This industry is rife with misunderstanding. There are important debates to be had about the way things are handled in the industry, and some of those issues touch on contentious gender-based ideas. Women in this industry experience extensive harassment, or large career obstacles, or are simply ignored outright, where their male counterparts see relatively little problems. This industry’s issues are clouded by the simple lack of understanding and communication about different experiences for different genders, regardless of the urgent practical issues which need to be addressed.
What industry am I talking about?
If I know my audience, you guessed either one of the following; videogame development, or research in science and technology. You were right – let me explain.
A lot of people read this blog because of my (relative) prominence in a corner of a niche in video games. I’ve already written about a recent (ongoing) kerfuffle in the general scene of gaming about – among other things – the integrity of journalistic sources in the industry. Accompanying the debate has been an overt effort to harass and threaten anyone who holds a strong opinion, but which has particularly focused on women in the public eye. In the last week or few, The Escapist has published a pair of articles about the way Female and Male game developers see the issues surrounding the issue. The disconnect between the two genders is abyssal; women focused on how their participation in the debate has been colored or silenced by harassment, but the men barely acknowledged harassment at all. The few who acknowledged it seemed to (generally) see any harassment as evenly distributed – it certainly has not been! Why, then, the disconnect?
Simply put; the men in the industry are not generally aware of how their female colleagues experience the industry. It damages any debate or progress, and overall leaves everyone worse off. But here’s the kicker – gaming is one of a huge number of industries where this is true.
My day job is as a scientist and PhD student. I am, generally, not troubled by obstacles due solely to my gender. Many of my female colleagues are. Whenever discussions about how to alleviate gender pressures on careers in science come up, I routinely hear male friends telling others how “there is no real problem”, or that “I’m tired of hearing about this”, or that “I never hear about someone I know suffering from this, it can’t be a real problem”, or “we just need action“. One went so far as to claim, simultaneously, that there was no such thing as gender privilege and also that he was tired of hearing words and wanted to see some action – to my regret, the sole female participant in the conversation had no chance to speak.
Simply put; the men in the industry are not generally aware of how their female colleagues experience the industry. It damages any debate or progress, and overall leaves everyone worse off.
There is a lot that the games industry can learn from science, though. The first step to understanding on a broad scale is for “important” people to recognize that the discussion needs to happen inside the industry, rather than around it. Science already has a number of initiatives which are entirely industry-focused and which are entirely designed to bring the discussion into a professional issue (in particular, the Athena SWAN initiative which my University is heavily involved in). Getting a dialogue visibly started in an industry is one of the most significant steps we can make to getting people generally aware of each others’ perspectives.
Once that happens, you can talk about journalistic ethics and social justice warriors all you bloody well like.
Just for fun at the end; here is a gif I found which I briefly considered using as a spacer image. I took it out in the end because… well, it would ruin the tone of the writing. Still, now you’ve read through it here’s a treat on me! =)