Ah, gaming. The “boy’s sport,” right? After all, the stereotype of gamers is usually pasty, white males sitting in basements rolling dice or mashing controller buttons. Horror stories abound of women facing exclusion, unwanted advances, misogyny or worse. Yet, gaming is pretty evenly split among the sexes; if that’s true, why the stereotypes and examples of discrimination?
For one, despite those stories, there is lots of denial among many gamers. Whenever someone brings up problems of sexism, they’re immediately shouted down with all sorts of weak claims and arguments. “It can’t possibly be happening, because…” is thrown around in pure Internet keyboard warrior fashion. You try to reason with these individuals (a futile task, of course), but after a while, you’re tired of repeating the same information and logical counterpoints. Especially to those people who just ignore the point and keep echoing themselves…
Well, hopefully, next time you can just share this article. I’ll focus on the most common arguments about why sexism and harassment are supposedly non-existent. Then I’ll point out why these arguments are complete and total garbage. You probably won’t convince your typical Internet loudmouth of anything, but at least the information will be there to show what an idiot they are to other readers.
“We don’t do that in our group (or at our store).”
The problem with this retort is, it’s not about you. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not happening. I’ve never seen a cross burned in a yard, yet I know that happens because there is plenty of testimony from reliable sources. Stop judging the world based on what you see, and start listening to others’ experiences.
“Oh, so you accept what everyone says as truth?” No, I accept what people say as possible and then use critical thinking to determine if it’s true. If people say something is happening, especially those with credibility, then it’s probably occurring… and only evidence of a conspiracy would prove otherwise. (Funny enough, no one who refutes sexism in gaming seems to have much in the way of said evidence…)
Therefore, if a woman says they won’t use voice chat in multiplayer because of harassment, it doesn’t matter what your team does. She has a valid experience, and your denial is only contributing to the problem. The same goes for those who say, “Well, my gaming store is very welcoming… so I don’t think this happens too often”. That’s perfect for your gaming store, but I doubt your hole-in-the-wall in the Mid-West represents the gaming community as a whole.
“Well, I’m not sexist.”
Building off the last excuse, there are those who take it even more personally. They laud themselves as paragons of equality and justice. Of course, this is the same poor argument about not being racist; it’s based on a bit of truth and a lot of self-deceit.
It’s true, and most people probably don’t practice any overt sexism. They go through life, thinking they’re champions of their companions. Yet, like racism, many (unknowingly) practice less overt forms of sexism. Sexual humor, language that includes “rape,” mild stereotyping, subconscious reactions toward the opposite sex, etc. These are just some of the examples of how our behaviors can make others uncomfortable, without ever realizing it.
Our society has become very comfortable with vulgar and foul language, to the point we don’t always think about others’ perspectives around us. Wargamers proudly proclaiming to the store how they savagely raped their opponent (and possibly adding more colorful metaphors). FPSers talking garbage, throwing out sexist, racist, and homophobic insults. Socially inept CCG players leering a little too long at the object of their affection. Just because you think you’re behaving appropriately, doesn’t mean you are.
“Why should we change our behavior? People shouldn’t be so sensitive.”
Look, I get how situational gaming can be, depending on who you’re with and how comfortable you are. I use some of the most racist and sexist humor with my best friend (who is a different race and gender) because we know each other and our intent. However, when we’re with others or out in public? We use common sense to curb our language and behavior.
That means, if you’re queuing with strangers in your MMO or participating in a local tournament, maybe you should learn to behave with some civility. It’s not up to others to not be offended by your behavior; it’s up to you to have some consideration. If someone says you’re rude or sexist, no matter how innocent you think you’re being, then there’s a possibility that maybe you are.
This plays off the last point about looking at our behavior and how inconsiderate we’ve become. We’re lazy creatures of habit that want to stick to our patterns rather than adapt. That means we find it far easier to place the blame on the angry person than on ourselves. Of course, that also makes us selfish, egotistical jerks who’d rather ignore our imperfections than simply be nice to others.
“People make an issue about anything these days!”
Look, I’m not defending anyone who’s ever taken offense to something seemingly innocuous. I’m sure there are cases of people who are easily upset, falsely accuse others, or simply like the drama. Yet, you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, and you don’t disregard others’ experiences simply because of some poor examples.
The whole issue is about not denying our behavior; instead take a step back, look at ourselves, and question, “Was that rude, insensitive, or discriminatory?” People may be surprised how many things we do that are, and we had no clue. This practice is what empathy, vigilance, and open-mindedness are all about; the ability to recognize whether something is actually offensive (from others’ perspectives) and adapt (if necessary).
If someone says there’s an issue with Pokémon Pete and he’s making young girls nervous when he plays them, don’t dismiss those as rumors and “teenagers making stuff up.” Try looking to see if Pete’s been acting in any way that might be construed as aggressive or inappropriate. (Especially if you are Pokémon Pete!) When a woman joins your Overwatch competitive team and asks you to stop making “rape” jokes, they’re not the ones making a “big fuss”… you’re just being an asshole.
Here’s my final advice to all those who use the above arguments: try some critical thought.
“Critical thinking” is something that is important but rarely used. The ability to criticize ourselves and try to look at all sides of something isn’t just academic, and it should be a daily activity. In gaming, we should use critical thinking for everything, from edition wars to genre debates to minority issues. Sadly, too many just throw logic and consideration to the wind, all in the name of lazy, self-centered thinking. Thus, here we are with tales of prejudice and harassment, and gamers telling the victims “it’s not a big deal” and “get over it.”
And hopefully, the next time you meet the umpteenth billion person spouting the garbage above, this article will help you. It probably won’t change their mind or behavior, but maybe it’ll educate (or serve as a warning) to others.