Wednesday, July 11, 2012

[Weekly Words on Women] Who Decides

Based on the phenomenal response my post last week got, I thought I'd address an aspect of my underlying argument differently. I'd like to try to look at this in a more objective and dispassionate way.

My original premise was that men - by virtue of being men - don't have the authority or privilege of deciding what women view as sexist, misogynistic, or otherwise problematic.  My general basis for this argument is that men are not affected or impacted by items, situations or actions that could be perceived as sexist, misogynistic or problematic in the same way that women are.

I'll accept the proposed suggestion that there are guys that value women and their struggles in modern society, and specifically gaming. I'll go along with the idea that there are men that are interested in battling injustices, who want to voice their opposition to those items, situations and actions. I don't disagree that there is a corps of men who believe as strongly as I do that wrong is wrong.

There comes a time when the folks deciding what is wrong (and to some extent, WHY) is a pretty important part of any discussion. Maybe this flies in the face of your worldview- that "wrong is wrong", and that's all there is to it. Perhaps the concept that who says an item, situation or action is wrong makes no difference to you; as long as someone is speaking out, it's a good thing (to you).

I'll attempt to explain as clearly as I can (with examples) why this doesn't work FOR ME. Maybe that will help me figure out how to talk about the topic at hand in a more effective manner, and maybe it will give some discussion. Neither of these outcomes is a bad one in my view; and if nothing comes of it, I won't mind because writing is something I truly enjoy. (It IS better when there is an audience, I won't lie. But I write for me as much as I possibly can, and if people want to talk about it, that's just icing on the cake.)

When talking about injustice, I generally side on the "do everything possible to make it stop" part of the spectrum. Social justice and equality are big deals to me. I've made it my life's mission to teach my kids tolerance and I work in many ways to promote equality across the spectrum outside of the home.  The comment that equated my commentary to the gay rights conversation last week really caught me off guard. After looking at things a little more closely, I figured there's really only one way to proceed, and that's to SHOW you what I mean.

The post my pal wrote brought up sexism, and what a lot of you saw as sexism in "make believe land". While I don't want to detract too much, I do want to interject a few conversations that I think might exemplify the imbalance of male viewpoints to female viewpoints and then move along.

The examples I'll be using are from one of my all-time favorite blogs. This is a blog that has an extremely good ratio of male to female respondents, and the general makeup of the readers are well-educated, professional people. This blog is highly regarded as having one of the most civil and adult comments sections among workplace related blogs.

Because this blog is highly directed to workplace concerns, many times when there is a concern about how men and women interact, there's a specific legal subtext to the advice and conversations. Almost all of those deal with HARASSMENT, which is somewhat different than sexism, but the way the comments play out shows that perceptions about harassment have sexist overtones.

Some examples of discussions where the conversation includes harassment and gender divides include : link 1- This is the most extreme example I found.  This conversation also addresses the topics, but not for a while and you can see a distinct gender disparity.  This one's really good, and really gets to it. Also, this one is decent at addressing the topic, and THIS ONE is one that shows the disparity very clearly.

To me, the way the divide slides very much along gender lines (and to some extent, lines of power) says very clearly that someone is missing the point. For women to say "hey, this is harassment" and men to say "um, nope" means that there's an imbalance of understanding and ability to communicate what exactly harassment IS to a woman and why.

The "sides" of feeling and perceiving harassment are clear to me- whomever says "hey, this bothers me, cut it out" is in the right. It's not up to the person acting to do anything other than listen and change behaviors so as not to do the offending thing again.

All of that was to make a point. The point was men and women see things differently. There was some talk that those little models sculpted to look like boobs and butts were somehow sexist. Sexism is a little more complex than simple harassment, but the idea is similar. 

It might be that I misunderstood the intentions of male posters over at the previous discussion because I am female. My perceptions and understanding of the comments and behaviors might very well have been clouded by my previous encounters with men. As I stated earlier, my original point was that men aren't affected or influenced by these encounters in the same way that I am, and their perspective is different than mine. It makes it tougher for them to clearly identify "hey, this is uncool" because they as men don't get the same result from daily interactions. 

From my perspective, the VERY MOST you could say about sexy models was that they might encourage men to look at women in a sexual way and perhaps see the female form as a sexual object instead of recognizing that there are PEOPLE behind the boobs out in the real world. 

When I see "sexy models", I don't see sexism or misogyny or anything like that. I see FANTASY, and I wholeheartedly accept and encourage the fantastic as a way for people to express themselves and their interest in the hobby. I don't happen to find the models as any sort problem, but I've come to realize it might be partially due to the fact that I'm attracted to ladies just as much as I am to men.

I don't really talk about this very much, because identifying as anything under the  LGBT flag can and does get you marginalized (even further than I might already be as a woman) and I'm just not interested in inviting THAT onto my plate as well.

I have decided that for me, hot models are hot models and I like them. I see and know a difference between fantasy and reality. To me, models and art are part of the imaginary and unreality of gaming. They are not "real".

They are not personal interactions between men and women. They are not relationships where males talk to and about females in various ways. They are not restrictions by males on access to power, voice or influence for women (or any minority). These things- these are things I will work myself up over. These are things I see as worthy of my attention.

I have no doubt that fighting to make interactions between men and women more equal and less fraught with inference and shades of sexism is a good thing, and I want everyone to take part in helping equality along.  I won't ever back down from fighting against injustices in personal interactions.

But I do have reservations that men can (or will) objectively be able to state that a certain thing is "bad" for women when they aren't female and don't know the same things I do as a woman.

Thanks for listening. I look forward to seeing what comes of this...


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. *Previous posts heavily edited. I was not comfortable with the way I shared other's personal stories in public.

    Thanks Lo, that was a good read, and the links were interesting too. 

Like I said at the end of your last post, everyone has their own experiences and commitments that inform their views.

    I know a variety of women, some gamers, some not, and they each have a unique opinion on issues of sexism, harassment and misogyny. Some of them have what could be called strict feminist views; others opinions that seem closer to your own as you've presented it. Many of my workmates for example are quite feminist (being academics) and consider references to rape or faceless objectification in art to be indirect attacks on women.

    All of the gamer women I know who I have heard express opinions on this topic (some of whom are very close to me) perceive problems, as do you. I have discussed these things at length with them and interpreted what they have told me with theories and my own reasoning. That's my job so that's what I do. I find the more feminist views, that err on the side of caution, to be the most convincing for a variety of personal and theoretical reasons.

    As you said, if someone hears alarm bells and she is sure enough (or brave enough) to say something then I think we should take them seriously.


So there you go. I may be a man, but my viewpoint is informed by discussions with the women in my life. Some of them have convinced me, and I think about things a lot before I allow myself to be convinced.

    They speak for themselves well enough in other circumstances, but they are not here and I am, so you all hear it from me. There is a temptation with the internet to forget that we are all complete people with social circles and baggage. We can only read what the others have written and there seems to be an unspoken assumption that that's all there is. But that couldn't be further from the truth.

 I am guilty of this myself of course.

    So yes, it matters who sets the agenda and who decides what's right and wrong. But this is not a case of me (a man) deciding what's right for women. It's a case of me (a man) agreeing with a viewpoint that some women undeniably hold as well. There's a crucial difference. I firmly believe that women and men are not separate beasts with their own spheres of interest that only they may speak about. And it's not because I think there is some artificial legal equality we should all be pursuing; it's because we are all connected. The women in my life are a part of me and I am a part of them. If they perceive a threat they expect me to stand with them, and I will, and they would do the same for me.

    All of us have unique view points. Some people's don't seem reasonable to anyone but others who hold them, e.g. racists. Most people's views I can understand as being ones that reasonable people hold. As I have said throughout this debate, even in Sinsynn's original discussion, the problem I think is that people who hold my view within gaming are often dismissed as being unreasonable. What I want is for the apparently silent majority culture of gamers to admit that a lot of the art in our sub-culture could be considered offensively sexist by a reasonable person.


Maybe none of us, men or women, have the right to claim objectivity about any of this. If women could be objective about these issues then how is it that they can come to different conclusions? Maybe we should all just admit that we have opinions informed by our experiences. 

I'm happy with that. It takes us back to where we started though, before all the posturing and justifications, so I guess that means that for me, the conversation is coming to an end.

    If you feel as though I have at any time claimed to speak for you or for all women, I apologize. That was not my intent. I meant only to speak for some women, and myself.

    Sorry about the wall of text but you deserve a complete response.

  3. "They are not personal interactions between men and women. They are not relationships where males talk to and about females in various ways. They are not restrictions by males on access to power, voice or influence for women (or any minority). These things- these are things I will work myself up over. These are things I see as worthy of my attention."

    Fair enough.

    If you'd like, I could talk about why I see the cultural representations and signifiers of gender and sex as worth discussing - I won't say "being worked up over" because I feel those are loaded words, which I often see invoked to trivialise something.

    I wouldn't like to derail or deflect the conversation, though, so it seems appropriate to ask your permission.

  4. Coming from tv i say sex sells and most of the time guys are dumb enough to buy just based on curves and glitter. We're dumb visual creatures no doubt but I'm not sure banning guys from commenting on these kinds of things just because we're guys isn't some kind of weird sexism in and of itself. Of course at the same time i do note the vast difference between the way my wife and i raise our child under the same roof and it is hard to see things her way some times just because i am a guy. Agh, I don't know whether to S**t or wind my watch now! Great. Oh well back to adding more of that hot guy's abs to my promo for the new show Arrow on the CW this fall or my female boss won't approve the spot...