Bioware’s Jennifer Hepler and Gendered Insults

EDIT: Her name is Jennifer not Jessica and this is why I write posts in the evening and review them thirty million times before I publish.

So Jennifer Hepler is a writer at BioWare and said some things about games which I disagree with but we’re not going to go there. She suggested a “skip combat” button in games. Since the schtick here at TeamV isn’t about critiqueing games as games, but as part of a dialogue with society and a method by which we as humans learn about the world around us, I’m not going to discuss the part where I disagree with her.

I’m going to discuss the part where, out of all the writers who gather ire at BioWare, and of the types of comments they have flung at them, Jennifer Hepler gets bullshit thrown at her in a unique way, and I am disappointed that I haven’t seen major outlets commenting on this.

See, it’s not just that people disagree with Hepler. I mean, hell, I disagree with her. But it’s what people are calling her. “Fat bitch.” “Obese cunt.” These are insults flung exclusively at women, and they are all breeds of problematic. When Gaider came down on the “Straight Male Gamer” nobody called him a fat bitch. Because people insult men differently than we insult women. They insult men as human beings, getting on their case for what they have said and done specifically. But they insult women specifically as women, and see little else worth noting.

Why is the use of weight as an insult a problem for women? It’s a two-fold issue. One, it says that being overweight is the worst possible thing a human can be. I mean, hey, at least Hitler was skinny, amirite? Fatness is viewed as a character flaw, and that’s kind of stupid, considering how much human bodies really want to hang on to fat. And two, it says that a woman’s appearance is the primary source of her worth. She isn’t worthwhile for her brain, for what she can create, what she can do, whatever. There’s a sense that the things women do aren’t worthwhile unless the woman is also attractive. And when she’s unattractive, it doesn’t matter.

Son, this is objectification. This is reducing a human’s worth to a mound of flesh and judging their physical makeup instead of the things they produce.

I’m not saying I think Hepler is right in what she said (in fact, I think she’s quite wrong — games are games, and if you want to skip over combat it’s probably because that combat is a piece of shit at which point you have failed at doing the base thing of a game which is making it fun — whoops, sorry, done with my rant there). But if you’re going to bag on Hepler for what she said, bag on her for what she said. Say “That’s dumb, here’s why.” No need for attacks ad homenim.

Guess what, Internet? I agree with you that what she said was dumb and incorrect. But you know what? You are fucking pieces of shit for how you expressed your differing opinion. Is that an attack on your character? Sure, but you’ve shown yourselves to have terrible character, so that’s what I’m calling you out on.

Gaming culture, wise the fuck up, and do better. Gaming journalists, wise the fuck up and call this bullshit out for what it is. I’d love to not have to run this blog because I’m having too much fun not getting distracted by your stupid shit.

4 thoughts on “Bioware’s Jennifer Hepler and Gendered Insults

  1. Morgan Dempsey says:

    If you don't have the courage to admit who you are when you say stupid stuff like "fatness is a character flaw" then I'm just going to delete your comment.

  2. dandyglenn says:

    1) "Jennifer Hepler gets bullshit thrown at her in a unique way"
    Wait what? Except for, possibly, every non-white or non-heterosexual person who works at Bioware.

    How about instead: "Jennifer Hepler is currently getting bullshit thrown at her that focus on her gender and appearance as opposed to her dumb remarks"

    2) "Fat Bitch" is not an insult thrown EXCLUSIVELY at women.

    3) "They insult men as human beings, getting on their case for what they have said and done specifically."
    This doesn't follow, people insult men as men, women as women, men as women and women as men and also people as people. At the risk of engaging in the same argument deflating hyperbole as you do All insults are intended to target the vulnerable traits of their victims whether it's calling into question the attractiveness of a women, or the sexual prowess of a man.

    4) "One, it says that being overweight is the worst possible thing a human can be. I mean, hey, at least Hitler was skinny, amirite? " I fail to see how calling a person fat or insulting someone as fat says that being overweight is the worst possible thing… Does that mean that when I call someone dumb I am also saying that being dumb is the worst possible thing. Also isn't that the point of insulting a person? ALSO did you just Godwin you're own argument?

    5) "Fatness is viewed as a character flaw" This is true, it is VIEWED as a character flaw, that doesn't mean it is a character flaw. The stupidity of that viewpoint doesn't seem countered by your appeal to biological operation of fat cells

    6) "And two, it says that a woman’s appearance is the primary source of her worth." nah I don't see that either, while fatness is often associated with ugly (in the parlance of insults) they correlate without causation likewise the insult of fatty doesn't say that the person is worthless because they are un-pretty, it says they have failed to be the perceived norm. (which I acknowledge is a stupid perception)

    7) "You are fucking pieces of shit for how you expressed your differing opinion." True, but, the indignation of your approach doesn't seem to educate, doesn't invite people to do better and comes off as a tad whiney and righteous.

    Draw down the hyperbole and refocus your argument on the salient failings of the mob attack and you will make an airtight assault on their stupidity. As it stands this is a shakey counter arguement.

    My emails is!

    • Morgan Dempsey says:

      1) Meh.

      2) I can't say I've ever heard a man called a "fat bitch" as an opening to an argument about something they've said, but I suppose it could have happened. Still, it's a gendered insult thrown predominantly at women, so the core of my point still stands.

      3) Predominantly, on the internet, women are degraded for the simple fact that they are women, and frequently the point they make is not engaged, or if it is, it constantly comes with insults flung at them because they are women.

      4) Eh, I'm not bothering with this one. If you don't see the parallel, that's fine, doesn't mean it's not there. And yep, totally Godwinned myself :)

      5) I think 4 ties into this one.

      6) And this ties to 4 as well. Again, because you don't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.

      7) Yeah, well, I don't always have to educate. It isn't my job. Sometimes I'm just annoyed. I'm sorry you don't like my tone, but I'm entitled to it.

      (As an aside, I'm likely not to continue this argument because it tires me and I don't really feel compelled to rehash my point over and over.)

  3. MadGastronomer says:

    The way Ms. Hepler has been treated is unconscienable.

    Also, I have to say I agree with her. I see a lot of games I'd be interested in the story of, but I just don't enjoy combat play at all. If I could enjoy the plots without the combats, I'd buy a lot more games. I know I'm in the minority here, but how hard would it be to implement to pick up an additional small market share?

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