Sexism in video games is one of those topics that we’re not supposed to talk about. When you attempt to you’re met with anything from ignorance (“I don’t know what you’re talking about”), to acceptance (“Well it’s not a game’s job to not be sexist”), to threats of rape and whatever this is (“She needs a good dicking, good luck finding it though” – real comment from You Tube).
Some of this misogynistic abuse came to light when a video entitled Tropes versus Women was being funded on Kickstarter and fueled all of this. The woman who started the project, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency, describes it in greater detail at the bottom of the page:
“In addition to the torrent of misogyny and hate left on my YouTube video (see below) the intimidation effort has also included repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me (with porn), organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website. These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded. Thankfully, Kickstarter has been very supportive in helping me deal with the harassment on their service. All my backers have also been amazingly encouraging over on the project page too!”
While I don’t personally agree with all of the points made by Sarkeesian and whether you think that you agree with her points or the project’s funding, which is what some people claim was their problem with it, there’s no reason for the kind of behavior exhibited by these people.
No reason, except that this woman attacked video games and plans to ruin fun for everyone!
In 2013 with an increasingly non-white America with a slightly more progressive outlook (slightly less progressive than it should be) it’s strange to think of the number of times we see balanced characters that are women in leading roles in games. The lack of non-whites in lead roles—even in ensemble casts—is equally strange. When you look at the games and try to find roles where the women aren’t sexualized and the non-whites not stereotyped; this number declines even sharper.
Don’t think for a moment that I think this is just a problem with games. Books, movies and even television have similar issues. The difference is that with games when you discuss it you get things like this:
“I’ve never seen a female fire fighter in my life. And bitches like to bake cake, lick da dick, suck anus, and deepthroat balls.”
“This is fucking cringe-worthy. I’m all about equality, but this is idiocy. Games are, in general, marketed towards males, as most avoid gamers are, indeed, males. It makes complete sense that in this scenario female roles are over-sexualized, especially from a marketing perspective. Young teens going through puberty will jump all over that shit, and there’s nothing you do to stop them. Just when you think Kickstarter projects couldn’t get any more annoying, the hardcore feminists arrive.”
While the first comment is just random stupidity, the second one is full of misinformation and acceptance. The gaming industry has basically spent much of its entirety shunning women, so shunning them more makes this idea that women don’t play games seem like a self fulfilling prophecy when more women aren’t playing. Even though women do play games.
This idea that young teens are playing games and that’s it is stupid because much of the gamer market is in it’s late twenties and early thirties. In fact, one of the huge arguments people make against games being childish is the fact that the gaming market is older.
Even if you believed that the games were only going to adolescents and older teens—what makes it okay to indoctrinate them with more of the same unhealthy opinions of women?
When games like Bioshock: Infinite and Last of Us have issues being made because they feature women characters in roles that aren’t sexualized enough it’s clear that we have an issue. But when a developer is told that they can have a female protagonist kiss a male character because it will make the person playing her feel too strange and possibly make them think about something gay it becomes more than just the game industry; it’s cultural. We’re so deeply homophobic and unaccustomed to being put in the shoes of anyone unlike ourselves that acting out that character’s desires on screen is too much for people.
There’s this really common argument against activism (women’s activism, gay activism and racial activism mostly) that every activist is pushing for their own superiority and not equality. That’s certainly not true. Somehow these few people that do push for that sort of thing become considered the norm and the rest of us are grouped with them so that the discussion never really has to take place.
No discussion taking place equates out to meaning there will be no change. Whether the debate is about something less serious about the roles of women in media or things like victim blaming in the cases of rape or even something where it seems no one is willing to have rational discussion like gun control. As long as long as we deflect important topics by claiming that everyone on the other side of the debate is a lunatic we’re only hurting ourselves.