Manboy and the Girl Cooties

(You can use the title as your band name if you want.)

There has been a lot of media awareness of gender politics in the gaming community lately, and I’ve been following it with interest. Today’s Twitter feed brought me this: A Call to Arms for Decent Men.  I was going to simply retweet it as usual, but I found that I couldn’t accept the implicit agreement with all of the content, and that I would have to explain my disagreement in order to avoid feeling like a jerk.  It’s likely nobody would notice if I simply failed to note the article, but it does have a lot of content that I think is valuable and worth reading.

Go read the article and then come back.

The first thing I have to quibble with is the underlying assumption that the giant boys who are making things difficult for female gamers are like that because they never outgrew the “girl cooties” stage.  I don’t think that’s true.  There may be some like that, but if you’re talking about the kind of gamers you find on XBox live, they probably actually ARE at the “girl cooties” age.

Showing my own bias here, I think that the anti-female attitudes displayed by supposedly “adult” male gamers comes from the continued resistance to and undermining of womens’ legal and social equality, which has become glaringly visible in the sensationalist media spotlight recently, especially in politics.  In other words, male gamers are reflecting the attitudes they pick up from TV news, movies, sports commentary, advertising, talk radio, music, church, school and social groups.  The contribution of their gaming community is not the main source of the bad attitude but it tends to be a strong reinforcing factor, which is where the call to arms of the article I linked may prove effective.

Secondly, while I agree that the existence of the sexist gamer problem is not subject to debate, I take exception to the author’s statement “The real-world analogy is not to social issues but to violent crime.”  No.  A man denigrating or even screaming invective at a woman does not equate to a man hitting a woman.  They’re both bad things, but of different orders of severity.   You don’t actually need a real-world analogy for this because there are several real-world terms that already cover the situation, for example “emotional abuse” or “mental abuse”.

Thirdly, I’m not entirely convinced his proposed solutions are likely to work.  Calling immature players immature in the heat of a match is probably not going to have a positive effect.  I also don’t think financial penalties are a good idea in an environment where mass false accusation is a viable strategy for revenge.  The rest seems reasonable though.

And finally: Since members of my gaming community (some of whom are even female) are likely to read this, and I would hope they would call me out on it, I must admit that I’m not  exactly a saint here.  I would like to think that the article I linked is aimed at me, that I am one of the “reasonable, decent, but much too silent majority of male gamers,” but there have been occasions when I’ve blurted out things like “That’s what she said!” or “Don’t be silly, everyone knows there are no women on the Internets!”  I won’t bother making excuses.  I usually feel bad about it seconds later, and if you play with me please say “Dude, that’s uncool!” if I do it again.

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