What’s With Gender?

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.

TL:DR

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?

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44 thoughts on “What’s With Gender?

  1. There tends to be a weird role reversal whenever a group has a noticeable advantage or power over another group (be it gender/racial/economic), where the previously subdued group feels a sense of entitlement to make amends for their disadvantaged position and formerly empowered group, feeling either guilty or threatened depending on how you want to look at it, will go out of their way to not upset those they once subdued. The end result? Political Correctness in the mid to late 1990's.

    There doesn't seem to be a specific thing to it other than the change in balance of, for the lack of a better word, power. So it's not a feminist thing, or a race thing. In fact, it's oddly enough best described as a 'Human thing' (Funny, no?) It does have the tendency to create a number of double standards on both sides of things though.

    I do thank you for a very refreshing look at the issue, nice to see that people can be more sensible than the two oddly named feminist courses I ended up taking in college ('Identity & Imagination' I was surprised to find out was the title of a feminist literature class… WTF?). A great read, Wind. 😀

    • I have to admit, I'm a very crappy feminist 😛 Maybe it's because I spend so much time reading historical accounts, it puts "name-calling" in perspective.

  2. Well, men may not be encouraged to talk about their viewpoint, but perhaps that comes from the security of not having their ability as players challenged due to their gender, or receiving insults like 'slut, whore' if they happen to talkative. Men only seem to talk about gender when they're 'realising' female gamers aren't bad just because they're female, or because some woman has been at the centre of a recent drama in their particular community.

    Like yourself, I am in a relatively balanced guild and I don't need to defend my gender – I am accepted as a good player regardless. However thousands of women aren't, or have to put up with misogynistic crap from men, and even from other women who 'don't want to be like those girls'.

    Not to mention a discussion of gender that is limited to hereonormative ideas of what gender constitutes 😉

    • Excuse me, but no has to to "put up" with such behavior. Even when I was in a non-balanced group (3/300 women in the guild) I was never treated with anything but respect. I'm sorry, but if the behavior from someone else is not to your liking, even to the point of "lol, girl" /ignore works just fine in my experience from blocking asshats from communicating with me ever again.

      • I certainly don't put up with it 😉 , but I've heard from several gamers who were in top 10 (world) guilds. If they are ambitious and want to get on the raiding core of high level guilds that compete for world firsts, it is an environment they have to deal with (even if they develop strategies to 'not put up with it'.)

        Ignoring the asshat isn't always an option in such a raid team environment. Female gamers have to make the choice between putting up with that environment and getting the world first vs not putting up with that environment and being in a guild that isn't capable of getting world firsts. I'm not saying that men 'want' that environment, either 😉

        I'm glad you were treated with respect, and that is the way it should be. However the tool to /ignore someone doesn't negate the fact that the harassment/behaviour shouldn't be happening in the first place, or that it DOES happen. Wulfy said what I was getting at much better that I expressed it.

        • Ah, but it WoW comparable to a work environment? I may be a bit of a bitch in this regard, but I think people are allowed to be discriminatory in their private lives. While the workplace engenders people's ability to support themselves, being a member of a world first guild does not.

          In my personal life, I discriminate quite freely with people above/below a certain age, people who have habits I find obnoxious, and the like, but because I do so in the course of choosing which people I will be spending social time with, then it is not seen as discriminatory, merely discerning.

          Guilds choosing to discriminate based on gender/age/character class or any other arbitrary reason they choose does not bother me, because it is discrimination in a social environment for a social reason. (Ok, it bothers me from a no one should have to deal with asshats perspective). Last I checked, no one was getting paid for getting World Firsts.

          When you "choose" to put up with such behavior for a goal, you are selling yourself out. I have never had any person adequately explain to me how breaking into a social circle that "didn't want them" but "accepted" them has improved their individual worth or the place for other women. Work, damn straight, play, meh.

          • I feel that WoW is a social environment, so yes I do expect that. I do not think it is okay to be harassed in the street or on a forum, or in the gym. Is this a possible reality? Yes. Is it okay? No.

            So I guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree, as I think there is a vast difference to being discerning (as you describe it, you don't go around insulting and slurring a progression raider because he happens to be a teenager, I imagine) and being discriminatory. The sheer volume of abuse that top end female players receive dwarfs the usefulness of the /ignore tool. Even if they chose not to put up with the individual asshats they are still subjected to it in the first place, if that makes sense?

            Well, the attitude that a female gamer is 'selling themselves' if they chose to enter a male-dominated and somewhat abusive environment, because they happen to be ambitious, is laying the blame with the woman, and not with the men who have such disgusting attitudes towards women. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect better of men (and women) than such obnoxious behaviour, or unreasonable to speak out about it.

            • You are describing crass and unfitting behavior, and there is not a single SOCIAL instance where my social activity would be improved by putting up with such behavior for a "goal." If you are choosing to be involved in a social activity, where as you say, such behavior is the "norm," then what is wrong with you? I'm sorry, there's nothing preventing you from creating your own guild of like-minded individuals and fighting your way to the top; however, choosing to "condone" such behavior by subjecting yourself to it in order to meet an artificial goal that has no bearing past the social implications of a date in your achievement log seems insane to me. You are putting up with disrespectful behavior in order to, basically, shortcut doing the work yourself to become a top-end raiding guild.

              I think there is a difference between offensive behavior and discrimination. Just because the offense has a "gender" cast to it, does not mean that the person in question is being discriminated upon due to their gender. How do the male team members refer to one another? I'm sure their language is just as colorful when dressing down other male officers. However, due to the "gender cast" the language for these female players is being labeled "discriminatory." That does not make it so.

              • This edit box makes mah points all jumpy. Going back to the phrase 'put up with' – perhaps 'receive' is a better way to look at it. I can /ignore all the sexist people I come across, but most men never have to /ignore because someone is slurring their gender. Unless they come up against a truly man-hating woman, I guess >>

                On the value of chasing world firsts I cannot speak for the women who do. They obviously have the passion for it and find it fun enough to do it, but that doesn't make the abuse they receive merely for being female any better. The nearest comparison I can draw (although it cuts across your work/play divide) is the PAX East Girls and Gaming Panel, where several female developers expressed the opinion that you just have to 'put up with it' in order to continue as a female game developer. While it works out for the developer personally, it's problematic for the female gaming community at large.

                (I am not talking about guild management or recruitment practices here.) I'm not sure why a female gamer should HAVE to make their own guild in order to chase world firsts and avoid harassment (and even if they create a friendly guild environment, a lot of the best known female players will still receive harassment of a sexual nature), when a male gamer can take the short cut of joining an existing one and not suffer the same slurs (from people outside the guild as well as inside the guild.) The problem is with the prevailing culture, not the woman who ends up participating. If a social circle has a monopoly on an activity, then that is a problem.

                In terms of gendered insults, if a female player in one of these guilds made a mistake and was called a 'dumb bitch' I suppose I don't see that as any worse than 'dumb bastard'. However if they call him a 'c-' well that is problematic for entirely different reasons, and gendered insults for women often take on a slant of sexual shame (slut/whore) that doesn't have the same implications or sense of humiliation for a bloke.

                I do wish I could come up with other social hobbies that have the same hobbyist status but similar competitive edge, such as arena leagues and world firsts. FPS gaming leagues where women have made their own teams perhaps? Most competitive hobbies are team sports, and thus gender segregated due to physical abilities, so PvE Raiding feels like a fairly unique team hobby situation.

                On the other hand 'it's just a game' is used to excuse all sorts of behavior.

                I shall have a further think on what you've said, especially on your points about work/play divide and social circles. Your post was very thought provoking and I've enjoyed the discussion 🙂

                • Aaand to be more on topic now we've done the gendered discussion bits,

                  1) Gender is not relevant for everything, you're completely right in that. It's one of the reasons why I try to keep ny social justice style posts interspersed with actual elemental shaman stuff.

                  2) Sometimes the gender is relevant, sometimes it isn't? Really depends on the topic. Perhaps MMOs as a whole are being discussed, and I do think a female voice is important there (and luckily there are some great blogs) because our differences are an important part of us.

                  3) I like to get to know the writers of blogs I read a bit, and gender is very much bound up in identity. It doesn't alter the intrinsic value or such writing though.

  3. I guess I've been lucky. I have never even seen the kind of behavior Pewter mentions. I do tell people, even pugs, that I'm a girl (I don't like to be refered to as "he"), and I've never had a bad reaction. I do think a lot of women take it personally – "they said I'm a bad player, so it must be because I'm a girl, waaaah!!". Um, no, if someone tells me I'm a bad player, it means I'm a bad player or I'm dealing with a 'gogogo' GS dickhead. As long as they don't add "…because you're a girl", you can't be sure what they mean.

    I've been reading a lot of "feminist" points of view lately and some are… not so nice, let's say. Wow_ladies is a community I enjoy, but each and every post about how a boyfriend does something slightly out of place is met with hordes of posters saying "dump his ass". I can't help wondering what the reaction would be if a boyfriend posted a similar story… These so-called feminists often forget men are human beings and make mistakes (this is also the reason I won't identify myself as a feminist, although I do agree we should have equal rights etc; as my [very much pro-women] boyfriend pointed out, many women don't want equal rights, they want preferential treatment…)

    My guilds have always been female-friendly, even when there were only 2-3 girls in them. I never felt looked down on (even though I'll admit I sucked for a long time), I've always felt at home, and when I left the guilds it was for non-gender related issues. I guess it comes with the territory when you play with adults? I couldn't imagine someone with a brain calling someone a whore simply because she was born with female genitalia. If someone acts like that, he falls in the special category of "irrecoverable dickhead" for me and thus doesn't exist anymore in my world. I almost want to run into someone like that, I like arguing…

    As for the "girly" behaviors, though I do think they're more prevalent among females, they're not restricted to them. I can spend half an hour choosing the proper tabard with my co-GM, but I also spent half an hour comparing outfits with a guy last night. (His were more impressive than mine.)

    I'll keep an eye on this post, sounds interesting, and maybe I can write something more coherent later 😀

    • As a self identified feminist I just want to comment on a couple of things, Jen 😉

      I’ve been reading a lot of “feminist” points of view lately and some are… not so nice, let’s say. Wow_ladies is a community I enjoy, but each and every post about how a boyfriend does something slightly out of place is met with hordes of posters saying “dump his ass”. I can’t help wondering what the reaction would be if a boyfriend posted a similar story… These so-called feminists often forget men are human beings and make mistakes

      Well, hearing a community's advice woman's side of a potentially abusive relationship is only part of the story. Some people think of themselves as empowered, but naturally veer away from 'feminine' things as being too girly. Think of all the female bloodelf hate, simply because the characters are pretty. In it's own way that is just as sexist as the man who expects all women to roll female blood elfs or healers. Many of the feminists I know in that community would be the first to growl at someone tarring all men with the same brush, but I reckon a lot of people in the livejournal community are very sensitive to signals of what they see as abusive behaviour. wl, like any community, has some sensible people and it also has some people sit there and be happy to slut shame, start faction wank, or call all men dickheads.

      • I'm glad there's still women in wl who think 🙂 I guess most of them avoid the flame wars once they get going…

        I honestly feel sorry for some of the women in there. Their replies (and sometimes stories) point to abuse, so it's somewhat understandable they tend to see it everywhere. But I do like playing devil's advocate, so I'll always express my perfectly-happy-never-abused girl point of view.

        [P.S. You're right, belf hate is just as sexist and frankly silly. I feel safe enough in my femininity to play a pretty female healer character and love it to bits without feeling any shame.]

    • Something like your experience prompted this post. There was once a time where I felt, I don't know, gratified that they were female bloggers out there because the community was very female scarce. However, those same said females were providing the same kind of posts as their male counterparts: class information, dungeon information, etc. However, not only has the gender tide shifted in WoW, but the blogging community has as well, and now their seems to be more "female perspective" type blogs, and I wonder: is that necessary? Am I missing something without a female specific gender? I'm not really in the habit of checking the sex of my authors!

      • Right, okay. I may have gotten the wrong end of the twig from your post.

        I feel that we still need 'female voices' for other female gamers. We're (collective women) still learning that being a female gamer is a normal thing, that theorycrafting and hardcore gaming is just fine for women too. The 'female perspective' is now the norm for some, but not for all.

        I don't think the female perspective necessarily adds something to the 'great debate about boomkin haste' or anything like that, if that's what you mean.

        • If it makes you feel better, I wanted to have this post up a while back, but was so unsure of the discussion it would spawn, I held off until I had enough time to post responses, because I would sure the conversation would flail all over the map of gender issues, not just those I chose to look at 🙂

          I guess I question the validity of collectivism in validating our role in any environment. It many ways it feels like a crutch that isn't needed, yet is touted as "necessary" for the health of female gamers. Since when? Would you feel less secure as a female gamer if there wasn't a collective grouping of females standing around the campfire validating your female-ness as O.K.

          • I don't know about necessary, but having female gamers around is nice. However, for me it doesn't have anything to do with the game, if that makes sense. I didn't have a close female friend in WoW for the longest time. My closest friends were my boyfriend (obviously) and a couple of guys in the guild.

            About a year or so ago, me and a (then) new guildie just clicked and we've become very good friends since then – we've visited IRL and we've made our own 10-man guild a month ago. I love being able to play with her, but it's not necessarily gaming-related; I simply enjoy her company and, in addition to gaming (which I could discuss with anyone), we can also talk about 'girly' topics like relationships and children and clothes. My boyfriend appreciates the friendship too, because it means I can yap around with her about alts and shoes instead of bugging him 😀

          • Well honestly put? Now? It wouldn't bother me because I am amongst men and women who accept me as ME and a player. And yes, I think that validation that you are not alone (or at the very least a realisation that one is not a special snowflake for being a female gamer) and that other human beings share your experience is a good thing for female gamers.

  4. I think men aren't encouraged to talk about their experiences, because their experience is the default one.

    If people talk gaming experiences, people generally talk about gaming experiences of men – unless they specify otherwise. The same with blogs and other writings – the majority of people default to the assumption that a certain writer's male, unless they have reason to think otherwise. It would be interesting to know how many of your readers initially assumed you're male, windsoar, despite the fact that your name's in the footer of the page.

    Heck, that effect's everywhere. Take medicine – the standard patient is a white male – and women/other ethniticities are usually defined/compared by how they deviate from that standard.

    So male experiences are rarely talked about because they're the default (unless it's in female centric areas like working in childcare) and female experiences are talked about in how they differ from the standard one.

    An interesting question is left: Who got the rougher end of the deal? 😄

    @Jen
    "Wow_ladies is a community I enjoy, but each and every post about how a boyfriend does something slightly out of place is met with hordes of posters saying “dump his ass”."

    Yep, all male communities often enough do the same, although it seems to have an uncomfortable ammount of "smack that bitch" in addition to "dump her ass". It always depends on the kind of people that does the talking and in single-gender communities you very quickly run into us-vs-them thinking, with the girl-/boyfriend deeply in the them category. Human nature, I guess.

    You know, maybe that's where all that gender stuff actually comes from. It DOES provide a neat divide of my group vs. that other group and you rarely can skirt classification in one or another.

    • I think that's why I feel that gender is more a social construct than a biological one despite the inherent biological architecture of male and female. The English language, unfortunately, is not as versatile in pronoun use as many other cultures in identifying male or female speakers: however, I wonder is it necessary to be identified and categorized as male or female?

      • Depends.

        People tend to assign genders to neigh everything, to toys, cars, books, careers, skills and yes, hobbies. In my native language the sun's female and the moon's male, for example. People are used to think in genders even unrelated to people themselves, and so the default's not "I don't know the gender of writer X", but "I assume writer X's male" unless it's about a topic associated with feminity.

        Few months ago I saw a case where a wellknown (not in WoW circles, though) blogger "outed" herself as female despite people commonly having assumend her to be male due her choice of topics and writing style – and until then she did nothing to discourage that assumption. There was a giantic outcry because of a quite alot people felt as if the blogger willfully misled them and/or lied by omission by not discerning her gender. It even made a newspaper headline.

        Gender IS important to people – I don't like being mistaken for a man, for example. It irks me.

        • The only way I have to determine the gender of a party is by their representation of themselves written or pictorial. I've made countless "blunders" over time because I seem people are what they say/show me unless they tell me otherwise.

          If you have a male portrait for your avatar, you're male until you tell me otherwise, if female the same. What I don't understand is the sense of "betrayal" people feel when they discover their assumptions are wrong. I've very rarely found a gender reversal to affect how I feel about someone that adversely (perhaps if we were in the middle of discussing a sexual relationship, but I've never had that experience).

  5. While my blog has an obviously female-oriented title – I have to admit it's not so much about females in games (while I do like to bring up some points) as it's just a crack at that much repeated statement "girls don't play wow" – since it's so obviously not true.

    There are so many girls that play WoW. Maybe originally there weren't – I don't know – but now, there's a lot. And I think it's great. The only reason I can figure out for people still sticking to their conviction that girls don't play wow is that percentage wise I suspect there's still a lot less of us than guys.

    I don't think male and female gamers should be treated differently. I don't think gender should make a difference – inside and outside of WoW. Equal rights and all that.. For the most part this isn't a problem – most of the time people don't really "care" that you're a girl when/if they find out. But the odd time now and then, people seem to not listen to your opinion as much as player no2 – even if you said exactly the same thing. Or people make assumptions based on your gender (this however can be the same for male gamers – I think we make assumptions about them too).

    I just don't believe in stereotypes. I think everyone should be treated the same – male and female. If you're a bad player – it should be okay for people to give you hints on how to improve (I don't believe in telling someone they're crap, male or female) without you feeling "omg they're only saying that cause I'm a girl". I think maybe we're more hmm.. touchy? Sometimes at least.

    About blood elves, since someone mentioned them.. I will probably be one if I roll horde. (Though I kind of have this urge to have 1 of every race.. but that's beside the point.) My one thing about blood elves – which has nothing to do with them being pretty – is just that I kind of snigger when I see them fighting since they look like they'll break if you poke them. (Then again, I suspect so would undead.)

    • I would guess that there is still a higher male to female ratio, although no where near the 84/16 that there was in 2005.

      I've had issues where gender was a cause problem, and while I wasn't blogging then, I imagine that they would have been very relevant topics of discussion. However, I do feel such discussions should happen with tact and grace. Just because someone is an ass to you, doesn't automatically entail you getting a free ticket on the asshat train (yes, I learned that in Kindergarten…. with some kind of nice language).

      And since we're talking races, dammit, I think the Horde races are pretty too, even before the introduction of the blood elf 😛 They're built in epic proportions, have some nice faces (I loved my troll tusks) and where else can you be blue? I think the introduction of the goblins will be good for the Horde though, so that they get a "silly" race as well.

      • I'm a walking stereotype in that regard. I refuse to play "not pretty" races (orc, troll, dwarf), I don't and probably won't have a level 80 of an "ok" race (tauren, undead) and I always play female characters. I like seeing a pretty body and face when I play and I don't care if that makes me a… a whatever it makes me, I'm not sure 😛

        I envy your choices though – I'd like to play some of the other races too, just to experience the whole game, but after I deleted a troll at level 6 because I couldn't bear looking at her… I doubt it's gonna happen.

        • Lawl. If it makes you feel better, plenty of men-folk play the pretty races too 😛

          • I know, most guys I've asked said they play girls for the same reason: they want to see something pretty on their screens.

            (Oh, and because I've seen that some girls prefer "tougher" races because they look more powerful: for me, the idea of this tiny elf or skinny space goat kicking ass is more empowering than an orc wielding a 2h axe :D)

      • Oh yeah, I agree that while issues can be brought up – of course it doesn't give anyone the right to act as an asshat. But I'm a strong believer in manners and being polite (to the extent possible) at all times.

        About races, yes I agree on the horde races. I have one face of undead females that I absolutely LOVE. There's some nice looking orcs as well and trolls. And my tauren is just adorable!

        I find female trolls to have one of the coolest dances tbh. In vanilla when I was horde I always considered the female trolls to be the beauty queens of the horde with their slender bodies and long legs. While I was a bony undead 😛 (a male one at that!)

  6. I'm a strong believer that the majority of gender is socially constructed (despite what my gender studies lecturers may say). As such things like gender roles seem at best meaningless and at worst extremely harmful. With things like the 'male vs female gamer' discussions it becomes a little trickier because I do feel there are some issues that need to be discussed, but I also very much agree with this post that in a gaming context it probably creeps into a lot of areas it shouldn't. Its a bit like the gender mainstreaming debate in the development sector: By making sure everyone is gender-conscious, everyone is forced to have a generic gender policy and thus gender stops *being* a policy concern when it should be.

    IMO, gender issues in-game should not be completely ignored, but some sense should be used in their applications. There are very important issues of female gamers getting a lot of crap, so in terms of discrimination, representation and general respect, these things do bear constant repeating. However, the recurring discussions about male/female game avatars, how this gender has this advantage/disadvantage etc, do wear very thin and just contribute to a mental divide that shouldn't exist in the first place. Of course gender should be discussed if there's a problem with the way someone is treated or feels, but anything that is superfluous to that just contributes to a "us" and "them" culture which is, quite frankly, bollocks.

    On the issue of women having to discuss their gender whilst for men it doesn't really come up, to me this is indicative of two things. First the aforementioned issue that female gamers continue to get a lot of crap. But it also serves to highlight an imbalance of power. In a sense, men are portrayed with no gender, as if they are a norm, they never discuss gender because nothing requires them to. Women however are 'gendered', because they have to speak up, raise their issues, defend their right to not be treated as an alien species. Its almost like they're constructed as being an 'other' simply by arguing that they are no different. Bit of a pickle.

    Ok this is turning into a bit of a ramble, might have to think about it more. But excellent post, very inspiring! 😀

    And seconding Pewter's point about heteronormativity!

    • Rambles are welcome! Of course, some groups would argue that gender should be discussed in multiple contexts in every setting, because everywhere there are people, there should be gender discussion. To, gender discussion is a tool, and an interesting one at that, but one that overused becomes dull and slightly tacky.

      In one sense, I can understand that men perhaps do feel gender-neutral; however, surely there has been a case of inappropriate behavior between a male and female that would benefit from a little ray of sunshine and some discussion. I just can't help feeling men don't have this forum that is expected and held open specifically for women.

  7. Saga said : "But the odd time now and then, people seem to not listen to your opinion as much as player no2 – even if you said exactly the same thing."

    This happens to me all the time in my guild. The really big problem was while I was an officer. It was a nightmare. I'm no more an officier.

    • Agree! This is subconscious sexism because the guys (and sometimes gals!) don't even realize that they are perceiving the same information presented in the same manner differently based on whether the person presenting the information or opinion is male or female.

  8. *round of applause* I agree with you, whilst not entirely, but mostly. I get annoyed by sexism, when I see people in guild chat/raid chat/trade chat, etc. discussing women as objects. How they "hit that" or whatever, you know the sort. That really bothers me. I don't find "get back to the kitchen" a very humorous joke at all.

    However, men are subject to sexism as well. How many times have you seen men being knocked down as the "living in mummy's basement never getting laid" stereotype? There's sexism towards the guys as well.

    In fact, I was in a Rugby club bar with my ex, my dad, my dad's gf, and her daughter a few years ago. Both the gf, her daughter, and my ex were wearing hats. One of the staff came over to ask my ex to take his hat off to which he replied "why don't they have to take their hats off?" and the staff member replied "because they're women, we can't" wait, what? How is that fair? It happens to both genders, except people don't really mention when it happens to the guys, for some reason.

    And yes, I do think some people take it too far – the sexism thing, and by that, I mean in judging what is and isn't sexist. i.e. taking a male raider over a female raider to a progression raid, maybe it was just the raider's turn to get some play time, maybe they needed to see how he played, maybe the female raider just isn't as good.

    Great post!

  9. Ambiguous gender, both morphologically and genetically, is much more common than most people want to believe. It is estimated that around 1 in 2000 people are born visibly intersex. I know that for the majority of us, male and female play an important part in our lives, but I think it's very important to remember that we aren't all one or the other. If you have ever felt discriminated against because you share a gender with roughly half the people on earth, imagine what it is like to have a gender that is taboo to even mention.

    I mention this not only because I think we all need to be more sensitive towards our intersex friends, but also because a lot of the ideas people have about certain aspects of your personality or perspective being formed by whether they are male or female. We know, however, that there is a third option (and a fourth, and fifth genetically speaking, many more when other factors are considered). Even if you can convince yourself that men and women have fundamental differences in how they think about the world, you can't count on the fact that what you think is a "man" or a "woman" is the same sort of thing as the general category of "man" or "woman" that you want to slot them into.

    A couple posts above made comments about heteronormativity, I just wanted to point out that accepting that gender is more than two-faceted isn't a plot by the feminists or some bizarre ivory-tower inspired culture theory. It is an on-the-ground fact of life.

  10. I wouldn't care that much if you turned out to be a man. Only thing that would change for me would be when I read your posts instead of hearing a women's voice in my head whist reading it would be a man's.

    Out in the real world, Im oblivious to Gender roles. All of my friends happen to be girls and most of my friends in game are guys. Not because I rather gaming with guys better then girls its because I only know 4 or 5 girls that game on my server.

    Great post on a controversal topic, I can't help but wonder if this was just something you chose to pick up and write about or if something happened to inspire you?

    -Anslym

  11. @Pewter–I guess the problem I am having with the "competitive" guild discussion is 1) it's happening to "some other person," 2) There is no basis given for how females are treated as opposed to their male counterparts.

    In my experience all members of competitive guilds get a rather lot of "hate" from members of the community, and the guild itself is often seen as a high-stress environment due to demands of "performing" at high levels over a long period of time. Calling someone a name, however inappropriate, does not in itself make me a label all high-end guild environments as sexist, and therefore, limiting the opportunities of women to take part of and enjoy the activity. Are they not getting slotted? Obviously they are, or their wouldn't be this issue of name-calling.

    @Nefernet: I would have major problems with people who dismissed me due to gender, and you could bet I'd be waving my flag of indignity too!

    @Jaedia: Ah, those old stand-bys of proper behavior that crop up in the oddest of places. I don't think I've been actively involved in trade/general chat for years now, so I tend to be rather insulated from people who like to troll at random.

    @Sthenno: It's not often that people discuss intersex gendering, and I didn't even leave a gap in my discussion defaulting to the binary male-female system.

    @Anslym: Thanks for the support, I'm feeling rather tapped out by my lack of current day exposure to cultural ideas on the topic 😛 I just know what my opinion is–I never said it was an educated one! I tried to gloss what sparked the post as much as possible because it would seem trite and rude, and I would rather not share what the observation was on a public forum ^^

  12. Anit-male sexism? How about this:

    There were 2 semi- positive male role models on network TV during the 80's Dan (Roseanne's hubby) and Cliff Huxtable.

    The femals representations weren't much better (mostly good looking, hovering, know-it-alls)

    I used to have a pretty much "tabula rasa" (blank slate) attitude towards gender. After living in the real world for a couple years (I'm 40), I have noticed overall, that men and women ARE different. (yes, there are folks who cross over) This ranges from your very conservative "wife at home" types, to the very liberated folks with the wife working and a "house husband" types. The differences aren't huge, but they are there, and they are fairly consistent. (basically, what those gender studies classes that someone above chooses to ignore, say)

    And you know what? That's a good thing. I like the idea of "gender blind" society(where gender doesn't matter to your value), as a society, but the thought of a "gender-free" society (where we all think and act alike) is scary.

    It doesn't mean anyone is better than anyone else, just different.

    On the WoW subject, my PoV is very skewed; roughly half the people I know & play with are women (it may be 55:45 femal:male in my circle of aquaintances). And ya know what? I see female assholes and male assholes. I see good male players and good female players.

    All that being said, I don't think men "need an outlet" or somesuch thing. My personal belief is that the less that is made of "the big differences" (mainly race and gender) the better off. I am probably being naive, but I prefer to believe that parochialism/narrowmindedness is taught at LEAST as much as race/gender bias.

    Anyhow, nice thought provoking write-up.

  13. You've gotten some great comments already, bringing up tons of different points, so there's not a whole lot for me to add.

    But since I write fairly often about gender issues and gaming, I do want to say one thing. I write about the topic because it's fun for me to write about. The posts just write themselves, the discussion that follows is thought provoking and enriching and I end the day feeling like I've learned something. I write about gender (and other social) topics for the same reason car enthusiasts write about cars and theorycrafters write about theorycrafting.

    There's no *need* for me to write about gender stuff or talk about WoW from a female perspective, but it's fun and so I do it.

    As for men writing about gender stuff, I think that, in general, men just aren't as interested in social interactions as women are. Of course there are a lot of exceptions, especially among bloggers, but really, how often do guys sit and talk between themselves about their feelings and other people's feelings just for fun?

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  15. Whilst there may be some statistical differences between the ways that men and women approach different topics, it seems to me that we need to be careful to avoid over-playing those. To choose a simple example, women may be on average shorter than men, but it doesn't follow from that that all women are shorter than all men.

    Ultimately, the differences between the sexes are small compared to the level of variation within each individual gender group. Even if it were true that "all women think X and all men think Y", that wouldn't affect the truth. The validity of an argument should be determined by its logic and supporting evidence, not the character of the person making it.

    In other words, I don't really care if the someone is male or female, I care about whether what they say is sensible or not.

  16. I know there is a bunch of wow playing rogues around on these blogs so I have a quick question, do you find guys tend to feel you as more male being a rogue? I do, but then I encourage it you see so just wondering about you guys.

    Personally I just call people what i see as their character. If they are on a female character i will refer to them as female, if they are on a male character then male. It's one of the least offensive methods of assigning gender imo because it's whatever they are playing at the time, if your character is female you can't argue with that 😛 Plus as a female or male character it's whatever they are most likely wanting to be identified as anyway for whatever reasons. Either way, it's much less of a headache not to bother finding out what their real genders are, just go with the flow. If they want to tell you it's otherwise then sure but I don't worry about it.

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