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#1reasontobe, #gamergate, current cultural dynamics of sexism - An unwelcome perspective from an outsider

I attempt to delineate what's the core issue at stake.

Matthew Bentley, Blogger

October 16, 2015

6 Min Read

I'm going to leave aside the issues of who did what, with whom, why, and if it was wrong or right, because I don't care. It all seems somewhat irrelevant, at this point. The greater dynamics of the situation are more interesting and meaningful, to me. From my perspective, the #gamergate movement represents at it's core a fight to validate one form of manipulation ie. aggression over another ie. sexuality. It's a power struggle. Historically, due to men's (largely) physical dominance, aggressive manipulation has - again, largely - been the domain of the males, though not without exception. Males being more susceptible to it than females, sexual manipulation has largely been the province (and again, not exclusively) of females. So far, so good. Ideally we'd be living in a world where people no longer feel the need to manipulate each other with lizard-brain mechanics, but

that is not the world we live in.

Most people are stupid or, to put it accurately, 50% of all humans are below-average in intelligence. Logic is fun that way. We live in a world where people fight, cheat and manipulate to get their way. It shouldn't be that way - it is.

For some reason, a great proportion of gamergate'rs are not smart enough to figure out that one of these two forms is not better than another, and continues to use aggression as their weapon of influence. This is not acceptable. But neither is the genderfication of the topic (is that a word? I don't think that's a word. I'm gonna pretend it is). Has aggression largely been used against females in gaming, rather than men? No, I don't think so, though it would not surprise me if, because females are generally perceived by most societies as being more 'vulnerable', that males feel more comfortable with being aggressive to them rather than other males and that the stats are very disproportionate. Also there may be some males (and females) who have something against females, though I suggest that the reverse is also true, if you look at the case of stardock's CEO, or any number of recent high-profile cases involving the slander of men for reasonably innocuous uses of language that got taken out of context. But if you look at the interviews with male indies like Jonathan Blow, Team Meat, Phil Fish, describing their experiences, or triple-A developer Cliff Bleszinski's letter, you will realise how destructive and prevalent online abuse of developers, of both genders, is.

This is not just a small, incidental war between the stupidity of opposing sides, but a symptom of a number of greater societal movements which are merely reflected in the gaming community; the disenfranchisement of many men and women with feminism, which, having changed it's mainstreamed perspectives (around sexuality and many other topics) so many times over the past thirty years, has left many experiencing cultural burnout; the susceptibility of young men, who, having no grounding in their own masculinity due to being told that the gender attitudes of their fathers were wrong, but having no healthy alternative to fill that gap, are turning to the toxicity and emotional blankness of pickup artist networks to tell them how to be "men"; the growth of a young population of women who grew up in a increasingly liberated society, self-identify as feminists but largely have no understanding of the transitions which have occured within feminism over the past thirty years and do not understand the older generation's burnout; and a softer, generally slightly older generation of men and women who understand both the struggles that young men and women face, and feel sympathy for both sides.

Those same young men, who, having being simultaneously told that aggression and dominance are both (a) wrong and (b) what attract women, are confused and using their aggression in toxic ways, as they largely not allowed - like with almost all generations of men before them since the industrial revolution - to culturally appear weak or vulnerable, which is still typically perceived as unmanly by men, and typically, unattractive to women. Feminism never quite went full circle, which is what I believe led to it's eventual fractionising in western society - bluntly, men were never welcomed into the conversation to say what they felt, what they needed - it has been exclusively focused on women's interests (and rightly so - this is and was necessary). While some claim that feminism is here to liberate "both women and men" - anybody who actually understands men, or who has lived through three generations of feminism, knows this is not actually the case. There has never been the question asked of what men personally need to change the typically confrontational cultural dynamics of gender, which both genders are now reverting to in the absence of sensible, reasonable discussion.

Hence "feminist backlash", hence reaction-reaction-reaction from (largely) men who don't understand that they have other options for expressing their pain at the world other than loud anger, and who also don't see alternatives to forming their identity of what it means to be male, other than around what does and doesn't appeal to women. Sex-positive and sex-negative are stupid terms used by people who wish to simplify social movements to their own ends. They make as much sense as saying you are "aggression-positive" or "aggression-negative". Anybody who's seen someone beaten up for doing nothing more than giving someone 'a look' knows the negative side of aggression. Anyone who's been involved in sports, blue-collar work, or self-defence knows the positive sides that testosterone and aggression have. Anyone who's seen an old man or woman get swindled out of their money by scammers or a very talented person at a strip-club knows the negative sides of sexual desire and influence. And if you've seen couples, if you've seen families - well, you know the positives obviously.

All of these things are reflected to some degree in gamergate, generally in toxic and hostile ways. I don't feel any identification with the specific guys (and girls) within that dynamic who're quite toxic and malcontent, but I do feel sadness for them. They are essentially unhappy people without meaningful outlets for their unhappiness and confusion. On the other hand, I don't really care about the people who're using the situation to their advantage in terms of undeserved fame and status, either. I support the #1reasontobe platform, not because I think the issue of online harassment is genderfied to the extent that it's critics claim it is, but because these women have the temerity and strength to actually say, "hey, this situation sucks, things should not be this way, let us change it". That's a good thing. Their willingness to show vulnerability (largely) and the pain around the subject is something that men don't generally get the option to do without getting looked down on pretty viciously. Harassment is bad, in any form, and while there are people who for whatever reason, believe that online life should not be a reflection of society and societal values, and hence should be able to get away with whatever they want to do, all in the name of some kind of toxic, demonic, demoralising conceptualisation of "freedom", anybody who's actually got a clear head can see how damaging, stupid and amoral most online behaviour is.

Only a sociopath would not want that to change.


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