Jennifer Siebel Newsom is the wife of California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. California’s second lady is probably better known as an actress and documentary filmmaker, but her outspoken advocacy of women is what I'm interested in today.
At this week's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Siebel, and a panel of other industry figureheads, discussed women’s role in the gaming industry. “Gamers have the opportunity to think bigger, ” she said. “We have an opportunity in gaming to teach young boys to value women—to not perpetuate these extremes of masculinity.”
Now, just so we're clear, I completely agree with Siebel. Women are underrepresented as employees in the gaming industry, and their stereotypical portrayal in the games themselves is most likely a byproduct of this phenomenon. The thing that bothers me isn't that she's wrong—she's not—it's that her argument is so generic.
Political advocates like Jennifer Siebel aren't doing the female population any favors by trotting out the same worn-out arguments that we've been listening to for the last thirty years. The fact that Grand Theft Auto is still being used by politicians as an archetype of female objectification, when games like Saints Row make GTA look like a Disney movie, just proves that they're not interested in truly understanding the issue.
Siebel might not be the most prolific example of this particular problem; after all, she did make a documentary called Miss Representation, which explores the "under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America." But simply criticizing the issue isn't going to help us solve the problem.
After all, things are starting to turn around.
Perhaps the best example of this aspect shift, at least in recent memory, is Square Enix's overhauled version of Lara Croft. Croft's character has become something more than a bouncy pair of breasts and a penchant for stealing relics. But the transformation probably wouldn't have happened if Square Enix hadn't tapped Rhianna Pratchett, the female writer behind Tomb Raider's script. But very few people outside of the gaming industry choose to highlight the success stories.
Throughout history, positivity been an incredibly effective force for social change, but if we're going to continuously dwell on the same few talking points for a decades, we can't possibly expect the problem to correct itself. We’re caught in a feedback loop, and we need to rethink the issue.
Also, the fact that you clicked on this article simply because the cover had a large pair of breasts on it should probably annoy you. Just a thought.
Date: March 29, 2013