Feminism and its tie to video games and the video game industry has been vastly overlooked, misconstrued, and pushed aside by the gaming community. Feminism is still seen by many as a ploy for women to gain power over men, a way for women to “bitch” about problems that “men also go through”, and in general as a waste of a woman’s time since she should be in the kitchen or making babies – not complaining. To clear these issues up I must take to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of feminism:
- : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
- : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests
So really, if you see a feminist saying that women should be regarded higher than men, she is not a true feminist. The problem is that the video game industry has previously been a male dominated society, and it seems as if some men do not want to share their place in the industry with a female. If you take a look at the FeministFrequency.com post in reference to Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube video series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” showcasing the harassment she has received for bringing sexism in video games to light, you’ll see what I mean. She as called a “f***ing hypocrite slut”, “feminazi”, “bitch”, “lesbian”, and countless other racial, sexist, and discriminatory insults. She was also told “I hope you get cancer” and a comment directed at her Kickstarter backers states “I hope all them people who gave her money get raped and die of cancer”. These choice comments aren’t even the half of it, it get’s worse. All of this uproar over an intelligent woman sharing the realism of sexist tropes in video games with anyone who wishes to watch the videos.
“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West [source]
What I think is the worst part of all of this is that it shows that it’s not only choice men that hate feminism, but women too. There are female commenters in that mess of hate saying things about Sarkeesian that are just as awful as what the men are saying. There are women out there who think that it’s a woman’s duty to keep their mouth shut and fall prey to these sexist stereotypes. It’s baffling, really, considering they seem to be the ones hurt the most by said stereotypes. Since gaming has always been seen a thing for boys to do, not girls, I think it’s hard for some people to view women as prominent figures in the gaming world. The fact of the matter is, according to the 2012 Entertainment Software Associations game player data, 47% of players are women and women over the age of 18 are one of the industries fastest growing demographics. That was last year, image where that percentage is now . That statistic is just women who play video games by the way, so imagine how many of that 47% wanted to make a career out of their love for video games. I’ll give you a hint, a lot of them.
One issue that comes about when feminism, sexism, and misogyny are brought up is the “why do females want to change the game industry” argument. Some people would like to believe that the industry is just fine the way it is and that feminists are trying to ruin video games. The real problem seems to be the misunderstanding of what feminism is, as I said towards the beginning of this article. I’ve had a hard time talking to certain males about certain female video game characters and how they are sexist and offensive in nature. I may bring up a game like Lollipop chainsaw and how I think that it’s catered solely towards men with a “sex sells” state of mind and get attacked because “sex does sell, and that is just how it is, so get over it”. Ok, so now I just have to get over it. Sounds easy enough, except I don’t think that is the answer.
There are plenty of games out there that don’t fall into the “sexist game” category, like one of my favorite game series’ for example – Mass Effect. Throughout the Mass Effect series women are portrayed as equal to men, some women (and men) are kickass fighters with positive morals and a heavy skill set to back it up, others are normal people who work at bars or shops and live their lives in a normal way. It’s very fair, from my point of view, and done in way that gives both men and women gamers what they are looking for: Solid story, great gameplay, and an overall fun experience. On top of all that, all three games in the Mass Effect series received wide critic and user praise, so they did relatively well as games without being misogynistic.
“(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” – Pat Robertson [source]
There is a flip side to all of this though, as everyone knows that all good things come with a price. Awhile back there was a movement on Twitter that brought attention to females in the video game industry, and it shed light on the situation through man and women who are in the industry themselves, and see sexism on a daily basis. The movement was called “1 Reason Why” (#1reasonwhy) and it featured both men and women in the video game industry tweeting about either the lack of female recognition and/or the trials and tribulations women in the industry have gone though or are going through to get to where there are or want to be. For me, it was enlightening to see female game designers, developers, writers, and other members of the video game industry tweeting things that I had no idea was still going on in today’s society.
The downside was that the movement, while much-needed and positive as a whole, sparked a darker side of feminism. The main example I’d like to bring up is the 2013 Sony Press Conference in which Sony announced the PlayStation 4. During and after the conference I noticed less tweets about the announcement itself, or the features and games offered, and more about how there were no women on stage. Now first of all, I didn’t even notice this while watching since I was so absorbed in the announcement itself and how cool it was to even notice the lack of females. Second, I don’t see how people can say Sony is sexist as a company because the developers who took the stage to announce games for the PS4 weren’t female. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but to me this whole situation really felt like people were just grasping at straws and trying to cause a problem where there wasn’t one. If you want to be angry, be the right kind of angry and go after the developers. Ask the development teams why they put the men on stage instead of women. Immediately I saw tweets like “f*** Sony, I’m getting a Wii U and not supporting sexism” and it kept getting more and more outlandish and excessive. That one tweet was humorously ironic though, considering the Wii U and Nintendo in general are not free of sexist ideals. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a woman take the stage to talk about the newest Nintendo game at one of their conferences.
“I see my body as an instrument, rather than an ornament.” – Alanis Morissette [source]
Either way, it’s nice to see feminism take the spotlight in the gaming industry, and not only for the professionals but for the everyday gamers as well. I myself am a feminist and a gamer and it kills me to still see so many games still perpetuating the sexist stereotypes of older times in today’s day and age. It’s 2013 for crying out loud, why are so few women portrayed as fully realized, substantial characters? I really loved the Tomb Raider series reboot and how they humanized Lara Croft while not making her as much of a sexual object as past games did. As a character, Lara Croft exceeds stereotypes by portraying strength and power along with femininity and grace. I also really loved Elizabeth as the prominent female character in Bioshock Infinite. She was helpful, intelligent, powerful, and surprisingly human. Both of these females also show that it’s ok to be pretty and still get your hands dirty, either figuratively or literally.
I wrote this article as a sort of follow-up to a previous article of mine in which I discuss similar issues in gaming. It shouldn’t be such a problem to be a gender and want to do something. I mean, of all things to discriminate for, gender should not be one of the leading reasons for discrimination in the video game industry. Most of you know me as LadyCroft3, and that name has given a few issues over the years due to the fact that it brings attention to my gender. I have never minded it though, I’m not ashamed of being a female gamer, nor should any other woman be. I see gamers as people before I see them as a gender, there are no “girl gamers” or “boy gamers” in my eyes, just gamers. Plain and simple. One day I hope to see less of a gap between the genders in gaming, but until that day I will remain a fighter for equality and rights among human beings, both male and female, since that is the only course of action I deem fair and necessary.
Food for though: