At this year’s Game Developers Conference, Manveer Heir, a senior gameplay designer for BioWare, gave a talk about the need for increasing diversity in games. It was a great talk! If you have an hour, I recommend watching it. (GDC has posted the talk in its entirety here.)
But here’s the thing. As a long-time BioWare fan, it’s refreshing to see someone at BioWare come out and say that they need to stop treating women and minorities like shit. (I’m still pissed about the atrocity that was that Liara statue. And don’t even get me started on bullshit fanservice character design like Samara the Space MILF.) And listening to the talk, I was totally cheering Manveer on.
The coverage of the talks? The coverage made me furious. In talking about Heir and his delivery of the speech, here’s how Heir was described:
In what can only be described as a call to arms, he challenged…
Heir’s argument went on to debunk…
Heir backed up his ideas with research throughout the presentation…
Heir’s speech got a lot right…
It was an important and powerful moment…
It was a well-reasoned, well-researched and impactful…
BioWare developer Manveer Heir challenges colleagues to combat prejudice
Notice a trend? The coverage of Heir’s speech was 100% positive. Every gaming outlet that covered the speech described Heir in only the most laudable terms. Because of course Heir is deserving of praise for making such a clear and cogent call for increased equality of representation in video games. The more pieces I read praising Heir’s speech, the more betrayed I felt.
Bitches, I’ve been saying the same damn things for two-and-a-half years, and it’s not like feminist games blogging was exactly a new endeavor when I started. But no matter how much research I do, no matter how many facts I cite, no matter how well-reasoned my posts are, the best response I can hope for is mixed. Mixed as in some people tell me they love my work and they totally agree, some people politely disagree with me, and some people periodically start hate campaigns calling me a fat, ugly, lesbian, whore, feminazi, cunt, dyke, etc etc etc. You get the idea.
Hell, it was just last month that J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks sent their legions of angry comic fans to tell me what a fucking ignorant bitch I was, resulting in nearly 30,000 views in 24 hours. (Something, I’ll note, that they appear not to have suffered any professional consequences over. Not that I ever expected them to.) All because I had THE GALL to criticize a comics artist for prioritizing sexual objectification over actual human anatomy.
I know. God. What a fucking cunt I am.
Well you know what? I wasn’t going to write about my sour grapes. It fucking sucks that once again a man has said something that a woman has been saying all along, but considering the importance of the message it felt really petty of me to say “well sure Heir gave a great speech but here’s why you should feel sorry for me“. So I kept my mouth shut and resolved not write about it.
That is until this happened:
Jeff Atwood, who writes the blog Coding Horror, stole content from Shanley, a female tech blogger, tone policed her, and then sicced his followers on her to shut her up when she spoke out against the theft. (You can find Shanley’s original post here, Jeff Atwood’s post is here.) And ironically, the content that was stolen was about how men can be effective allies in the tech world. He even used the same title – “What Can Men Do?”.
So, uh, okay. Yeah that sucks, but what am I getting at? Am I crazily accusing Manveer Heir of stealing my feminism?
Uh, no. Heir’s talk was about basic human decency, and also objective facts about the industry, which you can’t really “steal”. No, the point that I’m trying to make is that I am PISSED. I am pissed about the fact that feminism only seems to be palatable when it comes from MEN.
I am pissed about the fact that what matters isn’t the message, but the messenger. I’m pissed that despite the fact that people are falling all over themselves to praise men like Heir and Atwood for being positive voices for change within their respective communities, while women like me have to expect abuse for saying THE SAME DAMN THING. And I’m pissed that there are strong, vibrant women who are silenced every day by the fear of becoming the next Anita Sarkeesian.
Here are just a few excerpts from the many comments I’ve deleted since starting my blog:
If you call yourself an artist then [sic] your a total moron.
Your critique smacks of jealousy and transference.
I think whoever wrote this has too much time on their hands and needs to go get laid.
You review and correction is full of ASS like your FACE
If I was you, I’d take this post down before you become an embarrassing meme.
Blah blah blah blah sexism! Blah blah blah [sic] misogamy!!!
Awwww did the little cunt get her feelings hurt?
Now you can delete this post if you want cause that seems to be what you do but hopefully you’ll read it first and take note to turn down the snob factor a notch or two
You post inflammatory comments, then try to play the victim when you’re called out on it.
In the end, whatever you think of yourself, all you’ve done here is to show that you are one of those who “can dish it, but not take it.”
You’re just another “angry feminist with an axe to grind.”
If she does not want people to say negative things about her, then she is in the wrong line of work.
And it’s not like I had to look very hard to find these. All of these comments were deleted from just two posts on my blog. TWO.
So you know what? It’s great that men are starting to realize that gaming has a problem and are beginning to speak out about it. But let’s not go patting ourselves on the back, not when the women who have been saying THE SAME THINGS ALL ALONG are still here and still getting harassed. If Heir’s talk was “challenging” but my blogging is “whining”, then we still have a long fucking way to go.
 And let me just make clear here that I’m not comparing Heir and Atwood here. Heir is awesome and I support him 100% and am happy that he is where he is doing what he’s doing. Atwood is gross and used his audience to harass a woman in an attempt to silence her, which is never okay, especially when it’s supposedly in the name of “equality”. So basically Heir =/= Atwood is what I’m saying here. Got it? Good. Moving on.
 Okay, I’ll admit that this one actually made me laugh.