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Old 07-05-2012, 03:54 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Feminism and Mainstream Games vs Feminism and Virtual Worlds

Felicia Day posted this on her FB wall earlier, and it generated a lot of discussion:

Gamasutra - News - Opinion: Video games and Male Gaze - are we men or boys?

I have a lot of problems with the article, of course. In order to believe the male gaze argument you have to first believe the following assertions:

1. All people are heteronormative.
2. Men are filthy for looking at women.
3. Female sexuality is dirty because it is defined as what men gaze at, and men are filthy creatures for looking at women.

In other words, it's a very United States-centric, puritan argument. The Europeans who I've spoken to about it find it silly.

Aside from that, though, this male gaze argument gets turned on it's head when you try to apply it to virtual worlds like SL.

SL is dominated by female developers. Our first millionaire was Anshe Chung, the best scripter I know is a woman and most of the best designers are women. The most well known viewer developers are women (Jessica Lyon, Marine Kelley, etc). Our most profitable and popular feature is the SL fashion industry, which is driven by mostly female designers, bloggers and consumers. All of the most powerful sim owners I know who run networks of RP sims and clubs are women.

I know that many times men portray women in SL, but even if all of these women were men in real life it would not matter. Their gender is female because they consciously decide to present as female. In SL, most people do not seem to play a female character in the sense that Laura Croft is designed to be played, because we create avatars to depict ourselves with rather than to look at. The Gamasutra article quotes Ron Rosenberg, who is the producer of Tomb Raider, when he said:
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"When people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character, they're more like, 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of, 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.'"
This is not the case in SL. In SL we project ourselves into our avatar. The very definition of the word 'avatar' shows that we do not relate to SL avatars in the way that Mr. Rosenberg is describing.
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Avatar | Define Avatar at Dictionary.com
av·a·tar   [av-uh-tahr, av-uh-tahr] noun
1. Hindu Mythology . the descent of a deity to the earth in an incarnate form or some manifest shape; the incarnation of a god.
2. an embodiment or personification, as of a principle, attitude, or view of life.
3. Digital Technology . a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet.
So SL is dominated with female developers. What does that mean? According to the arguments in the gamasutra article, the 'mainstream' game industry is so misogynistic because it is a male-dominated field. If only the 'mainstream' game industry was less male dominated the games they produce would be less sexist and evil, right? Isn't that what we have in SL?

With all of these female developers and company owners in SL we should expect to see an ideal feminist utopia, completely divorced from the male gaze. Women should be depicted in a realistic manner, there would be no strippers and of course, there would be no prostitution at all. All of that dirty dirty sexuality would be completely banished from SL because of all of the female developers, right?

Of course, this is not the virtual world that we have created. SL is described by many as a sex simulator. Women almost always fit the traditional 'feminine ideal' just like men usually fit the 'masculine ideal'. There are very few ugly people in SL. People like showing off how beautiful they are with form fitting clothing and nudity. The ESRB video game ratings board would pitch a fit if we ever had to get SL rated.

So perhaps the 'feminist' arguments against 'mainstream' video games are not as strong as people assume. I believe that I am a feminist because I believe in equal rights for women. That said, I don't believe in any of the arguments in the gamasutra article I linked to above. Does that make me any less of a feminist?

The huge problem I've noticed with the discussion about feminism and video games is that most of the time when somebody argues against a 'feminist' argument like the one I linked to above they are spoken down to like they are some horny teenager who just wants to see boobs. The very title of the gamasutra article I linked to shows this dismissive attitude. If these so-called 'feminists' want to be taken seriously then perhaps they should show a little more respect, because I find it very difficult to take a person seriously when they say I need to agree with them or be an emasculated 'boy'.

Note: I put the word mainstream in quotes because I don't think AAA console games are really the most popular category of games. Other categories of games like casual and social games appeal to a broader demographic and are more mainstream because they either already have or are in the process of overtaking traditional AAA titles.

Last edited by Cristiano; 07-07-2012 at 08:00 AM. Reason: Restored original post
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:33 PM   #2 (permalink)
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SL is dominated by female avatars.
FIFY.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:43 PM   #3 (permalink)
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More seriously though, comparing SL to mainstream gaming is comparing apples to oranges. We see a lot of female avatars who are developers for many reasons, including but not limited to:

- transfer from other games popular with the female demographic, such as TSO or There
- shopping, customization and socialization options not commonly available to this degree in other platforms
- awful male av mesh and relatively poor customization options compared to female avs.

Yes, we do still see T&A and sexualization in SL. But painting the entirety of the platform with that brush shouldn't be a justification for the same with games being published by companies that are supposed to be the industry standard. If anything, I'd say what we see within SL is a symptom of what we see within other media, be it reaction for or against as the case may be.
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Old 07-05-2012, 04:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Sorry, but I think SL is pretty hostile to RL women.

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In SL we project ourselves into our avatar.
Which makes it all the more creepy that there are so many hooker barbies in SL.

Not long ago, prompted by the what-retained-you-the-first-day thread, I was going to make a long, pictorial post about why none of the RL women I brought into SL are still there, but thought it'd just create a shit storm.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Anya Ristow View Post
Sorry, but I think SL is pretty hostile to RL women.



Which makes it all the more creepy that there are so many hooker barbies in SL.

Not long ago, prompted by the what-retained-you-the-first-day thread, I was going to make a long, pictorial post about why none of the RL women I brought into SL are still there, but thought it'd just create a shit storm.
This and a thousand times this. And I'm sorry, to say its only american men who do this 'gaze' thing is wrong. Play AoC sometime. Granted, I liked that if I played a stygian I could dress 'properly' but the game is all around skimpily clad women and plenty of violence.

And I know some guys who play females in SL - and yes, they might not be barbies, but they are very much chaotic willing [to use an old D&D term for the same thing.

I liked the article, its a good one. And its good it came from a guy, because he's not likely to get rape threats and insults for it.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:21 PM   #6 (permalink)
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SL isn't one group of people holding the same views. It's a society made up of lots of different communities; there is some overlap but much remains separate. In the business realm, I agree that it's a great place to be a woman. I have not felt the presence of any "glass ceiling" or felt limited by my gender. I know many other successful businesswomen in SL and the vast majority of them are RL females. I believe that women dominate SL business or at least are on equal footing with men. It may just seem like we dominate because we're underrepresented in RL.

That said, there is another side to SL that is not pleasant. Communities like Gor have virulent sexism and there are far too many rape sims and similar places that demean and subjugate women. These places contribute to the negative perception of SL and to a contingent of newbies that join looking only for sex and submissive women. I have had strangers hit on me in inappropriate ways; the vast majority have been newbies who don't know better. But what gave them the idea they could act like that in the first place? I believe that it's the perception of SL as a porn haven where sex is EVERYWHERE.

I don't object to strippers and porn in and of themselves. RL has strippers and porn too; but we don't perceive that as being what life is about (for the most part; I wonder about some guys. ) I don't object to consensual BDSM where a person's choice to be dominant or submissive is individual and not based on stereotypical gender roles. But SL needs to lose or at least greatly reduce the visibility of the violent / rape / sexist locations in order to improve its image.

People need to understand that SL is just a microcosm of RL. Sex is a part of it, but it's about relationships. If I'm in a SL relationship I might have sex with the person, but I also talk to them, share common interests, go dancing, go to music events, travel to interesting places, etc. I am a person; do not walk up to me as a stranger and ask to have sex with me. I will tell you no, and that doesn't make me a bitch. You were the asshole for even thinking that was an acceptable thing to do.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:34 PM   #7 (permalink)
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And I know some guys who play females in SL - and yes, they might not be barbies, but they are very much chaotic willing [to use an old D&D term for the same thing.
Could you explain what you mean by "chaotic willing?" I'm familiar with the D&D term chaotic but not the willing part.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:49 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Chaotic Willing - women who will strip down and spread their legs for pretty much anything without a thought in their heads.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:51 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I'm getting the impression that everybody here thinks that this is about only cis females.

You know that feminism is about people of female sex and people of female gender and these two things are not the same thing, right? A person's sex is a biological trait. A person's gender is about how they identify and present themselves to the world.

In SL we can not even perceive a person's sex. Sex don't even factor in to the equation. This is about gender.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:53 PM   #10 (permalink)
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In SL, 80% of participants are there for expressions of fetishes. Having a female avatar, in and of itself — and especially when that avatar is only used for cybersex — does not make you transgendered.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:55 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Also

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If these so-called 'feminists' want to be taken seriously then perhaps they should show a little more respect
You're an utter idiot, and you have nothing of importance to say on this topic.
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Old 07-05-2012, 05:59 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Speaking of transgendered, I can barely mention being trans in SL without some wanker automatically assuming I'm a willing "shemale slut" who is only in SL to get off.

Really, sometimes I just want to change my avatar to a simple glowing sphere but then I'm sure there's some assmunch somewhere in SL who wants to get off with a glowing sphere.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:00 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Really, sometimes I just want to change my avatar to a simple glowing sphere but then I'm sure there's some assmuch somewhere in SL who wants to get off with a glowing sphere.
I can't help it, your photons are so glowy.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:01 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'm getting the impression that everybody here thinks that this is about only cis females.

You know that feminism is about people of female sex and people of female gender and these two things are not the same thing, right? A person's sex is a biological trait. A person's gender is about how they identify and present themselves to the world.

In SL we can not even perceive a person's sex. Sex don't even factor in to the equation. This is about gender.
Who the fuck mentioned cis- gender here? No one that I noticed. And as Joshua says, if a guy is playing a female just for sex, then its not very likely its because he's trans.

Even guys who like to roleplay females in general aren't necessarily trans either.

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Also



You're an utter idiot, and you have nothing of importance to say on this topic.
Thanks, Joshua, I'd missed that - and yeah, we have to -earn- common decency and stuff? People who think that should go and look in the mirror and repeat 100 times to themselves, 'All people deserve respect until they show a reason not to. Respect is not just for hetero wasp males.'
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:02 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Thanks, Joshua, I'd missed that - and yeah, we have to -earn- common decency and stuff? People who think that should go and look in the mirror and repeat 100 times to themselves, 'All people deserve respect until they show a reason not to. Respect is not just for hetero wasp males.'
~ToNe ArGuMeNtS~

The moment you invoke one, you've lost.

However this is coming from the jackass who asserted that there's no such thing as hate speech, just babies whining about their poor feelings being hurt.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:11 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I never said anything about transsexuals at all. I am saying that if a person is dressed as a female and is telling people they are female, then they are being female and their gender is female. Therefore, if a male typist wears a female avatar and tells people that they are female then they are female. The sex of the typist does not matter.

Joshua: I'm not going to feed your trolling by actually responding to your arguments, but just so you know, you hurt my feelings. I hope you're happy.

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Old 07-05-2012, 06:13 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I never said anything about transsexuals at all. I am saying that if a person is dressed as a female and is telling people they are female, then they are being female and their gender is female. Therefore, if a male typist wears a female avatar and tells people that they are female then they are female. The sex of the typist does not matter.
No. Glad we could clear that up, since you're in dire need of an education.

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Joshua: I'm not going to feed your trolling by actually responding to your arguments, but just so you know, you hurt my feelings. I hope you're happy.
You're the sort of prick who tells women that he's a feminist because he thinks it will help get him laid. It might work for drunk co-eds at a bar who go round-eyed when you say things like "heteronormative" and "cisgendered" as if you know what they mean, but it's not going to accomplish much when you sit down at the big boy table and engage adults.

Speaking of sitting down, though, please do so and then shut the fuck up.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:23 PM   #18 (permalink)
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It's always heartwarming when someone with no academic or professional experience with gender issues or women's issues lectures me on how to be taken seriously as a feminist.

It reminds me of Peter Griffin telling his wife, "I know you're a feminist, and I think that's adorable. But this is grown-up time and I'm the man."
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:31 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:32 PM   #20 (permalink)
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It's always heartwarming when someone with no academic or professional experience with gender issues or women's issues lectures me on how to be taken seriously as a feminist.
You're making assumptions, but that's ok. I'll let it slide.

How about this: If you want me to take any argument seriously don't try to say that only people who are not 'real men' disagree with you. Does that seem fair?
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:32 PM   #21 (permalink)
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How about this: no one here gives a fuck about you giving an argument your personal seal of legitimacy.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:44 PM   #22 (permalink)
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I never said anything about transsexuals at all. I am saying that if a person is dressed as a female and is telling people they are female, then they are being female and their gender is female. Therefore, if a male typist wears a female avatar and tells people that they are female then they are female. The sex of the typist does not matter.

Joshua: I'm not going to feed your trolling by actually responding to your arguments, but just so you know, you hurt my feelings. I hope you're happy.

Except that's utter fucking crap in relation to this article.

Case in point [and apparently this isn't just something that is ticking off female players], The Secret World mmo has just come out. In the intro for one of the three factions, your character is effectively raped to cause a flashback. Raped by a woman, regardless of your character's gender. I found it very offensive, not because female/female sex bothers me, but because it felt very much like a> some guy's fantasy was being enacted, b> the assumption was only hetero guys would be playing, or c> they didn't care what the non-femme biased players would think.

Judging from the guesses on the small number of this faction compared to the others ['they give you a lifetime free prescription to Valtrex' 'I've always wanted to be raped for a flashback' among others] shows that this might have been poorly considered.

And someone insisted after being told several times a character was female and that being called a he was insulting, to say 'It doesn't matter' - well, it does fucking matter. Its disrespectful to say that it doesn't matter and I'm going to call you a guy anyway. Its disrespectful to make nasty comments to a woman [or even a female character] because they aren't a man. And its disrespectful for a man to come along and say 'I don't see why you're upset, and feminists need to earn respect.'

And I have to deal with this shit even from guys who overall are reasonably enlightened. They think I'm being hysterical because the growing sexism is causing me to rant a lot more than it did when I was young.

Last edited by Aribeth Zelin; 07-05-2012 at 06:47 PM. Reason: typing while sick and upset is.....not easy on spelling.
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Old 07-05-2012, 06:51 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Case in point [and apparently this isn't just something that is ticking off female players], The Secret World mmo has just come out. In the intro for one of the three factions, your character is effectively raped to cause a flashback. Raped by a woman, regardless of your character's gender. I found it very offensive, not because female/female sex bothers me, but because it felt very much like a> some guy's fantasy was being enacted, b> the assumption was only hetero guys would be playing, or c> they didn't care what the non-femme biased players would think.
I'm in the process of writing an article about this, actually. I didn't realise that it happens if you're a female character too. I wouldn't go so far as to call it "rape," since in the cut-scene in question your character (at least my male one) seemed to enjoy it, but the presumption of heterosexuality annoyed me tremendously. TSW isn't the only example of this recently, playing through Star Wars: The Old Republic, my character has dialogue options to flirt with almost every woman he encounters.

I didn't know that the same TSW scene progresses the exact same way if your character is a woman, though. That's just ridiculous.
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:03 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Except that's utter fucking crap in relation to this article.

Case in point [and apparently this isn't just something that is ticking off female players], The Secret World mmo has just come out. In the intro for one of the three factions, your character is effectively raped to cause a flashback. Raped by a woman, regardless of your character's gender. I found it very offensive, not because female/female sex bothers me, but because it felt very much like a> some guy's fantasy was being enacted, b> the assumption was only hetero guys would be playing, or c> they didn't care what the non-femme biased players would think.

Judging from the guesses on the small number of this faction compared to the others ['they give you a lifetime free prescription to Valtrex' 'I've always wanted to be raped for a flashback' among others] shows that this might have been poorly considered.

And someone insisted after being told several times a character was female and that being called a he was insulting, to say 'It doesn't matter' - well, it does fucking matter. Its disrespectful to say that it doesn't matter and I'm going to call you a guy anyway. Its disrespectful to make nasty comments to a woman [or even a female character] because they aren't a man. And its disrespectful for a man to come along and say 'I don't see why you're upset, and feminists need to earn respect.'

And I have to deal with this shit even from guys who overall are reasonably enlightened. They think I'm being hysterical because the growing sexism is causing me to rant a lot more than it did when I was young.
I agree with you that a character that you did not create does not reflect your gender. In SL, though, we create our avatars. We can be anything we like. In SL we aren't just playing somebody else's narrative in the same way we are when we play a AAA video game, so our avatars are who we are to the rest of the virtual world.

Even if the typists sex mattered, hypothetically... you're still missing the point I was trying to make.

Hypothetically, if, say, even half the content creators who are female have male typists... I can't imagine that many with male typists, but for the sake of argument we'll go with half. Anyway, half of them have male typists and if having a male typist did make all of these great content creators and community leaders male, then SL would still be mostly created by women. Women in SL create things that are seen by some 'feminists' as very sexist. In other words, if women had more influence in the AAA games industry, that would not fix the problem that these feminists perceive, because if SL is any indication then women create more 'sexist' material than men (sexist by the standards of these 'feminists').
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:08 PM   #25 (permalink)
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I agree with you that a character that you did not create does not reflect your gender. In SL, though, we create our avatars. We can be anything we like. In SL we aren't just playing somebody else's narrative in the same way we are when we play a AAA video game, so our avatars are who we are to the rest of the virtual world.

Even if the typists sex mattered, hypothetically... you're still missing the point I was trying to make.

Hypothetically, if, say, even half the content creators who are female have male typists... I can't imagine that many with male typists, but for the sake of argument we'll go with half. Anyway, half of them have male typists and if having a male typist did make all of these great content creators and community leaders male, then SL would still be mostly created by women. Women in SL create things that are seen by some 'feminists' as very sexist. In other words, if women had more influence in the AAA games industry, that would not fix the problem that these feminists perceive, because if SL is any indication then women create more 'sexist' material than men (sexist by the standards of these 'feminists').
First of all, you do create your characters in other MMOs [SL is an MMO, even if its not an MMORPG], I worked pretty hard to pick a base look and I've spent almost all my money in world on more clothes [The secret World] same as I do in SL.

As for assuming that all the rape couture in SL is made by women? Thanks a fucking lot. I'd say most isn't, and as a female, buying from confirmed females, you don't see that sort of thing. You might see sexy clothes, but there is a difference that maybe many men don't get.

Also, society keeps trying to push the 'slut' look into fashion in RL and its men doing that too....
Aribeth Zelin is offline   Reply With Quote
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Feminism and Mainstream Games vs Feminism and Virtual Worlds - SLUniverse Forums | 3D Virtual Worlds: Educational Technology | Scoop.it This thread Pingback 07-05-2012 08:59 PM