Double-header: Destructoid’s New Editor & Harassment of Feminist Bloggers

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:

For fuck’s sake. I’m just as mad now as when I saw this the first time.

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.

…seriously. SERIOUSLY???

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?

Wrong.

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?

Google Results: a little context

Okay, now that I’ve finally got things set up properly, time to get back to business.

So last time I expanded my list by one to include “fag”. I realize good arguments can be made for other words, but it’s a pain in the ass searching these words across multiple sites and I’m drawing the line at 8 search terms just to preserve my sanity. Also, for this post I’m only looking at the first page of search results for each site. Partly because reading all the quotes to find what I wanted to use is time-consuming, and partly because reading the results that came up gets a little soul-destroying when you get to the third day.

The interesting thing that happens when you start reading the excerpt text for these terms is that you realize they fall into two groups: terms used exclusively as slurs for the purpose of shaming and/or silencing and terms with alternative usages. So let’s look at the two groups separately.

Terms with alternative usages: whore, cunt, and rape

Now before I go any further, I want to just say for the record that just because I’m making a distinction in usage does not mean that I support the use of these words in any way in a gaming context. As I said previously, I think the fact that there are 150,000-odd instances of the word rape on Destructoid alone is horrendous. However, as it has been pointed out by many, looking at numbers alone doesn’t provide a clear enough picture. So…

“Whore” is interesting, since it’s commonly used to denote someone who obsessively collects or goes after certain things, often self-directed. For example – on the first page of results for “whore” on Joystiq, I come up with the following phrases: two instances of “loot whore”, one instance of “gamer score whore”, two instances of “achievement whore”, and three instances of “graphics whore”. That leaves only two out of the first ten results being an actual traditional usage of “whore”:

“I thought she was a whore with a heart of gold and instead she turned out to be a whore with a regular old whore heart.” [comment]

“Production company ready to whore out Castlevania” [feature headline]

Of course, usage varies by site. Certainly other gaming sites aren’t as “moderate” with their use of the word whore. Some of the lowlights include:

If you’ve ever had your dick sucked then you’ve paid a whore to suck it. You might not have given her cash directly but she still got paid [IGN]

When i was reading Hasley’s journal i suspected that….she must have been a whore [IGN]

YTMND Thursday: Kerrigan is a whore, edition [Destructoid]

Were supposed to be talking about whores here [Destructoid]

all i know is it is about a whore who is your mom [Team Liquid]

TeamLiquid: Where all the women are attention whores, all the men are trolls [Team Liquid]

and #1 sure as shit aint moping around ‘awwwwwww shucks, everyone knows i slept with a whore‘. [Team Liquid]

I know I keep going on and on about how Kasumi is a giant whore, but I can’t help it, because she’s a giant whore. The latest proof? [Kotaku]

And of course, it bears mentioning that a few usages of the word “whore” were in reference to characters in games who are actual prostitutes. (I’ll save the rant about game companies’ obsessions with putting brothels in their games for another day…)

Moving on, the usages of “cunt” and “rape” aren’t nearly as complex. “Rape” has, unfortunately, become popular as a term describing a shameful loss by a huge margin. This is especially true in StarCraft II, where it’s not uncommon for a major victory is described as a “rape” of the loser, and where there are actual tactics with “rape” in the name like: “sugarbear’s Thor Rape technique” and “ZvP Protoss, Ramp Block, Turtle and rape”.

More than half of the instances of “rape” that come up on the first page for Destructoid, TL, Kotaku, Joystiq, and IGN are actually discussions of current events, like the the horrific coverage of that poor girl in Texas, or about the perpetual controversy surrounding rape games like RapeLay. And you can find thoughtful pieces about the use of the word “rape” in the gaming community, like here on Team Liquid and here on WoW Insider (hosted on Joystiq). Only two out of fifty results, but they’re there!

But sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. Destructoid, and Jim Sterling especially, has a bad habit of making rape jokes about, ya know, actual rape. Like using “Games cause rape psychologist’s book gets raped” as the title of a feature, or saying that Kirby told him to go rape a bunch of vaginas. So when it comes to making tasteless jokes about “rape rape”, Jim Sterling gets a gold star. (Or something.)

The least complex word is “cunt”. It gets several hits as being a shooter by the creator of Super Meat Boy, but other than that it’s used pretty exclusively as an insult. However, the reason I put it in the first category is because it seems to be directed as men just as much as women. See:

George Steinbrenner, devoted father, owner, and beloved cunt. [IGN]

Although Az is being a complete cunt like normal he does bring up a good point [IGN]

You know who one of the biggest cunts on the site is? Some guy named Jack of All trades. [Destructoid]

Fuck off destructoid. I refuse to pay you any respect or visit your site until you get rid of that cunt Jim Sterling [Destructoid]

Seriously, that guy is a cunt. [Joystiq]

Oh, gamers. Now I remember why I’m often ashamed to admit that I’m one of you to my non-gaming peers.

100% awful: slut, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, fag

(Okay, I’m going to be a bit more abbreviated here because this post is getting long, and I’m getting depressed. The fact that “fat slut/whore” and “feminist/feminazi bitch” are 100% awful should surprise no one, so I’m going to skip those. I invite you to Google gaming sites for these terms and cry if you feel like doing extra credit.)

Slut only ever means one thing, and – depressingly – gamers have no problem slinging around “slut” like it’s going out of style:

[IGN] lol this slut on okcupid … [IGN] Cassandra was a slut … [IGN] Holy ****, Alison Brie was a slut in college … [Destructoid] Kaidan is such a slut. … [Destructoid] the developers decided to increase her slut factor by ten … [Team Liquid] is it ok to like a slut? … [Team Liquid] being a stud is good but being a slut is bad … [Kotaku] without having to be a virtual slut … [Joystiq] I’m pretty sure Suzu is the guild slut … [Joystiq] if she wants to slut it out it’s really her problem … [Joystiq] Unlike that Hannah Montana slut …

…you get the picture, I’m sure.

Feminazi is a bit more mixed. There is at least some discussion of the term – especially considering the recent twitter dustup involving Jim Sterling. However, the vast majority of uses are either to tar feminism or to slam any woman who dares to stand up for herself:

[IGN] If a woman decides to be a man-hating-femi-Nazi … [IGN] Whichever Femi-nazi wrote that needs to go back to grade school … [IGN] What a feminazi thing to say … [Team Liquid] /me waits for some feminazi to make a retort … [Team Liquid] Your feminazi ways are clearly evident … [Team Liquid] That’s probably why you came off as feminazi or something … [Kotaku] God I hate feminazi’s … [Kotaku] I’m not a misogynist but these feminazi double standards are ridiculous … [Joystiq] I’m willing to bet some femi-nazi mother who didn’t do her research … [Joystiq] Thats something you Feminazi’s fail to understand … [Joystiq] Also, most of the feminazi’s I’ve seen are usually tiny prissy little things. They’re like the yippy rat dogs of the human world …

While “feminazi” doesn’t get hurled around as often as “slut”, in every instance the intent is clear: “tits or gtfo, bitches”. (Because clearly, any woman who objects to SHOW ME UR TITS BITCH is an ugly feminazi who hates men. /eyeroll)

Lastly, fag is interesting because it seems to be the most… well… immature in it’s usage. A good half of the results boil down to [Person] IS A FAG LOL or UR A FAG LOL. Often this devolves into a fight of NO UR THE FAG NO YOU NO YOOOOOUUUUU… which reminds me why I don’t encounter “fag” often in my gaming life since I avoid any place on the internet where illiteracy is predominant.

In closing

So what can we conclude from this collection of filth? Well, as I said with my previous post – ultimately not a whole lot. However, I think the fact that only a bare handful of the hits for these search terms were critiques of the terms themselves says something about how acceptable it is for gamers to use hate speech, especially misogynist hate speech without real fear of contradiction or reprisal from the gaming community as a whole. Even the alternate usages of words like “whore” and “cunt” are still awful because they support the stereotype that comes with those words.

Gamers like to get up in arms about how mainstream society judges gaming as a deviant hobby, but it seems to me that if gamers don’t want to be seen as deviants, then maybe they should consider just why it is that the gaming community is so tolerant of hate speech. It certainly doesn’t help any argument that we’re not as socially maladjusted as the stereotype.

>Google Search Results: Revised

>First, a Disclaimer:

As always, not a professional academic or researcher. Also, not a statistician. I’m just a fine art major who happens to really, really like spreadsheets.

Revisions explained

Okay, so I got some helpful feedback yesterday that included improvements to my search methods. So I thought I’d write a quick post updating my data as well as providing some information about traffic and such. I may or may not get to the post about the context of these terms since I went a little crazy making spreadsheets. (Call me a nerd, but I love spreadsheets. They can fix anything.)

I made a major blunder in my original post, I realized. In my searches yesterday, I was only searching http://www.ign.com and not all of its various gaming subdomains. As such, I revised my search to ign.com and this substantially affected the results. Now ign.com has subdomains for tv, movies, and comics that get much less traffic than its gaming subdomains, but I still searched those subdomains and subtracted those results from the overall total. With the numbers for all of the subdomains and forums included, this wound up altering the final outcome.

I also had some requests to add some additional terms – specifically homophobic or male-gendered slurs. I did wind up adding “fag” to my list, but “dyke” did not make the cut because of the fact that “dyke” is also a name. Specifically, Gordon Van Dyke, who is one of the big figures behind the Battlefield series, skewed the results too heavily. I also did contemplate adding “prick” to the list of terms, but I made an entirely subjective judgement that “prick” is not “as bad” as “cunt”. Entirely my opinion, but I’m also trying to keep the list of terms short so I don’t go completely insane running them all through Google. For the same reason, I also did not search for racial slurs, since that would cause the list to balloon beyond the point that I can gather data in an hour or two.

Lastly, my problem with Kotaku was that instead of running “site:kotaku.com” through Google, I was using “site:http://www.kotaku.com”. That’s what I get for not copying and pasting, I suppose.

The Results

So here are the raw results. (No pretty charts today. I like spreadsheets, but charts are a pain in the ass.)

Interestingly, adding Kotaku to the list didn’t have any effect on the final outcome. Adding all of IGN’s subdomains, however, did. In terms of raw results, IGN now comes out on top with 18 points, just barely edging out Destructoid at 17. Team Liquid’s showing isn’t quite as impressive, but is still pretty solid at 11.It’s worth noting that Joystiq only scored 3 points, and that Kotaku actually managed to score 0. Something I found almost as interesting is the fact that there are absolutely no results for “feminist/feminazi bitch” on Kotaku.

Now none of this gives us more than a very sketchy general picture without at least having some information about traffic patterns and context. Context we’ll save for my next post. As for traffic patterns, I was able to find some super-basic traffic information for Destructoid, Kotaku, IGN, Joystiq, and Team Liquid by using Compete’s free traffic search features. (It doesn’t let you search subdomains.) The monthly normalized data for February for the five sites is as follows:

Sadly, data about page views is not available for free, so I can’t provide that data. But unique visitors and monthly visits will still give us a pretty good picture.In an attempt to at least half-assedly normalize the raw results, I decided to divide the unique visitors by the number of search results for each term. It doesn’t really mean much in terms of where the words are coming from – staff writers? Users? Anonymous commenters? But it at least provides some sort of context as to traffic versus usage of each term. It seems counter-intuitive, but lower numbers are “bad” and higher numbers are “good”:

I decided to go through these results and award points again, this time going from lowest to highest. When looking at unique visitors, this time Team Liquid came in first with 20 points, barely edging out Destructoid with 19 points. IGN, by comparison, came in a distant third with a meager 6 points.When you divide monthly visitors by numbers of search results, results change again – but the overall picture stays the same:

By this metric, Destructoid wins with 20 points, Team Liquid places second with 16 points, and IGN once again comes in third with 6 points.What does any of this mean?

Well, not a whole lot really. We can make sort of general statements saying that Destructoid and Team Liquid seem to have a higher per capita usage of these terms than other sites, but it’s not possible to make any definitive statements about just what any of this means. Another important factor that was not possible for me to examine is the source of the comments. With the exception of Team Liquid, all of these sites employ paid writers, but they also host user blogs. As mentioned before, it’s not really possible for me to discern the frequency of use by the writers versus the frequency of use by users or anonymous commenters.

So, overall these numbers aren’t that useful from an academic standpoint. However, they provide a useful illustration of the fact that misogynist (as well as other forms of hate speech) language is pervasive across all major gaming sites, and that some sites are consistently more guilty of using this language than others.

>Google Results – misogynist language used on major gaming sites

>Rather than diving back into things here with something easy, I decided to try something I haven’t done before. While browsing my Google Alerts for Jim Sterling, I had an idea inspired by the awesome troll data analysis done by blogger kirbybits in the wake of the whole dickwolves fiasco. I decided to see how many search results for common misogynist language I could get for major gaming sites. I was curious – is my growing hate for Destructoid simply because of Jim Sterling? Or is it really more misogynist than other major gaming sites?

The first thing I did was draw up a list of sites to search from: Destructoid, Kotaku, Joystiq, Team Liquid, 4chan/v/, Reddit/r/gaming, the official WoW forums, and the official StarCraft II forums. (Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that Kotaku doesn’t allow Google searches. I don’t know if there’s a way around it, but I was feeling too lazy to find out.)

The next thing I did was draw up a list of search terms. I did this mainly using the word maps in kirbybits’ troll data analysis. The searches I ran were: slut, whore, fat slut/whore, feminazi, feminist/feminazi bitch, cunt, and rape. For the two word phrases, I searched for both with “or” (eg: “fat slut” OR fat whore”). I had initially planned on including “bitch” as its own search term, but I discovered that bitch by itself was a problematic term because of it’s varying uses – it wasn’t possible to easily separate the verb from the noun, and so I dropped it from my list.

The results were… well…. not too surprising, but I went to the effort of making them pretty anyway using IBM’s ManyEyes. Unfortunately, while ManyEyes makes things pretty, it doesn’t make them terribly readable at smaller sizes – so I wound up making ugly charts in Excel. (If you’d like, you can click this link to see the visualization itself.)

Just to amuse myself, I’ve decided on a tournament style ranking to determine which gaming site “wins” the prize of using the most misogynist language. The “winner” will get three points for each top result, second gets two, third gets one. The site with the highest total “wins”.

The search terms:

The results: 

Although Destructoid didn’t win every search term, they still managed to completely dominate the competition with a whopping 19 points, winning in five of the seven categories. Team Liquid, though, put in a solid showing as well with a solid 14 points – proving once again that their reputation for sexual harassment has at least some basis in reality. Joystiq managed to come in third with 5 points, just barely edging out Reddit/r/gaming/’s 4 points. And 4chan, a supposed hotbed of anonymous internet fuckwittery, barely even managed to make the list with 1 point. Better luck next time, guys.Now to be fair, I do imagine the terms feminazi and cunt were edged in Destructoid’s favor, given the recent Jim Sterling twitter fiasco in which he called twitter user Daphny a “feminazi cunt” – something for which he received a lot of backlash. But given the huge gulf between Destructoid and its nearest competitors, I feel confident in saying that Destructoid uses the most misogynist language of the group. (Which makes me regret being unable to get search data for Kotaku. Now I really want to know how they compare.)

None of this, of course, considers the context of the usages, so I’ll look at that next time.

>Just because your fans tell you you’re not sexist doesn’t make it true

>Okay, a bit of a quickie here… I’m working on a post about Reaper Minis that has wound up consuming way more time than I thought it would. So in the mean time, here’s a preview of what you can expect:


She’s going to have some serious scratches later.

So there’s that.Anyhow. Dale North, who is a major contributor on both Japanator and Destructoid, asked his readers if he was sexist. Amusingly, in describing the difference between Japanator and Destructoid, he had this to say about Destructoid:

If you frequent Japanatator, then you surely know about ModernMethod’s flagship site, Destructoid. This gaming community is past hope, and we like it like that! We offend on a daily basis, and we’re championed by our readers for it.

…which, amusingly, is one of the best descriptions I’ve seen yet of Destructoid. Good to know that sexism is apparently part of the writing style guide.

Now normally I would ignore stuff like this on a site like Japanator. I do try to avoid crossing too much into anime fandom here, since the problems with anime fandom are rooted a great deal in cultural differences and Japanese misogyny. However, since Dale North is a contributor on both sites, and content that he writes for Japanator sometimes gets cross-posted on Destructoid – which are both part of the same blogging network, I consider this fair game.

So here’s the question Dale posed to his readers:

Am I, Japanator’s Editor-in-Cheif, a sexist pig? And, if I am, should I be concerned about this as a writer on anime/manga/Japanese culture?

Not surprisingly, given the wording, the rest of the post was then followed by defensiveness and strawmen. This seemed to be more a facetious inquiry to cause a bit of controversy and garner hits rather than a genuine attempt at self-examination. Especially since near the end of his post he tosses out:

I’m not really doubting myself or the work of the Japanator staff here. And in the end, like it or not, we still get paid to write this crap. Sexy? Maybe. Japanator is filled with sexy commentary and pictures and whatnot. We’re all horribly perverted, as good otaku should be. But I don’t think there’s anything here that makes us terribly sexist.

Nope! No sexism here! I mean, there’s scads of sexy women. And our staff is mostly men. And GOOD OTAKU SHOULD BE HORNY. I mean, come on. QED. But none of that makes us sexist. (Now show us your tits.)

Anyhow. None of this should be in any way shocking coming from Dale North, who titled an article about the banning of RapeLay in Japan with: “RapeLay raped off Japanese shelves for good”… and then had this as the headline image: 


For fuck’s sake.

Dale’s no Jim Sterling, but he certainly has his moments.Predictably, Japanator users fell over themselves to defend Dale. Here are some of my favorite comments. (My commentary is in brackets.)

Grow a backbone! Be more like Jim Sterling. He doesn’t give a fuck. [Note: Yes. Because we should all seek to emulate Jim Sterling…]

I’ve been a reader for over a year and I’ve never found your comments insulting (I have a vagina). I think there is a lot of coverage on “sexy news” like PVC figures, but that’s a part of the otaku experience. So, no, you’re not sexist, you’re just an excited fanboy as we all are. [Someone with a vagina says you’re not sexist! That makes it true!]

Last time I checked, I had a vagina so I can comment I suppose. =P There are those on the interwebs that love to stir up a bunch of bull. As a long time reader (though I rarely if ever comment), I have never been offended by your nor anyone else’s word choice or whatever has been shown here.

Tits or GTFO

Either way the entire otaku community has a heavy emphasis on fanservice. Girls who get all huffy at a small thing like the term “good looking gal” should just stay away completely [Yeah! Hear that, wimminz? GTFO!]

As a person with no financial relationship and thus no legal liability with Samantha Robertson, you have the opportunity, nay the duty, to be a sexist pig for all us sexist pigs out there unable to attend this convention. As a representative of this fine oasis of otaku in the vast desert of drivel we call the intarwebs, you carry the honor and privilege of commenting on all the shapely figures and voluptuous bosoms you might encounter in our stead. So go forth and offend. With pride. With courage. With conviction. And let exhaustion and weariness not touch you till you have recieved at least one restraining order.

As a girl, I have to say, not only are the things you say not sexist, but they’re downright hillarious! The call me thing was classic.

Just as the other females have said, my tits say you aren’t a bad guy at all. I think you’re hilarious. I don’t understand what the commotion is about, you guys cater to the female crowd too with the yaoi. [Right. Because all women love yaoi, right?]

Dale, I must admit that you are indeed a sexist pig. You offend the very core of my man-finger, and you continue to do so on a regular basis with your sexual innuendo, such as your reference to “I worked hard,” and referring to me as “dear reader.” I am appalled, good sir! Now back to the beautifully luscious breasts and asses of Anime Expo 2008!

As always, the internet restores my faith in humanity. Or, wait, it restores the inverse of my faith. Anyway, having female commenters tell you that you’re not sexist doesn’t automatically make it true – in the same way that “having black friends” doesn’t make you automatically not racist. Read Derailing for Dummies, for god’s sake.

(Sidenote: I’m amused by the concept disembodied body parts leaping to Dale’s defense. “Hey! I’ve got four tits and two vaginas that say I’m not sexist!” Protip: having ladybits does not automatically make you an arbiter of what is and is not sexist.)

Now, I get that Japanese culture mass-produces misogynist media, and that a certain level of tolerance for that goes with being part of anime fandom. Examining issues of sexism in anime fandom isn’t easy because it’s often hard to tell when you’re dealing with Japanese cultural issues and when you’re dealing with Western cultural issues – which is why I usually stay out of it.

But here’s a tip for all you game “journalists” out there who may be wondering if you are sexist. If you’re actually interested in obtaining a real answer, then you need to step outside your little echo chamber. The users on Japanator are there because they like the site and the content that it posts. Are they going to want to see a negative label attached to a major contributor for said site? No, because that would mean being a fan of that contributor might make them sexist as well.

But I guess that wasn’t really the point of this whole exercise.

>Some followup: Jim Sterling, Reddit, and DM’s Roundtable

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.


 

>DM’s Roundtable follow-up interview

Hey, folks. Before I get to the meat of my post, I just wanted to update you all that last night was the followup interview done with the folks on the DM’s Roundtable podcast. After hearing the podcast that originally went up in which I got fairly lambasted, I was pretty wary of going on. But, happily, things went really well and we had a really positive conversation. Those of you who want to give it a listen can find it here. Fair warning, though, it’s long. (A little over an hour, iirc)

Reddit response to yesterday’s post (trigger warning! rape jokes…)

Why do I read the comments on reddit? Whhhhyyyy? After the backlash I got from reddit over my post about gaming not being sexist against men, you’d think that I’d have learned my lesson? But no, I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment.

So, some dude over on reddit called me an “ignorant judgemental cunt”. The fact that all the horrible shit Jim Sterling has said was meant as humor apparently puts me COMPLETELY in the wrong. Of course, given that in THE SAME COMMENT this dude joked that the difference between football and rape is that women don’t like football.

…so, yeah. I guess I should feel vindicated rather than annoyed. But. Wow. Yuck, dude.

Jim Sterling. Sorry? Well….

Okay, so here’s the thing that prompted me to write a followup post, rather than tackling one of the many other things that I’ve been working on entries about. Kaonashi forwarded me the email from Niero that was mentioned yesterday, and the summary was pretty accurate. “Sure Jim crossed a line and he knows it but he’s a nice guy”.

Which, you know, fine. As an apology it kind of sucks. I have yet to see anything resembling an apology that isn’t full of defensive bullshit from either Destructoid or Sterling, but I’m not about to hold my breath since I honestly don’t expect it to get better than that. An acknowledgment that a line was crossed and that it’s not okay to call people feminazi cunts is about as much as I can reasonably expect since Jim Sterling has proved his worth to Destructoid by being able to get pageviews to Destructoid by saying inflammatory things. Is that out of the ordinary in the gaming world? No. Is Kotaku worse? Oh fuck yes.

Still.

I was skulking the Destructoid site yesterday looking to see if there were any editorials offering a more official apology for Jim’s conduct (there weren’t) when I spotted this post by Jim Sterling about a recent “news” segment on FOX in which the recent rise in reported rapes is blamed on sexy scenes in video games. As is to be expected from FOX, the segment offered no supporting evidence or really any reasoning beyond “be afraaaaaaaiiiiiiid! only FOX can saaaave yooooouuuuuu!”.

Now, is this worthy of ridicule? Absolutely. Does this sort of thing deserve coverage on a major gaming site? Sure. Do the people at FOX deserve to be lambasted for making the same groundless accusations that no one has been able to prove for the last thirty years? Right on. As someone who had to promise her mother not to become a serial killer in order to be allowed to buy Mortal Kombat as a child, I get just as tired of the blame that video games get for just about every social ill that exists. So for once I was cheering Jim on, until I got to the last sentence:

 

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!”

…really? Really, Jim? Wow. This doesn’t make me all that confident that Jim has, in fact, grasped the nature of the line that was crossed. Calling people feminazi sluts? Not okay. But you know what else isn’t okay? JOKINGLY SAYING THAT YOU’RE GOING TO GO RAPE A BUNCH OF WOMEN.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that hottest chick lists aren’t going away any time soon. Will I mock them? Sure. Are they a staple of “game journalism”? Unfortunately, yes. Ditto with all of the stuff masquerading as “news” that boils down to “hey look! Boobies! We all like boobies, amirite?”. It’s crass, it’s tasteless, and it carries with it an undertone of “tits or gtfo”. But that is still something I can roll my eyes at and walk away from. Jokes about going out and raping a bunch of women? Not so much.

So I’ve just sent the following email to Niero, the editor-in-chief of Destructoid:

Dear, Niero

A commenter on my blog was kind enough to forward the email that you sent him in response to his complaints about Jim Sterling’s comments in the twitter dust-up that occurred last week and I was very happy to see that in that email there was a clear acknowledgment that Jim’s comments were entirely out of line. I want to make it clear that in no way do I support Daphny’s actions – her comments were entirely disgusting and tasteless and I do agree with Jim that no one gets a free pass on discriminatory language just because they happen to be a member of said group.

That being said, I have grave concerns about the larger context of this twitter dust-up when viewed in light of a larger history of things that Jim has said as an official writer on your site. When the flare-up originally occurred, I refrained from taking sides on my blog, but I did put together a chronology of offensive comments that display a consistent trend of denigrating feminists, feminism, women, domestic abuse, and rape. So when I saw your email to Kaonashi, I was very pleased and had every hope that perhaps Jim would be a bit more thoughtful in his official commentary in the future.

Imagine, then, my dismay, when yesterday morning I saw a post by Jim about FOX news blaming Bullet Storm for the increase in reported rapes. Did FOX deserve to be thoroughly lampooned? Absolutely! But Jim 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!”

This makes me very concerned that perhaps there wasn’t any sort of real lesson learned at all and that the apologies were just lip service to win back those publishers that Jim managed to offend with his comments.

Look. I don’t like the boob-centric nature of your website, but I’m not about to start a crusade to take down Destructoid because you folks like boobs. Whatever. I just really hope that you can understand the difference between jokes about liking boobs and jokes about going out and RAPING A BUNCH OF WOMEN. I really do. I’m not trying to be a “humorless feminist here”. I just really hope that you can make it clear to Jim that just as it is never okay to call a woman a feminazi cunt, it’s also never okay to joke about engaging in rape. The fact that it’s a joke does not obviate the fact that Jim is an influential guy within the gaming community who gets a lot of respect for the consistency of his gaming scores and, like it or not, there are people who look up to him.

I do hope that you will relay this message to Jim. And I do very much hope to see Destructoid clean up its act.

Thank you for your time and attention.

I’m not sure if I’ll get a response, or if anything positive will come of it. I mean, I’m not a user on their site and I’m a woman, which already puts me at a disadvantage. But it’s worth a shot, and I hope that those of you that agree with me that rape jokes ARE NOT OKAY in game journalism (or, you know, anywhere) will also send Niero an email and let him know where you stand on this.

That’s all for now

>Blame NaNoWriMo

>Hey, folks. Sorry for the radio silence. American Thanksgiving, birthday celebrations, a wedding, and the end of NaNoWriMo all conspired to make sure that any time spent at my computer since last Thursday has been time in which I have been prying my daily words out of my brain in an increasingly desperate attempt to make it to the finish line. But look! I finished!


Yes I use a spreadsheet to track my words. I’m a giant nerd.

So now that that’s over with, I can now reclaim the mental bandwidth that was being consumed by NaNoWriMo. Hooray! I’ve been doing lots of research in the last little while and I promise I have lots of interesting stuff to rant about, including body customization, sexist webcomic ads, and Paizo.In the mean time, I don’t want to leave you empty handed. So here, gentle reader, is your daily dose of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.

WTF the first:

Fair warning, unbelievably NSFW! Orgasm Girl – a flash game on New Grounds about a lesbian who goes around giving girls orgasms in their sleep. Apparently successful enough that it warranted a sequel, because there’s also an Orgasm Girl 2.

I’m afraid that I’ve spent a little too much time dragging prose out of my brain to mock this in a sufficiently scathing and intelligent manner. I’ll leave that task to you.

WTF the second:

How Fat Princess is blatantly better than feminism – a column on Destructoid by Jim Sterling.

This is seriously one of the most offensive and disgusting anti-feminist screeds that I have read since I started the research that wound up to me starting this blog. Among other things, he claims that feminism is bad for women as well as perpetuates the stereotype that feminists are humorless trolls who have no chance of finding a man. And then at the very end, he turns around and says surprise! This was all a joke! If you’re offended, clearly it just proves that everything men say about humorless feminists is true! Clearly that makes them blameless, right?

Well, except for the comments where readers fall all over themselves to say OMG THIS IS SO TRUE. Consider yourself on notice Jim Sterling – I’m adding you to my Google Alerts.

WTF the third:

(NSFW!!) Video Game Girls DB – proof that in every stereotype there is at least a small grain of truth.

Perhaps the creepiest masturbation aid I’ve ever encountered, this site lets you sort by hair color, eye color, measurements, breast size, and bounciness – among many other factors. Seriously? Yuck. Just… yuck.

>Sexist blogging

>Coming Soon

I’ve been working a bit on some illustrations that will accompany a post on how to correctly design female fighting game characters. I’m also going to make at least one (maybe more) post in the near future about how boobs work, including correcting some of the more ridiculous images in my files. Hopefully I’ll have some of that finished soon.

And Now For Something Else

First thing’s first – credit where credit is due. I pulled many of these links from an amazing post on harassment in gaming by tekanji on the Shrub.com blog.

Okay, people. So, let me just open by saying that I’m kind of disgusted that by the realization that I’m going to have to create a harassment tag in the near future. Srsly. Yuck.

Now, there’s a lot of general gaming blogs and forums out there – way too many to go into any kind of exhaustive list – and pretty much all of them contain sexist content to some extent. For many of these sites, the sexism that you’ll find is simply the pervading assumption that women do not play and are not interested in playing games. (Card games, board games, video games, whatever.)

It’s pretty common. Just use Google to search Board Game Geek for the phrase “wife-friendly” (used synonymously with “non-gamer-friendly”) and you’ll see what I mean. This type of sexism is pervasive and irritating, the assumption that because I’m a woman I can’t be a “real” gamer. I hate that when I go into GameStop, I feel like I’m being judged for what I purchase. If I purchase a game like Civ V or Dragon Age, well clearly it’s a gift for my husband. But when I buy games like Katamari (dude, I love the doppler screaming) or DDR (it’s amazing cardio), I almost feel guilty – like I’m contributing the idea that “chicks are only interested in non-games”.

A lot of gamer men ascribe to the myth that women don’t game. Many of them can be can be accustomed to the idea that women game through actually playing games with women. Case in point, during a session of D&D our party totally demolished a guy in a fight, at which point one of the male players said “man, what a girl”. I objected, and he looked embarassed. When I suggested that “lady” would be an acceptable substitute, since “ladies” are not supposed to run around and hit things with swords, he happily switched terminology and everyone was happy.

However, there are a lot of gamer men who simply cannot tolerate the idea that women might be invading gaming. These men take this idea to the next level, actively spewing hateful things about women in an effort to drive them away from the hobby. Many of these men, unfortunately, have blogs. Many more of them comment on blogs and forums. And a select few write columns on popular gaming websites. Like Kotaku.

Kotaku isn’t exactly known for its female-friendly reputation, having sparked a Kotaku boycot a few years ago by a popular female game blogger. And it’s pretty easy to see why female bloggers would want to boycott Kotaku when you take a look at some of their past articles.

Why Do Gaming Guys Hate Gaming Girls? is a pretty good example. Written by John Brownlee, it starts off by all but listing all of the most horrible things that gaming men say to women:

I wince every time my girlfriend wanders barefoot out of the kitchen to play a game of Animal Crossing on my Gamecube: Doesn’t she know that the estrogen she’s oozing all over the controller is having an acidic reaction to the Cheetos-dust patina I’ve laboriously worked up over the years? You girls want to game? I’ve got a game you can play. It’s called “make me a sandwich.”

And then suddenly he does an about-face. Just kidding! I love women and am totally enlightened – unlike all those other slobs. And of course I’m totally NOT SEXIST. Not at all.

Right. It seems unlikely that this is a failed attempt at satire when you look at another article by Brownlee: Women Outnumber Men in Games; Men Think They Should Go Back Into The Kitchen. (The comments aren’t quite as bad as you’d expect, but they’re still pretty bad.) And then there’s Mike Fahey’s article: Kotaku Pantsu [pantsu is a Japanese word used to refer to panty-shots in anime]: A Chat With a Wii Panty Girl, during which Fahey spends the whole interview alluding to the fact that he’d love to have sex with this girl, if only it weren’t for that pesky wife. Way to keep it classy. He makes it worse by claiming in the comments that he “highly domesticated boyfriend object” and that of course he had no intent to be creepy. Sure, dude. Whatever. (The comments, unsurprisingly, on Fahey’s article are a lot more horrifying.)

Now, those articles are older articles and there are newer articles that are more even-handed, like: The Official Bulletstorm Breast Size Debate by Stephen Totilo. One can hope that maybe we’ll see more of that from Kotaku, but I won’t hold my breath. Especially not when the article received comments like:

like a disproportionately gargantuan set of sweater puppies would mean the female character can’t be strong? [Read: What’s wrong with us men liking boobies? Why do you girls have to be such haters?]

Well anything in game design is going to be male dominated, and a few will always want nothing but hot bodies with no personality in their games. [Read: If you don’t like it, then leave.]

Of course, horrific staff columns on gaming sites can pop up just about anywhere. Like: I Want To Have Sex With Carmen Sandiego by Andrew Burch, formerly of Destructoid. (“I like my women like I like my dogs: silent, or with my foot in their ass.” …REALLY?)

And then there’s Dan Landis over on ripten, with such gems as a 10 part series on the nicest asses in video games and a post about a fictional game called Vagina Hero.

It’s enough to make a woman bang her head against her desk until she passes out.

Thankfully, there are sane bloggers out there in the gaming blogosphere calling for some sanity. Like the aforementioned Stephen Tutilo (take a look at another article of his on the sex-i-fication of the heroine in Mirror’s edge). Also, Adam Bishop on GamaSutra speaks out against harassment in the workplace as a game developer. Sometimes on forums, people do speak out against indiscriminate sexist and homophobic remarks. And sometimes when a man makes a post that is sexist and obviously not well researched, the result is actually a positive and informative conversation. (Well, okay, until the thread gets dogpiled by people using tactics straight out of Derailing for Dummies.

Still, there are times when I feel like I’m trying to hold back the sea with nothing but my hands.