Gender issues are as relevant as ever. It's a hot topic in gaming (evident in a lot of Gamespot articles and posts), but resonates even more when discussing the global culture in general. Anything commercial in our society is extremely genderised (every other product comes in blue for boys and pink for girls, it's ridiculous). Furthermore, women are being extremely hypersexualised (80s music videos seem so innocent now). Mistreatment and harassment of women (or men, for that matter) is something we should not tolerate, ever. Yet it happens, a LOT. If you're saying: 'but... nowadays women are mostly treated equally', chances are you're a caucasian male. As in real life, ingame harassment of women is more often (and far less benign) than you might think. We need to define the source of this. It matters why are things the way they are - if we know why, we can see the whole issue as a part of the bigger picture, and then make correct judgements.
The bigger picture is: it's a Man's world. Notice the big M. Unfortunately, general attitude is that being a Man means YES to domination, competition, ruthlessness. It also means NO to empathy, love, peaceful resolution. This is true for most of the entertainment industry, business, art, scientific circles and, well... any area which revolves around money. This is the rule you follow 'if you want to be on the top of the hill', as Lennon once said.
Barbie dolls for men - majority of games add shoulderpads though
If a woman wants to be more than an object (and that's a natural need and right of every human being) she is culturally encouraged to be strong and independent - by becoming a Man. This is why games like 'Lollipop Chainsaw' or movies like 'Sucker Punch' are bad examples of feminist characters. It's made by men, for men. It has nothing to do with feminism. It's false empowerment. (Become a Man, you woman, because your womanly characteristics are inferior. Show some skin in the process, too.)
Both men and women are encouraged through media (and all kinds of social interactions) to be more of a Man (dominating, competitive, ruthless), because Man = succesfull, Man = power. Actual men who aren't Men enough are seen as feminine and therefore not worthy of respect. Sadly, a lot of these men end up as bitter insecure douchebags who hurl ingame chat insults and vulgar talk at women. Do they feel threatened by these women? Do they subconsciously fear the fact these women might turn out too real, shaking up the fantasies fostered by the omnipresent pop culture? I'm not sure.
Everything revolves around me (but you are not my mother, you female player of games you, therefore I don't have a clue how to act or interact)
I have a better question. How do we change this? Of course, the first step is to try and promote tolerance in our online communities; with time a shift in attitudes could (will?) happen. But if we really want this (online & offline) autodestructive practice of bitter hating to stop (and not just shift focus to some other group of individuals), we as a society need to stop worshiping power. We need to stop allowing 'Expendables', 'Transformers' or 'Sex and the City' to plant images of ideal men/women into our childrens minds. We need quality, meaningful stuff which will outweigh all the junk (which won't, and shouldn't necessarily go away) by giving us believable, truly empowering characters. Game designers need to have Bechdel test on their mind when creating characters and plots. Unless these become the rule instead of exceptions, we will find ourselves in 2042 - still having this conversation.
Inequality is a tough thing to eradicate, if all we change is terminology. If all we change is which gender, subculture, minority (or majority!) is looked down on - it's nearly impossible. As with any other social or individual activity, Gamer should not be a label burdened with gender. It should represent affiliation with a thoughtful, playful community which exists to connect people. Playing games outside of narrow and arbitrary borders defined by gender should not be an issue.
So dear readers, guys and girls, let's keep our minds and hearts open. Hating is never ok, even when it seems justified. If you disagree on any particular points I made, I would be very interested to hear you out. I've been wrong before :)