Gatekeeping Game[Her]

As the release showed, Issue 7 of The Audacity only featured four photoshoots. While we bolstered the issue with additional writing and art content, we’re disappointed that we had to bring you one less editorial creation. The reason why? Please read below about the way we’re fighting back against a photographer who disrespected us, an industry that won’t take us seriously, and the women we refuse to fail:

Game[Her] was a photoshoot concept created for Issue 7 of The Audacity which aimed to highlight the meaningful aspects of gaming (especially for women) by sharing powerful testimonies from women on their experiences in the video game world. We sourced beautiful words from women all over the world about the various ways video games were important to them growing up, and in their adult lives.

As it turns out, lots of women had been waiting to talk about the joy video games brought to their lives. We received a myriad of beautiful submissions. All of them talked about the way cishet men had tried to shut them out of the gaming world. We wanted to tell their stories. We wanted to tell them that things had changed, that they were free now to play and talk about video games, that men could no longer have the power over the things they loved.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to find a photographer at the very last minute who could not only agree to take on this photoshoot in exchange for publication, but agree to return the photos to the team within a week’s time. Someone recommended Andrew, or Andy Zhao, to us. We checked out his Instagram (@zhao__a), and decided to give him a try. We reached out and let him know the tight schedule we were on, especially because artist Marg Gerik was scheduled to illustrate the photos and add fantastical, exciting video game elements to the finished photos. (Marg is also a long-time video game player and designer, and this shoot was so near and dear to her heart.) So, Andy agreed to the terms of the shoot both prior to the shoot, and in person during the shoot itself.

The shoot went off without a hitch, the models and team geeked out and bonded together over games. We were so happy to wrap up Issue 7 this way, and to share the work of a new photographer.

Flash forward a week to the image deadline…

AUDACITY: “Hey!! How are the photos looking?”

ANDY: “Ngl I haven’t had time to even look at them”

This was upsetting for a few reasons. Firstly, because now the photos were certainly not going to be in in time to allow Marg to work her illustration magic, but also because now, we weren’t sure by this response when or if we were going to get the raw photos at all. Additionally, this response seemed so disrespectful—Andy wasn’t concerned about our deadlines, or even about pretending that he respected us.

We are busy too, and try to always offer patience and kindness to our collaborators, so we offered an extra few days to get it all sorted.

AUDACITY: “Would you be able to get them to us in the next few days? We still need to pass them over to Marg so she can illustrate over them”


During this radio silence, we earnestly offered to help Andy filter through all of the RAW files and select the best images for print in an effort to spare his time sorting through them. We offered to have a photographer on staff edit them if he needed or wanted. We called and texted, and offered to edit them according to his guidelines. We spelled out, multiple times, that all he needed to do was upload the files to his computer and send them to us via email, and we would take care of the rest and publish his photos in our upcoming issue.

Still no response.

Once we were able to finally get in contact with Andy, he explained that he cannot get the photos to us until several days after the agreed deadline, but that he will select the images and do all the editing himself. PRAISE! WE GOT AN ANSWER. Although it was not an ideal situation, we were willing to spend many a sleepless night doing last minute layout, and for Marg, last minute illustration—something we try never to force someone into, out of respect for them and their art.

We sat patiently until the deadline he gave to us and then…you guessed it, NOTHING. Not even a text or email asking for a little more time.

In waiting we not only wasted our time, but our MONEY-- MONEY WE DONATE TO LOCAL NONPROFITS VALUED BY THE COMMUNITY, MONEY OUT OF OUR OWN POCKETS that was going to have to be used to pay for rush printing the zine due to him. So 3 members of staff attempted to touch base again via call and text, looking for answers. Looking for anything that would reassure us, at this point, that we would ever see these photos again.

His final response left a sour taste in our mouths, but let us first illustrate something out of this experience:

It has not escaped notice that a shoot about women being able to enjoy something that is typically gatekept by now being gatekept by a man.

On Friday, April 20, a day before we needed to send Issue 7 to print, we exchanged these messages:

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My (Erin’s) messages to Andy that morning were exceedingly patient, considering the consistent pattern of disrespect Andy subjected us to over this period of several weeks.

His reply was immature and condescending—something we here at The Audacity will not endure lightly.

Frankly, we as women and as women of color (3/4 of the team) have put in enough time being spoken down to by men, and especially 18 year old men. We’ve had enough of being told we can’t enjoy the thing we want to enjoy. We’ve had enough of men holding images of scantily clad images of women hostage. We’ve had enough of men treating us like we don’t know what we’re doing, while simultaneously working for us. We’ve had enough of not being taken seriously, as individuals or as a business—because we’re creative and feminine.

We’re writing this because we are serious. We’re serious about the work we do, and we’re serious about being a business. So there will be other shoots. We will recreate this video game shoot, and it will be even better for it. To this day, we still have not seen any of the photos from that shoot.

In the meantime, we’re asking you as members of our community to stand with us as women who are fucking tired of being treated this way. We’re asking you not to work with Andy. We’re asking you to unfollow him on Instagram and stop supporting his work. We’re asking you to stand with women.

In light of all of this pain and stress, we’ve decided to find a silver lining and demonstrate just how serious we are about our business. We’re going to turn his condescension into capital.

So thank you, Andy for the lack of communication and pattern of disrespect and hatefulness you demonstrated, which ultimately ended in mansplaining to us that “[we] need to realize that people get busy” and that the shoot you worked on was “not editorial.”

We made this for you.


XO Audacity

The Audacity