Over the weekend I attended an exceptionally huge science fiction convention. During a panel discussion, someone asked a rather awkward question of one of the female speakers. The gist of the question was, "What advice do you have for female gamers encountering the rampant misogyny among gamers?"
I'm not going to name the speaker, because I believe that just because you're female and famous, that doesn't necessarily mean you have some kind of obligation to discuss feminist issues. I mean, it would be nice? But it's not required.
This particular speaker was visibly uncomfortable with the question, with the discussion, with anything to do with the topic. She stammered and fidgeted and blurted out an answer which amounted to "Just ignore it and it will go away."
I thought this was a particularly odd bit of advice coming from someone who (due to both her occupation and her pastime) must be encountering this kind of thing all the time. A lot of people see her as kind of a pioneer in the field of women gamers, and I wasn't the only one who was a little bit disappointed by her response. "Lead by example," she said.
Unfortunately, the only example this kind of behavior sets is the example that "acting incredibly rude to me in public will have no repercussions for you, the harasser." Are we sure that's the example we want to set? Really?
As a girl, you often get told to "just ignore it and it will go away." Phrases like "boys will be boys" and "live and let live" get tossed at you a lot, from childhood onward. I understand the mentality, that you shouldn't let other people's behavior affect your own. But it frames "defending yourself against misogynist jerks" as unladylike behavior.
For women who are active in the gaming community, this isn't just an abstract consideration. As one small example, Dickwolves are still a thing. As recently as last week the Twitter account "Team Rape" was organizing a Dickwolf flash mob for downtown Seattle.
The bigger problem is that "just ignore it" hasn't exactly worked for us so far, has it? I believe in not feeding the trolls, but the flip side of "just ignore it" is suffering in silence as epithets, lewd suggestions, and the opinion that you should - e.g. - be "raped to death" are flung at you.
Another panel guest, Wil Wheaton, offered a much more radical solution. He issued a call to arms for decent guys to help patrol the behavior of the jerks. I liked Wheaton's answer, because he made it clear that misogyny isn't just a women's problem for women to deal with. He essentially expanded upon his famous rule "Don't be a dick" to include "don't sit silently by and watch while other guys are dicks, either."
All too often, we place the burden of change upon the persecuted group. Racism is a problem for black people to deal with, homophobia is a problem for gay people to deal with, and sexism is a problem for women to deal with. But I agree with Wil Wheaton: these things are everyone's problems, and they won't stop until we all pitch in to help.
Photo credit: Flickr/aldinegirl87