My initial reaction to “Misandry in Video Games” in my Female Gamers article, found here, was somewhat visceral and angry. I’m revisiting the project to do a more appropriate analysis and criticism of it.
The project itself is rather misguided and represents the lack of understanding of the misogyny that is ever-present in the world, especially in the gaming community. If the project had been started under different circumstances or within another context I might be more willing to accept the project, but the project does some things (not necessarily intentionally) that remove any value that this project could have had for me.
While I believe this I do not think that this project should be shut down. 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.
Shall we get started?
The Use of the Word “Misandry”
The first thing I want to tackle is possibly the most glaring problem to people who are in opposition to this project. The use of the word misandry is strong and attempts to evoke emotion about the treatment of men by the gaming industry. The project creators recognize this fact but seem to misunderstand the meaning of the word in its entirety. They even offer a rebuttal to the opposition that has been presented to them saying:
“However, the word does a fantastic job of getting straight to the point and grabbing attention, which after all is the point of a title. Rest assured, misandry is a very limited term compared to the breadth that we intend to pursue!”
While I argue that semantics is extremely important I usually avoid conversation about semantics because often time people (including myself) become upset and flustered when the topic of semantics comes up. (I once had an hour and a half long debate with a friend about the usage of the word hopefully.) But I think it’s particularly apt here and that it’s extremely important to understand and recognize the meaning of the term. The Oxford English Dictionary defines misandry as: “The hatred of males; hatred of men as a sex.”
In their explanation of the video series they clearly outline what they are trying to do:
“This video project will attempt to shed some light on the tremendous lack of variety in the mainstream character design, and how detrimental this becomes to a blossoming society that is growing accustomed to video games as a very real part of the lives.”
The use of misandry seems to be an attempt to be an eye catcher, to spark emotion and controversy, and to draw in a particular audience. They claim that misandry is a “very limited term compared to the breadth that we intend to review.” while also claiming that they want to “…shed some light on the tremendous lack of variety in mainstream character design…” They seem less focused on the actual misandry part of male tropes and more on the “lack of variety” in character design.
This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the implications of the use of the word misandry. In using the word they are riding the wave of men whoe believe that there is hatred against men in the industry while simultaneously defining the project as something else. In all my years as an undergraduate a title was supposed to be an eye catcher that helped people understand the project or paper as a whole, not something that attempts to bring a topic to the table them ignore it. If they want to talk about misandry than they should actively explain its role in the project, not just throw it out as a term that could get them more hits and more funding.
This bring me to my second point:
Promotion of Misogyny in Gaming Culture
The video series, in attempting to be academic and intellectual, is providing male gamers who hold misogynistic views of women with more argumentation for why women don’t have the right to be feminist about the industry or, in more extreme cases, have a say at all. It provides argument, flawed argument but arguments nonetheless, for men who are staunchly against video series like Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.
The argument being made attempts to show that men are subject to the same sort of social pressure that women are in the gaming industry. It is a validation of the mentality that men who are try to silence women in the gaming culture hold. The argument made by many of these men, as I understand it, is “Men are subject to the same sort of social pressure through tropes and unrealistic standards set by video games. Since men are subject to the same things as women and men are not decrying the social pressure, women shouldn’t be talking about it and they should just accept the industry as it is.” However, I would argue that many of these men don’t actually believe that the male tropes used in video games should be changed, they are just looking for a way to argue against the points made by women looking to effect change in the industry.
By providing argumentation that misandry exists in video games it is showing men that they are not wrong in their views, thus reaffirming their misogynist mentalities. It promotes the idea that there is discrimination against men by the industry and that men have just as much of a right to be outraged as women do.
No Credentials, No Website, No Reason to Trust
There are no credentials associated with this project, there is only a single name associated with the project, and there is no website set up. Unfortunately, while they may be intelligent and well-meaning people, there is nothing to assure us that there will be anything actually academic or intellectual about the video.
A search for the sole name associated with the project, the claimed Executive Produce and Project Lead, yields accounts on websites like twitter, formsrping, bandcamp, and a few other websites. In all these websites the only thing the author claims about himself is that “I am an internet person on the internet.” The only other information that can be found is that he lives in Argentina. There is no reference to college*, a website, or anything that demonstrates an ability to be academic. You can sort through his twitter account, which remarks on some of the political events going on world wide, but his tweets demonstrate no ability to actually synthesize and analyze information from an academic stand point.
For all we know the Executive Produce and Project Lead is just a 16 year old kid who dropped out of high school. Nothing shows us that we should trust him or his ability to be academic.
[I have chosen not to include the actual name of the person associated with the project because I do not want to create more hate towards him, as hate only begets more hate. If you are truly interested you can find it on the project’s indiegogo page or in the article’s tags]
Riding the Hatred Aimed at Sarkeesian
This project, in using the word misandry and starting right after the terrible hate that was lobbed towards Anita Sarkeesian, is riding a wave of hatred in order to become successful. They are using the viral nature of the attacks on Sarkeesian to improve the hits to their project and attempting to get funding from those who lobbed said attacks. By releasing the project when they did they guaranteed that they would get extra hits to the website based on searches related to Sarkeesian, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games, and other searches for the debacle that is in the gaming community’s recent collective memory.
For Charity: Promoting False Ideas of Academic Work
The project is attempting to raise $3,300 for the project. The goal is about 2/3rd of the way funded as of writing this article and looks like it may move forward, but the project claims this:
“‘Well’, you may ask, ‘How much money will go to production costs?’ – A well-calculated, yet non-official estimate yields that we’re going to use a whopping total of $0.00 for production/administrative costs. ‘But!’, you say now, ‘That means you’re not spending money at all on the project?’ You’re absolutely right! This is because it doesn’t cost us (and anyone, really) money to produce bona-fide web video episodes.” (emphasis removed)
The project is putting forth an idea that a video series doesn’t cost anything – one of the reasons that Sarkeesian was attacked (she asked for $6,000 to fund her Kickstarter). But in reality they do require funding. Look at Geek and Sundry, YOMYOMF Channel on Youtube, and the quality of videos produced by Feminist Frequency. Sarkeesian asked for the money so that she could afford the resources that were necessary to produce an actual analysis of video games as well to ensure that she had the time to dedicate to the project.
She wanted to give her project the time truly necessary to produce an intellectual series, which is a lot of time. The time spent doing research is time spent not getting a paycheck. While I do admire the idea of producing something academic for free and using it to raise funds for charities (it’s truly a great idea), it promotes the idea that academia doesn’t need money and that there isn’t a cost to produce knowledge: there is.
So there you have it, a further look into the “Misandry in Video Games” project. I still do not support the project myself, but I do not believe that the project should be shut down. If this is truly an attempt to produce an intellectual and academic video series about the tropes of men in video games, then I say they have every right to produce such a series.
If this project does get funding you can count on me to look at the videos as they are released and to bring what I have to the table through genuine critique.
Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist
*Note: I do not believe that college is required for someone to be academic in their endeavors, but am merely listing an example of what could give credence to what they have to say.