I don’t know if you know this, but female gamers are kind of a big deal.
To be more precise, female gamers are a big deal because they have recently been the center of attention for many large news stories in the video game and popular culture industries. Why? Because they are being sexually bullied and harassed by people who apparently find fulfillment in such mean-spirited actions. Do you remember when you got pushed off the swing in elementary school, and then called names in high school, and then betrayed by your boy/girlfriend in college? The harassment against female gamers is like all of these situations rolled into one, except female gamers tend to never see their bullies face-to-face.
Gamer Jenny Haniver records and transcribes all sexually or otherwise demeaning discussions/messages that are hurled her way on Xbox Live. She blogs about them on her site, Not in the Kitchen Anymore, to try to shed light on the continually growing issue of online harassment against females. One glance through just the first page and you feel like you have to go wash your eyes and brain out with lye. Jenny’s experiences caught the attention of the BBC, and they featured her (along with Grace of Fat, Ugly, or Slutty) in a recent article titled “Sexual harassment in the world of video gaming.”
That same BBC article outlined another instance of very blatant sexual harassment that occurred in February at Capcom’s first fighting game reality show, Cross Assault. On day one of the tournament, Aris Bakhtanians, coach of the professional Tekken team, defended the inclusion and use of sexual harassment because it was simply “part of the community” of fight games; on day five, he implemented some of this sexual harassment towards female gamer Miranda Pakozdi, who became so upset by his insults that she forfeited the match entirely. Gamers around the world, outraged, took to the Internet to show their support for Pakozdi and to inquire after Capcom for not intervening in the situation already on day one when Bakhtanians said that “rape that bitch” was an acceptable insult because “(W)e’re in America… we can say what we want.”
In a final example of harassment against female gamers, Anita Sarkeesian received a massive backlash of hatred and vandalism when she started a Kickstarter campaign to create a video series called “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.” Some people even went so far as to hack and put up an explicit picture on Sarkeesian’s Wikipedia page and change her biography to call her a cunt. Sarkeesian was interviewed by none other than Wired magazine about the situation. On her blog, she said, “I am certainly not the first woman to suffer this kind of harassment and sadly, I won’t be the last. But I’d just like to reiterate that this is not a trivial issue. It can not and should not be brushed off by saying, ‘oh well that’s YouTube for you,’ ‘trolls will be trolls,’ or ‘it’s to be expected on the internet.’ These are serious threats of violence, harassment and slander across many online platforms meant to intimidate and silence. And it’s not okay.” (Feminist Frequency)
Of course, female gamers themselves are nothing new; they have been around for quite a while, and they’re a strong community in the video game industry. There’s even a group of professional female gamers known as the Frag Dolls who have been around since 2004, thanks to Ubisoft; they aim not only to kick some serious butt in video games but also to promote the interests of female gamers everywhere.
However, it’s only been within the last few years that the majority of female gamers have voiced their complaints and concerns about the large presence of sexism and misogyny within the larger gaming community. Gaming news sites have fortunately paid close attention to these situations and so the female gamers’ cause has come out in the open. In fact, a video series called Extra Credits has started a campaign against Xbox Live’s online platform, and Microsoft has actually responded to the campaign, saying that they are going to work to improve the sexual harassment situation. Time will tell if the gaming giant will follow through on its word.
In the meantime, every one of us gamers can do our own part to stop harassment and bullying against female players. If you’re one of those who bashes on the women whom you run across on Xbox Live, or if you’re one of those women who dishes it right back, the only way to make the gaming community a safe, enjoyable group for all of us is to avoid participating in and voicing such overzealous, hateful tirades even if we feel like it. Hopefully, in time, the encouraging, just-out-to-have-fun voices will start to overcome the hateful ones and fill the audiowaves of headsets around the world.
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