Popaganda Episode: Geek Girls

feminist podcasts

If you’ve been paying any attention to the news, you know that the last few months have been a hard time to be a geek girl. Media critics and gamers who have spoken up about sexism in the video game industry have been subjected to online harassment that has escalated into death threats. People who care about pop culture and video games—as well as other geeky pursuits like comics and tabletop games—have devoted a ton of emotional energy to dealing with these aggressive haters. So for today’s show, we’re flipping the script. Instead of giving all this nastiness any more of our time and energy, we’re focusing on six women who are doing awesome work to make geek culture better. 

We take a trip to a Magic: The Gathering tournament, get a download from hip-hop artist Sammus about how to turning classic video game soundtracks into brand-new beats, hear game designer Elizabeth Sampat break down sexist myths about women in the video game industry, listen to a Destination DIY profile of an artist who lasercuts mobiles of internet memes, and sit down with nerd-rock sister duo The Doubleclicks to talk about making bad news into heart-warming songs.








This episode of Popaganda is sponsored by If Only Cats Could Talk, an experimental film documenting the true story of two all-American cats eager to explore the world beyond domesticated life.  


Thanks to Red Castle Games in Portland for letting us record their Magic: The Gathering tournament. Also, thanks to Destination DIY for generously lending us their feature on Salty and Sweet Designs. And a big shout out to Geek Girl Con, which was an inspiration for this show and is where Magic judge Liza Dadoly originally caught up with The Lady Planeswalkers Society. This show prominently features the song “Nothing to Prove” by The Doubleclicks—if you haven't already seen their video for the song, watch it now and feel all warm and fuzzy. 

The photo featured on the full show is of two cosplayers at the Kinsey House table at Geek Girl Con. Photo credit: Sarah Mirk, Creative Commons. 

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by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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2 Comments Have Been Posted

Heelllloooooo [echo]

Well hello. I'm interested in this topic and am interested in discussing it, but where are the commenters? One comment was just blatant spam,get that junk outta here! But seriously I'm interested in the conversation and I'd like to engage but where are the people? Anyways..... I'll talk about the Magic and Industry segment.

On Magic: I kept listening for any sexism inherent in the game or embedded as a cultural practice as opposed to just people being rude and sexist people, and I kept my mind toward solutions and what could be done. One of the first things she brought up was being asked if she indeed played the game. Of course a person could be asking that because they believe as a rule women aren't or shouldn't be into Magic the Gathering (MtG), but that's not the only motivation. Whenever something is odd or rare or new or different, people take notice and ask questions. I remember at a Magic tourny I struck up a conversation with a lady present about the game, only to discover she didn't play the game. I avoided asking her outright because I didn't want to seem sexist, and as it turned out maybe if I did ask I'd have saved myself a slight embarrassment. A lot of what was being described were encounters with specific rude people, and what could be the solution to that? Eliminating rudeness isn't realistic, but making it so that a judges' rule is final (so appeals to another male judge are irrelevant), and that you can only present results to your designated judge in order for it to count, and perhaps establishing a very low if not zero tolerance policy for rude talk in the store could go a long way to solving some of those problems. Hopefully your fellow staff and bosses are behind you on this. Besides these few structural issues, I'm glad to see the problem is less "sexism in MtG" or "inherent sexism in the gaming community" and more "my encounters with sexists who happened to play MtG". As long as there is sexism, it's likely there'll be some unpleasant encounters everywhere. And BTW, sometimes losers are sore losers and will lash out and grasp at any excuse. You know who you should have on your side as a judge? The winners! yay!

On industry hires:I kept wondering, what type of degree do you need to get into game design, if any? If you do need some sort of education (or even if having one just helps), how many females vs males go for and get that education? Because I have to wonder how many women vs men apply for these jobs? So there was a lot of room for statistical analysis which I thought would be illuminating to the conversation. A sexist culture is terrible, but it doesn't seem like something we can outlaw. Infiltrating and changing a company is one option, but highly unlikely. I wonder, would it be better to create that game studio that hires lots of women and has that diverse staff (I have philosophical questions about that goal as well, but not for here)? Isn't the sexist studio, like the sexist society, destined to fail? Isn't the inclusive one destined to succeed? Especially if the idea that women don't buy and play games is a myth (and if we're not just talking about console and PC, but also mobile and web browser, then it def is a myth).

Here you go, Mr Dare3K

"One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences"
- Anita Sarkeesian

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