I got called “Hun” again today by someone who is not my boyfriend.
Like a lot of folks in the indie community, I have a day job. A sales rep for some company we don’t do business in walked in and, despite the prominently displayed “no soliciting” sign sitting right on my desk, proceeded to try to solicit business. I told him we have a no soliciting policy and that all purchasing agreements are handled through our corporate offices. I offered him the number to corporate if he wanted to pursue the matter through the proper channels.
”Hun, how about you just let me talk to your boss instead? OK?”
For men reading this, you probably don’t understand the significance. I suppose the closest thing I can give you in comparison is if this man walked into an office and said to a black employee, “Boy, how about you let me talk to your boss instead? OK?” In the context of the comment, “hun” is not a term of endearment. And considering that I don’t know this man from Adam and that this is a workplace, he has no right to be attempting to use terms of endearment anyway. It dripped with condescension. With one word, he attempted to completely dismiss my role in my own workplace and place himself above me. It is a type of condescension I have heard dozens of times over the years from men who take one look at the woman sitting behind the desk and assume I am unimportant and nothing more than a roadblock between them and the ‘real’ decision makers (i.e. ‘men’) in the workplace.
Which brings me to the entire Gamergate fiasco.
We are having the wrong argument.
Gamergate is not about women in the gaming industry. Allowing the argument to be about the gaming industry actually misses the point. The underlying, inherent message of the current dialogue is that there is something specific about the gaming community that lends itself to misogyny against women. But Gamergate has nothing to do with gaming specifically. It is ultimately a symptom of a wider problem.
A few years ago, I wrote about my own run in with a wacko who didn’t respond well to a negative book review. I know female book reviewers who have been threatened with rape over negative book reviews. I know female book reviewers who have had to get restraining orders and had their children’s information posted online. Nothing about Gamergate is unique to gaming. Women in all areas, both the public domain and private enterprise, routinely deal with harassment, threats, and violence. It is endemic in our culture.
The thing is, Tweeting about the worst offenders doesn’t really solve the problem. Because the worst offenders are merely the end result of a culture where women are still routinely fired for filing sexual harassment claims, where being groped by customers is considered an normal part of the job, where rape victims are routinely “put on trial” for what they were wearing or whether or not they were drinking, where men casually talk about their favorite football team “getting raped” by their opponents and then telling any woman that might be offended it was “just a joke.” The truth is, Gamergate is only possible because as a society we’ve dropped the ball at too many points along the way that the cretins engaging in this vile behavior feel their actions are normalized.
And allowing the topic to remain about the gaming community simply allows those worst offenders to “hide” behind their faux justifications. Because so long as misogyny in all of its forms, small and large, is allowed to have root in the larger society, these people feel their actions are justified in “protecting” their “territory.” These men need to see that the behavior is not acceptable anywhere. These guys are not some alien species that only exists in the dark corner of the gaming community. They exhibit this same mentality in the “real world.” You see them every day. They are your brothers, your cousins, your friends, your co-workers. You see these guys at the ball game and at the gym. The thousand little things you’ve let slid as :Just guy talk” have emboldened them to engage in the type of aggressive behavior now being unleashed in Gamergate. This behavior did NOT happen in a void of gaming. It has always been there. And you’ve said nothing. Because it was “just guy talk” or “just a joke.”
Just tweeting about it isn’t enough. The conversation needs to move beyond the gaming community and into the culture at large. It is real easy to stand up for women when the matter crosses the line into criminal activity. But really, guys, you need to step up long before it gets to that point. NOT just at the gaming table. But in life.
When you hear a guy make a rape joke, say something.
When you hear a guy completely dismiss a woman’s opinion based on her appearance, say something.
When your co-worker complains that a woman in the workplace is “a bitch” who “needs to get laid”, say something.
When you see a guy harassing a woman and it is obvious his advances are unwelcome, say something.
When you are out with your pals and one of them gropes a waitress, say something.
When you overhear men catcalling women, say something.
When you see a female co-worker’s opinions being disregarded, only to have a male co-worker get credit for the same opinion, say something.
If a woman confides in you about being harassed or feeling uncomfortable in the workplace, don’t dismiss her with a “boys will be boys” or tell her it is no big deal.
And for the love of all that is good and holy, when you see a woman in a diminished state and unable to say ‘no’ for herself, say ‘no’ for her and make sure the other guys don’t take her inability to say ‘no’ as an implicit ‘yes.’
Tweeting about the worst offenders isn’t really supporting women. We need your support before it gets to the point where crimes are committed. We need you to open your mouths over the hundreds of daily barbs we deal with that form the foundation on which the worst offenses become possible.