by Nyambura M. Waruingi
Sandra Castro Pinzón of Tan Grande y Jugando (Colombia) delivered the resounding culmination to our October 2022 We are ONSIDE Conversation: “You have your future in your hands”.
Those on screen, Fariah Laikipian (Kenya), Sham Al Bdour (Jordan), Tiffany Attali (France),
Cristina Amaya (USA), and our moderator, Mariana Chavez (ONSIDE Gaming), nodded in agreement, rejuvenated, inspired. And for us, watching the webinar “Highlighting the Work of Grantees Advancing Gender Justice in And Through Esports and Gaming”, felt a wave of reinvigoration wash over us. Some bruja vibes were definitely a part of this online meeting.
Bruja, witches, healers, empowered women, those integrating the masculine and feminine...depending on the moment in history, the language, the nomenclature shifts.
Gossip, idle talk, a close friend, related to one in God. Again, depending on the moment in history, the person with the power to name determines the lens through which we interpret. Gender justice is about reclaiming and transforming spaces, both literal and linguistic. How we use language is so important to this emancipatory path.
And the brujas in conversation, our five healers, our five empowered women illuminated various trajectories at the heart of delineating these revolutionary journeys. What struck me deeply was the evolution out of western liberal feminist politics, which have shaped many of our cultural and economic transformations in the different countries, and a deeper dive into the evolving nature of an inclusionary, integrated and representative approach.
There’s a focus on centring community-building, wellness advocacy, confidence-building through mentorship, and forging a sustainable path to participation in esports and gaming, where harassment and exploitation are ever-present. In order for us to show up as our full selves, women, non-binary, and the LGBTQI+ communities need to equip themselves with tools and strategies to safely navigate different spaces. It’s a completely different approach from ‘leaning in’. It is not about being of the sector but getting to navigate in otherwise exclusionary and heteronormative male- centred spheres. This, then, expands to create another transformation: men as part of the change we want to see and effect, creating spaces incorporating healthy and positive masculinity.
Through various gender-mainstreaming initiatives from international NGOs, the statistics zero in on the numbers of women, LGBTQI+, and non-binary persons within organizations. However, our brujas emphasized on pivoting to ownership of organizations, initiatives—we are at the centre, shaping the very narratives being constructed that will then forge a path to deconstruct harmful culture codes and perpetuation of stereotypes. Tiffany Attali, for example, crafts games and experiences from a non-binary lens, “creating worlds that erase stereotypes”.
As we pivot to leadership, we recognize the importance of visibility. Sham Al Bdour remarked on how her speaking at events influenced young girls to see themselves as game makers. In seeing ourselves, we work to overcoming the barriers, some of which are about gaining “the opportunity to be in the room.” (Cristina Amaya) Cristina leads by raising money to fund travel and hardware, for example. This networking is crucial to building women and networks based on “communit(ies) built on empathy and compassion” (Fariah Laikipian), which develop our confidences through mentorship.
New and important words shaped our conversation, elevating our engagement. Our language was not metric-biased; it was communitarian-centric. Connection. Collaboration. Genuine interest. Recognition. Understanding. Compassion. And we laughed, deeply, all the while sharing like close friends. This moment in We Are ONSIDE Gaming Conversations was a demonstration of how we were empowering ourselves in abundant, inclusive, revolutionary yet simple ways. The coven, la asamblea, had assembled to transform not only our minds and acts, but most importantly our language of revolt.
Author’s note: The idea of drawing from the lexicon of witches and covens is inspired by the work of Sandra Castro Pinzón with a women’s empowerment initiative called Asamblea, which means coven. This lexicon is also important because powerful women that threatened heteronormative patriarchy in western and colonizing cultures were called witches. It would be interesting to see what the equivalent of this in non-western cultures were.