Sit down kids, I have a story for you.
I got invited the other night to do a retro raid with a good friend of mine’s guild. We were both pretty bored, so off to Naxxramas we went. We start plowing into trash and the raid leader (who is also someone I know) asked for someone to pull the damage reduction buffs off some of the mobs. I, being an eternal jokester, make some crack like “what do I look like, a servant” but happily do it anyways. Shortly after, one of the other guildmates on the run asks, “Well then, can you go to the kitchen and make me a sandwich?”
Imagine a record scratch here. I was on Mumble with my friend so he was the only one that heard the neck snap and string of expletives that followed. I was like “Um, what the fuck? Is he asking for a severe tongue lashing?!” My friend immediately got angry and embarrassed as hell, with good reason. He had spent time talking before about how nice this guildmate was, how well-liked and funny they were. And here they were being about as subtle and annoying as a textbook Redditor. I hadn’t even realized he knew I was a woman. I swallowed my blatant rage and asked politely if we could skip making more sandwich jokes.
That’s where it ended right?
Nope, a minute or two later, another guildmate of my friend asked, “Well if he’s not getting a sandwich, can I get one?” The raid leader said jokingly, “No, you’re probably going to get an ass kicking.”
I spent the rest of the raid feeling like shit. My friend did too, mostly because he had basically assumed his guild would be nice to someone they didn’t know.
Let’s face it – this is a problem. As far back as I can remember while playing World of Warcraft, the easiest way to get some woman’s goat when it’s finally revealed that they are a lady was to rattle some variation of “Make me a sandwich/Get back in the kitchen” joke. Trust me, if you’ve made that joke, you’re not original. You’re not funny. You’re not the 10th, 20th or even 100th person to say that. It’s disrespectful and moreover, it’s sexist.
Unlike so many of the sexist jokes that are out there, I find this one in particular that most alienating and boggling. Women are getting into gaming in droves now, whether it’s casual Facebook games or being on your Call of Duty squad. World of Warcraft has a fairly even split of men and women now, if current numbers are to be believed. There’s no reason to NOT accept that at any given moment, you’ll be surrounded by women, whether they choose to reveal this to you or not. And a lot of times, a lot of them won’t. It’s pretty hard to deal with the fact that every time we are “discovered” or whether we come right out and correct pronouns, there’s a very high risk that it will entail people saying shitty things to us. So despite that fact that we are fairly legion in gaming now, gaming culture is still slanted away from us. It still feels, in a lot of ways, that it is a “man’s world.” So this is why making a “get back in the kitchen” joke is so injurious and ironic to me – not only is gaming rife with women now, but goes against the idea that gamer men truly want us to share a hobby with them.
So what am I really trying to say?
When you make a joke like that, you are saying that not only are women lesser than you (only valuable for creating and procuring food for you), but that they don’t belong in your video games. It’s one thing to denigrate a woman in a video game as being a terrible player, but the whole crux of the sandwich joke is basically saying that this isn’t even a place she should be. Do you really want a Warcraft devoid of women? They make up your raids, your dungeons, your guilds. They have your back in PVP. They organize your guild bank. They are community managers, raid leaders, guild leaders, auction house barons, ranked arena players and more importantly, some of your friends. Is this the kind of message you want to be making?
In case you haven’t been paying attention to my blog, the things we say are important. Even jokes. The source of humor very often has roots deep in truths and the reason jokes happen is that the joke reveals a change against the expectations of the audience. Making a sexist joke stands out because an audience will assume at least some level of parity between women and men and the punchline is that, HA! GOTCHA, you’re not equal to men, you’re good for cooking and crying at soap operas. It’s hurtful.
I guess that is my naive question, then: why do you want to say something that hurts someone else? Even if you don’t intend to, what drives people to say this shit to not only a mixed audience, but people they don’t even know other than them presumably being a woman? There’s a lot of reasons, but a lot of it has to do with the fact that most of the people making these jokes have never had to feel the sting of being excluded (oh wait, aren’t they nerds?) It also has to do with the fact that they don’t even question that they have the privilege to say such things without thinking about what it even means. Hey! You! When you make a joke you think is funny, you’re actually telling another human being that they don’t matter! You’re a shitbag whether this was your intention or not. You’re embarrassing to your friends who know better. Why don’t you try being a decent person and stop quibbling about how words are words and none of them are offensive to you with the insipid blindness that you have never felt dehumanized.
You need to really stop telling women to make sandwiches. Make your own goddamn sandwich, you giant manchild. We need to stop thinking that women don’t belong in the gaming world, because we do. We are here, we’re not going anywhere and we’re going to keep being visible as women. If you tell me to get back in the kitchen again, next time I’m bringing back a meat tenderizer.