You can probably imagine the feminist ragefit this threw me into.
I have a particular [what's the rage equivalent of a soft spot? a rage spot?] for the idea that men and women can't possibly socialize without it being about sex, or leading to sex, or implying sex, etc. It's sexist and tired and limiting and dehumanizes women, making us out to be nothing more than vapid temptresses trying to lure men into affairs, with no possible actual personalities or talents or anything that could ever be useful to anyone else.
It's limiting on a social/personal level-- many of my husband's closest friends have been women; my BFF of the past several years is a dude; I can't imagine either of our lives without these people in them. It's also incredibly, infuriatingly limited on a professional level, given that if men truly feel they can't be around women without risk of having or being suspected of an affair, that basically means they can't have women in their spaces which often includes things like jobs. Especially any of the high paying ones.
This is incredibly worrisome when you realize powerful people like our country's Vice-President thinks this way. Two men socializing together after work raises no eyebrows. Considering how much of networking occurs during those "off" hours, think of how frequently women get cut off from forming important relationships and advancing their careers simply because being alone with a man who isn't her husband is "taboo."
This line of thinking also smacks of "benevolent sexism," which claims to be about "respecting" women and holding us up on some pedestal when really, if you peek back behind the curtains a bit, it reveals an opinion of women that can't possibly include us being legitimately talented in any real capacity aside from luring men into our beds.
(And don't even get me started on the idea that men must avoid women for fear of being accused of rape... Like, if that's the only action you can think of that will protect you from rape accusations, perhaps it is you who needs to hide away from society and not be near, well, anyone)
(Also, it's super heteronormative and ignores the existence of gay or bisexual people or anyone else who doesn't fit neatly into the heterosexual male/female binary)
Clearly, this is a loaded issue.
I spent more of the day reading into this, seeing arguments from various angles, including that especially on sites like Twitch apparently viewers are incredibly prone to harassing gamers especially when gamers of different genders play together. In a later tweet, Ninja attempted to clarify his statement and say that this was more about shining a light on online harassment, and trying to shield himself and his family from it as much as possible. And so this brings up a whole slew of other issues. What does it mean to be a prominent gamer? How much harassment are you expected to put up with? Even if you disagree with the way something is done, how much of an obligation do you have to push back against it, and how much are you expected to risk to that end? As Meghan Farokhmanesh wrote in her Vice article:
As a prominent gamer, one could say that Ninja has an opportunity, even an obligation, to push back against the current environment and take a stand with female gamers rather than fall prey to the mob rule of harassers. Is it fair to put that load on his shoulders? On the flip side, how shitty is it to come out and admit that women gamers face particularly difficult harassment, and instead of doing anything to help change that, say you're just washing your hands of the whole thing?
I am not a gamer. However, I am the mother of two young boys who are avid young gamers. They love video games, they love watching others play video games. We have not ventured into the world of Twitch yet, but their list of youtube subscriptions is long. A lot of my feelings about this ordeal are tied to knowing that this is the world my kids are heading towards, and wow it's fucked up. I hope they can be part of the change against this sort of shit.
I do think, as a bottom line, that someone who is so well known and has a following like Ninja does, has a duty to be careful about how he talks about these things and handles them. If he's going to make a statement about not playing with female gamers, that should be followed up with a specific discussion as to why, and what could be done about this kind of harassment so that these sorts of limitations aren't something anyone has to seriously consider. Whether he likes it or not, whether he accepts it or not, he is an influencer-- people will listen to him, and what he says can either reinforce or push back against certain types of thinking.
He reasonably acted to protect himself& his family, but how he chose to do it enables the culture of harassment while also validating the exclusion of women (and making it harder to impeach!), a lesson that will also be absorbed by millions of young men who identify with him.— Kat Lo (@lawlkat) August 14, 2018
Something else I came across a lot while reading comments about this was people who insisted that he didn't mean anything sexist by his statement, therefore we shouldn't take them (or him) as being sexist. But that's flat-out wrong. We like to think that sexist, racism, etc have to be blatant and intentional in order to be harmful, but some of the worst infractions are often the ones where there is no conscious malicious intent behind them (indeed, this is what makes these -isms so insidious and damaging). He may not intend to harm women by saying he won't stream with them, but it very much does have consequences, especially when it legitimizes that as a choice for other prominent male gamers, and further marginalizes female ones.
Our words, our actions, have consequences, and hiding your head in the sand about them doesn't make them go away.