There’s a culture war happening right now. It’s happening in games, in film, in journalism, in television, in fiction, in fandom. It’s happening online, everywhere. And everywhere, sexists, recreational misogynists and bigots are losing.
They are losing, and they don’t know why.
I don’t think they are losing – unless by “losing” she means “failing to drive all the women, especially the feminist women, out.”
I don’t think they’re going to drive all of us out, but I don’t think they’re going to admit defeat and stop trying, either. I think we’re stuck with this mess. Too many people are having too much fun being shitty.
The routine, the arguments, have become far too familiar. A woman or a handful of women are selected for destruction; our ‘credibility’ and ‘professionalism’ are attacked in the same breath as we are called ugly, slut-shamed for dismissed either as stupid little girls or bitter old women or, in some cases, both. The medium is modern, but the logic is Victorian, and make no mistake, the problem is not what we do and say and build and create.
The problem is that women are doing it. That’s why the naked selfies, the slut-shaming, is not just incidental to the argument – it is the argument. Underneath it all, you’re just a woman, just a body. You can be reduced to flesh. You are less. You are an object. You are other. LOL, boobs.
Or LOL, no boobs. One of those. But either way it’s something a lot of people enjoy doing – just like gaming! – and I don’t see any reason to think they’ll stop.
They can’t understand why their arguments aren’t working. They can’t understand why game designers, industry leaders, writers, public figures are lining up to disown their ideas and pledge to do better by women and girls in the future. They can’t understand why, just for example, when my friend, the games critic and consultant Leigh Alexander, was abused and ‘called out’ as an unprofessional slut, a lying cunt, morally and personally corrupt, just for speaking truthfully and beautifully about all of this, it was Alexander who was invited to write her first piece for Time magazine, Alexander who got to define the agenda for the mainstream, who received praise and recognition, whilst her abusers’ words will be lost in a howling vortex of comment threads and subreddits and, eventually, forgotten.
But that doesn’t happen to every woman who is ‘called out’ as an unprofessional slut, a lying cunt, morally and personally corrupt, and blah blah blah – most of us get neither an invitation to write a piece for Time nor any other kind of prize or win. And for every public figure lining up to pledge to do better by women and girls in the future, there’s a Dawkins shouting his incredulity at claims that a friend of his is a harasser and praising the “feminism” of Christina Hoff Sommers as opposed to that pesky other kind that takes sexual harassment seriously.
They can’t understand why the new reaction to nude selfie leaks isn’t ‘you asked for it, you whore’, but ‘everyone does it, stop slut shaming.’ They can’t understand the logic of a world where ‘Social Justice Warrior’ just doesn’t work as an insult, because a great many people care quite a lot about social justice and are proud to fight for it.
They can’t understand why they look ridiculous.
This is a culture war. The right side is winning, at great cost. At great personal costs to people like Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Zoe Quinn and even Jennifer Lawrence, and countless others who are on the frontlines of creating new worlds for women, for girls, for everyone who believes that stories matter and there are too many still untold. We are winning. We are winning because we are more resourceful, more compassionate, more culturally aware. We’re winning because we know what it’s like to fight through adversity, through shame and pain and constant reminders of our own worthlessness, and come up punching. We know we’re winning because the terrified rage of a million mouthbreathing manchild misogynists is thick as nerve gas in the air right now.
Yes but we thought that 40 years ago, too. We thought all that then. And we were right, up to a point, but…sexism and misogyny are in some ways worse than ever. No, I don’t think we’re winning.