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Male Gamers Behaving Badly

I think I will start adding more political commentary to this blog, especially as the way USian society in particular seems to be amping up the misogyny in recent years is concerning and worrisome. As noted in my previous political-commentary type posts, we’ve seen examples of the most grossly hypocritically homophobic behavior from some men, as well as men advocating permanently disfiguring women just for being women.

I will stop and note that for people who are upset by the crudity of misogynistic comments, a trigger warning applies to the links I have put in this writeup.

I refer to this link, which contains archived screen shots of commenters to a Youtube video which is related to a project designed to explore the ways in which female characters in computer games are often portrayed using stereotypes (an example which comes to mind is Lara Croft, whose sexual attractiveness is de facto primary rather than any gameplay elements).

Judging from the depth and intensity of the misogynistic manure pile that formed after this Kickstarter thing hit the Interwebs, it’s abundantly clear to me that at least some men (they may not even really realize why they are acting like this*) feel so threatened by women who question the status quo in computer game design that they lash out incredibly viciously.

What I want to know is why these people don’t feel any shame or loss of self-respect, or even just embarrassment, that they’ve behaved so badly. I mean, when I look at those comments? My reaction is utter speechlessness. I can’t fathom this. Disbelief. Shock.

I’m a man. In the course of my life I’ve had some very illuminating experiences along the social-justice learning curve, and it’s apparent if one just takes the time to look for a few moments that the harrassment of women, just for being women, is a serious problem. In short, I’ve learned not to universalize my own experience, and if a woman says something happened to her that I didn’t “see”, I try not to dismiss it out of hand, but attempt to put myself in her shoes (not that I think I’ve always been successful).

Why is it that other men feel that they can, in 2012, behave like it’s 1812? From the “get in the kitchen and make me a sammich” jokes, to completely and utterly frothingly batshit raging against someone like Anita Sarkeesian–

What?! What can it possibly be that’s so goddamn threatening about women asking not to be treated like sex objects!? Or portrayed as such?

What can it possibly be about women who want to have jobs, live independently, do all the things that men take for granted as do-able in a Western country, that’s a threat that calls for the most coarse and vulgar displays of misogyny like it’s a one-up contest and the man with the best bile-spewing talent wins?

Well, see the asterisk* up there? How it may be that these misogynists don’t even realize why it is they overreact so tremendously, they just do and it probably feels good to them to vent their sudden anger on a target who doesn’t deserve it?

The answer is probably partly given by a word apparently used by Marxists at one point: “mystified”. I learned this from Harry Turtledove’s alternate history TL-191 books. The word doesn’t have a good exact translation, but a rendering of the concept might be “socially-conditioned”, or “taught to believe something so deeply it is considered to be natural”. (EDIT: The term is apparently definitely derived from Marxist discourse, as noted here)

It seems to me that effectively, some men are mystified into believing that all women are threats unless they conform to certain acceptable social roles as they concieve such roles to be. So women who question the existing order of things, through no fault of their own, provoke an extreme reaction from these men out of all due proportion to the question being asked, because the men who are mystified have a powerful belief that if the existing social order (as they see it) is preserved, then the way they view women and how women will interact with them will be validated as correct.

This doesn’t excuse their behavior, but it does, perhaps, explain it. The problem is, I don’t see any solution that immediately comes to mind except that gamers, who are usually very computer literate, pride themselves on being a certain kind of “intelligent” (notice how some male gamers tend to deride women for “not being real gamers”). Anybody who can get inside that gestalt can probably start proving quite easily that their stereotypes of women are wrong, but it’s a laborious task and not one easily undertaken.

Finally, any men reading this? Who may, just possibly, have availed yourself of derogatory commentary to women in the past?

Read that Youtube link. Would you speak to your mother or your sister that way? If you pride yourself on being someone who “mans up”, well, “manning up” includes behaving properly even to people you think are wrong. If you think those commenters on Youtube are in any way “correct, but….” or “well, maybe they had a point” – if you even so much as think that any of those deluded assholes were correct in what they were saying, then what you are doing is trying to validate them even as you try to distance yourself from them.

Don’t do that. If you have ever said “My dad taught me to treat women properly”, then now is the time to put that into action and behave like a human being instead of some kind of poo-throwing monkey.

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18 thoughts on “Male Gamers Behaving Badly

  1. Some of it, I suspect, is just Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/ . Certainly youtube comments have become a byword for the most thoroughgoingly pointless and offensive comment streams, and things one should not read if one wants to retain any warm fuzzies about humanity – even on videos that aren’t even faintly controversial.

    I get annoyed by being pandered to. If I want porn, I’ll consume porn. If I want a dramatic or thrilling film, I don’t want porn getting mixed up in it; they’re different things for different times, like ice cream and steak. Same for video games. Trying to sell me something with sex, or to use it to cover up shortcomings elsewhere, just annoys me.

    As a pen&paper role-playing gamer, I am contractually required to look down on computer gamers as twitchy cash-cows who don’t have the imagination to build their own worlds. (And I imagine they look down on me as someone who’s living in the last century with playing groups of five or ten rather than a few thousand.)

    I don’t think Sarkeesian is the genius she thinks she is, since her series of videos on film stereotypes seemed mostly taken from TVTropes, but I’m not trying to convince anyone that they shouldn’t listen to her.

    • My feeling is the fact that some male gamers have reacted so viciously in the first place tells me that for all they like to pretend to themselves that “lolololo women have more power now”, it’s really a very different story, and when this kind of rampant misogyny is present there’s analogs to how racist whites felt somehow inordinately threatened to the point of near incoherence at the notion of equality between blacks and whites.

      So these videos deserve to be made, if only to showcase how female portrayals in video games reinforce the negative stereotypes the commenters made use of. The latest is to use the “gold-digging bitch” stereotype as people try to go “SHE BETTER, LIKE, DONATE IT ALL TO CHARITY OR SOMETHING. IF SHE DOESN’T PEOPLE WILL BE MAAAAAAAAD.”

      *rolls eyes* It’s nice to know people who think they’re Libertarians prove the lie of their ideology as soon as someone does something they don’t like and they want someone to interfere to prevent that.

    • I get annoyed by being pandered to.

      I get “annoyed” being treated as a sex object and nothing else. Except annoyance isn’t the word. Depressed, outraged, miserable, and feeling like I will never be granted worth as a human being. Knowing that I will always have to deal with this for the rest of my life. Seeing that it’s gotten worse over time.

      And, as a straight woman, I get annoyed that I am hardly ever “pandered” to. When games include elements specifically to appeal to me, a bunch of men stomp around saying that those games should stop doing that because I just plain don’t count.

      And I am utterly terrified by the fact that any woman who speaks up about someone or some company in gaming doing something that she finds offensive or problematic, and she gets any kind of visibility, she is immediately showered with rape threats galore.

      By the way, that happened when the Penny Arcade guys got pissed off at a woman for writing them a very polite letter about how a comic with a rape joke triggered her. It snowballed into this huge thing that ended up with many, many rape threats directed at any woman who had any problem with the way the PA guys belittled and insulted this woman, or the fact that they sent a horde of their supporters after her. They didn’t tell their supporters to back off until one person asked how they’d like it if their wives were the ones getting threatened. Then they pretended that both sides were equally at fault.

      It’s not random “Fuckwads” on the internet. It’s misogyny.

      • I have discovered, however, that the relative lack of accountability for one’s statements gives rise to people like those commenters giving free vent to their racist and sexist viewpoints. It’s truly astonishing and depressing, and it shouldn’t take them realzing the “special women” in their lives can be just as affected by their misogynistic crap as all women can be affected.

        But sometimes it has to take them putting themselves in the shoes of a guy whose wife/girlfriend/mother/sister just got called all kinds of crude and offensive things for them to realize the crude and offensive things they used to say as a joke really do hurt people.

        The thing that really bothers me, as a man, is how many other men seem to think that telling a woman they’d rape her isn’t in any way a huuuuuuuuuuuuge problem.

        Just… no. D-X

      • Some excellent points here, and it’s really that simple: It’s misogyny.

        The ‘chilling effect’ that is going on is remarkable, it’s remarkably horrifying and remarkably vicious.

  2. attempt to put myself in her shoes (not that I think I’ve always been successful)

    The truth is, while you can empathize with women over stuff like this, you can’t put yourself in our shoes. You can’t know what it’s like to live your life every day as a girl or woman in a misogynistic society. It’s not these random flare-ups and then it’s gone. It’s every day, and it’s everywhere. Nearly every piece of media has misogyny running through its blood. And that’s just media — I’m not even going to get into rape and government interference with my right to my own body and sexual harassment and really I could go on forever so I’ll just stop here.

    • mmhmm. I think a better way of phrasing it might have been to say that asking myself what ordinary things I, as a man, do or say, that a woman ends up being socially ‘required’ to have second thoughts about on a constant basis (see below for more). As well as asking myself what I don’t have to do as a man that women need to make a special effort to do*.

      It has been rather enlightening in a D: way over the last decade watching the Interwebs and seeing women relate stories that boil down to needing to treat every man as Schroedinger’s Rapist. Men have no comparable life-experience, IAWYC.

      * For example, I don’t have to assume every car that slows down near me is filled with people who have decided it is their right to deliver unsolicited commentary on my body.

  3. Tempting as it is, I can’t write this off as a youtube commenters thing. The Escapist ran an article on this subject, strongly condeming the hateful responses. But a large number of posts on that articles were criticising the makers of that documentary. When pressed by other commenters, they would say that, okay, those youtube comments were perhaps not appropriate, and they don’t support those or anything. But really, we shouldn’t lose sight of what a stupid Kickstarter this was and how self-serving it was to ask for money for a kind of documentary that plenty of people make for free and how the makers were just hindering the acceptance of female gamers and blablabla.

    It suprised me. The Escapist is a gamer website with a fairly liberal user base (a forum poll on support for gay marriage got more than 90 % on yes) and some of the strictest admins I know (A post of just “First” or agreeing with a previous poster without any new input of your own is enough for a suspension). That doesn’t mean you never get douchebags on the site, but it has about the best chances for a reasonable and tolerant community you can get for a general gaming website. But the split on the first page was about 50/50 between people agreeing with the article and people who found it more important to mention that this woman really had any criticism comming. Oh, and threatening her with violence is bad. I guess.

    Someone had also posted a video of some guy who had singled the project out as a terrible documentary because it was starting from a biased viewpoint of disapproval. Ignoring the hypocracy that his video did the same thing, it’s rather weird when his other point was “We don’t need this, everybody already knows female characters exist for fanservice.” So everybody already agrees, but it’s bad that the makers also agreed. Really, his arguments made little sense to me. Plus, there was his opinion, as far as I could tell, that we all know women are objectified in games because the games hope to appeal to young males, so real-life women can shut up about it now. That’s how it works, now stop complaining about it. He did not seem to feel there was any merrit to a discussion on if game studios might conceivably be asked if they can’t think of other, less objectifying ways to appeal to young males. Or if, even if they can prove that fanservice-y female characters are indeed liked by their target audience, it means that they should put it in. Just because you can doesn’t mean you can’t ask if you should.

    I have no idea if the documentary she is going to make will be interesting, good, or productive. I can understand not wanting to pay to make this documentary. But that’s not the issue. The problem is with so many people responding aggresively at the notion that the documentary is being made. That is highly concerning.

    • Also related is the banning of a female legislator for using the word “vagina”.

      The way the men in that legislature were all up in arms over it suggests that the men who wanted her shut-up implicitly buy in to the idea that women’s bodies are quasi public property and a woman who assertively says “sorry, but you are not all entitled to this” has to be ‘brought down’ abruptly. (>_<)

      Because she's right – no woman is required to indulge another person's interest in her bits, and she is allowed to refuse access by someone for any reason.

  4. Perhaps a better word than “mystified” is “entranced”. They’re caught in a trance that there’s only one proper pattern for anything–namely, the one they’re already cohering to. I don’t think it’s a matter of just the alleged proper role of women. Look beyond just video gaming and women; the scornful will assail ANYTHING which suggests they ought to change as chimeric and/or spiteful and/or entitlement-addled in some way. (No, they’re not entitlement-addled in their minds, they’re just doing What Was Meant To Be®.) Looking at an offering on FSTDT, someone who couldn’t see how evolution could be true in a world with dependable and predictable sunset and sunrise times, I figured that it had to do with evolution being a random and chaotic thing. To the person who made the non sequitir, it WASN’T a non sequitir, because an orderly world can only be that way with infinitesimal/no randomness and chaos. There’s no place for change in the current world; therefore, those who champion change by name or implication deserve nothing but vilification and shame, and reminders to embrace fate, and with it the lowly conditions that are inherent to their particular existence.

    • Sort of like the saying “A fish doesn’t know it’s wet.”

      I remember a lot of essays by Stephen Jay Gould on how bad science was used to prop up White Supremacy clear up through the 1950s. Apparently White Supremacy was considered a Law of Nature as fundamental as electromagnetism or gravity on both sides of Mason-Dixon well into the 20th Century.

  5. Well, you can substitute POC or queers to women, and your main point would still be valid. I think my cynicism would force me to conclude that it is unfortunately part of human (men’s?) nature. Whether misoginy, racism or homophobia, these are deeply ingrained fears of anything different. Men are asshats (and I’m one of them!).

    • And I absolutely do not want my comment to sound as if I think it’s fatalism and we have no choice but to watch it happen. We can and must fight back. Sorry if I did not make this clear.

  6. I wonder if there’s just this feedback loop in progress:

    Male gamers get games like Duke Nukem Forever and Bayonetta and others (many of which are games with some technically good elements to them but with cringeworthy or ‘guilty enjoyment’ elements at best, and outright pandering misogyny at worst.)

    Male gamers enjoy these games, then “grow up” (so to speak) and become male game developers.

    Male game developers make games like Skullgirls and Lollipop Chainsaw.

    Male gamers consume these games, “grow up” and become more male game developers.

    New batch of male game developers come up with things like the trailer for Hitman: Absolution. *wince*

    Wank, Rinse (please), Repeat.

    In such a case it will take a sea change in the culture of gaming. We’re starting to see that. (Bulletstorm, for all its inanity and over-the-top language, was a decent shooter with some interesting elements and didn’t strike me as brazenly misogynist.) We could do with seeing a lot more.

    • Male game developers make games like Skullgirls and Lollipop Chainsaw.

      I don’t know those games, and from the titles I’m not sure I want to. Just titles alone sound like heavy-duty splatter. “Lollipop Chainsaw” sounds especially sicko.

      Though I think what VMink is describing is better called a “race to the bottom” in game designers, where a certain downward direction (big tits and splatter) gets reinforced more and more with each iteration.

  7. The problem is, I don’t see any solution that immediately comes to mind except that gamers, who are usually very computer literate, pride themselves on being a certain kind of “intelligent” (notice how some male gamers tend to deride women for “not being real gamers”).

    This was going on among gamers long before the Internet. I’m a pencil, paper, and funny dice guy from the Seventies, when D&D was the turf of geeky white boys. While we had female gamers from near the beginning (the editor of the first D&D APA — monthly mimeographed predecessor of blogs, flamewars and all — was female), there was some undercurrent of “No Gurlz Allowed” among the geeky white boy stronghold. While my club (“Expeditons Ltd”, Cal State Fullerton, 1976-80) had no problem with the few female gamers in the club, I did hear horror stories about abuse of female gamers. The most common horror story was to have the DM and his Boyz rig a can’t-avoid scenario where the female gamer’s (usually female) character gets raped or gang-raped before being killed off, with all the Boyz backing the DM. (Kind of like the classic Killer DM on a Power Trip situation.) I understand online griefers use a similar stunt today.

  8. P.S. … a project designed to explore the ways in which female characters in computer games are often portrayed using stereotypes (an example which comes to mind is Lara Croft, whose sexual attractiveness is de facto primary rather than any gameplay elements).

    I don’t know of anyone who called Tomb Raider by its actual title.

    It was always “Boob Raider” after Lara Croft’s basketball boobs.

    (Years ago, there was this small-press pencil/paper/funny-dice game called “Macho Women with Guns” which spoofed the whole “big boobs and bigger gun” sub-genre.)

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