Girls Don’t Exist on The Internet

I’ve commented on girls and gaming before, but the latest Escapist was focused on the topic. OMG Girlz Don’t Exist on teh Intarweb!!!!1 was written from the point of view of a female having to deal with the strange way males react when they discover who she is.

Throughout the article, the author had her sex revealed in various ways, and each way seemed to get the same result:

“OMG!!!one! ur a gurl?! SHOW PIC!”

And when she refused to show a picture of herself, the other people would conclude that she wasn’t really a girl. You know, because all girls show their pictures on the Internet, so she couldn’t have been one. If the pic was acknowledged as real, it was dismissed as the obviously male player’s sister or girlfriend.

It’s weird how the existence of a female online will cause almost all males in the vicinity to think about unbridled white horses running past a field…

She also mentions the other extreme. Imagine that you meet some of your online friends in person, and you get completely ignored. Are they just shy, even if they swear like sailors when the Zergling rush is destroying their defenses?

As a male, I’ve been guilty of trying not to be the amorous jerk but ending up the guy who doesn’t even acknowledge the girl’s presence. Whether it is for gaming, software development, or Gnu/Linux user groups, either reaction results in females being uncomfortable.

I distinctly remember playing a game of Quake 3 Arena online a few years back, and there were two other people on the map. We were playing 1v1 instagib, and suffice it to say that I was getting killed soundly. One of the other players informed me that the deliverer of pain was a female. I actually don’t remember how it came up, but I do remember that I was actually trying to strike up a conversation. She remained silent, and I didn’t think much of it.

I did think about it later. I rarely try to talk with my opponents online. Why was this case different? Why did the fact that she was a girl make me want to talk to her? I’ve had conversations with males online, but the idea that I was playing against one of those rare female players was just…well it was just rare, which made it interesting.

When there is a group of male gamers, no one makes much of it. Hey, want to join my group? Nice shot. GG!!

But when there is a female involved, I think I get more conscious about it. Trash talking isn’t carefree anymore. Now I worry if calling an opponent a “bitch” will be taken badly by the Female, even if she is on my team and not the recipient. If I say “good job” will it be construed as making a pass? Am I aiming at her because I am trying not to avoid aiming at her, or am I just playing the game? I don’t want her to feel uncomfortable, and so maybe shutting up will be best. Which, of course, isn’t.

Why can’t she just be another Gamer? Why is the fact that she’s female so intriguing?

The author of the article talked about the instant message conversation, showing her picture, and getting WTFs and the like. I know that there are female gamers so I don’t think I would lose all manner of speech except for TLAs. Still, what DO you say? Would it be inappropriate to say that she’s pretty? I know I wouldn’t tell a guy that he looked handsome or cute or something, but then again, I don’t think I’ve ever sent a pic to someone online. I mean, my orange juice pose seems to get enough comments. B-) In any case, somehow I don’t think “Oh, a pic. c001” would suffice.

Maybe what happens online is the same thing that happens in real life. People don’t know how to act in front of the opposite sex, especially when they show up in a place that they didn’t usually. It’s common for people to assist newbies when starting out, but females seem to get this overwhelming help throughout their gaming career, as in the case of City of Heroes. People will steal kills because they think they are “helping” her out. Apparently in World of Warcraft it isn’t uncommon for female players to be given gifts, usually in exchange for dancing.

Why do men either give women trouble for playing games or insult their abilities by assuming they can’t do well if they aren’t helped? And why does my interaction with females online become calculated and conscious compared to my interactions with males?

3 comments to Girls Don’t Exist on The Internet

  • Katie

    Bunch of semi-random comments, in no particular order:

    The concept of default = male is a hard one for a lot of people to shake. The odds are you know a lot more female gamers than you think, but those women (and girls) learned long ago that sometimes it’s easier to “pass” than to try to change people’s minds. It’s probibly not an even distribution, but I’m pretty sure that women in thier 20s is one of the faster growing groups of gamers, and the total numbers are a lot closer to 50% than you think.

    As for chaning your behavior when a women is around — perhaps you should give some thought as to why and how “bitch” is used as an insult and why a woman might be insulted when it’s not directed at her. Bitch is one of those words that in general use has two meanings, and the one that applies depends on the gender of the target. When aimed at a women, “bitch” genrally means that someone is too agressive or confruntational. It’s an insult frequently thrown at women who have power — CEOs, politicians, etc. When aimed at a man, it takes on a very diferent meaning. A man who is a “bitch” is someone who is easily dominated, or is “someone’s bitch” (a reference the practice of calling women “bitches and hos” or refering to call women as “bitches”), or is in a position where they could be “someone’s bitch”. It’s also used in substitution for “girl” to add extra emphisis to the insult, ie “you throw like a bitch”. In essence, the word “bitch” sets up the idea that men should be more dominant than women in all situations (with the exeption of “women’s work,” which are almost exculsivly tasks given little respect). A women who is a bitch is a women who is steping outside the norms of “womanhood” and acting like a man by expecting to have equal power to dominate. A man who is a bitch is acting outside of the norms of “manhood” and acting like a women by being unable or unwilling to dominate others. It’s worth noting that one of the most widely seen uses of “bitch” against men — being someone’s “prison bitch” — is a reference to sexual assult, something that we primarily expect to happen to women and something that society frequently blames the victem for. Here, the implication is that the sexual assult against the man is something that occurs because he is week, withthe additional implication that week=womanly. In that context, is it really that odd that you would worry that a woman might be offended by the casual use of “bitch” as an insult? This also goes back to the whole “assuming women can’t play without help thing.” The same assumptions are made by a lot of men in all sorts of “boy’s club fields. You’ll see in in most of the sciences (oddly enough, you’re starting to see a lot more women in a lot of science fields, but CS isn’t one of them), in high-up management positions, in acedamina (one of the reasons I don’t want to go into college-level teaching). You’ll even see it in college admissions — how many people do you know who looked at a woman or minority and assumed two things — 1) they got in because of thier sex/race and 2) they couldn’t possibly be qualified, or assumed that the women who did better in that math class is flirting or sleaping with the teacher to get a better grade? A lot of people make the assumption that men > women in any field that men are more prevelent in. Why is it odd that it would be that way in gaming? Even in open source communities, which typically prides themselves on being somewhere where everyone is judged on thier merit, women report running into the same cultural barriers that prevent them from proving thier abilities well enough to provide help. There was also a study done that found that when submitting acedemic papers for journals, a paper with a woman’s name had to be twice as good to get the same review/rating score. The same paper, submited with a male or gender nuteral name, does not face the same problems (which is why some peer-reviewed journals use FI. Last Name for submission guidelines). How would it then be surprising that the same human tendency to doubt the abilities of women carries over into gaming?

    BTW –” oh c00l” to a pic would be fine. If the woman has something particularly “geeky” about, that’s fine to comment on too, because it’s something you’d probibly say to anyone. I’m not about to walk up to you and say “nice ass” (which is not a comment on your butt either way, as I’ve never actually bothered to look), but I’ll say something when you’ve the blue screen of death shirt or some other geekiness, or I might say something if you made a radical appearence change since the last time I saw you. It’s a fine line, sometimes, between treating a member of the opposite sex like “one of the guys” and ignoring thier gender in a way that ends up defining default = male, geek=male, women_geek=honorary_male, women= stupid, if that makes any sense. A good place to start is never ever exlaiming “OMG, you’re a girl!???!?!??!”. 🙂

    The overwhelming help thing is something that gets addressed over at LinuxChix a lot and is something address in the “how to encourage women in linux” article as well. You are right that it is a problem. The overwhelming help is actuall a huge discouragement because a) it ruins the fun of the game and b) shows that there is a segement of the gaming community that believes women can’t “hack it” which is a cultural discouragement. It carries over into a lot of geek communities (probably a lot of non-geek communities as well, but I havn’t looked into it, so I can’t speak to it).

    Wow, that went on way longer than I intended and I’m betting it’s a little disjointed since I wrote half of it before lunch and half after (not in order, either). Let me know if anything here needs clarification or more information or whatever.

  • Actually, I’m wondering if you would like to make a guest blog post. It’s long enough. B-)

    Seriously though, that was a good response and clarifies a lot.

    Some links:
    HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux
    Linuxchix.org

  • I say.. Call everyone a bitch.

    Don’t pick and choose. You don’t pick and choose with the guys. That is part of the vernacular of a shooter. By not calling the girls a bitch when you call guys a bitch you are treating them different. Everyone should get the full experience of playing a shooter. Part of that is being a dick.

Twitter: gbgames