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October 27, 2008

Filed under: gaming»society»gender

Axes and Allies

After writing a post on a misogynistic shooter and being linked by the slavering hordes from gaming site Kotaku, Brinstar probably could have been excused from taking a long break from blogging, and possibly the written word as well. Instead, she put together an examination of how her own views have expanded during her time online. It's a thoughtful (and thought-provoking post), made even more so by the fact that Brinstar doesn't really need to prove her bona-fides on feminist gamer commentary to anyone. She writes:

It wasn't easy to have my perspectives challenged. I cringe when I look at what I've written in the past. I feel embarrassed about how I used to think about certain things. It shows that I had a lot to learn then, and that I'm still not finished learning. I have expanded my daily readings to include general feminist and anti-oppression blogs to deepen my understanding of oppression and privilege and how it impacts everyday life, and I continue to have my assumptions, perspectives, and privilege challenged.
Those are hard words to write, and I admire her for writing them.

Brin's post sparked some thoughts of my own on the topic of progressive issues in gaming, and the roles that individuals--particularly those operating from a privileged position--can play. Because there is certainly a place for allies when it comes to sexism, racism, and any number of other problems facing the games community, but only if they can act in a constructive, considerate manner.

The distressing aspect of the gaming discussion that takes place online is that it's not representative of the demographics, or often the viewpoints, of the actual, real-world gaming population. We know, for example, that many woman play games. We know that people of color are gamers. Obviously there are LGBT gamers. But in the online community, these categories are, I think (note: I may be entirely wrong), underrepresented. Two problems result from the disparity: first, the face of gaming is (erroneously) portrayed as that of straight, white males; and second, it means that when minority viewpoints do try to enter the debate, they often face a withering tide of angry or ignorant comments from places like Joystiq or Kotaku.

So there's definitely a place for the straight/white/male members of the community to provide support on these issues--and indeed, many have. I hope that I've been of some assistance in the past, and obviously I hope others will add their voices in support. But looking back, just as Brinstar did, I cringe a little sometimes at what I've written, and I recognize that there's also room for improvement and education as to what an ally's role could, or should, be. Especially because it's very easy to cross the line from being helpful and supportive to being a voice that muddies, distracts from, or even completely derails the debate. I worry about that, lately.

I thought about trying to put together a list of educational links for potential allies, but I suspect it's a little presumptuous of me. Also it seems like a lot of work, particularly when has such a good collection already assembled on their right sidebar, under the 101 and 303 sections. Two items that stood out to me are Men! Feminism needs you! (Not your privilege...) at The F Word, which specifically addresses blog commenting without being a jerk, and 12 Helpful Suggestions for Men Regarding Conduct in Feminist Spaces, which looks pretty standard as far as these things go. Both are aimed mainly at participation by men in communities for women's issues, but they also serve (with a little mental effort) as good, common-sense primers on interaction with progressive debates ranging from disability to racism. From the "12 Helpful Suggestions":

3. Listen. This would be really nice. Please respect our feelings and our experiences.

Corollary to Rule 3: When in doubt, shut the hell up. If you're not sure you're "getting it" take a step back, resist the urge to hit that "respond" button, and try to think about what women are saying - before you act.

I think that's my cue to wrap things up.

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