Rant: This Is Why There’s A Mute Button
Recently, NPR aired a story on All Things Considered about girl gamers titled Why Do Girl Gamers Get So Little Respect? It is told by a teenage girl, Jessica Cernadas, who plays many online games and feels generally frustrated by both the negative encounters she has online and the rather sexist portrayal of female video game characters. Let’s face it – women of all ages have dealt with this in one form or another for many, many decades and it isn’t going to just go away if we ask really nicely.
First of all, there are a ton of girls out there who understand that the online world of gaming isn’t about immediate respect. If you’re skilled, you will gain respect amongst those who actually matter. Getting called fat, ugly or slutty sucks, but it’s really the least of your concerns in the grander scheme. Besides, when a guy says “You’re a girl? I’m going to kick your ass!” what they are really saying is, “You’re a girl? My manhood is in question if you even do remotely well in this game.” More after the jump.
At first I felt dispassionate towards Cernadas’ story, which is easy after years of weathering many an armpit of the Internet as you tend to develop armor against it. For many of us who have played games for so long, we learned to live with it and therefore are able to prevent it from ruining our good times. But more and more, as girls gain interest in hardcore gaming, they are learning about the harsh world of competition and just how much some people are obsessed with it.
Now, whether or not my colleagues here agree with the following, I don’t know, so I will claim this as my sole opinion alone – the more we distinguish ourselves, complain, and draw attention to the matter, the more we separate ourselves as a different subset of gamers altogether, and that is more detrimental to equality than the original issue.
I once had a friend ask me if she felt women should be added to the U.S. military draft. My response was that no one should. Not women, not men – because it is simply unfair in general. I feel the same about most issues that get colored by gender or race. If it is mean, harmful, or just plain inhumane, then it isn’t good for anyone across the board. The same goes for shit like an all-female MLG league, which is seriously being considered by the way. It hurts the cause by purposefully segregating yourself when you really just want to be equal.
On the matter of harassment, I am thankfully blessed to have enough friends online to avoid most public lobbies. And guess what, they respect me. When it comes to public games, however, it is no-holds-fucking-barred. Why would you expect a perfect stranger to just give you something that most people have to earn anyways? Every man, woman, and child gets shit-talked, laughed at, and ridiculed for no goddamn reason. It’s just how things are there. Let us not forget the ye olde Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory.
I once had a non-gender specific gamertag with a unicorn pic, and all I got were messages about how I’m a gay something-or-other. Once, in a Halo lobby, I was called out for my adorable Unicorn to which I quickly described how the Unicorn’s horn was going to aid in my retribution. All they did was laugh because it was only when I spoke that they realized I was actually a girl. No apologies, no respect – just laughter.
Where am I going with this? Just stay with me, dear friend. Remember the Simpson’s episode Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood where Bart winds up with the Junior Camper’s uniform after a massive sugar bender? No? Well, there is a scene where the bullies Jimbo, Kerney, and Dolph play keep away with Bart’s camp uniform. The defining moment is when Bart doesn’t get upset, and just walks away. The bullies whine and beg for him to feel subjugated.
I think the word “subjugated” is a great way to describe this issue of being bullied anywhere (not just for girls or the Internet, mind you). We are often told to ignore bullies, to not give them the satisfaction they get by making you feel like shit. It’s all about reactions and who is in control, so the simple answer is to not give them either one.
Which is why I am mainly concerned by others frustrations with being harassed online. My advice — from years of IRC channels, PC and Xbox lobbies, and even as an ex-receptionist (harassed on the daily) — is to not play the submissive, frail little princess they are expecting you to become the moment they assert their testosterone wand. Take away their power by muting their ass, because then their voice is lost on you. If they send you messages, report them! Give them bad ratings! That’s why these systems are in place.
Otherwise, if you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen!