Starcraft and Sexism

I can't really call this a Starcraft Diaries entry because I'll only be talking about the game briefly.  I mentioned I wanted to talk about sexism in gaming and nerd culture, but I don't want to parrot all the opinions flying back and forth across the internet.  For those of us blissfully unaware of this particular kerfuffle, the whole "fake nerd girl" thing was old news but has popped up again recently after a comic artist posted an incredibly ill-conceived (and poorly written) post on Facebook about girls at conventions dressing up in their revealing little costumes and getting their evil meathooks into all the nerds with their horrifying lady-parts.  Leaving aside for a moment his conception of nerd girls as semi-attractive attention whores who can't get their adoration fix in the "real world", I feel compelled to point out that without comic artists and their imaginations girls would not be dressed up in revealing superheroine outfits in the first place.  Yes, we get all tarted up in our Catwoman costumes, but those outfits were conceived and published by the very people complaining about us.  Without Powergirl there would be no Powergirl cosplay.  I don't believe in dressing up as an excuse to dress like a lady of the evening, but seriously - we weren't the ones who designed these things.  Dudes did (for the most part). And if I had the self-confidence and the shape to back it up, you bet your sweet ass I would be prancing around dressed as the Scarlet Witch at my next convention.

Bringing this into the Starcraft forum, I have a confession to make.  I have been guilty of in-game sexism.  Its true.  When I first set up my Battle.net account and ventured on the ladder I made sure to pick an avatar that was a girl and lamented that I didn't have a great selection even though a great deal of the player icons were pretty damn gender-neutral.  Why did I do that?  Because I had a bug up my butt about everyone I faced on the ladder knowing I was female, when it really shouldn't matter.  And further I tend to assume whoever's on   the other end of the connection is a dude no matter what their avatar is.  Because I'd gotten this idea in my head that I was one of the few, the Girls Who Play Starcraft.  It was a revelation because I was starting to fall into the "grrl power" trap, proclaiming my femininity and demanding that others acknowledge it when I should be focused on my skill vs. the other person's skill and nothing more.  After I took my grrl power out back and shot it, things have been just fine.  I'm not a Girl Who Plays Starcraft, I'm a Starcraft player that happens to be a girl.  Which is how I hope things will be in the gaming world soon - we're all nerds.  Some of us are ladies and some of us are dudes but we all love the same things and we should be able to celebrate them together.

That might take a while to happen, unfortunately, because we ladies have had to fight to get recognized as "real nerds" and that fight isn't quite over.  So a lot of us have a gigantic chip on our shoulder about it which leads us to demand recognition of our boobs and our encyclopedic knowledge of the Marvel timeline.  Its a side effect I try to avoid, but its easier for me because I've had a great "coming out as a nerd" experience.  If I've ever been informed that I can't be a real comics reader or I must be shopping for my boyfriend, those instances are so overwhelmed by positive experiences that I've forgotten them.  I've been blessed to encounter some of the most amazing comic/game store employees in the world who never assumed that I was only gift shopping and were just excited that I was into the same things as them.  I still remember the day I picked up the first Xenosaga game and the (cute) guy at the counter just grinned and said "Oh, bless your heart" - he knew the game was for me and no one else.  My Seattle GM was a bouncer at a saloon I worked at who introduced me to D&D because he could tell I regretted never getting into it.   But not everyone has experienced the same acceptance as I have, who are accused of being 5's who want to feel like 9's or fetishized by those around them for being good at Team Fortress Classic.  And that leads to shoulder-chips and division in a community which should accept all comers with real passion in their souls.

I sat myself down at one point and made myself imagine things from a guy's perspective, and the conclusion I come to is that I kind of get it.   Let me tell you a story.  When I was young I loved the Phantom of the Opera, and by love I mean "was completely goddamn obsessed".  I read the book several times, watched at least five movie versions of the story, and knew the entire libretto to the Lloyd Webber musical (not just the highlights).  You know that note that Christine hits at the end of the main theme?  The one that is so high it wouldn't fit on the regular lines of the treble clef?  I made myself hit that once, all alone in my car in the middle of an abandoned parking lot.  I then swore I would never do that again.  When I was thirteen my grandma got me tickets to see the show in San Francisco and the squeal when I saw the tickets could have been heard for miles.  And you know what happened when my siblings' next birthdays came around?  Grandma took both of them to see Phantom in turn.  I was furious.  The Phantom of the Opera was my thing.  I was the one who memorized all the music, read the book, and hit that horrifically high note that one time (which will never be spoken of again).  After all that work of being a genuine fangirl my siblings got to witness the pearl of my heart's desire just my saying they were interested in it too and wanted to go?  The horror!  But you know what I got out of all the resentment - nothing.  Just bad feelings that started to poison the very thing that I loved.  So yes, nerd girls seem to effortlessly attract all this attention just by virtue of being female that one might forget that we do actually love all this stuff as much as you guys do.  My siblings didn't want to see Phantom out of some perverse desire to elbow into my favorite story, they wanted to see it because they liked it.  But instead of accepting this and nerding out with them about which bits were our favorites I closed myself off and missed out on some valuable bonding.

I guess what I'm getting at is that we're all people, and we all have our insecurities and issues.  But if we get over them our community will be so much the better for it.  And the next time you turn your nose up at the girl at the comic store who isn't talking to you for being a stuck-up bitch, remember that she's probably just as scared of talking to people as you are.  I know.  I AM her.

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