You Can’t Fight Sexism With Sexism

Pictured: A screenshot from Castle Crashers where a giant monster breaks into a barn from the left, attacking four deer, one of whom is being ridden by a red knight. One deer is propelled by a stream of poop instead of running.

I appreciate a good fart joke, but in general, I prefer poop jokes.

Clint Hocking has a column on Edge today about why the game industry needs more women, and a few ideas on how to recruit them. The middle part is pretty good, if points our readers are no doubt already familiar with, but there are a couple things I would like to discuss.

I’ll start out by saying that I’m glad Hocking is talking about the issue and arguing for the practical and creative benefits of having more women in game development. The more people saying this, the better. But there are a couple things about this article that I think are counterproductive to Hocking’s purpose because they’re actually sexist.

The first thing is the framing that compares the game industry as it currently is to the Vikings. It’s a bit of a weird comparison to me, but what he’s saying is that when a lot of men get together, they become uncivilized brutes, and… make fart jokes? He doesn’t say that all men are this way, to be fair, but he does generalize that it’s a natural part of men’s behavior to become crude without the “civilizing” presence of women. That’s essentialist, and sexist against both women and men; women aren’t inherently less crude than men are.

The second sexist thing about this piece–and my main concern–is the simplification that it’s fart jokes that are turning women away from game development jobs. Crudeness isn’t the problem; sexism is the problem. The culture at game development studios does need to change, not because of the crudeness, but because of hostility to women. Things like rape jokes or comments that sexualize and objectify women are both crude and sexist, but it’s the sexism that needs to be eradicated, not necessarily the crudeness. To conflate the two avoids the issue and perpetuates the sexist stereotype that women are sensitive flowers and men need to walk on eggshells around us. It’s the same leap in logic a person takes when finding out that a woman doesn’t want to deal with sexist slurs like “bitch” and assuming that means women don’t like swearing. Fuck that. Again, the issue isn’t crudeness, it’s the sexism. (Last I heard, Bridesmaids–advertized as a gross-out comedy for women–is doing incredibly well.)

Furthermore, Hocking devotes a single vague sentence to Quality of Life issues (“This means that we need to better position the industry as a desirable workplace, one in which female artists, designers, programmers and project managers would want to be employed.”). Women are still far more likely to be the primary caregiver for their children, so long hours and unpaid overtime are a huge barrier for women getting into game development, far moreso than fart jokes.

The article places women who want to get into game development in an awkward position; it puts the expectation of being the “team scold”–the expectation to be a “civilizing” presence, as mentioned above–on women, and that is not only something no one wants, it’s sexist in and of itself. And you can’t change a sexist industry by using sexism. Sexism is the root of the problem; telling game developers to behave like gentlemen when there are ladies present isn’t going to fix the problem, it’s just going to change the nature of it (if it accomplishes anything at all).

So, please, before you write about getting women into the game industry, first check and make sure that you’re not perpetuating the very attitudes you’re arguing against before you publish. I do hope that Hocking keeps talking about this topic, and I hope that he realizes that this angle is counterproductive and takes a different tack next time.

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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6 Responses to You Can’t Fight Sexism With Sexism

  1. Agrona says:

    Hi Alex,

    Just curious–have you shared these thoughts with Clint? His e-mail and twitter are both available on his webpage: http://clicknothing.typepad.com/

  2. Sif says:

    “It’s the same leap in logic a person takes when finding out that a woman doesn’t want to deal with sexist slurs like “bitch” and assuming that means women don’t like swearing. Fuck that.”

    Ha! This is the first time a gaming column has made me laugh out loud – well done!

  3. Korva says:

    What I miss in the article is an unequivocal zero-tolerance policy for hatespeech, sexual harassment, rape-triggers and other manifestations of deliberate or casual degradation of women — from both within the company and from the fanbase. I cannot imagine that “recruiting aggressively” and offering equal pay is going to cut it as long as that kind of shit is happening on a daily basis and the companies turn two blind eyes or laugh along with it.

    Also, I bet it would happen if the company in question made an honest effort to create decent female characters, in terms of both writing and graphical representation, and said no to sexist marketing (“booth babes”, “fanservice” wallpapers, you name it). I heard lately that the latter is often out of their hands, that is another problem altogether. At least I would never want to work in an environment in which half-starved babyteen faptoys with monstrous udders and the pornographic victimization of said faptoys is the only, or the predominant — or HELL, even a common — representation of women.

  4. Rakaziel says:

    In agree with you. In the end this shows that they are either not aware where the problem actually lies or, more likely, they refuse to admit it or, more precisely, are unconfortable about losing the privilege to be this sexist for their own amusement in their line of work.

  5. Ra-chan says:

    THANK YOU for this post! You definitely articulated something I have often felt, but was unable to exactly pinpoint throughout my game career. To generalize from my experience, I think a lot of everyday guys don’t really distinguish the difference between sexist things and crude things- sexism (and other “non-PC” jokes) all fall under the category of “crude.” But the assumption that women can’t handle crude/immature/vulgar humor is very annoying to deal with, and most places I’ve worked, when I start out as a new employee in a room full of dudes, I am treated very cautiously at first with lots of half-joking references to HR. If only these people knew I wrote songs about poop when I was a kid (or a day ago)! On one hand I appreciate people putting some effort into trying not to offend me, but alongside that comes an assumption that I’m going to be a dainty buzzkill. It’s always strange and uncomfortable waters to travel when starting a new job. -_-

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