Today’s column is a polemical one, so I would like to ask readers to be particularly polite and understanding. The comment section is usually one full of very heated debate, but the topic discussed here is a touchy one which carries a big emotional load for many people. Please be respectful and understanding.
People who know me personally know how much I hate gender stereotypes in general. Any time a person is treated in a different way than they would normally just because of their sex, I feel my blood boil inside my veins. And unfortunately, despite wishful thinking to the contrary, sexism in gaming is far from dead. As most of us know, the video game world is one ripe with gender discrimination. I think it’s about time we do away with them.
As the comic in the header shows, the usual victims of this kind of sexism tend to be women. There is this misconception that video games are a traditionally male thing, so whenever a woman is seen playing them, reactions tend to be extreme. They either are idealized or denigrated depending on the agenda of the particular individual. Make no mistake, though; regardless of whether they are being worshipped or insulted, the fact that they are treated any differently from other players is offensive in and of itself. This is particularly true because of the fact that, even if video games were originally played more by men than women (and this should be researched before making any definitive claim), that is not the case anymore.
In Henry Jenkins’ 2008 article “Video Game Myths Revisited” (that I translated into Spanish , in case it would be easier for you to read it that way), he discloses some of the most important data gained by the Pew research group about who plays video games and how. The results should lead us to completely rethink our assumptions about the difference among genders in the video game field, even if there still are a little more male players than female:
“99% of boys and 94% of girls report playing video games. Younger teen boys are the most likely to play games, followed by younger girls and older boys. Older girls are the least ‘enthusiastic’ players of video games, though more than half of them play. Some 65% of daily gamers are male; 35% are female. Girls play an average of 6 different game genres; boys average 8 different types.”
Other more recent data shows that up to 49% of gamers are female, and Nintendo's internal data tracking shows that nearly half of their players are female as well. The Entertainment Software Association's own surveys found that female gamers made up 45% of the entire market in 2013, up from 38% in 2006. 47% of gamers in 2012 were female. The same survey shows that women over 18 years old make up 31% of all gamers, over most companies' target demographic of boys ages 17 and under who only made up 19% of gamers in 2013.
How female gamers could still be contemplated as some kind of mythical creature is beyond me, given these figures and the fact that casual games were originally created for women. It’s not even as if we couldn’t find such people on the real world: there are multiple youtube channels created by female players (who, sadly, get harassed by hyper-hormoned creeps), such as that of Olga Kay, and we can find hundreds, if not thousands of them at gaming conventions. Get over it: there are almost as many “gamer girls” as there are gamer boys. For some reason, female bashers seem to feel threatened by women increasingly getting into a field they wrongly consider as male-only.
There are, of course, those who say that female gamers are in it just to gain attention, and frequently bash every geek girl they can find because of them being fake. This is not only offensive to these people, it’s also absolutely pointless. First of all, most of the female gamers you will find out there do not play them for the attention. They are humans, you know, and video games were designed for humans, not solely for men. Women have the actual capability of enjoying it. Deal with it. Secondly, even if there are a few ones who actually are in it just for the attention, what do you even care? Does that get in the way of your gaming? Does that make you enjoy your games less? If it does, then you are the problem, not them.
Finally, there’s also another very, very touchy subject related to what I just said: that of cosplay. Whenever you find an amazing cosplayer, you can also find dozens of comments saying that she’s an attention seeker, or that she’s looking for any excuse to look hot in a costume. The argument these people tend to use is “if she’s not doing it for the attention, why would she cosplay that way?” Well, that question has a very simple answer: it’s none of your business. Everyone cosplays for different reasons. Some like to act out their character, much like actors and actresses do. Some enjoy the creative process of sewing and putting together the costume, and getting to wear it is their reward. Some of them even do it for the attention, but, then what? Is that a problem for you? Everyone is entitled to do whatever they want to for whatever reasons they do it for, so please, please stop harassing people who have done nothing to you.
But I said I was going to denounce gender gaming stereotypes, not only those that apply to women. Men are also and increasingly being bashed, mostly because of the actions of those people who actually are troublesome.
The most frequent claim is that most men are harassers in one way or another—just look at the Cyanide and Happiness comic at the top of this article, which claims that 50% of them are naggers while the other 50% are hyper-hormoned gaming girl worshippers, thus leaving no room for a single normal man. I do realize that the comic pursues a humoristic goal and does not claim its authors are being sexist about it; I just want to point out that, for many people, those statistics are unquestionably true, as we can see from the fact that this idea is being repeated all over the media time and again . And some of them have decided to take action against the male gender.
I’m not even being scandalous about it. One of Quake’s female-only clans (which has since moved to other online games) is very aptly named “Psycho Men Slayers”—if that is not male bashing at its finest, then I don’t know what is. Other feminist groups, such as Ladies of the Round Table, recognize that there is a lot of male bashing in the gaming culture, and instead seek to find true equality by helping women who do feel that they are being treated unfairly.
"I do not support hardcore feminism. However I do feel there are some misguided perceptions of how females within the gaming community are perceived. LORT will not be a male bashing platform for those who feel things are not yet equal. We will be the voice of a community united in inspiring, empowering, and guiding those who need it to realize they are just as important and valued as anyone else standing next to them." — Carmen, Ladies of the Round Table
To be fair, it is true that female gamers get harassed much more often than do male gamers, and they are almost the sole recipient of harassment based on their gender. What is unfair, however, is the general stereotype that every male gamer is a potential harasser, that they are unable to function properly in a game if there is a woman present. That is simply not true. Most harassers are just hyper-hormoned teenagers, the same who love to draw dicks in every single game that allows them to do so; however, they are so vocal about it that it is far more likely to notice them being disturbing than to notice the millions of actual decent players who don’t make any trouble. It is heart-warming, however, that some of these misogynistic teenagers grow up to acknowledge their mistakes. Of course, there are also adult male gamers who trouble female gamers, but here we enter in a field of repressed sexual desire and mental disorders (for I’m pretty sure no healthy adult would ever harass other people in online games, not sexually nor in any other way) that, while frightening, is not common enough to be concerned—or so I’d like to think. Unluckily, the sexual harassment of women in online games is not a topic that has been properly researched, so I’ll be looking forward to reading more articles on the subject.
To sum it up, I’m not refuting the fact that females suffer from much more harassment than do men, nor am I trying to invalidate their suffering. I do think proper action should be taken in order to make sure such conflicts happen less and less often. What bothers me is the widespread assumption that all men should be held responsible for the actions of a few.
There is also a field where men seem to get the worst of it, although it is quite justifiable: that of divorce. While being overly obsessive with anything (video games included) are very solid grounds to separate yourself from a partner, it is still surprising to see how many wives use them as grounds to get a divorce. Some sources affirm that video game addiction is to blame for 15% of all divorces (here are a few examples: 1 2 3), while others argue that this argument is being used as nothing else than an excuse.
In conclusion: women are being discriminated upon because of their entrance in a field that has been considered to be traditionally male (even though statistics show us this is not the case anymore), which has led harassers to either label them as attention seekers or worship them solely based on their gender, while men are suffering the effects of generalization due to how vocal harassers are. If you ask me, women are getting the worst of it—which should not lead us to the extreme positions held by people such as Psycho Men Slayers of actively and aggressively opposing males, but to that of empowering and understanding held by the Ladies of the Round Table. You can’t kill fire with fire, after all; all you will be doing will be to spread the flames even further, thus enhancing and aggravating already existing stereotypes.
What have been your experiences in this matter? Have you been harassed or discriminated because of your gender in an online game? Do you know anyone who has? Please share your experience in the comment section, and remember to be respectful about it!