I really never wanted to talk about GamerGate. I really wanted GamerGate to be the trivial nonsense it sounds like on the surface. Unfortunately, it’s turned into so much of an unmitigated, creepy mess that I couldn’t stay out of it with a clear conscience. I don’t want to go into its full history. Other articles have done that already, and more thoroughly than I can.
By its own admission, the GamerGate movement has no leaders and no single, cohesive goal. People join in the movement for many reasons, and anyone who knows how to use a Twitter hashtag can call themselves a GamerGater. You can’t police a hashtag vj4dk6s. I myself spent some time using the tag last night to make posts about ants, until I quickly grew bored with it (I’m really not a very good Internet troll. I’m okay with that)*. Some of their most vocal supporters aren’t even gamers. Really, the only thing all people who identify as GamerGaters have in common is that they’re really, really angry about… er… things.
Still, three factions seem to stand out among the name’s supporters. There are others, but these appear to be the most vocal of them:
The first is the rabble of 4Chan** trolls and harassers where it all started after Eron Gjoni published a blog post about his ex, indie game developer Zoe Quinn, essentially accusing her of trading sexual favors for good game reviews. These creeps immediately launched a harssment campaign against her, including death and rape threats that drove her out of her home. They did the same to Brianna Wu for posting some anti-GamerGate meme images, and Anita Sarkeesian (a media critic, not even part of the gaming industry) for talking about feminism and games. This faction truly just wants to ruin lives. If you think there is anything at all productive or reasonable about this faction, then this post is not for you.
The second are those who believe it is a breach of ethicis for professional game reviewers to incorporate issues of diversity or cultural/political critique in game reviews which should be “objective”. These people do not know what “objectivity” means, or what reviews are. Media reviews of any kind are inherently subjective. They are an account of that particular reviewer’s experience with that piece of media. To say “The portrayals of women in this game made me uncomfortable, which lowered the score slightly” is no less objective than “The muted color scheme and static camera angle made it difficult to see what was going on, which lowered the score for me”. This group is also up in arms about an article in which the writer declared a specific, narrow definition of the word “gamer” to be obsolete. Just like reviews, that is an opinion piece and while you’re certainly entitled to believe tha person was mean, it is not an ethical journalism issue. This group seems to think “ethical journalism” means “journalism that I approve of”. They have no idea what they’re talking about, and this post is also not for them.
The third faction are those who think the gaming industry and related journalism is too clique-ish and that sometimes close relationships between the two present a conflict of interest. They’d like to be assured of clear disclosure when a journalist writes about someone with whom there is a personal connection. That’s not unreasonable. It’s not something I personally have a strong opinion about (I honestly don’t remember when a professional review had much of an impact on my buying choices. I tend to pay more attention to consumer reviews, honestly), and I find it weird and misguided that they put so much focus on independent developer coverage and so little on big-name companies who often literally buy reviews, but it’s not an unreasonable expectation. This post is for this group.
My question to this faction of GamerGate is this: Why are you still associating with the GamerGate name?
Is it because the name “GamerGate” has notoriety, even though it has gained that notoriety for awful reaosns and it has been irreparably tainted by the trolls and frothing anti-SJWs? Do you really, truly need this hashtag to make your case? Do you really think this ridiculous name is helping you make that case productively?
And it is a ridiculous name, you know that right? I am absolutely baffled that you all took that name and ran with it. Adding the “-gate” suffix to other words to imply scandal is something that comedians do to make fun of the over-the-top sensationalism of issues like these. Even without its harassment-campaign roots, the misogyny, the misinformation about what “journalism ethics” and “objectivity” mean, it’s a really, really stupid name that paints your movement as full of hyperdramatic children right from the start.
How on Earth is defending this absurd name worth associating yourself with the kind of people who would dox Felicia Day for publicly admitting that they have made her afraid to speak about it? Or who would threaten a mass shooting at a university to prevent a feminist media critic from speaking? Why would you even want to align yourselves with that second faction who thinks it’s unethical to publicly have opinions about things?
If you have a worthy cause, you need not live and die by a hashtag. Especially one as stupid as GamerGate***.
* – I feel in fairness, I should point out that the GG supporters who responded to my ant tweets seemed to be playing along and taking it in good humor. I found that encouraging, and suspect those folks to be part of the third faction.
** – They fled 4chan because moderators started nuking their GamerGate threads. When freakin’ 4chan doesn’t want to deal with your nonsense, that’s what’s called a “clue”. Instead of examinging that clue a bit further, though, they just decided 4chan had gone SJW. Because, sure, when I think “PC Police”, I think 4chan.
*** – Unless it’s about ants. Then it’s a great name.
An article called “50 Ways To Be A Woman” was making the rounds on some Tumblr blogs I follow. The article itself is a well-meaning but rather contradictory list of suggestions to be yourself and be independent mixed with tips on how to appear and behave lady-like. If these are traits and behaviors she values for herself, more power to her. In that case, though, a more fitting title would be “50 Ways to Be the Woman I Want to Be“. A list on how to be a woman really shouldn’t have more than two steps:
1.) Identify as a female human.
2.) Survive until adulthood.
There are a lot of points to criticize in the list (its somewhat obsessive hetero-normativity, its focus on the very subjective concept of “modesty”, etc.), as by its standards I fail pretty hard on a lot of it. My biggest issues with the list can be summed up in these few points:
12. Allow yourself to be treated like lady. If more women would sit down and be ladies, more men would stand up and be men. Just because you are capable of opening your own door, in the presence of a man, you should not have to. Allow men the indulgence of being men and take pride in the privilege of being a lady.
20. Do not restrict yourself to gender stereotypes, but do not blatantly defy them for sport.
32. Do not outwardly reject society’s conventions of a woman just because they differ from your personal convictions.
These points led to some discussions about “gentlemanly” behaviors like opening doors, offering seats on the bus, and taking on physical labor tasks so women don’t have to do them. It was pointed out by some that this is intended as a sign of respect toward women, and not intended to be degrading.
No, those acts generally aren’t intended to be degrading, but they very much can be. Here’s an example from my own experience:
My two most recent jobs (with the same company for which I worked 10 years) involved a pretty significant amount of warehouse work. I was management, but I was still loading trucks with a non-powered pallet jack and otherwise moving heavy materials on a fairly regular basis. Particularly in my most recent position, it was not uncommon for male employees to insist on stopping me from doing these tasks myself. Some would go so far as to actually grab the pallet jack away from me.
I don’t believe any of them did this maliciously. I believe they all meant well, but it made me uncomfortable and often angry. This was part of my job, which I took seriously. Their insistence on taking these tasks from me, even if they didn’t intend it, came with the implication that I was inherently unsuited to my position based on my gender. This is not only discouraging on a personal level; consider the fact that, whether you believe the wage gap between genders exists*, there are a significant number of people who believe such a gap is appropriate in part because they believe women do less work. When I’m trying to do my job and men consistently take key tasks over for me, is it not likely that what my supervisors see is me doing less of my own work? Furthermore, what they see is someone else “having” to take time out of doing their own work to do mine.
Again, I believe these men truly intended to be helpful, but when I politely turn down their offer and they insist or take it upon themselves to do it anyway, they are undermining my ability to demonstrate my merit in the workplace. It may be well-intentioned, but it is not always harmless.
Even when it’s not a matter of feeling degraded, I find it very uncomfortable. I truly believe that my gender should not be a factor in how I am treated as a default. I believe a man should show me no more, and no less respect than they would a man of comparable familiarity. If a man holds the door open for every woman, but doesn’t do so for other men, how is that not considered weird? How do you explain that behavior without just using an “it’s tradition” argument?
I defy quite a lot of cultural gender conventions, but I don’t do it “for sport” as the author suggests. I do it because those conventions feel completely unnatural and uncomfortable to me. Even when it comes to the appearance suggestions in the article, I don’t follow those conventions because I am profoundly uncomfortable wearing heels (I don’t like the way they make me feel “artificially” taller). I don’t adhere to “modesty” guidelines because low-cut, sleeveless tops that show my cleavage and shoulders look good on me and feel good on me, and much “conservative” clothing makes me look and feel even more awkward than I already am.
So, if I find these conventions restrictive and unnatural for myself, why wouldn’t I outwardly reject them? What reason is there to reject society’s conventions if not because they differ from my personal convictions? My gender is part of me. It does not define me, nor do the expectations our culture has for it.
This does not make me any less of a woman.
* It does exist, but I don’t want to derail this topic with that argument. The point here is that there are plenty of people who don’t think it’s a problem if it does.