There’s a high price tag on being a woman in our society. And I don’t mean financially, although cis and trans women both can easily spend thousands of dollars trying to meet the minimum social requirements of femininity—tampons, makeup, clothes for passing as female, gynecologist appointments, hormone treatments, as well as pepper spray and self defense classes, add up to a pretty penny. I mean the fact that women’s bodies are considered public property. In both fictional media and real life, women must be beautiful before they can be anything else, and we are at fault for not upholding those standards of beauty to an impossibly precise degree.
An oft-cited real world example is the difference between the media receptions of Lance Armstrong losing a testicle to cancer and Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy—while the former was treated as a sad but necessary loss for Armstrong in his struggle with cancer, the latter was met with significant outrage. Didn’t Jolie know she was a sex symbol? By having her breasts removed for the important and personal reason of cancer prevention, didn’t she know that she was selfishly depriving horny guys around the world the ability to jerk off to them?
This entitlement leads men to treat women as sexual objects first and people second, and this mentality is pervasive in our culture, including geek culture.
Recently I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled more than ever for articles talking about gaming culture and its effects on its members, in addition to its effects on the people that supply us with our drug of choice (i.e.: game devs). This may come as a shock to some people, but apparently when you keep your eyes open, you actually find things. Today’s Web Crush hits a spot very close to my heart and combines two of my favorite things: Xbox Live and laughing at stupid people. What? I never said I was nice.
Not in the Kitchen Anymore is a site that documents fellow girl gamer Jenny Haniver’s day-to-day experiences as she plays games over Xbox Live. This doesn’t sound all that interesting from my description, but it’s the simplest way to explain the layout of her posts. On a deeper level, she’s exploring the misogyny that’s so rampant within the community. Or, well, I wouldn’t say exploring—it’s “exploring” if the temples Indiana Jones “explored” came up and knocked on his door. What’s happening here is more like watching Cops.
In the past month, two well-known figures in the gaming industry have departed for apparently a similar reason, causing a noticeable disturbance in the force. At the end of July, the producer of the quirky indie game Fez, Phil Fish, halted production on the anticipated sequel, packed his bags, and left. Just like that. More recently (as in last week) one of Bioware’s senior writers, Jennifer Helper, left her position to pursue freelance work. While of course there are many differing aspects to the reasons why they left, I think it’s safe to assume that both occurrences, while not the reason in particular, share one unfortunate similarity: they were both being harassed by fans.
It’s really a double edged sword when an audience realizes how much power they have over content providers. The same audience that can let developers know when and where a game-breaking glitch occurs can also be the audience that tells the developers that their children should have been aborted and that the world would be much better if they killed themselves. But what causes such a disparity? What is it that allows people to think that this kind of negative activity is allowed? I think the problem is two-fold: anonymity and entitlement.