Sexism and Racism.
There have been two social issues heavily dominating national discourse at the moment. One has been the rather inescapable issue of race and policing dominating the national media. The other has been somewhat more niche. If you haven’t heard of #GamerGate, please do yourself a favor and don’t subject yourself to that particular swamp. In short, it is a “discussion” about women’s roles in online spaces, that more often than not takes the form of death threats.
While these events are wildly different in their scope and appearance, I think that they have some similarities in their incipient causation. But more importantly, I think that mainstream society’s reaction to these issues betrays a much larger social issue.
One of the main things that started the “Gamer Gate” rabble was a games developer who had their personal life publicized in a pretty terrible way. This developer did not work for any major company; instead, they produced their own game, and distributed it for free. The allegations against this developer are really too specious to repeat, but they did have something going against them in the eyes of the Internet: this developer is a woman working in a vastly male dominated field. While many Real Actual Developers have rallied around this person, a horde of angry white men have levied at her and her supporters the worst kind of threats imaginable, all draped around the thin veneer of, “it’s actually about ethics in Games journalism.”
It’s this last point that’s particularly of note. Instead of going after the AAA publishers, or even the enthusiast press that ceaselessly fawns over them, this so-called movement has chosen to almost exclusively target women who produce their own content, be it games, a web series, or bloggers. In other words, instead of targeting the massive misconduct that occurs in an entirely unregulated industry, those who support “Gamer Gate” target individuals who have committed no real wrongdoing instead of an industry that is actually rife with what they call “corruption.”
Let’s switch gears.
During the last several weeks, I’ve been disappointed to see the sheer amount of people, both in my feed and the Internet at large, justifying police brutality. They cite, out of any broader context, the statistics of crime in the African American community, as though somehow the existence of crime justifies extrajudicial killing. Needless to say, all these people have been white.
And here’s where the commonality between these disparate stories exist. Instead of examining the historical context that brought many African Americans to where they are now, instead of musing about the inherent links between poverty and violence, many people instead treat our current historical circumstance as though it had no antecedents. And critically, instead of examining the economic issues that throw millions into poverty, the media culture that dehumanizes African Americans, or the police force that increasingly treats fellow citizens like enemies of the state, most people instead choose to blame one of the most vulnerable populations in America for these endemic problems.
What does the conservative reaction to these racial protests and #GamerGate have in common? A total unwillingness to criticize, or even casually examine, the systems of power in our society. Instead, the isolated, the disadvantaged, and the vulnerable populations are vilified. All to make white people and men feel slightly more comfortable with being the overwhelming beneficiaries of a system that caters to them.
It’s no surprise that from its beginning, Gamer Gate was being heavily astroturfed by Breitbart and Stormfront.
I want to leave you with one more thing. It’s called the Just World Fallacy. It is the assumption “that all actions have predictable and just consequences. The hypothesis implies… a belief in some sort of universal force that ensures moral balance in the world, in such a way that person who exhibits good and moral behavior will eventually be rewarded, while evil and immoral actions will eventually be punished.”
In other words, it is the fundamental psychological underpinning behind conservatism. It’s rooted in a desire to believe that every good thing that happened to us was solely because we deserved it, and a refusal to believe that bad things can happen to other people due to circumstances beyond their control. I’m unsure of many things, but I do know that Social Darwinism is probably the worst possible way to structure a society.
So when watching or reading the news, ask yourself who you’re being asked to be afraid of. Who you’re being asked to criticize. Are you being asked to examine a systemic problem? Or are you being asked to project the actions of an individual on to an already marginalized group of people?
There isn’t a magic pill to make misogyny and racism go away. But a good first step is, when someone who isn’t like you talks about their experiences, listen to them.