Thursday, November 6, 2014

Feminism, GamerGate, and Geek Nation

You can find a video statement from other geek girls such as the woman pictured above here.

On the subject of GamerGate, I just feel like I am repeating myself.

Or at least my general comments on society.

What is GamerGate? It's a mess is what it is. It involves hatred, misogyny, geeks, and "journalistic ethics" of all things. It all began when Zoe Quinn, an independent video game designer, began receiving hateful attacks regarding her personal life. She was forced to leave her home after receiving death threats. Right around the same time, feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian uploaded a series of YouTube videos that criticized sexism and misogyny in video games. You don't have to look far to find ample evidence for such criticisms as many female game characters fit the mold of "the fighting fucktoy" (not my phrase, I'm borrowing it from the documentary Missrepresentation.) What was the response to Sarkeesian's argument?

Death threats mostly. That and other threats of physical harm, most of them from gamers feeling that Sarkeesian was trying to ruin video games for everyone. Authorities found at least a few of these threats to be verifiable and thus Sarkeesian was forced to flee her home. As you might imagine this got a lot of press and both game players and designers felt that they were being wrongfully labeled as misogynistic jackasses. They protested in the way the best know how: taking to the Internets to lodge their complaints. They even created the hashtag "#GamerGate" to call for ethics in journalism and fight back against what they call "SJWs" or "social justice warriors."

Since the initial brouhaha, Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to speak at Utah State University on the subject of the depiction of women in video games. Someone threatened to "commit mass murder" at the event. Campus security and Utah State Police reported that they would be unable to effectively search the audience at the venue as Utah is an open carry state. Out of concern for everyone's safety, the lecture was cancelled. Also, Brianna Wu, another game developer, was forced to leave her home after being doxxed. Just click on that link and you see a sample of the types of threats tweeted and emailed to Brianna. I can't imagine that the ones sent to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian were all that different.

What do I think about all this? Oh geez. Where to start?

First off, this is not about "journalistic ethics." Of course not all game developers and video game players are misogynistic, murderous, dehumanizing bastards. Very few of them are I'd say. Nevertheless, this happened. It's real. It's news. It needs to be reported. This type of behavior needs to be identified in Geek Nation and not tolerated. We do not tolerate hate or bullying in the workplace, in our schools, or in any other aspect of society. Why is it being tolerated in our hobbies? To paraphrase Zoe Quinn, why should these threats be rewarded, thus setting the example that this is how you get what you want?

Sorry, boys. This is not how intelligent discourse works in polite society. Venture out of your basements every once in a while and you may find that out. This only makes you and anyone else associated with geek culture look bad.

Second of all, these women and their views are not a threat to the gaming industry. The medium is here to stay and there is nothing wrong with someone calling for accountability and diversity in a hobby that they love...which ties in with a behavior that has been irking me for quite a while.

In many respects, the film Napoleon Dynamite is about my adolescence. The only issue is I cannot decide if I was Napoleon or Kip. I came of age when there was very little geek media in the mainstream. I was outright hated for my social awkwardness and my love of geek culture. So much so, that in the late teen years I hid my interests. For this reason, I somewhat identify with the the LGBT community and "staying in the closet." Subsequently, I was a very lonely guy. The very idea that I could ever meet a girl who loved Star Wars, Star Trek, or video games was utterly unfathomable to me.

Thankfully it's not that way now. Geek is chic. Geek Nation knows it is a veritable army and we rejoice in our strangeness. Just today I taught an English class where one girl wore a Batman t-shirt, another a Doctor Who t-shirt, and yet one more had an Avengers backpack. I quietly thought to myself, "Where the heck were you girls when I was in college?"

So why in the name of everything are we trying to exclude women from the culture? Why are we decrying what has come to be called the "fake geek girl?" I don't even know what that means but it takes me back to moronic discussion I've had over music. "I'm more metal than you" I would get told because somebody listened to Megadeth while I played an Iron Maiden record. Then yet another metalhead would claim he was "more metal" than either of us because he was devil-horned devoted to Cannibal Corpse. Alternative music fans were no better. "I listen only to obscure bands. I'm sure you've never heard of them. If someone has a video on MTV then they're just not fit for my delicate palate."

It takes everything I have not to want to bash these people with a baseball bat. What exactly does a woman have to do to be a "real" geek? Program code? I can't do that. Speak fluent Klingon? I'm out on that one too.

If you read comics, you're a comic book fan. If you play video games, you're a gamer. If you read or watch science fiction, you're a science fiction fan. Why the hell can't it be that easy? What sort of "purity" are people out to protect for Geek Nation? I remember all too painfully what it was like to be hated, bullied, and outright assaulted for what I love.

Therefore, I will not practice nor will I tolerate exclusion of anyone else from the culture. We need diversity.

That includes women.

I guess it really is true what Margaret Atwood says: "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

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