Sexism In Gaming: 5 Reasons It’s A Thing
5) You Don’t Need To Be A Jerk
The problems with ‘girlfriend mode’ should be self evident. We can pick it apart for hours – hell, in my life ‘girlfriend mode’ means I don’t get to play my games because my girlfriend is currently hogging the Xbox or PC – but the larger issue at stake is that it shouldn’t be controversial for anyone to say “Not cool’ whenever someone blurts out offensive and reductive comments about an entire group of people. Imagine if he’d talked about ‘Mexican Mode’ (lazy people don’t like difficult games!), or ‘Gay Mode’ (real men prefer difficulty!)? He wouldn’t, because there’s no way he works and lives in an environment in which brazen bigotry of that sort would be remotely tolerated. And yet apparently, his professional environment is one in which that joke was able to make its way from what was likely an offhand comment early in development, all the way into an official presentation.
It’s been heartening that for the first time, a sustained conversation has erupted over the issue. Unfortunately, the discussion, despite some prominent criticism from several publications, has coalesced around the notion that we need to calm down and discuss this ‘rationally’, civilly, as though this incident is unique and the people angry about it were letting their emotions run wild. It’s worth noting that calling for greater civility from the very people who have been subjected to a total lack of it does nothing other than kill the discussion; until the next time something happens, of course.
And naturally, one has to ask who really has run wild in all this. Compare the defenders of Hemingway to any of his critics. The Guardian’s take: “why a casual misstep matters.” Conversely, IGN’s Colin Moriarty delivered a take that went so far as to accuse Hemingway’s critics of something called “faux-outrage” (which seems to my eyes a few steps shy of “liar”.) While I don’t accuse him of being a sexist, it’s sad that his outrage seems reserved mainly for people who don’t like being subjected to sexism. And given the power of his publication, he represents what can only be called the mainstream position on the matter. Frankly, given the industry’s leading voices’ tendency to shout down (or if you prefer, lightly mock) the people most offended, outrage over each sexist event would seem to be proportional, not overblown.
Look, we get resistance to reasonable discussion of the matter. When someone points out that your community, be it your school, neighborhood, even your country, has some serious problems it needs to solve, it can feel like you’re being told that YOU have those problems. There are lots of people who aren’t sexist who see attempts to discuss the very real pattern of sexism in the video gaming world as an attack on them. But insulting them for doing so is a magnitude worse. Ignoring a problem, attacking people who point that problem out, only allows it to get worse. More to the point, we cannot keep treating each new outburst like an isolated, misunderstood event. Eventually we need to simply acknowledge that the industry (and a lot of the community) has a problem viewing women as full participants.
It’s frustrating that with women constituting 47% of gamers, we’re still seeing an outrageous number of oops-sexism outbursts from people who surely must know better, and worse, that the rush to defend these outbursts is as full of bile as ever.
Look, no one is saying that these outbursts mean that you, the person reading this sentence, are a sexist pile of trash. I even believe, per Randy Pitchford’s spirited defense, that Hemingway is definitely not a sexist, at least, not in the ‘women should stay in the kitchen and not vote’ sense of the word. The problem isn’t with ‘Girlfriend Mode’ specifically, but that the industry itself has a culture in which the idea that women are, at best, support staff, is still very much alive and well. Acknowledging this doesn’t mean that you’re being accused of gleefully devising new ways to demonstrate how much you dislike women. It just means we need to do better than we have so far.