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? The answer: coming up next on the Factual Feminist.
“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. But the ADL curriculum, like dozens of major media
stories on gamers, sensationalizes the threats to feminist critics—makes no mention of
threats to other side—and then implies anyone who objects to some of the feminist criticism
is a misogynist implicated in a campaign of violence. By the way, the ADL lesson plan
does not include a discussion of a Pew study of online harassment, but that study does
not support the simple “women are victims” premise of the lesson. While it is true that
more women than men are sexually harassed (7% women, 4% men), men are the primary targets
of threats (10% men, 6% women). The internet can be a hostile environment—for anyone.
The ADL lesson plan includes a vocabulary list and urges teachers to ‘Make sure”
students master them. They include: “Abusive,” “dehumanize”, “misogyny,” and “gamer”—.
I can think of several others I would make sure students learn—biased, manipulative,
propaganda, and re-education.The Common Core should repudiate this lesson plan. My advice
to the ADL: Stop playing games, and recall this defaming curriculum. What do you think
about the ADL’s curriculum? Why are they promoting such a one-sided picture? Let me
know what you think in the comments section. Follow me on twitter and facebook. Thank you
for watching the Factual Feminist.