Something a bit different this time. Bet you didn't expect an update so soon after the last one, eh?
Over the past few days, my patience with those who discuss gender issues in games has been wearing thin. I've already been over Jason Schreier and his attitude towards Dragon's Crown. Anita Sarkeesian added to my irritability when she posted a link to this short cartoon, titled "But I'm A Nice Guy", about a male character who rants about women because a female character took some ice cream that he wanted. Supposedly a parody about male entitlement and men's rights activists hating women. Although it made me roll my eyes, I was actually quite pleased that Anita was showing support for it; if anyone ever needed proof that Anita Sarkeesian doesn't plan on supporting any issues that affect men in her Tropes Vs Women In Video Games series -- i.e. doesn't plan on treating men equally -- this would be it.
Looking at Jason Schreier's complaints however, it seems like when gender issues affect gaming, men and women aren't individuals. We're faceless entities to be stereotyped. Men are an oppressive collection of immature, perverted "dudebros" who want to maintain a "boys' club". Women are delicate flowers; children who need to be protected from evil game content by their knights in shining armour (both male and female).
It's so obvious that I can't believe I actually have to write this but these stereotypes are highly damaging for both sexes.
There's a kernel of truth in both stereotypes -- some male gamers do want to maintain a boys' club and some female gamers take great offence to portrayals of female characters in games -- but the subject of gender issues in games has blown up so much over the past year that these stereotypes are being considered the norm. Jason Schreier isn't the only one responsible -- others include Jim Sterling, the writers at Rock, Paper, Shotgun and Anita Sarkeesian is, obviously, the poster girl -- but it was in his article that gaming journalism reached a new low. Not only did we have the typical mockery towards men but Schreier went so far as to insult the art director of Dragon's Crown too.
Why? Because his devotion to the stereotypically offended female was so strong. It wasn't real women he was defending in his criticism of Dragon's Crown. It was his imagined version of women, being victimised by an imagined version of men. Although George Kamitani was a real person being insulted and Dragon's Crown, a real game that Schreier was scapegoating.
I have to believe that the majority of gamers, male and female, don't accept this. If they do, it means they care more about gender issues than they do about game developers having creative freedom over their own games. Considering that we're all gamers because we enjoy video games, I have difficulty believing that.
Schreier, Anita and everyone else criticising the gaming industry are allowed to complain. They're allowed to be offended. However, they're in no position to demand things from developers. They aren't allowed to dictate what is right and wrong. It's a ridiculously entitled attitude to have but considered completely reasonable by far too many people; people who enjoy gaming as it is -- sexualised characters, damsels in distress, et al -- are rarely given the chance to air their views. When's the last time you saw a video game article called "Everything's Absolutely Fine"? In spite of the video game industry being scrutinised as closely as it can possibly be on gaming sites, there are plenty of people who feel that way. That maybe there's nothing wrong with damsels in distress and perhaps there's even a reason why gaming is a male-dominated industry. These people aren't radical for thinking that, they just haven't jumped on the "gaming is sexist" bandwagon like so many others. For example, these women (and one man):
InuitInua - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cj29-hepBiA (and others).
KiteTales - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJihi5rB_Ek and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZueOCLGt1tw
Gaijin Goomba and Aki - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xqvjw3Z_-dA
MoarPewPewPlz - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PL8wJvlmpRI
Leahtastical - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41Dy-k1oNWA
cynthx - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idmkNdirYpE
meltheofcgamergirl - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJNxVmjIdqs
Janette Goering - #1ReasonWhy We Need to Change the Way We Fight Against Sexism
Christine Phelan - "Calling Games Industry Sexist Is A Major Disservice To Developers" (preview) or "Valve Want Our Only Concern To Be Making Great Games" (full article).
Gabrielle Toledano - Women And Video Gaming's Dirty Little Secrets
"Elsa" - Comment
Allisa James - Comment
I would like to point out that I don't want any of the women above to feel uncomfortable. On the off-chance that any of you are reading this, I'm not using you for some sinister men's rights activist purpose. If any of you aren't comfortable being listed here, feel free to send me an e-mail (email@example.com) and I'll happily remove you. I want this to be a hub for fair-minded commentary on gender issues though, which is why you're all listed. I have nothing but praise for your work.
Why only women?
Don't get me wrong, I value men's and women's opinions equally. If I didn't value men's opinions highly, I probably wouldn't bother maintaining this blog. However, it's very easy for mainstream video game sites to dismiss dissenting opinions if they're made by men, especially if they're white and heterosexual. That's "equality" for you. It's much harder (but not impossible) to dismiss those opinions if they're made by women; critics can hardly say "you want to maintain a boys' club atmosphere" if the person defending the games industry is female. That wouldn't make any sense.
Plus, I've noticed in men's rights circles that people take more interest in why female MRAs support the movement. Men's opinions are valued, of course, but the reasons for getting involved tend to be different. I imagine it'd be the same for game journalists; they turn their noses up at men who disagree but will probably be curious about women who oppose the typical "sexualised women are wrong and damsels in distress lack agency" attitude. There's a chance that they'll listen to women making these points while they refuse to listen to men. However, there's a simpler reason why I singled out women.
Anita Sarkeesian doesn't speak for all women. She's not an everywoman.
However, she's the face and voice of the disgruntled female gamer. As far as gaming sites are concerned, she is the average female gamer. A lot of the women above make it clear that they think Anita supports a good cause but they disagree with her on some of her points. To make it clear, I think women are unfairly treated in some cases in the games industry (such as publishers thinking games won't sell with female characters on the front cover). Unfortunately, it's come to a point where Anita's voice and others like it are the only ones allowed to be heard and dissenting opinions -- even by other female gamers -- can be dismissed just like the male ones.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to feature men though; Instig8ive Journalism's videos on Anita Sarkeesian were the first ones I ever saw apart from the ones on Feminist Frequency itself. A user named LeoPirate gives his perspective as one of Anita's Kickstarter backers. TheAmazingAtheist gives a surprisingly fair-minded response. J. J. McCullough wrote a respectful rebuttal to Anita's first damsels in distress video. These aren't abusive men out to threaten Anita Sarkeesian with abusive threats to rape and murder her. These are reasonable responses that aren't being given the time of day, let alone by Anita herself who is still talking about how victimised she was. Just so you don't think I'm picking on Anita, Giuseppe Nelva of DualShockers perfectly countered Jason Schreier's reactionary response to the game's character designs. A writer for a Tumblr page titled 7Nights
also gave his support for the Sorceress and pointed out why we shouldn't be
tearing about sexualised characters just because they're sexual. I definitely
think he got across how shallow it ultimately is.
These arguments need to come to light. If Anita Sarkeesian wants to continue making shaky arguments, fine. If Jason Schreier wants to brag about how he got George Kamitani to apologise, he's welcome to. However, their opinions can't be treated like the gospel truth. Gaming sites need to follow the lead of people like Janette Goering up there, who bravely objected to the #1ReasonWhy movement when she became uncomfortable with it. She still supported it but wasn't afraid to point out the flaws as she saw them.
Finally, although it has nothing to do with gaming, I came across a Tumblr
Things the other day and fell in love with this picture. Researching gender
issues online, I sometimes come across unpleasant sites that make me feel like
the chap in this picture. If you're on Tumblr, give the artist some support.
As always, feel free to leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org