There’s something inherently wrong with allowing sex to define hobbies. Case in point; women can’t know jack about cars, unless they’re butch lesbians, because apparently they’re “almost just guys”; an example used primarily by straight men, for the record, most of whom have probably never even met a butch lesbian. I’ve never really been one to weigh in on the topic of sexism in gaming or any of that malarky, mostly because I don’t care enough to get involved in stuff. My life is plenty complicated without putting myself in the midst of an ongoing online crisis, especially when we’ll all just move onto the next crisis in a week and a half.
But it’s when opinions turn facts and numbers get involved that I start to get interested, and according to a recent study by a bunch of people with some degrees or something, women are now the primary demographic and userbase in gaming. Ask any woman not of the Amish persuasion and she’ll tell you that sexuality is empowering. There’s nothing like putting on the right set of matching lingerie and feeling like the baddest bitch in this universe or any other multiverse. So, while I did say in an article a few years ago that I found sexuality in women empowering in games (and seeing as I myself am a woman, I felt it was ok to say that), I’m not above denying there’s some deep seeded issues with how women are portrayed. People have talked about the lack of female leads (something really turned around in my opinion in the last few years), the awful revealing outfits women are given and the fact that women are often used as rewards for completing something. Save Peach, protect Clementine and retake Mrs. Wake. From the linked article in question:
Adult women are now the largest demographic in the gaming industry, making up a total of 36% of the population. Adult men weren’t far behind with 35% of the gaming population, and the stereotypical teenage male gamer actually only makes up just 17% of the gaming demographics. The study also shows that stereotypes like “adult female gamers just play Candy Crush” is inaccurate. In fact those gamers mostly play casual computer games.
But the problem I don’t think lies in the hobby; it lies in the perception of the hobby. For such a long time, video games were considered (and probably because it was true) a male hobby. I know that growing up, I certainly didn’t know many girls who played video games like I did, and I grew up in a fairly populated, progressive metropolitan city. Because we assign gender to things that aren’t even living-toys, clothes, etc.-we don’t seem to think it’s ok when a gender that hobby ISN’T assigned to starts to enjoy said hobby. The hobby is innocent! The hobby isn’t alive, it’s done nothing wrong! It’s being controlled by people who don’t know any better. Stop badmouthing video games and start badmouthing the sexist, bigoted asshole who runs these companies. And not just for being a sexist, bigoted asshole, but just because they run these companies. If gaming is considered an art, to which many people say it is, then like any other form of art, media or the art medium in general, the people using the art can use it to subject people viewing it to their own terrible, misinformed viewpoints.
But all of this came to a head the other day when I read that a designer at Bioware stated their original animation tests for Commander Shepard were FEMALE. This came after the trailer for the new Mass Effect came out, and all the little fanboys crawled out of their demon holes to start screaming how Bioware let feminism get their grubby little paws on stuff and ruin it, calling them ‘feminazis’ which is just a dumb word whether you’re a feminist or not, but the best part to me was this: What this says is that male shepard was pandering of the highest degree. At the time Mass Effect 1 came out, the gaming market was probably still dominated by mostly guys, so Bioware saw this and went “Ya know what, mens egos can’t handle playing a woman. It’ll make them feel weak and inferior. Let’s give them a male shepard to play as.” They used the male image as their marketing tool to sell their product, and this is absolutely hilarious when you play these games and realize just how gay and progressive they actually are. There’s so much feminism in Mass Effect to begin with. My girlfriend, who’s never played them, has been watching me play through the series this past two months, and everytime we see male shep anywhere, she goes (and I concur) “Man, who is this generic jarhead”, because femshep feels THAT natural. Not because we’re female, but because it’s how Bioware intended it.
But that belief, that men won’t play as female characters, I think not only isn’t true (especially anymore) but where does that come from? Are there men who won’t read books with a female protagonist? Who won’t watch movies, even action movies-something clearly defined as a ‘male genre’-with a heroine? Who won’t listen to bands with a female vocalist? Because if so, that’s not only bad since you’re locking yourself off from some truly great art and entertainment, but it shouldn’t matter in the sense that as long as you enjoy it, the thing has done its job. And if you can’t enjoy something simply because of something as miniscule as ‘it’s got boobs’, then there’s bigger problems here. A friend of mine says he can’t play as female characters because he can’t relate to them. Okay, fair enough, he’s not a woman. But I still think you should be able to look past DIGITAL fucking tits and be able to say “Ya know what, this IS fun”. I want men to be as open as women are. I want men to be able to comfortable play or enjoy female characters/media without there being a stigma attached to it. I want men to see that your gender marker means diddly fucking squat, especially when it comes to hobbies and entertainment.
But since I can’t have all those things, I guess I’ll just settle for a donut and some Ally McBeal reruns.
Maggie Rose is a 26 y/o transgirl. She currently lives with her girlfriend and their dog. Together they fight crime, put an end to injustice and sometimes do laundry. She is a writer because she has no other skills or applicable talents useable for monetary gain.