So Many Reasons Why
The last twenty- hours have been a fascinating look at the world of gaming through the eyes of women who make games, write about games, and just play games. On Twitter, the hashtag #1reasonwhy started a frenzy of women within the gaming sphere posting reasons why things need to change in the industry for women. Some of the reasons were downright appalling, and some of the examples of pure backward thinking misogyny and sexism were surprising even to me, a woman who has been around the gaming industry for years.
Women shared their negative experiences ranging from male co-workers casually joking about their breasts to threats of rape from those who were just staunchly opposed to women joining their exclusive male club. Men also chimed in on the issue, with many coming to the defense and championing the skills of the women they’ve worked with and known in gaming.
As I read these #1reasonwhy tweets, my heart sank lower and lower. As a woman who not only loves games, writes about games, and would love to help make games somewhere down the line, I was disgusted by some of the tweets that I saw. You can read them at the link. I won’t post them here because some of them are just awful. For a moment it seemed as if the game world consisted solely of angry, spiteful misogynists looking to stone, tar, and feather any female who dared to want to have anything to do with games. It’s as if we had stumbled into some secret society made exclusively for males, and our enjoyment of games was ruining all their super special fun.
I thought about my own experiences as a woman who enjoys gaming. I often attend conventions and talk to developers and public relations representatives. I game online in MMOs and multiplayer matches with strangers, a notion that has some women terrified of doing so based on the arsenal of uncomfortable and abusive comments people seem to throw their way the moment they hear a woman’s voice on a headset. On the whole, after taking stock of my experiences I would say that my negative experiences have been mild compared to some. There has been the occasional ignorant comment, the sometimes cringe-worthy rape joke, or the rare assertion that I must be terrible at a game because I’m a girl. On the whole, though I’ve gotten off pretty easy compared to some of the women sharing their experiences on Twitter. And truthfully, the fact that I consider jerky comments about my gender “getting off easy” is what really troubles me. That shouldn’t happen at all.
Just when I thought my stomach couldn’t turn anymore, just when I felt like there was nothing I could really say to make any of this better, the hashtag #1reasontobe happened. #1reasontobe was filled with women and men extolling the virtues of the gaming industry, singing the praises of those they’d worked with, both male and female, who have helped to make the industry an amazing place. It reminded me that there are a lot of fantastic people out there, and that the majority of individuals are really not bad at all. It reinforced my previous notion that there really is just one small, loud, venomous section of idiots who like to like to feel big by hurting people. This is easy to forget sometimes, which is why #1reasonwhy and #1reasontobe are so important right now. Out of the mess of icky, skin crawling comments came the kind of positivity and support that is often rarely found on the internet.
Some of that support came with the Twitter hashtag #1reasonmentors. Well known female game developers (and several men), as well as newcomers and less experienced ones rushed to the flock of people willing to mentor and aid women who wanted to break into the game industry, but who might not know how or might feel too intimidated to do so. The outpouring of cooperation and support has been overwhelming to someone like me, who still needs a reminder now and then that there are amazing people out there.
For the most part, I would like to believe that not everyone who says something stupidly sexist that rubs a woman the wrong way is a bad person. Most simply just aren’t aware that their words can be hurtful. Of course there are those who know perfectly well that their comments are abusive and degrading and condescending, and in the end those people may never change. Few tiny minded, hateful, sad individuals do. Our job is not to change their minds. Our job, everyone’s job, is to call them out to provide examples of what not to do.
I know that some have said “you’re making it worse by drawing attention to it.” Men who cannot empathize, and women who understandably just want the whole issue to go away sometimes balk at movements such as this. Labels like “feminazi” and other words get tossed around, twisting feminism into some sort of angry, man-hating idea that it is not. That’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s like a person with one piece of bread asking a person with three pieces of bread for one, and then the person with three pieces of bread flying off the handle and accusing person one of wanting more bread than he or she has even though in the end both of them would simply have two pieces of bread.
The day that every single woman in gaming, whether she’s a coder or a player feels like she is treated fairly and with respect is the day that we can stop drawing attention to this issue. Until then, it’s important to note these incidents, force those responsible for them to be accountable, and provide the support that women need in order to do so. I know I will.
I prefer to sit on the positive side of the fence on this issue. I prefer to focus on the overwhelming support that has come out of #1reasontobe, #1reasonwhy, and 1reasonmentors. This is something that obviously warrants the attention that it’s getting, and I for one am happy to be a part of it.