So, I mentioned earlier, that I would talk about that Polygon article, Gaming’s Toxic Men Explained.
Monday night, I sat down with the Geek Husband What Rules and watched Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special, “Nanette,” on Netflix (trailer at link).
Ok, so I’m going to spoil some of the comedy special, but I need to in order to demonstrate how these two things are linked.
What is not spoiling this is to say that Ms. Gadsby recorded this as her farewell to comedy. Which is too damn bad, because she’s funny and wry. She’s an Australian comic, who also happens to be an autistic lesbian, and the world needs to hear voices like that. But I also get why she’s quitting.
So, if you want to go to that comedy special fresh, new and unvarnished, go watch it right now before you read any further.
Right, so the Polygon article quotes both researchers on toxic masculinity in video gaming and victims of that toxic masculinity, like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. Basically, it boils down to society, particularly western culture, with which I am most familiar, raises men and boys with a set of beliefs that sets them up to be assholes.
I’m not kidding.
We raise boys with the idea that if they work hard enough, are smart enough, and can solve enough puzzles that they will be rewarded with a beautiful princess and untold riches… or at least the princess. And I’m not laying this solely at the feet of video games. Books, movies, fairy tales, parental attitudes all contribute. Young girls who hit boys are punished, but if a young boy hits a young girl, or pulls her hair, “He likes you.”
People who like you don’t hit you.
We’ll get into the acculturated acceptance of domestic violence later.
Let’s get back to being owed a woman. The woman you want. The woman of your dreams. The head cheerleader, the model, the heiress…
So we indoctrinate male children with the belief that if they do all the right things, they too will have the princess of their dreams. (We can talk about toxic masculinity in queer culture later, this one’s all about the hets, guys.).
And then they get older, and they discover that girls and women do not come with cheat codes. You can be as fit, handsome, rich, employed as you want and there are, in fact, going to be women who will tell you to get lost. You can have all the monies, and it isn’t going to make a difference to some women.
Now, they’ve been raised to see women as quests, as puzzles or the rewards for said puzzles. But the puzzles keep cheating. They don’t fall into line, they don’t follow the natural progression.
So men and boys get angry.
Women who play video games, something currently gendered male in our society, are not following the rules, and need to be reminded of their place, so swearing, rape threats, death threats. You know, the reason most women who game won’t use Vent, or use feminine screen names.
God forbid you be better than they are.
It used to be that dudes doing this shit online were relatively harmless, way back when the internet was a series of tubes and computers were made of wood.
Then the game changed, as more people began to access the net, it became more dangerous to be a woman, identifiably queer or POC on the net.
Kathy Sierra is the first documented case of a woman being hounded out of her profession and off the net entirely because of mobs of dudes and online harassment.
Most of the time, we don’t grab headlines. A lot of women just quietly retreat from the net entirely, or behind carefully curated walls of social media, everything locked down. Shit, I lock down most of my online stuff.
Then we get to age of swatting. Where assholes phone in a hostage situation to someone else’s local police force in the hope of sending a SWAT team at them. In this age when the police have a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later, this can only be construed by right thinking individuals as attempted murder. But good luck convincing our archaic patchwork of a legal system of that. ESPECIALLY if. you’re a woman, because we’re all hysterical.
Quinn and Sarkeesian, Brianna Wu have all been driven from their homes because of doxxing and at least one case of swatting. So have many other women.
So, let’s step outside of video games and go to Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special. This is where the spoilers come in.
She starts out telling jokes, and does a really great job of turning the tired old sexist tropes back on men. But halfway through she starts to get very genuine about how doing comedy about certain points in her life has prevented her from psychologically progressing past them.
She talks about how women defer, and try to appease men to keep from getting hurt. That Margaret Atwood quote I reference all the time comes to mind, but I’m just going to paraphrase: men are afraid women will humiliate them, women are afraid men are going to kill them.
We are. When I talk to dudes ahead of new dates, they worry they won’t get laid, that she won’t laugh at their jokes, that he could be embarrassed…
When I talk to women ahead of dates, we worry about leaving contact info with our friends, and scheduling check in calls. We leave addresses joking, “So, this is where you’ll find my body.”
Those aren’t jokes and they aren’t funny.
Jackson Katz has described how women live as living in a state of constant siege.
He’s not kidding.
Earlier Ms. Gadsby had told this story about how a guy called her a faggot almost hit her for flirting with his girlfriend, but then stopped because he didn’t hit girls.
In the second half she elaborated that he came back a few moments later, and told her he’d figured it out and she was a lady faggot so it was ok to hit her. And proceeded to beat the shit out of her in front of several people who did nothing to stop him, never called the cops, nothing.
“What did you do to deserve it?”
This refrain follows women everywhere in their lives. From rape to domestic violence, to getting drinks thrown in our faces in bars, to being killed, the first thing anyone asks when a woman is hurt is, “What did you do to provoke him?”
Spoiler Alert: existing as a woman and not conforming to some imaginary rule specific to that one dude is enough to “provoke” some men.
Ms. Gadsby goes on to say that she does not hate men, but she does fear them, and goes on to list all the men in her life who have physically hurt her from molestation to gay bashing and yes, rape.
It’s a hard watch. It is. I was sobbing by the end.
But men, you need to watch this. You need to see what the ingrained beliefs about gender and gender roles you grow up with do to all the women around you every day. From fat-shaming, to telling women to smile because it would make you feel better, to calling women sluts and expounding on the “some girls you marry, some girls you don’t take home to mother,” bullshit that defines so much of our discourse even now.
Men, we need you to pull your heads out and take a fucking look around, because other men don’t listen to us. We aren’t people to them. We are disobedient children, pets or objects. We are trophies. We are rewards for a job well done.
But we are not people. Not to a lot of men out there.
It’s time to step up, guys. For real. This can’t continue.
(Yes, this post is heavily gendered. For a reason. Come at me, bro.)
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