This excellent article by Helen Lewis about the continued harassment and vile hate speech directed towards the fabulous Anita Sarkeesian of the brilliant Feminist Frequency has angered me so much. I have been following this saga for a while but this article has illustrated some hideously vile comments, images and an overriding ideology of pure misogynist hatred that dwarfs everything I read previously I just had to write about it.
TRIGGER WARNING for the whole post and links.
I’m a woman and I play video games. I love playing video games. I have played games since half these misogynist wankoids were in nappies. As much as I love video games and geeky things in general I know the culture that surrounds them is SEXIST AS SHIT.I am sick of people telling me I should ignore things that belittle my very identity and ‘stop being so sensitive’ just so I can feel a part of a culture surrounding a form of entertainment I enjoy and indulge in to RELAX and HAVE FUN. They are called ‘GAMES’ FFS not ‘ENDURANCE TESTS’, ‘ FESTIVALS OF HATRED’ or ‘WITCH HUNTS’. It says a lot about our society that women are expected to put up with, and indeed to anticipate and accept as an integral part of the whole thing, hate speech just to play a game. This is not an isolated incident, Bioware (a games company) writer Jennifer Helper was subject to a campaign of hatred and feminist blogger Laurie Penny has been subject to similar too, I could go on. Getting insulted online if you’re a woman is normal. I haven’t been but I imagine it’s because I largely hang out in ‘safe spaces’ onlineand I am not popular enough to attract any attention, it is also why I largely do not comment on many sites and engage in conversation, I and many other women effectively silence themselves because we know indulging in mainstream internet debate and conversation will often result in being insulted just for being a woman. Note this is not being respectfully disagreed with or having your points argued with, this is being subject to insults PURELY BECAUSE OF YOUR GENDER. There is a huge difference, I expect people to disagree with me, I accept that but I do not and should not have to, accept this disagreement to be combined with sexist insults and harassment that would NOT be used against a male using the same arguments. To quote Anita Sarkeesian;
“The image based harassment I’m discussing here is not part of any legitimate discourse but instead falls squarely into the category of misogynist abuse. It’s a critical distinction and is evidenced by the fact that all of the images are attacking my gender or presumed sexuality and rely heavily on pre-existing sexist stereotypes.”
Not Feeding the trolls and tacit acceptance
As much as the outright hatred disgusts me so too does the tacit acceptance of it by the ‘don’t feed the trolls just ignore it’ brigade. What this effectively amounts to is the silencing of women’s voices. It is telling us to shut up and put up with horrific abuse from people who would wish extreme violence upon us just because of gender. It is telling us to accept hate. Yes it’s the internet, but the internet is populated by real people behind the keyboards and those real people accept these views even if they ‘exaggerate’ it for online use an attention, there is still an acceptance of misogyny and racism and just about every form of hatred you can imagine. Anything that threatens the dominance of the straight white male. Asking us to ‘ignore them’ in relation to the trolls is to ignore the fact that misogyny like this is rife, that shit like this is experienced by women on a regular basis, on-line and off. To ignore is is to silence the voices of millions of women who have been saying for years ‘this shit happens to us and it needs to stop’. It is to ignore the fact that rape ‘jokes’ online and sexual violence in the real world are related and are part of the same ideology. It is to ignore the fact that the people who post this violent shit online are real people who are out there in the real world, along with the attitudes that they display online even if they are ‘watered down’. The ‘joke’ excuse is void too; if anyone genuinely respected women they would not use such offensive stuff as bait for ‘humour’, they would know that in a culture where woman are regularly subject to sexual abuse, violence and harassment this shit is NOT SOMETHING YOU JOKE ABOUT, THIS SHIT IS REAL. THIS SHIT LEADS TO WOMEN BEING KILLED. The ‘humour’ excuse does not hold water when all it does is prop up disgusting attitudes towards women, when it does nothing to challenge them when all it does is enforce a status quo of hatred.
The same attitude that wishes rape on a woman online for ‘lulz’ is the same attitude that says a woman was ‘asking for it’ if she was dressed in a certain way, if she knew the guy, if she kissed the guy, uf she was drinking and a million and one other victim blaming tactics designed to shit the blame away from the rapist and on to the woman. It is the same attitude that allows rapists to walk free, that allows police officers to abuse women who came to them for safety and get away with it for so long.
Jay Smooth has a great video on why you should ‘feed the trolls’ (as well as another video on sexist gamer dudes, specifically about the Sarkeesian incident, imploring guys to speak out about this stuff). As he points out this type of ‘trolling’ happens a lot more often to people in marginalised groups, such as LGBT, women, people of colour etc and this is EXACTLY why it is an issue and we should not shut up. It’s aim is to uphold straight white male dominance of the internet, which is becoming an essential part of life and communication. It’s aim is to SHUT US UP, and it’s precisely because of that that we will NOT SHUT UP. Throughout history marginalised groups have been silenced by the patriarchal, kyriarchal society and we have been told to ‘just get on with it’ or that we ‘complain too much’ and ‘take offence too easily’ (because taking offence when you’re whole identity and existence is belitted and despised is you know being ‘too sensitive’). This is no different. Tiger Beatdown also has an excellent post on the matter from back in 2011, proving this is not a ‘new’ thing which uses the author’s own horrific experiences to explain exactly why this stuff is serious and needs to be challenged. To put is succinctly s.e smith of Tiger Beatdown says “This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it”
It strikes me that perhaps the vast majority of the ‘don’t feed the trolls’ brigade are people coming from a place of privilege who have never had torrents of abuse directed towards them for being who they are. People whose identity is not belittled and maligned every day of their lives by trolls and in subtler forms by a mainstream media that is more subtle about it’s misogyny, racism, homophobia, disablism, transphobia etc. To say ‘don’t feed to trolls’ is to deny that many of us are expert witnesses in this because it is our lives, we can’t just switch off the computer and ignore stuff ‘online’ because ‘online’ does not exist in a vacuum and the kind of extreme attitudes expressed by trolls are expressed in much more subtle ways all over the ‘real world’.
It is not ‘our’ fault for being offended by offensive shit it is the attitudes of the people who seek toe demean us that is offensive. How can I not be offended by a world that tacitly accepts that it’s OK to hate me because I am a woman? That my voice and opinions are worth less because of the random allocation of chromosomes at my conception?
I will not shut up and I will continue to be angry because there is a lot of shit to be angry about. In short:
WOMEN WILL NOT SILENCED BY SOME SEXIST ARSEHOLES ONLINE AND I WILL KEEP PLAYING GAMES
I am playing Deus Ex: Human revolution atm which is brilliant and just so happens to be written by a woman, and perhaps not so coincidentally, is the only game I have seen with a human, respectable and realistic portrayal of sex workers.