Response to Criticisms of “Misandry in Video Games”

Rumirumirumirumi made some very poignant critiques about my recent article, Analysis of “Misandry in Video Games”.  I would like to take the time to address his critiques and acknowledge some of the problems that were in my article.  I’m going to be responding slightly out of the order that Rumi presents his arguments, but only for the sake of flow and clarity.

The use of the word “misogyny” is using the same sort of eye-catching you decried, so that we’ve extended the word misogyny to include “sexism against women”. This isn’t problematic in itself, but when you try to oppose the same understanding of how sexism is the result of hostility against a sex when applied to men, it raises questions that the idea of false equivalency doesn’t satisfy. I don’t see a problem extending misandry the same way we have extended misogyny, such that Sarkeesian’s project is looking strictly at sexism but has been extended by her and others to classify as a look at misogyny.

I agree with this statement.  The use of misogyny can definitely get out of hand.  However, I do not believe that I misused misogyny when I did use it, and I attempt to keep myself from using the word in an inappropriate way.  People who say misogyny when they mean sexism should be called out on their misappropriation of terms.  We have the word misogyny for a reason and the word sexism for a reason, and they mean two very different things.  They need to be kept separate.  As for my personal usage of the term, I only use the term to refer to the misogynistic behavior and the misogynistic mentality that some men in the gaming culture hold.  I never claim that video games in themselves are misogynistic or that the gaming industry is misogynistic (because I don’t believe they are), but that the games that they produce can lend themselves to promoting the misogynistic behavior and mentality that is uncomfortably pervasive in gaming culture and the gaming community.

The project operators don’t claim that the representation of men are not problematic, or that nothing should be done about it. I have seen some people make this claim, but they don’t represent the project directors and producers, and they are obviously an absurd contingent. How would it make sense to catalog the ways in which men are poorly and unfair portrayed in video games and subsequently declare that there is nothing problematic about it? Just because the videos might be misappropriated doesn’t discount their argument. There is just as much potential misunderstanding in Sarkeesian, whose videos are used as apologies for draconian policies that have little to do with her thesis. That does not discredit the videos in and of themselves.

I would agree (although I fail to see how her videos are apologies for draconian policies), but I never associate such claims with the project’s creators.  I give ground early in the article about their intentions saying that – “If it is truly an attempt to be academic and intellectual about the tropes of men in video games then it should be seen and heard, if only for the sake of continuing the conversation to more fully understand the issues at hand.”  My argument about men who decry the misrepresentation of men in video games does not apply to the creators, and I never meant it to be applied to them.  I was generally describing the men who would most likely attempt to misapply the findings of this video series.

The lack of credentials you point out might be important to someone considering supporting the project, but taking it beyond that is strictly ad hominem. Whether or not we can trust them based on their experience or scholarly accreditation should influence how much money we’d personally give them, but not whether their ideas are valid.

Agreed.  I never state that the ideas of the project’s creators are invalidated by their lack of credentials.  I can see how this section (No Credential, No Website, No Reason to Trust) could be misread as me saying that the ideas are not worth anything.  However I was merely pointing out that there was no reason to trust that what they produce will be an academic or scholarly video series.  If they prove me wrong then more power to them, they have created a powerful video series that can be used to more fully understand the complex representation and misrepresentation of gender in a very new form of media.  However, you are right – the only thing this should affect is whether you want to back this project or not.

The director made a statement that their project is not a critique of Sarkeesian. If you want to accuse them of lying, that’s one thing. But it’s just as likely they’re riding the support and interest in Sarkeesian’s project as much as the hatred and harassment pointed at her.

I never claimed that they were producing a critique of Sarkeesian, nor do I accuse them of lying, at any point.  You make a good point that they may be riding on the support and interest of Sarkeesian’s project just as much as the hatred and harassment.  However, my point was that they were abusing a certain circumstance to put forth a point of view that could easily be misconstrued and misapplied to further the misogynistic mentality of men in the gaming community.  They were using the abuse lobbed at Sarkeesian (and possibly the support) to generate more website hits.  For me this raises red flags.

As well, I never claim intention on the part of the creators.  I should probably have made that clearer (and it may have seem implied that I claimed intention on the part of the creators).  An analogy – You have a surfer who is looking for the new, next big wave to surf on.  When surfing he never knows when a large wave will hit, but when a large wave comes he rides it.   However, if his friends text him and tell him that the waves are huge during that day he knows that there are big waves to be surfed upon.  He can choose to ride that day, or he can choose not to.  But if he rides that day, and his friends have told him that the waves are huge, he cannot be surprised when he rides a huge wave.

The creators brought this project to the table at a specific time, and if they were watching the internet at all, they knew that this was out there.  They may not have directly intended to ride the hatred (and possibly the support) of Sarkeesian, but they can’t act surprised when that wave comes towards them (because they should have known the climate of the video game community at the time).  By creating the project during the climate that was existent at that time they should have recognized the possibility, and high probability, that they would ride said wave.  Thus I believe that they can be held accountable for their actions in riding the wave of hatred towards Sarkeesian.  (I’m really hoping the surfer example makes things clearer, not muddier)

It’s possible for certain varieties of men and male behaviour to be mistreated within the patriarchy because the dominance of men over women is predicated on a particular kind of male and particular behaviours. This is a powerful argument in favour of examining and dismantling patriarch. An examination of hypermasculine representations is in support of, rather than detriment of, a program to investigate tropes more generally, especially alongside a gender critique of female representations. To characterize this look at misandry as a counterargument to examinations of misogyny is to misrepresent the project, and the project page at several different places tries to make this clear.

This Friday (hopefully, as this week has been super busy) I’m going to be addressing this issue.  I’m going to talk about why tackling the problem of misrepresentation of men in video games is an endeavor that, while not detrimental to women, does not actually help women overall in the attempt to achieve equality.  (If it is not up Friday you can expect it sometime next week after the Monday update on my article – The Panoptic Power of Men in Gaming).

All of this does not address my more general criticism of this variety of media studies work when applied to games. It seem neither Sarkeesian or this misandry project will closely attend to the fact that representations in video games constitute a radically different dynamic between creator and audience than representations in film studies, from which this variety of critique is derived. I would be happy to talk to you more widely about this objection, but put simply I object to both of these projects because, as they have been explained (since the series have not been made and distributed), because they look to treat representation in games as if they appeared in film, which will at best provide a superficial understanding of gender in video games.

You bring up a very valid point here.  There is an interesting dynamic that exists between creator and player, vs creator and watcher.  The interactivity aspect of video games cannot be replicated through film (which is why video games are such a unique and amazing form of entertainment and media).  However, I’m curious as to what parts of the video game critique this applies to.  It would seem to me that this worry would only apply to playable characters, not to NPC’s.  There may be reasons that NPC’s could be explained away more easily (such as hardware limitations, software limitations, etc.) but I feel that a critique of NPC’s using the standard critique model might still be quite apt and relevant to the conversation.


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