Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Some Points on Sexism

I'm going to go a bit controversial on you today. Larisa, over at the PPI, summarized her long-standing view on sexism nicely, contributing to the recurring theme of sexism in the gaming industry.  I say long-standing because, as she aptly points out, this topic seems to come up a couple times each year and gets a lot of attention.  Thus, many of the older bloggers have written books on the topic.  Comments could be collaborated to rival even the thickest tome of information.  In short, everyone has something to say and says it.

I wanted to jump in as well and just throw off a few points.  I'm not going to argue "for" or "against", because I can see the truth on all sides of the argument (and there are definitely more than two sides, fwiw).  There are great points being made, and these are issues we should all think about and reconcile with our own beliefs.  You have to be ready with what you think because, in life, issues like these are inevitably going to come up.  It's when you haven't fully explored how you feel that anxiety occurs.   Thus, anything that promotes discussion and self-discovery is a good thing.  Just don't make the mistake to miss the "self" part of the discovery.  What you discover may be completely different and no less valid than someone else's discovery.

In any case, here are the points that I wanted to make for the pure sake of promoting well-rounded thought about this topic.  Please do not take these to be attempts to "prove" or "disprove" anything.  They are just thoughts. Anyway, hereafter follow the disjointed paragraphs of points...

I appreciate Larisa's view on the issue because I think it really promotes equality.  She's not afraid to point out the flaws she sees, but she doesn't let that ruin the work as a whole.  She's not throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  We will never find the middle-ground by oscillating between two extremes.  Strive to lead by example and action, which I believe is what Larisa does well in her article.  She's not telling you what to think or do, and yet is describing a wonderful mentality to have.

One of the common points made in these arguments is the number of "attractive" females we are subjected to by things like the loading screens.  First of all, attraction is purely subjective.  Different people find different things attractive.  Furthermore, studies have shown that women find women more attractive than men find men, in general.  That is to say.  Women have been found (in a heterosexual study) to be equally aroused by women and men.  Men show a far greater skewing to arousal by only women.  (Consequently, if you'd like to look at the studies, I was first introduced to them through my collegiate psychology coursework, but Wiki has a good entry on attractiveness.  Not that Wiki is the best source, but if you look at the footnotes for 80-83, those are the studies referenced by this point.)  The point here is that we see more generically attractive females because they are more generically attractive to everyone, females included.  It's catering to the greatest common denominator, which is not sexism, but pretty much Blizzard's business philosophy.  It is just how we are as humans.  Sexism may be involved, but it is also not the full story.  The female form is just more generically pleasing than the male form. 

Reverse sexism is also true.  For instance, an all-female guild is seen as empowered, enlightened, and unique.  An all male guild is seen as exclusionary, bigoted, and wrong.  It also seems to me like some of those people that praise the all-female guild will be the ones who persecute the all-male guild.  That's what we call a double standard, and does not promote equal treatment.  Still, at what point do we do "too much" to "promote" equality and end up destroying fun, helpful groups that aren't hurting anyone?  It's a delicate dance.

One anomaly does not a point make, but the Wheel of Time series contains some of the best female characters I've ever read.  They are truly heroic in deed and description, even though they may not be the main protagonist.  I'm sure my own views color how I read the text (how can they not), but I see a male hero that is very much propped up by strong female heroines.  Without the females, the wheel does not turn.  I'd like to see this in more stories, and in the genre.

Going along with my thoughts about the Wheel of Time, I can't help but think a lot of the feminine success in those stories is due to the fact that women are, in general, the more powerful sex there.  Let's be honest, in our world, men tend to be physically dominate.  Across the board, men are just usually bigger and stronger than women on average, and that gives us a certain amount of natural dominance.  Not that it can't be overcome, not that there aren't women that are stronger than men, etc.  Just playing the averages here.  In the WoT, men aren't allowed to develop magical abilities (for good reason in the story).  Thus, while men may retain their physical edge, women have all the magic.  Magic that can negate physical prowess, and I think you end up seeing more matriarchal societies form as a result.  It really is fantasy, because more societies in our RL are patriarchal.  That's just how it's worked out over the years, and to a certain extent that will probably be the case for years to come, as long as men are just naturally stronger.  We are not so enlightened yet as to negate raw physical power.  We're a lot better than we have been historically though.

Those are just a few of the thoughts I have on the issue.  Like Larisa, I tend to turn a blind eye to a lot of it.  For right or wrong, it falls back on the fact that I, like girls, just want to have fun.  And enjoy the stories for what they all.  I mean I totally hear what she's saying about LotR and Narnia, and I like both stories in the same manner.  At the end of the day, I want believable, relate-able characters.  WoT proves that a single sex writer can do this with both sexes.  Perhaps he relied on his wife a lot, but behind every great man there's a great woman right?  So maybe the answer is that Blizzard doesn't necessarily need to hire more women.  Maybe they just need to provide free marital communication seminars. :-).

No comments:

Post a Comment