Thursday, October 23, 2014

Some random thoughts on Gamergate

[Content note: misogyny, harassment, threats]

I haven't been following Gamergate too much, because I can only consume so much on the topic of misogyny and harassment before I need a nap, a hug, and a bottle of wine. But I did catch a recent discussion NPR's Diane Rehm Show about online harassment and they briefly touched on Gamergate. I was horrified to hear the extremeness of the threats that Anita Sarkeesian has received. I mean, I knew it was bad, but I'm not sure if I grasped just how bad.

Stories like these clearly demonstrate just how all encompassing the culture of fear (including rape culture) is that women must navigate within. The message is obvious: don't cross us or shit will happen to you. It makes it so that women who are on the periphery of the situation are legitimately afraid to speak up and the women who are involved have to move just to feel safe.

It's all the more frustrating because the misogynistic response here actually validates why these women are speaking up in the first place. (Not that the threat makers are capable of noticing that.)

It's all kind of terrifying. I've long said that being a woman with an opinion online is rarely a neutral experience. As I've lived first hand, someone is always there to tell you kill yourself or to call you every misogynistic thing they can think of. As one of the guests on the NPR segment explained, often the reaction is to tell women that they should just stay offline--as if that is any kind of actual solution. Let's be real, that mentality is one step from, "She was asking for it." It places the responsibility back on women, instead of examining toxic hypermasculinity. It polices women's ability to act freely instead of deconstructing how our culture continues to transmit misogyny to men which says, "If a woman disagrees with you, you put that bitch in her place."

I'm trying to wrap my mind around the experience of having someone critique something I love (in this case, gaming) and thinking that a suitable reaction is, "I'm going to threaten her very life." But I can't get my mind there, because I haven't been raised in a society that is so tailored to my being that I'm entitled enough to think my favorite stuff is beyond criticism.

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