Women get a lot of shit in the social space of games, just for being women. Every woman gamer has to have some strategy for dealing with sexual harassment and threats. Sometimes we get some really stupid advice. My favorite, stupidest piece of advice: don’t let anyone know you’re a woman.
The only way it’s even possible to follow this advice is to severely curtail one’s social interaction in a game. Since much of the fun of multiplayer and massively multiplayer games is, and I say this at the risk of stating the obvious, playing with other people, if you always have to remain guarded or silent, you miss out on the fun.
Should you wish to get into some kind of competitive gaming, chances are you’ll need to use voice communication with your team mates. Short of getting a Laurie Anderson style male voice of authority filter, you will give away your gender the moment you open your mouth.
Not only is this advice stupid because it doesn’t work, it’s also stupid because in an effort to follow it, women are asked to make themselves invisible. It’s not enough that we are treated like we don’t belong, we should make an effort to be invisible. We are supposed to be active participants in our own erasure, to make it easier to maintain the myth that women don’t game.
And should we choose to be open about who we are? Bring on the harassment to drive us away.
As an alternative, I propose some simple tips guaranteed to stop in-game harassment of women:
- While talking to a woman in a game, don’t harass her.
- When woman joins the voice channel, say hello, and don’t harass her.
- If a woman tells you she doesn’t want to talk to you, stop bothering her, and don’t harass her. If she puts you on ignore, resist the temptation to contact her another way.
- When playing a match against a woman, don’t threaten to rape her, and if you win, don’t say that you raped her.
- If you’re joking about with a woman, and she tells you the joke went too far, apologize and move on. Don’t harass her about not having a sense of humor.
- If you’re worried that you won’t be able to resist the urge to harass women in the game, don’t log on.