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.

About Alex

Alex posts some of her sewing projects and cosplays on her Tumblr; you can also find her babbling about sewing and games and Parks and Recreation on Twitter.
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26 Responses to Friday Awesome: Jay Smooth on Internet Harassment

  1. Alex says:

    By the way, also check out the #misandryinvideogames tag for hilarity.

  2. Leiralei says:

    Not just online. These same guys often do rape and harass women offline as well. People who commit hate crimes don’t know when to stop.

    • Eric says:

      I’m kind of uncomfortable with people throwing around rape accusations as much as I am people using it as a joke. I don’t want to be out of line here, as I respect your opinion, but using a blanket statement to accuse people of things they may or may not have done doesn’t help anyone. I think we’ll get more mileage on calling people out on things they _are_ doing. Again, I agree with the idea of your opinion, but as someone who’s been falsely accused, it’s not a fun place.

      • Alex says:

        No one is “throwing around rape accusations.”

        • Eric says:

          ” These same guys often do rape and harass women offline as well”
          That -is- accusing someone of being a rapist. Lets not semantically pretend its something else.

          • shaed says:

            It is accusing a group of people of containing rapists in a larger proportion than the general population, based on their behavior that shows how they think of women as lesser. It is an extremely safe accusation.

            • seebs says:

              It’s not just a “larger” population, but a “large” population. There’s also the ambiguity of “rape and harass”; if you take it to mean either rape or harass, so the set of people who rape and the set of people who harass are combined, and we conclude that members of the larger set are “often” in this set, that’s pretty plausible; I feel comfortable stating that “often” people who are like this continue to be like it.

              But if the assertion is that “often” these people also commit actual rapes… That seems a little harder to support. I don’t really know (and quick searching turned up no numbers), but my impression has been that rapists tend to be repeat offenders, so not that many people (percentage-wise) have ever committed rape, or ever will.

              If “often” means “50%”, it seems clearly untrue. If it means “at least ten times total”, it’s almost certainly true. I tend to read “often” as meaning roughly “if you have a handful of samples, the chances are above 50% that one qualifies”, and that seems like it would be a bit high.

          • Souris says:

            Who is it accusing, exactly, Eric?

      • Deviija says:

        As I understood it, the meaning was more ‘people who act and behave this way online often do act and behave this way offline.’ To which I do agree. If you can’t find the equality and humanity in another human person in a virtual space, you sure aren’t in a real world space.

        • Eric says:

          I’m simply stating that we should stick to calling out assholes on what they -do- not what we -think- think they -might- do. Saying these people are assholes who have no respect for another human being, good to go. Saying that they rape people offline? That’s a stretch, regardless of probability (As if we start throwing a wide enough net we’ll start finding any sort of person we want to prove our case). I hope that clarifies what I’m saying better.

          • feministgamer says:

            I understand where you’re coming from, but I also understand where Leralei is coming from, too. In our minds, rape is a very extreme accusation. To some people, though, rape is a trivial crime. They probably aren’t even aware that what they think is OK is actually really NOT OK. If I had to guess who these people were just on the internet, it would be those who laugh at rape jokes. Though I see why it’s not cool to be trying to guess who those people are (internet or not). Schrodinger’s Rapist is a controversial topic, but I’m on the vulnerable side of that coin.

        • Ms. Sunlight says:

          I think you can definitely point out that online hate and harassment are part of a spectrum of behaviour without it amounting to making allegations about anyone in particular. Put it this way, if I saw a guy making rape jokes and sexual harassment threats online I would not want to know him in real life because I would not feel safe with him.

      • Sif says:

        I’m also uncomfortable with that phrasing. These trolls are being jackasses, but that’s an absolute statement about the rate a group of anonymous people will commit a heinous crime without any hard data to back it up.

  3. Mats says:

    I love Jay Smooth so much. In addition to following his youtube channel, I’ve seen him a few times on shows like Up With Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry – which, incidentally, are the only american news shows I’ve seen that are genuinely diverse and inclusive and everybody who is interested in american politics should watch them – and he is always eloquent, funny and insightful. Wonderful man! To say that he is also right in this instance would be to state the obvious.

    • Mireille says:

      I will second the recommendation of Up w/Chris Hayes and Melissa Harris-Perry. Actual intelligent, thoughtful discussion without shouting and a forum where statements are challenged when they are less than factual rather than allowed to pass.

  4. Nefa says:

    This made me feel so warm and fuzzy inside.

    I had shared the kickstarter with my boyfriend only to receive the response of “what a stupid idea lol”. However, he lives by the whole ‘its the internet’ motto so it’s almost to be expected I guess.

    It’s nice to see well supported arguments so I’ll be sure to follow Jay Smooth for his future videos!

    • Sif says:

      “I had shared the kickstarter with my boyfriend only to receive the response of “what a stupid idea lol”. However, he lives by the whole ‘its the internet’ motto so it’s almost to be expected I guess.”

      I’d show him this video.

  5. Deviija says:

    I do love Jay Smooth. I’ve been watching his vids on and off for years now. He always is articulate and humorous, yet intelligent and completely on point.

    As for the content of the video, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Stick to the facts, stay on target, and everyone should really speak out more about these (negative) things.

  6. Violetta says:

    Relevant and totally worth a read – Charlie Brooker’s take on this, plus the other events of recent weeks in the world of gaming:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/17/sometimes-hard-woman-made-pixels

  7. Violetta says:

    Also I might add that it’s encouraging to see that at least now these issues are being discussed, so surely that’s a sign of progress. I’d like to think of all this nastiness from a vocal minority of manchildren as the last gasp of the basement dwellers, mad that the door of their treehouse has been flung open to women and other supposedly “non-traditional” gamers. I’m really hoping so, but I know enlightenment isn’t something which can be achieved overnight – I’m just hoping that it’s not going to get worse before it gets better. :/

    • Sif says:

      It might get worse but I agree it’s good to see people openly discussing these issues. Big news outlets condemning this kind of behavior a few years ago would have been rare but it’s slowly changing.

  8. Pingback: Open thread: A video for the sexist gamer dudes | Geek Feminism Blog

  9. lickbrains says:

    This was great~ I love Jay Smooth! Definitely spreading this around! Guys definitely need to speak up more. Here’s another awesome dude (MovieBob) speaking up for women in games:
    http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/the-big-picture/5950-Tropes-vs-MovieBob

    Can’t wait for her project to start. I’ve been watching her videos and following her blog for a while and she always has something interesting to say/point out. Finally looking forward to her segments with video games!

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