Female editors, game producers, and others in the industry encourage women to pursue careers in gaming at PAX East. Joystiq Managing Editor Susan Arendt, in particular, exhorts women that gaming journalism outlets seek female voices and mentions that she has recruited via Twitter in the past.
I did notice that in this panel, as well as “Sex, Sexy, & Sexist: Fixing Gender Inequality in Gaming” (h/t: Geek Feminism), Arendt urged women to temper their anger. In the former panel, she recounted one man flirting by asking her in response to her Harry Potter shirt, “Which House?” She explains that this could have been misinterpreted as checking her geek card on an assumption that as a female, she was either feigning interest or “unqualified” to be a fan. See the fake geek girl myth. Dianna Lora from DualShockers.com concludes the seminar by urging positivity, open minds, and expression, and implores, “let’s not be on a soapbox.”
While I see the practicality in thinking twice or attempting to empathize before making accusations in a male-dominated industry and among male colleagues, I also wonder if women aren’t receiving enough messages to be quiet. Consider the virulent response to game critics like Anita Sarkeesian, sometimes from women assuring men they are not, y’know, the f-word.
So I was disappointed that the least conciliatory responses on the sexism panel emerged from Duane de Four, activist for the prevention of sexual assault and domestic and dating violence. As I’d expect from a man sincere about empowering women, he did not speak over the female panelists, but I wish the female panelists had condemned the “white knight” term, for example, as unequivocally as he did. On the other hand, women receive more blowback when they’re as direct, when they don’t take pains to qualify criticism with “but not all men…“(h/t: Love in the Margins)
Arendt added this caveat without prompting, calling sexists “a vocal minority,” to which I’d question, “Have you ever created a Xbox Live account with a female-identified name or played with a mic on? Have you been to sites like NotintheKitchenAnymore.com documenting verbal abuse or harassment?” It’s a big, fugly minority, and I think the panel could have communicated more awareness of online phenomena and movements that reflect the broader society, but she did acknowledge that many men in the industry are unaware and that education is necessary and ongoing.
Ultimately, these panels targeted women in the industry or hopefuls with a stake, as opposed to us in the peanut gallery, so I understand encouraging diplomacy and self-care. When the plane takes a nose dive, put on your oxygen mask first, then help others, she says. Perhaps this gentler approach suffices as a beginning and will sway more male minds.