Hi. So, in light of the revelation of Frank Mentzer harassing women, I’m seeing a lot of conversations started by dudes about what dudes can do when harassment happens in front of them. And that is super good! Really good! I’m very happy to know so many dudes who care and want to make things better for women in gaming. A couple even point out the signs of harassment and what to look for and when and how to step in. I’ll try to post them or links to them after I get permission from said dudes. (Note: I’ll be posting another one of these for a dude who would like to remain anon for reasons Friday.)But a fair number of the dudes who are not onboard with stepping up, while assuring the rest of us that they themselves would NEVER do those things, don’t get why it’s a big deal? Why can’t women just toughen up?
Here’s the deal, guys. We are tough. We put up with far more shit on a daily basis than the majority of you can conceive of.
But I get it. Society tells you that we’re delicate, sensitive, creatures, prone to fainting spells and easily frightened. Not to mention, we’re liars and responsible for original sin.
However, I want you to realize that women* are the people who deal with the bulk of the piss, shit and blood in the world. Yes, men go to war (women do now, too, and actually always have), but women do most of the nursing care after. We also push tiny people out of our vaginas, with heads the size of cantaloupes.
Trust me, guys. You do not have the market cornered on tough.
But when you look at the cultural tropes we all grew up with, I need you to take a good hard look at who those tropes actually serve.
Now, a number of you will in fact knee-jerk respond, “Women!”
And you would be achingly, hauntingly, repulsively wrong.
Those tropes have been used for decades, nay, centuries to control women and limit their lives and actions. From Hippocrates (or at least attributed to him) in Socratic Greece declaring the womb to be the source of women’s “mood swings and erratic behavior,” to Newt Gingrich and his belief that women couldn’t be on the front lines because mud and giraffe hunting, dudes have been coming up with some bullshit to keep women from doing things. All the things.
And yes, there are a disturbing number of women who toe the line with Team Misogyny and work to keep women’s roles circumscribed. Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug.
Look, if you guys want, I can in fact turn this into a five part series on the rights of women and how societal rules have been built in service to keeping us barefoot and pregnant. I really can. I kind of want to.
But that isn’t really the point. Nor is point whether I think women are tougher than men. The point is that coming at this from a state of similar toughness, when it comes to gaming and gaming spaces, women take a whole hell of a lot more shit. A lot more threatening shit.
Dudes are far more likely to touch women without permission, than they are to touch other dudes.
Dudes are far more likely to make unwanted sexual advances toward women than they are to make sexual advances toward other dues.
Dudes are far more likely to talk over women, and discount their stories of someone else in the group crossing a boundary.
And a lot of why is because of how we, as a society, socialize men to behave with women.
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a discussion of “That Guy” in a gaming group, where they’ll bitch about him borrowing money, mooching food, breaking shit, but the second a woman says, “He keeps trying to grope my ass,” the defending starts.
“Oh, no, you must be mistaken.”
“He doesn’t mean anything by it.”
“You’re taking things out of context.”
No. We’re not.
What you often mean is that because you wouldn’t do that thing, you can’t possibly see how he could do the thing.
Or maybe what you mean is that because you don’t see it, or “see it,” you couldn’t possibly take the word of…
Of who? A woman. You were about to say, you couldn’t possibly take the word of a woman over the word of your friend.
But aren’t we your friends, too?
THAT is why Sexism and Harassment are a big deal. Because when you don’t believe us. When you discount our concerns, or try to convince us that the asshole who keeps “accidentally” brushing our breasts by reaching for the chip bowl on the other side of us instead of the bowl with the identical chips right in front of him really is just harmless, or clueless, you tell us that we aren’t really your friends. You don’t actually value us or our contributions.
You don’t think we’re actually people.
When you let other people sexually harass and assault us and either turn a blind eye, or try to gaslight us into thinking that they didn’t mean anything by it and are harmless, you demonstrate that you don’t think we have a right to decide who touches our body or when.
And that makes us afraid.
Because 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 of us (depending on where you get your statistics), will be raped in our lifetime.
And when you demonstrate that you value the ass-grabber over the person whom he has sexually assaulted (in many states, Washington being one of them, groping someone sexually without permission is sexual assault), it tells us that you don’t actually value us or care about us.
And that fucking sucks.
It’s isolating and bullshit.
*Yes, I realize that Enbies and Queer people with femme identities also get harassed, but this post is focusing on the events of the immediate blow ups.