Mixed Reactions: Even Progress Comes With Sexist Dynamics

This week’s Context Clues went up today and it gave me quite a bit of food for thought. Although it (rightfully) focuses on both Modern Warfare 2 controversies from last week, there are a few articles about gender and sexism in games. The thing is, three out of the four posts were written by men. It’s problematic when men’s voices dominate a discussion of gender and sexism (unless the topic is specifically masculinity, but that was not the case here).

This isn’t the first time this has happened, either. Both of these “This Week In Video Game Blogging” posts discuss topics related to women and games yet link only to reactions by men to those topics. Critical Distance’s Grand Theft Auto IV Compilation references “genuinely-offended feminists” but the only linked posts that bring up the misogyny in the game are written by men. This Experience Points post makes two mistakes, first suggesting that social criticism of games is a new thing (when Shrub and Token Minorities have been around for years: since 2005 and 2006, respectively), and secondly linking to a post by a white man (ETA: correction, a non-POC Jewish man, see comments for clarification) as an example of writing about gender and race in games (no offense, Simon!).

And really, I didn’t find any of the posts about gender by men to be wrong or offensive or anything–most are actually pretty good. That’s not the point. The point here is the gaming blogosphere only seems to take notice of topics like gender when it’s men who are doing the writing. And that perpetuates sexist dynamics even as the people involved are denouncing sexism.

But that’s not quite what I was thinking about today as I read the posts linked in Context Clues. Dudes taking notice of sexism and saying “hey, this is bad, you guys!” isn’t a bad thing–it’s a sign of progress. Opinions vary on this, but personally, I would rather guys wrote about sexism than not, if only because the more voices speaking out, the better. But as the title says, progress doesn’t come without sexism of its own.

This is where my mixed reactions come in. When I read an article about sexism by a man (or a person of any gender, really) and he makes good points and seems to mostly get it, I’m happy. And yet, particularly now with this upswell of men talking about women and games, I’m also thinking “fucking finally,” and, “but why the hell didn’t they listen to me or people I know the million times we’ve said the same damn thing?”

This was the excerpt Erik chose to highlight from one of the posts, Self-destructive sexualism by Evan Stubbs:

Depressingly frequently we, as men, seem to want it all ways; we want women to be knowledgeable and “one of the guys”, but at the same time we claim to appreciate “a woman’s perspective” when it comes to games. We don’t want them to call attention to their femininity, as that would be manipulative marketing, but “we’d hit it” and we won’t watch, read, or listen if “she’s fugly”. We like hearing about the things they enjoyed, but we don’t want to hear about all that non-core crap like Peggle and The Sims. Somehow, we want our women to be nurturing and supportive of our interests, to be overtly sexy, and, as impossible as it is, to be pure and virginal.

This is a good point, but at the same time the idea that women are held to impossible standards and simply cannot win is also something that feminists have been saying for decades. Why is this being treated as an important, unique insight?

And this is not meant to be a dig at either Erik or Evan. Evan makes a lot of great points in his post–and he does link to posts by women–and I’m glad I found it through the Context Clues round-up. The problem is it’s nothing new, it’s stuff that women have been talking about for a long time. But now that it’s a guy saying it, people pay attention.

I said on Twitter, “I totally appreciate dudes writing about sexism in games, but it’s a bit frustrating to see old ideas treated like revelations, heh.” And though I didn’t have room to describe in a nuanced manner how I feel exactly and why, I still got some thoughtful comments from my friends. Ryan Gan and Justin Keverne both pointed out how being very knowledgeable on any subject and discussing that subject with newbs is frustrating. And while that is absolutely true–and is certainly part of my frustration sometimes, like when I’m explaining what male privilege is for the billionth time–it’s not the whole story. The other part of it has to do with what I’ve described above: continuing and changing sexist dynamics that exclude women’s voices even as we are making progress with bringing gender issues to wider attention. This problem is a lot more personal than most subjects because it affects me directly; when I talk about women’s voices being excluded, I am one of those women.

So what can be done to help minimize this sort of sexism? The biggest thing is to simply seek out writers from different perspectives. This goes for all social issues, not just gender but sexuality, race, disability, and so on. Reading and linking to writers of different perspectives will help diversify the gaming blogosphere. Also, if you’re writing about a social issue in games, search around and see if it has already been written about, particularly by someone who has personal experience with that issue. If it has been written about, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write about it, just that the previous writing should be acknowledged, and it can help to illuminate the issue further.

Another thing–and the Context Clues post helped me to realize this–is to focus on specific instances of sexism or specific games. Evan Stubb’s post uses some specific examples, but it’s a general “games and gamers: really quite sexist!” post. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it contributes to my frustration for reasons described above. It would be stronger and seem less like old ideas masquerading as new ones if it were focused around a specific incident or game. This post by Chris Dahlen, also linked in this week’s Context Clues, is a decent example of that, using Brutal Legend as the focus of a discussion about romance in games–he even links to two articles by female bloggers (disclaimer: one of them is mine! The other is by Emily Short).

We are making progress, and I’m really glad for that. But we still have a long way to go, and it’s imperative that we always expect more, or this progress we’ve made will stagnate, or even begin to roll backwards.


36 thoughts on “Mixed Reactions: Even Progress Comes With Sexist Dynamics

  1. It is infuriating that dudes give each other cookies for realizing things that everyone but them has understood forever.
    “Women might not like this!”
    “OMG, fellow straight white dude, you are right! They might NOT! YOU ARE A GENIUS!”

    We have fucking been telling you this. But you were too busy to listen.

    Even some of the articles are problematic, because again, they cut women/minorities out of the conversation, by phrasing their articles to fellow dudes. I mean, come on.

  2. Heyo Alex!

    I’ll definitely take the advice here to heart, and no offense taken! In fact, I also popped into the thread of EP post to say (paraphrasing): “Hey, here are the names of some academics who have been writing about this forever (including two females, one of whom has been writing about women and computer culture since the late 80s).” Oddly enough, that post of mine they linked is from the dark, shameful age of my blogging. It was actually just a journal entry for a feminist game history class, and the professor literally forced us to put it on the Internet. You can tell by the horrible formatting and lack of links, which I’m not good about updating as most people are (I still treat my blog very much like a static journal of sorts).

    I’m going to bracket this next bit in case it’s derailing. If it is, please just edit it out after you read it Alex!

    [The reason I don’t take offense is that I did in fact write about genders and races that were not my own, without any linking to minority sources, in that post–and I recognize now why that’s so untenable.

    That said, it’s a bit problematic to call ethnic Jews “white.” Whiteness, as you probably know, is relative. I heard an interview on NPR awhile ago by an Indian guy who was considered “white” in India (because he’s light-skinned), “black” in the UK, and “brown” in the US. If I’d lived in New York or New Jersey, where my parents are from, I probably would consider myself white. Unfortunately, I had to grow up in the Bible Belt. Where I live, I’m not a person of color, but I’m also not white. For instance, Jews have separate fraternities and sororities down here, much like people of color.

    This doesn’t get me off the hook for shoddy referencing in that post I wrote, and it’s not an attempt at an excuse: I didn’t recognize my privilege, and the Iris crowd showed me why that was wrong a few months after I wrote it. But I would prefer to be called a “Jewish man” to recognize the fact that I grew up and live in a place where I am very much not white. In fact, Jewish “boy” would be preferable!]

    • Okay. I definitely want to refer to you how you prefer to be identified. But I also don’t want to erase the fact that Jewish POCs exist, as it might if I replaced “white” with “Jewish” in the sentence above (meaning, it wouldn’t make sense unless Jewish POCs didn’t exist). I’ll absolutely keep this in mind for the future, but do you have a suggestion for this particular sentence? Or would it be okay to add a note about the issue being clarified in the comments?

      Also, thanks for explaining this: “If I’d lived in New York or New Jersey, where my parents are from, I probably would consider myself white. Unfortunately, I had to grow up in the Bible Belt. Where I live, I’m not a person of color, but I’m also not white.” Because I happen to live in New Jersey, I didn’t immediately see that side of it.

      • Yeah, Judaism is confusing because it’s both a religion and an ethnicity. Jewish POCs (if they are ethnically Jewish, meaning their mother was ethnically Jewish) might choose to identify primarily as Jewish or as a person of color. Many African American Jews, in Atlanta at least, are Black Hebrew Israelites (that is, they converted to a religion derived from our tribe, but they are not necessarily ethnic Jews). I bet, if you did a survey, most lighter-skinned Jews would identify as “Jew” while those of darker complexion would identify as a person of color. I’m sure this has been discussed somewhere on the Internet, if I could find it, but I think you might call me “Jewish” while calling an ethnic Jew who is also a person of color a “Jewish POC.”

        So as to get my comment out of derailment zone, I would like to share the reading list from my women and gaming history class for any males who might read your piece, get upset, and then decide to learn more (in book form, I mean):

        Birth of the Chess Queen, by Marilyn Yalom
        A Rape in Cyberspace, by Julian Dibbell
        Utopian Entrepreneur, by Brenda Laurel
        The Well-Played Game, by Bernie de Koven
        “Videogames of the Oppressed” in First Person, by Gonzalo Frasca
        Communities of Play, by Celia Pearce and Ludica (a feminist game academic collective)

  3. I love your blog, but it’s difficult to keep reading sometimes.

    As a transperson, the only thing I hate worse than overt sexism is this essentialist idea that only people of a certain sex can do certain things. The idea that only women should be heard without qualification when their voices point out injustices in the world makes exactly as much sense to me as the idea that only men should be allowed to have high-paying jobs outside the home. The lines are blurrier than that, and I think we all know it, but we only seem to see it as is convenient.

    I started reading your blog precisely because it *was* one of the first spaces I’d seen to seriously discuss feminist issues in gaming, and the world needs more resources and discussion on that topic. Gaming is a sphere dominated by male voices, and we all know progress doesn’t happen overnight. It’s easy to lament the fact that men haven’t been doing their homework for the past few forevers with regards to sexism, but I’m pretty sure the way to progress isn’t in shouting down the first few male gamers to actually pick up on this level of thought and attempt to publicize it.

    Shouting is good – shouting makes your voice heard. Shouting *down* people who are holding similar vigil as yourselves, stifling their voices in the minds of your allies, just because they were born the wrong sex on the outside? That’s doing nothing but hurting the movement.

    I can understand your bitterness, believe me – but, sadly, people who don’t educate themselves are everywhere, whether they’re prolific bloggers, naive young gamers, or running the country. Evidence of change, even if it’s lamentably late, should be encouraged.

    • Excuse me? Where in this post am I shouting or saying guys shouldn’t write about sexism? I actually say the OPPOSITE a few times.

      This is a calm and pensive post–where are you reading “bitterness”?

      If you’re familiar with feminist writings then you should know that it’s extremely inappropriate to use the tone argument. What’s more baffling about your comment is the tone argument isn’t even applicable to this post.

      Please elaborate on your criticisms. At this point I can’t tell whether you are a concern troll or not. The “you’re hurting the movement” line is a red flag.

  4. I came across this post through reddit and have a few mixed feelings. On One hand, I’ll completely agree with Seraph. As a straight-white-male that carries the vigil for feminism proudly, I find it disheartening to hear that I’m doing it wrong simply because I’m a man. One of the foundations of many of my social progress classes was that we need to find allies on the inside. Straight people to speak about gay issues, men to speak about women issues and women to speak about men issues.

    When I have discussions about male privilege, I often have to speak as if I’m approaching that subject there on the spot in order to create credibility with my audience (usually that of the straight-male persuasion). This isn’t an attempt to discredit the many great shoulders that my knowledge has derived from, but to use it effectively. The same can be said no matter which side we’re talking. When women spend the time to actually sit down and talk to other women about the issues of modern masculinity, it helps to come at it fresh with that audience, just like how we have to explain male privilege, or white privilege or straight privilege over and over again, even to those that don’t benefit from it.

    On the other hand, I also get that it is important to acknowledge those that came before us, especially when their voices are those of the minority. When women have been speaking out about sexism in games for so long, and then finally some guys come along and agree, it definitely sounds like only guys have the opinions that matter. But what really matters, is those guys couldn’t have gotten there without the women in the first place. So, as Simon already stated, we get to be clear about where we’re getting these ideas, and link to those minority sources as much as possible. There are times when I get to step back and silence myself so that minority can make its progression without my voice. Because ultimately, sometimes, my voice can do more damage than good. Instead of reiterating what others hae said, and make it my voice that moves the progression forward, I get to step back and point and say “Listen to what she’s saying”.

  5. Hello Alex! For what it’s worth, I read your post this morning and didn’t feel even a twinge of unwarranted defensiveness. It seems like you bent over backward to not criticize anyone directly or discourage males from writing about these issues. I think some people are hearing what they want to hear.

  6. @seraph and Derick

    I read this post as critiquing not the men who write about sexism in games, but about the people (primarily men) who only listen to other men when it comes to issues of gender and gaming. It’s about recognizing that the voices of women are being ignored, not criticizing the voices of men who are speaking up. Most women I know, myself included, have had the experience of seeing our ideas or suggestions ignored or dismissed, only to find them accepted and praised when they come from the mouth of a man. Simplified, the problem that I am seeing described here is not so much the dude who is saying the same thing as the woman, but that he is the only one heard.

    This post reminds me of that sad wank over at Brainy Gamer earlier this year, when Abbott wrote a post that was mildly critical of the imagery in RE5 and his fanboys were beside themselves with praise, lauding Brainy Gamer for being the “first” place to entertain a reasonable and mature discussion about racism in the game. Was there anything wrong with Abbott posting about the issue? Not at all. But all parties involved seemed to be operating in ignorance of the considerable amount of work and commentary already put forth by POC on the very same issue, and that was definitely a problem.

    • I can agree with your sentiment completely. My point was that this isn’t just about men not listening to women, it’s people on the inside not listening to those on the periphery. Having an ally on the inside talking and pointing at those in the periphery helps a lot, and we should be careful when criticizing that voice. At the same time, when we take on that voice, we need to be sure we’re pointing and asking people to listen to those on the periphery, not just listen to us about those on the periphery.

      I think your statement about men only listening to other men is true, but it can be applied across many groups. White people only listen to other white people about issues of color. Women often only listen to other women when it comes to issues about men.

      In other news, this is by far one of the best blogs I’ve browsed through regarding this subject. I don’t mean to criticize the subject, or the author. I felt that this was a place that I felt I could provide some input. As a feminist, a gamer, and male, this particular post was very poignant to me.

      • Another thing to think about is I’m not just talking about men talking to men about sexism. There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But the sites I link to–Critical Distance and VGHVI–are, like it or not, seen as relatively authoritative in the gaming blogosphere. CD’s link roundups are being crossposted on Gamasutra and Game Set Watch. And yet whenever the topic of sexism comes up the majority of posts linked are written by men. This is a problem, since women are the ones who actually experience sexism and therefore have intimate knowledge of it. Not only that but it paints a lopsided picture of the discussions of sexism that are actually happening.

  7. On some level it’s not even so directly about gender. It’s about surface-difference discrimination for a quality other people could have easily been born with. When companies make games that girls/women enjoy as much as men, I pay attention. I’m more likely to buy those games because I enjoy having friends who are interested in the same things I am. People are going to want everything they can get, I think… the hot, sexy, intelligent woman who can accomplish everything without losing singular focus in me for instance. But there’s quite a big difference between the individual want and the systematic effect of institutionalizing that want. And I for one could stand to see more progress toward a more respectful standard as well. There’s probably room for sexualized games to remain as a niche, but the mainstream has some needs it hasn’t met yet for sure.

    I think it’s coming though. I think there are more eyes on the female market segment than ever and I think that’s a positive thing.

    Nice post.

  8. First, what Olliemoon said. People misread, and they get angry, and then the weirdly misinterpret you and even the people in your comments.

    It’s an issue that becomes really unpleasant to examine when you see the host of people who have never once appeared in a blog roundup on any of the Brainy/GSW/Similar site roundups. I can think of a dozen just sitting here, both active and inactive (but who have been around for ages). And I *know* my knowledge is incomplete, and even if those people know the same thing, the way they write certainly doesn’t hint at such knowledge.

    [Oh, and Simon, your hat/hoodie combo is funny. I’m scared of hats myself.]

    • I wore a red hat every day of my life for twelve years, after I played Earthbound. My favorite director, Kim Ki Duk, always wears a blue hat (though I don’t know why). I only stopped recently, because baseball caps just don’t make sense in graduate school.

  9. Hi Alex. I teach at one of only two remaining all-male colleges in the US. Part of our mission is to explore gender issues, particularly as they relate to men and masculinity in our society. Despite the gnarly downsides of teaching at a single-sex school, one of the positives is that our situation forces us to examine the stuff, good and bad, that rises naturally out of our uncommon circumstances.

    We occasionally take our students to academic conferences, and we’ve discovered that when they deliver gender-related presentations they usually find themselves in a room full of women, and they immediately feel self-conscious. There’s a part of this discomfort that I find appealing, frankly, because it turns the tables on them in ways they can learn from. But I sympathize with them to a degree too because it’s scary delivering a paper on a second-wave feminist playwright to a group of scholars, many of whom have played active roles in that movement for all of their adult lives. What can a 20-year old male college student possible contribute in this environment? Heck, what can I offer?

    Invariably, what they discover in these situations is an audience receptive to their ideas and eager to help them learn. The fact that they’re willing to make an earnest effort goes a long way, and they often make connections to people and scholarship they would otherwise never have made.

    Don’t get me wrong. Wabash is not a bastion of enlightenment. We struggle with all the usual stuff, and I personally still haven’t figured out how teach dramatic literature without women in the room. I hate this place sometimes; other times I think it’s our only hope of reaching these guys. But I’m encouraged by what can happen when people approach complex situations with the best intentions, open to learning. As you say, we must continue to expect more.

  10. @Alex: Thanks for the constructive criticism! Your point about specifics is an excellent one; what actually got me writing was the recent attention being paid to a female gaming host on TV here in Australia. Time permitting I’ve more to write on the subject, very much along the lines of what you’re suggesting – it’s been a busy week. 🙂

    One thing I really do want to explain though is that I don’t see anything I wrote as being a revelation in any particular sense; it’s something that was in the forefront of my mind, and it’s something that’s increasingly concerning me (probably, as unfair as it may be, because it has the chance of directly affecting me through my daughter). It’s true that it’s been said for decades, and it’s also true that smarter people than I have made far more insightful commentary and analysis. Maybe the link was because I’m a man. I hope not, although I can recognise that it’s distinctly possible.

    I’d rather believe that it’s a combination of an increasing general focus on gender issues in the industry and the novelty factor, in that someone else is saying it as well. And, I hope that that’s a good thing, even if I’m unknowingly repeating what others have already said in a specific space. It’s been a while since I studied gender issues, but I hope that that doesn’t detract from good intentions! 🙂

    • Thanks for reading, Evan. I hope you don’t feel picked on! I focused a bit on your post but the actual problem is the pattern of exclusion that the most recent Context Clues is part of, not any one post specifically.

      I look forward to reading more from you!

      • Not at all! I’m actually very happy that you did comment – it’s given me a kick to finish the next one. 🙂

    • I hope you don’t think I linked your post because you’re a man! Really, my three main criteria are 1) that the post was published during the past week, 2) that the post says something intelligent, and 3) that the thoughts or opinions of the post are at least vaguely novel.

      Honestly, what you said wasn’t new to me, and I wasn’t going to link to it. If it were new to me, I would probably quit writing Context Clues and feel obligated to fall on my own sword. I’m very sorry that I gave anyone the impression that this sort of issue or discussion was more than the most recent chapter in a long, often-depressing story.

      I was, however, still pretty angry about the MW2 video when I wrote, so I did more linking and discussion that I would normally let myself do. You’re also a new addition to my RSS feeds, and I’m always more eager to link fresh blogs.

      • Yeah, I mean, no one is going around consciously excluding people because they’re a woman or whatever (though if they are let me know, I’d be glad to go punch them in the face =D). These things happen on such a subtle level that we don’t necessarily notice them until they are pointed out (and sometimes not even then… grrr), which is what makes it so hard to work against.

  11. Before I say anything else, I want to convey that I’m honored that anyone’s reading and responding to my work at all, let alone that it’s getting linked to and discussed in such smart and respectable company as this.

    I know it’s been discussed before, but I want to thank you for bringing this up, Alex. I’m constantly worried that I’m missing something important because I didn’t catch a buried point or, more worryingly, because I’m not subscribed to some genius RSS feed out there. When I started, I only followed a handful of writers (mostly a veritable gallery of privilege), but my twin goals were and remain that Context Clues should point out and encourage the smart writing that’s on the internet each week and to spread that work to more readers. That said, I’m always excited by new blogs and RSS feeds to follow. If anyone thinks I’m missing something, I’d love to hear about it!

    On the other hand, there’s so much to read each week I necessarily have to maintain a tight focus on the week. This often means I can’t really spend the time to dig into discussions and point out that someone else said something really great about the same subject a year earlier. I would love to see comprehensive posts elsewhere–encyclopedic articles linking to all sorts of great posts and discussions on individual topic, such as an individual game, or such as how games approach or fail to approach race issues. My hope was that Critical Distance would become a home for such articles, and I’ve seen noble (if sometimes flawed) attempts at that kind of post there, but I also understand that that sort of post is an awful lot of work for one person.

    I don’t blame those who are frustrated with the slow pace of improvement; it’s perfectly understandable to be frustrated. I’m going to do my best to keep trying to improve and encourage the state of games discussion, and I’d really love any help anyone can offer.

  12. Pingback: A linkspam stole my baby! (November 6th, 2009) | Geek Feminism Blog

  13. I think you’re being quite unfair.

    Surely more than three-quarters of the people who write regularly and seriously about games are men. (By “seriously”, I mean with a willingness to discuss serious issues.) My educated guess would be that it’s more like 85-90% male. Assuming that’s roughly true, if three out of the four articles on gender and sexism in games that were featured in Context Clues are written by men, then women are being over-represented, not excluded.

    The number of total posts about gender and sexism written by males and females is harder to estimate. Since women are more likely to feel excluded by game culture (not to mention wider society), it seems fair to expect women to devote more of their writing, on average, to sexism and gender issues. That would tend to skew the number of total posts on these topics towards females.

    However, a writer’s topical focus – whether it’s sexism and gender, politics, art design, programming, or anything else – defines their audience. Blogs that write about games limit their audience to people interested in games, obviously. By focusing on sexism, racism and related issues, blogs like Shrub and Token Minorities further limit their regular audience to those who are interested in games and sexism, racism and related issues. So potentially a large proportion of the articles on sexism and gender written by a female are obscure precisely because they come from writers who focus on those issues, which has little to do with privilege.

    This is the crux of my problem with your post. You attribute the fact that game blogs focus on opinions from white males to privilege, ignoring that most game writers are males. You take the fact that dedicated feminist writers are overlooked as further evidence of subtle prejudice, when in fact these writers are overlooked precisely because they are special-interest writers.

    I don’t mean that sexism and gender are less popular topics of interest than games. I have no idea which is more popular, and it doesn’t matter. It would work the same way if the issues were reversed:

    If a blog dedicated to feminism was to link out to a collection of articles on video games, I would wholly expect them to link to the thoughts of another dedicated feminist writer, not a games writer. Or if a cat breeding blogger was to link to some blog posts they had read about council pet laws, I would expect them to link to another cat breeding blogger, not a blogger who mostly wrote about council laws relating to cats.

    Remember, we’re talking about casual links, not researched articles. Erik Hanson was not writing a summary of “The State of Discussion About Sexism in Games”, in which case he would have been obliged to do some digging. He was passing on a few things he had read that week. Of course most of them were written by general gaming writers, not by experts in the specialised topics of discussion; those are the people who write about things he reads. He also linked to an article about swordplay that wasn’t written by a medieval combat enthusiast, but nobody called him out for that. And of course most of those people will be males, because most general gaming writers are males. That’s not proof of the existence of privilege as a force for the exclusion of female voices, because it reflects the demographics of the hobby: most of the people who play a lot of games and think about games seriously are currently males.

    People aren’t paying attention because “it’s a guy saying it”. They’re paying attention because it’s a general games writer who they already read saying it. Yes, the perspectives of the gaming blogosphere may be skewed towards white males, but that’s because the proportion of both players and bloggers of games are white males. There are enough prominent non-white and female game writers, I think, to show that the people who want to read serious discussions about games have no problem listening to non-whites and females. Again, I point you to the fact that one of the four writers Erik Hanson linked to regarding sexism in games was female (and at least four of the writers he linked to on other topics were as well), and a bunch of them were not white.

    I’m frustrated because I think, as you said Alex, more people should be decrying the problematic representations of women in games and game culture. It’s a good thing that people are talking about this – and despite your protestations to the contrary, you are knocking them down. I recognise that you said you approve of guys writing about these topics, but this is outright insulting:

    Opinions vary on this, but personally, I would rather guys wrote about sexism than not, if only because the more voices speaking out, the better.

    Like, guys writing good things sexism is barely better than guys being forbidden from discussing the issue altogether? And some people think even that’s going too far?! (Are these the same people who have been “saying this stuff for decades” and being ignored? Because if they are, I can see why.)

    Criticising the people who are writing the right things about these issues for not being the right people sells their good intentions short, needlessly insults the people who are on your side, erodes goodwill towards the cause and is bitterly ironic.

  14. I almost didn’t approve this comment because of that last sentence. Telling me I’m hurting the cause is a classic derailing tactic, and it is unacceptable here.

    You’re missing a lot of background context. This post is part of an ongoing conversation in the gaming blogosphere about being more inclusive of marginalized groups. Part of that is making social issues like racism and sexism an important and equal part of game criticism. You might want to check out this podcast, and the two post that led to the podcast, particularly the comments here and here.

    The other key thing you are missing is that, when it comes to sexism, women are the experts, because we are the ones who have experienced sexism our entire lives. Therefore when discussing sexism it’s vitally important to listen to women and their experiences, because we have insight cisgendered men simply do not possess. This is Feminism 101 territory.

    • Oh. You’re right. I was missing a lot of the background context. I came across this post at semi-random, and while I did follow the links from your post (so I thought I had the full story), I didn’t read the comments threads on those articles, and I was only as familiar with the themes of each blog as a browse of recent articles. As a result, what I wrote about the specific examples you mentioned is totally wrong and I retract it and apologise. Thank you for being polite despite my ignorance!

      I still think the generalisations you made about “the gaming blogosphere” and “guys” in general are unfair.

      I never meant to imply that women are not the experts on sexism – just that men’s opinions should not be discounted as though they are wrong unless they really are wrong. The Feminism 101 links describe how men may not understand what it’s like to experience sexism because of their privilege, and so they should listen if women correct them, which I agree with. But if a man is not wrong in the first place, his male privilege should be irrelevant to what he wrote.

      Imagine a programmer wrote an article on art design. It wasn’t cutting-edge stuff, but bloggers linked to it because it was well-written. Now, if an artist read the article and said the programmer had overlooked important artistic concerns, the article would be a fair target for criticism, along with the people who linked to it. If on the other hand the artist had no problem with the article and thought it really captured some of the important challenges of the craft, but objected to it being popular simply because it wasn’t written by an artist, that would be unreasonable.

      If the opinions are right, it shouldn’t matter who wrote them.

      Anyway, I realise now that this wasn’t the main topic of your post, so this is a debate you didn’t ask for. Sorry about that. To try to slightly balance out the negativity I’ve brought to the table, I would like to say that I’ve read some of your recent work on this blog and liked it a lot, particularly the commentary on Mass Effect. Kudos.

      • You’re still missing the point because this isn’t about individual posts or individual writers, it’s about the pattern of privileging male voices in the gaming blogosphere community even when the topic is women and games. I said repeatedly that the problem is not the fact that men are writing about sexism, it’s that the posts by men about sexism are the only ones getting any attention (one way to tell this is whether articles are linked in round-ups and other blog posts by other people–see the second paragraph of this post).

        Again, this is a PATTERN in the community–it’s not any one person’s fault–but in order to counteract the pattern it first needs to be pointed out (as I am doing here), and then individuals have to take it upon themselves to counteract it, in this case by doing the things I mention in the last few paragraphs.

      • Privilege of any kind, and in this case male privilege, is never “irrelevant” when you discuss systems of oppression, such as sexism. A person cannot view the world without being influenced by privilege. It’s a part of who they are, and it affects every single social interaction they engage in. If someone takes steps to consciously and conscientiously challenge and examine their privilege, they can become more aware of how marginalised groups are affected by their privilege, and they can become an ally to members of marginalised groups. However, a man is never without male privilege.

        Your analogy is not accurate. You are comparing apples to oranges. Because neither the artist nor the programmer are social categories that have been historically and systematically discriminated against, marginalised, and oppressed, that argument completely falls apart. For your analogy to approach some form of correctness, the artist would have to belong to a world in which all artists, everywhere are devalued in every way shape and form, in the media, in daily life, in the work place, in politics, in the justice system, in school–EVERYWHERE. In that social environment, all children would grow up in a world that socialises artists to see themselves as less than, less important. Everyone else in that world would be socialised to see artists as less important than programmers in every way possible, subtle and not. All artists in that world would be targets of sexualised violence, rape jokes, and the like. All artists in that world would be oppressed to the degree that anything they wore would be blamed as inciting rape, violence, and sexual jokes. All artists in that world would automatically be second-guessed by virtue of being an artist. All artists’ words in that world would never be seen as having as much importance or value as a programmer. As such, in this world, there is no possible way that a programmer could begin to understand what life is as lived by an artist. Because this world privileges the programmer’s voice over the artist, everyone in the world, by default, places more weight and importance and value on the programmer’s word than the artist. So the artist may have been saying the same things over and over again for the last 50 years, but people only listen when the programmers say it. That is problematic. That is what Alex was trying to get at.

      • Also, in this freakish world of oppressed artists and privileged programmers, everyone in the world is either born an artist or born a programmer. In that world, artists and programmers are marked with clear physical indicators that broadcast to the world that they are either one or the other.

      • To put the article into perspective, which you seem to have missed despite Alex’s articulate prose, the subject revolves not around any such “generalizations” or “attacks” made against male bloggers, but rather the lamentation of the blogosphere’s exhibited pattern of excluding minority writers.

        Brinstar seems to have beaten me to the punch in pointing out the fallacy of your comparison, so I see little point in rehashing what she has already said.

        While it’s true that it shouldn’t matter who writes an opinion so long as the opinion is a fair one, making such a point is irrelevant to the article at present.

  15. I was a bit surprised not to find a list of links at the end of your initial post leading to other women who blog on games and issues related to women in games. At any rate, the very first post hit the nail on the head. I know in my personal experience I never gave feminism a second thought until my 4 year old came home from preschool with the wild notion that girls cannot play football/baseball/basketball. I then realized that education begins at home and I had to start arming her with knowledge to fight the pint-sized patriarchy. At any rate, to a white male such knowledge is purely academic in nature, as distant as The War of the Pacific (old Chile/Peru conflict).

  16. Pingback: Alternate Ending » The State of Diversity Criticism and “do your fuckin’ research”

  17. Pingback: Deconstructing Another Castle: How the Damsel in Distress Trope Fails to Move Plots | bigtallwords

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