The trouble with “wife aggro”
I need to start this off by being real: I was invited to speak on a panel at PAX Prime. The proposal was titled “Women in a Virtual World: How Gender Roles Can Affect Your Elf” and it was specifically by, for, and about women (who tend to be drastically underrepresented in conferences, and especially gaming spaces). My particular focus was to be about being gamingmom: balancing society’s view of “good mother” with “holy shit hardcore gaming takes a lot of time and effort” and how that momitude reflects in gaming spaces like MMOs.
When the panel submission was denied, I figured I would just spend some time talking here about what I intended to discuss at PAX. I have some public appearance issues anyway and actually getting to PAX would have been really challenging (I really super like my kid and I couldn’t have taken her with me, for example), so it was better this way, right? Right?
Well, yesterday (more specifically, last night) that all kind of changed.
This is because last night I learned that while “Women in a Virtual World” was denied, on the PAX schedule posted yesterday was “Wife Aggro, Career Obligations, and Time Constraints: How to Play While Meeting Life’s Demands.”
Now, I know I have a little bit of bias because my panel about the same fucking thing without the terrible title was denied, but y’all, seriously: Wife Aggro
Surely you will have a heart attack and die of unsurprise when I tell you that this particular panel was proposed and will be moderated by a man.
So let’s talk a little bit about my BURNING SEARING WHITE-HOT RAEG!!1 here, shall we?
It’s needlessly exclusionist.
When you title your panel “Wife Aggro,” what you are saying is that this is a place for dudes and that women (unless they’re committed monogamous lesbians from one of a handful of US states or Canada, I guess?) are not invited, because you’re going to be talking about Bitches, Amirite?. You might as well put up a sign that proclaims you the He-Man Woman Hater’s Club and that girls have cooties and also you have the emotional maturity of eight year-olds, because really, you guys? REALLY?
It’s misogynist as hell.
WIVES ARE TOTAL FUNKILLERS, YOU GUYS. WOMEN HATE FUN AND ESPECIALLY HATE WHEN YOU HAVE FUN AND WILL GO OUT OF THEIR WAY TO RUIN IT. BITCHES, AMIRITE.
How is this attitude still so prevalent. How. HOW. “Wife Aggro” is basically code for “I don’t know how to treat my partner as a human being with her own individual thoughts and feelings, and her desire, no matter how banal, is less important than mine.” You know who else acts like this, like what they want is most important and they don’t give a shit what you want or need, or how to generally behave like a cooperative human being? My kid. BECAUSE SHE’S TWO. AND SHE ONLY DOES IT WHEN SHE’S GRUMPY.
Do you really want your behavior to be unfavorably compared to a toddler’s? Do you?
It’s straight-up fucking wrong.
Dear dudebros: I was the hardcore raider in my family. Not Mr. Aro. Me. So you can take your “wife aggro” and you can go fuck yourselves. I know y’all are so scared about getting the cooties into your clubhouse and you’re scared that vaginas are communicable diseases or some shit, but there are a lot of gamers who identify as women, and there are a lot of women gamers who have successful romantic and emotional partnerships. Continuing to refer to “wife aggro” completely erases women like me (and there are many women like me; I am friends with several!) who are the predominant gamers in our relationships.
I know PA is run by garbage nightmares and the whole thing is full of hatey dudebros and fnarg blee blee blorp, but I keep hoping that someone somewhere will have an epiphany and realize that there is A PROBLEM, and they NEED TO FIX IT. Unfortunately, instead of that, what I get is the Wife Aggro panel guy searching twitter for people talking about this and giving folks a pile of condescending bullshit about how it’s really super inclusive, honest and people are just being totally unfair!
So, if one were to, say, give the benefit of the doubt and assume in good faith that yes, this is about how all people can balance their virtual world and physical world commitments, why in gods name would you give it a dismissive and exclusionary title? This person specifically chose that title, specifically chose to be associated with that phrase, specifically chose to make that the manner in which other people would find and be exposed to his ideas. Not cool. No dice, dude.
Here’s the thing: gaming is not some special snowflake hobby that requires unique management skills to integrate into your life. Before the gup was born, I was not only a hardcore raider, but also heavily involved in community theatre, which is a huge time commitment; I’ve also played sports, managed eleventy hojillion virtual communities, been a member of a beer-tasting group, played on trivia teams, and attended a weekly knitalong. All of these things require time management skills and communication with a partner who doesn’t necessarily share those interests. I even occasionally make up my own mind about what TV shows to watch without him! Can you believe my nerve?
As an aside, dude is asking women to educate him. Not cool. No dice, dude.
I asked him if he had any specific articles in mind, because while most of the literature of this stripe tends to be gross, dismissive, mansplainy bullshit that throws around gender roles like it’s fucking rugby or some shit I’m sure it’s totally possible for there to be something written that explores how to share things you like with new people without being total garbage douchebags about it. I just … well, I’ve never read it, because the kinds of people who would write something like that also know that it’s really very simple: JUST INVITE SOMEONE TO SHARE A THING YOU LIKE, AND IF THEY DON’T LIKE IT LET IT GO AND MOVE ON. Unfortunately, he had no specific examples, and still wants a woman to tell him how shit is wrong. Not cool. No dice, dude.
This is like Blackface Up With Whitey Author Lady who says that judging a book by its cover is just like racism for reals. Dude. Your panel has a sexist title. People are going to think you are a sexist jerkbag. WORDS, THEY MEAN THINGS. I am totally sorry that you has a sad because people are calling you out on it. Oh no wait, I’m not sorry at all. Because bringing up your feelings about how unfair it is that you’re being judged for marginalizing women? Not cool. No dice, dude.
Dear dudes: yeah, the patriarchy’s not so good to you either. It’s really not cool, huh?
An important footnote: I suppose you could use “wife aggro” as a descriptor for my family, but it would be specifically used to describe JESUS FUCK ARE YOU USING YOUR GODDAMN COOLDOWNS BECAUSE GOD DAMN IT STOP PULLING EVERYTHING IN THE FUCKING ROOM AT ONCE WHAT THE GODDAMN HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU