This is NOT an article about GamerGate. Let me make that clear.
Recently I read an article about how certain gaming conventions have started to ban “Booth Babes” from their events. For those of you who don’t know what that means, Booth Babes, are attractive female models dressed in provocative outfits designed to draw the attention of gaming nerds to a particular booth and promote the merchandise/game/product that particular vendor has. Just do a google search on “booth babe” and you’ll see what I mean (depending on your sensitivity level you probably want to turn safe search on first). Now the language describing the ban is meant to be specific and all inclusive. Rather than say “no more booth babes” event organizers did make an attempt at least to draw specific boundaries on what was and was not acceptable and then apply it to both genders. (Actual enforcement against both genders has, as far as I know, not been tested). The ban describes provocative clothing, various states of dress/undress, and intent while excluding those models who are actually dressed as characters from the games they are promoting. I think there’s a “within reason” line here which detracts from the benefit of clear guidelines, but this is the kind of thing that is actually very difficult to regulate and while specific rules are great, that also gives vendors specific ways around them.
The point is that there are two perspectives on the ban in general.
Perspective 1: Watch out Cosplayers! You’re next! Cosplayers (short for Costumed players) are people who show up to events like ComicCon or gaming conventions dressed as a character. Some are kind of ordinary and mundane, some are extraordinary, and some are very sexualized. I mean have seen what Laura Croft wears? It’s provocative, and it’s easy to see how vendors who are banned from hiring models in provocative clothing can eventually lead to a ban on ANYONE wearing provocative clothing. This, is obviously wrong for all kinds of reasons. The way in which we dress (or not) is as much an expression of free speech as any and has led to a number of Supreme Court cases.
Perspective 2: Someone in the gaming world is finally addressing the objectification and exploitation of women. How many people have complained about men bullying and verbally abusing women in tech and games? How many times have companies “taken a stand” on sexism? And how much have we seen ACTUALLY DONE? Given the amount of light that GamerGate has shed on the question of sexism in gaming culture, I personally am not surprised to see someone actually look around and say “hey, leveraging a person’s sexuality for material game seems kind of morally questionable. Maybe we should do something about it?”
Perspective 3: Nerds need to make up their minds about girls! This isn’t about nerds. I’m a nerd and I managed to get married 🙂 and as much fun as it is to point and laugh about socially awkward boys around attractive women, that’s not at all what this is about.
Notice how perspective two is so much harder to articulate that perspective 1. It’s so much easier for someone to say “our rights are being infringed!” than it is for someone to say “I’m trying to protect personal identity in the face of sexual objectification.” Is this an easy discussion to have? No not at all. Is it an easy change to make? Even less so.
But hey, at least someone is trying.