An Open Letter to Destructoid on Jim Sterling’s Misogyny

The following is a guest post by Anna Anthropy:

Anna Anthropy is a white, transdyke game designer, critic, and sadist. She is interested in the dynamics between the game designer and game player, and works to enable all people to become involved in creating games. She has, at present, the same number of girlfriends as she has cats.

A screenshot of a Tweet from @JimSterling saying "@daphaknee People like you *revel* in sexism, so sure. I'm just giving you what all attention-seeking little bitches crave."

Editors at Destructoid:

This may have already been brought to your attention, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of an exchange that happened on Twitter Tuesday night between Jim Sterling, whom you employ to write and produce videos, and my girlfriend, Daphny (Twitter account “daphaknee”). Here is a brief list of things Jim Sterling called my girlfriend during that exchange:

a cunt
“sweetcheeks”
an attention-seeking little bitch
an embarrassment to her gender
a “feminazi slut”

He also told her to ask her “husband for permission” before using the computer, which I, as her girlfriend, find kind of funny. For reference, here are some screenshots taken by various Twitter users of some of Jim Sterling’s tweets:

http://www.dessgeega.com/jimsterling_1.png
http://www.dessgeega.com/jimsterling_2.png
http://www.bettween.com/jimsterling/daphaknee/desc

At some point after the exchange, Jim changed his Twitter bio to read, “My Tweets are MINE and do not reflect the opinions of my contractors.” Perhaps this satisfies you. It shouldn’t.

There’s an obvious misogynist tone to Jim’s interactions with my girl: “cunt,” “attention-seeking bitch,” “feminazi slut,” “ask your husband for permission” – these are all GENDERED insults that bespeak Jim’s attitude towards women as a man of privilege in a culture (gaming culture) where open hostility, name-calling and slut-shaming of women is not only the norm but is flagrantly practiced by its most public figures. Immediately after and during the exchange, in fact, a number of Jim’s Twitter followers began tweeting at Daphny and searching her blog for material for personal attacks. Many of them called her a “faux-feminist” or “feminazi,” a label that Jim applied to her in his tweets – she never identified herself as a feminist.

I’m asking you, as a fellow journalist and as a woman, to say that it’s not okay to perpetrate those attitudes which keep women feeling unsafe within the community and culture of games. I’m asking you not to give a platform to a man who casually calls women “attention-seeking bitches” and “feminazi sluts.”

Jim will argue, if he hasn’t already, that Daphny provoked him. She certainly did. But are you comfortable giving space on your website to a man who, when threatened by a woman, turns to misogynist name-calling? Is Destructoid happy with a gaming status quo where women are treated with hostility and antagonism?

I’m not.

Sincerely,
anna anthropy
auntiepixelante.com

**The Border House Editors Note: Comments blaming daphaknee or insulting her for ‘egging him on’ will not be allowed.  We do not necessarily agree with the things that she said, but victim blaming is not okay.  This reprinted open letter is about Jim Sterlings misogyny, which is clear and unwarranted regardless of her actions.  However, The Border House is not picking sides, we are simply raising awareness of this issue.**

(Originally posted here)

42 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Destructoid on Jim Sterling’s Misogyny”

  1. Before I start, I’d like to say that I’ve been following and reading this blog for nearly a year, and I respect and appreciate the diversity the opinions voiced, because they are far different from what is conveyed in the mainstream media.

    Though I may be going against the wishes of the editors’ statement at the bottom (which makes me feel uncomfortable posting this comment, though I am not doing it to cause adversity), it doesn’t seem clear how this fight started. While I think Sterling’s words are offensive and unnecessary, it’s hard to fully sympathize when both sides were spouting insults and the chief causing factor unclear.

    Yes, sexist insults are bad, but I think it’s unfair to restrict the question of how he was provoked when it’s the most obvious question to ask. I understand that the point of this post is to show that Sterling is misogynistic (at least within the messages he sent on Twitter), but the lack of information posted doesn’t reveal the full scope of the situation and does the readers a disservice by leaving out a few integral puzzle pieces of the reality of the situation.

    1. Dylan, I approved your comment because I want people to know that I’m fine with talking about the nature of Daphaknee’s comments, just not blaming her for his comments. Absolutely nothing excuses his sexist comments. And while we’re not saying Daphaknee is a saint or that we approve of what she said to him, we do not want this to go down the same route of the original source post in which people were blaming her and saying she got what she deserved.

      I allowed this guest post because I think both sides could offer up some decent commentary from the public, and it’s not my goal to stifle that. However – I do not want this to turn into victim blaming.

  2. I’m at a bit of a loss as to how this all started, but that seems pretty despicable on Sterling’s account.

    This is a stupid thing to note, but I’m quite impressed by anna’s use of capitalization here. I guess she reserves it for “serious business”?

  3. I’m not going to comment on the actual situation, but I would like to warn anyone who has migraines, epilepsy or any other sort of photosensitive reaction not to view daphaknee’s LiveJournal (which is linked in one of the links above) as it has an extremely loud animated background.

  4. There is, perhaps, in some other universe, a brilliant post on this event written by Leigh Alexander. Not this universe, though.

    While I think Jim Sterling is pathetic, I don’t know that I view is comments as evidence of his misogyny. What I see is evidence of someone who enjoys angering people. His initial twitter post, and much of the ‘Jaffe fallout’ seemed purposely inciting to all, and gleefully nasty. Indeed, he is even self aware in the captioned tweet above to acknowledge he was doing just that, which he laughably phrases as some sort of excuse. ‘Cunt’ and ‘feminazi’ and really tired and lame ‘ask your husband’ insults are to me also evidence that he just takes pleasure in pissing off people whom he disagrees with or whom he has declared to ‘care too much.’ Perhaps they do resonate honestly with him, but it seems just as likely he picked the most well-known and generic collection of sexist phrases he could recall off cuff and splattered them out to draw ire.

    This is less sexism and more emotional nihilism. Not long ago Sterling clashed in typically brash fashion with Robert Yang, and that too was featured on Border House. You credit his vicious outburst now as a reaction to him feeling particularly threatened. I don’t think he engages empathetically enough to feel meaningfully threatened by women or anyone else. Perhaps threatened by intimacy, but that is only a guess and it is not something I get to know.

    I guess the internet phrase for what this is ‘trolling,’ but what seems worth noting is that Sterling has a history of gladly ‘trolling’ anyone he sees as ‘foolish enough to care’ regardless of gender, and a life of writing for a pretty popular site has left him entitled in addition to what seem to be evident antisocial tendencies.

    His hostility, as far as I have ever seen, extends to all, and I think it is best acknowledged that way.

    To paraphrase Sady Doyle: @JimSterling is a troll, do not engage.

    1. Even if he is just a troll who riles people up to see a reaction.. it wouldn’t really matter in this kind of case. That he would so casually throw out slurs against women in the first place means he /is/ a misogynist, who just happens to be a troll too. He still found the terms acceptable enough to throw out there. Just because he’s doing so deliberately and to anger others isn’t proof of anything other than his immaturity and that he’s pathetic in how desperate he is to anger others. But, yeah, it doesn’t negate him resorting to using those terms at all and his intent doesn’t negate their effect really.

      Also, it has been asked that people refrain from using the word lame here, as it is an ableist term.

    2. So like, I’m confused. When did “I am being a bad person on purpose” become an acceptable excuse? Maybe I’m just not with the times, but I’ve always thought that if someone is intentionally being a terrible person that’s worse than doing it by accident. When did the response to “I totally intended to hurt you” become “Oh, that’s fine, then”?

      It seems to me that “don’t feed the troll” has morphed from an attempt to stop threads from being derailed into an internet version of “boys will be boys”, and now serves only to allow “trolls” (who are rarely anything but asshole men enraged at the idea of anyone but them being allowed to speak) to do whatever they want and to make anyone who has anything to say about it shut up.

      Oh wait that is exactly what happened.

      1. I have no intention of excusing him, or implying that it is thusly allowed, or saying he ought to be allowed to go on his way. “Do not engage” was then uncalled for, but for context Sady Doyle runs the feminist blog http://tigerbeatdown.com/ and used do not engage for her #Mooreandme and now the #DearJohn twitter campaigns. It was a bad fit. Quoting her was an attempt to imply that I was not excusing him. I failed there.

    3. I don’t know anything about Jim Sterling and I do follow your argument, but lacking a sexist ideology does not mean that a person can’t be/isn’t sexist. Using sexist language and slurs here, no matter why, is a sexist act because it uses the fact that the woman in question is a woman – to insult and belittle her, and nothing else. It uses the history and social present of sexism to wield power against a woman. It’s a massive asshole move, and it means that Jim Starling is a man who practises sexism even if he personally does not believe in it. He is a sexist. It’s a pretty wide word.

    4. I don’t know that I view is comments as evidence of his misogyny.

      Doesn’t throwing around misogynist slurs imply a willingness to engage in misogyny? Trollish he may be, that doesn’t excuse using misogyny as a tool of trolling.

    5. The thing is, he never would have started using racial slurs when arguing with Edward Yang. Imagine how fast Destructoid would have thrown him out on his ass if he had gone around calling Yang a “yellow gook” or something. Obviously, he was trying to piss her off and push her buttons. The point is that this type of hate speech against women is still “okay” and he is probably going to remain unpunished for it.

  5. I don’t know how this got started either, but regardless of how it happened, participating in a flame war is certainly unprofessional at best.

  6. Not the least bit surprised on this turn of events, unfortunately I doubt there will be any blowback out of this; it’s unlikely Destructoid’s fanbase will be appalled by his shenanigans, probably encourage it even.

  7. I would much prefer standard TBH article about sexism and misogyny both in Sterling’s journalism and outside. Personally I detest provocation and distrust its results whether it is used in fighting crime, politics, or proving one’s point.

    1. I agree. Sterling’s comments are unquestionably misogynistic, hateful and deeply personally insulting of Daphaknee; I understand that they are worrisome because he is an editor at Destructiod. At the same time, Daphaknee’s tweets are mostly extreme personal attacks upon Sterling.

      I’m also pretty uncomfortable with Border House’s disclaimer: “Comments blaming daphaknee or insulting her for ‘egging him on’ will not be allowed. We do not necessarily agree with the things that she said, but victim blaming is not okay. This reprinted open letter is about Jim Sterlings misogyny, which is clear and unwarranted regardless of her actions.”

      Yes, the misogyny is unwarranted. I still feel that it’s pretty disingenuous to post an article that doesn’t mention the parts where Daphaknee says the following:

      “it is pretty sad that you dont know what a fucking vagina looks like cant you like pay for sex by now”

      “are you ike whispering sweet nothings into your fleshlight or something because THEY DONT ACTUALLY LOOK LIKE FLASHLIGHTS EITHER”

      “hush hush little manbaby, youve embarrassed yourself enough”

      “OH JESUS CHRIST goodwins law actually did occur! i cant believe it, its like talking to smarterchild except its DUMBERCHILD @jimsterling”

      Yes, Sterling is misogynistic and was acting deeply hatefully. At the same time, this article – and by extension Border House by posting it – seems to be giving a stamp of approval to Daphaknee’s actions (which mostly involve personally attacking and insulting Sterling).

      I’m not trying to blame Daphaknee for what came out of Sterling’s proverbial mouth (which was horrifying and unbefitting of any professional) or insult her. I’m simply requesting that Border House show the entire context including Daphaknee’s tweets rather than simply showcasing Sterling’s tweets.

      1. If it’s the entire, I hope it also includes what Daphne replying to first place or who said what to who to start it off? Where did her attacks come from, I mean? I can’t say I haven’t wanted to insult and mock sexist people myself from time to time. Are they the only ones allowed to get angry? And really.. the only ‘extreme’ personal attacks I see are the ones from Jim Sterling. The misogynistic comments were actual slurs against an entire group of people (women), Daphne’s were not.

        1. “If it’s the entire, I hope it also includes what Daphne replying to first place or who said what to who to start it off? Where did her attacks come from, I mean?”

          I would be interested in that information as well, since I have no idea either. I can understand the nature of blogging sometimes means that reactions are posted rather than articles, but I found it very difficult to follow what occurred between Sterling and Daphaknee based off the screenshots and links that we received.

          “Are they the only ones allowed to get angry?”

          I think that people have every right and reason to get angry over these issues. I try not to deny someone their right to their anger. At the same time, it is very difficult to make an incident (as far as I know and based off of what we’ve been provided) of two people publicly sending each other personal insults (one misogynistic personal attacks, one merely personal attacks) into some kind of mandate for change that will be accepted beyond very limited circles.

          “And really.. the only ‘extreme’ personal attacks I see are the ones from Jim Sterling.”

          My pardon if my comments were unclear, and it didn’t seem that I thought Jim Sterling’s attacks were extreme. I indeed thought that they were and tried to convey so: “Sterling’s comments are unquestionably misogynistic, hateful and deeply personally insulting of Daphaknee…Sterling is misogynistic and was acting deeply hatefully…what came out of Sterling’s proverbial mouth (…was horrifying and unbefitting of any professional).”

          I guess what I’m trying to say is that although Jim Sterling is an unbelievable hypocrite and hateful misogynist, it’s very hard to make a call to arms out of two people publicly behaving crudely and badly.

          1. Hrm, while I’m still not entirely sure I agree with you I can see your point. Though mainly I suppose I was most iffy on the application of the word ‘extreme’, since I feel that word really only applies to one of them but that’s just a matter of opinion and it’s not everyone is going to agree with me.

  8. Jim Sterling is a guy with what I call a Rage Stiffy. Anyone who pisses him off is basically helping him wank.

    Maybe showing Destructoid’s advertisers what Jim Sterling is doing would help.

  9. If he were a real journalist, Sterling would be apologizing (or made to apologize) minutes after he posted this crap.

    I love how most gaming journalists aspire to all the prestige and influence of traditional journalism without bothering to adopt any of its standards or professionalism. Keep reaching for that rainbow!

  10. Jim Sterling is an awful person. This is one example of that. While it’s certainly a great opportunity to point out what he’s done here, I think what would ultimately have more effect is showing this as a consistent pattern, and pointing it out to Destructoid themselves, and their advertisers. Good article, and I don’t mean to detract from that, but I do think it would be reasonable to start a more active campaign against him by taking is work as a whole, and not just individual moments of awfulness, into consideration. Focusing on this single moment gives Sterling’s defenders to make claims of “She started it,” “She deserved it,” etc etc ad infinitum. Those claims in no way justify his actions or behavior, but it’s the tactic that will inevitably be used. More examples allow less room for (bad) justification.

  11. I liked the idea that others have mentioned above in regard to taking Sterling’s work as a whole and making an exploratory article or campaign to take to Destructoid/sponsors/advertisers.

    She started it, he started it, she said, he said… No matter what context, there is no excuse for the slurs and misogyny.

  12. I think most of the defenses in this thread don’t hold much weight. That he enjoys making people mad does not excuse that his misogyny fueled the ways in which he chose to make people mad in this case; likewise, whatever daphaknee did, it doesn’t excuse the kind of vitriol he threw at her.

    That said, color me concerned about the casual calls for Destructoid to terminate the offender’s employment. Everyone, those who exist outside the mainstream in particular, benefits from a public understanding of the distinction between employed and private life. As despicable as this person’s political views are, those of us who subscribe to unpopular progressive politics ought not be legitimizing the use of social coercion to prevent political views from being broadcast or adopted, particularly when a paycheck is on the line.

    I, for one, have little doubt that many of my employers will object to my advocacy for gender and sexual minorities, and I think the only sure defense for me- and for pretty much everyone who posts at the Border House Blog- is a collective understanding that behavior in private life is off limits for determining employment. If you’d prefer a more deontological approach, I don’t want my employment threatened over what I’ve said on my own time- and so I won’t threaten someone else’s employment over the same thing.

    1. “”behavior in private life is off limits for determining employment. If you’d prefer a more deontological approach, I don’t want my employment threatened over what I’ve said on my own time- and so I won’t threaten someone else’s employment over the same thing.“”

      Maybe, but that’s not how it often works. There are even some employee handbooks that even mention that if what you do in your personal life can reflect poorly on the organization then your employment can be in jeopardy or they can attempt to sack you. There have even been news reports of employees losing their jobs because of what their employers found on an employee’s facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. account. If destructoid thinks that jim’s behaviour will affect them poorly then they have precedent to do so.

      -Ansi8

        1. I don’t think equal rights really extends to ‘freedom of hate speech’. Nor do I think I really want someone like that working at yet another public place where they can keep perpetuating that stuff as normal and acceptable.

        2. Maybe so, but his buillshitery in his public/work life and private life does not spur the equal rights activist within me to support him since his asshatery does amount to hate speech, insults and bullying. I see no reason why he shouldn’t lose his job for it given one aspect of his life ceaselessly crosses over into the other.

          -Ani8

        1. I’m not really either, I’m just aware that Destructoid is usually listed along with Kotaku as terrible places you should not go to.

          (Which unfortunately also makes me doubtful they will actually care if it’s addressed, but that would be my jaded cynicism showing through.)

    2. There’s a difference between having a political opinion and openly insulting people like this. Jim Sterling expressed no political viewpoint, he was just being nasty.

  13. As a longtime reader of Destructoid, I just want to say that addressing this letter to them won’t get them to fire or even give a warning to Sterling. I’d doubt they’ll even acknowledge it. He’s said things much worse in postings for the site (see Fat Princess and his attacks on Melissa McEwan) and has gotten off without so much as a warning. Destructoid and its editors don’t care. They know he brings in the page views and has a vocal fanbase that would leave or attack them if they ever tried to punish him. I don’t think any public campaign would change that fact.

    That being said, I think Sterling’s been trying to move away from the image he’s created at Destructoid to do more “respectable” work at smaller websites. If you really want to make a change, I’d focus on those websites. The editors there may not know all of this background and will have far less to lose if they choose not to publish any of his works.

  14. I’ve seen commentary on this incident that interpreted daphaknee’s initial inciting incident (some sort of gay fanfic comic slashing Jim Sterling and God of War’s David Jaffe) as homophobic… this seems less likely knowning she’s the girlfriend of a transgendered lesbian but I digress

    NONE of that excuses Sterling’s shameful behavior and he really ought to be fired. If any journalist for a legitimate news outlet–paper, website, or otherwise–had said such monstrous things they’d be fired. The fact that Destructioid seems okay with having him on their payroll is pretty reprehensible

  15. I do not know the details of US law (may the equivalent to this particular point does not exist there) but in Germany you can sue someone for verbal abuse, if you have proof. Are the things he has thrown at her maybe enough to sue him for harrassment or libel or something? Because then it could be a good idea to start with that. And since he seems to throw these comments around, maybe there can enough people be gathered for a class-action lawsuit. On the other hand, I do not know much about US law and maybe my suggestion is a waste of space here.

    Another option would be a massed counterattack. He can’t do more than block you if you choose your words within the legal.

  16. So I just want to offer some context. I took the effort of combing through Jim Sterling’s writings of the last few years and pulling out pertinent quotes. I posted them all on my blog, and it’s a loooong post. But I want to make it clear that this flareup on twitter is NOT an isolated incident. Jim has a clear and demonstrable history of making comments in his official role as a Destructoid staff writer that trivialize rape and domestic violence, denigrate women, feminists, and feminism as a whole. (the post is here if anyone is curious: http://gomakemeasandwich.blogspot.com/2011/02/in-his-words-why-jim-sterling-is-in.html )

    For everyone questioning whether or not Jim Sterling is sexist, the answer seems pretty clear

  17. I figure this is probably the best forum and time to place to ask: What good sources of gaming news are out there? I’ve been relying on Kotaku and Destructoid, but I can’t take their misogynist bullshit anymore.

    1. Joystiq is markedly less misogynistic than either of the two. Massively is good for MMO games news, and is part of the Joystiq network. Massively is less sexist than Joystiq, possibly due to the fact that there are more women on staff at Massively, and to my knowledge Joystiq got rid of all their women writers. Rock Paper Shotgun is good for PC gaming news. I also read GamesIndustry.biz, IndustryGamers, and Gamasutra for industry-oriented news, and these three tend to be more facts-based, and since they’re targeted to industry, less prone to sensationalise and sexually hype up news (though Gamasutra has editorials, and I can’t speak for those).

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