Settle down, it was just a joke

Posted: 30th November 2011 by Carrie in Games
Tags: ,

There are many ways to drive someone from polite annoyance to blinding insane berserker rage. One of the best ways is to tell them that their mild annoyance is completely out of line and they should shut up because It Was Just A Joke and they have no right to an opinion about it.

Along with several other people, I recently became mildly annoyed by a line in this article. It’s a review of Skyrim, the new Elder Scrolls game. It’s quite a long article, and makes a number of interesting points. Now, I love playing Skyrim like a Khajiit loves moon sugar. Like a Nord loves making racist remarks about how much Khajiits love moon sugar. So I read reviews of Skyrim even when I’m pretty sure I’m not going to gain a skill point from it. You just have to open that thing and click through every page of it anyway, because you never know.

But right at the beginning, my interest in this particular review got thu’umed right off a cliff by the reviewer’s statement that if you, the reader, haven’t heard of Skyrim, you’re probably (gasp!) a woman.

It was a joke. Just a joke! So I’m not going to talk about why it was a dumb joke (it was) or why it was a little misguided to think women gamers wouldn’t get annoyed by it (they did). What I want to talk about is what happens on the Internet when people who are the target of a joke dare to have an opinion about it.

A number of women, including me, commented on that joke. The last I saw of the article’s comments thread, none of our comments went beyond polite annoyance. We all just wanted to point out that we didn’t find it funny, it was dismissive of every woman reading the review or playing the game, and that such jokes are out of place. And the reviewer got the point and apologized. That’s all this whole thing should have been: a writer uses a throwaway gag not expecting to upset anyone, readers politely say it kinda did, writer says oops okay sorry. Everyone is happy and we can all continue killing bandits in caves and taking their stuff. But the responses from male gamers in the comments thread … well, that was something else again.

  • “There’s no intimation of discrimination or gender superiority.” — a guy.
  • “That comment isn’t sexist at all.” — a guy.
  • “Luckily, many adult women don’t show this total lack of irony. Now go report me.” — a guy.
  • “Women, it was a goddamn joke. Settle down. No one’s trying to take away your right to vote.” — a guy.
  • “Relax, people. If anyone should be offended by that line, it should be guys like me. But I’m not.” — a guy.

This sort of response creates a perfect 10 on the blinding insane berserker rageometer. Best of all, it shuts down all possible further rebuttal. The women who weren’t particularly upset or angry when they posted their original comments are now completely unable to express their further annoyance at being told to shut up and go away, because if they do, they’re just going to prove they Can’t Take A Joke.

So, here we are. By expressing an opinion that a joke about me was perhaps a little insulting to me, I have become that worst of all creatures, a woman with an opinion on the internet, otherwise known as a humorless bitch who needs to get a grip. I have a total lack of irony. I should settle down. I should relax. I should realize that people who were not the target of the joke have a much better right than me to decide whether I should be annoyed by it, and in fact, that they were the ones who should be offended, if anyone.

And they weren’t! So that’s all right, then.

Edit: Wowwwwwww. When I wrote the above post during a five-minute break earlier today, I had no idea it would get this many comments, let alone a mention on Kotaku. Reading through the responses at Kotaku and elsewhere, I’m even more struck by the amount of heat generated by something I thought of as very simple. Many people seemed to automatically assume that I, and the other women who commented, are all crusading idealists who devote huge amounts of time to being angry about gender roles, gamer culture in general, or Tom Bissell’s review specifically. It has all been very interesting and it really does confirm the original feelings that made me write this post. Thank you all for my few minutes of Internet fame, and while you’re here, you might as well read the only other blog post I’ve ever written that a lot of people thought was cool. It has Vikings in it!

  1. Marty says:

    Video games are still very much a big sausage fest, and jokes like this are an unfortunate consequence of that. It’s kind of like an 8-bit good ol’ boys club.

    If anything, I’d say that it’s best to just ignore the inane comments that try to dismiss the joke, and persist with your message. The internet is always ready with a supply of negative comments. No use in letting a few idiots get you down (or too fired up!).

    • Emma Shard says:

      The idea that video games are still very much a ‘big sausage fest’ is no longer accurate, but men perpetuate this idea among one another, and women hear and believe it. Ever wonder who those quiet, micless, genderless named players are? Yeah – we’re mostly chicks who’ve found that actively and fully engaging in multi-player games, and even getting involved in the gaming community as a female, can cause far more hassle than it’s worth. So your 8-bit boys club? Yeah, I think it’s made of glass.

      • Laine says:

        Yeah, well, it is accurate isn’t it? There are many female gamers padding out the stats. I.E. If you’ve bought a Wii or a DS game once or put a few hours into facebook games, then you’re a ‘female gamer’. Now I’m not saying that all women gamers out there are into Nintendo consoles and Facebook timesinks, but many are and that’s a fact. But Online, top end PC and dedicated console gaming? Most definitely a male driven activity. And going on sites like Kotaku, Dtoid etc, again, mostly male.

        Besides, the original comment really WAS a jab at men. The implication behind the line was the knowing about ES games in all likelyhood probably doesn’t make you a ladies man, which isn’t really a nice thing to say when you lay it out like that is it? But yeah, men weren’t offended and women were. What was the phrase? Humorless bitches? Fitting.

    • Max says:

      Yeah, what Emma said, plus:

      I think a big part of the reason that gamer culture is so openly hostile to and dismissive of women is this perception, that female gamers are anomalies. It creates a “safe” space for regressive views on gender relations.

      Also, I’m a bit annoyed by the idea that any gathering of men in sufficient concentration will be sexist, or at least misinformed about women. Whatever produces jokes like this, it’s not the penis-to-vagina ratio.

      And lastly, I think ignoring this stuff is a terrible idea. That’s enabling.

      Thanks for speaking up, Carrie!

  2. Anna says:

    Having a “slowly count to 10”-moment. I so hear you on this one.

    (And Marty for that matter, because hard at it is to admit the best thing is to just ignore the ****heads and keep on having opinions and keep on expressing them. Even if you do feel like biting someones head off every time you get that “chill, bitch”…)

  3. Concerned says:

    Is the joke a “consequence”, or an “observation”, though? I mean, what he says stings because of the element of truth it contains.

    • HaxxMonkey says:

      Bwahahahahahahahahahaaaaahahahaaaa, oh jeebus… Good one! 😀

      • Concerned says:

        Is it funny to you that both older individuals and women are under-represented in the console gaming AND development space?

    • Nope says:

      It stings because it is so very untrue, because it is an outdated stereotype that women don’t play video games. But her point isn’t that the joke shouldn’t have been made, by the time she wrote this article the author had already apologized. The article is about the “it’s just a joke” defense that is so often used when someone is called out for perpetuating a stereotype.

  4. Tom Bissell says:

    Dear Carrie,
    Thanks for this. I’d like you to imagine this from my perspective for just a second, though. My joke, misguided as it perhaps was, concerned my belief that the average adult woman has better things to do with her time than piss her life away on a dopey man-boy fantasy world like Skyrim. It was a joke *about* male domination of video games, a joke about *why* woman are typically less involved in hardcore gaming than men. I get (and then some) that it didn’t come across that way, but the way people were throwing the words “sexist” and “misogynist” around stretched those words beyond their conceptual breaking point. Which I think explains some people’s aghastment at the initial response.
    Yrs and thanks again,

    • Carrie says:

      Hi Tom – wasn’t expecting a reply from you! Thanks for the comment (and for your original review, which I agreed with completely, apart from that one line). As Linda said above, just the fact that you assume Skyrim *is* a male fantasy world is pretty evocative of a general feeling about games that seems to be common among guys who make, play, and love games. It hasn’t been my experience, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I speak as a 40 year old woman who has been a gamer since Pong, Pac-man, Burger Time, and Donkey Kong, has written and programmed one pretty well-played text adventure game, and has been surrounded by other women gamers the whole time. And the interesting thing, whether or not I was a minority in any particular game or time, is that I never felt like one or even noticed I was one, unless other people went out of their way to point out that I shouldn’t be there.
      I believe in most cases this doesn’t happen deliberately or with any malicious intent. But it does always have a spin-off effect, because it perpetuates that whole “this thing is for boys, that thing is for girls” mindset that we really should have moved past by now. I don’t know the ratio of men to women in any given game, or in gaming as a whole, and to be honest I don’t really care. But I do feel like it’s important to point these things out when they happen.
      I’d say the average adult woman OR man has better things to do than piss their life away on Skyrim, and the fact is, most gamers DO spend most of their time on those other things: our jobs, friends, hobbies, and everything else in life. I guess every gamer knows at least one unrepentant Captain Poopsock, but it’s not the norm. But we all love being able to spend some of our spare time shouting frost trolls to death and being stomped flat by giants.

      • Dakin says:

        Carrie – Not to go off on too much of a tangent, but I am like you (except being male), 40s and having played video games since Pong. What I don’t quite understand from our “elder” perspective is when exactly the stereotype “male gamer” evolved. Growing up, I knew many, many females who played video games in the era of Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, and the Arcade Golden Age, and then with the NES.

        I grew up with my female peers playing video games. Friends, girlfriends, sisters of friends, etc. I knew lots of female gamers. Female video gamers were never an oddity in my world experience.

        Around the time of Halo 3, I started to see first-hand that various and sundry Xbox Live denizens saw things very differently, and there have been many times I have been absolutely horrified by comments made by gamers at and about females playing games.

        I am not sure when exactly the perception changed to become video games were not for women. To this day, I just don’t get it. When I read a comment that seemingly divorces females from video games (such as the one made by Tom in his review), I just shake my head at the complete disconnect.

      • MosBen says:

        The idea that a particular game is an exclusively male fantasy is even more strange in a game with as many options and customization as an Elder Scrolls game. Surely there’s enough options for what you do in these games to attract more than just straight, white people with testicles from the ages of 15-40.

    • Line Hollis says:

      So you do get that the joke was more or less directly insulting to women who *are* interested in Skyrim, by simultaneously implying that they are childish, unfeminine, and wasting their time, and that this set includes about 100% of the women who are likely to read your article?

      I mean, it’s the kind of joke that could easily come across as in-group teasing, if you didn’t make such a point of discussing women as though they’re completely outside your in-group.

    • Tina says:

      You know, I read the apology. I thought it was worded pretty nicely. But then this: “my belief that the average adult woman has better things to do with her time than piss her life away on a dopey man-boy fantasy world like Skyrim.” I really don’t know what to say other than… do you realize what you are implying? How exactly DO you expect me to spend my time and how is it different from how an average adult man spends his time?

      As you say, look at it from another perspective for a moment.

      Say you are… yourself. Sitting on the couch, in front of your console or computer of choice, playing Skyrim. Someone walks in, raises their eyebrows and says, “Huh, I was under the belief that adults had better things to do than play childish videogames.”

      Your first reaction may be humorous, it may be defensive, or indifferent, some combination or the above. Sure you have better things to do, but you want to play Skyrim. Sure you’re playing Skyrim, is there something wrong with that? Sure, you’re playing Skyrim, I’m killing a dragon and whatever you just said got lost while I was lopping off its head. But whatever your response, the undercurrent of the original message remains: “You, as an adult, are not supposed to be playing videogames. You have better things to do. Videogames are for reserved for children and I guess teenagers too.”

      Now, imagine that every time you boot up your game you get bombarded with a couple dozen responses saying pretty much the same thing in implicit or explicit terms until you’ve seen every variation of the “Videogames are for kids and teens” under the sun and people get mighty testy every time you so much as imply that, “Hey, uh, we legal folks exist too, and there shouldn’t be anything strange or wrong with that.” Someone cracks a joke: “Playing videogames again? What are you, twelve?” and when you smile you feel your skin stretch tight across your teeth because it stopped being funny five years back, but if you respond with anything other than “Oh haha that was hilarious,” you get labeled as Mr. No Humor Guy and what does your opinion count for anyway? These are products made for kids and teens.

      Replace ‘adults’ with ‘adult women’ and ‘childish’ with ‘men’ (and that IS what you’re saying, when you describe Skyrim as a “dopey man-boy fantasy world”), and this is what you get:

      “You, as a woman, are not supposed to be playing Skyrim. You have better things to do. Skyrim is a “dopey man-boy fantasy world,” and thus reserved for men to enjoy.”

      And just for the record, women enjoy living in a dopey fantasy world, swinging ’round a sword and slinging destruction spells while saving the prince(or princess) in distress too.

    • Jay. Just Jay. says:

      Carrie, your article and your responses to Mr. Bissel’s remarks are absolutely wonderful, insightful, and endearing; so much so, that your tonality in the manner of your writing reminds me of several Kate Chopin reponses essays to male critics. Powerful, and you give substance to the issue while still showing that you can take a joke in the knee.

      And, just to be clear…

      Mr. Bissel: Time, as well as copious amounts of patience, have tested that ignorance is forgivable. But the effects of especially stubborn ignorance is a kind of disease that spreads…in this case from amigo to amigo, father to son. This is of the kind that I feel you suffer from.

      For instance, when you state:

      “My joke, misguided as it perhaps was, concerned my belief that the average adult woman has better things to do with her time than piss her life away on a dopey ‘man-boy fantasy world’ like Skyrim.”


      “It was a joke *about* ‘male domination’ of video games, a joke about *why* woman are ‘typically’ less involved in hardcore gaming than men.”

      One thing (the supposed male domination of video games, which I assume means the statisitical ratio of male to female players, derived from some sources I’m sure you have) has nothing to do with the other (Skyrim being a “male-boy fantasy world”). A “male-boy fantasy world” perspective is, well it’s archaeic. Male players may want their Leonidas-esque warriors to pick flowers and butterflies along the road just to horde them, to have them, to hold them, the male in question looking on fondly at the beautiful detail of them…and Princess Buttercups may storm into Bleak Falls Barrow duel-weilding orcish axes, the female player spitting into a Darth Vader mug while doing so. And if you haven’t noticed how sexist those descriptions are, then you really do need to evaluate what sexism is; any person may do what they feel like in these games. These are our games, and the reason for the furor over such a simple joke is, that there will always be those that wrestle, for an inch or a mile, for understanding.

      Also, from a writer’s perspective, there is no value, nor a real purpose to including it in your article. Keep working at it.


    • MoMo says:

      Did you seriously post an apology for sexism that contained none other than SEXISM

  5. Linda says:

    Great post Carrie.
    Tom, you still don’t get it. I see no trace of Skyrim being a “man-boy” fantasy, and many women do play games instead of being tethered to the stove or giving birth or however you image we would spend our time “better”. Comments like that just make women feel more excluded than we already are, even if things are looking better all the time.

    If I sound bitter, that’s just this topic and all the stupidity surrounding it bring out the worst in me.

    • Tom Bissell says:

      I could just as easily say you don’t get it, couldn’t I? If you don’t see Skyrim as falling into a long, hallowed tradition mostly enjoyed by young, nerdy men, I guess we are going to simply keep talking past each other. I’m not saying women shouldn’t enjoy Skyrim, for Christ’s sake. Enjoy Skyrim! Meanwhile I’ll still be trying to land this goddamned joke about nerds!

      • Sister Graves says:


        I think the problem we’re having is that you keep on saying that “this thing here, that you girls like, this is actually a boys’ thing”. You keep ignoring the long, long history of women gamers, and the way that Games For Boys is only a recent mutation. You keep ignoring what we’re saying, which is that you are incorrect – gaming is not a guys thing.

        And as long as people keep saying that gaming is for guys, and that girls have better things to do and why would girls want to play anyway, then you’re just perpetuating that horrible, self-fulfilling cycle. Girls get put off because they’re told it’s not their thing, that it’s for boys, that girls should be doing something else/better. Boys feel justified, because this is *their* special thing that girls aren’t meant to enjoy, and tell girls to go do these other things when girls want to play instead. Just look at the Kotaku commentariat and their reaction every time a woman identifies herself as such.

        You may not mean your comments to come off like that – gods know we’ve all said things and then realised that we should have phrased it better – but you need to realise that to us, to the actual female gamers, this is how you sounded. It very probably wasn’t intentional, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be corrected.

        “I’m not saying women shouldn’t enjoy Skyrim” doesn’t really sound believable when you’ve already said you think women have better things to do, and implied that men don’t. You may not be saying they “shouldn’t” play Skyrim, but the context of your comment makes it sound like there’s a “… but they sure are strange and unfeminine if they do” attached.

      • Blinding Rage says:

        Your joke is offensive on all counts. Just drop it. You’re undoing any of the good your apology actually did here. Intent doesn’t erase the fact that what you said was hurtful. Your intention of it being a joke doesn’t erase the fact that it offended people, and right now, you’re digging your hole deeper and deeper. You’re missing the point of apologizing–learning from the mistake so that you don’t offend again.

        You keep repeating lines like “enjoyed by men,” which all but expressly states it’s “FOR MALES– but girls can enjoy it too!” I didn’t see anything on the box that said it was intended for use by any person on either spectrum of the binary. Instead you took the boys-club, hipster attitude of “if you’re a woman, you haven’t heard of this!” It’s a sexist comment, it made people rage, and now rather than accept that you’re wrong, you’re defending your offensive statement. That is not the correct course of action one take after they’ve been called out for and have apologized for being offensive. It shows you’ve learned nothing, and that all of our words have gone entirely unnoticed by you.

        The biggest point you’re missing, though, is that if you wanted to make a joke about geeks, rather than a joke at the expense of WOMEN, you could have easily said, “if you don’t know what Skyrim is, chances are, you have a very healthy social life!” See how gender has nothing to do with that? See how it ribs and pokes fun at geeks of any gender?

        There, wrote your joke for you.

        • Outrage says:

          Why is it ok to make fun of geeks and not women? Where I’m from you’re meant to treat EVERYONE with respect.

          • Blinding Rage says:

            “Geeks” are not an underprivileged, marginalized group.

            A playful rib from a fellow geek isn’t a slur. He is included in the group and is essentially making fun of himself. He’s not “making fun” so much as poking fun at his own stereotype.

            A “playful rib” from men against women is a man (the one with privilege) making fun at the expense of a woman (the underprivileged).

            However, you’re right. He shouldn’t have to make fun of anyone at all in order to get the point across. There were plenty of things he could have said. “If you haven’t heard of Skyrim, chances are you haven’t had your hand on a gaming magazine recently/got online/watched television/etc because the advertisement for it has been huge.” There are plenty of ways he could have written that paragraph that didn’t include sexism or putting down his fellow geeks.

            But if he wanted to poke fun at them, the least he could do is do it NOT at the expense of the marginalized.

      • Dakin says:

        But that is exactly the point. I don’t even comprehend how you got this stereotype in your head that “Skyrim [is] falling into a long, hallowed tradition mostly enjoyed by young, nerdy men.” I don’t get that at all. Moreover, I seriously question the editing decision to leave such a comment in the published piece. Writing it in a draft is one thing, but I don’t understand how this even survived the editing process; how it wasn’t seen that, regardless of your own personal beliefs, this was not somehow flagged as potentially inflamatory. Unless it was. And was left in anyway.

        • Olmec says:

          “I don’t even comprehend how you got this stereotype in your head that “Skyrim [is] falling into a long, hallowed tradition mostly enjoyed by young, nerdy men.””

          Wait, really? The only part of that I have any problem with is the word “hallowed”. When I grew up, the guys who played these kinds of RPGs were mostly mocked by women (and other males). It’s not at all a stretch to acknowledge that this is NOT a space where both genders are equally represented.

  6. God says:

    I remember a time in life where women made fun of men for playing games; that time is still now. Until you, the female population learn to control your dogs, expect this kind of backlash. You all had Barbie, we had GI Joe. Deal with it.

  7. RealisticAmerican says:

    I think of Elder Scrolls and RPGs (video games in general, to be honest) as a mostly male-dominated industry. While that’s not saying that women don’t make up a sizable portion of the market, it is saying that these games are geared towards men in general. Look at that one girl who only JUST got Electronic Arts to allow creation of women in their NHL series hockey games. I don’t think his comment or joke was particularly off base, and I think you’re overreacting. I can see why you might take this personally, but at the end of the day, a review is just that: a subjective piece. And more importantly, your rights or respect are not being taken away. This is just the view I have from my corner. 😉

  8. […] less accommodating reactions provoked a blog post from Carrie Patrick that concluded like this: “By expressing an opinion that a joke about me was perhaps a […]

  9. Mike says:

    I love how people on both ends of the scale are still blowing things out of proportion.

    Certainly where I live in Ireland, World of Warcraft is still a faux pas. Yes, many, many people play it but talking about it will get you some weird looks. Skyrim is a stone’s throw away from World of Warcraft. Talking about such fantasies carries the stigma of ‘nerdy basement dwellers, rolling dice to slay dragons’ stemming back from old-school RPGs. I’m quite sure that allusion is what Tom was trying to make. God forbid someone gets offended on the internet. Were the article written for a website with a naming convention like or (both made up [I assume]), I could understand this moral ‘outrage’. But the allusion is to the stereotype of role-players. Sure, Tom could have said something different like “If you have not heard of Skyrim, you have most likely had sex” to get a similarly stereotypical joke across.

    And then we have people on the other side of the fence. Who think that the absolute worst atrocities towards woman are conveyed in a comment, and react as such. I’m not talking to the author here, rather one of the comments. You know what they say about ‘never assume’. Just because someone mentions they imagine women would be spending their time ‘better’, doesn’t mean they’re suggesting the polar opposite of whatever your argument happens to be. Acting as such detracts credibility from any argument you’re trying to make.

  10. Royale-w/Cheese says:

    I had the pleasure of taking my sister-in-law to the midnight release of Skyrim. She’s nineteen and when “that geeky guy who married her sister” started hyping it months earlier she read up on the elder scrolls and was more excited than I was. To this date she’s put in at least forty more hours into it than I have, but this just gets at the point: geek stereotypes, including dungeons and dragons tabletop play, simply don’t hold up. To an extent, even the bullies targetting nerds have heard of skyrim and play it… so the “jokes” miss their mark. That said, I was so used to this way of thinking that I understood what the point was and just kept reading with no thoughts of it… which says a lot about how this stereotyping and implied gender roles affects the gaming community. To be fair, people don’t talk about the next reese witherspoon romantic comedy being a movie for guys, but love crap like that– if the review was for such a movie and mentioned how guys wouldn’t know about it I would get the joke. The internet is no place for those truly sensitive to inequalities, but if you get enough exposure some forethought could go a long ways.

    • Just a Thought says:

      I’m a guy. I’m also a gamer. What I think most other male gamers don’t realize is the possessiveness with which they claim video games to be “a guy thing”. The problem is not about people’s sensitivity, it is with the view of “video games are to guys as romcoms are to girls.” This view is what creates the anger. Video gaming is not a guy thing, and I’m not convinced it ever was. I have read in various gaming magazines and websites that surveys are showing a 45:55 or 50:50 ratio with female gamers to male gamers. Gamers are a minority. The gender split within the minority is close to dead even. Saying claiming “video games are for guys” is as incorrect as saying, “No, see staplers, staplers are a guy thing.”

  11. Tweeg says:

    Theres nothing wrong with expressing that you don’t find a joke funny, but if you criticize something, don’t expect your view to be beyond criticism as well.

    Humor is very subjective. Some people love puns while other people think they’re crimes against nature.

    But as soon as you say, this joke isn’t funny because it annoyed me personally. You are putting your sense of humor up for judgement.

    At that very moment you are overlooking the intent of what was said. Was it Tom Bissell’s intent to say real women don’t play video games ? No, I highly doubt that.

    His intent was to make a cheap joke to get a laugh. That is all. No malice was intended.

    But when people start saying things like ” I’m curious as to what, as an adult woman, I *am* allowed to like.” That doesn’t come off as, oh I don’t particularly find this joke funny. That comes off as taking a comment personal and by doing that, is it really hard to see why someone may doubt someones sense of humor ?

    What if it was a female reviewer who wrote a standard male based joke like.
    The nords are your typical macho males, fight whatever that moves and think with your junk.

    If any man stood up and said, HEY not all men think with their junk, thats not funny.

    I bet his sense of humor would be called into question.

    Because if someones obviously, and lets be honest it was pretty clear he wasn’t being serious. If someone is obviously making a joke, if you don’t like it, just don’t laugh.

    As soon as you try to dissect why its not funny, someone else may come along and try to dissect your sense of humor. And turnabout is fair game.

    Thats not to say no one should be able to express that something isn’t funny, just that if thats a battle someone is going to pick, its going to be a long one. It always is with anything thats subjective.

    • mudwizard says:

      I think something that always goes unnoticed (by men anyway) in this sort of discussion is, how do I say it, I guess gender power dynamics? It’s no secret that gender equality in general tends to be a myth. “Jokes” that gleefully play on women’s unfortunate reality are malicious and harmful, thinly disguised as playful, in addition to serving to normalize unacceptable attitudes.

      For instance, “get back in the kitchen” is a hell of a lot more offensive than “men think with their junk.” The former is generally perceived, and rightly so, as a malicious, dismissive and cowardly way to disempower and shut down a woman if she gets “uppity,” where the latter is typically perceived as a harmless and lighthearted running joke. Because, really? Global oppression, however regionally varied, is not even remotely comparable to letting a boner influence decision making. Yeah, really.

      And yet, I know my boyfriend would be irritated by someone assuming he’s that type, though not as livid as I’d be to be told to get in the kitchen. I think what we can take away from this is that stereotypes in general are absurd and unnecessary all around, and we’d benefit as a society if we collectively began to put them to rest.

  12. imorca says:

    This is an old argument, unfortunately. And it is anything but simple. A writer who puts a work in the public forum gives up the right to control its interpretation, and thus that writer’s intention is extraneous. It really doesn’t matter what Tim meant. Once he let the piece go, his explanations after the fact of what he might have intended are never pure. They are compromised by the motives of self defense against whatever criticism he must answer. If it was ever possible to understand one’s motives when one writes (I’m not sure I completely sure I understand myself now) after the fact it is impossible. They change by the very process of the writing, of receiving criticism, of defending oneself, and on and on. What we are left with then is an interpretive negotiation, like the one happening here, where Tim is one of a number of voices trying to negotiate the meaning of the text they have read.

    To say that humor is subjective, or to try to reduce this discussion to the level of differing personal opinions ignores something really important: no individual “owns” the language they use. These words, the patterns of grammar, the common forms of timing and sentence constructions that we learn to recognize as “jokes” are not individual. They are communal. We encounter them, learn them, use them, and interpret them in community. Even if physically not in the presence of others, our history with other writers/speakers is what forms and informs our internal ability to “converse” with the text we read. I’d like to direct attention back to Carrie’s blog post, because she points out something that I don’t think has been given enough attention.

    Using the defense that “you just don’t get the joke” or “it was only a joke, quit your bitch’n” is mechanism that attempts to avoid dealing with the emotional consequences of the complexities of the communal responsibilities of language use. The humorist wishes for the emotional gratification of positive responses (laughter, liking) from an audience who interprets joking in coincidence with his/her hopes. Audiences who laughed also appreciated the positive emotional outcome of the shared language experience (belonging). When others in the interpreting group don’t agree, or claim a potentially negative emotional impact the good feelings are threatened, and the belonging suddenly becomes tinged with guilt. Instead of belonging to something pleasurable, the laughter serves as an accusation of belonging to something abusive. And yeah, that sucks. And yeah, nobody likes to feel like that. And yeah, it makes me kinda mad when somebody accuses me of something like that when I totally didn’t mean it like that. And yeah, who are YOU to tell ME what I meant when I laughed. And yeah, aren’t YOU the one with the problem for starting this whole thing.

    See where I’m going?

  13. LoLPlayer says:

    I believe that imorca has just submitted the best written argument with the strongest rhetoric that I have ever read on the internet. Bravo and BUMP ^

  14. Andreas says:

    The mother of a friend of mine during the early 80s played games on her C64 almost every day of the week.

    That was my first encounter with a gamer that happened to be female (it was waaay cooler that she was an ADULT of any kind that played computer games!) and ever since that time I keep encountering female gamers left and right.

    They have always been there and the men who claims they haven’t (or even shouldn’t) are just letting the world know that they are kinda sad and really should get to work on noticing what goes on in the world that takes place outside their own heads.

  15. Linda says:

    If we did not argue against these kind of remarks, people will just keep making them and not getting that some of us feel they are derogatory, right? We have to protest, or nothing will ever change.
    And Tom, of course I know about the tradition, and had you written that in a review of Duke Nukem forver, I might even have agreed. I see nothing excluding women in Skyrim though.

  16. Nick says:

    I can completely understand and support your perspective, Talos (he’s still a god, dammit, whatever the Thalmor have to say about it!) knows I’d not be happy if I happened to be the butt of a joke in a review of my most anticipated video game! Personally, I don’t find your observation particularly polarizing or “extreme” at all. I reckon it just attracted the typical knee-jerk defensive reaction of those fundamentally uncomfortable with someone daring to rock the boat and mention that, hey, I’m not OK with this.

    Also, how a male can actually think he has more right to be offended by a joke about women than a woman completely mystifies me!

  17. Andrius Bentkus says:

    IN FACT in germany 49% of gamers are female.
    But female players tend to play more casual games, according to the results from researches I heared about at gamescon, like the once found on the Wii.

  18. Meer says:

    so if you said “gay” instead of “women” it will also be a joke, right? :/

  19. Jack says:

    This post is one of the most empowering and well-written statements I’ve seen on the internet in a long time, about a problem which is all-too familiar. I am not a woman, but every day I see this sexist discrimination, subtle (or otherwise) as it may be, and I think it’s just not cricket in the modern world in which we live! An excellent point and very well-made.

  20. Kimadactyl says:

    One of the main things I don’t get is how people somehow think sexist jokes aren’t sexist, because they’re jokes. It’s like saying a blue balloon isn’t blue because it’s a balloon. Or a racist story isn’t racist because it’s a story. It makes no sense even logically, let alone politically. Sexist jokes are sexist – that’s why they’re called sexist jokes. If not they’d just be “jokes”.

  21. Maverynthia says:

    I’m only going to disagree that Bissell really apologized. To me it sounded like “Intent is magic and I still write for guys, yo!” He did write a whole misogynistic rant in Extra Life: Why Games Matter. So he has a history of doing things like this. (Also just because he plays a female character doesn’t mean he isn’t a misogynist if he thinks that gets him off the hook. Many men play women so they can strip them to their undies and then /dance)

  22. anna says:

    I’d never really encountered the term “gaslighting” before this article, but holy crap it’s applicable to this situation.

  23. Kat says:

    I have to say that I never understood Elder Scrolls to be a game made exclusively for men. I have played it so much but not even once did I feel like I was trespassing in a mens club. Quite the opposite.
    I have always kind of felt that Betheseda somewhere must have actively had women in mind too, with its very open game play and free choices and ability to make your own character that isn’t just the typical buff male hero, it felt like a very genderless game and that is partly why I keep coming back to that world.
    I mean, Ive enjoyed the series since Daggerfall and the obsessiveness to which I played Morrowind was probably not even healthy. I lived and breathed that game.
    One of the main reasons to why I loved it so much, why I keep buying the new games and why when I saw the game trailer of Skyrim I was jumping in my chair from enthusiasm and have goosebumps all over my body, is that Elder Scroll have been one of the games where I haven’t felt excluded as a woman. The fact that I can chose to play with a female avatar and that it doesnt matter to my game play makes this as much my fantasy world as any others.
    Yearning for means to escape reality for a bit is not anything that is exclusively male behaviour and wanting to do so by being this badass fighter who kicks arse and saves the world is just as much a female fantasy as it is a male.
    Fact is, there is a lot of female gamers and it has always been a lot of female gamers, although, in my experience, we do tend to keep a lower profile due to possible harassment that we might face should our gender be known.
    With attitudes about how it is a boys club and jokes specifically designed to feed that exclusion it not only conveys the message women aren’t welcome to enjoy our own hobbies, it supports the narratives that keeps up the harassments female gamers face when taking part in the gaming community.
    This is why it isn’t fun to make these kind jokes on womens expenses. It reinforced an excluding position that in no way reflects the reality of female participation in the world of gaming.
    Games are not just for men and we are gamers just as much as them. If the guys don’t see us it isn’t because we aren’t here, but it might just be because they chose not to see.

  24. chillinchillin says:

    While you guys are arguing the intent and philosophizing about the meaning behind words when they are read over an internet message board there are kids (male and female) in grade school, middle school, high school and college REALLY being bullied. Not an offhand joke… swirlies, asskickings, wedgies, REAL VERBAL abuse is happening. Maybe try to take a step forward and stop that instead of arguing semantics over a message board. Mentor a young gamer (video, TTop, Board etc) and let them know that one day when they are making TES 8: Tamriel the people making fun of them will be mowing their lawns. This is silly.

    • Carrie says:

      Nobody should ever talk about anything or write any blog posts or play video games until all the problems of the world are solved. This morning, somebody in the world was being murdered. Maybe you should have tried to stop that, but instead you were silly enough to waste your time taking a shower and eating breakfast and driving to work. Come on. Do you really think having an opinion about one thing means you’re ignoring everything else?

  25. Victoria says:

    Props to you, Carrie. I think this is a well thought out response to the review.

    I wrote up a big rant on my blog that I started to write as a comment here, but I didn’t want to inundate yours, but let it be said: Men owe US, not themselves, for computers.

    • Mike says:

      Wait, what? I can name, like, two prominent female computer scientists, and maybe a hundred male ones. It’s ridiculous, outlandish claims like this that make it impossible to have a serious discussion about gender issues. I also wasn’t aware that, by virtue of having a vagina, you were entitled to share in the credit for anything any woman has ever achieved.

      Just saying.

      • Violence says:

        Mike, I wasn’t aware that by virtue of you having a penis that you are entitled to share in the credit for anything man has ever achieved.

        It’s claims like yours that make it impossible to have a gender discussion. You properly exemplified exactly what this entire post was about by writing such a sexist remark. I challenge you to replace the words associated with being a woman to those of being an African American or a homosexual and see if you would still have the courage to post such a disgusting remark.

        Until men and women understand that we’re all people trying to achieve and enjoy life equally, then we will continue to have this adversity.

        For the record, women did not have the same opportunities as men for a long time, so the fact that there are less “prominent” female computer scientists on your radar doesn’t surprise me.

        Your remarks should be of a more encouraging nature if you’d like to have a positive discussion about gender.

        • Mike says:

          Yikes. Glad I came back to check on this thread two months later. If I had any sense, I’d just ignore your misplaced vitriol, too. Oh well…

          OP wrote “Men owe US, not themselves, for computers.” How can you read that and not be offended by how stupid of a claim that is?

          For one thing, it’s false by any objective measure. Read any given 1% of this list and try to tell me I’m wrong: If a gay person claimed that heterosexuals owed the gay community a debt of gratitude for inventing computers, would I tell that person he was full of shit? Absolutely. Ditto for black people (American or not), Catholics, Republicans, midgets, NASCAR fans, MENSA members, Scientologists, or any other demographic category you can think of.

          And it’s wasn’t just the content; it was the tone as well. (You seem to be well acquainted with it.) It was obnoxious. So I replied in kind. I don’t regret it.

      • Victoria says:

        Wow, before you open your mouth and prove yourself a fool, at least do some research on the subject before you stick your foot in your mouth.

        • Mike says:

          Do you even know what a computer scientist is?

          None of the (probably very nice, intelligent, hardworking) ladies in that article had ANYTHING to do with the development of computer technology. At all. I’m actually kind of amazed you’d even try to defend a statement as aggressively wrong as the one you made a couple of months ago. Clearly one of us (probably the one who doesn’t have a degree or make a living in that field) needs to do some research before they stick their foot in their mouth.

          • DJ says:

            You know what? Men like you are why there aren’t enough women in computer sciences or “hard” sciences in general. There are only a handful of notable female computer scientists! Therefore no woman anywhere can get credit for anything to do with development of computers! Obviously you have never heard of Ada Lovelace.

            And I’m guessing you have never heard of Lise Meitner–who, by the way, discovered nuclear fission only to have her male colleagues get the credit. Not a computer scientist, but still illustrative of something. Why do you think there are so few “notable female computer scientists”? Because it’s a male dominated club and the sciences were not a particularly female-friendly field until very recently. They’re still not particularly female friendly, even if they like to think they are.

            How do you define a computer scientist, anyway? Programmers are perfectly valid computer scientists. You can’t make software or really anything useful without programmers. Even if those women in the article above only punched cards and crunched equations, they certainly helped in the “development of computer technology,” if only by doing grunt work men thought was beneath them. Not so different from what you’re probably doing, writing code to develop software, an app, *something* that makes someone’s job easier.

            But no, because they’re simply women running equations (Women running equations! Not at all the same as compiling a program!), they don’t count as computer scientists.

          • Mike says:


            When I said I could name two prominent female computer scientists, Ada Lovelace was the first. Not even sure who the second was.

            I define “scientist” the way most of the world does. Programmers are engineers, not scientists. They work with the practical; scientists concern themselves primarily with research for the sake of advancing the art. I am not a computer scientist, and I have loads of respect for many of the 99.9% of people in the world that aren’t.

            This argument started with one person saying something aggressively stupid, polarizing and downright untrue. Something you immediately conceded at the beginning of your post. All I did was point that out. She replied by insulting me and linking an article she probably didn’t even bother to read, and I pointed out that she was still wrong. I have no idea how stating facts somehow makes me the living embodiment of the glass ceiling. For the record, I’d love to see more women in the field—it’s boring interacting with socially awkward men all day. But there just aren’t that many.

            Why? I don’t know. I’ve been in CS college classrooms fairly recently, and I can assure you that female students get as much attention as, if not more than, their male counterparts. It seems like there just aren’t that many women interested in the field. I think there’s a good case to be made for biological and cognitive differences—another sentiment that’s likely to get me crucified in this thread, even though it should be obvious that those differences exist. You know, for all this talk about how tech work is such an evil “boys’ club,” I’ve been ganged up on by like six different women in this thread alone. That stuff works both ways.

  26. chillinchillin says:

    So you write a blog post about a joke and then when people respond you make jokes about their comments…ummm what?

    I believe its more the dissecting down to the minutia one sentence of an internet review of a video game on an online message board, then creating a blog post to continue the discussion further is a little much. I spent first period at the high school (after showering and eating breakfast and before work at 9:30am) with my mentee’s talking about how teasing someone because you get teased only creates a vicious circle where everyones feelings are hurt. Maybe you should do the same and actually do something about the problem instead of arguing and teasing people about their opinions over the internet?

    My comment wasnt an attack, just my opinion and I am actually offended you responded by teasing me using some ridiculous hyperbole to make light of my argument that actually has someone doing something to curb the bullying going on, i am guessing your one of the people that sees the levy leaking and just talks about fixing the problem before a flood happens and never actually does anything.

    • Carrie says:

      Actually, yes, I have done things about bullying. I’ve been a teacher and I have worked in an outdoor education program helping at-risk teens. What I’m trying to say is, what does this have to do with the topic of the blog post, or any of the responses to it? Now that you know I’ve done a few things to help with a completely different problem, does it make any difference to the actual topic we are talking about here? I’m just a little mystified about why you brought it up in the first place, which was why I responded the way I did.

  27. Robyn says:

    The infuriating “can’t you take a joke?” comments reminded me of this article, which highlights how horrible (and commonplace) is such emotional manipulation against women:“crazy”/

    Thanks for speaking your mind, Carrie.

  28. Mike says:

    Typical adult male gamer here. I have to admit that my initial reaction was that yes, anyone who would complain about something so trifling is probably not all that good at taking a joke. And probably has a much larger chip on her shoulder. In this very post, you equate “opinionated woman” and “humorless bitch who needs to get a grip,” a sentiment that is far more sexist than anything in the original article. One that I think even most of the “calm the fuck down” crowd would find abhorrent. You were obviously being sarcastic to make a point, but if people regularly react that way to your comments, maybe you’re being a bit more acerbic than you think.

    I think it was pretty clear from reading the original review that his comment was meant to be a friendly dig at male, RPG-devouring basement virgins, if anyone. And that no malice was intended even to them. It was a throwaway line; one that had virtually nothing to do with the thesis of the article. He wasn’t judging women who play video games. He wasn’t telling anyone to stop. Maybe it was a little ignorant, but it was totally innocuous.

    There are, of course, genuine social problems involving gender inequality: unequal pay, sexual harassment, etc. Being called sexist, in this day and age, is a pretty serious accusation; one that is likely to ruin someone’s day. To throw that around so cavalierly is really inconsiderate. It sounds like Mr. Bissell has been forced to do some serious, uncomfortable soul-searching over the past day or so. You think that was warranted, over something that you concede wasn’t at all a big deal?

    This all comes down to a more fundamental point: You don’t have the right not to be offended by anything anyone ever says, ever. Everyone hears things in the course of their daily life that irk them, or that seem a little bit unfair. (Have you ever seen “Manswers” on Spike TV? That show is far more sexist and demeaning than anything on TV that’s directed at women.) Most people tune them out, because picking fights over inconsequential little things is a waste of time and energy, will win you no friends, and leaves no one feeling good. And it’s this kind of punctiliousness that leads people of both genders to sigh and say, “Oh, another angry feminist is overreacting.” And then they stop listening.

    • tracy says:


      Yeah, he did some soul searching and guess what he came up with, the statement that maybe he did go over the line a little bit with his remark. There are genuine social problems with unconscious sexism and misogyny in the gaming industry. If it’s your thing, there’s lots of ways to make those little digs without making them about gender.

      As for getting upset about the sexist things said about men, I can tell you that people do call that stuff out too. Just because you haven’t heard of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

      • Mike says:

        He did what virtually any visible professional would do when unjustly labelled a racist or a sexist. Some commenters on this page felt that he wasn’t contrite enough, and didn’t really apologize at all. Only Tom Bissell knows how he really feels about what happened, but he’s an employee of a major corporation (Disney) that has a strong aversion to controversy, and he’s behaved like any rational actor who feared for his job, regardless of how he feels about any of it.

        My point wasn’t that men should take to the streets and protest the injustice of “Manswers.” Rather, people of both genders should save their righteous ire for issues that warrant them. Or, at the very least, for situations where malice was actually intended.

        I’m also not sure I’d put “genuine social problems” and “in the gaming industry” in the same sentence. Another example of people taking things way, way too seriously.

    • Blinding Rage says:

      Have you ever heard of gaslighting, Mike?

      It’s what they call it when men tell women they’re overreacting about something because of their “crazy emotions” and the fact that we’re “sensitive and can’t take a joke.” I can take a joke. I can take a lot of jokes.

      But when something offends you, whether it be sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, whatever– if you do not speak up about it, no one will ever hear. No one will know that this thing has hurt you. Why should we keep it to ourselves? Why shouldn’t we try to correct the system, rather than just having to take every bigoted comment in stride? The big blow-up over this entire article and the comment that was made is not because of what he said– you’re right, it wasn’t that big of a deal. If he recognized it was problematic and just apologized and moved on, none of us would even be here. The problem is how many people have defended the joke and gaslighted the women who were upset about it by telling them it wasn’t that big of a deal and that they were overreacting– WHEN ALL THAT THEY SAID WAS “hey, that wasn’t cool.” Do you see the difference?

      Would you tell a homosexual not to be offended by a gay joke made at their expense? I would certainly hope not. It’s the same thing, here. You can’t tell me what to be offended by, and quite frankly, the fact that you’d even try pisses me off. It isn’t a waste of my time if I change even the mind of one person, or at least make someone THINK before they speak or put hands to keyboard. If we don’t get angry, if we don’t say something, nothing will change, and we’ll continue living in a bigoted world.

      Don’t tell me it’s not worth it.

      • Mike says:

        I hadn’t heard of Gaslighting until that article was linked all over the place. I read some of it; I don’t doubt there are a few manipulative assholes out there who do that kind of thing consciously, but I’ve never met one. I think that a vast majority of the time, when a man tells a woman she’s overreacting, it’s because he honestly doesn’t understand why she’s so upset about something. And I’ve been in many situations where I’ve felt the same way. Hell, I’ve had conversations with a number of female friends who readily admit that women tend to be more emotionally driven than men. Shouldn’t it follow from that that sometimes misunderstandings will arise?

        For every one person who might rethink their approach when they get yelled at over something dumb, there are probably ten who will write off their accuser (and others who line up under the same banner) as strident wastes of time, and will become more entrenched in their beliefs.

        If you should feel entitled to shout your grievances to the heavens solely because it’s what you genuinely feel, then why should those who disagree be held to a different standard? Just as your instincts tell you that you should feel slighted, mine tell me that most of the people posting in this thread are freaking out over nothing. Which I also find mildly irritating. Why should tolerance and political correctness be such a one-way street? Why should I be told to venerate your feelings at the expense of my own? And when did it become a good idea to allow one’s emotions to supplant one’s sense of rationality in the first place?

        • Jay. Just Jay. says:

          To Mike:

          I’m curious, what exactly are you defending? What is this “different standard?” If you feel that there’s an entitlement to “shouting your grievances to the heavens”, aren’t all of these posts found to have merit (by your standard, I assume)? It seems to me like pointing out something like a missplaced, sexist remark is less an act of intolerance of the remark and more of an act of reason, perhaps even charity; if ignorance is pointed out by another (one who actually lives and has encountered a particular form of sexism from yourself, for example), then why would there not be enough reason for it to be engaged, to be thought over?

          • Mike says:

            My point was that you SHOULDN’T necessarily feel entitled to shout your grievances to the heavens, and that there are certainly people in this world—and in this thread—who seemingly overreact to just about everything. I’m sure that some of those who pointed out the remark were quite polite about it, but this whole thing has been blown way out of proportion. (e.g. The nice lady claiming all men owe all women a debt of gratitude for the existence of computers, who I’m sure would also claim to abhor sexism.) The guy who wrote the review has probably lost sleep over whether he’ll still have a job next week. It’s ridiculous.

            But he probably hasn’t lost any sleep over that condescending reply you sent him earlier, where you dispensed pearls of writing advice and encouraged him to keep it up. So at least that’s something.

    • Carrie says:

      Mike, this is exactly the sort of thing that made me write the post in the first place. It seems like you’re equating “you don’t have the right not to be offended by anything anyone ever says” (which is true) with “you don’t have the right to say something when you ARE offended.”

      And we’re not even talking about anybody being offended on a major level here. Nobody screamed in anyone’s face, formed a protest march or even a Facebook group, threatened to sue anybody, called for their resignation, or even asked for an apology. Some people read something, had an opinion about it, and expressed that opinion in a comment. That is not an overreaction; it is literally the minimum reaction that can be called a reaction at all. And yet, what I keep hearing is that even this amount of reaction is unacceptable.


      One reason you give in your comment above is that it might hurt Tom Bissell’s feelings. Just in case anyone is genuinely concerned about this, I should say that Tom and I have exchanged emails in addition to the conversation here, and I promise that neither of us are staying awake nights, weeping into our pillows because the Internet is being a big dumb meany head. We have not challenged each other to a duel in full plate armor with longswords, although it would be fucking awesome if we did. But Mike, do you actually mean to say that when someone’s feelings are hurt, they shouldn’t say anything, because that might hurt the offender’s feelings right back, and his feelings should take priority?

      I’ve seen “Manswers” a few times because it used to play constantly on the TVs at my gym, and I always thought it was mindmeltingly stupid. It never occurred to me that a guy might find it demeaning, but now that you’ve mentioned that, I can see that many guys probably would. You see how that works? You have an opinion, you expressed it, and now I’m aware of something I didn’t know before. Cool! That’s what conversation is for. Please extend me the same courtesy; that’s all I’m asking.

      • Mike says:

        I was going to reply earlier, but I had prior plans to go out drinking. Which I kept. In spades. 😀 But anyway…

        I think your responses, specifically, have been fairly measured. I respect that. But this whole thing has snowballed into such a ridiculous witch hunt. I’m sure that wasn’t your intention (and you’re certainly not solely responsible for it), but it’s basically inevitable once someone cries sexism or racism in a public forum.

        I think that’s why you’ve seen such a virulent response. It’s impossible to discreetly accuse a man of sexism. Even on this page, while you’ve been nothing but polite, a few opportunistic crazy people have managed to pile on. And it’s almost impossible, especially on the Internet, to undo anything. That label will be part of Tom Bissell’s Google profile for the rest of his career. Maybe his joke was a bit lazy, unfunny, or ignorant, but does it warrant the scarlet letter he’ll have to carry around now?

        When something offends me, the first thing I ask is, is this an injustice that the world is imposing upon me, or is it a manifestation of my own insecurities? I think, for a majority of people a majority of the time, it’s the latter. And I feel like that’s how this whole thing started.

        That was what I was trying to say when I alluded to the chip on your shoulder. If you didn’t feel like there was a stigma attached to being a female gamer, you’d probably have shrugged off the original remark as a bad joke and gone on with your life. Which, if I haven’t beaten the point into the ground already, strikes me as the appropriate response. If you’re happy with your life and enjoy playing Skyrim, who cares if some jackass on the Internet disapproves? (And in fairness, I don’t think the “jackass” in question disapproves at all.)

        For the record, I don’t run around decrying the sexism of “Manswers” on a regular basis. I’m content to write it off as idiotic and continue with my own life. Which I think is an approach that more people should take.

  29. Tracy says:

    @mike The only person I see coming close to freaking out and yelling is you. Who yelled? Carrie posted about her disappointment about a remark. That’s somehow yelling to you?

    For people who work in the gaming industry, the pervasive subtle sexism is a genuine social problem. For the women who currently game, it is a problem. Just because it’s not a problem to you doesn’t mean a thing.

  30. Jay. Just Jay. says:


    Face facts. I said what I said because a joke like that is not something I would expect from a four-time published author; it wasn’t condescending. Author’s, like heros, are never born, they’re made, and they make themselves. An author should always reach for that tiny bit of perspective that might make them approach their future work better, upgrading themselves from basic to legendary Skyforge steel.

    • Mike says:

      For what it’s worth, this is the part I thought was condescending: “Also, from a writer’s perspective, there is no value, nor a real purpose to including it in your article. Keep working at it.”

      • Jay. Just Jay. says:

        I know that, chum. But you have to realize that what he commented on this blog with still continued the same pattern of ignorance. I’m not sure which came first, the comments or the apology (which was very well written), but the comments were still in much the same vein. The tone on my part was biting, because I like to nibble at things. Nom nom, and such. He’s a four-time published author, and a superior writer; he’ll survive the gripes. And maybe he’ll get something from it.

        By the way, so that I don’t sound like a complete noob (and an incredibly dull nerd, instead), I used the Skyforge steel example instead of Daedric or Ebony because it’s just so romantic; I mean, the steel (or the skill of the author) is forged with the magic of the souls of Companions. I’d to believe that of life, sometimes.

        • Mike says:

          I don’t see it as ignorance. To label something as ignorant is to imply that your perspective is superior, and I don’t think anyone is that wise. I think he tried to come clean and be honest, and I don’t see that as grounds for ostracism.

          I never learned much about Skyforge steel; I went through the werewolf ceremony, saw my only follower freak out on me, and reloaded. Figured I could always go back if I wanted beast form. :p

          • Jay. Just Jay. says:

            The “male-boy fantasy world” thing was what I pointed out. I understand there’s this notion of Braveheart, where the men make their stand, swinging long swords and other euphamisms for penises, that’s always appealed to men. But saving a village, or burning one down, was never exclusive. Killing monsters, taking their things, dressing up and looking at the outfit your character is wearing, picking flowers…these are things that have been done before, but have been done more completely in Skyrim. Being a hero, hunting for glory, it’s not a man thing. It’s not a boy thing. It’s ambition, however imaginary. That’s why this is our game, not a male-boy game. The perception that hack n’ slashing is for cock wielders is dead, and it probably didn’t have much life in it to begin with.

          • Jay. Just Jay. says:

            And I’m using “male-boy” because there’s no such thing as a “man-boy”. You either consider yourself a man or a boy, and self-consideration is one of the most important kinds.

  31. Jay. Just Jay. says:

    Sorry, one more thing: Joke aside, Tom Bissell’s article is a piece of intrepid, journalistic genius for rpg gaming. He brought up an often-time repressed nuissance that gamers like myself feel everytime I walk into Whiterun and am yelled in the beard by that Battle-born hag in the market, and he did so with incredible clarity and skill. His article made me wish I was playing Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, because I feel more immersed in an environment that didn’t (rather, couldn’t) use an excessive audio onslaught as an attempt at immersion.

    • Olmec says:

      He also pointed out that, despite the hype, Dark Souls is a vastly more satisfying, immersive and innovative work. Good god, what a game. To be honest, now that Skyrim has been around for a week or two I’ve almost completely lost all interest.

  32. chadachada says:

    I think you’ll find that the stereotyping of gamers works both ways.

    If you’re a hardcore gamer, you’re a late-teenager or 20-something white male that lives in his parents basement and has never had a girlfriend.

    Yet, the common male gamer is not annoyed by these stereotypes when used *in a joking fashion* by a critic, especially when that critic is a gamer like us and not an outside person like Roger Ebert. It’s played for laughs, and to take it as seriously as the women in that thread WAS an overreaction, if only for the fact that male gamers are stereotyped as much yet don’t react in a similar fashion.

    I guess that I would boil this down to the fact that individual male gamers have endured this stereotype for quite some time and are used to it, and the female gamers are just now starting to become open with the gaming community, and are getting their first taste at being jokingly stereotyped.

    The point is, since males are stereotyped by critics and don’t get mad, and even laugh at the joke, there’s no reason for females to get more angry at an aside meant in jest.

    Really, to be so opposed to those little humorous sentences while still being on the internet is astonishing., for example, has many articles, both written by males (and stereotyping males) and by females (stereotyping females), or males stereotyping females, or females males. Considering there are numerous comedy writers that also review games, it’s natural for this writing style (humor) to carry into the review of a game.

    So, yeah, in conclusion, get over it. You’re overreacting. You have a right to be offended by whatever you want, no matter how irrational, but so do others have a right to call you out on it.

    • Blinding Rage says:

      Hint: stereotyping men isn’t sexism.

      • Carrie says:

        I disagree with this. Same thing with racism: it means stereotyping/looking down on someone because of their race, no matter what race that might be.

        • Blinding Rage says:

          It isn’t.

          At the end of the day, a man isn’t treated as a second class citizen because he is a man. A man can have an opinion, a sexist one, even, and people will defend it. Meanwhile a woman is looked down upon for having an opinion. Men don’t get told they are “crazy” simply for being born as a woman and having emotions, whether or not they have been at all emotional. A man is not viewed as a sex object. A man has privilege to do and be what he wants without feeling ostracized or outcast simply because of his gender. You can be prejudiced toward men– but at the end of the day, it does not change what he has or what he doesn’t, and how society views him as a human being.

          At the end of the day, a white man has privilege where a black man doesn’t.

          The oppressed cannot be the oppressors, unless they are oppressing within the marginalized group.

          • Carrie says:

            I guess my take on this is that just because sexism/racism against Group A is more common (or even considered the norm by a given society), that doesn’t mean sexism/racism against Group B is either impossible, non-existent, or okay. My entire philosophy boils down to “don’t be a jerk.” I don’t put any conditions on who it’s okay to be a jerk to. It’s not okay to be a jerk to anyone.

          • Mike says:

            I literally cannot think of anything more sexist than dividing men and women into two camps, and labeling them “oppressors” and “oppressed.”

            I know a lot of women. I wouldn’t even think of applying the “crazy” label to a vast majority of them. And I know just as many “crazy” men. Have you considered that when people call you that, maybe they’re judging you not by your gender, but by the content of what you’re saying?

          • Anonymous says:

            This is one of the most offensive things I’ve read online in quite some time, and I had to read Kotaku’s comment section for research recent.

            I hope you realize you are not only failing to gain allies with talk like this, but probably actively contributing to losing them.

            Please do yourself a favor and re-examine your philosophy.

          • Anonymous says:

            Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear, I’m talking about the ridiculously narrow-minded and ignorant screed by the aptly named “Blinding Rage” above.

          • Wow says:

            Mike couldn’t have put a better point on it. “judged by the content of what you’re saying”… people like you give feminists and female activists a bad name, even while being a part of the minority (batshit crazy fembot, men are evil, women are superior type) you detract from the majority (realistic feminist activists looking to HELP mitigate injustices) Well done my friend, well done. {sights on blinding rage [not carrie]}

          • MoMo says:

            Not true. By the way, Geeks are mistreated. Anyway, stereotyping men is sexism as my take on sexism is:When A Group is mistreated due to gender.

      • Slash says:

        Really? It’s not? Cuz I’m pretty sure the definition of sexism is treating someone better or worse based on their gender. So by that logic, what you just said is offensive as the original joke that kicked off this whole thing. I bow to your ability to continue spreading the hate and ignorance Blinding Rage.

  33. Slash says:

    Am I the only one that understands the original joke? He wasn’t talking about women as gamers. He was talking about women THAT PLAY ROLE-PLAYING GAMES. And I don’t mean video games, I mean the original table top, dice rolling games. Now yes, I know girls play them too. But I can’t remember a time growing up, or even now as an adult, where my group of nerds included anything other than dudes. The closest thing we got to a female was the fat guy with boobs. Yeah, the culture has changed and being a nerd is cool now. But back when the RPG tradition began and for many years after, the VERY large majority of players were men. And those men got beat up a lot. So yeah, if you don’t know about Skyrim, if you aren’t excited, if you aren’t drooling in anticipation of what it represents as the pinnacle of we’ve always dreamed role-playing games COULD be… Well you’re not a nerd. You’re the dude that beat us up or the girl that rejected us. Yeah, he could’ve worded his joke better. But the one lasting lesson I learned as a nerd and a gamer was to ignore the stupid shit that people said to me and about me and just live my life in a way that makes me happy. And anyone that’s been outcast for what they like understands that. Besides. It’s one dude’s lame ass joke on the internet. If it upset you, say your piece and move on. Don’t let it overtake your life. But that’s just my opinion and it’s worth as much as anyone elses.

  34. Carrie says:

    There’s a surprising number of people commenting in this thread who have completely missed the point of my blog post.

    Things it is NOT about:
    1) Tom Bissell’s joke
    2) Whether or not women play Skyrim
    3) Whether or not jokes about women gamers are okay
    4) Whether or not sexism exists

    Things it is about:
    1) The right to have an opinion and express it politely, without being told to shut up and go away.

    Of course, I realize any comment thread is going to go in other directions that are related to whatever it started out being. But I just wanted to make this really clear because there seem to be a hell of a lot of people who are not getting it.

    • Slash says:

      Well I can understand where you’re coming from but the bottom line is that even the people that act like douchebags and tell you to shut up and go away are simply doing what you did. Expressing their opinions, however irritating they may be. And yeah, I do get where you’re coming from but the only way to really deal with those kind of people is to ignore their idiocy and move on with your life. But that”s just my opinion.

  35. says:

    If you’re offended by this it’s time to wake up and realize that a bunch of words on the internet shouldn’t be something that causes stress in your life. Your world view needs to be a lot broader. Go ahead and blog about me. I have a wife and I raise two girls and a boy. I don’t sugarcoat anything with my girls and 90% of the women i’ve met don’t game. Period. When I meet a woman that games I shake her hand, because I think we should be able to share the things we’re passionate about across sexes irregardless of your world view. Get over yourself Carrie Patrick, you’re not a whistle blower and neither are the sycophants that share your sentiment.

    • Carrie says:

      Please read the rest of my blog and tell me my world view is narrow. I had no idea this five-minute blog post, on a blog which is written for fun and was read by absolutely nobody up until yesterday (and will go back to being read by absolutely nobody in another few days max), was going to attract any comments or attention; if you think I wrote it hoping to be a big damn hero you are pretty badly mistaken.

  36. tracy says:

    @slash Even in the late 90s/early 2000s, about 18-20% of tabletop gamers were women according to a Wizards of the Coast survey.

    It’s not about saying one person’s opinion is above someone else’s. As Carrie said, it’s about being able to express that opinion without being told to shut up. If you disagree with it, fine. Say so politely and don’t make personal attacks. Don’t tell people that they are wrong to be offended or that they are overreacting. They feel how they feel and you feel how you feel. There’s no way that should be subject to argument.

    • Slash says:

      @Tracy. 18-20% is still an extreme minority. Which is what I said. And I’m not talking about the late 90’s, thats still recent. I’m talking about the mid to late 80’s and early 90’s. When RPG’s first came out.

  37. Jay. Just Jay. says:

    Yeah, sorry for dragging the blog in a different direction by addressing my opinions on Bissell. This should’ve been something reserved for his website, but then I read through the comments posted to his website and figured, why bother, the goblet seemed full of a shake I didn’t feel like drinking. This is the first time I’ve posted anything on the internet, ever, and went into this assuming that folks had read your blog and understood that a person or people telling you how to feel about something is more than irritating, it’s logically inconsistant and unjustifiable. Hah, ah, needless to say, I was wrong. My feelings and thoughts were really about Bissell’s comments on this blog.

    And as for pig (oh pardon, “big”) papa, nothing is really irregardless.

  38. van says:

    honestly i don’t get it do you like to complain and whine just to hear or see yourself bitch about something. honestly has this society gone so far as to down peoples personal opinions or jokes honestly i always thought that jokes were meant to be laughed at…that is until someone who is bent out of shape or up tight decides to complain. yes, your opinions are your own and everyone’s opinions vary. so honestly stop complaining kick back and laugh for it is meant to be humorous not insulting.

  39. Benjamin says:

    shut up and go away

  40. Jodoki says:

    I am impressed and grateful to both of you – Carrie Patrick and Tom Bissell – for maintaining a noble face and sticking to the issue with respectful communication.
    Naturally the internet with echo with reiterations of everyone’s individual reaction/interpretation…thank you both for staying rooted in reality and demonstrating a decent exchange.
    Also, Carrie – brilliantly put. You have a remarkable way with words.

  41. MoMo says:

    Wow,this has become a quite interesting and heated discussion.

  42. […] of response pieces. Stephen Totilo provided a round-up of the situation as well as linking to Carrie Patrick’s excellent blog post, arguing that more than the tone of the original article, it’s the reaction from its […]

  43. […] I should be annoyed by it, and in fact, that they were the ones who should be offended, if anyone.Settle down, it was just a joke | Carrie Patrick.If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been told this… Encouraging conversation by […]

  44. Brie says:

    I actually got into a rather heated argument with someone I’ve known for years and while it wasn’t about Skyrim, it did go down EXACTLY like the last two paragraphs in this blog. I expressed something I disliked, I got the “perfect 10 on the blinding insane berserker rageometer” response, and my pushing the issue further got me the perfect firestorm of hate, when this guy basically called me, among other things, a selfish, self-centered humorless bitch who can’t take a joke, has to make everything about me and needs to grow the fuck up. And of course, in that circle of male friends, he was completely in the right, and I was just a Humorless Little Bitch Who Can’t Take A Joke.

    Needless to say, I lost about ten friends that day. I thought women were supposed to be more brutal to other women than men are.

  45. Anon says:

    Well, my boyfriend said that what he wants to do is post this after we get married: “I met a real girl gamer. I married her!” And how did we meet? Star Wars Battlefront. The first one. In a gaming clan I joined through someone I knew from college. I knew a few through the same clan who were couples that gamed. One of my cousins married a female gamer. I guess some guys need to shut up and realize what they’re missing out on: finding gamer chicks to date.

  46. […] As Carrie Patrick has written, for people who wrote me on Saturday and said, “What Oxford wrote wasn’t racist!” or “Relax!” or “CALM THE FUCK DOWN”: This sort of response creates a perfect 10 on the blinding insane berserker rageometer. Best of all, it shuts down all possible further rebuttal. The women who weren’t particularly upset or angry when they posted their original comments are now completely unable to express their further annoyance at being told to shut up and go away, because if they do, they’re just going to prove they Can’t Take A Joke. […]

  47. […] As Carrie Patrick has written, for people who wrote me on Saturday and said, “What Oxford wrote wasn’t racist!” or “Relax!” or “CALM THE FUCK DOWN”: […]

  48. […] event was “just a joke” in the bud. This is not satire. It’s not even a good joke. By tucking their tails and running, the organization is showing that they are bullies who wilt in […]