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Self Censorship

There was an article written on the 12th by Mark Sorrell of “Beware of the Sorrell”, a gaming blog, that discussed the ridiculous male dominated world that is gaming and how women in gaming are seen as frivolous and stupid and blahblah. This is a great example of what he is saying :

I will not be accused of being a shrill moaning harpy. I won’t be asked to make anyone a sandwich, nor will I be accused of being a lesbian, asked to suck anyone’s cock or be threatened with rape. Partially, this is because those who have met me understand that I view other humans as lunch with a temporary stay of execution. Let the Wookie win, as they say. Mostly, it’s because I’m a man and so people will read what I have to say rather than switching off their brain and spewing out some astonishingly unimaginative sexist bullshit.

It strikes me as incredibly bizarre to think that men talking about the mega-sexism in the game industry, pointing at it and screaming and banging their ham-sized fists on the metaphorical game-table and bellowing that “this will not stand!” could have more effect than the same outrage expressed by the women actually suffering it. However, it seems very likely true. So here I will stand and bellow.

And if you’re at all interested in the sexism that’s rampant in the gaming industry, please do read the rest of his article here, it’s very very good. I’m interested because I see these things first hand since Kamel works in the gaming industry. We discuss these things from time to time and I often get frustrated and cry out when I see injustice being done. I’m not one to stand down. And that brings me to the article that was a follow up to Sorrell’s… the actual point of this post. (Imagine that)

This article for Kotaku by Margaret Robertson talks about self censorship, which is a lot of what I was talking about in that other feminist tirade I went on a while ago about violence against women. Margret talks about how she self-censored for a long time because she didn’t want to be called out on the internet for being a …. WOMAN. (The crowd covers their faces so they won’t have to witness the HORROR.) I mean, she wrote as Margaret, so I think the audience could figure it out, but she was very concious of falling into any “lady traps” that may have ensnared her along the way. Here are some things she she says she did in order to “Not make herself a target”:

  • not wearing skirts
  • not wearing heels
  • not coming to the defence of other women on the receiving end of abuse and threats and dismissals
  • not, under any circumstances, ever ever ever ever indicating that there might be any sexual activity in my thoughts or my life or my body
  • not talking about ‘being a woman’ or anything dumb and feminist like that
  • judging the success of my approach on the number of people who didn’t realise from my writing that I was female.

And when I got done reading the final bullet I had an epiphany: wow I am really doing it ALL WRONG THEN, am I right ladies?!

Ok that was a joke… I was actually ridiculously horrified. Because as much as this is only about the gaming industry and the icky stuff that’s happening over there, it’s really about the job market in general and public opinion. Some places are worse than others, but it’s all not great. And when I say not great I mean: There isn’t equality in the workforce across the board and until there is it will NEVER EVER EVER be good enough, and I don’t care if you know someone who has a lady CEO and see? everything is all better, because No. I’m tired of that. I’m tired of the one example that acts as the band aid on a gaping wound.

Seventy-seven cents to the dollar. Across the board. And those are just numbers, they aren’t even attitude or humiliation or the rate of unemployment. Seventy-seven cents to the dollar is women in the workforce on a GOOD DAY.

I don’t like that it’s “ok” on the internet to be a total D-Bag. I wish people had more manners, I wish that people understand these words were written by a human, I wish that we could all laugh at our selves a little more. But i think it’s the bottom of the barrel when a group of people avoids coming off as “too much themselves” because they will probably be torn down and tossed aside if they do.

And this wasn’t even what I had been planning on discussing with you either… although that was quite the hoo-rah tangent I had going for a minute.

The deal is, the internet is full of censorship (and maybe some things that should be a little more censored). And I feel like a lot of that censorship has to do with things that makes us look cooler, richer, more popular, with really great hair and perfect skin. The things we leave off the internet are the things that make us normal people (much like wedding photos that you don’t think you look good in). We untag a photo, we tell half truths, we want to seem more successful and more put together than we actually are. And there’s nothing really wrong with this, it’s human nature to put your best foot forward.

I just want more honesty. If you’re a 35 year old man who loves unicorns, then just be that guy. If you prefer staying home on a friday night and you don’t have a flickr account, and you really love jenga more than you love dance parties, do it. Sometimes life is really messy or sad or self depricating or BORING. Sometimes life is really boring. Not always, but there have been times where fuuuuck it’s so boring! And there is so much pressure to be doing doing doing and to out-cool the next guy. I’m over it.

I’m also over sexism. And I’m over this whole attitude that women writers on any subject are less awesome than men writers on any subject. That, I am sick of. I have a vagina and I have an opinion, and I also really enjoy people watching and diet coke and I think my wedding was the most amazing wedding there ever was and ever will be (and I’m really really sick of talking about them) and I HATE GRAMMAR (but I know how to spell it!) and I probably have waaayy less friends than you think I do and sometimes I only cook because I feel like I have to have something to say on this blog.

And I vow to never ever ever let a sexist comment slide in public or on the internet because I am afraid of backlash. I will come to your rescue and I will take the bullets because I’m SICK of a world where people don’t. The end.

36 Comments

  1. Bravo Lauren! Bravo!!! We should have some “I stand up to Sexism” button or pledge or something.

  2. Go, Lauren! As always, love all the linkage to interesting things.

  3. “Seventy-seven cents to the dollar. Across the board. And those are just numbers, they aren’t even attitude or humiliation or the rate of unemployment. Seventy-seven cents to the dollar is women in the workforce on a GOOD DAY.”

    I can’t even express how much this pisses me off.

    And ok, I have a confession to make…someday, when I hopefully am a published author (fingers crossed)…I am seriously considering writing under a sort of pseudonym–using my first and middle name as initials, and then just my last name. Like JK Rowling. I read once (and of course, can’t remember where) that she decided to write under JK Rowling because she was told no one would want to read a story about a boy that was written by a woman. Which is fucked up, right? But also SCARY! Like, if JK Rowling couldn’t get Harry frickin Potter to sell without covering up the fact that was a woman…what chance does lil ol’ me have?

    And yes, even the fact that I would consider doing this makes me cringe. Because, you’re right–women writers are THE SHIT. We are just as talented as men (and some women writers, a hell of a lot more talented than their male counterparts). But how do we work with the facts that there IS sexism in writing (and in general), and it ain’t going away any time soon?

    • I think the good think about JK Rowling is that now we know she’s a girl, so it suddenly doesn’t seem weird or shocking at all that she wrote Harry Potter, and because of her and the MASSIVE success, I think some walls have been tumbled.

      Of course, you do what you need to do to have a career, it’s hard enough as it is even if you were a man, but I would encourage you to write as Laura. I think if every woman writer wrote with their lady-name, the world would be shocked at how many of us their really are and it would do the industry good.

      • I would just like to assert that JK Rowling is a woman, not a girl.

        I’m working on catching myself on that difference too.

        • I wasn’t going to say anything, but I’m pretty put off by the honing in of these details on a really positive blog. I wasn’t degrading her, I was speaking about gender. And I don’t think that scolding me for a small detail like that is productive in a space where I work really hard to do the best I can.

          When I say someone is a girl I mean girl vs boy. Not girl vs man.

          I realize language is important, but really? You’re busting my chops on this?

          • I want it possible to have a discussion on gender without scaring away people who may or may not say the wrong thing. The fear of being called out sends people running from discussions, not joining them.

          • I consider myself a girl. I will probably always consider myself a girl. I’m definitely well past the “official” girl age ;)

      • That’s a good point–JK Rowling, trailer-blazer ;)

        It IS rather astonishing how many women have written under male pseudonyms. It would be unfortunate to add to that.

        But on the other hand–oh, the mystique of the pseudonym! It sounds so fancy ;) Maybe I should write under “Mary Lou May”.

    • You know what pisses me off even more? A number of things:

      -77 cents is the absolute best, most the time the wage differential is much greater
      -Average female wages have risen in relation to men’s primarily because average male wages have *fallen* since the 1970s. No one is coming out a head!
      -Taken over a 15 year average (that usually includes child bearing years) the average female wage drops to 38 cents per man’s dollar due to lack of maternity and childcare subsidies
      -The racial difference within the average female wage are absolutely sickening

      Sexism is fucked up beyond belief.

  4. These things all make me so sad … but you deserve a giant GO LAUREN for standing up and saying something and the fact that you don’t let sexism just slip under the rug.

  5. I never really had a term for how I behave at work, but “self-censorship” is exactly it. I am one of maybe 8-10 women with a non-traditionally “female” job at my entire work operation of 300+ people. I am getting better at just being myself at work and I do like my job, but still I think if I ever started talking about women’s issues or sexism, I’d be shot down immediately and start some rumours that I hate men, I’m too sensitive, etc. etc. and a lot of the respect I’ve built for myself would start crumbling. Maybe not, but I am sorry to say that I can’t risk trying to find out what would happen. Likewise, if I ever wore a skirt to work (it’s a very casual-dress workplace so everyone wears jeans or sweats) people would probably start wondering who I was trying to impress rather than just accepting that I’m a girl and I decided to wear a skirt.

    Sexism is VERY much alive in today’s workforce, but not so much in the traditional sense of “women are only allowed to be secretaries” way, which for a lot of people is still their only idea of what sexism in the workplace is so the sentiment of “my boss is a woman so sexism is dead, shut up you crazy feminists” is pretty common. Today’s sexism is that to get respect, no one should be able to distinguish your personality from a man’s personality, and while that may allow women to get any job they want, it comes with a pretty big sacrifice.

    • “Today’s sexism is that to get respect, no one should be able to distinguish your personality from a man’s personality”

      This. Sooooo much.

      We aren’t allowed to be ourselves in the workplace.

      And then, this reminds me of my least favourite thing of all:

      When a man stands up for himself, he’s assertive.
      When a woman stands up for herself, far too often she’s labeled as a bitchy or bitchy.

  6. Backtracking to your tangent about women being paid less in the workplace: you know what is really interesting? The ever-widening gender gap in higher education (both in college and in graduate programs). And even more interesting? That some are starting to call this a “boy crisis”, are wondering if this means that there is something wrong with men (instead of something awesomely right with women) AND that there are STILL significant wage disparities right out of college.

    Check it:
    http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2005-10-19-male-college-cover_x.htm
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/09/education/09college.html?pagewanted=all

    also, i think i read somewhere that there has been a connection between the rise in gaming and the decrease in men’s productivity. That as video games become more popular, men become less and less likely to graduate/achieve on the same level as women. I’m going to try to find the article to see if i’m mis-remembering it.

    • I’m definitely on the other side of the argument that video games make you lazy OR a mass murderer (as has been the argument for the past ten years). I think lazy people or people with addiction issues or escapist issues play video games to a detriment, but probably would do other things like watch tv or whatever to a detriment if that was their vice of choice. And violent people gravitate towards violent things, especially when those things give you the ability to live out violent fantasies.

      But this isn’t a discussion about video games.

    • Are they saying that with education, men are going to school less and women are going to school more?

      It’s fascinating that there is this undercurrent of “society drowns if men aren’t getting higher education noooooooooo!!” and the idea that women could hold the economy and work force together doesn’t cross the collective minds… I think even deeper there is a silent assumption that we go to college for the social aspect primarily, to get married, to do something frivolous, so when their are more of us in school than men it almost doesn’t matter?

  7. On the issue of owning oneself.

    I had an interesting conversation with a friend, R, last night. We were both invited to a holiday party of a mutual friend. This mutual friend works for a very, very large corporation that R’s marketing firm has as a client (this very, very large corporation employs dozens of marketing firms for various projects). She was nervous about going to the party, relaxing and having a good time if her clients were going to be there.

    I told her to loosen up, because 1) they probably wouldn’t be and 2) you’re at a holiday party where you are invited as friends of the host, there is nothing work related about the event.

    She replied with a story about her boss. Her boss is super into roller derby and went to the bar after a match one night with her team in full roller derby get up. While at the bar, they ran into one of her clients, also there as a private citizen having a good time with his/her pals. Her boss said she was completely embarassed, the whole conversation was incredibly awkward and she felt like her professional relationship was damaged. Why? Because they saw her as a real person doing (perfectly legal!) things she enjoys. That’s ridiculous.

    • I have one comment and one question…

      1) I think that, in general, there should be a level of distance between your life and your work life. Like! If you’re having a shitty time at home, dont’ take it out on your work people. And/Or! I don’t believe that work is a place where conversion to religions needs to take place. I just want to be able to come to work, and do my job, and not feel pressed upon by other peoples… STUFF. But those are boundary issues, not so much personhood issues.

      2) Was there any real evidence that her work relationship had been damaged after the “incident”?

      • I think she *felt* that way. Which may be a symptom in and of itself. As to say, to be a “professional” woman she couldn’t be into something as “low brow” as roller derby.

        And, I’m not sure I follow your train of thought on your comment…

        • Oh, I was saying that IN the workplace I think people still need to be work-appropriate and there’s a time and place for everything. It really wasn’t directed at your friend, just a general statement because although we are all “free to be you and me” there is a level of work is work and keep your crazy at home.

          And I was just generally curious if she had gotten any REAL backlash from the client or if this was just something she was worried about.

  8. yes! thank you! i’ve been having a difficult time with censorship/sexism online. i’m always saying feminist-y things on my own blog or on the comments of other blogs i read and since, for the most part, i read other feminists, i never feel like i’m saying anything less than totally rational and agreed-upon. and then i comment on an article about careers in male-dominated fields and i don’t even say anything particularly feminist-y, just sort of acknowledge that i’m a woman and i’d like to see other women in my field because that might make things less shitty for me, and the backlash i get from random men saying the most unbelievably sexist, totally belittling things is incredible. and i don’t know what to say back because all i did was write the things i think, not even trying to provoke. and so i censor myself in my reply, “oh no, i certainly wasn’t trying to say that any troubles in *my* life were caused by sexism,” because i want people to take me seriously.

    also, the extreme levels of misogyny on the internet make me distrustful of the men i interact with at work and in other areas of life because if all these men on the internet harbor such ugly thoughts, who knows how many others are out there? and how else do you explain the prevalence of violence against women, the dearth of female-friendly public and private policy, and the overall sexism that pervades media.

    argh. incoherent rage, right now. i just want to talk to you so much more about this.

    • That was excellent and amazing. Thank you for sharing that.

    • that happens to me too, becoming wary of real-life men because of the extreme sexism around on the internet. I try not to read it (and it’s fairly predictable where it’ll be), but it’s depressing because it comes up most often on our so-called “mainstream” news websites here in Australia. 70% of our media here is owned by Murdoch, and so you can be guaranteed that any article on one of his news sites about anything vaguely about women, and a good 80% of the comments are the worst sexist crap you’ve ever heard!

      And it does make me wary, because it’s not a minority of comments, so it makes me wonder if those awful views are somehow mainstream! I really hope they’re not…

  9. I have to say, I feel like I see the opposite in the blogosphere. It seems as if your blog isn’t legit unless you’ve told stories about drinking rum out of your kid’s bottle or going to Walmart in sweats and swimsuit bottoms as underpants. I sometimes feel like I can’t compete because I’m not bipolar and I’m not on some variety of antidepressant which I then mix with vodka. Not that there’s anything wrong if you are and do, but I should feel bad because I’m not and don’t.

    As far as in the workplace, I do get a little bit of prejudice because I’m a lone young female in an industry of seasoned males. But I generally don’t let that change my behavior, because those guys are assholes who are going to hate me no matter how I dress or act, so fuck ‘em. At the end of the day, I’m paid the exact same amount as my male co-workers and 90% of the people I work with pay me the exact same respect and dignity as I give them.

    • You are a badass.

      And along the lines of “my life is a mess…. wahhoo!” business… I think that’s part of the “being cool” section of the internet. It’s cool to run through life by the seat of your pants. And sometimes we do all need to laugh at the ridiculousness of xyz and wow what are we doing?

      But i fold my underpants. Yes I do. (Although, I don’t make my bed…)

  10. 1. Loved this: “I have a vagina and I have an opinion.”
    2. The vow idea made me think of Miss Representation (http://missrepresentation.org/). I think that movement/movie/website belongs in this conversation.

  11. I’m pretty lucky in my work, because even though I’m a lawyer (and the law is still a boy’s club, no question) I work for my State government, and my particular section is about 20 women and 2 men!

    So I often have conversations with workmates about sexism in the legal profession, but the thing is, I have these conversations with other women, and really, a lot of the change has to come from men, and they’re not hearing these conversations!

    And whilst sexism in the law is mostly insidious and subtle, there are workplaces out there where it hits you over the head. My fiance’s works in IT, another “boy’s club” industry and his workplace is terrible. As in, last Christmas on the last day of work before the holidays, there was a stripper on the boardroom table! And not one of the directors told off the guy who hired her, apparently the biggest concern was her heels scratching the table! I cannot describe how horrified I was to hear that!!

    So there’s still a long way to go, I reckon…

    • I’m an attorney, too, and I’m fascinated by how some segments of the legal profession are female dominated. When I was one of 16 interns at the county public defender’s office, there were only 2 men. It seems to me that women are far more likely to go into government/public interest jobs (although that does NOT translate to more women on the bench, unfortunately). At my law firm, there are equal numbers of men and women at the lower associate levels, but not when you move up in the ranks (and there are no female partners in my own department at all). My personal opinion is that the policies in the big firms just don’t do enough for women. Yeah, my firm technically offers good maternity leave, but you take a big hit in your career if you actually take that maternity leave. Plus, you know, 60-70 hour weeks aren’t conduscive to having families. So even though I’m looking for a way to move into a different work environment, I wish more women would work at private firms, because that’s the only way the atmosphere and policies will change. This was the opinion I voiced in the article I mentioned above, and I was shocked at the negative response I got. The response seemed to be premised on the idea that more women in the workplace would drain companies of all their resources (because women would take maternity leave, work less hours in favor of spending time with family, etc.). This is infuriating because it completely ignores the possibility that women also add value to companies.

      • oh yes, there are so many women lawyers in government, and I know a lot do that deliberately because the government is one of the most family friendly legal workplaces.

        I get paid maternity leave at full pay, and a right to come back part time until my hypothetical future child is 2, which is amazing!

        The private firms definitely aren’t as women-friendly. I hear so often about women coming back from having children, then being “managed out”. I think those firms really do see women of child bearing age (whether you actually intend to have children or not) as too big a risk or burden to employ, which is so sad-they’re missing out!

        • i am always so happy with how beautifully smart and talented and thoughtful the ladies who read this blog are. :) Thank you for being awesome. It makes me really proud.

          • and thank you for starting/hosting the conversation! we need more of these!

          • aww, I feel famous having a reply from you, Lauren!

            Definitely agree with Sandy, thanks for creating a space for this kind of discussion!

        • This makes me sad.

          One of my childhood ambitions was to be a lawyer, and I took a course of study that could have easily lead me to law school.

          The reason I decided not to go? I honestly didn’t feel as if I would be able to balance work/family in a way that made me happy while working in that profession.

          Things like being “managed out” for having taken maternity leave. It makes my blood boil. Where’s any equality or justice in that?

  12. This is so damn amazing. And it put into words exactly what I feel as a writer. I always feel like my gender is working against me. And even just as a passionate and intelligent adult. When I see and experience things like sexism (and prejudice in general) I get angry because I’m intelligent enough to fully understand how damaging it is to individuals and our entire community. And despite being a confident and well spoken adult, I’m usually overcome by tears because that’s how anger manifests itself in me. And then I end up being this girl who’s crying over sexism. Then I feel weak. Then I get angry. And this is the terrible, endless cycle that I can’t escape. But this made me realize that the things that make me who I am—a very emotional person who does and feels everything with all that I am—doesn’t necessarily make me a woman and definitely doesn’t make me weak. And that’s my feminism lesson of the day. Done.

    • I cry too when I get mad (or stressed or happy or sad), and it’s 100% human, not based on being a woman. Cry on.

  13. Ha, that list of “ways not to make herself a target” hit like a punch to the gut. That was pretty much exactly me in college classes and my first couple jobs.

    The first time I wore heels to work *just because I felt like it,* I was terrified. I don’t even know why. Heels are supposed to be professional, right? But as a lady also in the game industry, embracing/wearing feminine stuff seemed to scream “Hey guys!! I’m different from you!!”

    Luckily, I’ve since gotten past that insecurity and feel much more comfortable wearing whatever I damn well please at work (you know… within reason).

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Who the hell is she?


Lauren

I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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