Listen, I’m really glad that some of you are into the whole gender deconstruction thing. I think it’s great that you don’t want to just oogle the pixeled female bits. Really. But, guys? It’s not so cute when all your ‘deconstruction’ does is reaffirm women’s position as Second Class Geeks.
What am I talking about? Well, you can find examples on it all over the net. You can find one on this blog, addressed to your gaming cousins. For a more recent, and in-depth example, let’s take I Enjoy Playing a Girl from the latest Escapist issue.
Like most of you, Chris Dahlen, the author, has his heart in the right place as far as I can tell. He says things like, “I have to believe any serious gamer would rather roleplay their characters than ogle them,” and, “[f]or all our assurances that men and women have the same talents and potential, treating them exactly the same feels like ducking an issue, rather than leveling a playing field.” I think he hits on what could be a very insightful argument, if you know, he had bothered to flesh it out. The myth of gender equality through equal stats is an issue that deserves attention.
But, apparently in this male-normative society, that’s too much to ask from your average geek male writing on women’s issues. Wait, wait, wait. What’s male-normative? Basically where men are the default and women are the Other (sort of what Dahlen’s entire premise is for his article). Well, let’s just take a look at Dahlen’s language for an example, shall we?
He gives his potential male characters a wide variety of personalities: “Am I the noble hero?” he asks himself, “A backstabbing thief? An insecure wisecracker?… [A]n alpha male…?” So, what does he say of his female characters? “[P]laying a girl puts me in far more neutral territory.” As the default for human, the man gets to choose from a range of archetypes that come easily to Dahlen’s mind. The woman, as Other, doesn’t get to do any of that “normal” stuff; she gets to be “neutral territory.” I’d also like to point out that it falls into mandatory gender roles: the active male versus the passive (neutral) female.
His language is your language, guys. Your gut reaction, I’m sure, is to step up and say, “No, I’m not like that!” Maybe you’re not. Maybe you are. But, ask yourself, do you hear it when other people do it? Can you find other examples of it in his article? If I hadn’t pointed it out, would you have even thought twice about what he said?
Another thing to chew on: when you’re like “omfg geek girls rawk plz introduce for a date” it’s not endearing. In fact, it is another way you reduce us to the status of Second Class Geek. I can hear it now, “Why can’t you just take a compliment?!” Or, “Jeez, don’t be so sensitive. I would kill to get that kind of attention.” I’m sure you would. And I’m sure to you it would be as flattering as you mean your comments to be. But, just sit back and think on why that is. Here’s a hint: Your personal agency in geekdom is never questioned, but ours is always qualified by hypothetical male attraction/attachment.
Let’s see this at work, shall we? Again, I’m going to pick on Dahlen. He says [emphasis mine]:
Geek guys don’t look up to the high school quarterbacks that smacked us in the locker room; we’re more impressed by the complicated but confident geek girls, who actually talked to us in the library and always seemed more sure of themselves than the rest of school, no matter who teased them. And now they can slay giants. Who wouldn’t want to be one of them?
Now, the whole “sexy (geek) girls who kick ass” thing he invokes has its own problems. Ignoring that, however, let me just say something…
Geeks For You!
Is that clear enough? Is it? I really hope so, because I am going to pull out my Sword of Smiting with a +5 modifier against Privileged Asshats on the next geeky man who thinks geeky women are good because he might get a date. If I sound hostile, try having your geek status always put second to that of your sex/gender for a few years and see how happy you are.
I am sick of my status as Second Class Geek. I am sick of beeing seen as the hawt girl geek. I’m not a geek for the dating pool. And, you know what? Treating me as if I am? So not helping your case. We female geeks are geeks because we have geeky interests. Period. You would do well to remember that next time you want to open your big mouth and reduce us to T&A.
(Hat Tip: New Game Plus)