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Lazy Thinking and Online Sexism

July 26, 2012, 6:03 AM

Corey Milne of WhatCulture.com doesn’t think ‘feminism’ belongs in video games – alongside sex, BDSM, infanticide and so on.

As a man, whenever someone mentions feminism I reply with a bemused “oh that thing from the sixties?” – then I get back to wrestling bears and bench pressing an assortment of vehicles. You know, manly things that men do. Now don’t get me wrong, you ladies are great. I’m all for empowerment and equal wages and the such. Just don’t expect me to understand or care about feminism as a movement. I’ll be honest, I don’t care. It’s got nothing to do with me.

I’m not sure what type of feminism he’s focused on, but presumably it’s one that’s about bra-burning*, loud assertions that women are better than men, and other caricatures? It's certainly isn't the feminism of, for example, Janet Radcliffe Richards which attempts to undermine unfair discrimination against women and attempt equality between the sexes.

Yes, he’s trying (unsuccessfully) to be funny. But it’s lazy thinking like this that is unhelpful to the continual attempts to change the misogynistic, sexist attitudes so many gamers have toward real-life women. Yes, I do think it’s a minority, but you just need one loud-mouthed misogynist to ruin what should be safe, fun experiences for many people – not just women.

Not to mention the rape-threats, the irrational vitriol that targets people who want to get rid of bigotry, and the many that defend themselves with proclamations of censorship or dismissal of the entire problem.

I’m not saying Mr Milne is a misogynist or sexist. I’m saying he’s dismissal and assertion that “It has nothing to do with me” is part of the problem that helps root the ignorance many of us want removed. Issues of equality and civility concern everyone: I’m not sure how one can be part of a culture that treats women – even if it occurs only once a month or once a year – like crap and say “It’s got nothing to do with me”. As I've said (to a commenter), you will fit into three categories in this discussion: (1) you are the ones making rape-threats, in which case, you are a minority and it’s not my arguments that will make you stop; (2) you are vocal about your disapproval and when you see it, you tell others “That’s not cool”; (3) You just don’t care (whether you think it’s an actual problem is irrelevant). These aren’t absolute and you can be passionate or not, but you’ll usually fit in these categories somewhere.

It’s the last group that I particularly want to target: I want you to care; I want you to recognise this as a problem and move to 2. This doesn’t mean you devote your life to fighting discrimination: it means just being aware that various assertions, name-calling, threats are particularly such that they really do affect people. In this case, women have told us many times what they don’t want, what they experience, and what we can do. I take my cue from there: just be vocal about not tolerating it from others and show support.

It does concern you because you are part of the culture. I’m not gay, nor am I black (though I am non-white), nor am I a woman – but I will, where possible, try speak out against discrimination and unfair treatment where it targets these groups. I want to live in a world where this doesn’t happen. Unjustified discrimination won’t ever go away, but it will, through at least conscious awareness and recognition of such horrible actions, be gradually ameliorated.

Go ahead and tell me you don’t care; you can say "that's just how it is", which is a cop-out to me (as I argued). At least then, stay out of the conversation, don’t raise it since you’ve already admitted you don’t care. I’ve never understood people for whom this isn’t an issue coming on to my blog and others' to proclaim and yell about how much of a non-issue it is for them: if it really is, why are you telling us!

Go ahead: tell me you don’t care but don’t say “It doesn’t concern me”. You can at the very least recognise it does concern the culture you’re involved in, because it’s happening within a medium and culture you claim to love, especially when you’re writing on it for a website. And if it’s happening there, it surely must affect you – whether you like it or not. Admitting you don’t care (which Milne does) is not the same as asserting it doesn’t concern you: the first is subjective but the latter is not. By being part of this environment, it does concern you since you’re part of that culture. For example, when Chick-Fil-A became vocal about their homophobia, the Jim Henson Company withdraw their ties to them. Presumably, homosexuality has little to do with Henson Co., but clearly they didn’t want to be part of such nonsense. Similarly, I do not want to be part of a culture where so many fellow gamers respond like children or misogynists, where so many fellow gamers do not want to turn their mics on for fear of being treated like crap because of their sex. I can’t remove myself, like the Henson Company, so I think it must change.

 It does concern Mr Milne: he’s just choosing not to be involved – which is fine but you shouldn’t be telling others how much of a non-issue equality and civility is when these very clearly are issues for others.

UPDATE: Australian blogger Martin Pribble mentions this post in his second post on the matter of rape jokes and misogyny. Have a look for the terrible commenter who I replied to in his first post.


* Bra-burning is a myth.

Image Credit: olly/Shutterstock


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