Sunday, December 18, 2011

You Go Gamer Girl!

I just read a very interesting article about male privilege within the nerd community. In fact, if you only have time to read one article, go read that one, it is much more interesting than this one. I agree with the post wholeheartedly for the most part, so, as is my practice, I'm not going to talk about what I agree with, because I believe the original author presents them well enough without my meddling. This is, of course, yet another reason to read that article.

The first place I started to truly disagree with the author was in the section entitled, "How Male Privilege Affects Geek Girls in Real Life," in the seventh paragraph, which is the first paragraph that is decently long. The author says, "A man, for example, who gets a job isn't going to... be shrugged off as a quota hire'." I think what we have here is an interesting intersection of male privilege with white privilege. While I agree that a man who gets a job is unlikely to be considered a "quota hire" qua his manliness, but there are other reasons, such as race, that a man could be considered a quota hire. So, I think this could be worded a bit better to avoid the implication that racism is no longer a problem. However, the author did, toward the beginning, note that, "men – most often straight, white men – as a whole, get certain privileges and status because of their gender," so the issues of racism and sexual orientationism are at least acknowledged.

Then, in the next paragraph, the author states that, "Men will also not be told that they're being 'too sensitive' or that 'they need to toughen up' when they complain about said sexual threats," referring to the content of trash talk in some video games. I would argue that men are "told" not to be sensitive or to toughen up, explicitly or implicitly, fairly often, and assuming that one wouldn't in this situation seems insupportable. This is not to say that men have it tough to so maybe we shouldn't worry about women so much, or to distract from the very valid main point of the article, I just want to reemphasize a point I have made before, that gender essentialism ends up hurting people of both genders and is probably responsible for much homophobia.

I think it is also worth considering the eleventh paragraph in its entirety:
Men are also not going to be automatically assigned into a particular niche just based on their gender. A girl in a comic store or a video game store is far more likely to be dismissed as another customer's girlfriend/sister/cousin rather than being someone who might actually be interested in making a purchase herself. And when they are seen as customers, they're often automatically assumed to be buying one of the designated "girl" properties… regardless of whether they were just reading Ultimate Spider-Man or looking for a copy of Saint's Row 3.
There are a couple of interesting things going on here. The first is some more gender essentialism, girls are expected to buy "'girl' properties," which maybe should be products, and, by logical extension, guys are expected to buy guy products. However the author does not note that guys are buying designated guy products, and this, I believe, is because male is the "default gender," similarly to how white is the "default race" in my first complaint. Things marketed to girls need an explanatory adjective, "'girl' properties" and are a "niche," whereas things marketed to guys are just treated as the normal fare for the shop.

That is everything critical that I can think of to say about the article. I thought that most of it was right on, and I thought all of it was an interesting read. Compare to this news post from Penny Arcade, about how the female version of the main character from the Mass Effect series was going to be portrayed be default. I link to the news post, but mainly because it serves as a repository for interesting links to other articles an the topic.

I am unsure that the Kotaku and Penny Arcade posts are at odds, because the latter seems to be saying that just because FemShep is given a specific appearance should not imply that we write her off as a "bimbo." However, insofar as it can be read as a defense for portraying women in video games as idealized objects of attraction, the Penny Arcade post may be part of the problem, rather than the solution.

1 comment:

elfarmy17 said...

My friend wrote a pretty amazing blog post about this last spring:

My gaming experience has always been strongly tied up in that of my family. My dad and I played Age of Empires and Diablo 2 together before I started kindergarten. When I was older, one of my sisters and I would play Diablo and World of Warcraft together. Many Saturday mornings were spent with the three of us all in a row at our computers, giggling as we stabbed goblins in the Elderscrolls 4.
It was never a peer based thing in elementary school because I was playing games that no one else played (that I knew of, anyway), and in middle school I just never talked to people in the first place. xD

And since the only games I really ever play are Portal and fantasy RPGs in which you can design your own character, I've never had to deal with sexism in the actual games.