#1ReasonWhy We Need to Change the Way We Fight Against Sexism
I originally had this up on Gamasutra, and wrote it during GDC2013. It’s made it’s way around the internet, and here it is, on my own site.
I’ve spent the last few days at GDC13, networking, making contacts, seeing cool things, attending sessions, and learning more about the industry I’m so very passionate about. I’m all set to graduate in May from college with two degrees, a Bachelor of Science focusing on game programming, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts dealing with game art and animation. Also, I’m a woman. Does that last bit of information change your perspective on me? And more importantly, should it? Should I be forever prefacing “game developer” with “female” when I talk about what I do as a career? Should that even matter?
A bit of background on me: I’ve wanted to make video games since I was about 12 years old. In high school I flew planes, but ultimately decided that I wouldn’t give up the dream of being a game developer. I guess I was blessed with good vibes around me. My friends were encouraging, and my parents supportive with what I wanted to go to college for. I found a school that would let me dual major in game art and game programming, I worked hard in high school to get good grades and get college credit through AP classes, and off I went to chase my dreams. When most people met me at college and found out what I was going there for, there wasn’t so much shock that I was female as there was for attempting both degrees. I’ve been shown off to prospective students, not because I was female, but because I was doing well in both degrees, and also was a student tutor and lab tech. Many of my friends are male, and we love to hang out, joke around and so on.
I have been lucky in that I’ve not experienced much sexism towards me from my classmates and colleagues for what I want to do. No one has told me I can or can’t because I’m a girl. The few instances that comments were made towards me about my gender, mostly by hotheaded underclassmen, have been returned by me with quick and witty comments. To be completely honest, I’ve found that it’s not males that find it odd, my love of video games, but other women. Granted, many of those women don’t play many video games, so they don’t quite understand the hype when most of what they know is Call of Duty and Angry Birds. But still, its members of my own gender that have given me flack for what I want to do. How bizarre, right? Apparently, not entirely wrong. Many of the women I’ve had the chance to talk to over the last few days have found that many of their male coworkers are supportive and friendly, and that they’ve been treated with respect and kindness.
I, by no means, am saying that sexism isn’t a problem in the industry. What I am saying is that not all men are the enemy. Not everything that occurs is blatantly sexist. Some things totally are sexist and in poor taste; others only appear so in hindsight. Which should we be more upset over? Where do we start to fix things? How can we ensure equality in the workplace, and make the development community more inclusive?
I love the idea of #1ReasonWhy. I love the idea that we as an industry can get together, bring light to problems of sexism, and work together to eradicate these problems and bring equality to our industry.
I hate the turn it has taken over the last few weeks.
I was at the IGDA/YetiZen party at GDC. I saw the hired female entertainment, scantily clad and all. Now, I grew up in Las Vegas, and given that we were in a night club, I wasn’t too fazed by the women. I figured they came with the club. You know, a package deal. I honestly was more upset that the party was too much like hanging out in a club, and that drinks were expensive. Feeling that the party was a bust in general, I left after maybe an hour, disappointed overall. Looking back on it, the hired girls were probably in poor taste. I’m not going to disagree with that. And especially given that this was an IGDA-sponsored event, it probably shouldn’t have happened. But I can’t help but wonder, had they also hired some scantily-clad males to dance around in speedos, would that have been more acceptable?
I heard Anna Anthropy’s microtalk. And I have a lot of respect and admiration for her. But listening to her microtalk honestly annoyed me. Yes, we should have more women presenters. Yes, women need to be included more in press events. Yes, there are problems in our industry, and in the tech industries in general, about women participants. But to count out ENTIRE presentations and events because no women happen to be presenting? Sometimes, that’s not a sexism thing. Sometimes it’s literally a “there’s 3 guys that make up this company and we want to talk to everyone” thing. We’re going to punish the whole because of the poor actions of a few? She encouraged people to not present somewhere if there were no women presenters. And I found that offensive. What if there’s not a woman experienced enough in a company to give a talk? What if she’s nervous? What if she’s not part of the department that’s giving the presentation? Do we encourage her and her company to have her talk, even if she knows very little about the subject? Is that fair to her, to her company, to those attending the presentation? Do we let our want of inclusion to appear not sexist in presentations cause problems in the presentations themselves? Where do we draw the line at what is no longer sexist? Does saying of this somehow make me sexist against my own gender?
I would love to see equality in the games industry. To the point that we no longer have to talk about female developers and developers. Where our works and our actions can define us instead. Where no one has to justify their love of games as a particular gender, and instead can just talk about their love of games. But equality, much like respect, is a two way street. And we cannot let the #1ReasonWhy movement become tarnished by thinly veiled misandry. If we do, then we are no better than the sexist problems and people that drove the movement to happen in the first place. I am honestly sickened by seeing mass blaming of all males in the industry as being part of the problem, when many of them are not. I’m disturbed by the willingness of a few of my gendermates to throw their male colleagues under the bus to promote themselves instead. I’m not accusing all women of doing this. But just tweeting my opinions on sexism in the games industry has caused fellow women to tell me that I was more or less sexist against my own gender, that I didn’t understand male privilege, that women couldn’t be sexist, that men don’t treat women with respect, that misandry didn’t exist.
I was appalled. Is the #1ReasonWhy movement becoming a “if you don’t agree with us 100%, then you’re part of the problem” situation? Or is my generally pleasant experiences, and the generally pleasant experiences of the women I’ve talked to over the last few days the exception and not the rule? Why are other women accusing me of misogyny? For expressing a different opinion? As far as I’m concerned, men as a whole aren’t the enemy of females in the game industry. Many of them aren’t chauvinistic pigs, or at least the ones I’ve met. I honestly feel that general game culture is the real enemy. But hey, what do I know. Clearly these men are just being nice to me because I’m a female and not because I’ve worked really hard to achieve success. Obviously they’re just waiting it out to use their male privilege to toss me aside and take credit for my work.
I believe in equality. I feel this means we need to work together, instead of placing blame. “Oh, but they’re the ones with all the power.” But what is the abuse rate of that power? How many of these men are truly marginalizing their female counterparts? “Oh, but women can’t be sexist.” Oh yeah they can. That’s why Chippendales is a thing. That’s why we find it odd and out of the social norm for men to do things like own a cupcakery. “Oh, but misandry isn’t real.” No. It’s very real. But for some reason, we look the other way when it comes to reverse sexism. That doesn’t make it any more right. “But men are not of my concern until we’re equal.” That doesn’t sound like you want equality at all then. That sounds like you want the roles reversed, and for women to hold power and influence instead of men. For what? The ability to do the same things to them that they’ve done to us? Should we be stooping to the levels of the low as an act of revenge? Or should we be the bigger people, and lead by example?
#1ReasonWhy is either going to be the great uniter of our times, or the great divider. We claim we want unity and equality, but if my male peers were to express the views I just have, they would be flamed to hell and back. They would be called enemies of the cause, oppressors of women. Is that equality? Or do we want separate but equal treatment?
I want to be part of an industry where our bodies of work and our abilities define us, not our gender. I don’t want to emphasize that I’m a woman in games. I want to emphasize that I’m in games. I want equality, but I also don’t see why we need to blame and alienate a large group of people who honestly haven’t done anything. Yes, some men are going to be jerks, but that has fueled me to prove them wrong. Not because I’m a woman, but because I’m passionate and energetic and hardworking. Most people admire and respect that out of me. For many of them, my gender is an afterthought. Not all men are perpetuating sexism. Not every woman is fighting for real equality. But what is and isn’t acceptable in this war on sexism? When did it become less about equality and more about revenge for those who have hurt us?
I fight for equality. I don’t fight for revenge. If #1ReasonWhy is going to become a war on men instead of stopping the war on women, then I want absolutely nothing to do with it.