Feminism and Women in Games

I am a gamer-girl. I fly under the radar, and I never have Xbox chat open. Honestly, I never interact with random people in game and I completely ignore trade chat. So, I’ve never experienced the bullying and misogyny that many other gamer-girls have.
But I have noticed, the lack of (well written) women characters in games. Sometimes it’s directly sexist, other times it’s just like, the women disappeared except for the occasional bar-maid or rescue quest. Never really main characters unless you *decide* to play as FemShep or FemHawke.
Bioshock Infinite, I felt, was groundbreaking because their female character was remarkably well written, strong, capable, and <spoiler> saves your ass more times than you can count </spoiler>.
A lot of people, when talking about female characters focus on what they look like. Which, I understand, I guess, but I also find it…I don’t know. I feel like if your complaint about female characters is centered around how they look, then you’re putting women into games as sex appeal just as much as the other people (without taking into account whether or not the design fits the entire world/style of the game and isn’t a special thing). Honestly, it’s an animation, I don’t particularly take issue with how things were rendered so long as the design fits the style of the game and story.
What I do wish, is that the writing of Elizabeth and her character-type weren’t groundbreaking. I wish it were standard. I wish women were written better, and even, actually written as characters as opposed to furniture or quest objectives. Maybe eventually we could get to the point of having a female character showcased as the default – but that isn’t going to happen until other things happen first.
As a consumer looking in to the world of games, I think that it’s a little similar to the world of female directors – there are some who work in “the industry”, but not many. Before anything changes I think we need to encourage people to write better characters, better stories, and encourage women to enter the game writing/design/programming world. That’s going to take time – especially, because apparently this is so new to people? It’s maybe not so much that it’s intentionally sexist (although, a lot of people are) but, like the absence of women in games, they just aren’t there (or if they are, they’re somewhere hidden in a male-dominated world, and we need to support them, and/or become involved ourselves).
Women should be in games and in the game creating industry not because they are women (because if we’re starting there, then I think we’ve already “lost”) but because women are people, human (just like men, WHAT?! o.O) and have just as much talent, insight, and story to offer as anyone else does. I think when we stop separating our lives – in and out of game – by gender, we’ll be a lot better off.
But that isn’t going to just happen.
If we want to see this happen, then we need to be writing the stories, making the art, making the games and becoming involved in the process. Gearbox (Borderlands) and Irrational Games (Bioshock Infinite) are two companies that I know of who take care in their story writing, and in their writing/creation of female characters – there are others, but those are just the two that come to mind right now (and then there’s indie games and I could go on – there are options!). Penny-Arcade forums are a great resource for getting started and the best thing to do? just make stuff. make lots of stuff. make the stuff you want to see, make stuff with other people, and put your stuff out there.
So that’s my advice – brought to you by the E3 controversies.

TeenPact and Women

To my knowledge, there have only been two female governors in Maine, and none (to my knowledge) in GA. Maine is seen by the staff as the more liberal/wildcard state where things happen there that don’t (or aren’t allowed?) happen in other states. Maine and Hawaii I suppose, because there’s surfing there and every staffer wants to staff those two states.
I know both of the female governors closely. Women taking on a high leadership position that isn’t somehow under a male is almost unheard of. I was shocked when I won “president” at Back To DC in 2007, but I think that was because the dude who was running before was an obnoxious 13 year old who wasn’t even going to stay the whole time and I had previously attended the class and the one other alumni there was on my campaign. I may have won favor with the staff when I shared that I was struggling with running for the position (because *gasp* I can’t LEAD), instead of running the campaign (because that was completely different).
At National Convention, Women are allowed (I wouldn’t necessarily say encouraged) to run for Representative and Senator, and even Vice President. In my time there, I only ever saw Boy/Girl Pres/VP teams, because women running for president, while not directly prohibited was just known to be taboo. I ran for representative but never made it past primaries – although some women definitely are elected, the majority of the faux positions are still filled by males. I know this parallels real life, but here it’s encouraged. Women in leadership positions is allowed, but sketchily, always under men.
In fact, we are told, many times, in no uncertain terms that we (women) are supposed to just go along with whatever the men say – even if we disagree with it, and to not speak up if we do. They’re supposed to lead, after all, and we’re supposed to submit.
In “girl talks” a session where the guys go out (to talk about opening doors) and the women stay inside we learn that modesty is on us. completely. It is our job to cause our “brothers” to not stumble while we’re at class. We’re told exactly how to wear and to not wear items of clothing. In State Classes we must wear skirts, and they must be over the knee when you sit, never too tight when you move or bend over. All clothing must be able to hang or give at least an inch from your body, but simultaneously, should also be cute/professional and not frumpy. Just to be safe, I wore several layers – in the middle of summer, in the hot GA sun – just in case I got wet, or the sun caught something and my one-size-up tshirt were suddenly opaque.
We must be vigilant, and tell our “sisters” if they’re wearing something we think is too tight or revealing. Lady-Staff will confront girls to change their outfit if they feel it’s inappropriate. Because, again, it is our responsibility to show ourselves as non-human-shapeless-forms so our “brothers” don’t accidentally see our bodies and think something bad.
Boys aren’t told how many fingers width a neckline is allowed to be before it’s “too much”. They don’t have to reach up, and bend down to check and see if any skin shows.
But we, we seductresses in our pubescent awkwardness, we must never show any more skin than necessary to avoid heat exhaustion – and even then, pants must be loose!
I hate using the phrase “rape culture” but the more I think about it, the more this perpetuates it – because regardless, it is ALWAYS the women who are at fault. We are essentially told as much, and this is coupled with “don’t tell a man no” is just a setup for abusive environments and relationships to thrive.


TeenPact and Me

TeenPact is a christian conservative/evangelical organization that organizes government and civics classes and camps throughout the country. Their goal is to raise a generation of christian leaders (teens) to go and bring the country back “for christ” by encouraging activism and male leadership.
When I think about TeenPact and my time there, I don’t feel anger – like I do with most of my other past experiences. I feel confusion. Because I have so many good memories and experiences that are entrenched in environments that perpetuated the lies that enabled an abusive environment to thrive.
The thing about organizations like TeenPact and NCFCA is that their goal is to raise a new generation of leaders – thinkers, even – to do one specific thing: Take the nation back (for god!). What they don’t count on, is that by giving us the tools and resources to think critically, we’ll actually, you know, think critically and carry that on throughout our adulthood. Which is awesome and I’m really happy that I was allowed to learn that, because it’s served me well and enabled me to become the person I am today. Funny thing though, our parents and the people who head up these organizations get extremely grumpy and upset when we do what they taught us to do (or at least you know, the thinking part of that) without doing the rest of what they wanted us to do.
They teach us how to think, but then, they don’t actually want us to think, they want us to do their bidding.
And this, in a nutshell, is my beef with TeenPact. I’m going to be splitting this into parts instead of writing a book of a blogpost – because some things need to be fleshed out more, so for today, I’m going to concentrate on one particular event that happened while I was staffing.
I staffed one of the GA State classes in 2007. As staff, I helped oversee the voting process – a process which is designed to teach students about how elections work (assuming everyone is honest). The votes were tallied and my friend was a clear winner. I was pleased with this, and a little proud because he had really gone out of his comfort zone to even run. I was appalled, confused, and maybe a little angry when in that back room the Program Director turned to us and said, well, I don’t think he’d make a good governor, we should choose someone else. The founder was there and the high ranking staff wanted to impress him (by discarding the process?) and decided that my friend wouldn’t do it.
So in that back room, the Program Director, and the higher ranking staff decided to choose someone else from the 3 candidates to be governor and told us to be quiet about it. I was 15 (2 weeks before my birthday) and I had no idea how to respond – I was too shocked to say anything and too surprised to complain or dissent, so I stood there quietly, feeling as though my mouth was gaping. When we left the room with the new results, and with the Program Director deciding that his vote overruled all, I was full of shame and guilt. We announced who won and there were many questions – because in the other room, everyone tells everyone who they voted for, so everyone actually knows who won. People asked me questions and I couldn’t respond, my friend asked me and I was crushed and had to give him the same line I had given everyone else “it’s just what the votes were”.
I felt helpless because everyone who I would have talked to about it, was in that room and made that decision. They didn’t expect dissent – honestly, I don’t even think dissent is allowed, though it’s never directly stated – it’s a very homogenous group and anyone who does dissent is instantly cast as weird/strange/anything you don’t really want to associate with.
The staff did what they did because they didn’t want to get in trouble with Mr. Echols. I don’t know what the staff meetings are like, but I imagine that choosing a good face was enough of a requirement to strike fear into the hearts of the interns.


Babies, bathwater, and shit in the brownies

Whenever people write about something remotely controversial the people who disagree generally respond with “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” and occasionally the ¬†viewpoint opposite will make a retort about how if you had a brownie with dog shit in it you wouldn’t eat it.
My response to the two of them are as follows: one, if the bathwater is dirty, the baby and the bathwater should probably be taken out; two: why are you baking with dog shit? When was that a thing? And why are you trying to poison me?
However, I’m not writing an article on the merits of metaphor, I only brought it up to make a point – I know that what follows is more than likely going to be controversial. While I know this going in and it doesn’t bother me, if I see one of these or another similar metaphor take place in the potential conversation I will roll my eyes; because you are more than likely missing the point and should be redirected to the above statement about dirty water and poison.
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