The reason why #1ReasonWhy shouldn’t exist
I’m pressed for time to write this post due to a number of RL issues, but I’m pretty fired up so I’ll see how many words come out. I encountered this #1ReasonWhy thing last night in a Gamasutra article. #1ReasonWhy is a Twitter hashtag being used by women who work in the video games industry to state 1 reason why “they don’t feel comfortable in the game industry.” I’m not mad at the campaign itself; I’m mad that it needs to exist.
I’ve never worked in the video games industry, but I have worked in IT, both in corporate and in academic settings. So I can say based on firsthand experiences that for women, it’s not a picnic. I could share stories about what I experienced in those past lives, but I don’t even need to go back that far. Even now, I teach technology courses to library and information science students. Most of them are women, and most of them don’t feel comfortable with technology. But when I share teaching stories with my male colleagues who teach the same classes, I learn that they don’t have the same challenges I’ve had with students challenging grades and so on. I’ve known for years that as a young (or at least a young-looking) female teaching classes that are typically taught by a member of the boys’ club, I’m at a disadvantage. I know I have to work twice as hard to hold my ground with the students so they will give me half as much respect as they give the men. Why is this the case?
This overcompensation phenomenon is not just based on my past as an IT professional or as an IT instructor. It happens in the gaming realm too; unfortunately, it seems to come off as militant feminism. Due to my time issues, I can’t find links to them, but I’ve seen so many things online where women are working so hard to hold their place in the gaming world as players. But generally, the message is driven into viewers’ heads: we’re here to play, not to fuck you. (I’ve said this before: what if men worked hard to communicate this same message? Everyone would think they were crazy!) I think girl gamers take overcompensation to an extreme, but maybe not. Take a look at Fat, Ugly or Slutty or my recent post about when I was “raped” in World of Warcraft and make your own call on this.
Some men have been pretty shitty to me over the years. I’ve been raped. I’ve been in abusive situations. I’ve been treated by male IT colleagues like I don’t even know how to turn on a computer. While this doesn’t make it hurt any less, I know that these awful behaviors are based on their own insecurities and weaknesses. But why should us women have to work so damn hard to prove ourselves to be above their weaknesses and their lack of e-peen?
That is my point today. Women shouldn’t HAVE TO do any of this: the tweets about why women feel uncomfortable in the games industry, the working twice as hard for half the credit, the pleading with assholes to not “rape” their battleground team members (read the post). My political leanings aside, I’ve always had an issue with affirmative action because I believe that people should be given opportunities and rewards based on what they do, not based on their gender or race. I don’t want special treatment just because I’m a woman, only the same treatment.
Feminism, to me, means that women should have the same chances and opportunities that men have to do what they want to do. For some women, that might mean having kids and staying home. For me, it means pursuing a career in information science and playing video games. Both sets of goals are fabulous, and neither one is less valuable. But don’t trash me because I’m in what’s generally considered a boys’ domain, just like I don’t trash women who have no interest in this stuff. The more “traditional” women do work that is less valued in the world, but the work I do is also maybe not something women are supposed to do. So if poppin’ out kids and raising them isn’t valued, and women are undervalued if we go out in the larger world, what are we to do?
Dr. Marcia J. Bates received the Award of Merit from the American Society for Information Science and Technology (my primary professional organization) in 2005. This is the highest honor that you can receive from the Society. Her acceptance speech made me cry when I heard her deliver it, and I still get chills about it when I read it. You can read it yourself, but I want to highlight the end of her speech:
Finally, when it comes down to it, there’s a big difference between going through life with the wind at your back, and going through life leaning into the wind. I retired at 61 not because I really wanted to, but because I was worn out.
Fair treatment of women can happen only when we ALL self-consciously ask ourselves what we are doing every time we apportion work and rewards to men and women. Fair treatment does not happen without a self-conscious effort to change.
That’s why THIS recognition, the Award of Merit, is so very important to me, and I value it so highly. After all, I’m only the 8th woman to have received this honor, in the 40-plus years it has been awarded. Thank you.
I have felt for many years that I’ve been living my life “leaning into the wind,” but only when I have to deal with people who don’t understand. When I started playing video games at age 6, I didn’t know that it was supposed to be wrong. I played with my dad, and with a male friend who lived in my neighborhood. I had no female friends. I didn’t know this was supposed to be a problem until I was a teenager – when I started to see boys as more than people to hang out with – and even then it wasn’t a problem because boys actually liked the fact that I could talk about things they enjoyed as well: games, computers, whatever. This holds true today; just ask Fox the gamer. Even when I found my love of information science and started building my career, I didn’t think about the fact that information science is considered to be “library science for boys.” But I could never see myself reading story time to a bunch of kids in the children’s section. That’s a wonderful thing to do, it’s just not me.
We all should have the chance to be who we are. Unfortunately, people who don’t know this get in the way. Prejudices against people who don’t fit whatever mold is floating around in their heads is due to their own closed mind. But those of us who are just out there enjoying what we love shouldn’t have to be the ones doing the work needed to open their minds. It rarely seems to work, anyway.
Until we figure out how to open minds, see you in the battlegrounds, I guess. But beware. My DK is OP.
We are all created equal… until somebody tells us we’re unequal. Don’t let anyone do that to you.
Ding! You’ve leveled up! Please see your local librarian for training.