My Diablo III character and I have something to say about #GamerGate

If you don’t know about GamerGate, I’m jealous. You should either stop reading this right now to preserve your innocence OR you should go here and here to read about the horrific, disgusting, and terrifying shit going down in the gamersphere because a woman dared to criticize video games while calling herself a feminist. If you’re a real sucker for punishment and love to watch the world burn, look up the Twitter hashtag.

Essentially, it’s about assholes who want women out of their sandbox because it’s my sandbox, no girls allowed and if you come in I will literally kill you. It’s about telling women they are worthless, that they are meaningless, that they are non-people, that they are disposable, ignorable, rapeable, killable. It’s about men telling women what they can and can’t say and do, who they can and can’t be.

And, in a 100% understandable response, some women are backing away from calling themselves gamers. They’re retreating from their beloved pastime because they’re afraid to be caught up in this hurricane of violence and evil.

But I will not relinquish the title I have earned through thousands of hours spent with a controller in my hand, wearing off the rubber on the 360 joystick, enduring Sega thumb, and listening to Vamo alla Flamenco until I developed a Pavlovian anger response to it.

So, GamerGate haters, this is what I have to say about that:

#StopGamerGate2014 - I Am a Gamer

Update: Immediately after I posted this, the first person to comment over on Facebook was a dude who told me how sad of a DPS that is. THIS IS WHAT I’M ON ABOUT, PEOPLE.


 

Stop pigeonholing female characters

Rinko Kikuchi as Mako Mori in Pacific Rim - property of Warner Bros Studios

This exchange came across my Twitter feed:

@(Person 1): If there’s one thing I find most fascinating about Pacific Rim it’s how strongly the views diverge regarding the character of Mako Mori.

@(Person 2): What divergence is there?

@(Person 1) Re: Mako, whether she’s strong compelling character or damsel in distress.

Now, I don’t often get involved in ‘ism’ discussions because I’ve got (what I’ve been told is) a bizarre set of ideals that often gets me yelled at. I also have trouble coagulating my squishy abstract thoughts. But I do have a few feminist buttons that, when pushed, rocket me into hand-flailing and incoherent squawks of agitation.

This is one of them: The idea that women must either be strong, untouchable, borderline bitches and therefore be “good” and “compelling” OR sappy, weak-willed damsels in distress and therefore be “bad” and “damaging.”

*shoves soapbox into the center of the room*
*stomps atop it*
*starts gesticulating wildly*

Women don’t fall into easy-to-digest categories! They’re complex, nuanced individuals with many facets, thoughts, presentations, issues, values, backgrounds, and goals!

JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE ON THE PLANET!

*pauses to catch breath*

Ahem…

Point being, this thing where we tear apart positive portrayals of women in media for any minute aspect that doesn’t exactly match the Official Feminist Platform is fucked up and more damaging than Fifty Shades of Grey.

Are there archetypes for female characters? For sure. When you’re a writer, they’re handy starting templates for creating a character from scratch. I’d fall into the ‘starving artist’ and ‘housewife’ and ‘white Midwestern girl’ categories, just as an example.

But no one is 100% true to their cliche, and when attempts are clearly made to give female characters depth and breadth outside of their starting archetypes, creators should be given, if not applause, then at least a knowing smile and nod for their efforts.

When we get all pissy about if Mako’s vulnerability in Pacific Rim‘s ending scene or her failure to sync on the first neural handshake makes her a stereotypically love-sick, incapable, and therefore weak female character, we’re willfully ignoring her loyalty, physical prowess, drive, and bravery in pursuit of something to decry and shit on so we can feel like we’re being Good Feminists.

That’s messed up.

When you look at a female character, see all of her before you judge her. Not just a single moment, characteristic, action, problem, or feeling. It’s not an on/off switch; it doesn’t have to be one archetype or the other.

A woman can be a strong, fierce warrior type and have soft emotions and moments of weakness without automatically becoming a damsel in distress or undermining the value of women everywhere.

*takes a small bow*
*shuffles off soapbox*
*backs away slowly*


 

An awkward and incomplete summary of my thoughts on sexism in geek culture

Counter fake geek girl meme  - who are you to say she's not?

There’s a lot of talk recently about sexism and people being phenomenal asshats to each other across a shockingly broad range of scenarios. And to my great (genuine) surprise, I’ve been asked by a number of friends, online and off, to comment on the state of womanhood in the world – specifically as it’s treated and presented in geek* culture. People who respect my opinion (for some reason) want to hear how I, a practicing nerd with boobs and a brain and everything, feel about it.

But I don’t really want to talk about it, to be honest.

These things never go well. No matter what I say, it’s practically asking for someone to tear me apart for overlooking a particular detail or being too conservative/liberal/stupid to make a cogent argument. While I don’t like describing myself as conflict-averse, I regularly get my feelings hurt by the viciousness that inevitably arises in these discussions. Which is the opposite of what should be happening.

However.

I’m also fiercely interested in changing the conversation (about all sexism, not just in nerd culture) so it’s more inclusive, compassionate, and balanced. Yes, I used the word “balance” when talking about sexism. Because there’s more than one side.

And so, despite my fear of being flamed, trolled, letter-bombed, 4-channed, and Reddited, I’m going to share my perspective. Hopefully, you read the title before you comment.

My awkward and incomplete thoughts on sexism in nerd culture:

  • Sexism is not limited to men oppressing/hating on women. Women do it to men (and other women), too. We just don’t talk about it as much because it makes shit complicated. I’m not saying there isn’t an issue with sexism in geek culture – there is. But it’s not one-sided. And not all negative interactions are sexism; sometimes the person’s just a fuckhead.
  • There’s no such thing as a “fake” or “real” geek-person. Just like bodies and egos come in all sizes and shapes, so do nerds. Stop belittling people.
  • Impossibly-proportioned superheroes are harmful to everyone, not just women. If you think there aren’t any strong, badass, normal-looking people in comics, you’re reading the wrong titles.
  • Wear what you dig, but folks are going look at your corseted boob-glory or your David-Bowie-in-Labyrinth package if it’s on display. Have the confidence and empathy to tell the difference between a look, an ogle, and a threat.
  • Don’t assume someone’s relationship status – single, dating, married, divorced, open, complicated – is an invitation.
  • No one is asking for or consenting to anything unless they actually ask or consent. Communicate, dammit.

In the end, the most baffling thing I see being forgotten in geek-sexism conversations is that this culture arose from the connection born from shared love. We’re bonded through our delight in beautiful settings, compelling characters, and intense emotion. How did we forget this in our hurt over being objectified and overlooked – as men, women, goths, steampunks, furries, cosplayers, boffers, LARPers, Whedonites, Trekkies, and Whovians?

Love your nerd brothers and sisters. Respectfully. With their consent. Regardless of their crotch arrangement or identification. The way you’d want to be treated. The way they want to be treated.

So say we all.

1 I interchange geek, nerd, and dork. I know it’s controversial, but relax.
2 My blog, my rules. Act like a fool in the comments, and I’ll delete you.