After weeks of discussion with people online and in real life (yes, I am more than a disembodied text-machine), I think I’ve finally solidified where I stand on the issue of sexist art – models, characters and illustrations – in gaming and in fantasy in general. Hopefully I can express myself well, and this can be my last word on the subject for now.
I am very grateful for the discussions with everyone, and particularly for Frontline Gamer for bringing the topic to a wide audience. Also Loquacious at World of Wonder has put up some thoughtful and passionate posts, plus: actually a woman. Besides Hark from GAME OVER posting in Sinsynn’s discussion, I think Lo is the only woman I have engaged with online about this issue. Her latest post really helped me to understand what I want to say. Here is part of what I wrote:
All of us have unique view points. Some people’s don’t seem reasonable to anyone but others who hold them, e.g. racists. Most people’s views I can understand as being ones that reasonable people hold. As I have said throughout this debate, even in Sinsynn’s original discussion, the problem I think is that people who hold my view within gaming are often dismissed as being unreasonable. What I want is for the apparently silent majority culture of gamers to admit that a lot of the art in our sub-culture could be considered offensively sexist by a reasonable person.
So there it is. There are a lot of things in life that are not easy fixes and have no right answer. Most moral problems, for example abortion, killing in war, or social welfare are all issues where there are compelling arguments on both sides. In the end it comes down to the sorts of arguments you find convincing based on your temperament, experiences, and just generally where you’re coming from.
The best we can do in these sorts of situations I think is have respect for the views of others when they are reasonable. If you can see how someone could reasonably hold the viewpoint that they do, even if you don’t agree, then it’s a view that deserves to be heard as much as yours. So really this is about empathy: putting yourself in another’s place so you understand that they aren’t an idiot or a crazy person.
I do not, and never have claimed that it is unreasonable or stupid to like Kingdom Death pin-ups or Soda Pop models or whatever. I can easily understand how an easy-going, open-minded person could find the whole thing trivial and see no disrespect for women implied. That’s why I keep saying these models don’t necessarily offend me, but I can see that they are potentially offensive.
Because by the same token, it is perfectly reasonable for someone to think they are sexist, and do present an implied threat to women as human beings. You wouldn’t have to be a crazy person to think that. Some very intelligent, thoughtful, and well-educated people that I know personally think that. I myself worry about it, for various personal and theoretical reasons.
What I’m saying is basically this: this sort of art should be controversial. We shouldn’t normalize it. And we should never silence reasonable people on either side of the debate. That way things may not be perfect, but they should balance out to bring gaming and fantasy into line with the rest of society morally.
Right now I think there is a definite imbalance, and gaming in general is a sub-culture that lags behind the rest of society in sensitivity to these issues. I feel as though people who hold my view within this sub-culture are shouted down as being politically correct, or puritanical, or some other name designed to make us look unreasonable.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to apologize to any female readers who may have felt I was claiming to speak for them, or for all women. That was not my intent.