What a tiring week it has been even though I’m technically on vacation. You are probably sick and tired of reading about the irrational, emotion-based attacks on women who write about pop culture on the internet, specifically video games. Andrew Todd’s Video Games, Misogyny, And Terrorism: A Guide To Assholes pretty much summed it up, a week in which video game reported Anita Sarkeesian was forced to leave her home over threats, all because she dared to suggest that video games are….sexist. Big shocker there. In addition, a female game creator was harassed over doing in her private life what men consider their right. Devin Faraci also posted a piece called Why I Feel Bad For – And Understand – The Angry #GamerGate Gamers that got a bit more to what fascinated me about all of this: why are women the enemy? Why must they be controlled (at best) and brutalized (at worst) by the majority of human societies? Faraci writes:
Sarkeesian was, in a lot of ways, the lighting of the fuse that finally exploded with Zoe Quinn. Together these women represent everything that threatens these boys – women entering their space, being sexual but not sexual with them, forcing them to examine the seedy and anti-woman power fantasies that are playing out in too many games. The clubhouse has been invaded and it’s getting redecorated and nobody asked them first. Understanding all of this doesn’t mean excusing it, and God knows I don’t. But understanding all of this does leave me at a loss – I don’t know how to get through to these kids. Devils like Owens and Aurini and anonymous hatemonger Internet Aristocrat have the ears of these kids because they offer soothing reassurances that the angry gamers are right and the entirety of the world is wrong. They’re recruiting young people for hate. They’re turning the sense of marginalization these kids feel into hate for other marginalized people, a standard tactic of Neo-Nazi groups, for instance. I, for whatever reason, was always a liberal-leaning person, and while I might have grown up using 1980s street language that would get me boycotted today, I never would have bought into the line of woman-hating hogwash these guys are peddling. This is the only place where I find myself unable to understand these kids – if you feel so put-upon, why are you putting upon others?
Faraci is getting at the same kind of emotion (on a far lesser scale) that I wrote about in Comics have hit puberty…and it’s not pretty. Men cordon off various aspects of human society as “boys only” and react badly when women want to join in what defines human society, so they can be human too.
I had my own internet kerfuffle last week when this site came under a DDOS attack, getting shut down for an afternoon and slogging along for a few more. I launched as thorough an investigation as I could, and while I don’t know that it was a personally based attack…I don’t know that it wasn’t either. I’ll never know. I do know that I had to take some security steps I should have taken a while ago and that’s just common sense for anyone running a moderately trafficked website. But it’s still kind of shitty that I even have to think about something like this.
I’m reminded of a statement Joss Whedon made SEVEN YEARS AGO after a 17-year-old Iraqi Kurdish girl was stoned to death in an honor killing while men watched and made videos on their cel phones. Whedon wrote:
What is wrong with women?
I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.
How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority – in fact, their malevolence — is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.
Ironically, or maybe not, most of the links for “Joss Whedon” and feminism you find now are about how he “gets it wrong” or made a joke or failed a perfect standard. It’s a tough crowd, as I’ve mentioned before. And I regret to say that the behavior of bigoted assholes has made victims even more defensive about all of these complicated issues.
It’s historically part of the “heroic ideal” to stand up against bullies and to stand for the downtrodden. Somehow, when the downtrodden has no Y chromosome, it becomes less cool, and that’s where all this gets really confusing. The male rationalization, bigotry, and downright insanity on display in these weeks is what is the most disturbing, and you guys who aren’t crazy better start stepping up.
As I think I mentioned on twitter, online isn’t about life, it IS life now, for everyone. It’s commerce, it socializing, it’s education, it’s work. It behooves any society that pretends to be free to keep this vital means of communication equally available to ALL. Respect has to be earned but it isn’t gender based.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.