Between Gamergate, the horrifying stories about Jian Ghomeshi coming to light here in Canada, and the countless male celebrities who are just get to keep on keeping on after being accused, or even convicted, of rape and sexual assault, I am becoming a ball of rage.
It feels like a war is coming. People are choosing sides, and there have been good people speaking up and identifying themselves as feminists and reminding people who the bad guys are. But the bad guys are banding together. The internet is allowing them to easily find each other, and to form a community. They can convince themselves that they are a persecuted group.
I was born in 1980. Video games were new and exciting when I was growing up, and everyone played them. I don’t recall video games ever being identified as a male pursuit. I would play video games at arcades alongside my female and male friends. I would go to friends’ houses, mostly female, who were lucky enough to have a home computer or an Atari system and play video games endlessly. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on an NES, an SNES, and an N64. If I went to someone’s house and they had a Sega Genesis, I would play the hell out of that. When I was babysitting I would play any games they had after the kids were asleep. My parents played our NES as much as we did. I can say with confidence that my mother was addicted to Dr. Mario.
Video games in the 80s and early 90s were like television or movies: a form of entertainment that could be enjoyed by all. And there was such a variety of games out there, it would be ridiculous to say ‘I don’t like video games,’ and even more ridiculous to say ‘video games are for boys.’
Much like today.
But somewhere along the line video games, like comic books and sports, became something that girls aren’t supposed to like. Sure, you can play them, but they are not for you. So if you want to play video games, or read comic books, you just have to accept that they are crazy sexist. Because you’re the weird one for wanting to participate in this fun, fun past time.
I’ve been thinking a lot about when video games crossed over to boy territory and my earliest memory is when Goldeneye came out on N64 (still one of the best games ever). That was 1997. I remember girls in high school calling that game “the boyfriend stealer.” I also remember going to hang out with girls and boys and the girls would watch the boys play Goldeneye. And if they did pick up a controller it was in a really “Ohmygod! What do I do?! You’re just going to kill me! How do I use this thing?” kind of way. It bummed me out then, and now.
I would not call myself a ‘gamer’ but I am a grown-ass woman who can’t stop playing Marvel Puzzle Quest on my phone. Video games have always been in my life as a major source of entertainment. I would say I have spent more time playing video games than watching movies in my life. It’s not a community I belong to, it’s just something I do because video games are fun and EVERYONE PLAYS THEM.
When it comes to gender inequality I would say I was born angry. I have always been drawn to “boy” things: comic books, hockey, action movies, steak, beer, whatever. I have also rejected “girl” things almost my entire life. As a kid I was one of the boys, most of the time. I have a distinct memory of a schoolyard game when I was maybe seven or eight years old. The boys were rounding up girls and putting them in a “prison” (fun!). One of the boys grabbed me and another said “Rachelle doesn’t count. She’s a boy.”
What I am saying is I am the chosen one who will lead us to gender equality.
No, what I am saying is that it is absolutely time to stop compartmentalizing gender and the interests that men and women, boys are girls, are supposed to have.
I have said to others that I am, in some ways, relieved that both of my children are male because it means I don’t have to deal with being buried in pink frilly girl baby clothing and pink frilly girl baby expectations. The truth is, I would have loved to have a daughter. I would love the opportunity to raise a strong, smart woman. But part of me is thankful that I don’t need to watch my daughter face this world. I take the job of raising two respectful, thoughtful, sensitive men very seriously, though. Boys will not “be boys” in my house.
It seems ludicrous for people to be fired up about something as silly as video games. But, of course, that’s not really what people are fired up about. It’s about a privileged group losing a piece of its privilege. It’s about the top of the food chain being asked to share.
I haven’t really written in this blog for years. When I was actively writing it I was one of not too many female comic book bloggers (relatively speaking). Every time I dared to insert a little feminist critique into my posts, I would get emails and comments from horrible monster creeps. I didn’t delete the creepy comments. They are still there. The emails were worse, and I did delete those. It was a heady brew of insults and sexual advances. Nothing like what the poor women involved in Gamergate are going through, though.
I’m just angry and sad to live in a world where people like Anita Sarkeesian are getting death threats, but Chris Brown has a new hit album. Bill Cosby is a beloved icon. Woody Allen still makes a movie every year. Mike Tyson is a cartoon detective or whatever.
I feel that the comic book industry has made great strides in the years since I was writing this blog. It’s not perfect by a long shot, I am blown away by the respect that writers and artists are showing female characters, and by the way that fans are responding (positively). I hope the video game industry will do the same over the next several.
There will always be monsters, but I have to believe that there are more good people than bad in the world, and that we can be louder and stronger and we will come out of top.
At least that’s what comic books and video games have taught me.