How gender bias in games and geeky movies got there


Anjin Anhut's concise explanation of why gender representation sucks in games and geeky movies (see this and especially this) sounds solid -- if depressingly entrenched -- to me. Anhut's thesis is that entrenched sexism created a situation in which marketing was tilted towards men, and then market research showed that men were the majority consumers of geek culture (surprise, surprise), which led to an even greater male bias in marketing, and more research showing that men were the major customers for games and geeky movies -- lather, rinse, repeat. It's a disheartening tale of how gender bias emerges naturally out of a series of "rational" commercial decisions that reinforce their own flawed logic at each turn.

The thing is, that sales data shows how women responded to geek related marketing, but not why. Excluding and exploiting women, so you can sell more stuff to men, while it might be financially sensible, is a social outrage. This systemic grand scale reinforcement of gender segregation and sexism would only be justifiable, if there would be something inherent to women, that makes them like geek media less than men do. …if there would be some truth to the sexist ideas, which are perpetuated here.

There never was a moment in the history of geek media, when geek media was advertised equally to men and women and there never was a moment in the history of geek media, when it was equally culturally acceptable to be interested in geek stuff for men and women.

Women never ever got as much marketing attention as men have and women always have been treated as an oddity in geek culture, with all the barriers that come with that. There never was a time, when toy cars and robots and construction toys have been made equally accessible to little boys and girls. The same goes for safe spaces and tech education.

Why Marketers Fear The Female Geek (Thanks, Alice!)

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  1. This shows just how disconnected marketing is from the rest of reality.

    My wife was a hardcore gamer when I met her. My daughter has always been a gamer. (Both video and RPG.) In fact, my daughter is VERY good at video games. Her favorite games are things like Skyrim and Fallout. She does not shy away from the violent games. Neither does my wife. Both of them actively hate most/all of the games marketed towards women.

    Maybe we just need more women gamers in marketing.

  2. Early Star Trek conventions were attended by mostly female audiences. About a year ago, George Takei posted some great photos of 1970's convention audiences, and well over half the attendees were female.

  3. mtdna says:

    There's a side effect of all this that also turns off females: they get unwanted attention because they are rare. My teenage daughter games online and she learned early on not to reveal she's a girl. She's there to play but the boys/men either want to flirt or harass.

  4. I have an interesting anecdote about how games are marketed. How I'm targeted on my work computer is very different from how I'm marketed to on my personal laptop.

    On my work computer, I'm not logged into social networking sites like Facebook or G+, and I don't go to gaming sites. I'm a web developer (ASP.NET to be precise), so the sites I visit include StackOverflow, MSDN and Smashing.

    And ads like this follow me around: http://www.moat.com/search/results?brand=tynon+(game)

    This ad is so clearly targeted towards men. And the reason I was targeted for it is because I visit coding sites. I know the reality is the vast majority of people who go to coding sites are men. I know that this is the type of ad that works on men. I know it's not a person that's assuming I'm male, but an algorithm. But still...

    When I'm home, I don't get targeted for game ads. No matter how many geek culture sites I go to, or game reviews or walkthroughs I watch on YouTube. And I have a pretty good idea, based on my own employment experience in ecommerce, that it's because someone in marketing is setting the demographics for their ads to Male in a way that completely excludes Females if gender is known.

  5. I know it's likely to get my head knocked off, but I'd like to see less critiques and more indie games. There are great platforms like Steam that make indie publishing easier, and of course mobile is more open than platforms like, say, PlayStation.

    In all honesty, even though I had misgivings about the Feminist Frequency series (I won't argue about it, but see some of the less unhinged critiques) I would be tempted to pony up if Anita Sarkeesian were to try another crowdfunding effort, this time to have her game idea produced. In all honesty, I think her princess-rescues-herself-and-overthrows-the-monarchy idea could make for a great game.

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