[TRIGGER WARNING: HARASSMENT, EXTREME MISOGYNY, ABUSE]
I'm having a lot of emotions over the Zoe Quinn shitstorm right now. At first it was just anger, but as time passes I begin to sort out how the whole ordeal has triggered personal issues and reactions within myself.
I'd really just like to focus on Ferguson. I don't want that fire to die out. I don't want it to become another thing that happened in the past and nothing was changed. But my white privilege creates a distance between me and those events.
The harassment of Zoe Quinn, however - that's something that could happen to me some day. I can't get it out of my head. I've already had two very unproductive and pointless Twitter arguments that went on way too long with misogynistic men who will never change their minds about women no matter what I say.
That's part of why I'm angry. One woman cheating on her boyfriend should not be news. This should not be a thing that's pulling me away from supporting those I have privilege over. Maybe this should be the last thing I write about Zoe Quinn's harassers for awhile.
A Glimpse Into My Future. Yay.
It becomes hard to explain the whirlwind of emotions that I experience when yet another woman in the gaming industry is subject to a massive harassment campaign. As many of you know, I enjoy video games quite a lot. I often identify as a gamer (though it becomes hard to do so in times like this). Not long ago I was doing a lot of freelance writing for gaming websites. I have pursued a career in the industry on and off, alternately enthusiastic and hesitant. My hesitation comes from shit like this.
Not just that I'm afraid of harassment. Honestly, there's a part of me that wants to draw harassment away from other women in the industry, because I know I can take it. The problem is that I become so disgusted with the community. Why would I want to be a part of something that contains such large groups of people who are so vile and hateful? Their hatred of women seems to have no limit. I've seen it. They blame women for all of their troubles and fear that we're taking away their little nerd hidey hole that they can go to to feel superior to the people who have told them they're inferior, whether in reality or in their minds.
Knowing that such hatred exists for something that you can't separate yourself from - your gender or your race or your sexuality, etc. - is deeply disturbing in a way that you can't know unless you've experienced it.
It weighs heavily on me. And that's hard to admit, because those men that hate women openly look for any sign of weakness in us and will attack us there, relentlessly. It's what predators do.
The Real Issue is Hatred of Women
I wish we could have a meaningful conversation about consent and infidelity. But that's hard to do when the people who are bringing up the consent issues are using it to demand I withdraw my support for Zoe in an attempt to destroy her out of hatred for women instead of real concern for her ex or a desire for our society to take consent seriously. They would be silent, at best, if the situation were reversed and Zoe had been the one who had been cheated on. I've seen people bring up the issue of consent in relation to dishonesty within a relationship and been attacked by the same kind of people who are so sympathetic to Zoe's ex - I've seen them use the discussion as evidence that "feminism has gone to far" and we're trying to make all sex rape and we're trivializing "real" rape and we're a bunch of cr*zy feminazis who should never be taken seriously, etc etc etc until my brain shuts down.
As it is, I don't want to acknowledge the consent issues. Because I'm well aware that the people attacking Zoe don't care at all about consent, and the very idea of conceding a point that they're merely exploiting in their attempt to destroy a woman for being a woman who makes games is enraging.
The same goes for emotional abuse and gaslighting. I've already talked about this one. Nobody cares about these issues or the survivors of such abuse until they can be exploited in a misogynistic quest to bring down a threatening woman.
Then there's the whole thing about integrity in gaming journalism. Honestly, does anyone remember when such a thing existed? Journalism in itself has always struggled with unethical practices and corruption. You see it everywhere, all the time. I don't trust mainstream US news media at all anymore. I certainly don't trust game journalists to remain bias-free or even really try. It's video games. I honestly don't care if the integrity of Kotaku has been compromised. This is not life-and-death stuff, you guys. And I don't believe anyone else cares until the second it affects them, like when a game they like gets a bad review, or when the topic can be exploited.
I'm so sick of the disingenuous concern trolling used to cover up rank misogyny. I think at this point I'm just going to respond to any of it that comes my way with "that would be a valid point if it's what this was really about." It does me no good to indulge people in their bullshit and gross exploitation of survivors and important issues. It only gives validity to their bullshit and allows them to continue hiding their misogyny.
Because people cheat all the time but only Zoe get's harassed. Because people lie all the time and only Zoe gets harassed. Because various violations of consent happen all the time and only Zoe gets harassed. Because people sleep with people they work with all the time and only Zoe gets harassed. Because people are emotionally manipulative and abusive in relationships all the time and only Zoe gets harassed. Because integrity in gaming journalism has been questionable at best for many years but only Zoe gets harassed.
Because no one believes or listens to women when they complain about these things, but as soon as a man claims that all these things were done to him by an outspoken, openly feminist, openly sexual, strong, unapologetic and expressive woman who makes video games, they must be true. He is believed without question. Accusations against Zoe by other people, no matter how unsupported, are believed without question.
This is misogyny. This is hatred of women. This is hatred everything Zoe represents. This is the lashing out of scared, hateful little boys who see their imaginary dominance being threatened, and who are pouring every ounce of insecurity, self-hatred, and feelings of inadequacy into a projected hatred of the kind of woman who they think are going to ruin their lives and take away the only thing that distracts them from how pathetic they are.
The Mind of a Misogynist
This phenomenon is really well expressed by Liz R in her piece On Right-Wing Videogame Extremism.
one of the biggest sources of paranoia i took from reading through my first 4chan thread about this issue is that social justice activism will inevitably destroy communities like 4chan. these people feel so disempowered in their lives that they head to communities like 4chan or reddit to be able to feel some sort of empowerment, to act out on something, to feel part of something bigger. this is where the whole mythos of Anonymous comes from. that a lone person with a computer has a tremendous power to take down the shadowy elite. but in that act, there's no accountability, and no moral code. anyone with the resources can mobilize people to target anyone they see fit. sometimes it attacks against the interests of power, but just as often it's a conservative, reactionary anger that comes out of disillusionment and fear, and gets constantly externalized onto marginalized people, especially women and queer people.
they struggle to understand and adjust to a rapidly shifting cultural landscape, in and out of games, that's moving away from traditionally catering to them and their empathy-deficient values into something more culturally sensitive and aware. and so they find simple explanations for these complex phenomena that fit within their bigoted worldviews - boogeymans of evil, manipulative and misleading women like Zoe Quinn or Anita Sarskeesian. they view themselves as anti-authority and anti-power, even as their actions are tremendously conservative and tremendously serving of the interests of power.
I've talked before about how people will say that anger comes from fear, but I don't believe that what these people are experiencing is anger. They seem to jump back and forth from a despairing fear to an intense hatred. Reading their comments and conspiracy theories and listening to their videos, it's easy to detect a tone of pure hatred for those they believe are threatening them.
Anything that has been presented to me as "evidence" has been full of awful gendered slurs, sex shaming, and unsubstantiated hateful rants. It doesn't even occur to them that such a source would be viewed as questionable, especially when it's all anecdotal and conjecture. They have no doubt that Zoe is guilty of everything she is accused of because it allows them to direct their hatred onto her, therefore no evidence is needed to convince them. They take every unsupported anecdote as truth and can't imagine why others wouldn't.
This is what I've been trying to wrap my head around. Observing such vile hatred and awful harassment of a person who is in a position that I could someday be in - a visible and well-known woman in the gaming industry - is very distressing. I do want to jump to defend her, and the details of what she did don't concern me all that much because I know they don't actually concern the people harassing her, and anything she's accused of doesn't excuse their behavior.
So I guess I will continue to defend her in the only way I can, by shouting back at misogynists who harass her or defend her harassers. I will go through a process of sorting out my feelings that might last a couple weeks and maybe then I can examine the consent issue without feeling a ton of anger toward those who are exploiting the issue to attack Zoe, or feeling like I'm conceding to them or helping them. But I will never stop pushing the point that the people attacking her are motivated by their hatred of women and nothing else.