Standing Up For Myself

I am adding a header image to this post for blog consistency. No! The game pictured is not the game in question! It's just random pretty E3 photo from my phone OKAY?

So I just got off a plane to this flood of tweets and messages and emails and urgh, I was already tired enough after spending fourteen hours watching old Futurama episodes with my kneecaps crushed against the chair in front of me. If you’re clueless as to why I might be on my blog instead of sleeping off the horrors of flying, I kind of wrote this article about PR sexism at E3 and it got a little attention. If you’re here for precisely that reason, cool! I want to address a few of the things that keep coming up in various comments, forums, tweets, and probably also hastily scribbled notes attached to the legs of the angry carrier-pigeons that will be arriving at my house in a couple of weeks.

Why didn’t you STAND UP FOR YOURSELF?

This is pretty much the most common negative response, and in hindsight, I wish I’d addressed it. I certainly thought of addressing it; what I didn’t think at the time was that it was apparently necessary. We already know well that women often don’t speak up. We should even know why – this article on “gaslighting”, which the entire internet read and linked and ranted about last year, illuminates the issue exquisitely.

In the first year of my games degree, I learned quickly to stay quiet in the face of male-heavy classrooms. I was never welcome; one guy said that this was a degree for hardcore gamers, and that I didn’t belong here, obviously being a player of the Sims or Farmville. In one of my very first classes, a guy raised his hand and said to the female tutor: “Hey, can we get a guy teaching this class?” I was always last choice for group projects, because nobody ever assumed a girl could know anything about games. Things got thornier when I tried to protest their stupid opinions of women’s abilities to play, develop, or analyse games. My gender was always used against me to shoot me down. “Nobody else has a problem,” they would respond. “Is it that time of month?” “You’re overreacting.” “You have an opinion, that’s so cute. Now get back in the kitchen.” From even more obnoxious classmates: “God, you’re a crazy bitch.”

It’s not pleasant to be the target of such language, and hearing it in such great volume – just for challenging a bunch of guys’ uninformed views – was exhausting in a way most can never fathom. Finally, worn down, I learned to say nothing.

But I also learned, in my final year at university, that writing was a fantastic release for me. It allowed me to finally enjoy games as much as any of my classmates did – in a far more productive way, and in what has generally been a much more supportive environment. My way of saying “fuck you” to the idiots of my uni was to advance in a field they didn’t believe I was capable of penetrating; to develop a career many of them only wished they could be a part of.

So the accusations of not “standing up for myself”, and the associated implication that what happened at that particular booth was somehow my fault, are both bemusing and frustrating for me. When you’re treated like that for years, it becomes really fucking exhausting to keep trying to speak up. You give up; you find other ways of dealing with the issue.

So what was my Kotaku post, if not retroactively standing up for myself to much greater effect?

Your little story means NOTHING unless you name and shame the guy!

For one thing, I don’t think the guy in question deserves to lose his job or be targeted by an internet mob. When these problems have been going on so long, I wouldn’t blame him for not realising that his behaviour wasn’t right. And following the embarrassment gamers made of themselves for the Ocean Marketing thing, I really don’t want to orchestrate another lynching.

For another – and I’ve said this several times and am getting quite tired of repeating it – this isn’t about the one goddamn guy. He’s indicative of a problem that’s deeply rooted in the industry itself. Naming him is treating the symptom of a disease, not the cause. We could all go and make his life hell with threats on the lives of his wife and kids and pet ferrets and whatever, but in two weeks things would be exactly the same as they were before. We would believe that the problem had been taken care of, leaving one guy bruised and broken while the true disease continues to manifest in the industry.

I think my refusing to name him is making people feel uncomfortable, because it prevents them from just blaming one person, destroying him, and then sweeping his remains under the rug. I mean, sure, I hope the PR rep in question has read my article and realises that what he did was wrong. I also hope that many, many others in the industry are also taking note.

And as a side note, I also don’t appreciate a fellow games journalist’s assertion that I am fearful of being blacklisted by the publisher in question. I mean, I’m not much of a reviewer; I have never done this for FREE GAEMZ, and the insinuation I’d care about that is a little insulting. If blacklisting is even a possibility, then I’d say that’s actually worth exploring as a real example of games journalism being broken – demanding that I name names is dodging the issue I’ve raised, and that in itself is pretty broken.

Fyi, everybody who visited booth X/played Y game was treated the same way as you.

That’s a real cute way of downplaying the issue. Nobody knows which booth this happened at, or what the game was. I’d also like to highlight a line in the article that everyone apparently missed: I looked down the booth and saw gamers at the other computers playing their own games, their own hands controlling the avatars.

At the time I visited, I was certainly the only one it happened to.

I’m a woman and it didn’t happen to me.

This kind of response has been incredibly disturbing to me. Besides belittling what I experienced, it’s also frustrating, because I kind of semi-understand the sentiment behind it. If this one chick comes out and complains about sexism, are people going to think all girls in gaming are like that? Gosh, how embarrassing for the rest of us.

I have trouble believing the problem was as isolated as many seem to be implying. Not when we still have Hitman trailers, not when ladies are still harassed online for the crime of having vaguely girly screennames. Maybe the specific PR problem didn’t happen to you. Maybe every one of the hundreds of people you met at E3 was unquestionably polite, and maybe not a single male attendee attempted to hit on you or check out your ass while you weren’t looking.

You might be incredibly lucky: none of it may have happened to you. But if it happened to someone else, it is still a problem.

Read that piece of yours for Kotaku. Katie, you’re better than Kotaku. They’re the Herald Sun of gamer news. You can do better.

This is a Facebook message from one of the aforementioned guys I went to uni with – and unfriended – years ago. I have literally no response to this. I’m just pasting this here because I actually find it incredibly hilarious, and I really need the laughs. I couldn’t think of a better place for my article to have ended up but at Kotaku – I’m proud it’s generated so much discussion, and has affected as many people as it has.

I’m going to turn comments off on this post, as I don’t particularly want to have to stay up all night, jet-lagged, moderating things on my personal blog. I hope the above has cleared some things up for people. If you’d like to discuss anything, email or tweet at me.