Today I reached a hard decision. As much as I’ve always wanted to attend a Con (yes, I’m a 40-something gamer who’s never gone to one), I won’t be going to any in the foreseeable future. Not until or unless gamer culture changes to the point where my best gamer friend — my wife — could attend with me and face no more misogyny or risk of harassment than she faces from the culture at large.
The fact that women face intense misogyny and harassment in the video/online gaming community is no secret, and has been getting mainstream press in recent years. Anyone who pays attention to either the smaller world of table-top role-playing games, or the much larger Geek-o-Sphere that encompasses all forms of gaming, plus comics fandom, etc., knows that this is an issue for female geeks of all stripes. The most common manifestation is dismissal — the assumption that a woman isn’t a *real* fan/player, sometimes followed by questions to “test” her geek cred. But put lots of male gamers/geeks under one roof at a con, toss in the use of “booth babes” by marketing departments, and this dismissal is too often accompanied with overt harassment (verbal and physical).
And no, since I’ve never been to a con I haven’t witnessed this first hand. And I know there are plenty of male con goers who will say it isn’t that bad. But I also know that I haven’t spoken to or read about a single female con goer who disagrees with this assessment.
I’ve read several of these tales lately. The one that tipped me over the edge today is here.
My wife, who has been a gamer/geek in one form or another for decades, pointed out that back in the day, gamer guys were the safest guys for a girl to be with. They might be dismissive of your geek cred, but your odds of being harassed or assaulted were a lot lower than if you hung out with the jocks. I suspect the fact that this is no longer true has something to do with the increasingly violent misogyny in video games as well as the simple fact that geeks are now mainstream and thus geek guys are more confident/less timid than they were back in the day.
Whatever the reason, it’s past time for the men of gaming to act like men (not boys) and treat their female counterparts with respect. If I get word that that has happened, you may see me and my melee-loving, meat-shield-playing wife at a con someday. Until then, I have one less thing to do on my bucket list.