Depending on your level of investment in interwed-outrage memes, you may either have forgotten or never been aware of the "#NotRightForAlyssa" incident of a few weeks ago. In which case, Long Version HERE; Short Version: Gizmodo tossed up an altogether-poor article in which an intern publically-humiliated (by name) a guy she'd met on an online dating site because he was a professionall "Magic: The Gathering" player (or, to use her words, "champion dweeb.") Subsequently, the author was made to endure an Internet piling-on that was - at least in the initial moments, more or less well-deserved from my perspective.
Of course, since The Internet tends to accelerate "justifiable irritation" up into "reign-of-terror-level-overreaction" almost overnight; eventually some late-comers to the "event" had to go and take things too far - which means it's now time for the "backlash against the backlash" articles...
Geordie Tait has used the "Alyssa" story as the jumping-off point for a lengthy and overally rather worthwhile (with HUGE caveats that will be dealt with in a moment) article for Star City Games - in the form of an "apology letter" to his own hypothetical future daughter - about the thorny problem of misogyny in gaming culture; primarily focused on the way sexual/romantic "entitlement" often manifests within a culture that paradoxically considers itself to be an oppressed and/or disregarded minority (i.e. the "Women prefer assholes over Nice Guys like me... THOSE BITCHES!!!" mentality.) It's a long piece with a fair amount of rambling, unnecessary digression and cutsie-poo self-deprecation, but I reccomend everyone give it a read - especially if you plan on reading the rest of this.
Seriously. Read it and come back. I'll wait.
All set? Okay, then...
For about half of the piece, I was mainly feeling sad for Tait. See, I'm very much in agreement with his overally point: For all the pride geek-culture has in itself as a "haven" where a certain segement of overlooked-outsiders can find a community of shared-interest... it tends to have REAL serious problem accepting any perspective on the content of said interests that doesn't come from (or isn't willing to conform-to) a white/male/heterosexual/western viewpoint. Too often geeks/gamers are raging against their own ostracization from mainstream society/culture... while in the same breath delcaring that anyone who offers a "feminist" or "race-conscious" criticism of a given game, movie, comic etc. needs to "shut up" and fall into line. So, on that level, I think that the discussion Tait wants to have is vital, necessary and long, long, LONG overdue...
...but, because he chose to "ground" it in what amounts to a defense of fairly indefensible behavior re: Alyssa Bereznak; his otherwise VERY worthwhile points were going to go unheard. When your trying to make a bigger point via a specific example, it's HUGELY important to pick the right example: The fact that O.J. Simpson was made the poster-child for racist-persecution by the probably did more to ensure that the LAPD's massive institutional-racism and corruption remained in place than anything else possibly could have.
But, yeah... up to that point I was reading and thinking "This is SUCH an important, thoughtful piece... WHY did he have to throw away it's chances of being heard by making it a 'Leave Alyssa Alone' thing?" So imagine my surprise when, about halfway through the piece, Tait opts to simply blow his own point completely to smithereens...
In Part C of Section 4 (it's a loooong article), Tait ascribes a portion of the blame for the "overreaction" to "Internalized Misogyny;" helpfully-explained by a quotation about "House Negros" from Malcom X. Here, Tait criticizes the female voices in geek/gamer culture who wrote/spoke against the article for - as he sees it - attempting curry favor with the overwhelmingly male demographic through their condemnation. Or, as he puts it:
"[Tait] is very interested in integrating the gaming industry and is always ready to encourage any budding Jacqueline Robinsons. However, it is hard for girls to be taken seriously in gaming when dozens of wannabe FragDolls are tap-dancing on top of the dugout and offering opposing players “a shine.”"
He goes on to single-out Gizmodo Australia's Elly Hart, who wrote a response-piece to the original Gizmodo (U.S.) article. Tait psychoanalyzes Hart thusly:
"She's a female writer for a tech website, and that is a very, very difficult job. In order to fit in, she has had to internalize all the ways that boys in her industry treat girls poorly and take them for granted."
The level of presumption and condescension here would make for hillarious irony if it weren't so shocking to find in the midst of an article that not only tries to be studiously even-handed otherwise but is also largely dedicated to telling it's readers NOT to engage in the kind of misogynist or inflammatory language he is now employing - right down to refering to Hart's article as "shucking and jiving" to "appease the multitudinous, nerd-raging masses."
"In her defense, master's house was on fire, and there was a warm corner in the attic waiting for her if she was able to dump some water on the blaze."
Holy crap. I mean... what do you eve SAY to something like that?
Don't get me wrong - I understand the genesis of where he's coming from: The fact that the "gamer girls" most often focused upon by the media are those willing/able/eager to don a catchphrased baby-tee and/or revealing cosplay outfit as walking embodiments of "sexy nerd" fetish-iconography isn't 100% "helpful" to the problem of intrinsic nerd-misogyny - agreed.
But the idea that Tait can't percieve ANY woman disagreeing with him on this issue other than by assuming that they are lying, kowtowing or suffering some sort of Stockholm Syndrome is the height of arrogance - and the language he uses ("Wannabe Frag Dolls") and the condescending "oh, those poor foolish little girls" tone come perilously close to what actual feminists often call "Slut Shaming." Agree or disagree with their point, but pieces like Emily Hart's condemnation of the Gizmodo article or even the "Apology on Behalf of Ladies of Nerdland" spearheaded by Susan Arendt (the Escapist editor responsible for me look like I know what I'm doing every week) or Skepchick's Rebecca Watson do not strike me as anything deserving of the snide "Wannabe Frag Dolls" moniker that Tait blanketly ascribes to any woman on the "other side" of this incident.
This is the point where it all becomes utterly perplexing to me - clearly, Tait has a solid and well-reasoned grasp on what the problems and solutions to the misogyny he's talking about in his own culture are... so what could possess him to go and drop a misogynistic mini-rant of his own right into the middle of it? I don't know that it completely invalidates the bigger picture - Tait's overall call for male gamers with what could politely be called "issues" in dealing with the opposite sex to grow the fuck up is needed and well-taken, in the end. But still - why taint the point with this AND the unnecessary (and bound to make people miss-the-point) defense of Bereznak; especially when it turns out what really spurred him to action was an entirely-unrelated Todd Anderson article.
So... that happened.