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Let’s talk about sexism and misogyny: an opening gambit to actually having a conversation

I’m not really sure how to start this blog post, so I’m just going to dive right in and get into it. Hi. I’m Elizabeth Tobey. I’m a woman, and I want to have a conversation about sexism and misogyny and what we can do to create more equality between men and women.

Before we begin, let’s frame this post a little: this is the beginning of what I’m going to make into an occasional series on my blog, so please take this as a jumping off point in our conversation and please understand I want this to be a conversation (so many blogs are soapboxes, mine included despite my best intentions sometimes) – so share this, leave a comment, ask questions, tell me what you want to talk about next.  I’m not going to decree something. I’m not going to solve a problem or point a finger: in fact, a big part of what I aim to do here is to try and be a place where we can (figuratively) talk with normal voices, listen to each other rather than waiting for our turn to speak, and stop making this issue into a warzone and instead turn what’s (unfortunately) right now a debate into a dialogue.

Sexism is real and misogynistic behavior happens around us every day. There is a huge imbalance between the genders. Those last two sentences were giant generalizations and, generally, I detest generalizations (har har.) That being said, anecdotal evidence (of which I’ll present a lot since I am only one person) can only bring us so far. Anecdotes are just that: singular experiences. No two people are exactly the same, and as such, each experience is unique. And while, particularly when talking about sexism, I prefer statistically significant studies to help ground the conversation in facts and help take the emotions and anger out of the subject, we need people’s experiences to humanize the facts and help people who have never seen or experienced sexist behavior understand and visualize the problem and help us find a way to make things better.

Here’s a 40,000 foot view of how I view myself: I’m a really, really lucky human being. I was born into an upper middle class family and was raised and educated in an affluent community with a renowned public school system. I’m 5’6, 154 pounds, with blonde hair, blue eyes, and teeth that benefited from orthodontics. I have not had the perfect life: while I lived with a multi-millionaire step mother for a couple years while I was a teenager, I also lived in Harlem on 149th and Broadway in a first floor apartment when I was too broke to put bars on my windows and had to decide what bills to pay each month because the electricity, car, and food couldn’t all happen at the same time. That being said, I know who I am and how lucky I am compared to most people, even during the scariest and worst days of my life. On the spectrum of all women in the world, I’m really fucking privileged. I was given great genetics, great education, great opportunities, and I am a strong and driven person.

For the last eight years of my professional career, I was a public-facing figure in the video game industry. I began as a Community Manager and as the years progress, I ran a community and customer service department and then moved to become the director of an MMO Community department and then finally the entire Communications team. In the past three-plus months since I’ve left hardcore gaming (I now work at a mobile tech company) I’ve been thinking a lot about my experiences in the industry, both with other professionals and with the people who played the games I worked on. This hasn’t all been navel-gazing: in my current role, I manage a Community Manager and am helping to build and grow our own community, and so I am spending a lot of time using the wealth of knowledge I accrued in my previous roles to help build this new community from the ground up. Video game communities were on the bleeding edge of the "social revolution" in the early 2000s: it still bemuses me to say I’m a pioneer in the field, but I am. That aside, the video game industry (and really, tech in general) is one of the most difficult fields for women to break into and excel within and has a lot of problems with sexism. In addition, video game communities are inherently toxic, sexist, and very cruel. I’ve known this since I began gaming as a child, and lived with it firsthand professionally for the better part of a decade - but until I stopping living and breathing hardcore gaming, I didn't have the capacity to really process the state of affairs and realize how absolutely fucked up and abusive the situation is.

Let me be very clear right now: I love gaming. I can see a future where I return to a gaming company and continue what has been a successful, exhilarating, and rewarding career. I am also very happy to not be in the industry anymore, in large part because of overt and latent sexism and misogyny. I didn’t leave because of these issues. In fact, if you’d asked past-me whether sexism was at all a factor in my decision to go into mobile apps I would have rolled my eyes at you. But now that I’m out and in a safer professional space, I have found myself mentally unpacking the experiences I went through and finding them unacceptable. I may not have thought I opted out of gaming because of sexism, but I wouldn’t go back right now because of it. However, I owe it to all the women who want to be there, and are there, and will be there in the future to talk about what’s going on, help educate people, and try to bring about change and improve gender equality. So that’s what I’m here to do.

I expect some of you think that some of the above statements are hyperbolic. You might say they are emotionally driven or attention-seeking. That’s not my motivation and I challenge you, if you are thinking that, to talk to yourself about whether you are having those thoughts because you are feeling defensive or another emotion that might be because you worry you are Part Of The Problem. We can talk about this some other time, but for now, let’s mutually agree to put all that aside: I’m not interested in blame right now, or Bad Guys and Good Guys. Frankly, we all fuck up sometimes. So rather than feeling uncomfortable, or guilty, or angry, or annoyed, let’s just talk this out.

Since I left gaming, I have not been threatened, called a sexist slur, had a person tell me (for better or worse) what they thought of me physically, or had someone tell me if they would or would not like to do something sexually to me. Before I left gaming, I had each of these things happen to me on at least a monthly basis. Being called a bitch, a cunt, a whore (or, for the enterprising, variations thereof) was par for course. Debates on whether I was fat or fuckable were also fan-favorites. I have, twice, had to send emails to corporate counsel because I thought that people might know where I live and felt that their threats were credible enough that someone might actually attempt to find me and beat me up (or leave shit on my front stoop, as one said, or sexually assault me, as another promised.) Here’s an example of a YouTube comment on a video I was in. (This is just a sample – I just found a random archived video and scrolled the comments to find a something representative. This is not the worst I've read or even a particularly notably bad comment):

elizibeth tobby start wearing more revealing clothes you shouldnt be teasing us with boobies the size of your head without giving us a sneak peak or at least more cleavage and also wear some tight trousers so we can see your camels toe

After I left gaming, I was contacted by a reporter who was writing a story about women who were no longer in the industry. The reporter sent me a bunch of questions about why I left and whether I would go back. I answered honestly: I loved gaming, I loved the companies I worked for previously, but I was offered an opportunity that was too good to pass up. However, when asked about whether I would return and if I had any other thoughts about the industry, I found myself feeling that there was something fundamentally broken about how we treat each other within the industry (and how the community interacts with each other and with the people who make the games they play) and how that was really the core of what stopped me from saying “yes, without a doubt I would return to the industry.” Here’s an excerpt of that Q&A, since the answers themselves are better than me paraphrasing them:

What would it take for you to return? Would you return?
I'm not sure I can answer that for certain yet (although I've only been out of the industry for 3 months now!) I want to return, but I think I would need to find a company that would embrace what I've learned outside of the industry in terms of process so that I could help make a more effective and livable bridge between Marketing and the development side of gaming projects. I would likely come back to run a broader Marketing team than I did when I left, but I would still want to work with a company that dealt with Community in a very different way than most do today. I think right now a lot is fundamentally broken there and to help make communities more supportive and inclusive and help the morale for dev teams, we need to rip out the guts of what we've been doing and start anew. 
 
Please add any commentary that might be relevant.
My hopes and dreams for the evolution of the gaming industry are twofold: I think we can work smarter and communicate better internally. There are a ton of smart and passionate people in gaming, but we need to learn more from outside the industry and apply it to what we do and we need to understand that working hard doesn't mean hellish hours and that improved dialogue with fewer petty squabbles will help us make functional processes. We're not children. We should stop acting like it.
 

The second huge leap centers around the community who play games: we need to find a way to raise the bar in how fans treat each other and treat the people who make the games. I was a public face for large companies for the entirety of my career in gaming and I met a lot of amazing people who did astounding things for each other through games and their communities, but cruelty, harassment, and bullying is a current standard that I refuse to accept. 

Even writing this blog post scares the shit out of me. I actually felt a tightness in my chest when I decided to sit down and start my first draft – the kind of tightness you feel before you go sky diving for the first time, or give a huge presentation, or, you know, before you are about to have a panic attack. And that’s because I know the counter-arguments, the rebuttals, and the angry or condescending comments I can (and might) get for writing this piece. I have already taken each paragraph and plotted out all the possible ways someone could discount or belittle me for what I’ve written. Most of those responses are complete and utter bullshit and fueled by fear, hate, and sexism itself, but it’s still unpleasant to open yourself to more sexism, knowingly, all for the purpose of trying to stop it from happening in the future.

Case in point here: my dear friend and excellent editor let me know the first draft of this blog felt more like a cajoling handshake and she asked me to shake people with my sincerity and dive into specifics of what I’ve seen and experienced. She felt I was pre-defending myself (she’s right) and that I was playing it too soft (something people rarely say about me – so clearly, something I had to fix.) Here’s why I did that, though: I didn’t want this to be a manifesto, and I didn’t want to present examples that would cause people to dismiss me or say I was writing this for shock value and work to silence me before I even got people’s attention. And it’s easy to undermine a woman who presents examples: if she talks in statistics, folks say that they are too general and you need specifics. If she talks about individual experiences, folks can say that the information is anecdotal or not indicative of a wider problem: that’s just one bad apple. Counter-argument: go read #YesAllWomen. Hundreds of thousands of experiences aren’t just outliers.

There’s another sticking point here: present a shockingly sexist interaction, people say “well that guy’s an ass, surely that doesn’t happen frequently.” Present a more latent, less obvious case and people can say “that’s not that bad” or even “you are looking for sexist comments. He didn’t mean it that way – you are being hysterical.”

So here are two examples, one from each camp. For the sake of narrowing my experience, I’ll choose only from work experiences.

When I was applying for my first job in the gaming industry, I made it through several rounds of long and grueling interviews. I loved the people I met: I really wanted to work at the company. During one of the last rounds, I was meeting with a high ranking man. We talked for over forty-five minutes about the work, the industry, comics, movies – everything. I was thrilled: everything was clicking. As the interview drew to a close, this person said his goodbyes and gave a wrap up that made me feel I’d passed one of the last (if not the last) hurdles to being hired. As I began to do backflips of joy in my mind, he nodded once and then said “you’re also pretty and have a great voice for podcasting. You’ll do.”

Okay, next story. 

This is about an instance where I was working on a game that was going through a difficult time. (I’m going to gloss over this part because the game itself isn’t important. Suffice it to say I’ve worked on games that have had all kinds of issues and I’ve never in my life released a game that was universally loved and I've certainly helmed games during very troubled times, sometimes with irate community members. This was one of those times.) One community member, who ran a fansite, was very angry about the game, the communication funnel and me, personally. Now, I want to explain here that lots of people shoot the messenger (happens every game, that’s what comes with the gig of a public facing job) and I know both men and women in forwarding-facing gaming jobs are the objects of demoralizing personal attacks (but by qualifying this, I’m pre-emptively self-defending, imagining the responses I’ll get from people who say “but men have that happen, too” so I’ll stop that now.) In this instance, another community member told me to never go to the man in question’s fansite forums and read what was said about me. I asked why and the person could not actually type out what was written about me on the website - it was that offensive. So I went out and googled my handle to figure out what horrible things folks were saying about me. It couldn’t be worse than what has been said about me before, right?

Well, there were a lot of nasty things said about me on that forum and it definitely ranked up there with the worst I've ever heard, but that's not why I'm telling this story. I'm telling this story because the admin had changed the code in the forum such that whenever any poster mentioned my name or handle, it would automatically replace the words with “Bitch Face Cunt Bag.” 

All right. Enough of story time.

So, that’s a lot of words for the introduction to a longer conversation. You might be asking “okay, what’s the point? Why are you doing this?”

The reason is simple.

I want to help bring about gender equality.

I want to expose sexism and misogyny in the workplace and within the tech and gaming industries.

I do not want to opt out of an abusive system.

I want to help people who are dealing with these issues.

I want to tell women that they are not alone.

I want to tell men that I can help them become advocates.

I am here to help everyone understand the issues and problems with sexism and misogyny.

I am here to help everyone mobilize to make gender equality a reality.

For eight years of my life, I did not talk about the sexism and misogyny I faced within the industry and the sexist threats, comments, and condescension I endured from the community I worked for and was a member of. In fact, when people asked me how I put up with it, I would say “I’ve grown up in the gaming community. I’m used to it” or “I have a really thick skin” or, most frequently, I would say “the only way to face a troll, a bully, or a sexist is to face them, unflinching, and let them know that they aren’t going to stop you. That they aren’t hurting you, and that they can’t get to you.”

I still believe all of those things and I still think they are the best pieces of advice I can give to a woman deal with sexism, particularly in the gaming community and industry. The problem with that last piece of advice, though: don’t flinch, don’t show pain, don’t show fear – it takes away a woman’s voice.

I am not going to be silent about my experiences. Succeeding despite adversity is half of the battle: letting the wider world know what’s going on and helping them understand the problems and giving them the tools to help craft solutions is the second part, and I am someone who can help in that effort and by god, I owe it to myself and all the women I want to succeed to do just that.

Consider this the beginning of our conversation: it’s an invitation to ask the questions you’ve been afraid to (for whatever reason – seriously, even if you worry you sound stupid or any other ugly word, go for it – I’m not going to judge) here’s the place to do it. If you want to learn more, or hear from my perspective, let me know what’s on your mind. It’s time to start having a conversation about this and leave defensiveness and fear at the door: we are all responsible for changing the way we talk about this topic and we have to do it together in order to make real progress. 

25 Comments on "Let’s talk about sexism and misogyny: an opening gambit to actually having a conversation "

Blah blah :
Jun 04, 2014 at 5:01pm
Genders will never be equal, a woman could only take this viewpoint.

Women have what most men want , a wet hole.

Equal, so no more ladies nights, we won't pay for your dinner on a date , you can open the door for us. Etc.

You're a woman that is employeed as a public relations person to a bunch of guys that play the games, do you really think you'd have gotten that first job if you didn't have boobs and appeal to the gender that buys those products? It's like you're kidding yourself.
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elizabeth:
Jun 04, 2014 at 5:09pm
I notice you didn't leave a real name or email address, so I'll take your comments with a grain of salt. If you want, I would love to talk to you about what I do and my resume (and how that lead to me getting my jobs!) but I'm going to guess you really just want to be anonymous and aim to offend. That's exactly the opposite of what I'm trying to do here. Let's dig into why you think women are just a wet hole and why my boobs are the only reason why I'd get a job. Why do you think that? Do you *actually* think that or are you just being sensational?
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Blah blah:
Jun 04, 2014 at 5:39pm
Sensationalistic to a point yes , do I believe every word I typed, no, but it is what your up against.
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elizabeth:
Jun 04, 2014 at 5:52pm
How about you tell me what you think rather than respond with the worst of what's out there? I do know what's out there (I think my examples show that really well.)

If you believe any of that, tell me what and why and maybe we can talk about how perhaps your views could expand and shift?
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Blah blah:
Jun 04, 2014 at 5:35pm
That is a real email address.
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Blah blah:
Jun 04, 2014 at 6:06pm
We haven't evolved much past caveman... We buy a ring and take ownership of you, we impregnable you to continue our bloodline and we cater to you so that we may get inside the panties so the previous two can happen . Crude , kinda , but you're going after shot that's encoded in our DNA , men and women cannot and will not ever be "equal". Do you think the gender split happen on accident? If we repeated history 100 times would it ever be flipped? I don't think so.
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Blah blah:
Jun 04, 2014 at 6:17pm
Some might say , as a woman who doesn't want kids that you already have a skewed reference point.
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elizabeth:
Jun 04, 2014 at 6:55pm
I disagree about your generalization about men: we have advanced and while there are biological needs and impulses, there's more to men than what you are saying. Also, I hate generalizations - if you really want me to listen to that claim, you should back it up with data.

I also disagree that because women bear children (I think that's what you are getting at?) we can't be equal. I think that's an excuse and again, I challenge you to bring actual data into that assertion - otherwise you are just saying things because you think them and I reject the notion that women should be treated differently or not be equals because of biology.
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Blah blah:
Jun 04, 2014 at 9:06pm
I'm not sure what more data would be required than the blog post you yourself just typed. Yes I took a devils advocate position to stress some of your points in my original reply , it mainly stemmed from the importance you put on men and women being equal. It will never happen , it can't happen.

Are there sites like myfreecams featuring males performing for females? No, because women are in a completely different situation as men. Are there male street walking prositutes getting picked up by middle class women? Who gets paid more in porn, men or women?

If we could repeat history up to today 100 times, do you think there would be anyway the roles would ever end up flipped? I can't see it.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 12:55am
I'm confuse about the "devils advocate" position you keep pushing. Do you believe in what you are saying or not? Simple question, please answer it. And if you don't believe in it, what are you doing here? What are you trying to accomplish?

History is history. Let's make the future.
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Blah blah:
Jun 05, 2014 at 9:56am
For someone that wanted to initiate conversation you've sure avoided any of my actual points. My first reply was obvious devils advocate - there are plenty of men that do honestly think like that though.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 11:45am
I touched on all your points that weren't offensive. Again, please answer: real opinion or otherwise? And if you want to ask honest, straightforward questions, please go for it.
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bouxdag:
Jun 04, 2014 at 10:11pm
As a homosexual male, I've actually become somewhat interested in the gaming sexism and misogyny discussions because of certain parallels I've noticed with regards to debates about homosexuals. I often get incredibly frustrated when people use the argument that in 50 years most of the homophobic people will have died off, so the problem will just sort of solve itself and there's nothing to worry about it. Therefore, everyone should just sit on their hands and wait. Personally, I really would prefer not to have to wait 50 years to feel comfortable with being who I am, and not wondering if any person I meet from day to day will judge me if they find out about my sexuality.

On that same token, I find myself becoming defensive and annoyed when I read women "complaining" about sexism and misogyny in gaming. To me it reads like some women are trying to imply all men involved in gaming are part of the problem. It can also be frustrating to read my twitter feed where I follow many women who are discussing these things. I'm following them because I'm a fan of theirs, so I somewhat feel like they are just preaching to the choir.

My defensiveness and frustrations with the sexism debate have made me at least a little sympathetic to people who are "tired of hearing about homosexuals."

In the end, I question whether discussing these types of things, especially on the internet, really does any good. Is change going to come any faster by discussing these types of issues? I'm pretty skeptical, even if that does depress me. I like your approach though, and admire your courage.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 1:00am
Thanks for commenting! You have some really wise insights. I think I can empathize with your frustrations and the situation and it's something I grapple with: I'm talking about myself and my experiences, and while it's a problem and we should work on it, I worry about somehow coming off as someone who is invalidating or demeaning other struggles.

It's so easy to get angry or defensive - it's so hard to try and keep yourself relaxed and with and open mind and help work through the problems (even in instances where you feel the other person don't actually want to have a conversation.) And the internet CAN be a great resource for the issues you talk about (and the ones I talk about) because we can have a larger conversation and talk to more people. I don't think I could have written this two or three years ago. I am unsure if the vitriol would have been too great or whether no one would have listened, cared, or taken me seriously... but I really do see a change and I want to keep pushing for that.

And I am totally with you that we shouldn't have to wait 50 years to end homophobia. Fuck that noise.
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Mark:
Jun 05, 2014 at 3:02am
After reading I've got a couple of questions I'd love for you to answer.

You sort of touched upon this, but do you ever consider, or feel conscious of the possibility that you could over react to situations or comments, or jump the gun a little bit in labeling something as misogynistic? To clarify I'm not trying to downplay misogyny by suggesting you're over reacting, but I'm genuinely interested in whether the recent coverage of sexism within the gaming industry has tinged your view of the world slightly or caused you to take offense to comments that previously wouldn't have bothered you? In a sense, do you think it's given you a kind of tunnel vision?

Secondly, and I think you kind of touched on this too when you glossed over men receiving similar abuse; do you think sexism within the community is at the core of this issue, or do you think it's possible that the general mean spirited and anti-social behavior that's so common among the gaming community is the root, and that sexist comments are simply a means to an end to cause offense?

I'm sort of getting at the same thing with both these questions; I personally think there's some nuance and complexity to this issue that I don't think the sexism and misogyny blanket can cover, and I'm somewhat concerned that the recent coverage of sexism within the industry is shining a light on a symptom rather than the cause.

Also apologies if my questions look like they're downplaying the role of sexism, they're not intended that way! It's a topic I'm interested in touching on for a dissertation next year and I'm very interested in the relationship (if there is one) between misogyny and the general negative anti-social attitude within the gaming community, and I'd be very interested to hear your views. And sorry if this is a double post - it didn't show up right away but I'd understand if you were vetting comments before they're posted.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 11:51am
Good questions, thanks for asking! I'll go one-by-one.

No, I don't think I have tunnel vision. In fact, I think I am much more able to handle this kind of treatment (both general cruelty and sexism) than your average person - that's one of the reasons I could do my job as well as I did. And I have spoken about this topic (never in this detail or so prominently) for years. In the past year or two the wider world has started to take notice of the conversation, but I've been dealing with this since I started using the internet at 10 or 11 years of age and have been experiencing sexism since before I got my first gig in gaming. I do cringe at the thought that because people seeing more conversation and more people are speaking up, some think that might be causing folks to over exaggerate. The opposite is happening with me: I feel I'm in a head space and professional place where I am safe and able to handle this conversation and I didn't feel I personally had the capability of having these conversations with the general public before now PLUS I think the general atmosphere of society is accepting enough more people feel able to speak up.

Second: I think two things are happening in the gaming community. I think it's toxic and mean and cruel and trends to be net-negative than positive, which is really sad. I think that happens to everyone - male or female. In addition to that, I think there is a lot of sexism. Some of the cruelty manifests just as sexism, you are right, but there are people out there that generally aren't bad people or trolls or trying to make people feel bad yet make sexist or demeaning comments. Heck, I've met a lot of people online who steadfastly won't believe I'm a girl. I've had folks tell me that I can't be because I'm too good. Or, when I haven't disclosed my gender, if I'm playing poorly, they say "stop acting like a woman." So... yeah. It's both.
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Curtis:
Jun 05, 2014 at 3:54am
I can't speak to the stuff you experienced in the workplace. I've heard of similar things from female friends in other industries, sometimes it's more subtle but it all sounds awful.

The one thing I find myself thinking about a lot with this issue is with the portrayal of female characters in games. Generally speaking, there is not a broad spectrum. This isn't like Hollywood where you can have a totally awesome female character like Marge Gunderson in Fargo who owns the movie in all kinds of badass ways that have nothing to do with her being sexual or as a proxy for a male character. Of course, the Marge Gundersons of cinema are still a relative minority, but games seem to take the lack of diversity to a whole new level.

Another aspect to this seems to be the way that the current "norm" for female characters is viewed by female players. We've all seen it - the female WoW players who only want to pick an avatar that's "pretty", or the cosplayers that happily don Cammy's butt-flossing unitard from Street Fighter. There's a part of me that feels this is totally okay - women are allowed to own their sexuality, to aspire to whatever aesthetic standards they desire, and to knowingly wink and nudge at the absurdity of sexual stereotypes while still enjoying them. But I don't think that's without a flipside, as I'm sure many men/boys see women's participation in this paradigm as blanket approval or endorsement of the value our culture seems to place on attractive women. I'm not really sure how we deal with that.

I would hate for knowing, sexy fun in games & other media to go away because I think it can bring enjoyment to both men & women, but the pendulum has been stuck in one direction for so long in the video games industry that it's starting to seem less like a pendulum and more like a tent pole.
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Jeffery:
Jun 05, 2014 at 9:49am
This is coming from a woman who earned a paycheck promoting Duke Nukem.

Think about that for a minute. It's ok when it's your paycheck? Money trumps all values I guess.

Read that article again and watch the marketing trailer for Duke Nukem, you have no leg to stand on.

Hypocrisy at it's finest.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 11:55am
Hello! I think you are coming from the Shacknews conversation, so I'll repeat what I said there.

The gaming industry can be a bit of a black box and I'm not going to go into detail about what I did behind the scenes there. Maybe someday I'll talk about how closed door and secretive the industry is, but I'm not up for tackling that one right now.

You can disagree with me or agree. You can like a video game (any, really, you are just picking one) or think it's sexist. Heck, I've worked on lots of games that don't treat women super well and I've certainly worked on a ton with body types and tropes that aren't indicative of real women. I've also worked on a ton of games where you murder literally hundreds of people. That's an entirely different discussion, and again, not the one we're having right now.

I take umbrage with picking one game I've worked on and using it as a reason I should never speak about sexism and misogyny. I'm not going to be drawn into a place where I reveal information that because of my NDA I should not and I'm not going to be put on the defensive because of my work. This is the end of that conversation, but thanks for playing.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 12:00am
Ah, actually you are Blah Blah. Don't change your handle - it can make the conversation difficult to follow and I might end up repeating myself to the same person. ;-)
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Renee:
Jun 05, 2014 at 12:21am
Hi there, I was turned on to this blog post by my boyfriend, who is an active shacknews poster, because he wanted a "woman's perspective". It was a little on the wordy side, but undoubtedly well-written. I have a couple points I'd like to make in response.

Firstly, as a 10+ year female gamer (primarily mmo's, because I enjoy the social interplay, although admittedly I've never been employed in the industry) I can completely agree that sexism is pervasive in the community; but as in most things, there are negatives and positives. I've been talked down to and run out of guilds for not "coming across". But I've also had a lot of people (read "guys") go out of their way to be helpful, take me along in a lot of groups when I'm outclassed, and generally been handed assistance because (and maybe this is a sexist assumption on my part) I sound cute over teamspeak. To use a real world example: Do I enjoy having a man stare at my chest instead of my face when I'm speaking to him--no. But I don't turn someone down if they pull over to help me change my tire either. Maybe that makes me a shitty feminist, but I kind of think that makes me a realist as well.

Fundamentally I think the problem is not necessarily sexism, or homophobia, or racism...its a human problem. Any time the majority of a community is one thing, and the minority identifiably "other", the minority will be marginalized. This problem is only exacerbated when you're also talking about a group that rarely has to look at each-other face-to-face. You mentioned trolls, that definitely factors in. It seems like in gaming, internet message boards, and the like, there are a whole lot of people who feel liberated by the obvious fact that the person they're trash-talking isn't right in front of them. I'd be willing to bet that the majority of people who have made inflammatory statements toward you online wouldn't think of saying the same thing in person.

I think any time you choose a field in which your identifying group is under-represented (like being a female police officer, a homosexual professional football player, a plus-size actress, to name a few) you're going to be swimming upstream. Its not pretty, or nice, or fair that people judge you by your differences. But it is how society works. And I don't think that will ever be fixed without some major Nineteen Eighty-Four style manipulation. Because whether it is used for good or ill, the propensity for mankind to develop an "us" and "them" mentality seems hard-wired into our collective psyche.
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elizabeth:
Jun 05, 2014 at 1:05pm
Thanks for commenting, Renee - glad you enjoyed it! And yeah, I can be verbose. Guilty as charged.

I agree with you on the human problem: you might want to check out my older post "On Shitty People" - not exactly the same topic but close. That aside, there are issues within the larger "human problem" issue and I don't think we can solve them all by saying "well, people act this way." We do have to focus and make sure not to generalize and lump everyone in together and also make different changes to help different problems within the larger umbrella theme.

I *do* disagree with the "you are swimming upstream and that's how society works" piece, though. I don't deny it's the truth, but I reject the notion that we should shrug our shoulders or accept that as a fact of life. I want to live in a world where my good friend doesn't say "I really hope my company isn't sexist. I'm worried it is." I want to live somewhere where I don't feel a flood of pride and fierce joy when a C-level at my company casually and matter-of-factly states something about how odd and unfortunate it is that so many of his peers in tech are "white and male."

I don't think it's a bad thing to take human kindness offered to you - even if you think it's because you were a woman that the person stopped on the street to help you or lead you to a slightly higher level dungeon. I must say I raised an eyebrow at the tire changing thing, though - maybe it's my life experience, but there's no fucking way I'd let a person help me change my tire if they were a stranger. In fact, when I was 16 my car broke down on the side of the road (okay, it didn't break down. I didn't have enough money to pay for gas to get my home. It was terrible. I was really broke.) I was walking along the side of the highway that was under construction and so had no shoulder and a car pulled up. It was an off-duty male highway patrol officer. He even showed me his hat and his badge and said "you are going to get hit if you keep walking. Please let me drive you to the next off ramp." I damned near didn't get in his car because I still knew those items could be forged - I got in because I believed the chance of being hit by a car was greater than being killed by a serial murderer - but if I'd died by a serial killer that day, that wouldn't have shocked me either.
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John:
Jun 05, 2014 at 9:14pm
Actions speak louder than words. While your post makes really good arguments about a very real problem in society, you come across as a hypocrite. You speak against misogyny and sexism in the industry yet you were quite happy to collect a paycheck to sell and promote Duke Nukem.

It's like speaking against cigarettes and how harmful they are, and then having a side business selling it to minors

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Hannah:
Jun 07, 2014 at 10:23pm
Before I get in to the meat of my response I want to touch on the Duke Nukem issue. In many ways, DNF came out at just the right time. It kicked off a huge discussion about what was wrong about the casual portrayal of women in video games, and I firmly believe that it has a hand in the current field of discussion when it comes to misogyny and the gaming industry. That being said, the game was terrible (for more reasons than just the awfulness surrounding the portrayal of women. It was just plain baaaaaad), and there are a lot of people who have that to deal with for the rest of their career. Because of the massively impregnable NDA’s that go with the gaming industry, I am fairly certain we will never know who said what about the game and the content, who fought to remove what and who may have risked their career to do so.

Saying that someone can’t speak up now that time in their life is over (when their job was at one time protecting the company image – and part of that image protection is making sure it seems like there is a solid, agreeing company behind a game so the public doesn’t catch on to how awful a game is) is completely idiotic. It is, in many ways, akin to saying that someone should not speak up about an issue simply because they had to live through the very environment they are now discussing. I also feel that there’s a logical fallacy in assuming that just because Elizabeth had a hand in monitoring/controlling the community (I forget what her title was at the time – I think it was still listed as community manager on the forum but I know soon after it became senior manager, interactive marketing) that assuming she had complete control of all the game design, writing and marketing decisions is wrong. Unless she was secretly the CEO of 2K all that time, I don’t know how she could have done anything differently other than quitting her job in protest and being labeled an “uppity female who can’t take a joke,” which appears to be a serious problem as well in community management.

With that said, time for some more solid comments here from moi.

I’ve been considering getting into the games industry for a little while now. One of the things that has held me back is the constant discussion surrounding sexism in the industry. This is not me admitting that I am afraid of this – in fact after I sit down and think about it for a moment it means I get fired up and more determined to do it; you cannot change your world unless you’re an active part of it in some way, right? But the thing is, these complaints are constant. It might be “games media sensationalism,” which I initially dismissed it as, but as I see more and more and experience it either vicariously through my friends in the industry or first hand by myself I find it harder and harder to accept that it is something that isn’t a problem. As one of my favorite movie commentators posted on twitter a short while ago, we started to allow “feminism” to describe a mean grumpy no-fun lady rather than someone who simply wants for some kind of substantive equality between all individuals, whether they are male or female.

I had more than I wanted to argue here, but honestly I think that there isn’t more to be said about this. One of my favorite classes in university had a rule that rather than judging another person’s experience one has to simply think about it. Nothing more than that, but it is such a difficult task. Judgement is one of the first things that we are hardwired to do – fight or flight, if you will. “Is there something in these words that are there to harm me personally?” And therein lies the problem when talking about issues that are rooted in social justice – discussing the experiences of one group hurts the status quo of another. It’s a long, delicate process for any group that seeks a kind of social justice experience, be it a lack of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc., but the only way to start that process is to start talking about it. That, I think, is the stage that we are at right now in the games industry. One day, we will figure out a way to change it.
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Andrew:
Jun 20, 2014 at 8:55am
One piece of the problem is privilege. Part of privilege is learning to not see it, to think it's 'natural'. Learning to see it is difficult and scary. So men grow up with male privilege, think it's natural and earned, and then struggle to understand why some people talk about them being privileged. They get angry and react with abuse.

Gamer men are often economically poor. They recognize their lack of economic privilege, and they don't understand that a person can have some types of privilege and not others. So in their heads, their poverty means they don't enjoy any privilege at all.

Additionally, gamer men are often socially unskilled and therefore struggle to find a romantic and sexual relationship. They want sex and can't find it, and that frustrates them enormously. So in their minds, women become the gate-keepers of sex, cruelly keeping men out at random. So these men feel powerless about their romantic situation. They assume that women control sex; in other words women are the powerful and privileged ones. So in their minds, women are like the 1% complaining about how poor they are.

This is compounded by the fact that gaming is generally about adolescent power fantasies. Gamers who feel socially and economically weak get to feel powerful when they game. So violence and violent language become an appropriate mode to express their powerlessness, especially against those who are challenging them or saying that gaming has to change. They recognize or assume that more egalitarian gaming means less of something they need--an outlet for their feelings of powerlessness.

So economic inequality is, I think, a significant piece of the issue. It keeps men from seeing their privilege, it encourages them to game, and makes them aggressively resist change.

Now obviously I'm making some huge generalizations. Not all gamer men are poor or socially inept. So I'm not suggesting that this is the whole problem. This problem has many facets.
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