I try very hard to stay away from hot button topics when it comes to this space. Sure, I have my views and opinions. I just think that some spaces are better for sharing those things than others. That being said, I’m going to discuss one of those topics today. I have a number of reasons for making that decision, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
I’m sure most people have heard of #GamerGate, whether you play video games or not. I am a gamer who is also a woman. Lest anyone question my gamer credentials, allow me to show you my first console:
Yes, friends, that beautiful, beautiful piece of gaming is the Atari 2600. I spent hours on it as a kid in the early 80s. Yes, I really am that old. Since then, I’ve played on various consoles before eventually moving on to prefer PC gaming. We still have an XBox 360, and I do still play it, but I prefer PC games.
Now that that’s out of the way, one of the major issues in video games in the treatment of women. Anita Sarkeesian has a series Tropes Vs Women where she discusses these things much better than I can, so I’ll leave her to it. The point of this post isn’t to debate whether or not women are portrayed badly in video games (or media in general). Like I said, people who are better than I am at it are already doing that. This post is about what happens after women such as Anita Sarkeesian, Felicia Day, and Shoshana Roberts actually do something to point out the dangerous environments that exist for women.
If Anita Sarkeesian’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because she was scheduled to be a speaker at Utah State University. That speaking engagement was canceled because someone (a man, as it happens) threatened to shoot the place up if she spoke there. If a woman speaks out about violence against women, and your response is to threaten violence against that woman, perhaps you should stop right there and think about things a bit. Since the university would do nothing to ensure Ms. Sarkeesian’s safety, she canceled her speech.
Felicia Day is a ridiculously talented actress who has appeared in some of my favorite things (Buffy, The Guild, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog) who was doxxed for speaking out about this larger issue. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, doxxing is where someone goes through the trouble of finding your personal information and then posts it online so that people can send rape/death threats and make the person leave their home out of fear for their safety. Again, if a woman is talking about violence against women (even pixilated ones), and your go-to action is to threaten (or perpetuate) violence against the woman, you are the problem. You aren’t part of the problem. You are the problem…the unique, self contained problem that is your entire interaction with 1/2 of the planet’s human population.
Shoshana Roberts is a relatively new addition to this list. You may have seen the video she participated in that documented over 100 instances of street harassment she encountered while walking around NYC for 10 hours. Now, while there are some legitimate criticisms about the film (such as a lack of white men as opposed to an overabundance of black/latino men), the fact remains that what was documented is a fact of a woman’s life. It does not matter 1) how old you are, 2) what you are wearing, 3) your race, or 4) your size. I’m fat now and I still encounter street harassment. She’s getting rape/death threats because she participated in this video. Are you fucking kidding me? Yes, I said the bad word and no, that was not rhetorical.
So, I guess the big question is why am I writing about this, knowing that this space is not usually used for these topics and knowing the potential risks to doing it. The first one is really simple. I’m a woman and I demand the right to walk down the street, mind my own business, and yes, even play video games, and not be harassed and/or assaulted for it. I’m not asking for the right because, quite frankly, it’s not yours to give. I have that right and I’m taking that right. The second one is less simple. I’m speaking out because I have to. I can’t keep riding on the bravery of my fellow women and hoping I will benefit from the risks that they take.
I am not on this planet for you to look at. I’m not here to smile at you. I’m not a potential resting place for your penis. I’m not the foil for your masculinity, and I’m not the punching bag you use to feel better about yourself. I will walk down the street with zero obligation to play to your ego. I will play whatever video game I damn well like, whether you like it or not, and I’ll call out the bullshit as I find it. I will demand to be treated with dignity and respect and I will expect that demand to be met.
So, you want to dox me? Go ahead. Flood my email with death threats and rape threats. Show up at my house if you think that’s wise. (I have three pitbulls and a .45 that would love to meet you.) You’ll only be proving my point and giving the authorities something to track. It’s a pretty sad commentary on the state of society, though, if it’s easier to send a death threat than it is to simply stop being a douchebag. I’m not afraid of you, and that’s why I have to speak out. I’m not afraid. I’m pissed.