So there’s been a lot of talk lately about misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment in geekdom, such as comics, movies and particularly gaming. Comic commentary I’ll leave to better minds like Kate Beaton but I know gaming, and gaming is also a Big Deal. And sexism in gaming is such a big deal even the BBC is doing stories on it. And there are lots of people trying to raise the issue of sexism in game design, in the online community and particularly in game environments but it is endemic enough to become a meme and is thankfully well-parodied.
But so far, most of what I’ve seen crying against it has come from the ladies themselves. And a lot of what I’ve seen coming from men is mansplaining, turning a blind eye, or a shrug of the shoulders. Even when women are recognised as having a fair complaint, the sentiment seems to be that “gamers/gaming is like that” and it’s pretty hard to change.
Without trying to be all white-man’s-burden, I’d like to say that I’m sick and tired of the problem, and I’m sick and tired of doing nothing about it. I’m sick and tired of gaming not being a safe space for women. I’m sick to my stomach that my female friends can’t go to gaming stores. I’m tired of reading article after article about the shit that goes down online, of the way that gamers revert instantly to sexual language and sexual attacks, and then excuse it as smack talk.
So all of this leads me to say: maybe it’s time some men started doing something about the problem. Because guys, this is our problem. Members of our gender have made gaming, over and over again, a toxic, hostile and dangerous place for women. And that’s not just bad for women, or bad for us, it’s bad for gaming. And it is sad and disgusting that it took a lot of very loud women pointing this out to us before we noticed or gave a damn. And it is depressing as hell that we either don’t want to do anything about it, or cannot do anything about it.
Right now, I don’t believe the latter. I think we can do something about it, specifically as men. Because for the moment we dominate the gaming industry and the gaming market and because we should. Because it’s about fucking time. (And yes, all of the above applies to homophobia and racism in gaming too. I’m just picking one thing at a time though.) The question then is, what to do.
Just as a start, I’m throwing an idea out there. It might be a stupid idea. Consider this a call for input on it. The idea takes inspiration from the various men’s groups around the world that take a stand against sexism and crimes against women. Those groups are designed to encourage men to recognize that the problems begin in their numbers, in their social groups, in what they will and won’t accept from their mates and their wide circles. I think it could be a good concept to apply specifically to gaming.
I’d like to see a society of men who have taken a pledge to make gaming safe for women – video games, online games, board games, rpgs, all games, for all women. And who will try to do so by not tolerating any sexism, harassment or sexual assault (verbal or otherwise) from the men they game with. Who will kick out, ban, or refuse to group with guys who won’t stop with the misogyny. Who will be able to join an online group and get a little avatar badge that says to women “hey, you can game with me and I won’t be a sexist jackass to you”. Maybe even a t-shirt they could wear at cons. Just to say “I’m a man, and I have GOT THE DAMN MESSAGE.” The message that enough is enough. That this has to stop.
I like the sound of that, actually. It could be Men calling for an End to Sexism and Sexual Assault in the Gaming Environment. Shirts that say: I’ve Gotten The MESSAGE. And those who haven’t got it yet, well, haven’t got the MESSAGE.
Obviously such a system could be abused. Obviously such a system could end up doing nothing to help and just be handing out badges to people for feeling like sanctimonious crusaders. Obviously this could just be an excuse for me to bignote myself and act all quixotic, or just get in the way of other good ideas. Obviously, I don’t want any of that. Hence, I’m doing my research before I started tilting at windmills. That’s where you come in. Tell me if you think this will make any goddamn difference at all. Tell me, men, if you’d want to support something like this. Tell me, ladies, if you think it would help in any way. Or tell me to go back and try again.
But tell me something because enough IS really enough. Some of us have got the message, but it isn’t getting through, and it’s just not good enough.
NOTE: This post was edited on the 27th of September, 2012, to remove a personal anecdote. Nothing of significance was changed.