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Meagan Marie - What would you do if you weren't afraid?
As many of my female peers are doing at the moment, Iím reading a book by Facebookís Sheryl Sandberg called Lean In. The first chapter asks: What would you do if you werenít afraid?

My answer? Iíd write this blog.

Hello. My name is Meagan Marie, and Iím a person. Iíve decided Iím going to start standing up for myself in order to be more frequently treated like one.

Something transpired at PAX this weekend that was a true eye opener. While hosting a Tomb Raider cosplay gathering, comprised of eight or so incredibly nice and talented young women, a member of the press asked if he could grab a quick interview. I said heíd need to ask them, not me, and they agreed. He squeezed into the group and posed a question. I couldnít hear what he said over the hubbub of the show floor, but the confused and uncomfortable looks from the ladies indicated that it wasnít what they expected, to say the least.

I moved in closer and inquired ďExcuse me, what did you ask?Ē with a forced smile on my face, so to give him the benefit of the doubt. He laughed and didnít respond, moving a few steps away as I repeated the question to the group of women. Turns out heíd probed what it felt like ďknowing that none of the men in this room could please them in bed.Ē Yes, Iím aware itís a poor adaptation of a gag told by a certain puppet dog with an affinity for insults. Lack of originally doesnít excuse this behavior, however.

My anger flared upon hearing this, and for a moment I almost let it get the best of me. I attempted to calm myself down before walking towards him and the cameraman, and expressing that it was rude and unprofessional to assume that these young women were comfortable discussing sexual matters on camera. I intended to leave the conversation at that, but his subsequent response escalated matters quickly and clearly illustrated that this ran much deeper than a poor attempt at humor. He proceeded to tell me that ďI was one of those oversensitive feministsĒ and that ďthe girls were dressing sexy, so they were asking for it.Ē Yes, he pulled the ďcosplay is consentĒ card.

At this point, as he snaked off into the crowd muttering angrily at me, I was livid. Actually shaking a bit. It was inexcusable in my mind to treat the group of women in this manner, especially when I gathered them there to participate in an official capacity. I suppose I felt protective for this reason. As if Iíd exposed them to an undesirable element of the convention. They united to celebrate their fandom, only to have an uncomfortable and unprofessional moment captured on film.

As I stated publicly this weekend, we escalated the issue to PAX and they responded with overwhelming concern and worked to ensure he wouldnít bother anyone at the this or future PAX events. They handled the situation with flying colors.

But this encounter isnít the crux of my blog. This blog is about what I came to realize as a result of the press memberís actions. And what I realized is this: When it comes to defending others, Iím fierce. Iím assertive. And I will hold my ground. One of the cosplayers tweeted me to praise my bravery and say they wish they had the courage to stand up too. The truth is my bravery doesnít run that deep. When it comes to defending myself Iím a rug that is walked over repeatedly. This has to stop.

Similar behavior has been directed at me for years. Back in 2007 at my very first GDC, I was starry-eyed and overwhelmed to be in the midst of so many people I idolized. So when a drunken CEO of a then-startup pointed to my midsection and said ďI want to have my babies in there,Ē I laughed. I did the same next year when another developer told me that he ďdidnít recognize me with my clothes onĒ after meeting me the night prior at a formal event (to which I wore a cocktail dress). The trend continued for years, and I took it silently each and every time.

It got so bad that one of my Game Informer coworkers had to sit me down and convince me to file a complaint against a massive publisher, after one of their PR leads repeatedly commented about how much he ďloved my titsĒ at a party. Each time I laughed it off and internalized my embarrassment, cementing a fixed smile on my face while fighting back tears. Why? Because I was afraid to rock the boat. I was afraid to perpetuate rumors that I was uptight, difficult, or had no sense of humor. I was afraid of what Iíd heard being said about other women being said about me. So I would stick up for others, but never for myself. Sticking up for others was the right thing to do. I had to be careful not to stick my neck out too far, though.

Iím ashamed to admit my lack of courage has continued to this day. While on a press tour in Europe late last year I sat alone with an interviewer while he set up his camera. PR was talking to another member of the press just out of earshot. I asked the journalist what his readers would like to know about me first, per the introduction he outlined earlier. He responded nonchalantly, ďWell, theyíd really like to see you naked.Ē I was so shocked I didnít even register what he said, and I defaulted to my uncomfortable chuckle and frozen smile. I conducted the interview as if nothing had happened. I should have walked out of the room then and there. I should have immediately reported it to PR. But I didnít, because I was afraid.

And while these industry comments hurt the most, as they often do when coming from peers, Iíve got hope for change even if it is motivated by fear. In a social economy where one unprofessional tweet can ruin a career, I feel like the few unsavory industry personalities are becoming more aware of their words. My line in the sand doesnít end there, though. Iím going to start holding commenters accountable for their actions too, even if I can only do so on my social spaces.

So here is the deal. Iím a person. Iím not just a ďgirl on the internet.Ē I am not comfortable with you remarking on my breasts. I am not comfortable with you implying that youíd like to have sex with me. And I donít appreciate you rating my looks against my girlfriends in candid photos.

While I canít stop these comments and questions from arising when they pop up on random blogs across the web, I can stand up and say that that I wonít accept being talked to in this manner anymore. Iím not simply going to ignore you; Iím going to call you out and tell you that youíre being inappropriate. Just because I have a public job and an equally public hobby doesnít give you the right to ignore my comfort zone.

The situation this weekend at PAX made me question why Iím willing to stand up for others, but not myself. By allowing myself to be treated this way Iím perpetuating that this behavior is acceptable. And it isnít. If I continue stand by silently, I might as well sit on the sidelines and watch while other young women endure what I have.

The treatment and representation of women in gaming has come to a head this past year, and I know some of you are tired of hearing about it. Iím tired of living it. I want to feel safe and valued as a member of this industry, whether Iím conducting an interview, talking to fans on a convention floor, or cosplaying. And I have a right to that.

Iím not afraid anymore. Iím angry.

[For those of you who have been so supportive these past years, both in the industry and out, please know this blog isnít directed at you. I canít imagine dedicating my life to anything other than video games. And thatís why Iím going to fight my hardest to leave it a better place.]
 
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Thank you Meagan for allowing us to repost this inspirational blog - Sara