Why The Border House has a need to exist

When we first launched The Border House just over a week ago, I posted to the wow_ladies LiveJournal community about its existence.  Being that the wow_ladies group is all female WoW gamers, some of whom identify as feminist –  I figured this blog would be a great fit for them.   One of the very first comments to the post was something along the lines of “Why does this even have to exist?  We might be females, but we’re gamers first and foremost.  Shouldn’t we be able to get our gaming news from any old regular gaming site?”

This post is why.  In the past week, just reading through Kotaku and Joystiq alone – I have seen massive amounts of sexism.  Let’s look at two posts from Kotaku, from just TODAY.

They reported that Melissa Joan Hart (of Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina the Teenage Witch fame) was seen at a Ubisoft event for the game Your Shape by Jenny McCarthy.  Why did they feel the need to post this?  To say:

Looks like Hart could use some Frag Doll fashion tips.


Let’s see here.  So the sole purpose of posting this was just to comment on her fashion sense?  I mean, I may be wrong – but as far as I’ve seen the Frag Dolls always wear black t-shirts and jeans.   Is it because their bellies show that makes them dress better?   And since when did Kotaku become a fashion site?  Females can’t attend video game conferences without being ridiculed for what they wear?

The Frag Dolls in black t-shirts and jeans on the left, and Melissa Joan Hart on the right.

The Frag Dolls in black t-shirts and jeans on the left, and Melissa Joan Hart on the right.

Even worse, another post from today serves no purpose other than to compare the boobs and the butts of two characters from the recently released Bayonetta game.  Seriously?  This is gaming news?  Of course, the comment thread is to be avoided but contains such gems as “Bayonetta is very close to converting me from a boob man to an ass man” and “It doesn’t matter who is bigger or smaller, I think the most important part here is that we’re all winners.”

Comarison of Bayonetta and Jeanne's boobs and butts, courtesy of Kotaku

Comarison of Bayonetta and Jeanne's boobs and butts, courtesy of Kotaku

And we wonder why female characters in video games are so objectified and overly sexual.  It’s because gaming journalism like Kotaku continues to create press over it.  Of course they’re going to report on this, because the men who read Kotaku are just as tuned to objectify female characters in games as the developers who create the games.  Why should women gamers have to read this kind of crap just to find out about latest releases and news about their favorite games?  This isn’t even the first time this week that they have written an entire article about female rear ends.

I didn’t even go into the horrible way they referenced our very own Sera Brennan in this article.  “Seraphina Brennan is in fact the transgendered identity of the writer and is the byline she now uses for all of her work. Our commentary on this excerpt has been changed to reflect this.”  Why they felt the need to point out that she is transgender as a sort of disclaimer for her opinion on female objectification in games was beyond me.  Not to mention how they referred to her name as being a “transgendered identity” and a “byline” rather than just her name.  Not to mention they had to change their commentary because of it.  Sigh.

Homophobia, sexism, racism, classism, objectification, prejudice, and discrimination occurs everywhere.  Even in video gaming news, which is why The Border House exists.  We want to make sure someone out there isn’t just commenting in approval, but is drawing attention to the negative effects this causes.

Readers, what do you think?

About Tami Baribeau

Lead Editor and co-founder of The Border House, feminist, gamer, lover of social media, technology, and virtual worlds. Pansexual, equestrian, dog lover, social game studio director and producer. Email me here and follow me on Twitter!
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47 Responses to Why The Border House has a need to exist

  1. Thefremen says:

    Although I disagree with their conclusion, I have to agree that Melissa Joan Heart’s top is hideous. Just IMO.

  2. Jonah says:

    I’m not going to claim to be an expert on issues of sexism, but this kind of stuff really annoys me. Why are they giving site real estate to any celebrity appearance at a gaming event? Just to get some clicks?

    I’m glad The Border House exists. I think it’s important to read articles from a perspective that is unique to your own to get a bigger picture of the world at large.

  3. chooseareality says:

    I am very annoyed that they thought it was necessary to point out that Sera is Transgendered, how can that have any bearing on the thought provoking article she posted.

    Honestly though, they don’t understand what they do wrong and without a place like this they will not know what they are doing wrong. I think that is one of the most important things about this blog.

    I have already learned several new terms reading this blog that I never even thought to use. It is very important that we have a voice because it is way to easy for us to be forgotten or taken out of the discussion about everyday gaming subjects that we care deeply about just because we are the minorities here.

  4. Alex says:

    Yeah, I swore off Kotaku long, long ago. It made me really sad when Stephen Totilo went over to them, since he is one of my favorite game commentators, but he’s not enough for me to wade over in that dump.

    So glad you had this idea, Tami ;D

  5. Jalestra says:

    I always get irritated about the “disclaimer”. Its like a ploy “See, we have a transgendered writer…how cool are we..heh?” Honestly I’m so tempted when I see stuff like that to make my own disclaimer “Human Being”. Why does that ONE thing have to define a person. While I don’t ignore the fact that our gender and some parts of our lives define us in a big way, that should have nothing to do with how we see others. We are whole people, not one part.

    • Cuppycake says:

      This wasn’t even one of their writers. They were quoting an article that Sera wrote at Massively. Note that Massively didn’t feel the need to “disclaim” that Sera is transgender, but for some reason Kotaku did when referencing her post.

  6. Alexandra says:

    Man, screw Kotaku. What a bigoted cesspit.

    Yeah, that’s all I’ve got to say.

  7. Why does this even have to exist? We might be females, but we’re gamers first and foremost. Shouldn’t we be able to get our gaming news from any old regular gaming site?

    Maybe we should but we can’t. It’s been clear for a very long time that anyone who challenges the bigotry rampant at the regular old gaming sites becomes a target for abuse. We see it every single time a woman mentions the sexualized portrayals of women in games. We saw it when people tried to point out that maybe the depictions of African people in Resident Evil 5 were just the teensiest bit racially insensitive. I’m queer poor older disabled trans poly kinky socialist atheist mentally ill tattooed and even though I’m white my wife is black my stepmom is Latina — racism means my family (though I hope I’d be as strongly anti-racist even if it didn’t). I am not welcome in mainstream gaming communities. If I’m to be a part of any gaming community at all I need places like this.

    • Twyst says:

      And really, if you dont feel the need to participate in a particular community, that is your choice, but dont challenge others that want to – with the implication that there is no want/need. It would be a happy day that safe spaces dont need to exist because we can all feel safe and supported when voicing our opinions, but that day isnt here yet.

      • oliemoon says:

        Ooh, your comment reminded me of another must-read blog post about this issue (why marginalized people need their own spaces in the gaming internets), back from when Cerise launched: Kotaku Commenters Prove the Necessity of a Women’s Gaming Magazine

        The best part:

        I also find the whole Shutupicrat philosophy that underlies most of the comments fascinating. Until I got onto the internet I had never met somebody who gets actually angry about the fact that some people care about things that he or she doesn’t. It would be sort of interesting to meet some of these people in real life:

        “Excuse me, but why in the hell are we learning German? I don’t want to speak German, and I don’t see why anyone else should. Can’t we all just speak English and shut up about stupid foreign languages I don’t care about?”

        “If you don’t want to take German, why are you enrolled in this class?”

        “I’m not; I was just looking on a bulletin board and noticed that German was being taught, and since I don’t think German is interesting I felt I should come here and let everyone know that they’re being stupid and wasting their time.”

        AT A DINER:
        “Why do you serve blueberry pancakes? I hate blueberries, and I don’t really like pancakes that much, either. If people would just shut up about their blueberry pancakes I could get back to ordering waffles in peace.”

  8. Sholly says:

    It’s absolutely necessary. Okay, well, not necessary, I suppose — I don’t think blogs are necessarily *necessary*, but I’m certainly glad it exists, for one. It’s nice to hear about the same games without having to put up with the blatant -isms and -phobias. In fact, it keeps me sane some days. It’s also nice to hear about games that you might not have heard of from other sites, because the writers of those sites don’t like that there is a main character who isn’t straight, white, male, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
    So, in conclusion, thanks for doing what you do! Not even going to go into all of Kotaku’s ridiculous, infuriating comments. I’ll leave it at, I’m so glad this exists.

  9. Jadelyn says:

    Why does this even have to exist? We might be females, but we’re gamers first and foremost. Shouldn’t we be able to get our gaming news from any old regular gaming site?

    I’ve gotten this kind of resistance a few times, quite often when I bring up feminist issues to other woman gamers. And I think it goes back to the idea of exceptionalism: that, in order not to be the target of sexism within a male-dominated group, a woman can eschew her femininity completely and become “one of the guys”. The thing is, in order to do this, a woman must not only ignore the sexism perpetuated by the group against women outside the group, but must actively participate in it and aggressively deny that it bothers her at all in any way. And many women will do it, because it’s a way to gain some social safety and security within a group they want to be part of.

    Given that, a woman who’s chosen to be “one of the guys” – as most female gamers almost *have* to do if they want to make gaming a social activity instead of sitting alone with one’s console and no online play, since gaming is still rather male-dominated and there are few safe spaces like this one – is going to put up heavy resistance to anything that might threaten her “one of the guys” status. Which acknowledgment of sexism in gaming news does, by drawing attention to it instead of sweeping it under the rug.

    While it’s not surprising to hear it, it is depressing that that’s the kind of behavior required for successful participation in the system. :-/

  10. DM says:

    If gaming is to be recognized as the turf of more than nerds and frat boys, this sort of conglomeration is essential. As for “Why should women gamers have to read this kind of crap just to find out about latest releases and news about their favorite games? ”
    Hell, why should anyone? Obviously, they shouldn’t, and I hope this is a step in the right direction.

  11. Being that the wow_ladies group is all female WoW gamers, some of whom identify as feminist – I figured this blog would be a great fit for them.

    Uggh wow_ladies! I couldn’t deal with the internalized sexism of that place.

    • Brinstar says:

      I found that internalised sexism issue over at girl_gamers LJ as well. :-/

      • Tami B. says:

        I think this would make an interesting blog post. I’m not too familiar with the concept of “internalized sexism” and I think it would make a great topic here.

        • Nonny says:

          I’d love to see that as a blog topic, too. I’ve been a member of W_L for well over a year now, and I twitch whenever I see any topic relating to feminism come up, because I know it’s going to turn into a complete wankfest. There have been a very few times where that hasn’t been the case, but it’s really sad how much other women object to discussion of how we are treated in society.

        • Hot Tramp says:

          The cliffs notes version: Internalized misogyny/sexism is when a woman displays sexist and misogynist attitudes and behaviors. One of the most common examples of internalized misogyny is the old “Oh, gee, I don’t have a lot of female friends. Women are such catty bitches! I prefer to hang out with men because they’re more laid-back.” I’d also argue that slut-shaming is internalized misogyny, since the whole idea that women should always be modest and pure is sexist to the core.

    • Hot Tramp says:

      It’s definitely a strong current in the community, but there’s also a current of resistance against that, and a vocal group of posters (myself included!) usually call our BS when it shows up. Of course, I often avoid ~guild drama~ posts, and that’s invariably where the OMG SLUTTY GUILD PRINCESS SUCH A WHORE HATE HATE HATE stuff happens.

    • Ann says:

      It’s why I gave up on reading the community. It was just too infuriating.

  12. Having found this site a few days ago through the Critical Distance site I am glad I have and welcome it’s existence on the quality of the writing that I have seen. The example from Kotaku is further reason to continue and hopefully thrive

  13. oliemoon says:

    Some related posts for anyone who wants further reading:

    Sisterhood is powerful: women oriented gaming communities and Alex Raymond’s Are female oriented communities or publications sexist?. They both focus on women-specific communities, but I think the principles are applicable to any community that seeks to center non-dominant POVs.

  14. Dingsi says:

    Honestly? This is one of the few entertainment-/media-related sites where I feel I can let down my guard. I admit I’m only a casual gamer (don’t have much time or energy to play myself, but am quite interested in reading about games and gaming, or watching others play)… but I’m also a feminist, queer, and a trans man. So the “mainstream” gamer/gaming sites tend to be off-putting. I.e. it often happens that I find sites that look interesting, but then pop up the sexism, defense of racist attitudes, homophobic “jokes”, ableist slurs, and/or transphobic comments. Not to mention turns of phrases that make it crystal-clear the authors *expect* their audience to be straight males who like, and endorse, judging characters as well as real women solely by their T&A factor, wink-wink nudge-nudge. Because everything else would display a troubling lack of masculinity. *rolls eyes*

    Short version: there are enough sites out there already that make me feel unwelcome. You don’t. You write interesting articles, you’re feminist, and you have a diverse mix of contributors – this impressed me as well, and the fact that a trans woman was a part of it had contributed a lot to my decision to read your blog (and not only that, but also recommend it to my friends). You’re doing a good job, and I’m grateful this site exists.

  15. Nonny says:

    I was really glad to see this posted over on Wow Ladies. I’m a disabled pagan polyamorous kinky pansexual girl gamer, and frankly… it’s nice to have somewhere I can discuss these sorts of topics without having to worry about being flamebait.

  16. Dickie says:

    I hate that question. I get asked that all the time at RainbowMMO, and I know GayGamer does as well. At least once a year I see a post on GG yet again validating their existence.

    It bothers me because we are left justifying our opinions because we’re challenging the status quo of sexism, homophobia and racism. We exist because there’s still a need, pure and simple, and until the world is ready to set aside their various hate mongering, there will still be a need.

  17. Lake Desire says:

    I used to be on WoW_Ladies when it first started (I was friends with its founder Lacykitten on a vegan messageboard) and I don’t remember it being that bad. I dropped back in back in 2005 to do a survey on sexism experienced women gamers for a women’s studies class and almost everyone said they were a feminist and was pretty friendly and helpful. My survey results are on my blog here and here if anyone is interested. I’m sad to hear the community has gone downhill.

    Did anyone notice this awful Kotaku post, Bring Your Slave Gladiator to Work Day? NSFW. A woman parades around an office in an outfit like Princess Leia’s “slave girl” outfit. Not only is slavery apparently soooooooooo funny and sexy, but one Kotaku commenter even suggests the model is asking for sexual harassment: ” I’m sure the woman doesn’t mind the attention. If she walks around in a bikini with a gladiator helmet, she’s looking for a lot more than attention.” Gross.

    Maybe this warrants its own blog post.

  18. humanalias says:

    I used to be really into gaming, but am now more casual. Partially this is the cost, but it is also the attitudes I’ve felt from the gaming community. It is so hard to find games that don’t start from the beginning of objectifying/excluding anyone who is white, straight, cis, male, able-bodied (i.e. the so-called “normal”)

    I seem to remember one gaming magazine with a female writer who had internalized sexism, but now I cannot remember what magazine it is. There was a lot of an “I’m one of the guys” attitude.

    I’ve noticed a similar problems in comic book communities. For example, I checked out Wizard magazine from the library, hoping to just get more information about comics. Pretty much every page had some kind of creepy comment on women’s

    So – yes, I definitely think these types of communities are necessary.

    • Twyst says:

      Agreed, regarding comics. I am a comics fan as well, and many of the same problems arise in those communities. Especially troubling is the “if you dont like it, dont read” attitude. I read series that are ongoing, i follow certain characters. If i dont read because i dont like the art for an issue or two, i am lost as to what is happening in the story. It isnt really an option not to read, if you are committed to the story :(

      • Thefremen says:

        Runaways is pretty much the only comic worth reading anyways.

        • Twyst says:

          I know this is partially a joke, but SWORD, Spider-Woman, Batwoman, Blackest Night: Wonder Woman, Ms. Marvel, Cable and New Avengers are all good for me right now. I am meh on Dark Avengers, but i will give it another trade. (I read most things in trade, but Batwoman, Spider-Woman, BN: WW and SWORD i read in issues).
          Also, Paul Tobin’s Black Widow book was quite good.

          • Thefremen says:

            Blackest Night comic con sample was pretty good stuff too, I’ll get it in tpb. I didn’t know batwoman had her own book again, and Spider-Woman is pretty cool too. Guess I should start reading/buying some more comics. :P

            Still. Runaways is great.

        • Lake Desire says:

          Thanks for reminding me about Runaways. I haven’t read the series since Joss started writing them… are they still good? Is Brian K. Vaughn writing Runaways again?

  19. Mantheos says:

    Here’s an example as to why this site needs to exist:

    I think of Jadelyn’s piece about always choosing to play Zoey every time I play Left 4 Dead now. Your site got me to think outside the box, even if I don’t agree with everything said on it.

  20. Athena says:

    I had noticed things as posted above on sites (ie. Kotaku, Destructoid), and while I do still read them and try not to get too offended, I’m very glad for this site and enjoy reading its articles.

    In reply to Mantheos, while I don’t play Left 4 Dead myself that post has been in my head more than once while playing or thinking of games :).

    This site is really promising and it feels good to be at a place where many of us feel the same way about things (whereas the game industry often does not).

    Keep up the good work, I look forward to read more!

  21. Pingback: Diamonds in the Rough and Those Other Girls: Conflicts Between Female Gamers | The Border House

  22. wererogue says:

    Crap like this is why I never started reading kotaku, and why I quit reading destructoid.

    I found this site today, I’ll be reading it regularly, and I’ll be passing it on to my friends, especially other male gamers/game developers.

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