A major humanitarian group has just come out with a lesson plan for high school students on sexism in video games. It is full of propaganda, vilifies gaming and gamers, and is likely to discourage young women from playing. Does this matter, or is it all just a game? AEI resident scholar Christina Hoff Sommers explains.
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“Is Gaming A Boy’s Club?” is the name of a school lesson plan developed by the Anti-Defamation League—ADL for short. The ADL is a well-respected organization that has fought anti-Semitism and racism for decades. As a long-time admirer of the ADL, I am baffled by its sponsorship of such a biased and dogmatic curriculum. The lesson plan advertises itself as meeting standards for inclusion in the Common Core—an influential national curriculum. The entire lesson plan is dedicated to the proposition that video games are a hotbed of sexism and misogyny, and it gives students the message that anyone who dares to suggest that games should be more inclusive can expect to be terrorized by malevolent gamers. Lesson materials include a video and an article by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian—both are harsh indictments of the world of gaming. That would be fine if she were not the only assigned author. In another part of the lesson plan, the teacher places seven posters around the room—each bearing a statement about video games. Students are then told to attach Post-Its to those they agree with. Three are neutral—for example: “I have played video games” and “I have watched other people play video games.” But four are affirmations about sexism: “I have witnessed sexism in video games,” “I believe video games can perpetuate sexism.” None says anything positive about games—such as, “Gaming is an exciting activity for both women and men,” or “Sexism in video games is exaggerated.”The curriculum also includes a small group discussion on sexism and video games and “additional resources” that focus on—guess what?– harassment, misogyny, and terror in the culture of video games. The curriculum is not only obsessively one-sided—much it is false, misleading, or exaggerated. Let’s start with the very first sentence. “Video games do not have a good track record when it comes to positively including girls and women.” But on page 3 of the curriculum students learn that women now constitute 48 percent of video game players—up from 40 percent in 2010. An important study has shown that there has been a major demographic shift in the video game industry toward the inclusion of women, but men and women prefer to play different types of games. The world of games is rich and diverse and there is room for everyone. Why give young women the discouraging message that they are not wanted? What about the idea that video games—especially those most popular with men– perpetuate sexism? The lesson plan promotes this idea, yet offers no evidence. The fact is, as video games have thrived in the U.S., so have women’s freedoms and opportunities and participation in sports and games. As I have said in an earlier videos on gaming, gender critics have to show, not dogmatically assume, that video games make men sexist and unjust—or hold women back in some way. They have not even tried to meet burden of proof. Finally, what about the claim that when women criticize video games, they receive abusive messages or even threats. Unfortunately, this is sometimes true. Feminist critics have received threats, and that’s deplorable. But what the ADL fails to mention is that no one knows who sent them—and males (and females) who challenge the feminist critique receive them too. Milo Yianappoulos, a British writer who defends gamers from the charge of sexism received a letter that contained dead mouse impaled by a razor blade.
The war on gamers continues
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