Wednesday, November 5, 2014

On Gamers Who Gate, Cats Who Call, & Mans Who 'Splain

Imagine that you are in a kitchen making dinner, and your roommate comes in and says, “Hey, you’ve been doing the cooking for the last 30 years, and I kind of need a change from steak. How about I help you out with dinner from now on, so that we all enjoy a hearty meal?” Instead of taking this offer of help with grace, you say, “Fuck you, Trevor! Cooking dinner is MY thing! Say another word about this, and I’ll cut out your tongue and feed it to you! You’re already a corpse, motherfucker! I also leaked photos of you sleeping with a teddy bear to the internet!” When Trevor notes how much you overreacted, you say, “I’m always being criticised about EVERYTHING, and the kitchen is one of my only safe places! I’m being attacked! WAHHHH!!!!...I’m gonna shit on Trevor’s bed and set it on fire while he’s sleeping.”

That is pretty much #GamerGate.

We all know that gaming is a male-dominated hobby/job. Though there are a few female heroes in gaming, not many are wearing clothes. I see a lot more Dead or Alive Tina Armstrongs than there are Assassin’s Creed Aveline de Grandprés. Even on the side of designing, there are few women making decisions. This yields messed up things in games like that fact that you human traffic in Red Dead Redemption or that you can have sex with and kill prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto. Also, games can be more than just first person shooters and open world beat-em ups. Think Journey or Flower.

Saying all this will not garner me any animus from anyone. However, were I a woman, I would have a slew of death threats thrown at me before I hit the “publish” button. Just ask Anita Sarkeesian. She is not the first to bring up the need for more gender diversity in gaming, nor is she the latest person to receive of violent rape and death threats due to her willingness to speak up about it. I’m certain, though, that she is the first to have to cancel a speech because there was a viable threat to her life, and she genuinely feared that she might have been murdered while talking. Even Felicia Day, one of the most famous of female gamers, was the target of hate speech and had her personal contact information compromised because she spoke up about the controversy. All the while, gaming Mansplainers are claiming that they are once again being “nerd-bashed”, but this time in one of their sanctuaries.

Now, Imagine that you are eating a salad at a restaurant, and the server brings you a free olivewurst sandwich. You thank the server but tell him that you didn’t order olivewurst sandwich, and you’re just trying to eat the salad you ordered. The server gets indignant and says, “Stop being a bitch, Trevor. It’s a free sandwich. Eat it.” Just as you’re about to chew out the server for assuming you would just take an unordered sandwich, another two servers come and bring you second and third sandwiches. You just want to eat your salad; you don’t even like olivewurst! Another server waits for a thank you, and when you don’t say it, he tries to ram the sandwich into your mouth and says, “EAT THE FUCKING SANDWICH!” You are now very angry, but you still have to finish your salad. More servers come and put olivewurst sandwiches in front of you, each more pungent than the last. You’re numb to the growing pile of sandwiches in front of you. You try to ignore all the servers, but then one gets REALLY pissed that you won’t eat his sandwich, and he follows you through the restaurant, violently throwing salad dressing and rocks at you. That is street harassment. It’s a bunch of olivewurst sandwiches that you don’t want, but turning them down can be dangerous.

Trevor was not hurt in either of these scenarios, but sadly, a lot of women have been hurt or killed due to responding to both types of harassment.

We likely have all seen the catcalling video that was contracted by the Hollaback! group, a group that focuses on showing how the dignity of women is stripped away when men yell out to them and harass them on the street when they are going about their day. The video would have been poignant but for one problem. They basically made a talkie version of Birth of a Nation. In a video filmed in Manhattan, a population of 45% white people, the video showed 2% white perpetrators. The makers of the video claim that there was a diverse group of harassers, but somehow all the white harassing footage was edited out due to bad sound quality and video time constraints. That would be believable, but they SUBTITLED the whole thing. The Internet went crazy about the video, much less for the subject that really needs to be discussed, but because of the lack of racial diversity. Racists everywhere are using it to justify their hatred of brown people. Mansplainers, besides saying, “Just take the compliment”, are adding, “Well, look, these guys were brought up wrong, because they’re coloured! Now let my don my golden fedora and make some people with low self esteem weep! Douchebag, AWAAAAAYYY!”

In both #GamerGate and the catcalling video, People are trying to defend themselves by throwing others under the bus. This strategy never works. It just creates a new “other” that will be the next target for derision and hate. In the case of #GamerGate, the violent reaction to a few people pointing out that they’re not okay with a rape scene in a video game further proves the NEED for a more diverse workforce in game making. If you’re not scared of a little diversity, then why are you threatening people? The KKK did that to suppress blacks’ participation in society, and like cowards, they did it behind masks. If you are threatening a woman who is voicing her opinion, then your new mask is just a computer screen. You are still a coward.

In the case of the catcalling video, it’s a matter of perpetuating the same poor reasoning a few suffragists and women’s rights advocates of the late 19th and 20th Century by ostracising a group of people who know something about harassment and being treated like less than human: black people. The idea that the fight for equality for one group is not the fight for for the everyone’s rights is flawed. One cannot stovepipe human rights. We can’t say, “Well, all of our issues aren’t solved, so I can’t work on yours yet”, or worse, “We’re all created equal, except THOSE people”. All issues will never be resolved with that mindset. There is common ground, but not when one makes a short film that basically perpetuates the stereotype that brown people are horny mongrels that cannot/will not control themselves. Editing flaws is not a good excuse, especially since Jessica Williams of The Daily Show did a street harassment piece in New York City, and it showed assailants and victims from every hue of our constructed race spectrum. If she can do it and do it better, then why couldn’t the good people of Hollaback? Street harassment, and how women respond to it, can be dangerous.

Saddest thing is that most black teenagers know that sensation of feeling violated when a squad car pulls up on them to question them about nothing when they’re just trying to walk to work or school. Now imagine that sense of social violation, but from EVERYONE YOU PASS, and you essentially know how street harassment works. Dismissing one group or freaking out when someone wants to broaden your environment to make it more everyone-friendly is not a good way to go about things. We need to do better.

Mansplainers just need to shut the hell up, though. That’s all I have to say about that.

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