Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Discouraged and Disheartened

Please note: Bad things are ahead. Sexual harassment and worse are mentioned and discussed. 

First, I was amazed and horrified with the attacks that Anita Sarkeesian was taking for her (wildly successfully funded) Kickstarted project, Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. Just the idea that she might be forming an opinion on the subject was enough to enrage the trolls with less maturity than most 13 year olds; she hadn't even done anything yet, and she was receive vile and disgusting threats.

Then, I was disgusted to read that the Skepchicks were under attack, and it went so far as for someone to ask the question "is it immoral to rape a Skepchick?" Because, the questioner says, "they're so annoying." Rape as punishment for women who annoy you. Wow.

Today I read on John Scalzi's blog that more harassment at ReaderCon had raised still more controversy. Apparently, the con has a zero-tolerance policy for harassment, and someone was in fact booted from the conference. However, he was not booted for life, as their own policy states, but only for 2 years.


I am so tired and so depressed and saddened to hear about all this, within the space of a couple months. And while I don't want to muddy the waters with politics, too, it does seem to be a common theme. Women are under attack. Why? No, really. Why?

When I've had this conversation with my husband, he's offered the suggestion that (particularly in the political arena) that this is the last violent, gasping attack from a mindset that is out-moded and out of touch with the 21st century. With regards to the nerds and the geeks and the skeptics, women are "invading" their territories in increasing numbers. Women read comics, we play video games, we're atheists and scientists and philosophers. We no longer accept the "No Gurlz Alowd" signs on the doors of their clubhouses, and they feel threatened.

I can't really argue with his idea. He is a guy, and I'm not. Just like he can't truly understand what it's like to know that sexual harassment, abuse, and rape are a fact of life for me - simply because I'm female. I can't speak for all women, I am not all women, I am not even representative of all white 40something women. I can only speak for myself when I say, I don't want to take over your space, hang lacy curtains on the windows and make you drink tea, I just want to hang out, play some games and eat pizza out of the box.

Here's the thing: I like nerdy guys. I like your weird obsessions, your utter disregard for fashion and your sometimes bizarre non sequiturs that make me laugh. I like your intelligence and your ability and willingness to imagine anything under the sun. Here's what I don't like: the 13-year-old mentality where Tits or GTFO! in response to anything, or the behavior where it seems normal to plaster obscene images on someone's blog or website, simply because they have an opposing opinion.

Whenever we shrug off someone's bad behavior, refuse to call them on their shit, we're giving them permission to do it again, and we're showing their fellows that we're not going to call anyone out, so they can do similar things. If you see something, say something. If it happens to you, report it. Stand up for what's right and decent.

Unfortunately, I know it's not going to change, at least not in the immediate future. I feel reasonably brave posting this little rant, because this blog of mine hasn't gained a following yet, so I don't have to deal with trolls. I would like to think I'd still have the courage to speak my mind even if there were trolls to handle, but the hate and the vitriol can be a lot to take... Honestly, I am exhausted from all the second-hand hate. I'm not being colorful, I'm serious: all this stuff I've been reading has made me exhausted. "So quit reading it!" Because that will make it go away? No. No, if I go offline to recover from all this, I'd miss stories like Star Wars Katie's mom's new book. Or the zombie walk that counter-protested the Westboro Baptist Church's protest of a military funeral. Not only would I miss stories like that, but denying the problem, ignoring it, helps no one, especially not the women who are in the cross-hairs, when I could just as easily be the next target. Why me? "Female" seems to be excuse enough for the attackers...

Update: An article about the harassment in gaming is in the New York Times.

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