I didn’t mention it here at the time because I didn’t want to jinx it, but I submitted a PAX panel this year titled “Women in a Virtual World: How Gender Roles Affect Your Elf”. We didn’t get the panel, as it turns out, which I found really disappointing but .. well, life is like that sometimes I guess. (It might not be too surprising that my post “My Hobby is Stupid and So Am I” was written the day I got the rejection letter.)
The panel was oriented towards an audience of women. Men were certainly welcome to attend but it was women, I think, that would have gotten the most out of it. In fact, my goal with the panel was to not talk about men at all either as allies or potential agents of patriarchy, and the panel description opened with the lines, “It’s not about the men!” which I guess in retrospect was perhaps threatening. The idea was for women to talk about how external social issues (often that we put on ourselves) can creep into our virtual worlds, and how to deal with it. I basically wanted to make women feel good about playing MMORPGs.
To that end, I planned on talking about leading a hardcore raid guild. When I initially filled that role I found it challenging to not fall in to “girlfriend” or “mom” patterns because those were what I was familiar with going into the game. I’m a woman! I’m nuturing and supportive and oh my god if you stand in that fire one more time I am going to remove you from the raid. Women are not traditionally groomed by society for the “Dear Leader” role, so it was a challenge for me to figure out what I wanted it to mean.
I think our panel probably lacked game “celebrity” firepower compared to many of the entries, but I couldn’t ask for two better co-panelists. I have to give mad public props to the tireless Apple Cider and the fierce Arolaide for agreeing to my wacky scheme in the first place. In my initial vision Apple Cider was going to talk about “sassy plate” and how external forces can make women feel bad about how they dress their elf. Arolaide was going to take on “momgaming”, and the general societal expectation that once a woman has a child she is no longer entitled to her own hobbies because she is a mombot.
Like I said, the idea was to talk about things that can make women feel bad about playing MMOs, and simultaneously commiserate and discuss ways to handle it. I thought it was unique because it was addressing a female audience and was approaching things from a positive perspective rather than a negative one. (The latter is covered quite nicely by the usual “Fat, Ugly, or Slutty” panel.)
So yeah, I was pretty bummed when we didn’t get it, but okay. I mean, I didn’t see the other submissions, and maybe ours just wasn’t right. C’est la vie.
But then I see this morning on Twitter that one of the accepted panels is about how to handle “wife aggro” (seriously, that’s in the title), and now I just feel kind of deflated. Wife aggro. Wife. Aggro. Not spouse aggro, but wife, because obviously gamers are all men (or in a same sex relationship but I suspect that’s not what Mr. Panelist had in mind) and women just don’t get it, amirite? Arolaide has already done a way better write up of why this is so irritating than I can, so go read it.
So, like, PAX dudes, you don’t have to take our panel about sisters doin’ it for themselves in MMOs, but could you at least not accept panels where women are othered right from the first five words? Sigh.