The below is an unfiltered look at a post I put up on Google+ in easily-sharable format. Even if you’re unaware of the specific incident(s) that prompted this particular post, I hope that the themes and message will still resonate. As I maintain a policy of no comments on my blog, you’ll have to discuss this within your own circles, or at my original post on Google+. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see that post unless you’re in my circles.
Since it appears that a number of people in this community feel that it is appropriate to put words in my mouth, I’m going to post this comment response in the same way I posted the original post. It was on a share of my IWD post (below) that +Christopher Mennell posted. In the Comments, Eric Kervina divined my thought process and let everyone know what I was REALLY saying, which was, apparently:
“But by all means, feel free to denigrate anybody doing their earnest best to be decent, and unilaterally declare they are doing it wrong, should you find their efforts wanting.”
After reading some of the back and forth and taking a look at the names of those who +1′d Eric’s divination, I decided to respond and further explain my stance. That response is below.
Blaming sexism on depictions of women in art or media is victim-blaming. It is the exact same logic utilized when a man defends his sexual assault on the woman by blaming her dress. It takes the responsibility for the bad behavior off of the shoulders of the person exhibiting those behaviors and places it onto the shoulders of a concept, where there can be no harm done. The man gets off the hook for his behaviors, and the concept takes all of the blame.
Saying that teens are more likely to become sexist after seeing women posed or presented in a particular format is also victim-blaming. Whether you deem the poses or clothing “realistic” or “reasonable” is irrelevant. The pictures depicted are those of the female body. Commentary on the depiction of those women’s bodies in this format has the net same result as making those comments about women’s bodies in the first place.
Telling girls that we need to depict them completely clothed in “reasonable armor” looking as masculine as they possibly can in order to prevent themselves from being sexually assaulted, hit on, or mistreated sends theexact same message as telling teen girls that they need to cover up because they’re riling all the men to do things they don’t want to do.
The message should always be that sexism and sexual assault are the sole responsibility of the person who is inflicting harm upon the other. Violence is never okay. Treating someone poorly is never okay. The people who DO these things need to be corrected, not allowed to do whatever the fuck they want while we subtly change the media and hope that (eventually) it will have a net effect on bringing the level of assholedom down.
The same thing goes with getting more diverse artwork in books, and I’m talking about global diversity, not the narrow “more plus-sized models” bit that I generally see from the usual suspects in this community. I mean more short girls, more freckled girls, more red, brown, black, yellow, and even chartreuse girls. Girls with tits and asses of all sizes, with curves everywhere, and curves nowhere. Short girls, tall girls, ugly girls, pretty girls, girls that are feminine and passive, girls that are strong and aggressive, bookish girls and kick-ass girls … girls that dress conservatively, and girls that dress provocatively. Girls in reasonable armor, and girls in completely unreasonable armor. If we continually blame the art orders for the lack of diversity, the victim, is again, being blamed. We’re not doing anything to further equality, we’re just begging men for something else for women to consume.
Because really, here’s the point. Forcing male artists and writers to conform to “what women want” does not further equality. It just gives women yet anotherproduct to consume. Conceivably, down the line, some of these women consuming these items may in turn become game developers, but that is a long timeline away, and there is very little evidence to support that such a thing actually works. While the desire to do this may have the best of intentions, it’s just about effective a means of furthering equality as selling women washing machines and lipstick.
Since the dawn of the 20th century, women have been teased with equality through consumerism by an obscene amount. Buy this lipstick and you, too, can be respected at work! Purchase this washing machine and you, too, can have more free time for your own interests! Give us money, ladies, and you’ll have equality! Except that it was male advertising executives and male product designers that either deemed or were told what it was that women really want, sot hey did that.
Equality is not a difficult thing to measure. We have several baselines with which to do it. How many women graduate college, how many women go on to careers, how much women get paid, how many women work on a particular project (and in what roles), and so on.
Having spent 20 years of my life as a woman not only working in a male-dominated industry, but working in the male-dominated SIDE of that male-dominated industry, I know very well what that picture looks like. Chances are, that pink-it-and-shrink-it website “for women” all about making smart financial choices and being the mommy you always dreamed of was hatched from the mind of a male entrepreneur who wants to get on this “for women” bandwagon. Chances are, he hired predominately male engineers to build out the site with a few women thrown in here and there. He may go so far as to make sure plenty of women are hired, but chances are those women will fit “traditional” roles doing things like project management, human resources, product management, and administrative assistance. Yet, when his fantastic website is launched, it will be lauded as something women desperately need in a world dominated by men!
I’ve seen that pattern time and time again in my professional career, and I see it happening in the RPG industry as well. If all a woman wants is diversity in consumerism, she’s not actually fighting for any sort of equality other than the equality of consumerism (which has been skewed towards women since the dawn of advertising, but that’s another discussion altogether). What she should be asking is, “How many women did you hire to build this product, and what were their responsibilities, and how much did they get paid?” if she wants to start pushing the conversation towards actually achieving true social equality. SO MANY of the self-proclaimed experts on social justice in our community NEVER ask these question. They only ask about art depictions and rape depictions, and it astonishes me that when +Zak Smith consistently suggests that more diversity in hiring automatically LEADS to a more diverse product AND actually directly moves the equality needle, he’s frequently shouted down.
Take the measurements that I gave you: Break down how many women are working at games publishers, the percentage of women broken down by department and responsibility, the amount that those women get paid versus the amount that their male counterparts get paid, and add in the turnover rate based on gender, and you have a crystal clear picture of whether or not a publishing company actually does anything to further equality. And while the frame of reference here is about women, the same measurements should also apply to race and sexuality.
I can guarantee that a majority of the RPG publishing companies out there would completely fail this test, yet many women are just asking them to ask their male artists to depict women in another way while not only NOT asking them to hire for diversity, but actually defending them when they don’t. Yes, finding the right candidate is hard, but moving the needle of equality is alsohard, and also a worthy task. Excuses blame the victim, too. If there were only more women available who could DO this, then we’d hire them! They’re there! It may be harder to find them, but they’re there! So are all the different cultures, and sexualities. All there, all represented, all filled with fantastic artists and writers and managers and dreamers. Not taking the time to look for them is lazy and foolish.
Now, Eric (and all the people who +1′d him) put words into my mouth that I did not say and do not believe.
Think about what that means. Counting Eric, seven visible people have decided that they know better than I do what I’m stating when I write. Seven people have decided that they have the capability of looking into my mind and divining what I was think, and they all seem to have enough arrogance and hubris to determine that what they’ve divined – without ever so much as meeting me once – is correct.
This is not surprising, as this is their MO. Take a piece of artwork, whether it’s a game or a book or a single image, divine what the creator was thinking, then react to that divination. It does a wonderful job of stirring up the masses and creating attention, but unless they can step directly into the mind of the creator – and we haven’t developed mind-reading technology yet - they’re just reacting to a fiction they’ve developed in their own heads, and applying that fiction to someone they don’t even know.
The only part that I agree with even remotely is “should you find their efforts wanting”. YES! Should I find their efforts wanting is the PERFECT reason to tell them! In no way, shape or form should mere intentions excuse someone from offensive behavior. Looking at the list of who’s +1′d this, I can see why those people would definitely want to hide behind the idea that mere good intentionsare enough to excuse bad behavior, but it doesn’t - especially when the people you are offending are of the same social class that you’re claiming to protect.
A lot of sexist things occur based on good intentions. Societies that require women to take a secondary roll in life and wear protective clothing believe that they are doing this for the best interests of the women. They believe that they have the best of intentions and are protecting the jewels of their society. That doesn’t suddenly make it okay to cut off their genitalia.
So don’t come in here and tell me that the “good intentions” of a publisher who asks the males who work on their projects to produce “female friendly” work outweighs the fact that they didn’t do the very first and easiest thing they coulddo to further equality – which is to hire more women.
Asking to become better consumers isn’t enough. It’s like getting to the glass ceiling and saying ‘Okay, I’ll just stop here’. If you’re really intent on moving the needle, if you really want to be a catalyst for change, you have to be able to say that’s not enough. It isn’t enough to merely be a games consumer, we won’t achieve true diversity until the game creators are diverse.read more