Geeky Men, Gamer Misogyny, and Gender

In recent months, I updated my videogame system to a PS3; yes I know its not the latest and greatest but its recent enough for me. Earlier this summer I spent a few hours working and improving on my skills at playing Injustice: Gods Among Us in the hopes of someday playing online versus other games when wintertime comes. I’m learning who are my favorite characters, and they happen to be Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Deathstroke, and behind those three, Green Arrow and DoomsDay apparently. So when and if I may the decision to play Injustice online, I have the privilege of being male, and there I am most likely not to be bothered or harassed when interacting with other gamers. 

To the horror of many, this is just not the case for women who are into gaming. When I was in undergrad before there was even a Playstation Network, I was placed in a dormitory with a fraternity that played Playstation One a lot. It was there I heard my first jokes about rape.  If a frat dude was victorious over one of his brothers or a member of another fraternity at a game of NCAA Football 2002 , it was pretty much guaranteed that there would be explicit references to sexual assault when it came to bragging rights. Further along my undergraduate career, the games Halo and Halo 2 were very popular. Being able to talk over the microphone with other players allowed for opponents to drop the n***** word a lot, and of course, there was the widespread practice of Halo teabagging. In spite of their “nice guy” reputation, gamer geek culture is still fraught with the same sexism that they like to point out in professional sports. 

I have written in the past about the harassment that Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency faces before.  Recently, the situation has gotten far more serious with Sarkeesian and her family receiving death and rape threats. Gaming developer Zoe Quinn has faced so much harassment that she has been left no choice but to move in with friends. What’s the outrage all about? An angry ex-significant other wanting to get revenge while gamers claim its about the loss of “objectivity” in journalism. Frantz Fanon, I’ll let you take this one. (he argued in Wretched of the Earth that the concept of ‘objective media’ will always be wielded as a weapon against the oppressed. Like, always).  I still have yet to see Fanon disproven on that one. EDITOR’S POLITICAL NOTE: WHY IS THERE EVEN CONCERNTROLLING OVER REVIEWS OF VIDEOGAMES IN THE FIRST PLACE? WHEN I REVIEW A PUBLISHED REVIEWS OF ANYTHING–BOOKS, MOVIES, VIDEOGAMES, I HAVE COME TO EXPECT SOME BIAS TO BEGIN WITH. 

Really, these controversies aren’t about journalistic integrity or about the videogame industry itself being under any real threat.  This is about gamer geek dudebros losing their power as consumers, and they are reacting in a disgusting manner. I have quoted him a number of times, and I will keep quoting him, but Frederick Douglass was right on the money when he said “Absolute power concedes nothing.” Not one iota. When it comes to dollar signs, human greed+ rape culture in videogames, the combination is a poisonous mix. But actually, I don’t want to really stop here, and just talk about how terrible everything is. I want to reflect briefly on the probable causes for these sexist practices, to drive women’s voices away from the gaming industry. I want to start with this comment made by one of my friends on facebook:

“Geek boys have been told all their lives that their geeky ness makes them “special” and separate from the meat heads who torment them. The male geek persona is at the heart of the *nice guy* culture and is extra fragile-think Isla Vista killer who considered himself the “ultimate gentleman” and couldn’t understand why women wouldn’t even make eye contact with him. Male geeks are just as violently misogynistic as jocks. Obviously.”- M.Sanchez, Facebook 

Athletes are portrayed as hopelessly chauvinistic and hypermasculine. As geeks, we try to define ourselves against this stereotype. We are taught that we can be the nice guy that women will want to depend on if they aren’t “won” over by the jocks. Nerds, dorks, Blerds, we all fail epically when we deceive ourselves that we aren’t in anyway prone to misogyny like those manly men athletes over there. Male geek culture, like the Trio from season 6 of Joss Whedon’s+ Buffy the Vampire Slayer, suffers from the Nice Guy Syndrome. That is, we learn how to and behave as if we are nice, but at the same time, we want something in return. The Nerd who suffers from the Nice Guy syndrome may see himself as “a good listener,” or “a progressive male feminist” but at the same time will refuse to respect women’s boundaries and choices because of his sense of entitlement, ownership over women’s bodies. Maybe it’s time for Gamer DudeBros to get self-critical, and reject the idea that they are “innocent” when it comes to sexism. Rather than the old cliche, “nice guys finish last,” perhaps it would better to start saying, “guys who suffer from Nice Guy Syndrome finish last.”

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