When it comes to participating in male dominated communities, there is one piece of advice I hear given to women time and time again that I must disagree with whole heartedly. This advice comes from both men and women, and that is to “hide your femininity” in some way. “Don’t attach your gender to anything you do”, “Don’t be a ‘girl gamer’ or a ‘gamer girl'”, or “Don’t use your gender to cite opinions/ideas”. Well, perhaps in a completely gender neutral world this would work, but the message I get from that advice is simply “don’t be a woman” or perhaps “don’t be proud you’re female and instead hide yourself.” The first red flag indicating this advice is backwards is that I often find it on articles about being female in the gaming community, which strikes me as a little confusing. You’re participating in an advice column about how you’ve entered the gaming industry or became a successful gamer while dealing with negative stereotypes about your gender, and the best thing you can tell us is to be fearful of your feminine interactions?
I suppose some of this advice is misunderstood or ill-explained. Perhaps they mean to not boast of your gender and try to use it to leverage yourself over others, but it seems to me that statement could be used for both men and women and just as bluntly stated.
It is even more confusing when simple terms such as “girl gamer” or “gamer girl” are used as a vulgar statement rather than an informative one. For example, a poster on my blog comments “It’s the way “gamer girls” carry themselves in games […] Gamer girls are attention hogs where as women who play video games are equal to the men they play with.”
It is not unlike I have not come across a female (Maybe, you never know–could have been a male in real life!) who has used her gender to garner attention to herself for selfish reasons such as receiving free stuff in games. The problem I have with this idea, however, is that “gamer girl” is a tag that can be applied to any female gamer without her own doing. While I have always related myself as a gamer (and you caught me being female at the same time), I have been referred to as “gamer girl” before by other players. Sometimes the referral was innocent and made by a friendly person to simply describe me as a gamer who happens to be female, and other times it was done out of spite by more hateful acquaintances. Maybe I won in a match, maybe my brand of humor wasn’t appreciated, maybe they thought my picture on a forum was ugly, maybe they thought I was cheating, maybe they thought the way I played the game was not up to their standards.
It doesn’t matter. What matters is that all it takes is someone accusing a woman of being a whore to start a reputation shame. This is a problem that extends beyond the gaming community, but is will represented here due to the concentrated macho nature of attitudes. Furthermore, an “attention hog” can only receive as much attention as is given to them.
So why are we using a simple, informative term as a derogatory term? In my opinion, it is an easy way to have a “shame card” to play on female gamers while feigning discriminatory innocence because you can claim that there are female gamers out there who do not view men as lessers. In reality, only few women who proudly embrace their own gender view men as anything less than equal. In reality, these women are often shamed and put down by men, and even other women. And, in reality, there are plenty of men out there who do not do this to women and are unfortunate to be surrounded by numerous men who do.
Telling a woman what really makes them a true gamer is part of the offense in the first place. Saying that only true gamers, or respectable gamers, do not embrace their feminity is just another way to subdue women from a hobby they enjoy.
In the end, I feel that it is all about balance and option. If a woman chooses not to be feminine, that is 100% percent fine. If a man chooses to be feminine, that is 100% fine. If a woman chooses to embrace her femininity, then let her. She enjoys being female and has the bare minimum right to express herself in lingual mannerisms that could identify her as a female in a digital world.