Still a hack

Christina Hoff Sommers is still making videos for the American Enterprise Institute sniping at people who argue that there is sexism in video games. She made a new one on Monday, with a partial transcript.

“Is Gaming A Boy’s Club?” is the name of a school lesson plan developed by the Anti-Defamation League—ADL for short. The ADL is a well-respected organization that has fought anti-Semitism and racism for decades. As a long-time admirer of the ADL, I am baffled by its sponsorship of such a biased and dogmatic curriculum. The lesson plan advertises itself as meeting standards for inclusion in the Common Core—an influential national curriculum. The entire lesson plan is dedicated to the proposition that video games are a hotbed of sexism and misogyny, and it gives students the message that anyone who dares to suggest that games should be more inclusive can expect to be terrorized by malevolent gamers.

And that message is completely wrong and contrary to the truth because – no actually Sommers doesn’t say why. She can’t very well, can she, because the message is not wrong and contrary to the truth. Women who talk about sexism in gaming are likely to be terrorized by malevolent gamers, unless they do that talking solely in private. Sommers must be relying on some mental reservation or quibble about wording to make her claim somehow true. Maybe because not all critics can expect to be “terrorized”? Maybe she carefully chose that word because not all gamers resort to threats? Maybe she knows perfectly well that anyone who dares to suggest that games should be more inclusive can expect to be verbally harassed and abused, and chose “terrorized” for better deniability? Me, I would say “terrorized” can include verbal harassment and abuse, but then I’m the kind of person Sommers sneers at, so there you go.

Lesson materials include a video and an article by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian—both are harsh indictments of the world of gaming. That would be fine if she were not the only assigned author. In another part of the lesson plan, the teacher places seven posters around the room—each bearing a statement about video games. Students are then told to attach Post-Its to those they agree with. Three are neutral—for example: “I have played video games” and “I have watched other people play video games.” But four are affirmations about sexism: “I have witnessed sexism in video games,” “I believe video games can perpetuate sexism.” None says anything positive about games—such as, “Gaming is an exciting activity for both women and men,” or “Sexism in video games is exaggerated.”The curriculum also includes a small group discussion on sexism and video games and “additional resources” that focus on—guess what?– harassment, misogyny, and terror in the culture of video games. The curriculum is not only obsessively one-sided—much it is false, misleading, or exaggerated. Let’s start with the very first sentence. “Video games do not have a good track record when it comes to positively including girls and women.” But on page 3 of the curriculum students learn that women now constitute 48 percent of video game players—up from 40 percent in 2010.

Note the word now. Then note the preceding phrase track record. See what she did there? The curriculum starts with “Video games do not have a good track record” and Sommers contradicts with “It’s improved.” But the fact that it has improved (assuming that’s true) doesn’t contradict anything about its track record.

What I hate most about this crusade of Sommers’s is the way it says “No no no don’t look under the surface, don’t point out things that everybody ignores, don’t say this cultural habit doesn’t have to be like this – LEAVE THE STATUS QUO ALONE.”

It was depressing to see Steven Pinker RT the Sommers video.




  1. says

    I would really, really like to respect Pinker. I’ve enjoyed a few of his books, and even have a couple of autographed copies. But then he goes and does things like this….

  2. Konradius says

    Well, I subscribe to the sentiment of ‘the war on gamers continues’.
    But it is not the criticism of misogyny and homophobia that I abhor. That criticism is correct for a far too large portion of us (I am a gamer). It is the contempt of the low standard that we are judged on by people like CHS.

  3. rrede says

    Stan Murch, what would you define as a “real” class?

    The lesson plan above (presumably intended for courses in the K-12 system–I’m on a break from class prep so don’t have time to look up the details), could be used in different classes as an activity over a day or two: it’s not a whole class for crying out loud.

    Humanities disciplines study what human beings produce: that’s not just limited to what dead white men produced (though there’s work on sexism in Shakespeare!), and there’s a lot to be said for working with texts students are familiar with, i.e. games.

    I work at the university level, with marginalized literatures (and some film–I’m not really into games, but my students are, very much so, and very much interested in analyzing/talking about them). There is big research funding going on in the gaming/virtual worlds studies; if what is done at research universities is “real” teaching and scholarship, and those materials are a resource for the lesson plans in the K-12 classes, then it’s real.

    One of the research centers I’ve forwarded to people on my campus who sneer at the idea of studying games:

    Gaming is a huge economic force, and a growing one, and it’s as worthy of study (from the programming AND gender AND economic viewpoints) as any other thing that human beings produce.

  4. rrede says

    Plus, the whole point of what the ADL did was to provide resources (unless they’re charging some huge amount)…OK, I’m gonna go see what I’m talking about (which is probably more than Stan did).

  5. says

    rrede @6: Thank you. My son is currently doing a Ph.D. in game studies. He did his Master’s thesis on the Myst-verse. I have to confess that his mother and I don’t entirely understand what he’s doing — he’s the closest thing in the family to an “artsie” — but we support him all the way.

  6. rrede says

    Eamon: You’re more than welcome, and yay for your son!

    I tried to encourage one of my master’s students, who did his final research project on a fan studies topic–male My Little Pony fans–to consider going to UC Irvine, but he wasn’t able to leave the state.

    Stan: misogynists never think that sexism is worthy of debate. Too bad that so many of the rest of us don’t agree with you.

  7. says

    Wow, that’s the second Masturgater™ I’ve seen defending Sommers around here today. The other was a drive-by at PZ’s (who actually used the phrase “it’s about ethics in gaming journalism!©”); clearly they don’t like it when people disagree with the Official GamerGate-Approved “Feminist” and will gather to defend her honour…with stupid arguments and trolling. I’m sure the Hoff appreciates your effort, bros.

  8. says

    Stan Murch,

    Wanting schools to waste time and resources on sexism in video games is idiotic.

    Only if you’re an ignorant anti-scientific luddite. Quoting an anonymous (owing to fear of harassment) social scientist on reddit:

    On the gender and video games side, there is less good empirical quantitative work, but what is there goes against the arguments of TB. One study exposed individuals to either sexist video game depictions of women or else control images of women, and then asked them to judge a real-life sexual harassment case. Men exposed to the video game depictions were more likely to tolerate harassment than those not exposed, and higher levels of exposure to video game violence had similar effects. [9] A second study found “that playing a video game with the theme of female “objectification” may prime thoughts related to sex, encourage men to view women as sex objects, and lead to self-reported tendencies to behave inappropriately towards women in social situations.” [10] There is still more work to be done, but the early evidence strongly suggests that games matter on views of gender.
    [9] Dill, K. E., Brown, B. P., & Collins, M. A. (2008). Effects of exposure to sex-stereotyped video game characters on tolerance of sexual harassment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44(5), 1402-1408.
    [10] Yao, M. Z., Mahood, C., & Linz, D. (2010). Sexual priming, gender stereotyping, and likelihood to sexually harass: Examining the cognitive effects of playing a sexually-explicit video game. Sex roles, 62(1-2), 77-88.

    Good research in the social sciences is both difficult to conduct and to keep free from implicit biases creeping in, but only fools declare it’s of no value whatsoever.

  9. says

    But four are affirmations about sexism: “I have witnessed sexism in video games,”

    Oh the horror for an educational institution to let poeple know such a secret!

    None says anything positive about games

    They don’t need to. Everyone already considers games to be positive, good, and desirable. What she really wants are negatives about the concern over sexism:

    such as […] “Sexism in video games is exaggerated.”

  10. Saad says

    Stan Murch is now attempting to comment using the email address “”

    Yup, no sexism in video games at all, huh?

    Good riddance.

  11. corvidd says


    Very interesting link. The possibility of negative consequences from video games re.sexism exists, but as the author himself/herself notes, the extent body of “good empirical quantitative work”, is less than that focusing on aggressive/violent behaviour , and some of these studies are problematic. I’d agree with him/her is concluding that the “jury (is) still out but some evidence of influence on gender.” This area of investigation is still in its infancy anyway, the study of possible connections between video games and aggression/violence has been going on for nearly 2 decades now.

    More interesting I thought was the information of the growing corpus of evidence linking video games to aggressive behaviour; most of what I’d read focused on violence, never paid much attention to the work being done on regarding aggression.

  12. tecolata says

    It appears that people like Stan Murch, aside from everything else (like sexism and trolling) have trouble with English grammar.

    you’re, not your

    (So many times someone on line thought to “insult” me by saying “your gay” to which I always reply “my gay what?” They never get it)

    Perhaps he should put down the video games and study English, or would that also be a waste of his time?

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