I had MLK Day off, so after a brunch date, I ran a few errands. I picked up a couple things at Ulta and remembered I was a few doors down from Best Buy. It seemed like the perfect day to pick up Doom and Sims 4— a dreary, quiet end to a three-day weekend. I was walking through the computer game and video game section looking for the versions I wanted. All the relevant aisles were unorganized, with no rhyme or reason.
A couple minutes into my search, a younger, male employee asked me if I needed help. I was initially appreciative since finding Doom was like finding a needle in a haystack. But then this happened:
Best Buy Employee: Can I help you find anything?
Me: Nah, I’m good, oh hey wait actually could you help me fi—
Best Buy Employee: (cutting me off, chuckling a little as he looked me up and down) You’re in the video game section, so yeah you’re lost.
Me: (blank stare) Did you really just say that?
The employee said nothing. He continued to the front of the store. The two games were stashed haphazardly above the candy. I stared at the games for a few seconds, then left the store without buying anything.
You’d probably tell me to call the manager or fill out a form, which are good short term fixes. The assumptions surrounding being female and nerdy are more problematic. Yes, I looked like a basic white girl. Yes, I am a gamer. No, I am not pretending to play video games. My leggings, brown knee-high boots, and Kate Spade purse obviously rendered me uninterested in video games.
Over my many years in geekdom, I’ve noticed two trains of thought about female geeks and gamers. First of all, I don’t think the feminist assumption that all men hate females who play video games is 100% accurate. Men want women to be judged equally to them– by level of interest and skill. However, women are seen as being ~female~ first and a ~gamer~ second.
But with that, I noticed one thing both men and women seem to agree on: If you’re female, you have to look the part of a ~female geek~. I’ve lost count of the number of times I hear “You don’t look like you’d be into this stuff.” You either have to be:
- Sexbot 4000 with Kawaii Extension Pack: Obviously you wear cosplay costumes that are barely there and stream with full cleavage showing on Twitch 24/7.
- The Female Dude: You’re a guy’s girl, throwing back wings, Doritos and Mountain Dew as you pwn some n00bs. The only thing that defines her femininity is her biological gender. Otherwise, you’re a 100% gal pal-hating bro.
My problem isn’t entirely with a Best Buy employee making assumptions on my gender and appearance. The bigger issue is that if a female is a gamer, their hobby has to be their entire identity. It should not shock people that a female can be a level 19 Warlock in Destiny and adore Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. One of my best female friends wears poufy tulle skirts regularly and plans her year around going to Blizzcon— and no, not just with her significant other. She legitimately plays WoW and Overwatch.
We’ve told women that to be in STEM, a gamer, into anything “nerdy,” it must consume their entire identity. Women are reduced to being a female gamer, female engineer or a female web developer. They become two-dimensional and all-encompassed by this oversimplifying description. It is a misguided message to send everyone. It tells women there’s only one way to be taken seriously.
My point is this (and I hope you’re reading this Best Buy): It’s 2017. It shouldn’t shock anyone when a female, regardless of your stereotyping, walks into a store wanting a video game. Every consumer deserves respect. How I look during my hobbies does not define me. Yet, I don’t want a gold star for being female and buying video games. I just want to buy my damn game in peace and go home.