Something About Misogyny

Sauerbraten: Two players, a zombie ogre and a robot warpig, battle it out in a map borrowed from some other game.

A funny story . . . er . . . right, sort of. Okay, not really.

Once upon a time, several years ago, a friend and I stopped by his tech-sector office late at night to grab a couple boozeless drinks from the staff fridge. And while the idea of people working late is hardly unusual in these United States, there were several people hunched over in their cubicles, clacking away at their keyboards, and they were apparently pushing for deadline. Such is the software sector.

There was a proper butch lesbian of larger bodily proportions and less contrived personal fashion—i.e., disqualified from the “hot” list—working out of the corner cubicle. Indeed, she is only important in the context of the rest of the anecdote.

There was nothing unusual about that night, but my friend commented on a story I had recently heard from a woman; he was the other player.

So it goes, for reasons that were never clear to me, a female friend had stopped by his office for something. Sure, that’s sort of a clue that something is up with the story, but there is nothing else on the other end to suggest why. Whatever, this was over a decade ago; I could easily have smoked away those memory cells.

Apparently the sight of a lithe blonde woman of chesticle endowment brought the office to a halt.

“They don’t see women very often,” my friend joked, and if you remember the alpha geek jokes from the time, well, that’s right on target. I did point out the lesbian in the corner cubicle, but got the, “Dude?” shrug in return: Nobody thinks of her as a “woman”. Dude.

And let that say what it will.

Dude? Dude.

It is naturally the first memory to mind as the “GamerGate” story penetrates my sphere of indifference toward the perpeutal juvenilia known as gamer culture.

And when I see a bunch of gamers panicking? Well, that just recalls the old alpha geek jokes.

For those unfamiliar, GamerGate is a pretty minor scandal. For those with a stake in its issues—in this case over half the American population, i.e., women, as well as software industry workers and executives—it is actually a sad repetition of roadworn attitudes reminding just how badly Americans have trashed the Shining City on the Hill.

Still, though, it is very nearly amusing to see the gamers panic.

Brief summaries should suffice to bring people up to speed. Stephen Totilo of Kotaku explains:

The current drama goes back, however directly or indirectly, to an ex-boyfriend and a series of blog posts attacking his ex-girlfriend’s character, then it goes to scrutiny and harassment, takes a turn to involve a possible game journalism sex scandal (refuted), maneuvers into vitriol against feminist game critic Anita Sarkeesian (horribly nasty stuff), takes another turn to be about journalism ethics (addressed), spills into some essays and round-ups about how fraught the marketing-driven “gamer” identity is and how it might be dying or dead (rounded up here on Kotaku in an article that says there are many a cool gamer, too!) and then in some way flows into a thing called GamerGate which was actually first used as a Twitter tag a day before any end-of-gamer articles were written.

Over at TechCrunch, Tadgh Kelly tries his hand at telling the story:

#gamergate began a few weeks ago when an ex-boyfriend of Zoe Quinn posted an enormous, pompous and self-important diatribe online accusing her of sleeping her way around the games industry. He posted screengrabs of chats they had, presented his side of the story as the noble and maligned man being led astray by this faerie creature who turned out to be full of lies and so on.

His revenge-porn/character-assassinating rant went all around the gaming world at the speed of rumor and was followed by hacks and “doxxing” activities that purported to show that gamers had been right to be suspicious about Quinn. In its wake a torrent of abuse and more abuse started to build a head of steam. Allegations of conspiracy, of women using sex to manipulate the industry and all the rest of it gained outsized publicity largely due to a video shared by actor Adam Baldwin. And then, somewhere around the same time, Anita Sarkeesian published her latest Tropes vs Women video and the waves of rage and accusations of agenda-pushing in the media began all over again.

And that’s the thing about stereotypes and legends, techies and the Dudehood. There’s nothing new, here.

• • •

This gets a whole lot nastier.Gamers panic at the prospect of being identified according to their misogynistic behavior.

Zoe Quinn has responded by simply documenting the Gamer response to the issue; these people are at war, or, at least, like to stroke themselves into believing they are. Which, in turn, is why their response seems so petulant. Honestly, so a controversy erupts and the response is to cover their ears and shut their eyes and start shouting, “I’m not listening I’m not listening I’m not listening lalalalalalala Mary had a little lamb little lamb little lamb!” And, like many immersed in Generation Net, they seem to think this sort of balbutive makes for intelligent, mature discourse. As the stereotype goes, it really does seem like these guys can’t get laid, so they think everyone else is boinking away like mad. And it’s always some boyishly stupid and clumsy fantasy; the problem underlying their complaint wouldn’t be that Quinn slept her way to the story, per se; it’s like the old joke about the difference between a bitch and a cunt—they’re pissed off she didn’t sleep with them.

And let’s face it: Zoe Quinn does not actually need to sleep her way to the story for the Gamers and the Dudehood to be pissed off. That she’s not sleeping with them, period, is offense enough.

Which brings us, of a sort, to Amanda Marcotte, who attemptsα a basic explanation of the obvious point:

The excuse for harassing Zoe Quinn is a supposed concern that the video game press is not critical enough of the video games they cover. Then the same people turn around and harass Anita Sarkeesian, but this time the excuse is she’s too critical of video games and she needs to shut up and enjoy them without trying to analyze them. The same people are attacking both women, but in one case because they think she’s the cause of too little criticism and the other because she’s considered overly critical.

Clearly, the actual objection here has nothing to do with the various levels of critical analysis that should or should not be applied to video games, but that these two are women and feminists. The only thing they have in common is they are young and pretty and feminists. That means that it’s easy to use their images to provoke anger and anxiety in young men in high school and college who mistakenly believe that everyone else is having sexy fun times that they’re being shut out of. Older, more hardened misogynists know exactly how to manipulate this particular anxiety and tell young men that they are being shut out and that it’s feminism to blame for their social and romantic failures.

There’s a deep irony here, which is that a lot of the people that are being handed to these angry young men as hate objects were themselves nerdy outcasts when they were young, but they matured a little and pulled it together and now have great jobs in the industry and active social and romantic lives. And so it would happen to a lot of the young men who are raging and angry now, as they age and chill out and learn how to groom themselves and get along with women better. But that won’t happen for these young men if they get caught up in the cult of online misogyny and spend their energies that would otherwise go to maturing and mellowing out towards becoming ever more repulsive to women.

Because of this, I worry that this cult of misogyny is going to turn into a self-perpetuating thing . . . .

It is possible to disagree with that last, insofar as Marcotte is hopeful, that this might or, better yet, might not become a self-perpetuating thing. The disagreement is simple enough, as one can reasonably assert that this cult of misogyny is already a self-perpetuating phenomenon.

Perhaps it is better to go with Marcotte’s hope.

The thing about stereotypes is that there is a two-edged sword for those of us who loathe them. To the one, it used to be easy enough to say, “Stop living up to the stereotype!” But that part seems, more often than not, unfair. Would I tell a black person to stop being stereotypical? What if the only difference between how a black man and a white man are perceived, according to their clothing, diction, and applicable stereotypes, is dark skin?βBill Cosby

But this does not seem to fall under that rubric. Rather, the persistent memory would be the time, ten years ago, when Bill Cosby sold out, blaming blacks for white people’s racism, telling them to stop giving their kids names like “Mohammed and all that crap”. We might as well tell white people to stop giving their kids names like Tommy or Philbert.

The thing is that the gamer-misogyny stereotype isn’t an inherent aspect of a human being, like skin color or sex; it isn’t something inflicted upon a people like women wearing high heels to work. And if the excuse is that this is just how men are, it should suffice to say that such arguments simply escalate the problem from, “You need to seek help”, to, “Men should be locked away for the mere fact of being male”. That is to say, if the argument is that your inherent nature makes you dangerous to that many people, your inherent nature is problematic. And if the Dudehood wants to stand and honor the inherently dangerous, violent nature of men, they might as well get religionγ.

But the truth is that we all know gamers who aren’t complete moral excrement. Indeed, some of them are family and friends we respect or even admire. To the other, it doesn’t take long; once you’re online, the pattern becomes evident. The number of women playing, for instance, Sauerbraten, a free online shooter, is actually unknown; what few players identify as women are constantly harassed and propositioned, and it’s also true that the only people hitting on identifying gay males are those who get their jollies by pretending to mock them. In this case, it isn’t especially deep irony. But it is rather quite corrosive.

My daughter would like to be some degree of a gamer. To that end, the question is pretty straightforward: Is this her price of admission?

And if that answer is in any way affirmative, the reality is that there are too many gamers out there who simply need to go fuck themselves.

We might also observe another corrosive irony: For many, it becomes clear with age, repetition, and, hopefully, some degree of advancing maturity, that many relationships are doomed from the outset because the identify primarily on the need for a relationship. That is to say, if one hooks up with another specifically to foster a relationship, that relationship will always be judged by the expectations motivating this particular joining. Then again, if intimate relationships develop out of an existing acquaintance, faith, and hope shared bewteen the partners, it is that faith and hope, built over the period of friendship, that becomes the measure of how such a couple is doing. Where the irony arises, of course, would be that it appears male gamers have no idea how to build faithful, respectful friendships with women; in the gaming world, that’s just not what chicks are for.

And if gamers don’t like that stereotype, well, this one is in their power to affect and alter. To choose instead to complain about people not appreciating their grotesque misbehavior is puerile, futile, and, ultimately, dangerous.

____________________

α We might say “attempts” because at this point there really is no getting through to the Dudehood; not about something like this. It needs to be their wife (ha!) or daughter (Goddess grant with mercy meet!) before they wake up, and even then many will still make excuses, because, well, you know . . . Dude! It’s a perversely sublimated bromantic engagement, wherein a bunch of males establish a sexual bond through their own inadequacy. They would do better for themselves and entire human species to just come out of the closet and start hooking up with one another.

β In the nineties, at a football game in Tacoma, Washington, a school security official once expressed that the gangs coming onto school grounds for the contest weren’t the problem. That is to say, they had established business circles, and were at least savvy enough to understand that you don’t go out of your way to attract attention. And while we might wonder at the threshold some of the gangs exhibited—shooting a teenage girl four hundred times for waving to a friend tends to attract otherwise unwanted attention, much like deciding to shoot at U.S. Army personnel in a drive-by—the problem our school focused on were the up-and-comers, many of whom were white, who felt they had something to prove. In other words, while everyone was scared senseless of the n!ggers, the statistical danger came from the w!ggers. Funny how that works, eh? Okay, that’s exactly correct: It’s not funny at all.

γ Might we suggest the notorious Mars Hill organization? In the words of its founder, Mark Driscoll, sufficiently both juvenile and misogynistic:

“Ultimately, God created you and it is his penis. You are simply borrowing it for a while. Knowing that His penis would need a home, God created a woman to be your wife and when you marry her and look down you will notice that your wife is shaped differently than you and makes a very nice home.

“Therefore, if you are single you must remember that your penis is homeless and needs a home. But, though you may believe your hand is shaped like a home, it is not. And, if you look at a man it is quite obvious that what a homeless man does not need is another man without a home.”

Totilo, Stephen. “About GamerGate”. Kotaku. 5 September 2014.

Kelly, Tadgh. “The #Gamergate Question”. TechCrunch. 7 September 2014.

Quinn, Zoe. “#GameOverGate”. Storify. 6 September 2014.

@TheQuinnspiracy. “because this is about integrity”. Twitter. 6 September 2014.

@MsMinotaur. “abort abort”. Twitter. 6 September 2014.

Marcotte, Amanda. “Attacks on women in gaming are so obviously not about ethics, but about misogyny”. The Raw Story. 6 September 2014.

Farley, Christopher John. “What Bill Cosby Should Be Talking About”. Time. 3 June 2004.

Mix-A-Lot, Sir. “One Time’s Got No Case”. 1992. YouTube.com. 20 April 2013.

Edwards, David. “Wash. state megachurch closes branches after founder is caught calling women ‘penis homes'”. The Raw Story. 8 September 2014.

“Cube 2: Sauerbraten”. Sauerbraten.org. (n.d.)

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