November 18, 2009

New Super Mario Bros Wii: Men, men, men, men

Filed under:Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 11:40 pm

Every year or so Nintendo releases a hot Wii game that gets me so excited I’ll go spend $50 of my measly grad student salary. I would be lining up to get New Super Mario Bros. Wii based on the return of Yoshi-riding alone, but not if all the playable characters are men: Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Toad. Would it be that hard to make one of the Toads into Toadette? And guess who needs to be rescued again. Come on, it’s not like we’re living in 1988… oh wait, back then, Princess Toadstool was playable. Who ever said the world gets more progressive with time?

It’s so ratifying when I’m not the only one who noticed blatant exclusion of women from getting to do anything cool!. Thanks for the link, Olivia.

I’m going to wait and get this game used.


May 8, 2007

More reasons for a magazine for gaming women

Filed under:Gamer Culture, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 2:18 pm

I love it when folks write blog posts so I don’t have to, especially when men are calling other men on their sexist shit. Example: Kotaku Commenters Prove the Necessity of a Women’s Gaming Magazine on the blog Molten Boron. See, Kotaku linked the first issue of Cerise and the comments are among some of the most hateful things I’ve ever read. Zach calls them on their shit:

There aren’t a lot of defenders for Cerise in those comments, as of this writing, which isn’t at all surprising. Kotaku’s commenting environment is utterly toxic, as demonstrated in part by this very thread. Feminists and others who don’t believe that Women Need to Shut Up are quickly shouted down when they voice an opinion not in line with that of the average Kotaku commenter. Thus, Kotaku has become a place where everyone is free to comment, provided they don’t think that women need their own space to discuss video games. The dissonance is delightful. If you express feminist opinions at Kotaku, you are told to shut up and take your arguments elsewhere. If you build your own site to have those arguments, Kotaku links to the site and commenters tell you that you don’t need your own site and if you want to stop being second-class citizens you should be commenting at Kotaku. If you are a feminist, then, Kotaku commenters are not particularly pleased with you expressing your opinion anywhere. Which, I suppose, is the whole point of the endeavor.

Well put, eh?

The first comment on Kotaku is awful: “I’d mash.. with a paper bag over her head..” I hope that the Cerise cover model never stumbles upon the verbal rape waged against her. Talk about punishment for a woman daring to be nonwhite and un-skinny and allowing her picture to be on the internet.

Kotaku commenter IlliniJen does make a lovely point, however. I’ll post it here so you don’t have to wade through the misogyny (although I don’t care for the word douchebag ’cause I don’t think vaginas are dirty).

People wonder why some women may want a gaming mag for women. Most gaming mags/sites are targeted towards male readership, despite not being labeled as such. It’s just an industry habit, because it is their largest demographic.

While it would be great to get a site that gave all perspectives, without gender segmentation, women often have to put up with small-minded individuals who make gender a differentiating factor because of their insults and disrespect.

I suspect that most women would be happy to frag people in Halo, Counterstrike, et al. without being called out for being a girl as soon as they talk on the mic. But unfortunately the questions, harassment and insults usually start flying because of the untoward attention GIVEN TO THEM by members of the opposite sex.

So, if you don’t want women to separate themselves and feel the need for their own mags and sites, stop treating them like they’re different or that you have a right to harass them ingame.

Guys that LIKE playing games with girls and have an enlightened point of view: next time some douchebag makes a girl gamer’s ingame life hell, let him have it. The more guys like you who stand up to douchebags…whether said douchebags are sexist, racist or whatever…the bigger effect you can have on making games more fun for EVERYBODY.

Guys can call other guys on their shit so women will want to be around. Not a bad idea, eh?

And there you have it, folks, a few reasons that a magazine for gaming women is a worthwhile pursuit.


April 8, 2007

Silencing of Women in Gamer Communities

Filed under:Gamer Culture, Gaming Women, Gender, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 10:00 am

While blog commenters might feel deprived their freedom of speech when they are banned for calling us hateful names or being dismissive our writing, what bloggers like myself are trying to do, in banning them, is protect our own voices. The male “right”, rather privilege, to always have men’s voices heard deprives women of our own speech in both public and private discussions. Men use their power to be invalidating, bullying, and harassing, and this shuts women down. (I’m focusing on gender in this post, but people are silenced based on all sorts of identities: men who don’t fit into this macho paradigm, people of color, transgender individuals, people with disabilities, young and old people, poor folks, etc. We should be talking about that, too.)

In an in depth and thoughtful post on her blog called Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities, tekanji shows how such silencing discourse is permitted and endorsed in online gaming communities. In response to her post, I’d like to make a few points about how gamer culture and the hate-speech within it silences women.

  • tekanji’s father could have asked her to stop blogging after a threatening letter from a banned Shrub commenter was sent to her house. Harassment and threats would have unfairly silenced her voice by shutting down her blog in exchange for personal safety.
  • Telling women we should just tough it up and take it blames us for not being “strong enough” to survive in male dominated spaces. It also expects us to work twice as hard at having a thick skin.

    If you’ve never been yelled at by a large man for speaking up, if you’ve never been called a bitch, let me tell you: it’s scary. Those words carry with them the institutional, cultural, and physical power that men have over women. There are times, even as a confident adult woman, I am successfully silenced because I don’t want to face that.

  • Whether threats come online or off, I have know way of knowing if it is just going to stop at words. There isn’t a clear boundary between online and off. Take tekanji’s example of the threatening letter sent to her house. In my own life, when I was in junior high, two former friends (gaming was a big part of our friendship) threatened violence, my family, my pets, and my friends online, and went as far as vandalizing the yards of my friends. Online, they called me a slut, prude, accused my mother of incest, and posted pictures of pornography on my website. This was beside my first and last name, which could draw dangerous attention from uninvolved parties. When these young men attacked my character, my parents advised that I didn’t say anything back lest it provoked this young men into further “retaliation.”
  • Popular game blogs like Kotaku and Destructoid are among the widest read and hold more weight than the voices of small-time bloggers who end up with trolls when their posts are linked. On this, tekanji writes:

    The editorial content on these sites are “official” which, especially when we’re talking about sites with a certain amount of popularity, gives them more weight than a personal blog or a comment in the post. What this means that, when women read these sites — and if you’re a woman interested in gaming you will come across them, most likely long before you find any woman-positive sites — you are shown time and time again that your perspective and your opinions are not only lesser than that of men’s apparently pressing need to drool over boobies, but that if you speak out against it (and even if you don’t) you set yourself up to be an object of ridicule — and who is going to be taken more seriously, the bloggers at these popular sites (many of whom have some sort of journalistic training behind them) or you and your personal site?

    In commenting on mainstream game blogs, women have to think twice as hard about what they say, when others can spit out stream of consciousness posts, to anticipate what won’t provoke the wrath of other commenters. We’re unfairly accountable for both our own actions and the actions of others.

  • Trolling silences women. About a year ago, a feminist game blogger, The Geeky Feminist, shut down her blog in part because of harassment a link from Kotaku brought to her website. tekanji writes,

    The loss of her voice was felt by the feminist gaming community, and because of the rampant trolling (which were the same kinds of comments that I highlighted in my previous section) encouraged by a post that mocked and misrepresented an issue raised by several people in the gaming blogsphere, Kotaku bears some responsibility for chasing away one of the unique voices in the gaming community. Exactly the kind of voice that Brian Crecente claimed he was having trouble finding.

I want to be able to speak up in mainstream places without being ignored, having my character attacked, or called names. But I’m not willing to grow a thicker skin, to censor myself, to have to constantly, preemptively watch my back. I’m not asking for special treatment, just to be treated with respect owed to all human beings. Until the mainstream is ready for that, I’ll continue to blog from the margins where I can call some shots.

Cross-posted on Feminist SF – The Blog!


March 25, 2007

What Final Fantasy XI taught me about being a woman

Hello Vana’diel, goodbye real life

I don’t regret going through a MMORPG phase. It was a grand waste of my total playtime of 60 days of my life, but my life as Herbi the mithra shaped who I am today. I started playing Final Fantasy XI when I was 18. It was the spring or summer before I left for college, and my then-boyfriend got a copy of the game’s English beta version. We were both pretty obsessed with Square, so we were giddy to spend our summer in doors.

I’d never played a MMORPG before, and I was frustrated with how long everything took and how set back I was if I decided I wanted to play a different race (I picked a hume female who looked like me–good thing I’m white or I would have been sorry out of luck) or even just change jobs. I hated being a warrior, but kept playing and didn’t want to throw out the time I put into her and start over. When beta ended and retail came out, I was excited to finally have my own account so I could play with my boyfriend. I created Herbi the mithra thief, and he was a little tarutaru named Tofutie. We joined the Midgardsormr server with our other friends from beta, many of whom I continued to play with until I finally quit for good at age 20.

Sex kittens aren’t real live girls

Mithras in FFXI are a race of cat women where males are apparently a rarity. It was a joke that mithras are always played by men, and we called them manthras. A guy cross-dressing for some risk-free thrill was fine, but it was like there wasn’t supposed to be a real, live female subject behind the sex object.

People called me he sometimes, but not as often as I got called dude when I tried out World of Warcraft as a tauren and undead. (Can you imagine calling male characters “she” by default?) In our linkshells and parties, people often were surprised that I was the woman. Tofutie is one of those nice guys who goes above and beyond the rest by being a decent human being. He certainly was a lot more patient with other players than I was. He was a healer–a white mage and eventually red mage, and I switched was a paladin, the tanking class. I absolutely loved tanking, and miss it even now. “What! Tofutie is the dude?” our linkshell friends would say. “Girls don’t tank!”

I liked surprising people. I wasn’t supposed to be an actual girl playing the sex kitten. I wasn’t supposed to be blunt and crude and sexy and after all that reveal that yes, I actually was a real live woman behind the computer. That was just weird. And yes, I did like attention, but who doesn’t like to be rewarded with /praise?

Marriage is for heteros only

We’d do some casual role-playing in FFXI, but Herbi and Tofutie couldn’t get married because they were both women. Even video games have institutionalized heterosexual privileges.

Synth me a pie, bitch!

A friend and I tried to start a linkshell called FemmeFatale for girl gamers. I macro’d an advertisement and dropped it regularly by the auction house. I got mixed praise and criticism. Guys begged to join (some pretended to be women). We did let male-identified people in, which was kind of problematic because it was like a little club of “alright” guys who thought they were super special for not being misogynists or something. (I actually learned the word misogynist from another mithra thief, Nekomasa, that I admired.)

One time, a guy told me that there wasn’t a need for a linkshell for women, and that I should shut up and synth him a pie. I blacklisted him, but I was upset.

The linkshell fell apart when the leader’s in-game boyfriend said he was going to move to live near her. He was 19, she was 13. I found out her phone number and got another player to call her parents and tell them. I still think we did the right thing: no way the power dynamics in that relationship were equal


FFXI put me in situations where people used my gender against me. I used it to stay in a romantic relationship longer than I should have been, although Tofutie was a nice shield from being preyed oncourted by the creeps. And I never did reach endgame, I got too screwed over by other players. But I’d go back. I miss being Herbi and being an honestly good tank and I even miss a lot of the friends I played with. I’d go back and play again if I hadn’t quit to fill my time with studying and novel writing and bike riding and making new friends.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I stopped being so reclusive, stopped dating, stopped being so unfriendly, stopped being so uninterested in school when I quit FFXI.

That’s it for my pithy conclusion.


March 14, 2007

Yes, women gamers blog!

Filed under:Gaming Women, Privilege, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 9:17 pm

Kotaku accused women gamers of not blogging. 100LittleDolls listed 51 blogs by women gamers.

tekanji originally directed my attention to the irresponsible Kotaku post, On Women and Gaming. According to Kotaku, there aren’t any women game bloggers, and that’s our own fault for not blogging. Crecente wrote:

While I think that strong woman writers who cover gaming are not proportional to the number of women playing games, the bigger issue it seems is that there aren’t a whole lot of immediately recognizable female writers on the net. I think the ones out there now need to be more vocal perhaps, or maybe I’m just not reading the right sites.

He’s right that women’s voices are under represented on mainstream game blogs. As far as I know, there are zero women blogging at Kotaku, and only three out of 20-something at Destructoid. Instead of examining his own site for alienating women (just read the comments to see examples in action), Crecente blames women for not being writers or vocal enough. (Seriously? Since when do nonfeminist guys think being a vocal + woman != bitch?)

I promise it’s not like we’re hard to find. And I for one just don’t want to step out onto sites like Kotaku where I’ll be called an uppity bitch because I don’t suck joystick.


February 27, 2007

Get some new material, guys–some that isn’t sexist.

Filed under:Gamer Culture, Gaming Women, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 10:47 am

Valkyrie of the Frag Dolls posted a fun list on her blog: The Top 10 Most UNORIGINAL Things You Can Say to a Girl Gamer. Why do I love her list so much? I’ve heard most of these lines more than once, and usually the man or boy saying it is beside himself with his supposed cleverness.

3. Get back into the kitchen and make me a … (sandwich, turkey pot pie, etc.)
We know you’re lazy-ass gamers, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t the same. Go make your own damn food.

This one stings. When I played Final Fantasy XI back in the day, a friend and I tried to start a linkshell for women. When recruiting outside the auction house, where avatars often make food, some wanker told me to shut up and synth him a pie. Hardy har. Apparently in his manly wisdom he was able to determine that there was no need for a women’s space in FFXI.

4. You must be fat and ugly.
Yep, 300 pounds with warts all over. Gimme a break… do you really think you can hurt our feelings with this one? We all get together and have sleepovers laughing about this one.

Female gamers are accused of being one extreme or another: hot or “fat and ugly.” Fat people are hot, too, yo. And people. Don’t forget that!

5. Girls don’t play! / I didn’t know girls played games. / You’re not a girl!
Most of these comments aren’t even intentionally harmful, but this is about as stupid as it gets. I’m sorry your world has yet to expose you to the unicorn myth of girl gaming but, please, this is as insulting as it can get because it is not based on being mean. It is based on stupidity.

Valkyrie is right. This is a myth–and one I believed for years! Spreading this idea really isolates geeky women from one another. I could have been friends with so many awesome gaming girls when I was a teenager if I hadn’t believed I was the only one.

My advise to the people who spout these lines is a bit different than Valkyrie’s. Instead of challenging yourself to come up with better insults and pick-ups, how about treating women like humans instead? How about acknowledging your privilege, the power you have in geek culture, and use it to make the environment more inclusive for the rest of us?

Via Jade Reporting. Did I ever mention I’m an editor there? JR is awesome–we compile links to anything related to gender and gaming.


January 28, 2007

“Who wants to be my newest accessory, ladies?”

Filed under:Gender, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 10:02 am

tekanji sent me the link to Geek Dating Help on the blog In One Ear…. Thom, the blog’s writer, posted a call for a girlfriend that his fictional friend Frank wrote. I was really disturbed before Thom revealed the list was a parody because like he says, “your local comic shop is chock full of guys just like Frank!” I even bought the fetishizing of Asians and underage women (I don’t know if Rachel Bilson was underage back then, but her character Summer on The OC was when she dressed up as Wonder Woman).

Then there is the looks thing. Totally not important, maybe something like Jessica Alba (circa Dark Angel) or maybe Scarlet Johannson. Or that girl from the OC…Rachel something or other. She looked hot dressed as Wonder Woman. I am totally open to all races, especially hot Asian girls. She should take care of herself some, you know, go to the gym and stuff, but not force me to tag along.

Isn’t it sad that it’s so believable a guy would ask for a woman who gamed but wasn’t better at it than him, a woman who was smart, but not smarter than him, who worked out to look good for him, but didn’t expect the same from him?

Thom’s post was inspired by Ami Angelwing’s I’m tired of hearing that I don’t exist!. Her points are awesome. For example:

I also rly dislike that most gamer/geek/whatever girls are dismissed cuz they’re not supermodels. Like, I guess I’m lucky cuz I’m considered attractive? (And there’s that whole Asian thing, but that’s a rant for another day) But it’s so annoying when guys keep complaining to me about the lack of gamer girls and how rare I am. HELLO!!! I know LOTS. LOTS!!! And it’s funny that guys who spend most of their time behind a computer and not at a gym, want gamer girls to look like they spend most of their time at a gym and not at the computer. >:|

Geeky women are invisible to the general crowd of heterosexual geek men–either because we don’t fit the standard that is required to register on mens’ radars (hot, like the right games and comics and movies, sexually attracted to men), or we aren’t out about our hobbies. The majority of my friends are women and enjoy playing video games or working in Photoshop or watching Firefly, we just don’t count. Either we don’t fit that standard of attractive and polite and unconditionally doting, or we don’t advertise what we’re into. And honestly, if we’re going to be treated like a guy’s sexmeat, why would we want to be that way? Sure, if we get it right, we’ll get praised, but is that enough for self esteem?


January 26, 2007

All I Remember about Aki is Her Bikini

Filed under:Gender, Science Fiction, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 6:45 pm

I mentioned the other day I watched Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, for the first time since the film was in the theaters.

Square ain’t exactly progressive in its race and gender roles, but it was still disturbing to see Hollywood slapped all over Final Fantasy’s more or less deep themes. And with it came all that bullshit of a mainstream, capitalist narrative. Like sexism. And racism.

Aki is a doctor. She has her own spaceship. She saves the planet. So she’s supposed to be the filmmakers’ perfect woman (remember when she was in Maxim?), but having her PhD and knowing how to pilot a ship into space are pretty cool, even if its men deciding what makes a woman perfect. Like there is such a thing.

What did I remember about Aki after all these years? That she is a Mary Sue. (It sucks Mary Sues are almost all we get as female leads, but also sucks because that label, in a way, invalidates them as legitimate characters.) I remember the detail of her hair, her pores, her bikini picture. That in the film her boyfriend dies to save her. Stuff that we always hear about women: their looks, their scandals, their romances. Not their mental or physical accomplishments, but their abilities to look good and be somebody’s girlfriend.


October 11, 2006

Manipulation 101: Get Your “Girly” Gaming for YOU

Filed under:Gender, Sexism — Lake Desire @ 8:28 am

Browsing Jade Reporting I found this forum post: Coastal Michelle’s Top 10 ways to get your girl into gaming. I’m not familiar with Video Game Outsiders, the podcast Coastal Michelle hosts, but I found her list problematic coming from someone with an influence over her listeners. I’ll break down some points on the list and point out the attitudes about women–in this case that we’re stupid and consumer driven and easy to manipulate–that it embodies.

My top 10 ways to get your GIRLY GAMING!

Girlfriends as your girly instead of an equal partner: this language sets up girlfriends as second class, as sidebars to their gaming men.

10 * Get a co-op game and come up with a sob story about how none of your guy friends will play it with you. Repeat, adding words like “sad” and “lost”.. her mothering instinct will kick in and you’re GOLDEN!

There’s a bit of biological essentialism in this point; women are innately nurturers and men just need to manipulate that to get women to do what they want.

9 * If she reads at night, secretly replace her latest Oprah book club novel with a PSP. If she becomes suspicious, tell her Oprah gave PSPs away to her entire audience last Wednesday. Smile and nod.. a lot.

I could almost find this funny–knowing a few Oprah fans myself, who are not necessarily female–until the smiling and nodding. Against, women are stupid and easy to manipulate, this time by their consumerism and emulation of media figures.

7 * Give her jewelry and shoes every time she gets a gaming achievement you don’t have. Fake Diamonds work too, shhh.

Again, women can be manipulated by their consumerism. Jewelry in particular: a display of status that circles back around to reflect well the man who gave it to her. This is about getting men what they want.

4 * If she is competitive.. challenge her to a verses game. If she isn’t, mock her until she dislikes you. If all else fails, compare her to her mother. Try again.

(My emphasis added.) Teasing and cruelty are apparently acceptable and normal. Is having a healthy relationship with her mother out of the question?

A note on competition: I find it frustrating to compete against men in something they’ve been trained to do since they were knee-highs.

3 * Invite her to watch you play a captivating single player game. Let her know you want her to be there.. ask her for her help, or opinion on what to do.

2 * Listen to the podcast with her.. use girls like myself and Dana as examples.. perhaps invite her to join the forums and talk with us for ideas on games, etc.

1 * Do your research. In all seriousness, find out what your girl likes and doesn’t like. Get her a game that is specific to what she is interested in, even if it seems silly to you. Although it may not be true for all, a lot of women seem to be more into the nintendo products – so a DS is a great way to start. Plus she can play that, while you game on a console.. in fact you can let her know it’s just another way for you guys to spend time together. An honest talk might be all it takes, and who knows, she might not only find it an honor that you want to involve her in a hobby of yours, she might just end up becoming more of a gamer than you!

These two bits aren’t necessarily bad advice, as long as you’re doing it as equals: one partner inviting another to get into a hobby. I’d suggest letting her take the controller, though.

Good Luck men.. and errr ladies, if you are into that sorta thing.

Same-gender relationships aren’t weird–or at least they shouldn’t be.

If this is how the game community sees women, no wonder they’re not into games.

I’m not attacking Coastal Michelle. Rather, I’m criticizing her list because it reinforces sexism and perpetuates the women-as-gamer-accessories–even if it places those accessories on a pedestal–ideology in gamer culture. The Top 10 list is an example of a woman rewarded by men for what they want to hear. In return, the posters praise Coastal Michelle for a list well written.

For more in depth discussion of problematic “For Her” lists, check out tekanji’s series.


October 8, 2006


Filed under:Feminism, Sexism, Videogames — Lake Desire @ 11:54 am

Mad recently interviewed Geek Woman of about being a gamer, writer, and feminist and her book, Geek Woman’s Guide to Gaming.

Geek Woman says:

I can’t say that I can predict what will happen for women in gaming in the future. If the present is any indication then I would predict that nothing will change. Oppression sometimes breeds good things and people get fed up and take back their power. In the gaming world, guys said to us “You aren’t a real girl” or “If you are playing video games you must be the ugliest girl on the planet”. So the women put on their makeup and heels and did photo shoots and said “Hello. We play video games and we are pretty, and smart too.” Unfortunately instead of creating empowerment, it back fired. Real world sex workers and models started calling themselves ‘gamers’ even though they know nothing about games. Then these women began to take the jobs that the real female gamers should be getting. Instead of hiring booth babes, women who are expert gamers and champions should be getting those jobs. If publishers were smart, they would know that knowledgeable people sell more products. Anyone can put on make up and nice clothes and look good for a show. Your own UK Lara Croft is a model, not a champion player of Tomb Raider. When a beauty contest for female gamers was held there were no requirements in it about gaming. Professional models entered the contest, and the two largest female game clans, The Frag Dolls and PMS boycotted the contest.

I find Geek Woman’s pessimism disheartening; I think we do have the power to change things. I’m uncomfortable with criticizing models when they’re players in a greater gamer culture. Who puts on these gamer beauty contests? Who are they serving? Who is treating women like console accessories?

Via Jade Reporting.