Gender Discrimination in Geek Culture

This is an article my daughter (who just turned 13!) wrote for her school newspaper. It was published before a boy tried to tell her that girls don’t play Minecraft, so it doesn’t include her impassioned argument on that topic.

If I said I liked imagining I fight dragons, reading graphic novels, and playing with Legos, what is the image of me that goes to your head? From the info you just read, would you imagine me as a boy or a girl? I actually surveyed a bunch of people and the majority of them said they imagined boys.

But I am NOT a boy. I’m a girl. My favorite color is pink.

This is a problem. There is this ridiculous stereotype that only boys like games and adventure and interesting stuff, and that girls aren’t cool enough to participate in that kind of thing, or are too delicate to even think about playing games with swords and shields, let alone battleaxes. Unless they’re the one who is helpless and needs saving. It’s all a pile of junk.

The art for these games and graphic novels is even worse. Part of that ridiculous stereotype is that players and readers like to look at pictures of female characters that are dressed inappropriately. It makes me uncomfortable, it’s sexist, it’s biased, and it’s just not okay. I am not going to include any pictures of this, but below is an example of art that does it the right way. It’s from D&D Next.

D&D Next

The following are the art of front covers of games my parents worked on. The art there isn’t gender discriminant either.

Fate coreFAE

However, I must give DC Comics some kudos, because they tried to give Wonder Woman pants, so she was wearing something other than that ridiculous, uncomfortable-looking metal leotard. But they were beaten down on the attempt by people saying that they can’t do that, it would break tradition. Phooey on those people.

In the new video game The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, the slogan was “Willst thou get the girl, or willst thou play like one?” They changed it later, but that doesn’t make it okay.

And have you read The False Prince? I loved it. It’s one of the Young Reader’s Choice books this year. But on the back, it quotes the LA Times saying that it is “chock full of alluring details for adventure-loving boys.”  My mom and I loved it. Neither my brother nor my dad shows any interest in reading this book. See something wrong with the picture?

I feel uncomfortable with all of this. If I was going into battle against orcs, I would not be wearing a chainmail bikini. It’s a one-way ticket to impalement. Women need to be shown as strong people, not just another pretty face to look at. I would be perfectly fine with them just being shown as people.  We can make our own decisions, we are not just an object to make men feel good. I have spoken to many people about this, and it makes them uncomfortable, too. It is NOT okay!

Nicole Leigh Verdin from the movie The Shroud

Nicole Leigh Verdin from the movie The Shroud

I can't find attribution for this one. Anyone know where it's from?

I can’t find attribution for this one. Anyone know where it’s from?

Look at these pictures. THIS is my armor of choice!


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18 Responses to Gender Discrimination in Geek Culture

  1. Jennifer Linsky says:

    I’m a woman who fights in heavy armor in the Society for Creative Anachronism. I’m not as pretty as the woman in your bottom picture, but my armor is not entirely unlike hers… scale over leather, with a steel helm. Don’t let anyone convince you that girls don’t fight, or worse, shouldn’t fight. Don’t let anyone convince you to give up on math or science if you enjoy them, either.

    You’ll find your geek sisters all over the place, maybe being quiet, but here.

  2. Brian says:

    I <3 this essay.

    I hope my daughter (now 4) grows to be as articulate and passionate (and cool) as your daughter. May she never cease questioning the assumptions others make about you because of your gender!
    I love that she chose to show examples of art doing it right (rather than wrong) and I was lol at "It's a one-way ticket to impalement."

  3. As a father currently planning my daughter’s 14th birthday party which includes an SCA style, manga inspired foam sword battle, bravo!

  4. Dirk says:

    I would love to see what she had to say about that minecraft comment.

    • MRValentine says:

      What happened is that someone said, “Oh, they’re both girls. They wouldn’t know minecraft.”
      My friend sitting next to me, who is also a girl, and I both said, “Hey, we love minecraft!”
      He responded, “Wait, you like minecraft?”
      I answered that with “Yeah, who doesn’t?”
      I LOVE minecraft! Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean minecraft doesn’t appeal to me. That statement was one of the most sexist things I’ve heard, and I have heard of some pretty sexist things. I don’t understand what me being a girl has to do with liking or not liking minecraft. I play minecraft. Deal with it. 🙂 I think girls should be able to like video games without being questioned about it. Seems reasonable to me.

  5. Britt says:

    I am a girl and I LOVE Minecraft! I play on a few different servers, vanilla, ftb, and hexxit. The ftb server I play on is owned by one of my girl friends. I am really confused about why anyone would think a girl wouldn’t like minecraft. I really don’t get it. Theres so much room for creativity and silliness, along with the adventure and beating the bad guys.

    I’m so proud of your daughter. The highest of fives for her!

    • ayvalentine says:

      Minecraft seems perfectly designed to have wide appeal – I’m not at all surprised to learn that girls, or boys, or adults play Minecraft! I think it shows the inherent prejudice against video games being something girls would play, but hopefully that’s starting to fade.

  6. John Sweet says:

    I can’t let a comment about female armor go by without referencing
    this video.

  7. Mieke Citroen says:

    Very well said, and you’re absolutely right. As one of the earlier female computer science professionals it was hard to even be taken seriously. Being a geek and sci-fi/fantasy lover on top of that has put me in many “non-standard” roles. I really hate having to deal with those mainstream gender biased thoughts, and many a time have responded fiercely annoyed. We need more girls and women like you, standing up.

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  9. Clark says:

    As the aforementioned father who wasn’t interested in The False Prince, it wasn’t because of anything about that book – I’m sure it’s a good one, because MR tells me it is – but I was shamelessly in the middle of a Regency romance novel at the time. Because that’s apparently how we roll over at Casa de Valentine.

    • Jason says:

      See, that’s it exactly. I often joke that I have to be a feminist for my own survival, because I’m the only male in the house (with 3 daughters), but the truth is, I don’t want to be judged for my “atypical male” behavior any more than I want my girls to be judged for any “atypical female” behavior they might adopt.

      You done good, Valentines.

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  11. Donna Maloy says:

    Thank you! Those are brave, clear words more people need to hear.

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