Just Assume It’s For Me: Being Female and Gaming
Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Those three mystical words have tantalized me for the last few years. Yep, years. I stalk the Dragon Age Twitter feed. I’ve nosed about through all the IGN and GameStop exclusives. I drooled over the Inquisitor’s Edition even though it’s way expensive and I held off too long on preordering it…which brings us to today’s little anecdote.
Having been unsuccessful in preordering from GameStop’s website, I decided to stop by my local store when I had to make a cat food run last week. I walked into GameStop with a little bit of my normal trepidation. After all, just about every time I go in, someone (either a customer or a cashier) tends to make me feel unwelcome. Once when I was buying Gears of War 1 and 2, a customer looked down at them, then disdainfully up at me and said, “Boyfriend’s a gamer, eh?” To which I snapped, “They’re for ME. I’M A GAMER. ME.”
So when I walked in to see a (white male, probably in his mid 20s) customer talking full stop to the (female) cashier about a minute-by-minute breakdown of his registration process for taking classes at a local college, I immediately felt my heart sink a little. Mostly because her eyes lit up when she saw me in the vein of “Dear Gods, please make him go stop, thank goodness for you, O Mighty Distraction.” It took about three minutes for her to wave him aside so she could, you know, help someone who was going to Buy A Thing.
I asked her about the Inquisitor’s Edition, because…go big or go home, right? Fangirl gotta fangirl.
And Dudebro busts in, “Are you buying that for you?”
I tried to count to three and got to about one and a half before I turned to him, gave him the flinty-eyed stare of Morrigan when Alistair’s said something particularly glib, and said, “Yes, it’s for me. I’m here buying it, aren’t I?”
He responded with, “Well, you never really know.”
I felt my blood pressure rising and turned back to the cashier, who gave me an “I know; somebody make him stop” look and told me that edition wasn’t available and asked if I wanted the Deluxe Edition instead. I acquiesced, and Dudebro pipes up again.
“You’re not getting it for XSlop, are you?”
This time I actually closed my eyes. “That’s the console I have and I like it.”
“You totally shouldn’t waste your money on that junk. PC or PS4 are the only real options.”
Was this actually happening? It was actually happening. It sounded like a cartoon or some sort of bizarre hypothetical — and yet I was really standing there in GameStop with a female cashier who looked just as aggravated as I felt while this Dudebro sounded off.
“Look, dude,” I said, “I don’t have several hundred dollars floating around to go buy a new TV and a new next-gen console, so I’m going to play the game on what I’ve got.”
“Did you play the other ones?”
Another DEEEEEEP breath. “Yes, I played Origins and Dragon Age 2. And. Every. Single. Expansion. Multiple. Times.” I left out how I’ve clocked over 400 hours of gameplay in this goddamn franchise, but that part is true as well. And is probably an underestimate considering the multiple 50+ hour playthroughs I’ve done of both full games and the expansions.
I finally managed to preorder my game and felt progressively sorrier for the cashier, because I, unlike she, could walk out the door now. He was still going on about how I needed to play on PC or PS4 instead of Xbox and blah blah blah blah blah.
Would I love to have a 1080 50″ TV and ALL THE CONSOLES FOR ALL THE GAMERY GOODNESS? Uh, duh. There are some PS exclusive games I’m dying to get my hands on. But I’m a poor writer who slings beers to pay bills with dubious efficiency, and I’ve got a 720 non-HD-really-TV and the Xbox 360 Elite I bought in 2009 when I had slightly more money. That console has seen me through heaps of games and days and days and days of fun. I enjoy Xbox. I like Live. I’m happy with what I have, because if I make myself miserable over Dudebros assertion that I’m DOING IT WRONG, that’s just fucking stupid.
When it happened, this incident mostly just made me tired. Here I was just trying to buy the game I’ve been waiting for all these long months and years, and Dudebro had to card me. It took what was a happy little jaunt to preorder mah game (which, by the way, now comes out on my 30th birthday, WHEEEEEEEE) and turned it into a sort of exhausting encounter with gaming sexism.
Which it is. The assumption that if I’m in GameStop with a game in my hand that it couldn’t POSSIBLY be for me is a blatantly sexist assumption. Not to mention annoying as hell.
Before I segue into the other prong of how this experience gave me some thinky thoughts, allow me to share a bright spot of that day, because some of my brilliant Tweeple give great funny. After leaving GameStop, I went and bought a piece of lemon meringue pie, because dealing with BlahBlahDudebro made me really hungry and tired.
Here’re the tweets that ensued:
The good news is, pie. pic.twitter.com/G7dVuOKGgl
— Emmie Mears (@EmmieMears) August 7, 2014
— Stephen Blackmoore (@sblackmoore) August 7, 2014
@EmmieMears I’m sure your INSERT MALE HERE will love this pie.
— Christian Johnson (@NerdPoetics) August 7, 2014
Basically, they all rock. Also, I wrote a haiku about my pie.
By the way…a haiku. The pie’s delicious. I ate it all by myself. Because it was mine.
— Emmie Mears (@EmmieMears) August 7, 2014
This sort of evolved into a discussion of street harassment framed in pie lingo.
And I started thinking about street harassment, which isn’t really one of my favorite past times, but bear with me. I realized there is a tie-in (pie-in?) between what happened in that GameStop and with what women experience walking down the street.
It’s the assumption that their existence, their actions, and their outward presentation is not for them, but for men.
Buying a game? Must be for a dude.
Big boobs? OBVIOUSLY FOR DUDES.
Existing? Must be for dudes to look at.
This is not some surface-level misogyny. This is deep, eons-of-steepage-in-misogyny-tea level coloring. This is stuff we spend so much time in and around that we don’t even really notice it until someone points it out and then we see it EVERYWHERE.
When I get up and get dressed (HEY IT HAPPENS SOMETIMES. #pantsforwritersareoptional) and go about my day, I’m not thinking about what Random Bus Stop Guy #s 1-4 are going to think about my outfit. I’m getting dressed in whatever makes me feel comfortable. Maybe I want to feel good about myself or feel *gasp* sexy because I am a confident person who enjoys my own body and how it looks. It’s for me. ME. MINE. As a two-year-old I used to know (who is now more like a 25-year-old, yikes) used to say, “MINES.” MINES BODY. MINES DRAGON AGE.
Until I expressly tell you otherwise (heyo, CONSENT ROCKS), just go ahead and assume it’s for me.
Assume I am a fully autonomous human being capable of making decisions based on needs, desires, goals, and day-to-day business.
Assume I’ve got my head up and my eyes bright because I’m happy to be alive, not because I’m in deep need of a stranger’s commentary.
Assume I don’t need validation or to be carded or to have my geek cred questioned.
In other words, here is a handy-dandy guide for interacting with women:
STEP ONE: ASSUME SHE IS A PERSON.
STEP TWO: ACT ACCORDINGLY. (THIS MEANS AFFORDING HER RESPECT FOR HER PERSONAL BOUNDARIES, NOT ASKING ASININE QUESTIONS YOU’D NEVER ASK A DUDE, AND REFRAINING FROM MAKING ANY SEXUAL COMMENTS OR PHYSICAL OVERTURES UNLESS SHE EXPLICITLY INVITES YOU TO. WITH WORDS. Example: “I like your hair” is a compliment. “Damn, that ass!” is not.)
So that’s that. Assume it’s for me. I’m a person with nigh-on 30 years of practice personing.
And where the fuck is our Black Widow movie?