Real Live Hot Gamer Chix!: On female stereotyping in geek/gamer culture

By | February 15, 2011


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Female Shepard, from Mass Effect 2. I took this image from the BioWare forums; if it's yours and you hate that I'm using it, let me know and I'll take it down.

Gratuitous picture of Fem!Shep, because I looooove her. I'll just leave this here.

This evening, I ran across an article on lady gamers that got me peroclating: Play girls: The life of a female gamer in Chicago. In the course of discussing a local gamer group, the author takes the popular route of trying to frame female geekery as an either/or situation — you can be in favor of the “sexualization” of ladygaming, or against it. Alas, if only the world were so easily reconciled. Says the article:

The idea of gamers’ flaunting their own female attractiveness–or “hotness” as many gamer sites call it–has divided the girl gaming community. Some gamers aren’t the least offended by the sexualization of their hobby, while others say that it harms gender equality in gaming.

[...]

“When I play online, I get a lot of comments like ‘Show me your boobs,’ ” [freelance video game writer Fruzsina Eordogh] said. “If a girl wants to be sexy, that’s fine, but I wish I wasn’t held to the same standards. I just want to play games, not be stereotyped.”

Part of why I quit playing MMOs* was because it became so difficult to reliably hook up with decent groups of people to play with. Sure, I could play with actual out-of-game friends, but if no one I knew was online, I’d get stuck trying to meet reasonable strangers. In the time before TeamSpeak –this was my golden era of MMO-playing — the gender question was easy enough to elide. My characters were always female in appearance, but dudes play as female characters all the time, and there were few enough Real Live Girls around in MMOs then that people tended to assume you were male — especially if you played “like a guy” and chatted “like a guy”. The fact that I have never played a pure caster class in my life and preferred to tank probably confused the issue even further.**

If my ladyness was revealed by some misstep on my part, in most cases there’d be an odd silence in the chat window, a tension, especially if I’d been playing with a certain group of strangers for a long period of time by then. An unasked question seemed to hang in the bracing air of the Butcherblock Mountains: Why didn’t you tell us? Why should I have to? Must I volunteer this information, immediately, as a warning, as soon as I joined you? Look out, there’s a girl in the boys’ clubhouse! It was enraging and depressing at the same time. Once TeamSpeak became the norm, I fell away from MMOs because I was so tired of dealing with the harrassment and assorted bullshit. My voice gave my gender away immediately, which meant I could no longer “pass” as male. Quitting isn’t really something I regret: MMOs are damned time-consuming, and when I get into something, I get really into it, so these things combined meant I wasn’t accomplishing much else in my life during my MMO-playing years. (Well, I got a couple of Master’s degrees. But nothing of value, har har.)

Back in September, a polished parody of Katy Perry’s magnum opus “California Gurls”, entitled “Geek and Gamer Girls,” turned up on YouTube. The video features four young women, all of them pretty and slender — and sometimes naked — singing about their love for video games, comic books, and assorted geekery. It also has cameos from such geek luminaries as Seth Green, Stan Lee, and Katee Sackhoff (<3). While I thought the video’s concept was marvelous, I was a little bummed by the result. It’s awesome that gorgeous women play games and look gorgeous. It is! Women should damn well be empowered to do whatever they want, and be taken seriously, no matter what they look like. My discomfort with this video stems from the fact that it reproduces sexified images of lady geeks/gamers in a manner that, in my opinion, fails to interrogate those images at the same time. I would have liked to see the epic nudity balanced with some less traditional female-identified representation. Where are the chicks decked out in full Spartan armor? Where are the wimmins dressed like The Doctor? Where are the….. um…. I just got totally distracted by the mental image of a hot butch dressed like The Doctor. What was I talking about?

Oh right.

I can already hear the objections of the courageous few who have read this far: “Lesley, you don’t like it because said girls are hotter than you!” To speak to the latter point: Well, duh. I’m in my mid-thirties, I’m a great big fat person, and I’m not pretty. I ain’t even trying to compete, y’all. And yet I still play motherfucking video games. Which brings us to the former: It’s not that I don’t like it. I neither like nor dislike it — I found the video a bit disappointing, because while it’s cute and all, I feel like this production squandered an opportunity to do something that could have been snappily satirical, thought-provoking, and entertaining, all at the same time.

I do resent the perpetuation of the hot-gamer-chick stereotype, to some extent, because I am not a hot chick, and still I play games and engage in other geeky pursuits, which means the stereotype affects me whether I like it or not. The promotion of a hot-gamer-chick image creates an expectation that women who game or geek should still be hot and fuckable in a culturally-acceptable way. This expectation thereby puts pressure on individual gamers who maybe, astonishingly, don’t give a shit whether you want to stick your penis inside them. Really! I know this is hard to believe, but lots and lots of women — be they attractive by mainstream cultural standards or no — are uncowed by your majestic ween.

Most gamer dudes I know protest vigorously against the stereotype of the slovenly basement-dwelling compulsive masturbator, and you know why? Because the stereotype is both damaging and unfair. It is damaging to the mainstream perception of gamers and geeks, and it is unfair to those gamers who do fit parts of the stereotype, because the stereotype shames them. The hot-gamer-chick stereotype may seem more “positive” on the surface, but it’s still a stereotype, and therefore also damaging and unfair, and it also shames women who can’t live up to it. The responsibility to eliminate the sexism in geek and gamer culture — the tip of which iceberg this post only gently nudges — does not lie on the shoulders of female-identifying gamers alone; dudes have to participate, and work on being less heinous on an individual basis. Given that they can relate, via the example above, this shouldn’t be as much of a challenge as it occasionally seems.

Here’s the really important part of this post, so if you’re skimming, you want to stop and read this paragraph: I am not suggesting that conventionally-beautiful young women shouldn’t be seen, or shouldn’t play video games, or shouldn’t make YouTube videos, or shouldn’t do whatever they damn well please, looking however they want — they absolutely should. Women of all sorts should be able to have fun and be fabulous according to their own definition. Even I love playing NES games while wearing legwarmers at a slumber party!*** However: this cannot be the only, or even the primary, representation that female-identifying geeks and gamers get to have. It’s limiting for those of us who aren’t hot and don’t care to be. It makes social gaming difficult for those of us who don’t want to flirt — we just want to play motherfucking games, and we want to be treated like real three-dimensional humans, not like vaginas with thumbs. And you know what? Odds are good that the ladies who are accurately represented by the “Geek and Gamer Girls” video also want to be treated like three-dimensional humans, and not like empty-headed hot pieces of ass.

Dudes, be human. Ladies and other female-IDing types, be awesome, no matter what you’re into or what you look like. Can’t we all just kill each other and not be assholes about it?

* MMO = Massively Multiplayer Online (Role-Playing Game). My MMOs of choice were Everquest, Everquest 2, and the late lamented Star Wars Galaxies, which began as the site of some of my favorite gaming memories in my whole life, and died when they let everybody be a Jedi. Also-rans were Guild Wars, Warhammer Online (this one was actually loads of fun — I was an orc!), and the inevitable World of Warcraft.

** Traditionally, I prefer dwarves, though I have also played as ogres. One of my first-ever MMO characters, in the original EverQuest, was a dwarf cleric, and my RL ladyness was less of a surprise to people when I played as her, probably because who the fuck else but a woman conditioned to caretaking would want to play the weak-ass EQ cleric class? But my womany reality was always a great shock to my groupmates when I was playing a warrior.

*** That’s the jam every weekend around my house. I will pwn your ass at Bubble Bobble.


68 Comments

Jen on February 15, 2011 at 7:22 pm.

I always figured hot gamer chick was the anti-stereotype. :-p Especially if you read through some of the comments from the Team Unicorn music video and see claims that 1) they’re too hot to be gamers and 2) only ugly women game.
So, essentially I still think it’s a women’s issue, hot or not. There’s *still* popular belief that women don’t game!
I don’t get why it’s all about our looks and not our abilities – in ALL aspects of life.

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Jessie on February 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm.

First, EQ2 girls simply ROCK! :)

Second, I totally agree with your thought, here. And I don’t just disagree with the sterotype, I disagree with the discrepency in stereotypes. Once again, the dude is allowed to be slovenly, unshaved, overweight, and generally a little basement-dwelling troll – while the girl must be a perfect Barbie reproduction with mad tanking skills (or whatever it is she likes to play). It’s sort of like watching an anime where all the guys are these drooling dorks and the women are slender, ethereal goddesses.

People are who they are, gamer or not, geeky or not – and should be accepted as such.

Thankfully, I’m still in EQ2 where most of the players are adults and the sexism is kept to a minimum. WoW? Oh hell no! I won’t go play with the little kiddies for anything!!

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Lesley on February 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm.

Yeah, I didn’t last long in WoW for that very reason. Every once in awhile I feel the itch to go back to EQ2, but I try to resist! I loved that game so much, I’d get lost in it.

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Awlbiste on February 15, 2011 at 9:14 pm.

WoW has actually gotten a lot better now in terms of little kiddies and hate-speech. Most of the people I choose to play with are in their 30s and less inclined to random acts of assholery.

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JeninCanada on February 15, 2011 at 7:48 pm.

As a geek chick who’s not thin or conventionally beautiful, I thank you for this post. I RP Pathfinder and Serenity with friends several times a week, pwn many Nintendo games and rock literature, comics and sci-fi & fantasy without shame or chagrin.

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Willow on February 15, 2011 at 8:06 pm.

I’m addicted to TF2, and as soon as the guys find out you’re a girl, there’s no end to the … jackassery. Which is why I quit using the voicecomms. And then I get flack for not using voicecomms. GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. And my gracious, the gratuitous use of “rape” in both voicecomms and keyboard chatting – “I’m raping the shit out of those guys,” etc., etc. I’ve actually appealed to moderators many a time to put an end to that shit. Occasionally, to my great surprise, they do. Which pisses me off, because it shouldn’t surprise me – moderators should always put an end to that shit. Like I’ve commented on another one of your posts, I think men glory in saying shit like that – in having the power to say shit like that – and I think they enjoy that women are made, at the very least, uncomfortable by such talk. Personally, it scares the shit out of me, because if statistics are correct, there’s a very high chance that I’m playing with at least one rapist and one child molester every time I play TF2.

Bit off topic there… erm.

BTW, “vaginas with thumbs” made me LOL. :)

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Parker Ross on February 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm.

I play TF2 as well, and I’m admin in a group that runs a couple of servers. I always give out warnings for stuff like that.

I know I struck it lucky with my clan–everyone is very respectful, and I have managed to get promoted to (essentially) second-in-command, so when I speak up about issues of gender or sexism in regards to our group or our servers, I am heard simply because I’m at the top of the food chain. It’s also helped me speak up for our other female members and help shape the rules of conduct on our servers. I am also extremely lucky in that our clan leader is extremely sensitive to issues of sexism and whatnot, and I often don’t even have to explain anything to him. He’s almost more militant than I am about those issues.

That said, I don’t use my microphone outside of my clan, either. After the myriad of creepy dudes who act too friendly and add me and hit on me as well as the ones who hear my voice and immediately yell “GET BACK TO THE KITCHEN GET BACK TO THE KITCHEN GET BACK TO THE KITCHEN”, I realized it wasn’t worth it at all. Luckily, although my name is damn feminine, TF2 is such a male-dominated game that most people don’t think twice about my gender anyway.

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Jordan on February 17, 2011 at 4:26 am.

So a male cannot talk about how he’s “raping” the team because.. he’s a male? I’m not uncomfortable hearing it because the context it’s being used is so far off base. Just the same as people who use the term “gay,” “faggot,” and any other slur for anything but their original purpose.

My thing: You don’t like what’s being said then MUTE THEM. Don’t bitch about what ~you~ don’t like because it makes ~you~ uncomfortable. Life isn’t going to work around how you want it–so you adjust to it.

I’m a competitive female gamer and yeah, I do chime in with shit talking and it does NOT make me uncomfortable. I’ve heard all sorts of shit over the years from Halo, RSV2, TF2, BF, BFBC, COD.. Don’t like it, mute them. Simple. Easy. Effective.

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Lesley on February 17, 2011 at 9:27 am.

These terms are problematic because their emphasis is rooted in their original use — calling a dude “gay” or “faggot” is threatening to his sexuality, suggesting that he is a very very bad thing (“gay”), and that is what makes it an insult. You can’t argue that “Oh I’m using faggot in a different way” because there is no different way — it’s a hateful slur, one that provokes strong reactions in homophobes, and that’s exactly why people use it. Words mean things.

Muting is a short-term solution for sure, and one most people are familiar with, but thanks for the pro tip anyway.

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firefey on February 17, 2011 at 8:45 pm.

no. a person should not talk about how zhi’s raping the other team because it contributes to making the act a fucking joke. because it enforces the idea that women are not gamers, or if they insist on being in the guy’s club they should expect sexual hostility. because it can be triggering to someone who’s just looking for a little escapist good time. because it devalues the word, and words mean things. and there are SO MANY better words than that, to be more descriptive, more accurate and just plain more awesome.

but mostly, because it adds to the cultural narative that rape is a joke and that it’s an accomplishment. that it’s a thing done to someone weaker than you, and that you should get together with your buddies after and brag about it.

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Sabriel on February 15, 2011 at 8:56 pm.

First off, absolutely love the post, and it basically summed up my opinions on the matter in a much more eloquent way then I could, being another fat girl who plays videogames.

I guess what bothers me most about the “gamers girls are hot” stereotype is that it doesn’t address the other stereotype of “oh, girls who play games must be ugly fucks”. It bothers me that everytime I want to play WoW, or Left 4 Dead, or TF2, when some jerkoff finds out I’m a girl, I’m either the ‘ugliest cow on the earth’ or I’m ‘really fucking hot’ and i’m asked to provide pictures of my breasts. Who cares what I look like if I can play the game well and cooperate within a team environment? I don’t ask these idiots to provide nudes.

On a more positive more, check out this commercial, especially starting around 0:11 or so: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pblj3JHF-Jo
Not only is it for a popular FPS, but it shows a wide range of people playing and working together, and the fat girl there is awesome!

OKAY WELP I’m done rambling now, I promise.

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Sabriel on February 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm.

Since we’re on the topic of videogame culture: does anyone else here cosplay, or am I the cheese that stands alone?

(I’m so sorry if I’m spamming your post, Lesley, but I didn’t even know blogs like this existed and I’m excited to see wonderful posts like these. I promise I’ll stop!)

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Lesley on February 15, 2011 at 9:51 pm.

You’re not spamming at all! This is what comment threads are for. :)

I don’t cosplay myself but I love seeing other folks’ efforts. So much fun.

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JonelB on February 15, 2011 at 10:47 pm.

I cosplay too!
Not specifically video games, although Zoey from L4D is totally on my list of cosplays to do one day.
I did Misa Amane(of Deathnote, an anime), a while back and was…not well received.
I’m mildly with the people who say ‘choose cosplay for your body type’ but also against them–if it’s a good costume, it doesn’t MATTER how short or different you look from the character, so more, create a costume for your body type–I have no problem with well-done adaptations.
And cosplay is about enjoying yourself as the character, not some great contest as to who can be the “hawwtiest hawwttie” and anyone who makes it that–needs a reality check: No one looks like video game and anime characters. You can get close, but not far. And I’ve noticed male cosplayers don’t get held to the same standards as female cosplayers. It’s okay if they’re you know, fat and short and dressed as Master Cheif, but I can’t go as Lust from Full Metal Alchemist because I’m a big girl?
Also: Cooking Mama Cosplay. I so need to do it.

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Lesley on February 15, 2011 at 10:51 pm.

COOKING. MAMA. COSPLAY. This is one I would totally do. Brilliant.

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Lina on March 4, 2011 at 9:30 am.

My husband, a kindergarten teacher at an international school here in Hong Kong, was Cooking Mama two Halloweens past at his school. It was *glorious* and all of his fellow teachers and a good number of parents and students recognised him. He debated resurrecting the costume for the anime/game convention that year, but we went out of the region.

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Albedo12 on February 16, 2011 at 3:06 am.

I think cosplay is pretty cool and will admire a well-made costume regardless of the wearer. For me, though, I am acutely aware that I am shaped like a comedy sidekick (and not the tall thin ones) and would feel ridicuous dressed as anything even vaguely heroic. I also don’t take much interest in stylish clothes for the same reason. I once owned a trenchcoat, and let me tell you I felt like the second-rate detective who’s always late to the crime scene and has ketchup on his tie, rather than Philip Marlowe.

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Tiferet on February 16, 2011 at 12:45 pm.

I always have such agonies over body policing and cosplay. I don’t think people should only try to dress up as someone who is their officially assigned gender who has the same general body shape and colouring they do, and I feel like people who have said such things (including myself 5-20 years ago) are being asshatty, because really, there is no reason you should NOT dress up as Faye Valentine if you are a man with a beard and unshaven legs (or a woman with a beard and unshaven legs) if it makes you happy. And if I don’t want to look at you, I can look somewhere else.

But the more physically divergent a person is from the character they’re dressed up as, the more obvious the flaws in their costume construction and adaptation become. And I don’t know whether they’re just trying to have fun (and are more concerned about being comfortable standing in queue to get their books signed than looking like Queen Amidala) or whether they would really like to know how they can make their adaptation better.

And I know that I shouldn’t assume what they want, because that is denying their agency, yet I am afraid if I offer advice they will think it is about their fat or their gender or their whatever. Maybe this person doesn’t care that if they cover the white elastic with white fabric they will look more like Sailor Star Fighter. Or they don’t want to bone the midsection of their Tudor gown or wear a corset with it, because they don’t like being corseted. (Yes, a properly constructed corset is far more comfortable than a $40 jobbie from Frederick’s and yes, fat compresses so much more easily than organs and muscles and bones–but some people do not like wearing corsets and/or can’t afford good ones.)

On the other hand I feel for people who are very disheartened because they made a first costume and they thought it was the awesomest thing ever and then they got to a con/event and saw that it was really not very good, because I have so been that person, and I wanted help! Sadly, that person is very likely to be mocked if they are fat or crossplaying or both :( (though on the other hand they are likely to be hit on if they look f***able) and at that point all you can do is tell the mockers to STFU and offer sympathy–advice and sympathy just don’t go well together.

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Lurker du Jour on February 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm.

>>But the more physically divergent a person is from the character they’re dressed up as, the more obvious the flaws in their costume construction and adaptation become.>>

Ehhhh, I think that’s a matter of opinion. I have seen plenty of half-assed cosplays that are coasting on their wearers being conventionally attractive. (Conventionally, ha ha, bad…bad pun.) And I’ve seen fantabulous cosplay on fat people. There’s a whole spectrum up and down every possible combination of factors.

More generally: the body policing in cosplay is what drove me absolutely and completely out of the social aspect of that hobby. Threads on major cosplay forums encouraging crash/fad diets were the breaking point for me, and I wasn’t even remotely into FA at the time. The damaging nature of the whole thing – physically and mentally – was just too much.

I still cosplay, but I don’t talk online to anyone else who does it, I don’t meet up with other cosplayers at conventions, and I generally treat the fandom like it’s radioactive. I don’t know of any alternatives that aren’t soaked in fat-shaming, apart from rare posts on the Fatshionista LJ comm.

This is a sad state of affairs. It’s a fun topic to talk about when people aren’t freaking out and bashing one another or themselves. It’s about fabulous clothes and making things and being geeky, three of my favorite things ever. But no, it’s really about the male gaze and zero-sum-style competition and insecurity. Blaaaaaaaaargh.

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Tiferet on February 22, 2011 at 4:11 pm.

Oh, I have ABSOLUTELY seen fantabulous stuff on fat people. I didn’t say that fat people were more likely to do shitty costumes. I said that fat people are more likely to get criticised for costumes that are meant more for fun than for accuracy.

I just think that the body policing is awful, and that people will seize on the tiniest flaws to be nasty, and I don’t know what to do about it other than tell them they’re fuckwits when I happen to see it going on.

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Alex on February 16, 2011 at 7:12 am.

I cosplay too! I love figuring out how to recreate video game and anime outfits and real life. It can be such a challenge. And while I normally hate having my picture taken, running around cons and posing for pics is so much fun.

I get annoyed when people try to impose strict rules on other cosplayers… almost no one has the same body shape as a video game or anime character, so just do what you want!

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Tiferet on February 16, 2011 at 12:24 pm.

I did, a lot, when I was younger–because I was not so affected by celiac disease that I didn’t feel well enough to sew on weekends on account of washing dishes and doing laundry were sometimes too much for me.

I hope to get back into it now that I am gluten-free and feel better.

Even at my sickest, I always wore wild outfits to conventions though–I just wasn’t dressed AS anyone, or completely in historically accurate clothes from a single period, like I used to do in my 20s. (Sometimes this is very disappointing to strangers at cons, when they ask who you’re dressed as and you just say “these are my clothes”–they feel they’ve been offensive, but it’s actually a reasonable question given so many people ARE in costume.)

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Lesley on February 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm.

I love that commercial so much.

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Camilla on February 15, 2011 at 9:00 pm.

Yeah, vaginas with thumbs!! I think “gamercrush” are the only females getting the treatment they want. I don’t play online because I don’t want to “handle” anything, gaming is a relaxing and challenging thing for me, there I want to get away from negative social interactions. But I’m thinking of hiring gamercrush, cause if I pay, they must give me time and be positive and nice to me LOL then perhaps I would dare to play online :)
Damn good article, it is like the song “I kissed a girl”… now, no man sees it as cheating if the girlfriend have sex with a woman while still in the relation. I know a young girl when coming out as gay to her family, her father and brother said “Wow, that’s hot!!”
Now the same is done to females in gaming…

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Awlbiste on February 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm.

Do you pull your blog posts from INSIDE MY MIND?! I just had a conversation about this topic this morning. And how Felicia Day just sort of… fails to excite me in her traditionally-pretty-but-a-GAMER way.

Also: “The promotion of a hot-gamer-chick image creates an expectation that women who game or geek should still be hot and fuckable in a culturally-acceptable way.” I pretty much say this in a much less eloquent way every time the “GIRL GAMERZZZ” topic comes up.

I would totally dress up as The Doctor, however I am not butch (or femme) so that maybe doesn’t apply. I am, however, fat and not traditionally pretty or inclined to be.

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Lesley on February 15, 2011 at 9:48 pm.

Yes, I mine your brain for post ideas! Haha. I’ve been ruminating on the Geek and Gamer Girls video for ages, in fact, and have been trying to sort out a way of criticizing the stereotype without tearing down other women, which I absolutely don’t want to do.

I warmed to Felicia Day enormously once I actually sat down and watched The Guild all the way through, just a few weeks ago. Though it’s full of comedic caricatures, I also think it portrays a healthy diversity, and that’s so refreshing.

I would be thrilled to see ANY non-dude dressed up as The Doctor, to be honest. The fat would be a bonus!

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kellie on February 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm.

I am both a female gamer and someone who works in the gaming industry. I am also not traditionally pretty, and I’m certainly not thin. I also hate the dichotomy that female gamers are either super hot models (I agree, “vaginas with thumbs” was hilarious) or greasy, messy, mousy girls (the female equivalent of the basement-dwelling male stereotype). I also hate the idea that women are only into casual/family games and not MMOs, shooters, RPGs, RTSs, or whatever. (I personally am a big action-RPG fan.) (Thanks, btw, for the female Shep. So awesome.)

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Lesley on February 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm.

Yep. Troll or goddess, take your choice, ladies!

And it still blows my mind that so many people play Dude Shepard. Y’ALL DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU ARE MISSING.

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kbryna on February 15, 2011 at 9:17 pm.

“an expectation that women who game or geek should still be hot and fuckable in a culturally-acceptable way”

Boy, you could just replace “game or geek” with almost anything and the sentence holds true.

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Jaxboxchick on February 15, 2011 at 9:32 pm.

Sorry you’ve had a crummy experience over your years of gaming. I too am a fluffy sort of gamer chick in my mid-thirties. I play WOW obsessively right now…well not starve my kids obsessively…and I have found a wonderful guild within my sarcasticgamer community and another amazing guild full of mostly women on the Thrall server. I have been playing for months and have yet to have had an experience that was anything even remotely close to being considered sexist or rude at all. Attractive people are always going to be portrayed more, in commercials, television shows, gaming, etc. That’s just life. I don’t feel like it makes me any less of a gamer, and I don’t care what people think about me…I’m not going to let it affect my life.

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EmmJ on February 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm.

Yes.
Yes, yes, yes.
<3

(Also, there were three different girls dressed as different incarnations of The Doctor at the last Supanova (Sydney) that I went to. *drools*)

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Christopher on February 15, 2011 at 9:41 pm.

Good read, thanks. Very even-handed.

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Levee on February 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm.

I play TF2 a lot, and I’ve seen all the shit that female gamers get from people, and yes, it’s absolutely atrocious. So bad, in fact, that it’s hard to attribute it to negative portrayal of anything by anyone. It’s a deep-rooted issue of insecurity (and other stuff?) in the offending men. The reason articles like this exist is not because of disappointing videos with naked geek girls, it’s about a basic failure of human decency in men online. If anything, this article wasn’t aggressive enough against the perpetrators, and shifting the blame needlessly.

“The responsibility to eliminate the sexism in geek and gamer culture — the tip of which iceberg this post only gently nudges — does not lie on the shoulders of female-identifying gamers alone; dudes have to participate, and work on being less heinous on an individual basis.”

That sentence (fantastic, by the way) hits the nail on the head. Less complaining about gamer girls not being portrayed properly, more complaining about men with their heads up their asses.

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Imbrium on February 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm.

Yay tanks! I <3 my half-orc barbarian in my D&D tabletop game.

I play World of Warcraft, and I've had pretty good luck avoiding douchebags on a personal basis (Barrens chat is Barrens chat…what can you do?) Then again, I almost always play with my husband (he bought me WoW for Valentines Day five years ago…awww) which cuts way down on the harassment.

As per usual, I think the anonymity of the internet contributes to the douchbagginess. It's a lot easier to be an ass to someone you don't know and will never meet that to be an ass to another human being's face.

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Cadakeke on February 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm.

I have conversations like this ALL the time, because I play Dungeons and Dragons Online. Luckily, I have only ever been semi-hit on once, and that was because of my voice (something that has been oft complimented since my days as an internet radio personality.) I do find, however, that if people find out I am female, they assume that I am less capable at the task that falls to my chosen class in a party situation. I don’t shy away from using voice-chat because I see it as an opportunity to teach these guys something about female gamers.
People who end up partying with my regularly, usually ask about my choice of race, (twelve dwarves and a half-orc) and I explain that I wanted characters that felt like they could be little digital me’s. I explain that I am fat, and so my fat little dwarf women are how I represent myself. (The half-orc was all about wanting to play an “ugly” class, girl gamers are not known for choosing the ugly “toons.”)
As a girl who has always identified better with my male peers, gaming was a natural step for me. I will play any video game once, and enjoy it (no matter how many times my brother blows my head off.) My naturally aggressive nature, and male attuned mind, may be why I am able to blend in and be “one of the guys” when it comes to MMO’s.

Now on the topic of geekery, I went to gen-con almost three years ago, and the vast majority of the women there, women representing the girl gamer/nerd, were fat. Yes, some of them were average, or thin, and deathfats like myself were not especially abundant, but there were plenty of fatties. My experience with women who are into anachronism, leads me to believe that a fair percentage of their community are also fat. We are out there, and yet the stereotypes are still swaying to the “hot” gamer girl end of the spectrum.

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Lesley on February 16, 2011 at 11:44 am.

I played DDO for a bit once they moved to the free-to-play model, and was pleasantly surprised by how nice everyone was. I love that women are out there being amazing and kicking ass. I kinda wished I had the time and/or self-restraint to play more, but MMOs tend to consume my life so I am inclined to avoid them these days.

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Lexifab on February 15, 2011 at 11:05 pm.

I wanted to applaud the whole article but “Can’t we all just kill each other and not be assholes about it?” is the best thing I’ve heard all day.

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Ouyang Dan on February 17, 2011 at 6:39 am.

SO MUCH THIS!

So, I play WoW, have for a few years now, and took a year off. Capped off at 80 and got a little bored with dailies, bladda bladda. Cataclysm came out and everyone was So! Excited! so we reactivated. Partner and I play together pretty often and we have similar level toons on various servers. I decided this time that I would finally learn to tank, something I’ve been too scared to do before because people get really pissed off if you aren’t any good at it as it turns out, and it is really hard to get experience as a new tank, and it gets worse, it seems, when they find out your are a chick. We use the random dungeon finder, me as a tank warrior, and partner on his druid as heals (so we get snatched up in seconds, natch). This hunter comes in with friggin heirloom gear, and even though we tell him I am a new tank, and our dps is excited to be training a new tank, he just plows us through the damn dungeon ahead of us. Of course, I bite my tongue, because I don’t want to cause a scene, and chance getting called names or something. Partner, of course, chews him out, telling him to back off and let me do my effing job and Mr. I’m The Best Huntah Evah tells him to get the “sand out of his vagina”. I pretty much flipped my lid at that point and told him several ways to go fuck himself with his nice gun. We finally backed off, let him do his thing, stopped healing him, and let him leave with a nice repair bill, I’m sure. I won the roll for the rare drop. Ha!

It isn’t even just the stereotypes. There is so much that is pervasive. That it is OK to talk to people like that. That using that type of language at people is OK. That casting about women’s body parts as if they are insults is appropriate. The disrespect for women, as if we don’t even exist in their little online world, just gobsmacks me, because all I want to do is kill shit and faff about Azeroth without people acting like having the parts of or being a woman is the worst thing ever, and treating me like shit in game.

Which is a really wordy way of saying, thanks for this post. So much, thank you.

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Lesley on February 17, 2011 at 9:19 am.

A+ story and comment, thanks for posting it. Moral: never piss off your healer, heh.

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EriKa on February 16, 2011 at 12:00 am.

Thanks for writing this, and addressing themes of women and gaming.
To be honest, the “ugly chick” stereotype sort of seems more harmful to me. But I can see how ridiculous it is for women to be piled into inhuman hotties and ugly girls with nothing inbetween (You just call me a FAT GAMING HOTTIE THEN…. THAAANX…). Men don’t have to conform to that. There are a ton of stereotypes of gamers at any rate. I guess we should feel included or some crap now.
I can remember in highschool, it seemed like I was one of maybe ten girls who played games, and I was (am?) a final fantasy nerd. Maybe I was just one of the few who admitted to it, Idk.
I also know of a few larger or unconventionally attractive ppl who met dating or marriage material in these MMO games. It can’t all be in that awful doublet of classification if things such as that are going on. But it’s probably like an assholy-amped up version of real life in that there are a ton of assholes just walking around all the time, it’s just these might be running on an anonymity and power trip…

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Lin on February 16, 2011 at 1:00 am.

Howdy!

I’m a female gamer as well, but unlike most females Ive met and played with (with the exception of two actually) I play, like my previous guild put it, “like a guy”. Which to clarify means that I’m really competitive, I play to win.
And that naturally leads to me becoming “one of the guys”.

An from my no-bullshit perspective, Ive seen one thing that really really annoys me. Girls, attractive or not, using their gender as a way to get ahead in the game.
They are usually the girlfriend/crush of one of the leaders in the game, or aspiring to be.
And since they have a radar-like ability to pick out the nice and slightly gullible guys 9, 24 or 39 other people in the raid has to suffer because she doesn’t have a clue what she is doing. And she dangles “You might get to sleep with me/see my boobs” like a carrot on a stick in front of the guy that gave her the raid-spot, so there is no way we can get rid of her.

I now present you with the three worst cases of this:
1. When I too was a little WoW-noob, I was in a pretty casual guild led by a guy and his girlfriend, they were nice people. A few months in a girl and her boyfriend joined, and everything went peachy until the new girl started to hate the GMs girlfriend of some reason.
Instead of doing the sane thing, look for a new guild, she started manipulating people. And took it to that level where the guild split in two since she had turned everyone against each other, the GM and his girlfriend stopped playing WoW and actually had to go into couples therapy to get the trust back in their relationship since this girl has been hinting that the GMs gf was flirting with other members behind his back.

2. Much later, I am no longer a noob, and I apply to a guild that is in the top 100s in terms of raid progress on the EU servers, and I get accepted.
And I find the same thing here, a girlfriend of the GM, this one isn’t nice at all unfortunately, getting a raidspot, despite dieing in every fire/slime-puddle/cleave/stuff-hurts there possibly is. Im still not sure how they managed such progress with her in the raid.
This was one of the guilds where you are so close that you have each others phone numbers, no naturally there is a “IRL pix”-thread on the forums. This girl has posted pictures of: her in a very tiny bikini, bending forward in a low-cut top and one of only her boobs with a flower shoved between them.
She had recently gotten a boob-job and showed them off in every possible situation. I don’t mind having an attention whore in the guild, since I usually cant just ignore them and continue doing my thing. But this one got dragged to raids where she said such things as “I don’t need to do good dps, my boobs are big”, or “If we kill this (very hard boss) this try I’m gonna post nude pictures on the forum” and things like “Teehee, Ive been casting ability-X instead of ability-Y for three hours now, ooopsie”.
Needless to say, I facepalmed every time.

3. The most recent one. This is a girl who I think is evil. Really evil.
She is taking advantage of our maintank, who has recently become single and is feels lonely, showering him with attention. She doesn’t even speak to anyone else in the guild, just him. And she has an irl boyfriend.
So one minute she goes “I just gave [bfs-name] a blowjob when he was playing BF” and the next she goes “My bf has taken my headphones, and I’m too scared to ask for them back” implying that he is abusive in some way.
An other episode is when she goes “I think I’m pregnant, what should I do!” and then a week later “Nah, I got rid of it.” and then proceeds to give gory details of the whole thing. And she says this knowing that a guy in the guild has a fiancée that is 8 months pregnant and had suffered some close calls and emergency runs to the hospital to prevent a miscarriage.

My point here is that girl gamers aren’t always the victims, and I believe that its partly because of these girls that the rest of us gets comments like “Show your boobs!” and “You cant be a girl, you don’t suck at the game”.
If someone has a tip on how to deal with boobs-for-loot-girls, Id love to hear it.

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Tiferet on February 16, 2011 at 12:55 pm.

If men did not endorse this stereotype, people would just ignore this behaviour and shun these players. Nobody would behave like that if it wasn’t a workable strategy.

The fact that someone always has to bring these girls up whenever women have this discussion is proof that the divide-and-conquer strategy of the patriarchy works. Men reward this kind of behaviour and then use the fact that some women engage in it as a justification for being nasty to all women, and other women buy it and get angry at those women, rather than the men who are loving it–loving the control they continue to exert, loving the chance to objectify the women who play up to them, and loving the way that they can exceptionalise the women who don’t and the way those women eat THAT up.

When I was a young girl I knew wearing a sexy costume at conventions was something I could turn to my advantage, but it also meant I had to put up with a certain type and amount of shit that girls in t-shirts and jeans did not have to put up with. It was not really worth it, but I did not see that at the time. And I really was a good player (though not very much into combat, more of a role-player). Some of the women who irritate you are probably also capable of playing well, or playing better than you realise.

Ultimately we are all there to play games or we don’t stick around gaming for long.

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Savagewoman on February 17, 2011 at 3:55 pm.

THANK YOU so much and so hard. I’m so tired of the ‘if only these evil sluts would stop ruining it for us proper ladies’ complaints.

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JonelB on February 17, 2011 at 10:54 pm.

I once suggested that perhaps it was the fault of the males playing that they allow themselves to be manipulated by obvious ploys for attention/loot. I was shut Down rather quickly with “you’re just jealous because you’re FAT and UGLY, stfu!” It really can only be the fault of the women, huh? No, I’m not jealous, I’m just tired of being held to a standard that is few and far between, and being expected to follow that rather than being allowed to speak for myself.

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Tiferet on February 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm.

:)

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Katie on February 16, 2011 at 1:34 am.

Well-written articles questioning gender relations on gaming are few and far between. THANK YOU for such a great post.

I’m a gamer, but I’m also in advertising, and I have to agree with Jaxboxchick — while we would love to see average people portray ourselves in ads, it’s just not done in the industry. It’s all about the fantasy: “If you buy this soda, you too will have amazing legs, be popular, and be rich.” Fantasy. That’s all it is. Not to be sexist, but guys want the fantasy. A man will believe that all gamer chicks are hawt and want him — that is his fantasy. What would any red-blooded male do when offered a choice between the sexy woman of his dreams, and an average woman with real-world flaws?

And when given the anonymity of an MMO, one’s confidence is enhanced and gives one the courage to demand to see your breasts. So…sexual fantasy + confidence + anonymity = douchebag online. I wonder if that same guy who demanded to see your breasts would actually approach you in real life, even if it was just to ask your name? I’m not trying to excuse his behavior, but I am suggesting that online anonymity has a lot to do with gamers being idiots.

And while I’m on the topic of excusing behavior, ladies might want to take a step back and think about all those hunky guys we see in stereotypical roles. For example, construction worker? Please, I have a cousin in construction, and most of the crew all shop at the Big & Tall stores (and not because they are tall). Gals have their fantasies, too. Would you rather climb into bed with gorgeous Paul Hamm from Mad Men, or a real-life ad executive who is balding and over-weight? Or how about Isaiah Mustafah (the hunky guy from the Old Spice commercials) versus the average-looking dork behind the Burger King counter? Maybe I’m off topic, because these examples aren’t from the world of gaming and geekdom. But my point is, we would all choose the fantasy if we could.

If we want to see more real-world examples of the average gamer girl, then we should make our own YouTube videos to balance out the mis-representative ones. We can’t leave it up to the game industry and ad execs to do it for us — they would never take the risk to portray the average gamer. The best chance we have of breaking down the stereotype is simply by being ourselves both in game and out in real life: geeky gamer girls whose appearances have no bearing in our abilities.

Oh, on a cosplay side note: I’ve been going to cons since 2002, and have seen my fair share of cosplayers who have certainly chosen the wrong character for their body type! Eek! LOL But I am in awe of the people (guys and girls alike) who are bold enough to go for it. JonelB said: “And I’ve noticed male cosplayers don’t get held to the same standards as female cosplayers.” Actually, it’s pretty laughable when a scrawny little dude cosplays as a big beefy character. It falls pretty flat and he knows it — it’s met with a negative reception. I haven’t seen much of a double standard when it comes to cosplaying in my area (the Midwest). In fact, it is usually the women who attempt the “size 2X body in a size Small character” costume more often than the men. In the last 9 years, I can recall less than a dozen guys in the “over-weight” category who cosplayed as thinner characters (four them were Captain Kirk) and they were pretty much shunned. If we want to talk about double standards, how about When a trim, well-muscled guy cosplays as Kratos from GoW, and is met with lots of cat calls and women eyeing him like a piece of meat. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to accuse men of being chauvinist pigs by drooling over us when we wear black leather corsets, after we’ve just pinched Kratos’s ass and handed him our hotel room key. *wink*

Sorry for the rambling. It’s just so great to have a community of like-minded women who want to just play the damn game and HAVE FUN! :o)

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Lee Edward McIlmoyle on February 16, 2011 at 6:07 am.

I’m a pretty strange breed of male gamer. You may have heard of me, though I suspect you probably equate me with unicorns and other myths. See, I’m a male gamer who has played MMOs fairly seriously (never hardcore, though; it’s a f#$%ing game, folks), identifies as masculine, periodically flirts with female (and sometimes male ;) ) gamers, and yet believes two things that are absolutely fundamental to his gaming experience: 1) Most of the women I have played with were some of the best players I’ve ever had the joy of working with, and 2) Any MMO/guild that women do not feel comfortable playing in is NOT a place I want to be.

To put it bluntly, I don’t stand for harassment, put-downs or any of that other sexist crap I’ve come across in my MMO experiences. I couldn’t afford to, even if I was one of those assholes, simply because I surround myself with the best players I can comfortably enjoy the game with, and most of those people are women (most of whom aren’t skinny or conventionally pretty, but whom I think are totally hot, even if they don’t agree).

The standard was set pretty early for me, since I was introduced to MMOs by my wife and her gal pal, two of the best players I’ve ever seen. The fact that we added a few more such highly skilled and incredibly fun women to our ever-rotating roster of friendly gamers just clinched it. I’ve actually only played with a few men whom I thought were as good, and only one whom we chose to play with regularly. I’ve even run guilds on the premise that woman gamers are more than welcome, and I never let anyone pull heinous behaviour on any of our girls.

So, seriously, the problem has never been you fabulous, ass-kicking lady gamers; it is and always has been the ridiculous preponderance of deluded and insecure man-child losers who seem to infest these games like a fungus.

If you ever do drift back to MMOs, I sincerely hope you find a nice, well-balanced, mature group of players who know that women can pwn ur face off, and that, while it’s never about hawtness, nevertheless, big girls are hawt, too.

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Lesley on February 16, 2011 at 11:49 am.

Oh, this comment makes me really happy. Thank you, kind sir, for posting it.

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Nathreee on February 16, 2011 at 8:18 am.

I was thinking about this just recently. I have had my share of “Pics of ur tits or ur not a girl” and other ways of saying that I couldn’t be a girl because I actually pwned. But that’s not what made me think of this, it’s been ages since anyone was that rude. Most MMORPGs have grown up with the large number of adults playing casually. But that doesn’t mean the sexism is gone.

I’m in a comfortable adult guild in WoW, where attitude is more important than gear score. The other day a friendly guy stumbled upon a nice blue sword and showed it to the guild. “Does anyone want this?” It was great for me, so I asked if I could have it. And the guy sent it to me, along with a bunch of roses.

Now I’m sure he meant well, but this made me uncomfortable. If I had been a guy, he would have never done that. I don’t want special treatment. I tank and spank, I swear and bitch, I save your ass and when the boss is down, we do a group hug. I’m a player just like anyone else. There is no reason for virtual flowers.

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Colleen on February 16, 2011 at 8:58 am.

This is amazing that you’d post on this now…my senior thesis is on Role Playing Games and the social structures within. I want to do a chapter on women and gaming and this will help a ton!!

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Edd on February 16, 2011 at 9:23 am.

I think that there are really two quite distinct things going on here. I’m a boy, btw.

The first issue, seems to be a problem within gamer culture about the treatment of female gamers in play-spaces. It’s a tough one to get around because a lot of the gamers you’ll encounter are going to be dumb kids that don’t know any better. They can, at best, be avoided. Of course there are lots of people who are pretty decent out there but, yeah, the treatment of women in most online spaces shames us as a community. I don’t think you can change people’s attitudes just within game culture, and keep the prevailing mainstream culture the same… That leads me on to the second point:

The second and main issue of the post is about the propagation of the hot gamer girl meme. Now, it’s very difficult to talk about an issue like this without falling into the trap of assuming that ‘hot girl gamers’ are a non-existant fantasy of the cultural industries. Yes, they do exist but I think it’s a fair assumption that the ‘hot girl gamer’ is not representative of the average gamer, girl or otherwise, and the main issue is misrepresentation. This institutional misrepresentation is unhelpful for the reasons listed in the blog post but also in so much as it reinforces the problems of male gamers treating their female counterparts as objects because consciously or not, the parading out of ‘hot gamer girlz’ reinforces viewing girl gamers as objects. This not necessarily the fault of the hotties themselves, of course, but either there is some level of cynical attention grabbing on their part or (more likely) they’re frequently being cynically exploited for consumption by a male audience. But the propagation of the meme is not so much a problem with gaming culture, and simply just a problem with the mainstream culture’s treatment of women. ‘Hot Girl Gamers’ are employed either to titilate male gamers or to be used as handy little entry points into a newspaper’s discussion of gaming in general, because it’s a very handy stereotype.

“They are the Sugar Gamers, a girl gaming club partly founded on the idea that it’s OK to put on a pair of high heels and red lipstick before firing up an Xbox.”
– This is a classic example of the problem in the mainstream reporting, that belittles not just gamer girls but all women as it defines women in terms of heels and lipstick. This problem is endemic to mainstream western culture. I’m going to give the Sugar Gamers the benefit of the doubt here and just go ahead and assume that this sentence is just an incredibly patronising, exaggerated characterisation, added by a sub-editor without consulting the subjects. Because, really, why would you put on lipstick and makeup to spend an evening playing Xbox? This doesn’t tell me that women are playing games, this tells me that vacuous image-obsessed ditzes are playing games. If I were to take this statement as true and representative then I’m still left to wonder if there are any normal human women playing games.

I’m not saying that because the problem is a problem with lazy reporting and the mainstream culture that it’s not important or not worth discussing, but there’s only so much we (as individual gamers and stewards of gamer culture) can do to affect *external* perceptions and misrepresentations. The best thing we (you) can do, to change this really, is to display unrelenting bravery by letting yourselves be known, warts and all, to the wider community, and call people out on their shit when it arises.

I don’t envy girl gamers’ predicament

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Lesley on February 16, 2011 at 9:32 am.

Yes! I dig this comment. Sexism and the objectification of women is ubiquitous in ALL culture, for sure, and it will only be remedied by a combination of institutional changes and individual awareness/action. Women need to be out there, but dudes also need to make space for them, even if it costs them some comfort.

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Sarah on February 16, 2011 at 11:31 am.

While I agree with your overall point, in modern MMORPGs I think men deserve a little more credit. I am a girl and have been playing MMORPGs for many, many years. Like yourself, I have never played a pure caster or a typical healer. During my 5 years in EverQuest I played an Iksar Monk and there’s nothing sexy about Iksars except maybe the tail and in WoW my main is a Protection Paladin (tank). My time gaming has not been purely fantasy based either. For several years I loaded up with first person shooters like Counter-Strike and let my inner comic nerd free with City of Heroes.

To get to the point, I say men deserve more credit because there has been a definite shift in how men view women gamers. In my experience in playing MMORPGs for over 11 years, more and more men are respecting women gamers, especially ones that show they know their stuff. There’s been a shift away from the underline “Why didn’t you tell us?”. Other old common responses such as “Are you hot?” “A/S/L?” “Pics pls” and less respectable inquiries, have also shifted to “So how long have you been gaming?”. Just the other day I joined a PUG (pick up group), signed onto Ventrilo (similar to Team Speak) and only remark the men in the group made was that they just pugged with another female tank and it was “rather cool”. More men ask me more game related questions such as why I play my desired class and spec, number crunch on gear and stats, and quiz on my in-game knowledge, than inquire about my real life status as a female. In a sense, this respect is empowering. So give guys a little more respect. Change is coming.

-from another Chicago based gamer girl

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Lesley on February 16, 2011 at 11:37 am.

Did I disrespect men above? I mean, aside from the “majestic ween” bit, and I hope that came across as being in jest. Disrespecting men was never my intention. My intention was to hold them responsible for their poor behavior. Good behavior, of course, is encouraged, but I also don’t want to give out cookies to dudes simply for being decent people. Being a decent person should be automatic, not something we expect a reward for!

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Sarah on February 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm.

Not cookies, no, but if a guy respects me as a gamer and can move past the “omg you’re a girl?!” bit, it earns a bit of respect for him in turn. I hold a lot of respect for decent people. Men with poor behavior towards women should be held accountable, I would never disagree to that. The main point in my response though was simple to say, at least in my experience, men’s attitudes towards female gamers is changing. A few years ago I would agree with you 100% about this happening “in most cases”, but not so much anymore. Games are no longer just a boys playhouse and boys are learning to share. :)

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Karen on February 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm.

You must post more about gaming, because this just made my day! Please oh please!

I echo the sentiment that WoW isn’t a bad place to be nowadays. I just started WoW a couple years ago, having played EQ for several years back in the day (Halas girl in da house!), then a couple years of City of Heroes, and then a hiatus. I wasn’t in WoW in the early days but am in a guild of relatively mature 20- and 30-somethings who are generally totally cool. You’ll want to stay out of trade chat (which might as well be renamed “troll chat”) but that’s no big loss. The community overally isn’t anything like the awesome vibe of the Everquest community, but isn’t any worse than the general public.

This is a timely article, as I had my very first experience of a guildie’s ween’s suffering just last week when a friend of the GM’s came back after a long absence and, during a two-hour litany of trivial woes, mentioned that a “fat, ugly chick” had the nerve to hit on him. Having gotten the impression that he’s a kid, I started gently, asking him not to disparage fat people in guild chat. He actually argued that it was ok because “fat” is an insulting term and he just wanted to be insulting. Suffice to say, I don’t know if I convinced him otherwise but he shan’t be insulting fat people in guildchat or my hearing again. I did get a mostly unqualified apology, so considered the encounter a success.

It certainly didn’t horrify me . . . until I learned that he’s a teacher, and therefore A: not a kid, and B: influencing kids.

I’ve since been compiling a mental list of snappy yet civil comebacks to deploy as needed when his inner jerkishness resurfaces, as it inevitably will. He’s usually inclined to argue his case interminably, which may prove a bonus by giving me a chance to expound. With any luck “suffering ween” will be making an appearance in my guildchat soon!

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AlisonY on February 16, 2011 at 1:52 pm.

In a sense, the whole stereotype of girl gamer either being hideous or an all-out babe is a lot like the madonna-whore complex.

If you’re, to their standards, “ugly” then you’ll be looked down on for not living up to their standards. If you’re “beautiful” then they believe they are entitled to make passes at you and whatnot.

And of course, the “ugly” and “beautiful” girls are dehumanized to fit these guys’ pleasures.

Much like the “slut” and the “prude.”

It’s just something interesting to think about.

P.S. Fem!Shep is the greatest!

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a.b. on February 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm.

“stereotype affects me whether I like it or not”

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMEN. The “sexy gamer chick” stereotype says that you are only welcome and relevant in a gamer space if you are sexy, thereby saying that women have to be viable sex objects to participate.

“What? You’re a girl? What are you doing here? Oh wait– are you sexy? Then that’s ok.”

Just started reading your blog (after googling for reviews of the last week’s ep of Glee) and I love it!

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Rena on February 16, 2011 at 3:46 pm.

I don’t REALLY have anything to add to this other than “brava!”. I read this to some of my gamer friends and they posited that “hot gamer chick” is a counter stereotype to the “so ugly and fat her gender doesn’t matter” (their words, not mine) stereotype, i.e. the equivalent of the gamer-dude “basement troll” stereotype. Either way, its still just as harmful.

I am a geek girl extraordinaire, though not a gamer. I’m not “hot” like the video chicks, but I have experienced some of the weird culture around chicks and gaming, though I’m much more aware of the body-diversity/body-hate problems surrounding geek fashion and cosplaying, because that’s more my thing. Which brings me to the real reason I’m posting this: pics of pretty chicks as The Doctor. My sister and I cosplay in the same outfit. We aren’t butch, but I think we pull it off nicely:
http://a4.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/44945_1430635929550_1342410166_31099643_2423706_n.jpg

http://a5.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc4/71697_1454819454123_1342410144_31143225_1916511_n.jpg

When I cosplay a competent male character like The Doctor, I feel as sexily confident and capable as The Doctor. This can happen with female characters, but it happens a lot more often, and it’s easier with the male ones, sadly.

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Nomie on February 17, 2011 at 7:36 am.

Both of you are COMPLETELY AWESOME in that cosplay, omg. I especially love the specs up in the hair! And the banana!

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Albedo12 on February 16, 2011 at 4:30 pm.

I absolutely agree with your post. It would be great if people were more respectful of each other. I was brought up to be polite and well-behaved, something that seems to elude a lot of people.
The thing is, among any group you care to select, be it by gender, race, class, intelligence or whatever, you will always find those who don’t care for etiquette and courtesey. What do we do about them? can MMO servers have a seperate shard into which these people are funneled until they grow up?
When we’re enjoying our social activities we’re in the playground, not the classroom, and although that’s usually a fun place to be, sooner or later someone is going to throw a football at your head or try and lift your skirt. The trouble is we have, it seems, way too many bullies and perverts and not enough monitors.
I don’t have too many examples of the weird attitude of some geek men to geek women, but I’d like to share an incident I found simultaneously hilarious and troubling. Last year a female gaming journalist announced on twitter that she had got engaged. Almost immediately she lost a bunch of followers. I think we can agree that she’s better off without those guys.

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ToeDipping on February 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm.

I play all kinds of games, from board games and RPGs to video games and MMORPGs. I know I’ve been pretty lucky to avoid a lot of the types of incidents people are mentioning. (Though possibly that’s because of the sexless basement troll stereotype option, dunno.) Absolutely there are a lot of individual guys who need to improve their behaviour. But this:

I do resent the perpetuation of the hot-gamer-chick stereotype, to some extent, because I am not a hot chick, and still I play games and engage in other geeky pursuits, which means the stereotype affects me whether I like it or not.

This (and the whole rest of that para) is increasingly upsetting to me. Part of what attracts me to geekdom is the idea that it’s a subculture set apart from the mainstream. I never bought another ladymag again after finding Dragon and Omni magazines. Magazines with interesting information instead of ones that made me feel like crap as I read them. Activities where I could be judged by my abilities rather than my appearance. Revelation! I go to Gen Con and a couple of other game conventions every year, and one of the reasons for that is the incredible feeling of belonging.

I know there have always been lots of gender stereotypes in geek culture. But this kind of thing seems to be commercializing and increasing the issues. Even the most poorly-socialized basement dwelling geek guy should expect a hawt girl. And gamer girls, it’s not enough for you to be good at a game, you’ve got to look a particular way, too. I opted out of all of that crap years ago, why does it have to be pushed into my little corner of the world? (I don’t have a beef with conventionally attractive women who happen to enjoy games or cosplay or whatever. I have a beef with the way that is sexualized and capitalized upon in videos like the one linked or in promoting girl leagues and so on.)

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Sara A. on February 20, 2011 at 11:26 pm.

Whenever I hear what my friends have gone through with MMORPGs I’ve thanked my lucky stars that I’ve never had the attention span for it. At the same time I’m really sad because I am a table topper who isn’t in a game at the moment. Our GM is in a new relationship and what with everyone’s class schedules and my work schedule game hasn’t actually happened since October. So on the one hand I’m guaranteed an environment where I am respected as a participant and am treated as an equal; on the other it’s very insular and requires 5 people’s schedules to sync up and the likelihood of meeting new players is essentially null.

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Welloutoforder on February 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm.

I just found this blog, and I’ve fallen in love with it! Being a female gamer myself, I sometimes get these annoying remarks. Once I was playing co-op on Uncharted 2 and as soon as the other (male) players found out I was a girl, they thought the logical first question to ask me was: “Soooo…Are you a lesbian?”
So yeah, that’s apparently also part of the stereotype: female gamers are lesbians. I have no idea what’s the logic behind it.

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Ellie Di on February 25, 2011 at 8:29 am.

*clings with glee* THANK YOU SO MUCH. I’ve been gaming since I was 14 (a late bloomer by many accounts), at the console, the dinner table, and the LARP con. I’m not the hot chick you talk about, but I’m straight-sized and reasonably attractive, which has made me a huge target for the exact stereotypes you’ve been touching on. I’ve been questioned many, many times by my (mostly male) fellow gamers about why I like to play meatshields and hit-it-in-the-face characters and/or investigators who wear sensible shoes. It still catches me off guard because I forget that this culture wants me to explain myself for either not being a dude and liking those things or for being a chick and not wanting to dress/equip like a stripper (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Frustrating! Doubly so because I don’t ascribe the basement-wanker description to every single nerdguy I meet.

So again, thank you! Let’s keep fighting the dude-machine in gaming so that ALL girls are happy and feel safe in their gaming spheres, whatever they may be.

(PS – Minotaur is my favourite race in D&D. I thought you might appreciate that.)

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Carmelita on March 1, 2011 at 5:14 am.

You know, Lesley, I think this speaks pretty well to internet culture in general. I game, but I don’t really hang around in “gaming” circles. I’ve experienced the exact same thing in general “internet” and “nerd” culture type settings, where you face the dichotomy of either being the “hot geek girl” or the “gross fat cow.” Either that or you’re really a dude.

Anyway, I don’t really have anything to add. Thanks for always helping me sort my thoughts on matters. You write more eloquently than I can think.

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basedeltazero on March 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm.

I just want to say that imo, any man who truly considers himself geek (as a positive, potentially to the point of the male pov of “don’t give a shit whether you want to stick your penis inside them.” or the basement dweller stereotype) should have nothing but the utmost respect for fellow geeks, nerds, and gamers. AND ABSOLUTELY to the point of gender being completely meaningless.

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