Decades ago, after graduating from high school, I found myself lost. I spent a few years aimlessly pursuing various endeavours without knowing exactly where I was headed. One day on a whim, I enrolled in the Women in Trades and Technology course at George Brown College. This course, designed to introduce women to various technical trades, allowed me to challenge societal assumptions that women could not do “men’s work.” Upon completion of this 18-week program, I decided to pursue my increasing interest in the art of welding and enrolled in the Welder/Fitter Program at George Brown College, where I earned my certifications and was honoured with a 3rd place Welder/Fitter Program Award. Technology then and now is still thought to be the domain of males. Women are considered to be “passive beneficiaries” of technology. At the time I thought I was quite the feminist in a non-traditional area of employment. Many times I was challenged by my male colleagues for being a woman in a man’s world. It is why I had to leave the industry after two years of trying it. Therefore, I can relate to the women gamers and game producers. I experienced similar oppression and harassment.
In Jenson and De Castell’s article, we find that women do not choose “education pathways that lead to careers in the technology industry in numbers similar to their male counterparts” (p. 187) and that areas such as computer science and technology remain mostly male territory. It is still similar to the technical trades industry that I experienced some 20 years ago. Statistics reveal that women remain significantly under-represented in the specific area of game programming and designing. Jenson and De Castell state “one reason for women’s underrepresentation is that it is an actively hostile and misogynistic space for female game designers and programmers” (p. 188). Despite having deep historical roots sadly, the situation of silencing women has been recorded throughout history and still exists today.
Feminist in Games (FiG) has become a model of how it is possible to “speak up” against a pervasively misogynist games industry and culture in hopes of leading to diversity in that very same industry. The goal, as a feminist project, is to be actively engaged, to effectively intervene and to successfully transform the games industry and culture. The four questions in Jenson and De Castell’s article really point to how we can forge a feminist alliance in the games industry. The questions are
…how might we better understand and change the conditions through which game design and development remains a technicist and unmistakably masculinized domain, despite the fact that the industry involves much more than the typically male-dominated field of programming (art, music, writing, etc.)? How and what are girls and boys, as well as men and women playing, and how do those differences matter for developing the digital literacies deemed necessary for participation in a globalized society? How can education provide women and girls more equal foundations and entry-points to participate in game-focused production, whether as players, scholars or as developers? What might be the impact of women’s increased participation on innovation in games? (p. 189)
I would add also how do we not only better understand what is supporting the ongoing inequities in digital game design and play, but how do we work to transform these conditions? This is where the FiG project tackles these very questions while building a feminist alliance. They created conditions for more equitable participation of women, both as consumers and producers, in an industry that gained importance globally by holding workshops and community-based “game design” opportunities (p. 190). Having extensive conversations about what feminism could offer game and game culture, the adoption of practices and principles, and bringing in a vision with a feminist activist agenda clearly commits to enacting change in the industry from the ground up.