As we grew up, we were told that as women we could do anything we wanted, because ‘women can do anything’. However, as women are urged to be empowered and are told they can do the same things men can do, there are still limits placed on them. We are encouraged to believe that we are equals, but when women enter male-dominated spaces, they are abused and pushed out. That is because ‘anything’ does not include much. There are industries and communities that bash, criticise and target women who speak out, which has resulted in the silencing of women, they fear that speaking up will put them in harm’s way. This much is obvious through Gamergate, how the world responds to Trump’s insults against women, and in the comments of the Instagram posts you see all the time.
This silencing and isolation is most evident through talking against the trolls in the gaming industry. The problems within the gaming industry for women has always been rife, as women within the industry and gaming culture are susceptible to experiencing malevolence from unequivocally angry male gamers. There is so much critique around the lack of diversity and the lack of women in the production sector of the gaming industry, a popular argument for this dichotomy is that games have widely been regarded for boys, and if there were more games for girls, then women would be more inclined to enter the field. Although, this is easy to refute, considering 45% of video game players in the United States are females of all ages. Then there is the fact that 3% of women work in programming, 11% work in the art and design sector, and only 14% of women make up the production side of the industry. It is clear that the gaming industry and culture is a space women want to enter, since they like to play games considered for ‘men’ too, and participate in the creation of these ‘male games’. Moreover, there is the problem of culture within the gaming industry, where there is the unrelenting harassment of women.
The fundamental participatory cultures of gaming persistently oppose feminist criticism of games, it is these forms of male-dominated resistance that perpetuate the marginalisation of women in the gaming industry and in the larger realm of gaming culture. If you were to critique the games that are released, or the industry itself, as a woman you are viewed as being at fault and in need of the psychological, emotional and verbal abuse. The rhetoric of rape and isolation are the main pillars needed to help the anti-female policing that exists in video game culture. A relationship exists between sex and violence within gaming culture and the gaming industry. The women who talk against these trolls are giving what these misogynistic gamers desire the most: a hostile exclusionary culture, where no women should be allowed to enter.
Gamergate was apparently used to analyse and discuss the ethics of games journalism, but it did not remain that way, as argued by Andrea Braithwaite. Instead, the Gamergate Controversy transformed into a harassment campaign using #GamerGate, revealing the sexism and lack of progressivism in video game culture. It turned into a witch hunt, with the harassment of minorities and women in gaming culture coming to the forefront, with no specificity or reason behind who they were targeting except on the basis of a person’s skin colour and gender. This controversy showcased how these exclusionary cultures existed through the aggressive policing from, mostly, male players. By diminishing the efforts of female players, female game creators and female video game journalists, it became obvious that these voices were not accepted in gaming culture. There are designated spaces for men and women in the gaming industry, whether it is gameplay or in the workplace, and these spaces are misogynistic.
This dichotomy and lashing out at female participation and voices are not simply limited to gaming culture, but exists in other engineering and technical sectors, and more importantly in politics. Take a look at Donald Trump, again. He made his opinion clear that men have always been the victims of modern society. Trump saw something in these men, he was not repulsed by it, but he exploited it for his own gain in a bid for his presidency. In turn, misogynists were able to identify themselves in his politics, and respond to his ability to mock women. More importantly, they support these exclusionary cultures, and they simultaneously disregard and thrive over women talking and standing up for themselves. It is evident that this form of thinking is about being able to determine which spaces women are allowed in and being able to ridicule them when they enter into spaces they deem inappropriate for women to enter. The door is open for us to walk through, but we must do it at our own peril, and it is then considered our fault if we choose to enter environments that have been purposefully made to be exclusionary. Trump could not even wrap his head around the prospect of female ghostbusters. These men are not focused on rationality, they are focused on allowing women into spaces and pushing them out when they face problems in these spaces. If you tried to, or still try to, take action against the exclusionary behaviours exhibited by men it can also have the effect of silencing other women.
Think about it, a woman speaks out about the exclusionary and misogynistic behaviours exhibited by a man or a group of men, they are then ridiculed, verbally abused and even threatened with the prospect of physical violence. A prominent example is the backlash abortion activist, Renee Bracey Sherman, received for voicing support for abortion. It is understandable why some women are silenced, by observing the ire other women experience for speaking out, and also highlights why other women go along with the chauvinistic behaviours perpetrated by men. The last thing you would want is a horde of angry women-hating men descending upon you for speaking out. Therefore, this exposure to mental, emotional and psychological violence trains women to recognise when to talk and when not to talk. This is prevalent in gaming culture, too, with girls being taught which spaces are available for them to play in and what opportunities they are allowed to take up. Through psychological violence, that remains persistent, it directs how women are taught to talk (and not to talk) against trolls and men like Trump.
There are two fundamental pillars of creating exclusionary cultures, isolation and psychological violence, which causes anger seeing women in a space perceived as belonging to men. Through targeting a woman speaking out online, there is an element of isolation, they are threatened and berated which takes a mental toll on a woman. This is reinforced by the psychological violence by making women think they ‘deserve’ what is happening to them. They are the agent responsible for the anger they are receiving because they are the ones who spoke out to begin with. We are now living in a society where open male harassment has become acceptable, to the extent that the United States has a president who has a past of harassing women, and was overheard saying he was “grabbing them by the pussy”. It has become a pop culture and political punchline.
It is not enough to remove institutional barriers, there needs to be an elimination of the harassment that comes with women entering male-dominated spaces because we live in a world that still has more challenging obstacles for women than it does for men. It is not only women, who are constantly scrutinised for not being perfect feminists, to fix these issues. Is it not enough that we endure being called a ‘bitch’, ‘slut’ or a ‘cunt’ every time we go online? Is it not enough that even though all the backlash and targeted attacks, that we continue to speak out, even in fear of further attacks? The next time you are sitting there with your fingers ready to hit send, perhaps you could just turn the computer off, and I say that on behalf of all the women that have been targeted and will be targeted.