Topic to Ponder: Sexism or…

Yes, once again I’m stuck in an airport. After staying up all night getting ready for the flight, I arrived at the airport, only to find out my flight’s been canceled. In the past 6 hours, I’ve done some achievements I’d been putting off in WoW (until servers went down for maintenance), ate some overpriced airport food and read several chapters of the book I’ve been trying to get through since this summer. Now I’m just staring into space and letting my sleep deprived mind run wild.

Since writing my posts on the Treatment of Women in WoW (Part 1 and Part 2), I’ve been particularly attentive to gender issues in the game. I’m noticing behaviors I hadn’t remarked before, I’m more conscious of my own behavior as a female player and I’m remembering various issues from the past.

In pharmacy school, they constantly remind us to “treat the patient, not the test results.” It basically means that while test results will give you some general information on your patient, they don’t show you the whole picture. And in some occasions, the test results might even be mistaken. In every day (and WoW) life, I’m a huge proponent of “look at the person, not their gender.” It’s the same principle.

However, some time back, in my old guild, I encountered a situation where I couldn’t do that. The situation can be summed up to one line:

15 year old girl looking for guild.

The decision to decline her application was unanimous.

It had nothing to do with her application itself. It had nothing to do with her character or her estimated playing skill. It had nothing to do with her personality and potential for “drama”.

It had everything to do with us not wanting her exposed to flirting or obscenities from men older than her father and anything that may entail. While the /g environment was pretty mild, fact remained that it could get pretty mature (or immature, depending on how you look at it) at any time. We didn’t want to be responsible for exposing a teenage girl to that. Oh, bad behavior coming from her peers would be one thing, but from us, it was a different story. I was also personally concerned about what her parents would feel if they read /g over her shoulder. It wouldn’t take much to land us in trouble with them.

Furthermore, there’s no control over what goes on in whispers. We liked to believe that all our guildies were good people and not perverts, but really, you never know. The last thing we wanted was to read in the paper that she’d run away to meet up with some weirdo she’d met in our guild.

It’s an unfortunate reality. We had to turn her down based on her gender. Yes, it was the combination of her age and her gender, but it was nonetheless her gender that forced us to turn her down. You just can’t consider a teenage girl applicant the same way you would a teenage boy applicant. The implications are just too different.

Even in day to day life, I don’t treat teenage girls the same way I treat teenage boys. With teenage guys, I’m very laid back and I’ll typically speak to them at their level. I’m very tolerant, and if I do have to call them to order, I’ll do it with humour or I’ll use intentional ignoring. With teenage girls, though, I hold myself to higher standards, as if I’m trying to set an example. I might even bring my mommy side if needed.

When I sit and think about it, I get sad. It’s awful and it’s sexist. Gender shouldn’t be the determining factor as to which opportunities are available to us, even in a silly video game. Yet even with my love of problem solving, I don’t see a solution.

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17 Comments on “Topic to Ponder: Sexism or…”

  1. Boroz Says:

    I need a feminine hott wow lady in my life. And yes, thats just humor =p. I enjoyed reading your blogs on the womans perspectives very much!

  2. Tego Says:

    I dont know. I think the decision sounds very appropriate. You state that it was because she was female, but consider a physical real life situation. would you hang out at (name normal gathering place of teens in your area such as a mall) and socialize with them normally, or would you be more likely to seek those closer to you in age, and allow the teens their space. I think the decision probably had more to do with age than gender. To counter the possibility that you would say that you would have looked on a 15 year old boy any differently I offer one possibility. That men reach “maturity” younger than women, not because we in any way mature at a faster rate etc, but because we, as a group don’t tend to too much. Adult men tend to be more similar to teenage boys than adult women to teenage girls because women tend to undergo a much greater degree than men.

    Yes the short of that is: boys never grow up, they just get older, but it holds some truth

    • Ophelie Says:

      My mom always used to say that the difference between men and boys were the size of their toys.

      I never stopped to think about all the amount of change both genders go through. I’m not sure if women go through a greater degree a change, but it does seem we go through more visible changes. Our journey from childhood to late life is indeed a long and complex one.

      We usually did reject 15 year old boys as well (with a few exceptions) because, as you pointed out, it makes sense to hang out with those closest to us in age. The case of the girl just left an impression in my mind because our decision to reject her was based on a different reasoning.

  3. Jasyla Says:

    That’s a tough one. Although I think your intention of protecting this girl is noble, people can’t really be protected in an environment like WoW. Whether it’s in guild, whispers or trade chat, I think everyone has been exposed to some very questionnable content.

    I understand that you don’t want to feel personally resposible for exposing young girls to mature conversations, but they’re most likely going to hear it somewhere anyway and what people say in whispers can’t be controlled and isn’t your responsibility.

    What happens when all the well-intentioned guilds like yours decline her and she gets scooped up by a guild that wants her because she’s a 15 year old girl?

    • Ophelie Says:

      It was more protecting ourselves than protecting her. We did (this was my old guild so I have to talk about it in the past tense) consider ourselves responsible for the behaviour of our members because we controlled who we let into our guild. Even though there are many things beyond us, we wanted to limit potential for serious problems.

      It wasn’t so much to avoid her being exposed to mature conversations, but rather exposing her to mature conversations from people old enough to be her parents. I can’t speak for the other guild officers, but personally I think teenagers SHOULD be exposed to those topics and should be exploring their sexuality (although the internet isn’t the most appropriate environment for that!). However, they should be doing that among their peers.

      For example, my current guild is generally much younger. Our guild chat can get way more intense than my old guild chat ever was, yet I wouldn’t be uncomfortable knowing there’s a teenage girl in the room. The reason being that the people having these conversations are usually other teenagers.

  4. Xanthippe Says:

    There are much better ways to protect this girl from predation than exclusion. The girl is definitely at higher risk, but as Jasyla said, she’s going to be at higher risk anyway. If you befriended her and offered yourself as a person she could talk to, you would have done far more to protect her in the guild, in the game and in real life as well.

    As for the ‘mature’ conversations, it’s more complex. But the real way to deal with it would be to talk to the girl, be up front that the guild would probably not censor itself for her, and express your concerns about her parents’ interest. And, to be frank, I hate the attempt to shelter people from reality. This is a teenager we’re talking about.

    • Ophelie Says:

      I do agree that building a bond like that can be helpful and have positive effects that extend beyond the online world. I actually wouldn’t have a problem with that in a guild like my current one, where we have several teenager members. It’s different in a guild where many members have teenage children of their own.

      I don’t see it as sheltering someone from reality, especially since we were protecting ourselves more than protecting her. She would obviously be exposed to “mature” behaviour anyway, but it’s far more appropriate coming from peers than from men her fathers age. Also, while there are many things we can’t control, we still feel responsible for actions carried out by guild members.

      (ps, I hope I’m still making sense here, I’m completely exhausted, but really want to answer comments in a timely manner.)

  5. Brangwen Says:

    I 100% agree with that decision. I have been faced with that before myself. In this case, the girl was also 15, but her father was in the guild. Even then, I had trepidation about her being in gchat with an 18+ guild full of caffeine and alcohol (and other) fuelled males. I mean, _I_ struggle with it sometimes as “the boss lady” and I’m well into my 30s and the GL to boot!

    At the end of the day, her presence in your guild would have changed your guilds culture – people would have to worry about their language, their behaviour and would generally impact their time in guild. This is a measurable thing. As a GL/leader it is the responsible thing to do to decline someone based on that.

    So, I don’t agree with Jasyla (sorry!) It is not your up to you to protect her, it is not a matter of “Well she will hear it anyway, at least in my guild we are sensible” or what if she gets taken advantage of by a less scrupulous guild. It is your responsibility to protect your guild and the guild culture. Letting a child that age and gender in will GREATLY impact your culture.

    Trust me.

    The father and 15yo left reasonably quickly, and you know what? Our guild sighed a collective sigh of relief and went back to talking about sex, drugs and rock and roll.

    • Ophelie Says:

      You make some very good points and I think my guild at the time would have encountered the same challenges as yours did had we accepted that girl.

      I’m sure a teenage boy would have a similar effect on a guild, but it seems that the effect is stronger with a girl. Which is quite a shame.

  6. Guthammer Says:

    As an officer in guilds since 1999 or 2000 I would have a problem admitting any 15 year old into my guild–boy or girl.

    I do have to admit to a more emotional response to the risks poised to a girl/woman (as a man) but the intellectual rule is the same in either case.

    • Ophelie Says:

      To be completely honest, we usually turned down teenage boys as well, so the ultimate outcome would be the same for a boy or a girl applicant.

      What struck me, though, was that our thought process was different when we had a teenage girl apply. With the boys, rejection was based on a poor application or apparent immaturity. When it was a girl, there was nothing personal about the rejection, only that there were risks that we weren’t willing to take.

  7. Ophelie Says:

    Such great, interesting comments! I will get around to answering them all, but I’m on really limited internet time this week so it might take me awhile.

  8. *vlad* Says:

    I don’t agree with your decision.
    She is already on the internet; there are a million sites that are more likely to ‘corrupt’ her than WoW ever will, and also, she is 15 not 10. I think she is old enough to play with the grown-ups at that age.

    • Ophelie Says:

      Like I mentionned in my reply to the other comments, it wasn’t about fear of her becoming “corrupted”. After all, as I said earlier, I believe teenagers *should* be exploring and gaining new experiences. Rather we did not want to be responsible for anything that might happen that would comprimise her security.

      I’d like to address: ” there are a million sites”

      A guild isn’t like a “site”. A “site” is just words and pictures. A guild is constituted of individuals. Individuals who interact semi-anonymously with each other, often on a daily basis. You can’t compare the two.

  9. Jason Says:

    That’s a tough one, really. Alot of it depends on you, and knowing what kind of situations you are, and are not, capable or comfortable handling.

    Myself, I’m the oldest of 4 children, the other three being very attractive girls. I’ve had plenty of time to get accustomed to playing big brother, mostly in a supportive way, and (at least like to think) that I’m pretty in tune with what does and does not cross that invisible line from raunchy behavior to inappropriate behavior.

    Honestly, if she wanted to be at our level of gaming, and was qualified, I probably would have accepted her, and been very upfront with her that my guild can get quite lewd during raiding hours, and up front with my guild that any comments squarely directed at her would not be tolerated. I’ve had children of mothers who both play in the guild, married couples, fourteen year old kids both men and women, and everything in between raid with us. I spend 7 hours a week raiding with them, and close to 30 talking with them all before and after raids. I’m accessible, easy to talk to, but all the people in my guild know that while I am very pliable with jokes, comments that are directed at people that make them feel uncomforable in any way will be addressed, and at best they get a stern talking to about it, at worst, they are removed from the guild.

    I think a guild, is like any other social environment, and I treat myself as the owner…the responsibility falls on me, so I involve myself in it as deeply as my time will allow, to make sure that the process of progression, both in and out of raiding, is as comfortable and smooth as can be for as many people as I can make it.

    But, with all of that said, it is good to know your limitations, and know what situations you can and can’t handle. If you feel, deep down, that you were not equipped to deal with a situation like that, then it is probably best that you don’t accept a player whose presence might expose you to problems you don’t feel comfortable to address, much less deal with in an appropriate manner.

    But to extend that thought…there is no shame in that. You’re not doing them, or yourself, any favors by exposing themselves or you to the potential of a problem gone wrong. Best to leave those players to find an environment where they can feel comfortable, and keep yours comfortable so that you can continue to make solid, good decisions for the guildies that ARE in your guild, instead of compromising that in any way.

    Reading this, I understand that you think it’s about sexism, but it sounds more like it’s about being responsible. If the worry was there, there was probably good reason to dismiss the application, even if nothing ever came from that worry. Worry is not a bad thing to have…it’s a mark of being responsible, and declining someone for fear of what they might get exposed to, is not anything to be ashamed of.

    I don’t think you did the “right” or “wrong” thing…you did the right thing for you, based on what you feel was right for her. That’s not sexism…that’s being a responsible adult, and making the best decision you can for another human being based on your best judgement.

    • Ophelie Says:

      What you say is very true and definitely something to think about.

      3 younger sisters? Yikes! I can see how that would give you a good understanding of nuances in inter-gender behavior!

      I really like your outlook on guild leadership and you seem to have a great relationship with your members. I think many of us could learn a lot from you.

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