One of the more annoying trends in our society has been the substitution of action with rhetoric. This has really taken off in the age of Twitter where people think hashtags are a replacement for actually doing something.
Today I read an Opinion Piece on Polygon called “No Skin thick enough: The daily harassment of women in the game industry” It’s a good piece and one I think you should read.
However, I do have some criticisms of the piece. For starters, it is a bad piece of journalism. It relies completely on sensationalistic emotionalism to back up its blanket assertion (“the daily harassment of women in the game industry”).
Such articles, even opinion pieces, are apparently not open to discussion. As soon as I expressed some criticism on Twitter the haters came out in force. All sense of reason evaporated. My criticism was: Be aware that sometimes allegations of sexual harassment are false (remember what happened to me). That, by no means, had anything to do with the anecdotes in the article. It has to do with how women sometimes choose to take criticism/teasing/abuse as being due to their sex.
Specifically, I take issue with articles that make sweeping (and arguably sexist) charges against men using 4 anecdotes as evidence.
If we were debating any other topic and someone made a broad, far reaching claim and backed it up with nothing more than 4 anecdotal examples they’d get reamed. But because we are talking about an ism, it is taboo to raise any skepticism about the article’s agenda.
I’ve been in the game industry for over 20 years. I’ve seen its ugliness in many different forms. So let me tell you: This subject matter is delicate and should be treated as such.
The game industry is rife with misogyny. It is a serious issue for many reasons. We, as a society, lose out because our industry is not welcoming to women. The reason for that is because when a man does something impressive and gets some publicity, they get kudos and support. But if a woman does something impressive and gets the same publicity, their experience is likely to be terrible and humiliating. I’ve seen this first hand and it’s discouraging.
However, having been falsely accused of sexually harassing someone and gone through years of public and private hell for it while at the same time running a game studio with one of (if not the highest) concentration of female employees in our industry I think I’m in a position to say how nuanced this article is.
Let me say it plainly: There are women who will exploit this delicate topic for financial or professional gain. Maybe they’re “journalists” who know it’s a quick, easy way to get their article published on Kotaku. Maybe it’s a former journalist whose just gotten into the game industry who wants her upcoming project to get coverage. Or maybe it’s a young woman mad at her boss who wants to exploit the issue to make money. And of course, maybe it’s a legitimate reporting on a serious problem. But sorry, I’m a skeptic now. I didn’t use to be but 2 years of unwarranted smears have made me take these claims with a grain of salt.
I’m an engineer, I’m interested in solutions and I think there is a lot we can do to address this issue:
- Punish people who harass other people. I.e. Permanently ban someone who writes the kind of disgusting invective that the article cites. XBox Live and other services allow for an immense level of abuse of all kinds. Don’t tolerate it anymore.
- Encourage / Reward those who actually DO something. The reason “white knighting” is despised is because it’s really about people making themselves feel good about themselves. Less rewarding of progressive rhetoric and more reward of progressive action.
The media could do more to cover games and studios that utilize female talent. Do you like Galactic Civilizations? The lead developer of GalCiv I and II is a woman (and by lead developer I mean the highest % of C++ code in the game was written by her). Like Falllen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes? The #1 C++ coder on that project was a woman (a different woman).
Like the Stardock websites including galciv3.com, oxidegames.com, elementalgame.com? Designed, coded, and created by women (3 women in particular). How about Start8? ModernMix? Project Manager of those two projects, a woman.
Why do I bring up these self-serving examples: To illustrate that the media has never chosen to cover any of this. Why not?
- Encourage people to talk about the transformative effects of a more diversified working environment. We hire a lot of women because it makes our products better. Not because women are “just as good” as men but rather because men and women bring unique strengths.
Running a company dominated by one sex puts them at a distinct disadvantage in the talent area. Men and women are different. Here’s a “sexist” statement: It has been my experience that women are better at UI design than men. I have no idea why. That’s 20 years of observation talking. Men tend to be better at debugging. No idea why. Don’t care. Both seem to be equally effective at writing buggy code.
- Scrutinize and punish those who make false claims on this topic. I saw a women on Twitter claim she wasn’t hired because she was a woman. The company who didn’t hire her was immediately villainized. She offered no evidence. We need to be very very careful about tarring and feathering people on this issue. Don’t reward those who are trying to profit from playing the sexism card.
When people try to silence any questions on allegations being made through abuse, all they succeed in doing is create an environment of skepticism. It is hard to express that succinctly on Twitter. I know my own views of this issue will never be the same after I, who considered myself somewhat of a champion for the cause of women in gaming, was suddenly painted out as a monster.
Choose to be part of the solution: Do your part to make the Internet a less toxic environment. Don’t just blindly support empty, feel good pap. Keep your critical thinking cap on.
Update: Slashdot comments are very interesting and in stark contrast to the empty progressive rhetoric on Twitter. http://games-beta.slashdot.org/story/14/07/22/229256/the-daily-harassment-of-women-in-the-game-industry