There has been an almost uncomfortable silence in the games industry section of the internet in the past week. I of course can’t mean that literally, as there is as much noise buzzing about as ever on my Twitter feed, but it reeks of business as usual in avoidance of something no one wants to talk about. This awkwardness is what was left in the wake of last week’s incredibly important hashtag #1reasonwhy, and now without it being topical and welcomed, we have all seemed to slink back in to not wanting to make anyone uncomfortable.
#1reasonwhy burst on to the Twittersphere last week as an outcry by women within the industry in response to the sexism, and in some cases, misogyny that we have to experience simply by aligning ourselves with video games and tech. It was a series of confessions – things we’ve been scared to express after being told it makes us weaker by so many of our counterparts of both genders. The open forum gave many women the support they needed to get things off their chest and to reveal experiences that were harrowingly reflected by others who also spoke out. Case after case of demands to ‘prove ourselves’ or comments that our ‘opinions aren’t valid’ spewed forth, and even more disturbing tales of sexual harassment and assault arose as the comfort levels grew.
You could almost see eyes opening amongst men in the community; many were appalled that such things have happened, while select others began realising just what it was they had done. However even with all this positive movement, those who posted with the #1reasonwhy hashtag were berated by what I hope was the minority. Outcries telling us that we can’t judge a whole community based on personal experiences, that it wouldn’t be a problem if we weren’t so sensitive and that it’s ‘just the industry’ pushed back against this plea for understanding, and in an amusing way, proved our point entirely.
I don’t feel equipped to blame the negative individuals for their thoughts on the matter. As with most forms of prejudice, there are deep seeded attitudes within the community, and it can be difficult to find the levels of understanding required to change when indoctrination can be so strong. As such, I’ve no real choice but to blame the community itself, which is hard for me as it has brought so many experiences that I would happily tag #1reasontobe. Equally though, for every time we witness sexism in the industry and write it off as ‘the way it is,’ we are damaging one of the things I hold dearest, and I do not take kindly to such actions.
Recognise that feminism is difficult, especially within gaming and tech fields, with fandoms that are so heavily dominated by men. It is however also something that empowers both women and men by allowing us to talk on equal footing and exchange ideas in a manner that can only make us a stronger and more unified group. I understand that often men get blamed for things they don’t deserve by some of the more extreme ‘femnazis.’ I really do, and these people are just as much to blame as each and every person (usually men) who have told me that I’ve only gotten where I am today because I am a woman. However I also see so many men use this as a cover for themselves. A scapegoat to say that their sexist remarks don’t hurt anyone and that one person who had the balls to call them out on it MUST just be overly sensitive. Question yourself and others when you say things. Would you say the same thing to a man? Would it even be an issue? Understand that you never have the right to tell someone when they should stop hurting, and rather than judge or criticize them for feeling this way, perhaps attempt to listen. Most of all, please, don’t do what we have done for the past week since the topic died down on Twitter. Never stop talking about it.
I do not see the issue of sexism dying in the industry any time soon. There are many men who are excellent allies, and who I know hold this issue as closely to their heart as I do because they too value this community too much to watch it defile itself. This disease does not just stop within the professional side of the industry; instead it bleeds out on to all forms of the gaming medium. It is hard for a woman to play online or join a forum without experiencing much of the same attitude. Lashings of ‘go back to the kitchen’ and ‘TOGTFO’ are staple diet for all women who try to engage with our fantastic medium. I also believe those of us who are lucky enough to be involved in this industry have a responsibility to appeal to the larger community. As the people who make the games, market them, and write about them, we have an opportunity to help shape the way gamers perceive women and hopefully, in time, can forge a better example of how they should be treated.
Slinking back in to silence about #1reasonwhy and sexism allows it to further propagate. And as gaming is already so heavily infected, we simply can not allow for this. #1reasonwhy was an amazing step forward. Simply being able to say and read the things that were said meant the world to me and I believe, to many others as well. It is a dangerous path we are currently set upon, and it is up to everyone to see us progress along in a positive and more inclusive direction rather than fall back in to complacency.