I came across a very good article by Maddy Myers, the former games critic for the defunct Boston Phoenix. Naturally, I found it when one of its subject, Anita Sarkeesian, a noted feminist games critic I’ve written about before, tweeted about it. Myers closes it out with this ending:
Anita Sarkeesian isn’t the only woman out there talking about videogames. She’s also not the only woman talking about feminism and videogames. But the list of women doing this remains quite short, and I wish it weren’t.
She’s not going to save the world, nor cover every nuance and facet perfectly, nor convince every last hater of the error of their ways. Not all by herself. There won’t be one magic publication that saves games journalism, nor one magic game that proves games are art, nor one magic feminist who convinces all of the misogynists. There will be many, many, many voices, and it will be a long, slow grind.
The only way to solve this scrutiny problem, I think, is to somehow get more women involved in this industry across all fronts, until the scrutiny that comes from being a minority begins to lessen, and until misogynists realize more definitively that they are the minority now.
But why on earth would any woman join, let alone stay, in a culture that vocally excludes her? Why would she not just go back to playing against the AI on her own, no longer bothering to frequent public videogame spaces? Why would she keep publishing articles, or keep making games, when so many people have yelled at her to get out, or else?
I don’t have a solution to this, other than to hope it will get better if we all just keep talking.
It reminds me a bit of the squabble I had with Justin Katz in my last post; when I criticized Katz’s argument that conservatives were staying home and living their lives in the manner that best represented their values rather than run for office and face the sort of political attacks that come with that ambition.
It reminds me also of a recent exchange I had on Twitter with a person who asked why there was no movement across Rhode Island for regionalization. When I suggest this person take up the cause themselves, they replied that they weren’t willing to lead like that, preferring to provide assistance from the background rather than face the opposition that would undoubtedly come. How then, I asked, can they expect someone else to lead such a movement if they won’t themselves? Good question, was the reply.
It also reminds me of the fearful nature of Occupy, distrustful of authority as it was. One of the things that makes masked anarchists such poor leaders is their inability to even show their faces. Like Katz’s conservatives hunkered in their homes, some in Occupy definitely sought to escape the reactions that people would have to them speaking their opinions.
Myers’ article, well worth reading, is a good response to fears of political attacks. Being a woman on the internet is hard. Shrill and petty as Rhode Island politics can occasionally be, rhetoric never stoops to the point where one candidate suggests that another should be raped and killed. And that’s par for the course for the hate directed at feminist game critics or usually any woman who speaks out against a culture of sexism (actually that might be subpar, most rhetoric is considerably worse and far more graphic).
Which is why it’s humbling to me to realize how powerful the women I know are, even if they’re just doing what they always do. Whether it’s the women from RI-NOW who hosted May’s Drinking Liberally introducing themselves, or past teachers who asked me to question basic assumptions about society to my own family. My mother faced down a death threat caused by her activism, and though I doubt my grandmother would classify herself as a feminist, much of her life is a testament to a woman who had to fight hard to keep her children fed and housed.
The point is this. Change rarely comes from a moment of mass epiphany, or through the leadership of an especially charismatic individual. It takes individual acts of bravery; black people defying segregation, women going to work, workers organizing, homosexual couples holding hands in public, etc., etc. This isn’t the kind of bravery that wins accolades, except in a few cases. It’s the kind of bravery that earns hatred and ire.
If you want to make a change, then that hatred and ire won’t stop you. If you truly believe you’re right, then righteousness must carry you forward.