Humor hits a home run again — is it sick or wrong that in our (my) present society, the most insightful commentary is coming from places like The Daily Show and Cracked.com?
Maybe. Today I don't care, because I like laughing and crying the way some people like sugar on their pickles, or cayenne in sweet tea. I'm also a gamer — at one time pretty hardcore (think "FPS LAN-parties" and "unlocking every single side-quest in 80-hour-long RPGs"), less so lately, but I still follow the industry pretty closely…when I can stand it.
This article is an incredible, dead-on, sobering, awful, and freaking hilarious description of why sometimes I can't stand it. It's a short explanation of "Six things more sexist than breasts" in video games, and it delivers the comical WTF as only quality venues like Cracked (yup, I just said that phrase) can.
And I highly recommend it.
Except for the comments.
The last line of the article — which stops being funny just before this in a beautiful drop-kick maneuver that you see on some of my favorite bits of TDS too — makes the point that "If you're trying to prevent discussion of a problem, you are part of that problem." Sadly, one gets the impression that virtually no-one who left a comment read that far: Instead, they saw the name of a game they liked (or just saw the article's title), stopped there, and flew in to Deny Everything and loudly point out why this topic isn't worth discussing.
In one sense it's funny to watch oblivious people wander into a logical bear-trap like that: Cracked is too business-savvy to call out their own audience as fuckwits, but the writers (who are kept anonymous, a tactic which neatly serves double-duty by cutting off rape/death threats — the actual, usual response to things like this written by women; look around — and forcing the reader to at least consider the possibility that the article has to be taken as seriously as if it were written by a man (though several commenters do jump in claiming to "know" which parts "must" be female-penned)) obviously foresaw the flood of NUH-UH THERE'S NO SUCH THING the article would generate, and let their last words be a foreheadslap hanging in the air for when it inevitably happened.
Still, holy CRAP is it disturbing how clearly, uniformly, and obviously it happens. Tossing explanations of sexism and rape-culture to the public is like sprinkling feed to chickens — you know where they're all going to rush to, and watching them do it, you're strongly reminded how very like little machines we animals are, programmed and reactionary. (Then you remember that we don't have to be, and you have to fight down the urge to find a railgun and perforate some morons for the good of the herd. But I digress. ;)
The commenters are often upset about something that was said about a game they like, though (making them mostly a higher class of commenter than you usually get in these situations!), which raises an interesting logical question: Can you make arguments about the degree of sexism in each of the examples? And the answer is more complex than most people like it to be. Briefly, if you're a woman, you can talk about how the game's elements affected you (both as you experienced them, and after giving it more thought, because one thing that's almost always overlooked is that women live in a sexist culture too — sometimes an even more sexist one than men do — and so it's not, in fact, immediately apparent to many of us when we're being subjected to it…it's normal, and for many women, "the way things should be") – and that's valuable information, in the aggregate and also in evaluating some of the personal impact. But even then, whether something is sexist is a function of how it affects everyone, its place coming from and speaking to the culture. And those on the wrong (actually, right) side of the privilege divide can't ever claim based on their feelings that something is not sexist — just as I, a Caucasian person, can't ever claim that something is "not racist" because I don't think it is. People get upset at this, because we all like thinking that our feelings and opinions matter, but the plain truth of it is that when you're talking about culture, some questions are not democratic. Some people's answers don't matter — i.e when we're discussing "whether the European treatment of American Indians counts as a genocide", by reason of how that question is framed, the yes/no opinion of a European-descended person counts for about 10% as much (if that) as that of a Native-American-descended person. Why? Because by default, we don't know what it's like on the other side of that line. Even if we grew up talking to Native Americans about it, studied it in school and went on to work on a reservation, we know more about it intellectually than other people like us, but we still can't know what it's like to be descended from the people who experienced what may or may not have been genocide. And for the question of whether or not it was to be answered, we need the data that can only come from asking people who do know what it's like.
And that's "rape culture" for you. If you didn't grow up a woman, if you haven't lived as a woman, if you haven't had the daily-for-decades experience of being exposed to things like commercials and video-games and conversations and advice from your elders and treatment at work and all of the things that go into "being in a culture", you just don't know. If you want to make an educated guess and you don't know, literally your only option is to listen to as many people who do know as possible, and try to understand why they have the opinions they do, and then extrapolate from there (being clear with yourself and others that what you're presenting IS an educated guess).
Logic doesn't always feel good, guys — Sorry, but it's true. In the world of "things that are segregational and therefore by definition only directly affect certain populations", everyone does not get an equal say about what's really going on. It makes me feel icky as a white European too, so I do understand a bit how shitty that feeling is. But if I swooped in on a public article with almost a million views and outed myself as not believing in racism, or as an appropriate arbiter of whether or not something was racist, I'd be figuratively shot in the face, and I'd deserve it.
Yet for some reason that's still okay when the topic is sexism. Huh. Maybe it's because sexism affects so many more people? Sounds counterintuitive, but in the early days of anti-racism it was probably really hard to be someone who actually knew and loved people who were getting discriminated against…yet virtually everyone knows and loves at least one woman. Maybe there's such blatant denial of (equally blatant) sexism the world over because every man alive feels like shit knowing that he's been part of a world that's organized itself for centuries to unfairly and horrendously mistreat his mother, his sisters, his friends and lovers…I mean, that's gotta feel AWFUL.
Um…::rereads some of the comments::…