds.

Elly Hart describes Bereznak’s actions as creepy, bitchy and predatory (and apparently there’s much worse out there).

Sady Doyle argues that it’s OK, good in fact, to have preferences in dating and to exercise them:

NOT SO FAST THERE! The Internet, Ph.D. has found you guilty of OPPRESSION! That most horrible, socially harmful, Internet-comment-generating of all “oppressions:” Thinking stuff is kind of dorky. It’s awful! It’s mean! It’s unfair! And, worst of all, it results in women thinking they have the right not to sleep with men they find unattractive!

Doyle’s comment thread is worth a read. There’s a lot of push back, particularly noting that while the Internet at large has been massively faily, Alyssa Bereznak’s date (Jon Finkel) has himself responded quite calmly and non-horribly, and some people talking about Bereznak’s use of anti-geek snobbery and contempt. See for example Lilivati at 59:

I’m not defending the misogyny and sexism evident in the comments, because there is no call for that. Nor am I going to argue that nerds are an “oppressed group” on the order of other groups.

But when I’m at work and people are talking about their weekends, about how they rerouted the cable in their house or won a softball game or other “acceptable” uses of free time, when asked about MY weekend, I do not say “Oh, I picked out some new miniatures to paint and then spent most of Sunday playing Pathfinder online with my friends.”

Why not? Because -this- is what happens when you do. Your hobbies are not acceptable, so the “normal people” around you do their best to shame and humiliate you into more acceptable behavior.

And Kiturak at 77:

My problem is that there are people in my life who know about my being [feminist/ bi/ poly/ genderqueer/ mentally disabled] – and to whom I still wouldn’t tell What I Did During The Weekend.
Especially if I spend too much time(tm) on said embarrassing activity. Which I do as a means of escaping all that shit for just a little while, and doing something fun.
The problem is that this is what happens when I tell, as Lilivati said. I won’t even small-talk to people about my harmless fun-times. Because I don’t need yet another way of being called a freak.

There’s pushback against the pushback too. Amy at 69:

This is more about how sexism can function independently within a group of educated people. There are very few single comments here that I disagree with. BUT. There have been vastly more words exhausted on whether or not Ms. Bereznek’s article is mean/bad/elitist than on the truly horrible misogyny directed at her. And the latter was the point of [Doyles's] article…

…women who say “no,” without any qualifiers or excuses, get a lot of dangerous backlash. Here we have a woman doing just that in a truly spectacular way. And there has been backlash. I didn’t expect to see backlash here, but it’s been here too. Not in any one comment, but in people expressing the same thoughts I originally had: “The misogyny is bad and no one deserves that, but she’s kind of an asshole.” And then proceeding to spend a lot more words on why she’s an asshole than on the misogynistic comments thrown her way.

Doyle at 74:

I’m really uncomfortable with the number of people here who are looking at “being kind of snobby about social interests” vs. “being openly misogynist,” and deciding that Problem A is more serious than Problem B. And it’s disappointing to me that so many women are willing to participate in that. Just above, I’ve got a (probably going to get deleted) comment that actually talks about nerds as a “minority” and says that her post is actually equivalent to a misogynist statement. And that’s just bullshit. I care a hell of a lot more about an institutional, structural oppression that’s gone on for thousands of years and resulted in the denial of human rights to half the planet than I do about people being snobby to each other sometimes. I don’t love snobbiness, either, but that doesn’t mean I have to pretend it’s even close to being a structural oppression, and deserves the same weight or importance in conversations.

Doyle continues at 83:

Actually? From what I can see, there’s a power dynamic that nobody is willing to talk about. Which is that nerds, on the Internet, are not bullied. They are the bullies. Maybe you just don’t want to talk to me about this, this week. Or maybe there’s the fact that the subculture is known for being aggressive, abusive, and misogynist, and that if you dare to think you’re allowed to have an opinion about it, you will receive (as I have done) the following comments:

* Bitch
* Cunt
* Psychotic
* Retard
* Shrill
* Hysterical…

The bully-bullied dynamic in geekdom and by geekdom is complex. Right now, there are people like Lilivati and Kiturak being shamed at best and hurt at worst for geeky interests. Geeks may not be a protected class experiencing oppression in the way the term is used in social justice, but victims of bullying and the bullying dynamic need and deserve systemic intervention. And women geeks have it worse: our geekiness is viewed as a more unacceptable departure from social norms, and our relative powerlessness leads to more bullying. Geeks rule parts of the Internet, but right now, there’s a geek (or a hundred) being shamed, teased or abused online too.

And absolutely, many geeks are bullies too. They bully within geekdom, they bully non-geeks when they can. Having been a victim of bullying is not protective against becoming a bully, in fact often experiencing bullying and abuse is where one learns the art of bullying others. It’s not news on this site that geek culture has its own takes on misogyny and other oppressions with a side of geeky spin.

So what then? I’m absolutely clear that Bereznak can end or never start relationships based on any criteria she pleases, and that women exercising preferences shouldn’t be a secret thing. (“Sure, women can reject men, but ssssssh it’s a secret.”) And Internet snark from women results in an unjustified maelstrom of hate, that’s for sure. On the other hand Bereznak isn’t exactly challenging acceptable-hobby hierachies here and while she may not have harmed Jon Finkel as it happens, people like Lilivati and Kiturak, geeky people who are also in marginalised groups, got hurt. And I don’t think that’s nothing, either. Geek marginalisation is important because organising one’s life around fields of interests is the way that some people prefer to live or the only way their mind works, it’s not inherently oppressive or unethical (although it is not inherently free of same either), and some (many) geeks are not cruel, entitled, misogynist, empowered Internet trolls. We’re not trying to improve geek culture for the high earning able-bodied etc geeks: we are doing it for the oppressed geeks, whose oppression comes with extra lumps of shaming and excluding for their geekiness.

I see Amy’s point though: it’s not acceptable either to say quickly: sure-there-was-some-misogynist-nastiness BUT HEY LOOK AT THAT ANTI-GEEK SNARK LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT 100%. I worry that in some ways we don’t talk about the misogyny because it’s simply such constant news. A woman spoke on the Internet. Cue hate. Even feminists are burned out or too scared to look, now.

Hard stuff folks: what do you think?

Elsewhere: On A Woman Choosing Not To Date A Geek

Pillar covered by colourful advertising bills

A merry linkspamming band (1st September, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.