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Sam Gossner @samulis

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Berklee College of Music

New England

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Women in Games and Other Musings

Posted by samulis - March 6th, 2015

So a big elephant in the room this year at GDC is the subject of women in the games industry. As we all know, there has been a decently steady amount of progress towards equality in education and some areas, but some industries are seemingly void of women or still have some antiquated attitudes towards their roles.

I think the core thing to understand about this subject is that for any group seeking social intergration, any group that raises a "question" ("the female question", "the gay question", "the ____ question"), the actual end goal is for there to not have to be any dialogue. The Germans, Irish, and Italians who immigrated to the US in the late 19th and early 20th century faced persecution and extreme prejudice both at home and in the workplace with regard to what they could and couldn't do (there are even remnants of this around, if you've ever passingly made a "ginger" joke).

However, these groups each led a two-pronged approach towards gaining job and income equality with other nationalities (primarily the Anglo-Saxon settlers who had been there since the revolution and controlled the country). The first prong was organization: they organized clubs in which their fellow Germans or fellow Irishmen or fellow Italians or fellow _____ could get together, discus problems, help each other along, and share ideas on how to improve their conditions. These social clubs were widely successful in cities, where most of the immigrants were trying to find work.

The second prong was having extreme "get shit doneitude". These people as a whole were incredibly driven. Look at any invention made between 1860 and 1930, and there's a good chance it was done by some European immigrant. Look at who worked the hardest, most challenging jobs almost consistently through the 1950's and beyond. It was those immigrants. Thousands of first and second generation immigrants, through help from their clubs and fellow nationals, built sprawling corporate empires from what was nothing. Thousands entered into politics with a devotion and zeal hardly seen before since the Civil War or the Revolution. The Irish in Boston were famed for their role in filling the ranks of the police and fire departments. Greek and Italian immigrants launched diners and restraunts of all kinds imaginable across the country. Many Germans turned to commerce, shipping, and technology, creating vast fortunes on inventions and trade with other nations.

Now when you read the newspaper, you don't read how Italians are feeling discriminated against. That is because ethnic boundaries and the related difficulties were transcended between the dual-prong approach and the assimiliative attitude of the American culture. In addition, they were aided by two facts- that second and third generations would have more "american" ways of speaking and behaving, and that in truth, they weren't really much different from the Anglo-Saxon elite anyway, in culture, tradition, or looks.

Unfortunately for a number of causes today, the American assimilative attitude is not as potent as it once was with the decline of nationalism. Immigrants were practically brainwashed to give up their national identity and become an "American". In addition, the rather close cosmetic appearance between the immigrants and the cultural elite at the time was a large bonus factor that does not apply to all "questions".

I think the lesson to take from this historical comparison is not that "social integration is easy and should happen automatically", but rather that "social integration happens. It can be slow, and the more diversity between the politically and culturally dominant group and the integratee, the more work that it requires." I think it is also fair to say, complaining, pointing fingers, etc. etc. is a relatively poor way of doing things. There is certainly a need for active vocal dissent, under clear and courteous terms, such as in the attitude of MLK or Ghandi. On the other hand, what will truly make a difference is the mobilization and creation of a group-wide identity, and the utilization of that identity in groups to help others of the similiar alignment to not just protest the issue, but to just live a happier, more productive, and better life.

The biggest and most common mistake with social integration is that the problem is the fact that a group is not socially integrated. The gap between what men and women are paid is NOT the problem, it is the symptom. The true problem behind that particular issue is that there are industries where the dominant leadership genuinely feels that women are not as qualified to complete the tasks as men. In some very very rare cases, there are a handful of industries in which this, as a generalization, is actually more true than others on a scientific, typically neurological basis (however, that should, of course, not exclude outliers who are qualified more than most women to do those tasks, but it should be noted that they are in fact outliers in those cases). However, in most industries, due to the rising equality in education, it can be said fairly and with a great deal of certainty that men are no better than women at the tasks involved.

At this point, I would like to point to some videos done by LindyBeige, a somewhat controversial but nonetheless always interesting and broad-minded figure, in which he describes how the prehistorical contexts of gender roles still applies today. His view is NOT to say that men and women should only follow preconceived gender roles, but rather, that preconceived gender roles are the way they are because of biological and neurological evolutionary changes that made our race not die out like so many millions of others. The degree to which men and women follow these roles is irrelevant, but a valid point can be made in some cases that, on "average", certain roles can be better performed by one gender than another, although aquired knowledge can overcome most natural advantages held by the other sex at nearly anything (e.g. a man can learn how to read the behaviors of a baby to know what it needs as well as any woman).


Trying to treat the symtoms of the poorly described and shadowy foe of the feminist movement (what even is it? All men on earth? Just the ones who are bigots or have uncontrollable sexual tendencies? The ones who uphold inequality as an excuse?) is no different from taking some cold medicine- it may help you sleep, but it's not doing fuckall to deal with the actual affliction, just the symtoms. There is too much confusion, too much self-diagnosis among all the members of the movement, and, as a whole, too many disparate opinions. What needs to happen next is not radicalism, but a united front, a network, if you will, where women can come together and dialogue to help improve their condition. This is the same with any other "questions". This has been very effective so far with the campaigns of LGBT (or, no offense, whatever the latest incarnation of that abbreviation is) and other similar groups and I feel that sort of unity needs to move into the areas of race and gender prejudice.

I would now like to ask anyone who has any other observations, feelings, or opinions in general on this subject to please share them, either in a comment or, if not enough room exists, a tagged newspost. As I said before, the only way to deal with these issues is to identify and move on the source, and also to unify and aid the members of the affected to take the wheel and work hard to prove that what they say is true. The world revolves around evidence, and feminism is a field where that is more twisted and bent than anywhere else. It strongly needs honest stories of successful people doing successful things, not because they are women, but because they are no different from anyone else and can. As I started, the end goal is for there to be no question and no argument, just unified existence. To try to prove superiority, to show dislike or hatred towards other groups in order to advance your agenda, is only going to set back the true causes of our time.


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