Monday, April 8, 2013

Reposts: Rock, Paper, Shotgun on Misogyny and Video Games

John Walker over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun -- an outlet I don't read but am constantly hearing good things about -- has written a great piece about combatting misogyny in video games. The website has taken a strong stance speaking out against sexism in games and the gaming industry, and in this latest piece Walker outlines why fighting these issues matters as well as his personal thoughts.

It's his last bit, though, that really struck a chord with me: at the end of the article he outlines a few typical responses in discussions of this subject, and then specifically identifies why they're wrong and unproductive. I'm going to share the section in full because it's a pretty awesome and succinct take-down of some of the most irritatingly obtuse contributions to serious discussions of gender and video games, and it would save the collective populace a lot of energy and grief if more people would take these things to heart. All of these concepts can also be extrapolated outside the video gaming context, and I appreciate any attempts to improve conversations broadly. It's a bit like the Ill Doctrine video that I mentioned last month about how to have serious conversations about race and racism. Anyway, without further ado, here are a few ways you shouldn't respond to discussions of gender and video games, and why not:

“Why are you writing about feminism on a GAMING site?”

This question, like so many objecting to any discussion of the lack of equality in the industry, betrays itself immediately. When a publisher issues financial results and we report on them, we don’t see, “Why are you writing about economics on a GAMING site?” When there’s discussion of the effects of violence on players, we don’t read, “Why are you writing about sociology on a GAMING site?” It’s only when the gaming-related subject is the portrayal or treatment of women do such people become enraged by any post that isn’t literally describing the content of a particular videogame.

And to answer the question: because it’s relevant, and it matters. 50% of gamers are women, and around 20% of “hardcore” gamers are women. While the majority of RPS’s readers are men, that’s not something we’re proud of. (Many gaming sites strive for this, as it performs well with advertisers. We would prefer breadth.) We write for a global audience, and we aim not to presume whom our reader might be. We know that matters affecting women affect our audience, whatever their sex, and we know they affect the games industry we cover. We believe in equality, and when we are aware of inequality in the industry upon which we report, it is relevant for us to cover, and we believe important to highlight.

“What happened to this site? You used to write about GAMES.”

This is obviously one of the more strange responses, yet certainly among the most prolific. At least 95% of the posts on RPS are directly about games themselves, as is obvious to anyone looking at it. Posts related to matters regarding women make up the tiniest percentage of our output, and it’s obviously nonsense to make the claim above.

“You’re just trying to be a white knight/get laid.”


This particular response is designed to undermine the writer, not only suggesting that caring about equality is something inherently driven by a desire for sex/validation, but that the very idea of caring at all is so unrealistic. Either the accuser cannot conceive of the notion of caring about another’s rights independently of one’s own gratification, or they are so fearful of the potential of equality that they’re driven to undermine those who argue for it. Either way, if you’re typing the words “white knight”, you’re revealing more about your own peculiar understanding of how humans interact than anything else.

“Why don’t you talk about men’s issues?”

First of all, the question presumes the peculiar notion that writing about women’s issues precludes our writing about men’s. That’s obviously ridiculous. And secondly, sadly the question is generally used dishonestly.

There are issues that affect men, and often men who are the target demographic of gaming. Suicide is an especially serious example, and it’s something RPS has covered, and expressed concern over. Our caring about equality in the games industry, and in the portrayal of women, does not exclude our caring about matters affecting men. Obviously.

However, the question is generally designed to derail. It’s often as relevant as asking, “Why don’t you talk about digital download re-sales?” at the end of an article about the troubles of pre-ordering. Sure, why don’t we? Good thing to talk about. Not really a pertinent question in this instance. And that’s the idea – by asking this broad, presumptive question, the aim is to distort the discussion from the matter at hand, which in turn further leaves the matter at hand undiscussed. By the time you’re having tiresome arguments about whether male characters being shown as successful and strong is harmful to men, you’re no longer discussing the fact that scantily clad women are being used to sell videogames. That’s the ultimate aim of the question.

“I know a girl who thinks X, so you are wrong.”

This angle is generally used to argue against anything that is said to misrepresent women, or to represent women in a bad way. This known girl, fictional or real, likes it, so why does anyone have a problem? The argument oddly presumes that a matter is only of concern if women are exclusively and unanimously against it. Men’s views are irrelevant, and indeed all other views are irrelevant, because there’s this one girl who thinks… This is about as useful an argument as someone’s claiming homoeopathy works, against all abundant evidence, because their mum’s knee felt better.

“People are exaggerating on both sides.”

This, and many variants on it, are all about pretending to want to bring “balance” to the argument, in order to prevent its taking place at all. It’s dishonest, based on unexplained, undefined notions of exaggeration, perhaps if pressed illustrated by a single example that likely only emphasises the faux-diffuser’s prejudice. As and when people exaggerate in any debate, it’s great to call people out on it. People called out the issues in a recent post I put on RPS about gender wage gaps, which one could describe as exaggeration. That’s a good thing to do. It, however, has no bearing on the facts that there are problems that need to be dealt with, and the line is usually employed when trying to ensure nothing is allowed to change.

“It’s just a bit of fun.”

When I undermine you in front of your boss, lie about you behind your back, and play cruel tricks on you, it’s just a bit of fun! Oh, wait, those things aren’t fun because they’re happening to you? Gosh, imagine if such a perspective were available when other things that other people don’t like are happening to them? But no, it’s just a bit of fun, then. They should just get over it.

- - -
'Reposts' are inspired by other articles or blog posts around the Internet. They are used here with accreditation as the basis for short bursts of Max's interests.

No comments:

Post a Comment