The Gates of Doom: #GamerGate and the Growing Fallacy of Geek Chic (part 1?)

Okay, I didn’t plan to write this, but it seems that there is a need for some mediation and some declarations on the subject of (video) gaming, its oversensitive male proponents, and the state of sexual politics in gaming in the western world today.

First, I am not, strictly speaking, a feminist. I believe wholeheartedly in total equality of the sexes, and I acknowledge that there is great disparity that needs to be redressed before we can ever hold our heads up and declare ourselves a just society. But I am not a social activist for feminist issues, and I am not good at making such arguments, not because I disagree, but simply because I am a middle aged white male who grew up in the 70s and 80s, and my view of sexual politics is skewed. I would be at best an unreliable narrator if I tried to argue for feminism, because I simply can’t truly feel and think out the arguments as strongly as many women and some men I know of can do. I’m not an apologist for either side, and I straddle the fence on most of these issues. I sue for greater understanding and balance, but I disapprove of guerrilla tactics and shaming on either side of the fence. I truly believe this stuff will never improve until the sexes come together and realize they are working at crossed purposes.

Second, I’m a gamer, but I’m not what I would consider to be a Hardcore Gamer. I’ve played most genres of video and board game at this point, and I find that most of them aren’t that appealing to me. For one thing, I’m a pretty well known non-competitive player. I like teamwork and solo play, but I’m not fond of PvP, and my ePeen is at least as small as my real penis. Sorry, them’s the breaks.

So what is my stake in this argument? Well, I’ve argued some of these points before, and more importantly (to me), I have friends (who shall remain nameless) on both sides of this debate that need to get their heads clear to see what’s really at stake, and while I may not be a big enough feminist-sympathizer to satisfy some folks’ requirements, I think I can see the actual goal line a little more clearly than those that are fighting the hard line and just want to decimate their opponents at any cost.

Okay, so that’s your fair and balanced portion of the article out of the way. Time for the argument itself.

We need one another. And I don’t mean ‘me man, you woman, we need each other’. In this day and age of Transgender politics, that paradigm is becoming increasingly inaccurate anyway. I mean, ‘me human, you human, we need to coexist’. This stuff where men and their female supporters have been arguing unsuccessfully for the freedom to remain sexually dominant just doesn’t cut it. Their failure to recognize their male priviledge notwithstanding, these people have a very small point about wanting to be in a politics-free state when indulging in their favourite pastime. It’s a weak point, and I don’t hold to it myself, but I recognise that these people are working through some stuff, and taking refuge from being told endlessly that they are wrong. Invalidating their views isn’t going to get us there, folks. Right or wrong, these are deep-seated views, and they need to be mediated, not punished (or rewarded, for that matter).

Without naming specific people, I will now attempt to briefly spell out just a little bit of what might be seen as an apology for my pro-gamer friends. One is an old high school friend who, through no fault of his own, grew up with a fairly rigid sexual identity based on upbringing and environment. The other is an internet friend I have been friends with for a number of years, who is to my mind a fellow traveller in the debate about women’s place in gaming, in that he knows several strong minded women who can play circles around most male gamers, and he gets along with all of them pretty well. However, just lately, he’s been making skewed arguments that for all the world make him look like the #GamerGate folks.

The thing about both of these guys is, they aren’t particularly political. I don’t mean savvy; I mean they simply don’t function in this arena. And that might seem like a cop out, until you consider the state of political discourse in North America today. We’re very absolute, zero sum here in NA, and we don’t like middle ground very much. All or nothing, pass or fail, in or out. It’s hard to want to play when the rules are so dire, so complex and often misleading.

The thing is, I know these buddies of mine, and I know them to be pretty alright, if basically ignorant of the real issues at stake. They mostly perceive the feminist argument as an inconvenient imposition and, let’s face it, a fairly nakedly aggressive condemnation of everything they say or do that isn’t ‘on-message’. It’s hard to reason with a recalcitrant political activist of any cause in any arena, because argument is generally their stock in trade, and at any given moment, you’re likely to get an intellectual boot to the head for failing to take the argument seriously, which basically comes down to being uncomfortable when confronted by one’s shortcomings and being challenged to change immediately or else.

Now, on the opposite side of the equation, there HAS been a lot of patriarchal ‘sit down and shut up’ feces being thrown around, and it has to stop. Women’s Rights may seem utterly alien to those of us still ensconced in machismo and purely patriarchal traditions and institutions, but that doesn’t invalidate them. This is a small world, and we all have to live on it together or expect more heartache and condemnation. I can’t claim to be on the inside track of the patriarchy (despite my sex), but I’m aware of it, and I do think it’s mostly archaic crap that only helps those who are comfortable subjugating half of the population. It’s not right, in other words. Male identity should not tie itself to these ideals and tactics, because they will take us down with them as they sink into the metaphorical tar pits of history. You can be strong and brave without being an asshole.

What I’m trying to say is, it’s time to accept that change is here. In fact, it’s about 100 years overdue; the suffragette movement was about a hundred years ago, guys. Women’s Rights have been in the public discourse for all of our lifetimes. They weren’t dismissed by a handful of arrogant, sexist comedians in the 80s, and they weren’t discredited or dismissed by anything our fathers or grandfathers said before that. Sexual equality isn’t even up for debate, guys. Those ‘women are too…’ arguments only reveal what an asshole you are. It’s not something to crow about. It’s something to shut up and let go of. Your children (or nieces and nephews) are listening. Do you want them to respect you, or dismiss you?

All you really have to ask yourself is: how would you feel if someone sent your girlfriend, wife or daughter to prison, simply for wanting the right to speak and be heard in public? It may seem a little overstated, but if YOU had to live in a society that ignores your thoughts and feelings, you’d probably feel psychologically imprisoned, too. Maybe that should be the question: How would YOU feel if you were imprisoned for speaking your mind? Because that’s what’s going on. Maybe you feel that argument goes just as well for you as it does for women, but the ugly truth is, men have already had their say, and what they’ve had to say on the matter is what has kept our society in bondage for centuries. We ALL need to be liberated from the demands and expectation of the dinosaur patriarchy. Our society and our sanity depend on it.

But what in the blazing blue balls of heck does that have to do with gaming, Lee? Well, take the twin facts that: 1) most male protagonists in games are portrayed as independent, largely self-sufficient, sexually-confident archetypal heroes who can take a punch and dish it back, 2) and most female protagonists (when they aren’t token) in games are usually portrayed as fairly sexualized, passive, often-dominated victims of circumstance (except Lara Croft who, let’s face it, is basically a highly masculine character with guns, a pretty face, a cute butt, and big breasts attached; not exactly a feminist superstar, even if strong women’s roles are just as valid as any other) who stumble in and out of trouble or are ‘saved’ by some male counterpart. The prevalence of female protagonists is a good thing, but the dialogue still needs to shift more to women being able to cope on their own, because, news flash, boys: they can. They do it in real life, either by cooperation with men and one another, or by toughing it out and doing without. Those are the options they have been presented with, and they take them.

So, do women have the right to expect change in the gaming industry? Hell, yeah! Do women have a right to critique games based on their sexual bias? Hell, yeah! Do women have the right to make men feel like crap for not being 110% on board with feminist issues from the outset? That I can’t quite agree with.

Women have been patient. Asking them to wait longer isn’t fair. But asking them to be nice might be too much to ask. They HAVE waited a long time, and endured a lot of BS in the meantime. Swallowing more of the same might be what’s in store, but you can’t ask them to like it.

But guys, you have to admit, things are generally a lot more fun when men AND women are having a good time together. We just have to learn to share the toys, and expect to learn new rules as our old games go the way of the dodo. We’ve come a long, long way from the days when men felt safe and secure beating women until they agreed. Some of us still think it’s appropriate to lash out at women, and a few of us even feel justified in making horrendous threats when our worldview is threatened. But ultimately, I think most of us can agree that such arguments are losing ground, and I say, good riddance. I grew up with male violence, and it’s ugly and terrifying and despicable, and no man should ever feel justified in hurting (or permitting the hurting of) a woman for any reason. There is never an excuse. Ever. ‘The Bitch Had It Coming’ is no longer recognised in our legal system as a legitimate defense.

Again, you might think I’m overstating, exaggerating the facts to make a skewed point. I don’t think so. There are extremes being played out here, threats being made, and the extremists might be lone wolves or they might not, but the rest of us are effectively colluding with them, complicit in their wrongfulness, if we don’t order them to sit down and shut up. They may bark louder, and they may even have a bite, but they can’t hold the entire conversation hostage because they refuse to come out of their cocoons and see reason.

Time to end this rant. I haven’t addressed every issue, and in typical fashion, I’ve been too general for my own good. But I do believe with all my heart that this problem will never go away until we learn to listen and to let go of any thinking that tells us we have the right to attack one another over the debate of sex. We’re born this way, folks. The rest is conditioning, and it takes decades to get to the point where we’re sitting on opposite ends of the internet hurling threats and invective at one another for failing to agree. In any other arena, this would be called a discussion, a debate, an argument. Here in this highly politicised society, we’re instead calling it a battle, and we’re escalating the situation way out of proportion to what it’s about.

Get some perspective. And whatever else you do, don’t shut down the conversation. It’ll only get better if we keep talking and listening to one another until we find common ground.


Don't be shy. Tell me what you really think, now.


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