This post is intended to be used for the Hack Gender project currently taking place this week. It’s a fantastic endeavor to understand Gender in a digital world. This is something I wrote some time ago, and still feel to this day. As an avid FPS player, its difficult to walk this line of gender and my frustration shows.
It’s what every female gamer has been told at least once.
Just don’t die. Hide in the corner, walk around with someone, just don’t die.
It’s pretty easy to see that really what’s being said is
Since you can’t kill, just don’t die.
What I can’t decide, however, is this better than the alternative of not existing at all?
That’s right. Girls don’t exist online. Just forget about whether or not they are good. It doesn’t matter. And most of it is my fault.
For the majority of my life, I’ve abandoned all want to be a girl. I wanted to run with the boys, play like the boys, talk like the boys. And why not? They were allowed to fantasize about dominating power structures, not cooperating within them. They were taught to be aggressive in the quest for dominance, not to be subservient to the guy standing next to them. I rebelled against my gender in every way I could. I never wore skirts, always had my hair pulled back with a ball cap on backwards. Never wanted to go shopping, wear anything but tennis shoes, wear make-up or shave.
I found the whole idea of being female repulsive.
Then I got into gaming. I thought I was finally in a place where I didn’t have to acknowledge my gender if I didn’t want to. This meant of course that I still denied things that were inherently female, like my voice, or declaring my avatar to be female instead of male. But that trade-off was OK. I could still play how I wanted to play. The instant I acknowledged anything that would have made me female, I didn’t exist.
You can’t possibly be a girl.
You’re too good to be a girl.
If you are a girl, then you’ve got to an ugly dyke. Girls just aren’t good at games unless they have no boyfriends.
Can I have your phone number?
The list goes on but you get the picture. I think there’s an argument that could be made for the fact that online game play is overrun with individuals who are not necessarily acting their age, but I’ve had these kinds of confrontations with my own guy friends. And even when these same players act foolishly with other male gamers, it’s never called into question that they do or do not exist. Sometimes, its much more subtle and these comments come more from people who already know I am female but not necessarily that I game.
You play video games? Have you played the latest Mario?
You only have a Wii, right?
Wow Chico, that’s a pretty sweet move. Did Steve show you that?
In an ironic sort of way, my avatar is a character that takes up precious space on the server that, until the point I open my mouth, or acknowledge my gender, is an important piece of the puzzle. Once my avatar becomes female because I am female, it disappears, and suddenly that server space is no longer important. Girls don’t kill. Girls aren’t aggressive. Girls don’t want to play rough. So girls don’t play video games. They just don’t exist.
There’s a lot of talk out there about how the internet lets people be other people they normally wouldn’t be. I can pretend to be a magical elf, a powerful wizard, a super soldier, or a Brazilian insurgent. Somehow this lets people be “free” of all of societies constraints in the real world.
Be whoever you want to be!
Well, it’s made me non-existent.