Point-Counterpoint: Playing with Privilege.

This is an analysis of a list of points on Polygon by Jonathan McIntosh, claiming to identify various kinds of privilege men experience while gaming.  The list’s points are in bold; my responses are below each point.

1) I can choose to remain completely oblivious, or indifferent to the harassment that many women face in gaming spaces.

This is only “male privilege” if you assume males have no sense of empathy and are a-okay with harassment, which is ridiculous.

2) I am never told that video games or the surrounding culture is not intended for me because I am male.

Does anyone even say “Gaming isn’t for women” anymore?  And when I say that, I mean in places that AREN’T Youtube comments sections, Stormfront, or shitty Chan boards?

3) I can publicly post my username, gamertag or contact information online without having to fear being stalked or sexually harassed because of my gender.

No.  If you post your contact info online as a man, you run the same risks you do as if you were a woman.  We’ve seen plenty of male streamers have police called to their houses (aka Swatting), as well as having creepy objects mailed to their homes (which is stalking).

Technically you can argue that this isn’t due to their gender as men, but their popularity/notoriety.  However the same could be said of women – the more popular/notorious you are, the more likely it is you’re going to get harassed IRL.  This isn’t a woman-only problem, and pretending that men don’t face the same problems (or that it’s somehow less serious for them) is dishonest.

4) I will never be asked to “prove my gaming cred” simply because of my gender.

One of the few true points of the list.  Women can have problems being taken seriously as gamers.

5) If I enthusiastically express my fondness for video games no one will automatically assume I’m faking my interest just to “get attention” from other gamers.

This is the same issue as #4.

6) I can look at practically any gaming review site, show, blog or magazine and see the voices of people of my own gender widely represented.

There are women in gaming reviews, blogs, and magazines – especially amidst the sites that McIntosh has published in.  I guess I would ask: how many female reviewers do we need before McIntosh counts them as “widely represented”?  Because otherwise this is little more than a vague wish.

7) When I go to a gaming event or convention, I can be relatively certain that I won’t be harassed, groped, propositioned or catcalled by total strangers.

One of the other true points of the list.  Sexual harassment is wrong.  I’d argue that this sort of behavior is VERY uncommon (at least at the conventions I’ve been to) but it does exist.

8) I will never be asked or expected to speak for all other gamers who share my gender.

Really? Then why are the actions of a few males taken as indications of massive misogyny within the gamer community?

Also, part of the whole GamerGate controversy has been the fact that anti-GG women have consistently labeled any women supporting GG as sockpuppets or misguided idiots (see the whole recent thing with that anti-gg woman that posted on KIA, and was promptly attacked by the woman that made the anti-GG blocklist).  These anti-GGrs are effectively trying to speak for all women by minimizing the women on the other side of the argument.  These people act like self-appointed cultural gatekeepers – men didn’t force them into that position, they’ve done it to themselves.

9) I can be sure that my gaming performance (good or bad) won’t be attributed to or reflect on my gender as a whole.

This is the same issue as #4.

10) My gaming ability, attitude, feelings or capability will never be called into question based on unrelated natural biological functions.

This is the same issue as #4.

11) I can be relatively sure my thoughts about video games won’t be dismissed or attacked based solely on my tone of voice, even if I speak in an aggressive, obnoxious, crude or flippant manner.

Except this happens to men all the time.  You only need to take a look at responses to male reviewers to see people attacking them for their tone of voice during whatever comment, saying that they’re “too snobby” etc.

12) I can openly say that my favorite games are casual, odd, non-violent, artistic, or cute without fear that my opinions will reinforce a stereotype that “men are not real gamers.”

This is the same issue as #4.

Okay, so maybe this thought deserves a bit more consideration, as it’s actually a DEVELOPMENT on thought #4.  Part of the problem with stereotypes (girls aren’t REAL gamers) is that they’re self-fulfilling prophecies: you ignore stuff that doesn’t mesh with your idea and pay attention to stuff that does.  That’s a natural consequence of stereotypes in general though – not a female-unique problem.

In fact, there’s been a large amount of anti-man stereotyping going on in this whole GamerGate thing.  Gamers were stereotyped as neckbeards, virgins, deadbeats and losers – oh, and all of them were white guys.  Every negative “gamer” stereotype was hauled out by the very people McIntosh associates with, and any evidence to the contrary was ignored or dismissed (hello, #NotYourShield).  Not exactly a point in his favor.

I do however think that doesn’t make the stereotypes against gaming women any less wrong.  McIntosh has had one good point so far: stereotyping people is bad.  Pity his buddies don’t think the same way, and he’s willing to stereotype men if it suits him (see #1).

13) When purchasing most major video games in a store, chances are I will not be asked if (or assumed to be) buying it for a wife, daughter or girlfriend.

Yet another thing that’s the same issue as #4.

14) The vast majority of game studios, past and present, have been led and populated primarily by people of my own gender and as such most of their products have been specifically designed to cater to my demographic.

A potentially legitimate point.  However, I would argue that most entertainment these days is gender neutral – anyone can pick it up and play.  This point needs more numbers in order to support it or it’s just a vague accusation.

15) I can walk into any gaming store and see images of my gender widely represented as powerful heroes, villains and non-playable characters alike.

Women can do this already.  Hooray I guess?

Oh wait, I forgot: McIntosh is only talking about the female characters he considers to be “correct.”  Oops.

16) I will almost always have the option to play a character of my gender, as most protagonists or heroes will be male by default.

This is essentially point #14 regurgitated.  As I said before, I doubt this claim. I see more games than ever featuring a gender choice option.  I’d like to see the numbers on this, please.

17) I do not have to carefully navigate my engagement with online communities or gaming spaces in order to avoid or mitigate the possibility of being harassed because of my gender.

See #2.  But to expand on that:

Any online community worth a damn is already like this for women.  The exceptions are places where being politically incorrect is considered an art form.

18) I probably never think about hiding my real-life gender online through my gamer-name, my avatar choice, or by muting voice-chat, out of fear of harassment resulting from my being male.

Finally a point that isn’t necessarily connected to #4.  I agree.

19) When I enter an online game, I can be relatively sure I won’t be attacked or harassed when and if my real-life gender is made public

Unfortunately, not repeating #4 didn’t last long.

20) If I am trash-talked or verbally berated while playing online, it will not be because I am male nor will my gender be invoked as an insult.

#4 again.

21) While playing online with people I don’t know I won’t be interrogated about the size and shape of my real-life body parts, nor will I be pressured to share intimate details about my sex life for the pleasure of other players.

This time he repeats #7.

22) Complete strangers generally do not send me unsolicited images of their genitalia or demand to see me naked on the basis of being a male gamer.

Nah, if you’re a dude they send you goatse instead and tell you your dick is small.  Such an improvement.

It’s a return to the same issue I drew with point #3.  I would argue that how much harassment you get online is not based on your gender, but how famous/infamous you are.  I was watching a Smite female GM streaming earlier and it was really sedate – no harassment going on, just people chatting about the game.  Meanwhile, I watch Kripp (a man) play Hearthstone and his chat is filled with people spamming him about how terrible he is at the game.

23) In multiplayer games I can be pretty sure that conversations between other players will not focus on speculation about my “attractiveness” or “sexual availability” in real-life.

Hey, that makes three times #7’s point has been made.  Guess I win the lottery or something.

24) If I choose to point out sexism in gaming, my observations will not be seen as self-serving, and will therefore be perceived as more credible and worthy of respect than those of my female counterparts, even if they are saying the exact same thing.

The self-serving bit is potentially true, though McIntosh fails to note that he’s not taken seriously by a good many people despite him being a man.

25) Because it was created by a straight white male, this checklist will likely be taken more seriously than if it had been written by virtually any female gamer.

See #24.



McIntosh’s enormous list can essentially be boiled down to four legitimate points. These points are:

1)Women experience far more sexual harassment than men (both IRL and in-game).

2)Women are stereotyped and thus aren’t taken seriously as gamers.

3)Women aren’t a large part of the games industry, meaning that there’s also a lack of games marketed towards serious female gamers.

4)Women can experience social pressure to disguise their identities in games so that they avoid attention.

These are good points, but we’ve heard them before.  Nowhere in his mound of verbiage does McIntosh manage to produce a solution to these issues.  Nowhere in this gargantuan essay does McIntosh add anything new to the conversation.  It is little more than a repetition of the same talking points that have been circling the industry for years, with the added bonus of insulting men by talking down to them.

My opinion is that McIntosh’s list is little more than cynical clickbait designed to exploit these important problems.  It contributes nothing of worth to the discussion surrounding gender issues in the gaming community.


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