Men vs Misogyny

So there’s been a lot of talk lately about misogyny, sexism and sexual harassment in geekdom, such as comics, movies and particularly gaming. Comic commentary I’ll leave to better minds like Kate Beaton but I know gaming, and gaming is also a Big Deal. And sexism in gaming is such a big deal even the BBC  is doing stories on it. And there are lots of people trying to raise the issue of sexism in game design, in the online community and particularly in game environments but it is endemic enough to become a meme and is thankfully well-parodied.

But so far, most of what I’ve seen crying against it has come from the ladies themselves. And a lot of what I’ve seen coming from men is mansplaining, turning a blind eye, or a shrug of the shoulders. Even when women are recognised as having a fair complaint, the sentiment seems to be that “gamers/gaming is like that” and it’s pretty hard to change.

Without trying to be all white-man’s-burden, I’d like to say that I’m sick and tired of the problem, and I’m sick and tired of doing nothing about it. I’m sick and tired of gaming not being a safe space for women. I’m sick to my stomach that my female friends can’t go to gaming stores. I’m tired of reading article after article about the shit that goes down online, of the way that gamers revert instantly to sexual language and sexual attacks, and then excuse it as smack talk.

So all of this leads me to say: maybe it’s time some men started doing something about the problem. Because guys, this is our problem. Members of our gender have made gaming, over and over again, a toxic, hostile and dangerous place for women. And that’s not just bad for women, or bad for us, it’s bad for gaming. And it is sad and disgusting that it took a lot of very loud women pointing this out to us before we noticed or gave a damn. And it is depressing as hell that we either don’t want to do anything about it, or cannot do anything about it.

Right now, I don’t believe the latter. I think we can do something about it, specifically as men. Because for the moment we dominate the gaming industry and the gaming market and because we should. Because it’s about fucking time. (And yes, all of the above applies to homophobia and racism in gaming too. I’m just picking one thing at a time though.) The question then is, what to do.

Just as a start, I’m throwing an idea out there. It might be a stupid idea. Consider this a call for input on it. The idea takes inspiration from the various men’s groups around the world that take a stand against sexism and crimes against women. Those groups are designed to encourage men to recognize that the problems begin in their numbers, in their social groups, in what they will and won’t accept from their mates and their wide circles. I think it could be a good concept to apply specifically to gaming.

I’d like to see a society of men who have taken a pledge to make gaming safe for women – video games, online games, board games, rpgs, all games, for all women. And who will try to do so by not tolerating any sexism, harassment or sexual assault (verbal or otherwise) from the men they game with. Who will kick out, ban, or refuse to group with guys who won’t stop with the misogyny. Who will be able to join an online group and get a little avatar badge that says to women “hey, you can game with me and I won’t be a sexist jackass to you”. Maybe even a t-shirt they could wear at cons. Just to say “I’m a man, and I have GOT THE DAMN MESSAGE.” The message that enough is enough. That this has to stop.

I like the sound of that, actually. It could be Men calling for an End to Sexism and Sexual Assault in the Gaming Environment. Shirts that say: I’ve Gotten The MESSAGE. And those who haven’t got it yet, well, haven’t got the MESSAGE.

Obviously such a system could be abused. Obviously such a system could end up doing nothing to help and just be handing out badges to people for feeling like sanctimonious crusaders. Obviously this could just be an excuse for me to bignote myself and act all quixotic, or just get in the way of other good ideas. Obviously, I don’t want any of that.  Hence, I’m doing my research before I started tilting at windmills. That’s where you come in. Tell me if you think this will make any goddamn difference at all. Tell me, men, if you’d want to support something like this. Tell me, ladies, if you think it would help in any way. Or tell me to go back and try again.

But tell me something because enough IS really enough. Some of us have got the message, but it isn’t getting through, and it’s just not good enough.

NOTE: This post was edited on the 27th of September, 2012, to remove a personal anecdote. Nothing of significance was changed.

13 thoughts on “Men vs Misogyny

  1. I don’t see this much in my gaming, perhaps because I’m older ad I don’t play the “Kill! Kill!” type games. It seems worth doing though. I mean, it has a lot of potential upside and no real potential downside I can see. Go at it, Steve D!

  2. My first response was that I reject the idea that I have some kind of specific responsibility for the actions of “gamers” outside the circle of people I game with. I don’t have an xbox live account, for example, so I don’t think I’ve got any responsibility to try to fix the behaviour of kiddies yelling “OMG I raped you!” at other people on xbox live. When you say it’s “our” problem you’re engaging in the Fallacy of Composition, arguing that because sexism is true of (or a problem of) a part, that it is a problem of the whole.

    On the other hand I can recall times, which I’m not proud of, when I failed to take the opportunity to jump on people I do associate with who have made sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive remarks. So while the actions of some twelve year old asshole from Texas who yells abuse at people who beat him at Gears of War aren’t my responsibility, I can’t pretend I’m doing a perfect job within the scope of gaming that could fairly be said to be my responsibility.

    • Just want to jump in here to say that while your heart seems to be in the right place, part of the problem lies in the assumption that the only people who use slurs and sexually violent language are twelve year old boys, and therefore it’s not such a big problem (or, as you say, it’s not something you’re responsible for). First of all, it’s not true. There are plenty of grown men in their thirties and forties who can be just as vile as the kids, if not more. Second of all, just because it’s a kid who does it doesn’t make it any less serious – if we are to solve this problem then ANYONE who engages in this behaviour needs to be told that it’s not okay. Sexist kids grow up to be sexist adults if they’re never called out on their bullshit.

      As a woman, I think men can do so much to make a difference here. A person who is vile towards women online might be more inclined to listen to criticism from his male buddy rather than the woman who was offended. They might not be “your” responsibility, but if something someone said bothers you, even if it wasn’t directed at you, you would not only set a good example to other men by speaking up, but also contribute to making that environment safer for those who continue to recieve this abuse.

  3. It’s worth doing just to defend YOURSELF. After all, it’s not women saying men are neanderthal thugs – it’s men saying that. Defend yourself by saying “Actually, I’m not a neanderthal thug, and men who are can get stuffed”.

      • I see it as an extension of the message from the white ribbon campaign. The point is not to say “I personally promise not to be violent.” the point is to say “We, as meen, would like men who are violent to know that we do not accept that their actions are excused by an innate flaw in masculinity.”

        It’s not about “I can have fun…”, it’s about creating social pressure on those who could not say, “I can have fun…”. It’s the weight of a lot of people all saying things like this at the same time that matters.

  4. (Hi! Imogen sent me your way!)

    First of all, YES!

    What I love the most about what you are saying here is that you are not implying that you should do something FOR women gamers. Too many times “allies” get involved in a social justice issue, and try to dominate the conversation or take over the work. Unless I am grossly misunderstanding what you are saying here, you mean for men in gaming to take responsibility for their own actions which alienate and make gaming spaces unsafe. This is the crux of good ally-dom. Don’t try to do it for us, but work alongside us.

    Allowing the excuse “that is just how it is” is the kind of complacency that allows things like this to manifest and grow uncontrollably. I am pretty heartened whenever I see someone get this.

    Just like calling out a friend for telling rape-jokes, this kind of activism is exactly what we need to see more of. The unwillingness to tolerate bad and outright hostile behavior. Men and male-identifying people should be calling each other out and holding their own feet to the flames.

    Thank you for writing this. Sometimes it’s just good to see it, and lets us know we aren’t just screaming into an echo chamber uselessly.

    If you’re interested at all, I did a series at Bitch Magazine last year that addressed some of this. Hopefully there will be another one coming up soon.

    Well said, and I wish you all the best in this endeavor.

  5. Good points, Steve.
    You may add to your links John Kim’s study of the role given to women PCs in RPGs. It showed how the hobby my look deterring to would-be female gamers.
    On the other hand, I once read a letter to the editor in KODT that was so extreme and preposterous (claiming perceptions like: “when I go to a hobby store, I can feel the owner scorning me because I’m a women, and ugly fat male gamer drooling at me …”) that I thought it was a troll (or someone either very unlucky, or “misperceiving”)
    So the idea is too discuss with people, so to clearly point out what is an insult and what is not, avoid misunderstandings and lead the deviants back on the rails. Well, this Shadowfist player, not knowing if he was drunk, or had a tactless humor – I just would have retorted “and the contraceptive pill also lets men be without suffering the consequences, right?” – just to, you know, give him a chance to retract and apologize.
    And then, nothing come in, I would have unfriended him. As you wrote in an old post, “Fuck bad gamers”

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