Gaming: The 21st-Century Glass Ceiling

It hadn’t occurred to me until recently that I spend way more time with my local guy friends than my local girl friends.

A couple weeks ago, I went out for some “girl time” in which we went shopping and got the obligatory Starbucks.  It was a lot of fun, but it very different from the kind of hanging-out-with-friends time that I’m accustomed to.  What usually happens is this: Kevin has his guy friends over, they play “Call of Duty” for a while, and I join them once they switch over to Halo.  We yell and cuss a lot.  We eat pizza.  They drink beer, I drink cider.  It’s fun.

Hanging out with the girls is also fun, but in a different, quieter, way, and it didn’t strike me as strange that I should prefer hanging out with “the guys” until I remembered that’s how it was in college.  My female friends there also liked to cuss and play video games. Guys and girls always hung out together.  We spent huge chunks of time at each others’ apartments, sometimes regardless of whether or not the occupants were home.  “Girl time” with my college friends usually still involves video games, or something goofy like baking rainbow cake or doing a joint comic draw.

Most of my local female friends, though, are…more ladylike, I guess.  They’ll cuss, but rarely, and only if the occasion really, really calls for it. They’re not gamers.  They’re mostly teachers or counselors, which means they’re all a lot nicer and more patient than me (and that they can probably read my mind).  They hang out on Pinterest (like me), have adorably decorated homes (like I attempt), and dress impeccably in pastels and draping cardigans and skinny jeans.  I, on the other hand, am incapable of wearing pastels or florals without offsetting them with a chunky belt and/or pirate boots.

So yeah, when I have “girl time,” it’s very different from Halo night.

And because I went to a liberal arts school and sometimes like to raise a ruckus about gender roles, this made me think of opening golf clubs to women and what that means for women in business.  Since some big business decisions have historically been made on the golf course, allowing women to play would also allow them to advance in business the same way men do.

If I’m honest with myself, I started playing video games as a way to set myself apart from other girls while still fitting into a category. I wanted to be outside the norm, but still included in a group.  In college, video games were a way to connect with male friends (and future husband) and expand my own geeky foundation, which was built on Star Wars, LOTR, and Stargate.

Plus I wanted to be the hero and kill aliens.

Now, video games sometimes factor into how I communicate with my male boss.  Video games give me a frame of reference in the world of guys.  I like shopping and spending hours chatting over a mocha, but I also like teaming up with a guy friend (particularly Kevin) to pwn some noobs.

(Okay, that doesn’t happen.  A good game is when I have a positive kill/death ratio.  Hey, I never claimed to be good at Halo.)

So how does this affect me as a person? Am I more “feminist” by willingly participating in a men’s activity (and don’t try to tell me it’s okay now for girls to be gamers, because until we can get away from sexual assault being a key element in a female character’s origin story and until Anita Sarkeesian‘s Tropes vs Women project doesn’t even need to exist, we’re not there yet) or am I just fitting myself into the patriarchal framework?

To me, the golf course thing is an example of fitting into the framework.  Women play by the men’s rules, literally.  I can’t think of an instance in which men fit into the female framework, and I don’t know of any gender-neutral framework that’s been developed outside the Starbucks meeting.  Women have to meet on men’s terms, or not at all.

My guy friends will not come shopping with me.  They wouldn’t enjoy an afternoon baking.  They don’t use Pinterest.  I can play in both worlds, but I wish playing with my male friends didn’t feel quite so much like getting access to a secret world.  I wish gaming and being a geek didn’t differentiate me so much from other women.  I feel like I’m contributing to a divide, not uniting people.  I don’t necessarily want to be an ambassador, but the fact that I’m a gamer is a factor in who I am as a woman and a wife.  I’m being evaluated based on that, whether I want to or not.  I’ll settle in for a solo hour of “Red Dead Redemption,” and I’ll put in late weekend nights battling with three other guys, but I might be wearing a floral cardigan while I do so.

How about you?  Are you a “girl gamer,” or are you friends with one?  What are you thoughts?  Are we blazing a trail, or just taking a room we like in the building that is the patriarchy?


2 thoughts on “Gaming: The 21st-Century Glass Ceiling

  1. I don’t know — I had no skill set for gaming (poor reflexes), though I really like the arcade up her (it’s old school ’80s games). But I have had male friends who I could spend a day in the kitchen with, and I miss that.

    It seems that women are often socially rewarded for playing by the men’s rules, while men can often be brutally (socially) punished for acting “not-masculine.”

    • Yeah, what bothers me most is that women cross over to men’s activities fairly easily, while men crossing over to women’s activities is definitely criticized. Plus it’s criticized on the basis of those activities being feminine, as in, inferior.

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