I get a lot of shit from the MMO community sometimes for my blog name. No, not this one, but the one belonging to my WAR blog, Girl IRL. There are, from my experience, three opinions about the name Girl IRL, expressed by members of the blogging community.
- No opinion — my blog name escapes this person’s notice, or they just don’t care about blog names. (For the record, I am a part of this group when it comes to other sites’ names. I don’t really care about blog names and pay more attention to content.)
- Positive opinion — this person likes my blog name for whatever reason. Usually those belonging to this group continue emphasizing my gender when they refer to me or the blog, i.e. “Jennifer is a girl gamer whose female perspective is a great opportunity for us to understand what women experience in the gaming world.”
- Negative opinion — those belonging to this group hate my blog name. Many dislike it because they believe that I’m some kind of attention whore, flaunting my gender in an effort to get more site views or readers. Others are annoyed by the blog name because they think that the combination of my gender and my hobbies is nothing novel or interesting and that my pointing out of those two facts is, like, soooo 2003.
I honestly wish more people belonged to group number one. I hate naming things. I also hate seeing what other people name things. Character names, book titles, blog names, whatever — I find naming to be a very awkward tradition. I had an incredibly hard time deciding what to name my WAR blog. In the game, I have no allegiance to a specific side (Order or Destruction), career, race, or character. There were no naming opportunities there. I’m also not terribly clever when it comes to word play or puns, meaning a cute, snappy name was out of reach for me.
It ultimately came down to a matter of identity. Who am I? A lady who plays WAR and likes to blog about it. Multiple name ideas sprung from this, and I repeatedly searched to see if they were already taken. “That’s What She Said”? Taken. “She Said So”? Nope. I thought about “Femme de Guerre”, a take on “Woman of War”, the name of a feature I did with Warhammer Vault before the game launched. I decided against it, though, afraid that readers might think I was writing a blog in French. When “Girl IRL” finally popped into my brain, I loved it. Not only did it identify who I was as a blogger — a girl in real life — it had a small element of word play, as “irl” is seen in both the word “girl” and the abbreviation for “in real life”. For someone who is terrible at naming, it seemed like a stroke of genius.
I resent the fact that negative readers think I’m trying to get attention. I’ve tried to explain many times that my blog name is merely a representation of who I am. This explanation doesn’t get me anywhere with people who belong to the major stereotype for gamers: 18-35 year old white men. I admit that I am pointing out my inherent difference from most of the blogging community, but I’m not doing it to get attention or love letters or cyber invites or whatever these negative readers might believe.
If I was attempting to “cash in”, as it were, on my gender, don’t you suppose I would employ language or aesthetics that are typically ascribed to female stereotypes? Wouldn’t I cover my blog in pink wallpaper and glittery animated images, and flirt with my readers? A “girly” blog is one I would expect to see signed with a cutesy “Girl IRL out!” at the end of each post, or a wealth of emoticons littering the text. That’s obviously not how every woman behaves (or maintains a blog), but it seems like those who get angry with me for calling my blog “Girl IRL” are expecting something of the like.
The fact is, sexism and gender stereotypes are completely unavoidable in our society. I can hardly stand to write this post, as I consider the implications of what women might think of my words, what men might think. Some Americans like to think that racism is over now that we’ve elected Barack Obama — that the country has acknowledged that African Americans can achieve the highest office in the land, and therefore have nothing more to complain about — but most Americans know that, sadly, racism is still as present as always. There is a similar notion that sexism no longer exists because there are more females in the workplace than ever before, that somehow all the problems of the pre-feminist era have been solved by simply allowing women to work. I hope that most Americans don’t take stock with this notion, that they recognize the continued presence of sexism in our culture, perpetrated by both men and women.
Girl IRL and Girl Unplugged, however, are not sites meant to address sexism. They are not meant to address gender in any real way. I made Girl IRL because I wanted to blog about my favorite game. I didn’t do it to present the perspective of all women in the gaming community. I also didn’t do it because I meant to imply that my perspective, as a female gamer, is any different from that of a male gamer. My identity as a woman is stronger than any other identity I have: gamer, blogger, writer, student, American, whatever. I consider myself a woman before anything, and therefore proclaim it in my blog’s name. If anyone has a problem with it, fine. But don’t go accusing me of trying to flaunt my gender as an effort to lure you onto my blog. Girl IRL is a warning more than an invitation. It means I have a strong sense of identity and I won’t alter it to please anyone.