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Business and privilege

08/24/2010

Due to some real life things going on, I’m not playing WoW at the current moment, but I figure I’ve seen/done enough in the game to keep my blog open until I can start playing again.  Also, I wasn’t going to write about this.  I really wasn’t, but I had some thoughts on the matter that I wanted to share.

- Why bring it up? -

There have been some very interesting posts on representation of minorities in WoW recently (mostly focusing on women) and I’ve mostly steered away from the conversation, other than just a comment here or there.  This isn’t because it’s a topic I don’t care about, far from it.  It is simply one that I feel deeply about and that I know will make me bemoan how some people “just don’t get it” or cry about the “generation of selfishness.”  Anyone who reads my blog at all regularly knows that I do not as a rule like getting emotions involved in discussions.  Turning a topic into a matter of feelings is the surest way to make an argument into a fight.  Therefore, I’m going to do my utmost best to make myself clear and as emotionally neutral as I can.  Also, this might not flow as well as might be expected, so I apologize in advance for my disjointed writing process here.

- On the question of privilege -

In college, I took many different courses discussing racism in the modern world and one of the things that often happened was that non-minority students often derailed the conversation towards their own feelings.  What often happens at those times is that the marginalized minority ends up having to explain themselves to the privileged group and sometimes even end up apologizing for hurting the privileged person’s feelings.  As a friend of mine would say, “we are not required to educate you about your own privilege.”  Some people don’t mind answering questions, but that does not mean that every marginalized person should be required to and that those that don’t are angry or unreasonable.

Does privilege exist?  Interestingly enough, being able to question whether you have it is how you -know- you have it.  And there are various levels of it.  A white, straight woman has privilege compared to a black, straight woman and they both do compared to a black lesbian.  Western society is like a Venn diagram of “-isms,” with those falling into the fewest categories being the ones that generally raise the most objections about an action being due to an “-ism.”  I was reminded of this fact while reading some of the posts regarding Blizzard’s record with feminism; the ones saying they weren’t offended and thought others were overreacting seemed to be those who only fell under one or less “-isms.”

Privilege is an interesting thing because it is most regularly invisible to members inside a given society.  The fact that I am more likely to be attacked walking down the street than a man is just a logical given to my mind.  That is just the way it is to me.  Someone coming from a different society might be shocked at that fact and point it out as a symptom of the man’s privilege.  And that person would be correct.

The question then becomes whether privilege is also part of WoW.  Of course it is!  The people who make it have the Venn diagram of “-isms” as an ingrained part of their upbringing.  So, too, do the players.  As my old professor would say, “anyone who grew up in a racist society -is- racist, no matter the color of their skin.”  Therefore, because people who grew up in a sexist/racist/heteronormative society have created WoW, the game must be expected to contain traces of those traits.  It is then up to the people who interact with WoW (creators and players both) to go about rooting out those traces, just as they would with any other aspect of their lives.

- WoW the game, Blizzard the business -

“But it’s just a game, go work to change something important.”  WoW as, according to this article here, over 11.5 million subscribers.  -More- than the population of Cuba.  Moreover, it has direct contact with children.  How, exactly, is working to reduce the “-isms” in a media source that is so incredibly massive somehow not a worthy use of time?  Even if the “-isms” are slight, if even .01% of their player base notices it and thinks there is a problem with it, then it should be addressed.

Which brings me to the business side of things.  Many people have discussed the victory fountain that is created when the Lich King is killed on a server for the first time and whether it having all male figures is sexist.  It is an excellent example to use here to show the balance between cost of ignoring privilege and cost of addressing it.  By not addressing the real-world privilege in having all male figures in the fountain, the cost was in upsetting feminist and possibly losing subscribers.  Seeing as designing the fountain with a female figure would have cost them nothing extra (the monetary cost of designing a female figure being the same as a male one), the company suffered a “net loss.”  Seeing as no reputable company -ever- wants the public to see them as intentionally falling into an “-ism,” this is obviously an oversight.   Management is there to keep such “net losses” from occurring and they simply failed to see this one.

A few sidebars on the fountain issue should be made.  One, drawing a comparison between the being the lack of female figures and the lack of, say, Nightelves is an obvious misdirection.  Sexism is a real-world issue that should be addressed by the real-world company of Blizzard.  Nightelf-ism is not.  Second, Azeroth is not the modern world, but the players and designers -are- part of the modern world.  If Azeroth were to be more medieval as a setting as far as gender relations go, Blizzard would make that an apparent, obvious part of the lore.  A designer does not go about creating gender disparity by being lazy; that is just a bad business practice.  By allowing female characters the opportunity to do all of the heroic things male characters do with -no negative repercussions,- any details that fall into the “-isms” are obviously unintentional and not design choices.

- I should not be expected to fix your (real-life) stupid. -

Ophelie listed me as a “hardcore female player” on her blog, amongst a list of feminist posts and other strong women.  To be perfectly honest, I feel a bit uneasy about it.  Not because of the whole “hardcore vs casual” shindig, but because I do things that other feminist bloggers would probably not approve of.  For example, to address one of the things she talks about in that post, I do not talk on PuG vents.  Allow me to tell you a story.

Koralon had just come out, so I decided to PuG him to try for PvP gear on my priest.  Seeing as I had already done it once each on my paladin and my druid, I hopped onto the PuG vent all ready to explain the fight and organize the healers.  (No one ever organizes the healers in my PuGs unless I do, it seems…)  I believe I got as far as “hi, this is Nikkal here.”  There were a few “omg hi” people and then someone piped up with “you sound just like a cam girl.”  My jaw dropped as the rest of vent seemed to agree with him and they decided to call me that for the rest of the run.  Trying to keep control of myself, I asked them to please not call me that and went about doing healing assignments.  They persisted in ignoring me on both counts.  It didn’t take long before I simply stopped talking.

That one story is why I don’t talk on PuG vents as a rule.  Just as it shouldn’t be required of me to tell you about your own privilege, it also shouldn’t be required of me to stand up and put myself out there for the sake of feminism.  I should not have to “step up and take control” and subject myself to idiotic people in an effort to help them change.  It is -their- place to change and treat me like a normal human being.  That, to me, is real feminism.

31 comments

  1. So… you get accused of being a “cam girl,” too? Another gem we have in common!

    I think we established earlier that we politely disagree with each other on certain aspects of the raging debate (and who knew it would blow up like it did). But as a whole, I do agree with your general opinions and ideas.

    I still can’t say I can relate to or understand your perspectives on the business angle of the game and I do disagree with your perspective on the fountain kerfuffle. Where I was going with that topic and another topic or two was that there were a number of minorities that were excluded from a number of possibly important events in the game. Yes, women were one of them – but other minorities were left out, too. I was trying to illustrate that maybe it wasn’t just something that only women could have been upset about.

    With your last paragraph, I agree to a certain extent that you shouldn’t have to stand up and declare yourself as a feminist and put yourself out there, but I also feel that education and enlightenment don’t hurt, either.

    To build off of a debate that happened earlier with yourself and the add-on discussion, we got on the topic of people’s perceptions of being offended and how some can choose to be and choose not to be or people will take things differently, etc. I think offense can be a trigger or something that can open a door to conversation and possible understanding of something new and different. I have found in my social interactions (both IRL and in game) that we live in a culture where nobody points out things like that anymore. People can be as shitty as they want to be to those around them and nobody will call them out on that. I am one of the rare people who will and in most situations, said offender was blissfully unaware they were doing such things.

    Now, it could be up to that person to be more self-aware, but you can also imagine that once they knew a boundary had been crossed, they could make a healthy attempt to not do said shitty thing again. They didn’t know they had crossed a line until I brought it to their attention. Maybe what I said could have turned that around or maybe that person really didn’t mean to offend me or be shitty and we can discuss why it seemed that way and evolve our relationship from there. It can be seen as an opportunity for growth, on both sides. But if that person really didn’t think they were doing any harm or notice their privilege (as many male gamers have innocently stated) and how it could be affecting us, we could kind of plant that seed and maybe they might one day see where we’re coming from.

    And that’s doing a great service, if you ask me!
    :)


    • The whole “cam girl” thing nearly made me swear off doing that pod cast, too. I’m pretty much paranoid about how I sound via electronic communication now. LOL

      While I totally agree that there is more “racial fail” than “gender fail” generally when it comes to Blizzard and waaaaaay more “heteronormative fail,” that doesn’t mean they should be let off the hook for needlessly dumb business moves. I used the fountain since it’s such a great example of bad “cost” management. Really, when you come down to it, Blizzard is a business. Everything they do is based on how to make money. As consumers, we need to speak up and tell them how to better address what we want to buy from them. (More sparkle ponies, I guess?) Saying “it’s no big deal, stop making a mountain of a molehill” is counter-productive in a business market. Did you ever hear that saying that for every one person who complained about a business, there are ten that were unhappy but didn’t bother? It’s very true, which is why businesses take feedback so seriously. So when groups of people (Christians, atheists, feminists, furries, etc.) can tell Blizzard what they want and what they don’t like? That’s the market -working.- This is especially true considering the relationship mass media has with the public. It has this great circular feedback system where they try to give what the public wants, but then by doing so they help -create- public demand. For example, Bioware made Mass Effect and Dragon Age, two games where you have a serious effect on how the game plays out, in part due to the expanding female gamer market. The public ate it up and now want -more- of those types of games. It’s fascinating.

      …yes, I have studied this crap way too much.

      Education is great and all, but do I really need to help educate people to -not- be assholes? If I feel like taking the time to explain to someone about their privilege, then good on me. The problem is that there is a sort of expected martyrdom on the part of those of us working against the “-isms.” I mean, really, if I took the time to explain what privilege is to every person who argues against it without knowing what they’re talking about, I’d be doing nothing -but- with my time. The fact that there are so many people out there who -do- argue from ignorance gives me the right to not have to deal with it. (I am so sick of the “men are discriminated against, too” arguments, as if it somehow proves that privilege doesn’t exist…)


  2. Ah, seems like my comment didn’t go through…

    Basically, I heart you and you should come to Canada so we can get married. As if I didn’t think you were awesome just on the basis of holy paladin stuff, you went and talked about sociological/anthropological stuff. I’m a sociology student.

    Clearly, we should marry and attempt to procreate (or adopt) in order to raise the best holy paladin the world has ever seen, who will also have a very good basis in sociology and will be extremely aware of all the “isms” society will attempt to hammer into their head. ;)


    • Ah, sociology… Love it and hate it all at once. LOL That and psychology. “I know why you do the things you do, but CAN YOU PLEASE CUT IT OUT?!”


      • haha, exactly! Understanding why someone does something doesn’t make it any easier to understand why they CONTINUE to do that something. ;)


  3. Additionally, I don’t talk on Vent in pugs either. Like, ever. So don’t feel too uneasy. :)


  4. Kurn sounds like an absolute joy to be around, Codi. Does the SO know about this? :P


  5. hahaha, I keep proposing to her on my own blog, but Codi does keep mentioning this “SO”. Alas! ;)


    • Oh man, me thinks that even for the Greater Good, marrying you might get the SO riled up. XD


      • Bummer! Your SO is lucky I’m holy and not ret, otherwise I’d issue a challenge for a duel. ;)


      • You still could! It would be a very loooooooong duel. ;D


  6. Tsk, tsk. That girl and I are gonna have to have some words, me thinks!


  7. I was going to comment… but then Oestrus said everything else much better than me.

    I will just add that I don’t think one incident of idiots on Vent should stop you from talking. (If there were more incidents… well, they shouldn’t either, actually.) As long as idiots like that think that girls don’t exist in WoW (or, if they exist, they’re just casuals/bads/boosted by their boyfriends), their opinions won’t change.

    “Wow, we had a great priest today, he saved our ass!” – nothing out of the ordinary for them.

    “Wow, we had a great priest today, she saved our ass” – “hmm, maybe “cam girls” can actually play?”

    I think proving this is way, way more important than having a woman in a statue.


    • “I think proving this is way, way more important than having a woman in a statue.”

      That’s totally comparing apples and oranges. One is about private citizens and their opinions, the other is about mass media produced by a multimillion dollar business. Addressing the heteronormative stance of a business is more effective than trying to teach every teenager out there than using the word “gay” as an insult is bad.


      • I don’t think having a woman in the statue would teach anyone anything. I’m not trolling, that’s just my opinion (and has been since the first time I heard about that statue).


  8. And come on – the more asses we save, the more money we can charge for our asses on cam shows.

    Think of the profit, Codi! :P


  9. I can change the wording or remove the link altogether if being labelled “hardcore” makes you uneasy. “Hardcore” doesn’t have a negative connotation to me, but now that you mention it, I realize that it does to some people. (I never really understood that. To me “casual” is the insulting term because it’s often used as a euphemism for a bad player.)

    I should really add an edit to the links I posted. I didn’t mean for it to sound like links to bra-burners, but rather as a way to disprove the belief that women can’t make names for themselves in guild leadership or progressive raiding. On a side note, while I heard from TONS of female GMs, the joke was on me when I scrolled through my blog subscription list for pvp or serious raiders. I didn’t find a single female blogger who was big into pvp (Megan! Where art thou?) and I found very, very few female bloggers who were progressed raiders.

    On the vent thing, I’d actually rather be treated badly once in a blue moon than feel forced to stay quiet on vent. Besides, bad treatment in game = fantastic blogging material. But I guess that’s just me ;).

    Your voice surprised me when we did the podcast, not because you sound like a call girl (whatever those sound like!), but because your writing style is always so serious and formal. When you talk, you’re super fun so it was like hearing a completely different person.


    • Cam girl, Ophie. Cam girl – lol

      I don’t want to imagine Codi as a call girl, because she would be capable of some serious hustle. I shudder to think of her finance skills being put to use like that!


      • I have to share…

        SO: How did we save a grand in two months?
        Me: I’m an X-man.
        SO: …?
        Me: My mutant power is fiscal savvy.


    • I know I took the linking in that sense, Ophie; women who have made a name for themselves while playing this game, and doing so in various arenas. I have a post about labels forming in my head which will take that “hardcore” label and examine it further. :)

      I’m kind of with Codi on the whole vent thing. My preference is not to get on Vent with a pug at all. Proudmoore (where many of my toons are or have been) doesn’t really like Vent as a whole either, at least for things like a TOC25 GDKP or pug. (ICC might be a bit different.) So that suits me fine. But I almost never speak on Vent in a pug. I think the last time I did was the first week that ICC came out. I had missed my guild’s ICC10 run and so I pugged ICC10 on the weekend after having done ICC25 during the week and at one point, I was typing instructions (since my pug was a small guild group that had never actually done ICC beofre) and just realized it would be better to talk.

      So I did.

      And until the day I transferred from that server on my paladin, I had one of those people still whispering me every now and then — not because I was a kick-ass healer, but because he loved my voice. He was creepy, but not to the point where you want to go /ignore, but he was ALWAYS right at that line, you know? Ugh.


    • Truth be told, the way I sound is part of the reason that I sound so damn serious in writing. LOL I’m a good-time girl, I really am, but I want people to know that I’m not an idiot, which is really hard to do when you get to hear me talk. It took my raiding group probably a year to really understand that I have the skills/knowledge that I do. All because I sound like a “valley girl” and have a sense of humor to me. : / I actually was tempted not to do that podcast with you and the others simply because I worried it would erode my stance as someone with healing knowledge.

      …oh and I wasn’t insulted or anything by your links. It just made me contemplative about it. That and I don’t really know of many really progressive blogs by males, either!


      • I guess progressive players are too busy actually playing the game to write about it.

        I know of a couple of male bloggers who are really progressed, but those blogs tend to target a very specific audience. There probably are women bloggers who target that specific audience too, but when it comes to discussions about high performance, I’m only familiar with paladin bloggers. :(


  10. […] to read “PvE Progression Focused Female Players” now, though.) Also, I really liked Codi’s recent post about social privilege and WoW and Blizzard being a […]


  11. I’m working on imitation voices just so I can hide in Vents. ;)


    • Argh, I forgot the other part, which is… Healing assignments are rare and I think raids are hurting because of this. All too often I feel the ‘raid healing’ druids are hitting the tank too much (probably to do with Beacon) and Raid Leads are often slack idiots who stand there with their tongues hanging out and expecting someone else to organise the lot of them into a respectable party. Sadly this will very likely lead to wiping down the track…


  12. I only just came across this post while updating my feedreader and blog roll, and a lot of what you said resonates very well with me.

    I think I might address the ‘ideas and things that feminists must disapprove of’ thing in a future post, because I’ve seen a heartbreaking number of posts and comments from women feeling BAD for why they choose to do things, and I don’t think feminism (or intersectionality) should be about policing individual behaviours (or making people feel ashamed for who they are.)

    Thanks for posting this. Hopefully I won’t lose the link so I can include it in a future link spam. I’ve also enjoyed some of your other posts, and am adding you to my reader/general blogroll :D


  13. […] may have opened the floodgates for numerous other posts on the topic, such as the ones found at MoarHPS and the Bossy Pally, it also opened the floodgates for another matter at hand to be hotly debated […]


  14. […] to go about rooting out those traces, just as they would with any other aspect of their lives. – Business and Privilege @ Moar […]


  15. […] may have opened the floodgates for numerous other posts on the topic, such as the ones found at MoarHPS and the Bossy Pally, it also opened the floodgates for another matter at hand to be hotly debated […]


  16. […] may have opened the floodgates for numerous other posts on the topic, such as the ones found at MoarHPS and the Bossy Pally, it also opened the floodgates for another matter at hand to be hotly debated […]


  17. […] to go about rooting out those traces, just as they would with any other aspect of their lives. – Business and Privilege @ Moar […]



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