Gaming culture! Gaming culture!
You hotbed of commodity fetishization, hobby validation and entrenched sexism!
Thy name is Maxim’s Gamer Girl contest.
Now, I might get criticized for saying that Maxim of all things, that barely-tasteful lady mag, is a part of gamer culture, but it sure seems to be trying very hard to parcel out its particular brand of glossy lady-selling to the neckbeard set right now. Enter in a contest that combines a nerd’s love of hot nerdy women, competition and opinion validation and you have a perfect storm of exactly What’s Wrong With Gamers.
I tried really hard to keep my nose out of this whole thing because frankly, I’ve been weathering a long period of anti-feminist criticism and I didn’t need to shit in the faces of people that I actually know online who have chosen to compete in this whole circus. But when I woke up and saw someone I know on Twitter talking about how feminists were lashing out at her on her Facebook page for participating, I knew I had to step in somewhere. Maxim wants this. This is precisely what a magazine wants: drama, page views and discussion. They want people to have “favorite” women and to have competitors get into “cat fights” and nerds to bicker with each other over who is better or worth more votes. It’s a really sick sad affair all around. But going to a lady’s Facebook and harassing her over her participation in said contest? Low blows.
The problem here is the contest itself. The whole idea of gamer girls (not women, mind you, never women) seems to still firmly be rooted in what male nerds believe they should be. They are usually a conventionally attractive woman, able-bodied, most often white, with the charm of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and the gamer skills of your bros. But not TOO good, unless you like being beaten by a girl. (Ha-HA!) There have been groups of women who just want to game in peace and on their own terms, but there’s been quite a few women that are quite happy to buy into this and make it their lifestyle or profession. I ain’t mad at them. Getting ahead in a man’s world is what practical women do. It’s my job as the Dissenting Feminist to look at why we have to do these performances, full of lipstick and pink controllers, with allusions to Bastions of Nerd Culture so that Nerd Men like us.
It’s because Gamers are still thought of as men. Women gamers have to be sorted aside and indicated as such because women are not gamers by nature. Despite the rise of gaming across all ages in women, we’re still not a part of it. We’re sexy fixtures, novelties, and our status only lasts as long as we can keep fraggin’ and making pouty faces.
Maxim knows that this is still what lurks in the hearts of gamer men and is preying on it. It’s also preying on a lot of our insecurities and internalized sexism as women too. I’ve seen more than a couple tweets decrying one competitor over another because X lady does things like give out special vote rewards, and this other Y lady doesn’t. The subtle implication here is that X is an attention whore and Y isn’t. It’s about continually policing and validating how women should be behaving in a large dog-and-pony show that’s already designed to make us feel bad about ourselves as gamers and women. Entries upon entries are full of drippy sex performances with peek-a-boo pictures and serious camera faces. It feels like a “meet a date” site with more Horde t-shirts. Vote on your favorite cut of ladymeat, gents, she might crawl out of the computer and gently caress your face while you tell her about your Call of Duty clan. Be passionate on the collectible women on this site and maybe she’ll give you a call on Skype.
I’m angry that Maxim is dumping money into setting nerds against eachother and pushing the same agenda that it always has in its magazine – making money on the idea that women exist as caricatures for men to enjoy, whether it be the Hot Schoolgirl, or the sexy co-ed, or now the Game-Capable Sexpot. But shame on you if you feel like attacking the women involved for participating in this. If I had a face for competitions and it could possibly get me a bigger job or more money, I’d consider it too. We need to stop pretending that this is about “bad” gamer women or “good” ones. It’s about the whole notion of what gamer girls are and how we need to, as a community, stop selling it wholesale without any agency in our own images. We need to stop defining our womanhood by what men in the gaming sphere think. We need to stop letting dumb bro-mags run online contests under the guise of being our nerdly friend.
Maxim is no one’s friend, least of all mine.
Editor’s Note: I will not be linking said contest page because I legitimately don’t want to give them more traffic. You can search for it quite easily if you wish.