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A message for angry fanboys: Everything is OK

- December 29th, 2011

Harris O’Malley has posted an excellent piece about male privilege in geek culture, women’s representation in gaming and all that good stuff over at Kotaku. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s worth reading. If you’re not into that kind of thing, it’s definitely worth reading. So go read it, because I’m not going to summarize it here.

Instead, I want to draw your attention to one paragraph that summarizes the crux of the issue with every women-in-gaming conversation that has ever taken place, especially on the Internet.

In this case, the threat is that – ultimately – fandom won’t cater to guys almost to exclusion… that gays, lesbians, racial and religious minorities and (gasp!) women might start having a say in the way that games, comics, etc. will be created in the future. The strawmen that are regularly trotted out – that men are objectified as well, that it’s a convention of the genre, that women actually have more privileges than guys – are a distraction from the real issue: that the Privileged are worried that they won’t be as privileged in the near future if this threat isn’t stomped out. Hence the usual reactions: derailment, minimization and ultimately dismissing the topic all together.

It’s the knee-jerk defensiveness that springs forth every time anyone questions anything held dear to a particular fandom. It’s the “Get out of my bro-zone, you’re ruining everything” approach. It’s what Sady Doyle calls the “You don’t like my toys? I hate you!”effect.

It happened the last time I blogged about the depiction of women in games, one commenter, and I’m paraphrasing here,  said something along the the lines of: “Feminism is ruining everything, and now it’s ruining video games too. Can’t you just let us have this one thing?”

My own knee-jerk reaction to this sentiment is to borrow a phrase from the male-privilege catalogue and tell this guy: Suck it up, princess.

But instead, I say to him and all like-minded individuals: It’s OK, my friends. Relax. Nobody is trying to take the things you love away from you, I promise.

That said, good sirs, and you might not like this part, but no, you can’t have this one thing, or any one thing, all to yourself. And that’s good.

It’s OK to be critical of the pop culture we consume and enjoy. It’s OK to admit there might be problems with the comics we read and the games we play. It’s good even.

If, for example, someone blogs that the over-sexualization of women characters in Arkham City, and you happen to really like Arkham City, that doesn’t mean the blogger is calling you a slimy rape apologist and demanding your favourite game be banned.

I keep them from popping out with generous use of double-sided tape.

I happen to really like Arkham City, but I’m not about to shy away from criticisms of it. Having these discussions moves game development forward. It makes for better games, and helps make gaming culture, and nerd culture in general, more inclusive.

And good news, fellow nerds! It is becoming more inclusive all the time, in part because of these conversations we’re having. Women are writing about games, and men are writing about women in games. Women video game developers are making fantastic products all the time. Women-centric nerd blogs are popping up faster than rounds of WarioWare. Every con I’ve ever been too has been booming with nerdy men and nerdy women and stereotype-smashingly awesome nerd couples with awesome nerd children. Have you ever seen a three-foot-tall girl dressed as a stormtrooper? I have, and it was adorable.

When nerds procreate.

But if we want to keep moving forward, we have to keep talking about these issues, and we have to do it with open minds and without malice.

So if these women-in-gaming articles make you want to kick and scream, calm down, take a deep breath, retract your claws and just try not to take things so personally.

Open minds can sometimes lead to amazing things — like tiny stormtroopers — but nothing good ever comes from fanboy tunnel vision.

[Thanks to @PoiaDiZorra for pointing me to the the Kotaku article and sparking this whole discussion.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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