JDCyran made a thoughtful and long comment on the “Tropes vs Women” thread that I thought was worth lifting as a post unto itself. Please forgive any proofreading errors, as it was originally just a comment after all. Here is JDCyran’s comment in full:
Speaking of women in gaming, The NY Times printed (digitized?) an article today on harassment in the gaming community and directed it fairly specifically at women (though it does mention other things as well), even mentioning Sarkeesian’s kick starter.
I was wondering what your guys’ take on the article is (I’ll provide the link at the end). I was somewhat miffed that the author chose to focus specifically on sexual harassment of women in the gaming community, not because it doesn’t happen, but because it seems to focus on that disproportionately compared to what, in my experiences as a gay gamer, seems to actually happen.
In the MMO-verse, words like “faggot,” “gay” used as a pejorative, etc., are used in just about every context and treatment of gay people is abysmal, even among friendly groups of players, and frequently, hostilely at random players. Altogether, it’s pervasive, and it’s been that way since the games came out over a decade ago. It’s hard to go 30 minutes in such a game without hearing some anti-gay language, insults, etc. being thrown around.
On the other hand, harassment of women, I have found, is pretty limited. I’ve experienced some myself (because I occasionally choose a female avatar, people often assume I’m female), but it’s pretty rare. I rarely reveal my actual sex in games (or anything else, for that matter), and have, in one, maintained a female facade for about 6 years. Only on a couple of occasions has anyone said anything that was really offensive to me that was directed at my supposed femaleness or because they thought I was a woman. A couple people over the years have attempted to flirt with me, which is always awkward (and a few have even offered me “gold” for online “sex”), but they generally stop after disinterest is shown (and have never then called me a “bitch” or anything similar). However, I’ve also known a few people who have been propositioned on their female characters even when the proposer knew they were men…
On the third hand (or a steady foot on a flexible leg), the amount of abuse that is thrown around by almost everyone at everyone else (and if the game is mostly men, it’s men at men, primarily) is absolutely staggering. People will swear up a storm and threaten each other over so many inane things, it sometimes my eyes water. I’ve seen players get into shouting and insult matches far more severe than anything I’ve experienced (or even heard of from ANY female player I’ve ever, met, and I’ve met a ton. I know that’s anecdotal, but still) while being assumed to be female in a game, and those things can be over the most trivial of reasons. People insult presumed lifestyle choice (mother’s basement, etc.), homosexuality, religion or lack thereof, intelligence or mental disability, age, race, ethnicity, whether the player is too ‘casual’ or too ‘hardcore,’ and a host of other things. And in the games, no one defends those things (though some topics, such as the last on that list, will create an enormous debate that has more vitriol than a tanker of sulfuric acid).
When an insult about a woman comes up, the number of White Knights that suddenly appear on the scene is *staggering.* Generally speaking, they’ll verbally (digitally?) tear the insulter to shreds, or a debate will start up over whether a White Knight is more pathetic than the person insulting the woman, and the insulted person is generally forgotten in the entire thing. In all reality, insulting women the thing I see both the least of and the thing which is the most protected and has been voiced against (prior to the current spate of concerned articles, vlogs, and blogs about the issue).
Some men have been treating each other like absolute crap since the beginning of online gaming and even before that in online communities, IRC, BBS, etc. The people who do will throw every insult they can come up with to slag whatever they’ve target they’ve chosen. That is the way the community has been (which is not to say that it’s appropriate. I dislike it quite a bit, but that’s sort of irrelevant to the topic).
So, I’m confused as to why this is coming up now. If people cared about harassment online, why is it just now coming up about women (and primarily women – the article takes a long-standing culture and makes it about women primarily), when, for instance, gay people have been slammed through the ringer, stomped on, etc., for just about as long as “online gaming” has even been a thing? I know some people have brought it up, and there have been a few influential people (in the gaming community) talking about it (such as Adam Sessler from G4TV), but for the most part, nobody gives a crap about it, and those messages quickly faded away (though will likely still be brought up periodically).
This, however, people give many craps about. If someone dug a hole in the ground, put the number of craps that have been given so far about it in the hole, and covered it with buildings, it’d resemble a park full of outhouses. Why is there a moderately well funded kick starter for how women are treated and depicted in and by games, when there isn’t for the numerous other things (I say, based on my experience) so much vastly more slighted and treated horribly by the players and games themselves.
As for one quote from the article that I wanted to specifically mention:
“Women report greater levels of harassment in more competitive games involving strangers.”
Well, yeah. If they’re reporting greater harassment in more competitive games involving strangers than in games that are either less competitive or don’t involve strangers, that seems like a Captain Obvious statement. Competitive games are filled with harassment, insulting, etc., and it has been that way seen before (if there was a time) women were ever involved in them. Men, however, don’t often report that as “harassment.” However, if they’ve poorly written that women report greater levels of harassment than do men in that situation, that’d also be a Captain Obvious statement. Men have been doing it for a long time to each other, I think they’re just less likely to view it as personal “harassment” than trolling or something else.
So my awful question (which I admit is pretty awful) is: Do women who are just now entering the gaming community in large numbers feel like they are entitled to change the entirety of the culture (the men in the culture have been treating each other like crap forever) because the possess a pair of magical boobs? Even if they don’t, and just want to change it in general, why is the focus suddenly *women.*