Misogyny is a Bigger Problem Than We Think

Here is a piece I wrote the other day, hoping to get it to The Guardian, The Independent or some other paper. Didn’t happen so, enjoy and disagree/agree as much as you like.

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This has not been a good few weeks when it comes to the perpetration of sexism on the internet. The big news of the leak of personal pictures stolen from celebrities is now garnering all the headlines but the problems have been simmering since a potential conflict of interest in the video games industry was exposed in a heinous way.

For those who have done well to stay away from the Gamergate story here is the short version:

Angry jilted lover exposes affair with his former partner (a game developer) and alleged people involved in the games industry to get alleged favorable promotion, kick starting a torrent of misogynistic response masking itself as “social justice.”


 

I say misogynistic but even that doesn’t do it justice as, in the case of feminist vlogger Anita Sarkeesian, the response as been abhorrent and terrifying. As a games journalist myself of four years, I know and follow a lot of people in the industry and the torrent of abuse that both sexes has received about their profession and ill-evidenced supposed corruption has been appalling. But the level of threats that females have been exposed to during this has far outweighed the vitriolic “freedom of speech” that the males in the industry have received.

To paraphrase Hank Moody from Californication, why is the internet so intent on destroying its female population?

I have read many articles from commentators in the industry. One that stood out for me by Devin Faraci, trying to understand the people behind this event, was claiming that these people are kids. Not in the age sense of the word but in the way that they have no idea how the real world works because they’ve been shut out of it. They find themselves promised so much by the adverts and media around them growing up that they become disaffected and subdued in later life when it turns out not to be true, such as the pursuit of women and popularity.

If this were just a small minority of people doing this then yes, I’d possibly agree that Western society as a whole does have some questions to answer in to how to combat social inclusivity in the mediums consumed by young people. But it isn’t and maybe we should begin to realise that, while the online misogyny may be the most vocal in the minority, it is far removed from that now and, despite having never fully gone away, is almost an epidemic. In fact, it’s practically cultist.

If a mass group of people believed something so outrageous that normal society deemed it too out of the norm then these groups would become cults. Except now these people don’t have to meet in secret sects or hold mass meetings. The forums have become their meeting grounds, the cloak of detached anonymity their shield. As the celebrity photo leaks have proved, this is not just a small business venture in adult entertainment anymore (in fact the leaker bemoaned the lack of money they’ve made from the leak). This is a shark feeding the many schools of piranhas that beg for the sexual objectification they crave like a dealer teasing his junkies. This isn’t a subculture anymore.

Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic in my interpretation of the scale of this problem and it’s hard to separate the lines between the freedom of expression/speech and what is socially unacceptable or even criminal. But there has been a culture of burying ones head in the sand over the scale of this issue, like if we ignored this small amount of vocal people they would go away. I don’t think it is going away and in fact I think it’s getting stronger. What we need to do, as human beings and as women and men, is be the social justice warriors everyone else is pretending to be and begin to notice where this happens in everyday life and shoot these attitudes down before they start.

People will blame the media, the adult industry, the video games industry and the people who took these personal photos, because it points the finger away from their own inaction. We should celebrate our freedom, champion the sexual freedom of others and make sure that personal things remain private, be they women or men. We should express ourselves how we want. As Keith Stuart from The Guardian said in his piece on Gamergate “Objectification is never the answer.” But when those expressions become toxic to the freedom of others and potentially criminal, then we may need to acknowledge that a bigger stance on this “epidemic of misogyny” might be required.

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