Trigger Warning: rape, misogyny, double-standards, feminism
I don’t work in the gaming industry, but I know a lot of people who do, thanks to the powers of the internet and Twitter. Recently there was a particular hashtag, #1ReasonWhy, about why there aren’t more female game developers. Or a stronger female presence in general. This has been a far-reaching hashtag sparking a lot of conversation about what’s going on in the industry as a whole. My friend decided to have a conversation with some men on a gaming forum and came to me desperately wanting links to some of my posts.
I originally wrote the following entry as a Facebook email to this friend. Here’s what happened: She is an American who lives in Japan, as there are many others. They are “expatriates” or “expats” for short. She told me she was likely the only female on this gaming forum. All of this information was given to me after I noticed a huge influx of traffic to the blog from some forum. My own curiosity gets the best of me, so I joined the forum on the off chance that I might see what was being said. Turns out it was my friend sharing posts about how horrible people can be on the internet when they think they can hide behind anonymity. It stemmed from some discussion about boob groping, when it’s accidental or on purpose. It wasn’t a particularly academic discussion about the fondling of boobs, but it definitely reinforced the idea that men believe they are entitled to do what they wanted to women’s bodies because, well, “we’re genetically predispositioned for it”. This video was shared, and when I watched it I started to rage a little bit… no a lotta bit.
And really, here’s the part that really got me going… there was another poster who said he was with me up until the point where I called out a guy who was seemingly asking a fairly innocent question, at which point my anger and frustration with the way I was treated on twitter (and subsequently in real life) were moot. I was an “asshole” for lumping him into the sexist misogynists and calling him out on it in my “anger post”. Needless to say, here is the email I sent to my friend with the permission to share as much or as little as she wants. She promptly told me to blog it. That she couldn’t just copy/paste that for such a limited audience.
Maybe she’s right. Either way, here it is anyway.
* * * * *
I’m 34 years old. I’ve been on the internet since you paid for it by the hour. To say I’ve experienced my fair share of trolls is an understatement. The difference between what I experienced when I was 16/17 years old and today is the level of misogyny and vitriol. Let me be clear, there is no “degree” of misogyny. If you make rape jokes you are a misogynist. If you make “get in the kitchen” jokes, you are a misogynist. If you think that it’s cute to make fun of a female by asking her where her boyfriend or husband is, that’s misogyny. It doesn’t matter what your intent was, because when someone makes those comments the person you’re NOT thinking about is the one on the receiving end of the comment.
There’s a huge difference between having a bad day and rage table flipping by way of yelling into a microphone, or typing in a tweet. It’s a whole different ball game when you rally troops to come after a women because she made a comment about a terrible cupcake joke being offensive. Making a cupcake joke was well within his right to make. It was also well within my right to comment on the offensiveness of said cupcake joke. The difference was how both of us acted and reacted after all was said and done. I was prepared to have just said that it was offensive and walk away. He was not.
What I have stored in my pending comments log (that are not public) is a slew of hate comments dripping in sarcasm and vitriol. Paragraphs of this guy threatening me. Demanding he get a chance to make his words be seen on my blog because he was entitled to get to share what he wanted and how he wanted and why can’t I just stop acting like a child and not delete his comments! That because when you google “prosextips” my blog post comes up pretty highly ranked. Good.
What many men don’t realize is that they’re born with this privilege. As a male you are immediately signed up for the fast track on a road to success, barring making really terrible life choices. As a female, we’re stuck in the slow lane of life. Permanently. We have rev-limiters on our lives stopping us from accelerating. We’re rarely able to pass the person in front of us because our gender entirely defines who we are as people within society. Most modern societies. And especially in gaming subcultures.
When you’re born a straight man, you not only get access to the fast track, but you’re rev-limiter is set at an even higher speed when compared to women. If you’re born a straight WHITE man, then shit, you have zero limitations. No limitations on speed. No limitations on which lane you can choose. And you’re allowed to hop into the carpool lane whenever you choose without having any repercussions.
As an analogy, a highway seems fairly ridiculous. Because life isn’t a literal highway. However, the experiences of women will always, ALWAYS be different than that of men. I am rarely judged on my abilities, but often my attractiveness, my distractability to an all-male team, or my fuckability. Even if I were in a world first guild, killing shit as quickly as it’s released, I’m judged not by my ability to play games, but by my perceived gender. I was born a female. I identify as female. My life is the life that a typical female might live in the United States. I understand that other countries handle gender issues differently, but I can’t honestly speak for the experiences of women in other countries.
But in my time as a gamer I have chosen not to speak in mumble, vent, or voice chat because of my gender. For a long time I was angry. Like the typical feminist I was upset at the way I was treated. Told I should be raped by some NPC or my father, if you look at my tweets. That in speaking up I somehow deserved it, because what I really needed was to get laid. Or told that I’m being overly sensitive because I would like rape comments to stop being bandied about as though it were just “par for the course”. My answer to that is no. Never. Not okay. Will never be okay.
Why is it not okay?? Would you walk up to the barista at a coffee shop, not knowing them at all (gender doesn’t matter), ask them to help you change the tire on your car, and then exclaim “We totally just raped that tire!” No? Really?? Cause that’s essentially what you’re doing when you claim to have raped anyone/anything in a video game. It’s pointless and hurtful. Rape is horrible and dangerous territory to venture down for people who don’t understand what’s actually happening when rape occurs. Despite what men want to believe, the number of women who “fake” rape charges is minute in comparison to the number of unreported rapes. But, no one cares about that either. As a man, you have a point to make.
In the US, we teach women to be careful. Don’t go out at night. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t dress seductively. Don’t act like a “slut” or a “whore”. Avoid dark alleys. Don’t go out alone. Carry mace. Carry a gun. Know your exit routes. What we don’t do is teach men that it’s not okay to rape.
Do you know what the first question out of men’s mouths when they hear someone has been raped?? “What was she wearing?” As if anything that existed in the world basically says “rape me” by design! Not even walking down the street naked is an invitation for a man to rape anyone ever. Here is how Americans view rape. Just in case you don’t want to bother clicking the link, here’s the statistics for you. This is telling of rape culture in America.
Out of every 100 rapes:
- 46 are reported to the police
- 12 rapes will resort in an arrest
- 9 rape cases are prosecuted
- 5 rape cases lead to a felony conviction
- Only 3 rapists will ever spend a day in jail
In a survey of 11-14 year-old boys:
- 51% believed rape was acceptable if a boy spent a lot of money on a girl
- 31% believed rape was acceptable if a girl had past sexual experience
- 65% believed rape were acceptable if a girl and boy had been dating for more than 6 months
- 87% believed rape were acceptable if the woman and man are married
A woman might not even have grown up understanding what rape is…because in a survey of 11-14 year-old girls:
- 41% believed rape was acceptable if a boy spent a lot of money on a girl
- 32% believed rape was acceptable if a girl had past sexual experience
- 47% believed rape were acceptable if a girl and boy had been dating for more than 6 months
- 79% believed rape were acceptable if the woman and man are married
In a survey of college males:
- 35% admit – anonymously – that they would rape under the circumstances that they could get away with it
- 1 in 12 admitted to committing acts defined as rape, but 84% of rapists did not recognize those acts as rape
In yet another survey of college males:
- 43% of college-aged men admitted to using coercive behavior to have sex, including ignoring a woman’s protest, using physical aggression, and forcing intercourse.
- 15% acknowledged they had committed acquaintance rape; 11% acknowledged using physical restraints to force a woman to have sex.
This isn’t just about rape, I know. But it is about power. It’s about men having power over me because this is something they can threaten in a way that I cannot. Not in the same way. We’re physically built differently. Men are biologically predispositioned to be stronger, more athletic, and bigger framed.
Rape and gender issues are closely intertwined. And because it’s about power. It’s always about power. And control. And because you, as a male, had no idea the privilege you were given by simple way of being male, it’s more difficult for you to see this, and even more difficult to understand on a level that you can truly and completely understand what it’s like to feel this way every day. It’s also more difficult to understand this because in the end, women are asked to keep silent. We’re asked to shut up about it. Don’t talk about those dark things that are said to you when no one else is around. Our parents ignore us. Our teachers pretend it doesn’t happen. Our friends write us off as insane, man-hating feminists. “Shush, now, honey, and it’ll just go away.”
No. Because it won’t just go away. Not unless I continue to talk about it. Until people start to learn. Until men begin to stand beside me and start asking men to stop treating women poorly.
That guy, Aaron Lee Bentley, in his seemingly innocent tweet, was no different just because he didn’t tell me to “get raped”. His tweet was the equivalent of “what was she wearing?” It doesn’t matter whether or not I was following ProSexTips or not. It shouldn’t matter what I was wearing. Being an asshole doesn’t get excused because you see my actions as more horrible as a reactionary response than his were in execution. He was no different than the “get in the kitchen” girl. Or the guy who claimed I was a virgin and my first fuck would be my father.
Because what you don’t know and can’t understand is that this is what I deal with daily. This is my life. I have to remember that if I choose to wear pigtails in my hair, women will stare at me and think “slut” and men will think “hot, I’d fuck her”. I can’t just BE a female who likes to play video games. I can’t just BE a female who goes to the store to buy some damn nail polish with pig tails. I am a sexual toy for men. And it’s my fault because I have tits and a vagina. (Yes the pigtail thing happened on the day this was written).
It’s not my fault. It’s society’s fault for allowing it to reach this point of inclusion in the ideologies of people as a general rule. And it’s the gaming community’s fault for silencing women for years and years by embracing them into the inner circle when they’re willing to make sexist jokes. The gaming community has asked women to keep quiet about their experiences. Telling women to just “ignore the trolls”.
I’m sorry, I’m tired of ignoring the trolls. I’m going to fight back. I’m going to continue to tell my story (again and again and again) all the while asking men to speak up when they hear misogyny, sexism, and homophobic hate speech. Even if there isn’t a woman present. Even if no one has expressed discomfort. Because the ideologies need to change. And the only way to do that is to keep talking about it.
My fight is not your fight. It will never be. I chose this.
But don’t judge me and tell me I no longer have a valid point because the severity of one tweet didn’t carry the same hateful weight as the others. They are the same. In the long list of shitty things people have said to me over the years, it is all the same.
The difference between you and I? I’m not judging you, a man, based on his male comments. I try to talk to men. Women. People. And tell my story, again and again. And again.
One day, the little girls out there will feel comfortable saying “I’m a gamer. I like games” without their gender being a deciding factor of how seriously they can be a gamer. And they won’t have to justify their level of gaming by the types of games they choose to play or how many rape jokes they can take. They will be female. And they will be gamers.
That is my job.