Nerds and Male Privilege

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I want to tell you a story.

A few years ago, I was dating a girl who was decidedly not nerd curious. She tolerated my geeky interests with a certain bemused air1 but definitely didn’t participate in ’em… not even setting foot inside a comic store on new comic day. She’d wait outside until I was done… which could be a while, since I was friends with several of the staff.

She came in the store exactly once, after I’d explained that no, it’s a pretty friendly place… well lit, spacious, organized and with helpful – and clearly identified – staff members who were willing to bend over backwards to make sure their customers were satisfied.

She was in there for less than 4 minutes before one mouth-breathing troglodyte began alternately staring at her boobs – evidently hoping that x-ray vision could develop spontaneously –  and berating her for daring to comment on the skimpy nature of the costumes – in this case, Lady Death and Witchblade. She fled the premises, never to return.

When both the manager and I explained to him in no uncertain terms as to what he did wrong he shrugged his shoulders. “Hey, I was just trying to help you guys! She couldn’t understand that chicks can be tough and sexy! Not my fault she’s a chauvinist,” he said.

And that was when I shot him, your honor.

So with that example in mind, let’s talk about a subject I’ve touched on before: Male Privilege and how it applies to geeks and – more importantly – geek girls.

Male Privilege: What Is It, Exactly?

I don’t think I’m breaking any news or blowing minds when I point out that geek culture as a whole is predominantly male. Not to say that women aren’t making huge inroads in science fiction/fantasy fandom, gaming, anime and comics… but it’s still a very male culture. As such, it caters to the predominantly male audience that makes it up. This, in turn leads to the phenomenon known as male privilege: the idea that men – most often straight, white men –  as a whole, get certain privileges and status because of their gender.

(Obvious disclaimer: I’m a straight white man.)

In geek culture, this manifests in a number of ways. The most obvious is in the portrayal of female characters in comics, video games and movies. Batman: Arkham City provides an excellent example.

To start with, we have three of the male characters of Arkham City:

Not pictured: prettyboy ninja, stoic side-kick

Here we have the brooding vigilante, the psycho ICP fan and The Doctor


Then we have three of the female characters:

Not pictured: Slutty ninjas.

Here we have the dominatrix, the crazy hooker and Exotic Fanservice Girl...

Notice how the differences in how they’re portrayed and costumed? The men are fully clothed and deadly serious. They are clearly defined: the mighty hero, the ominous villains.

The women are all about sex, sex, sexy sextimes. With maybe a little villainy thrown in for flavor. They may be characters, but they’re also sexual objects to be consumed.

I will pause now for the traditional arguments from my readers: these characters are all femme fatales in the comics, all of the characters in the Arkham games are over-the-top, the men are just as exaggerated/sexualized/objectified as the women. Got all of that out of your systems? Good.

Because that reaction is exactly what I’m talking about.

Y’see, one of the issues of male privilege as it applies to fandom is the instinctive defensive reaction to any criticism that maybe, just maybe, shit’s a little fucked up, yo.  Nobody wants to acknowledge that a one-sided (and one-dimensional) portrayal of women is the dominant paradigm in gaming; the vast majority of female characters are sexual objects. If a girl wants to see herself represented in video games, she better get used to the idea of being the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. If she wants to see herself as a main character, then it’s time to get ready for a parade of candyfloss costumes where nipple slips are only prevented by violating the laws of physics. The number of games with competent female protagonists who wear more than the Victoria’s Secret Angels are few and far between.

The idea that perhaps the way women are portrayed in fandom is aleetle sexist is regularly met with denials, justifications and outright dismissal of the issue. So regularly, in fact, that there’s a Bingo card covering the most common responses. Part of the notion of male privilege in fandom is that nothing is wrong with fandom and that suggestions that it might benefit from some diversity  is treated as a threat.

But what is that threat, exactly?

In this case, the threat is that – ultimately – fandom won’t cater to guys almost to exclusion… that gays, lesbians, racial and religious minorities and (gasp!) women might start having a say in the way that games, comics, etc. will be created in the future. The strawmen that are regularly trotted out – that men are objectified as well, that it’s a convention of the genre, that women actually have more privileges than guys – are a distraction from the real issue: that the Privileged are worried that they won’t be as privileged in the near future if this threat isn’t stomped out.  Hence the usual reactions: derailment, minimization and ultimately dismissing the topic all together.

As much as my nerdy brethren wish that more girls were of the geeky persuasion, it’s a little understandable why women might be a little reticent. It’s hard to feel valued or fully included when a very vocal group insists that your input is irrelevant, misguided and ultimately unwelcome. It’s small wonder why geekdom – for all of it’s self-proclaimed enlightened attitudes towards outsiders and outcasts – stil retains the odor of the guy’s locker room.

  1. that I would later find out was the belief that she’d be able to break me of such silly fancies []

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  • Boatloads

    Now that I think about it, the only major video game heroine that isn't a complete sexpot is the woman from Portal, and you never see her or hear her speak. Not sure what that says.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      You see Chell a couple of times, especially if you're quick with the portals.

      Word of God is that Chell never says anything because she doesn't want to give GLADoS the satisfaction of a response.

      And a game series that is an excellent example of getting things right is the Uncharted series. Elena and Chloe are sexy yes but it's a realistic sexy. They have realistic figures and they're dressed sensibly, considering that one of them is a foreign correspondant and the other is running around in ruins and jungles all of the time.

      They also have strong competent characters in their own right, whose lives aren't defined by being the Nathan Drake girlfriend du jour.

      • Boatloads

        Another reason why Uncharted is one of the best game series out there.

        • Scott

          I think the woman from "Beyond Good and Evil" counts too.

          • Dr. NerdLove

            You mean Jade. And definitely.

          • someguy

            How about Kat from Halo Reach, though she's not the main character.

          • ReginaG

            This comment made me sad.

            I don't play video games so maybe this isn't what you meant but…

            "The" woman. I.e. there's only one woman in the whole game such that she can be identified by her gender rather than any other characteristic (the woman who guards the temple, the tall woman who dresses in black, the woman who killed the Prince, whatever.)?

            Doesn't that seem wrong to you?

          • Zoe

            @ReginaG They're talking about the protagonist and player character. She's also one of the few humans in a cast filled with anthropomorphic animals. In the context of the discussion, she's the only person they would be referring to.

            (I might question the idea that Jade isn't sexualized, but that's another issue.)

      • Tonithion

        Well from what I have gathered from Portal 1, yes, you are right about how she talks. However, in Portal 2, you actually here a couple times that Chell is a Mute, and does not speak at all. I know that pertains almost nothing to the article though.

        As for the article. It was well thought out, and you took your time explaining things to make sure that everyone understood what you were saying. I liked it. Thanks

        • Will

          In Portal 2, I believe it is everyone else who assumes she has brain damage. Chell could well be simply still giving them the silent treatment, due to their horrific attempted manipulation (and murder) of her.

        • Teej

          Actually, it is relevant. Many of the issues discussed in the post are ways to silence women; making the character mute does that more effectively than anything else. (Disclaimer: I've never played Portal.)

          • Dr. NerdLove

            The mute main character is a Vale staple; both Chell and Gordon Freeman are mute by design. Part of this is to allow the player to impose part of his or her own take on the characters' personalities. With Freeman, all we know is that he's a brilliant quantum physicist. All we know of Chell is that she's tenacious to the point that she will never, ever quit and all of Aperture Science's documents that she should NOT be a test subject for this reason.

            Really, it's not until the Left4Dead games that ANY player characters in a Valve game get any sort of definable personality at all, never mind a voice.

            The Word of God (i.e. Gabe Newell and the writers for Portal and Portal 2) is that Chell can speak but doesn't, because she refuses to give GLADoS the satisfaction of a reaction to her taunting.

          • Shayne

            I'm very persueded by the arguments in this argument. Its right, gamers and gaek culture do treat women like shit, and thats not true. And its ultimately self sabotaging too, because more and more we're seeing women enter geekdom, and women gamers too.

            I'm tempted to give chell a pass on this however, because potentially *all* FPS protagonists are mute, because , to quote John carmac 'The DOOM marine is YOU".

            However your right, women are silenced in games, and thats not really cool.

          • kris

            The key distinction between John Carmac's quote and the recent explosion of first-person action titles is that Valve is one of the few developers that have maintained that perspective while simultaneously being able to provide strong character development through a compelling narrative. I think its a brilliant form of immersion, but there have been several instances where its failed. For instance, Modern Warfare 3. At no point do you actually speak as the main character, but that is not to say that your character never speaks..instead you may simply never be 'in control' when it happens. The immersion is broken. Combine that with the lackluster storyline and the boring narrative, and its highly possible that if at any point you actually did play a female, they'd likely only be remembered BECAUSE she was a girl.

            P.S. Fem-shep players represent. Now THAT'S a truly strong woman, with a unique and distinct personality, shaped but not ultimately defined by the player, and in many ways beautiful without also having to show a little skin. It'd be interesting then to see if male privilege affects how players of Mass Effect (and Dragon Age) choose to handle relationships.

          • CountessOfOle

            @Dr. NerdLove

            The playable characters in Team Fortress 2 have definable personalities and voices. I'm pretty sure that came well before Left 4 Dead.

            Not that that's especially pertaining to the topic at hand, though, since none of the TF2 characters are female…

          • Dr. NerdLove

            I believe there's some question about the Pyro actually.

      • Katherine

        My thoughts on this are:

        In the second game Elena and Chloe were completely unrealistic. You cannot tell me that every time Nate followed Chloe up a ladder it wasn't completely ridiculous. Chloe was exaggerated and ridiculous, why? Because she was the exotic lusty 'do it with but don't take home to mom' girl (another common stereotype in male privilege media). She could not be overshadowed by Elena, despite who Nate would end up with in the end (if you really want to dig into it, Chloe is the loose whore who Nate would never consider having a family with, but Elena would make a faithful and obedient housewife and child bearer). Elena on the other hand was homely. Yes, homely. Especially by video game standards.

        The third game was better and worse. They 'fixed' the characters by toning down Chloe and toning up Elena. WTF does that say? Why does Elena need extra sex appeal for us to believe a guy like Drake would go for her? Because it's fantasy, I get it. Sad day.

        When my husband started playing Arkham Asylum I brought up my annoyance with Harley's costume, but shelved it because there wasn't anybody to share it with that could see my perspective. All of my female friends stay far far away from gamer guys and games in general.

        I'd like to say, though, that I'm pulling for you guys! I am always telling ladies to take a change on gamer guys. I love this culture and there are some real amazing catches within. It's a hard sell, I've been burned myself (hell, I feel a need to post a photo of myself or give a description because I don't feel I will be heard in this forum unless I am ungodly hot or a super gamer). So please take the advice of Dr. Nerdlove and acknowledge the truths about females and gaming. Thank you and End Rant.


        PS: I loved Uncharted. Second was better than the third. Also, sad day.

        • Liz

          I share your frustration about HQ's costume. I found it frustrating every single time I heard Catwoman or Harley called a bitch in Arkham Asylum. It not only happens a lot, but because of the repetitive nature of the game (you die, you repeat a level…), 'bitch' became so constant. (Notably, Bruce Wayne being called a 'bitch' was really just a way of saying that he was weak, ineffectual, someone to be dominated and beaten, and less than a 'real man')

          And yes, I've read all the arguments that *well, these are bad men, so that's what they'd say!* and all the other *oh but it's so realistic!!!* comments and I honestly think you can make bad men seem vicious without resorting to constantly calling the female characters gendered slurs.

          • KellyAnn K. Booth

            I have ALWAYS believed that a cussing *MAN* has NOTHING to say. Lately My belief & practice when someone calls Me a bitch, I tell them "CAST IRON!" This was a WELL thought out and well written article. I will be sharing it !

          • Toast

            Film Crit Hulk did an awesome (and long) article on the word "bitch" in Arkham City. Very worth reading, as is the followup – both for what he has to say, and for the way it brought out the very defensiveness the Doc discusses above.

          • grey

            Erm, yeah, but that's what you call a woman if you want to be disrespectful to them. It's really the only word less offensive than 'cunt' for example. You can't really call a chick an asshole, it doesn't work. There are a lot of things you can call a guy to insult him, but really only two that you can call a woman. All slurs are gendered, more or less. You can't really insult a guy with the same words you can insult a woman with. Bitch is the female equivalent of an asshole. Calling a guy a bitch is a completely different usage, because it's meant to imply something different.

            As for costumes, and sexualization of female characters I see that as more of a character thing. See, if we want a standard villain, we can go for a male villain. They can be classy, insane, and thoroughly awesome. You can gender swap them, but it doesn't add or remove anything if you make a woman that same type of villain. A female villain has something that a male villain can't have, unless he is being targeted towards women, and that is sexuality. A sexy evil woman, (to me at least, not everyone would agree with me) is much more interesting than just an interesting woman. It adds something that you can't get with a guy. If a guy is evil and tries to use sexuality, he comes of as being more 'rapey' than anything else. When a woman is evil, and uses sexuality, she's a lot more mind-fuck. It's an attractive woman, using her looks and body in order to unsettle a male character. It puts you on edge. It's like something that looks enticing, but you can tell at the same time, it's incredibly dangerous. So while yes, you can have a female villain that's exactly like what she would be like as a man, it doesn't really add anything. Femme fatales have a characteristic otherwise impossible to create.

            For female heroes, however, this is basically invalidated, and at this point becomes just sex-appeal and fanservice. Though you can make the argument that she acts as a femmefatale for the villains, but it never plays that way.

            But yeah.

          • Lizzie

            I somewhat agree with you, but I completely disagree with that there's only two things you can say to insult a women- For instance I am rarely called a bitch or a cunt it's usually something much more of a personal attack like "whore" "slut" "fake" (usually with the word fat or anorexic/ belemic put in front of it)

        • Max

          Do the female soldiers from XCOM (original and reboot) count as good examples of female characters?

          They are just as easily killed and just as capable of being asskickers as male soldiers WITHOUT being dressed up like a burlesque show.

          As far as the current bog standard for female video game characters these days, I can't boot up half of my steam games without having my intelligence insulted. As much as I love sexy women, a chainmail bikini wasn't a selling point for me when I was 15, and it sure as hell isn't NOW.

        • Felicianomiko

          As a huge fan of the Animated series of old, I HATE Harley's new outfit. I mean really? I mean it was bad enough in Batman TAS, but at least in that it was just the costume that was bad. She was never really sexualized beyond that, which, while not being a huge step up, is still far better than what they did to her in the Arkham series. She used to be crazy, wacky and obviously in love with "Mr J", but now she's just been made into a slut groupy who can't walk without selling it on the corner. Eesh.

      • mmmonst

        Uncharted was written by a woman. Just sayin'.

        • Kana

          Doesn't prove or disprove anything. Pretty sure writters in gaming are the most under valued and under used asset to a team. You don't write a story with compelling characters, you write what the publisher/studio tells you too.

        • Max

          So was Twilight and 50 shades of Gray.

      • Sixcolors

        The main reason behind Chell never speaking is the same as why Gordon Freeman never speaks, and why there are no third person shots during cut scenes: Valve wants the player to BE the character. They have no voice because it wouldn't be the player's voice. You get to decide in your own mind what your character is thinking or what they would say and what they would sound like. It's an interesting design choice that I think works very well in both Portal and Half-Life.

        And I agree about Uncharted.

        It's definitely difficult to name out too many games that haven't been named already in the replies.

    • Andy

      Mirror's Edge is another example, Faith wore appropriate clothing

      • Dr. NerdLove

        She was also built like a rock-climber; skinny and lean muscle. She looked like someone who spent most of her time running and climbing.

        • Kirsten

          I think this is important to note. She was flat-chested like a runner. Not boobalicious the way most video game characters are.

        • Ash

          Ahh, this was a time when not only did EA seem passably reputable (sadly fleeting), but a protagonist to a game was a woman who was not overly-sexualised. That whole situation was backwards in a hope-inspiring way.

          By the way, that was a really nice piece, thanks for the pleasant read.

      • Katherine

        It's not just about the clothing.

      • Topher

        Exactly. Just because every inch of a character's skin is covered doesn't mean that she isn't being sexualized or fetishized.

        • grey

          Yeah but at a certain point, that just becomes silly. Women have breasts. If you make every female character have a flat chest because you don't want to sexualize them, then it becomes stupid and contrived. It damages the character and the story. Women have breasts, and they have hips. They are inherently sexualized, because they are of a different sex, and more or less, designed to be… well… sexy. That's just science. It sounds misogynistic, but that's how it is. Women were designed to be attractive, guys to be strong and protective and shit. It matters less now because we're civilized, but those are our foundations. We don't need to hide the fact that women are women, and men are men, like they aren't different. We just need to accept that as a fact rather than focusing and obsessing.

          When it comes to how characters act, however, this is completely different. Chicks acting like dumb blow up dolls for the sake of being hot is incredibly offensive and annoying.

          Also clothing that makes no sense is offensive and annoying… but a chick having a good figure and looks is just… general entertainment fantasy. Nobody ever complains about guys being objectified, but I'd find you hard pressed to find a really ugly and unattractive looking male character in a videogame or movie.

          • Cheriphim


            Actually, you know very little about female anatomy.

            When women are very active, we use up our reserve body fat. Body fat is what makes breast tissue voluptuous. Women also lose weight from the top down, meaning breasts are the FIRST thing to shrink with extended and prolonged physical activity. Its why you don't see D-cups in the Olympics (no, Curling doesn't count).

            Also, our hips do not widen until after child-birth. There are a great many small-breasted, thin-hipped women out there, which you would know if you spent less time watching the utterly COMICALLY unrealistic ones in video games. Having a slighter figure is NORMAL for more than half of the world's population of women–look at Asians, for example. Its very ignorant (and rude) to say that over a billion women worldwide are less female because they do NOT have video game "big boob big ass" bodies; there are only certain genetics that lend to that physique.

            Not to mention, as a long-time pursuer of martial arts and combat training myself, I can tell you, larger breasts get in the way and are a huge disadvantage (hurts like hell taking a hit in that tissue). I'm naturally a C cup, and in my earlier teens, a B cup was preferable. It was FAR easier to climb, crawl, etc. When I had my kids, I went up several sizes, and I had to completely change the way I executed moves, blocked, etc. Balance was different, stance had to compensate. I was happy when they were manageable again, and wear sports bras to keep them out of the way as much as possible.

            Our physical power is centered lower in our bodies, making us physically more suitable for kicks and throws; larger boobies changes the dynamics of both. Yet they do not add anything to upper body strength, nor do they help with hand strikes, punches, etc. So there is no advantage to larger breast size, except, apparently, to titillate you before we incapacitate you.

            In short, a female "action hero" would have to have breast implants to retain large breast size while maintaining such a rigorous lifestyle–yet a female action heroine wouldn't intentionally impede herself by doing so.


          • Chelsea

            I feel like although the op of the comment is most likely incorrect, Ceriphim's is also based in fiction and symptomatic of the overarching problem described. Based on personal experience she assumes that all women lose weight in breasts first and that their hips widen after childbirth. What about those of us who were born with wide hips and have weight loss in other areas. I feel like her willingness to lump all of our bodies into the same category is symbolic of the extent of the indoctrination.

          • Felicianomiko

            I'm actually going to go with grey here, because I see his point. We want to point out the problem, not over react to it and swing the pendulum too far in the other direction. Women do indeed have boobs and hips and asses, but not usually all at once. There are gender stereotypes for a reason, the problem is when the stereotype becomes the archetype. And I would agree that inappropriate dress, body movement and language are far more offensive to me as a girl gamer and geek than just big breasts. I also find out position within the framework of the story to be a problem a lot of the time.

            And Cheriphim, not all women are build the same. While I do also loose weight from the top down, I also have big hips and thighs and I am as yet, childless. There are many women who are "apples" in body shape and they loose mostly from the bottom down, gain weight first in the breasts and stomach and often have great legs while carrying and extra 30lbs. Not fair, but such is life.

          • Raddi

            This is a COMPLETELY male perspective…do you realize this? The idea that women are "inherently sexualized" is only true IF YOU ARE A MAN (okay, a straight man…or a lesbian). To me, men are "inherently sexual," because that is what I am attracted to. That's like me saying that every guy in a video game needs to be hung like a horse and shirtless, because "obviously" and "it's just science" that men are only there to turn me on, because, well, duh…*I'm* turned on, and clearly, every single other person in the world is exactly like me! (didn't you know?

          • Raddi

            This is a COMPLETELY male perspective…do you realize this? The idea that women are "inherently sexualized" is only true IF YOU ARE A MAN (okay, a straight man…or a lesbian). To me, men are "inherently sexual," because that is what I am attracted to. That's like me saying that every guy in a video game needs to be hung like a horse and shirtless, because "obviously" and "it's just science" that men are only there to turn me on, because, well, duh…*I'm* turned on, and clearly, every single other person in the world is exactly like me! (didn't you know? heh) The idea that this concept is not wholly dependent on perspective is so completely bizarre to me that I find myself more puzzled by your statement that even offended…it has never once occurred to me that my perspective is the only perspective (or the only one that matters, clearly). The fact that you don't understand that every single thing you said above came straight out of the male privilege perspective (meaning the belief that the male view is "The View"…not even the only one that matters, apparently, but the only one that exists, since it's "science," right?) is the exact problem that this article was describing. Sigh. Double sigh.

    • Dan

      Chell is a classic the-character-is-you type of video game character. This has been done in games for years, especially Zelda games. The idea is that by giving the character no voice, it makes it easier for *you* to "become" the character.

      I agree that most video games have a terrible portrayal of women, but there are some positive ones as well. We can only hope that things will get better as gaming becomes more mainstream.

      • workrum

        mainstream making things better?

        yeah and maybe it'll make things cheaper too.

    • Topher

      Except Uncharted has allegations of racism to deal with. Regardless of its supposedly not-as-bad-as-other-games portrayal of women (which is no consolation whatsoever), if the agenda is not intersectionalist, it is worthless.

    • Sadiem

      Even then, they started undressing her in Portal 2.

      • Eric

        Imagine if you just ran a gauntlet of incredibly intense life-threatening puzzles while wearing a bodysuit. I think you' be a bit hot after that, no? 😛

      • WallyWarhead

        I doubt what they did in Portal 2 truly counts as undressing.

      • WallyWarhead

        I doubt what they did in Portal 2 truly counts as undressing.

        • Dr. NerdLove

          By video game standards, it's positively conservative.

      • Tink

        The only clothes available to her are the testing clothes. Because they didn't want to leave that realm of belief, but they did want to make it appear that she was being more individual, they had her tie the top part around her waist. She's wearing a tank top for Pete's sake. Chell is a really good example of a female character that is simply portrayed as a character and not an object.

    • PennyPriddy

      What about Commander Shepard from Mass Effect. The player can choose if Shepard's male or female and the female version's armors look like clothing that would actually protect her in battle.

      • PineappleSalad

        I would agree with that, except that I feel like the only reason Female Shepard isn't sexualized is because she has to be completely interchangeable with Male Shepard.

        Almost every single other girl in the series is sexualized in some way; the only one I can think of that isn't is Ashley Williams, but even she has had a sexy makeover for the upcoming ME3 (and don't forget the fact that if you're playing as Male Shepard, you can in fact have sex with her). Every playable female character (apart from the intentionally androgynous Shepard) is wearing something revealing in some way, whether it be a tight bodysuit or a tight bodysuit with copious amounts of cleavage. Or, in Jack's case, avoid wearing a top at all.

        And while I like the character customization, why does Male Shepard get to have an incredibly detailed and easily identifiable default character who is based off of a male model and is used in all promotional material, while the default Female Shepard is just a stock face in the customization bin, with no special features or distinguishing characteristics like her male counterpart?

        I also feel like any credit that Bioware gets for making Commander Shepherd into a strong female character is negated by the Asari, an alien race made up entirely of feminine people who are often considered to be hypersexual and desirable to all other races. There are definitely some badass Asari, but they undoubtedly were added to the game as fanservice for guys who want to fantasize about banging a hot alien chick. Note that there are female aliens of other races, but the "unsexy" ones aren't shown: We get to see plenty of Asari and Quarian women, but never Turian or Krogan (luckily, the latter will be revealed in the new Mass Effect game next year).

        On top of all of this is the fact that homosexual relationships can only be achieved by playing as a female character. Male Shepard can't pursue any of his male teammates, but Female Shepard can have a relationship with Liara (an Asari woman) in ME1, and can attempt to pursue Morinth, Samara, and Kelly (2 of those women also being Asari). What bothers me about this is that these lesbian interactions pander to men's desire to see two hot women getting it on, rather than the intent to realistically portray a same sex relationship. Why doesn't Male Shepard have the option to romance a male member of his crew? Because this game is still intended for a male audience, and guys don't want to see a manly guy like Shepard boning one of his bros. Well, unless they're gay, but gay men don't like manly things like video games, am I right? Plus, a lot of straight men are freaked out by gay men, so why threaten/alienate the primary fanbase?

        Oh lord, and don't get me started on when the creators do actually try to appeal to what they think their female audience wants. If you don't get what I'm talking about, let three little words serve as a hint: "…But the prize!"

        Now, I'm not trying to bash Mass Effect; it's actually one of my favorite series, and in my mind ME3 can't arrive soon enough. Still, I feel like having an incredibly strong female protagonist (if you so choose) doesn't make up for the fact that the series definitely panders primarily to straight men, if not exclusively. Commander Shepard is indeed an awesome female character, but her incredibly badass self can't make up for all the female stereotypes that are reinforced in other characters.

        • Steff

          As a defence for Mass Effect, did you see Jacob and Thane? There's even a video of a shirtless Jacob working out in a DLC…

          Mass Effect has fan service for both genders, let's be honest.

        • JM

          There's also the fact that in ME1, the female Sheppard can only have a relationship with an ALIEN female. The whole women-as-aliens dehumanization cliche is as dull and offensive as the women-as-robots cliche.

          • elteepee

            Um, was there a romance with Alenko? I never played Fem Shep, but I was pretty sure Alenko was a love interest.

          • Dr. NerdLove

            The three romances in the first Mass Effect were Alenko, Williams and Liara. I seem to recall there was talk about Alenko originally being bi, but I can't seem to find that anywhere.

          • Danty

            ME1 – Femshep can have a relationship with Kaidan, a male crew member.

            Just depends on who you decide to let die.

        • Blu3vib3

          As female Commander Shepherd, I don't have the ability to *not* wear make up. I can be characterize my fill-in-the-blank character as a bad ass tough-as nails soldier with a buzz-cut – but I still have to have a veneer of cosmetics designed to make my face look more appealing to heterosexual men.

          • Erynn

            One of the makeup options is always 'no maekup' I don't wear any as shepherd.

          • Blu3vib3

            I can pick neutral lipstick and no face makeup, but I am unable to get rid of my eyeliner.

        • Erynn

          Mass effect 2 is a very different game to mass effect. Mass effect 1 was much better with it's characters. And there's nothing wrong with having a male-female interchangeable character – more characters Should be done like that. Character first, gender second. Almost all successful female characters are done like that… because that's how male characters are done in the first place. For instance, we have Ripley from the 'Alien' movie… origonally written to be male. Can you tell? No. That's because the male writers weren't trying to think 'what would a woman do?' when they wrote her. I think it's a sad fact of life that a large number of writers and designers in video games, when designing a female character, sit there and say soemthing like "It's a girl… what do Girls do?". The perfect example of this is Metroid M. I can ehar the conversation now. "Girls.. what do girls like?… girls… erm… I know! Girls like kids!". That thus, metroid died. Writers get too caught up in making characters female, instead of making them characters.

          Also, Mass Effect 2 was heavily EA influenced. It's really, really obvious in a straight comparison.

        • Pterygotus

          It was Thane who was explicitly designed to appeal to women, iirc.

      • Max


    • Packie

      Don't forget Samus Aran from Metroid and Chun-Li

      • Neenan

        Samus was once a good female role-model in video games (if not the best), but then she took a Ninja Theory to the vocal chords.

        • I just called,

          To say,

          I loved this comment.

          One well thought out meme reference is worth the thousands of contrived nuisances.

    • JBird

      Actually another excellent video game where the protagonist isn't the cover of a Victoria's Secret catalogue is an old PC adventure game called The Longest Journey where the protagonist was a female college art student named April Ryan.

      I've never played the sequel but it does look like they decided to show off her assets a bit more in that one.

    • Probably another form of control, women shouldn't have a say if they aren't being sexual objects.

    • Numericline

      Boatloads the woman from Portal is walking around in her underwear.

      • Dr. NerdLove

        No, no she isn't. In the first game, she's wearing a jumpsuit. In the second, she's wearing the jumpsuit with the top half tied off at the waist and a tanktop.

    • Wazwolf

      The new Jan. 6 Deflect, Derail, Dismiss article pointed me to this one.

      I found myself disagreeing with what you wanted to toss out as "not valid" and label arguments under the three D's.

      For whatever reason, females didn't get into the beginnings of certain markets. So the fan-service catered to the males. Just like romance novels and Gay Erotica cater to females.

      What? Gay erotica? Yes. Just like Yaoi from Japan is made by females for females, there is a western wave of female writers writing gay erotica for female readers. They are niche markets. They grew as they did because of those involved, because of those who were interested. Just like how comics and games grew for those consuming.

      I don't like the feminine portrayal of men in many mangas and eastern games. I don't buy them. I don't view it as a fault either that someone forgot to cater to me.

      I will get what may cater to me, and avoid what does not. Saints Row the Third gives me the option to have a big dick. Women have the option to make a Gambit-thin swimmer-build character with whatever size dick they want. Or they can make whatever type of female avatar they want. But the gameplay of blowing shit up and being a thug may not appeal to them, regardless of how they make their character. The whole synopsis of the game would need changing to appeal to ladies as well, resulting in content I want possibly being taken out.

      In no way am I saying that more diversity than what currently exists is bad. But do not take away what I want to see.

      I like my women in games with nice asses and tits. I'm gay. I don't want to BE them (fuck no). I like them to look hot and sexy, yes, for my consumption. It is the culture I'm a part of, the one I buy into, and the one I expect to be sold. I want my fan-service, even if you give others their fan-service.

      I have no qualms about more balanced characters introduced to cater to all types, but you better give me my token slut when you give them their fully clothed female lab assistant. The genre of the game determines what type of gross excess it will contain. We consume comics and games to get away from the restrictions of the real world and society. We don't go out to purchase bland politically correct games with no controversy. They are games. They are comics. They are not real life. That IS a valid point to make. The point is to escape, even if amoral.

      So it is not a dismissal, derailment, or deflection to say not to be so sensitive. Harry Potter is just a kids book, not a satanic manifesto, just like Batman is a game and not throwing women into sexual slavery.

      How guys treat women on Xbox Live IS a problem. But developers catering to what their consumers want is not. There is a gray line, and where you will draw it and where I will draw it seem different. I'm more about keeping the line at where it belongs, peoples actual behavior toward one another, not what they read or play.

      Would I like gays to not be a stereotype in my media? Of course. Few games portray a NORMAL guy that, eh yeah, happens to be gay. Like Persona 4. But doesn't mean I'm not gonna laugh at the feminine lisping limp-wrist fag in all the other games until then. Or the other gay stereotype, the ULTRA-normal gay who gets all gross lovey-dovey, like Colossus and Northstar in the Ultimate comic universe. I was in the army for 5 years. I like violence. I flirt with women and make sexual jokes. I make racist jokes. I make religious jokes. I make gay jokes. Doesn't mean in my personal life I would mistreat those people, I would defend them. But keeping a relaxed attitude allows me to not get overly-emotional and viewing everything as an attack. It allows me to see when, yes, there IS a problem.

      And in Xbox Live or any other forum where a guy is going to harass a lady, then yes, I will call him a fag and go further with asking his dick size and cut or uncut and top or bottom. Guys are dominate in that forum and play by the culture that governs them, to be asshole douches and homophobic. They are comfortable sexually harassing a woman but uncomfortable if a "gay" comes back at them in the same way. It is not "right", but one way to shut them up is to make them uncomfortable and drive them off–the same way they do to women.

      If women want to play with the boys, they need to play tough like one of the boys. It is not P.C. to put like that, but really they would need to put those types in their place by doing the same thing back at them. What other option is there? Teach every jerk to feel guilt and be a better person? Ask game developers to cut questionable content and censor themselves from what their customers want? Mario and such do sell. But not everyone wants Mario. Some want some GTA. Or pvp, bringing out the worst in competitive nature.

      • Dr. NerdLove

        For whatever reason, females didn’t get into the beginnings of certain markets.

        Someone's unfamiliar with the history of comics and video games I see…

        I don’t like the feminine portrayal of men in many mangas and eastern games.

        You may have noticed they're also not the majority portrayal on the market.

        I don’t buy them. I don’t view it as a fault either that someone forgot to cater to me.

        The issue isn't catering to an underserved audience, the issue is the portrayal of a gender and the tacit attitudes that accompany it.

        I will get what may cater to me, and avoid what does not. Saints Row the Third gives me the option to have a big dick. Women have the option to make a Gambit-thin swimmer-build character with whatever size dick they want. Or they can make whatever type of female avatar they want.

        We will now pause to appreciate the irony of Saint's Row being more progressive than, say, Soul Calibur.

        But the gameplay of blowing shit up and being a thug may not appeal to them, regardless of how they make their character. The whole synopsis of the game would need changing to appeal to ladies as well, resulting in content I want possibly being taken out.

        Would you like to wave good-bye to the point? Because you seem to have missed it by a wide margin. The issue isn't playing a thug or blowing shit up. In fact, if you read the comments here and in the previous article, you'll find that a lot of the women gamers who read my blog love a little kick/'splode action. The issue is the way that women are presented and treated in games and how any concerns they may have are dismissed.

        In no way am I saying that more diversity than what currently exists is bad.

        Mighty generous of you.

        But do not take away what I want to see.

        Don't look out your window, but the jack-booted feminist thugs are coming right now to take away your fan-service.

        I like my women in games with nice asses and tits.

        That's nice. Nobody says you can't. The issue is when that's all there is.

        I’m gay.

        Motzel tov.

        I don’t want to BE them (fuck no). I like them to look hot and sexy, yes, for my consumption. It is the culture I’m a part of, the one I buy into, and the one I expect to be sold.

        It's nice to know that you believe that sexism is ok as long as enough people want it. By that same logic, should we not agree that if enough people want it, all gay men in media are to be portrayed as either campy limp-wristed queens or pedophiliac rapists looking for innocent boyflesh? After all, if it's the culture we're part of…

        I want my fan-service, even if you give others their fan-service.

        Mighty generous of you.

        I have no qualms about more balanced characters introduced to cater to all types, but you better give me my token slut when you give them their fully clothed female lab assistant.

        Thank you for an excellent example of male privilege in action: expecting to be catered to above and beyond everyone else.

        The genre of the game determines what type of gross excess it will contain. We consume comics and games to get away from the restrictions of the real world and society.

        So your argument is the only reason to read comics and games is to appease your inner psychopath?

        So it is not a dismissal, derailment, or deflection to say not to be so sensitive.

        "You silly females, don't you understand that you don't have the right to feel this way?"

        How guys treat women on Xbox Live IS a problem. But developers catering to what their consumers want is not. There is a gray line, and where you will draw it and where I will draw it seem different. I’m more about keeping the line at where it belongs, peoples actual behavior toward one another, not what they read or play.

        The fact that you don't see the connection is telling.

        Would I like gays to not be a stereotype in my media? Of course.

        Except when enough people want those stereotypes.

        Few games portray a NORMAL guy that, eh yeah, happens to be gay.

        Remember the other day when you were asking me what the definition of "irony" is?

        But keeping a relaxed attitude allows me to not get overly-emotional and viewing everything as an attack. It allows me to see when, yes, there IS a problem.

        Silly females, etc.

        And in Xbox Live or any other forum where a guy is going to harass a lady, then yes, I will call him a fag and go further with asking his dick size and cut or uncut and top or bottom.

        Mighty generous of you. You could, y'know, tell 'em to knock that shit off too.

        Guys are dominate in that forum and play by the culture that governs them, to be asshole douches and homophobic.

        That's the culture they're part of, the one that they buy into and the one that they expect to be sold, yes?

        • Jake

          Haven't the slightest idea where you have the patience to read that tripe, let alone respond to it.

      • A Girl Named Michael

        ” We consume comics and games to get away from the restrictions of the real world and society.”

        The problem is that many, MANY of those partakers can’t seem to separate the real world from the game world. I don’t know that there is any real solution for these issues except for time, but it doesn’t change the fact that the stereotypes ultimately bleed into real life, and sometimes it’s a gusher.

    • Matilda

      How about Nico from Broken sword?

    • Matilda

      Oh, and Elaine in the first two Monkey Island games!

    • NorseWinter

      I like how the amount of women who are "an exception" to this list of sexism can be named and counted. XD

      But yes, when I found out the character in Portal was female I was a bit disappointed. Because I had imagined her a male (yes even when seeing an occasional glance of her reflection in a portal). Then my jaw literally dropped as I realized that it was because I was used to girls being HEAVILY and exaggeratedly sexualized…

      So if her breasts weren't as big as her head, and hanging out of her blouse in violation of physics (as the nipples never flash out) then it couldn't have been a girl. Especially if it was in a game.


      • Notsureifsrs

        NorseWinter, that says more about your own expectations than about women in video games. I think most of us who weren't trained to see misogynism in everything recognized her as a woman.

      • Anarkitty

        I think everyone likes recounting the exceptions (and I agree, there are far too few of them) because this whole situation is a telling indication of a serious issue in our community.

        It's depressing to constantly discuss what's wrong, so we change the subject to the few times it is right.

        What I think is telling is that when there are exceptions they get a lot of fan support from guys and girls. Sure there are always neckbeards that complain that they're not sexualized enough, but most of the positive examples listed so far are popular and respected characters, there just aren't enough of them to go around.

        • Notsureifsrs

          Why is it such a problem for you if women are portrayed as being attractive in popular media? That seems like a very puritan, sex-negative point of view.

    • Inksplattered

      FemShep of the Mass Effect trilogy? It was nice to see a choose-your-character's-gender game without a "sexier" walking/standing pose for the women.

    • Except Chell also had to deal with a LARGE barrage of insults about how her orange jumpsuit looks hideous and that she is fat and that nobody will ever love her.

      Compare to the protagonist from System Shock, with a villain that GLaDOS is based upon (somewhat) and a similar "other people aren't here" environment, you don't really see SHODAN making any similar comments about the male protagonist there.

      Wait… System Shock is fairly old… but would anybody be up for modding the Gold Engine (or whatever Halflife-2 is using is called) to have a game that looks almost exactly like the System Shock games, except SHODAN's insults and jeers are mostly about how fat and hideous what the main character is wearing, and how nobody will love him? Remove anything that might suggest the protagonist is competent (like all comments of being a hacker, or even having a profession) and just treating him like he is SHODAN's personal man candy… which he fails at being like?

    • Joe

      Alyx Vance from HL2….always fully clothed…normal female body…smart as Einstein, tough as leather, hands-on competent with everything. Gordon Freeman would be so totally hopeless without Alyx. And she looks just like a friend of mine. 😀

    • Uh…. Samus? Unless you think armor that you can only tell is on a female if you look real close at the breastplate is just so. damn. sexy….

  • Samus from Metroid WAS a non-sexualized female video game character… so much for that.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      She was… until she took her armor off. Then they made Zero Suit Samus…

    • Sum Guy

      The end of the original Metroid revealed Samus in a bikini. Samus has always been portrayed as a sexual prize.

      • Iankaikkinen

        Well that could be just to contrast the "shock" of playing as a woman all that time and having the limited 8bit capability at hand. Other plausible explanation could be that under all that armor it's impossible to wear anything else than undies.

        • hiccup

          No, it was definitely sexualization. It is the "prize" provided at the end of the game: complete all of the levels, defeat all of the challenges, and Samus will shed her armor, pose for you in a bikini, and blow you a kiss.

          • Brangler

            We'll ban bikinis then! Or is that infringing on women's rights? We'll celebrate bikinis then! or is that objectifying women?

            Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

            P.S. 8-BIT is never sexy. It's 8-bit.

          • amanda

            Can't seem to reply to Brangler, but this comment is directed at him:

            READ THE F*CKING ARTICLE. You just did exactly what Dr. Nerdlove was talking about.

            It's not about sexy, it's about sexualization. And it's not about banning bikinis, it's about respect. To disregard a legitimate complain because what's being complained about doesn't hurt you, well… I'm sure you're smart enough to see why that's a problem.

            I'm not sure why I bother, though — if you had read the article and had a lick of compassion you'd already feel bad about the way you treat women.

      • Chupi

        Calling the end of the original Metroid sexualization feels like going overboard. Especially with how despite her slimmer 8-bit graphical appearance, her older design art featured a functional tank of a woman. In Super Metroid she was even described outside of her armor as being 6'3", just under 200 lbs, and all muscle.

        She was in a bikini in the end of 1 for two reasons: 1, shock value of "it's been a girl the whole time!" And 2, it's nothing short of unreasonable to expect someone to come out of armor like that fully clothed. Underwear, zero suit, or nude are the likely wardrobes to fit under it. (Though nude would be a bad idea for chaffing reasons.) And in space where it's easy to heat up and difficult to cool down, less is actually more so the underwear is actually more reasonable than her new fancy zero suit. Though I doubt they were actually considering that while thinking of what she'd wear so much as they may have been thinking about showing the desperation and rough times, stripped to the bare basics to finish the job. She's certainly sexualized and might I say even disgraced now. But her old incarnations were excellent representations of women in video games.

        Mostly this article makes me look back and think that comics over these last few decades really could have taken some cues from AvP, where interracial and homosexual relationships never even got second glances as taboos or unusual and women always wore practical clothes. Even when Noguchi hunted with the predators, she wore their armor but still wore more than most of the actual yautja did. Though the Predator line was much less progressive in those respects than Aliens or Aliens vs Predator were.

        • Jessica

          "She was in a bikini in the end of 1 for two reasons: 1, shock value of “it’s been a girl the whole time!” And 2, it’s nothing short of unreasonable to expect someone to come out of armor like that fully clothed."

          The "shock value" excuse is very demeaning for women. The fact that you should be shocked that Samus is a woman is in itself sexist. Why should we be surprised that a woman could do any of the things Samus does? We shouldn't be surprised. That fact that the audience /is/ surprised by this reveal shows how sexist the audience really is (this /does/ include the female gamers who are surprised, not just the males). It's very telling of the gaming community in general.

          I suppose you would expect a knight to wear a bikini/speedo under his armor, too. After all, it's so hot underneath all that metal and he certainly wouldn't be wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt to protect his skin from chafing… (Please note that is exactly what they wear under armor to wick away sweat and protect their skin.) It's actually VERY COLD in space and wearing a bikini would be freezing, if not at the least chilly, even in an armored suit. I would expect a person to wear a jumpsuit in space (you know, like astronauts do…) ESPECIALLY if they were wearing full body armor.

          The fact that the best prize at the end of the game was that Samus stood there in a bikini (8-bit or otherwise – lord knows if they had the graphics at the time, they would've shown her in all her glory) and posed is disgusting and degrading. They don't have endings like that in games with male lead characters.

          I realize at the time, sexism was not confronted the way it is now, so I can more easily overlook these instances in older games. However, I cannot agree that Samus is a good example of a non-sexualized character especially because of the way she is presented at the end of the game and outside of the game. I do still agree that she is a good role model for female gamers because the developers don't actually sexualize her (as much?) during game play, even in the newer games. She is still presented as a very strong character. I think some of the "fan service" in the new games (being able to see the reflection of Samus' face in the visor and presenting her features more realistically, etc) is really more a result of developers showing off the evolution of amazing graphics. To their credit, they have done a fantastic job.

          • Miranda

            I thought Samus was male because 'Samus' sounds like a male name.

          • Patrick

            You're misreading the situation in your second paragraph (the first that isn't a quotation). The shock value isn't from the game telling you that you should be shocked that a woman was an action hero. The shock value is from the way the game undermined cultural expectations. There's a difference between reinforcing bias, and highlighting the presence of bias, even though both involve acknowledging bias.

          • Pterygotus

            I would expect a person to wear a jumpsuit in space (you know, like astronauts do…) ESPECIALLY if they were wearing full body armor.

            …the same Zero Suit people are complaining about a little upthread, in other words?

      • Discordia25

        Exactly! And further, in Metroid 3 SNES if the player collected all the items (missiles, energy tanks) she would 'strip' even more – from a bikini to a 2 piece.

    • Bam

      Yeah, hence why it was crushing when they abandoned all of that later in the series. Those execs couldn't resist catering to the fandom because the internet had for years been fetishizing Samus merely because they knew that somewhere deep in that varia suit, she was a female, despite it being totally irrelevant to the games.

    • Matt

      Yeah, I really dug the bikini at the end! (OMG she's a GIRL!)

    • Spence

      Lets take look at zero suit Samus and see if we still agree through the double d's and twenty inch waist that she wasn't sexualized.….
      no she wasn't sexualized in the original game, but the rights were givin for Smash Bro's to do this to her.

  • Mira

    Good article! Most of my bad experiences with male fan-types have been online (the guys at my local game store have always been perfectly nice,) but I've heard enough horror stories to make me wary of going to comic conventions for exactly these reasons. And while I'm not opposed to stylizations of video game or comic characters, I'm baffled as to why some guys don't understand how the constant sexualization of females could turn off female fans.

    • What's additionally frustrating is how many women willingly choose the slave Leia costume for Cons because it gets them attention. Heaven forbid you choose Hoth Leia or traditional Leia from A New Hope. The costuming further objectifies women, but at the same time, women are choosing to portray themselves that way. Like all the sexy Halloween costumes. Don't just dress as a bee, dress as a SEXY BEE. See it's a yellow minidress with wings. It's a bee.

      • Erin

        You seem to be implying that women who choose to dress as Sexy!Leia have in some way made the "wrong" choice. Undoubtedly it's not right to manipulate others using sex appeal, but it's just as bad to look at a woman wearing a slave Leia costume and right away tell her she's objectifying herself. There's a difference between male video game designers creating a female character with breasts larger than her head and a woman deciding she wants to wear a costume that bares some skin.

        • Eric

          Erin, it's not that she's making the "wrong" choice. It's that she's under the "wrong" expectation. People expect the girls to dress all sexy. Girls know they're expected to dress all sexy. That's How Things Are Done(tm).

          The problem isn't her individual choice. The problem is why that choice is expected in the first place.

          • Anarkitty (Erik)

            You are making the point that they are wearing it because it is "expected", not because they want to, implying that these women aren't thinking for themselves.

            This is why this is a tricky topic, especially for men. We have to balance not making women feel like they have to be sexualized, with not making them feel like they aren't allowed to be if they want to. Both are based in parochial authoritarianism. As men, our responsibility is simply to treat the women in our community with the same respect we do other guys, regardless of what costumes they wear.

      • Sami

        I have had this same argument several times, and I agree with you. It's good to keep in mind that when it comes to appearance, we choose what to wear when we leave the house in the morning. It would be naive of anyone say they're surprised if they show up in a bikini and men stare. The same thing happens at the beach- they know the attention is coming whether or not it's intentional. Each cos-player may have different reasons behind wanting to show that much skin, and really I can't judge their motives. (I wore the New Hope costume to a Halloween party once. It didn't go over well.)

        • Sarah

          One issue there is that it's incredibly difficult to find a costume that isn't sexualized (for Halloween). I remember being dismayed at the choices for woman's costumes, eventually I chose a "vampires mistress" costume, which was not low cut and only showed the arms and 4 inches of the back. Pretty sad, but it was the only costume that didn't show ass, breasts, or more than three inches above my knees.

          On the other hand, I disagree that woman dressing sexily at conventions is a bad thing. The problem isn't that sexualization of women exists, or that some woman play into that culture to get what they want. The problem is that, the sexualization part of the culture is so prominent that it forces other woman to either "dress slutty or get the fuck out". To me, that's the problem.

          As a gamer and nerd, it's challenging for me to find a DnD group who will a) let me join the group, and b) be okay with the fact that I want to play a heavy armor fighter with a two-handed axe c) not assume I'm a lesbian because I am a nerd who wears comfortable, conservative clothing.

          Finally, another issue is this idea that nerdom and geekdom is "man territory" that women are only just now "invading". We have been a solid and significant base of this culture since the beginning (Gary invented DnD with his son and daughter). That we are a large portion of the population is especially true in video games, where every numerical study has shown that the population is about 60/40 m to f with an average age of 35; Yet most people will insist that the number is closer to 99/1 and that "only the 12 year olds are threatening you with rape (no they're not) ". Or my personal favorite, it's only 60/40 for SOME games REAL games like "meh meh meh" are almost 100% male. Uh huh. Sure.

          • Joanna

            Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! As a girl who is a geek I can relate to most everything you are saying. I was rejected by DnD groups. Yes, more than one. I get asked if I'm a lesbian all the time, because I have short hair. I feel like some male nerds/geeks/gamers/ whoever in the community do not value my thoughts or opinions due to the same statement of "She's just a girl."

            What I dislike even more, is the rejected from the "rejected group." The rejects who bond together and let no one else in their social club. I often left wondering where the frack am I supposed to go or belong. This has happened over several years which leads me to just accept the fact I am a sex object. I don't want to think that way, it's just the culture and society as a whole.

            This is seen with the sexy costumes, the sexy characters, etc. I guess if we want it to stop, we have to stop buying into the sexualzation of female. Meaning don't buy the games, comic books, etc. I know that's not going to happen.

            The sexy portrayals of characters don't bother me. It's the attitudes and beliefs that follow assuming every woman should look and act that way.

        • Joanna

          " It would be naive of anyone say they're surprised if they show up in a bikini and men stare. The same thing happens at the beach- they know the attention is coming whether or not it's intentional."

          I'm way off topic of the article, but your comment reminds me of the breastfeeding in public debate. "They know the attention is coming whether or not it's intentional." Perfect!

      • Joy

        Speaking as a person who loves Halloween (the house and yard get decorated in full haunted house mode, and I like dressing in costume to hand out candy), do you know how hard it is to find a Halloween costume that is NOT "sexy nurse/fairy/maid/vampire/cat"? Anyone who lacks time, creativity, and/or sewing skills is pretty much forced into a Sexy XYZ costume by default.

        The first few years I did this, I scoured stores around Halloween and after, looking for a costume I could wear without freezing on a Midwestern autumn night and in which I could bend over to fill candy baskets without things falling out. I got so frustrated by the utter lack of anything containing more than a yard or two of fabric that I finally hired someone to make me a costume. It's pretty basic, but it was still cheaper and of better quality than any of the premade ones. Not everyone wants to go that route, though (and although I like my costume, I'd occasionally like to be something different), so I'd love it if there was something, anything, other than Sexy to choose from.

    • Carjriak

      I agree that we shouldn't think of them as solely sexual objects, but when they choose to dress a certain way(While it might be the only way they're not told to get out) you can't help if that's how they're thought of. If a woman dresses up in what is essentially a bra and a thong there is not way they won't be ogled over and drooled on by the majority of the male community. While I would consider it okay to look at a woman because of this, it is NOT okay to think of them as only a pretty face(Or body), they have come to the convention for the exact same reason as the men, because they enjoy the; game, anime, movie, etc. and it's aspects. We should think of them just as highly as we do other men, maybe even higher because they've been able to fight through the barriers we have been able to stroll past. I know a few females that are geeks, and they're 10x more knowledgeable/into it than I am.

  • But… but… but… women can't be gamers because their thumbs are far too dainty to operate a controller correctly! /sarcasm

    Another great article, Doc! I want to forward this to all my geeky female friends and have them bookmark it so they can send douchebag internet a-holes here when they step out of line. This is also essentially the crux of my argument against a lot of the new DC comics that seem to care more about showing off their female characters "assets" and/or painting them as either the "regular girl loves shopping" or "hysterical thrillseeking sex-fiend" type than actually developing real, relatable characters.

    • This makes me glad my generation of geeks are more open to socializing than the previous ones. This is starting to become less of a problem among people my age, from my experience. Of course, I hang around fellow entertainers a lot, so it may just be the circles I hang out in.

    • My douchey gamer, game developer internet a-hole boyfriend won't even read this, and if he did, he'll "disagree" but never have a reason why, while he touts his friend's girlfriend in skimpy costume as THE example of how this isn't sexist: she's doing it. But it's nice that there's two of you on earth.

      • enail

        Wait, why are you dating this guy?

  • James

    You are an absolute genius Harris. This is one of the most insightful and well-written articles I've read on the subject, ever.

    Also regarding Samus, her image has definitely become more sexualized over time, especially once she jumped into the 3D era of gaming.

  • Marques

    The parallels between male privilege and white privilege are so numerous that it almost feels as if they are one and the same. As a straight male, I can never completely identify with the life experience of a woman, gay man, or transgender individual. At the same time, I am African-American and a lot of the crap that they deal with in life falls on my doorstep too. Articles like this highlight the fact that the view of the world has many perspectives, and for me they are both reassuring and informative. Thanks and keep up the good work!

    • Stephanie

      It's the trifecta of priveleges: Straight, white, male!

    • white male privilege IS the dominant paradigm. Some theories suggest that the original slavery was of women, then of "other races." They ARE one and the same, Marques. It's the social pecking order with white guys at the top.

    • megabyte

      A lot of time has passed since you posted this comment, but just in case anyone else is archive-hunting like I am, I'ma post this anyway: I thought the exact same thing, basically. As a straight, white, and cisgender person, I am certainly privileged. And while I can do my best to learn about it, and not perpetuate the problem myself, I can never completely identify with the plight of people of color, gay people, or transgender people. However, as a woman, I (and my friends) have definitely experienced forms of discrimination that intersect and overlap with these groups. In fact, the only part of this article that I would amend is the whole a dude-will-never-be-considered-a-quota-hire bit, because of the dude in question is a person of color, he may very well be accused of being hired only because of affirmative action, not because of his actual qualifications, just like a lady (of any race).

  • apostrophe s

    I knew I smelled a femenist when I was reading that twlight article you wrote! I'm glad I came back. 🙂

    I was all preped for my usually "so what do you expect them to do about their sexism" but then I read that last sentence. Looking forward to it.

    Its a shame the site is just targeting males (nothing wrong with that). I would have added into my weekly internet rotation, rather than just reading the ones people on my facebook link to

    • Dr. NerdLove

      I'm less a feminist and more of an egalitarian, really.

      And I target guys because, frankly, it's guys who need the most help when it comes to learning how to find dates and attract women. There're a *lot* more resources out there for women when it comes to learning how to attract men – every single magazine aimed at women has love and dating advice – and a culture that promotes women getting better at finding men.

      Men, on the other hand, are expected to naturally know how to attract women, and any guy who *doesn't* is expected to accept his lot in life. A woman reading about how to find a boyfriend is a typical woman. A guy who's reading "how to find a girlfriend" is seen as a loser.

      I've been the guy who didn't understand girls and didn't have the slightest idea how to be attractive or to get a girl's number, and I've gone through the process of learning. So now I'm here to help level the learning curve so guys don't go through all the years I did thinking that they were going to be forever alone.

      • Allie

        Just out of curiosity, what do you think the difference between feminism and "egalitarianism" is?

        • Allie

          From where I'm standing they're the same thing, maybe it's different from your perspective. Don't be afraid of the "f" word!

          • Slingshot Girl

            my thoughts exactly! thank you! to me they mean the same thing as well.

            but this 'egalitarian vs. feminism' comment aside…

            well done and thank you for this article!

            I am a 'geeky' girl who stays firmly in the camps of D&D and geeky movies, and does NOT play video games or read too many comics for these VERY REASONS

            ("oh god, lighten up, don't go all FEMINIST on us" etc.)

            I appreciate 🙂

          • GmeGrl

            I'm not afraid of the "f word." ;D

            I see Feminism as something that may focus more on women's rights, but has the same goals as Egalitarianism, so either one title can be just as accurate in terms of Human Rights.

            Feminist, Egalitarian, or whatever, it's refreshing to see different opinions from the "geek culture."

          • ShyGuy

            I hear feminism and it could mean equal rights for both sexes or all men all evil and misogynistic. On the other hand egalitarian is clearly equality for all not just based on gender but also race, creed, religion etc. Just how I see things.

        • muteKi

          It was just the other day I was complaining about Julie Bindel's transphobic comments.

          I guess the question comes down to whether or not one can bash transgendered/transsexual individuals and still be considered a feminist?

          If I prefer the latter term it's due to others associating "feminism" with people like Bindel — and certainly a recognition that women aren't the only ones without the same sort of privilege as white dudes like me!

          • JM

            "Feminism" has a much richer history of seeking equality than simple word-derivations suggest to people who don't read the history. There are plenty of so-called "egalitarians" in the world who have their own versions of who's allowed to be equal. I think that a refusal to claim the rich and storied word "feminism" for oneself, based on picking and choosing one's examples of feminism, is simply cowardice.

        • Brangler

          Egalitarian is objective; equal. Feminism is female focused just as Masculism is male focused.

          • Christina

            Actually, no, it's not.

            Feminism is a social, economic, and political perspective that advocates for equal rights for women as compared to men, but the struggle for rights cuts across all spectra. This is why most feminists are also concerned with the civil and human rights of homosexuals, the disabled, people of color, people living in poverty, native peoples, etc — namely because there are women who are gay, disabled, of color, poor, etc.

            "Masculism" seeks to defend the current "rights" of men– to defend their privilege.

            Feminism, contrary to a lot of popular belief, isn't about female superiority. It's about ensuring that our rights– to education, to bodily autonomy, to work for equal pay, to breaking down centuries' worth of patriarchy designed to keep women from entering the public sphere. It's also a perspective that is highly beneficial to men in the long run.

          • 2shelix

            Not true, actually. The term "feminist" is actually something of a misnomer, as the whole movement is more about equality between the sexes and genders, so "egalitarian" and "feminist" are actually pretty synonymous. For example, many feminists that I know have gone to protests supporting fathers' rights to child custody in divorce cases. And the history of the women's rights movement is inextricably tied to that of the civil rights movement, which addressed issues regarding to BOTH sexes: for a long time, being a feminist usually meant also being an abolitionist (or at least anti-slavery) because the white women realized that their black contemporaries were being given even WORSE treatment, and the white women could sympathize a bit with that. They also thought quite strategically that if the civil rights movement were to succeed, then the women's rights movement could then ride to success on its coattails. (And vice versa for the civil rights movement)

            After reading this pretty awesome post about male privilege, though, it's really interesting to see Dr. Nerdlove immediately feel the need to distance himself from being labeled as a "feminist." Maybe he needs to take a bit of his own advice to heart. 😉

        • spark

          Feminism is a politicalization with specific reference to women of an Egalitarian concept. Feminism promotes women working towards real social change in the way women are treated in regards to their natural and lawful rights; demanding an equality that an Egalitarian society would have. Egalitarian doesn't mean 'for women's equality' but the inherent equality of all peoples. Women in an Egalitarian society don't need to be feminist because they would be on the same playing field as everyone else. Our society is patriarchal, until only the last 50 years we were predominantly lead by white males; therefore the feminist movement (amoung others) as originated by the suffrage protests over a hundred years ago has to exist if we are ever to achieve the ideal of Egalitarianism.

          Great Article, Badly Needed. ^_^ Thanks!!

          • Danica

            Actually, feminist movements did NOT originate with suffrage movements.. but much MUCH earlier. There were comparable movements throughout history, through the medieval times and even in ancient history – but there were breaks again and again so that new generations had to develop the same theories over and over again, but because they had been lost in earlier suppression.

            Tellingly, since the middle ages (and possibly beyond, but I haven't read research about that yet) the wage gap in European countries p.ex. has been remarkably stable, the wages of women fluctuating from 1/2 to 3/4 of men's wages — and this lasts until today!

            (Germany p.ex. in a recent report by an official state institute has found a wage difference of approximately 23%, so it's still about 3/4 man's wages for a woman. Partly one MIGHT explain that with different branches of industry (where one could also pose the question WHY those (female-dominated) industries/jobs are generally paid lower….!!), differences between occupation in bigger or smaller firms etc. — but at least 1/3 of the total is DEFINITELY NOT explainable via such reasons, but highly likely to be a result of discrimination and nothing else but that. Studies in direct comparison on men and women in the same position with the same responsibilities etc., as well as of men and women in jobs with comparable requirements, responsibilities etc. show a gross difference, and also that this difference widens in relation to status – 'the higher the position, the wider the gap'.)

      • apostrophe s

        Femenist: "someone who believes in social, economic and poltical equality of the sexes".

        What did you think femenism was? lol I will never understand why everyone is so afraid of that word.

        The other commentor was mistaken egalitarianism and femenism are not the same thing, not exactly anyway, the difference is just specifity. You can be a femenist and not be an egalitatiran but you can't be an egalitarian and not be a femenist.

        • Sarah

          I think a lot of people these days try not to associate themselves with the crazy 'feminists' who are sexist towards males instead (calling them violent, stupid or seedy). It's unfortunate, but people like this have given the term 'feminism' some bad connotations. I can see why he used 'egalitarian'; I do too.

          • Liss

            You can't be sexist towards men. Sexism is prejudice + power/privilege. You can be prejudiced towards men, but sexism is solely something that targets and affects women. Sexism is a systematic institution created by men to limit and control women in society. The fact that you, Sarah, a female, believe feminist to be a dirty term is proof enough of this institutional system.
            Feminism is not a bad thing, and the only people who think it is are people who have bought into the straw feminist trope shoved down our throats by male-controlled medias. Feminist is not a dirty word, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being one.
            It's a shame such a great article was written by someone who is afraid of the term.

          • Sarah

            I completely disagree. Society is sexist towards men, and women can be sexist towards men.

            Examples in the U.S.

            The most horrible example is of course, men being raped by women. Not only is it just as terrible of a crime as when a woman is raped by a man, but it comes with the added caveat that some people will flat out refuse to accept it exists. Or if the man comes out and says, she raped me, someone responds with a terrible line like "did you get her number". In addition to being a victim of a terrible, violent crime of intense personal violation, now that man's "manhood" is being threatened and taunted as well. Because many people will simply dismiss him and say "men can't be raped".

            Male teachers are under constant threats of being accused of sexual misconduct. It's so strong that most male teachers now go through special training where they learn ("It's never okay to touch a student. Especially a girl. If she's crying, do not touch her shoulder, do not be alone in a room with her, … etc"). This is sexist because we unfairly stereotype men as "sexual predators" and therefore put societal limits on their behavior (as a positive male role model and teacher) and restrict their actions (e.g. patting the shoulder of a crying female student) in such a way that we do not restrict female teachers (who honestly exercise sexual impropriety about as often as men do).

            Or how about the common practice in the U.S. of circumsizing male babies. I know plenty of adult men who are not happy that they had no say in having their foreskin removed. See "Dude where's my foreskin".

            As a woman I can recognize some forms of sexism against men (although my fiance says there is a lot more that I just don't see, e.g. clothing restrictions) and I can respect that changes need to be made. I can have a respectful conversation with, and respect men's feelings about, things such as being circumsized without their consent or being raped. I strive to not use dismissive, hurtful language such as "You shouldn't feel upset that your forskin was removed, it's your parents religious freedom" or derail conversations with injections of "Get over it. 1 in 4 woman is raped before they leave college!"

            I just wish that more men would show me the same respect when I bring up issues that upset and impact me.

          • Mai

            women can't be sexist towards men because men have social power. women can be prejudice or unfair against men, but they can't be sexist.

          • Nox

            Sexism [sek-siz-uhm]
            1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
            2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially such discrimination directed against women.

            So if sexism means treating someone differently because of their gender, or expecting someone to behave a certain way because of what's in their pants and shirt, how can men not be subjected to sexism? Yes, sexism against women are more often than not worse than sexism against men, but that doesn't mean that men cannot be subjected to sexism. That's pretty much equal to the logic that says, "men cannot be raped."

            Being prejudiced or unfair toward someone because of their gender IS sexism.

          • Andy

            Although "sexism" may be described as such in some dictionaries, the "ism terms" (ie. sexism, racism, faithism) has most commonly been used to represent the problem in a society. Sexism exclusively refers to how men have privilege in our society. Don't get me wrong though, Sarah was very correct in pointing out that there are discrimination problems even against men. But those do not compare to the discrimination against women, and in fact, sometime revolve around misogyny. A great example is clothing restrictions. Men are so often treated badly for wearing "feminine clothing". The reason why dressing "feminine" is seen so poorly, is because femininity is seen poorly. Being a woman is apparently such a horrible thing, that people think a man shouldn't show any female traits.
            If a man is hated SIMPLY for being a man, that is misandry, not sexism.
            And misandry/female superiority does not = feminism!!!

          • Feminism is now a dirty word because of the strawman you mention. Whether this trope is real or not, people don't want to associate with the "f-word" because they don't want to be seen as that ridiculous strawman, in fact, I think feminists work a lot to make people understand they don't hate men and that is a strawman. It would be much easier, though, to just continue the fight under another name. Like, your site has been hacked, rebuild it in a different domain. Something more obvious (feminism is rather misleading), something which implied equality, like egalitarism or equal rights, or gender equality or whatever, really. That would simpify the discussion, leaving the "feminism is about women ruling the world" at bay, until a new strawman is built fo the new name ("egalitarians really just hate males!"), but then you have the option to point at the old name and say, "no, that's feminists, remember? You're getting them mixed up".

            Even if this strategy is too crazy for you, you can't simply deny the strawman. It is a strong trope in our society. So don't be shocked when people (yes, women included) are afraid of the f-word.

          • 2shelix

            I completely disagree with Liss. Keep in mind that "power" can come on smaller scales than just national power. I've had female bosses that were sexist against men, in that they would always give female employees and applications preference over male ones. My current boss does this. When I got the job a few months ago, she even told me straight-out: "I had a number of other applications, but they were all from men, and I really just want women working in my store." It's not even a store that caters only to females; we have many male customers. But for some reason, my boss has a severe prejudice against hiring men… and since she has the power to employ people based on this prejudice, that makes her sexist.

        • 2shelix

          Egalitarian: "asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, especially in political, economic, or social life."

          Feminist: "advocating social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men."

          How are those not synonymous? Note that "rights for women equal to those of men" means that feminists can't just advocate for rights that men already have, but that they must also advocate for men to have rights that women already have. Equality goes both ways. Remember from math class?: if x = y, then y = x. Similarly, if a feminist is going to advocate that XX = XY, then she is also going to have to advocate that XY = XX.

          • The reason why someone would want to identify as egalitarian rather than as feminist, is because historically feminism has been seen as equally oppressive. Historically, feminism is about White able cisgender upper-middle-class women. Actually, even now, the majority of feminists are white able cisgender upper-middle-class women. A lot of them only care about equality for white able cisgender upper-middle-class women. Most of that majority is racist, classist, ableist, and cissexist. Some people don't want to be associated with that term because they don't want to be immediately seen as one of those racist, classist, ableist, and cissexist "feminist" assholes. I, as a Puerto Rican, disabled, lower class, genderqueer DEFINITELY don't want to be associated with the vitriolic feminists of history, nor with their figureheads. Instead of trying to convince someone that they're "the same thing", just respect a person's decision to label their beliefs as what they want to label them. It doesn't matter what the label is as long as the cause is the same.

      • piny

        (For the love of God, will it nest properly?)

        And I target guys because, frankly, it’s guys who need the most help when it comes to learning how to find dates and attract women. There’re a *lot* more resources out there for women when it comes to learning how to attract men – every single magazine aimed at women has love and dating advice – and a culture that promotes women getting better at finding men.

        You've said this a few times, and I don't think I agree. Women get more advice, but a lot of that advice is absolutely terrible. There are also many more diet/exercise books and magazines oriented towards women, but they don't help women manage their health. A lot of them do harm. Dating-advice books and magazines are at best a mixed bag–The Rules, He's Just Not That Into You, Cosmopolitan. A lot of the advice is sexist or simply wrong, and it's not built around getting the partner you want.

        It's a little bit like PUAs, who teach men how to Get Girls. Women have decades if not centuries of instruction on how to attract and manage a Man. This is very different from meeting and partnering with actual men; it often involves buying more cosmetics and treating men kind of like big friendly dogs who can operate power tools. It's generally just as dysfunctional as anything a Nice Guy might say.

        So of you believe that we would all benefit from a more egalitarian approach to romance, then why not gear more tips towards women, or men and women? It seems like most of your entries go both ways.

        • Dr. NerdLove

          There's going to be a lot of terrible advice for women by virtue of there being a lot of advice in the first place. Some of it rises to prominence – like The Rules – because it promises a simple answer and a call-back to a time when things seemed less complicated. Others sound good but are impractical, and yes, others are decidedly sexist. But again: that's what happens when you're spoiled for choice. Not every box of cereal on the shelf is awesome either.

          I do give advice to women (see:… for an example) and I should probably generate a category for it so they're easier to find. But again: There are more resources for women and the culture is more accepting towards women being willing to seek help in the first place.

          Guys have fewer resources and are still seen as losers for trying to get help in the first place. A lot of guys are either learning the wrong lessons in the first place – especially if they're learning them from TV or movies – and others are to willing to accept the role of "Guy who isn't good with women" without questioning it or even trying.

          It also helps that a lot of this is directly from my experiences and studies over the years as I learned how to get better at dating and attracting women.

          • piny

            I don't think you should generate a woman-specific category on your blog of dating advice that applies to humans; that would be worse than just addressing a male default in most of your columns. You may also have noticed that women are reading these columns because it's really gratifying to hear simple explanations of why it's not crazy to be scared of elevators.

            I get what you're saying about being spoiled for choice, but I don't agree about the ratio. The Rules is pretty egregious (and retro), but most romantic advice directed at women is based on the idea that all women are losers, and that they therefore all need serious help. Women need to make themselves over in order to attract a partner. (I mean, the "unlucky in love" script for women involves the woman finding love by turning into a completely different person.) Women need to manage their own romantic profile in order not to threaten a partner. Women need to build their identity around their ability to be nice attractive girls. It's not really, "Hey, here's how you script a conversation with a good-looking guy over there." "Here's how you figure out whether or not you are fulfilled." "Here's how to find a relationship that suits your hermit personality." "So you're fat: so what?"

            It's more like…you know how men are taught to think of women as alien creatures who operate according to amoral, irrational codes? Women are kind of taught to view themselves as alien creatures. And taught to think of themselves as the problem. Women don't really get the kind of advice that you're offering. And a lot of that advice is totally applicable to women as written.

            All in all, I think it's just about as pernicious as the stuff on the other side; it's just that, yes, we do believe that women need to be told what to do.

          • piny

            Hey–reading this over, I think I might have been unclear. I wasn't saying you should write advice that is more woman-specific than than the advice you're writing. I was saying that a lot of your advice is already just as applicable to women as men; pretty much everything besides the stuff about male privilege. Women also need to know about not texting too often; women also stare too long and overthink everything. So…your advice doesn't need to just be addressed to guys.

      • Dee

        Just a quick note….many women also have a hard time finding a man AND, for the record, the books, magazines and “how to’s” for finding a man/date are utter BS and women are well to ignore them. From my perspective, we should step away from the “I have it worse than you” olympics and start looking at solutions….maybe a “comic-con/sci-fi con” themed dating site with strict etiquette rules (to weed our the angry people) and start helping people to find hope in their dating lives. 🙂

    • Cat

      And, just because it's geared mainly toward guys doesn't mean that there won't be stuff girls find useful, too. 🙂

      • Niji

        Oh yeah, you can be sexist towards men.
        "Men can't take care of children, or they are gay / pussies / pedophiles"
        "Men can't be expected to cook / clean / sew / do the laundry"
        "Oh, he doesn't understand my feelings, he's just a man !"
        "We can't change men !"
        Sexism is assomptions, generalisations based exclusively on your sex, and gender-exclusive roles, goals, ideas, feelings.

        • Alex

          Sexism is the combination of this behaviour and institutionalized privilege. Women who say things like this about men aren't nearly as terrifying as men who say things like this about women because they have society and institutions of power backing them. They may seem similar but they are very different. (And if you're still going "they're the same!!", please scroll back up and read what the article says about knee-jerk defensiveness.)

          • Brangler

            Assuming any sort of comment in response would be sexist and dismissing it as a "knee-jerk defensiveness" is a cop-out.

        • Christina

          I would argue that feminism actively seeks to eradicate this sort of misguided thinking.

      • Niji

        Sorry ! I wanted to answer to Liss !

  • Here's the thing… I am a girl and I've casually gamed since Mortal Combat was the hottest game on the block and I can tell you that, even as a young child (a straight one, at that) that I would ALWAYS pick the character's I identified as sexy. To think that girls don't have a say or contribute to this portrayal is a little naive. If you hand me a game and tell me to choose a character now, I and likely many women, would go for the "hot" "sexy" "anime" type female even if there was normal dressed female as a choice. I don't know. Games are a fantasy and perhaps women *gasp* want to be sexy!

    No way do I speak for all women, but I don't like it when men make us out to be the silent victims of a man's world. I know quite a few female artist who love to portray women as "sexy Amazonian villains." So video gaming is what it is. Some women will take offense. Some will not. Who cares. There is no right or wrong here. No need for freakin reparations. Lol

    • Craig

      I don't think anyone is being made out to be a "silent victim" as such. I also know a couple of women who identify with the "sexy" female character or the "crazy chick" and no-one is saying there is anything wrong with that (please note I'm not saying all sexy female characters are crazy, although that does often become a theme in and of itself, take the earlier arkham city for example). The point of the article is about the predominant and sexist viewpoint of males in a massively male dominated culture.

    • Cat

      I agree with Craig; I also think that it's not about the portrayal of female characters as "sexy," so much as it is about how female geeks, being real people, are often treated badly, indifferently, or in a sexist way, by male geeks.

    • Fiona

      Playing as the sexy female character isn't so much a "choice" as it is the "only option," so for me that really sucks the fun out of it. I suppose if you wanted to be a pleather-clad succubus anyway, you could maintain the illusion that it was your "choice," but if you're someone who would rather play as a fully-clothed detective or woman over 40 it becomes obvious that the matter is out of your hands.

      • That is the issue for me too. I see nothing wrong with inherently sexy geek girls, or female characters in games and comics, but it's currently the only option. In games generally the only choice you may get is how revealing you'd like the outfit to be!

      • Bam


      • JM

        Or, heaven forfend, a butch woman whose version of butch doesn't include high heels. (Final Fantasy X, I'm looking at you.)

        • Phil_2R

          Or Butch but not a lesbian. My ex was quite butch, and being a man can definitely assert that she was not a lesbian. Also the fact that she was butch did not make her any less attractive, at least in my eyes.

      • Sarah

        Glad you brought up the "over 40" bit. One of the things I've recenlty notice with the advanced abilities to choose your characters (e.g. Fallout) is that several games (with a few exceptions) pretty much force your character to be between 18 and 30. Where as the men have a much more robust aging scale. It's like "Okay, we gave you the ability to wear clothes, but no way are we letting you get gray hairs and saggy breasts!"

    • Katie

      What other choice did you have? Sure, you could choose from schoolgirl-sexy or Asian-fantasy-sexy (three varieties!) or uniform-sexy, but not-sexy wasn't an option if you wanted to play a female character.

    • Mia

      The context of the video game is sexist. While I'm also fond of sometimes playing the sexy chick, I would sometimes like some badass armor that actually looks like armor, but often this isn't an option. Guys have a wide spectrum of appearances available while women have "cutesy sexy", "sexy sexy", "scary sexy" etc.

      • Sarah

        THIS! Exactly.

        Nothing wrong with sexy being an option. But give me choices! Let me play female protaganists with brains and enough fabric to cover herself.

    • Michelle

      Ummm… ok, let's take that thought to its next logical step: Some women also choose to dress sexy in real life. Does that mean we all want to be objectified? Or hell, that the woman dressing sexy wants any man who likes what he sees to behave badly?

      I'm not even really sure what point you're making here – that because women like to be sexy, we also like to be treated as objects? I'm sure lots of men like to be attractive and sexy as well. That doesn't mean they want all that stuff described on the second page of the article to happen to THEM.

      • 2shelix

        Key phrase: "Some womeen also CHOOSE to dress sexy in real life."

        In video games, you don't get that choice. The developers already made that choice for you. You get to pick your STYLE of sexy, if you're lucky, but you still have to pick sexy, because that's all you get.

    • Damiana

      Speaking as an over-40 woman who sometimes likes to dress sexy but more often dresses professionally or for practicality, I want *all* those options in an avatar. Male avatars tend to reflect a range of ages and types, from Boardroom Powerdude to Hawt Walking Death to SurferBoy to, well, you get the picture. Why is it that female avatars should be limited to 20-something Sex On A Stick, who wouldn't be able to walk upright in real life between the 6-inch heels and the gravity-defying double-J breasts?

      Several years ago I was part of a geekgirl group at a certain large software company. Our game division sent the group the avatars they were planning to use for an upcoming game, asking for feedback. For a change, the male avatars looked a lot more like what you would see walking into any comic shop. The female avatars, well… you know. I sent them feedback gently encouraging them to be a little more egalitarian in their avatar design–and it was roundly ignored. No one even responded with a "thank you for your feedback" email. And, you guessed it, the game shipped with the avatars exactly as they were shown to us–goofy looking geek boys and hawt sexy geek girls.

      Which is another point I hope you'll address, Doc–that when females provide professional feedback regarding how women are portrayed, it's ignored, downplayed and sometimes denigrated just as much as the feedback coming from female fans and customers.

      At one point, early in the development of our webcomic Arpeggio, I pointed out to the writer and the artist (both straight white males, one of them my partner and otherwise truly egalitarian) that showing high school girls naked and/or having sex wasn't a good idea, and they brushed it off. It wasn't until I pointed out that such portrayal was actually illegal and I wasn't going to bail them out, that it got changed.

      • Crisiskris

        I'm with you on this one, Damiana. I expect this comment will be largely ignored because I am not a "gamer" or a geek-girl or whatever you want to call it, but I am in a relationship with a fellow who likes his video games. We make it a habit of trying on each other's hobbies (he came hiking with me, I went to a baseball game. He came to the opera, I sat down to learn how to play his favourite video game). I couldn't get past the "pick your character" stage. Boobs. Boobs. Boobs. Giant boobs in tiny shirts. Seriously? If I wanted to look at tits, I'd go watch porn, thank you very much. Suffice it to say, that is one hobby that he can keep to himself. As far as I am concerned, it *is* porn. It's a shame that the video game companies don't realize that they are alienating women, because we have quite a lot of purchasing power. In my household, at least, I am the primary wage earner. We are yuppies in the upper middle class with no children and money to burn. But until there's a short, flat chested heroine wearing a freaking bra and a decent pair of pants, the video game industry won't be seeing any of my disposable income. The stats suggest that I am not unusual – leisure income is growing at a faster rate, both in terms of absolute dollars in in terms of relative buying power – among women than men. I'm not trying to get into any big debate about 'what women want' or whatever. I'm just pointing out that ignoring women's concerns is a lost business opportunity, and also offering an outsider's perspective.

        • 2shelix

          "But until there’s a short, flat chested heroine wearing a freaking bra and a decent pair of pants, the video game industry won’t be seeing any of my disposable income."

          While I agree with pretty much everything else you said, to be fair, it's really not the FLAT-chested characters that NEED to be wearing bras…

        • TalonM17

          Tales of Symphonia, its for the Gamecube, but if its (mostly) sensibly dressed folks you're looking for, thats the RPG to go with.

    • Tatjna

      "As a woman, it doesn’t bother me, so no-one else is allowed to be bothered."


    • Christina

      So, what makes that avatar sexy? Let's dissect that– that would be fun!!!

      Why should sexy be only confined to clothes and body type? Why not wit, smarts, talents, abilities, passions, etc? Aren't those the things in real life that really make a person attractive?

    • 2shelix

      I actually always pick the female characters with the most awesome costume… And if you might as well be nude, you don't have much of a costume, so my choices tend to be the female characters that are the most covered.

    • Cassandra

      I totally agree with you. 🙂

    • Danica

      No problem with anyone choosing that — as long as THERE ARE any (and/or comparably the same amount) of other choices for people who want it differently. And it's also not only about what you can choose as character, but also about the types of women presented in the games.. if all women in the games are 'chicks' to be won as a prize — whereas there are no comparable male options, no women that have another role instead of only sex chick, and no options for other sexual orientations etc., there definitely IS something wrong.

      [Mind me, even I as a woman often follow that trail of collecting all the 'prizes' I can in a game, like p.ex. those obvious prices > sex cards in the Witcher, just for the sake of once having it played all trough, having looked at everything there is, having found all gimmicks etc., and a bit also because I'm bisexual and it's nice to look it – that is.. IF that's nice too look at in my view..! In cases where the whole game world just screams 'sexism' and over-sized big boobs and even more so all the time are seen as the pinnacle of what 'sexy' means.. well that just don't count as sexy in my preference.. as i said before.. if that's all there is and there are not even any 'normal' female plot characters or at least characters in the world that look like a normal woman in public would… well.. it DOES irritate me. And it can possibly ruin the whole game experience where I would otherwise have liked the game's content. Counter to seemingly general belief I DO play not only RP, but also Adventure, Action, Shooters.. I am mature and I don't mind a little violence now and then.. but I would definitely mind a game experience like that example of Arkham City, where a female char is constantly threatened with rape – and the male is not, in an environment that could suggest it as just power threats vs. the hero… because the imbalance clearly gives me the impression that this is not the reason, but that it's just sexist. (Although I think I might feel uncomfortable with the idea of rape as such, don't know if that's a so-called 'female' problem… I don't mind any physical violence, blood and splatter, but that topic…)]

    • Nancy

      I totally hear ya. I used to do the same, but as the options were between Miss Hot Stuff and Princess Peach my choice doesn't seem that relevant. I mean, I'd rather be sexy than ridiculously stupid. At least I could pick the one with the most "power." Now that I think about it, there is no brave, athletic, non-burlesque option when it comes to female characters. It's either aggressive stripper or idiotic fairy…

    • Rin

      Here’s the thing, i get where you’re coming from, i like choosing the sexy characters too but the core of that influenced feeling is the issue. Think about it, why do we want to be the sexy female? somewhere at the core of that thought process is this answer: because we want to be desirable to men. That is the problem right there. This culture makes us feel that we have to be this way in order to be appreciated by men. Its just the way things are. You’re right when you say there is no wrong or right here. No one person or social group is truly in the wrong. There is no malicious agenda out there with someone pulling the strings. This is just the ways things have become over time due to a snowball effect that’s been rolling since the dawn of time. The point is to see this for what it really is. Once people hear this kinda stuff and realize the truth to it, they can better judge their reactions when they are faced with similar situations. That’s how this situation will have to fix itself. Personal integrity. A lot of people don’t even realize that this is an issue and that ignorance is the true enemy. You can solve a problem if you don’t even know its there to be solved.

  • Sam Brutuxan

    Yeah, I've seen a ton of male pandering in videogames for the last five years…..okay 15 years. However this reminded me of something I saw one day when I was doing some research on Soul Calibur. Turns out the creator kind of, um, likes to think of breast sizes as a major priority when developing his games. I'm not kidding, there is a DRAWN picture out there of all the women of Soul Calibur in their underwear with their breast sizes shown at the bottom.

  • Claudia

    "I know quite a few female artist who love to portray women as “sexy Amazonian villains.” So video gaming is what it is. Some women will take offense. Some will not. Who cares. There is no right or wrong here. No need for freakin reparations. Lol"

    Actually there is, when you take into consideration that the ratio of women designing video games, or any other forms of art, is smaller when compared to men working in the same field.

    "I am a girl and I’ve casually gamed since Mortal Combat was the hottest game on the block and I can tell you that, even as a young child (a straight one, at that) that I would ALWAYS pick the character’s I identified as sexy."

    Have you ever considered that you always went for the sexy character, because those were the only female characters available? Be honest, since you were a chid, how many games have you played, that didn't include a female character that was heavily sexualized? Compare that number to the number of games that do include them, and then you'll see the point.

    "To think that girls don’t have a say or contribute to this portrayal is a little naive. If you hand me a game and tell me to choose a character now, I and likely many women, would go for the “hot” “sexy” “anime” type female even if there was normal dressed female as a choice. I don’t know. Games are a fantasy and perhaps women *gasp* want to be sexy!"

    That sounds incredibly shallow, like something Twilightish, the real problem is not that the sexy character is offered as an optional character, is that what they're offering is not a character, merely an image, the problem is that many women, and you too so it seems, seem to think that having a physically atractive character is enough, not strong, not interesting, sexy is enough.

    • I'm gonna date myself here. I was eight when Star Wars came out. I was in AWE. You know why? Leia. She wasn't a helpless love interest. She wasn't dressed sexy sexy sexy like Wonder Woman. She stood UP to scary bad guys, she SHOT bad guys and GAVE ORDERS…. God I thought she was awesome. A princess that was a HERO and not a plaything.

      RotJ made me feel a bit betrayed. Back to the kitchen and bedroom, wench.

      • David Masover

        For what it's worth, didn't she begin ROTJ by infiltrating Jabba's palace and threatening him with a thermal detonator?

        Ah, well. She at least seems up to her old tricks in The Force Unleashed — though of course, by admitting to liking that game, I may be forfeiting my nerd card…

        • Yes, she did something awesomely cool. But if you ask a man between the ages of 38 and 45 about Leia, it's gonna be the slave girl costume instead of the asskicking at a factor of a least 10:1. Something I KNEW was going to happen at the tender age of 14.

    • O

      Wait, so she just explained what she likes about gaming, and your recourse is to bash her to the ground with insults (by comparing what she likes to Twilight and how "shallow" it is – your words, not mine) and an argument that can be summarized as "you are not allowed to like what you like – you're not qualified". Yeah, shame her with your eloquence. Blame them for having the freedom of choice and expressing a different opinion.

      The Docternerdlove crowd has turned into a total faux-nerd circlejerk. Seeking controversy for the hits, with pretensions of relevance. I won't be coming back.

      • Cat

        I'd urge you to please not judge the quality of the discussion here by just one thread. There's been a lot of really positive stuff going on here the past few months. This one just got a lot of attention, and with the good comes the bad… :/

      • Niji

        ….. faux-nerd ?

      • Gil

        What do you know? Haters been hatin' since 2011. 😐

    • Jessica

      "Have you ever considered that you always went for the sexy character, because those were the only female characters available?"

      I seem to remember that the only female character in MK1 is Sonya… with her "kiss of death" finishing move. Also, she looks like this now:
      I usually only played as Sonya BECAUSE she was the only female character. Then they introduced other female characters like Jade , Kitana… , and Mileena, Kitana's "twin", who had ferocious monster teeth underneath her face guard. Lovely.

      Lish: “To think that girls don’t have a say or contribute to this portrayal is a little naive. If you hand me a game and tell me to choose a character now, I and likely many women, would go for the “hot” “sexy” “anime” type female even if there was normal dressed female as a choice. I don’t know. Games are a fantasy and perhaps women *gasp* want to be sexy!”

      Actually, "girls" really /don't/ have a say in what is marketed toward them and presented to them. This is not only a problem with video games, but with most thingsin society and is actually becoming a major issue in fashion as well. You can only buy what is offered to you. You choose "sexy" and "sexualized" female characters because maybe you like them, but you are not offered anything else. Perhaps we choose to accept and eventually like these representations because otherwise we would be left with nothing. We would not be allowed to play video games because we cannot find a character to play, unless we want to play as a beefy dude or a sexy slut. Se we deceive ourselves into thinking that we want to play as Sonya, with her enormous breasts (which are obviously attractive to young girl gamers *rolls her eyes*) and midriff showing, because our other option is Scorpion or Raiden. NOTE: I do not now, nor have I ever identified with these characters, which is why I have always chosen to play Sonya or another trashy female character. I want to play the game. My only female character option is "slut" or "monster slut". So, it's a little self-perpetuating when "girls" (women) choose sexy things because that's all we're offered and so we are offered MORE sexy things, because clearly that's what we "want".

      This is not to bash only Mortal Kombat or other such games. I love these games and I think it's unfortunate that they have done so little to impress me with natural/regular-looking female characters. It's almost as if they don't expect females to be the audience of any games. (I'll wait a minute for that to sink in so we're all on the same page.) Since all these women are fondly reminiscing about playing these games presently and in our youth, it is evident that men are/were not the only audience playing them. The argument then is that we (females, gays, transgenders, peoples of color, etc.) would like to finally be represented in our games with REAL characters – not just empty shells of sex-bots. And this argument spans through the entire society – not just video games. We want to be represented everywhere. I want to walk into a clothing store and buy a skirt that is longer than my middle finger. I want to walk ANYWHERE and be recognised as a human, not just tits – and alternatively, not just some "ugly, fat, stupid girl" who /obviously/ doesn't know anything because I disagree with the mainstream viewpoint.

      • Witchkiller

        Sonya is obviously transgendered, a natural born woman wouldn't last 5 seconds in a fight against top-of-the-line male MMA fighters.

  • DNL,

    Been reading for several months now, but this one really struck me. As an Asian American male it's sometimes considered "poor taste" for me to discuss this in a non-classroom setting (not that I bring it up with friends at parties).

    Speaker Tim Wise had a video on this. I assume since you wrote about this you've already seen it but I'll link it anyway.



    • ShyGuy

      Interesting speech I found if very informative, just wish that Mr. Wise had stated what he proposed was the solution(s).

  • Litch

    _Y’see, one of the issues of male privilege as it applies to fandom is the instinctive defensive reaction to any criticism that maybe, just maybe, shit’s a little fucked up, yo._

    This annoys me. First the faux hip-hop phrasing is overly affected. Secondly a defensive reaction is a natural reaction to an attack (and pretending this isn't an attack is disingenuous), it's like a cop saying "stop resisting arrest" as they beat you with a billyclub

    But most importantly it's a straw man. Sure, there are troglodytes in fandom, more even than most places this side of a tea party meet-up/klan rally, But the vast majority of the comic/graphic novels not only agree with this but would like for the situation to be improved. At least if you can improve it while still providing drawings of hot humanoid bodies. It is not a bad thing to like sexy imagery. It is not inherently demeaning.

    • Squirrel

      The appending of "yo" to a phrase is not confined to the hip-hop dialect, and it's only overly affected if this is not a phrase that the Doc would use in regular communications. As someone in a very similar cultural group to the Doc, I can tell you that the phrase "That's fucked up, yo" is utterly with fair regularity in my various social circles.

      Also, your use of hyperbole undermines your argument. This is nowhere near like a cop saying "Stop resisting arrest" while beating someone. It's quite the converse. It's more like someone seeing a cop arresting someone for standing around on a corner, saying "That's fucked up, yo" and getting arrested themselves."

      The problem is not that the vast majority of fandom is troglodytes. It's that far too many refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem, and *turn into* troglodytes whenever someone points it out. You are quite right that sexy imagery is not inherently demeaning. But when it's the primary, and often only, option available for women? THAT is what is demeaning.

      Consider this: Someone up above mentioned how much they enjoyed playing the sexy female character in Mortal Kombat. In the original Mortal Kombat, there was 1 (ONE) female character available for play, out of ten options. A character, mind you, who was supposed to be special forces, but fought in a skin tight pants and a damned belly shirt. In Mortal Kombat II, ten more characters were added. Three of them were female, but ALL THREE had costumes which covered only slightly more skin than Milla Jovovich's infamous bandaid bikini. The list only gets worse from there.

      The point that you are missing is not that sexy female characters are inherently bad. It's that the message that they send is bad. Namely that females are only valuable as sex objects, and if you're not a sex object, then you are clearly not valuable.

    • Jesse

      If the vast majority of fans want better depictions of females in their comics/graphic novels, why don't sales numbers show this? If that was true, Ed Brubaker's Catwoman series for example would've been a top seller. Instead, it was basically kept around because it kept on getting award nominations.

      Or, to add in another data point, there was a poll on one of the major comic sites about your 'favorite book of week x' for the new 52. What finished second in one of the weeks? The first issue of Red Hood and the Outlaws, one of the worse books when it comes to female empowerment in the modern era.

      The truth is, I don't doubt the majority of you and your friends who read comic books/graphic novels want better depictions of women. But, we aren't the majority of the comic book buying audience. The majority of the comic book buying audience made Greg Land and Greg Horn superstar artists.

      • PinkWithIndignation

        Ever heard of self-reinforcing cycle? (EDIT: Personal insult removed – Dr. NerdLove)

        • Dr. NerdLove

          It can be a sensitive topic, and it can get heated but let's keep the insults out of it, ok?

      • Bam

        I am not sure how to respond to this when the article already covers this as one of the common talking points and a strawman. I believe a large portion of the article was spent discussing a girlfriend who felt disgust with the entire industry. Do you think one data point, one anomaly, one issue of one comic that treats women as human being and not sexual objects is enough to entice women, or even feminists, to suddenly rush into the industry and support it? It doesn't work like that. When the medium that treats your gender like an equal is an exception rather than the rule, it's still insulting to laud the aberrant release as a glorious victory for feminism. People who have cultured a justified disgust over the course of long years and frequent exposure to a certain standard aren't going to run back to support something just because it doesn't… have rape, or bikinis, or whatever. The exception isn't going to draw in the crowd of people who generally feel pretty shitty about the other 99% of the business.

      • piny

        The average American woman is size fourteen; most stores don't carry clothing above size twelve and start at size zero. The average American woman supports access to abortion; most counties (and many large parts of many rural states) have no abortion provider. The average American is female; most of pop culture is directed at men, and "chick flick" is only one genre among a series of non-chick-oriented defaults.

        Capitalism is a fairly efficient way of detecting demand and managing supply, but it's not the only factor in an industry decision. And one of the reasons the industry is so femalephobic is that male fanboys react to inclusive or anti-sexist changes the way that the GOP reacts to anti-bullying ordinances. There are competing interests, but female fans are disadvantaged by sexist assumptions about what they want and deserve.

        • 2shelix

          Want to get into another controversial topic involving sexism? Just try defining what makes a "chick flick."

          • Dr. NerdLove

            Well that depends, are we talking about how the producers and marketing divisions define it or….


  • No jury in the world would convict you for getting rid of that idiot. For years, I've been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the male privilege in geek properties, but my concerns were usually dismissed with a "meh" or a "haha you're a pussy" before I smacked them upside the head. But this year, I finally had a property that showed precisely what the fuck was wrong with this mentality, the hideous and logical conclusion of all this male privilege: Sucker Punch.

    No film managed to piss me off more this year (no not even Twilight – though haven't seen Bucky Larson). The film on its own looked like a geek wet fever dream, which I could have easily dismissed as mere exploitation. But what was insulting about it was the fact that the director wanted this to be a geek film for GIRLS. He even said this was a "female-empowerment fantasy."

    BULL. SHIT. This was every male desire for a woman projected on celluloid while simultaneously smacking them down as hard as it can. Hell, there were no less than FOUR attempted rape scenes in the two hour run time. I could write for ages how screwed this film is, but that's a discussion for another day

  • DrNavi

    "geeks hold tight to the belief that geek culture is a meritocracy, where concepts of agism, sexism and racism simply don’t exist the way it does elsewhere"

    i've been online too much to believe that's true, you really see the worst of geek culture on the interwebs

    • Jesse

      Nobody wants to believe that if given power, they'll use it badly. Especially when they've been attacked by those with power earlier in life. In other words, nobody wants to think when a ship full of their friends crash on a desert island, they'll end up as Piggy holding the conch shell.

      • DrNavi

        took me a while to get what you where saying, I am no good with metaphors haha

        • Danica

          Metaphor? It seems to me to be a reference to a certain book (the title of which I just can't remember.. grr), in which a group of kids strands on an island and has to manage for themselves – ending in total conflict.

          • Liza

            Lord of the Flies.

  • No jury in the world would convict you for getting rid of that idiot. For years, I’ve been growing increasingly uncomfortable with the male privilege in geek properties, but my concerns were usually dismissed with a “meh” or a “haha you’re a pussy” before I smacked them upside the head. But this year, I finally had a property that showed precisely what the fuck was wrong with this mentality, the hideous and logical conclusion of all this male privilege: Sucker Punch.

    No film managed to piss me off more this year (no not even Twilight – though haven’t seen Bucky Larson). The film on its own looked like a geek wet fever dream, which I could have easily dismissed as mere exploitation. But what was insulting about it was the fact that the director wanted this to be a geek film for GIRLS. He even said this was a “female-empowerment fantasy.”

    BULL. SHIT. This was every male desire for a woman projected on celluloid while simultaneously smacking them down as hard as it can. Hell, there were no less than FOUR attempted rape scenes in the two hour run time. I could write for ages how screwed this film is, but that’s a discussion for another day

    • "But this year, I finally had a property that showed precisely what the fuck was wrong with this mentality, the hideous and logical conclusion of all this male privilege: Sucker Punch."

      THANK YOU!!

      The stupid thing is: I *might* have been able to (kind of) forgive it for that if the fan service had bothered to bring a plot along for the ride.

    • Kat

      I feel obliged to point out — while not having yet seen Sucker Punch — that originally one of those scenes was supposed to be tame and consensual, but the MPAA said that unless it was turned into a scene where he was taking advantage of her, it could not get a PG-13 rating. Apparently a romantic, consensual in which a female character enjoys herself during what was described as a tame scene is just not okay, but rape? Totally fine with the MPAA! In fact, preferred.


      • Liss

        This is the same reason the MPAA smacked Blue Valentine with an NC-17 rating. That's how the MPAA works. A woman being raped/butchered/assaulted/tortured for hours? R rating at the most. A sex scene wherein a woman enjoys herself? Absolutely not. That's not for anyone under age 18 to see, it's pornography.

        This Film is Not Yet Rated goes into this discussion pretty well; I'd recommend it.

      • Slingshot Girl

        I can't believe this. THis makes me FURIOUS.

        what age are we living in, the 50's?

        it's the same freaking story. You can put us in comic books and fandom wearing nothing but triangles to LOOK sexy, but to actually know about or even *GASP* LIKE sex and control our own sexuality? blasphemy!

        I thought we'd come even a *LITTLE* bit farther than that. this makes me very sad.

    • 2shelix

      I once got a bunch of my guyfriends all up-in-arms because as we were passing a poster for "The Expendables," I called it a chick flick. They flipped out, asking what I was talking about, have I ever seen that movie, blah blah blah. I just turned, pointed at the poster, and asked how else was I supposed to interpret a movie poster showing nothing but thoroughly well-muscled men, the foremost of which with his hands held at crotch-level, and all the rest carrying some weapon/phallic symbol. Suddenly, none of them wanted to argue that the movie was aimed at men.

    • Maggie

      Oh god thank you so much. I coudn't get through that movie. My uncles all think it's the coolest thing ever. Which skeeves me out.

  • Elliott

    Brilliant and well reasoned article, this is now my go to, when this argument comes up. great job.

  • E

    I'm male and consider myself a geek, but I don't consume mainstream superhero (and related) comics for precisely this reason. I find that whole aesthetic rather creepy and depraved.

    Speaking of comics, what would you say is a good series that's realistic about relationships? I've been reading "Questionable Content" for a while and have been wondering about how accurate it is in showing North American social norms.

    I don't have a close-knit social circle of my own (haven't had one since high school when everyone moved away), so I'm more or less living vicariously through series like that these days.

    • Hobbit

      QC, while delightful, is a bit overly dramatic to be realistic, I think.

      On the other hand, when I see drama, I run the opposite direction, so maybe I'm a bad example.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Comics, more or less by definition, tend to have an exaggerated reality to them; most relationships don't necessarily make for enthralling reading, so the drama quotient has to be dialed up. Even Questionable Content – which is more emotionally realistic than others out there – tends to exaggerate for effect.

      You might like Daytripper, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba; it's gorgeous and incredibly touching. Also, when you allow for the genre aspects – it *is* a horror comic – Locke and Key has some of the best characterization and portrayal of relationships out there, both familial and romantic.

      If you like the hyper-dramatic, soap-opera quality of relationship drama, there's always Strangers in Paradise.

      There's also josei manga – basically shoujo manga except written for adult women. The relationships tend to be much more realistic; far less of the contrived drama of shojou, far more actual explorations on sex, lonliness, love and career.

      • nhyrvana

        Thanks for mentioning Locke & Key. I was going to point that one out.


      • Maggie

        I was about to mention Stranger In Paradise. I loved that series. Terry Moore writes women well.

    • Orion Moony

      …Octopus Pie. 🙂 And I can't say that enough.

  • DazzOne

    I really enjoyed this article. I think more and more, people are realizing what it takes to make this world more ideal. Michonne is a great comic book character, but is she…tainted because what happened to her at the hands of The Governor??

  • This is a subject of considerable interest to me, so I wanted to toss two cents in the pot. The kind of reticence toward change you're describing is found anywhere people are being asked to consider their decisions and – heaven forbid – take responsibility for them. As a recently-converted vegan, I see the same reticence violently acted out when it comes to food. People don't want what they 'like' to be called into question, and they most certainly don't want to be asked to pull it out and put it under the harsh lights of public critique. Naturally, people know women are poorly represented in comics and video games, just as surely as they know the steak they're eating was probably a very poorly-treated cow at one time or another. But they don't want to think about it, because telling a gamer to really stop and consider whether they needed to add jiggle physics to Samus is the same as asking an avid carnivore to stop and consider whether they really think factory farming is such a hot idea.

    The point I'm trying to make is that people respond negatively when they feel they're being asked to take responsibility for an issue. There's a very strong "not me" attitude prevalent in humans whereby they can justify consuming a product that's morally questionable by arguing that they didn't create it, ignoring the very real fact that the consumer dictates the market and not the other way around: if you didn't want to see Lara Crofts bobbing assets, they wouldn't sink so much money into basically making the same game nine hundred times and just updating the engine.

    So how do we approach the subject without offending the fanboys who want to have their half-naked cake but still eat it like a feminist?

    • Ama

      The fanboys aren't the focus. If they're offended it means they're feeling something.
      It's not about their comfort.
      They do need to grow up and accept some responsibility for their toxic shit.
      I would also add, your veganism is a choice, please don't compare it to a minority experience.

      • LB

        He didn't compare veganism to a minority experience, he was noting that people don't like to be called on their privilege or think about the impact their privilege has upon others. Just as they don't like to think about where their food came from or what it went through to get there. It's a fairly apt comparison.

        • Sarah

          Veganism contributes as much to factory farming as meat-eating does. It's just a different kind of farming is all: one that destroys the top soil with mono-cropping (wheat, corn, and nasty soy), kills thousands of small animals (from heavy machinery) and in the end doesn't give the human body the nutrients that it NEEDS. It is entirely possible to eat good meat from locally-sourced, grass-fed, antibiotic-free sources, and avoid Big Agriculture altogether. In other words, the choice is not between meat and veggies. It is between Big Ag and small sustainable farms. Vegans eating their mass-produced soy burgers and tofu are in just as much denial as the average person eating the Standard American Diet, and they don't like to think about where their food comes from either.

    • APStorm

      Intersting to note your cited example of Lara Croft has actually changed quite a bit of late, once Crystal Dynamics was allowed to work on Tomb Raider instead of the original developers, CORE Design, shut down in 2006.

      Especially consider the most recent 'Reboot' entry in the franchise: A survival game with a messy, broken youth of a Lara? It doesn't seem all that sexualized.

      I feel like the reboot trilogy of the past decade that Crystal Dynamics was behind helped make this more 'real' Lara come to pass. Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld made her feel more like a human and less like a sexual object. Characterization, solid plot-points with character-driven aspects, and, to top it all off, polished gameplay to make what I think was a far more engaging and enjoyable experience.

      To be honest, the old games were utter trash in terms of playability and story, especially compared to the reboot. I kind of wished Crystal Dynamics would have gone over the other games in the series besides the first, remaking them with better game mechanics and plot, but ultimately moving on to this new version of Lara is perhaps the best decision they could have made.

      I look forward to the trials and tribulations of this younger Lara, whom we've mainly seen as battered and bruised, covered in dirt and filth from being out in the elements with limited supplies. I want to see her story, understand her suffering. I want to experience the birth of a real heroine, willing to claw her way out of a disastrous situation with an inner strength she was not aware of before then, or may have had to even attain in that desperate state.

    • Yael Tiferet

      Funny, I see both unsolicited passes and unsolicited advice about food from relative strangers (whether they're vegan, low-carb, high-carb, paleo, or anything else) as boundary violations.

    • offkap

      You may want to add a grain of salt to that "very real fact that the consumer dictates the market and not the other way around" soup, imo.
      Laziness and risk-aversion on the publishers/studios side of the equation play a significant part in many games rehashing the same tired formula of boobs, booms & blood (before story, gameplay, etc.).
      Even though ever-more-sophisticated physics and 3D engines and graphic assets may add to the production bill somewhat, they feel like time/money well spent, when going for innovative and interesting gameplay seem riskier and harder to sell and pull off at every stage of a game life. From publisher, to studios and even yes, players : everybody moans over the same-old-stuff being rethreaded, but when time comes to commit actual time and monies, people still mostly go for "safe bets".

      From that perspective, bikinis on female characters really are the counterpart of BFGs and strong jawlines on male ones : an expression of laziness and risk aversion, more than (albeit not exclusive of) a show of sexism.
      Certainly, some players demand slutty female representations, but many just have come to expect them as part of the standard fare, yet don't care either way about that (which in itself is an issue, I agree).
      It still makes sense to distinguish between objectification as "what players want" and female objectification as "what publishers/studios do" as a matter of course, as it may inform who is it you want to educate on the matter, and how to go about it.

  • Heather

    Thank you for using your privilege to lend a voice. Well-articulated argument on an important topic. Dig.

  • Good article, but I want to challenge you on the idea of predominantly male vs. male-dominated. See, to my mind, the former (which is how you have framed this article) is problematic because it reinforces the idea that men really are the majority of the geek subculture(s). I don't think this is true. I think that girl geeks are out here and have been for a long time, although sometimes we've kept to ourselves and our own subcultures (my personal girl-geek experience was that for the longest time I thought *most* geeks were girls and very few were dudes because of where and who I hung out with, online and off, which made the male-biased media representation even weirder to me – for all I know, geek dudes have the same impression on their end for the same reason and its just as inaccurate). What happens though is that the culture becomes male-oriented and male-dominated regardless of the actual population composition. Some might consider this an unnecessary distinction, but to me the point is that perpetuating the idea that most geeks are dudes needlessly reifies this state of affairs and makes girls geeks who do exist (HI) feel all the more weird and alienated again, which I'm 100% was not your intention. One of the other aspects of sexist geek culture and male privilege, beyond being unwelcoming to girls, geeky or otherwise, is the way that existing girl geeks are made invisible or their geek interests are derided as being not authentically or truly geeky enough, and reaching out is more than bringing girls into "male" geek culture, but also embracing "female" geek culture (okay, there's probably a hell of a lot of social construction going on there, but bear with me) and those of us who have been here all along, mouthbreathers or not.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      The issue here is one of demographics which then gets complicated because of how one wants to define "geek culture". Do you include participation the hard sciences and engineering or do you keep to a definition of involvement with the fandoms of genre entertainment such as comics, video games, animation, science fiction/fantasy and horror? Do you exclude the romance genre or include it in that definition? And so forth and so on. It can be difficult to get exact numbers, since they're going to fluctuate depending on the way you define the question.

      However, while the number of girl geeks in what is generally accepted as geek culture is growing in both number and influence – especially in areas such as anime fandom and science fiction/fantasy – males are still the majority on the whole. This is predominantly because men had a head-start on geek culture in general; the original science-fiction writers, for example, were themselves scientists and writing for an audience interested in hard science – an area where women have traditionally lagged in interest and representation.

      Women became a statistically noticeable group in geek culture in the 1960s and 70s with the New Wave science fiction movement, when SF started to be less about hard science and took on increasingly mature and complex themes and social issues, and with Star Trek fandom. However, the numbers of girls in geek culture remained small until the 90s when the anime/manga craze took off. Suddenly publishers and producers began to notice the rapidly growing female market and learned to cater to them as well.

      As it stands, geek culture tends to be male-oriented and dominated because traditionally they have been the vast majority. This can and *will* change as more of the purveyors of geek culture recognize the growing numbers of women participating… and the money that they represent. Chauvinism and male privilege may be a powerful force but economic self-interest is greater.

      • Well, given that there is no comprehensive nerd census, both of us are somewhat out on a limb of speculation, but I still disagree that men are so clear a majority and have been for so long. I think the issue is partly one of self-defining – girls geeks have been discounted as "real" geeks by virtue of their gender (or hidden themselves under male pseudonyms or been subtyped through confirmation bias as "exceptions that prove the rule"), which makes the definition and therefore the head-count somewhat tautological, although it's always going to be a sticky definitional question, as you've said, being that the boundaries of what geekdom "really" is aren't fixed or sure. But mainstream society is *also* male-dominated, and women actually have the slight statistical majority there, so it's clearly an issue of power, not just numbers (which may or may not confer power). I think that when we're challenging male dominance, we have to be careful not to lean on it to make our points – as I said, it's a subtle issue of framing, but it's useful to recognize that part of male privilege is the ability to relatively easily use male-derived frames of reference to contextualize an issue, unaware of how that framing itself erases girl geeks. The point isn't just that more women are showing up on the scene, but that we're finally being recognized for what we've been all along as well, and also that pure numbers alone still aren't enough to change the tide if it's not accompanied by a shift in values. I'm behind your article, but as an activist who lives on both sides of social privilege I've learned it's important to have a self-reflexive stance and keep questioning the received wisdom as the status quo in order to keep challenging it, so that's why I brought up my initial comment.

        • Karis

          I actually kind of Jadey on this one. Girls may or may not be a statistically larger group than guys in "traditional" geekdom (e.g. most speculative media), but if we are fewer, we're probably not as few as you think we are. There are huge online communities that are dominated by females, with and Livejournal probably being some of the more well known ones, although there are plenty of other forums and sites as well. When I started becoming active in online fandoms all the geeks I met were girls, even for predominantly "male" genres such as action anime and science fiction. For the longest time I was under the impression that most book/anime/movie/game fans were female until I got out into the larger community. As Jadey was saying, this impression is may just be the result of personal framing, but it is still something to take note of.

          • Russ

            I certainly can't tell you a headcount, although it seems either side is likely to suffer from the availability heuristic (since both you and Jadey can recall many female geeks you're apt to think they're more common). I wonder how that changes the discussion, though, other than in a fact-setting sense? I mean, whether women are UNDER represented or not, they're still being MISrepresented by the female characters in genres spanning all of geekdom. It would almost seem sadder if there were a vast group of female nerds that had been ignored in favor of the artificial and two-dimensional women as portrayed in comics and the like.

          • This is a very interesting discussion. I would like to share my personal experience. I think it's important to acknowledge who are the people making the games.

            I am a game developer myself and I have worked in this industry for over 5 years now. I used to be in advertising before that.
            I worked in a few studios with 250+ employees and some other small studios.

            It is very common to see that the production staff are white guys, and from what I can tell they are straight. Women and minorities represent between 2 and 5 percent of the total staff (roughly.) I see more diversity now than 5 years ago, and I'm happy to see that some studios are actively looking to diversify, but the fact is that the numbers are still very low.
            Most of us try to be good people and I believe that none of us wants to be responsible for sexism or discrimination in our games. But let's not lie to ourselves, if we are to make games promoting gender equality we need a gender balanced staff.

            We all have to help and I hope that the community (growing in diversity as explained above) will have demands, let's not undermine the power of the consumer. I think that a lot of us developers are quite comfortably just "doing our jobs," but others are trying to make a change. We need help from the community to send a clear message that what people want is diversity and equality in the games we make.

          • Lizzie

            I can see both sides- I would say women are fewer but not as few as people think (Like Jadey was saying) for instance, how girls do you think are in the videogame community? Would you be shocked if I told you how many girls play videogames is actually between 42-46%? Almost half of the videogaming populus. HOWEVER where it gets small if who plays what like I think only 20% play PC videogames 10% console and 5% hand held with 5%-15% doing all three.

            I agree with Russ though on that regardless of how many girls are in the community they are still for the most part misrepresented- that being said though I don't think are 42% matters that much on what's "sadder" because it actually makes it more sad we are such a big population but we are still afraid to speak out because of exactly what this article is talking about.

      • Aaa

        I think one of the issues here that is getting overlooked is that women's contribution/participation in male-dominated arenas like this gets actively redefined as not. So when women start playing games, the games they play are defined as not-games, because being interested in things like technology and comics are part of a masculine identity (the same way that being good at fixing cars might increase someone's masculinity). This makes it very hard for women to make a difference simply by being present in these realms, because often they are left with two options: participate in the ways that the male-dominated culture has cast them in and be defined as not-fans (can anyone say cosplayers?) or participate in a traditionally masculine way and be defined as not-feminine or less-feminine at the very least (think about the women you know who participate the most fully in these cultures – I think you'll find that they tend to display stereotypically male traits and deemphasize their feminine ones).

  • Thanks for this great article. A little insight on the knee jerk response (I've noticed it as well) to video game criticism:

    I think it goes hand in hand with the fear of a culture that has so far been alarmist and throws a lot of blame towards video games…in turn, you can't criticize a game's content –at all– to a gamer, because the panic sets in that if *any* content has to be changed, then all of it will change, and then they won't be able to have fun hacking and slashing anymore. Combine that with an already misogynistic culture as a whole, and you have a recipe for…well, look what happened with Dickwolves. Women were receiving death and rape threats for daring to vocalize their disappointment with a COMIC's content (for the record, I'm not of the opinion that it was a rape joke, but the way the aftermath was handled incited a lot of hatred towards women in the community). And then people wonder why we don't stick around.

    The number one reason why objectification of women in games is different from what we do to men: we use sex as an excuse to disrespect women. Portraying them as sexy and sexual isn't empowering in a society where men treat women like shit for having sex. And the "ideal" portrayal of men in video games is not female fan service, it's male fan service. They make the male characters that way to make the male audience to want to *be* that character. So basically all the characters are 1. People who hetero men want to be or 2. people who hetero men want to fuck. That's our problem.

    • TalonM17

      Nice, like how you went with the other edge of the sword at the very end of your post. I was with you until you said "They make the male characters that way to make the male audience to want to *be* that character."

      Don't get me wrong, being Batman would be cool and all, but under no circumstance have I ever wanted to be Any of the characters from any GTA game, I wouldn't be Alex Mercer(Prototype,) I definitely don't want to be anyone from mortal combat… The list goes on.

      You don't think saying "Guys want to be the sexy guys they play as in the game." is just as bad as whats going on in the rest of the culture?

      Most often if I wanted to be a character in a game, he would have to have characteristics I already hold in high esteem. Virtue, or guile, or quick wit, or dexterity. Link, Altair, Kratos (From Tales of Symphonia, NOT God of War.)

      I enjoy lots of games, but I certainly don't like to identify with beef-cakes, or sadistic, or self-serving characters as they may come. Their stories are interesting. Isn't that the point?

  • PinkWithIndignation

    First: If you really want to see good representations of women, check out Contagion, the first series of Fringe, Hermoine Granger…I wish I had more examples of non-sexualized, competent heroines for whom romance is a small part of their life. Can anyone else think of any?

    Second: "one of the issues that nerd girls face is the fact that they are seen as girls first and anything else second."

    Not just nerd birds. ALL GIRLS ALL THE TIME. It's like having a vagina is a brain melting mutation that invalidates all of our rational arguments and mad skillz. DO YOU KNOW HOW FRUSTRATING THAT IS? IT'S TYPING IN ALL CAPS FRUSTRATING! We're not works of art created to be ogled, we are people with legitimate feelings and independent desires. That is so easily dismissed, especially when you are adorable. Or just female. My boyfriend wondered why I got exasperated when legitimate news outlets covered Michelle Bachman's manicure. GAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!! She's a nutjob! But who cares, she's got a fabulous manicure! But was it over the top? Tonight at 11! Because a woman is judged first and foremost by how she looks! And not much else, at least in the popular media.

    And that argument about men being objectified? HA! Men are PEOPLE, not sex objects! The closest thing I've seen that comes to objectification designed for the female gaze is 300, and don't give me that and call it Egalia's Daughters. Just like how all the porn features boobs, close ups of women's faces and pearl necklaces. Do you really think that is designed for straight women to fantasize to? At the end of the day, you just have to focus on the boner and chalk it up to an EPIC FAIL of male privilege. Just like the nerd culture you describe here. People have tried to make women's porn, with storylines and real life people with feelings, and maybe that is OK for some people, but I just want more eating out and shots of the male bod.

    Well that was rambling! I spend a lot of time pondering what makes our cultural zeitgeist so sucky. Sexism, along with latent racisim, much more blatant homophobia, economic inequality, the human tendency to tear one's self-esteem apart and our increasing reliance on superficial means to judge worth rather than character are just several slices of that pie. That maddening, seemingly unalterable pie.

    • Sadiem

      I love you 😡

      I have to agree … what has been said does not only applies in games, but in life too.

      I was kind of exasperated to hear a team of 5-6 animators, for over a week, arguing about how they will animate the characters boobs …

    • nhyrvana

      "Sexism, along with latent racisim, much more blatant homophobia, economic inequality, the human tendency to tear one’s self-esteem apart and our increasing reliance on superficial means to judge worth rather than character are just several slices of that pie. That maddening, seemingly unalterable pie."

      Can I quote on this in future? Excellent.


    • PeyoteCoyote

      The first series of Fringe? You mean the one where they took every excuse possible to put our traditionally good-looking heroine in her skivvies in a tube of goo?


    In my many years of gaming, I've met precious few guys who get it like you do. These guys are so rare and awesome that even when my husband and I moved three states away, we still RPG with those guys over Skype because they're awesome friends and that's so much easier than starting a new search for sensible, fun, smart, clued-in player friends.

    To Lish: I'm glad you enjoy playing "sexy" characters. I don't. I don't even find that typically "sexy" look to be sexy. I kind of want to give those ultra-skinny ladies a piece of cake or something because they look so hungry. And some fetish-wear lube because damn, they must be chafing something awful.

    I'm so not into the fantasy of being "sexy" that all of the lead female characters in my writing are defined as atypical in that regard. One is plump, another is tiny, a third is average. The only time I'ver written a hot character I made it a sort of a curse upon her, because nobody ever takes her seriously for anything else and while she had a good run for a long time of using her looks to manipulate, and still can at will, she now finds it tiresome.

    It really isn't every woman's fantasy to be "sexy". Some of us just want to blow shit up so we can be pacifists in real life, especially when our children are driving us batty.

  • Saracen

    One of the sexiest characters in geek history, at least in my eyes, was Michelle Forbes' Helena Cain in Battlestar Galactica. I don't recall her ever on-screen in any state of undress; her confidence and posture is sexy and powerful in the same breath. A severe chauvinist would say "figures" when he or she discovers that Cain was a lesbian, but such is treated as a very small part of the story and could have been swapped out for a male in the role or in the role of the woman by whom Cain felt betrayed.

  • nX

    Great read! I wrote about my experiences way back in 1997 ( I'm 35 now and it's 2011 and not much has changed! Refreshing to find articles like this, though. Thank you!

  • You got lot of the issues facing female geeks spot on, especially how women have to experience life through the filter of being a women first, then whatever else we are second. Great post.

  • It is so unbelievably refreshing to hear a straight white male POV on this issue that acknowledges that there IS, in fact, an issue. The depth and breadth of that issue is, of course, open to discussion, but so many times I have run into a brick wall of male privilege that categorically tells me that there's no discussion to be had, that I'm too sensitive and I'm over-reacting, (probably because I'm on my period.)

    I wrote an article about being a female nerd* a while back and got so many angry knee-jerk that I started to wonder if I was the crazy one.

    "It’s hard to feel valued or fully included when a very vocal group insists that your input is irrelevant, misguided and ultimately unwelcome."

    This is so pertinent. So many of the commenters phrased their argument in terms of space, explaining that I, as a woman, shouldn't be at all surprised when men react badly, because apparently I am insisting on "barging into" a MALE SPACE and talking to all the MEN about my WOMAN problems. The language was so possessive, it implied that women were somehow invading a space they have no right to occupy. Women are “waltzing in” and “showing up” and attacking and trashing and complaining – but apparently they are not getting worked up about their own interests, the games and worlds and stories in which they have invested time and money and love. They are getting worked up about male interests. And that’s rude and arrogant, because they are not members of that culture.

    It was crazy hearing that and being told in the same breath that there are no gender disparities in nerd culture whatsoever.

    So thank you for writing this! It made me feel sane again!


    • Trisha Lynn

      Marianne: On the good doctor's Facebook page, I noted that the male Privilege is rearing its head in that other women (such as yourself) may have written about the same thing and just as eloquently, but not have received as much positive feedback. I'm glad you don't feel resentful over this.

    • LAvenger

      Marianne, beautiful post. Crystalized the feelings I've always felt into the perfect words. I especially liked when you said

      "I wrote an article about being a female nerd* a while back and got so many angry knee-jerk reactions (my edit) that I started to wonder if I was the crazy one.".

      I'm sure a lot of men are aware of their ability to bombard a message board so that it looks like everyone agrees with men and women are "insane". I'm willing to bet this comment board will be flooded before long too.

      • Dr. NerdLove

        Fortunately, I learned mod theory from the Warren Ellis Forum and feel no need to be fair if it becomes a problem.

        I really have no problems letting the troublemakers get stuck in the moderation queue until I decide whether to let things through or just delete em.

    • Cheriphim

      Good article, Marieanne; and yes the comments were ridiculous.

      The main "flavor" seemed to be the male reaction anytime their treatment of women/sex comes up. They can no longer beat, rape, torture us in real life without dire consequences, so those types are painfully protective of their "right" to do so in a fantasy setting–games, comics, movies, etc And when anyone speaks up that *maybe* there is a problem there, too, that maybe the ACTS themselves shouldn't be portrayed ANYWHERE, because of what they represent within our society at large, they grab their verbal guns, stick to them, and yes–defend virtually raping girls, beating people of other ethnic groups, killing homosexuals, etc.

      They repeat their slogan ad nauseam: ITS JUST A GAME!

      The problem, really, seems academic:

      If a guy wants to cyber rape a representation, they do not believe that simulating rape is a problem. Of course, the same guy may actively wish he still lived in the middle ages, where he could actually stroll outside, slaughter a village, plunder their livelihood, and rape their young daughters–and the pesky moors of modern society restrict these urges.

      They want their fake women, who emote under their inflicted agony, so they can have their vicarious fantasies realized, with no repercussions. We show up and remind them of those consequences in real life, and it infuriates them. Because its just a game. In their minds, they are safe from reproach, because they are not *really* doing it, and we shouldn't be offended by the fact they still *want* to do it.

      The games will always be there, as will the portion of society that wishes to indulge themselves in that darker aspect of human nature. Because there is no direct harm, and there aren't nearly enough studies linking video-game violence to real life violence. (Though violent people seek out and play violent games, there is no link showing that violent games *make* people violent…except with children–those studies are more well-funded and arguably, children are far more impressionable then grown men. We hope.)

      It is their "domain of acceptable/allowed abuse." They can have it, but I don't want to play in it. I want my own domain, notably free of that abuse, which I have already survived.

      The problem is that when a software company comes along that really starts producing healthier, productive, exciting, well-written content–they tend to fail. They go bankrupt, because they are advertising to the *wrong* people. They are targeting the violent-gamer demographic, because they think they are selling to the general gamer world, which has shown to be lucrative. But violent gamers are not necessarily going to like some of the tamer games–like the original Spyro series, which was far more about treasure hunting than killing (which changed when the franchise was bought-out). There are a few like that–Okami, is another–that didn't get enough exposure to people who don't game, because they don't like the vast majority of violent games.

      And lets face it–most of the games designed for girls/women–suck. And not in a good way. I like treasure hunting, but don't care to see Lara's heaving bosoms (impractical), and yet I don't want to be stuck with some stupid, G-rated Barbie game, either. Oblivion/Skyrim are really the only games I play anymore, as the violence is moderate, story content rich, customization more diverse, etc. But I still feel like I haven't met my perfect game yet.

      I would write one very differently.

  • Jace

    Indeed, but this has been said before. I look forward to an actual article with something unique to say on the subject.

    • Russ

      Indeed, another unimpressed internet comment complaining of a lack of originality on the part of others. How delightfully refreshing and new!

    • Lilac

      Your privilege is showing. There doesn't have to be anything unique said on the subject for it to be incredibly relevant to HALF THE POPULATION. The more that the idea that women aren't just sex objects is reinforced, the more our society has the chance of changing. Don't you see?

  • Kevin

    Great article, first, but one thing I had a question on was after the conclusion of the main section. It seems like you outline a broad issue in geek/nerd/whatever culture of female sexualization and marginalization. You present it in a fashion to deter the detractors to your theories and do so clearly. Then the last section deals with how a geek may avoid the faux pas, as they were, and also avoid the trappings of "white knight" syndrome.

    My question is: why was there no comment on solving the issue on a larger scale, with the populace in general instead of just words of wisdom for the specific readers? Or did I just miss that?

    BTW, just to add to some of the suggestions I've seen in the comments: the comics Alias, Sandman [Neil Gaiman series], and Transmetropolitan are some good ones in the mainstream that avoid this over-sexualization of women in particular (Transmetropolitan because it basically partially sexualizes everything in general). Then again, I'm a guy, so I'm not exactly a great source.

    • Squirrel

      why was there no comment on solving the issue on a larger scale, with the populace in general instead of just words of wisdom for the specific readers?

      There are a variety of reasons to not address a "larger scale." First, this website is aimed at a specific sub-group of the populace, so it is perfectly natural to address the solutions that this specific group can achieve on their own. Second, enacting those solutions within a small sub-group can bring about changes in the larger populace as the ripple effect takes hold. It is very rare for social trends to happen all at once on a large scale. Third, addressing solutions on a larger scale may backfire into a SEP* field, which can be counter productive.

      Finally, I'd like you to consider that asking for an author to address an issue on a larger scale tends to be a fairly common derailing tactic, and comes across as being dismissive of the specific issues being discussed. Even if it's unintentional, that sort of statement implies something along the lines of "Why are you telling guys not to grab women's boobs when what we really should be discussing is women being raped in Saudi Arabia?"

      * Somebody Else's Problem

      • Dr. NerdLove

        Also, genre pop culture is frequently where the needed changes start. Star Trek blew open doors by being the first television show to have an African-American character as a part of the main cast – and not a servent – and then went on to feature the first interracial kiss ever broadcast on television.

    • Russ

      All social change happens at the individual level. You have to get people thinking about themselves and their actions, and that's where change happens. A legion of nerds so altered, with a personal understanding, is what begins to change the culture as a whole as they interact with others and bring more awareness.

    • No coincidence that those comics have actually addressed this issue directly too.

  • Great piece, and I also want to put in a good word for my local comic store Atlantic Fantasyworld — most of the employees are female, and they definitely are committed to having a female-friendly store.

  • David

    You included the portrayal of males and females in Arkham City as a central point of your argument, and you addressed the fact that the portrayals are basically in agreement with the established characters, but you didn't really talk about what you would have rather seen. I agree, Catwoman, Ivy, and Harley were all very sexualized. (spoilers here, don't read if you haven't played) Even Talia had an exposed midriff going on and was definitely a bit of a damsel in distress. (End spoilers) What I'm curious about here is what you would've changed in this regard? It almost sounds like you would've preferred they be a mirror image of their male counter parts – but it's hard for me to imagine Catwoman as adopting a persona akin to that of Batman. Same with Ivy. Harley, I agree, was perhaps taken to an extreme she didn't need to be, but I'm curious how you would alter the portrayal of these characters, in this and future works, so that they still feel like Catwoman, Ivy, Harley, etc. but so that they move the genre and the medium forward. I realize that that's not what your article is about, but being primarily attracted to this argument from a gamer's perspective, that's where my interests lie.

    Also, I really did enjoy the read, and think you and anyone else who enjoyed it might similarly enjoy these two essays by Hulk and designislaw on Arkham city and WH40K: Space Marine, respectively.

    • Michelle

      Isn't that pretty much exactly what he's saying, though? If these female characters would no longer "feel" like the same character if they were not sexualized, then clearly, their defining character trait is their sexuality. And that's the problem. Isn't that a little weird, that for *all* the most famous female characters in that franchise, they'd be unrecognizable as themselves were they to lose their sex appeal? That's a little fucked up, don't you think?

      Speaking of which, can you point out the *male* characters in that franchise that would lose their "feel" if they weren't sexy?

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  • Nathan

    Is privilege the right word to use for the sort of male pandering we see in comics and video games? The author recounts a story of how his ex-girlfriend was creeped on in a comic book store by a grubby, socially retarded nerd. From the story its clear this "troglodyte" could very well live out a sad, lonely existence due to his social inadequacy.

    We are to believe then that this man enjoys the "white male privilege" of supposedly "empowering" male comic book hero's? He doesn't seem very empowered.

    As for the privilege of viewing hyper-sexualized female characters, the word "privilege" implies some sort of benefit. Our stereotypical male nerd doesn't benefit from looking at pictures of fantasy boobs. Actually it would appear to hinder him, warping his perceptions of women in a way that only hurts his chance of finding real happiness in the real world.

    I hate the use of the word privilege in this context, because it is a deeply divisive and simplistic label to slap on a very deep, complex social problem. But I also hate it because by practical definition it is wrong.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      I think you may have missed the rest of the article. Male privilege isn't about "empowerment", it's about things that men can take for granted that women cannot… such as not being harassed or having their opinions devalued or dismissed by virtue of their gender or being presented in popular culture as a consumable object who's purpose is the sexual gratification of the male reader.

      • Jim

        I bet the "troglodyte" has suffered much more harassment and devaluation in his life than the girl he harassed has.

        • Behemoth

          Uh, it isn't a competition for who's suffered the most. Also, let's not assume, right? Not everyone's experience is the same.

        • ClosetAngel

          @ Jim –

          I won't say that I know what the "troglodyte" suffered in his life. But why has he suffered more? Because he is a geek or because he is male? Why was your instinct to assume that?

          This is only my personal experience, am sharing merely for another perspective. I was a girl who was *very awkward looking AND a nerd/geek growing up. Bullying was commonplace for me, pretty standard. I still feel awkward raising my hand first to answer a question. And now, having grown up to be what many consider to be conventionally attractive? I STILL get picked on and harassed. What did I do to incite such behavior? I walk down the street, go buy groceries or suggest a new workplace standard (what could she know?).

          I'm not trying to marginalize the harassment and devaluation that men (especially the nerdy ones) suffer in their life. But please take a moment to think that women get that as well for being nerds/awkward/into sci-fi/smart. Plus we live daily with horn honks, catcalls, and are quite often told to "smile for me baby". And if we mention that it makes us uncomfortable? We're told that we should take it as a compliment.

          Behemoth, below, is correct – this isn't a competition and I'm not trying to make it into one. I am hoping by sharing this that Jim can understand there wasn't enough information given in the article to make such an assumption and maybe think about why he jumped to this assumption.

        • Heather

          oh wow, is it Oppression Olympics time already?

    • Haight

      Here, you've hit the nail on the head – it's more about derision being directed towards the men in this subculture which has traditionally been seen to be made up of undesireables, even by the women who participate in it – the idea that these males, who shouldn't be allowed to express their sexuality at all by virtue of being so low on the totem pole, are appreciating drawn images of sex objects, is offensive to a female who finds the expression of sexuality by men who are beneath her to be disgusting.

      It's funny – male superheroes in comics tend to have ridiculously well-defined physiques, and are often quite literally superhuman in the aspects of life that correlate most strongly to female attractiveness on the male side – power/status and wealth. Men don't complain about this because they are socialized to believe that if they don't live up to an impossible standard it's their own problem and they need to work harder, or it just gets ignored (like the many members of geek culture who 'tune out' the mainstream societal pressures of jobcareerstatus, to the derision of pundits who ridicule them for being manchildren for not being there to provide food, shelter, and money to the first woman who comes along in need). This is similar to how men have a much higher danger of being assaulted and harmed by a random stranger, but even in this article, it's stated that women fear being assaulted – that's because they fear it in a disproportionate fashion, compared to men, who get told to 'map up' if that sort of thing is ever brought up.

      • piny

        Men don't complain about gigantic superhero muscles because male superhero drawings are not an example of men being mistreated by women. Women didn't make those drawings, and aren't their target audience. Male superhero gym rat representation is a male power fantasy. It's not about being sexy; it's about being strong. And yeah, it's a fantasy that can leave some guys out in the cold. But it's not the same as being objectified, and it's not the same as being objectified in rape culture. Also, male superheroes get to wear clothes. Tell me: does Batman wax his chest? Because I know exactly what Poison Ivy does to her bikini line.

        Most women don't have preferences that are as cut and dried as oooooooh muscly. Most of the sex-sells that you see floating around wasn't designed by or for women. Physical attraction is complicated and individual. The reason women are upset by the parade of fetish party cocktail waitress supervixens is not that they have a problem with male gamer/comic geeks having testicles. Or that they think male geeks are not allowed to approach them. It's that they like to think of themselves as something more–more heroic?–than what they see in comic books.

  • Joe

    "A guy who plays a first person shooter – Call of Duty, Halo, Battlefield, what-have-you – online may expect a certain amount of trash talking, but he’s not going to be inundated with offers for sex, threats of rape, sounds of simulated masturbation or demands that he blow the other players – but not before going to the kitchen and getting them a beer/sandwich/pizza first. Men will also not be told that they’re being “too sensitive” or that “they need to toughen up” when they complain about said sexual threats."

    This was a good article, but that passage is just false. My experience online has lead to plenty of other men asking me to blow them or calling me a pussy. Yes, even a few requests that I make them a sammich.

    • Cat

      And, in doing so, were they basically telling you "you play like a girl?"

      • Sadiem

        Wow that is just something that bothers me … and it's not only in video games.

        Running like a girl, fighting like a girl, shooting like a girl, sissy, play like a girl, cry like a little girl …

        A lot of what we do is just weak, huh?

        • ShyGuy

          In sport there separate leagues for men and women. I just got out of the military and the women I serviced with were held to a lower standard than men, very very few could meet the same standards athletically that I did and I am low average for someone in my branch. Men and women have different abilities. With all that being said I would hate if someone said I was dumb because i am a man so I get that you would not be a fan of those terms.

    • Squirrel

      You example doesn't make the passage false, it actually supports it. The specific insults you detail are all about calling you a woman. But regardless of those experiences, I would bet that on average, you generally don't experience the same level of harassment that comes from simply revealing your gender.

      Here's an experiment you can try on your own. Go into a game space where most of the people are strangers to you. Use a vaguely generic, but slightly masculine name. See how long it takes for someone to make a reference to your sex in some way. Your first experience is probably going to be someone assuming that you are male. Back out, and return using a slightly feminine name. Your first experience is probably going to be someone asking privately if you are female or making a sexual comment of some kind. This will usually happen a lot quicker than if you had a slightly masculine name. Feel free to repeat the experiment until the point is driven home.

  • Andre

    As a kid, I not only loved comics but drew and aspired to draw for comics. My father, also an artist, once bought some muscle magazines for me and encouraged me to try and do some drawing from real life to learn more about anatomy, shading, etc. This led to a kid of "oh shit" moment in my youth where I realized exactly how unrealisticly men were portrayed in comics. Even the most uber-buff among real humans couldn't really compare to the most casual male heros – not without clenching every muscle in their bodies as hard as they could.

    I know that the whole "men are objectified too" argument doesn't hold much water – it really doesn't when you're looking at how badly women are pushed in a lot of visual fiction – but it's important to remember where the bar is. We are starting from a baseline of hyper-reality where even the birds and trees and pencil sharpeners are caricatures of real life.

    I also think that we tend to forget about the role of the artist. Tits are hard to draw. They are! – at least properly. And just boobs… lips and long hair and even the posture of a woman. Femininity is hard to draw. It takes an incredible amount of work to learn to get it right. So imagine you're an adolescent male, toiling over the curvature of a side-boob for hours on end trying to get it "right". What kind of boob are you going to draw? And imagine that those people are the ones who eventually grow up to put their skills into comics and games and movies -what do you think is going to happen?

    I'll never forget the leading female in Sam Kieth's The Maxx series. She had a pot belly. She had a button nose and a pudgy face. This was the first time I'd ever seen a non-amazonian-god-queen of a female character in a comic book EVER. But she had curves and flaws – and thanks to Kieth's fantastic character work she was more feminine than any character I'd ever seen. Next to her, wonder woman looked kind of scary. I think this was my second real "oh shit" moment where I realized that there were problems with our archetypes. What as so great about super women if a more human looking character was so much more effective? I honestly couldn't take most female super-heroes seriously for quite some time after reading that book.

  • anonymous

    I like how that bingo card you referenced was full of flaws. Samus's power suit, for example, is fused into her body. It's literally a part of her. That's why it only comes off when she DIES.

    • Tombcannon

      Samus takes of her suit to no ill effect since the very first Metroid game at the ending. She also survives without it during gameplay in Zero Mission. I always took the game-over suit explosion animation to mean that the suit's integrity had been compromised and that she died of exposure to an extraterrestrial environment and possibly rapid decompression, Hollywood style.
      The only game in the series that you could argue that for is Fusion, but if I recall correctly, the dialogue states that the armor couldn't be removed while Samus was unconscious, not that it couldn't be removed at all.

  • Chris Chiesa

    It's been my experience that whenever a battle over equality comes up, whether it be "of the sexes" or "of the races," or "of the faiths" or WHATEVER, when the underprivileged are finally given their freedom or achieve equality or whatever, it always turns out that they weren't after FREEDOM or EQUALITY so much as REVENGE: they IMMEDIATELY set about doing in reverse what they'd bitched about the other guy doing to THEM all that time. This, as much as anything else, strikes me as a reasonably logical rationale for those in power to want to STAY in power — the threat is not just ideological but literal, sometimes even physical, sometimes fatally so. It will be interesting to see in what manner this develops once women, gays/lesbians/transsexuals/etc., etc. etc. get their "say" in how nerd culture operates. I tell you here and now, it'll be a disaster of massive proportions for REAL nerds, who literally can't bear the presence of girls until many years later than you'd expect, IF EVER. Indeed, "nerd culture" is the one bastion of psychic comfort that EXISTS for many a nerd, and it would be a damn tragedy to take it away. I wonder if repressed nerds will turn to crime once their only outlet for their nerdiness has been taken over by unbearable enemy entities? Put THAT on your Bingo card. Remember: you have been warned. You heard it here first, folks.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Yeaaaah, I'm not gonna hold my breath on that one Chris.

    • Cat

      "I tell you here and now, it’ll be a disaster of massive proportions for REAL nerds, who literally can’t bear the presence of girls until many years later than you’d expect, IF EVER."

      So, REAL nerds are, by definition, male? Women and girls are "unbearable enemy entities?"

      Yep, that's what you said up there… Are you starting to see how us nerd girls can feel marginalized?

    • Behemoth

      "It’s been my experience that whenever a battle over equality comes up, whether it be “of the sexes” or “of the races,” or “of the faiths” or WHATEVER, when the underprivileged are finally given their freedom or achieve equality or whatever, it always turns out that they weren’t after FREEDOM or EQUALITY so much as REVENGE: they IMMEDIATELY set about doing in reverse what they’d bitched about the other guy doing to THEM all that time."

      Where exactly have you experienced this? Also, it's really hard to take someone seriously when they use the phrase "battle of the sexes" (or equivalent).

    • meerkat

      "they IMMEDIATELY set about doing in reverse what they’d bitched about the other guy doing to THEM all that time"

      Gosh, I'd like to argue that but I guess I have to go harvest cotton for my master/owner?

    • Heather

      Yes. As soon as nerd culture succumbs to the control of the womens/gays/lesbians/transsexuals/etc. as you so eloquently put it, I am going to immediately go on a Tarantino-inspired rampage wearing my Enemy Entity Hat™, leaving a trail of pocket protectors and broken glasses in my wake.

      Come on.

      I think it's a "damn tragedy" that these "unbearable enemy entities" can't enjoy the so-called "bastions of psychic comfort" that nerd culture can provide – what's wrong with encouraging a community dedicated to manifold fringe passions and interests more welcoming, safe, and accepting? Checking your privilege, as far as I know, never caused any "disaster of massive proportions."

      And what the heck do you mean by "real nerds"?

    • Sooo not only are "REAL NERDS" all socially retarded, but all male. You're basically saying that people who are incapable of interacting with women should retreat into a fantasy world that caters specifically to them, allowing them no chance of recovery. That's… totally fucked up.

      • ShyGuy

        Maybe but that is how some male nerds feel I have literally been angry near violence when friends (that I avoid now since they do this) try to get me to talk to new people do new things. I don't agree with the opinion but I understand the reflex. You are taking away my "toys" ruining everything! so now I have to deal with the real world.

  • Chopperz

    The only reason I never take these arguments seriously is because it's a minority wanting to be taken seriously by a majority (BUT WAIT), but the way that they craft their argument almost feels so underhanded and pity filled. I get it, you want to be a geek girl / gamer girl that wants to have her cake and eat it too, that's understandable, I get it, I really I do. But the problem I have with this is the same problem that I have with the other side of the coin, men who want to be ballerinas are probably not taken as seriously and it's because the majority of men don't do that. For example. You see geek girls / gamer girls in media and they're jokes. They're usually moronic idiots who almost seem like they're trying too hard for the attention and it's just what everyone is used too by now. I get where that's a problem and that it needs to change, but it's just kind of ridiculous to try and pin the blame on men as a whole when it's not like it's men forcing a majority of geek / gamer women to look like morons, it's them doing it all by themselves and us judging you as a whole.

    • Sadiem

      Forcing the majority of geek/gamer women to look like morons?

      Are you serious? Don't you think the ones that appears on the media are actually the moronic ones?

      You know, the whole world laughs at people from the US because what we see in the medias about you guys is just extremely moronic.

      Does that mean that the majority of you guys are stupid fat asshole that eat donuts? I hope not. But thinking that it is the case, THAT would be moronic.

      "If americans want to be taken seriously them stop looking like morons, that's all we see in the media!" *must be american* …

    • Cat

      So, because Olivia Munn, or whoever, acts like a moron on TV, all geek girls are morons? (I'm just taking a stab with the name here, because I've never encountered these "moronic TV geek girls" you're talking about when I flip around the TV.)

      Chopperz, all the geek girls crafting well-written, well-argued, and well-reasoned responses in this thread have just blown your argument right out of the water. I don't see anyone here asking for pity.

  • John

    I am a long term player of second life and that experience has left me with an interesting point in this discussion. In second life men and women can make themselves look and act anyway that they choose to. There is a vast variety of styles and options for avatar appearance. You can, if you choose dress and act extremely conservative if it were your choice.

    However in my experience in second life the majority of women choose to have hyper sexualized appearances. I’m not talking about men using women avatars I am talking about real life women who have female avatars in second life choose the hypersexualized avatars over the more conservative options at a very consistent basis.

    Do you think this is because of the male privilege is coercing the women in second life to dress and act that way? Has the male portion of the community tainted the pool making women feel uncomfortable to choose the more conservative options that are available to them? Or is there more to it than that?

    From the women I talk to they look the way they do because that is what they want to look like. If they have the choice between being conservative or a bit risqué they choose the risqué because it is more fun for them to be able to let loose that way.

    • LAvenger

      A lot of women just-so-happen to enjoy the same fabrics and cloths that you yourself enjoy. I assure you though, their choice of wardrobe was not to "impress John", but instead "Hey, I like this cloth or fabric"

    • ClosetAngel

      The case could also be made that society as whole values "sexay" women – so of course that is what women will choose to look like. They are bombarded with it on every side, from every angle to be fitter, look sexier, feel younger, show more skin.

  • Greg

    It's not like artists aren't making games, comics and other nerd art that doesn't objectify women, it's that the demand for that is dwarfed by the demand for gigantic bouncing breasts. Until there is more demand for realistic portrayals of women, we won't see it nearly as often as we see the sexist stereotypes.

    You can draw a direct parallel to another male-dominated genre: porn. Is it fair that most women in porn are portrayed as cock-hungry sluts? No. Does that have a negative affect on gender relations and equality in our society? Probably. But until you either convince guys that what they really want to see are strong, intelligent women in their porn, or convince women to start buying more appropriate porn at the same rate as guys, you will see the industry dominated by these stereotypes.

    The people who make DOA: Softcore VolleyBall aren't making it to keep female nerds down, they're making it because they know horny guys will buy it en masse. This is where I think your article gets it wrong:

    "In this case, the threat is that — ultimately — fandom won’t cater to guys almost to exclusion… that gays, lesbians, racial and religious minorities and (gasp!) women might start having a say in the way that games, comics, etc. will be created in the future."

    These comics are already being created and consumed (my sister must have played 10 of those Nancy Drew games). The fact that they aren't being sold at the same volume as the sexist content isn't because some cabal of threatened nerds is keeping them down, it's because there isn't anywhere near to the same demand. You want to reduce the prevalence of sexism in nerd art? Don't blog about it, go buy some non-sexist games, movies and comics. They exist.

  • It's Like This

    Oh come on, are you drinking the critical theory bromide again? You seem to imply men are incapable of separating fantasy from reality. Of course, if the conversation was about the portrayal of violence, you'd be more defensive of the gamer. If we find someone in a video game attractive, it doesn't mean we look at women as just a pair of tits in real life. That's why all you can do is cherry pick anecdotes to prove your point.

    Anyway, to go to your example. I think a large portion of "geeks" look at the portrayal of women in Arkham City and realise how cheap the women look – especially, Harley Quinn. I remember seeing heaps of comments disapproving of her swapping her traditional garb for this more trashy look. You see, a large number of people don't like being pandered too and geeks are really good at seeing through bullshit like that.

    The story with your girlfriend and the social retard ogling her boobs, while sounding in-genuine, could have happened in any other context. Chauvinism exists everywhere and is not isolated to nor does it define the current geek culture. And why did you bring up WHITE males? Do you think the portrayal of women in comics and video games is worse than their portrayal in… I dunno… hip hop music videos?

    I think you're a little too on script with your Frankfurt school bitching. You give no credit to developers like Valve and Bioware and your complaints are misdirected. Your problem isn't men, it's appeasement.

  • Spazbomb

    Cool to see this article rocking the charts around the web. I have a companion who refuses to cater to the female roles put out by games, comics, and the like. Due to that I have been unable to share my passion for gaming with her. While I make a point to heavily evaluate the use of females in any game I buy, due to their negative prevalence in gaming and in part due to the general behavior of gamers, especially console gamers, she will never play decent games no matter how much I know she will enjoy them. Makes me quite sad.

  • LAvenger

    Hello Dr. Nerdlove. You've been linked to be, a forum where misogynists spend all their energy trying to silence womens' complaints. You can see your article here:


    • Dr. NerdLove

      Amusingly, most of the responses are "Why the fuck is this here?"

      Which, admittedly is kinda my response too. Odd where this is popping up.

  • Cat

    The thesis of this article isn't: "Women are portrayed in horrible, sexist ways in video games, and that makes men treat them badly."

    It is: "Female geeks, being real people, are often treated badly, indifferently, or in a sexist way, by male geeks."

    Lots of people in this discussion are focusing on one aspect of the article: the reference to how women are portrayed in video games and other media. But that's not the main point. The main point is that geek culture, being male dominated, tends to be hostile toward the women and girls who are part of it, and the mistreatment they receive is based on their gender.

    The cause of that mistreatment is not the images the guys see in video games, movies, or comic books. The causes of that mistreatment are the attitudes that geekdom is their (the males') "domain" and the women and girls are "intruding," and that women and girls can't possibly be REAL nerds (see above comment by Chris Chiesa), and if they want to play with the boys, then they'd better act like boys, and shut up and take the insults.

  • First off, I want to say I love your blog, and have loved it ever since "No More Mr. Nice Guy."

    This is a great article, but I want to take issue with one thing that I think perpetuates the comprehension gap between women saying, "Hey, geek culture is chock-full of male privilege!" and legitimately confused guys saying, "Er, what privilege?"

    "This, in turn leads to the phenomenon known as male privilege: the idea that men – most often straight, white men – as a whole, get certain privileges and status because of their gender."

    The privilege that I think makes it most difficult for women to address any issues around how women are portrayed and treated in fandom *isn't* that male fans have obvious high status or privileges — it's quite the opposite, in fact: they're considered the default. (Sort of like how white people often don't think of ourselves as having a "race.")

    Ask an average male gamer if he has extra privileges and status because he's male, and he'll likely have no clue what you're talking about, because he's used to being surrounded by people exactly like him with the exact same privileges and status. Privilege and status are things that only make sense in comparison with other people.

    Where that privilege gets teeth in fandom is that issues that may only concern male fans are seen as inherent to the discussion about whatever the subject of the fandom is, while issues that concern only or mostly female (or fill in your class — people of color, queer, middle-aged, etc.) players are seen as tangential or even a distraction to the "real" discussion. Every time an issue of concern to women comes up, you hear the cry of, "Can't we just talk about GAMES?" (Or the movie, or the book, or whatever.)

    The privilege isn't that men have obvious benefits or status above the norm — it's simply that they, and only they, are considered "normal."

    (This isn't exclusive to geek culture, obviously, and in fact its greatest harmful effects have been extremely mainstream. For example, the act of considering men to be default humans and women to be exceptions — seen most often in the standard use of "he" to mean "any person" in books and news — resulted in exclusively male test groups being used to determine what was medically normal or standard for humans, meaning that drugs, surgery and so on were calibrated for male bodies, meaning that they were often not as effective or safe for women. The use of exclusively male medical test groups for determining unisex standards continued into the 1980s.)

    I highly recommend the classic essay "The Invisible Knapsack" ( It deals with the invisibility of white privilege, but a lot of it can be easily transferred to gender in reference to strongly male groups like geeks.

    The invisibility of male privilege leads a lot of totally well-meaning, decent guys to nevertheless perpetuate it because they're not even aware of it, and therefore to do things that reinforce it (e.g. assigning a default male avatar in a game aimed primarily at women).

    And, unfortunately, since women objecting to being marginalized and objectified in geek culture is seen as women making a fuss about something unimportant (see: Why Don't Women Have A Sense Of Humor?), I've noticed it often doesn't improve until well-meaning men recognize what's going on and call it out themselves.

  • Gemma

    I'm just going to be short and sweet and say thank you for writing this. You seem to understand the issue very well.

    I've encountered many of the things you've mentioned, the harassment when I cosplayed and the "special treatment" I get from some geek guys when they discover I'm into games and comics that is often creepy and unwanted. So it's great to see this written down so concisely.

    so thanks 🙂

  • Plymouth

    I agree with the premise that the relative sexiness of male and female characters in comic books, games, and movies is unequal and that this is a problem. But I disagree rather vehemently that the solution is to have more non-sexy female characters. The problem is CLEARLY that there are not enough scantily clad sexy male characters. We need more. Lots more. Lots and lots more. But don't take away my sexy hot girls in trade!

    I suppose my bias as a bi girl is showing 🙂

    • Maybe just have girl characters that still look attractive, but not so exaggerated and dehumanizing. And give them better powers!!!

  • Heather

    As an attractive female it is frustrating that guys constantly bend over backwards to do anything for me because it gets tiring. I have always been a nerd of many areas, but I honestly don't always know if they are taking me seriously or doing it just so they can be around me longer and talk to me for a little while longer. My last boyfriend was an engineer and he eventually became afraid to take me around others in the industry while we were together because it bothered him.

    It is frustrating that when I've gone to an event the female to male ratio is at least 1/150.

    I had this conversation with a group of men and women earlier. If males make "sexist" comments or jokes or sex jokes its all fun and games, but if a woman makes one it's just weird… Now this isn't always true, and I've done theatre-it definitely isn't there. Goodness no hahaha. Way too many homosexuals for that to be possible hahaha. I digress.

    I think that all of these fears that the "privileged males" have are unfounded at this point in time. Considering how accepting of pretty much anyone from any background theatre and film are it's astonishing that gaming has yet to be the same. Yes I know that they are largely male dominated and there are a lot of stereotypes in those industries as well. Jump on me all you want. I know. Almost insulting to itself really. I will say great gains are being made. Personally any industry that does that to itself is only holding itself back.

    If anyone looks throughout history at all of the revolutionary females from various industries, easily Oprah, and various cultural backgrounds it's easy to see that gaming would be more diverse if it opened itself up more. Personally I am an American with a Scottish, and Cherokee Indian heritage.

    I will say that seeing similar "sexy" costumes for females does get a little boring. I was a costume designer for a time, it would be really nice to see something, anything that was so drastically different for female characters in gaming that it just blew my freaking mind. It was nice to see that the female SIMS characters had multiple full clothing options, that both males and females have the options for homosexual relationships, etc

    • Sadiem

      I agree, it would be nice to have a kickass character, it's possible, without being sexy.

      A male can be extremely ugly but still awesome, but a female that isn't sexy is just not cool, I guess.

      Talking about men bending over backward irl etc … you're right, it's so tiring. I work in the games industry, and almost every day, I have to wonder, what do I wear today? Can I look sexy? A little? Not at all?

      A lot of people will tell me to wear what I want and for myself, but that is easier to do when there is no concequence to it. If I look pretty and sexy (which can be pleasant, for sure) I feel that I am not taken seriously. If I am introduced to someone new, I actually feel that this person does not believe I am competent, that I have been hired for my boobs and that's it. So … I am not taken seriously.

      When I don't really take care of myself, that I wear jeans & hoodies, then I am not interesting to them, my ideas won't be as good, and … I am not taken seriously.

      A wise teacher of mine told me once "A men has credibility until he loses it, a women has no credibility until she earns it".

  • Behemoth

    Really enjoyed your writing, so thank you. It's weird how the perception of women in nerd culture has pretty much stayed the same since the beginnings of nerd culture itself. Given that society as a whole has made efforts to include minorities in most subgroups, the fact that nerdiness (while in vogue right now – as in more socially acceptable) is still seen as a primarily white and male niche is kind of worrying.

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  • Fucking fantastic post.

  • KB

    Talking about seeing women as women first then whatever else seems to be perpetuated by females nerds as well. You have so called Girl Gamers, Girl Geeks, panels about women in comics, and even a convention devoted to women into comics.

    It seems an many women as you have wanting to be recognized as a person first. You an equal portion that want to stand out for being a woman.

    Really this is a world issue. Not a comic issue.

    • Lilac

      But by admitting it's an issue, it means change can start somewhere. Why not here?

  • Daniel Schealler

    Initially, I was a bit impressed with Skyrim's depiction of women.

    Granted, it wasn't entirely perfect – the women warriors could have actually stood to look like warriors. Chicks can have biceps too.

    But on the whole it was a lot better than it could have been. I've been playing for a while, and haven't seen a single chainmail bikini or cleavage-platemail. As far as I know, the only armor that has a significantly different female model was was full plate steel (note I may have missed something).

    But then I started looking at the mods available online. *shudders*

    • Cheriphim

      Yes. Mods. *sigh*

      But, the thing with the mods–we can still use them as we want to, avoid the ones that are just not our style, and go crazy with adaptations of things we would have liked to see in the game itself.

      Double-edged sword, but Skyrim itself has tried to make some strides for mass-playability, and it has helped.

      All in all, I would much rather see MORE options, than fewer ones. There are billions of people and we should all have the gift of choosing for ourselves.

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  • firstly can I say, loved the article. As much as I would love to say that it's all up to us girls to show that we can handle ourselves, the sad truth is that we do also need guys like you helping to get our point across and getting people to treat us the same.

    Secondly I would also like to say that unfortunately we can't put all the blame at the feet of the geek guys (although I would put a lot of it there). As much as I hate to admit it there are games and character that I play/love because they are sexy. I love Lara Croft because hot and capable, I love the ladies of X-men because they're all incredibly powerful and good looking. I don't think that we'll ever get true equality, especially since Marvel is about to cancel their only two comics with female leads, but with writers like you out there maybe we can try and get closer to that.

  • TDK

    This is all a bunch of bullshit. MOST of my nerdy friends (all my friends are nerds because I am) are girls. We go to comic book stores and game shops and shit all the time and no one gives it the slightest second glance. Hell, Kati introduced ME to the comic book store. I quite literally only hang out with and around nerds and I have never witnessed anything like the aforementioned 'girl in the comic book store' scenario.

    Most of the dnd groups I've been in were at least half women and this was never relevant (in my opinion it actually improved the games because female players tend towards being more roleplaying oriented).

    Obviously male privilege in culture is a real thing, but you make it sound a hell of a lot worse than it is. When introduced to the new player in our dnd group I didn't think "Ooh, she's a girl, maybe I can bang her.", I thought "Finally, we'll have a cleric in the party." It isn't 'nerds' who meet someone and go "ooh she's a girl", its MORONS. To anyone who isn't a sexist moron, be they a nerd or not, people are people, not their genders.

    • Behemoth

      Anecdote=/=data. Your subjective experiences probably don't fit the majority, (even though they sound much preferable to the adverse!).

      As it is, a male nerd who has never hung out with girls or only hung out with some may have problems socialising, and given that on the whole nerd culture is oriented more towards male tastes, there are probably not many girls willing to participate, if they find themselves outnumbered and treated as inferior in some way.

      • Rictor

        You are right anecdote doesn't mean much, unfortunately this article is built around an anecdote and a cherry picked example.

    • TDK: I don't mean to demean your experiences, and I'm very glad that you've had some great experiences as a female nerd/geek. I have to wonder if it's a generational thing that's (hopefully) fading with time because as someone who's been proudly flying her geek flag since the mid to late 1990s, I've got to hear how much worse women had it in the 80s and have experienced how much better (but slowly!) things are for the female nerds and geeks of the 2000s.

      I've been the "girl in the comic book store" who got ill-timed compliments and flirtation when I was shopping for me and my boyfriend when he was at college. I've also been the person in the comic book store who struck up a real friendship with the manager when I had to sell many books out of my collection when the relationship ended. Things are changing, but it's happening ever so slowly. And if more articles like this aimed to help improve the subculture are helping this change take place, then more power to writers like the Doctor and others who have come before.

    • APStorm

      I will say that there’s a lack of objectification or such among the geek/nerd circles I keep, as well, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we are among a minority, as preferable as it may be.

      It helps that I grew up in a family of geeks. Both my parents are essentially geeks of an older order (Both watched and loved Star Trek, classic Doctor Who, and even went to see Alien with my baby eldest sister in their arms- she slept through it, mind you… and nowadays, my mother is persisting as a big Farscape fan, and both still watch newer shows like Eureka and Warehouse 13), and I have three older sisters who are all rather geeky to a degree. And they’ve made friends with many local, open-minded geeks of varying tastes.

      But I figure it’s best to play it safe and assume I’ve lived a privileged life in terms of inclusive social circles.

    • Tsozz

      Thank you, TDK, for negating the experiences of every woman in the comments here who has experienced the kind of harassment outlined in this article. I was just thinking that the one thing this article was really missing was a tool mansplaining how chicks don't actually have it as bad as they say they do. Thank you, TDK, for having the balls to be that tool.

    • Cheriphim

      "I thought “Finally, we’ll have a cleric in the party.” It isn’t ‘nerds’ who meet someone and go “ooh she’s a girl”, its MORONS. To anyone who isn’t a sexist moron, be they a nerd or not, people are people, not their genders."

      Yer, that's pretty much true.

      I will readily acknowledge that my "in person" role playing experiences have all been pretty awesome–night and day difference from my MMORPG ones (2001-2009). True, I can say with a degree of certainty that one member of our group in high school (1995) definitely toned his shit down when girls were playing. But everyone else I have hung out with, has been pretty awesome. This may be because I choose my friends carefully, or because I got lucky. I dunno. At first, I went to high school in a small town in Alaska…we had really only three types of kids: those who played MTG, D&D, etc, those who didn't, and the Christian group. Since having available people to play with was severely limited, that may have lent to the unspoken Play Nice Or You Will Be Banned From Awesomeness rule. And conversely, we couldn't really afford to be too choosy, so a lot of folks who were "D&D Curious" were encouraged to sit in and see if they liked it. As you said, “Finally, we’ll have a cleric in the party!”

      In adult years, we all tend to gravitate to those who we will vibe with, so… Self-correcting social issue for in-person? Definitely. But I'm still holding out on the online gaming issues, though, where anonymity lends itself to some pretty terrible behavior.

  • Pahyum

    I think the article has merit but the author uses terrible examples and arguments.
    Batman is not a good example of male privilege. Most of the explanations the author dismisses are well, actually the explanation.

    Now Bomb Queen, that is an example of male privilege. There are no excuses for Bomb Queen. The differences in the two media are vast and is easy to see.

    • Mel

      "Batman is not a good example of male privilege."

      You're kidding, right? Batman is white male privilege personified. Bruce Wayne's only superpower is having a shitload of money and access to the latest and greatest gadgets. And since he's a guy, he can get away with acting like a playboy to keep his identity safe. I dare you to look me in the eye and say that Bruce Wayne could still be the famous comic superhero if he was a person of colour, or a different gender, or from a poor family instead of a rich one.

      • Bradley

        Because the image of male as a stoic muscle-bound self made billionaire demi-god is totally not an unrealistic standard that men are held up to. I mean men are not defined and judged by society on the basis of looks, social status, and earning power, not at all. All men can aspire and realistically expect to achieve the lifestyle and image symbolized by Bruce Wayne.

  • Ama

    All I have to say is thank you.
    Wait no, one more thing… It makes me really sad that it takes a man saying this for people to pay attention. I have read this argument said by women so many times, only to have the response be angry bile. So, thank you and I hope someone listens to you and then starts listening to the girl gamers (and gamers who aren't straight white males).

    • Karis

      Amen to this

    • Sadiem

      Where's the "like" button?

    • Slingshot Girl

      Agreed 100% Ama. Thanks for reminding us of this.

    • Lem

      How true.

    • Kyle

      once an "us vs them" mentality starts its hard to get through to anyone at all if they consider you one of "them." it's easy for someone's defensiveness to turn them into an asshole if they feel their being attacked.

  • Zappa

    I am, generally, in complete agreement with this article. However, maybe, possibly, there isn't a double standard in female video game characters. After all, might a female gamer find hunked-out Batman to be sexy (and thus objectify him)?

    • Cat

      Batman isn't sexy (to me, anyway, being a woman, and only speaking for myself, not my entire gender) because he's "hunked-out" (by which I assume you mean is tall and has big muscles). Batman is sexy because he's fucking *Batman.* He's smart and mysterious, and he's got that brooding thing, and he's a total badass.

      Here's a contrast: Daryl on The Walking Dead (TV show), is kinda scrawny and not all that pleasant to look at, but there's something really hot about him being able to kill zombies with precision, take care of other people, and crawl out of a ravine with an arrow stuck through him. I actually refer to him as "redneck Batman."

      The thing is, trying to call the representations of male and female video game characters a "double standard" is pretty much impossible. The male characters aren't designed to be women's sexual fantasies; they're designed to be the fantasy version of what most guys would want to look like. Women aren't attracted to men the same way that men are attracted to women. Men are visual creatures; that's just how evolution worked out. Women look for more of a total package, and physical characteristics aren't as high on their list as they are on men's.

  • Yes, completely true that female characters are much, much more sexualized than male characters, in comics, games, and most areas of geekdom.
    Thus, yes, is a big strawmen saying "that men are objectified as well", and guys saying that are idiots. But so what?..

    First, it doesn't mean there is anything morally wrong with such comics, games, work of entertainment. Authors should have the "right" to target a specific audience, such as white male, or whatever.

    Second, whilst doing such audience focusing might indeed drive away female fans, it doesn't mean the alternative is viable – the alternative being, trying to cater to both audiences in the same thing – especially if the particular work is fairly cheesy, or heavy with fanservice. If you are not convinced, you can easily see this principle in action, just look at japanese graphic novels (manga). There is huge female audience for these, but the books targeted for them them are very different from the ones targeted for boys/males. They both belong to different genres (shoujo vs. shounen), with very little overlap between both. This is what you would get with western comics as well (if there was even that big of a market for females).

    • Cheriphim

      Its a catch-22: not enough variation to support a diversified market, and no market expansion because it isn't diverse enough already to lure them in.

      There have been–brief–examples of trying to sincerely cater to "the other side" but they have pretty much failed due to marketing faux pas. Or rather, lack of any marketing what-so-ever. If I didn't watch G4/read game informer shows/mags, I would never have known about Okami. It got EXCELLENT reviews. Yet it failed. Why? Because the kind of people they were developing it for don't sit around watching game review shows or reading gaming magazines, and it took too long for the game to catch on. Now its a hit, but the company went belly-up and sold-out long ago.

      People who get turned off by the bad press of uber-violent video games tend to be pleasantly surprised when they find out that alternatives exist. There just needs to be a better delivery system for introducing the media to the market; and TV ads are bloody expensive.

      Plus: Its frustrating when you finish a great game, and are then rewarded with poor options for further play, because you didn't discover it soon enough to keep the company afloat.

      To address the last point, yes, you absolutely CAN have a game that works for both genders: the trick is to not cater to *either* gender at all, but to just tell a good story, with excellent character development, amazing graphics, etc. Then make sure people KNOW it exists. There are little games out there like that, but none of the epic, high-press-release, pushed-pushed-pushed games. THOSE are all made for one audience, which is very biased, and it is the entire point of the topic.

      The reason why this is so hard to envision, is because we don't have any real world examples of it, either, right? We were once told to be divided, that boys wear blue and girls wear pink, and it was blasphemy to envision a world where anyone can choose for themselves. If you think times have changed, you would be correct…

      Except that comic books came into being while men and women still slept in separate beds, only coming together to fornicate, and that has held fairly consistent with most things in this genre.

  • Soronia

    Thanks, I really appreciated your post.

  • Jennifer

    I've been in the video game industry for 13 years, working in male dominated geek culture. I have been harassed, threatened and discriminated against. All because I'm a woman. In the end it hasn't gotten any better. Men still act like this, people still assume I'm just the wife and are surprised when I know something about video games. I love my industry and work hard to only hire individuals who do not display discrimination, but every once in a while male privilege just walks up and slaps me. Then I verbally roundhouse them and they learn quickly I don't take that crap.

    And gentlemen, I haven't been a 'girl' in twenty years. Please use the terms woman or lady. I call you man or gentleman then you should show me the exact same respect. Thank you!

    • Jennifer

      Oops, forgot one paragraph!

      Thanks for this article! It's great and I've sent it out to my friends and colleagues. Its entirely different when a person in the privileged category gets up and says, "enough is enough, time to change!" over someone who is in the have not category.

    • Lilac

      Yes, this. Referring to women as "girls" is yet another indication of privilege and power in our society.

      Nobody here is systematically referring to men as "boys."

      • good for invisible girl – mrs susan storm richards insisting on being called invisible woman. and being portrayed and the most powerful of all the FF…okay they had a good writer for all of ten minutes but it did some impact.

      • ShyGuy

        In the military the leaders have a habit of saying boys if men were the only one present. It pissed all of the men off.

  • Ashley

    This is not my best wording, but I hope you get the idea: As a female gamer/geek/nerd whatever label you'd like to give it, I appreciate this article greatly. We are different, I think, in what we take interest in from that realm. I like story, unfamiliar environments, character development and resolution. My boyfriend likes those things but is much more excited for interesting powers and action scenes. I have to say there is another swing to this. In many geeky realms, women have taken off small spinoffs/series, but unfortunately it's all female oriented humor/soft humanism(while not necessarily bad)/housewife jokes/and overall lacking in depth and struggle. I cannot express to you how many webcomics/comic conventions I have attended and even as a female I skim right over those female creations. Like I mentioned before, I am interested in psychology and character development primarily…not what is never in male comics. "Oh I've broke a nail" is not funny/sad to me. Girls, you have to step it up. Gender is an issue, but don't make it the subject. We need stories told from both perspectives without that overly feministic layer.

  • Steven Reed

    Hilarious article! So because comic books are highly sexualized, that explains why a bunch of horny 13 year olds on CoD demand sex from girl gamers? LOLOLOL

    • piny

      No–because comic books basically portray female characters as though they've just emerged from the supervillainess fetish party (like, srsly, what the fucking fuck was up with Poison Ivy's cooter-shaped dolma panties? I've seen spirit gummed costumes before, but that was pretty shocking), teenage fanboys grow up with a certain baseline amount of sexist objectification. Those beliefs get superimposed on actual women who later show up. It's more complicated than GIGO, but a genre that describes women as leather-clad matress kittens is not creating a culture that respects or welcomes women.

  • I haven't read the comments, and don't plan to, so forgive me if someone has already started this as a discussion point, but… I'm a female writer who has been active in multiple fandoms, mostly online communities and related activities, for the past 12 years or so. (Note: I am not a gamer, so…) And while I definitely see what you are pointing out in "mainstream" settings, I'm used to thinking of online fandom culture as predominantly–and very powerfully and empoweringly–female.

    Is there still such a huge and active gender gap between mainstream geek culture and online fandom?

    • C.D.

      Sarah: As someone who recently made the jump from online fandoms to gaming, the answer is a stunning and resounding YES. The sexism is astounding and something I never experienced in the other genres I was active in.

  • C.D.

    Wow, yet another fantastically insightful article! I'm so shocked that these things are finally being said by a straight white male. Thanks!

  • Vault101

    You know, I think everyone is kind of missing the bigger picture here. While it is perfectly ok for men and women to have similar interests, the fact still remains WE ARE DIFFERENT. Science had proven time and again that it isn't just physical appearance or genitals that separate the 2 sexes, but a host of things. Our brains are wired differently. Let's be honest, if games or comics started featuring men with their packages hanging out, most women would also probably consider that distasteful. We should embrace our differences, accept it and stop trying to turn everyone into vanilla PC sludge. I do agree that there are some specific franchises that exploit women, in general, sexy is good, whether it be male or female. Also, whining about it gets you nowhere. Just saying.

    • Lilac

      Really? So the fact that women are sexually assaulted more, have our sexuality used as insults, and are told that we're unwelcome in traditionally male spaces is us not "embracing our differences?"

      Ok, then.

      • Bradley

        What about that fact that males are disproportionately the victims of violent crime in general? Or the fact that males are disproportionately members of the prison population? Why when a man has a complaint about some wrong or injustice faced by some males we're told to shut up, quit our whining, man up, what a wuss, your problems are nothing compared to ours? Why is it fine for outsiders to encroach on our subcultures and interests,why can we be told that what we fantasize about, what entertains us, and how we behave and relate in our private spheres are wrong, that we need to modify our behaviors, our thoughts, our fantasies to conform to the standards of outsiders? I know for certain females resent males trying to assert themselves into traditionally female-dominated spheres and activities and dictate to women how they need to be. Seems a double standard is at work, one that is tilted in favor of females, so it's ok.

        • Tsozz

          >What about that fact that males are disproportionately the victims of violent crime in general?

          Also the perpetrators.

          >Or the fact that males are disproportionately members of the prison population?

          Also the ones committing the crimes. See how easy this is?

          >Why when a man has a complaint about some wrong or injustice faced by some males we’re told to shut up, quit our whining, man up, what a wuss

          You mean, to stop being a girl? Think about what you're saying here.

          >Why is it fine for outsiders to encroach on our subcultures and interests, why can we be told that what we fantasize about, what entertains us, and how we behave and relate in our private spheres are wrong, that we need to modify our behaviors, our thoughts, our fantasies to conform to the standards of outsiders?

          This isn't about what you do in your spare time. This is about when you take complete control of a system, refuse to allow minorities access, and present minorities in a really insulting light, for decades.

          >I know for certain females resent males trying to assert themselves into traditionally female-dominated spheres and activities and dictate to women how they need to be.

          Yes, and I know a cat that can use the toilet. The plural of anecdote is still not data.

          >Seems a double standard is at work, one that is tilted in favor of females, so it’s ok.

          What you are experiencing is not oppression. What you are experiencing is not being in control of everything. Welcome to a tiny taste of what the rest of the world experiences all the bloody time.

          • Titan

            Pardon the off topic post, this manly is a response to Tsozz and Bradley, but is direct at the theme of this article in itself.

            While agree and disagree with some of the things I've seen here, your logic has stood out the most to me Tsozz. You state your reasoning so matter-of-factly and It makes me wonder when the world became so black and white. I thought I would put in my 2 cents to assist you with realizing there's a bit of a gray area there. And for the record I am a half black man raised in a matriarchal household (Mother, grandmother, great grandmother) and it's shown me that women are equals to men, but it's foolish to then they're equal.superior in every way. Don't kill me just yet, because in the same sense it's just as foolish to view men as equal/superior to women in every way as well. I will touch on this after I touch on the points you mentioned.

            >What about that fact that males are disproportionately the victims of violent crime in general?

            >>Also the perpetrators.

            Also the majority of the public safety officials (police, fire fighters, soldiers) that keep people safe in the most hostile environments.

            >Or the fact that males are disproportionately members of the prison population?

            >>Also the ones committing the crimes. See how easy this is?

            Don't be so quick to jump to conclusions, there have been many people sent to prison who have later been proven innocent of their crimes. Also, men are far more likely to be sent to prison than women for being considered a threat to public safety (this is especially true for minority males). I was able to find 200 cases involving men who were wrongly convicted of crimes they didn't commit and sent to jail (a majority of these case, maybe 170-180 of them , where rape cases). The majority of this number where jailed for rapes they did not commit and in most cases on female witness testimony she was "sure" of (some of the reasoning was racial based, fabrication on the part of the victim, wearing similar clothing, and sometimes being in the wrong place at the wrong time, regardless of if you had a alibi or not) . 77% of the people on this list were convicted based (at least in part) on eye witness misidentification, and that almost half of those were cross racial (a Caucasian person incorrectly identifying a African American person). I also noticed that more than half of these men were convicted on fraudulent, unreliable, or limited forensic science. A quarter of the men were convicted under false confessions or admissions, and that a third of those who did where under the age of 18 and/or mentally disabled. Unless your a supporter of sending a man to jail on rape charges just because he's a man, then you're in the wrong because court systems works on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty, not he's guilty because someone has to pay. this is not only sexist way of thinking, in many of the cases the wrongful conviction make it so the true perpetrator cannot be brought to justice.

            >Why when a man has a complaint about some wrong or injustice faced by some males we’re told to shut up, quit our whining, man up, what a wuss

            >>You mean, to stop being a girl? Think about what you’re saying here.

            Actually in my field the term I hear is "don't be THAT guy".

            >Why is it fine for outsiders to encroach on our subcultures and interests, why can we be told that what we fantasize about, what entertains us, and how we behave and relate in our private spheres are wrong, that we need to modify our behaviors, our thoughts, our fantasies to conform to the standards of outsiders?

            >>This isn’t about what you do in your spare time. This is about when you take complete control of a system, refuse to allow minorities access, and present minorities in a really insulting light, for decades.

            Technically, you're talking about the entertainment industry (since I assume comics are a small part of it) and people usually utilize their hobbies in their free time (gaming, reading, drawing, etc). Also, men don't have complete control of the system technically since both men and women work in the comic industry and they undoubted cover a variety of races. And while I didn't keep up with many of the old school titles, the light you view the character in is all about the view point you have. You may think the character is insulting to you eyes, others may not feel the same way. For example, I don't believe showing imaginary women in peak physical condition to be anything degrading because they're dressed scandalously. Some people (men and women included) have the mindset that if you've got it flaunt it; look at models (male and female), women that participate in the Miss Universe contest, or even some athletes. And while I always hear the cry of sexism, I've still not seen many people actually come up with viable solutions. It reminds me any time African Americans get all hyper sensitive when a they see a African hero in comics eating chicken or drinking koolaid; I'm sorry to tell you but I'm black and black people (along with every other race out there) do just this, so why should it be offensive. Also, a previous comment I read on here wondered on why manga wasn't getting as much criticism in comparison since they usually portray much harsher stereotypes (busty blond bimbos for American girls and Aryan blond hair and blue eye white males, and my favorite large red lipped heavily muscled black men) because I believe these get out to just as many kids (or more) these days as comic books.

            >I know for certain females resent males trying to assert themselves into traditionally female-dominated spheres and activities and dictate to women how they need to be.

            >>Yes, and I know a cat that can use the toilet. The plural of anecdote is still not data.

            Actually his point it valid in a way, although in some cases it may not be women who resent him but the way he is view from a cultural standpoint. Usually it's seen as socially acceptable for a female to try out or follow masculine social norms, whereas if a male does the same for feminine social norms they often attract unwanted attention and are victims of ridicule, insult, harassment, and threatening behavior. For example, stay-at-home dads, men who want to be nannies or babysitters, men who cry or express emotions can all be treated poorly. How about men who wish to be nurses, beauticians, or work anywhere in the fashion industry (where by the cultural norm you're either going to be female or gay). the elementary school staff being dominated by women, meaning a lack of male role models for boys. The lack of advocacy for men's rights; little domestic abuse support for men (men are ridiculed for being not the social norm for a male). Or maybe the legal inequality and protections of paternal vs. maternal leave in most countries. I've seen all these topics brought up to various feminist forms and Bradley is correct that it was met with hostility in many cases (normally in the form of "why does it always only matter when it's a male issue" to "male issues don't matter to a women's group").

            >Seems a double standard is at work, one that is tilted in favor of females, so it’s ok.

            >>What you are experiencing is not oppression. What you are experiencing is not being in control of everything. Welcome to a tiny taste of what the rest of the world experiences all the bloody time.

            I'm sorry but what he is feeling is a form of oppression from a double standard, and just because you for some reason think it's deserved doesn't mean anyone should be put through it. I believe the double standard is the result of political correctness and affirmative action, and while both serve a roll it's not necessarily for the better. With both these things, both women and minority interests will be promoted above the interests of the white male majority in many cases. This itself though is a form of discrimination, since even when a white male may be the better candidate for a job based on education and experience, there's a chance he'll be passed over for someone less qualified under the pretense that because he's a white male he's obviously lived a privileged life and hasn't worked just as hard as you have to get where he is. How about some examples hmmm? Look at the harder physical entrance criteria for men in many occupations, such as the army, police and fire service; requiring men to be physically stronger than women in these occupations leaves men responsible for a greater share of the physical work for no more pay; and men are called up during a military draft.

            Since from your logic I assume you go along with the belief of rape culture (which I agree there is one but not for many of the reasons I've heard stated), how about violence against men minimalized or taken less seriously than violence against women otherwise completely ignored and it's been shown that women are more violent than men in some research studies asking both men and women. Depiction of violence against men as humorous, in the media and elsewhere (the CollegHumor “Brorape” sketch is a could example of this), when women are also violent. Assumption of female innocence or sympathy for women, which will always result in problems such as disproportionate penalties for men and women for similar crimes, lack of sympathy for male victims in domestic violence cases, and dismissal of female-on-male rape cases. Societal failure to address prison rape, including issues such as prevention (e.g., reducing prison crowding that requires sharing of cells), impunity for prison rapists, and even correctional staff punishing prisoners by confining them with known rapists (and it is logic such as yours Tsozz is the thinking that validates this kind of behavior). Prison rape is often used as a subject of humor in films (the second Harold and Kumar movie is an example). In American popular culture, sex between a boy coerced by an older woman is generally considered not to be a big deal or a fantasy- Time has remarked that it is "viewed with a wink"- even though this form of child molestation can have serious repercussions for the male victim, including clinical mental illness. A 1992 study found that boys are subject to the stereotype that they need significantly less protection against sexual abuse compared to girls. It also found that this leads to less reporting of abuse and to discrimination in which victims receive less treatment and less support from others if they are male. Controversy exists that laws that criminalize rape of men when perpetrated by women are not properly enforced. Research has shown that when men are raped (by either women or other men), the rapists will use their bodys' unconscious natural responses- erections, feelings of dizziness, ejaculation, etc- to make them think they "actually wanted it". Psychologist Helen Smith has written, "Our society [in the U.S.] shames men who are abused by women just as it shamed and blamed women who are abused by men. Neither strategy is a good one for a society that purports to promote justice and fairness."

            Need more information, here we go! Male Incarceration for not paying child support, particularly for unwanted children, in contrast to women's right to abort (while men have no say in the matter). Lack of legal ramifications or enforcement for paternity fraud. Men pay higher premiums for auto, life and disability insurance, though discrimination according to race or other criteria is prohibited. Rape shield laws, which may prevent some men from adequately challenging their accuser. Statutory rape laws enforced more vehemently in instances where the victim is female and/or the perpetrator is male (also the case in the male is a child himself). Biases in the justice system against men, such as higher incarceration rates and longer sentences for men (compared to women) for the same crimes. Legislation that addresses women's needs without considering the corresponding need in men (e.g., Women, Infants, and Children Act; Violence Against Women Act) . Discrimination with regard to child custody, unfairness in the way the alimony and child support systems are structured. Pregnancies carried to term despite agreements ahead of time that they would not be, subjecting men to unwanted parental responsibilities and/or child support expectations (Such as the Dubay vs. Wells case). The opposite of the last statement, where a man who wants to have a child has no say in whether his partner aborts their child and is not even notified if the abortion takes place. (see paternal rights and abortion). The list goes on.

            From what I can gather from your comment, you and to a lesser extent Lilac seem to have a very "all men are guilty" kind of feel, and I also get this from many feminists I speak with. I any of the descriptions I list about were (or are) being done to women, you would easily call the people out. But I've also seen that when it happens to men, you sit back and let it, smug in your ideology that because they are men they have done something to deserve this. That's why I essentially disagree with many from either the feminist or the masculinists movements; you fail to understand that equality isn't a one way street, and you can't pic and choice who gets what. If equal rights are going to be equal, then it applies to everyone and to do anything less would be sexist. At the point when true equality is had, hopefully people will begin to see that it's not who/what you are, but what you can do and what you bring to the table. At that point, I believe a lot of people will be in for a very rude awakening.

  • Michelle

    Yeah this has bothered me for a while. At least as far as geekyness goes. As an avid gamer and all-around nerd, it bothers me all the "good" women have their nipples showing through their superhero outfits in a lot of their cover art and the extremely rare women without massive breasts that would change the tide with their gravity are evil. Even in illustrations for Role playing books! I love these characters AND games, and I understand some of them are meant to be overly sexy as part of their character and story (like Poison Ivy, who I absolutely love), but it just chafes me the wrong way to see all the strong characters also have to be extraordinarily sexy.

    That said, I do get a lot of respect from my close gamer friends and don't feel like I'm treated an different around them, so I really appreciate those guys who take my opinion seriously and not as a token chick. As soon as I go to a convention, however, it's all out the window. I get interviewed for several people's web video series about whatever convention it is and ALWAYS have some sexual joke thrown at me.

    I spent a year planning a fully functional glow-in-the-dark zora divesuit costume (from legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess) and the first comments on the photos from people are "nice ass!"


    He's right, guys. if you want more nerd girls, stop making them feel objectified constantly. WE DON'T LIKE IT!

  • Bam

    It's exhausting to read this article. It's cliche to complain about it. It still bothers me all of the time. Is it cliche to feel annoyed? Can that be a cliche? I run into this behavior, I run into it every day. Not just video games or comics or what have you, but really, just about every aspect of my life. And people are bored of hearing the complaints. But the problem is, I am also bored of complaining about it. Is it possible to feel bored every single time someone says "get back in the kitchen" because, my dear friends, you are never, ever being "ironic" when you say it. That is not irony. If you had any idea, even the slightest, how many times I hear ridiculous misogyny spewed out "ironically", (what do you tell a women with two black eyes etc etc etc) well, you'd realize that it is simply not funny. It's BORING. I'm so BORED with everyone at my workplace taking every cheap opportunity to make a crack about a blowjob, my looks, etc. And then I don't even get to go home and play a videogame where the language varies.

    I hate this article because it's so familiar, because it has been said a million times before, and because it's not saying anything new. And no, sorry, Chell from Portal does not count as a strong female character. This should be on the bingo card, I have heard it so many times before. She is NOT a female – she is not even a CHARACTER. Just because you have an entity in a videogame that is not a prostitute does not mean that it somehow is equivalent to a game with a real female protagonist in it.

    I read this article's like probably every 3 months.

  • Gina

    In the last couple of years I have seen another aspect of the overly sexualization of female characters that I don't think is usually noticed. A couple of geek guys I know were somewhat under developed in their experiences with the opposite gender and it has really been a bad thing for the geek girls in their lives. Because they had booth babes/comic book women/game characters as their primary exposure to women, that is what they feel they should be attracted to and the only things worthwhile in a girlfriend.

    One is now married to a woman that shares so many of his interests and points of view but he almost blew it early on because he told her she didn't have the body type he was attracted to. He was a 40 yr old man who was surrounded by the sexy 16-18 yr old geek girls at conventions because he was safe. It feed into his idea on what women should look like and what he should be attracted to. He is so very lucky not to loose someone he is deeply in love with no over this flawed viewpoint he had and he is very happy with his wife. (Before getting together with her, he did admit that his relationship development had stalled out as a teen and he was probably at the equivalent of a 15 yr old).

    Another one has been single for many years and was just starting to warm up to a woman in his game group. But a babe that had was interested in something that is a big deal for him (slow food movement) showed up in his life and took an interest in him. He is a good looking guy and she has him wrapped around his finger. She is not a geek girl and got him doing things that he would not be willing to do if anyone else suggested it. His friends have watched his entire behavior change to match what she wants and believe that he finally hits the wall of not being able to maintain it any more, she will be happy to move one without him, hopefully with his as a sperm donor for a child she wants. He on the other hand, is very responsibility focused and would be devastated with that outcome. Not being part of what is going on, I can't say for sure, but from the outside it sure looks like he has not valued the geek girls in his life that share similar interests and values because he believes the hot babe is what women should be and will be paying for this idea very dearly.

    For the record, I have been a sexy geek girl and the drab geek girl at conventions. I don't have too much problem with the male privilege but that is more because I hang with a pretty enlighten group of people than the fact it doesn't exist. I think the way women are portrayed especially in geek venues is way over the top and the concept of male privileged should not be so threatening. I think having it as part of the conversation is a good idea. It exists and it causes problems. Personally, I appreciate some of the blocks to more people getting involved in geek life because I liked my little world of like-minded souls and geek has gotten so popular that I am no longer guaranteed those I meet at cons will fit well with me anymore. But I would be glad to sacrifice this for an improvement on the mental/emotional health of my geek society which is what I think opening a conversation on male privileged would do. Thank you for an article that does a good job of presenting a good introduction to this topic.

  • Aquackworth

    I kind of agree with Vault 101. Each sex is drawn to the fantasized (albeit unrealistic) qualities of the opposite sex. The geek/comic culture is a predominantly male run industry therefor it caters to the desires of males. I think a lot of the points you raise are totally valid but I think the same comparisons can be drawn from any romance novel or chick flick. Most books aimed at young women often have a serious amount of the harlequin romance in them (as do most of the chick flicks) Why? because as women we fantasize about the perfect romance, the perfect man, the perfect love… and for some it exists. Is it fair to men to be expected to live up to those standards though? of course not! We fantasize about men in just as much of an unrealistic way as you do about women. All men are not dashing creatures that will sweep us off our feet, filling us with angst ridden fights that will result in glorious make up sex. You will not automatically know what we are feeling, thinking blah blah blah.

    As we grow older we realize the difference between fantasy and reality, or if we don't then we probably spend the rest of our lives in a sad little lonely world. As a female who's been collecting comics for about 20 years, (I probably have a bigger Xmen collection than most 🙂 I definitely got stared at for being the only girl in the store. Maybe I was the "girl" for awhile but eventually I was a regular and treated just the same .. if not better by the staff. I was drawn to comics for my love of the art and the stories. It's a hobby and an interest and as long as people can keep perspective between fantasy and reality .. well, that's really all that matters.

    • Aquackworth

      I should also state that I'm not much on an online gamer so I can't really comment on how girls are treated in that realm . My only thought is that "noobdork13" would probably never treat poorly if I was sitting across the table from him …. the internet has bred a lack of accountability for our attitudes, words and actions .. and I don't know how you fix that..

      • Titan

        THIIIIIIIS!! Let me just say aqua you had an amazing post which summed up my feelings entirely, and in a much more classy manner I might add lol. Please tell me Deadpool is one of the comics you collect, cause at that point you are a badass in my book.

        I'm a half-Black/British (white) nerd and costumer myself and while it's not as bad for me personally (due to view point), you do run into a lot of racism and sexism within some of the fandoms. My particular fandom of choice is anime and comics/games (which the majority of my costumes are from) and happen to make many minority cosplayers friends throughout my con travels who find themselves in the same situation. You see a ton of stereotyping of blacks the same way you see the portrayal of women (especially in manga), and while some of it's flattering (in a sense) a majority of it is not. For example I dressed up as the Character Bob Macihara from Tenjho Tenge; and this guy ws like every stereotype put together about black people. The man was large and muscular, with dreads and big ol' red lips who practiced capoeria (this was a sexy fighting manga); he was also portrayed as a student with no job who lived off the money his his sexually promiscuous girlfriend brought in (she bought him 3 motorcycles cause they kept being destroyed for various reasons in the series). Another piece of back story is the they love to mention in the manga the stereotype of black……endowment and that in any case he's seen naked both men and women are shocked/impressed. So I dress up as this guy and my girlfriend (who was white and also a cosplayer) dressed up as the gf from the manga. Not 20 minutes into wandering around I find her storming away from a group of girls she was talking to. When I asked he was happened her replay was that she was getting criticized on the fact that she could do better and find a white or Asian guy. When she told them to go screw themselves, they then demanded to know if i was atomically correct for the character. examples like this show me that unlike many other fandom like gaming which is difficult to deal with due to the anonymity factor the internet gives, cosplaying/costuming seems to conflict more with a lot of people since it is based primarily on visuals and in certain cases conflicts with come peoples concept of beautify.

        For example, I created a mage Hawke costume (from the Dragon age 2 trailer, note before the game came out), and the costume came out to be movie quality and almost material accurate based on the trailer (cept for the metal armor pieces, which where shaped with resin and plastic). Also, keep in mind that Hawke (like male Shepard from Mass Effect) has a default look (which I did aim for in a sense), however you can technically choose any race and gender you wish (while staying human that is). While I received extremely positive critiques in person and ways to touch it up (since it was the first time wearing it, so you find what works and what doesn't) I never heard anything to my face about my race except from my friends who remarked that I looked much whiter than I normally would ( this would be attributed to me having a beard and shirt dark wig on , when I'm usually shaved in many cases a la Vin Diesel if you will) and comments about how huge I looked (6'8 with chain mail will do that). When these same pic's were uploaded, that was when you start seeing the negativity come out. While the female friend wasn't hit as hard, there where constant comments direct at my race being some kind of issue for the character. In essence while they didn't know was race I was (the main guess was Pakistani), the general consensus was I should stick away from white characters because I was not white.

        In many cases I've seen with minorities and costuming (in the anime fandom), if you're not either white or Asian (unless the character is an actually race outside of the two) then you're wrong. The only way around this said discrimination was (a) if you were a beautiful woman and/or (b) if you where an incredible prop designer (one of my friends is an incredible prop designer who happens to be black and she was actually told this exact phrase by the people criticizing her based on her race).

        Also, in support of Aqua's post there are many women who have fantasies and sexualize men just as much and based on equally ridiculous standards that some men hold women too. I also have my own question. I trained all year for dragoncon in order to be a Spartan from 300 (had professional props and everything); when I stepped out on the floor what do you suppose the reactions were? Men in general were like "craaaaap" (unless they were into fitness, in which case many of them came to chat with us at some point), we received a roar of approval and cat calls from a majority of the women (this was a first for me), and we had kids try and steal our shields. Did I find it sexist that women were looking at me like a piece of meat due to my attire (I have a brain!!), no! I had worked all year for this body, and if you work on a difficult goal would you not want to show off the results of your work. Should I have been insulted having to say "hey, my eyes are up here" on more that one occasion, also no. If you wear a costume, it's going to draw attention whether that was your intent or not. Now should I question how the ones got in my speedo after being bought drinks for part of the night, the answer to this would probably be a yes.

        (pardon my spelling if you would, I'm coming off an all nighter so I may not be all there when it comes to spelling).

  • Alex

    Forgive me for asking a stupid question but…

    What would it honestly take to end this kind of thing in geek culture? I don't care how outlandish or unlikely the answer is, I'm just curious.

    • Lilac

      Alex, it starts with reinforcement.

      Next time a guy close to you makes a joke that disparages women or turns rape into a casual subject, tell him it's not cool. It doesn't have to be a lecture, but even a "not funny, dude" can really start things moving. When men reinforce other men, the influence can be great.

      Also, look into things you say and do in your own life. Do you call women "girls?" As prevalent as the "girls" tag is here, it undermines our worth as people who have gone through puberty.

      Speak with your dollars. If you see a title that is incredibly unrealistic or sexist, don't buy it. Send a tweet or a quick e-mail to a corporation that is super sexist in their marketing.

      I know it SEEMS like a lot, but women out there are doing this every day, and having allies that support and encourage the fight for equality makes all the difference in the world.

      • Spot on. Individual responsibility is key: each of us has to choose to stand up against sexism, racism, etc. in gaming. Make it clear that -isms aren't a part of how you want to live your life.

        Then envision a better future where geeks of all kinds can be geeks together without fear or shame. What would that look like to you? Then just keep envisioning that better future every day and we'll get there soon enough.

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  • Kujaku

    As a geek girl, I couldn't agree more with you. I've met nerds and non-nerds, and their reactions have been essentially the same "oh so you're a nerd right? want to hang out dressed like Catwoman/Supergirl next Hallowe'en with us?"
    (it gets worse when I say that I like anime as well… I'll skip the endless fetishes.)

    Guys, WTF. If I ever got to dress up as a superhero, I'd take Jubilee in her earlier incarnations. When she wasn't suddenly turned into this ultra-femme sexy thing, when she wore sensible shoes, normal clothes, and kicked ass.

    Anyway, thanks for this little nod in our direction, I appreciate it. One day perhaps, the mindset will change.

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  • Also, and I don't want to sound rude, but I am highly critical of some of the things said in the last half of the article. Like:

    "And in doing so, they’re sending the message that women are only valued in geek culture if they’re willing to be a sexually alluring product."

    Oh my, this comment (and the ones before and after) are such a distortion of the situation! Is the value of a geek measured by how much attention one gets at a convention?? Are cosplayers (or artists, actors, or whatever) – regardless of being male or female – the only geeks that have "value" in the geek culture? That is kinda what you're implying, even if you might not realize it…

    "One of these is welcomed into geek culture with open arms, the other has to justify their existence in the first place"

    …I mean, the whole way you frame the issue in these comments is flawed to the core. Is one's worth to geek culture defined by how much accepted you are by others? Where does this fixation with general social acceptance and attention come from? Is this an American thing or what? I really don't get it. -_-'

    Yes, these females will get more attention because they are sexy as well as geeky. But that is not what defines the "geek culture" or the value thereof (again, I find this is framed in a flawed way). I don't think any guy would think any such women as more or less geeky than the girls in baseball tee, jeans. They might (they will, actually) think of them as more sexy than the other girls, yes. But that is a judgment of another *realm* (so to speak) of social interaction, not geekdom, and actually, guys (and girls) have all the right to do it: To think of someone as sexier, and accordingly, to direct more attention to that someone (btw, the girl is of course just as well entitled to reject such attention, for whatever reasons!). This is true outside of geek circles as well.

    The point is, you cannot control sexual attraction. And the attention that comes from it, it is not for you or anyone to regulate or dictate how much attention is given to others. It may make the other female geeks less happy, true, but that is life. I also get a bit unhappy when girls give much more attention to sexier guys than me (say, at a nightclub for example), but I don't blame them at all, they have all the right to do it. It doesn't mean it's someone's moral fault, or much less that you should institute some sort of Marxist Communism of equally spreading attention in geek circles, or whatever…

    • Michelle

      Wow. Way to call someone a Communist in true internet forum flame war style, dude.

      • The Communism reference wasn't meant as personal insult (outside of America, "Communist" isn't an automatic insult, like a dirty word or something… ). Rather it was an exaggeration of sorts, almost a joke.

        Anyways, I mean, my point was: if he thinks those situations in conventions are wrong – that the good-looking female geeks get most of the attention – what exactly does he suggest geeks do then? What is the alternative?… Is it that everyone in a convention (or other geek place like a comic or videogame store, etc.) should be treated as if we didn't know their gender and looks? (as if it was the internet?)

    • Shanel

      You my friend are seriously misled and have bought the hype. If you think that all of it isn’t valued by how it can bring in dollars you are highly mistaken. This is a consumer based society and this genre is catering to males under the principal that sex sells. The end. So yes. He is correct and you unfortunately are the weak link in this chain refusing to accept the reality of the situation therefore not contributing to its rectification. Please go think about your place in the universe and come back when you are able to play with other in the sand box. And really then the communist comment… yeah.. go think about your place in the universe come back when you’re ready to play in the sandbox with everyone else.

      You are doing something here called distracting and derailing. Which if I recall is mentioned in the article as well. If you don’t want to talk about what THIS article is talking STFU-go take a time out, think about your place in the universe and come back when you’re ready to play in the sandbox with everyone else. We’re trying to have a helpful conversation here. We don’t need yet more distractions and derailing.

  • Anne

    Nice article. Thank you, from the bottom of my geek-first-girl-second heart.

    Arkham's Harley broke my heart– they made her into everything Harley wasn't– overly sexualized for the male gaze, completely incompetent, and just… bad-looking. I don't even mean bad-looking as a judgment on the sexualization, but it was… artless. She's always been ditzy, but not stupid. When she was created in BtAS, she had her moments of overt sexuality, yes, but they were often goofy– and that's what made them work. And, she came closer to taking down the Bat than the Joker ever could. As much as I enjoyed Arkham Asylum for what it did right, this clown-whore isn't Harley Quinn.

    Arkham's portrayal of Ivy didn't bother me– not because I didn't see her as being overly sexualized, but because in comparison to the comics, her character hadn't been bastardized. For Poison Ivy, she was fairly conservative. Which is not to say a problem doesn't exist, of course, only to say in her case, the game wasn't making her into something she never was. (my feelings on Catwoman are somewhere between those two– Catwoman has always used sex appeal as a weapon, but how subject she is to the male gaze and the idea of 'a woman can be strong and sexy' as justification for impractical costuming has changed. Very old Catwoman wore a dress, not at all skin-tight, if not wholly practical. Sixties Catwoman had her catsuit, but not too much bare skin… in-name-only Catwoman had that slashed leather and no relation to the comics… Arkham City isn't *my* Catwoman, but she's not the worst offender to take that name, either… I'll have to get around to playing the game before I can really decide how I feel about her treatment in relation to the long legacy of Catwomen gone by)

    I will say, my local purveyors of geekery are great guys who have never pulled any of this stuff on me. Even when I'm in the game store with my brother, they ask me what they can help me with, and never steer me towards 'girl' games unless I ask first (my brother is just as likely as I am to go for the 'girl' games, actually, and my sister enjoys them, so I do sometimes ask, but the game store guys talk Zelda and Skyrim and Portal with me). And reading about other ladies' experiences really make me appreciate them. (Local comic book place is great, too– My MOTHER has bought more from them than I have… I go in for superhero stuff when I'm buying comics, she goes in for cute animals, and once in a while, Spiderman, but they never make assumptions when we go in about what we're there for. My dad was the big comic buying force in our lives, but my mom's become pretty game. More than comics, she tells stories about her girlhood devotion to Star Trek, and she loves seeing cosplayers, even for things she doesn't recognize, just for the pure fun of creative geekery)

    • Shanel

      Your mom is cool! Just wanted to say so 🙂

  • Mark Harder

    Batman's OK, but otherwise the games definitely need sexier guys. … or maybe more female cartoonist/designers with their own ideas about male visual appeal.

  • I loved this article. as a devoted comic book collector and gamer girl, i am ALWAYS pelted with this. it doesnt help that i have the idealistic comic book body type with big boobs, long legs, and a nice face. i always get stared at and ogled. and when i get chided at by geek guys when i turn them down (not cuz their geeks, but for whatever reason) i tell them, "hey, i look like poison ivy, why wouldnt i want a batman?" i see the way they turn their noses up at girl that dont fit that comic book look, deeming them unworthy. also, i hate when i am expected to be geeky and know all about nerd lore and play endless hours of Skyrim (XD) AND spend the usual 2-3 hours doing my hair, make-up, wear hot clothes, and walk around in heels to be acceptable, but geek guys dont understand that hot geek girls still want hoot geek guys who also take time to go the gym and shower.

  • Derrick

    Since this article is about gender i'd like to first point out i'm a male. I found your article very entertaining but sadly at its best (Raises flame shield). The issues you bring up regarding how women in our society are treated are more or less true but as a game producer (15 years) let me educate you on how very false you are about the gaming industry.

    Excercise 1: Take every video game you know that dresses female warriors in a chain mail bikini, then look at their production team. What you'll find is that they have a whole bunch of programmers and 3d artists with maybe 1 conceptual artist. A real AAA game or any piece of fictional entertainment requires so much more and this difference will result in no story line ( Strong character development male and female) and no solid character design ( 2 body archetypes Superman and Slut woman).

    The issue with females being overly sexualized in the entertainment industry, in my opinion, has a lot to do with the first issue i stated–weak story. Now I know many of you will throw the example of Batman Arkam city at me but i'll address that shortly. When you have a devastatingly boring and uneventful story, what happens is the characters will have little chance to prove their heroism, compassion, and intelligence. They by default are there for their looks. how can you make a smart medium breasted woman in a fantasy interesting if she has no opportunity to save the world. Samus Aran is a great example of this past, present, and probably future. The very first Metroid Prime Hunters features a strong woman in sleek but heavy armor saving the galaxy and kicking some serious alien ass. I thought she was totally awesome and at no moment did i wander how amazing of a sammich this already amazing woman would make (flame shield). This brings me to the second fundamental of story telling that seems to work against women. The main character needs to be one of the most interesting characters; its almost a law. With this in mind we are inclined to ask ourselves what makes a character interesting. But before we can answer that we need to ask what makes characters different from each other and even more paramount, what makes a character not interesting. The way to make somebody not interesting is to not let them save the world, to not let them have opinions and to be totally and utterly useless. But wait, rule number 3 of story telling, all characters are required to be appealing. This works heavily against women and at the cost of my greatest sympathy.

    Going back to the topic of Batman Arkam city, i think your missing the bigger picture. Arkam city is plagued with drugs, gangs, and crazy maniacs. I think the theme is very fitting with slutty women as well. And again no you cant compare batman to those women because he is the main character and the story is about him. Only he is allowed to have feelings, intelligence, and moral motives. It is required that he kicks more ass than any other person in that city. While it's not ok to objectify women, Catwomen wasn't designed to do that. I don't think its very fair for niche subgroups of women (nerd) to hide behind all women when it helps them. Catwoman has a very define character archetype. She deceives people with her looks to get what she wants. Is this the only thing women are capable of doing; no way. Is this suggesting that women are are like this; not a chance. Is this objectifying women; no and i'll explain why. Catwoman can drop kick Jet-lee to the moon but what's the point of being batman if Catwoman kicks as much ass whenever she wants to? She needs to be inferior in some sense not because of her gender but because she is not the main superhero. The only solution to this problem is to make more female leads that kick ass or else they just wont be interesting. What a woman lacks in the world saving, villain ass kicking department unfortunately, she will have to compensate to retain appeal because remember fiction is a place to fantasize and go beyond reality and not being appealing is a criminal offense punishable by no fans and no sales even from you.

    Ecercise 2: This will take some brain power but i believe in you. Sexy =/= appeal and attractiveness and it's actually used as a standard for average in the fictional realm. And a character worth a grain of salt in fiction needs to be extraordinary otherwise they will default to average. What i sense in your anger, as anyone should be and correct me if i'm wrong, is the two most bothersome components of the objectification is that it 1). works as a repellent for other women into the subculture of comics and video gaming and 2). limits the meaning of what being a real woman is all about. I'm detecting that women on this forum enjoy being a woman so i can rule out insecurities. My only other logical conclusion is that this objectification, even though it gives them more attention at the comic book store, is making them feel less of a woman. If these are true i'm truly sorry and I hope you should know at the very least one man on this earth can guesstimate how much that sucks. Selfishly I enjoy this objectification (flame shield); it makes being a sensible guy that much easier. Real women tend to have a very impressive jerk radar. I have a million more pages to say about the gaming industry and story telling but i'll save that for a reply.

  • Areti17

    I saw a link to your article from twitter today, so I've come into this discussion a bit late. But I wanted to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your willingness to discuss this issue. And the treatment you gave it in this article was fantastic.

    You mentioned how this plays into gamer circles, but context made it seem as though you were referring to only video games. I like comics and video games, but my main geeky activity is tabletop gaming. Sometimes I think the male privilege found throughout the wider geek culture is worsened by the fact that tabletop gaming REQUIRES interaction, and usually for long periods of time. I am constantly talked down to, belittled, or treated like I don't know anything just because I am female. And I can't end the conversations because I am in the middle of a tournament, or its a bystander to a game with a friend. This is also how I'm treated when I actually act like I know what's going on. If I pretend I have no idea what I'm doing (and I've done it to prove this point), I get treated much better. Rather than being talked down to, the guys are suddenly there to be helpful and nice.

    The entire discussion of female characters being overly sexual also applies to the tabletop gaming world. There are very few games that feature female characters that are not large breasted, scantily clad, or doing something suggestive with a phallic object. There are games with model lines that feature (anatomically correct) nearly naked women. I refuse to buy those specific models, and I won't even play the games with the most offensive models lines.

    Thank you again for this article. I'm going to start following your blog, and hope to see more great posts like this.

  • Alex

    It makes me wonder if every nerd woman looks at nerd man and automaticlly assumes that they see them as a sex object. A lot of girl that have caught me with a comic or game in my hand has assumed that I was some kind of pig. I recognize these are just bad experiences, but what is going through a woman's mind when she's thinking the guy could be sexist.

    • Katherine

      Alex, this may not have been your exact question, but it may address some of your concerns about approaching women you don't know in public:

      From what I've seen of your comments here, you're starting to recognize the problem and wanting to learn how to change your behavior. That's where everyone has to start when confronting their own privilege.

  • Heather

    Excellent article! So on point in so many ways. I've been closeted about my nerddom since childhood because, as a minority and a girl, I was just so darn embarrassed to be drawn to a sub-culture that masquerades as inclusive when in actuality it is very aggressively exclusionary. Hell hath no fury like a nerd that's been gently asked to consider a perspective outside of his own. I all but defected after reading some comments in response to Miles Morales, the Black/hispanic Spiderman in an ALTERNATIVE universe. I thought there'd be rampant acts of domestic terrorism. Things got down right hostile, which I'll never understand because in the regular Marvel Universe Peter Parker is still thriving, white skin and penis still intact. Imagine the response if Spidey was made…(gasp) female?!
    Again, wonderful article, my faith is slowing being restored.

  • Westin

    I applaud you for taking on male privilege from the geek perspective. I think a lot of geek guys simply don't appreciate how heavily the industry caters to them. I grew up as hardcore a geek as anyone, and have always found geek socializing and courtship fascinating.

    I want to contribute two very important elements I think were not acknowledged in your article, and which I feel are extremely important to the issue you are discussing: nerd social skills and nerd demographics

    Rude dude in your comic store that scared away your girlfriend was likely hopelessly socially awkward. I don't think it justifies his actions, but it bears pointing out because I think much of poor nerd behavior can be pinned on insecurity and/or awkwardness. These elements of geekdom are just as endemic as the boy's club attitude you're calling out. I would argue that they're connected, even, that someone who is insecure and socially awkward would absolutely rush to defend his club. Again, it doesn't justify the actions, but if we're taking on The Way Things Are in geekdom, let's make sure we make that part of the conversation.

    The second element I want to contribute is that, last I checked, hardcore gamers and comic readers (as well as the teams that make both) are largely male (and white). It's totally reasonable to argue for better representation of women (and minorities) in these media. But before we break out the pitchforks and torches, let's all stand back and acknowledge that economics is a big, BIG factor on this stuff. It reminds me of the endless (sweet lord, ENDLESS) content online complaining about how WHY DOESN'T HOLLYWOOD PLEASE GOD STOP MAKING SEQUELS IT'S SO TERRIBLE! Well, frankly, they made some goddam excellent original movies in the last few years and no one went to go see them. This content continues to sell to its target audience, and the sexist stuff in it keeps going because we're voting with our wallets. You could argue 'who cares if a girl doesn't like Arkham City?' and I would be forced to agree with you, at least from an economic standpoint. Arkham City's target demographic is not women.

    If we really want to change things, if we really want to make a world of geekdom that is open to all, let us continue to support the creation of GREAT content by and for people other than caucasian males. And let's also continue to encourage cleavage-staring geekpervs everywhere to better themselves, and take responsibility for the impact they are having on others. People that are happy and confident are much less likely to be obnoxious dicks, because they know the things they like don't define them, and also that there's more to life than 'being right'.

    Imagine if your mouth breather buddy had, instead of acting defensive and sexist to your lady, had said something like 'it's true, they're pretty much naked, but there's stuff that's much more respectful to women' and pointed her to a Hope Larson book or, I don't know, Y: the Last Man (is that book considered respectful to women?). A world where geek guys are gentlemen, one and all, sounds great to me. Sippin' scotch and reading Runaways…

  • Sarah

    I feel the need, as a girl gamer with lots of guy gamers for friend (and one as a boyfriend), to point out that there are plenty of gamer guys that thing the sexist standards for females in games is ridiculous. The boob-ogling guys at the comic stores unfortunately tend to represent guy gamers, but I know a slew of gamer dudes that get pretty offended by the ways that women are represented. For example, I remember playing Soul Calibur with a guy friend once. I was playing as Ivy, possibly the most obvious example of a sexist character. Him: "How can you, of all people, enjoy playing a character like that?" He totally called me out — and my lame response of "but it took me FOREVER to learn to use the whip!" just didn't stand up. 🙂 Much love to my intelligent, equality-minded gamer brothers!

  • The book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks takes a very intelligent look at this kind of discrimination (outside the gaming world) for anyone interested in the topic.

  • CyberCommando

    I think that the act of controlling a player character that is female might be inherently sexual to alot of guys, especially those who feel that they have often had their hearts broken by the opposite gender.

  • Alex

    Question for the ladies;

    Do you automaticly assume that all geek men are objectifying them or are you just prepared for them to do it?

    I know everyone is going to have their own answer, but I'm just curious.

    • piny

      Why would any answer be specific to geek men? What would make geek men different from all other men?

      Personally, I don't expect all men to be jerks. I do know, however, that some men are jerks, and that I usually don't know which men are going to suddenly morph into Creepy Guy, Scary Guy, or Guy Who Just Said Some Truly Sexist Shit. So I kind of have to wait and feel my way through. If I have a litmus test, it's not coming on too strong: guys who don't give me the chance to say yes get shut down early.

    • Not immediately. But I can usually tell pretty early in a conversation if a guy is talking to me because I'm potential sex to him, or because he's actually interested in the conversation.

  • Matt

    I'm surprised that nobody mentioned Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2.

    I've always felt that she was a great example of a how to do a female character in a game. She's cute, but it's not anything over-the-top, she's intelligent (granted, ALL of the characters are scientists in that game), she's VERY reasonably dressed, and she's one of the game's major characters.

    Heck, Even Judith Mossman (HL2 again) is a decent example – although she isn't as major of a character.

    Zoey from Left 4 Dead is also a good example.

  • Gracie

    I just saw the 99 Problems Battlefield 3 trailer (late to the party, I know. I don't care for FPSs) and… made me think of this article =____= GEE I WONDER why no girl wants to play games like that.

  • I can buy this whole argument but the problem is its just that, an argument. It explains how men use male priviledge but it doesn't say anythign about how women use female prerogative. The truth is while some women don't want to be treated differently really what that often means is they don't want to be treated differently in any way excepot the ways they want to. ie; "I want you to treat me like one of your buddies," (but I don't want you to sop opening the door for me.) or "Treat me just like you would any other guy," (but if you greet me with hey, how you been you old cock-knocker I'll probably sue.) or "just think of me as one of the guys" (but don't ask me about sports or video games or racecars or anything even remotely "Guy" oriented).

    • Fail

    • Kyle

      cause that's more a problem you need to work out between you and your girlfriend and not an big societal issue

  • Kat

    I started playing D&D back in 1979 and this has always been a problem. Just try to find a figure that wasn't overly endowed. OMG even the dwarves in full armor had huge boobs. We had a huge problem when a bunch of us started playing in the regular Friday night game at our local gaming store. We were invited to play by a very open minded DM and we were a group of 5 lesbians. This pissed off the local boys because we were not only girls, (ooh, ick, nasty girls) but we weren't available to them in even fantasy form. This was not helped by the fact that the only straight woman at the table decided to come out. The fact that we could get the girl and they couldn't made our playing days numbered because every time we played after that some one tried to kill our characters in their sleep. We started a private game after that.

  • Lem

    Thank you for posting this 🙂 it's good to know we have support from different people. Hopefully after seeing your article, some people will finally start to understand how it can sometimes feel to be alienated from geek-dom because of your gender.

  • Kristy

    Thank you!

    Until they turned it off, I'd been beta testing SWTOR since October.

    As as tester, I posted a suggestion on the tester forums.

    73 of the 75 replies were questioning if I was really a female as I claimed in my post, or if I was male pretending to be female.

    The group decided I was male.

    To say I was frustrated, would be an understatement.

    Two people actually heard what I said and responded on the subject. A discussion and decision on my gender was the primary topic. I wish all 73 of those posters would read this.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      1) Well, I wouldn't say no to sharing the article in the SWTOR forums, perhaps with a little about your experiences.

      2) Coincidentally, a friend of mine is an artist on TOR, so… Yeah, small world.

      • Kristy

        Thank you – I would have had they not erased all our forums as of a couple days ago. I believe they'll open fresh forums beginning tomorrow. I'm sure I'll find opportunity to share then!

        As for your friend – tell him/her "well done!" It's, without a doubt, a work of art. I work as a contractor for a federal space agency, which shall remain nameless, and the excitement surrounding this game rivals the launch of our next rocket.

  • Alex

    This is a great article. One of the reasons that I have felt weird about playing females in video games is because they're usually so hypersexualized. One of the exceptions is Nariko from Heavenly Sword – she's sexy alright but her sexuality is not a focus. Her terrifying will, awesome fighting skills, and deep character are, as well as her fucking scary red hair.

    Still, thank you for talking about this.

  • Tasha

    I fully commend this article. I'm a female who is heavily involved in the comic book and eSports culture and I experience some of the points discussed on multiple occasions.

    For the past two months, I've been in a couple of tournaments (both local tournaments and online) for Starcraft 2 and I'm amazed by the response I get. Now, the majority of people I end up talking to are great and very friendly, if a little bit over-friendly at times. But no matter what, I'm treated differently. From being hit on by my opponents ("I saw you from across the room and was hoping you might play with me") to the typical online response of "are you a real girl?" when I play online.

    Now, I do get special treatment and I'm not going to say it isn't nice sometimes. I get a large number of people wanting to help me practice and I've definitely noticed that some people purposefully throw off their game so that they won't "roflstomp a girl gamer" as one opponent said. But I do have to admit that I would love to just be treated like one of the guys. I don't enjoy going to a tournament and having all eyes on me to see how I do. It's especially horrible when I don't do well, which, since I'm new to the game, is understandable but it seems to be expected. It's also not pleasant to be called "milady" and other terms of endearment in every one of my games if they find out I'm a female. It went to a new level when our local electronic gaming club was featured in a newspaper for which I gave an interview and the author made me look like I was a novice who knew nothing about gaming. The male in the article was given a number of decent quotes but what I said was reduced to "she said she likes the big guns" and completely eliminated my quotes about platformers and the future of the culture. And that's not abnormal for me.

    I agree with the sentiment of egalitarianism. I'm a girl, yes, but first and foremost at the events, I'm a member of the community. And that should be respected.

  • I'm a sci fi author. I have an ebook coming out in 2013 under the name J M Filipowicz. Guesses as to why I went by my initials? It was a hard choice because I'm proud of who I am and I don't want to hide the fact that I'm a woman. At the same time I know that a large portion my audience wouldn't buy my book and wouldn't take me seriously as a novelist if it was obvious that I was female.

    I've loved SF since I was a kid, but even back then I saw the inequality. Fewer female characters than male. And women are far more sexualized than men.

    Great post. BTW.

  • jshapiro

    It's spelled "insistence," not "insistance." "It's" gets an apostrophe when it is short for "it is." Go back through your article and every time you see "it's" replace it in your mind with "it is," and if it sounds wrong, take away the apostrophe.

    This was a solid post on a good topic. I nitpick only in the hopes of strengthening your tone and thus your arguments. If this were a wiki I'd happily just make the edits myself.

  • RG

    I feel I have to quote this:

    "They will find one girl in their immediate community who will say that she’s not offended and use her as the 'proof' that nobody else is ALLOWED to be offended."

    This is so true in so many different contexts as well. In fact, the whole article is. I just wish more people realized this :P. Thanks for writing it!

  • JemyM

    I am a queer feminist. This response will deal with male stereotypes and male gender. If you respond to it by saying "what about the women" you dodge a vital part of the issue and that might be the problem. To work with these issues you have to understand psychology and gender and you can't pick one as they both work the same way.

    I study child psychology at the moment, including teenager psychology. Gender stereotypes is something I work with alot. I know what exaggerated bodies do to people and who falls victims for it. The first person to fall victim for these images aren't the girls and that's something you wish to think about. But before I go into the victims, let me begin by speaking about the "male privilege".

    The first headshot in the debate about "male privilege" is that it's based on confirmation bias. I started to call this way of presenting an issue as the "True American Eat Carrots" presentation.

    Given time I can easily find 10 photographs of Americans eating carrots. Given more time I can find 100 and maybe 1000. For most people a controversial issue only require 5-10 examples and people begin to nod, now imagine if I show 1000 thousand photographs and testimonies of "True American Eating Carrots" and when you reject my evidence with counter examples I will call your examples exceptions to the rule.

    It's a simple reality that given time and a population large enough pretty much everything can be proven this way and this is how most prejudices spawn.

    Now let's talk about the rejection "men are just as exaggerated". You meet this point with continuing to argue about the women and thus ignore half of the issue. Maybe "men are just as exaggerated" isn't an excuse, rather it's a confirmation that perhaps just maybe shit's a little fucked up, yo. Let me show you a photograph with Gi-Joe that makes the point;

    Now let's speak about victims. Nerds are pumped with the message that they are inferior throughout their entire lives but such is the male gender that you are not allowed to complain, you are to suck up else you face even more oppression. What happens when you can't take it anymore? You turtle or you take out your revenge on someone else, such as the women.

    I have the data right here. The boys inferiority complex in general are spiking, their level of anxiousness and depression as well as their dissatisfaction about looks and their bodies are also going up.

    I begun by speaking about confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a such that we begin with a proposition and then we prove it by looking for things that prove our point rather than disprove our point. By swapping proposition something else might be found. I'd like to suggest to you another proposition to think about and see how deep the rabbit hole goes;

    The least privileged in our culture are the nerds.

    What does all of this mean to you?

    A good comparision to nerd culture is S.C.U.M. manifesto, which is what happens if a person takes too much oppression.

    If you told a radical feminist "women are privilegied since they do not need to work" it will be taken as an insult, just like telling a male nerd that he have a privilegie. Because the failure to adapt to the norm often lead to a tremendous amount of physical and mental pain that person have to endure as a result is devastating to most. Nerd culture which you describe at the end is a rejection to the oppression they felt throughout their lives. All you do in your post is to blame the rejection, just as S.C.U.M. was blamed rather than it's author understood.

    If you wish to deal with nerd culture, begin to work with false norms for men and the bullying.

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  • Katie

    Here's the thing: it seems like this idealized geek girl came about because of the same mechanism on the flipside of the coin: geek guys who allow their geekiness completely define who they are. It's pretty typical when we're young to say, "I belong to this group and that is who I am." Then you go about looking for people–in romance and otherwise–who are perfect companions. Those who share your ideas and live up to all of your expectations. As you get older you realize that they don't exist, and really, the thing you thought defined you completely doesn't really. If you haven't realized this yet, whatever your thing is, you're destined for disappointment. Geek guys need to treat themselves like real people. Then maybe they can treat geek girls as such.

    I'm happy to be a sexy, smart geek girl. And sometimes I am That Sexy Geek Girl. I'll admit–my boyfriend and I met when we won first and second place, respectively, in a Joss Whedon costume contest. I'm sure I inspired some fantasies by dancing as River Tam on stage, but I've studied ballet for 25 years and hell, THAT WAS FUN, and I'm a dancer as much as I'm a geek. It's what happens after that initial, "WOW THAT GIRL WAS AN AWESOME RIVER TAM." Does he like that I know more Star Trek trivia than he does? Does he enjoy trying out adventurous food with me? Can we go camping and hiking together? Does he have a strong sense of who he is that includes things aside from…geek?

  • Kris

    The term "privilege" as used in this context comes, if I am not mistaken, from postmodernist / critical theory crap i.e. the same people who brought us LOLcows like "Newton's rape manual". Why should anyone take it seriously?

  • Kitti

    Marry me?

    Seriously, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, and also, THANK YOU.

    I am a geek. As a kid, I wanted to be a 1) space pilot and 2) have super powers, and 3) learn martial arts. I wanted to fight Darth Vader and make him cry. I fell headfirst into Narnia, and crawled out only to find myself in Middle Earth.

    For Christmas every year, I was given baby dolls, jewelry making kits and cutesy board games. I threw the baby doll out a window on a makeshift parachute, giving my sister a heart attack in the process. The doll's only other use was that, being plastic, it floated and could double as a raft for Luke Skywalker in the bathtub. I had to beg for years before my dad got me a glider/airplane that had a giant rubber band wind up.

    And a remote control car. I wanted one. All the boys had remote control cars. I also wanted a remote control helicopter, but my parents completely balked on that one. I finally did get a remote control car, but my niece stepped on it about 20 minutes after the batteries were first put in. It never ran straight after that.

    Wait – I have a job. I could get myself a remote control car, now. Oooo…

    • Kitti

      Ok, the remote control car thing distracted me.

      So, as much as I would like to feel at home at science fiction conventions, I do not. Sometimes they wind up feeling a lot like 4th grade, when I discovered my intense love of the sciences but found that all my questions and excitement either got ignored or laughed at. It can be suck.

      BUT – you fight for what you want, right? So, I go to conventions sometimes, and I talk about things that interest me, and buy books, wear super costumes, and allow myself to geek out.

    • My adulthood has been spent getting the toys being a girl deprived me. I now have a TARDIS playset in which Batman, a random Jedi, and various My Little Ponies use to go on adventures with the Doctor and a plushy Dalek. It's beautiful and nothing hurts.

  • Kris

    Also, Wesnoth typically has realistic portrayals of women (and men). Ex:

    As far as literature goes, Wheel of Time has a lot of sympathetic, competent women in major roles.

    Here's the solution to your problems: avoid shitty media.

    • Kris

      ps your portrayal of Batman among many, many other comic book heroes represents an unrealistic and generally unattainable idea of the male physique but I noticed that in your confirmation biasing way you failed to point that out. But that's besides the point because the Batman franchise, with the possible exception of The Dark Knight, is shit.

    • Lisa68

      OT, but…can you give me some examples of these "sympathetic, competent women" in Wheel of Time? I've seen this assertion over and over and over again, and I didn't find a single female character in WoT that didn't make me stabby. (In fairness, the male characters mostly made me stabby, too. I pretty much wanted the Dark Lord, or whatever he was called, to escape and kill everybody, just to end it. I never did finish the series.) They were, for the most part, bitchy, backbiting, namecalling, manipulative, and just plain annoying. I can't blame them for the tedious and inane braid tugging and skirt smoothing, but they were just a load of really, really annoying characters. Going around talking to every male in earshot as though they're toddlers really doesn't mean you're a strong woman, yk?

  • Hibernia86

    I agree that all women characters in comics shouldn't be known only for their sexuality. And I agree with a lot of the other things you say.

    I have to disagree with one thing, though: "if he fails at a job, it’s not going to be extrapolated that all men are unfit for that job."

    That isn't true nowadays. It is not uncommon to, when a guy does something bad, it is not uncommon to hear people say about how that stuff would never happen if a woman was in that job. Take the Congressmen Wiener scandal: People started to talk about getting more women in Congress not just to increase women's representation but because they thought that women would be better at the job. Never mind that there are plenty of male Congressmen who don't cheat on their wives and plenty of wives who cheat on their husbands (I've seen estimates of 40% of wives cheating vs 60% of husbands. They are catching up).

    I don't think that we should be judging people by their gender. That goes for congressmen too.

  • Thanks for such a great article!

  • Ezekiel Smithburg

    What about the suggested explanations in this article? They seem a lot more reasonable. To be clear, though, I don't say there's no problem; there clearly is. I'm just not sure it's a matter of the privileged being afraid. I think it's people just being people, and that yes, we still need to fix it.

  • Bumwine

    I agree with this article on all points, but on the same coin, search geek girls on tumblr. What's with all these girls flashing their boobs on their blogs? Same with all the slash fan girls are known to do. I'm sure it can all be written off with some trivial bs, but in the end, enough women do play into these issues on their own.

  • Kosmo

    Also, if you're a guy and you come top of the leader board … no one is going to be shocked/amazed/accuse you of cheating.

  • Kris

    Why won't anyone address my comment about postmodernism?

    • BirdOfParadise

      Because if postmodernism were any good, people would have read it and attack/defend. But it's not, so no one knows what you are talking about.

  • This. Yes.

    I can't tell you how many times I've been chased out of the sci-fi/fantasy section of bookstores by creepers staring at me. Thank you for writing this.

  • I am encouraged to see a post like this written by a male nerd who has a solid grasp on what women are talking about, when we throw around words like "male gaze" and "male privelage," and seems to sympathize with us, and not dismiss us. I hope other men will read this and it will get some gears turning in heads, and fandom can be a happier place for women. I have had NUMEROUS really bad and sometimes threatening experiences in comics and media fandom. They were real experiences…they weren't me being overreactive. I was dismissed because I have boobs. I wanted to sell a #1, and a dealer at a con listened to my questions and answered my friend who was male instead of talking directly to me. I've had all KINDS of experiences like this. When I post on comic/scifi fandom forums, I use a unisex username to engage in serious discussions, because I don't want to be dismissed for being a girl. I have another username for when I want giggle about how Tony Stark and Steve Rogers need to just bang and get it over with already.

    I've also been dismissed by men when I explain my experiences. I'm told I'm thinking about it wrong, or taking it the wrong way, because they didn't "mean" it to be that way (as if INTENT changed OUTCOME). And when that didn't shut me up, I was told that my opinion didn't count because I was not bangable, and I was probably a single lesbian (I'm not single, not that it matters, and my sexuality is not their business, cos I wouldn't do the little F***** in the first place, even if I were single). Women exist in fandom to be whatever guys want them to be. A nerdy friend, a hot booth babe, a sexy cosplayer… not as actual human beings with feelings, wants and desires, and our own reasons for being in fandom that seldom involve a guy's feelings/wants/desires.

    Many of the very vocal voices in male fandom do not understand that they world does not revolve around them, and their wants and desires. I know that's why they get angry about "inclusiveness" and people who are not like them invading the clubhouse. Because fandom, and possibly the world, will be just a little bit less entirely about them and what they want in a story, and what they think is hot, or what they feel the purpose of women in a story, or fandom, should be about. These are the guys who take it personally if we don't like them, or just don't want to be friends with them. Then they get angry and call us names. There're plenty of women who are OK, but I don't want to hang out with. It doesn't mean I hate women, either. But these guys go from fawning all over us to angry and calling us names that start at "bitch" and go to worse… and display behavior that is downright THREATENING, all because WE weren't who they wanted us to be, in relation to them. Because women should only exist for men, and behave in ways that men want, at any given moment, be it virgin or whore.

    I'm glad this post is causing some people to think. I'm sad, however, that a lot of people will only read it and understand it because it was written by a man. ALL of these things have been expressed just as articulately by female fans for YEARS, but we're just the "stupid angry bitch dyke lesbians who hate men" that haunt the internet, and your dreams. Why is the message suddenly worth listening to, once it comes out of a male mouth? And I do not say this in any way to denigrate the author…but the people who suddenly find this message palatable because it's not being told to them by an overly emotional bitch of a woman who has come to ruin their fandom fun. I hope some day these guys will listen to a woman's feelings or concerns and take them seriously, instead of dismissing us and explaining in elaborate detail just why we are wrong.

    • Kris

      It would be nice if you had collected some statistics in a systematic manner on your grievances instead of anecdotes but fuck that, right?

      • k

        So because people are not government funded sociologist study groups taking down data, incidents they report do not matter?

        • Kris

          In the scheme of things, nah not really.

          • I have friends who DO do fandom studies, and ARE involved in studies like this, but they take years to compile and do. Several are working on PhDs. But I think it is TOTALLY AWESOME that you can ignore my opinions and experiences because I don't have "hard facts." Where are your hard facts and statistics that say I am wrong? Why am I wrong, until I am proven right? That is some pretty strong evidence for male privilege right there, buddy–the world is how you say it is until you are proven otherwise. That's also a very white/western privilege–the belief that those who are marginalized or oppressed have to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are actually being marginalized and oppressed… because it is damned near impossible for those types of people to imagine a world view that differs from their own. Dude, I got shit on by male fandom. Are you going to tell me that I DIDNT get shit on by male fandom just because you don't want girls in your frickin' clubhouse? I'll give you a statistic. 75% of the males I personally have encountered in fandom are descent human beings. I married one. But the 25% who are creepy, angry, misogynistic, or downright jerkfaces toward me are the reason I do not spend ANY time at conventions alone. I, and many of my female friends do our best to either stick in a pack, or have a male friend/spouse accompany us places because you never know who is going to get creepy on you, or just plain make fun of you for being a girl at a convention. Shit, I was on a freakin' panel that got hijacked by a jerkface who'd been removed from the convention two years previous. The dude got SUPER confrontational because I liked all the things he hated about this particular movie. I was afraid to leave the stage because I didn't want him getting in my face after I left and was in the hallway. And then I find out he was trolling me and being a jerkface about my opinions (yes, I agree the Master's costume is ridiculous in the DW TV movie…but I liked it's total ridiculousness), which are mine, and are not obligated to conform to his… because he spent the whole con stalking and being creepy toward one of the other panelists. That's my real life experience. I don't have a statistic or a number for you. All I know is EVERYONE avoided that guy. At one party years ago he creeped us all out by stroking my friend's foot without permission. Now she, nor the other people involved in that incident will go around without a companion to parties, or even in the hallways. One of them is a hugo-award winning editor whose husband accompanies her everywhere. She SHOULD be able to walk in a hallway at a convention. And this doesn't happen because she's so famous she gets mobbed, but because people… MOSTLY men… think she owes them time or attention, or that she's somehow there to please them and be pretty. And this is just ONE incident. I have DOZENS of others from my personal experience that have lead me to the conclusion that a loud, vocal and prominent section of comics and media fandom males DONT GET IT. I am tired of having my complaints or concerns or experiences dismissed just because YOU and others of your ilk don't see it, or want to see it. Because if you DID, you might have to acknowledge that fandom, a place that prides itself on being a home for outsiders is NOT safe for everyone to be who they are. It's only safe for the people your ilk SAY it is safe for, and everyone else should just conform to your world view, and your shallow rules for behavior at conventions and on the internet. I have been run out on a rail on some forums for having the audacity to have girl-opinions. I have been harassed at conventions, ignored by dealers, had SERIOUSLY unpleasant experiences in comic shops, both personally, and witnessing two douchebags behind the counter humiliate the woman at the register in front of me. This shit happened. It was real. I'm friends with MANY women in fandom, including big-name scifi/fantasy writers… from the cosplay kids coming from the local college to the professionals, we all have similar stories to share. Should i disbelieve them because I wasn't there? Or ignore the woman who explained just how stalkerish and threatening "foot fetish guy" had been to her all weekend? I guess we should wait until the creepy dude does something "serious" like murdering someone in a room full of people before we take a woman at her word, and her experiences seriously. The problem is not that I see misogyny everywhere… it's that you DONT.

          • Kris

            Christ Almighty.

            Well, my challenge stands. Statistics (real ones, not ones you made up) or I don't really care.

          • Kris

            Also, "privilege" is a postmodernist / critical theory term.

            I don't take it seriously as such.

    • Kris

      You're probably going to write the above comment off as MRA or similar but never mind that I'm expecting the same mathematical competence of you that I expect of men, thus treating you fairly.

    • JemyM

      When you are dealing with an army of bullied people, the hate you are going to face have nothing to do with you. They are simply forwarding what have happened to them. It's similar with every victim of abuse you are going to meet in life, whether it's by gender, race, etnicity etc.

  • Kris

    Will somebody PLEASE address my comment about pomo?

    • Zee

      You want a comment? Here's a comment: Try to avoid the genetic fallacy next time.

    • Cee

      You sound absolutely obsessed with demanding–with scrunched shut, littleboy fists, undoubtedly–that someone respond to you. Everything you’ve written is toolish, angry and misogynistic. Good luck opening up a conversation with that!

  • Ozgur

    Speaking to the "I'm not a feminist, I'm more egalitarian" comment and the moderate outrage that ensued:

    I get this comment, I even say this when I'm being lazy. I'm not speaking for anyone else here, but here's what *I* mean when I say it:

    My perception of how feminism is executed (which is not down to whatever dictionary definitions you want to throw at it to ignore the issue) has been that it is very focused on what needs to be done in order to fight for women's rights, ensure women's rights, keep women's rights in mind, etc. To use terms somewhere in the middle of this comment chain, it's all about what can and can't be taken for granted. In my experience, feminists tend to not take it for granted that they have a voice, that their opinions and identities are equally valued (and in the same priority, such as "not gender first," for example), etc. What strikes me a lot, living in a fairly liberal area, is how often feminists do this in social climates where this is largely unnecessary, and/or do so in a WAY that is a bit over-the-top.

    This drives some people to want to distance themselves from the label of feminism without distancing themselves from respecting women's rights (including the right not to have to be eternally vigilant about infractions of those rights), identities, preferences, and opinions.

    So the term "egalitarian" in this context sometimes means "I take both men's and women's rights, men's and women's opinions, men's and women's preferences, and men's and women's identities equally for granted because I consistenly and habitually value them both equally."

    Other times it means "I equally take NEITHER for granted, because taking things for granted is a bad idea, and I consistently and habitually examine what's really going on in an equal and fair way with regard to gender."

    Those are variations on the same thing, because honestly we only have the attention spans and interest enough to do some things habitually and other things deliberately, and once we've done something regularly enough in a deliberate way, it becomes habitual and less conscious–like digestion (imagine if you had to deliberately activate every process involved in your own digestion and how tedious that would be…you only check in when there's a problem that registers, or to make sure you're not becoming simply unaware of your own bodily processes and of all kinds of related problems).

    To put it another way, feminism is CENTERED. It is centered on what can be done to make things equal on a gender basis, and that usually means being centered on women.

    "Egalitarian" (in the context here) is DECENTERED. It is so because it already habitually does what is necessary to equalize things and consider things equally, so it no longer has a sore spot to focus on and can look at the picture from a less tense, less invested perspective. This isn't an insult; it's part of all growth of perspective. We are all much more vehement against the viewpoints which we just outgrown–it's part of creating the bounds of a new identification. But once we are no longer freshly out of our previous viewpoint, that vehemence–that centeredness–evaporates, we've formed our new identification with its new boundaries, and we've incorporated the necessary tools we lacked before. When we have a sore, we are rather focused on it. When it's healed, we aren't, but we are more aware of how to prevent them and what to do if we spot another one–there's just no longer the need to keep staring at that spot all the time.

    [Disclaimer: this is not to say that those who identify as feminists have less mature viewpoints than those who identify as "egalitarian." I personally believe this is sometimes true, but that the main problem is one of language. Some people have lost this "centeredness" AND found that the term bothers them, AND they decide on a term they prefer. In regard to the term "feminism," this is much more likely to happen with men, because it feels like they are expressing a centerdness they don't feel and it is actively contrary to their identity (i.e. contradicts their masculinity). With the centeredness vanishes the need to champion femininity–including the feminine side of themselves–so the term chafes, registers as a problem, and demands a solution. Basically, ALL THREE of those steps have to happen for the term to change (when it isn't just reactionary regression to "women don't have it that bad…shut up!"). Two people could feel the same way about it and one could say feminist and the other could say egalitarian, and they could get in a very pointless semantic argument.]

  • Abra

    Several of my boygeek friends got an object lesson on the subject when I sponsored a gender-swapped reading of the script of a recent superhero movie. They were all excited about the project…until they realized they had the choice of playing one main character (the love interest, of course) or a handful of very minor ones. Yes, guys. Welcome to the reality of trying to find myself represented in the forms of media I love the most.

    • JemyM

      This is an issue that goes beyond the geek community. Google the Bechdel Test.

      "The female" is an archetype, usually the diplomat, the glue that keeps the group together and the main characters love interest.

      The magic with Archetypes is that they are instantly recognized as soon as they appear on screen and their behavior is then expected. Introducing something else require you to spend screentime explaining the character which reduces the time for the story.

      There are those who would say "there are many male archetypes and there needs to be more female archetypes" and I say no. Thing is, there are no male archetypes, just archetypes associated with males. Most of these works well with female actors; the nerd, the leader, the grunt, the criminal, the fixer, the mechanic, the techniquan, the sneaker, the socializer, the worker, the doctor etc.

      Another old stereotype to kill is the "I am X because of my father", like "I work with cars because of my father", in which the female do a male thing due to strong influence from one or several makes in her life, instead of her own interest or perhaps of her friends.

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  • Ace Ventura

    im sorry but people do not want to look at ugly people in games, they dont wanna play as a fat obese chick that has issues and drama…. you really think a video game would be fun if the main character was a woman who was all about feminism and was wearing a suit? or even a super hero suit? this costume shit with women and the way there portrayed has been going on for centuries in comic books. Even a long time ago women were dressed like this…… so seriously accept the fact that this is what people like and it will never change. if you want it to change then go ahead and see how many bloody people play your shitty game…. looks are everything and shit thats not appealing will never sell. look at the way the fashion industry is now adays for example….. think about all that before you say that the game industry or anything is mainly for males….. i goto an art school and i can guarentee not a single female in here gives a flying shit

    • JemyM

      One word kills your argument: "Joker".

  • Jim Yanni

    Most of what you say is certainly true. I would like to point out that it's not entirely (mostly, perhaps, but not entirely) a result of geek boys being badly socialized and semi-intentionally sexist. Part of it — particularly a large part of the "guys fawning all over any reasonably good-looking woman in a geek place" problem — stems from a vicious circle: there aren't many women to be found in geek society, so when one shows up, of COURSE she gets lots of attention from all the guys. Which is possibly fun for a while, depending on the guys, but eventually wears thin, so she doesn't stick around, which is one reason why there are so few women to be found. So, since there aren't many women to be found, when one shows up….etc, etc, ad infinitum. It's a tough pattern to break.

    • JemyM

      To unravel the mystery, the question that is on the surface then is "why is there a nerd society in the first place". I have mentioned it a couple of times already; the nerd community gather people who seeks friends after being rejected for being deviant. Not every nerd are, but those who do are many enough to create an influence.

      Past experiences are often generalized and stereotypes are built, stereotypes about the bullies and the popular. The women who rejected the nerd. The women who loved and/or looked up to their bully. These stereotypes are then charged with jealousness, anger and hate.

      So prejudices are formed. Prejudice against what the nerd perceive to be normal, successful, privileged. And then the bullied becomes the bully to whatever target fits their stereotype.

      Teaching these guys about behavior is like teaching any radical/extremist/separatist group why they are wrong. It's really hard, but you have to begin by understanding their point of view, else you will just be classified as an ally to the stereotypes.

  • Excellent essay. Personally, I don't get gaming or comic books in the least and have no desire to join the "community" but I found this essay brilliantly accurate… as a discussion of the problems amongst skeptical and atheist men. Google "Elevatorgate" for a long list of blog posts, or click on this one for a summary:

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Oh yes, I'm quite familiar with Elevatorgate. There have been similar – if less well known – incidents at comic conventions for years. Just about every female comic pro I know has stories to tell.

    • JemyM

      LadyAtheist, we debated the event in the Swedish skeptic community, including a special talkshow in the Swedish skeptics podcast with an all-woman program speaking about the event. Theism is so rare in Sweden that the label "atheist" becomes meaningless and we are also a highly gender-neutral society even if there are plenty of dinosaur-bones left to clean up. "Atheist community" is thus an expression that's like speaking about the "French-speaking community in france".

      Overall it was established that elevatorgate must first be understood as an American event in order to understand the problem. The American culture still promotes sexism in a way that is uncommon here which keeps charging social norms about how genders should interact that are seen as backwards behavior over here. That includes stuff like rules for dating and politicans promoting homosexuality as a high-priority issue. As a result there were more sexist comments reacting to Elevatorgate than gender neutral ones, including the cultural issue of a man breaking American social norms and benevolent sexism that promotes the female privilege ("that's no way to treat a woman!").

    • Kris

      Why do people pay attention to Rebecca Watson at all? I used to live in Buffalo, where she moved recently. When people I know mentioned she was coming there, I thought "Who?" And as it turns out, All she does is swipe at low-hanging fruit by e.g. pointing out that astrology is bullshit. Never knew. No shit, Sherlock. That and her unthinking indulgence in critical / pomo theory (ex: "privilege"). How she gets promoted as an "expert" on anything is beyond me.

  • Ace Ventura, the fat girl with "issues" probably has no interest in you, either. And why don't pretty girls have issues? oh yeah — they DO, dumbshit. Maybe if fat girls have "issues" it's for being rejected because of their appearance, and maybe pretty girls have issues for being pursued for their appearance. How would you like to be judged 100% on your appearance?

  • Mimsy

    This is pure brilliance; I didn't think it was possible for anyone to get at this subject in a more perfect way, and I certainly didn't think that a white male could address the issue so perfectly so that the argument isn't simply countered with "what a feminist" or something of the like.

    Thank you. People should listen to you, you really know what you're talking about.

  • Rictor

    Tangency called, they want their argument back. Seriously though who is the priveliged one here: the attractive normal woman or smelly loser geek. Sorry bro, your looking at backwards.

    • Friducha

      As a geek woman, I can tell you we're often more geeky than the men- and as annoyed by this crap as the perty girls.

  • You. Own. I have had an issue with this for years. I have always been a big gamer, but I get sick of seeing scantily clad females as the rule, especially when it doesn't make sense. Take MMOs for example. I am playing a warrior class…could you please explain to me why my armor consists of a bikini top and tight pants? I'm sure the enemy would NEVER think to aim for my exposed waist. Now on the other hand, it doesn't bother me much if a sorceress class female is scantily dressed since seduction is often part of the sorceress gig. Some games have figured this out. Skyrim, for instance, has a wide variety of clothing for female characters. A female in armor is *gasp* actually going to be covered by armor.

    Considering women doesn't mean game developers need to make shopping games or other lame stereotypes (for the love of all that is holy, please DON'T) to try to draw us in. We just need to be incorporated more normally. There are lots of different kinds of women out there–some DO dress slutty, others do not. There are doctors, lawyers, business owners, strippers, and trophy wives. There are tons of possibilities for stories here. How much more awesome would video game stories be if both the male and female characters were multidimensional?

    Besides all that, more geeky women = more action for geeky guys. Sure, you might have to see a few more clothes on gaming/comic characters…. but you might get a girlfriend who will go scantily clad just for you.

  • Megan

    I thought this article did a great job describing the challenges of being a "geek" girl. I spent a good amount of time with a D&D group in the past-I am not a gamer, but I went with my boyfriend and we would have cookouts and play board games in addition to the group playing D&D. I felt all of these reactions strongly, one of the guys in particular stared at my boobs so much that I began wearing baggy tee shirts. Another asked me out mere days after I broke up with said boyfriend, and yet another tried to get into my pants one night when I'd had a few drinks. Cue the end of me drinking, ever. And hanging out with this type of geek guy.

    But I also see this in my every day life – I am a biologist, and when I explain this to people, males in particular feel that they should challenge my knowledge of my field with their high-school knowledge of genetics and anatomy…"Well, you know about THIS, right?" like I am obviously stupid and can't comprehend basic biology; I must have gotten my degree using my boobs! Additionally, I am a manager at my job and have frequently had people walk past me, occasionally while I'm talking with another female manager, and ask the guy I hired last week a question. (No kidding, I had literally just hired this guy).

    Enough ranting about my experiences. Thank you for posting this article, I hope it will shed some light for at least some of your readers!

  • BS

    It was Adrianne Curry who dressed up as Aeon Flux not Olivia Munn. Although Olivia Munn does dress up provocatively for a lot of events like when she dressed up as Princess Leia. Ironically Carrie Fischer did not like that her slave outfit for Return of the Jedi became a sort of sex symbol because she thought that it was highly degrading towards women.

  • "but he’s not going to be inundated with offers for sex, threats of rape, sounds of simulated masturbation or demands that he blow the other players"

    Are you playing the same games I am?

    But seriously, it is shameful what boygeeks do to girlgeeks every day. What's hilarious to me is to see boygeeks treating girls with this combination of mouth-breathing lust and 12th century sexism, and then WONDERING why they never get laid. It's because you treat women like CRAP, dumbass.

    I'm not saying that depictions of women in games or comics is going to change anytime soon–that's like expecting the porn industry to mainstream something that appeals to people's emotional side. What I am saying is that we should control what we can: how WE, individually, treat women, regardless of how they appear in comics or games.

    Yes, we get it. Emma frost is hot, Power Girl has huge jugs, Catwoman has a great backside, and everyone loves Black Cat's cleavage. It's one thing to deal with that. When you meet a REAL woman, though? A flesh-and-blood female? You should treat her with respect. Talk to her like a person. Her opinions about theoretical physics and which superhero team causes the most collateral damage are just as valid as yours.

    If every geeky guy treated the women he meets with respect, the likelihood of one of them sticking around long enough to get to know him dramatically increases. You might even learn something from her, dude.

    And for those of you that refuse to take my advice? At least be kind enough to scare the women in the direction of someone who will treat her with the respect she deserves.

  • Rachael

    Fable. This is why I play fable. 2 and 3 have the option for a female character that can be covered from head to toe, or a complete skank. Choice, it be golden.

  • Friducha

    THANK YOU for putting this in a clear unemotional way- My response is usually blown off because I get so indignant!

  • i must respond in that yes women are generally treated as a sex object in our society at least they have a personality. men are allowed no more that two emotions in any one day and god forbid if you cry. they are judged and catergorized by their occupation and the 'wealth' . women don't date guys without a job…ever. yes america has a long way to go. for all of us.

    • Canie

      That's sexism at work bro! It goes both ways. I wish people would just realize that the same sexist values that say that women are all irrational and emotional say that men have to "chin up" and not express emotion. The same sexism that says that women should give up their career to take care of a baby says that men have to have a high paying job to be successful . This is why we need feminism.

  • Peachykiki

    As a "geek girl" myself, I recently had this topic come up at the comic shop as we were discussing the new chars. in the DC reboot. I really think DC has gone above and beyond the call in making, most notably, Cat woman, Harley and Starfire terribly one sided sex objects. Of course one of the male shop employees had to argue about it with me, but after I continued to point out his argument flaws he eventually conceded. With all the negative feedback they're receiving from critics and blogs it'll be interesting to see where they take the stories from here.
    Its also been really interesting in recent years to see the change in geek culture as it gets more open, and we see more girls in the convention halls as attendees. Sometimes its handled well, sometimes its not. But as I make my living within the convention circles and catering to mostly female costume wearing clientele, I can't say I'm not thankful for the increase in customers.

  • Alleycat

    I only have one mild complaint about this page. I feel that they cross-section of characters used to show off the over-sexualization in video games wasn't an entirely accurate cross section of that particular series. In general the DC comics have had about as many fully clothed females as scantily clad. I do think that they could have designed the characters in a much less overly sexualized manner. And I think calling Harley a psychotic hooker simply because she is wearing a tshirt that shows her midriff is a bit ridiculous.

    Unfortunately, everything else is spot on, and its depressing as hell. I honestly wish that things werent this way but I have seen all the things that are described time and again.

    • Alleycat

      At least in the ones I have seen before this. I haven't seen the new reboot you are describing but unfortunately it wouldn't surprise me at all that they have done some sliding downhill.

      • Peachykiki

        Reboot Harley wears ripped up daisy dukes, a 5 sizes to small corset she's spilling out of and has meaningless sex in a bathroom with deadshot, afterwords making comments about using her feminine wiles to pay for goods at a grocery store.

  • neko_indi

    Thank you for saying this – because though I hate to say it, perhaps when it's coming from another guy, the people who need to might take a moment to listen.

    I've been a girl nerd for well over two decades now. At best, I've been told I was a "legendary creature", being a woman who games. One of the worst was having a guy at a small, university convention tell me "Oh, you just game because your boyfriend does." I will confess that I thoroughly enjoyed the look of shock when I replied that no, in fact I had met my botfriend because we both game. I've had to deal with guys stalking me from convention to convention (signing up for every game slot I was running one weekend – even though four of them were a repeat of the same scenario), speaking to my breasts, and all of the other examples you mentioned. I've had to play tough – to the point of making physical threats to get particular guys to get the point ("Go ahead – try to rape my PC… while she's slitting your PC open, I'll demonstrate the pain level by stepping on your balls." All said with a smile.).

    And yet, the most common question I've been asked in almost three decades of gaming is: why don't more women play? Gee…. can't imagine.

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  • I would like to thank you for putting into words the very things that have bothered me for a long time. I am married to an amazing geek, and we attend many cons. Recently he has been getting into animae, and all the feelings that I had when first attending cons came back to me. This article summed it up perfectly, and I think having this message come form a guy will mean more to those who read it.


  • *spell check* I meant, anime.

  • Rictor

    I really have to question the value of this advice, given that the stated purpose of this website is helping nerds get the girl. One thing I know from years of dating and observing others is this: women generally do not respect weak men. A guy who appologizes for his "privelige" or is affraid to make a move will not get the girl.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Fortunately, I have covered that topic as well:

      • Rictor

        I am glad you touched on the subject and like that article much better than this one. But the whole male privelige thing really smells of tangency to me, and I have to say I think you are overstating how much of this has to do with the hobby being sexist. It really boils down to guys like to game, women don't. The culture of gaming is a guy-culture and the companies target their audience (as they should). This isn't going to change I assure you. Been in the hobby too long.

        • jess

          "It really boils down to guys like to game, women don’t. "

          Why do you think this is? Do you think it might have anything to do with, for example, the exact points this article touched on?

          Let's take a step back for a moment. I am a woman. I love video games. I remember playing my first video game when I was probably about six years old. My parents bought me a TurboGrafx 16 for Christmas that year, and I was hooked for life. I remember playing Bonk with my father, and JJ & Jeff. Later we got a Sega Gensis, and me and my cousin got completely obsessed with Sonic the Hedgehog. In middle school I begged my parents to buy me a Nintendo 64, and I spent pretty much my entire summer playing Tony Hawk. And so on into adulthood, where my boyfriend and I have had to work out a schedule so that we can both get in our fair share of time with Skyrim every week.

          And I'll be honest, I don't have a lot of female friends who are into video games. They just didn't grow up with them like I did. My "gaming culture" growing up was my family, who never treated games like they were something for the boys, playing games that were fairly gender neutral. It wasn't until I was in college that I started playing the more hardcore video games that are guilty of forgetting that I'm part of their audience. But, you know, I like video games, and I'm not going to miss out on an awesome game because the protagonist doesn't look like me, or because the female characters are poorly written. But if I weren't already a gamer, what would these games have to offer me to pull me in? What would make me pick up that controller for the first time?

          The point that I am taking so long to get to is that women don't "dislike" video games simply because they are women; it's not like there's a gaming gene that comes with your Y chromosome. The real problem is that women don't even give games a chance because the prevalent gaming culture is, on the whole, unwelcoming to women.

    • Gentleman Horndog

      Hey, Rictor. I hear what you're saying, and you're absolutely right; guys who live their lives as ongoing apologies for being guys are indeed a pitiable breed, and lot likely to get the girl (or much else in life).

      But you're missing the point here — and missing it in a way that's very common when the subject of privilege comes up. The point is NOT that, as guys, we're supposed to apologize for our privilege, or be ashamed of it, or whatever. The point is to UNDERSTAND that it exists, and understand the myriad of ways big and small it winds up screwing over women.*

      Really, that's it. Know it's out there, and know how to identify it.

      Do that, and you'll be able to avoid all manner of situations in which you may be tempted to do or say something that makes you look like an ignorant bag of dicks. Do that, and you'll be much better positioned to empathize when a woman in your life (be it a romantic partner, a friend, a co-worker, a relative, whatever) is venting to you about some injustice (big or small) that's gotten under her skin — hell, you might even be able to offer her a bit of insight.

      Do that, and your pool of potential romantic partners will expand to include women who identify as feminists. This is an Awesome Thing.

      Privilege is an important concept, and one I don't think is always presented well on the Internet. The subject matter lends itself to introductions that come across as some combination of condescending and angry, which is always poison to actual discussion. It also has a tendency to be misused as a measuring tape in an impromptu contest to see who has the biggest OppressionDick, or as a way of unfairly shutting down conversation.

      This is why I think the good Doc's postings on the topic are so valuable — they're coming from a place of sympathy, not anger. We're hearing from a fellow traveler, not a smug lecturer.

      Understanding privilege helps make you a better human being. And being a better human being is a damned fine method for getting the girl.

      * — In this context, it's specific to gender relations. But it also applies to racial dynamics, minority sexual identities, etc. Any situation where you have a majority that's been defining The Way Things Work to the point where it's ingrained in the culture, really.

      • Rictor

        Sorry gentle guy, but I think you are punching at shadows here. My experience is gamers have a tendency to overthink privelige when I don't even think the premise that its real has been established. To me it is critical studies run rampant. It is just another incarmation of political correctness that achieves nothing and ruins everything. As I said this is a line of reasoning you see in places like tangency.

      • jess

        You said this much more elegantly than I could have, so thank you for articulating what I was thinking.

  • zobothehobo

    Honestly, as a nerd woman, I have faced none of those issues. My opinions (online and not) on geek type things are always taken with the proper consideration… and no one has ever made me feel less of a nerd or less of a person because I'm a woman. If anything, I've heard "it's cool that you're a girl and you're into this stuff" more than I've heard anything else. I'm curious to know where these jerks are and why I've never run into one.

    As for the games… Honestly, it annoys me that the games are like this… but what annoys me more is that I know so many young developers… and instead of changing the game (pun intended) and making women characters less sexuality and more truly badass.. they just develop what already sells… sex.

    • TMac

      Unfortunately, just because you have the good luck to not experience this, does not mean it doesn't exist, nor does it make the experiences of other women and minorities invalid because of it.

      When someone says they've been to NYC but don't really like it because they got mugged, you can't invalidate their experience by responding that you've been there and never got mugged so you don't know what the problem is.

  • thedub

    This may have already been covered, but since this is a GODDAMN Herman Melville epic of comments, I can't be sure. lol

    A lot of comments I've read have concentrated on identifying what is "wrong" with sensualizing/sexualizing women not only "geek culture" but with culture in general. I'm curious what some examples of female characters in books, movies, comics and games that epitomize a great balance between the sensual woman (who are just as much sexual beings as men are), and those who are believable/strong/memorable. Since I'm not much of a comic book guy I'll give three from other genres.

    Video Games: Mass Effect – Liara & Ashley

    None of the female characters in the first of Bioware's trilogy are subjugated to fetish at all from what I can remember. They all represent a capability to handle their own shit, while also displaying a certain vulnerability. True, some of the lines male Shepherd can say to them are ridiculous, alla, "Can't I have you both.", but hey… On the whole it's better than all the other bullshit out there.

    Books: Inheritance Cycle – Nasuada

    While I REALLY disliked every book except the second, Paolini's characterization of the female leader who led the resistance against the empire was pretty amazing. A dark skinned woman who can withstand war, torture, self mutilation, political back-stabbing, and still look regal in a dress. That's pretty badass….

    Movies: LoTR Return of the King – Eowyn

    Come on… Who didn't scream "fuck yeah!!!" when she stabbed the witch king in the face after saying…. "I am no man!"


    • I completely agree with your Eowyn example. If I remember correctly she kinda was flirting with the other male characters (doggonit can't recall the name off the top of my head), which does portray that women can like pleasure and not in a completely abrasive and damaging way.

  • Struck

    Probably my favorite video game female is Faith from Mirror's Edge. She's very pretty, but dressed sensibly, and doesn't have an egregious figure. Also just a very strong character, and the cool kind of badass. Not "The Tough Chick" kind of badass. Just pure hardcore.

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  • Xanny

    This. Thank you so, so much for this, and for subsequent related articles. I know this article has pretty much been drowning in a sea of comments and reddit upvotes, but I can't help but stress how incredibly important this is. Self-identifying as a female familiar with geek culture means that I should understand that the fetishizing of women is par for the course. If I’m so insulted by it, it’s my own fault; I should have known that this was a given for the genre, and expecting better out of the media is unrealistic. If I choose to identify myself as female while participating in a predominantly geek-based forum, this identification will define how people view what I have to say. After posting a screencapped video of myself getting a particularly obscure and difficult achievement and using voice capture for convenience (in lieu of typing out a ton of subtitles in a finicky video-editing program) on a male-dominated forum, I was rewarded with, “wow for a girl you’re pretty good” and sprinklings of requests for pictures of myself “for proof” of my gender, preferably scantily clad. Calling them out for sexist behavior (the assumption that girls are inherently less game-inclined in terms of ability or interest, not to mention pure sexual harassment regarding picture requests) was met with immediate backlash, proclaiming that I never should have made it clear I was a woman if I didn’t want the attention. I was accused for everything from digging for compliments to cockteasing by declining their advances despite an apparent “sensual tone of voice” (I took down the video, but I can assure you it was a very focused, if not boring exposition of tedious achievements). How is this any different than blaming a victim of sexual harassment for wearing clothes that were too revealing? You should know that showing skin as a woman is sexually alluring to men especially, and wearing shorts and a tank top is a clear invitation for assault – if you wanted to prevent it, you should have covered up more. Similarly, making myself known as a female gamer is a clear invitation to constantly compare my performance to other male gamers – “for a girl you’re pretty good” – and to be sexually objectified; if I didn’t want the attention on the fact that I’m a woman, I shouldn’t have made it known that I am. Just by putting my voice out there as an identifier of my sex led to the filtering of my words through a gendered perspective; by making it known that I am female, I am inviting them to view me as an object on which to project their standards and fantasies on. Although the gravity of physical assault is not necessarily comparable to a bunch of requests for topless pictures, the reality is that in the end, the act of sexual objectification is its own form of violence. Blaming the victim for creating the circumstances of the crime is just as disgusting as the act itself – nobody should ever have to be fearful to reveal whatever aspect of their identification they choose.

  • Terrific article! 🙂

  • Jonas Håkansso

    Fucking A. Being a feminist AND a nerd/geek/gamer/whatever, this is something I think about all the time. Seeing this article really gives me hope. The number of people thinking about these matters, unwilling to close their eyes, is growing everyday.

  • Rictor

    Xanny I think the sexism you encountered has more to do with the internet than geek culture.

  • WOW!! This is really a brilliant article and while I've been aware that women are sexual objects in many forms of the media and entertainment industries, I hadn't considered the full extent as far as the comic world goes. I admire your work, and this is exactly what I've been trying to get across to many men (and some women for that matter). Keep it up and this would be fun to discuss in the future 🙂

  • Holly


    Was linked here last week for your twilight article and then read a few others, bookmarked the site, and said I'll check back again one day.

    Then I hear you on LEOG annnnd now I'm back again.

    Guess that was fate telling me "Uh uh uh, get your ass back here."

    -new fan hollygirl

  • anonymous chick

    Here's what I noticed — this is an excellent, thoughtful well-laid out post that I nearly didn't read because the surrounding context — Dr Nerdlove, helping nerd get the girl — falls *completely* within the problematic paradigm described throughout the entire article.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      You do realize that this is a geek dating advice blog, yes?

      • anonymous chick

        Of course I did. My point still remains…

        • I don't think that a dating site is inherently "within the problematic paradigm." Men and women want to date, and both men and women would love advice and tips on how to do so better and more often. The problem is in what the tips ARE. But as far as I can see, this site seems to be advocating treating women with respect and courtesy to get them to like you. And you know what? That's correct! 🙂

  • erin

    Nothing they ever do will please you people anything can be twisted out of context. When in the last time you saw a guy with either Batman's or the joker's build or body type walking around? I would say it is far less then you see a girl with the build of any of the females in this game. Why does a woman need to be ugly when the men can be ideal body types, like super buff or tall and slender. What exactly is it you are looking for, tough, gross women? Is this equality to you? Maybe it is the fact that men don't feel the need to look like what is shown in the media and women do? So maybe it's a problem that the sexes are *gasp* different and not so much a problem with "the gaming industry". I like how you put up that bingo card though you did not say how any of these things on it are invalid…Some of them are just silly and others make a valid point. But in the end like as already being said, why would I want to look at something ugly when I can look at something more pleasing be it a male or female.

    Also for people looking for these silly "not sexually fueled" females American McGee's Alice or Madness Returns?

    • boomturkey

      The issue stems from the representations though, so let's analyze those Arkham City photos again. What's a common theme for the male characters and alternatively, the females? The men are covered from neck down, full sleeves with alternating layers. The women, they have cleavage. A lot of the cleave. Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes the men might have over exaggerated features, Batman being uber-bulked up or Joker being Gawky and Lanky, but neither suffer from having their defining feature being their sexuality. Now say Joker caused havoc sporting a BDSM costume or Batman fought crime without a shirt on, then your argument would make sense. Otherwise you're just (as the the article is articulating) reinforcing Male-Privilege.

      And your point about Alice is true, and makes a good foil but the point is that examples like Alice (especially in the video game industry) are so few and far between that's upsetting. Sure there's the occasional Alyx Vance's or the Elena's that exist out there, none of whom could be described as "tough, gross women" I'd like to point out. But these examples are so few in comparison to the oversexulaized mass that is so prevalent in all geek industries that it almost makes my teeth hurt from clenching them so hard (in rage, if you didn't catch that).

      My litmus test is had I a daughter, aged 16-18, would I mind her behaving/dressing like a given Super heroine, Game character or Movie star? If the answer is no, then the way that character is portrayed is probably inappropriate.

      • Solus01

        I'm really tired of this one. Yes, most male super heroes are not male-bimbos. But do you have any idea how hard it is to get a body like that? Even Mr. Fantastic, who's a lab geek and his power is stretching, has a six pack. Don't tell me that all these mesomorph gym buff bodies are not as fantasy-fueled as the female super striper.

        • Nonesane

          I can see where you're coming from, but I think there's two arguments going on here. You're arguing that anatomy in comics generally is unrealistic. On this I will agree with you.

          That said, the _reason_ for it being unrealistic is very different when it comes to male characters and female characters.

          Male superheroes are insanely muscular. This mean they can beat the shit out of anyone (i.e. the muscles are there to make them look powerful, not sexy).

          Female superheroes have insanely huge boobs and are slim, bordering on unhealthily so and look like someone could break them in half by punching them in the stomach (i.e. they're made to look sexy first and foremost).

          For a better example of this, have a funny comic:

        • Coru

          You're not getting it – it isn't about the body type. It's about clothing, and it's about attitudes. Batman doesn't walk around posing like a body builder to show off his pecs, but Catwoman is constantly contorting so that her tits are the primary focus.

          Depicting characters as having perfect physical form is more or less natural. It's the ideal, so it's what we want to look at. But the men are shown as buff because that means that they are powerful, and the men who are reading the comics want to live vicariously through them and feel powerful themselves. The women are depicted huge-breasted, tiny-waisted waifs because men want to have sex with them. It has nothing to do with power (and please don't bring up the 'sexuality is power' thing because it's just not true) and everything to do with being fetishized.

  • CSU

    THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS! Jeez, you'd think it would be obvious at this point.

  • Andrew

    Yuna in Final Fantasy 10 is the main character and very reserved.

    • boomturkey

      Yes and in Final Fantasy X-2 she is given short shorts and a cut out top to go prancing about Spira in. Moot point.

  • Anonymoose

    Thank you for this essay.

  • Cheriphim

    Yeah, I had to stop playing an online game I had participated in since its beta launch, because the "rape" jokes got so out of control. Having been raped in real life, twice, its beyond vulgar to joke about it, or have the word "rape" thrown in casually to describe removing an opponent's Movement Points (mp), or reducing their Action Points (ap), etc.

    A "friend" of mine in the game, when he found out I was a girl in r/l, actually joked that they should have a "rape party" because I was the only girl present in the group. He appeared to feel bad when I mentioned that I HAVE BEEN RAPED, and made a lame apology about how he "didn't know" and that if I had not already been actually raped, the joke would have still been okay, anyway. I took him off my friend's list, needless to say. But he was a shining example of a heavily prevalent attitude amongst players.

    Over the years, as the problem increased, people would tentatively create a Forum topic here or there about the word "rape" being (over/wrongly/inappropriately) used. And in every single case, the responses were immediate, harsh, and typically unilateral: "Its Only A Game." "Its A French Game, And The French Don't Have A Problem With Rape" (Yes, they actually SAID THAT.) "Lighten Up." "Who Cares???" "Poor Baby Was Raped And Now Can't Cope" (Not makin' that one up, either.) and "But It Takes Longer To Write Out -mp or -ap. Typing Out "Rape" Is Just Easier." You can imagine how few people ever spoke up about it, when shaming was the number one tactic of choice.

    That's not just Male Privilege, either, that's Rape Culture. The two go hand-in-hand. And it is ever present in gaming media.

    Finally, for the record, when girls join in on all the girl-trashing, and defend the sexist remarks/stereotypes, it is not a solution to the problem, but just another symptom of it. When women support the male-privileged-rape-culture, by turning on other women who voice objections to being objectified, it is proof of how deep the conditioning has gone. Rather than become targets, themselves, of the immediate hatred towards any female gamer who voices a complaint about sex/rape jokes, they join the pack of rape-joke-offenders and help rip her down to size. Then they are told by the pack that they are "cooler" and "funner" and all sorts of other types of slave-praise, which makes them feel happy about being objectified, because they honestly feel it means they are "wanted" and "attractive" and "included" and blah blah blah. I call it licking the hand that whips you.

    I have stopped playing MMORPG's all together, because men (and wo-men) have made them entirely hostile places for gals to play without being treated like shit-to-be-fucked, one way or another. No one with any self-respect–or a spine–would ever allow themselves to be degraded in such a fashion. Or as they would so coarsely say," no one with balls would put up with it." (Which of course directly implies that if we do not possess male genitalia, we should put up with it.)

    (Side note: Okami was a great game–except for the over-sexualized, half-naked Tree Spirit. Epic Win/Fail.)

  • Alan

    I think you raise a lot of valid points, but do so in a way that's frankly pretty likely to provoke exactly the knee-jerk response you're talking about.

    Specifically, I'm talking about equating nerd culture as a whole with FPS trolls. Are those guys sexist? Absolutely. They're also racist, homophobic, and just generally horrible. If a person acted in real life the way that FPS trolls act, he or she would be considered a sociopath (and incidentally, the statement that "Men will also not be told that they’re being 'too sensitive' or that 'they need to toughen up' when they complain about said sexual threats" isn't even remotely true).

    The other thing I'd note is that you're kind of conflating something that's a much broader cultural issue (sexualized portrayals of women) with something that's more specific to nerd culture (the OMG A GIRL!!! response).

  • KerryAnn Clare

    Love the article as always, Doctor! I think you should forward this one to the writers on "The Big Bang Theory"- might help make their show a bit more accessible to female audiences. (Small sidebar, and sorry for sounding pretentious: "it's" is the contraction of "it is" while "its" is the possessive form of "it". I am the kind of geek who gets distracted when the wrong one is used! I just don't want any grammatical mishaps to lessen the power of your arguments 🙂

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Vampires have the sun. Superman has kryptonite. Robin has crowbars. I have the possessive apostrophe.

      • Tibbs

        You should really get a profile picture for your comments, Doc.

  • Rebecca

    I want to thank you so much for writing/posting this. It's given a name and an explanation for everything I've spent years and years experiencing–as a geek girl I often felt unwelcome in certain circles, especially gaming circles, and was frustrated when there were no female characters with their chests and crotches covered. But if I brought it up I was ignored or given a response from that bingo card… now looking back I can think of so many instances of sexism in geek culture.

    I just wish I knew what to do about it.

  • Mary

    If you're going to disagree with this article, you're only doing exactly what he's talking about. You're defending your privilege out of fear.

    • Logan Wilson

      That's a really narrow view to take. You're telling me I can't disagree with a single thing this guy says without invalidating his entire point? I don't think the author himself would agree with that point considering he invites you to at the end of the article.

  • neptyoon

    Need more women to write more superhero stories with the kind of women they want to see. Write good SciFi and submit it to Beth Meacham at Tor or other experienced female editors.

    • Female author here, writing strong female leads in Sci-Fi and Urban Fantasy. 🙂 We exist! We're publishing stuff and creating awesome characters that don't just have to wear sexy uniforms!

      See–>Wastes of Space on

  • I just wanted to say, thank you. 🙂 Thank you for writing this. I'll be reposting it at my Tumblr, THE GENDER BLENDER:

  • I loved this. It is in keeping with a video that is going around the web called the Gamer Girl Manifesto (which I have posted on my website)…. Gamer Girls and Geek Girls are really starting to push the envelope and I for one and a proud gamer girl and a proud geek girl. So, THANK YOU for this.


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  • Rick

    "And, critically, a man doesn’t have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence and sexual assault."

    Though I don't think it substantially alters the overall gist of your arguments or reasoning, I disagree with the part that says a man doesn't have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence. Sexual assault? Probably not. Violence? Yes, at least as much as a woman. I would also say that how one chooses to "continually view" the world is ultimately ones own choice. Suggesting otherwise makes the person a "victim of the world", and it seems like your trying to prevent/stop that perception.

    • Orora

      No Rick, it's not the same. There is the threat of violence to all people in the world, period. I'll agree with you there. But women are raised from birth to be aware of men's aggression and take steps that will supposedly protect them from it. Examples: Have you ever been in an elevator with 5 women and been frightened that if they stopped the elevator you'd be in a place with 5 people bigger and stronger than you who could do just about anything they wanted to you? Do you think twice every time you go down the alley at night because you're alone? Do people warn you not to drink drinks from strangers because you never know what they could put in them? When going to parties in college (if you went) were you warned to go with a buddy so you could keep each other safe from assault? Ever carried a rape whistle or mace, not just when you knew you would be in a bad part of town, but every day because you knew violence could happen to you every day? Ever been physically afraid of your romantic partner? Because most women have experienced many of these things, not just as occasional worries, but as every day reminders. Men are not warned from birth not to do, say or wear "the wrong thing" in order to avoid being assaulted. It's not the same. And don't blame it on acting like a victim. A woman is sexually assaulted every 2 minutes in this country; MEN won't take responsibility for not raping, but don't try to tell me that it's because we're acting like victims.

      I am not a victim of the world

      • windyfairy

        This was/is a fantastic response!

      • Solus01

        It's unfortunate that every transaction between a man and woman is tainted with the implicit threat of sexual assault. This is disheartening but necessary because women have way more to lose, and the odds are still disgustingly high that she'll be justified. It's a case where men mostly need to be worried about being robbed/beat up, when women need to be worried about robbed/beat up/raped.

        I would say that I wouldn't accept a drink from someone unless I knew them personally because some people are just messed up. I had a friend in high school who wanted to does everyone who came through the I worked at drive-thru with mescaline.

        Also, 5 versus 1? Yes, I bet the average guy could totally take on 5 women.

        I make a point to carry something that can be improvised as a weapon because assault does happen, especially if I'm out alone at night.

      • Disapointed

        It is very interesting what happens when you replace the words men and woman with black and white respectively in your response…
        One could respond in either case simply. Yes, to feel fear is horrible, as is the prospect of being feared. Invective is not what is to be sought, but mutual understanding. To suffer violence is a horrible thing, but to be the object of fear and mistrust based only on factors of gender outside of one's control can be equally disheartening.
        As for your claims…
        >Do you think twice every time you go down the alley at night because you’re alone?
        Yes, I do. I have little physical strength, and every time that I have been mugged or assaulted I have cowered in fear, praying desperately above anything else that the person did not have a knife or a gun, as those particular tools render personal strength rather insignificant. In addition when I am with a woman while walking, I am often worried about what will happen if we get attacked. Due to my chance possession of a penis, I am expected to protect the person I am with, and am likely to suffer deep personal shame as well as feelings of insufficiency because I am held to a high standard of physical competency due only to my gender.
        >Men are not warned from birth not to do, say or wear “the wrong thing” in order to >avoid being assaulted.
        That is very much dependent upon the area in which you live, both for men and women, but even where I live, this is plainly false for men. I have been repeatedly warned not to dress 'like a sucker', and the clothing that I like to wear, a button up shirt and a tie, requires a hoodie pulled down over it before I walk around at night.
        In addition, homosexual prejudice often requires individuals to change their clothing styles. My Russian girlfriend informs me that for a man to wear a picture of a rainbow on his shirt in Moscow would be very unwise.
        >Do people warn you not to drink drinks from strangers because you never know >what they could put in them?
        Yes, this has frequently been repeated to me at school as a part of 'stranger danger'. Aside from that, cultural standards being such, I have never had the pleasure of having a female buy me drinks, as I am expected to be the one buying them. However, I have had drunk strangers calling me 'friend' buy me drinks while laughing and intimidate me into drinking until I puked. I am highly suspicious of drunk people as a result.
        >Ever been physically afraid of your romantic partner?
        Sore subject, but both my father and I were repeatedly beaten by my extremely large stepmother, with frying pans, bare fists, and just about anything at hand. From what I understand, spousal abuse from the wife is far less likely to be reported, due to cultural factors involving embarrassment. In addition, there have been several cases where false sexual assault charges have been used to exact revenge after a dispute, resulting in prison time, I recall reading the case of one black student who was unable to survive in prison long enough for forensic evidence and psychological evaluation of his previous partner to clear him.
        >…MEN won’t take responsibility for not raping…
        Will you say that every black individual should take responsibility for crime and violence commited against their caucasoid brothers and sisters? Will you say Neil DeGrasse Tyson needs to take responsibility for not mugging people on the street? Stereotyping and pidgeonholing is not the answer to violence and pain, as regrettable as these conditions may be.

        • Helen

          In terms of 'taking responsibility for raping' – i think she was referring to the fact that women are made to feel responsible for being attacked, by being told to alter what they wear, how they behave etc.

          Yet it has been shown that women have been attacked regardless of where they are, what they're wearing and who they know – and the vast majority of rapes are committed by people known to the victim.

          Despite this, rather than targeting men to educate about how to behave, what constitutes rape etc, women are still policed to 'behave'; and if they are attacked it is still commonly regarded as their fault, not the rapists' fault.

          Many sexual assaults happen within relationships, as part of domestic abuse.

      • Jon Lackey

        It's infuriating that women are taught to fear all men but men aren't taught to fear anyone. Statistically, men are far more likely to be the victims of all violent crimes except rape. If we're going to spread paranoia, it's best to spread it to everyone, not just women. I think teaching women to fear all men while teaching men to "not worry about it" is FAR more sexist than putting a female superhero in a leotard. It sets men up to become victims while setting women up to be paranoid.

  • foo

    As an adult woman who has lots of geeky interests, I have no desire to be a part of geek culture. I enjoy the things that I enjoy, but don't see why I need to be legitimized by a pack of ignorant, as you say, mouth breathing troglodytes.

    When I was a kid, being into fantasy and sci-fi was a lonely endeavor. I got used to it then and frankly I couldn't care less now if it still is. Comics and games are obnoxious and misogynistic? I'll take my dollars elsewhere. I'll watch movies and buy books and other products that aren't hateful, violent, ignorant and built on foundations of sexual violence. But I have no need to be a part of a society that fosters that kind of material and then expects me to have some sort of investment in it.

    Geek guys who are contributing to the creation of this kind of material, it's okay that you don't want me in your fandom. I don't want to be in your fandom. I don't want any part of it, and I don't need you to make my fannishness legitimate.

  • Logan Wilson

    He's they call DR NERDLOVE! He's the one who makes ya feel ALRIGHT!

    Sorry if that's been run into the ground, this is the first article of yours I've stumbled upon. And it's a great one! But there is a flipside and that's girls who thrive on the kind of bad/good attention you talked about. Now I'm not saying girls shouldn't cosplay as Wonder Woman or Witchblade (especially after Ron Marz made the character WAY more cool and WAY less sexpot), anyone should be able to cosplay as whatever they like, but I'll tell you a tale: I used to work in a comic book store and had a woman come in one day who referred to me and my boss as "little bitches." And I don't mean she was saying "You guys are such little bitches!" I mean she was saying stuff like "You think I'd like Spider-Man? Oh, that's so cute, my little bitches!" in this incredibly saccharine tone.
    Now I was at least as old as she was and my boss was at least ten years older and I could tell be her reaction that she was one of these geek women who had a swarm of guys follow her around and put her on a pedestal, and that was EXACTLY where she preferred to be. It was INFURIATING.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Usually it's Dr. Love by KISS, really…

  • Traci

    Nerds and Male privilege? This is what drooling nerds with oodles of privilege can do to a female geek's life.

  • Solus01

    I'm not convinced that you make a good case for nerds in particular. Everything that's referenced here is a problem in society at large, not just nerd culture.

    Some men are sexist, nerds are men, so yes, it follows that some nerds are sexist.

    • Solus01

      That should read "some men are sexist, some nerds are men"

  • John

    I was into comics, Star Trek, sword and sorcery and fantasy when I was younger. The last few years I saw quite a few women and young girls at conventions. A close friend married a woman with a comic collection almost as good as his. A lot of girls I know, who are quite attractive and so aren't geeks, are into anime. We'll see if the female influence changes the industry because I think that you're missing a very important point. All of this is a form of escapism. Most heroines are hot, but most heroes are buff so what is the problem? The heroines dress skimpier. How do women dress as compared to men in real life? Is it really male privilege or is that the world the consumer wanted to escape to?

  • John

    I'd like to address Orora. Damn straight I was in an elevator with two women. One was complaining about a guy looking at her and reported how she told him off. They were hot based on the glimps I got when they entered the elevator, but I made it a point not to look. Even if I was defending myself against two women, I have no doubts about who would get arrested. Got a cock spend time at the rock. Sit to pee, you must go free.

    • The one who died lau

      Sexually frustrated much? XD

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  • Axis

    Not surprising at all in fact. Most game writers are male themselves and, as such, tend to cater to a male audience, don't understand a female's expectations or simply can't relate to them ( Anomen in BG2 comes to mind as a good reason to burn female-centered romances altogether and dance around the fire )
    Still BioWare is doing a great job of late with Shepard and Hawke, NWN2 had its practical-looking armors and the PC in Fallout3 was properly dressed (most of the time) so that's a step in the right direction.
    There's plenty of gratuitous porn over the web to supersaturate the market and showing female skin is soon becoming a sign of poor storytelling.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Just as a point of reference: Fallout isn't a Bioware title.

      • Axis

        I never said it was. Might have forgotten Bethesda in my rush to praise BioWare though, so I'll concede the point to you.

        Bethesda also tends to cover most of their females so it's always hilarious when nude mods are the first to spring up and highest rated by each game's modding community.

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  • JC Denton

    Non-sexualized fairly unknown female character in video games:

    Alys from Phantasy Star 1 for the Sega Master System (8-bit fairly unknown Sega Console prior to the Mega Drive/Genesis). Wears lots of pink AND a skirt yet she kicks ass and is never obviously sexualized or forced into a romance with ANY other character. Plus she's just 15!!! Take THAT Rikku! Sadly the series has a very loyal but shrinking fanbase due to the ignorance of SEGA of America to port over the Japanese games that keep coming out.

  • Lauren

    Thank you for such a wonderful article! It really renewed my faith in humanity today after watching XMen First Class where two out of three female leads were strippers. I really appreciate that you are posting about this as a man. Most of the men I know are afraid to say the word 'feminism' aloud, let alone to explore what it really means, or that sexism has a place in something they love. It's the Voldemort of human rights. I've been going to Comic Con since I was 14 (30 now) and play video games, read comics, fantasy, and play D&D with my husband and other couple friends and I've always been really put off by the misogyny and misrepresentation of women in much of geekdom. Thanks again. Sincerely.

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  • Timm

    So what can explain that an AVERAGE LOOKING geek girl can attract men more easily than an AVERAGE LOOKING geek guy can attract women.

    I have never seen AVERAGE LOOKING geek girls having any problems attracting men..not just geek men but also non-geek, attractive men.

    Geek guys are mostly losers who struggle at dating and sex.

    • Helen

      Probably because some average looking geek men are extremely sexist and unpleasant?

  • It might make the point if someone with better artistic skills than I could draw the gender inverse. (Kind of like Men Ups makes the point that only women assume certain physical postures.)

    It would be like, the main characters are Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a woman in a scientist lab coat, and like an Angelina Jolie in a full-body leather suit (like Batman). Or perhaps Assajj Ventress.

    Then the male characters look like Calvin Klein models with gigantic packages bulging through their underwear, one has blue skin like an Avatar, and one is wearing some kind of nominal uniform (like I don't know, a Hot Cop? Stripdancing fireman? But it's modified to show monster abs and perhaps biceps / dick bulge.)

    • Oh, and the main characters would have obvious jobs / titles, but the male characters would be kind of a forced add-on. Empowered _and_ sexy guys.

  • Helen

    It's why I like games where you can design your own character. Mass Effect was a good one where you can be a female soldier who *gasp* wears fatigues and armour, rather than shreds of latex.

    In Fallout New Vegas there was an excellent female gay character as well, Veronica.

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  • Anne Castrillon

    Love this article so much. It explains privilege in the best way I've seen put to words, especially the part about how denying it is the best way to keep it in place. I have seen so many privileged groups (whether they be whites or males) deny that they have privilege because they are "treated equally" or some shit.

  • customcartoons

    Just wanted to write in and say, thanks for being a guy and using the words, "If she wants to see herself as the main character…" That tells me you really understand what this discussion is about. 🙂

    Curious to know: does being a white male help at all, as you try to get through to these chowderheads? Or do they dismiss your pro-female arguments as quickly as if they were talking to a Philipino lesbian? Thanks again for fightin the good fight. 🙂

  • This topic is really controversial, but for me as a girl and as a game academic it is getting a little tiring and repetitive, so instead of giving my opinion which is really similar to others here, I have something different to say and ask you.

    Your text is not the only text I read about this and it was not the only one to use this Batman game as an example. I heard complaints bout it form men and women in general, in the most different blogs and sites, and the problem is always this (over) sexualization of women. However, this was not an aspect taken into account when game review sites were evaluation the game, and as you can see in the wikipedia info about it (, the scores are really high. What confuses and rather annoys me is that another game from another culture called Hyperdimension Neptunia ( was evaluated by these same sites under this prospect of over-sexualization, and received really bad scores for it, although it is not a bad game (I've played it and enjoyed it). Now my quesiton is: how far the matter of culture and game localization influences the players reception to over-sexualized women in games? I know that Square Enix is one of the producers for Batman, but that game is still heavily localized and based in the country/culture that originated this charater. Do players accept more the Catgirl's cleavage while they get disgusted at the sight of a anime girl? Does this very article of yours is only about western culture? What about gender and sex in the otaku fandom?

    The impression that I had when Neptunia was released was that the reviewers were the kettles calling the pot black.

    I know I asked a lot of questions for you to answer in a single comment, but even if you don't answer it here, you could give it a thought for a future article.

    • Dr. NerdLove

      Well to start with, I couldn't tell you about Hyperdimension Neptunia because I'd never heard of it in the first place and it doesn't sound like a game I'd want to play. I've kinda lost my interest in JPRPGs back in the PS2 era; the only one that really still holds my interest is Kingdom Hearts.

      So without having ever actually laid eyes on the game, all I can give you are generalities. There are people who will see more objectification and objectionable hypersexualization in anime games, either because of the perception of Japan's cultural ideas on sex and fetishes ("Tentacle porn and school girl panties in vending machines!") or because anime character designs look "young" to Western eyes, even in people intimately familiar with the tropes, and that perceived age-difference is going to create different reactions in people.

      And yes, this article focuses on Western culture because, frankly, I'm a westerner. I've had a light smattering of cultural experience with Japan via pop-culture, research and travel but there's no way in hell I'm going to call myself qualified to give any sort of considered thought to gender relations there.

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  • Kate

    Thanks so much for the article! My brother, who, like many male gamers, is perfectly compassionate and disgusted by how easily use sex appeal–introduced me to videogames at seven. Now I own a larping vest and am addicted to Dungeons and Dragons. However, games are supposed to be an escape, and they can't be for women most of the time. You know why I used to only read? Because so much media tells me to hate my body–despite being a healthy weight, during some tough times I've thought of becoming bulimic. To avoid the pictures of beautiful, ultrathin, big-breasted women put there (self-hate is really interesting when you're bisexual,) I tried to game. Videogames were made of the same model-like characters as mainstream media. Even in my D&D rulebooks there are pictures of sexy half-elfs without any armor. The thing is, it's not just guys' fault. Women compete with each other for men, setting the standard that we're not worth anything unless we're sexy. But I hate it so much. I want to return to the time when I thought the brush of grass between my toes was better than having a tiny stomach. On the other side of the coin, frankly, dudes, girls want someone who's healthy; he doesn't have to be buff. Let's make videogames less mainstream, having their fantasies be more than just sexual. Please, don't troll me, even if you disagree.

  • Your point is not so well made here. I thought of a large number of female video game protagonists whose costumes were practical, or at lest not stripperific, even by angry feminist standards. I shan't list them here for wont of avoiding a drawn out pedantic rant.

    Equality is an uphill struggle, but you are exaggerating and frankly sounding histrionic. Sexy cosplay girls are objectifying themselves, and every geek knows Olivia Munn is NOT one of us, she is a failed model who found herself a niche.
    You give your fellow men far too little credit. Also, men are very very often in scenarios where they do indeed have to go along to get along. You have put the geek culture vis a vis gender relations through a distorted lens.

  • Dr. Nerdlove:

    This is an awesome article that I'm stumbling on a bit late. One of those link from a link from a link things. And man alive, holy privilege stancing in the comments!

    I have been a girl geek and am now a man geek. I can say that you have been spot on with your article. There is one thing that bothers me about geek/nerd culture when it comes to isms and oppressions: we, as a group, are hella good at talking it out. As this Tolkien size epic of comments shows, we can run down and dissect games, books, etc for positive and negative aspects of presentation and erasure in a heartbeat.

    But do we move forward on it? Yeah…like glaciers. Speedy like sleeping turtles. Which is no say not at all to very little.

    For the folks who wave the dollar signs and say "But of course folks are drawn/played/styled that way! That's what sells!! It's the economy stupid!!' You hereby lose all your XP and all your levels.

    Why? Because you just basically said that people of color, women, LGBT folks, and anyone else who really doesn't have a presence in nerdworld yet doesn't have any money to spend. Facts say otherwise.

    Here, have a cookie:

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  • Jonathan Scheonfelde

    Your essay conflates design choices (portrayal, &c.) with consumer choices (bad mannered comm chatter, &c.). These are two very different things and need to be examined separately.

  • Lord Cerbereth

    Ok I am officially stepping into the fray even though I wasn't going to. I was led to this point by the League of Legends forums where one girl was posting that the female champions are over sexualized and should be scaled back. Now whether that is true or not she got downvoted to oblivion, and I felt a little bad about it I mean -93 is probably a record since threads normally close at -18, but it stayed open for some reason, and she posted a link to a website all about combating male priviledge and how about how women and minorities are under represented in gaming.

    At first I was like wow I had no idea that this was such a big deal. The link the girl posted went to an article within the site where the author was pulling apart an argument that one of the lead artists by the name of Iron Stylus had posted in response to a thread similar to downvoted to oblivion girls which if you look on the league of legends forums there are occasionally posts from the champion designers and marketers answering fans questions about strategy and champion balance.

    I think that is a very cool way of doing business and I don't know of any other companies that do that, but this author was really tearing into his response, so I posted a comment that defended his argument(there was no raging or porfanity in my post). I checked back a couple days later to see if anyone had replied to it and it was gone. I was like oops must not have pressed submit, so i wrote another one and posted it and it disappeared in a few hours.

    Then I read the terms of posting on their site which I will not name, because I hope its traffic slows to a crawl and that the site dies a sad, slow, and painful death. Apparently every first time poster is moderated, and if their post doesn't agree with the article the post doesn't get posted, and until the poster posts for an extended period of time in which none of their posts are removed will they no longer be moderated and can post freely until someone complains about their post and they start being moderated again.

    Needless to say this is the most backward thing I have ever seen a site do. Why have comments if you are only gonna post the comments that nod in agreement like sheep? Why are men supposed to share their nerd culture with you and the videogame industry supposed to change to meet your demands if you aren't even willing to meet us in the middle in your comments section?

    When I read about this three part analysis of male priviledge you have written here on other sites the recurring comment is that your work is a masterpiece, but the comments dissolve into a mess that prove your point. I don't dispute that the comments have kind of dissolved into a mess, and that a lot of them are simply denying or deflecting, but no one has asked why are we supposed to share and change for these people? What are they doing for or offering us in exchage? Is this something we are going to regret giving up later? I mean sure it seems alright now, but when every videogame has a token gay character and all the female characters quit wearing those sexy outfits (no more sexy Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy for us) we all like are we still gonna be ok with it, and when the combat offers the non combat oriented player the right to skip past combat (I am not even making that up they are trying to get Bioware to go for that in Mass Effect 3)?

    If I had only read your arguments I probably would have agreed on the spot that we should all be more accepting and work to include gilrs into the nerd culture that we have all created, but unfortunately this is the same way in which someone who had a conversation with someone who argued that Batman was an unnecessary vigilante who should be brought to justice would probably agree. They would agree right up until they met the Joker and somehow survived, and after that they would probably be Batman's biggest fan and argue that he should be granted jurisdiction by the city to do whatever he needed to do.

    In short I have visited the base of the other side and it has caused me to hate them forever.

    The best analogy I posted on their site (not that anyone there will read it since it got taken down while I was writing this I will give their moderator this she has relexes of lightning) is If me and my bros built a castle (nerd culture) and decorated it however we wanted with scenes of gore and blatant fanservice in the posters. Basically it is paradise for male gamers. After the castle is done a group of women shows up and demand that even though they in no way created the castle that they should be allowed to occupy and redecorate half of the rooms in the castle not even considering that there is no way that they can fill up half the rooms. Anyway lets say that the guys go for it just because they will have some girls around the place, so they move in and redecorate and it is ok. The thing is then they say that the half of the castle the guys decorated offends them and that they need to redecorate as well. What do they do now?

    It would be different if the women had shown up and offered to build a moat or offered to refund part of the construction costs back to the guys or even if they had just been satisfied with their half of the castle, but they didn't and they weren't.

    Why exactly are we supposed to change and how much do we give up if we do?

    • Dr. NerdLove

      1) One forum or blog is hardly indicative of all men or women in all of nerd culture.

      2) You use a very telling word: "Token". You might want to consider what that's saying about how you're seeing gay characters.

      3) Nobody is saying that there will be no more sexy characters or fan-service. But when that's almost all there is and the number of female characters who aren't there for T'n'A or as a prize for the player, it says a LOT about the perceived value of women.

      3.5) Privilege isn't a zero-sum game. Consideration for others doesn't mean giving things up, it means not acting like a bag of dicks.

      4) If you're going to bring up straw men like Jennifer Hepler and her supposed pernicious influence at Bioware, you might want to get your facts straight. She has nothing to do with Mass Effect and never has, and the supposed quotes of her "trying to get rid of combat in games" are taken out of context from an interview she gave five years ago. And for the record, I don't see any problem with offering the option of skipping action sequences the way Rockstar did with L.A. Noire, and I've been gaming for longer than you've been alive.

      5) Your analogy is wrong from the get-go; geek culture was never "a paradise for men", nor have women just suddenly shown up and demanded changes. Women have been involved in geek culture since the beginning; the first ostensibly sci-fi novel was written by a woman – Frankenstein: Or A Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelly. In the 60s, women writers helped usher in the New Wave of science fiction as SF left the boundaries of hard science and started to venture into social commentary and relevance. Lucille Ball was responsible for the fact that Star Trek was ever aired in the first place. The independent comic scene was created in no small part by Wendy Pini's work on Elfquest. Science Fiction and Fantasy fandom has long been a home for women – feel free to go back and look at photos from old sci-fi and comic cons – and the anime/manga scene never would have taken off the way it hadn't been for the female audience. The numbers of women getting involved in geek culture is growing now and women are participating in greater numbers than before, but they were never not there.

      In addition: geek culture is not "a castle", it's a community. It's not designed for keeping people out, and if you're very determined to have your He Man Girl Haters Club full of gore and tits, you're more than welcome to have your own little corner. But you should be cognizant of exactly what your attitudes and behaviors say about you and where they spring from.

      • Lord Cerbereth

        First of all thank you for responding to my post. It changed my mind on a few things and looking back on my own logic it does have a few glaring holes.

        1. You were right in saying that Borderhouse(I have spoken its name) is not representative of all the women in nerd culture, and my strategy of picking a fight with the most radical element of the argument probably isn't the best way to go about this issue, but it needs to be known how far down the rabbit hole some people will take this issue and that there is a limit to how far we can let people take this issue. I mean everyone supports free speech, but when it becomes an argument for child pornography people draw the line.

        2. I feel that homosexual characters are overrepresented in media when compared to the percentage of the population that they actually make up, and that such activity is immoral, but not everyone agrees with that and I am content to let people believe what they will with regards to that.

        3. Maybe they will cut back on fan service, but they probably won't. I mean the hard fact is sex sells and even if it is found to stop selling it will still be perceived that way by the advertising industry and so it is going to be included anyway. I think more games will ofer the option of a female main character just because the number of female gamers has caught up and possibly exceeded the number of male gamers and video game companies have decided gee they might appreciate not playing as a dude.

        As far as the perceived value of women that dates back a very long time to when the knight would slay the dragon and marry the princess and everyone lived happily ever after was a perfectly normal fairy tale. Now people would tend to say that the princess is treated as a prize to be won in that situation and that she should get to choose whether or not she wants to marry this random knight who has shown up all of a sudden, but that situation was pretty accurate back then King's treated their daughters hand like an asset and that was just how it was. Now one would think that modern game designers would find a more modern approach, but the fairy tale crops up surprisingly often in games (mario, zelda, etc..) What is interesting is that Saint George didn't actually marry the princess he rescued he simply demanded the entire kingdom convert to Christianity as repayment for his services, but I guess Mario rescuing princess peach so that she can become a Christian wasn't as marketable or songworthy.

        3.5. I tend to disagree with this point. If one side is gaining something the other side is by default losing something. Now if we are talking buying and selling or trading goods then we might have something. When I give best buy $35.00 for a copy of batman arkham city I might be losing $35.00, but its worth it to me since I am gaining probably 30+ hours of entertainment in exchange for it and the company evidently thinks getting $35.00 for their game is a sweet deal since they were the ones who put it up for sale in the first place. Now if we are talking about being nice to the girls who brave comic con that is easy because as someone put it "manners don't cost a thing", but when more concrete things start getting thrown around "cover harley quinn up", "tone down wonder woman's breasts", "less gore in that part" I have to wonder what are we getting on our trade? I hate to sound like a miser here, but the scales just don't balance in my eyes. I guess the case could be made that our community will grow and comic con attendance will increase as well, and maybe that is worth it.

        4. I know Jennifer Hepler was misquoted and that she didn't work on Mass Effect, but I still can't help but hate her because bordehouse has turned her into some kind of martyr for their cause. I was refering to the desires of borderhouse to remove combat from games not Jennifer Hepler maybe I should have made that more clear. I am not sure how you got my age but I am going to assume you guessed. I guess I could pretend to be 60 just to prove you wrong, but that is just awkward for everyone so I am just going to say that you probably have been playing games for longer than I have been alive. My big problem with having the option to skip the gameplay in games is that it kind of diminishes the value of unlocking game endgings especially special endings like the alternate ending of the first halo for beating the last level on the highest difficulty setting. I guess that isn't such a big deal with the ending to every major game on youtube anyway.

        5. I think I was wrong to compare nerd culture to a castle as that would mean it exists to keep people out, but I don't quite agree that it is a community. In my opinion it is a market share that exists to buy products directed at it. Videogames, t shirts, comic books and 1:4 scale statues all cost money. I am beginning to think that nerd culture is all just a big group that happen to have an interest in buying the same niche products. Will my hot topic arkham city t shirt mean less if I see a girl walking through the mall wearing one? No, so in a way I am not quite sure there is a battle to be fought after all just some slight changes in how companies decide on target audiences and maybe not even those changes I mean they aren't losing money now why change?

        I understand that women have had a large impact on the nerd market share I had just gotten so used to using that against the borderhouse moderator 8 times in a row I forgot it wasn't true. I mean look at J.K. Rowling she has created something that has almost out earned the star wars and star trek films put together if you don't count all the action figures and star trek uniforms. One of my favorite authors is Karen Traviss and with her Republic Commando series as she further fleshes out Georgle Lucas's universe.

        As far as my He man Woman haters club full of gore and tits that is the real trouble right there. I mean I am a very mild mannered straight laced kid who doesn't play Gears of War because its too gory even though I have slaughtered real animals while hunting, and who shudders when he overhears another guy call a girl a dumb bitch even while he is bragging to his beyond a doubt dumb friend how he slept with her. I generally get along better with women than men and I have never had problems asking a girl out and I have had more answers of yes than no, and yet hard core feminists rub me the wrong way. This is all true, but I could just have easily claimed to be an astronaut and you would have equal evidence for both claims, my word. You seem like a pretty decent guy, but you could have a basement filled with dead hookers and no one on the internet would ever know the difference. How exactly are people supposed to judge one another online?

        Anyway thanks again for responding to my last comment it was something to think about.

  • Lord Cerbereth

    One more thing if nerd culture hadn't taken off like it has would they still want in? I don't seem to recall a huge group of women calling for equal access back when nerd culture was shunned/considered lame by society.

  • Lord Cerbereth

    Judge is a rather poor word choice in hind sight. Get the measure of would have been better.

  • Lord Cerbereth

    I feel like I overreacted to this whole issue and now I feel kind of meh about the whole thing. Ultimately this issue is really starting to bore me, and I am going to move onto something new and hopefully more exciting (gun control advocates shall dread my name) Anyway good luck with this site and I mean that. Getting nerds over their girl problems is a noble and nearly sisyphean task, so you will need all the luck you can get. I hope nobody took anything I said too seriously lol.

  • Lord Cerbereth

    Update: I made peace with borderhouse so there might be hope for this cause yet.

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  • Notsureifsrs

    I can't think of any male protagonists that weren't essentially ladyboners. Your Arkham Asylum example is a good one here, since Batman is a toned, muscular guy – I don't look like that. Yet, I don't care, because you can't be oppressed by a freaking video game.

    • BirdOfParadise

      Well, that really depends on what you think constitutes a ladyboner. Shortpacked explains things well here:….

      • Notsureifsrs

        So in other words, what you want is anime. That's what was drawn there. There's already a huge market for that.

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  • How about City Sam, Cityville's main character… biggest game in the world. She's classy and all business

  • Thank you so much for writing this article, it is exactly how I feel as a Geek Girl in the comic book world. I will say that there are large areas of fandom where we are treated well, such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars (sans slave Leias) etc but within the comic book verse I have had nothing but bad experiences. I am so turned off by what I saw as nothing but half naked boy toys everywhere that I gave up even trying to read comics. Do not get me started on comic book stores! I even give them a wide birth when walking past the door! What saved it for me was the fantastic fan audio drama world where they took the comic book characters and created fully cast radio plays with sound effects, music, etc. I was able to hear the stories without all the visual baggage, and while yes a lot of the female characters still came off poorly, some of them began to shine for me—especially Wonder Woman, Supergirl, Cheetah, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. Since I was only listening, I could construct a half-way decent outfit for them myself. I was then able to look at their comic book versions without automatically being disgusted, although I still can't read them. I mean just look at what they are wearing! Seriously guys! And every time I bring this up with male comic book fans I get that exact furious reaction like my opinion doesn't even matter. Usually I take that opportunity to then challenge them to a Star Trek trivia round and send them whining to their mums in humiliated defeat. Yes there is justice in this world. But I really wish the comic book realm were a tad more welcoming or at least tolerant and willing to listen to us. I have a friend who loves comics and how she puts up with it is beyond me—she is an uberfan I guess 🙂 Very true about the sexy costumes as well in cosplay. I can walk by in my full Amidala court dress and guys barely glance at me, but if I wear my BSG Number 6 costume they practically run into walls looking and wanting to interact. It was actually creepy the first time I wore it since normally I go for the highly ornate but more conservative cosplay. It was like before I was completely invisible, but the less I wore the more the would talk to me.

    • Notsure

      What you described sort of sounds self-defeating. You want women to be taken more seriously in fandom communities, but when you said you were approached, you shied away and called them creepy (albeit privately). I'm not sure how you expect these issues to be resolved if you're just going to point fingers at the fandom or the industry. It seems like geek girls aren't looking for a discussion on these issues, they just want their biases validated.

  • Tweeg

    I found this to be more about “Jerk Privilege” than male.

    Alot of the statements you made come off as either closed minded or naively definitive.

    For starters closing yourself off from the comparison on how each gender is objectified seems quite close minded especially if you want to take this issue seriously.
    I doubt anyone reads a comic or watches a movie and afterwards thinks that hey violence is a great way to settle disputes. Most reputable studies conclude that there is no link between violent behaviour and violent media.
    Bearing that in mind, I doubt the a character being portrayed as sexualized will cause people and men in general to objectify women. If media doesn’t have the power to make us more violent why should it have the power to make a gender more sexist ?

    Is there anything inherently wrong with being entertained by someone being punched in the face as much as you would a skimpy costume ? In one example someone is being hurt, the other, someone is just being pleasing to the eye. But the reason both of these are acceptable forms of entertainment is because people have the ability to separate fantasy from reality.

    Also you seem to suggest that women are consistently judged by their gender while men never are subjected to that. You shouldn’t suggest things like that are definitive, its dangerous and naive.

    Males can put up with hassles in the work place based on the gender, just as females can. The behaviour you mention is that of assholes not of some sort of Male Privilege.
    Both men and women can be jerks, can make assumptions that a women was only hired because she is attractive. That a man was only hired because of his race. Or friend of the boss. Family member. Etc and so forth. People are jerks.
    Women have to face many obstacles in the working world just as men do.
    A man for example is far less likly to report a sexual assault or harassment because it could make him look like less of a man.

    Both men and women have to put up with garbage from people online. To suggest that a man would never be told hes too senceative when regarding his reaction to a insult online is absurd. Alot of males like to bound over ritual ball busting, and if you don’t wish to partake in that your manlyness will be called in question. Also I havn’t met anyone who has been immune to threats online because they had a penis.

    All the behaviour you mentioned isn’t based on any sense of entitlement perpetuated by the objectification of women in games and comics. Its behaviour that already existed, exists in both sexes. Its behaviour that is deplorable but its all a strawman.

    It all boils down to perception.
    You perceive an imbalance on how characters are portrayed in Arkham City. How you perceieve something is subjective.

    I’d hardly call the male characters as looking deadly serious. Batman is wearing his underwear on the outside and it looks kind of snug. Not to mention his suit/armor clearly outlines his physical attributes.
    The Joker has freaking clown make up on, to you deadly serious to others he looks ridiculous. The only person that stands out from any of this is The Doctor because he looks so plain.

    To you, you see the men as how they should look while the women are just for sex. I see all characters in a fantasy setting. Its subjective.
    I doubt women are going to look at this and think, real men wear tights and have abs that you can grate cheese off of.
    No more than any man would see this and think oh this is the only purpose women have and that is to be eye candy.
    Your article is as long winded as it is misguided.

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  • Liz

    Thank you for writing this article. I've been in the geeky and hardcore gaming scene for over ten years now (president of Computer Club in high school, watches the LotR trilogy straight-through, attended game design summer camps, founder/president of Game Society in college, has a stuffed ewok, played Counter-Strike competitively…g33k.)

    Things have gotten better over these 10 years of co-existing in this culture, but I am still seen as a girl gamer as opposed to a fellow gamer.

    If you're interested, I wrote a paper with similar thoughts a couple years ago, exploring the ambiguous place of the female gamer:

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  • Shannon

    Not much of a gamer myself, but I do read a decent amount of comics, mainly Marvel and DC. I do get rather perturbed by the portrayal of females in the comics, their "ideal" bodies and extremely revealing costumes. However, the same can be made for the men with their extremely muscular physiques and costumes that show it off. The sex appeal goes both ways. In comics at least, it seems to be more about portraying the ideal human (as most artwork through history that depicts humans has been) rather than just focusing on the women.

    "And, critically, a man doesn’t have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence and sexual assault."

    And I hear ya on that one. I hate having to live like that, but it's so true.

  • harmonyfb

    Sometimes it's not even a defensive dismissal of women's opinions, it's outright and in your face attacks – such as when male Doctor Who fans insist that women are "ruining" their fandom by daring to think and talk about the characters (apparently missing the fact that women have always been part of DW fandom.)

    • Notsure

      There's a difference between character analysis and basically accusing the authors/fans of being awful bigots. The latter is just antagonistic and not productive.

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  • Rebecca

    I was wondering why some games have women fighters with breasts that stick out like you could land a plane on them but wouldn't it seem more logical to bind them? I've worn binders before and they seem quite comfortable and it seems like they are not even there.

  • Avy

    So i'm far off on commenting when this was written, but I felt like voicing a few comments.

    First, I think this is a well written article. I don't know you at all, so I could be off, but it strikes me that writing something like this may take a certain amount of courage and a whole boatload of self-critical honesty. I think of myself as, and have been told I am, a very egalitarian person; I even find myself gagging at some of the ridiculously buxom and skimpy women in games and anime (i often sigh when there's a "expert commando" chick in an anime with F cups). Yet in spite of these attitudes, I have to admit I do find myself knee-jerking out responses such as "yeah well men are sexualized too,' and "it's escapism," and sometimes flat out refusing to accept, subconsciously, that male privilege exists in the nerd world. Maybe you didn't have these compunctions, but i think that takes some bravery to face down and admit: yeah gentlemen, we have a problem. I also have to wonder, if I'm guilty of this (and i've participated in sexism awareness events, have many gender queer friends, etc), I shudder to think what other men might be thinking. It's really a disturbing thing to think about, but I think it's something that we as a culture must, so I applaud you for standing up and speaking out. I at least will be spending some time over the coming years thinking about this issue deeper.

    That said, I had some thoughts, musings really, to share. As you've replied to another poster, "I've been gaming longer than you've been alive," so your experiance may be different, but for me "nerd culture" has always been a sub-culture that has faced a certain amount of persecution from the main stream. I realize, in addition to more womenfolk joining us, nerdiness is also going main stream, but during my adolescent years, being a 'nerd' was very much a bad thing. Bringing a gameboy opened you up to taunts and kids trying to snatch it so they could smash it. We had a few students' comic books stolen and ripped up, books defaced, and lots of wedgies to go around. Admittedly, some of this exposition is more a case against bullying, which is a discussion best left elsewhere for now, but I feel that bred in me and some of my friends a certain "persecution complex." It did not help that we were of the age where the Columbine incident led to many of our parents raiding our computers for and replacing our copies of Doom and Quake with "learning software" and puzzle games, and we've weathered several attempts from over-reactive 'parent groups' trying to tell us our favorite hobby was a murder simulator meant to indoctrinate boys into becoming desenstized killing machines. Lest we forget the great hoopla over Mass Effect with Fox News.

    Now, in the era of the "bro-gamer" and angrybirds, where gaming is becoming mainstream, these experiances may not be valid anymore. However, I can't help but wonder that if at least SOME of the ingrained, knee-jerk "Women shut up and go home" style comments aren't bred from the same feelings of persecution and fear that "The women" are going to come in with their political correctness and censor and correct and remove everything until we're left with dull, boring drek where every adventurer team is of mixed race, includes at least one "physically handicapped" member, and solves all problems with the power of friendship and understanding. I am not saying that I think these feelings justify, excuse, or otherwise pardon the deplorable behavior of some in the community, and ultimately this fear is built up the "Slippery Slope" argument which in of itself a fallacy; I simply wonder if maybe some of the denial and fervor beating against these kinds of critiques are bred from a sort of PTSD from earlier attacks and discrimination.

    I also would like to pose a complaint and question regarding portrayals of females in games. It is a common critique that games need more "strong female roles", but a common backlash to gamers presenting "well, what about 'this' character" is the response "that's just another Mrs. MaleCharacter, or Male Character with Boobs! She's not a women." My fiancee in particular often balks at such accusations as a lot of the film and game characters she identifies with are cut down by feminists for being "unfeminine." Is this just total hogwash, or do you think there's some truth to these sorts of claims.

  • zoo

    I hate you. We have to write a critique for our English 1A class because of this article……

  • mightydamsels

    Yay! Finally, someone who gets it! I wrote a blog post about the extremely oversized, absurdly inaccurate size of women's breasts in comics and I've had people comment that if I don't like it, I shouldn't read comics. I also had people tell me that comics are a projection of fantasy, yada, yada, and that men are just as exaggerated as the women.
    Thanks for writing this! I'm happy to see someone else fighting the good fight!!

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  • Matt

    Does anybody remember that video games are fantasy, or look at it from a regular woman's perspective? I know myself, as a video gamer, out of picking "Crazy Buff and Suave Hero" to "Out of shape sucks with women average Joe", and most guys would. Why do we assume that women would want different? Between average Jane, or a sexified character, I'm assuming they would want the sexy one. Thinking about it now, the main problem they probably have is women being portrayed JUST as a sex object, if we had ass-kicking smart suave sexy female characters not dependent on men, maybe that would work a bit better. Anyways, just my two cents.

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  • Alex

    Brilliant, thank you for this.

  • Felicianomiko

    " that women are only valued in geek culture if they’re willing to be a sexually alluring product" My life at every single fandom convention I have ever been to. Hell, I was just at Comicon Montreal with my husband, whose is a geek, but a real life aerospace engineer geek, and HE wanted me to dress in a sexy outfit for the con! He doesn't have half the fandom greek cred I have. I have the con badges to prove it going back to when I first started keeping them from AWA'99. But since I'm a girl, I must be in sexy cosplay or I'm letting down the geek community with my non-sexualized girlhood.

  • Felicianomiko

    I almost forgot, Fall out: New Vegas is a great game that does males and females really well. Yes, there are slutty women in them, on the Vegas strip being hookers! The vast majority of the women in that game are normal looking, act like reasonable adults and don't cater to sexist fetishism at all. LOVE that game so hardcore.

  • Jess

    I don't think men are privileged.

    If men were privileged, they wouldn't have higher suicide rates then women, and they wouldn't be more likely to experience all forms of violence (with the exception of domestic violence, which is roughly equal for both sexes). Look into some statistics. I don't want to invalidate the suffering of women, because yes, they have many struggles as well. We all do. But men have a lot of issues that are largely ignored by our society. Take a look at how many men die in wars. I understand that women are often not allowed in the military, despite many of them being capable and willing. But with men, their service is not only accepted, but in a more broad, gender role sense, that kind of disposability is EXPECTED.

    And I disagree that only women are being sexualized in those pictures of comic book characters.

    The men in those pictures are expressing aspects that are typical of male sexuality:

    -Physical Strength

    Yes, it's not as physical as how the women are portrayed. But that's the thing about male sexuality, it isn't as physical as women's. It's more about status and power. And no, that's not because men are assholes that want to control everything. It's because of biology and evolution. Thousands of years ago, before our modern society, there were much more set roles for men and women, and it was heavily centered around reproduction.

    Men had to be the protectors for women, so they could give birth to children. This was essential for our species for survival, and led to men being more about status, power, being in control, being fit, and all of that stuff. And women to being nurturing, cooperative, more likely to seek and accept help, all of that.

    I don't mean any of that in a sexist or misogynistic way, both have their advantages and disadvantages. A very obvious disadvantage of being more independent and strong, is that you don't seek help when you need it. That's why suicide rates for men are higher, as well as because we also expect men to be independent and to "keep it together," so their emotions are generally not considered as much.

    I don't think we need to enforce those gender roles, and there are definitely many exceptions. I'm far from a tranditionalist (I'm actually very liberal when it comes sexuality and relationships). But on a more unconscious, biological, primal level, we have a common tendency as a species for those roles. We need to understand our nature, and not blame any particular sex for the gender empathy gap.

    How do think men feel when they are constantly exposed to images of men showing status, power and competitiveness? It hurts them just as much as the female equivalent for women. A lot of men can't live up to those standards, or don't want to pursue those things.

    • Jess

      And I even see that lack of empathy for men in this site's articles. Telling men to "man it up" is being kind of cold to their feelings, no? How often do you see women being told to just "toughen up and take control of their situation"?

    • LazieLizzie

      "If men were privileged, they wouldn't have higher suicide rates then women"
      They don't have higher suicide rates than women. Men have higher SUCCESSFUL suicide rates because they tend to commit suicide in brutal ways (gunshot, hanging, etc.). Women have much higher suicide ATTEMPTS, because they tend to commit suicide in ways that are more easily reversed (overdosing, slitting wrists, etc.).
      More women attempt suicide than men. Men are just more successful than women.
      Also, depressive disorders are more common amongst women than men.

      "..they wouldn't be more likely to experience all forms of violence (with the exception of domestic violence, which is roughly equal for both sexes)"
      You're forgetting rape, which is significantly more common amongst women. I also think it's pretty safe to say that men are more likely to experience violence because they're taught to throw punches before they try to calmly discuss a disagreement. Men tend to put themselves into violence. One of society's many flaws when it comes to gender roles.

      Of course men get the raw end of the deal a lot of the time. That's why I identify as a "gender equalist" rather than a "feminist". I think it's ridiculous that men can't wear women's clothes without ridicule, while women can wear male and female clothes whenever they want. I think it's ridiculous that society tells men they can't be househusbands. Or that men should want sex all day, every day. Or that they're not allowed to be sentimental or open with their feelings. Or that they're not allowed to wear make-up or redecorate the house or enjoy musical theatre.

      But that's not the topic of this article. The fact of the matter is that women are systematically treated far worse in nerd culture than men are. So yes, many male characters are created with sexual traits, but almost none of them are treated as sex objects they way that women are.

      A good example is the new Batman movie. Christian Bale is a sexy man. Lots of women think so. Batman has a lot of sexual traits. But how many women walk out of the theater thinking, "Man, I would love to bang Batman!"? Not a whole lot. I certainly didn't. The vast majority of them are going to be thinking something along the lines of, "Batman's so cool!"
      But then look at Catwoman. Anne Hathaway is also a sexy woman. Lots of men think so. But how many men walk out of that theater ONLY thinking, "Catwoman's so cool!"? Not a whole lot. Most of them are going to be thinking something along the lines of, "Man, I would love to bang Catwoman!"

      Men are portrayed as sexy characters, whereas women are portrayed as sex objects. That's the problem.

      As the other commenters stated, women don't have a problem with being *sexy*. Quite the opposite, in fact. Most of us love being sexy. Women have a problem with being treated as *sex objects*, and most game developers and comic writers fail to understand this distinct difference.

      • thedamagedealingmeatshield

        "A good example is the new Batman movie. Christian Bale is a sexy man. Lots of women think so. Batman has a lot of sexual traits. But how many women walk out of the theater thinking, "Man, I would love to bang Batman!"? Not a whole lot. I certainly didn't. The vast majority of them are going to be thinking something along the lines of, "Batman's so cool!" "

        Who cares what one thinks to themselves? Do we now need to form the thought police to arrest people what they think? Also, who are to say what women think? Even the best psychologist doesn't know what their patients think. They have to take it on trust as to what the patient tells them. Just because women haven't said to YOU that they don't want to bang Christian Bale doesn't mean they aren't thinking it to themselves.

        Since you said, "Men are portrayed as sexy characters, whereas women are portrayed as sex objects. That's the problem." Sorry but Batman is a wealthy elite captain of industry who gets to live above the law when it comes to beating people up. Would Christian Bale's character be considered sexy if he once worked as a janitor, now is collecting unemployment, three weeks away from living on the streets, had crooked teeth, male balding pattern, was only 5'4" and weighted 400 lbs? Sorry, but everyone gets objectified. Some times it's on the social level. Most of the time it's on the individual level.

        • RG0

          You're missing the point: if Batman is portrayed as socially well-off, it's because that is part of the sexualization that women have, based on current socio-cultural habits, placed upon men.

          It's still the same damn thing: characters being portrayed as the zenith of what most people who would want to shag that person would find alluring. That one is a bulge of a bank account as opposed to bulges through a spandex top is irrelevant.

    • Anthony

      Can you cite studies that have been done that prove men were the protectors/providers for women throughout the majority of history and prehistory? That's an incredibly strong claim you've made, and I haven't seen evidence backing it up, so I'm curious if you have.

    • thedamagedealingmeatshield

      I agree Jess. The author of this article isn't connected with reality. I'm currently writing a post on "male privilege." Much of what this author wrote is no different than what feminists write. Many a times, like in this article, it relies on conjecture, beliefs, and other unsubstantiated claims. It's really no different than religion. If comic books stores, gaming, and the like are rampant with male privilege, misogyny, and the like, then there should be overwhelming evidence to back such claims up. In the beginning of this article, the author shows pictures of how men and women are portrayed. And seriously, what man in real life looks like that. What man is buff and wears a costume like how Batman is depicted in the provided photo. Seriously? Also, the author said that men are heroic. Really? If men are heroic then why aren't our military and police forces have millions and billions of men waiting in line to go kill some dude he never met?

      If men are so privileged, then white males can obviously do the following activities:

      Drive as fast as you want ignoring speed limits because you're a white male.

      In fact while driving down the highway at 120 mph, throw a soup can at the nearest police car and expect no repercussions because you're a white male.

      Walk into any bank get a zero interest loan, mortgage, credit card, line of credit, et al simply because you're a white male.

      Once you get that zero percent mortgage, don't pay your mortgage for 36 months and not be harangued by the banks, courts, county sheriff etc because you're a white male. In fact just say, "I'm a white male, buzz off."

      Now that you have a zero percent mortgage you can live in any community that you want. Even if you are poor and only made $15k a year, with that type of salary you can live in the Hamptons or Hollywood or any other place that has homes starting at $5,000,000 simply because you're a white male.

      Are you unemployed? Don't worry, just walk into any company and they will hire you right on the spot because you are a white male.

      Once hired, arrive three hours late and leave two hours early every day simply because you're a white male.
      Also, when hired, they will give you a pay increase of 10% every week you are there simply because you're a white male.

      Or perhaps as a white male, walk into your neighbor's house shoot everyone dead, burn the place to the ground, post a video of you doing such on Youtube. And not get in trouble. And if you are questioned by the police, remember that as a white male you have access to those $2000/hr lawyers who will more than happy help while they receive deferred payments for their services simply because you're a white male.

      • Gil


  • Anchorboy7

    There are a lot of girls who go "Hey guyss yes I'm a girl xD PLS DUNT ASK ME OUT" who give a really bad depiction female gamers.

  • joefresh

    "And, critically, a man doesn’t have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence and sexual assault." This assertion has negative statistical validity. Men are more likely to be victims of violence than women. Women just worry about it more.

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  • Charsi

    With female eyes, Batman's six-pack shaped armor isn't completely asexual either. Even the others aren't poorly built.

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  • nerdyhussy

    This is a great article! I'm glad I found it via reddit.

  • zmd

    I had an ex-boyfriend who was going through a depressive period near the end of our relationship. One day he started yelling at me and verbally threatening me. That day, I got into my car and left our apartment to stay with my friend. When I came back and he asked me why I left, I said "I was afraid you would hurt me." He answered "You know me, what are you afraid of? I would never physically assault you or anyone." While that was probably true, he had a completely non-violent history, what he (and I'm sure other men in his situation) misunderstood was that for women, there is ALWAYS a threat. There are always men in our lives or our friends' lives who have become abusive in some way. On top of that, this has been a historic threat for women since probably the beginning of civilization (if not earlier). One of the "red flags" women are taught to look for is potential for abuse. I don't think men have something equivalent. I don't think men are constantly watching out for their male friends and roommates to make sure the women in their lives aren't posing a threat to them. My ex and I broke up soon after this incident, but it will probably haunt me forever, even though he never laid a hand on me. Just the thought that a man in my life could become a threat to my safety has colored the way I interact with members of the opposite sex ever since.

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  • Julie

    B-b-b-but MALE PRIVILEGE!

    Excellent article as always Dr Love. Yes, it's sad that we live in a culture that tell men that no matter how physically unattractive a man is he is ENTITLED to a beautiful young girl. We live in a culture that objectify women. The same culture that shames women for their desires and preferences. The same culture that repeats ad nauseum shits like ".Women don't care about physical attractiveness in a man" which is nothing but a way to SHAME women and robs them of their agency in making their own sexual choice and going after men which actually attract them on a fundamental level. I wish this fucked up culture that constantly shame women wasn't. I really do..

  • RG0

    I'm also a little offended that tampon commercials never cater to the feelings of men as well.

  • RG0

    "And when you check back on Friday, I’ll provide you with some concrete applications on how being cognizant of male privilege will improve your relations with women."

    Right. Because pandering to illogical pro-feminist hypersensitivity in order to appear more attractive to them isn't sexist at all. You know what is also sexist? The idea that women are so emotionally frail that they need excuses and apologies for cartoon characters and their outfits because the mettle of their self-worth is obviously as solid as tracing paper.

  • RG0

    "The number one reason why objectification of women in games is different from what we do to men: we use sex as an excuse to disrespect women. Portraying them as sexy and sexual isn't empowering in a society where men treat women like shit for having sex."

    I don't think you get to both claim helpless victimhood for not helping to change the ridiculously puritanical was we see sexuality while, at the same time, decrying it as being the ultimate inescapable truth.

  • I enjoyed this article a lot, although I'm afraid that a lot of the peanut crew will instantly say NUH UH, skim it, get distracted by the pictures of breasts and then ignore it. I occupy the rare Bermuda triangle of 1. Being a nerd 2. Being a creator of nerdy things and 3. Being kind of hot, actually.

    Weirdly when I was a teenager I never got white knighted. Probably because I had problematic skin and small breasts and I dressed like Tank Girl. In college I became pretty popular, because I looked like Tank Girl. Now I'm sort of annoyingly popular because I look like Tank Girl, dress like Tank Girl, and I worked on Fallout 3, a game in which I inserted myself as Tank Girl because it was my job and I was allowed to do so.

    I'm like nerd royalty except instead of armies and knights you get annoying people who want to date you and mansplain to you for HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS on end.

    Also I love that the internet will never forget Dickwolves. It is our cross to bear.

  • Mas

    Sexism, Merriam Webster: "behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex ".

    To those of you saying Women can't be sexist, are you really serious about that? I don't know, man, that just seems *slightly* tremendously warped in its lack of willingness to suggest that somen women might in fact possibly do bad things to men based on gender associations.

  • Sara

    I'm a girl, and I've been into video games, comics and all that stuff all my life (all thanks to my father and older brother). It's never been obvious though, unless I walk into a game store to buy a new game. I'm always met with the same question – every single time without fail – "are you the one who's going to play it?". I don't get it, because I'm sure guys buying the same exact game don't get asked if they're the ones who're going to be playing the game they're buying. I've always stayed out of the geekfandom and kept quiet about the things I like because of the way girls get treated. You aren't taken seriously because you're a girl and you can't possibly be a "real fan". I feel like most guys look down on you.

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  • badfae

    The thing all the "But male characters are exaggerated, too!" objectors seem to miss is the intent behind the exaggeration. Men in comics are given proportions, poses, and facial expressions meant to make them look big, strong, intimidating. The reader is meant to live vicariously through them. It's a power fantasy..

    The women, on the other hand, are drawn as sexual fantasies: impossibly curvaceous, doe-eyed and pouty-lipped, dressed in costumes that, at best, look like club wear–and, often, are more like lingerie. Their clothing is not functional. This, by extension, seems to imply that the character is not meant to be anything more than decorative. Even their "action" poses are objectifying.

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  • I just found your site and I agree with the articles I read so far.
    This is NOT good reading for "Nerds", this is GOOD reading for ALL men. Period.

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  • Nice article, it needed to be done and I'm glad alot of your comments were welcoming to the material. I just have to point out that as a black man who grew up in Detroit, not only did I live in fear of violence everyday, but the folder full of DBZ pics that I sluffed around from class to class everyday made me 300% more likely to get my ass kicked on a regular basis, which did happen alot. When I go back to Detroit or am in any major city, this is still a concern. When in NYC, where I currently live, street harassment comes from the police and is about as legit as any street harassment, i.e. not legit lol. Which brings me to my next topic, sexual assault. Yes men do no have to worry about this nearly as much as women which is pretty much universal, but when you look at the stats and add to account minimum sentences, and finally throw in prison rape, there are plenty of men who can and do legitimately worry about violence and rape, and most of them are black. So i would avoid generalizations about men not having to view life through such prisms because not all men have it that way

  • Brilliant and important analysis. Kudos to the author. Then again, it shouldn't be so surprising when normal men encounter Feminism 101. Why are we shocked to see that happen? It's like applauding a dancing bear — you don't ask how well he dances, you're just surprised to see him dance at all. This observation aside, the piece is significant and should be lauded.

  • Ann

    As the wife of a lifelong gamer, I find the game culture entertaining. I really smile when all the staff at a game store have to pick their jaws up off the floor when they find out I'm a SUPPORTIVE gamer wife. Seems we're a rare breed. 🙂

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  • Jason

    Male privilege is the ultimate "have you stopped beating your wife?" argument. No matter how you try to critique the theory, you lose, because built into the premise is the assumption that if you question it, you're guilty of it. So, the way to win is not to play. Don't engage with people who talk about privilege as if it's fact.

  • People love to point out a small number of examples to justify the whole industry, much like the example of finding one girl who says she is not offended as proof that no one is allowed to be offended.

  • This is a silly argument, though not without merit; yes, it's true, women are sexualized in a large portion of this sort of stuff, not completely, but I'd say, at least in video games, it's about a 75% -25%. But this isn't the issue, they're simply writing and creating content for their audience. Why write for an audience that doesn't exist? Well maybe expand one's horizons, whatever, there are reason, but the answer isn't forcing these current writing to write in a certain way out of sensitively. For one, this will totally make most of the work coming out disingenuous, not everything, but certainly something that's being forced. I felt like that was the case with the new Tomb Raider, not a bad game, but it felt like some guy who doesn't really get women tried to write one with realistic levels. And it wasn't bad, but the character development in that game nearly lost me, unlike The Last of Us which did it right, both male and female. The answer, that everyone discussing this topic loves to ignore isn't in forcing current writers hands, but rather, in convincing new voices to emerge. Fresh voices. And if they don't want to, then who are you arguing for? Can't simply be so your girlfriend feels less out of place in a comic book store.

    • Lizzie

      This is a silly argument, though not without merit; yes, it's true, women are sexualized in a large portion of this sort of stuff, not completely, but I'd say, at least in video games, it's about a 75% -25%. But this isn't the issue, they're simply writing and creating content for their audience. Why write for an audience that doesn't exist?
      1)Women make up about 42% of the people who play videogames demographic, so the audience is there.
      2)Appeal to a bigger audience bring in more money.

      Well maybe expand one's horizons, whatever, there are reason, but the answer isn't forcing these current writing to write in a certain way out of sensitively. For one, this will totally make most of the work coming out disingenuous, not everything, but certainly something that's being forced. I felt like that was the case with the new Tomb Raider, not a bad game, but it felt like some guy who doesn't really get women tried to write one with realistic levels. And it wasn't bad, but the character development in that game nearly lost me, unlike The Last of Us which did it right, both male and female.

      1)They could hire women to help them write (which wouldn’t be as hard as you think- but like the article pointed out women are still often chalked up to “no nothing” in the gaming industry no matter how good they are.)
      2)I have never played them game, but – and I don’t mean to be insulting here (though it’s going to come off that way,) could it be that perhaps it is on a realistic level which is why you don’t understand it? (I encourage everyone to watch Dustin Hoffman’s interview on ‘Tootsie’)

      The answer, that everyone discussing this topic loves to ignore isn't in forcing current writers hands, but rather, in convincing new voices to emerge. Fresh voices. And if they don't want to, then who are you arguing for? Can't simply be so your girlfriend feels less out of place in a comic book store.

      1)Maybe they want to/ are trying to emerge but are being repressed because they have people constantly judging them for it? Like I said before, I know many girls who know more about writing, character design, etc. for videogames than most, but are not taken seriously because they are female or take a “feminist” stance.

    • Many of the women I know in the industry are actively harassed, don't get promoted, etc. – search #1reasonwhy for some truly terrible stories. Similarly, games with female protagonists get, on average, 40% of the marketing budget that games with male protagonists do. It's not as simple as "why write for an audience that doesn't exist" – among other reasons, because the audience DOES exist and gets crapped on all the time. I'd suggest you do some research into structural and individual bias in the game industry before you make pronouncements like this.

      Also your assumption that it's so "your girlfriend" doesn't feel out of place in a comic book store is exactly the kind of not-so-subtle bias women in geekdom experience every day. It's as though you can't imagine that the person you're talking to might BE the woman who feels uncomfortable in the comic book store, and that she might be there for her own reasons and not because of her boyfriend. Jeez.

  • Lizzie

    This may be kind of irrelevant or maybe for a new topic, but I feel that while this piece talks about how the unattractive are often dismissed it doesn't take into account that if you are attractive( and female i don't know about males) you are often still dismissed- just in a different way.

    Referred to as "fake", "only trying to get attention", "whore", or just in general have people creeping all over you even if you tell them explicitly ( which, lets face it guys- a lot of girls don't have the courage to do, but that doesn't mean they want you…they just don't know how to tell you they don't;) to back off.

    Guess my point is it's a problem for all women not just the attractive/ unattractive ones. Especially since everyone has different tastes.

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  • Emily

    I just want to come here and say absolutely thank you for saying this, and it really, really pisses me off that in general I have to present an article like this, written by a white *male*, before I get these same issues heard because apparently I’m too close to the problem to have a valid opinion of what is going on, most of the time.

    For my part I’m sorry lads but the man is right. I no longer engage in anything other than tightly controlled party chat on Xbox Life because now, at the age of 30, married, buying a house and planning a family I simply *will not* put up with the crap I used to get when allowing random strangers to hear the sound of my voice whilst playing random games. I feel I’m getting too old for this. How sad is that?

    Funnily enough I also avoid public transport and going places without my husband for the same reasons. I’ve been approached by pedophiles oh… 6 times by the time I was 17, then 4 times since then, 3 times since then by people who might not be pedophiles but sure looked like they were trying to find an easy target and thus one day could be… This is not including all the generally slightly drunk, slightly randy guys that have ever accosted me in the street on a night out or at a bar in a club (for the most part, I forgive them, even when I’m batting off their unwanted hands going to unwanted places *on my body*).

    Guys seriously, I’m the one everyone in school used to say looked like a boy. If this is what *I* go through and have gone through in 30 years of living, imagine what it’s like for a girl who’s actually considered by the majority of men to be conventionally attractive. Damn no wonder so many of them wind up in jobs that rely on their looks… they’re just bombarded from day one with likes like “With a face/body like that you could be a model” as if *that* is *the* highest profession any woman could *ever* even *dream* of going into. Sometimes, I’m glad I was too ugly to get that kind of compliment, although unfortunately I apparently dance well enough to be earning far more money being a table-top dancer than a science technician in a high school (or so I was told at a Christmas party by the deputy head when I was working there).

    I also resent being introduced at Electronic and Electrical Engineering conferences as “not just a pretty face” – well… duh?! I also resent that confused and irritated look I get when someone is talking to a friend of mine about something sciency and I interject with a fact-filled statement about the topic. I also resent that what I’m wearing will change how likely it is that a guy wants to talk to me. I mean seriously they expect me to stare at their not-so-pretty face and listen to them ramble for half an hour *if* I’m pretty enough to warrant their interest. One professional to another? This sucks.

    Also I don’t like the confused looks when I comment on the scientific validity of any given episode of any given sci-fi – I know my shit, please don’t look so surprised if you can at all help it. LOL… By all means shower me with compliments… about the things *you’d* like to hear about yourself: that you’re a (wo)man of integrity and honour, a (wo)man of action and practical sense, a wise (wo)man, who absolutely can be a real life hero(ine) whose professional excellence is rivaled only by their various exceptional talents. Hint: no comment about what *you* look like, how sexy, how smartly dressed or how handsome you are is required.

    If you can’t look at me and see I *could* be all the things that in truth I actually am – a scientist, an engineer, a gamer, a nerd, a geek, a philanthropist, political activist, paintballer, military strategist… then tell me in all honesty… why should I? Granted I am what I am now, but that’s despite expectations placed upon me and I don’t like how hard I’ve had to fight just to climb the same rock to the same level as my male counterpart just *because* I’m female. More to the point… why should your daughter believe herself capable of these things? Because she’s going to face exactly the same attitudes and if you really do think she’s “more than a pretty face”, you’d better start acting like it around other women whose faces just happen to be pretty.

  • While by and large this article kind of hits the nail on the head there is one thing that could stand a bit of correction.

    People who say 'men don't have to think about being victims of violence or rape' – while it is true that sexual assault against men is less common in our society (and, when it does occur – often so 'accepted' that even if he felt victimized if he tried to complain he'd be laughed at) the reality – very clearly supported by stats is that men are much MORE likely to be victims of violence than women. Over 80% of victims of violence are male. It's just that, as a society, we're supposed to consider this 'okay' because most of the perpetrators are also male but it doesn't change the fact that if you're a guy you're more likely to have to deal with violence than if you are female.

    Just don't complain about it. You'll get told to 'man up'.

  • Shelly

    You think that just maybe, just maybe, if a hero had a normal relatable girlfriend, and their interactions were normal and she was portrayed as a normal female, that perhaps a lot of (beware, here comes a stereotype) that socially awkward geeky types MIGHT learn how to actually TALK to a REAL woman?

  • davidgerard

    Geeks who insist on the value of "unvarnished communication" mean they want to *send* it; they reliably hit the roof when they *receive* it.

  • Esther

    You have tons of responses already, but really . . . THANK YOU! Really, it's only the guys who can change this sort of behavior and thought process — the opinions of "us ladyfolk" tend to be quickly brushed aside. I tend to avoid the MMO games like Halo for reasons like this . . . not to mention that I'd probably just keep shooting the guy on my team making those comments which would mean we were down a man the whole time. Seriously, thanks.\

  • Wesley

    While there is some merit to this argument, I have to take issue with the examples given because it's criticizing the appearance of characters that are supposed to be portrayed that way.
    -One of Catwoman's best weapons is exploiting men who are distracted by her feminine whiles. Granted in recent years her promiscuous side has been amped up to eleven ever since the Dark Knight Returns portrayed her as a prostitute-turned-cat-burglar, and criticizing Frank Miller for that change is certainly fair.
    – Harley Quinn's aesthetic change is arguably over-sexualized, it would be more fair to show her nurse uniform from the first game. Her original one piece outfit wouldn't have fit the tone of the game anyway.
    -Poison Ivy. One of her defining characteristics is her seductive nature (no pun intended) to lure men into becoming her thralls. It's not unreasonable for her to dress seductively, though I do agree that her outfit in this game is excessively revealing. I'd have covered her in more leaves and ditched the sweater; something closer to her original animated appearance.

  • Maxim

    Great article! As a woman who loves Magic the Gathering, it was always really annoying on pre releases, that the first question I got was "Are you waiting for your boyfriend?". I would love this to change in the geek society.

  • Geek culture looks down on women; it always has. Geek culture was founded by the smart boys who got stuffed in lockers, given swilrlies, and generally harassed by the rest of the male culture that valued little more than athletics and punk thuggery. In return, they founded an enclave in which they alone were valued for their intelligence and knowledge of science, science fiction, fantasy, gaming, computers, and a whole lot of arcana that no one outside the community cares about. To be judged by knowledge alone, and not bicep size, or street-cred sounds great, until you realize the one group we never treated that way were girls. Chicks could hang with us, if they proved their geek hood, and if so they were "almost like real geeks". Funny how the society of the mind seemed to check your testicles for admission rights. We needed someone to look down on and we picked girls, then spent the decades since wondering why they weren't flocking to us. Turns out, they just aren't stupid enough to be judged by standards other than their mind in a society based on knowledge. Pull your heads out of your ass, your mind out of the gutter, and judge a geek by their speak, not the shape of the flesh hung on the outside of the rib cage.

    • Ironically, a lot of geek culture was built by women – e.g. there's a whole history of women organizing early conventions. Women's work just gets erased. It sucks.

  • What a bunch of poor-me drivel. You want strong women protagonists, write them. Look for them. There are plenty. Sorry but women and men are not the same. X and Y chromosomes make us different. Fighting against it will always loose. Male and female humans have had different, and complimentary, roles throughout history. Comics and video games that alienate women won't sell as well. Ever play a hidden-object game, like the ones from Big Fish? Totally a female dominated genre for video games. I play them, and I have to live with my character portrayed as a woman. Oh well. I'm a husband and dad of three. It does not bother me that the games I play all the time on my iPad are played by 80%+ women and are designed for them. Get over yourself. Don't like the subject matter? Support authors and publishers that you like. End of story.

    • eselle28

      I do support authors and publishers I like. I don't support authors and publishers I don't like. I'm also going to sometimes chime in and say if I otherwise would buy a product, but have chosen not to because I don't like the way it portrays my gender. Otherwise, how else will companies know if their products are being avoided because of gender issues, because the products have other problems, or because women just don't like that kind of game or book?

      You can tell me to shut up if you want, but I'm not going to listen, so it would make a lot more sense for you to simply choose not to read comments and articles on this subject.

      • I'm not telling you to shut up. I'm saying the basic premise that all women in video games are portrayed as sexy tarts is totally flawed. I think you are only looking at one slice. Go to the top 100 mobile games on iOS for example. You will find very few that fit your description. I think first-person shooters and similar console or PC games are designed for a certain market. I feel like you are ignoring the HUGE number of games that portray women differently than the way you object to. The whole nerds hitting on anything in a skirt is on-target. I was one of the unwashed masses who acted totally inappropriately around women. However, that's not unique to comic and video game nerds. Nerds who see women in porn more then in real life are not really part of a culture, in my opinion. I see the same stinky neck-beards at Linux user groups, for example. The thing with Linux users groups is that most people are employed. Part of the reason socially-retarded nerds are so prevalent in comics and games is that many are young and don't have real lives yet. Many out-grow the worst symptoms.

        The article, in my opinion, seems to assume that there is some unspoken agreement between men that things must be a certain way. No, it's an agreement between producers of comics and video games that certain things sell. The example of someone walking up to a table with comic talent is unfair. I go to MegaCon most years in Florida. Almost all the talent are guys, and many have spouses/girlfriends there. When you walk up to a table to get an autograph or ask questions, 80% of the time the guy is the one you intend on talking too. If it were in reverse, then people would assume it's the woman instead of the guy.

        I think you are looking for a certain behavior, you will find it by reading into events the motivation you want to see there. My God, in my 22 years in the printing and I/T world, I have worked for women almost the entire time. No one ever thought they were anything but professional. Now, I have seen women try and get by on looks, just like I see guys try to get by on good-ole-boy contacts they made with other guys at college. It happens, but it's not pervasive.

        I think this article finds sinister plots and consistent coordination of the condoning of bad behavior between males that simply does not exist. Socially retarded nerds are not encouraged by some male establishment. They might tolerate similar individuals and give approval to each other, but nerd-herds are just groups of like-minded people as any other social group is.

        If you get into stuff that is designed for a male market, it's going to have certain aspects that are distasteful. If I play a HOG (hidden object games) I have just live with being "Detective Marcy" who's inner-voice I hear in the game is female while she makes very non-guy comments. I don't make blog posts on how men should be treated better in those games. There are two kinds of men in those games… handsome love interests that basically get kidnapped right away to be rescued, or really gross bad-guys. Is that fair? WHO CARES?

        • eselle28

          The problem is that I do not play iOS games, nor do I want to. I play PC games and console games. I would like to have more games that portray women in ways that don't horribly offend me, and I'm tired of being told I'm not part of the market. I am, at least when developers will make products that don't actively antagonize me. I put up with more bullshit from it than a lot of male gamers with the same interests would. And that's why I think articles like this are important. Incidentally, if you're unhappy with the way that men are portrayed in iOS games, I'd be happy to back up your calls for more representation if it appears that they do in fact tend toward unpleasant stereotypes.

          As for behaviors by both male geeks and design companies, I don't think anyone's claimed it's a vast conspiracy. It's a bunch of individual people behaving badly and a bunch of individual companies making lazy and stereotypical design decisions, supported by an entire network of people who either ignore the problems entirely or do as you're doing and tell people to stop complaining when they point out those problems. People don't outgrow them. Most of the worst harassment I've experienced has been by older men, and the video game designers and publishers who are portraying women badly are often older executives rather than young up and comers. People sometimes change when they're called out on their behavior, but they don't when everyone coddles them.

          As a picky side point, calling things "retarded" is at absolute best juvenile.

          • OK, I guess I see your point. I do think any time we want to make things so non-offensive to one group or another, we end up with bland crap. Taking big-boobed chicks out of shoot-em-up games does kinda go against the genre. I don't see any way of taking out that stuff keeps the same flavor many people want. The alternatives are special "Sexist content" warnings with would be just terrible political correctness run amok. I suppose you could select something in-game to switch out certain characters based on preference. Basically, what are you advocating? Do you want removal of stuff that offends you. So… if everyone get things removed that offended them no TV show, movie or video game could ever be made. Maybe Tetris would be OK. If you just want a selection of less-offensive games, then warning labels work. If you want all men to change and not like half-naked women, you're fighting against millions of years of evolution and that won't happen. We have to act a certain way at work or on the street, for example, but implementing some morality standards in games sounds like the making of boring games. Of course, I don't really like PC pr console games except Wii, which does not count. Maybe PETA would take away my angry birds.

          • eselle28

            I disagree. I think considering different audiences tends to spur creativity and lead to more diversity in gaming. I wouldn't suggest that we ban half-naked women from games or that there's a moratorium on bald space marines. There's a group of players that like these games, and that's fine. They're not all gamers, though, and constant repetition of these tired stereotypes in game after game isn't lending much richness to the gaming world. I know many male gamers who either dislike these tropes or who don't care either way about them, and many female gamers who'd like to buy games that don't contain such negative portrayals of women. Perhaps some of these would have female protagonists. Others might contain balanced, realistic portrayals of both men and women, like much other mainstream entertainment. There might end up being some niche stuff that flips the roles and is offensive in the other direction. I'd just like companies to acknowledge that I'm here and that I'm a part of the market, as are many other women who enjoy playing games. And, no, I don't need warning labels. I'm perfectly able to assess content on my own. I'd just like there to be more content that's worth buying.

            Incidentally, I know you consider yourself an iOS gamer, but there is far more to PC and console gaming than cartoony shoot-em-up titles. If you don't play these games often enough to be familiar with any recent RPG/FPS/MMO titles, then I think it casts quite a pall on your ability to claim what makes these games interesting and what would make them boring.

          • Funny, shooters seem to accommodate a variety of male body types just fine. (For example: Team Fortress 2.) "Big-boobed chicks" don't have to go away. They just can't be the vast majority of what's offered to women, when men get lots of different physical and narrative archetypes to play.

            Also, you are the one making a leap to "terrible political correctness run amok." If that's the only alternative to our current gaming culture that you can conceive of, you rather lack imagination. It's okay, though – I've got enough vision for two. All you need to do is shut up and stop actively fighting to make the world a shittier place for anyone who doesn't want exactly the things you do.

          • eselle28

            Plus, it's not like the problem is as simple as there being big-boobed chicks running around. Hell, I'm a big-boobed chick. I'd just like there to be a few more of us portrayed as having personalities beyond sex kitten and girl who gets fridged in the first act, and wouldn't mind if some not-so-big-boobed chicks got written in too.

            As for the second paragraph, I don't know why people keep forcing this as a future where things are only subtracted and nothing else is ever added or expanded upon. I'd agree that it seems to be a lack of imagination.

          • Well, it's true that there are costs to diversity. Right now games with female protagonists get 40% the marketing budget of games with male protagonists. That money has to come from somewhere. Ditto if we made 50% of NPCs female: more women means fewer men. But as a big-boobed chick, I'm more than willing to see fewer women in games that look exactly like me so that other people can have themselves represented, too. I know plenty of men who feel the same way – but unfortunately there are also plenty of selfish jerks out there who see any change as a threat.

            There's some fascinating research out of Michigan State that suggests that men are equally happy playing male or female characters, but women care a lot about playing women (at least when they're the minority of players in that particular game community). So to increase sales, game companies should really be switching over to primarily female characters. The fact that they don't suggests that audience preference isn't what's really at stake.

          • eselle28

            Well, yes, there is some extent to which it is a zero sum game. There are only so many games in the world. To the extent that's true, more women means fewer men. But I also do think that if we limit the conversation to commercially viable games, there's a chance to grow the pie, in gross economic terms. If there are people who'd buy more games if there were more games that portrayed women less offensively (and I think there's some signals in the casual game market that there may be), we could perhaps still have a decent number of games that acknowledge that women are an audience without eradicating the games that are serving the stereotype of what gamers want.

            As for the boobs thing, to me it was more the idea of putting some actual character into the female NPCs, and not just leaning on the idea of a hot girl in a low cut top and tight pants as a character. I'd like to see more women in games who seem like people, whatever their body types are and however they're dressed. I suspect that this will in turn lead to more realistic visual portrayals, because it seems like people who take the time to think up a Willow or a Starbuck or a Zoe or a (non-genre example) Peggy Olsen or Joan Harris will realize that women are individuals who dress in different ways, and that only some will opt for very sexualized looks.

          • Yup, agreed on both fronts.

          • Mel_

            Now you're using a slippery slope argument, suggesting that if we ask for one thing, all these other extreme things will follow. That's a logical fallacy. See here:

            I don't know if you've noticed, but TV shows and movies have managed to include increasingly more diverse and multifaceted portrayals of women and minorities over the past several decades somehow without it all turning into bland pap. I'm not sure why asking for a little more of that would suddenly ruin everything.

            And it's not just about a few people being offended. Are you aware that there have been scientific studies done that show that the objectifying portrayals of women in media, including games, has vast negative effects on its audience? If we find out something has a harmful effect–not just to women, but men too–should we shrug and say "that's just the way games are" because some people like games the way they are? I would say, on the contrary, that's a very good reason to stand up and speak out. And frankly, if you actually like games, you should *want* them to evolve into being more multifaceted and complex rather than encouraging us to let them stay mired in cliches and banalities. (Because, seriously, is there anything edgy about most of these big-boobed chick shoot-em-up games you're talking about? I'm pretty sure they're *already* predictable and bland.)

          • SpiltCoffee5

            How does the idea of "more and better representation of women" equate to the idea of "no offensive material", exactly?

          • eselle28

            I think it's resting on the hilarious concept that women only like nice, sanitized, cute, chastely romantic things. Like Angry Birds.

            To which I would say, go read some fanfiction. And then I laugh and laugh and laugh.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            Meanwhile, they're all like ಠ_ಠ

          • The word "retarded" was used in a way completely accurate to it's dictionary definition and was neither juvenile or incorrect. Political correctness in speech is a cop-out. You are obeying those who wan to tell us how to think and act. Big Brother would be proud. I thought you wanted to be different. Words should not frighten you. Your "picky side point" is disappointing.

          • eselle28

            I've chosen to be different by learning lots of ways to describe poor social behavior. I don't need to pick ones that hurt others or that are thrown around by naughty children.

            This might shock you, but you're not someone whose respect I particularly crave.

          • Wanna bet this guy is plenty careful about his language in situations where he stands to gain something, or where something he cares about might be at risk?

          • eselle28

            As always, kleenestar, cutting through the bullshit. Like a boss.

            I'm trying to think of the worst word I use, and I think it's "fucking." I say "fucking" somewhat frequently. I wouldn't use it at an interview, but I don't let myself say other words like "awesome" (a favorite) either because it's such a formal situation. I wouldn't say "fucking" in front of people's children, either, but that's because I assume they might not want their kids to repeat it. But I could see myself using it in an impassioned speech, even about something serious, and I wouldn't be ashamed if someone took a video of me saying it five times in a row and posted it on the internet and everyone I know saw it.

            I guess if someone feels the same about "retarded" good for them, but somehow I don't think that's often the case.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            Words have more than dictionary definitions.

    • Mel_

      Yes, you're doing a very good job of showing how it's wrong to speak up against things you disagree with… by speaking up about how you disagree with this article. By your reasoning, shouldn't you get over yourself, stop expecting all blog posts to say things you like, and stick to supporting blogs whose subject matter you do agree with? I'm sure if you "look for them", "there are plenty".

      Or maybe, when you see something you disagree with, sometimes you feel it's important to speak out and try to change that thing. Gosh, I wonder if anyone else in the world ever feels the same way about other issues?

      • So are you going to actually post anything about my points, or just rant that I'm not warm and fuzzy?

        • eselle28

          She's not ranting that you're not warm and fuzzy. (Gosh, have you read Mel's posts? They're excellent and you should, but we're not talking warm-and-fuzzyville in many cases.) She's telling you to take your own advice and support bloggers whose points you agree with.

        • Mel_

          I didn't say anything about your tone, and I was directly addressing your points. Were your points not that people who write articles like the above should get over themselves, simply support the games they like or write their own, and stop there (presumably, rather than write articles about what they don't like)? Because those were the words you used, so if that wasn't what you were trying to say, you might want to work on your communication skills.

          My issue is that you don't seem to be following your own supposed correct standard of behavior. If it's okay for you to say, "this article is drivel, get over yourself" even though there are plenty of articles out there that don't complain about the representation of women, why is it not okay for people unhappy with how women are portrayed in some video games to say, "there are problems with these games, take a look at that" even though games exist that don't have the same problems? I'm not seeing how you feel justified telling other people to ignore the things they don't like and focus on what they do rather than criticize, when you yourself are doing the opposite.

          Although, honestly, I'm not even sure you actually read the article before you started complaining about it, given that you're talking as if it's all about sexy women in video games, when really that's just one small section of an article that focused much more on how real life women with nerdy interests are treated in many nerd communities. So not only are you spending your time complaining about articles you don't like rather than writing your own or supporting those you do like as you're telling everyone else to do, but you're also complaining without even bothering to read the article and make sure your complaints make sense. It seems to me that's pretty much the definition of drivel. At least the people complaining about video games have generally actually played those games and know what's in them. 😛

        • I believe she's actually pointing out that you are being hypocritical.

          (Accurately, as far as I'm concerned.)

    • SpiltCoffee5

      "You want strong women protagonists, write them."

      Women would be best suited for this task, and women would love to do it!… except the industry itself is also prejudiced against women.

      "There are plenty."

      There is a number of female-protagonist-lead video games out there, true, but they come no where near the amount of male-protagonist-lead video games. This saddens me, because a number of the story driven games that I end up playing only have male protagonists, and I find it boring to play this same trope over and over again.

      "Comics and video games that alienate women won't sell as well."

      Uhhh? I think you may have typed this sentence wrong. It isn't consistent with the rest of your statements.

      "I'm a husband and dad of three. It does not bother me that the games I play all the time on my iPad are played by 80%+ women and are designed for them."

      Firstly, I'm not sure what the gender make up of the audience of a video game has to do with anything, especially when it's presented as a statistic pulled from thin air [citation needed].

      Secondly, my, and possibly other's, assumption is that most mobile phone games do not have much in the way of a strong story line or strong characters, whereas console and PC games are much more likely to have these. Unfortunately, the perception is that a large portion of these games feature men as power fantasies and women as sexual fantasies.

      For example, if you're male, you probably won't notice it at all; a large amount of video game story lines will have a male character that you will relate to or feel a desire to emulate. Heck, I didn't notice that for the longest time myself, but I notice it now. It is certainly a privilege that men have when it comes to video games like these.

      Women do not get this same privilege. If they wish to play console and PC games with strong storylines, they are essentially being asked, constantly, to imagine themselves as male.

      This is why women are asking for a wider selection of female protagonists with stories and games that don't suck. Surely you could get behind that?

  • Raymond

    You know, I call bullshit on this whole article. Not because it is wrong. It's right on the money, but so what? Of course Geekdom is a domain of male privilege. Of course there is pushback at the notion that it should change. We're that not the case, it wouldn't exist.
    Lets not forget how all of this interesting culture came to be. These 'troglodytes' are geeks. Being a geek is about them. It may be changing, ever so slowly, but the social forces that cast it into existence are not.
    I have been around longer enough to see three generations of young men marginalized and objectified to their exclusion in the 'normal' patterns of social interaction. Not athletic, not funny, not attractive. These people grow into adulthood with significant social, interpersonal, and even sexual deficits that can be directly link to the boxes they were put in by their peer group, particularly women.
    It is little wonder that this group retreats first to the comfort of fantasy (which IS wish-fulfillment), then what meager fraternity can be cobbled out of that shared interest. No wonder this intimacy starved demographic jealously defends itself from the notion that they have to Justify their interest, prurient or otherwise, to anyone.
    I am not saying it right. I am saying that if you are thinking that it is supposed to be, you may be in the wrong group. Mainstream culture made geek culture. It is a product of objectification, and not the 'don't you look hot in those panties' kind.

    • … because geeks are never women?

      • Raymond

        Well, sure they are, if that's how they chose to identify, but that's not really what we are talking about is it.

        • Actually, it's precisely what we're talking about. Yes, the central myth of geekdom is of the heroically outcast young man who builds fantasy worlds instead. That narrative erases the work women did to help build geek culture, and erases the realities of the women who participate in it. On the other hand, it does rather nurture one's sense of self-pity and provides an excellent, built-in excuse for treating women badly. Your idea of what it means to identify as a geek is pretty gross.

    • eselle28

      So…girl geeks. What happens to the girl geeks who aren't athletic, aren't funny, aren't attractive? They want a peer group as well.

      Also, I think it reflects a very limited view of science fiction and fantasy to say that it can only be used as escapism. Not that there's anything wrong with escapism, but broad versions of science fiction and particularly fantasy have been incredibly stylish during various periods of history, and during other times, fantasy type stories have been the primary ones used by a given society and are employed for all the various instructional, literary, political, satirical, and so on purposes that any other sort of stories or plays or books or poems are.

      • Raymond

        I never said anything of the sort. What I am saying is that this male privilege orientation of the culture exists for a reason, and that maybe, just maybe, insisting that it must change simply because it doesn't fit the egalitarian mores of 'mainstream' society without actually examining why it is this way in the first place, is more than just a bit ignorant and chauvinistic in its own way.

        • eselle28

          I think what we're saying is, what if that fantasy boys' island never existed in the first place? What if there were always girls there, and you always threw rocks at them? And now it's an issue not because girls have just come to the island and don't understand the grand old wonderful tradition of rock-throwing, but because the ones who have been there all along have gotten tired of dodging rocks for decades upon decades and don't want their daughters to either leave the island or get lots of rockscars. And now you're defending rock-throwing as your culture and calling up all the former boys who liked throwing rocks, without acknowledging that there were also lots of girls on your island too who didn't like being hit by the rocks but did think the island was awfully pretty.

          And, if you don't believe that women were always involved in science fiction and fantasy, I think you're ignoring a lot. "Mary Sue" was coined from an early '70s fanfic by a female author. It wasn't an anomaly for there to be women involved in the Trek fandom at that time, at all. There were women writers, women artists, and women fans going back right to the beginning of fandom. Women were, in fact, among the important early organizers of fan conventions. If you want to take it to extremes, Mary Shelley was certainly one of the founders of modern horror.

          We're not hanging on to your culture. We've been here. All along. Like a creepy, creepy movie villain….

          • Raymond

            Who contributed to what isn't the point. The point is the nature of fantasy. This bias of male privilege well represents the market, and when and if that changes, so will the skew. None of that matters. The whole ridiculous tract in this imminently condescending blog comes down to one thing. Predicating the acceptance of one group on the notion that the preferences of another are defective. This is the special interest of a sub-culture. It's not you place to step in between someone else and their video game or comic and tell them that their love of fantasy depictions of exadurated gender stereo-types is wrong. Go geek your own way. Want something different, make something different. Buy stuff that's different. Want to talk about women getting jobs in the game industry? That's important. Not being harassed online? That's important. But this whining because socially awkward boys like stories on rough muscle bound heroes they will never be, and buxom female heroines and villains they will never have… That's weak sauce. Added to the rest of your piled up first world problems and get over yourself.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            "This bias of male privilege well represents the market"

            [citation needed]

            "But this whining because socially awkward boys like stories on rough muscle bound heroes they will never be, and buxom female heroines and villains they will never have… That's weak sauce."

            Not the argument most are making. The argument isn't that boys like this – for most people making the point, they're actually ok with it. The argument is that most things within the culture are like this, and that maybe perhaps we could consider making things that are not like this, because not everyone enjoys it.

          • Raymond

            Self evident. The products are being bought. Want a citation, check your receipt.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            I'm sorry, you can't just claim that it's self evident. The citation needed tag stands.

          • Raymond

            Gee maybe your right. What a burn. Just got pants on the Internet. Now everyone will realize that 'male Privilege' is forcing sexist material onto a resistant market of egalitarians who hate that shit. Maybe someone should study that, because its a goddamn quagmire of macro-economics.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            "Gee maybe your right. What a burn. Just got pants on the Internet."

            I'm sorry? I don't recognise a "burn" in anything I've said so far, could you please explain how I have supposedly insulted you?

          • Raymond

            Oh, sorry, maybe your computer isn't picking up the font. See, I wrote that in sarcasm.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            Huh, why did you do that?

          • Raymond

            Okay. Because I do think its self evident and I am not going to look it up and give you a citation. The logic goes like this. People don't buy what they don't want. Geek media and products reflect a strong gender bias. Ergo, the market, as reflected in sales is similarly biased in aggregate. If you contend otherwise, the burden of proof lies with you.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            Well, I don't geek on much outside of video games, so if it's ok with you, I'm gonna be claiming that the video game playing audience does not have a male bias.
            Page 3 says that women make up 47% of the video gaming audience.

          • And it's moving in the right direction! The Pew Foundation found that 98% of teen boys and 96% of teen girls play games. In other words: almost everyone.

          • Hilarious.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            "This bias of male privilege well represents the market"

            [citation needed]

            "But this whining because socially awkward boys like stories on rough muscle bound heroes they will never be, and buxom female heroines and villains they will never have… That's weak sauce."

            Not the argument most are making. The argument isn't that boys like this – for most people making the argument you're alluding to, they will allow you to like whatever you like. The argument is that most things within the culture are like this, and that maybe perhaps we could consider making things that are not like this, because not everyone enjoys it.

          • Raymond

            Then go do that and STFU about it. Every body wants to talk about what someone else should do to make their world better for them. This shit gets hostility because you are yacking to the people least likely to care about why their interests are keeping you from getting what you want, when you should be making that. And if you aren't able, and no one else is, or no one thinks its profitable… You don't get what you want.
            Entitled spoiled brats, the lot of you.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            It's not that simple, unfortunately. For example, video games which feature female protagonists or have a better representation of women really need women involved in the creation of the game (because, really, they would know how to better represent women in the game), and currently women still face a lot of resistance in the games development industry.

          • Raymond

            That has not been my experience. As a 13 year veteran I can tell you that every institution if have worked for has actively recruited women. The most often heard lament in my tenure has been the dearth of women applicants.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            What is your working background, if you don't mind me asking?

          • Do you make your charming views known in the workplace? Does your workplace support and share them? If so, I'm not shocked you have trouble hiring and retaining women.

        • nonA

          Except the thrust of your argument is that geek culture is the way it is because Society (including Women) have pushed them to it.

          Which explains a great deal of cheesecake art and junior high D&D games, but does not explain why adults have to greet outsiders with alternate tokenization and hostility. In case you haven’t noticed nerd is the new in thing, and most of us are not in high school anymore.

          There are flaws to the article, but I don’t understand how anyone can defend taking newcomers who share a lot of the same tastes and feelings you do, and treat them with hostility.

          • Raymond

            Then your missing the inherent hostility that is projected when the new comer makes a point of projecting their vanilla mores on an established culture based on a formerly outside the mainstream interest. The mainstream has become an insurgency into geek culture. That always produces hostility. Not that there was not hostility to begin with. Again with the social reject conjecture.
            My point is, instead of coming with hostility and judgement, you might try to understand the people your stepping on. But, I am three responses into this line of reasoning and your still not getting it. So either you don't want to, or your just all mic and no headphones. Either way, you've gotten all the text I'm prepared to commit to this, so congrats on the last word. You win the Internet.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            That's a kinda childish response, dude… It's going to take a lot longer discussion than this to come to an agreement.

          • Raymond

            Not trying to be a dick. Just pointing out what to me should be obvious. This is Fantasy stuff. You will get no agreement. Pursue what you want and leave other to what they want. You don't get to change the mix by telling other people that what they like is bad. Because its not. Just not your thing.
            …now you can win the Internet.

          • SpiltCoffee5

            I think this is where most of the disagreement comes from in these kind of discussions. The argument being made by one side of "I would like to see more of this new thing in this culture" gets translated to "what is already in this culture is bad" by the other side, which is not the same argument.

            I can't speak for things outside of video games, so I'll try and stick with the nerdy stuff that I know. I don't have a problem with any of the existing video games (except Call Of Duty :P), but I would love to see some more video games that had more realistic representations of women, amongst other things, and more games that place more women in lead protagonist roles. I'll still continue to play games that have male protagonists, for sure, but I would also love to play games that don't.

          • What he says: "Pursue what you want and leave others to what they want. You don't get to change the mix by telling other people that what they like is bad."

            What he does: exactly the opposite.

            If you believe what you say, follow your own advice and go away. Or is it only women who have to leave people alone and stop telling them that what they like is bad?

            For the record, I don't think what you like is bad. I think YOU are demonstrating some fairly ugly character traits, though.

          • nonA

            Raymond is a little right. The tropes that exist are there because they appeal to the market, and you’re better off creating new product than getting upset over existing stuff; I’d rather encourage girls to try their hand at indie game development so they have a portfolio to speak of, than stamp my feet about how the big production houses need to meet hiring quotas or whatnot.

            The problem comes when you veer away from simple market issues. The post goes on to mention what happens when someone with a female voice joins a voice chat service, and I’d love to hear how that’s the market’s fault or how the market can solve that.

          • Plus, there's evidence that game companies actually ignore what the market "wants" in favor of maintaining a particular set of ideas about what games should be and who they should be for. For example, there's research showing that men will equally play as male or female characters, while women prefer to play women. Yet somehow games with female protagonists are harder to get approved and get smaller budgets, even though they actually appeal more broadly to players.

            The free market is not magic. (… neither free nor a market. Discuss amongst yourselves.) It's always weird to me when people like this dude think it is.

          • eselle28

            I think that even when talking about the market, there's a space for discussing these . I am entirely for encouraging women to explore indie game development and for encouraging all sorts of people to sample indie games (partly because many indie games are awesome). But I don't think this needs to be done with a side of "…and shut up about it already." I think it's important that people state their reasoning for making these choices, because when they don't, women who are boycotting major studio games and finding indie alternatives just get lumped in with all those stereotypes about women not liking shooters, and women only liking "casual" games, and women being all sorts of things that means they're not a real video game market. Perhaps stating that will make some major studios realize that they're ignoring a reasonable portion of players and inch toward imitating the indie games and perhaps it won't, but it's important for me to talk about it.

    • Mel_

      It's getting rather tiresome seeing all these comments from people who clearly didn't read the article, just saw the pictures of sexy video game characters, freaked out thinking someone's trying to take those away, and decided they needed to rant against that. If you have enough time to get into a long back and forth in a comments thread, may I suggest that you'll come off a lot better if you actually bother to read the material you're claiming is wrong?

      What the article *actually* gives as examples of male privilege (notice that "getting to have sexy women in video games" isn't one of them):

      -not seeing anything wrong with openly staring at a real woman's chest while talking to her
      -thinking you have the right to berate a woman for having an opinion about the women in comics, because her opinion isn't as valid
      -responding to any criticism that comes from women and/or relates to female representation as if it's absurd or inevitable, and treating the women who make any criticism as the enemy, not even being willing to consider their points
      -assuming women are women first and geeks second, attributing anything you don't like about a woman geek to her being female, and generalizing that to all women (while not doing the same to men)
      -harassing women players in online games more than men, because they are women
      -judging the value of a woman's opinions based not on what she says, but how attractive she is
      -ignoring professional women at conferences or treating them as if they're just there for eye candy while seeking out information from less qualified men
      -assuming a woman isn't really a geek but just a hanger on, or is only interested in "girly" titles, regardless of what she says or does

      Are you seriously going to suggest that we should just accept these things as an inherent part of geekdom and not try to change them, just because some geeky men were teased as children? Since when does being teased excuse a person from stereotyping, dismissing, and/or harassing half of the population because of a characteristic over which they have no control? And why on earth would any geeky man's fantasy require belittling women? Wouldn't a better fantasy be one in which they could talk with women who shared their interests and geek out together? A lot of geeky guys talk wishfully about doing so, while ignoring the ways they're shutting out those same women. DNL wrote this article *for their benefit*, so we can work toward geek communities that are more pleasant places for all geeks, men included.

      I really hope you're not suggesting that women who enjoy geeky things, of whom there are many, should have to take being dismissed, ignored, and/or harassed as the price of participating in online games, conventions, and other geek social circles, or else not be allowed to enjoy the things they've enjoyed *just as long as men* because geeky men are apparently incapable of treating all human beings as equals. That's just as insulting to men as it is to women.

      • enail

        This times a million!

  • Moonbat
  • Jeff Kesselman

    Actually, TRUE nerd culture has *traditionally* been more female friendly then the general populace. It also has traditionally been more queer friendly. As a society of partial outcasts, it welcomed difference and respect was predicated mostly on intellectual merit.

    I think today "nerd culture" or "geek culture" get confused with "hard core gamer" culture which actually has much more of its roots in Jock culture then nerd culture.

    • Mel_

      I'm not sure how you're defining "true" nerd culture here. The SFF fandom has been ostracizing women (and people of color) and dismissing their concerns since decades before video games even existed:

      And plenty of women geeks who aren't in gaming culture at all, but books/anime/comics/TV shows/etc. continue to have male geeks in the same areas aggressively "cred check" them, even Hugo-winning zombie novel authors!

      The idea that there was some "true nerd culture" that was less biased than the general population is a nice thought, but I don't see that it has much basis in reality. And deciding these problems belong to some other people, over there, not your geekdom, is a way of avoiding acknowledging and dealing with the problems that are, in fact, in just about every area of geekdom I've seen to some extent.

  • Gaby

    I really appreciate this article (and I definitely appreciate all the dudes commenting on the article and having intelligent discussion about its content).
    If I could make a suggestion, I'd love to see the author do a section or article about "boys-clubs" in "girl media," such as bronies and slice-of-life fan boys. I often find that even when media is marketed and targeted towards women and girls and features a predominantly female cast, a group of men emerges that fetishes or otherwise enjoys it, and then manage to exclude females form the club. Then they claim they either claim they are being progressive by enjoying girly activities or tell people that the media is somehow NOT feminine or targeted towards girls (what?) and that it is in fact made for males. I seriously don't know where this comes from but I've heard many a brony proclaim it to the world.
    And I mean, it is a real problem. As a child I was really into MLP and "girly" anime, but somehow that's all become something for me to be excluded from (FIM sucks anyway buuuuuut that's not the point). So what are girls left with to enjoy?
    I mean it's not like I need to discuss an anime to be a fan of it or anything- but whenever I do I'm often met with glares and guys moving onto subjects such as attractiveness or who their waifu is just to get me to stop talking. They only care about it as long as I'm dressed in schoolgirl garb at a con and I let them take a photo.

  • I just realised my art gallery is lacking in "man candy" images. You know similar to the 1990s Spiderman Comics (I'm going to admit that this is partially related to why I really got into Spiderman) but mostly brought around by me getting into Po-Ju's stuff about 13 years ago (I've been following that pervert for a while now).

    I'll have to get back to drawing men in overly sexualised ways and all that. As well, I do admit I do enjoy attractive looking women in the media, my main issue is the anatomy flaws often present. Like bewbs that don't slide into the girl's armpits when they are on their back, or the large amount of men hips on women, or the fact that a lot of hour glass figures are drawn with their man hips being way too large for their stomach/chest. Chests have bewbs growing on the outside, but generally are a similar size to the stomach without the bewbs, hips grow by having one of the legs "move" father over… trust me, when I got my hips I was running into walls for weeks because my left leg wasn't where I expected it to be. If there is no gap between the legs, and they are of a slender/athletic/skinny build, that usually means they shouldn't have noticable hips in their figure.

    A lot of my "sexualised women" tends to look like retro porn mags or like stuff out of naturalist mags… though I'll admit I do draw that stuff (because I like it). So naturally the compromising position to put myself into would be to draw men as actually over sexualised.

    Also for those counting the excepts to women being sexualised: count how many versions of the costume had Bat Nipples… or who all put Merka Nipples on Capt America. Yep! On the last one, only the person who'd eventually give us Deadpool has made use of Merka Nipples. Though Deadpool wasn't so much created… he just took control of some guy and had him be able to be known to us. Stretching through the Fourth Wall and having people write for his truly awesome awesomeness.

    But seriously, outside of a couple things from Japan (I fucking love Po-Ju… guy saved my life you know?) and few enough occasions that it has became notable with terms like "Bat Nipples" and "yeah, that guy brought us Deadpool, so we will forgive him–kinda", you really don't see men sexualised. I must fix this… and draw more sexualised men in my galleries. You know, because I'm not going to draw sexualised women any time soon, being into them and all.

    • Damned… lack of preview feature.

      Yeah… there are a few typos in that… mostly in me saying I'm not going to stop drawing sexualised women.

  • I love this article and all that you had to say except for one tiny thing: the "I wish there were more geek girls/It's a sausage fest" aspect. We are out there and in far greater numbers than you think. For every geek/gamer guy I find, I can equally find a female version. I am tempted to go as far as to say that it is truly an equal number. So why don't polls and studies reflect that? For the exact reasons you mentioned. We are afraid to say anything or as much as we want to in most cases because we are afraid of being judged as a geek/gamer GIRL. I do cosplay, I write, I game, and I have my geekisms. I don't completely hide it, but at times when 'the guys' start talking about something and I join in, I get questioned, ridiculed and my words twisted so that it looks like I don't know as much as them or that I'm 'trying too hard' just because I'm a girl. I'm not saying all geek/gamer guys are this way, but a fair number of them seem to have an issue realizing that geekisms/nerdism are NOT GENDER BASED to begin with! Those segregations come from the way people treat others based on what may or may not be between their legs. I grew up in a world where it was okay to watch Star Trek, but because I am a girl I couldn't possibly be IN TO Star Trek. I could play video games, but I couldn't possibly actually enjoy doing it more than casually. An even worse offense against me, especially when I cosplay: I'm seen as fat. I'm 5'4" and 170 lbs. I'm chubby, but why should I be ALLOWED to cosplay anything at all if I can't fit into the string bikinis that boys drool over and make it look good? Also, I'm not pale skinned, blonde haired, and blue eyed. Wanna know what else? I'm 30! THE HORROR!! Even if the guys don't verbally question and berate me, which has happened countless times at cons, I still get THOSE looks. The looks that say "Well, you obviously are not a booth babe and you don't have a geek boyfriend toting you around, so….why are you here?" Admittedly, it has decreased over the years. It needs to go away completely though. Yes, I also do believe it should go the other way too and guys shouldn't be the 'target market' or the 'kings of the nerds' just because they are guys.

  • The female characters in the Arkham series were so oversexualized, that I as a white, male guy, who just wanted to have some fun, was really surprised. I mean, I though this game was going to be similar to the Animated Series, so I expected the outfit of Harley and Ivy to be similar to that version.

    The first moment I see Harley, I'm like: Holy shit, it's like she's almost like from a softcore movie. Of course, she lampshades it with commenting on her own outfit. But then later in the game Ivy is introduced. And I start to tilt my head squinting, because I was searching for the line where her outfit starts and her skin stops. I couldn't believe that she's all naked, except a wide open shirt.

    The depiction of female characters in this game wasn't generic sexyness, like in all games. The amount of their sexyness was really distracting. I mean, Harley was cute in the Animated Series, but in the game, she's a sex bomb.

  • Lisa

    Well said!

  • John

    Let's call it what it actually is. Straight male privilege.

  • Mung0915

    I am glad that we speak about a loud minority. I know a lot of video game "nerds" and comic geeks, and I rarely-to-never see this attitude. This medium is becoming a way for others to feel empowered by berating a small segment of the fan base. It's getting out of hand. You are beating a drum that's already worn out. Most of us see women as just gamers. They do make up a large portion of players. Not to say this article doesn't have validity, it's just getting out of hand how much you try to punish everyone for what's popular. I bet you can find more women that aren't sexualized in games if you actually played video games. That's never going to happen though.

  • Thank you. My daughter and I hope to be travelling, sans men, to Comic Con next year and I HATE that I have to warn her about the sort of douchbaggery that can occur. I love that she is strong enough to tell them to fuck off. I love even more that she is designing us girl versions of our favourite characters that are still a bit sexy without being pornography and prostitution.

    It's a hell of a long way for us to travel only to have a few dickbags tell us we aren't 'proper geeks'. We plan to enjoy the hell out of it, even if some of that enjoyment comes from setting the record straight.

    Dear dickbags, please stop spoiling it for everyone else.

  • Natalie

    As a nerd girl who wants to be a scientist, I have a few subjects I'd like to bring up.

    1) Part of the problem of sexism here is the failure to accept women as complex individuals. I passed calculus with flying colors at the age of seventeen, I climb trees, get dirty, carve wood, and build things. I thrive on activities and talents that are considered traditionally male. But I also love to bake, I am a recreational artist, I sew, I cook, I paint my nails, I like clothes and shopping. But I am always asked to choose. In order to be accepted as a geek, I have to denounce my "girly" interests, and to be accepted as a "real girl" I have to give up all my other pursuits. I am not only a nerd, and I am not only a woman. I am a human individual who has accumulated a breadth of interests and passions in my life, and they just happen to fall into different (arbitrary) categories. A tough, intelligent person can enjoy making cookies, and a feminine woman can enjoy using power tools and doing math.

    2) I have large breasts. It's a fact of my life. So when I complain about the sexualization of female characters,– especially in comics or video games– people (even other women) look at me funny because "those characters look like you." No, I feel I must point out, they don't. I try to dress modestly. I don't wear a lot of makeup. These characters are nothing but their appearance. Characters with large breasts are always sexual objects, and respectable female characters, where they exist at all, don't have large breasts. It makes it seem that women, especially women with large breasts, are exclusively sexual objects, or just naturally ostentatious about their endowment. I find this very discouraging.

    3) So, this is why I'm kind of a closet geek. I read science fiction, fantasy, online comics, and what graphic novels I can get from friends or from the public library. I stay away from video games, conventions, comic shops, and other social centers of nerd culture because I am not allowed to exist there. Whatever it is I am trying to do, part of who I am invalidates it. It's worse than just nerd guys creeping on the few women they see. It's the fact of being judged for contradicting your assigned stereotype.

    TL;DR: I'm a girl and a geek. Let me be both, world, okay?

  • juvanya

    You take a perfectly good point about games and destroy it with a rant about the nonexistent concept of "male privilege". It is difficult to read this without perceiving all your anal rage.

  • Good article. I for one love the sexy female characters but I feel that is just what I've been taught to like and it worked. But for some of the games where they are pretty covered but their clothes are tight fitting (and they're skinny) is par for the course of the physical activity they would have to endure to complete such feats (Take Remember Me and her parkour or in Batman: Harley as a gymnast) Maybe they could widen the body type but theres no way a large person (male or female) could effectively be believable in some such roles. (although I know some were created especially for fanservice) But ultimately its what sells and until we can effectively change the image that some of the world wants us to perceive it's probably not going to change anytime soon. 🙁

  • My partner is a gamer, works in game development, etc. More than once I've wanted to vomit at him using every excuse debunked in this article. He does it, hears my arguments, which are the same, and says he doesn't agree. Therefore, the problem doesn't exist. (And he doesn't get how this is white male privilege, and why I was slow to pick up gaming at all…) BUT…the point I have to speak to: the game industry is hostile to women, who have to create based on white male standards–all those men developing games could easily make normal looking female characters with clothes on–equals to men–but they don't. They cite the geek audience, who wouldn't buy. Not sure how they know… they haven't tried. But it's still disincentive for me to consider picking up game developer work as a career for myself. Why do it, when I would just be sucking metaphorical cock to succeed? Something needs to change, and it's not on everybody but the white guy to do it–though they try to blame the victim.
    So glad to have seen this article. It's nice to know there are humans with souls out there. Thank you.

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  • Karen

    I'm a woman, and I am part of the geek culture. I fully enjoy playing magic and video games and superheroes. And that's awesome. I love that I don't have to apologize for that.

    But I am guilty of discriminating against girls. At the game store I go to, there are a number of girls who will be there and sit next to their boyfriends as he plays magic. She'll text, read a book, play games like 'bejeweled' on her phone, the like. I call them, collectively, 'the girlfriends'. They don't truly have an interest in being part of the community. The girls that do, I don't lump into that category, I try to help them get better, let them know they aren't hated because of their sex, because I've made it this long, but it's hard. I often feel privileged that at the geek places I go, if you can prove yourself worthy, you'll get attention for that, but you can't deny that women are still objects, even if they are objects that say cool stuff.

    For example, one time I sat down to a game of magic (in tournament) and the guy across said "I'll give you the match if you give me your number". It was sweet, but that i think is up the same alley as what we're talking about. Another time i was looking for another player and had bumped into a group of 3 guys, 2 i knew well. I asked if they had seen the person i was looking for and they said they hadn't. As i was walking away the one i didn't know asked if I was looking for the guys … well, his penis. The other two jumped on him so fast telling him it was not okay to degrade me like that. I was very happy.

    Another time I was at the game store opening up some packs of magic. I told a friend of mine i might not play that night because I didn't have the deck paces I needed and this other girl I'd never seen before yelled across the room to my friend saying "NATE! YOU SHOULD MAKE YOUR GIRLFRIEND PLAY! WE NEED MORE GIRLS!" I was so mad at her. I was a staple at that game store. Anyone who plays magic there knows me and I was so insulted that she so blatantly came somewhere new and demanded there be more girls in attendance.

    Now, this may sound like I'm attention whoring, but I love getting 'put on a pedestal' so to speak. I'm there, and I'm not really ugly, and I know that. I'll dress up and look nice knowing full well I'll get attention because there's so few girls around. maybe that's wrong of me, but I do enjoy it.

    So i guess i have mixed feelings about the article. I love what you're saying about how geek culture is very unwelcoming to women (i don't see proof of minority hate, though). But on the other hand, I'm just as guilty and jsut as much to blame..

  • I think first of all, it gets a larger target audience, males, to buy the product. Second of all in many ways what empower a woman, that celebrates a woman is her feminine wilds, her sexual poise. A woman in good shape will, well, look good. I get the costumes but women know that can disarm a man, they know if they are breaking into a safe and caught red handed in something tight fitting a guy is off for a moment. Many debates are still made about women in war zones and in reverse criminal cases where the woman is the perp. we see women differently. Its not that they are weak or fragile or incapable but that they are mothers, daughters and in many cases ARE more vulnerable. The portrayal is part of that. Like 'This character is all woman' … there have been many characters that are not dripping sex, that are female. But part of being a badass female is looking good while doing it. If REAL women in great shape went out tomorrow to fight crime, they would not wear cardboard boxes and trash bags.

  • Noel

    I do tend to agree that the does need to be a bit more in the way of variety of female characters. Games and comic of a more realistic and serious nature tend to have more realistic characters which don't fit common archetypes.

    Part of the problem is that it's harder to market overweight female characters due to the obvious preference that most men have to attractive female characters. Same goes for marketing comics to female readers as even they prefer attractive male characters:

    When doing overweight female characters you have to deal with them sensitively as you might end up pissing readers off. Women tend to be sensitive about their weight and don't like parodies being made of it. This doesn't seem to effect men as you can have a comedic overweight character without anyone being bothered by it:

    If you want to see good female characters then I recommend literally any Valve game. Also, The Street fighter series has some amazing female character designs.

    As far as gay characters and themes are concerned, they are definitely there but more often in more serious games. Grand Theft Auto 4 has "The Ballad of Gay Tony" which has a main character that's gay. Oftentimes game like GTA will have gay themes in them because they want to represent the real world as well as push the envelope in ways other games don't.

    Also, there's alot of proof that indicates that the pyro from Team Fortress 2 is an utterly insane gay guy:

    Also, I don't think the batman female character are being objectified. According to the definition here: , they don't fit the description since they have an active role in the story of the game and the comics. You can't claim a character is being objectified unless they are literally treated like an object which these characters never are at any point in the game or comics. Objectification doesn't apply even if they would be considered to most people as beautiful or showing minimal or large parts of their bodies.

    It might be more applicable to the "Capture the Babe" mode in Duke Nukem Forever where a woman is being toted in place of a flag.

    At worst, they might be considered sexist depictions of women in terms of their personalities. Not great either, but even the male characters aren't perfect and could be considered sexist towards men. Vicious characters in Batman are always men:….

    Lastly, I tend to think the main reason alot of geek community types don't like feminist intrusion is largely due to the potential for censorship being brought upon by their lobbying. Gamers are pretty protective of the artform and feel it should be protected and that developers shouldn't be artistically restricted in terms of the content they want for their games.

    Arguably, having sexy female characters in video games isn't immoral. Some would argue that excessive violence is probably more immoral then sex appearing in games yet people strangely react stronger to the sex.

    The only thing I can think of off the top of my head in terms of whats considered immoral and taboo to put into games is children. Pretty much every video game developer, particularly ones who make violent video games, avoid using children. Only in games where children are protected will we ever seem them.

  • EcoGrrl

    Please stop referring to WOMEN as "girls". Let's start there. They are not children. Do men call themselves "geek boys" above the age of 12? I doubt it.

    • electronicoffee

      I call all ages girls or boys at times, it depends on my mood and context.

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  • electronicoffee

    This dude is a fucking moron. The women of arkham city ALL use their ;gender; and sexuality to their advantage in combat. He seems to miss a key point of the whole argument while ranting on like a typical lapdog "neo-feminist" male. I doubt this article was written by a man in the first place, because most men know catwoman uses her sexuality when fighting batman, poison ivy uses sexuality and pheremones, and harlequinn has always displayed a sexy jester to the serious-not-so-serious joker's 'straight man'. This is fucking basic and where many women in real life and comics and movies lack in strength they make up for it in speed and disguise and glamour and sexuality! This is NOT sexist or 'male priviledge'~ Plus these characters may DRESS a little 'femme fatale' but they don't slut around or use sex as a weapon. They use 'feminine wiles' or 'sexuality' / 'sensuality' I should say, but they don't suck a dick as an attack or shoot breast rockets like some anime fanservice hoes

    • eselle28

      Yes, they ALL use their gender and sexuality to their advantage in combat…meaning that female characters end up being homogenized and female readers have no characters to identify with who choose to fight in other ways. One or two women making this choice would make sense, but showing that all women choose to rely on sexuality to gain an advantage sends terrible messages about women. Meanwhile, none of the male characters are using sexuality as an advantage in combat or presented with situations where that would be feasible, so women don't get the fanservice, either.

      The fact that other stories are even worse doesn't mean this is a great way of representing women.

      • electronicoffee

        Wrongo- there's plenty of non-sexualized females in the Batman Universe. You're full of shit. Secondly, Batman is heterosexual by all canonical baselines so why would men use their sexuality to fight against him? Makes ZERO sense, try harder. Thirdly, you are the one who is sexualizing these females by claiming they are 2-dimensional but all of them have depth and character, something you might notice if you weren't busy hypocritically claiming shit about their tits. I'm gay so I have no cards in this game, so I think I'm a better judge of what's NOT sexual when it comes to women, while your sexuality or gender may blind you to that.

        • eselle28

          We're not talking about the entire Batman universe. We're talking about Arkham City, which has chosen to concentrate on the exact handful of female characters who do use their sexuality as a weapon. There are other ways male characters could do the same without directly flirting with Batman. They could direct their sexuality at his female allies, or be heroes who directed their sexuality at female villains, or men who targeted men who seemed likely to appreciate those advances. I'm not actually requesting this, but thinking about its absence makes it all the more glaring how many female characters are created to fill these roles, while male characters are seldom even considered as options for them.

          I'm not claiming they're two dimensional. The criticism isn't of depth. It's of breadth. You can have a very deep, interesting female character who uses sexuality as a weapon. When all of your female characters do so, you end up representing only a tiny fraction of female personalities and also end up having your interesting, well-developed characters end up being rather the same as one another.

    • Mel_

      Among the many things wrong with this comment:

      -Suggesting that women using their sexuality to their advantage somehow prevents their sexualization from being stereotypical and problematic, when one in no way negates the other.

      -Like so many other random drop-in commenters, focusing on the portrayal of the Arkham characters as if it's what the whole article is about, when it is just a small section of a much larger article mainly about how actual (non-fictional) people act and are treated.

      -Suggesting that the author isn't actually a man, when he's been interviewed with photographs in various places.

      -Doing all of the above while calling the author a moron. 😛

      • electronicoffee

        Some men are lapdogs to neo feminists or have been brainwashed/programmed or find it an easy way to get pussy. Well if the article is going to use an example and then they can't be called out on their bullshit about said example then you shouldn't be on any kind of comment board. There's no such thing as 'male white priviledge' in nerdom- there's just as many c hicks at the ren faire as dudes, at trekkie conventions, at D&D games. Maybe you're fucking sheltered by the idea of a MEN being the overwhelming majority is a huge fucking myth and even as far as industry and creative development, you see tons of women for years and years. Some of the best fantasy fiction writers ARE women. I'm a gender equalist, but this article is bullshit. Sex doesn't define someone whether it's used as a weapon or not. A strong female can make up her mind to be very sexually active or to be reserved.

      • electronicoffee

        Bullshit, nearly every superhero has pecs, biceps, and abs for days and usually a modest package to boot! Don't give me that crap that it's only straight men when almost every male hero has to be hot, muscled, or lean in order to be popular. From wolverine to twilight dudes to the men in lord of the rings, they were all to cater to females and to a lesser extend gay males. I call bullshit.

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  • Chesire14

    Thank you! Hallelujah! Someone who understands! I'm a girl trying to get into comics and I always find it disconcerting to find female characters portrayed either as a sexual object, a tough girl who doesn't take any crap (Which is funny, especially when she can beat up the guys but then her character never seems to go anywhere after that), or non-existent. I would love for this to be addressed because I love comics! So I'll read them anyway but it would be great to have more in depth female characters and for geek women to be treated as equals. I would especially love for Starfire to get some clothes on from Red Hood and the Outlaws!

    • The Simple Man

      Look at stuff by Greg Rucka. He tends to be really good with strong woman who are flawed. Queen and Country is one that I have heard is really good.

      Josh Wheaton is another. Batgirl by Gail Simmons is really good. Neil Gaiman allways great with his female characters.

      But yeah I agree there needs to be more depth to alot of female comic characters. But you can find them.

  • M.M.

    Brilliant article, thank you!

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  • The problem with your analysis is that you fail to treat people as individuals. Your assumption is that all women feel the same way about all subjects by virtue of being women. Similarly, you assume that all men speak and act with the same intentions by virtue of being men.

    Take the example you give of your former girlfriend in the comic store. She complained that the female characters were dressed too sexy with not enough clothing. The fact that she is a female and this is her opinion does not in any way mean that this is the female opinion. There is no such thing. There are a great many females who love the fact that there are an abundance of female characters that dress sexy in unrealistic lack of clothing. You can't ignore them. They are a large portion of consumers of those products. It is no coincidence that so many women who cosplay choose sexy characters. Those are the ones that that those girls like. Also, there are many many men who hold the opposite opinion, that women should not dress sexy, that they should keep themselves covered in public. The point is that there is nothing about either opinion that can be generalized to men and women. But your analysis seems to assume that there is a female opinion that all females must take and a male opinion that all males must take.

    Similarly, the guy who argued with your former girlfriend may have done so just because she was a girl, but you have no way of knowing that. He may have argued with her simply because he disagreed with her. And he may have argued in exactly the same way if a male would have said exactly the same things that she did. You assume that he treated her as if she was mistaken because she was a girl. The reality could easily be that he treated her as mistaken because he believed her to be mistaken. *You,* on the other hand, treated her opinions differently because she is a girl. You would not have focused on this interaction had the exact same scenario occurred with two males taking different opinions. You assume that the reason she formed her opinion is simply because she is a girl and not because she, as an individual, came to her conclusion after reasoned deliberation. In your world, only two men can engage in a civil disagreement without one of them being sexist. And that way of thinking ultimately excludes female from meaningful discourse and treats them as less than equals. Put more simply, you assume that the reason your former girlfriend was unable to defend her opinion to criticism was that she was a girl and not that she was wrong or that she lacks argumentation skills.

    To make things clearer, imagine the same scenario but change the sexes. Imagine a male complaining that the women were not wearing enough clothing and a female asserting that he was mistaken, that women should be able to wear as little clothing as she damn well please. Your analysis, applied consistently, would mean that the woman is the one being sexist. But that probably isn't the way you see it. You probably see the male as the sexist in both scenarios, which means that your judgement of sexism has nothing to do with the opinions that someone is expressing and everything to do with the sex of the person expressing them. You have created a standard whereby someone is sexist and having privilege simply for being a male and voicing a disagreement with a female. *That* is sexism.

  • Kingu

    Whenever i hear the term Privilege I cringe and or roll my eyes. Only in america can a women a=dress like a skank and blame the man for being objectified. If anything women have more rights than men not fighting in wars lesser prison sentance and the ability to creep shame anyman who doest meet there Prerequsits of what they want. AMerican women are invading our OUR culture and they need to be stopped. They RUIN EVERYTHING. THEY KNOW NOTHING OF THE CULTURE AND THEY ARE SLUTS LOOKING FOR ATTENTION. 9 times out of 10 THESE SLUTS WILL FALL OFF THERE COCK CARASEL AND HIT THE WALL THATS WHEN THE STOPP CARING ABOUT LOOKS AND JUST START CARING ABOUT MONEY YET THEY STILL CREEP SHAME MEN LIKE ME. WOMEN SHOULD STAY OUT OF NERD CULTURE THEY HAVE NO RIGHT HERE. AMERISKANKS KNOW NOTHIJG

  • OldNerd

    How does that explain things that the nineties gave us or items of like similarity?

    Wherein all the male superheros from things like "Cable" to "Generation X" highlighted dudes that were all bulging man muscles, huge crotch bulges and more sexy poses with glistening sweat than a Calvin Klein add? (I'm looking at you Generation (se)X"

    Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of "comic" and/or "geek" culture is viewed through a predominantly stereotyped set of lenses from the get-go.

    Every article that I read tries to paint or highlight a dichotomy between "nerds" and "society", but then defines all the guys as testosterone-riddled mouth-breathing weirdos and girls as either objects of derisive ridicule or sexual status.

    Yet when I look at my personal life in and throughout the "nerd/geek/gamer/whatever" culture, I find that most people are fairly average, and the ones that fall into either stereotype are honestly those that would fall into that mannerism regardless of what their interests were.

    It's like no one can write an article or opinion piece about the "comic industry stereotype" without completely perpetuating the stereotype in and of itself.

    I'm not going to lie, the "Batman" series were pretty bad in their over the top character portrayal. I for one, am not a fan of Harley's makeover.

    At the same degree, I can think of a number of comics and games that spring to mind where everyone in general was portrayed as simply larger-than-life, and not quite "SUPER-SEXY-RAMA-NO-CLOTHES!"

    Shoot, the last game I played was the Darksiders series. All the females, and for that part, most of the males, in the game wore more armor than I did, and about the only way to tell them apart was due to their voices.

    I'm currently playing Skyrim, and with the exception of one character, I've yet to see anyone in an overtly-sexualized get-up.

    I would link to it if I could, but had a recent article that highlighted the problems with media and journalistic portrayal of cultures. Regarding how they use a singular focus on a minor part of the whole that completely negates or fails to consider the rest of the genre they're discussing.

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  • Jeff

    Great article. My problem with this was that you didn't address the desires of geek girls who want to play sexy characters. They are not passive in this. Your girlfriend was an outsider not a member. I have always thought the girls in games were over the top sexy and I would be happy to see things change, but when I used to date a gamer girl, she always wanted to play the hottest and most sexed up women. She bought a game once and decided she didn't like it because the girls were not sexy enough. In real life this girl dressed super conservatively. For her gaming was a way to design a fantasy alter ego where she could go around wearing things she would never wear in real life. She was the type of women who was empowered, educated. She of course did have to deal with her share of sexist trash talk on servers. That needs to change.

    Anyways, I think we should avoid thinking of this just as a male centered thing because it is not. There are women who have different ideas of how they want to play the game. If men listen to what they say you will get a range of views, most of which will still want sexy costumes. Have you seen what Halloween has turned into? I don't like it honestly, but I don't think women dress like that for me. They dress like that barbecue it makes them feel sexy. I think its the way characters are written and their plot significance that needs the most attention. It is true that the men are presented as hyper masculine. and we can't ignore that. Look at 300. How many of us guys could live up to that body standard? I know a lot of women who watch that movie because of that. Women just deserve their characters to be well-written and presented as they like. This may be more sexualized than we might imagine, because women have sexualities.

    • eselle28

      The problem isn't the presence of some sexy female characters in games, or of sexy options for character design and costuming. The problem is the lack of other options. In game worlds, not every male PC and not every male NPC is there for eye candy value. Some of them are average, and some of them are intentionally unattractive. The same should be true of female PCs and NPCs. That doesn't mean the elimination of eye candy, just some degree of variety and balance. (Incidentally, that will probably benefit women who enjoy playing sexualized PCs as well. It's hard to feel like your character is the fairest of the fair or over the top sexy when literally every other woman in the game looks and dresses the same way.)

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  • Lindsey Knight

    Though I'm a self-proclaimed geek, I tend to hide myself away from the masses of geek culture. I try not to read comments too often on things I like because it strips my faith in humanity a little more each time. So I don't notice quite so many of these on a daily basis. My local comic book store guys are nice and we've bantered about comics, cartoons, movies, and even science. But when I do venture out of my safe-zone, I am always surprised. I was reading comments on the characters from Diablo 3 (since I was participating in a Reaper of Souls art contest through Deviant Art, hosted by Blizzard.) People were complaining about the female Barbarian being too ugly, that they wouldn't want to play her. I thought the Barbarian was attractive and I wanted to play her. She looked STRONG. And if I'm going to be playing a Barbarian, I don't want to run around as a wisp of a thing. I want her to look like a Barbarian! I especially appreciated in the game when the Enchantress asks the Barbarian if she was considered beautiful among her people and the Barbarian responded that she was strong, and that's what mattered. I think we, as people in general, want to be attractive. We want to look appealing to ourselves and to others and when we role-play, we want our characters to be the best they can be! But there are other qualities of equal and greater importance. A character can be beautiful and practical at the same time.

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  • LikeDaPants

    This I believe is briefly mentioned, but in geek culture individual men also aren't sought after as the sole representative of their demographic. How many times do we find the reviews that start out as: "As a gamer girl, I…", as if one person can actually stand for the entirety of everyone else? No one can. There will always be an in-between, as no single label defines all characteristics.

    For example, I'm a female (minority). I'm also white (majority) and bisexual (smaller minority). All three of these color how I see the gaming world. (This leads into my second point) Therefore, in my own personal opinion, I think both sexy and badass should have their place in geek culture. I'm not going to lie and state that I don't enjoy seeing the femme fatales, but I'm also not going to pretend that everything is fine and dandy when an otherwise serious game decides to throw in 15 minutes of uninterrupted fan service that obviously is having just one particular sub-demographic in mind. It's not that's it's bad to have sexy women, it's that sexy women (for white, straight men) are almost all that there is. It can be frustrating to see a world that I would really like to be a part of be so focused in defining me in only one way.

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  • justjames73

    No comments? None? At the risk of validating this article, I'll go ahead and say that it makes me sad.
    There is certainly a noticeable amount of misogyny in the scene and I understand the generalized truth that is being presented; I cannot argue that the Geek Girl experience is not the same as the Fan Boy.
    Is there anywhere any one of us can turn to where we can be together as men and women and be equals despite our gender? The truth is that men and women are not equal, we are different, and not in a greater-than less-than way (1≠0) but different in a contractual way (orange≠orange or fruit≠color).
    There is no awkward defense, no excuse for being a creep, no justification for being disrespectful.
    The justification is for us being mammals… most of us have a desire to mate with other mammals that we are drawn to for whatever reason nature and nurture dictate to us, and it is up to our highly evolved frontal lobes to express those desires in a way that attracts that elusive mate. Our primal desire coupled with our sapien brains has only recently been challenged to treat each other as equals without loosing our sexual identities.
    While the aim of articles such as this is noble, the reader has the responsibility of maintaining their identity. What you are reading is guidance, not an equation. It is visceral and adaptable to you as a person and it is not asking you to treat the person you are attracted to like they were your sibling.

    • A. Technical difficulties. The hundreds of comments are hiding somewhere. Many of them were nerd boys refusing to admit misgyny is a problem in nerd culture.
      B. I don't get your point.

  • The last time I complained about how women are overly sexualized in video games a guy tried to figure out what was wrong with me he decided it was because I have a problem with big boobs. What a genius. He just could not understand why I find it so insulting. The most common defense is if I don't like it I shouldn't buy it. I try. It would be simple were it not everywhere this automatically excludes the majority of games for adults and even games that have female character options that are supposed to be gender neutral have male fan service which would be better than fine if it were mutual. I have to settle with certain annoyances over the down right insulting.