So many times I have sat and had the same conversation with Vanri the Rogue and that conversation might surprise you. It’s a conversation that I am sure happens a lot; a conversation that should happen if you don’t understand the topic.
I didn’t understand feminism. I didn’t get it. I innocently thought it wasn’t for me in any way, shape or form. I thought, like so many others, that it was a bunch of – pardon the phrase – feminazis who were demanding everything in the world be un-girly. We honestly have such screwed up views as to what it actually is because there is no positive explanation of it in our everyday lives. When it’s brought up or portrayed, it is always given a negative undertone or worse (to me), chalked up to ‘girl power.’ *shudder* Not everything females do can be summed up in a Spice Girls song.
Well, Vanri sat me down and schooled me. She did this after I had said for the millionth time, ‘I’m not a feminist.’ She looked at me and said, ‘Oh, dear, Crymson but you are.’ Ok, maybe not just like that, but you get the gist. She sat there and listed off all of the feminist things that I do on a daily basis. You know what #1 was? If you guessed Real Women of Gaming, you’d be right. Talk about a wake up call.
This is what she explained or, more importantly, how I understood what she explained.
Feminism is the right to choose, to decide. She explained that it isn’t unfeminine to be a stripper (which I totally assumed), it’s oppressive to not have the ability to decide if you want to be a stripper or not.
I was seriously floored. Was it really that simple? Yeah, apparently it is. When we lack the ability to make those decisions, the same ability men have, then it is oppression.
I love my video games, board games, roleplaying games. I love them more than most other things. I don’t do them because I am female or to prove a point. It’s out of pure nerdy love that I continue to frustrate myself until I nearly chuck my controller across the room. Um…. I mean play… that I play games. However, constantly hearing that I can’t play a game because, ‘You’re a girl and girls don’t play games’ is an example of everyday sexism. It’s the reason I started RWoG and it’s something I still fight against constantly. Being told that I can’t do something I love because of my gender, are you kidding? Look at the scoreboard, I just whooped your ass!
I hear other women put up with it all the time. I struggle with questions like, ‘Is it worth it to start a shouting match over Xbox live because this 13 year old is humiliated at his hard core lack of mad skillz?’ I have recently been brought into the world of Call of Duty: Ghosts by my sadistic husband (whom I am convinced wants to see if I will finally lose my ever-loving mind and take out an inanimate object) and if – IF – a girl dares talk at times, she is immediately harassed. Most of the time she ignores it. Even more rare, she is defended.
We all have our opinions of how things are supposed to be. I see a lot of arguments, from both men and women, about having the option to play a male or female character. I’m not shocked when people don’t care if there are male or female players. If the main character is female (i.e. Lara Croft), then you simply play the game. If it’s male (i.e. Master Chief), you play the game. However, if you have an array of characters to choose from, why can’t one of them be female? Now, please don’t think me narrow-minded. I also care if they have a variety of races as well. Again, what I’m talking about is choice. I am extremely disappointed in Ubisofts decision to not include women in the multi-player. They have had women assassins in every game leading up to it, even having a female lead in one game. Each reason they have given is a poor one at best, so why have they taken steps backwards in pleasing their fan base?
Here are some amazingly interesting numbers pulled from Wikipedia:
According to a U.S. national study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association in 2012, “Forty-seven percent of all game players are women. In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (30 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (18 percent).”
Entertainment Software Association’s 2013 U.S. national study found that 45% of game players are female, 2% decrease from last year’s figures. However, women 18 years or older represent 31% of the game-playing population, one percent higher than last year, while boys 17 years and younger represent 19% of the game-playing population.Women over 18 are one of the fastest growing demographics in the gaming industry and the percentage of females in gaming has continued to grow, considering only 38% of the gaming population was female in 2006.
Not only is the general female gaming population growing, but the spread of this population is expanding over many facets of gaming.
That is 45%! Nearly half! Think about that again: nearly half of the people who buy and play videogames are women. Nearly half the people you play with online are women. Nearly half of your community of gamers gets harrassed for doing the same thing they love because… why? Because there are a large number of people who don’t think they should have the choice to play.
Now this extends far past just video games. Our gaming community, as a whole, is still fighting a pretty twisted battle of letting girls into the boys only club.
I still get funny looks when I walk into gaming shops. People wonder who’s girlfriend/wife I am. It doesn’t matter to them that I’ve been playing D&D as long as my husband has. It doesn’t matter to them that I had Magic: The Gathering decks (that I built) that were feared by the guys against whom I played. My grandmother bought me an NES when they first came out and I quickly fell in love with Final Fantasy 1 (which I am re-playing on my tablet at the moment). They don’t see that I ooze geek love, that most of the board games we own are ones I’ve picked out. They don’t see any of that. They see a women entering their world and quickly judge. A large chunk still find this to be a boys only club and others remember that girls don’t play games. Whenever you see a female character running around in an MMO, it has to be a guy playing a girl.
Sadly I even see judgement from the other female gamers. Who am I? Why am I there? I am sure they are wondering if I am a legitimate geek or another girlfriend along for the ride. We have to fight so hard to be a part of this elite club that we seem to turn on each other quickly to try and keep our established dominance and right to be there. As if to say, I’ve spent so much energy proving my geek, now I challenge you to prove yours.
I even see it in Cosplay. Actually, that is one of the most noticeable places to see it. A woman has to be more accurate than a man. She has to have the right weight, height, breast size, skin color, hair color. She has to be perfect to not be torn apart. It doesn’t matter that the Wolverine cosplayer doesn’t have ripped muscles but it does matter that the Samus cosplayer isn’t thin enough. If she can’t do it perfect, she shouldn’t do it at all, right?
I don’t understand any of it. Why does it matter? Why can’t we just all love the same thing, have fun and be happy?
Now, there is so much more to it. We say, ‘don’t hit girls’ instead of ‘don’t hit people.’ Men are mocked for being ‘beaten by a girl.’ It’s not one sided. We can’t yell at the men and tell them to change it. We all have to change. We have to help. We have to continue to bring it up and educate people until they get it. That is our job. We can’t sit down and wait for it to be fixed. We have to fix it.
We, as women, need to stop challenging each other to prove our geekdom. We need to lift each other up, not tear our community down. We need to show our passions loud and proud and encourage others to do the same. When we ask for proof, when we stoop to that level among ourselves, we are part of the problem. We represent half of the gaming community, be proud of that, embrace that, grow with that. Be heard, help to make and encourage real change.
Now, roll up your sleeves and get to work.