The Sexist

Sexist Comments of the Week: Tits or GTFO Edition

This week, Courtney Stoker of From Austin to A&M and Joseph Hewitt of GearHead RPG graced us with their presence to discuss the problem of making dude-dominated subcultures more accessible to women. In the comments, you added your own tips:

Amy on refusing to GTFO:

Quote: “When looking for online communities, I tend only to join those that are either explicitly feminist or women-friendly.”

I find that very depressing. As a woman, I’ve never been bothered by whether a site/community is ‘feminist’ or not, or what proportion of it’s users are male or female.

To restrict your access to sites on these criteria seems like a recipe for letting the boys-only clubs be, and confining ourselves to a polite little enclave. Do you also suggest that women only apply to jobs in organisations that are already ‘women-friendly’?

I know the kind of reaction (BOOBIES!) women get in male-dominated areas on the internet, but hiding away in the feminist areas isn’t going to change anything, it’s going to make the idea of male-dominated areas seem *more* normal, as women voluntarily absent themselves.

grogette on self-preservation:

Or maybe it’s a means of self preservation. I tend to restrict my friends to feminists/progressives/antiracists/etc. Why would I hang out with a bunch of *ists and make myself miserable? Hanging out on sites (or with people) that are feminist/feminist friendly doesn’t mean someone doesn’t interact with the rest of the world that’s predominantly NOT feminist friendly.

Kit-Kat on moderation:

Decide what limits you want on your site, and then enforce them. Have a posted policy about your lack of toleration for sexist/racist/otherwise gratuitously nasty comments/whatever you don’t want on your site. Call out violators. If necessary, ban them from the site. Don’t just say it’s a safe space–make it one.

PD on picking your battles:

I don’t hang out in explicitly feminist or woman-friendly forums, but I do definitely avoid the ones where the misogyny is worst (4chan, Cracked, etc.) Some times the earth is just too salted to try and grow anything there. On forums where the environment is a little more inclusive, I use it as an opportunity to encourage equality when ignorant comments do pop up. It doesn’t always work on its intended target, but at least it gets it out there.

Cat on gaming machismo:

I’ve spent a lot of time in gaming communities and there’s a really nasty, pervasive insularity there which is focused around straight, white, Anglo-American male bonding. Men who would probably never harass a woman in real life feel that gaming communities are a special boys club where they get to degrade women, complain about female game characters not being hot enough and talking about raping opponents and making other players their bitches. Machismo abounds. I’ve left many sites not because I’m a crazy over-reacting feminist but because I have frequently had my concerns about negative attitudes dismissed.

“Nobody here is seriously sexist, it’s all in good fun.”

“Nobody really believes girls can’t play computer games.”

“There’s nothing wrong with female characters showing skin, you’re being over-sensitive.”

Unfortunately, if I want to enjoy gaming, I am faced with the painful reality that my knowledge, abilities and character will be constantly devalued and ignored by a lot of other players. I shouldn’t have to lurk behind a gender-neutral handle and watch forum members wax obnoxious about my gender. I shouldn’t have to see those individuals hiding behind forum administration who protect them and refuse to moderate.

Clarisse Thorn on getting women gamers engaged in the issue:

I used to work as a writer in the gaming field but stopped for several reasons, one of them being that I felt consistently objectified, etc. I had one experience where the biggest company I worked for asked for advice on how to make one of their games more female-friendly; I emailed a request for more specifics and never heard back, which makes me think that the question was more of a tossed-off “oh I guess we should be thinking about this” and less a sincere attempt to engage the question. So it’s heartening to see real attempts to address the question.

I would take a different angle with the “take women’s voices seriously” thing, though. I wouldn’t ask “what do you want us to change?” but rather “what are we doing right?” or “can you point to places that you consider more female-friendly?” or even “is it a priority for you that this space feel woman-friendly? please explain.” It’s easier to work from positive feedback, particularly positive examples. (Before someone leaps upon me screaming, please understand that I’m not saying negative feedback is bad. It’s just hard to work from.)

I do suspect that many if not most women who are already hanging out in gaming spaces feel that:

1) The situation “isn’t that bad”, for whatever reason.

2) They’re “willing to put up with it” and “don’t want to complain”.

Which makes this question hard to develop. Certainly, if you’d asked me while I was a game writer whether it bothered me that my employers were constantly hitting on me etc etc., I would very likely have been unwilling to get into it.

Photo via The Library of Congress

  • Keith B

    My fav comment is from Amanda! Where she interprets Courtney writing "I tend only to join those that are either explicitly feminist or women-friendly" as a declaration that she's (Amanda's words): "one woman who chooses not to spend her free time hanging out with people who hate women"

    WOMAN-HATE~~!! Everywhere in our internets??

  • Julie

    I don't see anything wrong with going to women-friendly forums. Every likes to feel that they are part of an exclusive group.

  • Keith B

    Agreed, Julie. But would you say that any forum that is not explicitly presenting itself as women-friendly is necessarily a forum that hates women?

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