This semester, one of the last two I should be in, I am taking a course called Images of Women. The course description for this course is:
We shall examine and critically reflect upon many of the images of women prevalent in Western culture. Special attention will be placed upon the fragmentary and conflictive character of the images. Examples will be drawn from films, literature, visual arts, and popular music.
Part of this course is keeping a journal of reactions to the articles we are supposed to read. The resulting entries related to this course will be slightly more personal than I typically write about but will most likely still relate to videogames in some way shape or form.
The first series of articles is about the act of covering.
Kenji Yoshino, ‘The pressure to cover’.
Claire Chow, excerpts from Leaving deep water.
Sandra Guzman, ‘Joy of being nueva Latina’, from The Latina’s bible.
Toi Derricotte, excerpts from The black notebooks.
Jennifer Camper, Ramadan.
Paul Spickard, ‘The illogic of American racial categories’.
Bliss Broyard web site: watch the short video by Bliss Broyard
The act of covering is from Irving Goffman:
Goffman observes that ”persons who are ready to admit possession of a stigma. . .may nonetheless make a great effort to keep the stigma from looming large.” He calls this behavior covering. – Kenji Yoshino
From LBGTQ groups to nationality differences with majority groups to tattoos to political affiliation, the pressure to cover and conform to one’s environment is radically powerful.
Since this is a blog that is mostly devoted to videogames, I thought I would write about something that I covered last year, female gamers.
Gaming is mostly a male hobby and industry. While certain datasets show female gamers as growing or on the rise, these datasets do little to differentiate between the types of games either side of gender is actually playing. If we were to include a variable on type of game, I have a feeling any researcher could make a case that men are playing the games that they make, women are playing, mostly, card games, puzzle games, and games like The Sims. As evidence for this I offer a couple of posts I made a while back.
Now why is this important and what does it have to do with covering.
Here is my central idea in as concise a form I can make it. Women who play videogames because, “they reject what they see as a very traditional and old fashioned view of femininity from the girls games movement all the while criticizing the characters that they find in boys games as being the product of male erotic fantasies” (Cassell 10). In other words, females play games meant for males, reject femininity, yet want feminist views to make their way into videogames. From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. Women who accept societal norms must cover that they play videogames in order to maintain traditional femininity or play games for girls.
There has been a significant amount of research devoted to the girls who reject femininity and play the games for males. Little has been done to discuss alternatives to current games for girls in any other way than to stop making them. One attempt, Brenda Laurel’s Rockette, a game meant to approach tween girls where they were traditionally and give them tools to cope with the stereotypes, was shut down very quickly by some negative reviews from supposedly feminist reviewers. The resulting question that was never answered was, “is it good or bad to reflect the social realities of girls lives?”
That question is still being avoided. In the mean time, girls who play videogames but accept traditional femininity are forced to cover in all walks of their lives. They cover because if they begin to reflect the training boys receive through these games: competition, the need to be on top, and how to interact with dominant masculinities, then that girl may be abandoned by femininity altogether. This may not always be the case.
The issue with studying girls playing games right now is what they are playing and how they are playing but most research seems to take on the fringes of females playing games: females who are masculine by behavior or who would be bois according to this week’s readings. The real means through which women will begin to be represented in gaming is not be focused on the margins, but by influencing the majority, “generic” women as defined by women themselves.
Until then, videogames themselves are still tragedies of hegemonic masculinity, allowing subordinated and dominant masculinities to exercise their power over what could only be called female puppets.