Guest post: A guaranteed way to get downvoted into oblivion

Originally a comment by Michael Raymer on Women are stealing all the safe spaces.

I don’t understand this concept that in order for a space to be “safe” for men, women have to feel unsafe in it. It seems rational that spaces which are more inclusive are actually safer for everyone. What these gamers really want is a “boy’s club” where they can spout vitriolic misogyny and never get called out for it.

It’s depressing to me since it’s yet another community that I once identified with and now feel almost ashamed to be associated with (the other, of course, being atheism).

I’ve been playing video games for longer than I’ve been an atheist, for over twenty years. Yet even if some cartoon supervillian was shouting, “I will end gaming forever, mwahaha!” I wouldn’t get up in arms over it. It’s not worth threatening anyone over – they’re just games. Yet that’s not even close to what people like Anita are doing. A line from one of her videos is that it’s possible to enjoy media while still criticizing its more pernicious aspects. That’s a totally reasonable position, and yet she still gets death threats for it.

On reddit, saying anything even remotely positive about Anita is a guaranteed way to get downvoted into oblivion. In fact, once all I said was “Even if you disagree with her, let’s all agree that death threats are a bad thing” and while I didn’t get downvoted, I got replies informing me that she has made fake threats before so this one is probably fake too. I asked how it was known that she had faked threats before, and the reply was something about how the Twitter accounts sending her threats were only a minute old, so that somehow proves that she made those accounts herself. That’s some perfectly rational Spock-like logic there, right?

The whole thing makes me want to ditch gaming for a new hobby, like model railroading. Though I’m sure there’s a contingent of sexists assholes there too, since it seems to be a trend.


  1. MarkD says

    I think a big part of it is that some men feel safer from *each other* in an all-male space. When you perceive women as life-prizes for men (a notion that is especially ingrained among gamers), then the presence of women makes a space feel competitive. Winning and losing is no longer just about a game, it’s about winning and losing at life and sex and manliness.

    The root cause is still misogyny, but at a slightly deeper and more insidious level.

  2. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    This is undoubtedly where the #gamergate loons are coming from. I have been mentioning that the misogyny directed at Sarkeesian and Quinn is only a part of the problem of the hostile environment that some male gamers create in multiplayer games.

    What I hadn’t really considered is that what these people are really reacting to is the attempts of the games companies to clean the games up. So the anger is really a sign that they are loosing. This is like the primal screams from the racists on Fox News complaining about ‘black privilege’ because segregation is over.

  3. theobromine says

    As a female model railroader, my observations are that

    1) the demographic of the hobby is >95% male (and also mostly over 40)

    2) most of the male hobbyists seem accepting of women participating

    3) the sexism I have occasionally encountered is more of the genteel patronizing kind (which can be damn annoying, but still not as bad as threats of physical violence)

    One thing that really bothers me about this discussion is the underlying gender essentialism that assumes that men and boys are inherently violent by nature, and therefore need a space where they can enjoy protection of their violent nature, and raising this as an issue is an offense against nature which should naturally be punished by violence.

  4. ludicrous says

    Mark @ 1,

    Thanks for your comment, that insight had not occurred to me and it strikes me as spot on, and applies to all kinds of spaces where women enter previously all male venues, skeptic-athiest conventions anyone?

    Probably an impetus for convention predators too.

  5. says

    Well, I was going to comment on the model railroading thing, but some uppity grrrl beat me to it ;-).

    Model railroading is less testosterone-loaded: the demographic is older, and it’s not premised on simulated violence.

    And FWIW: this male has never found vitriolic, well, anything really, to be creative of “safe space”. Even when you’re not the target, it’s just unpleasant to be around.

  6. says

    Hahaha yes that pesky theobromine is such an upstart.

    I loved my brother’s model train set as a kid, but I just played with that, I didn’t become a model railroader or anything.

  7. says

    I should mention that our son studies gaming academically, and knows a few of the industry people. His take on it is that, indeed, the traditional demographic of 18-35 year old males just doesn’t want the girls playing in their sandbox. The objection really is about that shallow.

  8. quixote says

    MarkD, excellent guest post, but your comment@1 really made a light bulb go on for me. I could never understand what it was about female cooties that was so intolerable. But women, as such, don’t have anything to do with. If they’re counters in a fight against loserdom, suddenly, the depth of the vitriol makes sense.

  9. michaelraymer says

    Ophelia, thanks for posting my comment! @3, theobromine, those are interesting observations. I’m not surprised the hobby is mostly male. It was a semi-random example, but not entirely. My grandfather was a railroad guy, and when I was a kid he had a model Amtrak set that I always admired. Another one of my hobbies is open-source software, which also skews male heavily, and unfortunately has no shortage of sexism in its online communities. But (at least so far) it’s nothing like what I’ve encountered in the gaming community. I wonder if there is an age demographic that’s at play there as well. I once got into a debate with someone about open-source being essentially “more of a guy thing” and I had difficulty explaining that while I agree equality of outcome and equality of opportunity are not the same thing, when there’s a glaring gap in outcome, it is usually an indicator that there’s a problem with opportunity as well. Also, I have a significant other who works at an IT helpdesk. Her position is less male-dominated than say, a programmer or network admin, but like all tech jobs it’s still mostly male. She has the problem of sometimes having her ideas ignored until they are parroted by a male coworker, then they suddenly sound great. This sort of “passive” sexism is still nothing compared to the hate filled rants I have seen in gaming, though. Hence the desire to just say to hell with it, build a little Amtrak set and reminisce about dear old grandad.

  10. theobromine says


    I’ve given a lot of thought to the age demographic factor in sexism in tech. I’m an electrical engineer, and started working as an electronics designer in the tech industry in 1980. In the early years, sexism in the workplace was simply a fact of life. For the most part my workplace at the time was less sexist than most of the outside world, though my older co-workers did tend to be more sexist than the younger ones (that genteel sexism again). But I’m thinking it’s a lot harder to be a sexist in the 2010s than it was in the 1980s, which might be part of the reason why many of today’s sexists get so defensive when called out.

    As for equality of opportunity, certainly pretty much all of the formal and official restrictions against women in the workplace have been eliminated, but there is plenty of passive sexism that steers women away from “non-traditional” roles*. Later in my career, I did a stint at managing an internal IT helpdesk that provided tech support for hardware and software designers. Combining being a woman with being in a “soft” area like tech support made it rather a challenge for me and for my (few) female staff to be taken seriously, both by our management and by our “customers”. (Interestingly, I suspect that having a non-traditional hobby like model railroading helped my credibility somewhat.)

    * This has been observed for PoC too – see Neil deGrasse Tyson’s story:, in which NdGT says “Before we start talking about genetic differences, you’ve got to come up with a system that is equal opportunity. Then we can have that conversation.”

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