Nerds and Male Privilege: Tropes, Trolls, Haters & Anita Sarkeesian

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I occasionally get accused of hating on dudes or telling them that they are scum and women are utterly perfect in every way and everything is men’s fault. This usually comes amongst the various accusations that I’m only writing articles about feminist issues or male privilege because I’m trying to get laid1 or to please my girlfriend/wife/woman I’m currently trying to sleep with2, which always makes me laugh.

I mean come on, I’m clearly doing it for the pageviews instead. Duh!

Real talk: I write articles like these because I want to help nerds improve themselves. I want to see them get better at dating and I want to see them be better people on the whole. Which is why there are some stories that just drive me out of my goddamned monkey mind.

Now call me naive, but I’d hoped after the blow-up with Cross Assault and Aris Bakhtanians’ sexual harassment of Miranda Pakozdi that we’d seen the worst that geek culture had to offer for a while; maybe nerds would get a little shaken up and think that maybe they should recognize that they were conforming to every negative stereotype that people have about geekdom being the He-Man Girl Hater’s club and step back.  Sure, there might be some ill-considered marketing, maybe trying to use rape as cheap character development or oversexualizing women for no apparent reason in game trailers, but come on, there’s a difference between being a little ignorant and straight up hateful. Maybe nerds would realize that things have gone too far and dial things back some… at least for a little while.

Hooo… man, that was a good one.

While I’m wishing, I’d like a winning Mega-Millions ticket too.

One of these days, I’m going to learn that when I think that nerds have started scraping the bottom of the barrel with stories of shitty behavior and attitudes towards women, somebody is going to toss in a shovel.

Last Time, On The Internet…

I am talking, of course, about the dedicated Internet Hate Campaign directed at Anita Sarkeesian.

To sum things up quickly – in the event that you have somehow managed to avoid the Internet for the last month or so – Anita Sarkeesian runs a blog and video series called Feminist Frequency that examines pop culture – especially geek culture – with an eye towards feminist issues. In June, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the filming and development of a series of web videos called “Tropes Vs. Women”, examining the way that women have been traditionally portrayed in video games3

And then a bunch of nerds lost their shit.

Before the project was even funded, never mind published, a horde of nerds and men’s rights advocates descended upon Sarkeesian like a pack of pissed off Capuchins in order to vent their fury at the idea that somebody was going to maybe possibly say something negative  about the way women are portrayed in games.

“What? You might say Ivy’s a sexist portrayal of women? NOW WE MUST DESTROY YOU!!”

They vandalized her Wikipedia page, spewed hate into the comments of her YouTube channel and tried to get Kickstarter to shut down the fundraiser.

Again: because people were upset and afraid about what she might say about video games. This wasn’t about trying to have a reasoned, even passionate debate about her views on games, this was about telling a woman that she was not allowed to have an opinion on the matter. The mere idea that she might express an opinion about the way that women are portrayed in games is apparently so abhorrent to some people that they felt that the only appropriate way to respond was to take away her voice. If they couldn’t intimidate her into silence with threats of sexual violence and online harassment then by cracky they were going to try to sabotage any attempt to make this happen.

“Women across the internet are attacked for speaking out on a variety of topics but there seems to be a particular entitlement-based rage directed at any woman who dares to say anything critical about video games” – Anita Sarkeesian, speaking to GamesIndustry

Needless to say, it didn’t work. Not only did Sarkeesian make her initial goal of $6000, the story of the abuse and harassment being heaped on her spurred such an outpouring of support and good will that the project was overfunded… to the tune of nearly $160,000. An overwhelming success by anyone’s definition and a story that shows there are more good people out there than haters and a repudiation of the misogyny and hatred that is entirely to prevelent on the Internet, right? Nice try haters, didn’t work, might as well go back to whatever festering hole you crawled out of, right?

As it turns out… not so much. Instead of trying to shut the project down, the attention has turned into a campaign of hate against Sarkeesian herself.

Trolls Vs. Haters

Before we get too deep into this, we should probably define some terms. Because while a great deal of the harassment directed against Anita Sarkeesian is about her being a woman and vocal critic of misogyny in entertainment, there are plenty of people who have leapt into the mix who get off on shocking people and being horrible on the Internet.

On the one hand, we have the trolls. These are folks who will spew venom in any direction in hopes of provoking a reaction out of somebody. They’re mostly interested in being disruptive and derailing a conversation into a dust-up. Some of them may well have a particular agenda – derailing discussions of misogyny, for example, but plenty of others are in it because, well, why not? Attention is the currency of the Internet and there is no easier way to get attention than to say something shocking or disgusting. Many trolls show up strictly for the lolz – they couldn’t care less about Tropes vs. Women, they’re just enjoying the chance to dogpile on somebody who happened to be noticed by the Internet Hate Machine.

“Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwiiiiiiich!”

Haters, on the other hand, make it personal.  These are the folks who are directing their energy and filth at someone in particular and will usually spend a great deal of energy doing it… and just as much trying to deny that they did it in the first place when they get called on it. Haters will make a point of attacking an individual and, in this case, attempt to shut her up, while trolls tend to throw their shit at anything that looks convenient. While a great deal of the harassment that Sarkeesian has been facing has been rife with implied violence and misogyny, a lot of it is, frankly, low-investment. Image macro harassment doesn’t require much effort on the part of the harasser once the base has been made, which makes it easier for anyone who might want to waggle his dick in the same direction everybody else is.

A hater, on the other hand, will go the extra mile. He might try to hack her email in order to better harass his target. He might flood her inbox with pornography or deface her Facebook page with crudely drawn images of her being raped.

Or he might create a flash game and invite people to “beat the bitch”.

  1. If that actually worked, I would be out of a job []
  2. really, she’d rather I just clean the litter box more often []
  3. Spoiler alert: NOT WELL. []

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