I'm aware of the fact that Beyonce's half time show has very little to do with video games. Fine, it has absolutely nothing to do with gaming, but considering the ongoing conversation that the industry is having about sexism, it seems appropriate.
Or else I'm just looking for another reason to repeatedly write the word sex in an article.
Yesterday, I got a text message from the Cheat Code Central's Editor and Chief, Matt Walker, who wanted to know if I thought Beyonce's half time show was sexist. Matt was obviously half joking, because Beyonce didn't have a single male dancer on the field. I'm not sure if he noticed this particularly because he's always on the lookout for male dancers, but it's probably a safe assumption.
The thing is, our conversation is actually a really good metaphor for the public's perception of sexism. We seem to think that this conversation is about equality, but that's not actually true. It's not about making sure that both sexes have the same opportunities, because that's not possible. Most women probably aren't going to qualify for a job that requires extreme upper body strength, and most men probably aren't going to become pregnant at any point. So, equality isn't the issue here.
When it comes to sexism, and any other form of bigotry, the issue is about dominance over another people group. Beyonce isn't a part of a domineering group of women who are purposefully keeping male dancers out of the spotlight (at least, not that I know of). So, her half time show was probably sexism free.
But the same can't be said for many of the complaints leveled against the video game industry. Gaming is a male-dominated industry that frequently portrays women as mindless sexual objects. And even though this isn't always the case, the fact that it’s an industry-wide issue means that there's probably a bit of underlying sexism.
Last week, in an interview with the Boston Globe, Marleigh Norton, a 35-year-old game developer from Cambridge, gave us a glimpse into the life of a female in the gaming industry: “If you are a woman in the industry, there are all these little signals that you are not part of the club, that this is not your tribe,” she said. “After time, it wears you down.”
Currently, women only represent about three percent of industry's programmers and only about eleven percent of the designers. But when you consider that the graphic design field is made up of about 60 percent women, and a quarter of programmers are female, it becomes clear that the gaming industry has a problem.
Just like Beyonce's dancers, the gaming industry doesn't need any more men. There are plenty of talented women that are ready to start their careers in this industry, and there's no reason why we shouldn't be supporting their efforts.
Anna Cai, a 33-year-old game design student at Becker College in Worcester, wants the industry to know that she's ready for the fight. “I was raised that when I see something wrong, I shouldn’t put my head down,” Cail said. “In games you don’t run and hide. You stand and fight. I can fight this fight.”
Bravo, Anna. I want to be on your team.
Date: February 4, 2013