The final post in our International Women’s Week series comes from Ashlyn Sparrow of Ci3’s Game Changer Chicago Design Lab.
As a kid, my favorite color was blue and I had an intense aversion to dresses, as they were too “windy”. My toy chest consisted of action figures, Barbies, Legos (that glow in the dark!) and an Easy Bake Oven. However, the best toy was my police car. With its flashing red and blue lights, the car was constantly on the look out for Barbie who had a mild case of kleptomania. How else was she getting all those clothes?
Ken: “This is the last time I’m bailing you out, B.”
My dad built computers. I would always watch him and eventually we started building them together. Ever since, I’ve always enjoyed technology. I remember my eleventh birthday; he bought me a PlayStation and three games: Tomb Raiders, Spice World and Final Fantasy VIII (FFVIII). The latter sounded cooler, so I connected the PlayStation to my TV and inserted disc one; the opening cut scene changed my life, forever. The graphics were beautiful; the music was amazing; I had never seen anything like it. From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I ran to the living room where my parents were watching TV and I said in a loud voice, “Mommy, Daddy, I know what I want to do when I grow up. I want to create video games!”
Thus, began my journey into video games, nerd culture…and gender roles!
As you have probably gathered, I was pretty gender neutral. Growing up, I never heard “Girls don’t build computers or girls don’t play with Legos”. I was just a nerdy little kid who constantly shared her excitement about video games, “pokemans” and other things my parents didn’t understand. So you can imagine my surprise when all the boys in my class would say:
“You play games? But you’re…a girl.”
“Girls don’t play games.”
“Girls aren’t good at games.”
I was utterly confused. Especially since I was living proof that girls play games and are, in fact, good at them. Interestingly enough, this was around Christmas time and my school had a large party. We could watch movies, or even play video games. Of course I brought in my PlayStation and commenced to dominate in Tekken, SoulCalibur, and Dead or Alive for the entire day. These boys never bothered me again. But at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling a little weird.
Was it wrong for me to play video games? Was it wrong for me to hate romance? Was it wrong for to study martial arts?
What does my gender have to do with my interests and hobbies?
Not a damn thing.
Why can’t I be a warrior and a princess?
Girls play games. Girls program computers. Girls write epic sci-fi fantasies. Girls can do whatever interests them.
And guess what?
Boys like pink. Boys bake cookies. Boys wear make up. Boys can do whatever interests them.
Gender roles are nothing more than a societal construct of to put people in boxes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with breaking out of the norm; don’t be embarrassed, embrace it. Never let anyone dictate who you are and what you like based on your gender. Do what makes you happy and live life to the fullest!
Ashlyn Sparrow is a Learning Design Specialist at Ci3’s Game Changer Chicago Design Lab. Follow her on Twitter and check out her Tumblr at ashlynsparrow.tumblr.com.