Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm a dude. No, really.

Far be it from us here at the Troop from jumping on a blogospheric bandwagon and getting a piece of … whatever there is to get a piece of.  The current meme flaring on the WoW interwebz is that of gender equality within our hallowed digital universe.

Mission Statement

First and foremost: we all here approve of and support equality across the board. Men / women. Straight / Gay. White / Black / Blue / Green. Hooves / feet. Mage / warlock. Democrat / Republican. 

(That last one might be a fib)

Equality takes many forms, but basically if you're of a minority (in numbers or power level) and you feel uncomfortable amongst your peers, equality does not exist for you. Others may argue that elevating you to a point that renders you equal will in some way diminish them. That may be, but equality does not have shades of meaning in this manner. You're either willing to extend equality to all, or you're part of the problem.

Setting a poor example

A lot has been said of how Blizzard panders to the male teenager element of our society, in the ways that males and females are depicted in all the lovely ways they have chosen. People make excuses for them, in that they are "only making a sound design choice to enhance the business" or some poppycock like that. Well, it is essentially TRUE, but it's still poppycock.

The facts do not dispute one other fact, that fact is that Blizzard is the entity that sets the tone for the game, and people will take cues from that tone.

Every time that Jaina Proudmoore is depicted as a weepy little girl instead of the powerful leader that her story demands, Blizzard has failed. Every time that a dwarven female is depicted as a borderline drunken retard instead of a strong, stout woman of character, Blizzard has failed.  Every time a female night elf bounces around like a high-school cheerleader, Blizzard has failed. Every female character of lore that plays the major part of being used by some guy (see: Garona) is yet another illustration of Blizzard's failure.

Blizzard's failure grows, like so many things that Blizzard does, not out of malice as much as ignorance. If there was a company who's leadership was in more dire need of sensitivity training, we'd be hard pressed to find it (Well, OK, in queue behind Aventurine). They're ignorant, and it shows. Every time they think "we can do the voice acting in-house", it shows. Every time they think "we can write the plot to this ourselves, a real writer is not required" – it shows. Every time they think "we can use a chick in distress as the hook for this quest chain", it shows.

In many ways, it's hard to see things in the way we see it. You can see a lot from an ivory tower, but the one thing you cannot see much of is detail. We, on the other hand, are inundated in it, and it makes us wince from time to time.

I mean, seriously; I pity Jaina for being stuck with … that personality so much that I have to mute my sound after we kill Saurfang.

Individual Responsibility

This does not excuse guys for acting poorly in-game. It's one think to make a rape joke around the gals, be informed that it's not very god damned funny, and say "sorry, I won't do that again." and mean it. It's another thing to repeat it just because you think it's funny as hell that they object. You're the asshole on the mammoth on the mailbox, aren't you? Yes, you are.

In reality the whole charade of feigning ignorance that certain language is inappropriate, or that treating females like lesser beings, is garbage. They know damned well that it's wrong, but they view the game as an unsupervised playground. Disingenuity just drives me batty. They need a good smack up side the head and to be made aware that we're on to them.

There are a few truly sad specimens that treat women and other minorities badly because … well, they have no wang. "Yes, it's true. This man has no dick." The only way they can feel empowered over women is to treat them like trash in-game, because women in real life terrify them. In general, the more arrogant they are, the more likely they secretly fear you. They need to learn the hard lesson that they will get further with respect than abuse.

Accessory after the fact

And the guys that don't do this, but see it all the time? Maybe the worse. Man up, and tell your brother man the score! If it's a kid, set the manly example and be his Obi-wan! If your guild is full of assholes and misogynists, put the lot on ignore and leave.  You don't get the luxury of claiming superiority if you just let it happen around you.

Et tu, Mary Sue

In this game, more than in real life, you can choose not to be the victim. Rewarding poor behavior with tolerance makes the problem worse, not better. Sure, maybe you may have to wait longer to get into that 25 Heroic content because you refuse to put up with jackholes. But if everyone does that, eventually you will find each other – or the game is truly screwed, and it's time to move on.

You have the right to assert yourself and not have to apologize for being "a girl" or treated like a second class citizen. If you demand it, and are denied, then you know that you are not among friends, or, even, true professionals in mannerism. Move on.

On the other hand, if you decide that you will accept poor behavior in exchange for having a shot at the golden e-peen … shut the hell up. If you enable the behavior, don't come bitching to us. Go fix the problem that you have just made worse.

Gender Bending

A propos of something: As the title says, I'm a dude. All the toons on this blog are "played" by the same guy – a 49-year-old QA engineer somewhere in Florida. Females exist in this "family" partly because that's what the characters call for, but also because a server with a bunch of dudes on it is a glorified sausage fest, sending yet another wrong signal to the impressionable. The mix of this group is close to 50/50 (so, we fail at math) so as to keep some sort of balance.

Having said that, everything above is from a dude's perspective. I'd like to say it's from a progressive, somewhat moderately enlightened viewpoint, but the most I can say for sure is that it's from the perspective of a dude. Who sometimes plays a female character in-game.

As Alton might say, "that's another show".

Where does this lead us?

Page after page have been generated in the last week on this subject. It's a recurring problem, one that needs to be addressed daily by everyone that wants to improve matters. We need to make it clear to Blizzard and our fellow players that our beliefs do not brook compromise for the sake of sales, or getting the next boss down. We should support our fellow travelers in the interest of fairness. If you call someone 'friend', be that friend.

Above all, be aware that the battle won't end here. When WoW is dust, we'll still be fighting this fight. Because people can and will push the boundaries every time they get the chance.

Finally, remember this: most people are OK. The assholes tend to stand out because that's largely what they want – to be noticed.