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Your Argument is Invalid: Harassment Against Female Gamers

A quick rebuttal to all of the angry words going around about female gamers.

There have been a rash lately of pieces on this site about harassment of female game developers and lady gamers. Some of these have been made as part of larger arguments of why the industry needs to "grow up." 

This acknowledgment of the existence of the harassment and the general devaluing of the female half of the gaming spectrum are often met with the same tired arguments; the harassment is being over blown (partly because female gamers are not as common as the media would have us believe), female gamers are new to the industry, women are being forced into the industry, that male gamers are immature and unsociable, women are also participating in the harassment, etc. 

In the interest of expediency, I'll respond to these posts and arguments here. If you follow me on this site, you'll know that I take feminism and gaming pretty seriously, and I've honestly been avoiding talking about this subject recently. I'm tired of giving these ridiculous arguments head space, I refuse to give them the benefits of my readership.

"Women Do It Too"

I'm not sure where this one comes from, but it pops up in other equality arguments. Rape is bad, but women do it too. Sexual harassment is bad, but women do it too. So we'll get this one of the way first. 

I've never seen or even heard of a woman sending anything like this: 

Or this: 


But these? I hear about these all the time. I'll give you that there are women out there that harass and are horrible people, etc. But I would also argue that when it comes to this level of harassment, the numbers are probably more 90% men, 10% women. 

If your argument is "Women do it too," or something similar, here is what you should just say instead: Your experience is invalidated because I believe that this is happening to male gamers as well. 

"This is My Sandbox"

A while ago, there was a controversy in sports journalism surrounding radio host Damon Bruce who said (among other things): 

I'm willing to share my sandbox, as long as you remember you're in my box.”

Now, Bruce was talking about women's involvement in sports, but it's a conversation that has struck a chord for me in terms of my own experiences as a female gamer and as a member of this industry, both as a developer and a writer. 

THIS IS MY SANDBOX. 

I game more than almost every single man I know. So if this is your sandbox, it's my sandbox too.

There's a misunderstanding among some male gamers that this has always been the realm of the male gamer, that the inclusion of women is a recent and unwanted thing. That female gamers are somehow new to this field. They've only come to this field because it is hip. 

I've been playing video games for as long as most men my age. In some cases longer. I game more than almost every single man I know. So if this is your sandbox, it's my sandbox too. 

And there have been plenty of women before me, women like thatgamecompany founder Kellee Santiago, Brenda Brathwaite, and my own mother. To claim that women are somehow a new introduction to the medium is both compoundly idiotic and bigoted. 

So if you're going to say, "women are a new addition to the field," maybe instead you should say: I don't understand this history of gaming and assume that this is my sandbox. 

It's not your sandbox. 

"Male Gamers Don't Know How to Socialize"

there are socially awkward people who love finance and gardening, and it's generally frowned upon when they walk up to a woman and tell her about the length of their penis

Well if you're sticking to outdated stereotypes, at least you don't care that you offend both genders. Because assuredly, the gamer has not progressed any further than the nerd depiction in '80s highschool movies. 

This characterization has always struck me as bizarre. Yes, there are socially awkward people who love games. But there are socially awkward people who love finance and gardening, and it's generally frowned upon when they walk up to a woman and tell her about the length of their penis.  

It's also highly inaccurate. I have been to midnight release parties for large games, games like GTA V. I'm a regular member of a game development group. I attend large conventions several times a year. Overwhelmingly, gamers are men that are just like other men, they just know that the green-garbed character in Zelda is named Link. 

When you say this, why don't you actually say "I have a low opinion of my gender as well as others." It seems to be what you actually mean. 

Please feel free to leave your comments in the space below, and I'll get back to you in a timely manner. 

Published Feb. 20th 2014
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