Is #1reasonwhy A Turning Point?

(Image source.)

Sometimes it takes years for a social problem, once painfully made public, to see real progress. And sometimes it can be shocking how quickly the conversation shifts until it becomes almost impossible for the bad guys to show their faces in public.

When Game Front took a long look last summer at the renewed debate over sexism in the gaming industry, we knew at the time that our analysis was limited by our access to nothing other than events that had occurred in the public eye. While we contended that these events – like the infamous Borderlands 2 ‘Girlfriend Mode’ crack, and David Jaffe’s dunderheaded PS Vita analogy – do indeed suggest a clear pattern of unexamined sexism in the industry, we also realized rather quickly that the fact of their apparent rarity made it was easy enough for commentators and industry professionals themselves to deny their larger importance.

Opponents of the idea that sexism in the gaming industry is a problem in dire need of resolution insisted – for example, often in the comments of that feature – that these events were outliers, or misunderstandings, and certainly not the tip of a larger iceberg. It was frustrating, but when you’re arguing over the details of an admittedly small number of embarrassing outbursts, it’s easy to understand, if not condone, the urge to deny the more troubling implications. Ultimately, a bunch of dudes like us at Game Front aren’t the best voices for change anyway; the women actually toiling in the industry can shine a brighter light on their negative experiences than anyone else.

Fortunately, thanks to a rather clumsily phrased question from Luke Crane, Kickstarter’s Games projects Specialist, light has now been shined with blinding intensity. “Why are there so few lady game creators?”, Crane asked Monday evening on Twitter. This is the kind of naive question that you often see from people who haven’t spent any time examining the role gender or racial privilege plays in professional outcomes, and the snarky tone didn’t exactly fit the importance of the issue, but it had the side effect of, ahem, kickstarting the debate over sexism in gaming after it seemed to be dying down again.

By now you’re all aware of the Twitter hashtag #1reasonwhy. Created in response to Crane’s question, thousands of women in the industry have used it to tweet example after example of the kind of nonsense they endure as a baseline requirement for membership in the gaming world. There are now as of this writing tens of thousands of responses, and the discussion shows no signs of slowing down. It would be impossible to summarize them all, but we’ve collected a few that get to the meat of the problem succinctly:

Indie game designer Elizabeth Sampat:

Journalist Lillian Cohen-Moore:

Table-Top game designer and gamer Filamena of Machine Age Productions:

Game designer Jessice Hammer:

Game designer Caryn Vainio:

DJ Natasha Fox with a particularly good example of the ‘model minority’ quandry:

Designer and critic Mattie Brice:

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17 Comments on Is #1reasonwhy A Turning Point?

TheDog

On November 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

I can totally understand where Jim Sterling is coming from. I refuse to comment on any site that has anything to do with this. The bile written by some of these people can be incredably offensive. But to be fair, I’ve seen it from both sides. Those for and those against. If you dont agree 100% with either side you can be sure that both sides will attack. Seen it way too many times. I have a daughter that I’m always telling that she can be anything she wants to be if she works hard enough, but I don’t always agree with everything that any one person says. I’ve been attacked for that. I’ve even shown my daughter some of these post as examples if what not to be. She can’t believe what some people will write. I totally believe that women should have every right that a man should have, but some want that and more. They want special rights. Not saying that most are like that, just some, but boy do those few really stick out. Unfortunately they are the ones that most remember. ( We always tend to remember the worst, dont we).
One day this will be a thing of the past, but not today.

Ross Lincoln

On November 29, 2012 at 5:48 pm

I think the term special rights denotes a lack of perspective. People who benefit from a system always think the people who don’t are greedy for demanding to be treated like human beings. Instead of erecting straw women, why not stick to the actual subject, well articulated in tens of thousands of tweets lacking any hint of demands for legendary ‘special rights.

Kami

On November 29, 2012 at 5:54 pm

I support women in the industry. Completely and utterly 110%. Why not? I have sisters and I’ve told them anything they want to do, they can do. Being the older brother, perhaps that’s a unique perspective on my part but I want them to follow their hearts, wherever those hearts may take them in the world.

But I want to ask if focusing on the Gender Debate is perhaps distracting from necessary criticisms and insults in other areas. Or maybe I’m just getting ahead of the curve. Perhaps as one domino falls, so too will the rest. I’m not entirely sure. I just feel (as a mixed race guy myself with a pout that makes Angelina Jolie look like she’s had liposuction on her lips!) that sometimes making an example and telling people that perhaps comes across as cynical and loaded. You can’t fight back. Because they are convinced if you do, you are somehow racist/sexist/anti-religion/homophobic/xenophobic/anti-disabilty/other (delete where applicable).

That doesn’t invite discussion or debate into the subjects in question. We are really doing brilliantly on equality in all forms and I genuinely believe in people and that they are generally speaking very accepting, kind and understanding. No-one looks at me for my lips, my large nose, my slightly off-piste skintone or my oddly-tiny eyes for my face, or the fact I walk with a leg support and a walking stick/crutch. If they’re looking at me, I assume they’re looking at my awesome mohawk. Because what else would they be staring at? They see a guy with frankly epic hair, right?

You criticised the person for telling these ladies to go make games. They make games. Not in some surreal Made in Daggenham kind of way, but still, there’s another means to take that statement and it isn’t inherently bad – just cynical. Some might just be tired of the constant reminders there is sexism in gaming.

We need to differentiate between those statements, between the motives, before we discard them as somehow not helping the issue at hand. Otherwise we target innocent people who might simply be a little tired of the issue. The danger is we see shadows where there are none, enemies where none exist. And we suppress and stifle that arm of the discussion entirely by accident because we can’t differentiate between genuinely hateful remarks and general disinterested apathy. Admittedly, Twitter and the Internet aren’t great for distinguishing between that apathetic and sarcastic tone and the more forceful hate, but that’s why we should be careful before we pin the tail on the donkey, only to find it we’ve stabbed someone in the face.

Care is needed. Otherwise it can come across as a bit too brutish, a bit forceful. And change by force doesn’t really tend to stick very well, have you noticed that?

TheDog

On November 30, 2012 at 12:40 am

Ross Lincoln@ I find your comment rather humorous. You say stick to the subject. I ask, just what is the subject. The article above went through several stages, with the subject changing in each section. I simply commented on one section. You say the subject is thousands of well written tweets. Funny thing is, I’ve seen hundreds of abusive, non well written attacks on a number of different forums. Special rights is a term that fits quite well. The people I talk about dont feel that the rights of everyday people applies to them, and they are very verbal in explaining that to the world. Treated like a human being. Thats funny. The rights that I and my neigbors live by seem to be lacking in there eyes. Why dont you ask Jim his opinion on that. Like I also said, most people realise that this is the minority speaking. Most are reasonable intelligent women, who dont want anything special. Go to the forums and those women aren’t usually present. It’s the raticals that are. It’s a verbal blood bath.
Like I said before, I support the women who try to make a difference. Heck, I even support those who aren’t trying. To each there own, I say. Point is, every movement has it’s fanatics. Those who go too far, and I’ve seen hundreds of them ( read there opinions, to be more precise), which, like I also said, is why I usually stay away from any thread related to it. It usually ends up in a insult contest. Yes. Cheers to those who can stay rational and calm (those thousands of tweets you like to bring up). I wish they were all that way, but they aren’t and never will be. Reality sucks, doesn’t it.

jose

On November 30, 2012 at 9:29 am

Stupid makeup on Rosie the Riveter.

Please don’t pornify her too.

Ross Lincoln

On November 30, 2012 at 10:08 am

Jose, do you not recognize that that’s supposed to be Princess Peach as Rosie the Riveter?

Ganondolf

On November 30, 2012 at 11:13 am

Please, either talk about gaming or go and write for Cracked. This pseudo-feminist PC rubbish has run its course. Women cannot be forced through the system just to make you feel better. Positive discrimination doesn’t work and never will. Those who make it in the industry do so, rightly, because they earned it – not because some amateur socio-political commentator thought they needed a helping hand. I find your tone condescending and frankly delusional on this matter.

lee

On November 30, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I would have an oponion about this subject but I have already been branded a victim of sexism by a certain somebody. But I will lay down some hard truth for everybody. Bottom line is this, even in a thousand years there will be sexism in one form or another.

quicktooth

On November 30, 2012 at 7:00 pm

Well, at last. Nice to hear good news :D :D .

James Harding

On December 1, 2012 at 3:40 am

Stop beating this dead horse already. An all-male writing staff has no right to be talking about sexism in the games industry. You of all people should realise that there are many, many reasons for a deficiency in numbers that don’t necessarily equal sexism. To suggest otherwise is pure confirmation bias, as well as disgustingly hypocritical. If you want to promote women in the industry, hire some damn women yourselves instead of passing the buck onto everyone else.

The irony is that Jim Sterling talks about people enabling industry abuse by blindly and stubbornly sticking to one side and refusing to see other perspectives, yet he and you are doing the exact same thing with this. You’ve made the decision that the only people who would disagree with your views must therefore be “anonymous trolls” who “hate women” as opposed to simply being realists who understand the hypocrisy of what you’re saying. For instance, you undermine the idea of there being misandry in the industry by saying that it doesn’t exist beyond individual misandrists. And that’s utterly correct. However, you’re then suggesting that misogyny in the industry is INHERENT because of a few individual misogynists. Same set of circumstances, yet a totally different outcome in your mind because it’s the more convenient or trendy option.

Sexism exists everywhere. You don’t prevent or discourage it by encouraging stupid punitive measures like gender quotas and putting women on a pedestal. You do it gradually by getting more females interested and invested in the industry. This doesn’t happen overnight, and that 47% statistic should be evidence of that. It hasn’t always been anywhere near as close as that, and likewise nor should you expect the industry to suddenly reflect an egalitarian wonderland where everything slots neatly into place. It’s going to take time, if done correctly. Throwing your toys out of the pram and demanding immediate change while calling people sexists if they have more perspective than you is ridiculous.

There are no greater bigots in this world than those who infer a culture of bigotry where there isn’t one, based purely on the dominant demographic. You really need to start asking yourself some questions about where your priorities really lie on this issue, because the contradictions, straw man constructs, and circular reasoning behind this agenda is really shining through and showing you up as being a dogmatist moulding evidence around your predisposed opinions instead of modelling your judgement around the facts.

Practice what you preach or stop preaching. Simples.

wondering

On December 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

It seems more than a little ironic that in a piece about overcoming sexism in the gaming industry, the iconic Rosie the Riverter avatar is sexualized.

Here’s the original if you are interested in comparing:
http://www.nps.gov/pwro/collection/website/home.htm

Ross Lincoln

On December 2, 2012 at 10:41 am

“It seems more than a little ironic that in a piece about overcoming sexism in the gaming industry, the iconic Rosie the Riverter avatar is sexualized.”

OK, Rosie has plucked eyebrows and makeup in the original graphic. And also that’s Princess Peach as Rosie. Wearing the Nintendo Power Glove. But I’m glad there are now two people commenting here who have never played Super Mario.

KS

On December 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm

you know, if people didn’t think from a few pathetic toddler meltdowns that gamer guys were a bunch of sexist sad sacks, the comments here are predictably living up to that stereotype. so far no comments here are convincing me that ANY of you get it. at all. it’s all tone argument, okay ladies be designers but be NICE AND LADYLIKE while doing it. at best. at worst, tired, brain dead old nuggets that have been heard a thousand times before. yep, you’re making me think gamers are sexists. you tell me, should i stereotype all of your brethren based on the sexism very clearly documented here? hmm.

Michael

On December 3, 2012 at 7:24 am

KS – confirmation bias is a b!tch. You came into this quite clearly saying that you had a predisposed view that gamers were sexist, and were looking for validation. I have seen literally no sexism in any of the comments, because there hasn’t been one single instance of it – aside from in yours. Stereotyping gamers as sexist because they don’t hold your political leanings is insidious, moronic, and hypocritical. It’s comments like yours that prevent progress being made, you’re putting your ideology before the reality of the industry and the community at large and have come across as a piece of bigoted scum as a result. Well done on making my life easier, I guess.

Madison

On December 4, 2012 at 1:32 pm

KS, you nailed it. Glad to see this conversation happening, as it’s obviously becoming an embarrassment to the industry, not just because sexism is wrong but also because catering to sexist wankers is a losing strategy for anyone.

Latifa

On December 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Madison – care to back that statement up with anything? As far as I can tell, KS didn’t ‘nail’ anything except a corner of his or her own coffin by making sweeping generalisations based on pre-existing belief systems. You appear to have done the same.

Sean

On September 17, 2013 at 4:09 am

I found this article today through web-searches. I would’ve enjoyed a positive call-to-action for male gamers. I’m curious if there is something we were able to DO to adjust our perspective (ways to notice the sexism in games that may otherwise go unseen), and hopefully become more of a help than a hindrance on curbing sexist behavior in game development. The issues of blatant status sexism in the workplace and sexual assault at game conventions, as noted in the tweets above, may be implications of overlap between gamer culture and deviant behavior. These actions are not a direct reflection of gamer culture, but do exist within it — the reflection of gamer culture is that it allows this deviant behavior to exist.

GTA5 came out today — a title that includes some of this deviant behavior as game play. The conversation about behavior and media is pretty clear: seeing examples of how to do something in media does not mean that the viewer is more inclined to do it. Example: I may fire guns in games, but do not feel inclined to fire real weapons. Is sexism in video games too subtle for viewers to realize that the behavior should not be repeated? Or, is there still an undertone of sexism in our culture, and the gamer sub-culture attracts many of these narrow-minded people to participate (in addition to many normal, intelligent participants, of course)?