Let me start this off by saying that it’s not based in my place of work. Unlike some stores I’ve been in, ours has a 50/50 split sex-wise, with the positions of authority also evenly spread out. I’ve been openly queer to my coworkers for nearly as long as I’ve worked there, with no incidents or negative comments. My boss even flips the covers of our copies of Mass Effect 3 so [Fem] Shep is always on display.
It’s the gamer culture of the customer that comes into the store (which in turn is influenced by media, etc). Associates who present as female are constantly interrogated by men about whether or not they play games. It’s assumed that we don’t, responded to with surprise and usually a barrage of questions to ensure that we meet their standard for ‘gamer’. Don’t say you play RPGs, by the way, they apparently don’t count.
There’s also consistent, aggressive harassment that I assume they consider to be flirtation. One of the women I work with just today was hit on four times by different men in various age ranges, asking very personal questions at the register as well as making inappropriate “natural redhead” suggestions and comments. There are even vaguely threatening comments made about not being ‘helpful’ enough and possible consequences. And it happens to exactly half of the employees every shift they work. Guess which half.
Even the games itself have their own reputations. When a customer asked for a game in space with more of a story (he liked Halo and Dead Space), I recommended Mass Effect and was immediately informed he didn’t play those sorts of “faggot” games. That’s a pretty common thing to hear, with little regard on the customers’ part for the kids looking at games a foot away, much less general human decency.
It even applies to male associates if they don’t fit the invisible gamer standard. One guy I work with started to grow out his hair and was questioned and harassed by strangers every week about whether or not he was queer, along with suggestions that he should “get a damn haircut”.
It’s fathers bringing their sons and daughters into the store and spending half an hour letting their son find his favorite game but entirely ignoring their daughter’s requests for something to play. It’s the constant assumption that I know absolutely nothing about my job (to note, I am the PC expert in our store). It’s having three female-presenting employees working the same shift and having a man come in, take a look at us behind the counter, and immediately leave without a word.
And because we’re retail monkeys, there’s nothing we can do or say about a customer unless it constitutes a forthright physical threat.
So if you ever get annoyed by girls and women talking about being Female Gamers, remember that the actual harassment and derision that is put towards the feminine in gamer culture is not only far more irritating, but actively harmful and a hell of a lot more important to deal with.
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