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Veteran Member - Level 13
This is actually the second part to a two-part blog that I posted on April 4th. But the title for that blog didn't really fit the topic of sexism, thus this new title. Anyways, this is a blog that I realized I dreaded writing. Partially because the topic is so deep and important, but also because I wanted to gather my thoughts and be sure that I said exactly what I truly felt. Some of what I say may not go over well with every reader, but for the sake of honesty, I think it needed to be happen.
For me, this begin with reading about the experiences of former GI writer, Meagan Marie, in which she detailed not only being subjected to vulgar commentary from a male attendee at a cos play event, but also the air of hostility and menace that went with it. In fact, Ms. Marie frankly confessed that she had experienced some form of gender-based discrimination or harassment throughout much of her career. The result of tolerating such actions was a buildup of anxiety, humiliation and righteous indignation. Ms. Marie ended her blog on the topic by saying that she was finished with being afraid.
As someone who got picked on quite a bit in my life, I think I have a good grasp of what Meagan might have been feeling, and I applaud her for deciding to stand up to it and fight. I don't like bullies. Never have. I don't condone real-world violence in any shape form or fashion, but to me, bullies are amongst the very lowest scum that taint our world. Yes, they are people too. And something had to happen for them to get that way. But sometimes... sometimes people just make a choice to be mean, and evil. And I think quite a few of those people discover that they like it. They have a taste, an appetite for cruelty. There is another term for this type of behavior. It is criminality.
Do you remember the scene in Batman Begins where Rhas Al Ghul is talking to Bruce Wayne about the nature of criminals? He says. "Criminals mock society... criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding."
That, is the essence of a bully. To prey upon those they may deem as "weaker". Their cynicism and bitterness compel them to seek someone, anyone that they can subdue or subjugate. And this goes to the heart of my thoughts about Meagan Marie and her experiences. Because while I had complete empathy for her thoughts and feelings, there is but one thing that gave me pause.
I suspect that Ms. Marie felt that her experiences were solely due to her gender, and that this was the primary issue facing so many women in the industry. And while I wouldn't dare negate the reality of gender-based discrimination, I would say that the root of the problem is actually much larger. The truth is that when you seek to intimidate someone, it is an open and direct display of aggression. And that kind of aggression is all about power.
When I was much younger, I remember a time when women who had been victims of sexual assault had to defend themselves from the opinions and judgements of others. What had she done to deserve it? What was she wearing? Did she lead the guy on?
With time, some of the wisest realizations to come about were that, 1) No, in any circumstance means no. And 2) Sexual crimes are never about sex. It's about violence and power. Those who commit the crimes are trying to establish power over someone they perceive as weaker. So to me, when I think about the experiences of Meagan Marie, I see a person who happens to be a woman, dealing with bullies. I suspect that the men with whom she had such encounters would be just as likely to target another man for similar persecution and harassment. But here's the clencher. I also think that the hidden side to this issue is the discriminatory actions that come from... women.
Yes, that's right. I said it. If there is one ugly truth about sexism, it's that it is fed and perpetuated by both sexes. I grew up in a family that was mostly dominated by very strong women. And I can honestly say from listening to them and observing their experiences, that women suffer from a great deal of division amongst themselves. I frequently remember hearing the women in my family detail how women were often times more cruel, more nasty to another woman than a man would be. So why do I mention this?
It stands as basic logic that before you can solve a problem, you must be able to discern what the source of that problem is. In the case of sexism and discrimination, if you say that males are the primary perpetrators, you would be off. If the discussion turns into a guys vs. girls debate, nothing will be achieved.
The other reason why I mention this is because in my opinion, if victims of harassment want to be taken seriously, they must be united in their cause and their approach to resolutions. This is vitally important because there are many themes and attitudes that prevail in gaming which do not promote an environment of respect or... even equality. How so?
Whenever I tuned in to G4TV, I was always intrigued to see how the female hosts/co-hosts for various shows had to "look". Take Olivia Munn on Attack of the Show. Most of her time on the show was spent being the token hot girl. In fact, I frequently got the impression that Munn was neither fond of geekdom or video games. Towards her last episodes on the show, she looked visibly pained to be on the set. She seemed to understand that her main purpose of her being on the show was to be a sex object first, and to talk about games, gadgets and other geekery second. And I imagine the paychecks made it worthwhile for a time, but eventually, it was obvious that Munn was "over it".
Other female hosts/co-hosts faced the same challenge of being pigeon-holed into playing up their sex appeal. The only one who seemed to fight it, and win, was Morgan Webb. Morgan Webb seemed to almost demand equal recognition and respect. Something none of the other female hosts/co-hosts managed to do.
One dilemma I see is that there are many women who are willing to takes roles, jobs, positions that in fact set women's progress back, or halt it. We still live in a society where female celebrities get kudos for doing a Playboy spread. And... well, that's fine I guess. But doesn't it help perpetuate the notion that even successful women can basically be reduced to wanking material? And for those of you who might argue that a woman posing in the nude doesn't have to be a reduction, I say this: When is the last time you saw Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Bill Gates take off their clothes for Playgirl? These are some of the most successful businessmen in the world. So how do they celebrate and reaffirm that success and status? Here's a hint: They don't have to be sexy.
I think that this is a very big problem, and it serves the purpose of perpetually undermining any push for progress, respect, and equality. Unless women can make a unified stand on the changes that need to occur within the games industry, nothing will happen. And there are going to be tough decisions too. What should be considered offensive? In the industry and the games themselves, what is acceptable? How much is entertainment, and how much is degrading? Lines have to be drawn, and boundaries set, because nothing will change without them.