Talkback Challenge #1 : How GamerGate Affected Me

I have mostly avoided participating in the major discussion threads surrounding #Gamergate for the sole reason that I find the internet a terrible place to have meaningful, open discussion on serious and important topics. I realize how silly that is as someone who blogs quite regularly and participates in a lot of blogs – perhaps I should rephrase. I find people intolerant of differences of opinions. Rightly or wrongly – it feels like when people are debating in written form it is for the sole purpose of proving they are right, or winning, versus learning, being open minded, moving the discussion forward in a positive and constructive manner, and sharing healthy discourse. I find pubs and beer is a much  better avenue for open, honest, and engaging debate. Still, I did touch upon my thoughts on it in two posts. One, captured it all quite perfectly through comedy on the Colbert Report:

My personal favourite moment is when Colbert compares the worry about what would happen to serious journalistic outlets such as Hollywood reporting (8:45) – TMZ, Entertainment tonight (etc.) if they too had ethics issues like Gaming journalism. I have missed that argument around all of the Gamergate “controversy” – most news sources we consume are pretty clear on their biases. It seems as though they are trying less to hide it, and at bare minimum the educated parts of society know the influences behind news reporting.

I love how comedy can often make more sense out of tough topics than serious discussion. I did write a more serious post about sensationalism in writing and shared what I feel the most simplest form of it all was – how it was trying to label me.

On that note on everything related to Gamergate I need to share a small part of what is important to me about it. And that is that I won’t be defined by labels. period. Being a gamer isn’t negative or positive anymore than being a man, or being black, or being a lesbian is negative or positive. Equating the word “gamer” to “misogynist” or “racist” or any negative connotation is entirely irresponsible. A gamer is someone who games, nothing more, nothing less. The label doesn’t mean who you are. Your actions – how you treat people and what you personally represent – does.

I have been very consistent with the viewpoint that the world doesn’t need big heroes, it really needs a lot (like, millions) of regular people just being a bit nicer to each other. That is how the human race can truly change the world. Celebrities have a fraction of the power as a community working together. Holding doors open, saying ‘Thank You’ to strangers, helping out locally, and being open minded and understanding that we are not going to agree on everything and be tolerant of other viewpoints. Especially when they aren’t harmful or endangering.

Izlain’s talkback challenge was to share how #Gamergate affected me, not how I wrote about it. And, the  truth is it did very little to nothing.  I followed it closely and read a lot of posts but I felt that a paragraph here or there on the topic couldn’t do it justice, or wouldn’t be complete enough, easily counter argued and/or picked apart. I also do not write essay style posts here as it is a very relaxed and conversational blog and I did not feel like having to defend myself or worry about “winning” the argument. All that being said it does not mean I am not sensitive to the issues and problems  and I do believe change is good in this industry – I constantly argue here that the gaming industry is incredibly immature – and that is scary for a multi-billion dollar business. What I worry about is gaming hasn’t even sorted out how to reward and support long term employment and stability for the industry, let alone tackle serious gender representation issues. I believe it will all come in time and people are right to fight to speed that up when they are really passionate about it. People are also right to fight to ensure freedom of speech is safe even if it isn’t the popular opinion.

Now, at this point, you could try and argue that by me not taking a big stand (either way) that I am making the problem worse, not better. And to that I say stop trying to win an argument on the internet. I live my life with a mind and heart on equality. I learned this when I went to a liberal arts university in Canada in the 90s – and the university was ‘famous’ for it’s gay and lesbian population. Not that percentage wise it was any higher than any other Canadian campus, but that they were more free to be open about their sexuality. It was common to see same sex couples holding hands around campus – and in the 90s, this wasn’t as common as it is today.  I learned a lot there as a young adult growing into manhood and one of the defining moments that I recall strongly was a “Take Back the Night” rally – where hundreds of women would march down the streets of the city to show they weren’t afraid – and wanted the freedom and safety to walk at night. Something so simple that many men take for granted. Being a young idealist at the time, I wanted to help out! I wanted to support this movement and show solidarity with my sisters. The only thing I was allowed to do to support?  Help clean up the next day. They didn’t want male participation. Men where the ones causing fear for women to walk at night for fear of sexual assault (or worse). This was a women only march. I was pretty mad at first. I am not the problem. I didn’t assault women – I was the help and support walking my female friends home so they were safe. I supported their cause and understood their fear – not from experience, but because I had a lot of women friends who would share their feelings with me. Even though I was the one walking them home at night to be safe, the fact that they needed a man to do that at all to feel safe was the core of the problem to begin with. I was disappointed in what I was being told but in the end I did what they asked of me and grabbed a broom. I learned that day that even though I personally wasn’t the problem I still represented it, and that if I pushed the issue and walked the streets with them I was still taking away the empowerment they so badly wanted (and deserved). So I did the next best thing I could. I helped clean up.

Ever since then I have lived my life trying to learn and be open and do the right thing. I didn’t fight for or against #Gamergate online because the battle was crazy and both sides often being completely intolerant and silly to each other. The signal to noise ratio of meaningful or constructive discussion was near impossible to find. So I hit “like” on the posts I read that I liked, and ignored the troll bait, stunts and senseless arguments that was also abundant. And throughout all of that reading continued to live my life as the best person I could to the human beings I came in contact with in my everyday life.

#Gamergate didn’t affect me, but it reminded me of how far we have to go as human beings to be good to one another.

10 Comments

  1. Braxwolf

    Great post, and I really like this point:

    “gaming hasn’t even sorted out how to reward and support long term employment and stability for the industry, let alone tackle serious gender representation issues.”

    Even so, I’ll be completely honest. I’m a little tired of being told what I “represent”. It only serves to make me more apathetic to the cause. It doesn’t inspire me to join it.

    Reply
    1. Isey (Post author)

      I agree I shouldn’t be *negatively* categorized because I am a white male – because I was born that way and can’t do anything about it.

      The same way I am understanding when a black gay man is who he is because he was born that way.

      Neither person should be held accountable for things their personal actions do not represent. That has always been my point. Judge people by their actions, not their skin color, nationality, or sexuality. Just their actions as human beings.

      Reply
    2. Doone

      I’m not sure whether both of you might be taking things the wrong way here. It’s not that your appearance represents anything. It’s that in these movements, *it’s not about you*. At all. When you take these as slights against you or perceive that you’re being excluded, you are missing the point. It’s not about you and sometimes you’re being asked to do something that’s more personal and less public: personal change and acting in our personal circles of influence (friends, family, coworkers).

      I’m always glad to see those among us who even care enough to broach the topic so I’m not trying to minimize your feelings. I just think that nothing good or positive can come of feeling that you’re somehow the problem. That shows that to some extent you place yourself at the center of a movement that’s not about you. That will always leave you feeling uninspired and apathetic.

      Honestly, it’s also a matter of education. It’s not enough to sweep up after rallies. It’s definitely not enough to press like on articles by “good guys” or walk women home at night. It’s about changing our own perspective. That’s our role. When we’re able to change ourselves. There’s no saving the day 🙂 There’s just one question: what are we doing in our own lives to be the change we need to see? It’s not about saving women. It’s being the men we need to be.

      I fully support you guys in that you want to be more active, and I understand the challenges of that (had to go through it myself and I’m still facing many of them). But maybe what you want to do requires a different approach …a different man.

      Reply
      1. Isey (Post author)

        Hi Doone! I am pretty sure I am not taking it the ‘wrong’ way, it’s just even members of movements use words and language to support that feeling. Probably for the exact same reason you explained *it’s not about us*, but that isn’t always a common or shared thread within movements as well.

        A good example of this is the same rally that I cleaned up for. When they encounter men on that night march, they scream and yell at them. They throw things at them. The want to own the space so they make sure that that man walking down the street knows the boundaries they are setting. It doesn’t matter if that man is a family man, gay man, or priest. He is just a man walking at night, and they let him know how they feel about that fact. Sometimes their efforts are encouraging men to feel that way – whether that is intended or not, I bet in all cases it’s not so simple.

        So of course, it would be easy for that man to be offended, or to feel threatened, or to think that it IS about them, because that is what they are being told AND shown at that time.

        It is also easy for women participating in that movement to get caught up in that emotion and start to believe it is about men, because that is the voice and actions they are participating in. So I do have a rudimentary understanding of that. And that is also where the challenge is as a man. You mention it requires “a different man”, but it’s not so simple and there is no one definition for what that man is expected to be. That is why it is difficult in many ways, because there is no agreement or expectation of what men are supposed to be or act like. =)

        You also mention education and I fully agree and support that – but education without action or or words doesn’t implicitly lead to external change (internal, for sure, and hopefully through that external..)

        I think I did cover it in my article that I just try to live my life treating everyone equally and that the lessons I have learned have helped lead me to that conclusion. There are no superheros, after all, you can only impact the people you touch, see, and talk to. I always appreciate how articulately you cover issues Doone and thank you for the comment. I wish this was in person, it’s always stressful to worry about what words are used because you don’t really get an opportunity to explain further via blog chat =)

        Reply
        1. Doone

          You know, you’re right on all accounts. I’ve been glad to read everyone’s experiences of GG and I’m glad you wrote it. It’s great to have these exchanges I think, always glad to see community engagement! Especially among gamers. I think there are a lot of frustrated guys for whom it’s so easy to reach for anger and give up on the idea of being part of the solution. Nothing that follows is necessarily directed at you or Murfs, but just my thoughts on those men who are discouraged from participating.

          Part of what I was getting at by the “different man” comment was more about changing the way we react in the face of abuse such as in the examples you give. You’re right, it’s easy to feel like the enemy, and that’s precisely what I mean. It *is* easy.

          Women who treat *anyone* like you describe at that rally are *wrong*. They know it too. But if I find I’m being treated like an outcast I think I have to learn how to speak up and say “Hey I understand your outrage, but I’m on your side”. Some people can’t be talked to, you won’t find me disagreeing there.

          Most men I see who approach an angry woman do so from a place of defiance and the “I’m a person like you are” position which is a well-meaning misapplication of the idea. Sure anyone who’s being yelled at for no reason has a right to *also* be angry. But this kind of thing isn’t an exchange among equals and we can’t take the position that it is. The relationship is asymmetric, not symmetric. Let me know if that makes sense.

          Can you explain more of how you apply the concept of equals in your approach to social justice? If that’s a tall order, forgive me 🙂 But there’s no deadline on answering and I think this is a common idea I hear spoken among gamers, that we’re all equal so just act like it and things will be OK.

          Thanks for being a gracious host and tolerating my long responses 🙂

          Reply
          1. Isey (Post author)

            I definitely wouldn’t say I am “right” on all accounts, just spitting out my thoughts as they surface :). Also – I really, really wish we were talking about this over coffee or beer, which is a much more suitable environment for such a discussion. Still, as we plod through this viewpoints become more clear. I also should be more clear that I don’t feel personally the need to be defiant or make it about myself because of the experiences and lessons I learned 20 years go when I was young and did feel that way. Now I am much more patient in being understanding and putting in effort to learn and accept. I was just sympathizing with a commenter because I do understand where those feelings can stem from.

            To explain how I apply the concept I’ll have to take it out of the gaming world – I run a company. 55% of our team are women (and we are traditionally pretty male dominated kind of business). Not only that, but almost half of our Team Leaders (upper management) are women. Women in our company are some of the highest paid on our teams as well. Our team is compensated based on performance and dedication. Sex has no overt negative impact in my company for promotion or pay (can some male leaders have internal biases? Perhaps – but people know that is not tolerated). I know this is a challenge in a lot of work forces and it is something I am proud of. Women in the workforce is just one area, of course. I suspect Canadians are already a bit better in this regard – women who give birth get a full year off of work (husbands can too, but it has to be split with the woman. So they can take 6 months each, or split it 8 months/ 4 months, etc. The government subsidizes at 55% of pay up to a cap. We top that up for a while as well to get them to their normal salary). The truth is though, that we didn’t seek out to employ or promote women it just happened that way. They were evaluated the same as their male counterparts, and compensated based on merit equally as well. Hence my efforts to treat people equally.

            Constructive discussion is always welcome here, no matter the length =)

      2. Braxwolf

        It’s certainly possible that perhaps *some* of those feelings are a result of self-centeredness on my part. After all, a key component of my faith is continual self-examination, reflection, and improvement so it wouldn’t be the first time I was convicted of something that I didn’t see in myself.

        But speaking more broadly, exclusivity just seems to be very counter-productive to a movement that claims to center around equality. Not everything should be allowable in the name of social justice. It’s not some kind of trump card that can be tossed out whenever a group’s actions are questioned. Especially when those actions appear to be hypocritical.

        Reply
        1. Doone

          @ Brax: I’d agree. Also I called you Murf earlier lol.

          What you say is the reason why anyone can be a feminist. Yes, it’s perfectly fine for people with things in common to gather for mutual support and it’s a crucial aspect of feminism to be sure. But the only thing exclusive about it is everyone’s commitment to equality. Anyone can be a feminist. It’s not a perfect movement and it’s not a monolith. There’s much to criticize and it will have it’s weak spots and participants which are worthy of questioning. These are all welcome and it’s what it’s about, questioning the status quo.

          But this is also why the body of feminist work is even *more* important today. This sociological rigor is what really gives the movement it’s power, relevance and consistency.

          And speaking of exclusive, feminism itself has been criticized (and continues to be criticized) for being a bit too white and too middle class in the mainstream. So I couldn’t disagree with your points. I just hope we all stay comitted to the long term goal, because it’s worth the trouble.

          @ Isey: Yes I’ll go out with you and discuss this over whatever buttered lobster and whiskey you want to buy me :p

          Reply
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