Earlier this week (or it may be last week by the time I upload this) I wrote a rather long response to a post over on boingboing called “No girl wins: three ways women unlearn their love of video games”. When I uploaded this post I looked around the web for images I could use as a header, so naturally I typed in “gamer girl” and searched through Google Images to find something.
It took some time.
The reason for this was that I wanted something that showed a reasonably normal looking girl, someone who seemed to be enjoying a game and nothing that was posed for the camera. What I found was a mixture of sexy posed pictures and insulting memes.
Considering what my post was about, and what I was refuting in it, this discovery was an interesting one. It seems obvious to me that these memes and sexy images should have been commented on in the boingboing article.
On the surface of it I could understand someone looking at these images and considering them to be evidence of sexism within gaming; and they may well be, but this would mean making one big assumption.
It would mean assuming the memes and images were created by males, which some obviously are not, and that the memes and images were meant as a general attack on women.
Images created of women provocatively posing with gaming paraphernalia are not images sexualised by men, but rather images sexualised for men (or at least sexualised for people who are attracted to women, if me want to be PC about it). So while there’s nothing wrong with these images and in themselves these images don’t illustrate anything about the models or the viewer (other than the obvious), I do wonder how much they are connected, as in cause and effect, to the insulting memes.
The memes themselves are essentially “Fake Gamer Girl” shaming and many could easily be seen as being responses to specific situations from which they’d been separated (though admittedly this is an assumption). A little like reading a response to an article without reading the article itself, you’re inclined to miss the full picture and so it becomes easy to see them as a general assault on all female gamers (which would also be an assumption).
I have seen a great many assumptions made regarding not only these images but also the reasons behind them, and it seems that one assumption is as valid as another.
Take, for instance, the much touted issues with women in geekdom being cross examined on their chosen subject in an inquisition of sorts. The claim being that women are disproportionately asked to prove their credentials in a subject more than their male counterparts are.
This actually may be quite true, though I’ve never seen this first-hand myself and questioning a Gamer friend the other day I found he hadn’t either, but it would be right to say that if this happens then this is unfair and discriminatory.
My question would be why does this happen (assuming for the moment that it does)?
The easy answer is “sexism”, but this is overly simplistic and completely denies personal autonomy in social interactions, not to mention it is, simply put, an assumption on the inquisitor’s intentions. In order to accept sexism as an answer you would have to accept as a fact that the vast majority of male Gamer are sexist and the vast amount of female Gamers lack the character needed to shut them up (these are both pretty big assumptions in my view).
As I know enough women that would hand you your intestines in a bag if you dared disregard them in this way, I think this answer would be an insult.
So what else could it be?
Well, if we make a different assumption things look a little different.
What if all these memes and images weren’t made by men?
What if some were made by women?
What would this mean?
Then it would be a clear attack not on women in gaming but on women who are not Gamers trying to appropriate the culture, rather than be a part of it; i.e. “Fake Gamer Girls” (the people they actually say they are attacking on the memes themselves).
It would not be so hard to see a direct connection between those sexualised images and the memes using this hypothesis. I would understand women who are Gamers being more irritated by those women appropriating their group than the men in the group would be (after all, men like boobies, boobies be good).
In recent years “Geek Culture” has become a fashion accessory to many who have no interest in the culture itself. Some people wear eye glasses that contain window glass, or wear t-shirts sporting Wolverine though they have never read an issue, and though this is not wrong and we live in a society where this is perfectly acceptable, it is obvious that a previous maligned group such as Geeks should feel attacked by the mainstream because of it.
Those of us who were part of this culture before “Geek Chic” became popular know that many of us were treated very poorly by the mainstream (and I could argue that we still are), so any appropriation of our culture should be expected to provoke a response.
To reiterate; I don’t believe for a moment this is an attack on all women, I believe this is an attack on the appropriation of Geek culture (of which gaming is a part) by some women who are outsiders to it.
Unfortunately it’s not a good attack because whatever the reasons behind the “Fake Gamergirl” memes they are not the best response to any perceived attack, real or imagined, as they can too easily be seen as an attack on any women wanting to explore the culture.
It has to be remembered that ultimately this IS an attack on women, just not ALL women, and though these “Fake Gamer Girls” may be instigating the conflict by their attempted appropriation there are probably a fair few in the bunch who are sincerely trying, just not knowing how to understand a culture that is, lets face it, pretty hard to understand.
As I have said in my previous post on this subject, I would like more women in gaming (as well as in comics) and I would like to see a more honest use of female characters. Things like the sexy gamergirl images and the “Fake Gamergirl” memes are a barrier to this, if only because they can be carted out any time someone wants to raise a point, fallacious or not, about sexism within the culture.
So if you are someone who makes or distributes such images, consider how this makes the culture look, even if you don’t care about the “feels” of the person you’re aiming it at think about how some people will batter us with the meme afterwards.
The sexy images that some Gamers make also just feed the flames, so that should be considered as well, so if some of you girls just HAVE to make sexy images of yourself then you can all ways post them to me courtesy of this site, I will look after them for you; purely for political reasons of course.
Not because I actually LIKE them or anything.