A GM’s Perspective: Sexism

One of the major topics that has been on my mind for the past few years is that of sexism in gaming. Ever since DAoC, I’ve come across guilds that explicitly deny women the right to apply. WoW is no different. Vanquish is particularly well-known for its sexist policies, complete with an official statement and “witty” graphic:

Due to our history and experience we’ve had with female gamers, we currently do not recruit players that lack a penis. This can be taken another way but in this case, we mean literally lack thereof. Some of you may think this is sexist, but you have to understand, when you put a female in an organization with a bunch of sex deprived World of Warcraft nerds, their hormones get the best of them. Women in World of Warcraft guilds cause more drama than ‘TNT’ and this is a no-drama organization.

Vanquish\'s sexist graphic.

Perhaps the argument that sexual tension and tendencies have potential for drama has merit. However, I don’t see how it’s any different than non-sexual tension. In every guild I’ve been in, I’ve seen people quit or take “prolonged absences” more over disagreements in philosophy and policies than anything else. And I’ve seen situations where having women in raids is beneficial.

In our guild, we’ve had two women on the opposite ends of the spectrum and one perhaps in the middle in terms of drama (as in, she merely got caught up in other people’s problems by taking sides). On the one end, we have a member who is married to another member of ours. Nothing negative has ever come about from her presence. On the other, we had a woman who had relationships with two of our members, both ending poorly. But you could say we’ve had male members falling onto a spectrum of general drama in the same sort of ratio. So the only difference I see is the possibility of nude pictures flying around in the background (from both sexes). But I say that tongue-in-cheek. Has it become reality for some guilds? You bet. But, really, what do I care if people want to have relationships? Is it really any different than a male member causing the ire of other male members for simply being overly bitter and sarcastic? In my mind, no. Drama is drama, whether it wears male or female genitalia.

Don’t get me wrong, however. When a woman joins, inevitably many of the guys start making sexual jokes. Often our female members have been the target of jokes like, “My character’s tits are bigger than yours!” But they typically have some witty retort to bring like, “I’ll turn on my webcam so you can compare.” Or, in the case of our married member, she typically asks her husband to back her up. But even when women are not present, jokes are sexual in nature. So I don’t understand why people see women specifically as distractions. People are distractions.

In my previous guild, during vanilla WoW, we had a woman join us who was a cornerstone of our healing crew. And while I had ceased to raid frequently with them (due to time differences), I was still there to see the dynamics of her membership with the guild (of which she is still a member). While many jokes became sexual in nature, she showed herself to be a strong-willed and independent woman. And, thus, she became a major asset to their guild on a functional level. And this is one example of many in my life that has proven to me that women are as much of an asset to society as men. So why should guilds be any different? As long as they can play well and contribute, I don’t really care what sex they are.

Now, normally, I wouldn’t bring up this topic. It has been discussed before on many occasions amongst many gaming circles. But I recently had a member of my guild express concern over recruiting a woman. Of curious note, this is a member who had a relationship and subsequent issues with a former member of the guild who happened to be female. That’s not to say I absolutely know his motivations in regards to this “situation,” but I heavily suspect the root is sexism. Luckily, my co-GM stepped in with a very blunt opinion ringing with extreme truth.

I’m not going to turn down someone on the basis of gender. If it really would prove distracting for someone, then they really need to grow up or something, I dunno. Getting over gender distraction is a requirement for being successful in life, the workplace, etc – I see no reason why wow should be different.

And if you don’t think women can be successful raiders, much less guild leaders, maybe you should start reading Chick GM.

14 thoughts on “A GM’s Perspective: Sexism

  1. Hear, hear! As a woman who has been a gamer for well over a decade and continuously excels in every class that I touch (mind you, that’s almost exclusively restricted to priests, haha), it’s good to have it reaffirmed that there are level-headed individuals out there. I’ve never come across a guild that specifically denied women the opportunity to sign up, but I have seen guilds that were definitely very unfriendly to females and seemed to go out of their way to ensure that few women — if any — joined.

    As a woman, a former sailor, and someone who went to a military academy, I know that I have a bit of a mouth. The crude jokes and innuendos not only fail to faze me, but often come out of my own mouth. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m not careful of the people around me and it also means that I’m a she-bear when it comes to taking care of my fellow slightly-more-timid female companions. I might be able to take the flak and abuse, but not all of us are.

    It still shocks me when people are against women as a group (not individuals) to join any group, organization, or club on the basis of their gender and not performance, personality, or gumption. Bleh!

  2. In my humble opinion people who have issue with females in guilds are really saying “I don’t feel that I nor the people I chose to surround myself are not mature enough to handle the complex social interactions that occur with multiple genders present.”

    On the other side of the coin, WHY would I want to hang out with people who are obviously this immature? I’ll certainly spend many sleepless nights mourning my loss. I think that chicks who feel drawn to pay undue attention to this type of behavior may, unfortunately, only lend further support to these players opinions.

  3. I agree with the sentiments of your co-GM in that if people are distracted by gender to that extent they really need to grow up. In my travels on the internet men have been just as likely to cause drama on a forum/guild as women… examples that all-male guilds may give could be a classic example of confirmation bias. I would say however that gender-exclusive, or sexuality-exclusive, guilds aren’t a feature of groups of heterosexual males alone. A number of female-only guilds also exist with the stipulation that you can’t be recruited if you are male, though it is impossible to know whether these are more prevalent than all-male (by selection) guilds (now there would be an interesting study).

    It’s worth thinking who this sort of policy reflects most badly on: the women who are prevented from joining a few guilds because of a lazy stereotype, or those men whose misogyny is so ingrained it reflects in their gaming practices.

  4. In my humble opinion people who have issue with females in guilds are really saying “I don’t feel that I nor the people I chose to surround myself are not mature enough to handle the complex social interactions that occur with multiple genders present.”

    He actually tried to clarify it with a similar statement of this nature. However, he was one of only two people in our guild who ever had an in- and out-of-game relationship with a woman in the guild (not including the married couple, who obviously have a relationship by default… but I mean one of two people who sparked up a relationship). And, unlike the other male member, who dealt with his issues in a mature and private fashion, he dealt with them in a very suspicious manner. And his open statements against women continue to suggest his actions are rooted in sexism. Luckily, most people in the guild are against his views (us as GM’s included) and we’re not going to deny women on his opinion. So if he can’t deal with a woman who knows how to play, he can find another guild. He’s just lucky the woman he had issues with was a fairly poor player and seemingly lacking some dedication, so his cries regarding her inability to attend on occasion, her disconnections, and below average play were warranted. So I couldn’t exactly call him out on being a sexist, but I did state I found it suspicious that he’s aggressively targeting someone who he had a relationship with that ended poorly.

    On the other side of the coin, WHY would I want to hang out with people who are obviously this immature? I’ll certainly spend many sleepless nights mourning my loss. I think that chicks who feel drawn to pay undue attention to this type of behavior may, unfortunately, only lend further support to these players opinions.

    On the surface, it definitely seems immature when people make sexual jokes in nature. But it’s nothing different than what I’ve seen in real life. In our guild, people approach it in the same manner stand-up comedians do: both men and women are the target of sexual jokes. I should clarify, however, that these jokes aren’t made all the time. And they typically cease after the novelty has worn off. But we did have a woman in our guild who actually instigated these jokes at one point. However, after she left the guild, they became few and far between (despite having one remaining woman in the guild). But as an extremely serious guild, I’ve found it necessary to let humor perpetuate.

    And, really, that’s how I see it: humor. Examples of immaturity to me are more like what our sexist member brings to the table. Humor to me is in a different category, particularly because people use humor during frustrating or boring moments of the game to keep it enjoyable. I think only one person in our guild actually makes some jokes seriously without any hint of sarcasm (and it’s the same one saying we shouldn’t recruit women). But everyone else is very sarcastic and recognizes that the jokes we make aren’t made seriously. Rather, it’s one big giant open hour for stand-up comedy and nearly all topics have a target for comedy. If anything is extremely sensitive to someone, however, I will declare if off-limits. And, so far, there’s only one topic I deny people the right to use in their humor, and that’s because it’s a personal topic for one of our members. Thus far, people have been respectful when I ask them to cease joking about that topic. When someone openly refuses to cease those jokes when asked, they’ll find themselves on either the bench or in the guild recruitment channel.

  5. Oh you linked me I didn’t even see!

    My criticisms weren’t of your guild or this situation but of “Male Only” clubs and mentality to which you referred. I will say I’m blessed in that I’ve never had these issues in my guild. It’s very hard for a male member to come to me and tell me that females are not capable of raiding or are the cause of drama. Pretty much if you feel that way, you’re not going to place yourself under my leadership.

    Humor definitely has it’s place to help dissolve the tensions that build up in any raiding environment single sex or multiple sexes. In my guild my healing officer jokes that I shouldn’t be allowed out of the kitchen or haven’t been given permission to speak when I request that he perform tasks. There’s also a running joke that our male officers have slept their way up the ranks. Our ventrillo has a channel called “The Cyberdome” where many one on one feedback sessions are held. Finally we joke that 4 days out of the month we have to cancel raids so I can have my period without having a /gdisband.

    I think the line is, when push comes to shove, our women are treated with the same respect and dignity that our men are treated with. All joking aside, our male and female leadership team has earned the respect of our members and each other and our raiders are evaluated based on their performance rather than the genitalia they possess.

    I will say that I’ve been playing online games for 10 years and when I first started gaming, I don’t believe it would have been possible for me to recruit enough highly skilled players who would be willing to follow a female guild leader and be successful in end game raiding. The very first officer position I held was 9 years ago and I never told anyone in that guild that I was female. It was generally assumed that gamers were male or very openly female. Most of the latter the subject of a lot of attention and.or accused of being male in real life. Times have certainly changed since then, and I believe the average modern gamer is not of the opinion that gender affects your gaming skill or ability to function as part of a team. (Though it’s widely known that ovaries provide a set bonus of +20 healing)

  6. Two of the best Priests in the world I know are women. They can certainly out perform me. In my raids, I don’t care what your gender is. I give you a task and you can excel or you can fail miserably. My guild can be fairly business like and we’ve had some dramatical issues with women in the past, but those were dealt with swiftly.

  7. I certainly misread your post initially, then. Sorry. =)

    Though it’s widely known that ovaries provide a set bonus of +20 healing

    BRB, rerolling female IRL.

  8. “Two of the best Priests in the world I know are women. They can certainly out perform me. In my raids, I don’t care what your gender is. I give you a task and you can excel or you can fail miserably. My guild can be fairly business like and we’ve had some dramatical issues with women in the past, but those were dealt with swiftly.”

    This sounds sexist. You concede that these two female players outperform you but make sure we all know you still get to tell them what to do. At the same time, you claim that while women ARE more prone to drama, you clever menfolk know how to handle them. Sexism comes in many forms other than preventing people of a certain gender from applying to one’s guild.

  9. Uh… I’m pretty sure the fact that he gets to tell them what to do simply comes from his position in the guild. I guess I’m a sexist because I founded and lead my guild and I just happen to be a man. Circumstance does not always equate to sexism.

  10. As a guild leader there have been times we’ve talked about this topic. Of coarse we’ve also talked about not allowing people under the age of 18 join the guild. Now this second topic stuck and is part of our recruitment policy. My Wife is an officer by my side as well and she and I joke about the drama that seems to follow Women. Although I do tend to feel that drama follows drama, in other words if you are prone to the pitfalls of drama causing challenges regarding loot, raid slotting, or any other drama causing element then you are more than likely susceptible to woman drama. This is true no matter your gender (or age for that matter, although we still stand behind our age limit, even excluding our own child which raids with us but isn’t guilded by us).

    I think it’s a valuable point to keep in mind that WoW brings with it opportunity. This opportunity for could be leaders to step up and take their hand at leading. Now sure, they’ll make mistakes, take any good leader and they’ll be able to share with you some whopper mistakes. Our guild runs a bit differently than other guilds I’ve seen, we encourage people to step up and create what they want for themselves in the game. A simple example, I personally don’t really RP much but we brought on a couple people early on that did. I suggested that if they wanted to RP that they would be welcome to create whatever they needed to in order to facilitate such activities. Currently we have a very successful RP section on our forums that a good many of our members post to on a daily basis.

    In another example of how we’re set apart from other guilds is that we’ve worked very hard at bringing down the walls that tend to go up between guilds. I’ve played this game from day one and have been part of 4 guilds including the one I’m currently leading. It always pained me to leave, leave good friends in one guild to go join other friends in other guilds just to get (raiding in my case) things done I wanted. When we went about building our guild we decided to look at it as a group of friends first. Next, we have in our guild some people that are interested in leading, leading raids, heck even some that have been interested in leading a guild and have gone off on a good note to do that. This encouragement to help enable people to do what they want in the game and extend resources to help facilitate those desires has really started to blossom into a strong community.

    Well, I didn’t mean to go off topic so much. I just wanted to point out that there are many things one can do with a guild and their leadership of people.

  11. What I find funny is that alot of times when females join a guild the males will pick on the female which then causes drama but the female is blamed for it then either leaves or is is asked to leave. Males that ninja loot aren’t noted for that drama nor do people claim it’s a male thing and to exclude all males.

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