Games arcade / Carl Raw / Unsplash
In many parts of society, feminism has made impressive changes for the better.
Other parts of society still need a heaping dose of it. In particular, the world of gaming could do with a cultural overhaul because, as things stand, it’s downright archaic.
Most of us are familiar with the tale of Mulan, popularised and sprinkled with catchy showtunes by Disney. Due to the misogyny of the conscript army, Mulan, a young woman, can only fight as a soldier if she is disguised as a man.
The plot details of Mulan vary across different versions. In one version, she is made a concubine by the emperor. In another, she considers this fate worse than death and takes her own life. In another, she is executed for going against the rules of her kingdom. Or, most happily, it is only after returning home and retiring that she shows her true identity. The common thread here is that nothing good ever came from revealing her womanhood to her supposed allies.
Girl gamers face the same predicament. Girl gamers can only game in peace if they are disguised as men — or, at the very least, they don’t correct the assumption that any random gamer is male by speaking in-game.
The tale of Mulan is 1,500 years old.
Sure, the exact outcomes are different, but to me, the misogyny looks exactly the same. Leena van Deventer, who co-wrote a book exposing the sexism in online gaming, recounts the sexual harassment she faced once her gamemates found out she was a woman.
“I could hear him masturbating on the voice chat, while playing. He would ask breathy, laboured questions. Other teammates found it hilarious … I wished I could focus on my objective in the game, but I knew I had to leave this server … My mouse was hovering over the exit button when I heard him climax, moaning my username into his microphone.”
Gag. There are many examples of equally disgusting responses to girls in the world of gaming, but for brevity and your ease of perusal, I have linked a database of game-world misogynist encounters. Said database is called Fat, Ugly or Slutty — a reference to the three categories misogynists initially put girl gamers into.
As women have progressed further onto the gaming scene, the insults have become more creative. The database now includes categories like Unprovoked Rape and Sandwich Making 101. Just reading a few of its posts is enough to make the disturbing pattern of behaviour clear.
The reason sexism and rape culture is so rife in the world of gaming is because sexism and rape culture is so rife in the physical world. I don’t think there’s anything about donning a pair of headphones and jumping online that instils men with frothing misogyny. I think that misogyny has always been there. And I think that it’s the opportunity to be anonymous, surrounded by equally emboldened sexists, that allows this subculture to teem and fester.
So what to do?
Along with changing how women are depicted in video and computer games and improving censorship and moderating policies, being vocal might be one of the most effective ways to pop the misogyny bubbles that float around the cybersphere.
Van Deventer talks about what happened when she spoke up.
“People would compliment me, like, ‘Hey well done bro,’ … just using male language. There was one time ... I was like, ‘Thanks, I’m a girl though, probably old enough to be your mum’ – and then someone else was like, ‘Me too,’ and then another one said, ‘Me too’ – and it turned out the whole server was full of women. We had just all assumed that we were dudes.”
See, unlike Mulan in an ancient army, women are not an elusive rarity in the world of gaming. There’s more of us than any of us think. It can be exhausting to face the insults and abuse, but always know that the world of gaming belongs to us too.
It’s not a man’s world and we are not its guests. We comprise it just as much as them, as players, designers and creators.
The more we speak up, the more everyone can be reminded of this fact.Support Villainesse