There’s been a lot of news lately about women being harassed and systematically mistreated, not to mention institutionally discriminated against. Others have written eloquently about these issues already, but I wanted to at least say a hearty “Me too!” when it comes to being a feminist and a supporter of women in these situations.
The recent speech given by Emma Watson at the UN was an unusually clear articulation of just why feminism is necessary and desirable for men as well as women.
I am proud to call myself a feminist.
I’m also a gamer. As a feminist, it has therefore been dismaying to follow the events around #GamerGate, the campaign to hound women out of video game development*.
I’m not going to give a full chronology, but to summarise: the ex-boyfriend of a female game developer got into a snit and decided to enlist the howling hordes of 4chan to harass his former girlfriend into leaving the field of game development. There was some specious and clearly ludicrous justification for this campaign, but it all boiled down to this feeble man not wanting his ex to have a life.
Since then, the mission appears to have been expanded to attacking all women who write video games, leading this last weekend to a family being forced to flee their home after a series of death threats.
I find it almost impossible to write rationally about this because it is obviously and blatantly wrong on so many, many levels: the goal is wrong; the initial impetus was wrong; the actions of the harassers are wrong; and defending these (for want of a better word) people is wrong.
About the only positive element that has come out of this revolting mess is that the general reaction has been horror – the trolls that instigated #GamerGate have been roundly condemned, and I find that at least to be encouraging.
I am still aghast that these attitudes could be as pervasive as they are, but at least they are not acceptable to most reasonable people.
More Inclusion Means Bigger Markets
The thing that I find most baffling about all of this exclusionary nonsense is that including more people means there are more people to enjoy the things you like, which means that there will be more of it. Small markets are not served well, because there just aren’t that many people to sell to: if you have a tiny audience, then there’s less incentive to speak to that audience.
The same basic principle applies when discussing diversity in books or games or movies, or anything: if there are more people enjoying science fiction, or comics, or even opera, then the creators of such work will make more of it, and there will be more people creating that work, which means there will be more for you to enjoy. So excluding black people, or gay people, or neuro-atypical** people, or women, or whoever, means there is a smaller chance of the next great thing happening. Which would make everybody sad.
Or it should.
It makes me sad.
All of which brings me to Wheaton’s Law: Don’t be a dick.
It’s amazing how difficult that can apparently be, especially online. Without the immediate feedback of body language and facial expressions, text can be an imprecise medium for conversation. Words on a page are one of the most subtle and expressive ways to communicate ideas, but those subtle and expressive words are arrived at after many iterations and revisions. That is really difficult to pull off in conversational text, and it can easily be misconstrued – as Scalzi puts it, the failure mode of clever is asshole.
It is easy to make mistakes in your words – your intent might be good, but the way of expressing yourself may be rushed, or contain an alternate meaning you had not considered, or perhaps you just don’t know enough yet. In any case, accidentally causing offense in and of itself does not mean you are being a dick.
Continuing to cause offense when your offensiveness has been communicated to you? Not apologising sincerely? Harassing those who disagree with you?
That’s being a dick.
Obey Wheaton’s Law. People will hate you less.
[*] in point of fact, I mostly play tabletop games rather than video games
[**] the antonym of neurotypical, which I don’t like much but seems to be about the most succinct way of putting it for now.