235 – The Gender Agenda

"When I clone a human being it will be a member of my band".

Some days it’s difficult to find inspiration. Some days I put off approaching the keyboard because I’m afraid when I get there no words will come out. I procrastinate; I seek out other things worth doing. I cook rice krispie treats, clean, or scour the Internet for something — anything — to absorb my concentration.Inspiration can be illusive, and I’ve been known to ask other people what they think I should write about. Usually their responses aren’t quite what I was hoping for because they’re other people with other concerns, and the things they think are interesting are usually too specific for me to write about – and I can write about anything. Whatever subject you have in mind, I can probably relate it back playground games and old cartoons, or something I’ve done, I’m doing or will do. I’m pretty good with metaphors that tie disparate things together; if you come up with a subject that stumps me the maybe I’m not the person who should be writing about it.

That being said, the subject I’m going to attempt today isn’t difficult because it’s too specific to cover but because it’s too broad (pun unintended). As a result of seeing far too many women who’re angry or disappointed — and men who’re angry and disappointed on womankind’s behalf — I’m going to try to talk about feminism. This is going to be hard (pun unintended) for me because alas I have a penis; nevertheless I’m going to give it a good solid tug and see what pops out.(not so much of a pun as vulgarity, sadly intended)

To begin with, I’m one of those terrible men to whom feminism is just another eff word. I think it refers to equality for women, but can it really be that simple? Have things become so bad for women they demand their own political movement just to right the wrongs trespassed against them? Let’s find out . . .

Feminism
n.

1. Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
2. The movement organized around this belief.

Well, dang. That’s not a very good starting place, is it? It’s certainly not in line with all those armchair football coaches who, when slapping the rump of a passing woman and receiving a glare in response say “Fucking feminists’re everwhere. Hey, Paulie; beer me, won’tcha?”

Because that’s where the slap ends for Joey Barfly: no harm, no foul. Meanwhile Glenda — she of the slapped rump — leaves Paulie’s Booze Hole humiliated and powerless. Is there any way she could have responded that wouldn’t have seemed either like an overreaction (smashing a glass tankard over Joey’s thick skull) or ended in exactly the same way the encounter did end, with Joey shrugging her off and getting on with his life?

Okay, this is an obvious example, and many of us modern men are a little more restrained when it comes to slapping random women. Hell, many of us have probably never wolf-whistled, cat-called, or otherwise leched over women out in public; we like to believe we’re better than that — and who knows, maybe we are.

But I’m a video gamer — as are many of those with whom I communicate regularly — and video games are about as far from feminism as Joey Barfly’s grab-hands.

No matter how publishers dress it up, having skimpily-dressed dolly birds draping themselves over potential customers isn’t empowering. For that matter the phrase ‘dolly bird’ is fairly derogatory as well, but consider the circumstance in which I’m using it: these promotions models aren’t paid to do anything other than stand still and look pretty. Their heads might as well be stuffed with straw — which would probably be beneficial for them, as otherwise they’re going to be thinking about the smelly gamers pawing at them while having their photo taken together, as if they’re cryptozoological beasts nerds need pictures of in order to prove they exist.

Nobody’s forcing them into impractical outfits, but it’s sad the industry slaps tits on its games in order to sell them — and be under no misapprehension that to those hiring these models are anything but tits. Journalists attending these events are rather shamefaced about it, and mumble apologetically as if blackmailed into having hover-hands photos taken with the models — on one memorable occasion a guy I knew pointed out that the combined waistlines of the women in his photo were still narrower than one of his thighs — but still, they have their pictures taken all the same. This is supply and demand folks, plain and simple, and no matter how guilty you feel after the fact the industry’s not going to change until you stop posing with women dressed as Bayonetta.

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a picture of a woman on the journalism, development or publishing side games industry grabbing models’ waists with a shit-eating grin. Maybe it’s a luxury afforded only to people who can grow ridiculous fucking neck-beards.

This is not a positive feminist message, but then the geek audience it panders to isn’t exactly enlightened. Speaking to a friend recently I was given horrible insight into what it’s like to be into geeky shit while on the other side of the gender divide.

“Some Swedish indie game dude, after explaining what a shoot-em-up was on an awkwardly basic level, insisted on starting up the demo for me on easy. While I played, a small crowd gathered, and while dude gave his spiel about the game he remarked, “Oh, she’s doing pretty good. Well, she’s on easy.””

That’s a shitty attitude to have and the ‘dude’ should be ashamed. Fancy being that condescending to someone to whom you’re trying to sell your game. He asked her to come back later and try the game on normal difficulty; unsurprisingly she decided not to — and who can blame her?

I’m pretty bad at games myself but the last thing I’d want to hear in such a situation would be someone disparaging my skills like that. Now, I’ve never been to a games expo but I’m guessing those of you males who have haven’t had people telling the crowd you’ve drawn that “Well yeah, he’s doing well but he is on easy.” From all the reports I’ve heard from PAX, Eurogamer, E3 and Gamescom, not one of you have said “I was thrown out of the event for calling a demonstration guys a condescending prick” which is exactly how I’d have responded in my friend’s place.

“I got to try a racing demo. There was an ongoing contest at the booth; the best lap time won a (steering) wheel. I came pretty close to best, until I slipped and cut the track accidentally. The guy then told me that I had cut too often–which I hadn’t, or at least if I had there was no indication or warning–and then said that my good lap time was because I was cutting the track.”

Different guy, same event, same condescension. “Your time doesn’t count because you were cheating.” Shouldn’t your game be the judge of that?

My wife works in an area traditionally dominated by men. Actually there have been a good number of female scientists who’ve made huge leaps in scientific knowledge, but how many of them can you name? If your answer is ‘not many’ it’s because the women who’ve made a difference are outnumbered by men more than willing to steal their thunder–and their research.

I wish I was joking. The few renowned women scientists fought tooth and nail to be credited for their findings while many others have been ignored in favour of papers considered more reputable purely because they were written by men.

And this happens once the research has been done and the papers submitted. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for them working in what’s known as a chilly climate: an atmosphere in which women are wholly unwelcome. Today we can watch something like Mad Men and laugh about how women were treated way back when but in that era there were women working in fields just as chauvinistic as the advertising industry if not more so. Male scientists didn’t simply treat their female peers as brainless eye candy, they were angry at having to work in proximity to them. Scientific history records a number of influential women scientists in the same capacity as secretarial assistants, with their contributions to science being almost incidental. It’s only now that a new generation of feminist scientists investigating their predecessors are discovering a truth buried in shame by the patriarchal scientist community of the past.

I say ‘of the past’, but this chilly climate persists; things haven’t changed as much as we might hope they have since the bad old days. Though my wife prefers not to talk about it, she’s certainly run afoul of condescension and derision from men who don’t believe women have any place in the physics department. When I hear about this I want to crack skulls. She is genuinely the most intelligent person I’ve encountered, and though she’s modest about it, in my opinion she’s a genius with the potential to change the world. That some knuckle-dragging piece of human flotsam might prevent her from doing so on the basis she’s ick, a girl beggars belief. In some ways the scientific community’s chilly climate is even worse than those backwards religions and countries that treat women as an underclass; with all their talk of knowledge and intelligence they really should know better.

I’m not much of a feminist, though I should be. I talk about gender equality but get tripped on matters concerning sex changes or promiscuity, or whether I’d prefer my unborn children to play rugby or learn to dance. Though my heart’s in the right place my views are clumsy; it’s fortunate I have someone in my life far more adept at keeping time, who knows what she’s talking about and corrects me when I’m wrong. In our case there’s no discussion of equality because she’s far better than me at just about everything. That people might dismiss her based on her gender is abhorrent.

But as I said, one day she’s going to change the world, so maybe this is the change she’ll bring. For our children’s sake, I hope it is.

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2 Responses to 235 – The Gender Agenda

  1. Pete Davison says:

    Gamescom drove this point home to me. Not only were there booth babes everywhere in the consumer area, but in the trade area almost every booth was manned (no pun intended) by pretty, short-skirted, fake-tanned women.

    I have to say, though, that I did catch sight of some women throughout the course of the show who seemed to be perpetuating the stereotype voluntarily. I noticed several female members of the press dressed quite “provocatively” (for want of a better word) — short shorts, cleavage-exposing tops, boots. Now of course it’s a woman’s choice to dress however the hell she pleases, and if she chooses that as her “look” then fair play to her — but she should also be prepared for the fact that many men are pigs and will probably look at her dressed like that and make snap judgements.

    It shouldn’t be that way, of course — women (and men, for that matter) should be free to dress however they like without fear of being judged. But there’s still a long way to go before that sort of equality, I feel, and in the meantime dressing in a manner which is likely to draw attention probably isn’t going to help.

  2. Sad Ethnic Child says:

    I guarantee you that those pig-men were making snap judgments even about the women in high-cut shirts and full pants.

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