“Why have a gender specific group?”
I’d like to think the answer to this was obvious, but it is quite clear that this is not the case. Perhaps, we don’t need to explain, but more so make it clear. Communities for women, minorities, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized peoples exist for a purpose.
The purpose is not to exclude others, but for these groups of people to find a place where those around them have empathy, understanding and experience in the same struggles they have. In a perfect world, everyone would have empathy and understanding for everyone, but no one’s experience in this world is the same. To those that are marginalized, the gaming community as a whole can sometimes be an unkind place. These types of communities help give a voice to those that feel they are not heard and give them strength, power and confidence to face a world that, at times, can be hostile towards their very existence.
We live in a time where inequality is so clear and in our face, yet those that hold the majority, the power, hesitate at times to do anything to help. Such groups finding voices among peers helps them vocalize with those who need to see their value in the rest of the world. We belong, we exist and we are important.
Finding a place where one belongs has always been something each of us strive for. Some of us will find that sense of belonging in various groups made up of various people, others will find that sense of empowerment amongst those that perhaps have experienced the world as they have… what matters is these communities help you grow and find your voice in a world that can make you feel like you’ll never be heard.
When it comes to the gaming world it is a much more concentrated level of negative experiences for those that put themselves out there as female, PoC, LGBTQ+ and those with disabilities.
I know my personal experiences as a woman of color have been nothing like many of my white male counter parts. This was expected when I chose to stream with a camera, but the level to which it came. It surprised my husband and friends who are not PoC. It surprised them more than it could have ever surprised me.
That is where a community comes in. Because, though non-PoC can see what is wrong, they can’t fully understand the effect not only in the gaming world but also in the world in general when so many still think and act in such a manner towards PoC, women, LGBTQ+ and those with disabilities. These are unique experiences in each of these communities. Helping those around us understand that these experiences happen and what those outside such a community can do to be an ally is very much needed.
Communities give strength to those that need it and sanity to those that may question themselves when encountering these negative experiences. They have experienced that feeling of anxiety, anger and hurt when someone joins a public chat and questions your femininity, or calls you a slur. When someone tries to put you in your place with words or even going as far as harming you beyond a computer screen, thinking we owe them something for just existing.
Though we don’t owe you an explanation, we will explain because we want you as an ally. We want you to understand as much as you are able. We want you to realize we aren’t excluding you from something, but finding a place where we feel safe and accepted, even if it’s just a forum online for a few moments a day. Having that kind of touch stone is important for everyone. It is sometimes harder for marginalized groups to find that kind of connection with one another because the feeling of being isolated can become all encompassing. There is bravery in reaching out for help and support. Communities for marginalized peoples give just a bit more help and support then a general community can give.
In the gaming world, as this pertains to that, our allies are everywhere. They are helping us, supporting us as regulars, mods and larger community members. We value them a great deal. It shows the world is capable of change and can be a better place. Minority specific communities are not meant to block us off from the rest of the world, but to simply help us navigate it. Participating in one, as well as many different kinds, of these communities gives us the perspective and tools to react to the world around us.
In the end, what one should take away from seeing that there are such specific communities in the gaming world is that they are very much needed and many of them are helping to better the gaming community as a whole. Which is a good thing for everyone.
So how can you be an ally? (Not to sound repetitive, if you’ve read my last piece) Be supportive. When in someone’s stream that is getting harassed, speak up, make it unacceptable behavior. Don’t question a community’s existence, but more so ask questions to try and understand those communities’ experiences. You know these people. You are friends and peers with these people and they have a perspective of the world that you may not understand. Most are willing to share their stories so that you might have a chance to understand. Most important of all: listen. Listen to why such communities need to exist. Just that act is so important to those that aren’t as often heard.