Feminism, Games

The Media + What I Mean By “Reinforcement”

I’m not intending this to be a particular in-depth look at it – more an overview of what I mean when I use the term reinforcement in statements such as “I think games can reinforce sexism”, etc. It’s very separate from cause, as I certainly don’t think videogames by themselves can cause sexism, violence, and so on.

Firstly, what do I mean by the term? By reinforce, I mean ‘support and potentially add to pre-existing views of either the viewer or society’. Let’s start with a bit of a silly example, shall we?

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GamerGate – Flaws, False Comparisons and Schisms

There’s a few parts to this piece, so please do skip the bits you’re not so interested in! (Twitter handles blanked out because I don’t want to accidentally set horrid people on others, even if I disagree with them!)

The Flaw: Ends Do Not Justify Means

In my piece on Morality, Games and Papers, Please I’ve discussed a variety of ethical theories. For those who don’t know me – I’m basically a virtue ethicist. I’m not a fan of the restrictive nature of deontology and I have a huge problem with Utilitiarianism (what’s this got to do with GamerGate, you ask? You’ll see!).

The main reason I’m not a fan of Utilitarianism is it’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking the ends justify the means – that having a great consequence that’ll bring happiness to lots of people is worth the potential unhappiness of a few. After all, it’s about maximising happiness – and if lots of people are satisfied, why does it matter that some aren’t. Yes, this is oversimplified, but it’s a problem.

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On Sommers, Sarkeesian and Shallowness

Written with the aid of Ria Jenkins, who is awesome.


By now, I’m sure you’ll have seen Sommers’ video doing the rounds on whether video games are sexist or not. I’m surprised at the positive response it’s been getting, especially given the reaction to Sarkeesian’s work. You see, if you want to describe Sarkeesian’s work as shallow I’m afraid Sommers is pretty similar.

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Sexiness vs Objectification

Lots of people tend to assume that when I say I want less objectified women, less terrible outfits and better representation in media, that what I’m actually saying is “Sex is bad! Sexuality is bad! Cover it all up!”

That’s…really, really not the case.

Look – sexy people? Can be absolutely great. I love sexy people. I mean, I don’t get the fuss being asexual and all but I see what people call ‘sexy’ and I think yep, that’s person sure is pretty damn fine, aesthetics wise.

But what I like is people being sexy on their own terms. And yes, I know this can be tricky given that characters aren’t “people” as such, but bear with me. I’m going to be using comics for this example, because I like them and pictures are easy to find.

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You Can’t Build Inclusion on Exclusionary Language

Before I start, let me get some things straight: I’m a queer feminist. I think society is pretty damn sexist, and that video gaming is one area where it’s particularly obvious. I think the treatment of Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian and a bunch of other people these last few weeks is despicable. I think being angry and defensive when you’re being harassed for your gender or for how much sex you’ve had is a totally valid thing to be.

But I’m so sick and tired of how some people I otherwise respect and agree with keep responding to those who disagree with them.

This isn’t tone policing, this is asking you to stop using words and concepts that exclude people.

You can’t build an inclusive, friendly place on exclusionary, insulting language.

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Feminism and the Use of ‘Virgin’ as an Insult

These past few weeks have been rather unpleasant, as far as geek culture goes. I won’t recap in depth, but let’s just highlight the fact that Anita Sarkeesian was driven out of her house, Zoe Quinn has recieved constant harassment and tons of other women in the games industry have generally been made to feel unsafe.

Unfortunately, some of the responses to this harassment haven’t been great. There’s a trend by many who defend feminism to respond with insults – and I won’t comment on whether I think this is good or not, as that’s not what this is about. I agree that we should be angry – angry about the harassment that women experience in video games, angry at the lack of representation. I’m on Anita’s side, Zoe’s side – the side of all the women in video games who’ve been treated despicably.

But there’s one ‘insult’ people use in anger in particular that I really, really disagree with the use of.

‘Virgin’ is not a bad thing, and should not be used as an insult.

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