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I Suck at Gaming… Because I’m a Woman?

/ Jul 20th, 2012 8 Comments

Dawww!

Apparently I suck at gaming… or so I’ve been told.  Yes, it seems that the secret is out.  I never thought I was going to win any tournaments, no, but that I “suck?”  Well, that seems a bit extreme.  So why is it?  Is it because my thumbs aren’t lightning quick?  Perhaps I lag too much?  Maybe my tv is too small or too big?  No?  None of those things?  Then why?

Because I have a vagina.  The cat is out of the bag!  This explains everything!  I’ve also wondered why I’ve had a leg up on sandwich making and cleaning house!  At least according to Adam C over at Airborne Gamer, women SUCK at video games.  There’s no getting around it.  It’s the curse of womanhood at its finest.  The article goes into detail about why my gender is so horrible at gaming compared to the almighty man who is surely born with a gamepad clenched in his tiny little fist, but you may not have the time as, if you’re a woman, you’re “focused on shopping, gossiping and talking on the phone for long hours,” (or playing the sandwich making simulator he so kindly included a link to).

Though at the end of his post, Adam is sure to include something of a disclaimer, an attempt to shield himself from the coming criticism (“Oh, come on guys, I was just KIDDING!”), this screams his sentiments regardless.  However, I’m not here to counter-rage.  I’m here to evaluate.  Let us reason together.  Let us try to answer the almighty, “Why?”

What is it that facilitates this mindset?  Adam C is certainly not along in his convictions; reading a few of the comments assures us that.  How does this continue to grow, to flourish?

Dawww!

Dawww!  Oppression can be so cute!

What may have been an attempt at humor in effect emerged into being as the end product of the conditions not only in our beloved gaming industry, but in society overall.  As far as we’ve come, it is still present, rooted in our lives from the very start.  It is there in manifestations as innocent as happy meals when little boys are awarded transformers and girls get a doll to care for; when boys are encouraged to be police officers, firefighters and lawyers and girls are told to get in the kitchen.

Gaming has not been immune to these pressures.  Societal norms are reflected in industries, tech included (don’t get me started on the “brogrammer“).  Historically there has been a discrepancy between the amount of women and men inside of the tech sector running all the way down to college recruitment where men are more likely to flock to degrees that turn into these types of jobs.

But like the question of the chicken or the egg, is it the lack of representation in the industry’s workforce that is facilitating games that encourage unrealistic views of women?  Or is it the games that are encouraging misrepresentation in the industry?

In 2008, the Entertainment Software Association released a study indicating that 40% of gamers are women, a minority but not overwhelmingly so.  Of course, this likely not only includes “hardcore”platforms, but casual ones as well.  Coincidentally, the gaming industry is a sausage fest with only 12% of the industry being females, according to the Game Developer’s Association.

Likely four out of ten people you meet on Xbox Live will not be female and even if they are, they likely won’t let you know.  The trend of mistreatment of women in games is not only encouraged by the games, but by gamers as well.  A female gamer can hardly put her mouth to a mic without enduring cat calls and other types of harassment.  CollegeHumor explained it best by turning the tables in “XBox Girls Get Revenge.”

But what is it that drives this?  And why is it so prevalent?  Once you accept that men and women are portrayed vastly differently in pop culture and video games, the next question can only be why.

Anita Sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian

Anita Sarkeesian is a self described feminist pop culture critic at FeministFrequency.com and creator of Tropes vs Women, a web series dedicated to examining representations of race, gender, sexuality, class and ability in pop culture.  Unfortunately, she could not be reached for comment by the time of this publication, but her recent run in with perpetuators of this state in gaming speaks volumes.

Sarkeesian recently created a Kickstarter for a new project called Tropes vs Women in Video Games which started with the goal of raising $6,000.  Instead, the project has raised $158,922 with just short of 7,000 backers, more than 25x the original amount.  But despite the fund raising success, the backlash against someone who might even have the nerve to voice an opinion about the state of sexism in the medium has been swift and harsh.  Largely the naysayers resort to ad hominem method:  personal attacks based on appearance or background made in an effort to discredit Sarkeesian and others with similar arguments.  And the harassment launched here is not an isolated incident.  Earlier this year, Jennifer Hepler had her name dragged from the mud after alleged comments she made some time ago.

If the dialogue were simply counter-arguments and logical disagreement there would not be as much of an issue.  However, what is taking place here is personal attacks, harassment and outright defamation.

Another writer for Airborne Gamer posted a response to Adam C titled, “Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks At Them.”  While the title only furthers animosity by stereotyping men, the content expresses that there are stereotypes on both sides and it takes everyone to get past them.  Just as not all women are like Princess Peach, not all men are like Duke Nukem.  It does have to be us vs them.  We can all just sit down and blow shit up and have a good time together.

Miranda L Visser

Miranda L Visser

Gaming since she dug an NES out of a dumpster down the street from her home as a child, Miranda L Visser contributes to Gaming Illustrated while working on her M.A. in Norway. She dearly misses steak and being able to walk down the street to buy cheap games.
Miranda L Visser
Miranda L Visser

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  • Alapama

    Good article and you are right, it does not have to be us vs them. I think sitting down and blowing “shit” up together is a fun and fine idea! I’m curious how many women gamers are over 50 years old like me? Did you see any info on the age demographics?

    • Miranda L Visser

      Glad you enjoyed! I, personally, haven’t seen much in the way of data that brings together both age and gender, but considering the average age of gamers is 30, I’m sure there’s quite a group over 50.

  • BenSisko

    Maybe when you look at as whole it might seem like that, but its not true everywhere. I have seen many gaming communities where women were able to enjoy the game to the same degree. One of the gaming communities I used to be part of many years ago was ran by a women and wasn’t mistreated. In MMO games many of the women there were among some of the top raiders. So I guess it really depends on where you look.

    I have seen some of what you described in any game with VOIP. You have to remember however that everyone is generally mistreated on voip or game chat if you play long enough. You start wining or losing then people start throwing out the verbal/written slurs.

  • BenSisko

    A continuation of my previous post. You should check out a youtube channel called PressHeartToContinue. http://www.youtube.com/user/PressHeartToContinue/

  • Eli

    Beh. For gaming, consoles are about the worst place to play especially if you want to do it in a group environment. My sister and I, play exclusively on the PC and while there are still jackasses. You don’t run into the same problems that you do on consoles. Probably because it doesn’t attract a particular person, and while there are particular types that play both. There are particular types that will only play one or the other as a hobby.

  • Slashman

    I was ready to take this article more seriously until I noticed that the author is looking for maturity and decent conduct toward women on XBox Live.

    Maybe it’s because I’m one of those snooty elite PC gamers, but of all the places in gaming I’d expect people to respect women…the young Xbox gaming crowd never makes my list.

    Maybe the author should try some decent PC gaming where she MIGHT find a slightly more mature audience.

    If you go online in a place that is mostly populated by immature teenagers(or people who never got over being teenagers), what exactly, are you expecting to find?

  • http://www.airbornegamer.com Adam

    > Once you accept that men and women are portrayed vastly differently in pop culture and video games, the next question can only be why.

    Because men and women ARE different. Games tend emphasize those differences which is why you see mostly testosterone fueled male characters and abnormally large breasted female characters.

    The industry is absolutely male dominated, not unlike the real world in general.

    There’s some modicum of Darwin’s natural selection at play in both reality and gaming environments that lend itself to a male focused experience.

    It’s not fair, that’s the truth… but it’s also real. We can’t simply pretend this isn’t a natural product of an environment (whether engineered or not).

  • jpansamerica

    This was 90% good. But since it took the childish route of calling the tech industry industry a sausage fest, I will still refer to female dominated jobs as a “cooking party”. Unless you actually wish to repent on that discrimination.

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