The Battle for Virtual Rights and Equality

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 This past weekend, I saw featured keynote speaker, Anita Saarkesian, speak at the annual Digital Ethics Symposium. Saarkesian runs a Youtube channel called Feminist Frequency that speaks out against sexism in the gaming industry. Because of this, she faces death threats on a daily bases from a group that started a hashtag trend called “gamergate”. This ‘gate’ keeps the gaming world exclusively male. It is a cyber mob that throws sexist temper tantrums in an attempt to keep up with the status quo, which is this notion that games are for boys; it is a domain for young men, hence Gameboy and not Gamegirl.

There is, however, a gaming spot where girls are welcomed. That spot is the causal and mobile games that are looked down upon by the intense gamers. Because those games are considered for women, they are marginalized. To be called a gamer one has to play masculine and testosterone infused games that develop very unhealthy mindset and perspective towards the female population. It also reinforces this myth that women are sexual objects and sexual playthings for male amusement. Women become disrespected and dehumanized. For women who do not identify themselves as gamers or who do not view the game beyond the story line, it can create an unhealthy mindset for them. It can lead to this idea that the stereotypical women is someone who wears skimpy outfits and is always the damsel in distress. They view the men as their savior, which not only enforces the patriarchal system but is also does not leave any room for independent thinking.

The woman does not always have to be the damsel in distress. She can save herself. However, this idea does not fit the patriarchal box. For example, The Legend of Krystal, was a Nintendo 64 game based around a female fictional fox character called Krystal who fights off demons on her and saves herself from any distress. The game developer, however, did not think the game would sell. He modified and altered the game into Star Fox Adventures. The protagonist becomes a male fox, Star, while Krystal trades her independence for the damsel in distress. In other words, if the game perpetuates misogyny and sexism, it receives the green light.

When women, like Sarkeesian, speak out against the misogyny and sexism, they are threatened. Because Sarkeesian holds a high profile and is one of the leading women to address this issue, she becomes the main target of gamergate. She is called a “feminazi” who steals money from hardworking men to buy shoes. In this case, she is “stealing” money from the hardworking gamers. As Marwick puts it, “when people with likeminded beliefs congregate together, they collectively move to a more extreme position”. There is an underlying fear among the gamergate community that women do not deserve an authoritative position in the same community. To me, it shows that these men are not only immature, but also very insecure about themselves. They work out their frustrations by hating on someone else.  We need to stop alienating women and believe what they say when they talk about their experiences. We need to stop shutting them down and speak against their defense. I would think that progressive games come with a progressive mentality. Therefore, games of any type should cater to both men and women and women should be allowed to speak up without feeling the repercussions. Women have the right to speak up and be heard in the gaming industry.

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