A month ago Christina Hoff Sommers did a 6 and a half minute video for the American Enterprise Institute in which she took a sarcastically skeptical look at the criticisms of gamer culture. There’s a partial transcript on the page and I transcribed some of the rest for myself.
She started by saying that hard-core gamers, those who play more than 20 hours a week, are 7 to 1 male to female.
But are video games rife with sexism? Do they promote a culture of misogyny and violence that must be dismantled? My answer is no. As I looked into the literature on gaming, I discovered that gamers make a lot of people nervous. Not only are most of them male—but the games they like tend to be action-packed, competitive, and often violent.
But obviously that’s not in any way a problem, as we can tell by noticing how very peaceful and free of violence the US is*. Everything is already perfect exactly as it is, so there’s no need for anyone to think about possible problems with gaming, or anything else. The only people who ought to be doing that kind of thing, in fact, are people who do it at the behest of and on the payroll of the American Enterprise Institute.
But now, gamers are dealing with a new army of critics: gender activists and hipsters with degrees in cultural studies. These critics are concerned that gaming is a largely hetero-patriachal capitalist pursuit. Why isn’t gaming more inclusive? Why must there always be male heroes? Why are the few females always portrayed as either Damsels in distress or sex objects? These critics have made some useful points about “sexist tropes and narratives.” But they ignore the fact that the world of gaming has become more inclusive. There are games that fit a vast array of preferences, and games with responsibly proportioned and appropriately garbed female protagonists. Yet the video game gender police have become so harsh and intolerant – relentless – many of them want more than women on both sides of the video screen – they want the male video game culture to die.[little laugh]
I wonder if that’s an attempt to deflect attention from the people who threaten the critics, by pretending that the critics too want someone or something to die. Not very nice if so.
Male gamers, as a group, do evince a strong a preference for games with male heroes and sexy women. Could that be because they are – uh [quick eye roll] male? There is no evidence that these games are making males racist, misogynist, or homophobic. In fact, all the data we have suggests that millennial males—born and raised in video game nation—are far less prone to these prejudices than previous generations.
All the data? I doubt that. Misogyny is too prevalent and hip and fashionable for that. It’s coming from somewhere.
But recently two feminist critics received and publicized death threats. Now, no one knows who sent them, there are millions of gamers, and I’m sure they include a few sociopaths, if it was indeed gamers who sent the threats. But many of the new culture critics have seized on the emails as a [sarcasm] sure sign of patriarchal pathology at the heart of gamer culture. According to one academic pontificator [sarcastic shaking of head], “what we are seeing is the end of gamers, and the viciousness that accompanies the death of an identity.” [sarcastic little laugh] Well I have spent the last few weeks looking into the gamer culture, talking to gamers, looking at the data – I don’t see pathology, or imminent death. What I see is a lively, smart, creative subculture…”
That’s a pretty callous dismissal of the death threats. She could have used the opportunity to speak out forcefully against them, but instead she chose to hint that maybe they were fake.
Her shtick these days seems to be just to pounce on anything feminists do in order to make fun of it. There are some feminist projects that I too think need opposing, like the ones that claim logic and science are more of a guy thing. But jeering at pretty much everything is a questionable kind of scholarship.
*I’m assuming that she’s talking about US gamers here, given that she’s doing this for the American Enterprise Institute, which doesn’t mean Mexico and Canada, much less Brazil and Peru.)