Red/Yellow cards

The gamification of feminism?

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers from Annalee Newitz. Paraphrased:

Do you have examples of or ideas for the “gamification of feminism” – ways that people have turned advocating feminism into a game or fun activity?

Red/Yellow cardsExample: KC Crowell printed and distributed sports-style “red cards” and “yellow cards” to give to people being sexist at DEFCON 20 a few weeks ago.

What are your examples, ideas, and thoughts?

14 thoughts on “The gamification of feminism?

  1. regis

    I’d be curious to see if this can actually work and wouldn’t be subverted by griefers into trying to be the most misogynistic. eg “I got FOUR red cards and 7 yellow!”

    1. Kimberly Chapman

      Yeah, I’d pretty much expect the people who are the real problem turning this into a pride game of their own. The only good result from that, I suppose, is that they might do something stupid enough to actually get themselves thrown out of the con.

      1. Annalee Newitz

        Apparently some people did turn those cards into badges of pride, but a surprisingly large number did not. I figure that even if they do subvert the game in this way, they are still playing the cards they’ve been dealt as it were. They are owning the fact that some woman (or women) would call their behavior creepy or sexist.

        However, it seems as if a lot of people used the cards as an educational tool, and even men were handing them out to other men.

    2. GarrickW

      Perhaps a better alternative would be to give a highly visible badge to everyone from the start, and confiscate them from people caught behaving in an exclusionary manner.

      After all, systems where you lose points from your driver’s license are apparently (!) more effective than systems where you gain points. Similar logic should apply.

        1. ConFigures

          I think confiscating good-behavior badges would be problematic — I might not want to get close enough to someone behaving badly to remove something attached to them (badge). Even if I were that daring, it takes the dispute into the physical realm (if it isn’t there already), not as much as shoving someone, but prone to escalation.

    3. Selena Deckelmann

      This story gave me hope:

      There’s something interesting about these cards – they’re helping DEFCON people adopt a usable vocabulary for talking about harassment, an addition to our jargon.

      Here’s an example. A few days ago I was part of a Rio elevator full of DEFCON people when it stopped at a floor where a non-attendee woman was looking to get in. There was obviously no room inside, but one of the guys hollered at her to “get in anyway – you’re a cute woman – we love women – this ratio needs to be improved!” She instantly disappeared. As the elevator door closed, another guy looked at him and said “dude, yellow card.” Silence the rest of the way down.

      It’s a small thing, but I was the one DEFCON woman in the elevator, and I appreciated that verbal yellow card – in other words, while I was in the middle of mentally processing what had just happened and whether creepy attention would shift to me, a fellow attendee had quickly and effectively reset the tone of the elevator to basic civility. This is good.

  2. Lily

    The Bechdel Test comes to mind – I’ve had people who don’t ID as feminists take well to it. It creates a meta-game out of media, which geeks tend to like. Even if they don’t really care about how many female characters there are, once the Test has been explained they start to *notice*, in my experience, so it seems to work well for consciousness-raising

    1. Annalee

      +1 on this. Guys that I’ve explained the Bechdel Test to have definitely taken to it, and have started explaining it to other people. My favorite is when I hear one of them explaining that it’s not about the stereotype that women are man-crazy; it’s a measure of how woman-driven the plot is. It warms my heart.

  3. Sean R.

    The essence of gameification (which has its own problems, as well, this video does a great job critiquing the entire idea) is reward mechanisms. This is the essential problem: Good, non-sexist behaviour is invisible. It’s only problematic behaviour you notice. Ergo, you can only punish, not reward. That rules out gameification, to my mind.

    1. Ms. Sunlight

      I disagree.

      Addressing problematic behaviour directly is not the only way to combat problematic behaviour.

      You can gamify things designed to change a toxic culture or to encourage people to help others or to notice things that are hurtful to others. You can gamify things to raise awareness and gain or motivate allies, who might be on your side but unsure as to how they can help.

      Sexism is like an infestation of rats; certainly, when you see rat poo on your kitchen floor you can buy traps or call an exterminator, but if you live in a neighbourhood that’s prone to rat problems you also rat-proof your waste bins, don’t leave food out on counters to tempt them in etc.

      One might argue that the main audience of the red and yellow cards is not the people actually awarded them for misbehaviour but rather those privileged others who might think, wow, I hadn’t realised just how much of this crap was going on.

  4. Julia

    I think it would be a good idea to give those cards for having problematic behavior in general, no matter what nature – sexist, racist, homophobic, rude, antisocial. It might be no biggie for a sexist to collect “sexist cards”, as they don’t take those things seriously anyway. It might be a matter of pride for an anti-feminist to collect as many as possible. But only a real psychopath could be proud of collecting 7 “creep” and 4 “asshole” cards… Anyway, sexism is a type of antisocial behavior, isn’t it time to recognize it as a part of such?

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