Reading the MetaFilter thread—which took me at least a day
, because I needed to read very carefully—clarified a lot of concepts. It was, indeed, the conversation no one expected. Measured and moderated in a neutral court, this dialogue did a lot of work for me that I never could have done on my own in any good time.
I know not everyone will be able to do all the necessary reading, or even make total linear sense of the back-and-forth there, because who has the time, and maybe that really has been the issue from the start.
I have learned—even after I’ve blown my wad here on this blog already with talk of don’t be an asshole and the way the Internet tends to behave toward women—that there’s still more festering here. And in the MeFi exchange, I found my own wound getting picked open, which completely shocked me: point made, I guess. I have serious, unresolved issues that I think are depressingly not uncommon, and I am only just discovering that those ills have names. This new revelation is absolutely gut-wrenching. I have a lot more work to do, and luckily for you, I don’t mean here.
The awful thing about everything is, if I pulled out a legal pad and separated the page into two columns—one side called “cool girl” and one side called “high-strung girl,” or one side called “what you really meant” and the other side called “how it actually felt to a few too many,” or one side called “no duuuhhhhh” and the other side called “oh, come on, no,” or one side called “funny” and the other side called “offensive”—I could fill out both columns all by myself and continue to respect both halves. Except.
When discussion escalates and divides like this, some of us are caught in the Venn intersection, drawn in all directions, and that just isn’t fair to us. Especially for those of us who love to love people and not alienate our friends. You’re asking some of us who are invested in both arguments to pick our identity—gamer, or woman? or whoever—when we have already chosen in no uncertain terms to, incredibly, be both (or all!), even in spite of the most visible obstacles.
But here is the real crux: if women want to be accepted as gamers and brosephinas among their own ilk, and not humorless harpies, they are expected to laugh at all the things that ‘gamer culture’—that is, “straight male gamers,” the 18-34 demographic that exists only on paper, or T-shirts—thinks it would like to laugh at. The problem for “gamers” is, women (or other minorities) can’t and shouldn’t laugh at every single one of those things, and it isn’t fair to ask us to, not only because dick and fart jokes must be located somewhere on the Y chromosome (pfft), but also because culture is still transparently hostile.
And not a web comic’s culture, not gamer-culture, not mean mean Internet culture, but culture: it isn’t safe for us to walk through the city at night. And this is another conversation entirely that a disappointing section of the gaming community—not one person, not two, but countless many—revealed that it, for now, will not take seriously. And the trolling and the silence both are telling.