Many women have courageously spoken out about how they experience alienation and harassment in gaming.
Despite this fact, too many male gamers dismiss the issue as “no big deal” and insist that there isn’t really a problem.
One of the luxuries of being a member of a privileged group is that the benefits afforded to us often remain invisible to us.
Working towards solutions requires that male gamers become aware of the ways in which we unconsciously benefit from sexism.
We can’t work to fix something unless we first understand its effects.
With that in mind the following is a checklist of some of the concrete benefits that male gamers automatically receive simply for being men.
I can choose to remain completely oblivious, or indifferent to the harassment that many women face in gaming spaces.
I am never told that video games or the surrounding culture is not intended for me because I am male.
I can publicly post my username, gamertag or contact information online without having to fear being stalked or sexually harassed because of my gender.
I will never be asked to “prove my gaming cred” simply because of my gender.
If I enthusiastically express my fondness for video games no one will automatically assume I’m faking my interest just to “get attention” from other gamers.
I can look at practically any gaming website, show, or magazine and see the voices of people of my own gender widely represented.
When I go to a gaming event or convention, I can be relatively certain that I won’t be harassed, groped, propositioned or catcalled by total strangers.
I will never be asked or expected to speak for all other gamers who share my gender.
I can be sure that my gaming performance (good or bad) won’t be attributed to or reflect on my gender as a whole.
My gaming ability will never be called into question based on unrelated natural biological functions.
I can be relatively sure my thoughts about video games won’t be dismissed or attacked based solely on my tone of voice,
even if I speak in an aggressive, obnoxious, crude or flippant manner.
I can openly say that my favorite games are casual, odd, non-violent, artistic, or cute
without fear that my opinions will reinforce a stereotype that “men are not real gamers.”
When purchasing most major video games in a store, chances are I will not be asked if (or assumed to be) buying it for a wife, daughter or girlfriend.
The vast majority of game studios, past and present, have been led and populated primarily by people of my own gender
and as such most of their products have been specifically designed to cater to my demographic.
I can walk into any gaming store and see images of my gender widely represented as powerful heroes, dastardly villains and non-playable characters alike.
I will almost always have the option to play a character of my gender, as most protagonists or heroes will be male by default.
I do not have to carefully navigate my engagement with online communities or gaming spaces
in order to avoid or mitigate the possibility of being harassed because of my gender.
I probably never think about hiding my real-life gender online through my gamer-name, my avatar choice, or by muting voice-chat,
out of fear of harassment resulting from my being male.
When I enter an online game, I can be relatively sure I won’t be attacked or harassed if and when my real-life gender is made public
If I am trash-talked or verbally berated while playing online, it will not be because I am male nor will my gender be invoked as an insult.
While playing online with people I don’t know I won’t be interrogated about the size and shape of my real-life body parts,
nor will I be pressured to share intimate details about my sex life for the pleasure of other players.
Complete strangers generally do not send me unsolicited images of their genitalia or demand to see me naked on the basis of being a male gamer.
In multiplayer games I can be pretty sure that conversations between other players will not focus on
speculation about my “attractiveness” or “sexual availability” in real-life.
If I choose to point out sexism in gaming, my observations will not be seen as self-serving,
and will therefore be perceived as more credible and worthy of respect than those of my female counterparts,
even if they are saying the exact same thing.
Because it was created by a straight white man, this checklist will likely be taken more seriously than if it had been written by virtually any female gamer.
These benefits should not be reserved for men.
This list is not meant to suggest that male gamers are always treated well.
Sometimes we are bullied
or subjected to online nastiness,
but it is not based on or because of our gender.
In order to make change
first we need to acknowledge the problem,
and then we must take responsibility for it as a community,
so we can actively work together,
with people of all genders,
to dismantle the parts of gaming culture
that perpetuate these imbalances.
All people, of all genders,
must be treated with respect and dignity.
Together, we can make gaming better.
Together, we will make gaming better.