I learned who Jade Raymond is on November 19, 2007 when I read The Trouble With Jade by Holly over on Feministe. Jade Raymond is a video game producer who works for Ubisoft.
For great background and analysis, please read the Feministe link. Here's the culmination:
As a producer, it’s part of her job to talk about her game in the press, representing the whole team that’s making it. She speaks perfectly well about technical and gameplay issues; it’s just that half of the male audience seems to be too busy staring at her chest to notice. (I’m being charitable here by saying half… not all male gamers are mouth-breathing lunks, that’s another stereotype I’d like to see go away.) Or if they do hear what she said, it registers as “pretty girl said something smart… whoa, even hotter!”
Then a pornographic comic surfaced on the web.
...I’ll describe it, because it’s important. Raymond is shown in a green-and-white striped bikini, just like in the Maxim rumor, saying this:
Hi boys! I’m Jade, producer and crate… uh… crate… erm… cray-ate… tiv… influence behind Assassin’s Creed! Please buy my game!
The comic then shows a bunch of mouth-breathing fanboys masturbating to her, (as described above). Then, for the rest of the comic, she performs oral sex on them so that they’ll buy her game. It ends with a bukkake shot. All I could think when I saw this was “way to go, assholes.” Sadly, it wasn’t a poorly drawn doodle by a talentless teenager: it was a pro-quality web comic done by someone experienced. (Update: it was in fact a published comic author who made it, see below.)
My initial reaction to things like this is to be terrified and disgusted by the fact that anyone would and could do something like create that comic book. It's completely disgusting and frightening to me.
Cut to November 21: I hop onto boardgamegeek.com to enter into my personal profile the boardgames I most recently played. I've been on the fence about participating in this online community ever since an incident with the number one rated picture on the site, frequently referred to as "Magic Girl." This picture is popular because of the amount of cleavage shown by said girl.
Recently, someone started a thread to encourage everyone to vote up a picture called "Candy Land" so that it would be the most popular picture on the hot image page. The response to this was that "Magic Girl" and "Candy Land" and a number of other images started getting hundreds of votes. End game: "Magic Girl", 552; "Arkham Horror", 538; "Candy Land", 505.
And my take away was that hundreds, not just a handful of vocal sexists but hundreds, of BGG members added votes to the "Magic Girl" picture to keep it on top. Defending their right to sexism and voting down the "PC Police" was what mattered to them. BGG is their site, and it's a site where sexism is allowed. If you don't like it, leave.
I found it deeply disturbing.
But I returned to enter my games, because the gaming community concept of the site is a huge draw for me and very hard to walk away from. And glancing at the forum topics on the main page, I spied a stupid girl-gawking thread titled More girls please. Seriously. I'll thumb them all up. (positive votes like digging)
I read it. I was annoyed. But what really was the last straw for me was one guy who was on and on about his wife who thinks any woman who gets offended by objectification and sexism is a fool and stupid, etc. That this is what it means to be a woman, and we should all get over it.
Here's the thing. How you relate to the men in your life is your business. But if I politely raise my voice to say, "Hey, I'm offended, that's who I am and how *I* feel," don't laugh at me, dismiss me, and tell me I should just get over it, etc. I was finally so flippin' sick of it, that I took a deep breath, pushed down my fear at being attacked and flamed on a public forum, and wrote this:
Today I thought, so long as I'm putting my game play into BGG, and so many of my friends just had fun at BGG Con, maybe I should try again to get involved in the site. After all, I don't have to look at that picture of the girl playing Magic, and I should just ignore the evil, piggish, hateful, sexist comments that I stumble upon on BGG. It's just a few guys anyway, one hopes.
A quick glance at the homepage reveals this post, which yes, I clicked on and read the thread. Not the most offensive thing ever, but come on. Is this site about looking at pictures of women, or is it about gaming? Because if it's a community site for gamers, then I'd like to be here; but if it's a site for drooling over hot pictures of women, then I'm in the wrong place.
I don't care how many gaming women or wives of gaming men think that getting upset over sexism and objectification is a waste of energy or just part of being a woman. They have no right to judge me and laugh at me. I play board games, and it's a shame that I don't feel comfortable here because obviously, to many men here, I'm just a pair of breasts. Judge me as you will, I'm flippin' offended, and I'm not interested in "getting over it". I'm interested in being places where I'm treated like a person. A PERSON. Someone you game with the same as anybody else.
The bottom line for me is that someone in this community tried to push other pictures over the picture of the girl playing Magic, and this community responded by voting that picture up because it features breasts and it's "funny" and anyone offended is a stick in the mud.
This site could choose to enforce standards of behavior based on respect, and it does not. Like it or not, you have less women on this site (and in the bigger picture, in gaming at all) because of the sexism and the objectification. That's your call, but that's how it is. You absolutely choose to have less women active on this site.
Too bad for me, but it's your community after all.
Obviously, I'm responding to the larger issue. It's gotten to the point where I dread logging into BGG, so clearly, I should just stop.
I got two responses right away. One guy said basically, "Not this again." I feel you, Dude. Women have to deal with these issues regularly, and it sucks. At best it's boring; at worst, it's scary.
The second response included this: "The picture that was trying to be pushed up was the saccharin sweet "candy land girl". There was a backlash. There are many pictures on this site that deserve the top spot more than "magic girl" or "candy land girl""
And suddenly something struck me.
They voted "Magic Girl" up as backlash.
That guy made that Jade Raymond comic as backlash.
Maybe it even made logical sense. If you feel angered that a cute picture of a child is being voted up on your game site, maybe it makes sense to vote up the picture being protested. If you feel like Ubisoft is whoring out Jade Raymond to sell games and you're angered by it, maybe it makes sense to depict her servicing gaming guys.
Of course, there's a problem: The very real people who you are treating like lesser beings by acting like it's OK to comment on them or others like them within a sexual framework in public on the Internet.
See, you have to have, on some level, an understanding and belief that women are available to be objectified and, in the case of the Jade Raymond comic, denegrated in this way to take these actions. You think it's OK to take any woman you please and say, "Look! Sexy Breasts! I'd sure like to..."
And that really, really sucks, and it disgusts me.
I guarantee you that I enjoy the male form as much as any man likes the female form. I enjoy male nudity in films. I like looking at pictures of naked men. But I don't buy household items emblazoned with disembodied penises. And I don't post pictures of random men with penis bulge or butt exposure and do a size analysis and make sexy commentary on an online boardgaming community. I certainly don't create artwork of violence and denigration to men, not to mention that that comic targeted a specific, real woman.
I realized something else. In 2007, I have choices.
Before I wrote this, I logged into BGG to read the thread after my comment. I was afraid, but I didn't want to write this post without reading what people said after my comment (and the two immediate comments I'd read already).
People on BGG who disagree with my feelings often point to the lack of voices rising against the sexism. "Only two women even commented that they were offended," they'll say.
If you read this blog, you might agree that I am a brave person. But when I went to read that thread, my heart was pounding in my chest. I'm not sure why, really. Logically, what do I care if some sexist asshole says something hateful to me? (For the record, no vitrol came directly at me, thankfully.)
I mean, I guess I'm afraid that if I rise above the fray, suddenly I will get those horrible blog comments about how someone should tie me up and rape me, or someone will do something hateful and violent with my name and image. I don't know what that will be like when it happens to me, although I can promise you I'm not going anywhere no matter what.
My point is, I'm a strong person, and I was really offended and creeped out by what happened with the "Magic Girl" picture, but I was still way reticent about jumping on BGG and saying anything too strongly. So I'm confident there's women gamers who would agree with me and would never say anything.
Because it's 2007, and many of us have the luxury of being able to walk away from or ignore sexism more often than not. When it's my job, or my homelife, that's one thing. But when it's an online community, no matter how much I would like to be there, I really can just walk away from it. I live in L.A.; I have various people I game with. I don't need BGG or BGG Con.
Except I'm me. And part of me doesn't want to walk away. Part of me wants to be me and be there and try to politely raise my hand and say, "Me. Maybe it's just me, but I am offended and disturbed," and maybe, just maybe, cause a little change.
And even more importantly, I want to track my games, and talk about games, and learn about games, and generally geek out without worrying about being treated differently because I'm a woman gamer. 'Cause honestly, when I'm kicking your ass at Warrior Knights, who the hell cares?
But I'm still on the fence about where I want to spend my online time.
UPDATE: What do you think, does this answer my question? The Beautiful Women of BGG - 2007 Edition
And Crusader types: Please keep this thread for the purpose intended - the glory and appreciation of the 25 women in it. If you'd like to crusade against a perceived outrage against all women who game or tell us how appreciating people is going to cause the world to end or all women to stop gaming, please try other threads or forums. Here is a forum that it makes sense to complain to:
Religion, Politics, and Sex Forum: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/forum/152/forum/1
Strange, for some reason I feel like that post is tipping me towards going back to being active at BGG. Like, how can I walk away and leave it to the Neanderthals?
But, please, please, please, please, please, don't anyone ever post my picture on that site.
UPDATE: OK, so I was updating my game play in BGG, and I remembered that I had an old magazine game I wanted to enter as owning, so I pulled it down, entered it. And then I opened the Tupperware with the pieces, and FOUND MY WOODEN ROUND DIE!!! I am so completely psyched; I was majorly upset that I had lost it.
Total sign. Screw those jerks on BGG.