By: James Freeman
When i was killing time on twitter the other day i came across a video called:
Let's Talk About Unintentional Sexism in Gaming
A short time after watching the video i reached out to Kristi because i wanted to continue the conversation.
Was there a breaking point for you posting the video?
Not exactly. I had been wanting to avoid being a "woman gamer" and simply be a gamer, who happened to be a woman. I thought that a neutral stance would be best for my brand. At PAX Unplugged, however, I had some negative experiences because of my gender that really made me realize that if others were not going to ignore my gender, then I shouldn't either. I knew if I didn't say something to spread awareness of it, I was doing a disservice to the entire community. It did take me a couple months to get to it, as I wasn't sure how to go about it at first, but I am really glad I finally took that step.
Recently when I was listening to the podcast Revisionist History (The Lady Vanishes) and they talked about how when a woman emerges in a male dominated field, shortly after they are accepted people feel that gives them a license to be more dividing because they “allowed” an outsider in. Does this describe the current state of the game industry to you?
I'm not sure if that is what is happening in the game industry right now. The last several years has been really great as far as seeing increased diversity in the gaming space. It's nowhere near where it could be, but change is happening faster as time goes on. The issues I've seen feel more like a push back against this rapid rate of change. Whereas a handful of women may have seemed novel, once those numbers increased to a point where it felt like a different community we saw greater conflict.
To be clear, as far as what I discussed in my video, casual sexism has occurred throughout the 25 years I have been gaming in both the video game and tabletop communities. That has not changed. The lashing out and attacks on women, however, seem to have increased with the number of women. This may be simply a numbers game, but personally I've had more direct attacks recently than I did when I was younger.
In my children’s generation (they are 12 & 15) they don’t live with these dividing lines. Do you think it will get better over time when they are grown ups?
My children are 8, 10, 17, and 19. The 17-year-old is my daughter. She has witnessed blatant sexism since she was a tween from those her age, so it is definitely still an issue. But, with each generation it has improved, and I see no reason why it won't continue to do so.
What do you think it will take for real change right now?
Right now we need to look at ourselves and ask if our assumptions match the current state of the board game industry. There are more and more women visible within the hobby every day. Each year, female attendance of board game conventions increases. There is now better representation in board game media, and even the games themselves. Simply shifting our own mindsets can have a huge impact on breaking down stereotypes.
After that it is simply a matter of keeping the conversation going. Like I said in my video, most people don't want to be a jerk, me included. Yet, I know I've said unintentionally hurtful things in the past. Knowing about it allows me to learn how to be a better person, which affects everyone around me, and eventually ripples out to the community. Being vocal and saying, "I want everyone to feel comfortable here, please let me know if anything I do sends a different message," opens up communication. Historically women have been shut down for voicing their opinions or experiences, so speaking up can be quite intimidating. Just knowing people are willing to listen is an amazing reassurance.
I have received hundreds of public messages of support regarding my video, and I cannot express how helpful it has been. Not long ago it would've been a completely different story. Even if they agreed with me, many people would've been silent. The recent shift towards public support has given many the courage to speak up about these issues. But, more than that, standing up for others sends a powerful message. It lets others in similar situations know that what they're experiencing is not right and they're not alone, while normalizing the point of view that women and men share the gaming space as equals. Unfortunately with sexism, many men are still more likely to listen to other men than to women, so it is imperative that men are vocal, too.
We're all in this community together, and we're in it because we enjoy it. Making sure we're not unintentionally excluding people or making others uncomfortable can only make it better for everyone involved. It's an exciting time for the hobby, and I'm so happy I'm a part of it.
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