I don’t play many video games; I’m not in that community, but a woman researcher, Anita Sarkeesian, attempting to study and raise awareness of the way female characters often are portrayed in video games, was subjected to some of the most unbelievable, horrendous, misogynist harassment I’ve ever seen. Image Based Harassment and Visual Misogyny.
I’ve provided more details about the project below* (or you can find it through the link), but I think this is vital for all of us to see, because many, many, many women are harassed on FetLife and on other sites. It’s often simply ignored or “reasoned away” because the women were dressed a certain way (a key component of rape culture), or because it’s a sexual site, or because the women were “advertising” themselves. Or, it’s brushed off as “no big deal” and the women are told to let it go.
Anita writes: “I am certainly not the first woman to suffer this kind of harassment and sadly, I won’t be the last. But I’d just like to reiterate that this is not a trivial issue. It can not and should not be brushed off by saying, “Oh, well, that’s YouTube for you (me: or FetLife),” “trolls will be trolls” or “it’s to be expected on the internet.” These are serious threats of violence, harassment and slander across many online platforms meant to intimidate and silence. And it’s not okay.”
I cannot even imagine what would make some men so angry that they would say these things–and not only post violent images, but pass them around and create actual templates for other men to write their own violent comments. In one case a video game was created in which users could punch the “offending” feminist “bitch” (Anita) in the face, “her” face getting more and more bruised and bloodied until the screen finally fills up with blood.
If a man feels that women also treat men unfairly, he should simply say so: “I think the court system is stacked in women’s favor in divorce cases”; “I think a lot of women think men have to do things for them,” etc. etc. I have seen it myself — some women do expect to be taken care of by men. (Most of us take care of ourselves, or share the job with our partners).
But why does a general feeling of unfairness take a massive leap to violent, hateful talk and images? Frankly, it’s pretty scary. And why does a woman saying she does not want to be just a sex object, that she is not there for a men to come along and consume, that she wants to be treated differently, generate such hatred?
Many times the people creating and passing along these images and messages will not be caught. They know how to hide themselves. But other times, the *little boys* are so proud of that penis they’ve just drawn and so mindless about the person they are hurting by this image that they can’t help passing it around.
These *little boys* have sisters, parents, friends, and others that I’m assuming see what they’re posting. Do the others who see this also think it’s right? Do they also feel women deserve this for expressing such opinions? If so, I guess they have no hope, either. But I’m hoping that more often than not, the other people see things, quickly delete them and don’t take the issue any further.
If any of my brothers, in-laws, nephews, guys friends, etc. ever posted something along these lines I would lambaste them until they took it down. I feel pretty safe in saying that my friends are not like this. Then again, there are a lot of angry people in the world, lashing out against their own feelings of hopelessness, their loneliness, and their feelings of powerlessness and frustration. Just because a guy is a white male doesn’t mean he’s got power (on the other hand, if he feels he should have or somehow deserves power over others, he’s wrong).
I see it on FetLife, more often than I’d care to: Horrible words used to describe vaginas … and the person attached. Vitriol at women who dare say that they don’t like being harassed on the street. Abuse for the woman who speaks up about something offensive … like that guy’s comment on her picture about how he’d like to anally rape her.
This is not about sex; this is not dominance …
My challenge is for us to not let this hateful speech stand. Speak up against it. Take a screen shot and save it. Report the person to whatever website you see it on. If you know him, challenge him about why he had to say this. If anyone of these guys (and I doubt anyone would come forward) has a rational explanation for this, I’d like to know.
You can be angry at a lot of things, and there are a lot of things in this world worth being angry about. That applies to both genders. But this is not acceptable.
*ANITA’S PROJECT: “For this project, my goal is to talk about sexism in video games in a way that looks at gaming as an institution and focuses on the recurring patterns that we see over and over again in women’s representations. My goal is to illustrate that this is actually a deeply systemic problem … I love playing video games but I’m regularly disappointed in the limited and limiting ways women are represented. … The series will highlight the larger recurring patterns and conventions used within the gaming industry rather than just focusing on the worst offenders, ” Anita wrote. Her project is called “Trope vs. Women in Video Games,” you can find her blog about it here.
Some of the tropes commonly found in video games:
Five typical types represented:
–The Damsel in Distress
–The Fighting Fucktoy
–The Sexy Sidekick
–The Sexy Villainess
and what she says is the most common trope,
–Woman as Background Decoration.