This post is late in the making, but it’s not any less relevant now.
Earlier this year in Latinitas after school clubs, we did a video game activity. The girls used scratch.mit.edu to develop their very own video game ideas. The girls really enjoyed the activity!
Encouraging the girls to use their creativity was just one part of the lesson. When we first introduced the lesson, I wanted the girls to think about why this lesson was important. I wanted them to understand that the video game industry is male-dominated, and that the sexism that results is rampant.
The girls did get that. When we listed typical characteristics of video games, they listed things like violence and guns, and noted the often degrading roles women play in video games.
But when we asked them to go forth and make their own positive games featuring positive female roles, they shut down. “I don’t play video games.” “I don’t know how to make this game fun without any violence.”
I wish I had known about Feminist Frequency, and the backlash against it, before doing this lesson. Anita Sarkeesian has been a lifelong gamer, and she created Feminist Frequency to demonstrate the hyper-sexualized or defenseless representations of women in video games she has noticed. In response, thousands of men initiated a hate campaign against her, threatening and viciously harassing her online, and referring to their actions as a game. Fortunately, she wasn’t silenced, and her project ended up being wildly successful.
Sarkeesian’s story is exactly why we needed to this lesson. Our systems of misogyny and patriarchy encouraged these men to shut Sarkeesian up and keep her out of the video game world. However, just like any other industry, the video game world would be only benefit from having equal representation of men and women and people in between.
Our girls need to know that their opinions and experiences are valid, and that they can and should express them. They need to know that the things they noticed in those video games are sexist and belittling, and that they should not just put up with those representations. They need to know that they can help change our systems, and that even when patriarchy retaliates, they have role models like Sarkeesian to remind them of their own strength.
My hope is that the girls took away some of those ideas from the video game lesson. But even if they just had fun playing around with cool sound effects, I am always happy to learn how much the girls already know and notice. They are wonderful, intelligent girls, and I have no doubts about their abilities to be forces of change.