The double-standard against women in activism [swearing]

At this year’s Game Developers Conference, Manveer Heir, a senior gameplay designer for BioWare, gave a talk about the need for increasing diversity in games. It was a great talk! If you have an hour, I recommend watching it. (GDC has posted the talk in its entirety here.)

But here’s the thing. As a long-time BioWare fan, it’s refreshing to see someone at BioWare come out and say that they need to stop treating women and minorities like shit. (I’m still pissed about the atrocity that was that Liara statue. And don’t even get me started on bullshit fanservice character design like Samara the Space MILF.) And listening to the talk, I was totally cheering Manveer on.

BUT.

The coverage of the talks? The coverage made me furious. In talking about Heir and his delivery of the speech, here’s how Heir was described:

On Polygon, in this piece here:

In what can only be described as a call to arms, he challenged…

Heir’s argument went on to debunk…

Heir posited…

On OS News, in this piece here:

Heir backed up his ideas with research throughout the presentation…

Heir’s speech got a lot right…

It was an important and powerful moment…

It was a well-reasoned, well-researched and impactful…

Venture Beat titled their piece here as:

BioWare developer Manveer Heir challenges colleagues to combat prejudice

Notice a trend? The coverage of Heir’s speech was 100% positive. Every gaming outlet that covered the speech described Heir in only the most laudable terms. Because of course Heir is deserving of praise for making such a clear and cogent call for increased equality of representation in video games. The more pieces I read praising Heir’s speech, the more betrayed I felt.

Bitches, I’ve been saying the same damn things for two-and-a-half years, and it’s not like feminist games blogging was exactly a new endeavor when I started. But no matter how much research I do, no matter how many facts I cite, no matter how well-reasoned my posts are, the best response I can hope for is mixed. Mixed as in some people tell me they love my work and they totally agree, some people politely disagree with me, and some people periodically start hate campaigns calling me a fat, ugly, lesbian, whore, feminazi, cunt, dyke, etc etc etc. You get the idea.

Hell, it was just last month that J. Scott Campbell and Mark Brooks sent their legions of angry comic fans to tell me what a fucking ignorant bitch I was, resulting in nearly 30,000 views in 24 hours. (Something, I’ll note, that they appear not to have suffered any professional consequences over. Not that I ever expected them to.) All because I had THE GALL to criticize a comics artist for prioritizing sexual objectification over actual human anatomy.

I know. God. What a fucking cunt I am.

Well you know what? I wasn’t going to write about my sour grapes. It fucking sucks that once again a man has said something that a woman has been saying all along, but considering the importance of the message it felt really petty of me to say “well sure Heir gave a great speech but here’s why you should feel sorry for meSo I kept my mouth shut and resolved not write about it.

That is until this happened:

CLICK TO VIEW LARGER IMAGE

Jeff Atwood, who writes the blog Coding Horror, stole content from Shanley, a female tech blogger, tone policed her, and then sicced his followers on her to shut her up when she spoke out against the theft. (You can find Shanley’s original post here, Jeff Atwood’s post is here.) And ironically, the content that was stolen was about how men can be effective allies in the tech world. He even used the same title – “What Can Men Do?”.

So, uh, okay. Yeah that sucks, but what am I getting at? Am I crazily accusing Manveer Heir of stealing my feminism?

Uh, no. Heir’s talk was about basic human decency, and also objective facts about the industry, which you can’t really “steal”. No, the point that I’m trying to make is that I am PISSED. I am pissed about the fact that feminism only seems to be palatable when it comes from MEN.

I am pissed about the fact that what matters isn’t the message, but the messenger. I’m pissed that despite the fact that people are falling all over themselves to praise men like Heir and Atwood for being positive voices for change within their respective communities, while women like me have to expect abuse for saying THE SAME DAMN THING. And I’m pissed that there are strong, vibrant women who are silenced every day by the fear of becoming the next Anita Sarkeesian[1].

Here are just a few excerpts from the many comments I’ve deleted since starting my blog:

If you call yourself an artist then [sic] your a total moron.

Your critique smacks of jealousy and transference.

I think whoever wrote this has too much time on their hands and needs to go get laid.

You review and correction is full of ASS like your FACE[2]

If I was you, I’d take this post down before you become an embarrassing meme.

Blah blah blah blah sexism! Blah blah blah [sic] misogamy!!!

Awwww did the little cunt get her feelings hurt?

Now you can delete this post if you want cause that seems to be what you do but hopefully you’ll read it first and take note to turn down the snob factor a notch or two

You post inflammatory comments, then try to play the victim when you’re called out on it.

In the end, whatever you think of yourself, all you’ve done here is to show that you are one of those who “can dish it, but not take it.”

You’re just another “angry feminist with an axe to grind.”

If she does not want people to say negative things about her, then she is in the wrong line of work.

And it’s not like I had to look very hard to find these. All of these comments were deleted from just two posts on my blog. TWO.

So you know what? It’s great that men are starting to realize that gaming has a problem and are beginning to speak out about it. But let’s not go patting ourselves on the back, not when the women who have been saying THE SAME THINGS ALL ALONG are still here and still getting harassed. If Heir’s talk was “challenging” but my blogging is “whining”, then we still have a long fucking way to go.


[1] And let me just make clear here that I’m not comparing Heir and Atwood here. Heir is awesome and I support him 100% and am happy that he is where he is doing what he’s doing. Atwood is gross and used his audience to harass a woman in an attempt to silence her, which is never okay, especially when it’s supposedly in the name of “equality”. So basically Heir =/= Atwood is what I’m saying here. Got it? Good. Moving on.

[2] Okay, I’ll admit that this one actually made me laugh.

19 thoughts on “The double-standard against women in activism [swearing]

  1. Recently there was a survey conducted on the demographics of Men’s Rights subreddits (http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2014/04/13/but-how-do-you-know-the-mras-are-atheists/). I have no proof, but I suspect that there’s a big overlap between this group of men (boys, really) on Reddit and those who harass female games/comics bloggers.

    What I found interesting (and hilarious) about this survey was that the majority of MRA subredditors are YOUNG: 17-20 years old!

    I first become interested in computers, gaming, and comics when I was a teenager in the mid 1980’s. I even worked at a comic book store when I was in my 20’s. I realize this is purely anecdotal, and perhaps I was just exceptionally lucky, but I never experienced the level of vitriol and hatred that women today are facing within these communities and online.

    So what happened? Well, it would appear that most of the harassers are the CHILDREN of people from MY GENERATION!

    What happened from one generation to the next to create so many angry, hateful, misogynistic young men? I have no answers or insights, but this really makes me sad.

    • What happened is that they learned ugly misogyny from the men around them and are just expressing it in new ways. Without going into details that would be too revealing of the nature of my day job, I work in a male-dominated industry. At my company, 100% of the senior positions are filled by white middle-aged or older men – and the base level of misogyny and sexism is PRETTY HIGH.

      So, you know, this isn’t a KIDS THESE DAYS thing. (Which, btw, I’m not a fan of. Being a Millennial myself, I really do get tired of Millennials getting crapped on.) This is a toxic background radiation of society thing. Instead of harassing women in the office, reinforcing discriminating hiring practices, and generally running into the ground, the new generation wants to ruin women’s life digitally instead of in analog. Progress!

      • Sorry, wundergeek. My post wasn’t intended as a crap on Millennials. I was actually crapping on MY generation, wondering what the heck we did wrong.

    • bell hooks has written quite a bit about the lack of a clear definition of masculinity outside of patriarchical stereotypes. Combine this with the failures of many parents and schools to offer guidance to boys in their emotional development (see the book Raising Cain by Kindlon and Thompson) and what you have is a generation of boys who seek understanding of their masculine identity solely from media and peers.

      Now add on the fact that the last twenty years have seen the explosion of social interaction over the internet, and now you have an environment where an adolescent can seek “peers” all around the world who will reinforce their own immature conclusions. These communities provide feedback loops of encouragement without ever asking each other to critically examine their thinking.

      The internet is not the only culprit, but it has exacerbated the larger problem. If we want to make headway, we have to seriously examine how we raise boys. As a teacher (and in particular as a rare example of a male primary-grade teacher), this is something I work on all the time. I am trying to make some small difference, but it needs to be a bigger push.

    • I wouldn’t be too harsh on your generation. I think the issue has existed for a VERY long time. How many of those spouting abuse on the Internet would do so in “meat space”?

      We’ve got to remember that we’re in this entirely new frontier – we can communicate like never before. I cant write a comment here and hundreds or thousands of people can see it. I can link to this from Facebook and get a hundred of my friends to comment. I can find other people of a like mind (I think I happen to have a very good mind – I’m a bit of a liberal, think “trickle down economics” is the exact opposite of the way things happen, and people really need to start associating names on a screen with actual people), no matter how outrageous my views may be (which risks me thinking my views are perfectly valid – kind of like cult thinking).

      As for the demographics – they’re probably more to do with the amount that generation communicates online and through what medias… I think:/

      Anyway, I’m off to try and get a hundred or so friends to come and have a read as I think it demonstrates something very very wrong about how feminism is perceived.

  2. I stumbled upon your blog trough a link to it while I was reading articles on IGN.
    The only reason I wanted to check out the link to this blog was that the sample of writing posted on IGN resonated with my own feelings of rage, anger and crankiness and at the same time made an interesting point so I figured I might as well check out the link and see if the rest of the writing on this Go Make Me a Sandwich site was as good. I have been a constant reader of this blog ever since.

    Wundergeek you are the reason for me reading anything related to feminist theory. I fully expect that if you keep doing all the stuff you are doing in 10 years your voice will be one of the ones a lot of people listens to on the topic of gaming and good writing in general not just feminism and activism.

    And thank you for writing this blog.

      • Making a safe bet. The earliest wundergeek could become one of the big voices a lot of people listens to is in 6 months if the princess Charming project takes off at a really high pace and the latest is 10 years because if she keeps this level of variety and quality of content about gaming, good writing, feminism, activism and artwork for another 10 years she will have amassed a large enough following just trough the standard of her work.

  3. Uh. So while I appreciate the complimentary tone of what’s going on here, it feels kind of creepy for reasons that I’m having trouble nailing down, other than I’m being talked ABOUT instead of being talked TO. Which is weird on my own blog.

    • Sorry for creeping you out. Let me know if you figure out the rest of the reasons for the comments being creepy. I don’t like to creep out people even though I like some creepy stuff myself.

  4. This is only tangentially related to what you’ve written in this post, so please excuse me if I’m being a distraction.

    I noticed that the Geek Feminism blog used a tool called Do Not Link to avoid directing traffic to content that you want to discuss without boosting their page views and search engine ranking (like Atwood’s blog post.) I know this issue has come up in some of your earlier posts. Did you know about it? I think it’s pretty neat!

    http://www.donotlink.com/

  5. I agree so, so much. It’s great that men are starting to talk about sexism. But for now, the gaming market still tends to celebrate men, talk about men, give support to men, assume good things of men… and do all the opposite things about us women. It’s very hard to get started or become successful in a market that tells you to stop existing so much.

  6. I just want to say that I did not learn about sexism in gaming from people like Manveer, as great as a guy as he sounds like. I learned about sexism in gaming and a lot about feminism from you. You have a unique passion, dedication, and humor that is unique to you. Its a shame you don’t get the credit you deserve, but you should know that you make a difference in a way no one else can. I don’t know what else to say other than I hope your day/week/month/year gets better, and that when talking about sexism with people, I’ll always remind them that its not people like me who brought attention to the problem, but those who have to live with it every day of their lives and refused to stay quiet about it.

  7. Honestly, I think you should be happier about this. The message needs to reach men and having it come from a man makes it an easier pill to swallow for the intended audience. Defensive posturing isn’t unique to men as; women, POC’s, you name it, will do it too . Humans are naturally defensive when called to account and having the messenger be a member of the offending party can make dialogue a little easier. Basically, if you identify as a kettle and some pot comes over and tells you you got black on you, you maybe don’t want to hear it. Should a fellow kettle come by and tell you that they can see your soot marks you may just listen. If you want more people discussing this issue, then Manveer getting attention (and positive to boot) is a pretty objectively good thing.

    • From the article, it sounds like she is happy about positive response he got. Positive responses to feminism are a great thing. Notice how much she recommended the speech. What she is unhappy about is the unpositive response so many women get for saying literally the exact same thing earlier. Also, remember, this article/unhappiness is also about the blogger who completely brushed off accusations of code theft in a manner that is often used to silence women who dare to speak out against injustice.

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