Jun 13, 2013

Sexism in Gaming and SFF

I'm angry.

I'm outraged.

I'm downright furious.

And that's a good thing. Because I don't want to be the kind of person who can read about a woman being attacked on social media simply for pointing out that a game company released a new console with no female leads in any of their first wave of games, or a professional representative of that company making a rape joke  to a fellow, female, employee while demonstrating a game in front of an audience of fans, or producers telling a game developer that they couldn't release a game with a female protagonist or have that character kiss a man in-game, or an author, a guest of honour at a convention, telling another author that she's "not worth the shit on his shoe" because of her gender and choice of genre, or another respected SF author treats a fellow author like dirt because she's a woman, and think it's okay or that it's "just how it is."

I've always had an interest in how characters in fiction are treated based on their gender. But it wasn't until my daughters were born that I really woke up to how badly women are treated, both in fiction and in real life, particularly in the gaming industry and sci-fi/fantasy scene. I've become hyper-aware of it. Every time I see it or read about it, all I can think is "what if that was Erica or Amy?" And that thought makes me sick to my stomach. My girls are 6 months old today, and I don't want them to grow up in a world where they feel marginalized because of their gender.

Apologists will say that I'm being over-sensitive, or that I'm imagining things. They'll insist I get over it because it's "just a game" or "just a book." Some will say men just act that way. The old "boys will be boys" argument.

That's insulting. I'm a man, and I am not a slave to some caveman impulse to dominate and belittle women. I choose my words and my actions, and I take full responsibility for them. I can choose to talk to a woman I happen to find attractive. I can choose to be polite to her and treat her like a human being, talking about common interests like our favourite scene from Mass Effect, what we think of the latest Superman movie, or what we think will happen in the next Dresden Files book. I can choose to not turn into a complete jerk just because I have hormones.

Unfortunately, there are still many men out there who think that they have a God-given right to grope a woman who's wearing revealing clothes, or hit on them with awful, creepy pick-up lines, or to make crude comments because "they don't mean anything by it."

Newflash: it doesn't matter a damn to women if you don't mean anything by it. You're still creating an environment where they wonder if you're just an asshole, or that one man out of twenty* who'll go that much further to get what they want. If your choice is to be Asshole or Potential Rapist, why not just take the third option and Not Be That Guy?

Women have been fighting for their rights since before electricity was a thing. They've been beaten down, ostracized, humiliated, tortured, raped and murdered for daring to say they want to be treated better. Men, we can do better.

If you're sick of hearing about rape culture, if you resent that someone like me can make sweeping comments about the treatment of women in games, books and movies, if you feel like the world is turning against you just because you're a man, if you insist that you're not one of those perpetuating the problem, if the thought of even one thing I've said today being true makes you sick to your stomach, then do something about it.

Say something. Speak up when you see someone talk down to a woman. Share your willingness to be better than the boys who are giving the rest of us a bad name. Make the choice to treat women with respect. To step back and let them speak and be heard as equals. Make it so that the men around you who would mistreat a woman can't, because they know you won't stand for it.

It's a good thing.

*According to research, 6% of men will admit to being a rapist, so long as the word "rape" isn't used.

For further reading, check out the following articles:

25 Things You Need to Know About Sexism & Misogyny in Writing & Publishing
Challenging Responses to Sexism and Misogyny
Why Men Should Speak Out About Sexism, Misogyny and Rape Culture
Games with exclusively female characters don't sell (Because publishers don't support them)
So you're tired of hearing about "rape culture"?


  1. I read a post a week ago by a female science fiction author who has been treated poorly by her male counterparts at cons. (Might be one of those you've linked to above.) I agree it's barbaric. Women deserve respect. They were a gift from God to be our partners and our equals.

  2. Well said Paul! I grew up in a household of males--7 brothers, two sisters. None of my brothers denigrate women and won't allow men in their company to do so either. That attitude was as much the result of my father's influence as my mothers--they're in their mid-seventies. Prejudice ticks me off.


    1. Wow, that's a large family!

      I think so much of the prejudice that infects society can be avoided by simply raising children to accept and love others for their differences rather than to treat those differences as a reason to ostracise them. Your parents did a great job.

  3. Bravo!
    My sister learned mixed martial arts while going to school in Rome, so she has a pretty good back-up after a casual "I have three big brothers." Yet it is always reassuring to see the word get out as the ripples with time will continue to teach untold numbers of boys and men-who-act-like-boys. Like drinking or texting while driving, it sometimes takes but a single voice to alter the direction for the good

    1. Hopefully enough voices will join in. Thanks for stopping by!