I am woman! Hear me whine!
I am officially considering myself a “#GamerGate wench” - well, you could insert another generally derogatory term if you like, but I won't. It's not because I'm opposed to being referred to by that word, but because that wouldn't be considered appropriate in this forum. No, I'm not one of those gamer girls that has taken to using “#notmyshield” to separate themselves from the whining social justice warriors that have been stirring the pot on the whole “women are hated in the world of gaming” trope. While I do play some video games, and just finished a short battle with a slight addiction to one in particular, I don't self-identify as a gamer.
It has taken me over a week to address this issue for a couple reasons, but the more important one is the fact that I needed that time to calm down enough to write something coherent and not laced with profanity. What got me started was the abysmal treatment of #GamerGate on the small screen by “Law and Order: SVU.” While I could offer my own take on that here, I'll happily defer to the review Erik Kain gave on Forbes. Maybe I could add a little to it, but I'll resist the urge for the most part. The show episode, while it was absolutely wretched, only slightly fueled my ire on this issue. No, what really infuriated me was the self-aggrandizing screed by Brianna Wu that was theoretically in response to the show.
Just the title alone was enough to make my blood pressure rise - “I'm Brianna Wu, And I'm Risking My Life Standing Up To Gamergate.” Unfortunately, I am not making that up. If the title was remotely close to truthful it would read something like “I'm Brianna Wu, And I'm Trying To Make You Feel Sorry For Me Because I Intentionally Made Myself A Target By Trying To Silence My Detractors.” Wu probably is facing a few credible threats against her, and that's wrong. However, she is being disingenuous at best about why she's gotten to where she is.
First, it's necessary to dispel one general misunderstanding about the gaming industry in general. What's gotten lost in all the arguments about how women are treated is that the gaming environment as a whole is not a friendly place to reside for anyone in the business of developing games or consoles. Fans are fierce, both in their loyalty and their viciousness if anyone does anything they don't like. They don't check the genders of their targets when they're angry, and may whatever deity you choose protect you if you dare to just portray a character they love the wrong way. And those gamers prize their freedom to talk out their issues with their favorite games and gaming industry icons – recall that silencing them started all of this in the first place. While not a be-all and end-all source, this is explained in a short book by Paul Tassi called “Fanboy Wars: The Fight For The Future Of Video Games.” I'm suggesting that for folks that aren't gamers, since it's in common language, and it's under 100 pages.
Back to Wu and her whining, the bottom line is that she chose to get into an area of tech that absolutely requires an extremely thick skin to survive. Crying that women need protecting is bluntly ludicrous, and insulting. It is a choice, like if a woman decides to be the first active firefighter at a volunteer fire company in the sticks that is populated by a bunch of mouth-breathing rednecks that like watching porn on their downtime. I did that years ago, put up with the crass language, and sat in the rec-room eating popcorn while the awful movies were on the screen (without blushing, and poking fun at the unrealistic acting from the women.) I left that company, but in the years since more women joined. Today, about 30 percent of the members are women, and from what I'm told, they aren't putting up with the garbage I did back in the day. It took one woman that was willing to put up with the harassment and disgusting behavior of the men to break down that barrier.
I'm not suggesting it's going to be that easy in the gaming industry, especially since it really isn't an easy field for anyone, men included. What I am saying is that Wu and her fellow whiners are not serving the cause of women finding a niche in that business. They aren't breaking down barriers. They are building them. Once upon a time, feminism was about women getting out there and fighting for what they want in life. Now, it's become an endless parade of thin-skinned victims begging for attention and demanding special treatment simply because they are female. Wu needs a reality check. If only she could live a day in the shoes of a Kurdish woman fighting ISIS, or find out first hand what it's like to get those same death threats from people that definitely could carry them out. She said that she's relating to the state of surrender that the awful “Law and Order” episode depicted. Maybe that's exactly what she needs to do, because if she isn't strong enough to stand up to what she's facing, obviously she doesn't want it bad enough. But, on the off chance that Wu does decide that she wants to pick herself up, and really face down the demons she's unleashed on herself, I think I'll drop her a line. Maybe she just needs a note telling her that #GamerGate isn't the real battle she should be facing. It's time to stop fighting with the fanboys, and dig in to do some real work. That is unless Wu has resigned herself to just writing whiny columns, and making videos bemoaning the mistreatment of women in the gaming industry.