Under Siege: Playing Video Games While Woman

Zoe Quinn is another in a long line of women who have incurred the wrath of gaming assholes. Her ex-boyfriend made sure to slander her and bring 4chan along for the ride because nothing says revenge quite like getting a bunch of thugs to go after the person you feel wronged you (of course, considering he posted revenge porn, created a complete facebook page to revile her, made up a story about Quinn sleeping with a reviewer from Kotaku to get a positive review about her video game Depression Quest even though said review doesn’t exist, harassed her friends and family and acquaintances to get at her…you have to wonder what kind of person he is. Actually, not really. His actions show it. *shudder* Yeah, a real winner girls. SInce he’s gotten away with his assholery this time, can you imagine what he’s going to do to his next unlucky ex?).

So the wish-I-were-still-a-teen thirty-something crowd is bleating that Quinn is ruining video games for women because she’s such a shameful slut. And of course her actions are so female-y men see her example and just assume all women are like that because it fits the stereotypes so well. Yeeaahh, right. Does that mean I get to see how men are treating her and declare that every male gamer is an asshole necrophilic rapist?

Of course not. The harassment and threats, however, are just another example of how men really really hate women intruding on their “space”–which just happens to be the entire world. We show our face and they try to rip it off to prove that no, women don’t belong, and get the hell out. Video games are men’s play, and they absolutely have to stay that way.

Why? Why should half the population be excluded from fun?

I love playing video games, despite the fact fewer and fewer interest me. Shooters are not my style, especially the endless, mind-numbingly-the-same war-themed games (I remember when X-Play had four screenshots of four different games placed together, and they all had the same look, the same palette, the same types of players, and ultimately had the same gameplay in nearly the same places. Same everything, different company. I felt then that producing so many of the same type of game would glut the market and interest would drop, and I still feel that way, because it leads to boring, repetitive gameplay. It’s probably why the teens at a local video game club have abandoned COD and Battlefield within a year of individual games being released yet continue to battle each other in SSB: Brawl with great enthusiasm–a game, I must remind you, that was releaed in 2008).

I love RPGs, with some action-adventure thrown in. I especially love sandbox RPGs like the Elder Scrolls series–and was very, very disappointed that Zenimax decided that the series should be an MMO.

Why? Because I knew how my fellow players would act.

Not all are loathsome human beings, but enough of them are that they diminish my enthusiasm for playing Elder Scrolls Online. I just *love* logging on and seeing the zone chat filled with someone “joking” about killing women and having sex with their dead bodies. Or that the best woman is one with a face so bruised she can’t talk. How do you shut up a woman? With your fist. Yes, yes, an online MMO is OBVIOUSLY the place for this kind of talk. Well, it is for many men, because they know it will drive a few women off the game. That is all they care about, sanitizing their space from the stink of woman. I wish I could sanitize my space from the stink of them and play in peace. It’s why I dislike on-line gaming so much, and why I value the single player game. When I ride Epona across a field shooting at goblins, bash a bunny on the head, or race across the ice to meet a wisp mother, I don’t want some jackass sending rape threats my way. Kind of ruins the moment, you know?

I really want my single player games back. It will never happen because companies see on-line gaming as a cash cow (IF those games succeed, which is so not a given). Even when games have a single-player campaign, oftentimes it is a pale reflection of the robust on-line version. If a woman ventures on-line to play, the harassment they receive is well-documented and explains why many women tend to shy away from competing unless they are in a setting with friends (just Google abuse, video games and women. The number of results, and the stories they tell, are depressing).

Seriously. During what other hobby do men constantly cast rape and death threats at women for simply participating? Sexism abounds in the real world, but it seems like anything to do with on-line gaming eternally drips with oily venom towards women–and worse.

So So Easy to Blame the Victim…

It’s too easy to blame the victim. Got killed by police? Your fault that you didn’t listen to them, you criminal. Got raped? Your fault, you’re dressed too slutty and drank too much and were in a dangerous place you never should have been in. No job? You’re too lazy and why should we believe a lazy person when they say they apply and apply and apply with no results? Your life not where you want it? You just don’t work hard enough, dream hard enough, to make things better for you. Something bad happened to you? You just don’t think positively enough, or pray hard enough, or whatever enough.

Blaming the victim is an easy answer to the difficult questions when terrible things happen. No investigation needs to take place, no awkward questions, no nothing. The incident can be brushed under the carpet and hidden. In the unlikely event that someone does protest, lie about the incident. Make sure that enough lies are told in rapid succession, and are believable enough based on stereotypes, that any credibility the victim may have had evaporates and all that is left is the easy way out–blame what happened on the victim.

Americans hate the tough questions. They prefer the comfortable lie to the harsh truth. They want to believe that bad things can always be avoided because to think otherwise is to admit that those bad things can happen to them. They desperately need to believe that the people in Ferguson protesting Michael Brown’s death deserve the tear gas because they aren’t peaceful protesters–even though they are. If the Ferguson protestors don’t deserve to be shot with rubber bullets and tear gas and sprayed with pepper, then what might other police departments do to shut down a protest they might be a part of?

That is why protesters in support of Darren Wilson, the cop who killed Michael Brown, can chant “Shoot Shoot Shoot” at the counter-protesters who arrived (the most common protesters’ chant in support of Brown is “Hands Up Don’t Shoot”). Since it’s up to the victims to somehow make cops not shoot them, then it doesn’t matter whether cops pull the trigger or not–they will never be held accountable. Their actions will never be questioned by those in a position to punish them, since it’s in the authority’s interest to let the incidents fade from public mind and die down enough they can ignore them and continue carrying out the same fear-inspiring tactics that keeps the targeted community subdued, untrusting and feeling helpless to change the situation (Those that are trying to change the situation through the democratic process of registering people to vote are being called disgusting, and the safe places designated by the community for protesters are being raided by police. When stuff like this happens, trying to believe anything will change is difficult).

Schooled in Math

Reading about Fields Medalist Maryam Mirzakhani’s early schooling, when a teacher told her she was not good at math, struck a nerve. I, too, was told that by a teacher who refused to waste his time in helping me understand concepts in algebra because I was a girl, and wouldn’t understand it anyway. The next year in school, Mirzakhani’s teacher told her she was great at math, which was a step towards earning a math degree. For me, during my second high school year, I took geometry. The teacher graciously told me I should have failed, but out of the goodness of his heart, he would give me a C so I wouldn’t have to repeat the class. The school councilor told me that I had a block against math, and advised me to focus on the humanities—a perfectly good girl’s area of study. I dreamed of being an archaeologist, but when I entered college and was told I needed Calc 3 to get a degree, I immediately dropped my dream because I knew I could never accomplish it. No amount of hard work would ever overcome a mind-block, right?

My freshman orientation advisor, a geo-engineer, was absolutely flabbergasted when I told him this. He told me women are just as good at math as men, and urged me to overcome my misgivings and attempt math again. I wish I had taken his advice—but at the time, I did not believe it. The “proof” lay in the classes and concepts I failed. His was one voice against many. It is only years later that I realize he was correct. I wish I could tell him that. You were right. I wish I had been strong enough to follow your lead.

When you’re young, teachers make impressions—sometimes very negative ones. I knew at the time that the men who taught me math thought women were the lesser gender due to their religion, but I still believed what they told me because they, as authority figures, were supposed to know what they talked about. It was not until years later that I realized these men had no clue how to teach math, and really, did not understand it themselves—they were football and basketball coaches. Math happened to be the subject assigned to them so they could remain coaches at the high school. They had not studied it, and that lead to terribly teaching it. They made excuses as to why they could not help their students, and it was because they did not understand the material themselves. This also explains why very little teaching took place in those classrooms, and why we were given worksheets and assignments to fill up class time rather than listening to lectures (and no, they were not participating in Moore-style education).

I now understand how ridiculous my beliefs were. Not only am I married to a mathematician who has helped relieve me of my past notions, I took math courses in college—not Calc 3, but I still had to take them—and I aced them. I got As. I wish that those successes had persuaded me much sooner to re-examine my dreams and go from there, but since I longed to be a fantasy/sci-fi author, English did not seem that terrible of a degree focus. I ended up in a library–a perfect example of the “good woman’s” job that, in many ways, haunts me. I write quite a lot (no fiction publications as of yet), but I wish I had followed my other dream as well.

And the Fields Medal Goes To…

Congratulations to Maryam Mirzakhani for winning the Fields Medal! Not only is she the first woman to win the award, she’s the first Iranian to do so.

Not all are pleased, however. I know several mathematicians who are in Seoul right now for the International Congress of Mathematicians. One woman had an interesting story about an audience member’s reaction to the anticipated announcement. He complained that, since there was now a woman president in Korea, that there was going to be a woman awarded the Fields Medal. A nearby man heard, and said that women do excellent research and work hard in the field. The first man agreed that women do research, but said that the Fields Medal should be different.

Different? How? That only men should receive it? That women can be brought out and shown off when diversity is spoken about, but otherwise they should demure to the real mathematicians—men? That, somehow, the Fields Medal is lessened because a woman won?

Women have a long way to go in mathematics. Great strides have been made, but many more need to be taken. Hopefully young girls will read about her, realize their interest in mathematics is not odd, out of place, or unladylike, and follow the path into the sciences. But, as the Inspire Her Mind Verizon video points out, even in 2014, this is hardly a given, especially when everyone a girl knows may be subtly telling her to follow a career path that’s more suited to women.

Women vs Women


I never realized how many women are satisfied with getting paid less than men, getting treated as little more than sex objects or baby factories, being denied jobs they are qualified for based on gender, getting assaulted then blamed for it… the list goes on.  What does it say about a movement whose adherents proudly proclaim that since their boyfriend doesn’t beat them, there’s no need for feminism. Yay. High bar there, ladies.

Also says something about their empathy that, because it doesn’t happen to them, it’s not a problem. Only it does happen to them–low wages, denial of jobs,  etc.–they just don’t care. Inequality is status quo and that is just fine and dandy. No need for change. Ever.

The Sorry State of Women

After reading this post by Brianna Wu, I was struck by Case Study #1 Nina, in which a male coworker said that he had a different reaction when he heard criticism from women as opposed to men. He became more defensive more quickly when he heard it from women. I mulled this over while scrolling through posts on Facebook, and a friend posted a Pantene commercial that she, and several others, thought was as empowering as the Dove Real Beauty Sketches of a few years ago.  The Pantene commercial begins with a simple question:  Why are women always apologizing?

The commercial shows several senarios where women apologize before they make a statemet or ask for something. Then it says, “Don’t be sorry.” The same women in the same senarios make their statements without apologizing first. It’s a great message. It’s empowering. It appeals to those who strive to be strong women.

And it’s completely unrealistic.

Why do women apologize anyway?

It’s pretty simple. It protects them.

If a male (and sometimes female) co-worker has problems hearing any suggestions or criticisms from a woman, apologizing first softens the words. It makes the meat of the comment more acceptible. It’s never fun to be mocked by coworkers or your boss because they see your words as a threat and try to ameliorate them by calling you a bitch, uptight, unwomanly, too pushy, too forceful. Sorry makes comments digestible by those who get defensive when a woman speaks. It sucks, but that’s the way it is.

Being perceived as a strong woman is not an asset. Strong women are ridiculed, ignored, deplored. Men see them as a threat, and do their best to silence them by using the previously stated ways. When men see women as less, any evidence they could be equal is frightening, and not tolerated. I see this at work all the time. The manager laughs at women’s suggestions in front of their coworkers, even if the idea is one that he eventually uses after a man suggests it. He will call a female supervisor into his office because he is concerned about the tone she used to point out that a male employee is not doing his work,  but ignores the tone used by the male employee when he told the female supervisor to shut up and stop yelling at him, even though she had actually calmly pointed out he had not done his assigned work. The manager may not realize the favoritism, but his employees have. It’s the reason the female employees rarely bring up things that male employees do wrong, like stealing. There’s no point, since they are more likely to get in trouble with the boss for being a rat rather than the perpetrator getting in trouble for doing something wrong. It’s the reason the men do what they want, even if it hurts the workplace and morale, and the women keep silent.

“I’m sorry” will never fix workplace inequality, but it is something women have realized allows them a voice when dealing with men. A small voice,  but one nonetheless. It’s better than nothing.