I’ve moved to Edmonton. In a way this was good for me. Nobody knows who I am, my reputation hasn’t reached outside of Sweden. It’s nice to be nobody again. The reason I write this, is because the gaming culture took another blow a few days ago. “Go make me a sandwich” is quitting. Our community chased another person out. Wundergeek decided (wisely, if you ask me) to stop fighting and take care of her health instead.
In her closing post, she speaks of some things that I find important to emphasize.
Being a woman who speaks about equality and diversity in a still very unequal and non-diverse space will have an impact on your professional life. There’s no getting around it. If you – as a woman – stand up for yourself and say “this is not acceptable”, most likely you will suffer for it. You’ll suffer for it by not being called to interviews, by chatter among those hiring, bu gaining a reputation as “difficult”. It doesn’t matter how suitable you are for a job. Your CV won’t matter. If the company culture is repressive, you’re likely not to get the job. Of course there’s no way for me to prove this. All I have to go on is what I’m being told by contacts at companies I’ve applied to, or just the word of mouth information that happens when developers get together and talk about their situation.
What I’m being told is clear enough, though. If you want to ensure a future within the games industry (at least in Sweden), keep your head down and your mouth shut.
This might seem like a really bleak thing to say, discouraging even. But if I had known how this would have affected me before I started speaking up against sexism in the games industry, I would never have started. Or maybe I would have, I don’t know. I just wish I would have known what the price tag was. Just like Wundergeek, I know I’ve had an impact. Just like Wundergeek, the cost has been high.
There’s also a mental cost. I’ve never been severely harassed for my writings, but being a woman, doing what I do, there’s always a risk of becoming the next target. Wundergeek speaks of her harassment and she also brings up women like Quinn, Wu and Sarkeesian. This is what we as women speaking out against an unfair and sexist culture can expect as a worst case scenario. If “they” find us and decide we’re the target of the day. The drawback (apart from being severely harassed) is that once you’re a target, it never stops.
Zoe Quinn has said it, Anita Sarkeesian has said it. Once you’re a target, you’ll always be a target, and why you’ll get to be the target is never entirely clear, apart from being and advocate for marginalized groups within gaming.
As preparation for the honorary doctorate I received a while back, I spent several hours online enabling various protective measures just about everywhere I have an account. Not because I think I’m important enough to get a spotlight on me – I don’t – but because I was, and still am, afraid of one day being the target.
Real talk: the gaming community is misogynist. It grinds down women and spits them out. Especially women who do work as creators or critics. The backlash you get as a woman for daring to take up intellectual space is horrific. Inevitably, some women reach a point where they can’t take anymore and they quit and/or leave the community altogether. But it’s not a “loss” when a woman decides to leave. She is not obligated to sacrifice her health for the perceived greater good.
Wundergeek goes on to say that the only ones really punished for trying to open up gaming culture, are the people speaking up to affect that change. The people with the least power. The harassers are rarely punished for their behavior, and if they are – like Milo Yiannopoulos – they see it as a victory and can capitalize on it. They’ll even get reluctant admiration for it. Just look at the articles written about Milo when he got banned from Twitter. Some of them read like a narrative of the outlaw hero, “telling it like it is”, a social media virtuoso knowing exactly how to play people. In fact, Milo and his followers were engaged in harassment and bullying, behavior that no civilized society should accept. So “we” raise Milo as a hero, because that’s what our society does to people like him. He’s gay but according to some of his statements, a homophobe. He likes black men and he’s given voice to racist views. And he’s misogynist, or his public persona is. A subset of people adore him despite this, or maybe because of this. The “rebel” who isn’t really a rebel at all, because all he and his ilk is doing is repeating the same prejudices that marginalized groups have been living with for centuries.
People like Milo are not “rebels” at all, but rather a public face of the racism, misogyny and homophobia that lies latent underneath a thin veil of civility.
Meanwhile, the people who are trying to change things, who are actually rebelling against the status quo are painted as victims and helpless in the flood of harassment they receive, when in fact they are everything but victims. They’re the ones who deserve attention. They’re the ones who should be lauded as “telling it like it is”. They’re the real heroes. People like Wundergeek, Sarkeesian, Quinn and many others who, despite the threats, harassment and at great personal cost still show up, still criticize, still make their voices heard amid all those who try – and fail – to quiet them down.
The narrative of women and other marginalized groups as victims is however so strong that we fail to see the heroic nature of these people. The bravery it takes to stand up and say “no more”. We recognize it only in retrospect, these people who try to change things. We see them only when change has happened.
It is heavy, fighting for something that should be so obvious. We’re all human beings. We want to be treated as human beings. We have the same wants, needs and longings as everyone else. When it comes down to it, the way we’re treated is a denial of that.
We’re not interesting enough to tell stories about.
We’re not good enough to be anything but plot points.
We’re not human enough to be heroes.
For every game that comes out that objectifies, uses stereotypes and tropes, this is what the devs are saying. It may sound dramatic, but isn’t that what it’s all about? Women, other marginalized groups. We’re not full human beings in the eyes of society, so we’re not worth the effort of representation, of depth, of narrative.
This is what we’re fighting for. Not some imagined slight to get attention. I’m fighting to be recognized as a human being in the games we play and the stories we tell.