Anyone who knew me in real life would realize that I’m tiny compared to my spouse. He towers over me, over a head taller than I am. It’s incongruous at best. People notice him first when we walk into a room and he is memorable. Also, he towers over almost everyone. But he also towers over me online. He is respected amongst the gamer community, not solely because he’s intelligent, erudite and well-spoken, but also because he has interesting games and does things which make him interesting to other gamers.
He also has about 10 times the followers that I do on most social media.
It means that when I started doing game art for him, it got seen. And a lot of it, despite being attributed to me within the books, instead was attributed to him. A few years later and he’s started drawing art in a similar style to mine, though by no means identical. Now a lot of people not only assuredly attributes my art as his, but he gets a lot more credit than I ever did. My art fueled his products and are seen as something he achieved.
And it’s not like he’s doing it on purpose. But here I am, staring at yet another piece of my art and hearing everyone heap praises on him while he struggles to get them to acknowledge that the art is actually mine. Some listen, and tell him that my art is great (none of them think to actually tell me this), but most don’t seem to listen.
This is not the only time this has happened.
Time and again, the things that I do, especially online or in relation to gaming, are given over to his name because he’s far more memorable and recognizable than I am. He holds the cult of personality and I’m the tag along. Hoping that while standing in his shadow, some of the light of appreciation actually reaches me. And it stings. Hoo boy, does it sting sometimes.
Part of it is that he is more well known than me. Because he has a certain following and because he is recognizable, it means that when he promotes my stuff, there is a much better chance of it getting seen. But the name next to the post is his. And attribution on the internet gets muddled quickly enough as is. In person, it’s because everyone knows that he’s the game designer. The rules monger. The guy who knows how all the mechanics work and can tweak and fix things to his preference. So whenever we are sitting around a table, talking about gaming, he’s still the one people listen to. My opinions, especially later on, have been attributed to him.
So, a few years back, I made a conscious decision to alienate my name from his online. I don’t post as his spouse. I don’t announce that we’re together. I don’t post a lot on his stuff. Online, you’d be hard pressed to associate us as anything. And I did that so that when I do post, my voice isn’t assumed to be his. That if I have a thought on gaming theory or art or feminism, it isn’t assumed to be his or gained from him. We talk constantly offline about the things we’re posting so it’s not like we aren’t aware of each others opinions. It’s not like we don’t influence each other. But when he expresses an opinion, it’s his. When I express an opinion, I’m at risk of being told that I’m just parroting him or it’s spousal bickering.
And the weird thing is the reverse. Which of his actions are attributed to me. I mean, obviously, it happens. People who see my art first will point out that his style follows mine. But that’s rare. Instead the comments range around domestic affairs. I’m given credit for a clean apartment despite the fact that he does a sizable chunk of it. Organizing a gathering is usually laid at my feet even when he did the work. I’m given credit for being emotionally supportive when others assume that he needed emotional support.
The fact that attribution of actions falls along gendered lines is not lost on me. I’ve noticed myself doing it with other friends unless I specifically know better. It’s so engrained in us to assume that women are responsible for all the household work and men are responsible for the production of products that it slips by that we’re not acknowledging the people who actually did the work.
And while I do think that it’s not fair that people don’t notice that my spouse cleans or washes dishes, I think it’s worse when credit for game design or art or setting is taken from women and given to the men they live with because that’s part of how they make a living. How they are acknowledged socially and culturally.
Every time my work credit is given to my spouse, I get more discouraged. What’s the point? What’s the point of struggling and creating and making something interesting if no one cares that you did it? What’s the point of educating and holding a reasoned opinion if everyone just assumes you are parroting another person and haven’t actually thought about it?
Maybe it’s worse because I’m a gamer wife. Because I’m always near my spouse and people just lump the two of us together and it just “happens” to fall out that it’s him that gets acknowledged first. For convenience sake, people assume a couple is a single, autonomous unit, and treat us like copies of each other. Treat us like we are the same person with access to the same free time, abilities and opinions. But then, I wonder why it’s always him who gets the credit for it.
Habit, I suppose.
There is one final part to my series. Next week, I’m going to wrap this up with a summary of my posts and some of the experiences I had while writing these.