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[Apr. 23rd, 2004|09:31 pm]


The following article first appeared in the Australian computer magazine atOmic MPC. I found it an interesting take on the geek subculture and it's sexist overtones. Read on.

The e-sports community recently applauded a decision made by the Cyberathlete Professional League not to hold a female Counter-Strike league. CPL frontman Angel Munoz decided against the move citing the equal worth of male and female competitors. It's no secret that e-sports, and gaming in general, has been moving slowly toward the female market.

Five years ago, female gamers were a rare thing; a party trick. One of the 'cool nerds' dragged them along to a LAN and proclaimed "hey! my girlfriend plays games!". She, meanwhile, would sit silently in the corner behind a dusty fifteen inch monitor playing her twentieth game of hearts.

Come forward a few years, and the LAN-female is not such a rare sight. Literally hundreds of all-female clans exist across the whole board of games from Warcraft to Quake III. It seems like game companies have finally cracked the hardest nut of all.

So why, more than ever, are we finding blatant sexism in games? Surely an increased female audience could press developers into widening the waistlines and re-proportioning the bust-to-body ratio of female characters. The man himself, Paul Steed, creator of models for games such as Quake III says it's merely a case of demand and supply. To any discerning gamer this sounds a lot like we're being told sexism is the norm and we should just go with it. We've no doubt the almighty dollar is a strong force in the production of games, but is profit being placed ahead of the gaming community's dignity? Let's explain.

Age old stereotypes abound in the community concerning the quintessential 'geek'. Loner with no friends sitting at home all day playing games and searching for the latest Tomb Raider screenshots to drool over. Over the past two or three years we've seen a change in people's perception of LANers with one key exception; busty women are still the focus of the quintessential geek's life. Has sexism become inherent to the LAN subculture?

There can be no doubt that e-sports could offer the world the perfect competition. The online world is a haven of anonymity and equality. As the famous hacker 'The Mentor' put it when speaking on the subject of cyber-anonymity "We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias", and this is just as true today. Sure, there are international rivalries between countries, but these are friendly rivalries that spur players to attain a level of perfection not seen in recent years. Yet this anonymity is generally not afforded to the female populace unless they are smurfing under a male name. Admitting you're female is asking for twenty private messages and various requests for cybersex.
Who says female gamers don't deserve the same level of respect as male gamers? Actually, many believe that women are more predisposed to multi-tasking than men. Theoretically, this means women would be better at map control, strat planning and micro-management. The top-gamers of tommorow could all be female. It's a growing trend, too. Clans like BadGirlsClan, the largest all-female clan in the world are popping up everywhere, matching some of the toughest competition in the world. Pro-gamer mad Korea has huge numbers of female Starcraft players, some of whom, ToSSgirl for example, are celebrities in their own right. So what it comes down to is a simple idea of equality. Let's all get off our arses and stop calling fill-in players 'sluts' and using obtuse sexual innuendo whenever girls are mentioned in gaming media. Who knows, one day a female could be your WCG champion.

For discussion:Which subcultures do you identify as being stereotypically sexist?

[User Picture]From: this_marionette
2004-04-23 05:37 am (UTC)

Sporting (esp. high profile sports, and traditional sports like horse racing)




That's all I can think of, for now.

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From: ex_teagoblin125
2004-04-23 09:03 am (UTC)
That's really fascinating. The mystique of the "girl gamer" has always baffled me a little bit. I don't participate in LANs, but I used to DM a plain old table-top AD&D campaign. You would not *believe* the unsolicited advice I received from men when they found out I was not only participating in a game, but was, in fact, running one.
Geekdom has long been a male purview, but I think that more women might get the geek on if they didn't find the environment itself so hostile. And hostile it is-- every time I enter a comic shop it's like running a gauntlet. Typical scenario: The clerk addresses my non-geek husband (who's only accompanied me under duress). When they find out *I'm* the one actually buying the stuff, their manner becomes either miffed, condescending, or slathering.
I love the idea of girl "clans." We should try to set up geek-girl collectives outside the online world as well.
(Sorry that this strayed into personal anecdote, btw-- the personal might be political, but it's also irksome.)
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[User Picture]From: this_marionette
2004-04-25 04:36 am (UTC)
Firstly, the personal is only irksome when it's irrelevant.

Secondly, being hugely un-geeky, I don't run this gauntlet, but I still enjoy reading this.

I think the reason the 'geek' subculture is so sexist is that, as with all subcultures, members feel the need to preserve the good (or not) name of their subculture with elitism; anything new is viewed with condescension. Since girls+computers is relatively new (at least in the mainstream media), it is viewed with suspicion, and thus derision.
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From: ex_teagoblin125
2004-04-28 08:44 am (UTC)
That's brilliant, M. Thank you very much. (Going into comic shops can be a bit of a meta experience-- i'm there as a geek, but inside i'm still a feminist and i'm still running an internal critique. it's a little schizophrenic.)
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[User Picture]From: nosmokegirl
2004-04-23 11:07 am (UTC)
which subcultures do you identify as NOT being stereotypically sexist?
no, really, i can't think of any.
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[User Picture]From: this_marionette
2004-04-25 04:39 am (UTC)
It depends on how you define subculture. If you define subculture as every belief any member (or professed member) thereof, then, yeh, all subcultures are sexist. If, however, you define subcultures as the 'core' or 'main' beliefs or ideas, there are plenty of non-stereotypically-sexist subcultures.

Think about it, No Smoke Girl. What about riot grrls? They can be considered an offshoot of punk, but even so, punk is not stereotypically sexist. I'm sure there are others, but I can't be bothered thinking of them.
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