Analysis of “Misandry in Video Games” – Why This is a Misguided Project

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.

Lastly:

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.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Female Gamers: Doing More for our Community than Any Misogynist Could Ever Hope

[TRIGGER WARNING: Some of these links contain extreme material including references to rape and death threats]

My first post, Cultural Relativity vs. Feminism, made mention of Anita Sarkeesian (known for her blog and YouTube channel Feminist Frequency) and the brutal internet attack that was launched against her in reaction to the series she wants to make (note didn’t actually make yet) called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  The attack was brutal.  She was the victim of threats such as rape and death in addition to people wishing death upon her friends and family.  (I’d like to note that a very good thing happened: she raised over $150,000 for her Kickstarter.  I’m glad that the unyielding support for Sarkeesian showed all the misogynists that they are weak in their attempts to bring down Sarkeesian and her intellectual endeavor)

I, in my first post, noted some of my reaction and was reticent about putting down the full force of my thoughts on the subject not only because I wasn’t sure about what I truly thought anymore, but more that I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of the conversation (and I should note that not taking sides, being in the middle, can be wrong).  However, over the past several days I have come to a full fledged opinion on the topic and it’s this: as a white male I am privileged, and those like me who try to describe the privilege as non-existent or describe not white males as having the same number of privileges are a product of tradition, ritual, and hold an inability to critically reflect upon their own views.  Or, in short, those who targeted Sarkeesian, and other women like her, are wrong.

This opinion wasn’t informed purely by the Sarkeesian incident, but also by some links and articles that I read from various friends and people I follow on Tumblr.  The first thing that really and truly opened my eyes to how pervasive the problem is was Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  This website made my stomach churn.  More importantly, the power that men clearly wield in such instances is overwhelming and panoptic.*  Fat, Ugly, or Slutty truly embodies this panoptic power.  Men attempt to reinforce the power they wield by devaluing women based on their gender.  The build and maintain their own power by silencing women and making them feel like their gender is their identity, not the contents of their character or the skills they have.  The website demonstrates how women are subject to it every day and risk being subject to it by merely participating in the community, even more so if they are good at what they are playing.  Not only that, but the problem is now coming into the mainstream media with BBC doing an article about it which linked Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  [LINK]

Then I read the article I linked the other day called Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, by John Scalzi.  This article was such a great metaphor for what the men who attacked Sarkeesian clearly can’t understand.  The fact that one is male puts them in a position over females.  Even better if you’re a white male.

After this I started going through the comments of Felicia Day’s recent music video Gamer Girl, Country Boy.  I’m quite aware that many people dislike country music (I’m not one of them as my mother listened to nothing but it while I was growing up) and some even despise the genre.  Some people dislike the idea of gaming being joined with something other than gaming, or even just geek culture in general being joined with something like the culture associated with “country boys”.  But rather than judge the music video based on these things many went straight for the jugular and debased Day purely based on the fact that she was a women, many of the comments being similar to those that Sarkeesian faced.  Many also claimed that Day wasn’t a true “gamer” because she was a woman and women can’t be gamers.  It was not an attack on the video or the contents of the video, it was purely an attack on the fact that Day is a woman.

But what has motivated me to write this is not the fact that I now have a fully fledge opinion on the subject, because I think opinions in themselves can be boring.  What really motivates me to write this article is the reaction on Kickstarter to Sarkeesian.  The Kickstarter was called Misandry in Video Games.

I read a bit of the contents when I found the Kickstarter, but couldn’t get through them because the whole idea made me to angry and upset to continue reading.  I have since tried to find the Kickstarter again, but haven’t been able to find it (was it taken down?  If you know the link or know if it was taken down please comment or e-mail me. [The link has been sent to me via comment and can be found either in the comment section or at the bottom of the article.]).

This Kickstarter was set up in an attempt to reinforce the mindset of the men who attacked people like Sarkeesian, Day, and the men who send messages like those on Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  But even more importantly it reinforces the idea that women can continue to be treated by men in this terrible way because men are supposedly subject to the same tropes as women via misandry with all the same ill-effects.

This behavior has to stop and many people are going to oppose to video game community if this behavior continues.  This behavior is going to kill the gaming community and more importantly it perpetuates a culture where women are fearful of even logging into the online community because of the messages they get, and the verbal abuse they receive over chat.  Moms and dads out there who are seeing this side of the video game community are going to start working even harder against the video game community.  This behavior only reinforces the stereotype of video game players as violent and morally unsound.  Video games will be seen as a morally and ethically detrimental to children and teenagers.  If BBC is picking up on it now who knows how long it is until the front page of large newspapers; headline reports of investigative journalism about harassment in the online gaming community.

So guys out there who are cognizant of their privilege, who are aware that women are subject to this kind of thing, who are playing video games when women are verbally abused online, and who recognize that women are people and not just the toys of men need to fight back with women.  We need to make sure that we are reporting the terrible behavior that is present in the online community.  We need to make sure that we are helping women in this struggle against the misogynistic mindset that is so pervasive in the gaming community.

And if you disagree with me and are a part of the gaming community then remember; Felicia Day, Anita Sarkeesian, and the women who you debase in the community have done more for the gaming community than you ever will.  By telling women to make you sandwiches, get back in the kitchen, and threatening them because they threaten the panoptic power that you wield in the community, you only hurt the community and more importantly you are hurting women everywhere by creating another place where women feel unsafe and are afraid to go because of the harassing and threatening messages that you send out.

Your Resident (not really) Anthropologist

Notes:

*Panoptic power is defined by Foucault in Discipline and Punish as power which is inescapable, pervasive everywhere in everyday life, and actively works to change the mindset and view that people hold of themselves, others, and the society that they live within.

EDIT: I had someone on Tumblr ask a question (although there were a few implied) so I’m going to add my response to further clarify the article.

To clarify the power is panoptic within the gaming community (probably should have made that clearer).  If someone wants to actively participate within the community they have to participate in the public space of the community (for gaming that could be commenting on gaming related media, creating gaming related media, or just playing online games).

As for the messages from strangers being panoptic, the messages are a way of reinforcing the role that women are supposed to play in the gaming community (aka, no role at all).  When enough people participate by sending messages to women which are disparaging and devaluing women based on their gender they are attempting to silence women and pushing women to believe that there is no place in the gaming world for them (whether it is successful or not).  There are ways to avoid these messages such as playing only with friends (on or offline), only playing single player games, using a gamertag/PSN ID/username which does not hint at the gender of the person, or playing without a headset (the last two of which would have to be used on conjunction with each other).  But I would argue that when women do these things it merely reinforces the misogynistic view of women in the gaming world and allows men to continue their behavior because women are actively silenced.  Women shouldn’t have participate in gaming covertly.

The re-appropriation of messages can be used as a way to try and shift or remove the power of men in the gaming community, but overwhelmingly they are not.  There is a very pervasive mentality that reporting does nothing (and often times when men are reported for their behavior and find that they have been reported they message the woman who they suspect of reporting them with that very message – that reporting abusive behavior does nothing).

I am actively working on an article that talks about the effect one of these women (Felicia Day) has had on the gaming community and what she is doing for the gaming community.  But in short, without giving too much about my next article away, these women are not only actively participating but helping to shape, create, and change the culture of the gaming community.  By doing what they have, such as Felicia Day making 3 dimensional female characters rather than relying on stereotypes and tropes of women that are pervasive in the gaming community/culture, they are helping to create a more realistic and friendly view of women in the gaming community.

EDIT 2: I have been sent the link to the misandry and video games kickstarter.  It’s here: http://www.indiegogo.com/misandryinvideogames Thanks to NUReviews for the link to the page.  (http://nureviewsnetwork.com/)