Man, it's been a month of weird, huh?
So, in case you don't know, there was this
Kickstarter, in which Anita Sarkeesian was raising money to do a series
of videos examining how women are portrayed in video games. This came
on the heels of trailers for a new Hitman game and a new Lara Croft
game, both of which are, let's say, problematic, misogynist, and
violently sexualized (or sexually violent, take your pick).
wound up getting rape threats, and a concerted effort from...well,
assholes to get her project cancelled. It would up make her just shy of
$160K, so the asshole brigade probably succeeded in doing nothing but
getting her more money, but that's not the point.
there's this guy name James Desborough. James writes, occasionally, for
Mongoose and has written for Steve Jackson, and he does his own stuff
through Post Mortem studios. I've never been a fan; PM does a lot of
parodies of White Wolf properties, some of which are too British for me
to get the joke and so which just aren't my taste. But he's also written
for gems like the Slayers Guide to Female Gamers, which is meant as a joke, though I think the joke is, at best, tired and should be taken out and mercifully shot.
But then he published a blog post called "In Defence of Rape."
what he was talking about in the post (spurred, partially, by the
aforementioned Lara Croft trailer) is the use of sexual assault as a
plot device. The point he thinks he's making is that sexual assault and
rape, in and of themselves, shouldn't be off limits to writers. I agree
with that, I suppose.
But the point is lost. It's lost amidst how fucking gleeful
he is not just about using rape as a plot device, but over defending
it. And that's what makes the whole thing creepy, not the larger point
he's trying to make. The other thing is, he included the phrase "rape is
fucking awesome as a plot device," though I swear the first time I look
at the post the words "as a plot device" didn't appear in that sentence
(I could be wrong about that).
So he posted linkbait. And then
the shit started. A woman started a petition to ask Mongoose to refrain
from hiring him again. The Internet exploded. The woman in question (who
is a rape survivor herself) was getting rape threats faster than she
could clear them from her inbox. Desborough said on Twitter that this
was no big deal because those threats weren't "genuine." Then he and his
wife started getting them.
Mongoose has apparently stated that
they aren't going to hire him anymore, and weren't planning on it anyway
(they didn't handle all of this well initially, but I don't have any
real use for Mongoose anyway so I didn't pay much attention to that
Desborough posted on G+ complaining that all of this was
triggering for his depression. I'm sure it is. I'm sure it sucks to get
threats against you and yours. And I empathize. I wouldn't wish that one
anyone. I do wish, though, that he would take the lesson - what you say
matters. When you say hurtful things, that matters.
You're not just taking the piss or whatever when you contribute to the
overall level of misogyny in this industry. And it's not the same thing
when it's directed at men, because as a man, all else equal, I do not
have to fear sexual attention. At no point is a woman following me down a
hallway or, indeed, sending me nasty email, going to truly make me feel
threatened, and if a man was doing it, it wouldn't be the threat of
rape rather than just straight-up violence that I would worry about.
(That's privilege, by the way. It's a real thing. Just because you don't like it doesn't mean it isn't.)
whole thing makes me sad. But then the folks who do this shit make it
easier on me, because they misuse the word "censorship" and that just
pisses me off, and then I don't have to feel sad anymore.
if the government comes down and says, "No, you can't publish this book
or say this thing on your blog, it's illegal," that's censorship. And
sometimes that's even justified, I think, but that's a separate issue.
If the greater masses of the Internet say, "Hey, you can say
these things, but doing so makes you an asshole and we don't want to buy
your shit anymore," that isn't censorship. That's physics. That's cause
and effect. And mind you, a lot of people got on board with Desborough.
They were fine with everything he wrote and wanted to buy his shit on
the strength of his writing. That's cause and effect, too.
think it's generational, in a way. Younger folks, maybe those who have
grown up with the Internet, might think that what you say online doesn't
count because it's not said directly to a person. To that I say:
Pretend it is. Pretend that who you want to talk to or who you imagine
you're talking to is sitting there, in front of you, listening to you
say what you're typing. And imagine your mom's there, too, why not.
own what you say. What you say, online, can have consequences. Saying
nasty or hurtful things online, as in "real life" (as though online
isn't real life), doesn't make you cool or edgy or more honest or
genuine. It means that you are impaired in communication, specifically
pragmatic language, because you haven't figured out how to talk with
people and really communicate.
And yes, if you come across as a
complete asshole, people might feel compelled not only to avoid spending
their money on what you did, but to ask other people to do likewise.
That's how this works.
Not censorship. Just physics.
More on related matters here.