Tuesday, August 14, 2018

On Ninja and Sexism in Gaming and Streaming

This morning I saw a facebook post about a popular streaming gamer called Ninja saying he doesn't do streaming videos with female gamers because, in his own words, "If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever."

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:

The circumstances surrounding Blevins’ stance are sticky. As the foremost Fortnitestreamer, Blevins has the power to take a stance against the sort of harassment he’s speaking of. Twitch is notoriously thorny for women. Some female streamers are stamped as “Twitch thots,” harassed, and doxxed. Sidelining women only alienates them further. It perpetuates a system in which they are denied the same opportunities as male streamers simply because of their gender. Blevins doesn’t have to stream with anyone — but by declaring that playing with women is “just not worth it,” he’s contributing to false narratives that men and women can’t coexist in non-sexual relationships.
Blevins’ fear of harassment cannot be ignored or underplayed, either. Online celebrities are entitled to their privacy, even when part of their job requires them to let viewers in. Creators facing blowback from fans over feelings of ownership or entitlement is, sadly, a well-documented occurrence: viewers who consider themselves privy to the relationships and personal lives of their favorite stars, whether it’s women on TwitchYouTube power couples, or live vloggers.

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.

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.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

facing my uncomfortable truths

I recently came across an article by Laurie Penny called The Queer Art of Failing Better, about the show Queer Eye, and I read it because I recently fell head over heels for Queer Eye. As I read, the article kinda took my breath away-- it says many of the things I felt about the show, but also touches on so many aspects of patriarchy and masculinity in our culture and comfort zones and honestly it was one of the best things I feel I have read this year.

I was not familiar with Laurie Penny before this, and immediately knew I had to seek out her other writings.

So I checked out Bitch Doctrine, her book of essays, from the library. The first few essays cover the 2016 election and were in many ways cathartic to read. And then, came this essay, where she recommends that women should probably just be single in our 20s. Reading it reminded me of how I felt when reading A Room of One's Own... and I don't know that I can articulate the feelings properly, but it's like a mix of recognition, discomfort, and guilt, maybe? Of the things that Might Have Been, in another lifetime.

Zach and I got married when we were 23 years old. We had our first kid at 27. I, clearly, was very much not single in my 20s. Now, I want to be clear here-- I don't want to imply in any way that I regret any of those choices we made-- I love the life we have built, and my family, and what we have. I am grateful for the privilege of being able to make this choice for ourselves. I believe strongly in the freedom for women and mothers (and parents of all genders) to opt to stay home with the kids, and that caregiving work is work and worthwhile and valuable and needed, and should be valued as much as any other kind of work. 

And yet there is also a part of me that feels a bit uncomfortable with being so beholden, financially, to my husband, regardless of how enlightened and supportive he may be. It feels like a betrayal of sorts, like I'm a fraud of a feminist. A small part of me wonders what I would have done with my life had I not devoted the vast majority of my time and energy these past ten-plus years to my husband and children. And there's the uncomfortable truth that it might not have been much-- I've never been a super driven or ambitious person. I never had big dreams for myself or a fancy career or whatever. Honestly, I'm kinda lazy.

The other uncomfortable truth is that a part of me has been more than happy to be the at-home parent, and simply follow along on my husband's adventures as we moved across state and international lines for his career, because it meant I didn't have to make hard choices for myself. That's the part that makes me feel the most like a fraud of a feminist.

I sometimes feel like my entire identity is tied to my husband and children, and I wonder, what am I aside from my relationship to them? What is there that is just my own, who would I be without them? Would I have ever opened up my own Montessori school, a life goal I once entertained? Would I have become a prominent feminist activist writer? I would like to think so (one of my prominent thoughts while reading Penny's writings is "I kinda wanna be her when I grow up"). But then again, couldn't I be that now? What's stopping me? I feel like I have a lot I could write but don't. I comfort myself by listing all the reasons why I don't get around to writing more, from it being difficult to focus on writing when my attention is constantly being diverted by people big and small in my household (I'm trying to write this in the middle of the day, while the words are fresh in my mind, and I've had my kids come and ask me for something-or-other at least 3 times since I sat down) to my own insecurities about whether what I have to say is at all interesting or worthy of anyone's attention.

Then I hear the voice of my best friend who, when I once listed out these reasons to him, looked at me and said, "Marce, those are all really dumb reasons not to write." He's right, of course. As usual.

So, I'm trying. It sometimes feels like I'm stuck. The comfort of our "normal" keeps pulling me back, because making any sort of meaningful changes is uncomfortable. Writing a vulnerable post like this one is uncomfortable (I'm hoping to finish and hit "publish" before I lose my nerve). Trying to set actual, concrete goals is scary as shit. I have vague ideas of goals I want to achieve or explore, but need to carve out some space to be able to sort through them and allow those ideas to take on a more solid form.  I'm starting to feel like a broken record because I've written echoes of this post a few times over the years. So maybe it's time to finally get my shit together. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...