Thursday, November 29, 2012

#1reasonwhy - Comment for Allies and such things

Okay, the big buzz had kind of left after the big push after #1reasonwhy first couple of days and while you can check it out and see all the big tweets from the really amazing people who came out with 140 character stories about what they face every day trying to do what they love, make games.

Two things inspired this post. The first was @GeekyLyndsay post over at Character Generation ( which talks about some really basic stuff you can do if you want to start being a good ally. She felt the need to do it because this isn't the first time this kind of thing has happened before.

Here's a hint, it hasn't. It won't be the first time, and it won't be the last time there's a huge string of people talking about the crap they deal with in order to make games. Not just making them, but sometimes trying to make sure there's a little bit of not sexist crap in the game.

The other thing was that there was a guy who had done a blog post about it, saying that he felt bad because he was much more a 1reasonwhy before and now is trying his best not to be. Awesome, I thought that was commendable enough that I would follow this person on twitter. Then the next thing that they posted was a retweet from an aggregate twitter feed where the avatar was a woman's ass in a thong.

That's what caused me to put this out there, and this isn't unique. There are many websites that have a lot of information on how to be a good ally. I'm not a particularly special snowflake in this regard, but I figure I might as well try to say something rather than slam my first into the ground in frustration ... again. It hurts when you do that, it leaves emotional bruises.

With that in mind, here are some tips that might help you be a better ally:

1. Listen
I don't know how many times that was tweeted out, but not listening is the biggest thing on this list. That means when someone says "Hey, this happened" or "Hey, this is a problem" the first response isn't "No it isn't" because then you're just being defensive.

Also, pretending to listen and then coming up with a "No it's not" answer isn't helpful either. Stop and really listen, and if there is going to be any pretending pretend that what they're saying is true. What then? How would you respond to that? How would you feel if you had a problem and it was dismissed out of hand again, and again, and again.

2. Don't play Devil's Advocate
You might think it's fun, and it might be for you but that's because you probably don't have a personal stake in it. The conversation isn't about your representation, or how you're objectified, or how you're marginalized. Trying to poke holes into someone's argument isn't doing what you think it might be doing. It's not going to strengthen their argument, it's not going to be considered a fun mental exercise, it's going to make them feel even more marginalized because you're not questioning their argument (not matter how much you think so) you're questioning their many, many experiences.

3. Think about what you say
And when you say something, I mean on places like Twitter and Facebook and any thing you do that's public and recorded. I don't mean, "be a saint in all places" because I know I'm not. What I'm saying is that if you want to say you're helping women out in a certain field, and then retweet/share/repost/reblog something that is part of the problem you're not thinking about what you say.

The example above, with the dude and the twitter account. It's great to say that you want to help, but when the next thing you post is something that aggregates, "Hey, look how sexy she is" then you aren't really thinking about what you're saying.

Don't take this as you can't be like, "Wow, you mean I can't say that I find gender X attractive?" No, that's not what I'm saying. You don't have to become some sort of puritan locked in their room trying to self-flagellate the sin out of your body. But when you're doing something in public, like say the internet, think about the effects of your actions. Hell, think about how you relate to women in your private spaces too (Hint: If you have a rating system, that's a problem because you're not seeing women as people but as objects rated on their fuckability) but let's start in the public sphere.

4. Do your own research
You know how I've come to the little, infinitesimally small amount of knowledge I have? I've read a lot. I didn't have someone teach me about it, I didn't have someone hand holding me the whole way. I shut my mouth and paid attention. Then, when I didn't feel comfortable talking because I didn't think I knew enough about the situation ... I ... shut my mouth, paid attention and read up on the subject. It's amazing how this trick works in more situations too. The link above has good starting resources, and because I'm working in a new app I'm not sure how to link so I'm going to be lazy and tell you to check that one out.

5. Understand the terminology
You've made games, right? You know what a roll and move is? You know what DPS is? You understand ARPU and ARPPU? That's industry jargon and if you work in a place you get to know the shorthands because it's easier to use those when referencing things that are considered to be a common term.

You know what's one of the things I personally find the most annoying, and I'm not alone at this, when someone in a feminist space says, "Men" and a dude goes, "BUT I AM NOT LIKE THAT, HOW DARE YOU SLAP US ALL WITH THE SAME BRUSH YOU HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, MAN HATER!!!!!1~1~~~!!!!!!"

You know what "Men" stands for? It means "Men who are socialized to do these things in a patriarchal culture." Of course there are those who don't do X thing, but if you said that every time you said "Men" then it would spend more time on your disclaimers than you would on the actual subject itself. Seriously, try it where you work. Explain all the exceptions and disclaimers or full terms for jargon at a meeting and watch people look at you funny, and the meeting to take an extra hour.

"This is the ARPU which is the Average Revenue Per User which describes the amount of money spread out on average between all playing users and not just those who are paying." Or, probably more appropriate "This is a First Person Shooter, not to be confused with Over the Shoulder Shooters like the Resident Evil series and ..."

This is why we have shorthands, learn them before you get offended by their use.

6. Cookies are delicious but not all the time
You want recognition when you do something you think is good. That's okay, people are like that. One of my favourite Calvin and Hobbes bits is when Calvin struggles for three panels to do a push-up and when he gets to the top he shouts REWARD PLEASE!

When you do something as an ally which basically treats a woman like a normal human being, that's not worth a cookie. Yes it's fighting a whole pile of cultural programming, and upbringing, and it may seem like a huge amount of effort the first few times you do it. But think about it, you want a reward for treating someone like a human being. Reward please for treating someone like a human being. Repeat that with me. Reward for treating someone like a human being.

Does it sound odd? That just might be what you've done.

There are more, but this is a good start. It's a long road trying to be a good ally (note the idea here isn't perfection, you're a human being after all you will make mistakes) but it's ultimately rewarding in a wide variety of ways. If you make games, a wider pool of experience and knowledge only increases the quality of what you're making. If you talk about games, you'll find a whole new set of people to talk to games about. If you like games, you'll find that better games are going to get made.

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