Twitter blew up today. It was one of those magical days where you see one little hashtag, then two little hashtags. Usually it's a joke or a silly meme. A lot of times, it's politics. Today was special. Today it was the fascinating explosion of people giving a shit about women in tech and games.
As of this writing, the top trend on Twitter is #1reasonwhy, the tag associated with one reason why women in games still need to be heard. Holy hell, feminism! I've been on this ride before, the internet diving into feminist topics -- and as I watched this trend grow, I knew most of this was going to be angry menz defending menkind against the bitchwomen of Twittertown.
But I was wrong. It's not all trolls just complaining about feminism. It's a sincere discussion happening among big names in the games industry. Media professionals who have LONG wished to be bathed in delicious reason can rejoice: today is glorious.
Not only that, but it's being taken seriously, and assholes are the ones being attacked. It's like I woke up to a completely new Internet where trolls were discouraged, and women were asked to tell their stories. In case you didn't know, this is not the internet's way. Not even a little. Especially not in games discussion. If you go to the comments sections of the many articles about #1reasonwhy you can find some of the old mainstays: shit-talking guys crying feminazi and other forms of bitching. But not in the discussions or the coverage of the tweets themselves.
I'm surprised on some level that so much has shifted in the last year or two. Five years ago, this rampant sexism was explained, ignored, and sometimes shut down, but never really discussed. Now, the games industry leaders are pulling it out, putting it on stage, and covering it in fatally bright lighting. Perhaps a bizarro sort of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, but it's working.
As a participant in the industry, albeit from a journalistic perspective, I've had the privilege of meeting a veritable cornucopia of developers, pro gamers, other writers, and other people involved in games. Nearly all of these people were pretty amazing, many made a special effort to hire women and include them. My first magazine work was at Computer Games Magazine, where they had exceptional female readership for a game/tech magazine, and I was heavily influenced by the environment that encouraged me and made me welcome for my skills. I met other industry professionals who were the same, but I knew that when I dealt with the games community, the rules were different.
I first started a blog in 2009, and scared of appearing female (the horror!) I published it with the ugliest, most neutral design I could make, protecting myself from scorn. The idea was that, If they know I'm a ladyperson, they'll never take me seriously. The site was just one example of the many ways I tried to lay low.
Today, my site is the pinkest shit in life, and I don't apologize for it. It occurred to me at some point in the last two years that hiding my woman-ways just to be neutral (i.e., male) was not just effed up, but it was making women gamers invisible. It's far easier for my fellow nerds to declare that there are no girls on the Internet if we pick usernames like Jockface and pretend to be dudes.
I also want to throw out there that while sexism is still an issue in the world at large, and definitely in the stereotypically boy-world of videogaming, most of the men I've gamed with are moderate fellas, and the community of gamers is decent. There's maybe 10-30% of a given community (some subgroups attract more bottomfeeders than others) that are absolutely not getting it.
These are the guys who still laugh at kitchen jokes, think women are just oversensitive, and refuse to change, digging their heels in like a bunch of Millerites. They're the loudest. The raunchiest. And for the most part, historically tolerated. The problem is, that indifferent approach is as good as endorsement, and the behavior has begun to define an industry of people, consequently painting the gamer subculture as sexist boys, and erasing women altogether.
Here, tell me yourself if you think things are changing. Here's some of the best tweets:
I lost a ton of followers. Too many tweets about #1reasonwhy and swearing is my guess. Oh well.— Brenda Romero (@br) November 28, 2012
Women represent less than 10% of the writers I have published, yet have received more than 90% of the hate mail. #1ReasonWhy— Russ Pitts (@russpitts) November 28, 2012
#1reasonwhy Because every time I play a game, the woman in it is about a tenth of the badass I am in real life.— Cara Ellison (@Carachan1) November 27, 2012
Because people are happy for your expansion when you add male writers, and question your motives when you add female writers #1reasonwhy— BenKuchera (@BenKuchera) November 27, 2012
Because I'm constantly told by fellow devs that mostly guys buy games, so there's no reason to appeal to women. #1reasonwhy— Caryn Vainio (@Hellchick) November 27, 2012
A lot of devs saying, "More women need to apply!" Well. If you're asking for 5 years' experience and three AAA shipped games... #1ReasonWhy— David A Hill Jr (@davidahilljr) November 27, 2012
Just found SO many awesome feminist geeks to follow from the #1reasonwhy hashtag!!! Hello all of y'all!! <3— Liz Henry (@lizhenry) November 27, 2012
Because it almost never gets asked "Who did HE sleep with to get the job?" #1ReasonWhy— Donna Foutz (@MamaDonnaF) November 27, 2012
if you are surprised at#1reasonwhy, ask yourselfwhy women you know who experience this wont tell you about it.— darth delux(@deluxvivens) November 27, 2012
Because when we make smart, articulate tweets, the response is "Listen to yourselves, crying about video games." Really? Crying? #1ReasonWhy— Shanna Germain (@shanna_germain) November 27, 2012
Because I'm told designing games to my PoV is "niche" or being politically correct, while male oriented design is "normal." #1reasonwhy— Tracy Hurley (@SarahDarkmagic) November 27, 2012
Because if I succeed, I'm exceptional. And if I fail, I'm proof that women shouldn't be in the industry. #1reasonwhy— Rowan Cota (@sweetpavement) November 27, 2012
#1reasonwhy Because women can't work among male dominated game design groups without constantly being checked for possible mating value.— Anjin Anhut (@anjinanhut) November 27, 2012
#1reasonwhy men like me are badasses, so cool and hilarious. i'm a disrespectful loudmouthed bitch.— leighalexander (@leighalexander) November 27, 2012
#1reasonwhy when looking at universities, scheduled meeting with head of game dev program and was told by him it was too hard for ladies.— Kay Fedewa (@TheZebrafox) November 27, 2012
If that wasn't awesome enough, it's not over. The cooperative, non-adversarial hashtag #1reasontobe emerged, representing the one reason to be in the games industry, raising the spirits of women who are having a hard time. All that support could not be contained, so women in the games industry have offered to mentor women interested in games careers.