Tag Archives: feminism

Babe

9 Jun

Last year, I was at Milwaukee’s annual Pridefest celebration with some friends of mine and we happened to spot a very large bunker of sorts, provided by the good people at the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company.  The bunker was large, metallic, and blue and had labels all over it that identified it as being “the Camel experience.”  There were two gentlemen outside that would ask you for your I.D before you went inside, so they could make sure that you were of age to buy cigarettes and then once inside you were immediately greeted by a bevy of scantily clad women and one smart dressed man.  I had seen several of these girls throughout Milwaukee in various places, so I knew this wasn’t their full time job.  This was just a temporary gig of sorts.  The women then proceeded to educate us on the various lines of Camel cigarettes that are out there and said that if we were willing to hear more and watch a brief interactive movie in the back that we would receive four free packs of cigarettes.

Needless to say the lesbians ate that shit up.

Whoever was behind the Camel experience knew their audience well.  They knew that if they strategically placed several scantily clad women in a tight, air conditioned space that people who are inclined to find these women attractive may just go along with whatever these women had to offer.  It didn’t matter if the lesbians knew they didn’t actually have a shot with these girls.  They were buying into the illusion.  They were taking the bait. And so streams of women were placing their I.D.s in this electronic reader, where they would answer several survey questions and would again verify their true age, and within minutes they were seated at a bar type area and choosing which packs of Camel cigarettes or tobacco they wanted to take home with them.

It all felt very wrong to me.  I wanted to walk up to them and shake them and say “Don’t you see what’s happening here?”  But I didn’t, mostly because I knew that they wouldn’t be able to see through this clever marketing tactic that was seemingly all around us and similar tactics that we see used everyday to get us to buy any number of products on the market.  The Camel Experience had went exactly as planned.

I was reminded of this story or this experience while reading an article over at the Border House Blog, in which the author talks about how it might be time for gaming conferences to give up the well known practice of hiring “booth babes” or scantily clad women to help them shill their products.  The author supports her case by including several comments or Tweets made by a female gaming industry veteran who admitted that she dreaded attending the recent E3 conference because she felt so intimidated or uncomfortable being around these types of women or this type of a marketing ploy.

Personally, I struggle with the idea of the “booth babe” for several reasons.

On the one hand, I think the practice of using sexuality or specifically women’s sexuality or their bodies to inspire men or women who enjoy other women to buy a product is really played out and almost too easy.  I think it’s almost insulting to those people that companies think  that’s all it will take for them to buy their product.  They know they don’t have to go out of their way to film a commercial in a really scenic location or that they won’t have to put too much thought into a billboard that you see on the street.  All a company has to do is throw a half dressed woman at them and call it a day.  I find it interesting when I see people who are so clearly taken in by this approach and they just can’t see it with their own eyes.  So just because this tactic works and just because it’s something that most people don’t catch on to doesn’t necessarily make it okay.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only route you need to take to get your point across.

On the other hand, it works.  It’s a proven fact that sex sells.  Where do we draw the line between corporate responsibility and personal responsibility?

Just as a multi-million dollar corporation has the right to throw attractive, oiled up bodies at you, you also have the right to say “No, thanks.”  You have the right to take your business elsewhere or to criticize them for how they do things.  But nobody is making you buy their product.  The pull of advertising can be strong and Lord knows I have fallen victim to that late night McDonald’s commercial that inspired me to swing through a drive through at two in the morning for a large order of fries and a Coke.  But McDonald’s didn’t *make* me do that.  Nobody crawled out of the television set, like the little girl from “The Ring” and forced me to go buy those items.  I did it myself.  I can shake my fist in the air and curse McDonald’s for making their fries look so tasty in that commercial or for airing that commercial just as I was about to go to bed.  But ultimately I did it.  It was my choice.

So you can’t blame a company for wanting to use a strategy that they know is going to work.  They know that nobody is going to recognize what’s really happening here.  They know it’s a sure fire way to get people’s attention and to bring in revenue.  If people continue to fall for, or to be engaged by what the companies put out there of course they are going to keep doing it.  It’s no different than considering leaving the job that you have been at for years, that you know you’re good at it, and that you know will earn you a decent living for a job in a field that you have little or no experience in and that *could* make you the same amount of money or more.  It’s a gamble and one that not everybody or every company is willing to take.  Again I ask, “Can you blame them?”

To steer things back to where Border House was coming from, there is also the issue of how the concept of the “booth babe” affects women.

It’s hard enough making yourself feel like you are truly welcome in the gaming world as a woman.  You have to deal with so many initial barriers right out of the gate.  If you do manage to overcome those things and convince yourself that you do belong, you then have to deal with seeing women who most likely do not represent you being thrust into your face as an ideal or as something that you need to aspire to be.  You see those same guys who crack jokes about women not playing video games or that women shouldn’t play video games fawning over these “booth babes” rather openly and unabashedly.  You seem them responding positively to this exaggerated image of what a woman should look like or how a woman should behave, all the while chastising other women for supposedly using their bodies or their wiles to get ahead in the same industry.  If you were to show up at a conference wearing the same outfit, ready to play your game of choice you would most likely be laughed or shamed out of the building.  But because they’re doing it it’s okay.  How does that work, exactly?

So the double standard bothers me.  Male gamers tend to want women to be good at the games they play.  They don’t want to see us flirting or being stereotypically feminine to get ahead.  They don’t want to see us lording our gender over them or having to constantly remind people that we are in fact women.  Isn’t that exactly what the “booth babes” do?  These are women who presumably have no interest in gaming and who I would bet have never even touched the products that they are trying to sell to you. They are using compliments, acting coy, and being overly flirtatious to get you in the mood to listen to what they have to say, so they can then launch into their product pitch and hopefully make a sale.  They are wearing clothing that they know will most certainly draw attention to their bodies or other feminine attributes so that they can not only get your attention, but keep it, too.  All of those things they shame their female peers for doing or for allegedly doing are suddenly okay when they are done by a “booth babe.”

Now here is where things get a little tangled for me.

I’m all about sexual expression and sexual freedom.  I think there is nothing wrong with a woman or a man being proud of their body and wanting to show it off.  I don’t have a problem with nudity or even pornography, for that matter.  Yet here I am, criticizing these women for what they are wearing and then using it against them.  How am I helping matters any?  If the shoe was on the other foot and the gaming companies who hired these women told them that they couldn’t wear anything remotely feminine and that they had to sort of stifle that I would probably be angry about that.  I would probably then be crusading for a woman’s right to wear whatever she wants to and that these companies should be ashamed of themselves for forcing women to hide their bodies or to cover them up.

I’m automatically assuming that these women don’t play the games they are advertising because of how they are dressed or how they are behaving.  But how *does* a female gamer look?  How is she *supposed* to behave?  Who is to say that you can’t be great at what you do and then party on the weekends?  Who says you can’t attend a Magic the Gathering event in a hoodie and jeans and then head to the club later in a short skirt and some stilettos?  Why does one necessarily have to lead to the other? Why do we assume that if a woman is flirtatious that she is doing it in a very empty fashion or that she is doing it solely to get something out of someone?  Maybe she just likes to flirt.  Maybe she truly enjoys wearing skimpy outfits.  Maybe that’s just *who she is.*

Who are we to tell her that it’s wrong, or that she has to dress or behave the way that *we* think she should?  There are a lot of assumptions that people tend to make when they see a “booth babe,” versus the assumptions that someone would make when they see your average female gamer on the street.  I’m not trying to say that the assumptions that one faces are necessarily worse than the other, but I would say that they are about equal.  They can be equally harmful.

I’m really glad that I stumbled upon that article at the Border House, because I really feel that it was well written and that it left the floor open for people to have a healthy discussion about this issue and the many angles that we could look at this from.  It really got me thinking and gave me that shot of inspiration that I have been lacking lately.  I’m fairly certain that not everybody is going to agree with the points and counterpoints that I have laid out here, but hopefully I have brought a new perspective to the table and maybe some great conversation can be had here about this topic.

Thanks for listening.

It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s Azeroth

7 Aug

Feminism seemed to be a popular topic on two blogs that I have recently begun to enjoy, at Righteous Orbs and at the Mental Shaman.  Being a female gamer myself, I felt extremely compelled to speak up on some of the things that were being brought up, more so on the Mental Shaman blog.  I spent a good while really pondering what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.  Feminism is such a broad topic and such a gray area topic, that could be taken in so many contexts and could be debated to quite an extent.  To me, that’s one of the joys of it.  My idea of being a woman and a feminist may be different than someone else’s.  It’s our right and our choice to interpret things how we will and to base our own decisions and feelings off of those interpretations.  I would never attempt to deny anyone the right to feel a certain way about something they read or experience, nor would I hope they do not deny me that privelege, too.

Now, I’ve been around – I’m not even going to lie.  I have been on six realms during this expansion and they have run the gamut from PVE to RPPVP.  I have been in everything from casual leveling Alliance guilds (alts, I swear) to hardcore realm first Horde guilds.  I have been an Initiate, with having to pay for my own repairs and knowing nobody on a realm to being a Recruitment Assistant and being the sole voice of recruitment and making sure my applicants all had something to do.  

I have occassionally formed bonds with those that I game with – friends, lovers and serious meaningful relationships.  I have been the quiet girl on Vent, who does her job and says nothing and only logs on to raid and I have been the loudmouth girl who will cut you into pieces if you cross me.  I have seen my share of drama, both that I have caused and that I have been the target of, unintentionally.  I have learned a lot in my years of playing this game and I have seen a lot of things.  I acknowledge the things I have done wrong or could have done better and I am proud of the positive things I have taken away from this game and I try my best to be a better player and a better person, everytime I log in.

I feel there are a number of things that are being critiqued or read into and I wanted to give my opinion on each of them. 

No female soldier in the victory statue.

From my understanding, when a server experiences their realm first kill of the Lich King, there is a fountain in Dalaran that becomes a Victory statue.  The statue is comprised of five figures, who all happen to be male.  These figures are comprised of Tirion Fordring, two Orcish males and two Human males.  One player decided to take their grievance about this to Blizzard and received an apathetic and sadly typical response from them, stating they were limited in their abilities to deal with this via e-mail.  The original poster took their complaint to the realm forums and was subsequently berated and bashed by their peers, for their feelings.

First off, I agree that the responses were harsh.  I don’t think the original poster voiced their concern in an uneducated or negative light.  They had a concern and wanted to know if anyone else shared their concern and they didn’t deserve to be talked to the way that they were.  That was absolutely out of line.

But I do think the focus was in the wrong place here.  I don’t need women to be in the Victory statue – because I’m in my own Victory statue.  I was there for the Lich King kill – I’m a Kingslayer.  I was there for the screenshots of my guild killing the bosses in ICC to get there.  I don’t need a statue to tell me that I’m victorious – I have the titles, the loot and the achievements (and soon Val’anyr) to speak for me.  That should be fulfilling enough.  Why do we need an NPC, not even with a player behind the character to validate what we do?  I don’t need a statue in a city to look up to.  I look up to myself.  I look up to female gamers in more successful guilds than I am in, who are attempting and even slaying Lich King on hard modes.  Those are the women I should be looking up to – not an inanimate statue in Dalaran.

And if we really wanted to take it further, notice the lack of other races represented in the statue.  It contains just Humans and Orcs.  Weren’t other races important in the defeat of the Lich King?  The Tauren, Blood Elves, Gnomes, Night Elves, etc.  Why aren’t they featured in the statue?  Why isn’t anyone complaining about that? 

Next, we have the two major female characters being excised from the Lich King defeat story.

There were a LOT of people excised from the Lich King defeat story.  Seriously, who didn’t want to be there?  I can think of a number of NPCs or well known characters from the lore that could have been there, should have been there, etc.  Instead of focusing on what Jaina, Sylvanas and a few other NPCs were not able to be a part of, let’s focus on what they WERE chosen to be a part of – the Icecrown Citadel heroics.  Forge of Souls, Pit of Saron and the Halls of Reflection were three extremely well done instances.  Visually, they were well done, they were thematically outstanding and who was chosen to lead us through this exciting new quest line and these vivid new instances for us to enjoy –  Jaina and Sylvanas.  Two female NPCs.  That had never been done before and they didn’t just walk us through one instance – they were there for all three of them.  That’s pretty big. 

Not to mention the noteworthy presence of the female bosses in ICC.  Lady Deathwhisper is the Supreme Overseer of the Cult of the Damned, Blood Queen Lana’thel is the head of the San’layn and Sindragosa was the most fearsome servant of Arthas.  I feel those three represent women fairly well.  You have the Twin Val’kyr in Trial of the Champion, the modestly dressed Auriaya and Freya from Ulduar and Grand Widow Faerlina from Naxxramas.  They even let a woman into the Four Horsemen.  Horse-men.  Sounds like a pretty exclusive group, but we managed to get one of us in there and she put up just as much of a fight as the guys did.  Why isn’t that celebrated?  Why are we focusing on where we didn’t make it and instead praising where we did?

Numerous ‘jokes’ in the beta that play off gendered insults and stereotypes

“I’m a free spirit. I don’t like to be tied down.  What?  You mean literally?  Oh no… totally into that.”  &  “She told me to tie her up and do whatever I wanted to her… so I took her stereo!”

In both instances, the Goblin jokes appear to indicate that the act of bondage is consensual and that the female participants are willing and would enjoy the process.  What – women aren’t supposed to like bondage?  Are we really opening up that can of worms?  I could see if the male Goblin in question was indicating that there was no consent there or there was the use of force or intoxicants or something like that.  But what happens between two willing parties is something that I don’t feel should be deemed offensive.  Going through the listing of currently released jokes and flirts from the game and the Beta files, I also happened upon these statements, by the Dwarven and Gnome males, respectively, that seem to indicate that they’re all for a healthier shape of woman than what other races may be into:

“I like large posteriors and I cannot prevaricate.”  &  “I like my beer like I like my women – stout and bitter.”

In terms of the Worgen joke in question (“Being bitchy is in my blood.  Don’t pretend you don’t like it.”), they are female werewolves or dogs.  A bitch is a female dog.  I don’t feel that drawing the parallels between the two is so out there or strange.  If that statement came from a Night Elf or a Tauren, I could maybe see where some of the concern was coming from.  Speaking of Tauren, I find it interesting that women have not spoke up about the consistent “cow” references that are used, when discussing Tauren females or the numerous ways in which Orc females are seen as butch or unattractive, compared to their possibly more feminine counterparts.  Orc females are also the lowest represented class of female toons in the game.  You could delve into that quite deeply and discuss the fact that a subsection of women in the game are referred to as large bovine animals (complete with milking jokes) and another race of women are considered to be not very ladylike or physically attractive and that could possibly account for their low representation in the game – regardless of the fact that their racials are some of the more desired on the Horde side.

A questline in the Goblin starter zone where the player character has to murder their cheating ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, and rip out their still-beating hearts

You mean, like that quest line in Hellfire Peninsula that ends with you punishing the dead Blood Elf’s mistress by turning her into a mouse and feeding her to a cat?  Where you ally with his vengeful wife to right the unacceptable wrong that was done to her?  Where you beat up the man’s friend, as he mindlessly wanders on his hawkstrider, for information that leads to you identifying the mistress in question?  Yeah – that one.  What did doing that solve, exactly? 

Or that questline where you get turned into a Vrykul female and you’re asked to go through a questline that involves caning disobedient male slaves and then chasing down your sisters, who dared stray from the pack and went out into the world to try new things.  Not to mention that a quest in the middle of this expansive quest chain is called “Going Bearback” a pop-culture reference to “barebacking,” or having sex without a condom – a quest which involves you, still morphed into a big, blue Vrykul woman and riding atop a massive white polar bear.  No hidden meanings there!  We could take it one step further and ask, why not a brown bear or a black bear?  Why did it have to be a white bear?

Many women in the geek industries will adopt the mainstream geek culture in order to fit in – just as in mainstream society we accept that showing cellulite is inappropriate, and that women should wear bras because otherwise men might be distracted by nipples.

This is an argument or a statement that I feel isn’t really helping.  If women are choosing to remain silent and choosing to fall in line – how does that help us?  Or more importantly, why are women doing things they really don’t want to do?  Yes, there is peer pressure to do things that could allow you to fit in well or better “with the boys” and there is pressure from our media and our culture to “cover up” if you’re not of a certain body type (but then you get chastised for showing too much skin or not being covered enough – even if you have the form for it).  The choice is still there to reject those influences and do what you, as a woman in the geek industry or just as a female gamer geek, want to do.  You choose to give in to those pressures and that need to conform or “behave.”  You can make the choice to say “I look good and I’m gonna wear what I want and I don’t think this is okay and I’m going to let you know that and you’re going to listen to me.”  Fitting in isn’t helping. 

I can honestly say that in my years of playing this game, I have never felt “less than” or like I would have had an easier time if I were a male gamer.  I feel that I have been given just as much privelege and right and have shown that I can perform as well as or better than my male counteparts and that has never been a factor in my not being chosen for raids or my decision to part ways with a guild.  I work hard, sometimes harder than others, because that is something ingrained into who I am.  I am an overachiever and I am never satisfied with my performance and I want to be better than myself and better than others.  I never want to settle.  Sure, I have had disagreements in this game and I have encountered situations that I just couldn’t win.  But I can’t say that me being female caused those things to happen or that they would have turned out any differently.  I see male players that have just as difficult a time with certain things (i.e. their performance, their social interactions, etc.) and on a case by case basis, they have been through worse than I have. 

I enjoy being a girl in this game and I don’t stick around in circles where I am told to shut up or I have to feel like I can’t be myself or speak my opinions.  I choose to take myself out of those equations and be in situations where I can prosper and where my voice can be heard.  Are there guilds where women are second class and the harsh terms we get uncomfortable hearing run rampant?  Absolutely.  But I choose not to be part of them.  I choose not to run with those people.  I ask those questions when I am about to join a guild.  I do not support people that feel that way about myself or other woman or homosexuals or anything like that.  If they want to succeed in this game, they will do so without me.  That is how I voice my discontent with people who keep those stereotypes or those hurtful activities going.  I fight the good fight in my own way – just as other female gamers chip away at things on their terms.  We’re all right, here.  There is no wrong way to represent.  We’re in this together.

Which brings me to my last point – women who oppress other women.  I find this to be outright sad and disappointing.  Chris Rock once said “Women could run the world – if only they didn’t hate each other.”  I don’t want to say I expect to receive judgment or to be looked down upon from men, but I find it much more surprising and dare I say hurtful, when I see women standing in the way of other women in this game.  Because a girl likes to have a good time and likes to flirt does not mean she is a drama magnet and that you have to lock up your husband in the closet during raids.  Because a girl applies to your guild and her gem choices may not be what you would expect, it does not give you the right to make her feel less than or for you to take an opportunity to one up her.  Show her the way – ride to the top with her.  Don’t feel like she’s bringing down our gender – show her how to better represent us.  Don’t take the obvious road and go all “Mean Girls,”  just because you think it might make you feel more secure in what you’re doing or because you feel you can gain something, from stepping on another girl’s hands, on the rise to the top.

In closing, I found this amazing post from Wolfshead Online, that could be seen as a TL:DR of what I just typed.  Love it! 

I’m a feminist. I’m a gamer. And I’m offended …

…offended by people who are claiming to be offended on my behalf. I never gave them the right to speak for me, and they don’t.

To anyone who was offended by the bunny ears: When you’ve been told you can’t even apply for a job you’re highly qualified for because you’re female, get offended. When you’ve been told you have to have a man co-sign to open a bank account, get offended. When your college academic adviser tells you that women shouldn’t be in college, and especially not in the sciences, get offended. When you’re denied housing because you’re a single woman, get offended. When you’ve been told you have to clean a filthy bathroom because you’re the only woman working there, get offended. When someone at your new employer’s home office demands that you put the real manager on the phone or you’ll be fired, get offended. And especially, when you’ve been told that your chances of getting a promotion from your boss are directly related to your boss’s chances of getting a blow job from you, get offended.

If the WORST thing that ever happens to you because you’re female is that someone zaps your game character with silly bunny ears, thank your deity of choice every day that you were not born into my generation, that you did grow up in the world we we grew up in, and that you did not have to fight the struggle we fought to have the opportunities that you take for granted. The women of my generation, and the generations who came before us, fought for the right to equal and fair treatment under the law. We fought for the chance to prove we could do a job, and do it. We fought for the opportunity to be everything we could be, do everything we could do. We did not fight for the right to never be offended. Anyone who thinks that such a right exists is trivializing every woman’s struggle to be treated as a human being, as an adult, as an equal.

Go ride your pink pony to the land of nicey-nice, you weak sisters. Find yourself some politically correct game where nobody is allowed to say any words, think any thoughts, that you personally do not like. You might want to get yourself a fainting couch while you’re at it, and make sure you have a man standing by to open doors for you and help you into cars. Or woman up, deal with it, and stop looking for things to get offended by, because you’re giving all the real feminists of the world a bad name.