I recently stumbled across a post called Cuppy, aka the anti-feminist, which was written in response to Brinstar’s I Reject the ‘Big Boys’ post. There’s actually a lot in it that I disagree on, but I’m going to focus on just one of her arguments.
One of the things that Cuppycake argues is as follows:
When you play in a video game, no one cares what gender or race you are except the immature idiots who you wouldn’t want to associate or group with anyway. Learn to avoid the immaturity and the disrespectful people and familiarize yourself with the ignore button and the fact that you can always meet new friends. Quit lumping all the men into this stereotype of “asshole, hardassed, disrespectful, immature, condescending jerks” and instead find yourself embracing the differences in people in the gaming culture. Just like the real world, you have people you need to avoid and distance yourself from and others that you will want to become closer to. The glory of current MMO’s is the ability to talk in private chats, to use ignore features, to join guilds, to pick and choose who you group with, to use chat profanity filters. We really can make gaming an enjoyable experience if we choose to and put a bit of effort into it.
I think that there are too many over-simplifications in her argument, starting with the way that she represents the opposing view and ending with the way she presents personal action as the solution to the problem of harassment.
I. If you’re not the problem, you’re not the problem. But some men are.
Quit lumping all the men into this stereotype of “asshole, hardassed, disrespectful, immature, condescending jerks” and instead find yourself embracing the differences in people in the gaming culture.
No one is “lumping all the men” into that stereotype, but rather commenting on the general attitude of many men who populate the gaming community. An attitude of which the prevalence can be backed up by various sources, including personal accounts, reading the comments at mainstream sites such as Kotaku and Destructoid, and logging into heavily male-dominated games like World of Warcraft and listening to the general chat channels. Jade Reporting has a Harassment category for a reason, blog posts like Harassment, silencing, and gaming communities didn’t happen without the contribution of many gamers who happened to be male, and studies like Sexism in World of Warcraft aren’t telling female gamers anything we haven’t experienced ourselves.
Harassment is a real problem in the gaming blogsphere, and the vast majority of it is perpetrated by men. While you can argue about the potential reasons behind this (men are the majority of players in games and communities in which harassment occurs, men are taught to be harassers, etc), the fact remains that there is ample evidence to back up generalizations about men and harassment and so telling people to “[q]uit lumping all the men into this stereotype” isn’t a useful argument to make in the least.
II. It’s your job to spot the assholes!
Learn to avoid the immaturity and the disrespectful people and familiarize yourself with the ignore button and the fact that you can always meet new friends.
Cuppycake also puts the onus on the player being harassed to change — basically telling us to get a better people sense. The first problem with this is that it assumes that the harassers are only confined to the clearly immature and annoying people, but the experience of women who get harassed generally find it to come primarily from people who are otherwise mature. Which means that you can have plenty of interesting and mature conversations with someone, and then something changes — it could be anything from them finding out that you aren’t actually male to the topic of a particular discussion — and then wham you’re suddenly being bombarded by sexism/homophobia/racism/etc. and the only way to get out of it is to 1) agree with the bigotry to make the guy shut up, 2) say nothing and hope he stops, 3) try to argue with him and perhaps escalate the situation (bonus points for if this is on Vent or guildchat, because then you’ll likely have guildmembers jumping to his defense and calling you “oversensitive”), or 3) ignore him and write off someone who was previously your friend (if it’s in guildchat, it might involve a /gquit too).
And it’s not just about it being one, or two, or three people. It’s one thing to not like the general sexism in the game and to use chat filters, but how do you deal with the guildmate, who others apparently like, that starts making DV jokes in chat? Or who finds out that you’re a woman and starts all that “a/s/l” shit? What happens when you realize the guild you’ve spent so much time in supports that line of thinking, as do most other guilds on your server? What happens when you’re made to feel that you’re “oversensitive” because you try to start a dialogue about homophobia and sexism? And what happens when this becomes not just an outside incident, but something that occurs over and over and over again?
There are people who, as Cuppycake suggests, use chat filters, ignore people, and join guilds. But, you see, the vast majority of guilds that these people have to join are the very same women-only guilds that she looks down her nose at in the beginning of her article. Why? Because women-friendly guilds, at least in games where they’re sorely needed, that are co-ed are few and far between. So, really, it’s a catch-22. (If you’re in the market for women-friendly guilds, I’d recommend browsing the MMORPGs: games, servers, and guilds thread at Iris.)
III. Making games fun: stopgap versus solution
The glory of current MMO’s is the ability to talk in private chats, to use ignore features, to join guilds, to pick and choose who you group with, to use chat profanity filters. We really can make gaming an enjoyable experience if we choose to and put a bit of effort into it.
Even the most careful filtering and ignore-using won’t guarantee a fun game. Like I’ve said before, one of the reasons that I got turned off of WoW was because every time I logged onto the RP server I played (for some reason this didn’t happen on the PVP one) I would get another random stranger sending me an invasive tell and/or using the “/kiss” emote and whatever. Yes, I /ignored them but there was always another one to take their place. And that made my life none too fun.
It would be so nice to believe that we could make games fun simply through our own personal efforts, but for many of us it simply isn’t enough. I don’t want games to be fun despite harassment or sexism or homophobia or what-have-you, I want them to be fun because games are supposed to be fun. And, unfortunately, because of that the solution does not, and cannot, lie simply in personal action.
Am I saying that we shouldn’t take personal action to combat this? No, I think it’s necessary at the moment to do so, and the functions that MMOs give to players to control how they deal with their personal communities are very important. But personal action is merely a stopgap measure, something to try to help us have fun playing games while a better solution is found.
But, see, focusing on personal action to the exclusion of examining the underlying causes only lets harassers continue harassing without consequences. If it were just a handful of clearly immature players, there wouldn’t be a problem. But it’s not. It’s a whole community of players, both mature and immature, who have been taught that harassment is normal and who never have to face the consequences of their harassment. Without ever seeing that their actions have consequences, there will never be an incentive for them to stop. In fact, it might also act as an incentive for them to escalate their behaviour because it gets reinforced and encouraged by seeing others get away with it, too.
Saying that we shouldn’t place blame on harassers because it makes it seem like we’re blaming all men, despite the reality of the situation, isn’t a solution; it’s a way to enable the problem. And, as needed as personal action is, the facts are is that it’s a way to avoid the issue, not deal with it.
The reason people like Brinstar and I write about harassment is because we think it needs to stop. We don’t think anyone — female or male — should have to put up with being called a “pussy”, “bitch”, “fag”, “ho”, that people should have to hear the word “raped” thrown around like it doesn’t mean anything. We’ve seen how harassment escalates in communities where it’s not called out, where it’s a bunch of people — primarily men — who egg each other on, each post being more hateful and violent than the last. And, I know that I’ve tried the methods that Cuppycake has outlined and found them wanting. They didn’t make my time in WoW anymore fun; all they did was end up being yet another chore to maintain.
This is not to say that people who choose to rely solely on personal issue are wrong, or bad; everyone needs to deal with these issues in a way that works for them. But my point is that it’s not their job — or anyone else’s — to tell us that we shouldn’t be more proactive about the problem.