Misogyny, sexism and violence in popular culture: what @jm_mcgrath and @amirightfolks said


Right away, I’ll make it clear: I’m not a gamer. 

Stephanie got things rolling by calling out some loser for setting up an online device aimed at Anita Sarkeesian — a woman he disagreed with. His response to the disagreement and her inexplicable failure to engage in conversation with him: punch her in the face. Virtually. Ha ha. So clever. So mature.

Really, there isn’t much to say about this that hasn’t already been said, although I was particularly impressed by Emma Woolley’s essay: among other things, she argues that nobody is entitled to an audience, to engagement, to conversation, or even to attention. You can say whatever you like, no matter how ridiculous, but that doesn’t impose a corresponding obligation on anyone else to listen to you or answer you. (That resonated with me particularly because of another loser’s smear job on another friend; the said loser tried to rationalize it by arguing that he sent my friend a bunch of questions and my friend chose not to answer.)

John picks up on this in another thoughtful essay on his own site (and John, let me know when that malware thing gets straightened out so I can link to it … ). In it, he goes into some detail about the implicit assumptions surrounding whiteness and heteronormativity, and the almost instinctive resort to violence and hatred when someone’s world view or sense of entitlement is challenged. I won’t try to summarize it here, but do go and read it ASAP. 

John’s post focuses at length on the significance of online games as storytelling devices, and it’s a worthwhile look at a subculture not everyone may know about. It’s particularly instructive for its acknowledgement of privilege:

“… for many, many games there’s an unnecessary barrier between the gamer and the game … I’m a straight, white dude. And there’s almost no game I can pick up, turn on and be alienated from.”

So while I’m not a gamer, I can’t see any reason why that’s not a valid observation, and why it isn’t fodder for a worthwhile conversation. And to my knowledge, that’s the very subject Anita Sarkeesian’s trying to address. And for that, she’s been subject to a disgusting campaign of online harassment, namecalling, violent imagery, and rape threats. And god knows, she’s not the only one … 

To which I can only respond: these guys are walking proof of what Bill Maher says about right-wingers, 14-year-old boys, and being dicks.

The only other observation I’d make, and it may be a trite one, is that this kind of thing isn’t limited to gaming. At one of the first WiTOpoli panel discussions, Kristyn Wong-Tam talked about getting hateful phone calls in which she was called a cunt; while I haven’t researched this comprehensively, I’d bet money that white guys in politics or journalism or whatever aren’t targeted with similar derogatory sexualized or racialized terms. At another WiTOpoli event, another friend talked about this kind of hatred, and how it affected her reluctance to reveal herself as a woman online. 

That’s why it’s important to confront it and call it out. It’s also good to acknowledge one’s own implicit and built-in advantages, whether they’re based in gender, class, or skin colour.

Creating room for other people in the conversation demands no less.

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