The image above was created with a sample of recent post titles, and the comments I found on those posts.
Gawker has 8 different blogs, each with a different focused topic. Kotaku is Gawker’s gaming blog, and it’s little surprise that they also have a bit of a problem when it comes to women. While in recent months the site has semi-frequently posted about the issues that women in gaming face, and the misogyny that’s usually allowed to run freely, their comment moderation shows a serious case of hypocrisy on the part of the editors.
While men are the majority of Kotaku’s writers (they compromise the entire daily editorial team), there are two female contributors who write occasionally for the site. A majority of the comments on the bios of Leigh Alexander and Lisa Foiles comment on their looks, or belittle them for constantly drawing attention to the fact that they’re female. (Interesting side note – neither woman writes the posts that deal with gender issues in gaming – these pieces are almost exclusively written by the all-male editorial team mentioned above.) A comment on one of the women’s bios included a death threat which was visible for months before it was finally removed, and the user banned.
No matter what is written, no matter the topic, the focus always becomes their appearance. On every one of Lisa Foiles’ recent posts, the majority of comments are sexually harassing, threatening, belittling, and just plain cruel.
Kotaku wants to draw attention to women’s issues in gaming and hear our thoughts but provide nothing even slightly resembling a safe space for us to do so. If they are promoting comments that reduce their female staff to their cup size, why the hell would I want to register for an account to contribute to the discussion of “I’m An Anonymous Woman Gamer“?
My guess for the reason behind this completely contradictory attitude is that if they remove comments and ban users who contribute misogynistic comments on a daily basis, their readership will suffer. (Something that I don’t think any Gakwer blog is willing to risk after the redesign.)
Kotaku’s own commenting guidelines claim, “…break the rules, get off topic, start calling names, and you’re going to get banned.” However, with a complete lack of enforcement, the “guidelines” are joke, and utterly worthless.
On Monday, The Supreme Court announced their ruling in the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (representing the video game industry). I was ecstatic. Despite how often I write about the horrid depictions and unnecessary violence against women in video games, I’ve never called for their censorship.
To give a little backstory and context of the Supreme Court case, the law in California was an unprecedented restriction on media. Films are self-governed by the MPAA, not the law, and it works. An employee at your local theater who sells a ticket to an R-rated film to an underaged kid, is not criminally liable. While, the video game industry has an equivalent with the ESRB, the law that Leland Yee proposed would hold cashiers and retailers criminally liable for selling an M-Rated game to a minor. Especially absurd, considering the FTC report released earlier this year, that rated the ESRB as the most successful self-governing body in the entertainment industry. X-Play’s Adam Sessler does a great job of explaining the ramifications of this law being upheld in his most recent episodes of Sessler’s Soapbox, available here and here.
There seems to be frequent confusion in the interpretation of my posts – that by expressing frustration with misogyny in the video game industry, that I have a problem with violence in video games, or I think they should be subjected to censorship. It’s certainly not the case. I find people like Jack Thompson, and Carol Lieberman abhorrent. Using video games as a scapegoat, and making up information as you go along has potential to be incredibly harmful. Leland Yee, is similar to Thompson and Lieberman in his views on video games (he certainly has a history of falsifying statistics), and almost succeeded in setting a federal precedent for restricting the freedom of speech.
I view video games in the same way I view every other form of media – with a critical eye. Writing about Victorias Secret’s stupid ad campaign doesn’t mean I think they shouldn’t be allowed to market their products, and writing about the incredibly sexist attitudes held by the video game industry doesn’t mean I think their games should be banned from sale.
In my first post on Feminist Fatale, I wrote that despite my disgust with imagery and depictions of women in media, I “believe in…having the right to publish.” It’s an opinion that extends to video games. I hope that by writing about video games, consumers will learn to demand better from the creators. The writers, designers, and developers shouldn’t be forced to limit their creations by the government.
It’s garnered a bigger and more hateful response than anything I’ve written previously or since. There would be even more comments on the post if the threats of violence and classic anti-feminist name calling remarks hadn’t been deleted before they ever saw the light of day.
In fact, it garnered enough attention that Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford himself, stopped by the blog to respond. And despite the fact that I called his companys creation “misogynistic crap”, he managed to leave one of the most mature comments of them all.
Rather than respond to every comment individually (not to mention the waste of time it would be – I receive a new comment notification every day that spews the same bullshit) I decided to make a post. Something to sum up my feelings towards the response in a (sort of) brief summary.
So here goes:
Let’s start with the whole “I’m friends with a woman, therefore that makes me an expert on the matter/a feminist scholar/the decider on what constitutes misogyny”. Similar to the argument “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are black” a response such as this just makes you sound like you failed sociology 101. I challenge any commenter who claimed to know more than me about feminism and women’s studies to name a book title of Bell Hooks, quote Gloria Steinem, or even tell me who Kathleen Hanna is, without googling it.
Also – if your defense consists of calling me a: bitch, lesbian, cunt, whiny feminist, or tells me to shut the fuck up, congratulations, you just supported my argument, and failed at making your point by resorting to misogynistic name-calling.
If you think I don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, obviously you don’t read this blog very often. I’ve been a gamer for over twenty years, and occasionally write posts defending games. I’m not calling for censorship, never have, never plan on doing so. Gearbox Software has the right to make these games, and I have the right to call them on their bullshit. So, no…not like Jack Thompson.
And as for women having all the rights, getting free rides to college, and being treated so much better than men – women’s lives are so easy. Well, I could list hundreds of links here proving you wrong, or you could spend a whole 30 seconds of your time on google.
So, feel free to continue to comment, even though not one of you has managed to make a compelling argument. In fact, thanks for the continued inspiration to write. You all make me realize how important my voice is in the echo chamber of gamers who’s philosophy tends to be something along the lines of “STFU BITCH”
With the game now on sale, and gamers uploading videos to YouTube, it turns out, I was right in my assertion that it was “misogynistic crap” all along.
Because I’m a gamer, I spend a lot of time reading reviews, blog posts, and articles about video games. However whenever media critical thought or even gender enters the conversation, the same comments keep appearing. So frequently in fact, that I felt it was worthy of it’s own bingo card. Feel free to repost the above bingo card, but if you do so, link back to this page and give credit.
This week, developer Gearbox Software announced the multiplayer options that will be available in the latest installment of the franchise,, including a spin on “Capture the Flag”, titled “Capture the Babe.” Rather than trying to steal another team’s actual flag or taking an enemy captive, the objective is to “capture” a woman.
The first reports about “Capture the Babe” stated that while playing, you slapped “the babe” in the face to get her to calm down. The CEO of Gearbox Software, Randy Pitchford took to twitter to correct everyone – it turns out she gets slapped on the ass instead of the face. Here’s a quick note for Mr. Pitchford – slapping a woman who is scared and trying to break free, on the ass, instead of the face doesn’t make it better. It means the word “sexual” should be added to the assault.
As CEO, Randy Pitchford is the one in charge, and I have no problem blaming him for the consistent misogynistic crap his company continues to promote. In fact, he thinks it’s “great” and “awesome” that he has angered feminists with the game’s promotion of sexual violence and objectification of women. Randy, you know what’s not awesome? The reality of sexual violence against women – statistics, such as, there’s a woman sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. According to Pitchford, the game can be used by feminist organizations as a teaching tool. I guess it never occurred to him that making a game that promotes respect towards women could achieve the same educational effect.
By not just allowing, but rather, encouraging sexual violence to be perpetuated against women, Randy Pitchford (and Gearbox Software) are not only affecting the gaming community, but rather society as a whole, by adding on to the millions of images and messages that further promote and perpetuate a culture of violence against women. If Randy really thinks the work that feminist organizations are doing is “really important” then maybe he should try changing the messages in Gearbox’s games to include positive female role models, rather than to promote violent gameplay against women.
This article has been updated and revised in light of the information released a few hours after it was posted.
Most of what is covered in this column deals with the sexist crap spewed forth by the video game industry. However, Fox News posted a story, a couple days ago, proving that the sexism surrounding video games doesn’t solely lie with developers, retailers, and gamers.
Fox News posed the question: “Is Bulletstorm The Worst Video Game In The World?” They didn’t outright answer whether it is or not, but I get the feeling they hoped readers came away thinking “Yes!” Now, if you think it’s the worst video game in existence, I’m already going to be questioning your knowledge of the form of media.
For a little background, Bulletstorm is rated M (Mature), which means it’s only considered suitable for players age 17 and over. It’s not law – but, neither is the MPAA. These are guidelines, and much like the “R” rating on any one of the thousands of incredibly violent movies that exist, it is the responsibility of the parent, not developers or artists or filmmakers, to make sure that the product doesn’t fall into the hands of children.
The author interviewed psychologist, author, and “expert” (quotes because it’s still not clear what exactly she’s an expert in), Carole Lieberman. She stated there was a direct link between sexual content in video games and sexual violence – something that is “highlighted so well in Bulletstorm” Unfortunately, there are no links, explanations, or statistics supplied in the article to support her assertions.
The gaming community, essentially accused of being on the brink of turning into sex offenders, based solely on their fondness for playing video games, began to fight back. Lieberman’s books have been flooded with negative reviews on Amazon. K-Mart has posted a blog on their gaming site refuting the accusations made by Lieberman and the other “experts” interviewed.
Kotaku, the Gawker Media gaming website, that originally brought much of the communities attention to the Fox News article, called Ms. Lieberman this afternoon, in an attempt for clarification of the statements she made in the original story. She agreed to an interview, and told Kotaku that “The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content, the more likely one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them.”
When asked for a source that supported this, Ms. Lieberman referenced “thousands” of studies that prove her assertion. However, she was unable to provide the name, author, or title of even one study. Accusing gamers of being on the verge of becoming rapists and sexual offenders is disgusting, and damaging – to gamers, women, and feminists. To drag the victims of sexual assault into a debate with not one fact to back it up, isn’t just stupid (as it doesn’t take into account that women now make up almost half of the gaming community), it’s irresponsible as well. Lieberman admitted to Kotaku that she hasn’t played any video games in her lifetime; making video games the villain of society is nothing new, but Carol Lieberman has taken fear-mongering to a new low.
The above images are from the press event for “Duke Nukem Forever” and appear on the official Facebook page and blog of 2k Games.
Yesterday, a press event was held in Las Vegas for the newest installment in the Duke Nukem video game series. The developers invited the press to learn more about the game, and play a demo of the upcoming release. The game has been in development off-and-on for over ten years, finally being completed by Gearbox Software.
Now, Duke Nukem is certainly not a series that is known for it’s positive portrayals of women, or high-brow comedy. However, they brought the 3-D objectification of women in their games into the real world, by holding the event in a temporarily renovated strip club. (Most developers hold press events in hotel conference rooms or large offices.) The signage outside the strip club was replaced to advertise “Duke Nukem’s Titty City.” Arrows pointed men and women in different directions, and the demo screens were set up around stripper poles on small tables. President of Gearbox, and former employee of 3D Realms (the original Duke Nukem company), Randy Pitchford, took to the main stripper stage to make the announcements.
Female game journalists had to watch and listen to the exclusive announcements being made, in a building called “Titty City.” (And women were there, they can be seen in the pictures posted from the event.) To anyone who insists there isn’t sexism in the gaming industry, that everyone’s a big happy family, that gender doesn’t make any difference, I’d really like to hear their take on this event. Because to hold a press event in a building where women are objectified, every. single. day. is to ignore the thoughts, feelings, and opinions of every female gamer, journalist, and employee in the industry. It’s these attitudes and behaviors that are so pervasive throughout the entire industry, that cause websites like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty to exist.
Yesterday Sony announced their newest innovation on the Playstation 3 network: women in bikinis – in 3D! Starting on February 15th, gamers can download the Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition to their PS3. As if the objectification of women in games themselves wasn’t bad enough already, now sexism is available as a 12 HOUR VIDEO DOWNLOAD.
In addition to criticizing the negative aspects of being a gamer girl, I plan on writing about positive portrayals and treatment of the female gender in the gaming community. There are some pretty kick ass companies out there making games that feature smart, non-sexualized, independent women.
Gears of War wasn’t the first third-person shooter game I played, but it definitely piqued my interest in the genre. (Previously I spent most of my time playing racing and skateboard games.) I became interested in Gears via the online options – playing Horde and Annex are among my favorite ways to spend a weekend. The first two games of the franchise only featured one female character – Anya Stroud, the control contact for the COGs. Anya is smart, non-sexualized, and a valued member of the COG team. In the upcoming Gears of War 3, Anya will be on the combat side of the COG team, along with a newly introduced character – Sam Byrne.
During an interview with G4, Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director of Epic Games, explained the reasoning behind having playable female characters in the latest installment. ”There’s more female fans in that franchise than a lot of other shooters…We wanted to depict the women as…tough, more like Jim Cameron women. Like Sarah Conner, like Ripley from Aliens who are tough, and not like girls on the cover of like, Low Rider magazine.”
The fact that the team at Epic Games decided to listen to the female fans of the game, and made these characters badass and non-sexualized is something I can appreciate. I’ll find out if Gears of War 3 lives up to my expectations next April when the game is released, but for the time being, I’m feeling pretty hopeful about it.
The above image is a screencap of Samus in the latest installment of the Metroid franchise: “The Other M”
On Friday, G4tv.com posted their review of “Metroid: The Other M” written by Abbie Heppe. The review called out the game on its troubling sexist storyline, and the destruction of one of the most kick-ass female characters in gaming. In the latest installment of the franchise, Samus refuses to use her large arsenal of weapons and armor until a former superior, Adam, allows her to. She’s frequently reduced to a weak, crying, trembling mess, even when fighting enemies she’s beat in former games. Throughout her review Ms. Heppe expresses her disappointment with these changes to Samus’ character. Unsurprisingly, the review wasn’t received well by gamers.
People were pissed and it didn’t take long for the review to spread across gaming communities. The typical arguments appeared: the game isn’t sexist, it’s not as sexist as other games, it’s just a game, who cares, it’s not like Samus is wearing a string bikini, etc. I think you get the point.