J’s Soapbox: Girls Play WoW… and Listen on Vent

pugNormally, I don’t consider myself a feminist.  I don’t consider it to be a bad word – but I had college classes with real, third-wave feminists and I never quite fit in with them.  To put it simply, I had grown up with typically male-dominated interests and skills, and I had never really encountered any problems.  If anything, I seemed more respected when I was the only girl in the group. 

Lately, though, playing World of Warcraft has made me witness more woman-bashing than I ever have, and it’s sort of making me disappointed in men and geeks and the world in general.

I’m no stranger to the world of gaming.  But I began playing video games before there were things like XBox Live and Ventrilo.  Anyone in an arcade could plainly see I was a girl, and could easily see if I was skilled or not – and, in retrospect, they probably tempered their comments because they had to deal with me face-to-face.  Common courtesy, and all that.

But now the whole “dark side of internet anonymity” can come into play.  And, frankly, it can be depressing.

See, I’ve got a night elf rogue.   I belong to a guild that is probably 50% women.  I didn’t realize how comfortable I had become until the last few months, when I started joining raid PUGs.

So here I am in a PUG, waiting for it to begin.  Sure, I’m a female toon, but that doesn’t mean anything.  I’m sitting there on vent, waiting for the other twelve people to get to the raid, when the “girls don’t play Warcraft” jokes begin.  Not like I haven’t heard them before, but these quickly took a darker turn.

I had said something on vent earlier, and there was at least one other woman on vent talking already.  The guys doing the talking knew there were women in the “room,” as it were, but it didn’t matter.  And just to clarify, these weren’t jokes about a particular “type” of player, the stereotypical OMG<3 girly girl; these were simply crude jokes about the female anatomy, etc.

I’ve always considered myself a girl who could roll with crude humor, who can make a “get back in the kitchen” joke with the best of them, who likes listening to Howard Stern every now and then, and here I was, blood pressure rising.  I would like to think it’s because I can discern when people are joking and when they’re just being jerks, but let’s face it, it is the internet.  Maybe I just didn’t get the “humor.”  I don’t think so, though.

So I had two choices: passive or aggressive.  Aggressive would mean dropping the group, bitching them out.  But I really needed the possible drop from this raid, and just bitching them out would play right into their hands – I’d be a shrew.  So I went with the passive – didn’t say anything.  At all.  And felt a little mad at myself for doing so.

Seriously, I had never encountered something like that in my life.  In my career, or with my friends.  I’ve had a good dose of “Mean Girl” style drama, but that’s completely different – it’s personal, it’s sticking the knife in and wiggling a little.  This was… being faceless, being less than a person.  It was disturbing.

I’d like to think this was just one band of jerks, but I’ve since seen it, to a lesser degree, in other PUGs.  So I’ve been sticking with my girl-friendly guild for now (I’ll get over it), but it makes me a little sad to know what’s out there.

So what do you all think?  Am I overreacting?  Am I the only one with an experience like this?

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