Why Brosie Restores My Faith in Gaming Gender RelationsA column article by: Sarah Conde
It takes a whole lot of guts to pull a prank on your boss. You run the risk of being reprimanded, humiliated and – in the worst-case scenario – fired. The entire situation reaches an entirely new level of risk when the stunt ends up making a profound point about the state of the industry in which you work. Here's the story of an employee who did just that and gave me faith that I can overcome the awkward and frustrating experiences that come with being a woman in the video game industry.
Known under the pseudonym K2, a female employee at video game publisher Meteor Entertainment faced one of those awkward experiences on a daily basis. CEO Mark Long proudly displayed a piece of comic art from Hawken, a game published by Meteor, for all workers and visitors to see as they enter or leave the office. The poster depicts a scantily-clad lady mechanic with quite the case of underboob. Since this may not be the most appropriate office decoration with a staff full of females, K2 decided to take action. Conspiring with fellow co-worker/artist Sam Kirk, K2 evened the playing field by creating a male version of the poster. One day, the duo switched it out with the original and waited for Long to notice the deed.
After what I'm sure was a debilitating silence as her boss entered his office that day, he thanked his employees for calling him out on his shit and declared that both posters would hang side-by-side. Wired interviewed K2 about the industry's reaction to the prank, which has been referred to around the interwebs as "Brosie" (in reference to WWII’s “Rosie the Riveter”). K2 expresses her astonishment regarding the positive feedback on Brosie and makes some important connections to what it means for gender relations in the industry.
While my initial reaction to the stunt was “that's just plain awesome," I've also developed an incredible admiration for K2's approach toward a seemingly insignificant office issue that translates to a larger industry issue. She saw something that she did not believe was right going on within her company and did something about it in a playful manner. When it comes to gender equality in games, I always find the need to defend myself or win the argument. Maybe it's the natural gamer in me, but I think it's bigger than that. Being a woman on the internet is scary, especially when you've chosen to become part of the commentary in a notoriously stereotyped industry. My primal instincts have always told me to fight back, when in reality, this will likely get you nowhere.
As demonstrated by K2, you can achieve more by being straightforward and clever. I mean, let's face it, being an angry person does not help you make friends. By utilizing a little bit of humor, K2 was able to break the ice with her CEO and initiate honest and open conversation. It's also very exciting to see that most people are embracing Brosie, regardless of gender. I think it boils down to the fact that she didn't try to attack anyone:
"I’d like to think it’s because the article makes them laugh instead of feeling blamed or accused. It makes me want to find more ways to do that."
-K2 via Wired
I'll admit that women sometimes play the blame game when it is not warranted. When critiquing the industry on its portrayal of women, we tend to attack men as a whole, when it's really only a small, close-minded segment of the population that is at fault. Most of the time, men don't even realize they are being insensitive. K2 taught me that it's important to take a step back from the gender debate at large and just talk it out. It is possible to initiate positive conversation without starting World War III.
I've heard some talk that K2 is lucky she didn't get fired, but I really don't think that's the case at all. She clearly felt comfortable enough with her office environment to pull this kind of stunt. I have to give my kudos to Mark Long on this one. While he was being fairly clueless in relation to the poster, especially when he had employees sign it at an office party, he still acted as a receptive and understanding leadership figure. If you've ever had a crappy, misogynistic boss, you understand how refreshing that is. It's the kind of person and atmosphere we all hope to work with someday.
As for the notion that neither poster should exist, I kind of think that's a load of crap. We, as a society, purchase and consume sexualized media. Is it too much to ask for equality in our unrealistic, trashy portrayals of each other? I don't think so! Either way, it's a start. Trying to eliminate vulgarity as a whole in games is a fight that the industry is probably not ready for yet.
Now this doesn't mean much for the industry unless the conversation continues. When working in a creative setting, it is nice to know whether or not you are on the same page as the people around you. It simply makes things easier and prevents potential conflict. Plus, you don't have to be a woman just to stand up for gender equality in games. Ignoring this issue will only create a slippery slope that alienates both genders. Let's all take a note from K2 and Kirk and have a little bit of courage to stand up for what's right. And if possible, let's be as clever as possible in how we do it!
As gamers begin to form their own opinion on Brosie, the temptation to get defensive will be strong. Consequently, I know that there is a huge potential for backlash in the comments. It seems to be inevitable when you write the words "female" and "games" in the same sentence. All I can do is quote K2 and reiterate that it shouldn't have to be difficult to address this elephant in the room. It has the potential to be enlightening, informative and fun:
"I see the games industry, and STEM in general, as being trapped on an event horizon, circling change. I suspect, but don’t know, that some of that is about the difficulty of addressing the elephant in the room. Women walking into a company full of men know we’re going to have to start these conversations and have them over and over and over again. It’s daunting, exhausting, boring, frustrating. The stuff is so obvious to us and we don’t see why it’s not obvious to them. We hear all the bad stories and don’t know where or whether to begin."
-K2 via Wired
I encourage all readers to contribute to the discussion and share notable "Brosie" stories of your own in the comments below!
A product of the geekiest father imaginable, Sarah Conde has been a lover of games since she worked up the courage to play Resident Evil 3 on her own accord. After her paralyzing fear of Nemesis subsided, she found herself hooked. A future graduate student at Kennesaw State University, she has found countless ways to avoid the job market and ramble on about video games in an academic setting. She joins Comics Bulletin on a mission to communicate that games are good for society. If you want to get her talking for hours, just mention cats, cons or Final Fantasy. She's a pretty simple gal.