Yup, The Stuff In Games Can Hurt Men, Too

The unfortunate reality is that society has a certain impossible if not destructive ideal of masculinity that affects both men and women alike. PBS Game/Show here takes the time to talk about what some hurtful and problematic stereotypes video games present of men and it's stuff that is definitely worth keeping in mind when we talk about representation.

Of course, if you've participated in any discussions about gender in games online, it's likely you've come across these ideas and arguments before. Mens Rights Activists in particular are fond of such arguments. Thing is, in my experience at least, they're usually presented as some form of 'counter-argument' to the idea that representations of women in games can sometimes be problematic, as if it couldn't possibly be true that perhaps both genders have to deal with their hurtful archetypes, stereotypes and isms. Like stereotypical representation of men in games somehow invalidates the stereotypical representation of women in games. Um. No? It doesn't? It's not a pissing contest of who has it worse?

Both genders have to deal with shit, sometimes similar shit. Hopefully it's not always like that — I'd like to think that many of the conversations happening around video games right now will help, in the long run. Even the New York Times will bring up issues of gender in their (non-Kotaku excerpted) reviews now, at least. That's a good thing.


    I'm doubtful if the editorialising here is helpful to the discussion.

    Couldn't this have been an article about the cases/points presented in the above video, without having a dig at MRA's and (to my eyes) trying to shift the article to discuss women in gaming? I have never, ever seen an article by the author that even has a throw-away line of "Of course, men face similar issues".

      Further to this, I'd also point out that while some people do state "It happens to men, too, your point is invalid", there are also a lot of people who bring it up because the tone and points expressed articles focused on females typically state "Men aren't victimised/represented poorly/stereotyped" and/or "It's a male power fantasy, therefore it's not harmful to men".

      It's highly disingenuous to suggest only trolls discuss this issue.

    This article started as a report on representation in games and how it affects both genders, then finished as an attack piece aimed at anyone that doesn't share Patricias particular world view. Both are absolutely fine by themselves, I just don't like it when the formats mix.

    What's wrong with having a dig at MRAs? They are disgusting, fedora-wearing wastes of oxygen, powered by hate and cheetos.

    And let's not be ridiculous here. Yes, there are issues for men, and they can be incredibly severe, but anyone claiming that men as a whole are equally disadvantaged and suffer to the same degree as women are either deluded, or misogynistic hatebags.

    Women get the short end of the stick and it's highly disingenuous not to recognise this at all points in the discussion, given that the power structures are male-created and perpetuated.

      So there shouldn't be anyone out there campaigning for changes to the laws which severely disadvantage men, purely because the balance of disadvantage isn't equal?

      Make sure you go tell all the folks campaigning for changes to gay marriage that they can't have their issues addressed until we've completely dealt with homelessness issues. Because we can only ever address one issue at a time, ever.

      You do realize that you JUST used the exact argument that Patricia was accusing MRAs of using, just flipped? Talk about unintentionally ironic.

        You do realise I am talking JUST about MRA's, right? It's pretty clear, right there in the first sentence.

          Attacking all MRAs like that is no different to attacking all feminists, it's plainly prejudicial. As Patricia said, it's not a contest, and it's foolish to try to frame it in terms of 'who is worse off than whom'. Awareness is key - women's issues have been in the spotlight for some time now, but men's issues haven't. To have any hope of improving society, we have to acknowledge that we all face problems, we have all contributed to the creation of those problems, and we are all responsible for fixing them. Raising awareness of those problems should never been seen as a bad thing,

          Last edited 06/10/13 10:14 am

            Of course it's prejudicial, who is claiming otherwise? They are tossers! And why is it foolish to frame it that way? Straight white males have it exponentially better than everybody else. Attention should be PROPORTIONATE - which means that yes, straight white males get their attention, but according to the same ratio as women, LGBT and otherkin.

            MRAs are using the Fox News FAIR AND BALANCED approach, where you give your climate skeptic (who represents 1% of scientists) the same airtime as the climate change expert (who represents the other 99%). They claim this is 'equality' when all it is is trying to normalise ideological viewpoints by impugning the validity of opposing, reason-based claims.

            Reason and empirical data shows us women are severely disadvantaged compared to men. If equality is the aim, then you need to dedicate effort and resources in accurate proportions.

            And if that's tl;dr, then try:

            MRA nonsense about the 'plight of men' is a tired argumental smokescreen used to distract attention away from women's issues. A more reasoned examination of men's and women's issues dictates you need to examine the issue holistically and proportionately.

              There's plenty of empirical data showing disadvantage to both genders, provided you take the time to look. And if you can't see what's wrong with being prejudicial towards a group whilst operating under the guise of seeking equality, you have far deeper problems than lack of perspective.

                yes, there's plenty of data - and it's far from a 50/50 split, which is exactly point.

                Being prejudicial towards MRAs has nothing to with equality, your problem seems to be a lack of logical thought processes by joining two unrelated things together.

                Equality between the sexes does not mean 'THOU CANNOT UTTER A WORD OF PREJUDICE AGAINST ANYONE OR ANYTHING'. It means equality between the sexes.

                And MRAs are a primary barrier to this.

                Unless you're a deluded neckbeard who thinks MRAs aren't actually misogynists?

                Hint - people who bring up reasoned arguments regarding the issues men face aren't MRAs. Go spend five seconds at any MRA forum and when you're done douching with hydrochloric acid, I imagine you will agree, assuming you're not a raging misogynist yourself.

                  No, there's a perfectly clear logical connection. Prejudice is bad, regardless of who it's targeted towards. You cannot champion equality for all with one hand while displaying blatant prejudice towards a group with the other. It's called hypocrisy.

                  You're making a lot of assumptions about men's rights activists. You're tarring the entire group with one brush, based on what I can only assume is a very limited amount of experience you actually have with them. No, most MRAs aren't misogynists, but if you're going to assume they are, you're no better than people who say all feminists hate men and burn bras.

                  Judging by your last paragraph, I'd say logic is most certainly not one of your strong suits. I'll give you a 'hint' - ad hominem fallacies invalidate your argument. In any case, it seems clear that logic isn't particularly high in your repertoire, so your opinion on my capacity for logical thought is laughably underqualified. You'd be much better off sticking to the facts of the topic at hand.

                  Last edited 13/10/13 6:24 pm

                  'No, most MRAs aren't misogynists'.

                  So you either don't know what an MRA is, or you're one yourself. Please, go visit one of the many MRA forums around and provide evidence to prove your point.

                  You can't, and you won't, and we both know it.

                  I think you get at least +5 Reddit neckbeard points for having a prissy whine about ad hominem invalidating arguments and then proceeding to ad hom yourself IN THE NEXT SENTENCE.

                  *half speed golf clap*

                  In addition, for your further erudition, using the term 'laughably' in an attempt to shore up your intellectual insecurity via a false assumption of superiority doesn't do you any favours outside of Reddit.

                  If you invoke 'facts', be sure provide some yourself.

                  Here's some 'facts' for you - http://antimisandry.com/forums/

                  Go play with your friends in their pit of bile and hatred.

                  Also 'Prejudice is bad, regardless of who it's targeted towards.' is an utterly ridiculous statement that you clearly didn't consider very carefully.

                  Prejudice is an assumed bias. It's not always bad - it's often a protective instinct. What's that, Billy Bob has a string of child sex offences? MAYBE DON'T HIRE HIM AS A BABYSITTER.

                  When it comes to MRAs, who are hate-filled twats, there is nothing constructive that they bring to gender discussion, in the same way that to-the-bone racists bring nothing constructive to race discussion. Removing them from the equation allows reasonable discussion. Retaining them means you are simply providing a mentally unsound fringe group attention far beyond their representation or validity.

                  Or if that's too many words, MRAs make it hard for men to actually discuss their issues.

                  This http://antimisandry.com/general-news/ is why.

                  Despite what these mouthbreathers claim, feminism has advanced by reasoned discussion, not feminist death squads. Radical feminists have done very little for 'the cause', other than provide a target for misogynists.

                  These *men* are simply the same thing with a slightly more unpleasant edge to them, and they are as counter-productive to actual examination of men's rights as radical feminists have been to women's.

    There's a major cultural problem with the depiction of men, and expectations placed on men. It's not just in video games, unfortunately. For example, suicide rates are much higher in men than women. We've created a society where it can be difficult for men to seek help without appearing weak or somehow 'lesser'. It's quite destructive, and it's ingrained deep in our culture.

    I think most people who visit Kotaku (AU, at least) are fully onboard with equal rights for both genders. The thorn in some people's paws is that the narrative for equality lately is somewhat slanted in favour of examining the female perspective and less so the male, and serious issues relating to gender that affect men - like suicide - go sadly unrecognised.

    Last edited 03/10/13 6:31 pm

      This. While it's really good to see such an article, it clearly shows the authors own interpretations of the comments that most of us have probably read, that they have received on other articles (at least I think it was Patricia?) - not the reality of the situation.

      This is why science is based on empirical data sets, not subjective/circumstantial ones. If you post incredibly pro-feminist articles portraying men as hate mongers against women, then your experience probably WILL be to get comments counter to that opinion.. Since most people (men AND women) think about it with a much more level head, and true equality in mind rather than propping one up in everyones mind, as though that could ever result in equality.

        The reason you can't frame the struggles of men and women two closely is that women and men are fighting two different battles.

        Men's right are often not seen as a priority because men have held more power and influence for a long time. The battle for women is one of equality, almost fighting against a subtle persecution. Remember, most parts of Australia have yet to celebrate 100 years of women having the right to be a politician but for men it's always been a right. So for women, it's a fight for equality and to be viewed as more than a prize or possession. It's a struggle that penetrates all the way through to self image.

        But men however, we do not need to fight for equality, our gender alone affords us a level of respect that's easy to take for granted. So the struggles of a man are fought from a position of power. But as a result of struggling from a position of privilege, it's often an invisible struggle, an ignored and overlooked struggle. While women face a very visual struggle in the form appearance, men face a less identifiable list of crushing standards that most people cannot see. While some women might at least be able to starve, paint and warp themselves into the women they see on a billboard, a guy can never realistically become James Bond or Indiana Jones.

        That's my opinion on why the struggles of women have been more in the spotlight in recent history. I could be wrong though, I often am.

    Nice points about the "expendable male" and male body issues via the media... I look forward to it being ignored by commenters (And my usual moderation of my comments due to down votes)

      I noted the comment 'expendable male' and thought about it for a while, then realised how disturbing it is that men are seen as the predominant 'disposable gender' whereas women are the 'untouchable gender' in videogames. Seems rather... disturbing... to reuse the word.

        Yup! It's an interesting point that's being raised. It holds true to the real world unfortunately - traditionally it was always men that were sent to war and died by the millions.

          Indeed, I really don't for one moment think that it doesn't reflect real life. It does by all means in every way. However with games like the new COD, Gears 3 and some others now equally putting women in the mix where they should be, we're slowly seeing the gender balance come to fruition. However with sites like IGN posting articles like 'How did we feel when we knifed a woman?' where the three males were trying to be all white knight and the only woman on the panel was like 'Oh shit get over it...' it's still got a long long way to go.

            The whole point of those IGN articles is to be white knights. It frustrates me because these sorts of 'discussions' really just create issues where there are none. We gamers spend a loooot of time defending games against allegations that they damage and desensitise but then we try and claim that gender stereotypes in games are somehow damaging. Double standard? Or just a politically correct world gone mad?

            Successfully timing the V key to a female avatar would, I imagine, feel akin to that of a male avatar.


    I've never compared myself to video game characters. It's never crossed my mind.
    Though after watching the video, I'd say I'm now more likely to make the comparison... because you've made me aware that this is a problem.
    I might even end up with issues.
    So this video is creating issues? nice

      That's why it's so dangerous, because it's such an invisible and subtle set of standards to live up to.

    Really interesting video and I like the discussions it raises. My thoughts:

    1) Muscle dysmorphia - Saying that it's an "unhealthy pursuit of some imaginary muscular body" is simplifying it too much. Firstly the examples given are extremes when it comes to gaming, secondly as a society we really need to get out there and exercise more. We're badly out of shape and this is not something we should be proud of. There's nothing wrong with being fit or wanting to thrive to have a good body. Mens sana in corpore sano! I say!

    2) Joel - He ended up in a situation of survival of the fittest. I for one thought that his violent acts were actually pretty realistic given the situation he was in.

    3) Disposable men - This probably comes down to the fact that, as the video pointed out, most developers/coders are males. Which means that they're 'allowed' to pick on their own gender. Kind of like how black people are allowed to make jokes about their race but Caucasian people can't and women are allowed to call each other a "sexy bitch" while men obviously can't.

    Last edited 03/10/13 7:10 pm

      > We're badly out of shape and this is not something we should be proud of. There's nothing wrong with being fit or wanting to thrive to have a good body

      True, but in a society where physical strength is frequently irrelevant the sort of overmuscled hulk you find in games like Doom and the Gears of War games should not be a goal. These men do not have "good bodies". They have grossly distorted ones.

      Now, many game protagonists are *not* like that (Nathan Drake and Joel, for example, both *look* pretty normal). But most people, if asked to do the sorts of things that these ordinary-looking guys do in video games, could not possibly match them.

      I'm reminded that the Marine in Doom apparently runs at something like 40KPH.

      If you have a seriously buff bodybuilder body, congratulations. There's nothing wrong with that; we all need a hobby. Just don't expect the rest of us to regard it as a suitable goal for ourselves.

      Disposable Men - Having large numbers of female victims in a game would be a minefield for the developers. Many male gamers would be uncomfortable with the idea because they had been raised with the principle that women should be protected. Many women would see it as a violent male power fantasy. The simplest path is to let the protagonist kill "safe" targets - for the most part, aliens, or humans of a white or Middle Eastern background.

      Aliens are OK to kill because they aren't human and presumably are aggressors. White men are OK to kill because , as you say, it's generally "safe" to pick on your own gender/ethnic group. Middle eastern people are largely safe because of anti-Islamic tendencies in the media, and because most such are portrayed as "terrorists". We all know that terrorists are inhuman monsters who should be tortured with slivers under their fingernails, so shooting them is a far more humane method of bumping them off.

      (For anybody tempted to take the previous sentence seriously, add sarcasm tags.)

        I agree with what you said.

        Doom and the Gears of War games should not be a goal

        Indeed. That's why I said that they're extreme examples. Ask most guys and they'll agree that they don't want a body like that. It's exaggerated. I was just thinking of a muscular physique in general, without the steroids.

        If you have a seriously buff bodybuilder body, congratulations.

        Heh, I'm nowhere near that and have no intention to. What I was trying to point out is that we shouldn't shy away from wanting to achieve more athletic physiques. However those protracted in the clip are the really exaggerated ones that are way over the top to the extent that they're pretty much caricatures.

        > We're badly out of shape and this is not something we should be proud of. There's nothing wrong with being fit or wanting to thrive to have a good body

        True, but in a society where physical strength is frequently irrelevant the sort of overmuscled hulk you find in games like Doom and the Gears of War games should not be a goal. These men do not have "good bodies". They have grossly distorted ones.

        There is an alarming epidemic of young people (around 16 and up) using steroids to bulk up and not paying any attention to the dangerous side effects. I agree that physical strength is almost irrelevant, but the overly muscled physique is highly desirable for younger impressionable males, they have a a group mentality and will blindly follow what everyone else is doing because they haven't fully formed their own identity.

        I think there was an Insight episode about it not long ago, after that youtube body builder guy died of a heart attack.

    Finally, people are starting to recognise that men do have their own image and portrayal/sterotyping problems as well. It's been a constant source of annoyance that a lot of articles I see on various sites (Kotaku US included) state the argument that men don't have any problems to deal with whilst having to struggle with my own issues brought about because of a society that essentially says I should be someone who isn't me.

    The equality issue has two sides of the equation and only focusing on one side, or even one variable of that side means you will end up getting out of balance on the other side. While it's more of an ideal than an attainable goal, true equality will only be achieved when people stop caring whether it's a male or female (in all things).

      It's been a constant source of annoyance that a lot of articles I see on various sites (Kotaku US included) state the argument that men don't have any problems to deal with

      It's a shame that these kinds of people make the most noise. It's a shame that when someone tries to bring up the topic of sexism in games that some men try to defend their hobby and claim that either 1. there isn't a problem at all or 2. claim men have it just as hard. But the biggest shame is that when people bring up women's issues in games, some men send death threats, hateful speech and behave appallingly.

      It's a shame that these kinds of wankers end up making so much noise and giving the rest of us a bad name.

    I'm going to go ahead and claim that the music industry has damaged gender roles far more than gaming ever has

    This is the kind of stuff that I've thought about for years and it's the stuff I find hardest about being the father of two boys.

    Traditionally men don't discuss our weaknesses or failures. To admit weakness goes against our animal instincts. Women are great at it, men need to get better at it. I am very affectionate and emotional with my boys and I try to impart the example to them that expressing your feelings is perfectly fine. And I try to show them that having weaknesses and anxieties is acceptable and normal. Hopefully they'll grow into men that aren't terrified of failure and don't slip into depression if they fail to become every ridiculous male action hero rolled into one.

    Naturally I'm worried about media bombarding them with unhealthy and ridiculous expectations of what manhood is. Video games can go either way. They could become an unhealthy conduit of expectation, reminding them at every turn about how inadequate they are in reality. OR. They could be a valuable form of escapism or a digital punching bag through which they can work out their frustrations.

      Men who discuss their weaknesses and share them, get ripped to hell by women.
      Recently I was hooking up with an attractive girl who basically re-stated every stereotype about men you can think of. "It's not good enough to look average, have to look buff." "A guy who talks about his problems is a pussy f** etc". These are all issues men face every day if you're not in that 10% of guys who are ripped, and can pull women easily. At the moment where I'm sitting from my life experiences etc. If i ever have kids, the basic advice is going to be "son when you get to first day high school, beat the shit out of someone", oh and here's some weights because you don't want to be the guy at the bottom of the heap.

      That's a really sad message to pass on, and is against what I want to believe in. But my experiences in life and interacting with people have shown me the opposite to be true. Being nice, genuine, kind, etc hasn't done much for me, and the people I know who are similar, half of them are suicidal. Meanwhile the narcissistic douchebags seem to be doing pretty well.

        Hang in there, find the right girl. I did, I'm married to an amazing women who is a gamer too.

        About 6 months ago I lost my job and as the sole provider for my family it was really hard because all that social pressure began to creep in. Being a jobless father can be seen as such a shameful thing, it's the antithesis of what we're told a guy should be. We're supposed to be a leader who takes control and provides and kicks ass, the ultimate warrior. So for the first time in a long time I started to feel inadequate as a man. So I started to compensate, I excersized a lot and tried to put on muscle, I stopped sharing myself emotionally with the wife, slowly becoming more 'blokey' and macho, and eventually my wife stopped me an told me off. She told me she didn't like me being tough and walled off, she liked my sensitive side. She didn't want to see me bulk up physically. In short she felt I was turning into the kind of meathead she didn't enjoy being around. So when I finally let my walls down and allowed myself to be vulnerable and even lean on her for support, she felt like I was once again the man she married.

        So trust me, there are women out there who are looking for more than what media has portrayed what man should be. There are women who want to connect with a man on a deep emotional level. There are women who want more.

        Also, like laughed at your Office Space style advice you'd give to your son 'on the first day, make someone your bitch'. Too funny!

    Patricia - "It’s not a pissing contest of who has it worse?"

    But if it were a pissing contest, men would EASILY win! AMIRIGHT?

    ...I'll see myself out.

      Depends on if you're judging on how far one can go within a narrowly-defined focus, as opposed to an overall breadth and evenness of coverage. Different standards!

      ...I was totally talking about psychology and not urine.

    Part of me is kind of amused by the reaction to the article. I mean, all of the sage nodding, the 'why yes this is indeed a problem, good sir'. Where's the vitriol? Where are all the women posting negative things about the video, it's creator, the subject matter, or telling men to suck it up? I mean, it's almost as if they... agree that it's a problem.

    Which, of course, they do. Several of the points raised are the mirror image of some of the things supposedly man-hating femnazis complain about. The 'expendable male' is a case in point - men are treated as expendable in part because women aren't 'supposed' to be warriors. And yet a lot of the men who decry the expendable male trope seem to hate hate *hate* the idea of treating female characters more like male characters in games.

      For my part at least, my point was that you can't champion equality when you only give weight to the experiences of one side. Things like overcompensating or affirmative action are just shifting the weights to the other side of the scales, they do nothing to achieve the real goal. The issues we face are either issues for both of us, or issues for neither of us, and I think that's what people are (albeit crudely) trying to say in other articles on the topic.

      Discrimination can't really be broken down without pushing it onto other areas. Audre Lorde once said: "I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the front upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you."

      Last edited 06/10/13 8:26 am

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