Sunday, March 10, 2013

Sexism in Video Games and Misogyny in the Real World

Sexism in Video Games and Misogyny in the Real World

Written 10 March, 2013

Over at New World Notes Hamlet Au has taken time off from his countdown to Second Life's death from sim attrition to write about the work of Anita Sarkeesian-- and specifically the first part of Damsels in Distress, her new series of short films about sexism in video games. You should watch it and, if you're interested, view some of the other videos at the feministfrequency YouTube channel. The messages are important.

You'll notice Sarkeesian has disabled comments for her video. That's because misogynists of the troll subspecies launched a campaign of harassment, ridicule, and death threats in response to her work. Below, see what she has to say about it-- and click through to YouTube and look at some of the videos made in reaction to her. This guy is far from the worst-- but ain't he a peach? Look at the comments, too-- full of troglogytes.

Viewing Sarkeesian's films and seeing the reaction to them, I couldn't help but think about Second Life.

Unlike most of virtuality and the near-entirety of Planet Earth, females are equal to men in Second Life. They're more numerous than men, they drive the virtual economy, and they are as strong as men. They have equal economic and physical status with men, and, unlike the real world, they  can't be physically harmed or, if they know how to work the user interface, intimidated by men. Because their real-life identities are anonymous they can say what they want and do what they want, and they don't have to put up with shit from anybody. They don't hit glass ceilings; they build their own economic empires. They can express their sexuality any way they want. They can't be flung into doors or pushed down steps. They can't be choked or kicked-- not unless they agree to be When male avatars go all macho, it's not dangerous like it is in the real world; it's pathetic.

This doesn't mean there's not sexism in Second Life. There is, and plenty of it, most from males, but some, sadly, from female avis.

It doesn't matter that some of SL's female avies are controlled by real-life men. Anonymity is the great leveler-- and besides, except for the walking sexual stereotypes, most of the women in Second Life are women in real life, too. That's been my experience, anyway.

Because their real identities are shielded, women can compete equally with men, and they need not fear them. Consequently, Second Life is, I would argue, a remarkably level playing field, a place where not only women, but people of color and LGBT people and  people with disabilities are equal under the eye of the pixel.

And guess what? Men here aren't disempowered by the equality of women. They build their own empires. They can't be bullied, either, provided they know how to ban and mute and derender.

There's a great deal of play here around issues of freedom, dominance, and submission-- but no one here is complelled to participate. It's cheaper than, and I suspect more beneficial than therapy.

Here we don't have to be princesses caged in towers. We're not murdered and stuffed into refrigerators. Second Life is safe space for women, which is without a doubt why there are so many of us are here.

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