[MUD-Dev] The Price of Being Male

Marian Griffith gryphon at iaehv.nl
Mon Jun 30 22:34:15 CEST 2003

In <URL:/archives/meow?group+local.muddev> on Mon 30 Jun, Mark 'Kamikaze' Hughes wrote:
> Sun, Jun 29, 2003 at 02:13:47PM -0700 in
> <C12079793797A84CA92DF1A6805676F202800994 at e2k1.fullerton.edu>,
> Castronova, Edward <ecastronova at Exchange.FULLERTON.EDU> spake:

>> I suppose everyone thinks its normal and OK that being a man in a
>> woman-suit is something that the average man is uncomfortable
>> with. I kind of think that's a problem.

> I don't see how that's a problem.  I'm honestly a little disturbed
> that you can characterize it as a problem.

It is a problem in as much as that it leaves open the possibility
that men (in general) see being a women as inferior. Given the way
men and women are portrayed in popular culture, and even in langu-
age (e.g. calling a boy "girly" is a grave insult, but there is no
such insult for girls), this is not an unfounded assumption. So it
is at least potentially problematic that in an environment where
there is no 'physical' reason to distinguish between female and male
characters, the same discriminatory tendencies are cropping up.

> MUDs/MMORPGs are social.  How you present yourself is an important
> part of your social interactions; your appearance and first
> impressions are just as important online as in the "real world".
> If you give people the ability to choose their own avatars, they
> will take great care to pick one they like and that shows the
> impression they want; if you let them customize them, they will,
> even when there's no game effect.  It's exactly the same as people
> grooming and dressing for effect in "real life".

But this, too, is an assumption of how people play muds.  Many of
them do not really treat it as social game in the way you describe
but rather use other players as elaborate game pieces.  Their goal
is not social interaction but some form of achievement.  At least to
those players the appearance of their avatar should not matter,

> Most men don't want to appear female, simply because that's not
> what they are or care to be viewed as.  And that really is normal
> and OK; not everyone is an androgynous bisexual transvestite.

At the risk of sounding obsessive feminist here, you are making a
number of assumptions and make conclusions based partly on biased

Most men do not want to appear female you say, and I have no doubt
that is true, but how much has that to do with their self image, and
how much with a cultural bias that it is ultimately shamefull for a
man to appear feminine? In other words, do men (in general) chose
male avatars because they want to, or because they fear that female
avatar will make other people (men!) think they are girlish or even
worse, gay. Note that there is a reverse bias in women but that is
not nearly as strong.

Second, you presume that any male who choses a female avatar must be
androgynous, bisexual and transvestite.  At the very least that
shows your biased thinking.  A significant portion of the gender-
crossing male players does so because of the perceived advantages of
playing a female character. (e.g. increased attention, more offers
for help, material support, etc.).  Interestingly enough the
majority of female gender crossers does so to avoid the unwanted
attention, and to be taken seriously as a player. Also, experimen-
ting with gender crossing does not imply a physical interest, any
more than playing a barbarian indicates an interest of bashing the
head in of other players.

> A few people like experimenting with other genders or sexualities
> online, but most do not.  Over 99% of Homo sapiens are happy with
> the gender they were born with (this can easily be shown by the
> relative ease of getting sex-change surgery or just dressing up as
> the opposite gender, and the very small number of people who do
> so), and if they experiment at all, will only do so briefly.
> Buying a different-gender avatar to experiment briefly is a waste
> of money.

Then again, buying any avatar is a waste of money, but that aside, I
sincerely doubt *anybody* ever buys a character just to experiment
with gender.  Players buy characters to obtain high level access
without having to work for the priveledge.

In other words: these players are approaching the game as a race, or
at least as an achievement.  They should, by all means, be less
interested in the appearance of their avatar.  At least not to the
point of more than 10pct difference in price for characters with
similar abilities.

> So if the playerbase is mostly male, male avatars will obviously
> be more popular.  If the playerbase was mostly female (want to try
> that research on There?), female avatars would be more popular,
> and you'd be wondering why males were being discriminated against.

The real unanswered question here must be is the supply and demand
for female avatars in the same percentage as that for male ones. I
do not know these figures, but it is possible that more female a-
vatars are offered for sale relative to the demand than is the ca-
se for male avatars. I n that case the price would drop, though it
still points out at a potential gender bias which has no bearing on
the game itself.  Both characters are equally capable, and the only
difference is in the mind of the buyer. In effect it says men are
valuing it 10pct more to not be a female character.  All other
things being equal!  You could certainly call that the hidden cost
of sexual discrimination.  Of course there is this little rider of
the 'all other things being equal'.

Yes at last You. I Choose you. Out of all the world,
out of all the seeking, I have found you, young sister of
my heart! You are mine and I am yours and never again
will there be loneliness ...

Rolan Choosing Talia,
Arrows of the Queen, by Mercedes Lackey
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