For some reason, gender discussion is just a must-have in any community. Whether it’s a result of the later pushes in the feminist movement, all those gender study programs, or just the ease of lumping people into such big, easily identifiable groups, talking about gender is a subject in all communities, and that includes WoW.
What is it about the male/female division that captivates us, even in the discussion of a video game?
I think the first part of the equation, is that it can easily be argued as a relevant subject for anything. Everyone fits into the gender discussion, and is automatically relegated to Slot A or Slot B.
However, does that make it automatically relevant?
Perhaps you read an article about the same discussion from a male and female writer to gain different perspectives. However, how is this really different from reading articles from two male or two female authors? You’re still getting two viewpoints from different minds–how relevant is the person’s gender to their opinions on a subject?
In some cases, the author makes the issue appear quite relevant in that they are very forceful in their representation of themselves as a male or female writer. However, if you didn’t know the sex of a blogger, would it really change your opinion of their thoughts and writing style? Would I be less Windsoar if I told you I was a man? Would it change your perception that radically?
The counter-argument, of course, is that our gender affects everything about us, since it is more than a social convention, but a biological one as well. However, unless the people I am interacting with process my ideas differently because of my gender, then there is no need to bring gender discussion to the table at all, at least from a “who’s thinking what” perspective.
There are other areas where gender topics come into play: representation of characters, employees, treatment of gender X, roles of authority in guild management. In these areas, I think gender discussion is worthwhile and can often be very productive, and I’ll just briefly touch on each one.
Representation of characters: video games are not known for their realistic representation of the male or female form; however, often the discussion centers around the “brick shit-house” look of most female characters–big breasts, small waist, good-sized hips. When the male/female representations are equal (i.e. men are portrayed as Adonis personified, and women are Aphrodite) then I think the discussion is rather… boring. Heroes are supposed to be awesome in physique. I actually like that my slim elves have identifiable biceps, and being rather full-busted myself, have never had a problem with my characters being the same.
Game Staff: Men and women view themselves as groups with differing opinions, and they expect those opinions and viewpoints to be taken account of when dealing with game design. Finding out that the staff of your favorite gaming corporation is all male or all female might seriously shift your perspective as to who the company as a whole considers your “needs” as a consumer.
Treatment: While discussion of discrimination, of any kind, has a definite relevance, my issue with most of these type of discussions is that the conclusion is that the other “group” that was represented by one or more individuals is the viewpoint of the “other.” This always makes my blood pressure soar. People make stupid decisions, these decisions should be evaluated and discussed to prevent future behavior, but that doesn’t make every single person of a gender the same as this random asshat you ran across in your pug. Discrimination, in my humble opinion, can work against everyone, and is not the domain of the “repressed” group only.
Who’s In Charge: When I formed my own officer core, and when reviewing the members of a guild of which I am joining, I discretely inquire as to the role (dps/healer/tank) ratio and gender ratio of the council. While I am willing to talk to anyone regarding my place in the guild
- I understand that people communicate differently
- I want to know that my officer core offers the greatest diversity as possible to meet the needs of the guild
If I don’t see these things, I move on–while a tight-knit officer core is important, it is just as important that it is dynamic and able to meet the needs of its guild members. If the officer core is all male healers or all female dps, it tells me that a small percentage of the overall raid team are being adequately represented OR that the core changes so infrequently that the need for a more diverse core is not needed. Either way, being a new player in a stagnant pool is not necessarily somewhere I’d like to be.
The last thing I wanted to briefly address, is who gets to talk about gender?
While women freely regale the community with their experiences, positive and negative, with male players, in my experience, men rarely discuss gender issues when discussing gaming. Obviously, they are affected by gender as much as women, yet, they either don’t see the topic as relevant, or don’t feel that it is socially acceptable for them to handle the topic. The closest I’ve seen to a male relevant viewpoint of male/female roles in gaming arenas has been comics or joke lists. (I am leaving out the offensive garbage that is spewed on both sides of the fence regarding the bad behavior displayed by all members of the other gender–those people are just cranks).
Somehow, this smacks somewhat of a double standard. Women are encouraged to identify themselves as such, to defend their “position” as gamers, and generally to talkative about the divide, while men are discouraged from engaging in the topic for fear of seeming insensitive, or worse, discriminatory.
While it could be argued that the male “view” is adequately represented, the female “view” is just as actively represented, and in many cases, more likely and open about their intention to be gender-biased. Perhaps I’m a bit old-fashioned, or not enough of a feminist supporter, but I’m not a big fan of gender segregation to the point where things are identified solely on their male or female representation. Perhaps some of this is the change I’ve seen as a player in the community from a guild of 300 with 3 female players, to a guild of 300 with half or more of the players being female. The composition of the community has changed, and while at one time, I would have been *nodding* along with a post about the inherent and often back-handed assumption that women did not game, today, I cannot show the same declaration the same support.
There are topics that I feel gender plays a part, and that merit discussion. However, I don’t think gender is automatically relevant for all discussions, and is downright irrelevant in many cases. Watcha think? How important is gender to you, in terms of who’s writing, who’s reading, and what you’re talking about?