All Our Boobs Are Not Belong To You – Sexism in Video Games A.k.a I really do love video games but goddamn they ARE sexist.

Having been pointed towards this video  by OXM today – I am going to write about games. I have played video games for a while/aeons. I cried when Aeris died, I remember the l2 (or was it r2?) fart button in abe’s oddeysee etc etc, apparently as a woman I have to ‘prove’ my love of games more than a man. Otherwise I am just , well I don’t know what I am but I’m apparently not allowed to call myself a ‘gamer’ or be equal to the dudes. I’ve gone off the term ‘gamer’ over the last few years precisely because of dudes like that, it’s not really a ‘lifestyle’ for me, I just like playing video games, for fun. I really don’t care how ‘serious’ I am about it or if I am worthy of a geek crown of Azeroth or whatever. I like games, I play them, some games I really love and get excited about. Kinda like other things I like, like music, movies, books , tv shows. Except games are different, they have a sticky film of misogo-goo all over them (not that other media is exempt but games are especially bad). As a female gamer or person who plays games and just happens to  be female, I feel either insulted, ignored or put on some pedestal of ‘omg real life boobs playing games omg’ and treated like some exotic novelty pet. What infuriates me more in the general consensus from within the community that is either ‘nothing wrong with it you’re too sensitive’ or ‘yeh but yeh worst stuff happens in other places so STFU’.

I despair of gender bullshit in every area of life, but video games dear lord they have more than their fare share of it and depressingly a great deal, i.e most of it, comes from within the ‘gamer community’ itself. Another reason why I do not feel like referring to myself as ‘gamer’, I do not feel part of a community that is misogynist and I don’t want to be part of it. I do not see why I should have to wade through all that shit, to have to live up to standards of arbitrary gameryness plucked out of 4chan’s arse (far beyond what is expected of any male) to be considered vaguely human. I just can’t be arsed. Half of me thinks I should fight the good fight the other half of me, well I just wanna play games, for FUN. I don’t want to be sniggered at because of random secondary sexual characteristics I sprouted at puberty and the gender identity I present to the outside world.

I am NOT a novelty, it is not some exceptional circumstance befitting of the second coming that a woman will play a video game, if it was I’m sure I’d have made a lot more money by now. I am sick of being told I should accept vile misogyny as part of the ‘culture’ or just sod off and embroider cushions instead. I can like things that also happen to be sexist and also complain about the sexist bits whilst liking them as a whole – most women have to do that most of the time with most things because sexism is everywhere if we only consumed non sexist media we’d be very bored and embroider a lot of cushions. I complain because I love this stuff, because most of this sexist bullshit is superfluous and not needed and makes something I love look really, really bad.

Just one small example to illustrate, and this isn’t even that sexist on the grand scale of things. I love, nay am rather obsessed with, the Assassin’s Creed series, they are some of the best games ever made. However the courtesans in ACII & brotherhood? I found that problematic, hiring the stereotype of a ‘happy hooker’ to prance around with you to avoid detection. Not to mention GTA and the being able to beat a sex worker to death for the fun of it thing. Or Duke Nukem going up to stripper’s and you press a button and you see their boobs ( I discovered that in a demo as a teen, hmmm ).

Ditto the ever present ‘battle thong and boob physics’ thing, present in so many games. I actually, genuinely count Lara Croft as a heroine of mine but dear lord 99% of the marketing for Tomb Raider has revolved around her breasts and putting her in tinier and tinier outfits for publicity shots not related in any way whatsoever to the game. Or another example,  an entire advert based around her arse , her head and face  cut out of shot completely, she is shoved in partial broke back pose  (must get arse AND tits in shot!) and ta da finish off with some dodgy innuendo:

Yet more stuff that leaves me as a person who pays money for these games because I love them being made to feel like I don’t exist or don’t matter as I am not a ‘dude’ who wishes to perve over pixels. I love Lara because she is am awesome character (even if she is a terrible archaeologist!) yet it feels like the marketing people don’t know what to do with a strong female character so they sexualise her overtly in ways that don’t quite fit with the character she portrays in game (who would probably tell any such marketing folk to bugger off and/or shoot them) and give her ginormo tits.  I have played to Tomb Raider games since the first one, I loved having a character like Lara who was a woman, to look up to in a sea of dudes & barbie doll sweet valley high crap. This imagery just ruins all that.

I was searching for a similar image to that Lara one  and this one of Nathan Drake from Uncharted (basically a dude Lara) looking a bit sexy and wistfully gazing over his shoulder is the closest in subject and content but his face is in shot and his arse is covered up, says it all really:

That said that bath-time and bed time  scene of Ezio in Assassin’s Creed II & the Prince of Persia being all topless and gymnastic in general (can we haz a non dodgily cell shaded new game soon please?) …. ahem. But the point is the sexiness of those characters is a ‘natural’ sexiness they are allowed to be who they are, kick ass, and are not shoehorned into a performative sexiness that emphasises their weakness and voids them of individual personality. Also I have never seen a close up crotch wobble replay of their massively oversized dicks wobbling about in tiny tight pants. I have never seen an advert for a game with a male protagonist that only shows his arse.

So the crux of the issue, as a person who plays games and just happens to be female, I’m not asking for special treatment, I’m just asking that my existence is acknowledged and that my entire gender isn’t so often reduced to non existence or mere titillation. Also less of the ‘games for girls’ (hint, unless you are talking about actual children we’re called ‘women’) crap involving pink sparkles and princesses and sparkles and fluffy pink and even more sparkles. I like blowing shit up mm kay? If I could code I’d make a shoot ’em up explosion gore fest where you gouge out the bowels of misogynists and blow up hordes of  misogynists in thongs prancing around in broke back pose whilst you, a humble woman, prance around in a nice comfy costume that is stylish and supportive of the bust area. There may be a special move that involves vomiting pink sparkly unicorn princesses over things. This is a real game:

 

I wish I didn’t have to complain to amazon, whose free gift when I ordered Assassin’s Creed Revelations last year was only redeemable against a MALE xbox live avatar. I had to complain repeatedly & publicly on twitter to get them to give me a ‘special’ one that would work on my female avatar.

When guys say to me ‘lol but they’re man games!’ when I say what games I play.

When things like ‘frag dolls’ aim to bring women into games but instead present yet another sexualised and for the male gaze view of women, complete with photographs of attractive women  with cutesy gamertags playing video games, with a pink controller as a logo and ffs ‘dolls’?  It all looks a bit more for the ‘lads’ than it does women. I don’t want an exaggerated ‘sexy’ silhouette of a woman (I’m capable of casting my own shadow thank you very much)  to get me into games, or anything pink, or a patronising girly name. I ‘d just like to be treated like a human being, not sexualised, objectified or patronised. Especially as I’m already into games and the same company, Ubisoft, that promotes this is the one that had the male avatar only giveaway for Assassin’s Creed revelations, real commitment to the cause there guys. They also make the imaginary babies above.  Here is an awesome ‘geek girl’ bingo , Ubisoft take note .

The sexist xbox live comments, the sexist advertising from print ads with four boobs to the ‘booth babes’ including some odious sexist drivel on the website encouraging perves to post pics, especially grating when you consider reported incidents of sexual harassment being encouraged at cons regarding ‘booth babes’. I have never seen ‘booth dudes’, do they exist? and I have certainly never been encouraged to sexually harass and assault a man in the name of promoting a game.

The dudes in game shops gawking at you and asking if you are ‘buying it for your boyfriend’ (I’m omg shock horror a SINGLE woman who plays games, omg call the spinster police, I’m probably driving men away with my opinions and stuff), assuming you are male by default, assuming you will play a game about princess kitten sparkle mcfluff sugar, categorising such ‘female’ games as ‘not real games’ and ‘not serious’ because hordes of homo erotic camper than camp men prancing about with massive guns (in both senses of the word) is totally deadly serious and REAL in a way fantasy princesses or the sims can’t be? Plus dear lord, can no one see the obvious ‘substituting for things’ jokes about BFGs? (Anita Sarkeesian’s genius ‘too many dicks on the dance floor’ video needs a link here). Where getting to play someone of your gender as a main protagonist is rare, regardless of any sexualisation or other issues regarding the representation of women on top of that.

All these little things are indeed just ‘little things’ but when they are put together they add up to a whole pile of shit that makes it awkward and sometimes downright uncomfortable and dangerous to be a woman in the gaming world, a world where it’s considered ‘funny’ to make games about beating women up, send them death threats and rape threats.

In short the gender politics of the video game industry lags somewhat behind Homo-Neanderthalensis and yes it is shitty and I will keep complaining about it because I do not need to put up with being insulted just to play a game and because sexism , misogyny and violence against women is wrong whether it happens online or in ‘the real world’, hate should be fought wherever it occurs and for gods sake how can people not see that it’s REALLY FUCKING WRONG to ask women to put up with misogyny, hatred and a whole load of shit for a recreational activity? We can’t even have fun without being hated and insulted and threatened?

To put it bluntly, very bluntly, in a language the misogo wankstains who appoint themselves ‘guardians’ of geekdom:

ALL OUR BOOBS ARE NOT BELONG TO YOU
(and you will thusly never see them and their realistic physics ever)
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This excellent article   by Helen Lewis about the continued harassment and vile hate speech directed towards the fabulous Anita Sarkeesian of the brilliant Feminist Frequency has angered me so much. I have been following this saga for a while but this article has illustrated some hideously vile comments, images and an overriding ideology of pure misogynist  hatred that dwarfs everything I read previously I just had to write about it.

TRIGGER WARNING for the whole post and links.

I’m a woman and I play video games. I love playing video games. I have played games since half these misogynist wankoids were in nappies. As much as I love video games and geeky things in general I know the culture that surrounds them is SEXIST AS SHIT.I am sick of people telling me I should ignore things that belittle my very identity and ‘stop being so sensitive’ just so I can feel a part of a culture surrounding a form of entertainment I enjoy and indulge in to RELAX and HAVE FUN. They are called ‘GAMES’ FFS not ‘ENDURANCE TESTS’, ‘ FESTIVALS OF HATRED’ or ‘WITCH HUNTS’. It says a lot about our society that women are expected to put up with, and indeed to anticipate and accept as an integral part of the whole thing,  hate speech just to play a game. This is not an isolated incident,  Bioware (a games company) writer Jennifer Helper was subject to a campaign of hatred and feminist blogger Laurie Penny has been subject to similar too, I could go on. Getting insulted online if you’re a woman is normal. I haven’t been but I imagine it’s because I largely hang out in ‘safe spaces’ onlineand I am not popular enough to attract any attention, it is also why I largely do not comment on many sites and engage in conversation, I and many other women effectively silence themselves because we know indulging in mainstream internet debate and conversation will often result in being insulted just for being a woman. Note this is not being respectfully disagreed with or having your points argued with, this is being subject to insults PURELY BECAUSE OF YOUR GENDER. There is a huge difference, I expect people to disagree with me, I accept that but I do not and should not have to, accept this disagreement to be combined with sexist insults and harassment that would NOT be used against a male using the same arguments. To quote Anita Sarkeesian;

 

“The image based harassment I’m discussing here is not part of any legitimate discourse but instead falls squarely into the category of misogynist abuse. It’s a critical distinction and is evidenced by the fact that all of the images are attacking my gender or presumed sexuality and rely heavily on pre-existing sexist stereotypes.”

 

 

Not Feeding the trolls and tacit acceptance

As much as the outright hatred disgusts me so too does the tacit acceptance of it by the ‘don’t feed the trolls just ignore it’ brigade. What this effectively amounts to is the silencing of women’s voices. It is telling us to shut up and put up with horrific abuse from people who would wish extreme violence upon us just because of gender. It is telling us to accept hate. Yes it’s the internet, but the internet is populated by real people behind the keyboards and those real people accept these views even if they ‘exaggerate’ it for online use an attention, there is still an acceptance of misogyny  and racism and just about every form of hatred you can imagine. Anything that threatens the dominance of the straight white male. Asking us to ‘ignore them’ in relation to the trolls is to ignore the fact that misogyny like this is rife, that shit like this is experienced by women on a regular basis, on-line and off. To ignore is is to silence the voices of millions of women who have been saying for years ‘this shit happens to us and it needs to stop’. It is to ignore the fact that rape ‘jokes’ online and sexual violence in the real world are related and are part of the same ideology. It is to ignore the fact that the people who post this violent shit online are real people who are out there in the real world, along with the attitudes that they display online even if they are ‘watered down’. The ‘joke’ excuse is void too; if anyone genuinely respected women they would not use such offensive stuff as bait for ‘humour’, they would know that in a culture where woman are regularly subject to sexual abuse, violence and harassment this shit is NOT SOMETHING YOU JOKE ABOUT, THIS SHIT IS REAL. THIS SHIT LEADS TO WOMEN BEING KILLED. The ‘humour’ excuse does not hold water when all it does is prop up disgusting attitudes towards women, when it does nothing to challenge them when all it does is enforce a status quo of hatred.

The same attitude that wishes rape on a woman online for ‘lulz’ is the same attitude that says a woman was ‘asking for it’ if she was dressed in a certain way, if she knew the guy, if she kissed the guy, uf she was drinking and a million and one other victim blaming tactics designed to shit the blame away from the rapist and on to the woman. It is the same attitude that allows rapists to walk free, that allows police officers to abuse women who came to them for safety and get away with it for so long.

Jay Smooth has a great video on why you should ‘feed the trolls’ (as well as another video on sexist gamer dudes, specifically about the Sarkeesian incident, imploring guys to speak out about this stuff). As he points out this type of ‘trolling’ happens a lot more often to people in marginalised groups, such as LGBT, women, people of colour etc and this is EXACTLY why it is an issue and we should not shut up. It’s aim is to uphold straight white male dominance of the internet, which is becoming an essential part of life and communication. It’s aim is to SHUT US UP, and it’s precisely because of that that we will NOT SHUT UP. Throughout history marginalised groups have been silenced by the patriarchal, kyriarchal society and we have been told to ‘just get on with it’ or that we ‘complain too much’ and ‘take offence too easily’ (because taking offence when you’re whole identity and existence is belitted and despised is you know being ‘too sensitive’). This is no different.  Tiger Beatdown also has an excellent post on the matter from back in 2011, proving this is not a ‘new’ thing which uses the author’s own horrific experiences to  explain exactly why this stuff is serious and needs to be challenged. To put is succinctly s.e smith of Tiger Beatdown says “This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it”

It strikes me that perhaps the vast majority of the ‘don’t feed the trolls’ brigade are people coming from a place of privilege who have never had torrents of abuse directed towards them for being who they are. People whose identity is not belittled and maligned every day of their lives by trolls and in subtler forms by a mainstream media that is more subtle about it’s misogyny, racism, homophobia, disablism, transphobia etc. To say ‘don’t feed to trolls’ is to deny that many of us are expert witnesses in this because it is our lives, we can’t just switch off the computer and ignore stuff ‘online’ because ‘online’ does not exist in a vacuum and the kind of extreme attitudes expressed by trolls are expressed in much more subtle ways all over the ‘real world’.

It is not ‘our’ fault for being offended by offensive shit it is the attitudes of the people who seek toe demean us that is offensive. How can I not be offended by a world that tacitly accepts that it’s OK to hate me because I am a woman? That my voice and opinions are worth less because of the random allocation of chromosomes at my conception?

I will not shut up and I will continue to be angry because there is a lot of shit to be angry about. In short:

WOMEN WILL NOT SILENCED BY SOME SEXIST ARSEHOLES ONLINE AND I WILL KEEP PLAYING GAMES

I am playing Deus Ex: Human revolution atm which is brilliant and just so happens to be written by a woman, and perhaps not so coincidentally, is the only game I have seen with a human, respectable and realistic portrayal of sex workers.

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