Sometimes when discussing equality and diversity in games, I talk about rape culture and how rape culture affects the way we view women. it’s about objectification and sexualization of women’s bodies. It’s about how I experience that men give themselves the right to a woman. It’s about justifying the dehumanization of one human being for the gain of another.
At this point, the “othering” of women has been going on for so long that it is practically true. If we are just body parts to be enjoyed by men, or if we’re only suitable for a certain kind of labor, if we’re not quite as intelligent, not quite as drive, not quite as – let’s say it, shall we – deserving of having ourselves be represented in media as anything other than these stereotypes, it’s kind of easy to draw the conclusion that we’re not quite as human as men are. And if we’re not quite as human as men are, then it’s not so bad to use us, is it? Rape us and leave us bleeding behind a dumpster. If we’re not quite human, then it’s okay to go to a woman prostitute in a game, have your “fun” and then kill her, because hey! Not quite human with the added protection of being “just a game”.
It took the human race a long time to realize that everyone is worth just as much as everyone else, but we’re still fighting to make it true.
When I first started thinking about how women are treated, both in the industry and in the gaming medium, I never thought in the terms of good and evil. I didn’t do it because it felt too shocking to think about people that I worked with, people that I liked and have fun with as perpetuating something that is fundamentally evil.
The more I read about the narrative created around women in games, and the more I read about evil or what evil is, how it starts, the closer the two become.
The first comments I got when I started tweeting about Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian were intended to make me realize how manipulative they were. “They’re liars” the anonymous eggs said to me. “They’re manipulators. They’re greedy and they just want attention. They constructed this narrative of victimhood, and you’re be smart not to buy into it.” The whole process was designed – perhaps unintentionally – to make me think that whatever Quinn, Sarkeesian and countless other women and “SJWs” (primarily consisting of other marginalized groups within gaming) were being put through, they deserved it. They deserved it because they started it, by breaking a moral code of some sort.
This “moral code” was to question the sexualization and objectification of women. In Quinn’s case, it was the audacity of not wanting to date Gjoni anymore. If you have any doubts about how that could possibly be a crime, take a look at domestic violence, what the offenses are that give men a “reason” to beat up their girlfriends or wives, and you’ll see that women have been killed for less. These “transgressions” shine the light on the entitlement of men, and that is very uncomfortable for some. These women have to be put in their place, so they’re harassed. And to be able to justify the harassment, the women victimized are painted as deserving of whatever it is they’re getting. These women, these upstarts, had behaved in a way that a certain gaming demographic found unforgivable. And because of this, they deserved punishment. Well, maybe not punishment, but they certainly didn’t deserve the consideration that “normal” people do.
This narrative is so common it’s close to being ridiculous. “If she was really interested in working with games, she would be”. “Women aren’t really that techincal, are they?” “Well, she was wearing a short skirt and a thong. Everyone knows she only had herself to blame.” “If she didn’t want to get hurt, she should have left him.” “He could never do such a thing, he’s such a nice boy.”
The narrative has a victim, but there are no perpetrators. The guys doing this, the men threatening to hurt women are always the nice guys, right? The decent men, decent human beings who would never ever do anything to hurt a woman, which is why, in order to live with themselves they tell themselves that what they do won’t hurt anyone. And really they wanted it. And really they deserve it, because they weren’t really human, were they? Not really?
Not all men.
It’s a narrative that allow the perpetrators to shift the blame to the victims, to go home and feel good about themselves.
Not ALL men.
If they didn’t, if the people were actually victims, the guilt would be crushing.
Not ALL MEN!
“But” you say “how can you compare harassment on the internet to women not wanting to work with games to rape culture? They’re not the same!” But yes they are. All of these things begin with othering. By dividing our species into “us” and “them” where “us” has a virtue, identity or value that “them” don’t.
For GamerGate it was the idea of who is a “real” gamer and who deserves to be a part of that identity. In rape culture, it’s about who has a value as a human being and who is “asking for it”, where “it” is to be treated as a piece of meat, available to anyone with the “right” justification. Why else are we so desperate to shift blame from the perpetrators to the victims?
The idea of that there are no women working in games is so much easier to handle if the fact that they’re not working in games is because of them and not because the culture around games is excluding and hostile towards women.
The idea that sexism in games is just something that “SJWs” are whining about because they want to get laid or because they want to censor games or whatever other reason conjured up by the people protesting that games are changing, is much easier to handle than the idea that portraying someone as a piece of meat may actually be harmful.
The idea that a woman deserves getting raped is so much easier to handle than the fact that someone felt so entitled to another human being that they had sex with them against their will.
If we’re taught, all our lives, that the only “real” human being is a white, heterosexual man, the idea of entitlement becomes less strange. And if this is true, that white men are the only real human beings, we start looking for reasons why – in this particular instance – that man was actually right in treating a woman as a thing.
We all want to believe that we are the good guys. Sometimes we’re wrong.