“Male gamer privilege: Every game exists to stroke your ego. Female gamer privilege: Ten-year olds call you a slut when you play games online.” – Somebody retweeted by somebody else in my Twitter stream
For those of you not acquainted with the concept of privilege, it’s the phenomenon of conferring sociocultural advantage to some group, usually as a consequence of bias, discrimination, or – perhaps most insidiously – because that’s just the way things are, starring “gender roles” and 1950 and It Came From Patriarchy.
For example, men’s opinions are generally taken more seriously than women’s – because men are logical and women are emotional, irrational, and one tampon away from burning down the local primary school – regardless of the substance of those actual opinions and even when those opinions are exactly the same, which perpetuates a gender-based inequity that has no basis in reality.
Privilege isn’t restricted to genders, but male privilege is significant because it’s so firmly entrenched in our sociocultural consciousness, it’s become quite normalised and passes almost entirely without criticism or even recognition. One could say that the greatest male privilege is being completely unaware of that privilege. And if you do criticise it, that’s just hysterical feminazism, and that’s totally bad, and that’s also ironically a manifestation of male privilege, but that’s enough about that for the moment.
I’m getting to the bit about gaming, just hang on.
Now, I’m not a man but if I were to wake up tomorrow morning and find myself magically transformed into one, I’m sure my new favourite thing would be opening jars, just because I could. I’d get nothing important done, I’d just go around opening jars and laughing maniacally, intoxicated with power and peanut butter. It’s probably also more of a biologically determined privilege, so it gets a free pass.
But I think my next favourite thing about being a man would be the comparative lack of sexual harassment I’d encounter.
Hold up. If you’re a man, stop a moment, and think about the things you do to avoid sexual harassment.
As a woman, I have to do (and not do) all sorts of things. I wear big, baggy clothes when I go running. I don’t go to pubs on my own. I stand at the back in a crowded lift. I seldom wear tops that show any cleavage, and when I do, I cross my arms a lot. I pay for myself on first dates. I have to be very careful what “signals” I might be giving, even when it’s just being courteously friendly to a man. I’ll cross the road or turn the corner if there’s a man behind me, or a man approaching me, and there’s nobody else around.
I’ve lied and said my male friends are my boyfriends when the leering men at the bar wouldn’t take “No, thank you” for an answer. I’ve left a club because a man became hostile when I didn’t want to go into the bathrooms and fuck after a five minute conversation about Iron Maiden.
I also use a gender-neutral alias in multiplayer games, and I don’t talk in the public channel. Usually not, anyway. I broke my own rule a week or so ago while playing Halo on Xbox LIVE with a friend, and got this as a motivational reminder and literary inspirational (WARNING: GROSS).
Here’s the thing. When I’m playing a game online, I’m playing a game online, I’m not looking for a hook-up* or a hit-on** or a hey-baby, how-‘bout-some-dick-pics***? I’m not even going to get into why having to point that out is absurd, because if I thought I had to, I’d sooner book a one-way trip off the solar system or perhaps just a brick to the prefrontal cortex.
Being a woman in a multiplayer game isn’t about being an egregious attention whore, despite what anybody on /r/gaming might say – it’s actually just about being a woman in a multiplayer game, and it’s not even relevant but it’s not like we can easily disguise our voices and why should we and so on, and we shouldn’t have to pretend we’re not women and/or shut up just so men won’t be sexually inappropriate.
But tl;dr, don’t be that guy. You’re really not impressing anybody.