Before you read any further
So the funny thing about people is that they change. Imagine that! At the time of writing these posts, I never could have imagined that Jim Sterling would have a change of heart, but he did indeed. He was actually gracious enough to let me interview him about how he’s reversed his stance and how that happened; you can read the interview here on Gaming as Women.
The internet being the internet – there’s no real point in taking this down. It’s out there forever. But I can at least put it in context.
[Edited to add: Some folks kindly pointed out that my discussion of rape culture in the third section is problematic wrt trans people. Mea culpa if you saw the earlier version of this post. I’ve gone back and edited my comments.]
[Hi, folks. At the time I’m writing this, it looks like Destructoid may have been hacked. I’m going to provide links to pertinent stories for when the site does come back, but don’t freak out if those links don’t work right now.]
So there are two things that I want to write about today. They’re going to seem unconnected up front, but they really are. But I’ll talk about each thing separately and then come back to elucidate how these things are connected.
Thing the first: Destructoid’s new Editor-in-chief
It’s been a while since I’ve written about Destructoid. I’ll admit that I’ve started actively avoiding content on Destructoid, since I know that all that’s going to happen is that it will inevitably make me mad. I don’t visit periodically to see what bullshit Jim Sterling has gotten up to recently. Nor do I read my Google Alerts for Jim Sterling because, you know, what’s the point?
But something happened to catch my attention. It seems that Destructoid has a new Editor in Chief. I guess Niero has gone and gotten himself a job at Harmonix, which is great for him I guess. So who did they replace Niero with? Dale North. …great.
For those of you who’ve started reading this blog recently, or who don’t remember this from previous posts, a bit of a recap. See, I wrote my first post about how Jim Sterling is a repugnant human being and blatant misogynist after a Twitter-dustup in which he called a woman a “feminazi slut”. This actually caused enough of a flap that a non-apology was issued by Sterling, that mostly went ‘okay that was bad but she deserved it and the nasty feminists are being meeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaannnnn to meeeeeeeeee’. It was around this time that a reader forwarded an email from Niero responding to his complaint about Sterling that pretty much read as “he crossed a line, but he’s totes a nice guy! honest!”.
Of course, less than 24 hours later, Jim published a story that he ended by saying:
Now if you’ll excuse me, there are some vaginas that have not been raped yet, and Kirby told me I need to “get on dat sh*t!”
Which, you know, didn’t sound like he’d really learned a whole lot from the experience of being raked over the coals for calling someone a “feminazi slut”. It was at that point that I sent an email in complaint to Niero (a copy of which I posted here on this blog). Predictably, I never received a response. So you might think that I would be pleased by the fact that Destructoid is going to have new leadership. And that might be the case, if it weren’t for the fact that that new leadership is Dale North.
See, Dale North has professed to have great personal affection for Jim Sterling. And like Jim Sterling, Dale really likes to make rape jokes in his official work both on Destructoid and Japanator. Let’s not forget that it was Dale North who titled an article about the banning of RapeLay from Japanese shelves: “RapeLay raped off Japanese shelves for good”. To make it worse, he used this as the headline image:
Of course, Dale would like to have his cake and eat it too. Despite being a fan of rape humor, he actually made a faux-introspective post in which he asked his fans if he was a sexist pig. Predictably, they leaped to his defense and assured him that – no, the evil feminists were just being mean and that he was just fine. Of course, the fact that some of those fans were female is, in some people’s books, enough to completely obviate any charges of sexism against Dale. Because as we all know, if you can find one woman who doesn’t think that you’re sexist that means YOU’RE NOT SEXIST. It’s fucking magic.
Anyway, I wish I could say that I had hopes that this will mean a new era of non-rape humor from the editorial staff at Destructoid, but I won’t be holding my breath.
Thing the second: Harassment and death threats of feminist bloggers
Something I am thankful for on a daily basis is the fact that, despite the fact that this blog receives an unholy amount of traffic for a blog devoted to such a specific (and controversial) subject matter, I have not experienced the harassment, stalking, and death threats that many female bloggers face – especially feminist bloggers. Mostly the trolls that I get confine themselves to ‘lol, feminist bitches be crazy’ or ‘you must be fat and ugly’ or ‘you need to get laid you fugly lesbian’. (Hell, sometimes I get all three at once!) Off the top of my head, I can only think of one person ever saying anything that could be construed as a death threat, and even that was pretty passive in that I was told I should go lie in front of a train. And I’ve never, ever had anyone threaten me with rape.
So why bring it up? Because I suspect that my experience might put me in the minority of feminist bloggers. The reality is that far too many feminist bloggers face harassment from trolls that goes far beyond looking for lulz. S.E. Smith recently posted on Tiger Beatdown about the harassment that they and other bloggers have experienced, and the stuff that is quoted seriously curls my toes:
It took a few years to reach this point, but I finally have, the point where I do have concerns about my physical safety, and have had to reevaluate certain aspects of my life and work. I’ve gotten those emails that send a long chill down my spine and create a surging feeling of rage, mixed with helplessness. People have sent me my social security number, information about my family members, identifying details that make it very clear they know exactly how to find me. They have politely provided details of exactly what they’d like to do to me and my family, they send me creepy things in the mail.
‘I’m glad your stupid cat died,’ someone wrote me last October. ‘You’re next, bitch,’ and followed up with my street address.
It’s a good week, these days, if I only get 15-20 emails from people telling me how much they think I should die, or how much they hope I get raped, or how much they hope my cat dies or I lose my job or fall in a hole or get shot by police or any number of things people seem to think it’s urgently important to tell me in their quest to get me to shut up. We are not talking about disagreements, about calls for intersectionality, about differing approaches, about political variance, about lively debate and discussion that sometimes turns acrimonious and damaging. We are talking about sustained campaigns of hate from people who believe that we are inhuman and should be silenced; the misogynists, the ‘men’s rights activists,’ the anti-reproductive rights movement, the extreme conservatives, the fundamentalists. The haters.
This is beyond just fucked up. I am so beyond thankful that I have not had to deal with hate of this magnitude, because the backlash that I do receive is already enough to make me second-guess myself sometimes. We need to speak out against this sort of thing, all of us. It isn’t right that female bloggers should have to worry about the safety of themselves, their families, and their pets simply for daring to have an opinion online. As the kids say these days, shit is toxic, yo.
I hope to god if anybody reading this right now has friends who say anything like these comments – be it on a blog, facebook, forum, WHATEVER. CALL YOUR FRIEND OUT AND LET THEM KNOW THIS IS NOT OKAY. Whatever you think of someone’s personal politics, it is a basic human right not to fear for your safety.
One of these things IS like the other
So how are these things related? Sure Jim Sterling and Dale North make some vile comments. Sure they tell jokes about rape and domestic violence and those stupid feminist whores. But those are just jokes, right?
We live in a culture that trivializes sexual harassment and sexual assault, violence against women, and rape. (And not just against women! Rape against men too! And people who identify as something outside of a gender binary!) When prominent community leaders like Jim Sterling and Dale North make rape jokes, they are propping up the rape culture that leads to less than 6% of rapists ever getting convicted of a crime. They’re propping up a culture in which (around) 1 in 6 women and (around) 1 in 33 men are the victim of sexual violence in their lifetime. They’re propping up a culture in which cops blame victims of rape because they were “asking for it”. And they’re propping up a culture of online harassment, of graphic threats of rape and sexual violence.
“But, wundergeek!” you may be saying. “There’s a difference between joking about rape and threatening to rape someone!” But that’s not the problem. The problem is that jokes about rape contribute to the notion that rape is something trivial, something unimportant, something permissible. Jokes by community leaders contribute to this notion even more! Dale North and Jim Sterling can joke about how they’re just “garme jurnalists”, but the fact is that they are major voices in the gaming community and their audience is HUGE. Much larger than mine. Their words have weight.
It’s time for prominent figures in the game industry to acknowledge that they’re responsible for the environment that their words create. Because as long as our community leaders are allowed to make misogynist “jokes” about rape and violence against women, how can we expect the sorts of criminal harassment that feminist bloggers face to go away? If rape is something normal, acceptable, and permissible, can we be surprised when the women who dare to speak up for women’s rights are threatened into silence?