Currently, there is a meme that picked up speed early this week and has been running strong ever since. It revolves around Twitter and the hashtag #1reasonwhy. The conversation centers on women in the gaming industry and the blatant sexism that thrives in the world of game making and playing. The meme seems to have really picked up steam after Kotaku reported it on Tuesday.
So is this all just whiny cow puckey from a bunch of female developers with an entitlement or glass ceiling complex?
Frankly, a lot of what I’m seeing in this hashtag is just a lot of whining and moaning from people who need a reason to complain about their lack of (or perceived lack of) respect and/or advancement in the gaming industry. Do a little research (just click on their names and find out what websites they link to, usually their own) and you can see that they aren’t advancing, well, because they’re just plain lame. Sorry, but if you’re a “gaming journalist” and your personal blog is full of typos and misspellings… you suck.
Does that mean women in the industry don’t have a legitimate gripe? Of course not. It just means that you have to wade through the chaff and manure to get to the kernels of truth. As per usual.
Here’s someone with a legitimate gripe: British student journalist Katie Williams. I have two reasons for saying this is legitimate. First, she spells it out honestly and with honesty comes a ring of truth. Second, I’ve actually seen some of this in action first-hand (not with her, but with others like her). Especially the “stand up for yourself” and get shot down anyway thing.
Or this comment from Marina Rossi: “Because once I’ve been told ‘we don’t need women in order to know what female players want from this industry’” Holy cow that’s brutal.. and true.
The problem, as I see it, is that women seem to expect that they’ll be treated “just like everyone else” even though they’re in a room full of men and, well, acting like women. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. Men are testes-driven creatures. I should know, I’ve lived with myself for a really long time and my thoughts track to “boobies” as often as a Labrador thinks about squirrels.
I can’t say “just deal with it,” though, since it is a problem. But it’s a problem that this Twitter hashtag meme is highlighting, but not fixing. It’s a negative response to a negative issue. So, I say, forget the #1reasonwhy crap and instead, focus on why it is that women should be treated more equitably in the gaming industry.
Lucky for me, I didn’t have to risk being called a sexist pig (which I will freely admit to being) and try to start my own counter hashtag for this idea. Some chick beat me to it.
The counter-tag, #1reasontobe is where women in gaming are listing their reasons for being in the business to start with. Frankly, a lot of them have really thought this out – or at least, though it out enough to come up with some blockbuster 140-or-less comments about their reasons. This is a much better way to combat the negative sexism that fills more than just the chainmail bikini artwork and risque Easter eggs.
I mean, read some of these:
“Because writers from other mediums treat me like I’ve come from Narnia – full of wisdom and insight about a strange new land,” says Rhianna Pratchett (who started the counter-tag).
“Because using tech to achieve something visual/interactive/tangible that people connect with is brilliant fun,” says Carina Mclane.
“The #1reasontobe where I am now is because my mother made sure I played computer games with my brother ‘It would be important one day’,” says Nia Wearn. Actually, I’m gonna cry foul on this one. No mom ever encourages video game play. It’s against nature.
“..because some of us (myself included) have never encountered these scenarios. Which hopefully means attitudes are changing,” posits Nicole Zeckner.
And what women-centered meme wouldn’t be complete without the ultra-girlie remark? ”#1reasontobe in games: because my 15 year old niece plays games, and she’s an inspiration,” gushes Caryn Vainio. Whose nickname is “Hellchick”… Wow.. This women is a tempest of contradictions.
Anyway, I realize that some of what I’ve said might be construed as sexist or counter-productive to some bra-burning cause or whatever, but do I have to point out the obvious – AGAIN? Women are different from men; and men, being astute observers who (as I’ve already mentioned) run much of their perceptions on the product of their testicles, notice this. Even (gasp) at work.
So the fact that you think pink is cool, have a grasp of what your “15 year old niece” is doing, and fondly remember stuff your mom did for you (that didn’t involve food, candy, or bypassing your tyrannical father) marks your as female.
Sound sexist? Well, guess what. Men don’t think pink is cool, have no clue what any relation of theirs is doing (or of birth dates) and remember their mom in vague June Cleaver ways that always involve satisfying a basic food group (which for men includes candy).
Welcome to life, where men and women are different, yet have interlocking parts.
Does the gaming industry have a sexism issue? Sure. Will complaining about it solve anything? I highly doubt it.
Here’s my advice: focus on the positive and make sure that those around you know that you’re in this industry because you love it. Act like you should be there and show them that you ought to be. That’s it. In an office with 10 men and one woman, you can’t expect the conversations and commentary to be 100% non-sexual. Or even 50% non-sexual. This is how men are.
Sorry, but you’re not going to change that. What you can change is how men perceive you (and by proxy, other women) whom they’re working with professionally. Show them that you’re just as good, just as committed, just as professional as any of them can be. Respect follows.