When you ask someone who calls him or herself a Geek or a Nerd, most often they identify with being an outcast. It is often a badge of pride in our subculture that we are accepting of our fellow outcasts and don’t judge. It’s time that we talked about something we all pretend not to think about. There is an under-current of sexism in our culture and we will never be able to make it better unless it is brought to light.
Let’s look at the annual Emerald City Comic Con. People had to be reminded that “costumes are not consent” or what about during last years PAX, when some girls stated that they were “uncomfortable” about a comment and were then turned on by people on forums who were suggesting they should be assaulted. To further the impact of this, the comments were met with positive responses from others.
Case in point, earlier this week, Feminst Critic Anita Sarkeesian (see picture above), received threats against her and her family forcing her out of her house.
On August 26 she tweeted:
“I am safe the authorities have been notified. Staying with friends tonight”
This is not an isolated incident, Sarkeesian has been targeted by people in the video game culture, for at least a year. The comment section on her Youtube page is filled with hateful comments. Comments wishing that she would get cancer, that she hates her father, and to “go back to the kitchen.” The comments on her Twitter account are extremely violent and too disgusting to post here. Someone has gone as far as to create a Flash game where you can punch her in the face.
Sarkeesian has published a series of videos on her Youtube Channel Feminist Frequency. In these videos she discusses several of the more misogynistic tropes that still occur in video games and other media. This is not to say that she thinks all video games, and by extension men, are evil. She is saying there are trends in how women are depicted in video games. In her videos she does make a good case for several of the things she is seeing, her videos are presented in an academic way, and at no point does she call for us to rise up as one and set fire to the evil male dominated industry. I have watched several of the videos and they are a great place to start a rational conversation. But instead, the majority of our group has dismissed her or defensively lashed out to the point of advocating violence.
Instead of having the needed discussion about her topics, such as the fact that Princess Peach can be replaced with a salad fork and this would have no impact on the story of Super Mario Brothers, or that in Bioshock Infinite there is a girl who can tear holes in space and time yet waits in her tower patiently for a man to save her, both of which have valid points on both sides of the argument that need to be discussed. The gaming community has degraded into pointless verbal attacks, threatening with violence, and accusing her of hating men. These responses have done nothing but prove many of the claims she has made in any of her videos.
Aside from the threats of violence against her, the most common retort to her videos is that since she is not a “Gamer” she has no right to comment on the medium and how women are depicted. But that makes me ask the question, “how do we define who is and is not a Gamer?” How often do you have to play? How obsessed do you have to be? There also seems to be a double standard when it comes to who is and is not a gamer. The Internet is filled with memes of “fake gamer girls” implying that girls have to prove they are true gamers where I have never heard anyone imply that a guy was “just some whore who found some glasses.” We have to ask ourselves, why is our culture so keen to put women on the defensive when they try to be part of our social group?
Take this webcomic for example:
As a group that prides itself on its “inclusive mindset”, we can’t just ignore these incidents when they occur, when we respond to critics with violence and threats, our group comes off juvenile. When we refuse to acknowledge that we constantly have to remind guys that “a cosplay girl cannot be touched how he sees fit,” the cycle will never end and we will keep hiding under our cover of “inclusiveness.”