Today’s Inexplicable Behavior Brought to You By…

1 Jul

So one would think – or at least hope – that by this point in Western civilization, that we would all more or less be capable of behaving like functional, respectful adults (at least those of us who are adults). This is apparently not the case in the gaming community, as anyone who has been reading these posts for the past few weeks has become aware.

In my last post, I mentioned how suddenly a lot of this has just seemed to explode into the public eye, despite a fairly long-standing tradition of misogynistic and intolerant behavior in the community – not in general or at large, but present enough to have become a trope. This trope of the misogynist gamer (the kind who proverbially lives in his mother’s basement and sends disturbing messages to women on internet dating sites) is not one I would like to see continue, as I happen to know and like quite a few male gamers who are nothing of the sort. However, a recent surge of feminist outcry against this trope and its accompanying tendency to objectify and minimize digital images of women has caused the minority who behave like the Male-Gaming-Troll to emerge from the woodwork, grub-style.

Today’s act of mind-numbing misogyny (brought to my attention by the same colleague who pointed me in the direction of the Trolls) comes from a “gentleman” named Ryan Perez, staff member of Destructoid. Mr. Perez took it upon himself, apparently, to use his twitter to insult Felicia Day:

Does Felicia Day matter at all? I mean does she actually contribute anything useful to this industry, besides retaining a geek persona?
@feliciaday, I keep seeing everywhere. Question: Do you matter at all? Do you even provide anything useful to gaming, besides “personality?
Could you be considered nothing more than a glorified booth babe? You don’t seem to add anything creative to the medium.

The implication seems to be that Day, because she is an attractive woman, could not possibly have anything to contribute to the gaming community besides her attractiveness, hence the last of the three tweets about being “a glorified booth babe.”

A response to this came from Will Wheaton, who suggested to Destructoid that Perez should be made to apologize for his offensive tweets:

@destructiod that jackass owes @feliciaday a public apology at the very least. He’s an ignorant misogynist, and @dtoid can do better.

In Destructoid’s defense, it tweeted a response disavowing any agreement with Perez’s tweet and apologizing to Day. They subsequently fired Perez, who did later apologize to Day, who graciously accepted his apology. Perez then issued the following tweet to Wheaton:

@wilw I’m small-time. Nobody should care about what I say. Go fuck yourself, you opportunistic puddle of miscarriage soup.

I’m not going to go into detail on the level of misogyny that it takes to even come up with the phrase “puddle of miscarriage soup” as an insult. I am going to say that it always matters what people say, especially when they speak as even a small-time public figure. What you say and how you say it are vitally important to the way you portray yourself and the organization you work for, especially if you are considered as a voice for that organization (which is the case if you are a blogger or writer on behalf of a website or magazine). And when what you say is bigoted, then you don’t deserve to continue speaking on behalf of that organization.

If only this were an isolated incident. But Destructoid seems to be developing a reputation. In February of 2011, they were asked in an open letter posted on Border House to deal with another staff member named Jim Sterling for his tweets to a woman named Daphny, including the following:

@daphaknee People like you *revel* in sexism, so sure. I’m just giving you what all attention-seeking little bitches crave.

This is precisely the sort of attitude that is – I think – the most problematic. Certainly, I get irritated at assumptions that women are inferior (whether at gaming, thinking, or using power tools… or anything else, for that matter), but assumptions of inferiority can be countered with competence. This attitude – that women want to be belittled and abused (whether verbally, emotionally, or physically) – is more damaging than even the base assumption of inferiority that underpins it.

This blog post on Go Make Me a Sandwich (the name is misleading, trust me) enumerates many of the problems with Sterling’s actions (and acknowledges that Daphny is not entirely without fault for their twitter war). Some of what appears there is awful, but I stand by the assertion that the sentiment above is the most dangerous part of it. Because for all the profanity and presumptions of inferiority, the idea that at least some of the people involved in the perpetuation of misogyny actually think that women like it strikes me as particularly awful… all the more so because they must have gotten that idea from somewhere.

From films and television that have glorified such behavior? From video games? From their parents or grandparents? Perhaps. And the media bears a good deal of the responsibility for permitting this sort of attitude to continue, if not for fostering it (at least in the past, if not also in the present).

But what frightens me more is the thought that some women may actually be contributing to this attitude… even if not intentionally. That by putting on “sexy” costumes that encourage objectification, by flipping their hair or wearing makeup, by giggling instead of demanding an apology when insulted, by expecting or encouraging men to treat them as though they were delicate and pampered… that by doing all these things, women are actually encouraging men to think that we want to be objectified, that we want to be belittled or rescued or had everything done for us, that not only do we deserve to be insulted, but that we really like the attention we’re given when we’re insulted and abused.

I am not saying that women should cease wearing sexy clothes or makeup or even flipping their hair if they happen to like flipping their hair. But we should think about how we respond to actions that diminish us – and have the strength and courage to stand up against it when we can.

And that includes speaking up when we see tweets like these. It includes demanding that others around us become aware of the little ways in which they are allowing misogyny (and other forms of abuse) to pass by without even being aware of it – the current internet fetishizing of “rape” as a game-appropriate term is one example. It includes encouraging others to speak out against overt and covert abusiveness wherever they see it – online, in gameplay, in media, and in real life (where, to be completely honest, almost no one would even consider behaving in the way they seem to behave on the internet and in online games).

And this brings me back to a question I asked earlier about this – is it enough? I would like to think that this current flurry of feminist and misogynist outrage is a sign that things are coming to a head, that when the smoke clears, calm heads will prevail and things will improve. I’m hoping I’m not wrong.

Edit: To clarify – women should be able to wear and do whatever they want and expect to be treated like human beings. They should be able to wear heels and makeup and whatever else they want. So should men, frankly. My concern here is that women can be just as guilty of misogyny (intentional or unintentional) as men, and that we should all try to be more aware of when we’re perpetuating sexism and try not to – and that should apply equally to both men and women.