I wish I knew what title to give this post. I wish I had a clear idea of what to write, what to say. But I don’t. I suppose I could make it a commentary on Notch’s twitter fumble a while back, the one where he was called a dick, so he called someone a cunt, but really it was all about Notch finding “mansplaining” to be a sexist term and retaliated with “cuntfused” and as usual this spun out of control and led to harassment. And as usual the man being questioned about sexism wasn’t the one being harassed.
I’m not going to try to explain why it might not be such a good idea to tweet to millions of followers the idea that there’s something called reverse sexism, and that “mansplaining” and “cuntfusing” is even remotely similar. Being called a “man” and being called a “cunt”. Which would you prefer? But I’m not going to do that either. I’m not going to get into specifics. Instead I’ll talk about why people like Notch need to make a decision. Actually everyone needs to make a decision. If you’re serious about wanting women to work in the games industry you don’t say crap like that to women in the industry. You don’t carelessly spout opinions you have freely, because if you have 3.7 million followers, your words will have an actual impact on people. With that kind of following you have to consider the effects.
In this case the impact is felt most deeply by women in the industry. If you believe that equality and diversity are worthy goals, perhaps think before you speak. With every prominent man in the industry failing us marginalized groups – intentionally or unintentionally – movements like GamerGate gain a stronger foothold and feel increasingly justified in the harassment and persecution of those of us who want to affect change. I could be dismissive and say that the opinions of Dudes who Have Made it Big doesn’t matter. It’s only the voice of one person, but unfortunately that’s not true. If you are a games industry success story, or even if you aren’t successful, but you have a voice, a platform, your words will have greater weight than those of us without that platform. If nothing else, you’ll have a farther reach.
With great power comes great responsibility.
It’s the price of internet fame. What you say and in which circles you say it can have far reaching consequences for others, even people you claim you want to protect or encourage. Look at Gjoni and his blogpost, which spawned a hate movement aimed at women in the industry – a vile harassment session of anyone who dared to speak up about the conditions in the culture and in the industry. A movement that silenced many voices and caused the loss of many talented people across the industry’s trenches.
These concerted attacks are efficient tools to silence those of us who speak up. I think carefully before I post anything on any social media or for that matter on this blog. I have to, because I have to calculate the repercussions both on my personal life and on my professional life. I have to consider the consequences in a way I might not have done before GamerGate appeared in Twitter feeds and Reddit threads.
So what does this have to do with a careless conversation by an influential game developer posting on twitter? First of all – Notch and people like him rarely have to worry about losing their jobs when persecuted by the angry Twitter/ 4chan / Reddit mob. People who aren’t as successful – or perhaps not as influential – it turns out that they do. As long as progressive views about the industry is being held by any one developer, the threat of having your employer dragged into the discussion is real. If you don’t believe me, I can tell you it was one of the first tactics I encountered when tweeting about Baldurs Gate. It wasn’t even an end-of-argument comment. It was literally the first thing that happened when I said I supported trans-characters in games. My employer’s Twitter was looped in and my impartiality was questioned with insinuations that maybe I wasn’t such a good “representative” for the company, nevermind that my personal Twitter is completely unaffiliated with my employer. These tactics seem intended to accomplish only one thing. To silence the marginalized or progressive voices within gaming.
If you are a major profile within the culture or industry, and your general philosophy is that women and other marginalized groups do have a place within both the industry and the culture, then at least do us the favor of not painting a target on our backs. That is the thing I take most issue with when it comes to Notch’s careless comments on twitter. I doubt he will ever be in a situation where he will actually be in danger of the internets mobs. He has both the money and the influence not to care. But people in my situation with little power and little influence does not have the luxury to not care about how our opinions, or rather having the gall to express our opinions, will reflect back on us.
The idea of even being remotely connected to something that may cause me to lose my job is not as far fetched as it may seem. Alison Rapp was fired from Nintendo, and although the circumstances were somewhat unclear, I’m fairly certain that the huge storm of harassment played a part in Nintendo’ decision. Without the digging crowd trying to find dirt on Rapp – well… The thing to remember is that the outrage surrounding Rapp had very little to do with her actual work. She was targeted for her views, just as so many other victims in the harassment campaigns eagerly fueled by GamerGators and MRAS.
I suspect that I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that there is a “before August 2014” and an “after August 2014”. We were aware of the sentiments such as “feminazis are destroying games as we know them” existing before GamerGate. We were aware of harassment campaigns. But the coordinated attacks on progressive voices that originated from GamerGate were unprecedented.
This aim to silence us was partly successful, because nowadays every retweet is carefully considered. Every word weighed, and every blog post written, rewritten and then scrapped.
For me it seems like a very luxurious position indeed not to fear expressing one’s opinions. At the same time, we who are marginalized can’t afford not to. We have everything to lose by remaining silent. We risk everything when we speak up.
If you are an influential or successful figurehead for the industry with a professed interest in diversity and equality you should know this and be aware – we certainly are. We can’t ignore or avoid the fallout.
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