Sex and Sexism in Games Part 2: Games and Women

Hey everybody, and welcome back! Last week kind of fell through, but this weeks on the up and up!

So, this week we're continuing the three part Sex and Sexism series with a look into women that play video games, also know as girl gamers, or grrrl Gamers. Similar to last week, I once again set out with a series of questions about being a women and playing video games, related to whether or not they feel its a big deal, are they bothered by negative stereotypes, etc. There questions prompted even more responses then my last topic, so this does seem to again be a growing topic.

The numbers vary, but one source declares about 38% of all American gamers to be women. I have heard higher statistics, reaching up to 45%, but the ultimate point here is that as a sector of worldwide entertainment, gaming is one that appeals to both men and women despite some stereotypes, and women are a part of the gaming social community.

But wait, I mentioned stereotypes. Are they there? Do they exist? How do people react to what has been largely construed to be a "male activity" suddenly showing that it is not? Does the reaction negatively affect those who play? With these questions in mind, I set out to see how women felt on this whole idea.

The first thing which I asked of those questioned was what their reaction was to being called a "female/woman gamer". Were they defensive? Embarrassed? Did they see it as a negative comment? Overwhelmingly, those women that responded didn't care one way or the other. Most declared that they felt being a gamer was well enough, while have their sex tagged onto the front of it was unnecessary. Several women mentioned that since it could be said in a negative tone as well as a positive one, they saw that as a disliked term. They just want to be gamers.

The next question that was proposed was how they felt about the statistical amounts of gamers. Did the numbers surprise them? Did they feel that it held influence for society? If they were not gamers, how did they feel knowing that they (non-gamers) were now a statistical minority due to the overwhelming amount of gamers? Unfortunately for me, no non-gamers responded to that question, but many gamers did. And reactions were mixed. Some women expressed surprise that there were as many gamers, women or otherwise, while others expressed indifference. The majority of those interviewed however, did agree that gaming is a fast growing societal trend, and therefore it is fast becoming accepted.

The next question was more towards each of them personally. I asked how they thought that people reacted to them being a women gamer. Did the reaction differ if the person in question was a gamer? Were they hesitant to disclose that they were gamers? Most of the women responded in a like manner that no, they had no problem with letting people know that they played games. Responses varied, with those who had little interest acknowledging it, but often not making any passing comment, while those who enjoyed games often glad to have common ground. However, some negative responses were also mentioned and felt, although it seems that this has shrunk with the rise of games.

They were then asked about negative stereotyping of women gamers and whether or not they felt such stereotypes were justified. In this regards, almost everyone felt that yes, they were stereotyped in a negative way and yes, the accusations were completely unfounded. Most felt that people expected them to be out of shape, socially unable and awkward, when in fact they were no different from other women, felt they had plenty of friends and in general defied any of the stereotypes pushed on them.

Lastly, I asked them a question similar to last weeks, in what they felt that the game industry could do for them and what did they want to see as a public reaction? To the first, the response was very similar to last weeks post, in that many women were tired of seeing overly sexified games and unrealistic portrayals of women. However, they also wanted the industry to stop pushing the so called 'girly' games on them and declaring them games for women. Two comments I particularly enjoyed was one woman who mentioned she wanted to play God of war III and one who stated "don't package the lilac PSP with a Hannah Montana game. Maybe I like purple because it's a nice color? This does not automatically mean that I like that [game]". As a public reaction, they wanted to not be treated any differently, both as gamers and women.

As to responses, I have to admit that I was unsurprised by most of the responses. Women, even when playing games, would rather not be treated differently, and for the most part, fortunately they are not. but, even so, most feel that the industry seems to be doing little to correct any negative assertions, and in my opinion, if anything they are supporting them.

So what does this mean for the gaming circle at large. Easy. Don't single out the grrl gamers, just act as if they are any other gamers and treat them accordingly. And don't, whatever you do, declare that you can beat them at anything because of your sex. Women are just as welcome to games as men, and I for one, am happy to say come on in and join the fun.

1 comment:

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

I gotta say, there are two types of people in the gaming community who I wish would not be there(Actually, there are probably more, but only two relate to this) and those are 1: The guy gamers who single out girl gamers because they're girls, and 2: The girl gamers who use their femininity to eff things up for their own profit. There's definitely a causal relationship between these two groups of people and the issue surrounding female gamers, if not both these groups being the one and only direct cause of the issue.

The first group is responsible for the somewhat reclusivness of female gamers as a whole. I personally know one girl who's been harassed on Xbox Live for being female, and one who cites that as one reason she won't play on Xbox Live. It's sickening, and it's a big step back in a society that is supposed to look at both sexes as equals.

However, I'm sickened more by the female gamers who use their femininity for their own profit and to the determent of others. I've heard(and witnessed) several horror stories of women in WoW using the fact that they're female to obtain gold, mounts, rare drops that they don't deserve, as well as using the fact that they're female to move up the ranks in a guild when they don't deserve it, and I've heard several times of these people being instrumental in the implosion of a guild. This isn't even sick for a gamer, it's sick for a person. There's no way this should be happening, and they're giving female gamers a terrible stigma.

Though, certainly the first step to the overall acceptance of female gamers is to stop calling them that because it focuses on the fact that they're female. We don't call male gamers "male gamers", so why single out females? The second step is to hold them to the same standards to which we hold the rest of the gaming community. No more automatic acceptance or ridicule based on their sex. That needs to stop.

Another thing that needs to stop is all-female clans whose basis is the fact that they're all female. Seriously, if we're finally going to integrate "female gamers" into "gamers-at-large", the whole "You got beat by a girl" mentality needs to end. I don't care about being beat by a girl. Nobody should.

To finally properly integrate the gamers who happen to be female into being known simply as gamers, people need to stop making them so special and they need to earn their special treatment like I(everyone else) have(has). When people stop talking about how good I am at Halo just because there's a girl in the room, there's a problem.