AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LOCAL GAMING INDUSTRY (Pt.3)
I'd like to clear up some things in the wake of my tweets about the local gaming scene, and the subsequent shitstorm that was produced around them.
Someone in the industry identified themselves in the examples I gave about our little world, and took issue with this being posted for an understandable reason: The first post condemns a tweet made by the party's friend, which looked to be a picture of said party, along with their desktop and its wallpaper, displaying a close-up still from Tracer's victory pose in Overwatch (2016), one which has since been removed from the game after its developers received complaints of indecency. I trust I don't have to explain why that would have been in poor taste. The caption read something along the lines of 'the real reason X is excited for Overwatch.' That wallpaper was photo-shopped by one of the identified party's friends, and so did not reflect any active act of transgression from that party's side. It was intended as a joke, albeit a silly one. This much I've already said on Twitter.
After making the correction, I remained resolute in saying that this party was insensitive. This was because when there is someone tagged in a post that they can reasonably be expected to have seen, and they did not choose to remove it or ask someone to remove it as a courtesy to those it might hurt, some insensitivity does come in to play. I've since been told that this party hadn't seen the post, and if this is true, as I will assume it is, this party could have had no timeous impetus to remove it, and there can then be no claim of insensitivity. I'm therefore sorry for whatever I did to contribute to the false idea that this party was in the moral wrong. Thank you to everyone who came forward with their own apologies.
This fuck up is frustrating to me personally for two main reasons. To start, it means that I came uncomfortably close to a 'name and shame' expedition, one which I had very determinedly tried to avoid. It's been a project of mine to research forms of online shaming, its pros (and mostly) cons, with regards to both punching up (towards a bigger, bullying, and systematic oppressor) and punching down (towards smaller bodies, individuals who made a silly mistake). A good resource has been this book by Jon Ronson (although I strongly agree that it would have been 'better handle by a woman') . It saddens me to know how close I came to approximating the values of people like those who lost people their jobs, and halted their lives after one bad deed. It's a practice that supposedly has the power to do great good, rising up through social media after what was at least a sixty-four-year hiatus, and something that was already deemed too cruel by one of the United States' founding fathers, in 1787, as Ronson says in his book (pp. 50-1). But it has its obvious drawbacks. I guess we're still working this out.
Secondly, this was frustrating because it derailed a very important conversation about our community. Looking back, its obvious that a fair few people took those posts as calling out a handful of 'bad apples'. There is no such thing as a 'bad apple'. There is no wholly sexist, women-hating person in the local scene. Sexism doesn't look like a single,straight, daughter-less guy wearing a 'Female Body Inspector' t-shirt, slapping every woman journo's ass as he walks by, and shouting insults to passing women. Sexism operates in subtler ways, as does racism, and you are wrong if you think stopping short of the image above makes you innocent. One would think that gamers, as witnesses to an evolution of evermore complex villain characters would have a better grasp of this concept.
Also, it's wrong to think that the entirety of our industry's sexism can be described in the examples I gave in those posts. In fact, my argument relies on there being way, way more instances of it, and way, way more people to blame than those I wrote about. I WISH these were the only sexist, insensitive, and ignorant things that people had done or said in the scene. What a damn pleasant place that would be.
I'm not especially interested in what was said. I'm not even all that interested in who said them. What I am interested in, is the positions that people hold as they say them, and what it took to say that. The messed-up formula that created an environment where someone with that responsibility and that role thought it okay to speak or act this way. This is what I'm interested in ousting, and what needs to be called out.
Ragging on individuals won't change a thing, and you'll never convince the disappearing contingent of trolls enjoying the swan song of their sad era. Instead, for those willing to admit a problem, what's needed is a frank look at ourselves and each other, with those who can giving firm but kind instruction so we can move forward.
I say 'kind', because you don't have to hate people who are insensitive towards you or people you love and respect. I think women know this already, because we'd have sworn silence long ago if we were to stop talking to people who said foolish sexist crap to us on the regular. And that's another thing - I am, or was, on good standing with everyone mentioned in those examples. I would be friends with, or friendly to everyone on there despite what they had done on one occasion, because like I said earlier, people aren't bad apples.
They're human, they have flaws, and do things that they might later regret. But they, like everyone, can learn to do differently. If I didn't believe that anyone who had been sexist in the past could be more conscious of their behavior in future, I would not have some of my closest friends, including Grant Hinds, your colleague, and my absolute favourite person ever.
He actually inspired this whole thing. I was discussing an issue with him, when he started to vehemently defend his point for no other reason than because he didn't want to admit that something we experienced was sexist. It reminded me about a scene in an episode of Aziz Ansari's Master of None (2015). Ansari's character, Dev, and his girlfriend Rachel (Noel Wells) are at a bar, and a man walks over and greets him. Dev introduces the man to the table, and either then or as he leaves, the man shakes only the hands of the men at the table. Rachel comments that this was sexist, and Dev refuses to believe it. Instead, he goes through other scenarios that could have led to that man leaving the women out of his greetings, completely disregarding Rachel explanations. Dev finally comes round, but no until Rachel realises that she lives in a world where a man can decide not to shake your hand on account of your ownership of a vagina,and when you say as much, your own boyfriend won't believe you.
Sound familiar? It happens a lot, and it was something like this that I fought over with Grant, that made me finally say 'enough'. If we're creating a space where my experiences of the local industry are made, processed, and labelled by people ignorant of even basic principles of gender equality, shit needed to change.
I'm no longer just hoping it will. It will change, and it will happen through the efforts of people who care not only about their daughters, sisters, friends, wives, or girlfriends, but also about the community's growth and future success. Who the hell is happy with the industry as it is? Who wouldn't want to see it improve? Who thinks more kindness, more inclusivity is bad? If you genuinely think you're happy with the way we stand now, this post isn't for you. It's for those who will go down as part of the better side of history - those who have a future.