This post started as a post in support of Anita Sarkeesian. Everyone’s kept up to date with Anita Sarkeesian, right? The disgusting, brutal abuse which she has suffered, for the sole reason that she documented and sought to draw to the public’s attention, certain issues with the presentation of women in video games? It’s nothing new, of course: Anita’s Feminist Frequency and its series on Tropes vs Women In Video Games has been going for a while, and has attracted negative attention from certain elements of the community (e.g. assholes) since they began.
It started that way, but it became about all kinds of things, because the internet this week made me SO tired. Naked celebrities. Dragon Age romances. #GamerGate.
Why am I making a blog post about this stuff? Who cares about another nobody’s opinion on all these hot-button topics in our subculture, right?
I mean, you’re not obligated to care about my opinion, honestly. Nobody is. But because I post in the pop-cultural space the people who I will, perhaps uncharitably, call “the bad guys” keep trying to turn me into an ally. Because, unlike many of my friends, I am not a woman, or gay, or transgender. Because I am, in fact, a member of that most privileged of all demographics – the white, heterosexual, upper-middle class, professional, cisgender male – I am not met with hate speech, or threats. I am not even met with imprecations, really. I am met with appeals.
I am approached by the worst kind of anti-feminists and exclusivity advocates who choose to cloak their reproaches in the language of rationality. “Don’t be fooled,” the haters cry. “Don’t be seduced. Nothing’s really wrong. How can it be, when you love so much that has come before? We are being misrepresented! We just want to keep things at their best!”
I’m making this post as a statement of policy, to which I will direct all such enquiries.
YOU ARE IN THE WRONG, GEEK CULTURE. YOU ARE IN THE WRONG, GAMING CULTURE. YOU ARE IN THE WRONG, COMICS CULTURE.
I’m not saying any person talking to me is wrong in any particular specific. I’m not even saying that I won’t engage in debate on a bunch of topics, because I will, I’m an easy mark like that.
What I’m saying is that if you believe the status quo (or, even worse, some halcyon imagined past) is not in need of drastic reform, we are arrayed against one another.
Alea iacta est.
Please stop trying to recruit me for the team.
I’m not saying you’re all, necessarily, bad people – though some of you clearly, obviously are, I’m sorry to tell you. Being wrong about some things doesn’t make you bad. I’m frequently wrong (though I’m not wrong about this).
YOU ARE NOT AS ENTITLED AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.
I don’t care if bullies pantsed you in front of your confirmation class. I don’t care if you felt isolated and your only retreat was into science fiction. I don’t care if you’ve been gaming since Galaga.
You are not entitled to reserve a space for people who are “just like you”. You are not entitled to feel abandoned, because some people are asking for basic extensions of human decency. You are not entitled to hurt people, even if you yourself have, at some point in your life, been hurt. Guess what? We’ve ALL been hurt, but some people get the added difficulty of being hurt and having less support, less allies, less places to turn, just because of certain elements of how they were born.
Someone tried to tell me today, with a straight face, that gaming wasn’t “for” women, that it never would be, and that attempts to trying to make it so were flawed and wrong, because women had other spaces to be and men deserved a space that could be “for them”, in a way that clearly took “for them” right over the edge of “to the detriment of anybody else”.
Like so many elements of geek culture, the argument ultimately came down to that old saw, that bugaboo that so many geeks seem afraid of:
“Secretly, everyone hates me. They fail to see what I deserve.”
“Secretly, everyone hates me – so they’re going to take things I like away from me. Secretly, everyone hates me – so they’re going to try and be involved in a space I thought was designed only for my benefit. Secretly, everyone hates me- so why shouldn’t I be suspicious when they seem to love the things I love. Secretly, everyone hates me – so why shouldn’t I see women as enemies trying to deny me what I want.
Secretly, everyone hates me – so why shouldn’t I hate them?”
“They fail to see what I deserve – I’ve had a hard life, so I deserve a space where everything comes easily to me. They fail to see what I deserve – some kind of sexual reward for being a nice person, as I see myself in my own head. They fail to see what I deserve – a community of like minds in every respect, because I was once lonely. They fail to see what I deserve – I’ve been a loyal consumer all this time, so everything should be targeted to me.
They fail to see what I deserve – I deserve the love of my culture, manifested as obedience to my whim, because I have loved it.”
Do you know who sees love as obedience? Children. It’s children who cry and scream “You don’t love me” when a parent sends them to bed or takes away their toy or makes them share with the other kids. It’s children who throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want in the toy store, when another child gets more praise than them, when they’re expected to let someone else talk and breathe and be.
It’s infinitely more childish to behave this way than to pick up a console and pretend to fly a spaceship, roll some dice and fight imaginary elves, or escape for a while to a place where you can believe that people can fly. I will defend to the hilt that there’s nothing immature about that, but there is so much that is immature in the culture surrounding that.
A bunch of people freaked out this week when it was suggested that the term “gamer” needs to go away. The reason for getting rid of it is simple, it’s keeping people out. It is for keeping people out. And all the counter-arguments, that it’s about loyalty, about self-identity, about bona fides, they’re disingenuous. It’s not about how loyal you are, that’s easy enough to establish without recourse to a tribal marker – it’s about establishing how other people aren’t loyal enough. That they haven’t “earned” it. They don’t deserve what you deserve, which is, by some accounts, everything.
Just stop it. You’re on the wrong side of history – but more than any of that: none of these people hate you. They’re just asking for a seat at the table which has given you succour. They’re just saying “you are hurting me, please stop.” You do understand that’s what it’s about, right? When someone says “this is a problem for me”, they’re saying “this thing, if it continues unabated, is actively going to make my life worse”. There’s no possible justification for that, in the world of entertainment, no reason to hurt someone else just to make yourself feel better. That’s bullying, that thing you’re supposed to hate, remember?
If you honestly, truly, think that your life has made you a victim, start having some sympathy for real victims. Start realising that, yes, mummy and daddy are going to pay attention to your other brothers and sisters, but that’s okay. You don’t need it all, and you’ll get a fair share, anyway. You might get less toys, but you’ll have more kids to play with.
Please grow up. Please just stop it. And if you’re not going to stop it, please stop asking me to join you. I’m over there with them.