I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month in November of 2013, better known as NaNoWriMo. I was originally going to title the novel I Left You for Dave and Busters based on the fact that the novel begins with the main character, Cameron de la Cruz, being stood up one night by the man named David Serna who she was dating because he wanted to go to Dave and Busters. Everything snowballs from there, including a drastic career change, sudden influx of a multi-million dollar offshore Swiss bank account, and love pentagons galore. The man who the David Serna character was loosely based on, a fellow writer in both the novel and in real life, suggested that I change the title to Video Games.
I wrangled for quite some time, trying to figure out why exactly I was so entranced by that simple title. Was it because I agreed that I needed a shorter title? Was it because I wanted something more abstract that the Times Square, glaring imagery of the adult version of Chuck E. Cheese’s AKA Dave and Busters? Maybe it was because I’m such a huge fan of Lana Del Rey and if Video Games ever became a movie, well, there’s an instant theme song and soundtrack right there.
I stumbled upon the Fifty Shades of Feminism collection the other day. One of the first pieces in the collection, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes, and Susie Orbach is a piece by Naomi Alderman entitled Wild West Video. The first lines read as follows:
“I write novels, and I write video games. I suppose it might seem obvious where I’d have the greater problem with sexism. After all, novels are a nice, safe, female-dominated industry with special prizes, magazines and imprints just for women. And video games? They’re the Wild West. Lawless, aggressive, male-oriented. No place for a lady” (Alderman, 2013, p.13).
My heart skipped a beat. I read these first lines over and over again until I fully absorbed the paragraph I had just read. This explained the motivation behind why I decided to write my debut novel in the first place. Of course writing is a passion of mine, but even more so is my passion for promoting and being a part of the greater good of gender equality. If there was some way, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant, I could give back to my fellow community of women, this was it. This helped explained what I had been feeling for months and what I could not completely name.
The title Video Games is significant for both myself and the character I loosely based myself on. The main character in the novel, an anti-heroine of sorts, is ambitious, strong-willed, determined, and most of all, naïve and disillusioned with the workings and harsh realities of the world. The world is a man’s world, a patriarchy that the main character refuses to accept as she attempts to play with the “big boys” of different races and sexual orientations. Even if they were part of a racial minority or part of the LGBTQIAA community—regardless of whether they were ready to admit it—, they strongly believed that they held more power over her solely because she was a woman.
These men did not necessarily mean to hurt her because she was a woman. After all, the majority of the novel took place in New York City, one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse cities on the planet, known for being open-minded and liberally and socially progressive. Instead, what these men were doing was being ignorantly sexist: a problem that continues to reveal itself in the modern, developed world.
Of course there are women with more serious problems. I recognize that what your average woman in a developed country deals with socially speaking is nowhere near as horrific as the oppression that women in developing countries deal with on a day-to-day basis. However, what I am saying and what I am encouraging is to help both ourselves and our sisters in the developed world be more aware of the issues we are facing. The point is that the overall health and well-being of one person contributes to the overall health and well-being of the planet, and if one person is feeling out of sorts, then that contributes to the imbalance of our entire global society. In other words, we have to love and take care of ourselves before we attempt to take care of others.
On that note, let’s have a conversation. Let’s be realistic, honest, and pragmatic. Let’s figure out a way to solve the problems we face together, big and small. It is all about perspective. Take care of yourselves. Believe in yourselves. Love yourselves. Love each other. It’s for the greater good. Spread positive vibes.
Appignanesi, L., Holmes, R., & Orbach, S. (Eds.) (2013). Fifty shades of feminism. London, England: Virago