by Bob Reinhard
When it comes to gaming culture, no group deals with more bizarre, polarizing treatment as the female gamer demographic. With the constant talk about booth babes and “fake” nerd girls, one wonders exactly why the male gamers in our culture seek to approach female gamers in such a strange way.
It’s Always The Pretty Ones
Let’s start by looking exactly who is getting the rough end of the stick in this deal. For some reason, any time a girl is considered to be more than average looking and dares to indulge in any form of nerd culture, there are people ready, guns raised, to shoot them down as being “fake”. However, I notice the same is not said if the girl is not flawless. If she’s a bit bigger, a bit homely, doesn’t dress in any kind of sexy or revealing clothing. If the girl, in other words, seems more “nerdy”.
It does in fact stem back to the negative stereotypes that surround us all in nerd culture. That all nerds are overweight, poorly groomed, slobs who smell bad and don’t get any sun. Do those people exist? Absolutely. Are some of us like that? Sure. Are all of us? Nope. As the gamer and nerd demographics continue to expand to more people, we start to see people that tell us they’re part of nerd culture and get met with a resounding “really?!”. YOU play video games?! Wow, you don’t look like a gamer.
Now let’s take that a step further. If I were to give you the term “gamer girl”, what is the first real image in your head? A girl in a t-shirt, jeans, possibly no makeup, slightly messy hair. Probably glasses. Not really all that good looking. Maybe a bit chubby. Probably a bit pimple-faced. Not necessarily to the negative extent male gamers are viewed, but not usually a flattering image.
For some reason, we’ve attached the very same negative stereotypes that we ourselves as male gamers, male nerds, have tried to shed for decades, on the women that have joined our culture. And it makes absolutely no sense.
The industry can be faulted for using them in a way that paints a negative image of them, but the fact of the matter is, every time you say they’re just there as eye candy, you’re disrespecting them far more than anyone that’s using them that way. You’re saying they don’t have a will of their own. Just because they are attractive, and it does indeed draw in masturbating lil’ 14 year old boys sometimes, doesn’t take away from who they are as human beings. And the only reason they can get away with this is because it WORKS.
This draws me to my next point: sex sells. And you’re buying.
The D.O.A. Effect
Dead Or Alive.
When I mention that game series, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
Yeah… I thought so.
Why does this sell? Why do games that blatantly treat women as sex objects sell so well? Because nerd culture loves it. It eats it up. Putting an attractive woman on a sci-fi show or into a video game is a sure way to draw in extra people. The same can be applied to the always-discussed “booth girl” issues that get brought up at conventions. They’re dressing women, usually hired actors or models, to dress as video game characters to draw you over to their booths.
And they wouldn’t do that if it didn’t work!
Now, I’m not one to immediately dismiss booth girls. They’re treated poorly, that much has been put out there a lot, but most women do still have that thing I talked about earlier: free will. They do make choices. But we weaken them, both to use them AND to take pity on them. We go “poor booth girls, getting used as sex bait”. How is treating them as weak any better? You’re not exactly empowering them by saying they’re just puppets to be used however people feel like it. Even if you’re not the one rubbing yourself to them, you’re just as guilty of putting them there by taking away any sense that they’re anything other than capable of being objects.
But how does this all apply back to nerd culture and “real” nerd girls? Easy. We treat them the same way we treat booth girls. We strip them of humanity and treat them like they’re objects. Moved into place by some invisible hand of God to mess with us. But if we stop looking at women that way, as helpless sheep that are corralled into our culture for no reason other than to be there, we have to look at why they’re there. The ones that aren’t doing it for pay, aren’t doing it as a job, why are they involved in our culture?
That’s when our ego starts to shine through in the situation. We think they’re there for our benefit. As if these attractive girls have to go out of their way to act like something they’re not so you’ll like them. Sorry folks, most you aren’t exactly prime material. They could probably get just about anyone they wanted, so why are they faking it for you? Do you really think you’re such a Godsent ladies man that women are pretending to like Star Wars to attract you? Yeah, like that’s happening.
Do You Just Not Want Women Around?
That’s the question all this brings to my head. Why is our culture so quick to bash any woman that is mildly attractive that dares wander into our territory?
Ah, it makes sense now. You don’t LIKE women. That’s honestly the only conclusion I can draw from this. Outside of objectifying them, you don’t want to be involved with them in any way. You don’t want to relate to them, or find one you have something in common with. You simply want to stare at them from a distance. Well, I happen to enjoy the presence of women, be they attractive or not. They’re no different than you and me as far as their knowledge, passion, or intellect on all the subjects. They just happened to be cursed with body parts you apparently fear.
Why wouldn’t you want girls around? Do men in nerd culture feel threatened? That if these girls happened to know MORE than you about the subject matter, it would somehow strip away your manhood? The nerd cultures are already looked at as not being very manly or cool, so that can’t possibly be why we shun them. It’s not as though we’re put up on some pedestal for it by society as-is, so why feel threatened? If we ever want it to be respected, we need everyone we can get, from every demographic.
And it’s not as though this is the FIRST time something like this happens. Ever talked to a die hard sports fan? Women sports fans have dealt with this for decades. We often look at sports fan males with just as negative of a light as we do gamers now. They’re nothing but “bros”. Beer-drinking, knuckle-dragging idiots that like watching football because it makes them feel like “men”. And if a woman treads into that culture as well, they’re treated with the same fear and disgust. How dare a woman know more about a man’s game like football than me!
Why Is This Important?
Besides the obvious of giving female nerds a culture they can embrace without being attacked, or sexually harassed by pervert 14 year olds on Xbox Live, this is important because it’s not helping our case either. It’s impossible for the gaming culture to shoulder the weight of the negative attention it gets if we add sexism to the list of things we’re accused of. We’re already accused of violence and bigotry, let’s not throw in sexism too.
The utter disrespect for females that nerd culture shows (not all of us, mind you) is embarrassing. It’s childish. I’d go so far as to say it’s antiquated. It’s not 1953 anymore, guys. Women can leave the kitchens and come pick up a PS3 controller. I’ve known a lot of girl gamers in my time, and they’ve all been awesome. They’ve all been just as passionate and knowledgeable as me (sometimes even more so). And I don’t care what genitals they holster, they’re just people to me.
So please, stop chasing them away. I like most of them better than you…