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Friday Awesome: Jay Smooth on Internet Harassment
This afternoon, the fantastic Jay Smooth released a video about gamer internet harassment, prompted by the harassment of Anita Sarkeesian for her Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter. The video is embedded below, along with a transcript. So a couple of weeks ago I made a video about how sometimes internet trolls are sad and annoying, and other times internet trolls are still sad, but also genuinely destructive and dangerous. And this week we've had a great example of that second type of trolling with the sexist gamer dude attack on Anita Sarkeesian. Anita does the web video series named Feminist Frequency--which, if you watch my stuff, you should already be watching hers--and recently she set up a Kickstarter page for a new project looking at the representation of women in video games. And after the Kickstarter page went up, a whole bunch of gamer dudes decided, even though they haven't heard what her opinion is yet, that the mere idea of this woman presuming to form an opinion about them at some point in the future was so frightening that they had to organize a scorched-earth campaign of harassment and bullying against her. And Anita has handled the whole situation incredibly well, and her project has wound up getting more support and funding than ever, so in this instance, the private army of sexist dudes has only succeeded in proving her right and making her stronger. But it's still been an intensely ugly spectacle that raises a whole lot of questions about why this happens so often and why so many dudes think it's okay to persecute and harass and abuse women online. A lot of these dudes, if you challenge them, will tell you that they don't have any real feelings about this, and they're just trolling for the fun of it. That they don't really hate women, they just think that it's funny to treat women as if they hate them. And that--I mean, first of all, you're lying to yourself, there's clearly more to it than that, and second of all, that doesn't make it any better! Only someone who hates women and sees them as less than human would even think that's a meaningful distinction. And I don't know what I could say that would get through to someone who is so invested in detaching from their own humanity, so I--I'm just going to think about that and come back to it. And for now, I'm just going to say to everyone else, and especially my fellow dudes, that when you see something like that going on, you--and by you, I mean we--have an obligation to speak out against it more often. It's really not cool for us to just shrug our shoulders and say, "That's just 4chan being 4chan." And it's REALLY not okay for you to jump in to somebody's discussion of this harassment and derail it with a bunch of comments about, "But sure, harassment is bad, but men are discriminated against, too! Feminists are always making something out of nothing buh buh buh buh buh!" No, man! Now is not the time for that! If you need to have that debate, there are plenty of other times for that. If you need to show off your debating skills and try to make fetch happen with the misandry thing, there's plenty of other times for that. If you want to debate Anita Sarkeesian's critiques of video game culture, there's plenty of times for that, like for example, after she makes the critiques. But none of that stuff is the issue right now. The issue right now is the bullying and abuse and harassment that she's facing. And you should recognize that harassment is wrong and that's what matters right now, regardless of your political position on "misandry" and men's rights and bluh bluh bluh bluh bluh. This kind of abuse and harassment matters, and when it happens in our corner of the internet, we need to treat it like it matters. We need to speak up and let them know that we're not impressed by how edgy and fearless they are. That we think it's pathetic that they really think that sandwich joke is funny. That when you bully and harass a woman for speaking her mind, all you do is show us that you're afraid of that woman's voice, and you don't think you can beat her intellectually without using a cheat code. No matter what scene on the internet is your scene, if you are a dude on the internet, and you see other dudes in your scene harassing women or transgender people or anyone who is outside of our little privileged corner of the gender spectrum, we need to speak up. We need to treat this like it matters. We need to add some extra humanity into our scene to counteract their detachment from their humanity.