With the #1reasonwhy hash-tag doing the rounds on Twitter, there’s a very good cause to be critical of how some women are still treated in the industry. But we need to take care we don’t abuse the ability to discuss this either, otherwise we might just end up undermining the whole argument in the first place…
I’m not going to deny there’s an inherent and underlying chauvinistic undercurrent in the gaming industry.
But I do feel that context is sometimes rather important when we discuss issues such as sexism regarding the workplace, because the question that sparked the whole “#1reasonwhy” thing was a relatively naive and innocuous question from Luke Crane, Kickstarter’s Games and Projects Specialist. “Why are there so few lady game creators?”, he quizzed. A lot of the comments were quite constructive, some were silly and some missed the point. Sadly, others which were perhaps more disinterested in the issue of sexism and the role of women in the industry found themselves coming under fire in the same way more hateful comments were being criticised. And that’s a real problem. Because some people don’t think it’s such a big thing.
Change happens, and is happening. And yes, it’s not always as smooth or as expedient as we want it to be. I tell my sisters and any young woman who asks me if they can take on the world that yes, they absolutely can. You go girl and all that jazz. You have my full approval and support to do whatever you want to do, however you want to do it and wherever in the world it takes you. For we do enjoy an equality these days that is far removed from that we enjoyed even twenty years ago. And that goes for anyone and everyone; regardless of your race, sexuality, political dispensation, disability or anything else, I happen to believe in people and in the power that people have. And I think the majority are quite good, quite nice and generally speaking things are moving along quite well. The old guard that still holds us back will one day die out or be swept away, and forgotten, because we are progressing socially quite well.
When you add the Internet, I suppose there will always be jokers and imbeciles who say stuff to shock, annoy and upset. But what can you do? That’s part and parcel of free speech – we may not agree with what they say, but they do have a right to say it. As horrible and as disgusting as it may be to acknowledge. You just need to have faith they are not perhaps representative of the vast majority of individuals in the world. Of course, situations arise where jokes and remarks are perhaps taken out of context. In the industry, women are still finding guys have silly childish viewpoints or make silly, immature jokes. Seriously ladies, I know your pain. I look like a weirdo, but if I threw an accusation of racism at everyone who made a joke about me or near me I found even vaguely inappropriate, I’d have made a whole lot of enemies.
And what happened to fighting back in such cases? One, DJ Natasha Fox, remarked; “being the voice of “women” on a team of 8 male game designers, all with nuanced and opposing views of how to entertain men”. Okay, kind of sad. But if that were me? “Okay chaps, hands up who is gay! No? Then can I at least tell you what men want in MY experience?” If they want to make gender an issue, make it an issue and make them realise how utterly asinine and ridiculous their attitudes are. Sometimes it’s just a case of confidence, of making them realise you are there as their equal, not as the token human being with boobs. And if you think you are, a quick, “Well, I think you could speak for me just as well, look at the size of your boobs!” would be a fun remark. I don’t perhaps know all of the details, but my point here is picking up specific instances without context or description is an incredibly poor way to make any kind of point.
So too is stepping down on anyone who comes across as apathetic. To be fair on some people, the sexism in gaming thing is a bit over-baked. We’re a little bored of hearing it sometimes because it can come across as a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can also come across sometimes as rather biased and loaded; like a discussion someone once did in an English session in school, where they posed a statement or question we needed to argue. The statement they came up with is; “Would you run into a road to save a child from being hit by a car?” There’s not really any good place to go there, is there? We were fifteen at the time, and therefore arguably children ourselves, and it was an inherently difficult and awkward proposition. How could you argue leaving the child to be hit by the car? If you state the case in a way that suppresses an argument against the outcome you want to hear, are we really debating it, or flattering your own ego? That’s an incredibly bold statement to make, I understand that, but I say it because in some cases it can come across that way. That some people might be a bit bored that these discussions are so one-sided and there is nothing being said that perhaps some women need to stop seeing shadows where none may exist. Because if they did, they would be ridiculed for somehow not being on their side, right?
Real gender discrimination is awful, and rightly isn’t legal. That’s a big part of some of the apathy people feel; admittedly, there is an argument that taking on your bosses might not be an awesome idea, but equally if you feel it is really bad and stick around in it then are you not kind of letting it happen? It’s a criticism that some may not want to hear, because that implies that some fault may lie in the women. It’s true that it doesn’t affect or impinge on all women. But like the minority of idiots who are incredibly chauvinistic, there are a minority of people who propagate the seeds and reap them later down the road. We shouldn’t somehow take the shine off genuine cases, but we shouldn’t silence the arguments that perhaps we’re making a bigger deal of this than is necessary. Because I fear that some might be making valid points in that.
Whether it be in games, in the industry or in any other walk of life, discrimination is a horrid thing and I genuinely feel pity for those who are so small-minded that they find amusement and self-gratification in belittling, bullying or leering/jeering at others. I feel that’s a terrible existence to be a part of; that your own joys are tied to the pain and discomfort of others. In some of these cases I wonder if they are perhaps in the right positions anyway? If your job involves working with other people in close proximity, and you exist in that awful dark and dank bubble of loathing, then why are you working with other people? That’s a serious question. I come at it from that side to allude that there are other ways of tackling it without actually underpinning the act of discrimination as somehow inherently sexist. I’d rather we just called a spade a spade and called these individuals “Twats”. For that is what they are, right? Judgemental, abhorrent twats.
But sadly, they exist and if we’re going to have an open discussion about discrimination – be it racism, sexism, homophobia or against those with disabilities amongst others – then we need to accept and understand that some people will have these views which perhaps don’t fully fit with our own. And they are still human beings, and their opinions – however disgusting – need to be heard in some quarters before being perhaps filed into “Wastebin”. For if your case is strong enough, these people will be exposed for who and what they are – and they have no-where to hide. Drawn out into the open, they can be seen for who and what they are. Likewise, if someone comes forward and asks in an apathetic manner, “Why are we discussing this issue for the umpteenth time this year?”, we must accept that they too have a point. We can’t keep recycling this issue to give us something to discuss and someone to ridicule every few months. That rather cheapens it, and makes it appear perhaps less important than it might be.
As for the community at large, I think we need to enshrine the Penny Arcade Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, carving it into some kind of plinth somewhere. Because we’ve gone far beyond theory now, we’re seeing active examples of it every single day. Socially, most people behave in a manner that others generally behave in and when it comes to the sometimes quite lawless and free Internet, the general behaviour is… well… not pleasant. Because some have no fear of reprisals; they don’t feel they can be hurt through their invincible shields of anonymity. Without those shields, you’d probably find someone who is quite social and acts very well in your average face-to-face situation. But put into a place where they can do what they want in front of an audience of hundreds, if not thousands, of people it perhaps does beg the question why so many turn to being utterly horrible people rather than do something positive or meaningful with that position. I think we need to ask ourselves and the community exactly why this continues to be some kind of rot that we can’t control. We need to ask ourselves if we should perhaps take slightly tougher lines on those who are so argumentative that they cannot spend a day on the Internet without offending someone, somewhere. And ask ourselves why this rot is so sexist. And not just sexist; racist, homophobic and pretty much against individuality in any regard.
In much the same way as those complaining of sexism, there’s a vicious circle here where these people are being fuelled by these campaigns and therefore these campaigns continue to get more dominant and forceful whilst the rot continues to get more persistent, more resilient and harder to treat. I don’t quite know enough about every human being in the world to actually talk for everyone, but I do see a pattern there. I see a pattern that if we make ourselves out as special, or worthy of being talked about, then they may feel ample reason to criticise and often not very constructively. When the issue of sexism arises on something like Twitter, are we really surprised that it attracts sexist comments?
I just think that care needs to be taken before we jump up and down. Because everyone is jumping up and down and sometimes it can be hard to work out who is on which side at a glance, whilst others are being goaded or forced into jumping up and down in rage because they might have a view that opposes one or both sides. Eventually, you have a room full of people jumping up and down and throwing temper tantrums on all sides and the casual person walking by will stop, look in, shrug and walk on. There’s nothing mature or grown up about constantly recycling these issues. If anything, the danger is that seeing as we are mostly and mainly a sensible and tolerant society today, that the issue just blends into the noise that we hear every day. That it just becomes “a thing”, rather than “A THING!” And it is a thing. And a thing we should discuss, but sensibly, with understanding and acceptance that all sides have a view and that some of those views are not going to be what we want to hear.
We need to be very careful because yeah, this isn’t what some want to hear. But am I sexist? Not at all. I believe women can do what blokes can if they set their hearts on it. Women won that right, and rightly so. But we must be careful that we don’t go so overboard that women want to dominate men. Some might actually enjoy that in their weird and quite odd way, but my point is we shouldn’t let it overpower everything. Like a good recipe, if you throw in too much chilli it’s going to blow your head off and be fairly inedible. No-one is a lesser person these days, and yes there are stupid people. Stupid employees. Stupid politicians. Stupid agencies. Stupidity is rampant in an era where decisions need to be made fast with little to no thought to the consequences or rights of others.
And we need to take care that such a small question, like “Why are there so few lady game creators?”, doesn’t turn into something more than it is. There are lady game creators. Many of them. But perhaps some of them might actually be comfortable with their job and what they do that they don’t feel the need to parade in front of the media every day? Sometimes, we can see insults, criticisms and discrimination where none exists. Sometimes the questions are perfectly innocent. And we should be careful of somehow making too big a deal of it.
And if we’re going to, then let’s hear all sides. If you want an open discussion, then that means hearing opinions you won’t agree with. You can’t have one without the other. That’s just a fact of life. But I still believe most people are perfectly good people. And I don’t feel comfortable sometimes that the majority are being tarred with the same brush that a small minority are being painted with. That’s not a nice place to be either. In fact, I’d say that’s quite a dangerous place to be. Because then they might feel the need to act that way.
Some fires fuel themselves. The gender row is one of those unique examples of this in action.
And we need to be careful we don’t burn everything to the ground in its wake.