Monday, 30 September 2013

Engaging in a Larger Online Discourse

I apologise for going on a tangent and not talking about my travels to Japan but this is an issue that's close to my heart and I feel is important and relevant to myself, the people around me and my community at large. Also this will be VERY long (especially if you include all the videos) so feel free to skim or not read at all :)

As well as being a woman, bilingual, bisexual, anime fan, cosplayer, avid book reader, sci-fi/fantasy fan, lover of films and comics, I am also a gamer. Out of all these identities (and others, as we all have many identities) I do not identify myself as a feminist (although some people might think or classify me as one). I simply believe in equality, trying to the best of my ability to stop injustices, and that if you have nothing nice to say don't say anything at all! Critiquing is fine, but just being nasty for the sake of being nasty doesn't make sense to me. (The last one's not a popular belief online). And due to the fact that I am a gamer and I do believe in equality and the right to critic I've become quite interested in the larger online debate surrounding Anita Sarkeesian and her videos Troupe vs Women in video games.

Many people in the gaming and general online community will have heard about her so I won't repeat what everyone knows. (If you don't know what this is all about just click here)

Last week I came across the video "Do Video Games Need Anita Sarkeesian's Feminism?"

I loved this video so much that I put it on my facebook to share with my friends. One in particular loved it so much she put it on her facebook. The response that she got from her friends (in the US) compared to my own (in the UK) was surprising to say the least. One in particular was very negative saying:

Guy: "Sarkeesian is a liar. She acts like shes this video game expert but in reality she knows nothing. She acts like theres some sort of conspiracy against women in gaming and overly exaggerates the way woman are treated in games and fails to realize that there are more video games with positive female protagonists than she realizes. this guy says that everyone should be free to express there ideas but unfortunately Anita disables the comments section and rating system. This guy is an idiot!"

This began a very, very, very long discussion which I feel is important for people to see (and I will post it at the bottom if I can if people do want to read it). But for now I will sum it up.

This person's (who we shall call Guy) arguments were as follows:
  • Anita Sarkeesian is a liar (based on this video)
  • She is not a real gamer (based on the fact that she is a liar based on that video)
  • She has no experience in the subject she is talking about
  • She and other femenists are forcing their views on the industry 
  • They (Anita and feminists) do not belong in the gaming community
  • Feminists who claim to be harassed are just responding to opposing opinions
  • Anita is not a true critic because she disabled her youtube comments
  • There does need to be more female protagonists in games
  • There are already a large number of games with women, and who are not sexualised
  • Masoganistic games like GTAV shouldn't be taken seriously because they are a satire of society
  • There is sexism in the gaming industry
  • Sexualisation of women in games does not perpetrate rape, abuse or sexual harassment

    He also posted these videos to back his opinion (make of them what you will): 

His comments and arguments got me very angry. Although I agree with a few of his point that there needs to be more female protagonists, and there are games with women protagonists already (although I would argue these are very few and often not well known ones), I did not agree with most of what he was saying.

I decided to engage back. But my arguments fell on deaf ears and we essentially went around in circles.

My counter arguments:
  • Anita might have told a class of University students and her lecturer that she did not play games because she wanted to be respected. I myself have done the exact same thing, hiding one identity to gain more respect in the academic and professional world.
  • Lying about one identity in a certain social situation does not make that identity invalid.
  • She has proved again and again in her videos and on her site that she has the experience to talk about this.
  • She is not forcing her ideas on anyway, she is simply criticising the image of women in many (not all but many) games as a whole.
  • Who can say who has the "right" to be in a community or not? (The irony of this one is that this defence of 'them vs us' is addressed in the original video I posted Why Gamers Need Anita)
  • Anita disabled her comments due to the 24/7 abuse and harassment she received (as shown in this video)
  • There is not a lot of funding that goes into games with female protagonists due to the belief they won't sell as well as male driven ones (as argued by penny-arcade)

Our conversation then spilled over into a one-on-one discourse between myself and him on my friends facebook wall (which she was fine with because her Masters is based on the perceptions on gender in games so this was perfect for her research). At this point I was no longer angry, just amazed and bemused by this person's point of view. I had never come across anyone like him in person before and found his beliefs quite baffling. 

Our one-on-one discussion began today with this video where a man calmly breaks down MrRepzion's arguments slating Anita, and discusses why they are wrong. (MrRepzion's videos are the ones Guy mostly used to back his point of view). Our discussion, as I said, went in a bit of a circle with us both re-instating our views and arguments that I listed above.

I made the statement that Anita's videos were relevant because women are abused every day in the gaming community (as proved by Anita's own experience of abuse and others)

This was Guy's response:
"And women every day are abused by men in the video game world", I find that completely hilarious. I dare you to go out of your relatively comfortable life as an American citizen and go to an Islamic country where woman are truly abused. You along with most modern feminists need to stop trying to point your fingers at video games and look at the real problems facing society. But of course you don't want to look at the real problems and continue to bitch and moan about video games because its much easier to do than to go out of your way to actually help." 

So apparently criticising something or someone and engaging in a larger online discourse is "bitching and moaning" and that means we are not addressing "real problems" in the world. Because of course the issues Anita is discussing are not "real issues", and that the abuse women get for playing games or speaking out is not a "real issue".

So the main point in this wall of text that I want to bring attention to

My main point here is not whether Anita is right or wrong, but is discussing issues that impact our society and the communities we are a part of wrong? Just like "Do Gamers Need Anita Sarkeesian's Feminism?" discusses many people reacted (and just like Guy, still do) negatively to people challenging the "norm" and engaging in these discussions.

Many people find it hard to see another person's point of view once they have their own, and even more so when someone challenges that view. I for one would not change my views based on the evidence that Guy presented in his arguments, just as he will not change his view based on the evidence I presented to him. That's fine by me. But getting rude and aggressive just because I won't back down and saying that I am "bitching and moaning" is not cool. How will that help at all? 

But I feel our discussion has made an impact on both of us. Although my opinions won't change I now understand the other side's point of view a little better. Although I don't agree I can empathise with it. After empathising I stopped being angry and just found it funny and bemusing. Funny how different our views are and where those views came from, and bemusing that we can both be gamers but have such different views.

Engaging in a larger online discourse like this is empowering and can make a difference. So I wasn't able to change Guy's point of view. So what? There are many more like him, but there are also people whose views change or become influenced positively by such a discussion. I was unaware that such sexism existed in the gaming community over a year ago before Anita's video and the controversy around it came spilling out to the public. 

Thanks to that I watched you tube videos about women discussing at conventions sexual harassment they had on video games, and the issue surrounding the harassment a female StarCraft finalist at a tournament was shocking and something I never imagined before. I came across sites like Not In The Kitchen Anymore which addressed the abuse one girl received on Call of Duty (which inspired many more women to speak out about their own harassment).

This larger discourse about harassment in games can make a difference. This was just one person who commented on Not in The Kitchen (on the "About" page if you wish to read more comments):

"Before i speak, I am a man, but believe in equality. had little idea this was going on, though the first time i really heard anything was when i found Anita Sarkeesian and really enjoyed her videos. but found people attacking her. I never understood why this happend, just very odd. For a while i thought it was just a bunch of looser gamers that couldn’t stand to see there fav games being harshly criticized for large negative faults.
But i have seen that its only a symptom of a large problem of sexism in gaming. and sexism in life. people taught of stero types and its on our brains, because of this writers have trouble writing strong female character in balance with male characters with out trying realy hard. I am guilty of this my self and was ashamed when i relised i was writing mainly men centered storys and what it basically ment. that all men are raised sexist…. our society need to break out of this horrible trend, and realise the wemon are just as equal as men."

So yes this is a real issue. And it's not just an issue facing women, but also one facing men. Thanks to a minority of loud, rude, aggressive and/or misogynistic male gamers, many other male gamers are getting this stereotypical image placed upon them. Not all male gamers are like this (as I've said Guy was the first one I've ever come across in person).

I believe that we talk about these issue, discuss it with the people around us and educate each other so that we can better understand ourselves and our own community. No one's perfect and change never happens fast. But after my experience I'm willing to be more open minded to the conflicting views of others in my community. Even if I do still think they're wrong.


Update: Our mutual friend had...a word with him after she read our arguments and I received an apology. "I'm sorry if I took things a bit too far. I'm just used to conversing with the tumblr feminist type that usually ends up being a whole fuck you argument."


Update: PBS Updated with another video this time about the images of men in games! <3 p="">

(I am currently trying to find a way to post the facebook discussions on here while also maintaining anonymity. May take a while...) 

1 comment:

  1. Right, and gay people are being killed in places like Nigeria so people complaining about homophobia in Russia or places closer to home are just bitching and whining. This line of argument implies that there's a limit to the amount of issues or manifestations of an issue that one can care about. One can find the portrayal of women in video games limited and annoying AND campaign against female genital mutilation in Muslim countries at the same time.