Jessica Valenti is more optimistic than I am. She says GamerGate is the last gasp of the angry white guys. I wish.
The recent uproar – said to be over ethics in journalism but focused mostly on targeting outspoken women who aren’t journalists at all – is just the last, desperate gasp of misogynists facing an unwelcoming future. But this particular bitter end, while long overdue, is loud, angry and extremely dangerous.
I wonder what gives her the idea that this is the last gasp and the bitter end. Why would it be? We’re not going to shut up, and Twitter and Facebook aren’t changing their rules and practices, and laws against campaigns of harassment don’t exist, so why would it be the last of anything? It’s a pleasant thought, but it’s nonsense.
Maybe that was just a rhetorical flourish and she didn’t notice that it’s not true, because she argues the opposite in the following paragraphs.
…despite assurances from Gamergate supporters that they have no problem with women, their de facto leaders are being outed as violent misogynists. (Sample tweets: “Fat/ugly women seek out dominant men to abuse them” and “Date rape doesn’t exist”.)
It’s tempting to believe that this online row – a toxic combination of misinformation, anger and anxious masculinity – is just about one specific technology industry’s subculture, or that it will blow over. But by labeling Gamergate a “gaming problem” and attaching a hashtag to it, we’re putting unnecessary boundaries around a broader but nebulous issue: threats and harassment are increasingly how straight white men deal with a world that no longer revolves exclusively around them.
Quite so, and they’re not about to stop.
When I spoke to her by phone in San Francisco on Sunday night, Sarkeesian saidGamergate is “absolutely” an issue that goes beyond gaming:
The harassment is becoming more intense towards women and other marginalized communities, and it seems to be happening more to women in male-dominated fields, and to women who speak out or make critiques.
Sarkeesian told me that the backlash in gaming – hardly a new problem – has gotten more vicious as the conversations about women’s representations in games and their role in the industry have gained steam. “This reaction, mostly from male gamers, is to protect the status quo,” she said. The same is true more broadly, and always has been when it comes to women’s progress: the more ground we gain, the worse men react.
So this isn’t a last gasp at all; it’s probably much closer to a first gasp than to a last one.
That’s why right now is such a dangerous time for women: we’re in the midst of an unprecedented feminist moment that not all men are pleased about. Sexual consent is being radically reframed, but feminists are accused of trying to classify all men as rapists. Television and movies created by women are at an all-time high (though still nowhere near parity), but they’re derided as“peak vagina”. And while institutional coverups of violence against women – be it rape on college campuses, domestic violence in the National Football League or the international news mediaat large – are no longer publicly tolerated, women are still being blamed for their own assaults.
I’m a lot older than Valenti, so I don’t see any of this as unprecedented or new. It’s the same as it’s been all my adult life: feminism versus the more or less enraged opposition to it.
It would be easy to assume that the current online backlash that many women face from Gamergaters and beyond is simply the domain of a handful of trolls and a few harmless kids. But we’ve seen the violence that sexist men can do when they don’t get what they want. And even after authorities found a 140-page misogynist manifesto from the California shooter who killed six people this year, women were cautioned against calling the crime one of sexism.
By Jaclyn Glenn, for one.
What excuse will we use after the next inevitable act of violence? That we didn’t see the horror coming? Angry men are plainly telling us to expect it.
Even if the threats being bandied about now don’t come to real-life fruition, their chilling effect is real – Sarkeesian noted that women are already “being threatened out of the industry and out of their homes”. These are not small things.
Gamergate enthusiasts will continue to argue that the vitriol against women is coincidental – and they will likely never acknowledge their fear of irrelevance and accountability. That’s to be expected. But as the grip of angry white men on our cultural conversation arrives at its necessary end, it’s up to the rest of us to make sure that, as change comes, we take the anger from those men far more seriously. Ignoring “trolls” doesn’t work when they show up with a gun.
Hmm, back to claiming the bullying is arriving at its end. I don’t see it. It would be nice, but I don’t see it.