Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gaming While Female

The first rule, according to this interesting article (thanks, JP), is to avoid pronouns! That way the other gamers don't realize you are a gurrl and you get less harassment. This is true for even those of us who only "write while female:"
"The first rule is: try to avoid pronouns." A tall order, especially when it comes to the basic act of writing. And taller still given that Brittany (whose full name and publication she wishes to remain anonymous) has worked in editorial media for several years. "I mean, of course you end up using them. But if it's on Reddit or The Guardian online-anything with comments or feedback-it's the same: you're going to get shit if readers figure out you're female."
Since the internet's explosion into the mainstream, the idea of harassment has been thrown into the same semantic cyber-danger pot as "chatroom predators," "identity theft," and "Craigslist personals". But as online experiences which have long been solitary become increasingly community-based, receiving abuse via interactive technology has become, it would seem, a given-and widely-absorbed into women's online routines.
I can attest to that "writing while female" thingy. It gives you your daily iron rations and strengthens your muscles, it does.

But most of the article concerns gaming and the negative attention female gamers get:
One Reddit user contributed: "I never realized how bad it was until my girlfriend got into gaming. She started with L4D [Valve's Left 4 Dead] on the 360. She would constantly get bombarded with disgusting voice messages and lewd comments. I've been playing online games for a long time and never experienced anything close to what she has to deal with. I'm not even talking about comments like ‘lol a gurl, get back in the kitchen', I'm talking about extremely vile things. Like the little kid who voice messaged her that he was going to chop her up into little pieces and have sex with all the pieces. I mean, seriously?"
Like all areas of waking life, women in online media are caught somewhere between indignation and the frustration at having to be indignant: the distress of being targeted, and the backlash at discussing factors which still allow women to be targeted – particularly in ways which many view as vestigial of a time long past.
"I know, rationally, that random insults are exactly that," says Grace. "But I still find it hard to brush off. Maybe I'll grow that thick skin, but I don't feel that the onus should be on me to do so."
I was surprised to read that gaming is quite popular among women. If the article has its facts correct, in 2009 women over 25 were the largest US constituency among gamers. Even if this isn't correct, women clearly do play games.

And get a lot of flack for it:
One "whisper" reads: "wow retard r u on ur rag or somethin." In a Call of Duty chat-log: "you fat fuckin tomboy go kill yourself."

Here's the most fascinating part of the article: the first response to it (thanks, JP, for pointing it out):
Men will start respecting women once they stop accepting special treatment

Now what might he mean? Does he mean that female gamers demand "special treatment", that everyone gets harassed equally? Or is he talking about some wider societal implicit contract he thinks is broken? Such as "we open doors for you and don't beat you up as long as you stay away from our games and our jobs?"

Another comment in the thread suggests the former:
Not that I totally agree with drhojo, but the opposite of his assertion (which I assume you believe in) is that women get special treatment online. Not that women aren't disadvantaged in many respects, but they shouldn't get special treatment in games.

In the article, one woman states "Maybe I'll grow that thick skin, but I don't feel that the onus should be on me to do so." Well, the onus should be on her. Gaming is a male-dominated activity, and trash talk and insults are kind of an integral part of it, stemming from male competition and posturing, which is kind of a big thing in males. Women just need to brush off the insults and remember that they are just as she says: random insults, where she hasn't been singled out to be harassed. If she was male, the insult would be about tiny reproductive organs and some such other things.
Here's the thing: Men and women online are not harassed equally. Women are harassed more than men and often in nastier ways. I know that this is not something that a man might notice, unless he pretends to be a female himself. But it's true.

An alternative interpretation of that first comment is that it refers to wimminz not staying in their proper places in general. Kitchens and such. It's supported by this comment:
Well, Ladies, that "free drinks at the bar" racket we had going sure was a fun ride, but yeah, it's time we stopped holding back the sexes.
So you want to be equal, Ladies? Watch this punch. Something like that? The idea that the price of protection is subjugation and segregation of the sexes? Like in Afghanistan?

I'm probably dealing too harshly with few impromptu comments, and most responses in that thread are not of those types but rather the reverse. Still, the ominous hints about what will happen if gender-equality is enforced have cropped up in several places recently. Women will no longer be declared out of bounds as prey, the assumed protective male blanket will be tugged away, and doors will be slammed in your face. Not even a free drink available anywhere!