According to media sites such as The Guardian, 2014 was a landmark year for feminism. It was the year that included Malala Yousafzai winning the Nobel Peace Prize, feminist campaigners criticising scientist Dr. Matt Taylor over his choice of shirt at the Rosetta probe comet landing (he later apologised in tears) Angelina Jolie campaigning against war rape, the controversy regarding TIME and their decision to include the word ‘feminist’ in a poll of words that should be banned in 2014 (they later removed it) and Emma Watson‘s speech to the U.N assembly on gender equality. Third wave Feminism has become hard to miss and is being more frequently discussed in the media than ever before, both positively and negatively.
The year that was 2014 also saw Feminism become a prevalent topic in gaming. Due to the efforts of feminist game/pop culture critics, such as Anita Sarkeesian and Johnathan McIntosh, Feminism has become a fashionable ideology among game journalists and writers. The gaming media has embraced Feminism, that is at least, one type of Feminism. The sex negative, social gender Feminism that has become characteristic of third wave feminists such as Anita Sarkeesian, Zerlina Maxwell and Soraya Chemaly. Though there are many kinds of Feminism, such as Radical Feminism, Equity Feminism and Sex Positive Feminism, Third Wave Feminism is what most people associate with modern Feminism. A Feminism that is critical of porn/sex workers, believes that society is governed by systems that inherently favour men (known as Patriachy) and argues that a society based on capitalism means the oppression and economic exploitation of women.
However the majority of game journalists and writers are men, as such there has been an increase in game writing by what Third Wave feminists refer to as Male Feminist Allies. These are men that support Third Wave feminist ideology and align themselves with the modern feminist movement, with some referring to themselves as Male Feminists.
Male Feminist Allies can face being mocked are often jokingly referred to as a ‘White Knight’, a man that supposedly spends his time charging to the rescue of those poor oppressed delicate specimens of womanhood.
Some examples of Male Feminist Ally/White Knighting from gaming journalists include these
Another example from a recent Polygon article by Colin Campbell
“The problem of men dominating gaming is endemic. I am part of it and, until I am ready (or forced) to fall on my sword in the cause of equality, will continue to be so.”
Though Male Feminist Allies may feel that they are breaking new ground in reality the idea of the man that supports women and rejects perceived social gender roles is nothing new, in the 1980’s the term New Man was coined to denote a trend for men that were comfortable taking on non traditional responsibilities and expressing a more sensitive, less stoic form of masculinity. It’s a bit of a personal theory of mine that these kind of trends tend to be circular, a trend such as the ‘New Man’ is established for men to express a more sensitive masculinity, advertisers and executives see an opportunity and flood the market with products and advertisements promoting this trend and using it in targeted marketing, the trend becomes the perceived norm. Then those in society naturally adverse to sustaining the norm push back and form a new trend, in the 1990s it was the ‘New Lad’, and the same cycle occurs again. Gaming media is embracing what it sees as a trend. However this is where the problems start, the trend is among the writers, it is not among the audience.
That is not to say that gaming audiences are inherently anti-feminist, if they were there would be no audience in gaming for feminist writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers or Cathy Young. In fact, if gamers were anti-feminist there would be no reason for me to write these blogs since I would have no audience for them. The gaming community is made up of people of many different ages and backgrounds, each bringing with them their own unique perspectives and political, social and ideological beliefs. Some support Feminism, some don’t. However I have yet to meet a gamer that does not support equality, I’ve no doubt some exist, I just don’t think they are all or even most gamers. What the gaming audience wants is for the news portion of gaming media to be free of these kinds of political and social commentary.
Here’s the thing, when Male Feminist Allies White Knight for women in gaming they do not do so for all women. I have spoken before about how the gaming media has recently tried to paint itself as an advocate for women, a positive force trying to make gaming a welcoming space for women to work and create. However this is patently untrue, examples of positive coverage of the many women successfully working in gaming are few and far between yet articles that paint the gaming industry as a terrifying den of exclusion and harassment are plentiful. The gaming media does not celebrate women that are already forging successful careers in gaming, instead it actively terrifies women into avoiding potentially choosing the game industry as a career option.
To the heart of the problem, let’s not kid ourselves here, these Male Feminist Ally White Knights of the gaming media are doing so solely because they have personal relationships with particular Third Wave feminists. Why do I say this? Because I have seen, and experienced first hand, some of these men mock, deride and shut down women that don’t conform to the ideological specifications of their third wave feminist friends. That is not Feminism, it is Cronyism.
It seems that to these men, women that reject feminist ideology, or even just subscribe to a different kind of Feminism, are not real women since they do not fit the idealised, special snowflake, victimhood view of womanhood characterised by Third Wave Feminism. These are women that do not believe what they’re told, behave how they’re told or know their place like they’re told and so they are viewed as a kind of Unwoman.
From my perspective the most interesting aspect of these Male Feminist Ally White Knights of gaming comes from examining how these kinds of men are viewed by Third Wave feminists, they seem to pull them in with one hand and push them away with the other. Third Wave Feminism wants to encourage men to adopt Third Wave Feminist Principles yet men who do so are often treated with distrust and disdain by Third Wave feminists. Even some Male Feminists do not trust other Male Feminists. Third Wave feminists write confusing and contradictory articles about how to be a Male Feminist Ally and other articles about how awful Male Feminist Allies are. This is no real surprise, in one of my earlier blogs I covered what Feminism personally means to me and in it I noted that I have always been wary of the rather adversarial language used by Third Wave feminists. Whether they like it or not when they speak of systematic oppression of women by male supported systems and use words and phrases such as ‘Allies’ and ‘Culture War’ they evoke imagery that paints society as a battleground. In this war of culture who is it exactly that they are fighting? And if women and men that don’t agree are not feminists or ‘Allies’ then what are they? Well what is the opposite of an ally? An ENEMY. If you are not with third wave feminism, no matter your gender, you are considered to be an enemy.
At this point it may not surprise you to learn that as a feminist I reject many of the tenets of modern Third Wave Feminism. I don’t see myself as a victim, I do not live in constant fear of men, I don’t think anyone of any gender that rejects Feminism is my enemy as long as they support equality. That is actual equality and not what Third Wave Feminism defines as equality
I would love nothing more than for the gaming industry and media to truly debate and discuss issues of representation. Nothing would bring me greater satisfaction then to see women with talent, motivation and a love of technology encouraged to choose STEM fields as a career by seeing examples of positive role models already successfully working in those fields. How do these Male Feminist Ally game writers and the Third Wave feminists they are White Knighting for benefit women in gaming when they infantalise women that agree and dehumanise the women that don’t.? Special treatment and concessions for women at the expense of men and other women is not empowering. I’ve always believed empowerment to be the discovery of natural confidence and resources that lie inside ourselves. As a feminist I have felt more empowered by my interactions with the gaming community then I have at any other time in my life. If we empower ourselves at the expense of others are we not just ending one injustice by creating another? I’m sure many of these White Knight men of the gaming media mean well, but reversing the scales of inequality out of some outmoded concept of chivalry and liberal guilt will do more harm than good.
Let me make this perfectly clear, I have an opinion and I am perfectly capable of expressing that opinion without any assistance. I do not require anyone to White Knight for me. What I do require is that what I have to say be heard and respected. Try to speak over me, or dehumanise me because I am the wrong kind of woman/feminist and you prove yourself to be no friend of mine and I will not believe that true equality for all is what you seek. The gaming media has a hard lesson to learn, men that speak for women without listening to women are no friends of women.
By now you might be wondering what I would say to any man that asked me how he can be a good Male Feminist Ally, the short answer would be….don’t. Women don’t need pandering to, their honour defending or their own voices silenced. What we need is to ensure that everyone has the same treatment and level of opportunity as everyone else. Just practice good manners and treat everyone you encounter, regardless of any arbitrary defining characteristic or self imposed label, with the respect, courtesy and dignity that you would ask for yourself. Yes occasionally you may mess up a little but that’s ok, at the end of it all we are all only human.
I’d like to dedicate this particular post to all the fantastic men that I know. I love you guys, I hope you know that.
Thanks for reading