Women face harassment in gaming community

Kaitlyn White

Gaming has been a big part of my life since I was five. I got an Xbox for my birthday and I immediately fell in love with gaming. I looked forward to gaming when I got home from school, and I would want to leave a friends house early to go game.

But when I got my Xbox 360 in the eighth grade everything changed. Whenever I played games I would be harassed by boys who were also online. They would yell mean and sexist comments.

Although many men think they are the majority online and rule the gaming universe, what they don’t know is that women are the majority online by fifty-two percent.

A lot of men may say the games that women play are not ‘real games’ or ‘proper games’ because games ‘made’ for women are frilly; Cooking Mama, Nintendogs, and many other games are developed for young girls.

Recently, a female gamer activist named Anita Sarkeesian experienced an extreme version of this problem. Sarkeesian was threatened and harassed online after she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund videos that would examine gender in video games.

Sarkeesian is also the founder of nonprofit organization Feminist Frequency, which has been focusing on the negativity and sexism on women and how they’re portrayed in the gaming world.

Sarkeesian faced everything from demeaning and threatening comments on her Youtube videos and people editing her Wikipedia article to include porn to emails threatening rape and murder.

At South, I always thought I was the only girl who was harassed online. Because of these harassment experiences I ended up not playing online anymore, and when I did I muted all the other players.

I started to drift away from gaming, partially because I didn’t know of any other gamer girls at South.

This situation was not unique to me. In a survey conducted by Pricecharting Blog with 874 respondents, it was reported that 35.8% of women quit temporarily because of experiencing sexism online.

I found out that senior Louise Harty and junior Karlee Aponte were also gamers, they allowed me to interview them and get their opinions on the subject.

Harty believes that gamer girls shouldn’t hide the fact that they are gamers. “Who gives a damn? In my free time if I like to sit in front of the T.V. and play Skyrim for five hours. That’s my life. [Gaming] shouldn’t be hidden.”

I agree with her on many levels, because no girl should have to hide the fact that they like to have fun and be who they are.

In addition, men and boys will harass a girl over Xbox Live, Playstation Live, etc. “[It’s] mainly crude comments,” Aponte stated.

“I don’t used the headphones for that main reason,” Harty added her opinion. “It’s a mix of ‘Oh my god you’re a girl, get out of here!’ and ‘This is the sausage fest, you shouldn’t be here!’”

In fact, in the same Pricecharting Blog survey, it was reported that 63% of women face being harassed while gaming online.

Other than crude comments, guys will also ask questions like “Are you hot?” making girls feel very uneasy and self conscious about themselves because they don’t fit the ideal of how gamer girls are portrayed.

“It’s a ridiculous thing to hide. It’s hard because it’s become fetishzied by people, like ‘Oh my god! You play video games, you must be the perfect girl!’” Harty stated.

In “What it’s Like For a Gamer Girl,” an article written by Elisa Melendez she explains how women usually avoid going online, not just because of the threats, but because of what men expect them to act or look like.

Many video games have few if any female characters, ignoring the fact that women might want an avatar that is more representative of them. Video game characters who are women have unrealistic body types and attitudes.

Even when video games do have women fighters, such as The Soulcalibur fighting series, they’re always in skimpy clothing. To make matters worse, in Soul Calibur IV if you hit a fighter hard enough you can break their clothes off.

In Mortal Combat, they have women as well, and their clothes are skimpy too. But instead of the clothes breaking off, by the end of the battle the women fighter’s clothing is torn and ripped in an incredibly revealing way.

There are many norms when it comes to girls in gaming. The stereotype is either, they have to be hot and slutty, or they have to be ugly and have acne everywhere. When you look up “gamer girl” into Google, you get pictures of girls in tight clothes with visible cleavage, and fake glasses. You never see a normal everyday girl.

“[Gaming] shouldn’t be sexualized for men or society in general. It degrades women, and makes them feel like they have to be sexy to be a gamer” said Harty.

Gaming is something no girl or woman should ever have to hide. Women game because it give us a chance to escape a reality and be a warrior, an adventurer, a leader, someone with amazing skills and/or powers, and someone people count on to make everything better.

The gaming industry should have evolved from Princess Peach the damsel in distress and needing Mario to save us.

We were the damsel in distress but now women in gaming are now portrayed as the slutty, unbelievably skinny damsel in distress. Gaming should evolve from the threats, and harassment.