It’s that time again. Time for us to break out “the word” so many of you are afraid of. Sexism.
Over the last couple of days, many men and women have been using Twitter’s #1reasonwhy hashtag as a tool for raising awareness towards the treatment of women in the industry (or their “1 reason why” they don’t feel comfortable in the gaming industry), and of course, have received more than their fair share of criticisms for it, and all for different reasons. Some people think women want preferential treatment. Some people think women are being oversensitive. And some people tell women to stop whining about it because sexism is everywhere – obviously, the most effective of all counterarguments.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the hostile reactions to the #1reasonwhy tag, many of the women tweeting about their issues with the gaming industry have a common theme behind their experiences: They are being completely ignored for the work that they contribute to the industry that we supposedly love so very much.
These are women who contribute just as much as their male counterparts to the properties that for every hour we spend playing, they have probably spent a hundred more developing. And yet, they are reduced to their looks and their gender when it comes time to dole out the credit. Try imagining spending that much time on a project only for your significant other/parent/assistant to get the credit, simply because they are the opposite sex. And that particular complaint is at the tail end of the process — other women have demonstrated that the development itself can be just as alienating.
In addition to having your work discredited by peers after its been released, women can also look forward to having ideas shot down by superiors in a similarly dismissive fashion. Women don’t need to give input on projects that are made for women because men know better. Women don’t need to point out when they may potentially be alienating a portion of their audience because “creativity” is more important.
It’s demeaning to have your work and identity reduced to the shell of your body or your genitalia — while not in the gaming industry, I have experienced a fair amount of it on the convention scene or just in everyday life. My husband (who makes an internet parody) and I make frequent convention appearances, and despite the fact that I am a professional voice actress, some conventions have just assumed that I am either just his wife, or some other parody creator who is riding on his coattails. It doesn’t matter how often we correct their mistake–sometimes people refuse to listen to the idea that I am a professional woman who carries her own credits independent of that of my husband. Even on panels, I frequently get asked questions about my husband and his work over my own, regardless of the subject material. While I don’t expect everyone to know who I am or what I do, I do assume that focus panels surrounding myself and my work would be related to that. While I love my husband, I am more than just a wife.
While at times it can potentially be degrading, I grin and bear it regardless, as I’m sure many other women in the gaming industry do. Women who speak up about the issues are seen as militant and bitchy. Women who don’t speak up are blamed when they admit they’re bothered by their treatment. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Sexism is still alive and well, however badly naysayers would like to try and insist that it isn’t. And no matter what others may try and suggest, asking for a little recognition–when appropriate–does not mean that women are asking for preferential treatment. And all this being said, women should definitely not let this deter them from whatever dreams they want to pursue — but know that women don’t have to accept what happens as “just the way things are”. Seeing changes with sexist behavior will be a combined effort from men and women — we, as women, will need to be bolder and try and (politely) call out sexism where we see it. Try and be as reasonable as possible in your arguing, if you choose to do so. And if people that you still speak with still refuse to accept that you have a point, punch them in the nu — er, accept that not all minds can be changed in a day.
And if you’re looking for a bit of positivity, the #1reasontobe hashtag was started as a sister tag to #1reasonwhy, allowing female developers to share both the light and dark sides of the process with people who want to listen.
And men, what can you do to help? Let go of assumptions, and start treating women as people. But really, the best way you can start to help is to avoid being these people as much as possible: