Sex Sells, but Who’s Buying?

I’m going to weigh in on the whole women in gaming, their portrayal, the way the actual fans are treated, all of that. Some folks may feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, and they are partly correct. The part they are wrong about is the dead part, this horse is some kinda of undead vampiric unkillable horse that no matter how much we beat it, it simply refuses to die. In some ways, our beating only seems to make it stronger.

One of the biggest problems with all of this is that sex sells. Now, this is now way a justification for that, just stating the way things currently are. And, while I wholeheartedly agree with the definite need to change the way women are portrayed in games and the hobby in general, that is only one step on an otherwise steep climb. We need to change our entire mentality. There are a lot of men out there that will objectify and sexualize women no matter what the circumstance. It is obviously easier to treat women like objects when they are served up on a platter of chainmail bikinis and tight fitting spandex, but there are plenty of guys out there that will find a way to find the sexy in a girl wearing a burka. That is thinking that needs to be changed. I’m not saying that guys can’t find women attractive, there is a distinct difference between seeing someone’s beauty (inside and out) and the seeing only one’s physical beauty and judging them solely on that. This also isn’t solely a guys are pigs issue (and yes, there are plenty of nice, wholesome boys out there too). This idea of objectification and the use of ones sexuality extends to plenty of women too.

This is where we need to separate the fans from the booth babes. I have heard and read many of woman immediately cast unfair assessments and lob hurtful comments at women that are proud of their bodies. Not everyone that wears a Scarlet Witch costume is an attention seeking whore. I accept that cosplay and the like are in part an attention seeking hobby, but for those that are fans of the characters they dress as, it isn’t a look at me and how hot I look, it’s more of a look at me and what I made, look at what I love and what I enjoy. No one deserves to be judged on a first glance. We are all incredibly complex and sophisticated works of art, and as it is with complex and sophisticated things, it doesn’t take a lot to break many of us.

I work in the hobby industry, managing a game store. I see people from all walks of life come through my door, rich and poor, male and female, every ethnicity to ever walk the face of the earth. My job is to treat them all the same. When I hear stories about ladies that had a bad experience at a hobby store or a con, it angers me. Just today there was a young woman, maybe 17 or 18 years old that was absolutely gushing over the polyhedral dice. Her enthusiasm and passion for her hobby was bubbling out everywhere. It kills a small part of me to not just think, but to know that if she hasn’t already experienced it, at some point someone will do or say something that will extinguish some of that spark. Perhaps she will be strong and she can shrug it off and keep the fire burning for what she loves. Not everyone is strong though, some people are fragile, and even the strongest among us will break under constant attack, no one is indestructible.

Here’s the kicker though, one shouldn’t need to worry about how strong or fragile they are if we just treat people with decency. One shouldn’t need to grow a thick skin just to simply do what they love, to enjoy the things that give them happiness. One shouldn’t need to shrug off the haters. We as a race of sentient beings should be better than that. But, with free will comes the choice to be a dick, and some people find that low road so easy to traverse.

The internet has made taking that low road even easier. This isn’t just about making rude and even threatening comments under anonymity, but also under the guise of keyboard bravado. Even if some shit bag doesn’t hide their real identity, it is easy for them to feel brave when they are safely tucked away from the people they are attacking. If I knew there was never the threat of someone showing up at my front door I could sit and type all day long about how I could kick the Rock’s ass. Behind my keyboard and monitor I am fucking Superman, and there is a massive kryptonite shortage. But, (and here I get all cliche), with that power comes responsibility. Some may argue different, but I firmly believe that we are not just responsible for the words we say, but we are fully responsible for the damage those words cause long after they are set free. As much as the internet brings us all together, it also makes it so much easier to tear each apart. Who needs torches and pitchforks when we can get an unruly mob from whatever site we lurk at to descend upon those we deem as targets for our contempt and vile filth. Yes, those that engage in these tactics are nothing more than sad cowards, but that doesn’t mean we have to simply accept that and just learn to live with it.

We all need to stand up and be better. We all need to police ourselves, and sadly, each other. I know nobody is perfect. I’m far from a shining beacon of all that is good and just with humanity. But there is a great thing about being human and having a fully functional brain and a conscience, we CAN change. We CAN be better. That means not just watching what we say, but being aware of what others say. We can’t just sweep shit under the rug, because quite frankly that rug is starting to look like the Rockies. It also means taking the high road. We can’t stoop to their level and just start a giant pissing match, the dicks will always win that one. If you’re on a site that is moderated and someone is abusive, report them. Moderators can’t see and hear everything, and yes, some may simply ignore you, but I can guarantee that nothing will get fixed if you don’t acknowledge the existence of the problem. If there are companies that practice policies that are offensive, don’t support them. That means you don’t support them at all, don’t say, well, yeah, every game they make is misogynistic except this one, so I’ll only buy that. We need to send these people a message. Women make up a huge percentage of the market when it comes to gaming and geekiness in general, and if all the decent guys would stand up in support too, how could these companies not take notice? The fourteen year olds and those that still act as if they are hormone addled d-bags can’t support an entire industry. We need to stop accepting things.

We also need to stop whining. We need to start acting. Whining accomplishes nothing. Note, this isn’t the same as stating complaints, whining is complaining without taking any action. We need to back up our complaints with action. We need to let those that would pull us down that we aren’t going to stand for it. We outnumber them, we shouldn’t be hiding from them, cowering as they bombard us with their ignorance, their stupidity, and their willful disrespect. I am trying to do what I can, I have unsubscribed from certain sites that seem to not only give these types a safe haven, but actually foster and support this abhorrent behavior. I have even unfollowed a few folks that despite their ability to change, they simply refuse to. I have reached an age where I don’t want to waste my time hating on others, nor do I want to waste my precious free time on friends that only spread negativity. There are too many wonderful people out there I would rather devote myself too.

I apologize if any of this upsets those that I believe I am trying to help. Maybe help isn’t even the right word, but I hope you understand the spirit behind what I am writing. I tend to ramble and my thoughts can get jumbled up and the words sometimes don’t come out right. I hope to foster open dialogue for change, to share ways to spread love and thereby banish hate. I know, there will always be trolls, waiting and lurking for their moment to strike, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in fear or anger. Geeks are my family, and like family, I will stand up for them, even if it means I gotta knock my own brother down a peg or two.

2 Responses to “Sex Sells, but Who’s Buying?”

  1. Ally B. says:

    I loved your post. I read the comments to some of the stuff that’s been going on I.e. the Aisha I’m a gamer post and I’m more than annoyed. I’m getting tired of the excuse “there are a lot women who exploit geeks. .” Well if I used that judgement on the minority of geek men who similarly exploit women and make the many horrifying comments about women gamers, It would be stupid as hell. We need to go back to kindergarten where we learn to treat others with respect. If I had judged my husband at the time we met….he would have been giant douche and never would have known he was gamer. He didn’t wear his geekiness like a badge that you need to get into a club
    That boy knows tons about cable networks, rooting cellphones, and loves sci-fi as much as I do. I’m also tired of people deciding who gets to gain entrance to maybe their dad didn’t bring them to star trek conventions like me but if they are passionate at whatever game or comic and don’t know what a tricorder is that’s okay. Sorry for ranting too on your blog. It just really got me thinking about all the stuff that pisses me off. Who knows if this gets anywhere maybe I qobt mind playing online with people again.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks. I don’t get much traffic here, but I just had to say something.

    I hate hate hate the whole concept of “geek cred”. Why can’t I just love things the way I want to love them without having to prove myself? There is so much to be passionate about, and so many ways to show that passion. We need to treat each other better.