I posted something recently to my Facebook about Anita Sarkeesian, the anti-sexist and feminist video games advocate. My friend Pyroja said that he felt that Anita was all hype and no substance, cashing in on a trend, in essence. I agreed that this was possible; I don’t know Ms. Sarkeesian herself, and I do see that a lot of people get turned off by her who I know are willing to accept that video games can be better about sexism.
Sexism in video games is a real issue. Some people may not like Anita’s take.
But if we don’t like someone’s take on a real issue, it’s up to us to have a discussion that’s better.
Shamus Young, one of my favorite bloggers, has made a great point about sexism in video games: He hates it because it’s just infantile. It’s insulting to him.
We can do better. We can make female characters in all media that are aspirational, even beautiful, and still not be as sexist. We can have more Samus’, more post-reboot Lara Crofts. We can have Ripleys and Drop Dead Divas.
League of Legend’s character designs for women, for example, are certainly sexualized to some extent, but they have tried not only to make characters like Jinx and Vi who are attractive in different ways but also have tried to make characters with real personality and design. Maybe it’d be nice for them to make a BBW champion at some point who’s not grotesque, maybe something like the Amazon in Dragon’s Crown (though I personally might like a little less cellulite), but they have tried to present a wide variety of different badass women. I think that Leona is very sexy. (I also have a soft spot in my heart for Hilde from Soul Calibur).
And, yes, maybe it is time for video games to have women who are plain, but video games tend to be aspirational. I’m not Ryu Hoshi or Thor or Master Chief anymore than any woman is Chun Li or Black Widow or Lara Croft.
The tack I take on sexism emphasizes how we can have better fantasies and be more inclusive and kind, because my work focuses on positivity, solutions, finding middle ground, and love.
It’s fine to question Ms. Sarkeesian’s motives. It’s fine to have a discussion about sexism in video games that’s intelligent and smart and even passionate. It’s fine to disagree. But what I see is misogyny instead of conversation building. I see that people like Anita are starting the conversation and they are too often yelled down instead of engaged with. We’re not building consensus; we’re yelling.
I know for a fact Pyroja will have many quite sensible things to say about sexism in video games. I may disagree with some of them, and we can have a respectful conversation about it that will raise awareness and bring the community closer to consensus.
If you don’t like how someone is speaking, you have the power to change the conversation.
I HAVE THE POWER!
(That’s right. Feminism, Mad Men, and He-Man. I’m on a goddamn roll).