A feminist gamer manifesta. About damn time somebody wrote one. Part 1 and Part 2 of the Feminist Gaming Manifesto by Matt Wilson. My post here is a response to part 1, which identifies problems in the gaming community and how they’re perpetuated.
I don’t mind that this is written by a man because feminism in theory and practice is ending sexism. Ending sexism shouldn’t be entirely women’s responsibility since we’re already oppressed by it. It is also nice to find more male allies. They’re too few in number.
I like this quote:
The result of that assumption is a set of behaviors that exclude everyone who isn’t considered part of that norm. In the case of gaming, it’s a predominantly white male group, so you end up with the assumption that the ‘normal’ gamer is also male. If that assumption manifests in game texts, rules and communities, then they can all make women feel unwelcome, even though gaming might be an activity they’d really like to participate in. It could be artwork, language in the game texts, the focus of discussions online, specific game rules, verbalized assumptions, even choice of words. Most often the things that provoke those feelings weren’t even intended. Nobody wakes up and says, “today, I’m going to oppress some women.” But when there are unquestioned assumptions at the level of the group as a whole, the results are inevitable. If you just don’t know what does and doesn’t exclude, you can’t easily avoid doing it.
I appreciate Wilson giving guys the benefit of the doubt. Most people don’t want to think of themselves as oppressors, and he’s reaching out to his peers and discussing how they can turn their well meaning intentions away from perpetuating the status quo.
Wilson also identifies many of the responses marginalized people face when raising their concerns (whether gaming or otherwise). I’m going to quote a few of them to add my two cents. On Denial and Minimizing:
Men will respond with comments like, “oh, come on, it’s not unwelcoming, you’re wrong,” or “is it really that bad? I don’t think so.” See, as the predominant group, men get to assume the right to interpret the experience of women and deny the validity of what they say. Then they get to impose their own views upon them, like “really, my game text that you think makes you feel uncomfortable is about this other thing.” If you can deny the problem, then you don’t have to take any responsibility.
I also sometimes hear that my concerns aren’t valid. I should be focusing on domestic violence or poverty or hyper-masculinity or some other “real” problem. This derails the discussion and determines what is valid. Well meaning or not, men are using their power to decide what my interests should be. (On a side note, I never say I’m not involved with other form of activism, although I don’t feel I need to bring up details from my personal life to prove myself to someone who has already intentionally disrespected me.)
On victim blaming:
When women speak up about something in various forums, men will say something like, “I think you’re just not looking at it the right way.” It’s essentially “your problem, not mine” with a polite veneer, focusing attention on the perceived limitations of women. Men are the norm, right? Everything was fine until the women complained. Any problem, then, must be from outside.
I’d like to add that sometimes women are also blamed by being told the problem is their fault. For example, a friend of mine was harassed in an online game. Rather than analyzing if and how the game environment normalizes misogyny, she was told she must have done something to attract the harassment. Want another example? Read comment 12 to Wilson’s post.
Found via Acid for Blood.