Monday, June 26, 2017

Nothing's Changed

You know what tends to cause my biggest dips into depression? The feeling that nothing changes and nothing gets better. It's despair. And so it's no surprise to me that I've been more depressed lately, or that depression rates are up in general, especially among people my age and younger.

I didn't pay any attention to politics at all until the election of the year 2000, when I was 12. I was old enough by that point to recognize that people were anxious about this election, that the results caused a large upset, and to understand why. I still didn't think much of it, but I thought it seemed unfair that one court in Florida suddenly changed the result and thought it odd that this wasn't challenged and Bush was just made President even though Al Gore got more votes.

From there, the world seemed to get worse. The 90's were so positive, and it seemed like anything and everything was possible for me and humanity. Then 9/11 happened, and I was confused and angry to see protesters caged like animals in "free speech zones" that clashed with my understanding of what was supposed to be a very important Amendment. We went to war, and they told us we'd won but our troops stayed, and people kept dying. As I got older, I got angrier. As a young liberal, it seemed like things were steadily getting worse. And I didn't know the half of it.

And then, hope! President Barack Obama was elected, and things were supposed to get better. But they didn't. The recession hit hard, right before I graduated from college. Stonewalling by Republicans kept Obama from fulfilling many of his promises or getting much of anything done at all. Constant threats of government shutdown made things worse. Obamacare became Romneycare, and Republicans, bizarrely, still hated it. Things stopped making sense. The war went on and on and on, and even as some troops were withdrawn from Iraq and Afghanistan, many stayed, and we went on to bomb Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. The War on Terror was never meant to end. Endless war is now our reality. Drone strike use increased. An endless barrage of photos of dead children, weeping parents, refugees.

Now, Trump. Again, things were supposed to get better. Hillary was supposed to get elected and as neoliberal as she is, it was supposed to make the Republican party collapse. Instead, Trump. Things got worse, much worse. Republicans took the House and Senate, and we have to fight desperately against attacks on our basic rights. On Tumblr, every day I see people begging for money for food, shelter, and desperately needed healthcare. We crowdsource for life-saving treatment. We give away what little we can spare and we know retirement isn't for us. The future has been bleak since 2000, 17 years ago, and it hasn't gotten better.

Almost three years ago now, Gamergate happened. This morning, Feminist Frequency, Anita Sarkeesian's website, posted about a man and his followers coming to Vidcon to sit in the front row at a panel she was featured in. This man has been harassing her, making YouTube videos attacking her, and his followers have been mobbing her every post for years. YEARS. Three years ago, I defended Anita from "trolls" as they were called. I argued against countless asinine arguments about her being a fraud, not a gamer, a scam artist, a liar, making herself into a victim for money, and wrong about every single thing she argued no matter how plain the reality she spoke of was to me. It got old fast, because they never relented. Nothing I said was good enough to convince them to listen, or at least leave her alone. And the same tired arguments came again and again.

It's been three years. Over three years since Anita became a target for hateful misogynists, and yes that includes the women who buy into hateful misogynistic rhetoric. And this morning, I relived that time by arguing with her harassers yet again. And nothing has changed. The same arguments are made. The same amount of people flood her every post on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else her name appears or is associated. They say the same things about her. They still say Tropes vs. Women was a scam despite it being finished and generally well-like by the people who actually funded it. They still claim that she's not a gamer despite her spending three years researching and talking about video games. They still claim she's not harassed as they pile on to every post she makes, STILL, after three years.

And what's more, things haven't gotten better for women in video games. Not much, not where it counts. There may be a few more AAA games starring women, a few more female characters in games like Overwatch, but with every game that comes out that does a little better for women, the backlash is intense. And now, as I play Overwatch, not a single voice that I can confidently label as being "feminine" can be heard over voice chat. I've been playing for several weeks now, and not one. And when I bring that up on Tumblr, the horror stories about harassment from male Overwatch players roll in.

Even on this bright, often cutesy shooter that almost has the same number of female characters as male, the women are forced into silence. Nothing's changed.

I'm not saying it's hopeless, but it is a significant bummer. And evidence that it's going to take far more than some corporate gestures to change the culture of misogyny in the gaming community and at large. Obviously, in a lot of ways, things are worse. The stark misogyny of the 2016 election proved that. The existence of President Trump proved that. Bigotry is on the rise and fascism is getting popular again after being demonized for many decades.

So I guess, if you're confused about the high rates of depression among Millennials, don't be. Because for us, hope has been false, and everything has gotten worse over the years, with few exceptions.

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