Fighting the Good Fight: Misogyny and Video Games

I’m writing this article as a follow-up to my previous article about “fake” nerd girls and the shaming of women in geek culture. It happens to be the most popular article I have ever written and to this day, over seven months after it was posted, it is the most viewed article on a daily basis here on LSZ; hitting a record-breaking 1,100 views in one evening. I’d like to shed a little more light on the topics that I previously talked about by sharing some excerpts from comments I received and discussing how they showcase the issue at hand which is misogyny in the geek, nerd and gaming communities.

Sadly, the issue of misogyny and sexism in video games as well as within the gaming community is still a huge problem. Of course, there are plenty of people out there who don’t see it as an issue at all which is something that I use as motivation. I have been told that it’s “just a game” or to “get over it” more times than I can count, and each time it reminds me that this issue is still as large as it ever was. The fact that I get in more arguments due to the fact that people don’t like me taking issue with sexism in video games/other media outlets than anything else still shows me that there is still a long way to go in the fight for equality.

In another article that I wrote I brought up feminism and facing adversity in the gaming community. I defined feminism, stating that by definition it is about equality of the sexes. There are different ways to maintain this lifestyle, but at its core it is simply a need for equality. Of course there are “feminists” out there who parade about as self titled “man haters”, but they are not truly feminists. I want to point this out so that more people understand the fact that if someone is against men or women in any way they are not feminist. Don’t let them fool you into believing the whole feminist movement is about the hatred of men or want to bring down men in some way, because that is simply not in the least bit true. Now that I have made that point as clear as I could make it, I urge more people to think about feminism in a positive light. When I say I am a feminist it’s automatically assumed that I either hate men, am a lesbian or some kind of degenerate who wants to watch the world burn. None of those things are true, I just want men and women to be equal in all ways possible.

Feminism-1

So onward to the meat of this article: discussing the dilemmas facing women in nerd, geek or gaming communities. It was brought to my attention through the comments received on the post about nerd/geek girl shaming that people have varying definitions of what it means to be a nerd, geek and/or gamer. To me, a gamer is simply one who plays video games. Maybe that is the most simplified definition of the word, but I find it most fitting and least discriminatory. Other seem to think that there are qualifiers to being a gamer and/or a nerd such as having been bullied for your interests at some point in life or how many games you play/ how many hours you have played. In my opinion, it is a weird notion to take some sort of pride in having been bullied for your interests, saying that anyone who hasn’t been through the troubles that you have is not what you are – a gamer or nerd – and that they can’t be like you. It’s also odd to say that only people who have played a certain amount of games for a certain number of hours can be gamers. Definitions like these are problems for everyone, not just women, and I found it rather interesting that this was brought up by so many commenters.

This brings me to a quote from a comment made on my original post:

People attack pretty girls claiming nerd for a good reason, they were not nerd less than 10 years ago and they are in their 20s now? what? The argument usually goes like this. ” im a girl nerd and have the same interests as other nerds why cant i be a nerd? ” simply because the things you like do not make you a nerd. A nerd is someone that is an outcast most of their life, has little to no friends, has social issues and does not speak up at all. […] No hot , pretty girl ever was really bullied and if you say you were you bullshitting yourself and others to be accepted into the nerd world. people are offended when others call themselves nerds, probably why guys are so on edge when a pretty girl says they are a gamer also.

So not only are there qualifiers for being a nerd/gamer, but there is also no way a woman (especially an attractive woman) can possibly qualify. This is exactly the point of my article, women are bullied because they are “too pretty” to have ever been tormented for their likes, or “nerdiness”, or they simply are too young to be a true nerd/gamer; if you weren’t a gamer in the 90’s you definitely can’t be one now, apparently. I think it’s wrong of people to assume that because a person is attractive that they can never have faced any adversity, regardless of their gender. How do they know that the pretty girl wasn’t bullied in school for being a nerd? It happens. I know plenty of attractive women who have been bullied for their gamer/nerdy dabblings and guess what? The people doing the bullying are the people who, like this commenter, feel the need to bully people for not having been bullied enough. The hypocrisy of this mindset is through the roof. The logic seems to be: You told me you are a nerd and would like to be friends with me but judging by your picture you are too attractive to be like me, there is no way you could have faced any kind of adversity for your likes and interests like me, so now I’m going to bully you like I was bullied for liking these things.

Comic-Sexism

This also highlights another valid problem within the nerd/gaming community: Hot girls cannot be nerds or gamers so stop lying to us men because you will never be accepted. This is why I wrote the article in the first place, because women and being pushed out of communities they would like to be a part of simply because of their looks or because there is no way girls can play games or like nerdy things. It seems the only way to be fully accepted is to never show or imply that you are in any way female, which is ridiculous. No one should have to hide their gender so that other nerds/geeks/gamers will not harass them. This mentality is the most toxic one there is when it comes to the subject of sexism in the gaming community, in my opinion. It’s mindless, needless and discriminatory in the highest degree.

Another point that was brought up often in discussion about my article was one revolving around people assuming that since it doesn’t happen to them, it probably doesn’t happen to anyone else or at the very least is highly uncommon. One female commenter stated:

I’ve never had to experience this . I play what I like like what I play . Part of the gaming generation. Any conversation I’ve had with guys or girls involving games its never come up that I am a faker and or poser so I guess I’m normal .”

I wouldn’t say it’s normal to not face the issue discussed in my article, which is sad. It’s pretty normal to be harassed and I’d say it’s pretty abnormal to have never once experienced harassment as a female in the gaming community. The same commenter also went on to be a bully herself, stating that her “only problem with half of the gamer girl gen” is that they wear glasses for fashion (apparently she is the only one who wears them out of necessity?). She also went on to mildly insult me for “advertising yourself like blogs like this protesting your identity” which is somehow drawing attention to my gender and is basically the reason why I have been bullied. After this point things in that comment got a little crazy as due to poor grammar and I couldn’t really tell what she was getting at, though she did end up saying that people (or maybe only me, I couldn’t tell) should “stop whining stop defending urself” which was just disappointing. If you feel that defending yourself against sexism is the same as whining then you need to be shown the right path, the one you are on now is only going to hurt you.

This is an ideal that plagues commentary on almost every major issue, the mentality that if you haven’t personally experienced something then others probably haven’t either. Ignorance is bliss but this isn’t bliss, it’s shortsightedness and generally selfish. After reading through responses both on the article itself as well as on other platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) it was made apparent to me that many people, both men and women, see the issue of sexism in the gaming/nerd community this way. They don’t notice it, so it must not be common or happen at all. Just because you don’t care to open your eyes and see the issues facing women in the gaming/nerd community, which aren’t hard to spot, doesn’t mean that they don’t occur at all. For example, I’ve never experienced child hunger, no child I know personally goes without meals on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean that child hunger isn’t a global issue that affects children around the world every day.

These are the most common reasons for rebuttal to my article and thus they are the ones I chose to talk about. Overall, the comments and discussions on and about my original article really opened my eyes. Here I thought the issue of sexism and misogyny in the gaming/nerd community was common enough for every member of these communities to see and acknowledge, but I was mistaken. It seems as if the issue itself is underplayed to disgusting degrees. Maybe I felt differently because of my personal experiences, maybe I thought that since it happens to me so often that it must happen to other women equally as often and men would have had to see that at some point. My theory is that a lot of people choose to remain ignorant of this topic, as was made clear to me through comments and discussions. They may see it or even experience it themselves but they don’t really care, if it doesn’t happen to them at all or at least doesn’t happen to them often then they simply brush it off and think everyone else should do the same.

When talking about this subject matter I’ve been told to do just that, brush it off. Who cares if you are being bullied or harassed on a daily basis? Brush it off. Does it matter if someone on the internet calls you a poser or a faker? Brush it off. Why do you care so much about what other people think of you? Brush it off. I refuse to simply “brush it off” and I encourage others to do the same. By this I mean I will not simply choose to ignore what is happening because “it’s just the internet” or “that’s just how the community is”. There is never an excuse for bullying, in real life or online and when it affects me personally then no, I will not back down and let these bullies keep on doing what they are doing. I choose to write these articles and talk about these issues with the hope that maybe, just maybe, the word will get out. People who previously never thought about sexism among the gaming community might take a closer look, or those who never saw it before might see it and actually say something. Even if only one person takes something positive away from this article or the others that are related to it then I win. We all need to start standing up for ourselves, surrounding ourselves with positive friends in the community, and speaking up against bullying and sexism.

It’s not hard, so let’s change the world we live in today so that those in the future don’t have to deal with the unnecessary garbage that we did.

16 thoughts on “Fighting the Good Fight: Misogyny and Video Games

  1. Here we go again! “Here I though the issue of sexism and misogyny in the gaming/nerd community was common enough for every member of these communities to see and acknowledge, but I was mistaken.” <- typo on thought there :). Otherwise, great article!

    I think the kind of games you play affects how much you bump into these people. To be perfectly honest, I don't think the gaming community is at fault. I played games with women previously in the RTS genre. I have never seen women insulted for being women (I have seen plenty of times where people of both genders have been called noobs) while in this genre. Mind you, this is not the super mainstream Starcraft 2 (while an excellent game, I have seen what kind of effects publicity has on the community).

    Games like Call of Duty, Halo, League of Legends and World of Warcraft are played by people who I mostly wouldn't consider gamers (e.g. people who play a variety of games semi-regularly), but people who are fitting in with the cool crowd by playing the most popular games. These games are where I have experienced serious misogyny in the kind you describe. All these games have comparatively toxic communities compared to the games I play (Europa Universalis, Crusader Kings, Age of Mythology and Magicka).

    But really, I think the problems are deeper rooted than just the gaming community. Both radical feminism and radical misogyny from outside the community sometimes smashes through the walls the holier-than-thou society has built around the gaming community. Examples would be when the MOBA Smite was forced to censor their historically accurate renderings of Aphrodite, Greek Goddess of Love and Lust and Kali, Hindu Goddess of… something. Hinduism is complicated. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiPZFPYhmzs ). Examples of misogyny… well I'm sure you can acquire those easier than I can.

    Anyway, when playing FPS games, people are very adrenaline-and-testosterone filled which leads to a lot of aggression, which is then taken out on those most easily targeted. Those most easily targeted are those who are a minority. Who is a minority and takes the backlash? Those of the non-major religion, ethnicity or gender. And women are nearly always the minority gender.

    Overall, I agree with your post, with very few reservations (mostly because I spent too long writing this post so I can't remember it in its entirety).

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    • Typo(s) fixed, thanks for pointing it out! 🙂

      It seems as if you are assuming that the gaming community only consists of people we play online with. There are various gaming message boards and forums across the web that are at fault here as well. As I have previously stated, I myself have experienced a lot of sexism directed at me personally at the hands of the gaming community and I don’t play games online a whole lot. When I do play games like Gears of War, Halo, Left 4 Dead or Battlefield I don’t use a microphone and I don’t communicate with anyone who isn’t a friend of mine. So while that specific crowd that you are referring to is responsible for a good chunk of misogyny, they are not the only source of it. I have been treated way worse online via message boards and forums.

      It happens everywhere, and it’s very obvious to me that this fact is mostly unknown to the majority of folks out there. Again, when people don’t see it they don’t think it is happening but you must remember that there are various ways in which this takes place, not just in games themselves. There are also private messaging systems which is where most of the harassment I have received has come from. Sure, I get verbal insults or written ones on the web, but it’s when people PM, e-mail or privately contact me in another way that I get the most hate. They want to do it where people can’t see it, where people wont be able to call them out. It’s the virtual equivalent of corning your victim, putting them up against the wall with no support. This is when it is worst, and honestly that isn’t something I tell people about and a lot of places don’t monitor that type of communication, so it’s a dangerous place to be.

      Anyway, glad you liked the post! I know you commented a few times on the original one, so it’s nice to see you back again 🙂

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      • I hadn’t thought of forums as a thing. Huh. Everyone sometimes gets picked on in private messaging and it’s a disgusting practice by people who dare not face the consequences of their actions (I have personally been targeted several times for my age, opinions and nationality).

        Also, when you receive PM:s of that sort, perhaps posting them in a thread with a response to them might be useful? I imagine the moderators would crack down on it pretty quickly, unless they’re part of the problem (that has happened more than once), in which case it isn’t a very good community at all. I’m also fairly certain that if the community got word that someone was actively being offensive to someone without a proper reason, they wouldn’t let them get away with it.

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      • Sometimes people care when you post a screenshot or whatever, but most people are too self centered to be bothered. Also, there are a scary amount of people out there who think that people need to “suck it up” when it comes to bullying so they just tell you to stop whining and move on. In relation to this post, the sad part is that all it takes is one bad occurrence to deter a female from that community. I mean, imagine that you go to a message board for the first time and want to talk about games, but instantly every sees that you’re username is “Alyssa123” and all of the sudden you are harassed in one way or another. You’d probably never want to go back and if you are a new you might not look for help.

        It’s a big issue for everyone of every gender of course, but online bullying is just getting worse while people sit idly by and think “I’m glad it’s not happening to me” or “what a bunch of bitches, get over it”.

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  2. Pingback: “Fake” Gamer/Nerd Girls and Why Geek Girl Shaming Needs To Stop | linksaveszelda.com

  3. I know, this post is mostly aimed towards video games, but after the events that transpired with the USCB shooting, the hashtag on Twitter (#yesallwoman), the counterhashtag by…someone (a guy most likely, how it spread I have no clue), and the really awful responses, I fear it’s still a long ways away before misogyny can ever go away. And it’s 2014!

    Pertaining to video games, it’s just a case of people being unable to grow up, share the space with a newcomer (after all, games supposedly weren’t for girls. I grew up being told this by media, my parents, and my sister didn’t even care for games), and have some fun. How can we grow up? That’s difficult to say, even I admit that. But it starts by acting your age, and being respectful.

    Don’t know if you caught this or have the time to watch it, but here’s a paneldone by Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek and Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn I had seen a while ago about what we can do to foster a safer gaming space, among other things.

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    • Thanks for the response!

      I found the #yesallwomen hashtag to be truly inspiring as I know it reassured me that the crap that happens to me daily isn’t just happening to me but it also seemed to open a lot of people’s eyes. I’ve become a part of a few different feminism and equality organizations that help to spread the word about these types of things. I really enjoy it but at the same time it does show me that we still have a long way to go.

      As far as video games go, I’d say it’s less about people growing up and more about people needing to become more compassionate towards others. I think it’s a huge issue in our culture, a lack of compassion, and it’s not just hurting women. People just aren’t nice anymore, they only think of themselves and in the gaming community it leads to the attack of outsiders (which in most cases are women).

      There is honestly a lot that needs to change, but that would be a good start.

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  4. Pingback: Link Dead Radio: Mega Overload Edition | Healing the masses

  5. I do believe that the biggest problem is that almost everyone assumes that whatever games they play online are the rule and no maybe the exception or that most games almost everyone plays most online games in a closed enviroment and because what they don’t see it hapening, it does not exist, hence lots of people saying it’s not a big problem.

    I played wow for about 4 years, and to be honest I didn’t even knew how many womem there were in my guild, I do know that on the raid group I was leader, there were 3 at one time (and the only reason I ever knew was because voice chat was required) and usually only one, and excepting one sandwich joke from someone that got booted later the same night I never noticed any overt hostility/diferent behavior anyone.

    One thing I have noticed is that the most disparaging comments about womem I ever heard came from other womem, mostly older womem, aged from 55 upwards. so to me, the biggest problem is not from men but from what education they are given, and lets be honest here, that education usually comes from their mothers and will not go away in the foreseable future unless womem change it.

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    • Placing all the blame/responsibility on women wont help the issue. It’s a 50/50 thing. Other women do perpetrate misogyny at times but men do too, and it’s not only because they are following in their mothers footsteps. We can’t blame either group solely because not only is that not fair due to the fact that it’s not true, but it’s an inaccurate way to fix the problem.

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  6. I agree with all the things you have said. And just because I haven’t seen sexism doesn’t mean it’s not out there. I’m one of the people who are lucky enough to have not experienced it.

    That is however, I don’t really have anything where I can communicate with other people on the internet. No computer. If I did however, the likelihood of me getting harassed because of what I like would skyrocket.

    It also helps that I have Friends that I’m with constantly that like the same stuff I do (Doctor Who, Pokemon etc) that help eliminate the problem even further.

    I just hope that we as Nerds and Game Freaks (Gamers, whatever.) can abolish sexism in our communities.

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    • I’m glad you aren’t one of the “It hasn’t happened to me so it must not happen at all” folks, I’ve seen way too many of those and it’s never a good thing haha. It does totally help to have buddies who are into the same stuff as you. That really helped me when I was going through some online gaming harassment. I had a few buddies who I’d always be in a party with while playing online games and in a way we all protected each other from these rude types of people. If someone harassed me they were always there to comfort me and help me feel better, also step in if it was a huge issue (very rare), and I was there for them in return. It’s just nice to have common interests with people who are kind and friendly, in general.

      I too hope we can abolish sexism, I also hope that we can abolish bullying as a whole. Gamers/nerds/geeks really just need to stop with all the infighting and be friends with/respect one another. I’m sure that stuff only happens in a perfect world but I can dream, right? 🙂

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  7. This article and the former article are both excellent. It is very sad to hear about this kind of thing going on. I have never really seen it happen myself because I like to play solo games mostly. Every once in awhile I play online but I truly dislike how aggressive people get. Over a game. I did the same when I was growing up but there is no excuse as an adult. I digress. To me it is baffling that people who claim to be nerds and “know everything” about games, comics, TV shows, etc. would be so quick to dismiss a girl just because she shows interest in something they like. I am happy to encounter a girl who plays games, let alone a really pretty one! And I would be that stupid boy who drools over her because she friggin’ plays video games! I see this kind of attitude everywhere though, not just gaming. For some reason people get really defensive over things they like and NO ONE ELSE CAN LIKE THEM, RAWR! I can be judgemental myself. I find when I step off of that high horse and actually talk to someone, that person is excited someone else enjoys that thing just as much. So why can’t a pretty girl be a gamer? Why does a girl have to fit any stereotype to be one? There are probably far more hardcore female gamers out there than myself. As a guy I’m a pretty casual gamer these days but I have my days (my most recent being an 18 hour sitting of OoT). And there are probably lots of females that know more about certain games and have actually played and finished every one of my favorite game series, Zelda being one of them. I wish I could help open people’s eyes as to why they should be kind and not immediately jump down someone’s throat but I don’t see that happening. I hope your article reaches more and more guys, because, just maybe, they will sit there and think, “man I’m a huge douche!,” and perhaps interact better with female gamers/nerds/geeks/whatever-they-call-themselves. On a final note, any guy who doesn’t want to come home to a lady who is willing to play video games with him after any day…you’re a moron.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my articles! You make some great points in your response and I really appreciate that you took the time to respond at all.

      You’re right, this does happen everywhere, not just in games. It’s like people want to be the only fans of something and they get all aggressive anytime another fan shows up. It’s such silly behavior since really we should all be fans together, not separately.

      I too hope these articles reach more people and that maybe those people will think differently about their actions and the way they treat people. I’m so happy that many folks like you have read these articles and found them to be worthwhile, it means so much to me to have allies in this uphill struggle for tolerance! Thank you again for your reply, it makes me smile to see someone being helpful and positive! 😀

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