Male privilege and gaming.Posted: June 25, 2012
Note: I wrote the following in response to the recent Anita Sarkeesian controversy. In short, a woman started a fundraising campaign for her video series examining female stereotypes in games. A segment of the gaming community caught wind of this: reactions ranged between outrage and rape threats. Another, more silent majority saw those reactions, and chose to donate to her campaign in response, taking her over the $6,000 limit to $158,922. The topic was provoking negative comments on my subreddit, so I wrote a response that tried to explain the stalemate. It had a huge response, both positive and negative, and was reposted around tumblr a couple of times, sometimes without credit. I was asked to contribute an expanded version to someone’s blog, which I’ve only just got around to responding to, so I’ve posted the original here for posterity.
If there’s one thing that straight, white, middle-class males get really defensive about, it’s the idea that they’re the most privileged of demographics, and that they’re likely to harbour some prejudice they’re unaware of. They really despise feeling guilty about things they were born with and have no control over, such as class, skin colour and sex. They have problems too, and the thought that they should feel guilty for their background is offensive, especially when they don’t consciously wish any harm upon other cultures.
And neither should they, but because they react so defensively to these arguments, it’s difficult to get them to actually take them on board at all. Acknowledging race, sex, sexuality or class privilege is a real sore point for anyone – imagine how difficult it is to accept that you embody all four. So, in their insecurity, they reject the notion that they’re born with such advantages. It’s not their problem, they don’t want to harass women or gay people or people of another race, it’s those crazy people. They continue to believe that nothing is wrong and that people are just looking to be offended about something, that none of it is their fault. But simply by refusing to acknowledge the issue and examining their own thoughts and feelings towards others and culture at large, they are holding back progress.
I saw a conversation on the internet between a gay man and a straight man, and the sense of the argument knocked me flat. The straight man asked why gay people had to have parades, clubs and exclusive activities, believing it served only to segregate them from others – something which had occurred to myself. The gay man answered that, quite simply, it was because 95% of media and culture is targeted toward straight white males, and the gay community simply wanted something that appealed to them and only them.
It opened my eyes, to use a cliché. I couldn’t stop noticing how much was made for me. Everything. Movies, TV shows, books, and especially video games and commercials. All for the straight white male, and it had never even occurred to me. I was ashamed for a little while that I hadn’t noticed before, but I got over it. Suddenly, I realised that the attitude of “What’s the problem?” was a far greater issue than I had thought.
Sexism, racism and homophobia are not the domain of extremists such as the Westboro Baptist Church, the KKK and the 50s. These are ongoing issues, and they affect everyone, and most people are guilty of perpetuating the negatives, whether they realise it or not.
My question to all those who defend the blatant sexism in mainstream video game industry is this: why is it so important to you to defend it? Why is it so hard to accept that those games you loved were sexist? It doesn’t make you a bad person. The chances are high that you didn’t enjoy it because of the sexism, but rather that you simply didn’t notice – because it was made for you, like 95% of things you consume. Maybe, once in a while, spare a thought for the people who play video games, roll their eyes and go “oh great, another straight white male power fantasy. I just want to play video games and I have to put up with this bullshit again.”
Gamers get so offended at the thought that something wasn’t made for them. Why won’t the industry make games for us, the hardcore gamers? Why do they keep pushing out shit that none of us care about? We don’t want Kinect, yearly sports game rehashes, family games or Call of Duty rip-offs. Well, imagine how you’d feel if there were no other games. Imagine how you’d feel if every single game released had motion controls, Facebook integration and yearly sequels – even games like Fallout, Europa Universalis III and Dark Souls. Imagine all of them, in amongst all of the stuff you like, had a dancing minigame, and 95% of the gaming community just loved it all and defended it viciously, responding to all criticism with insults, and repeatedly said there was no problem – maybe you’re the one with the problem.
Do you think you’d feel a little left out?