Why Men Should Speak Out About Sexism, Misogyny and Rape Culture

(Once again, trigger warnings.)

I guess THREE POSTS MAKE A SERIES, eh?

One last post on this subject, then I’ll cool it for a little while and talk more about story plotting or how to cook your eggs while using the requisite amount of egg-specific profanity. But I felt this needed to be said as it’s something I’ve been wrestling with over the last couple of days –

I posted the two posts over the last two days about this difficult and uncomfortable topic — the post itself and then the follow-up. And most of the responses are positive from both men and women. Overwhelmingly positive in some cases. Lots of signal boost and agreement and thumbs-ups and high-fives. So: YAAAAAY.

But I’m a guy. I say stuff like this, I get credit for being brave or standing up when I’m doing no such thing. I’m making a controversial argument from what is ostensibly a very safe position. I’m up here on Heteronormative White Dude Mountain (which is a very long name for this mountain so most people just call it “Mount Norm”) and few people dare to fling rocks up at Mount Norm where I sit on my comfortable chair made of Safe, Patriarchal History.

When a woman says stuff like this, they might also get credit for being brave and standing up, but then they also get a tide of venom sweeping over them –

Sometimes in the form of rape or death threats.

My goal isn’t to jump into this conversation and be all like, “DON’T WORRY, LADIES, I WILL OPEN THAT STUCK CULTURAL PICKLE JAR FOR YOU — POP! — THERE WE GO, YOU ARE SAFE NOW. CAPTAIN MAN-PANTS IS DONE HERE.”

Some have even raised the question of, should men say anything at all? Are we just muddying the conversation? Are we just continuing the cultural vibe that women need us to swoop in and save them? We’re the heroes, they’re the victims?

Here’s why men need to speak up:

Because solidarity. Men speaking up are choosing solidarity with the side of change and against the side of sexism and misogyny. If men don’t say anything, it sounds like they agree by default — or are at least not concerned enough to take those two steps up onto the soapbox. And it also sends a message to those rank, rancid assholes — “I’m not on your side.”

(Sidenote: that’s actually a thing about being a white dude. You sometimes get other white dudes coming up to you and in apparent confidence they start spilling racist or sexist shit like, without even knowing you. And when you react poorly they get this look like, “Ohhh, oooh, you’re one of them. See, I thought because we both had these KKK robes for skin we could talk about stuff like this but apparently you’re a Pod Person gotta go.”)

We don’t want the behaviors of this septic culture to become or seem normalized. If we’re quiet about it, we contribute to the normalization of misogyny or any of the other cultural poisons.

Like I said the other day, this isn’t about playing the hero — we aren’t going to fix it with our magical man-hammers, and women are not our Death Star Princesses to rescue. But we can signal boost. We can support. We can be on the side of the angels instead of the side of the diseased dick-bags (they don’t rate being devils, honestly) who want to trumpet their hate and rampant shittiness. We can try to do better and ask that others do the same.

Postscript: Speaking Of Rampant Shittiness

The anti-woman vibe amongst gamers is some of the worst out there.

This isn’t universal, obviously — a lot of gamers are awesome people. Most gamers, probably. But there’s a very strong and not necessarily small contingent of deeply ingrained awfulness out there. (It’s why I don’t generally get on Xbox Live anymore — I can only hear angry 13-year-olds spew toxic racist or homophobic slurs at me so long before I contemplate melting the console into slag and moving to some cozy island where I can raise sheep and tend a lighthouse.)

I actually tweeted about it, referencing the tsunami of hate (warning, reaaaaaaally triggery) cast at Anita Sarkeesian just for saying that none of the Xbox One game demos had female protagonists in them.

And lo and behold, just by invoking her name, I got some troll comments all my own.

My favorite (“favorite” being relative, mind you) was:


Now, at first I just assumed — well, here’s some chump with an egg-avatar on Twitter, so I’m going to look at his feed and it’s going to be puerile boy-rage all the way down. Oh ho ho, no. You look at his feed and what do you see? Someone who wants to work in the game industry.

My deepest hope is that this little human turd would never be allowed through the gates, but then again, given some of the behaviors not only of gamers but also the game industry, I can’t be sure that @steedsoftware won’t one day be among those Captains of Industry.

Point being –

There is work yet to do.

178 comments

  • OMG, Chuck, is your reference to COOKING EGGS and profanity an OVARY REFERENCE?!!?!1?

    (This is, obviously, a joke. I feel the need to clarify given the heat in some of the comments above…)

    The gaming culture can be vile. Some sections of it are ok (I played WoW for a while and the guild culture meant you tended to fall in with like-minded folks) but the worst examples tend to come across as 13-year-old boys, whether they are or not. Trying to prove that they really can grow a beard and that their voice has changed.

    I saw there was a bit of hoopla in the comments above about women announcing themselves as women when they first join forums, and how that might be part of the problem. I’ve gotta say, I’ve seen a LOT of guys (again, the 13-year-old boy types) actually pretend to be girls in environments like WoW. Play female toons, talk about boobs and have their toons dance mostly naked – the sorts of things a female player usually wouldn’t entertain. I’m not saying there are no female players out there making their gender an issue from the start (although I don’t have a problem with that, unlike some others), but I’m saying they won’t all actually be female.

    Isn’t the internet fun?

    • Oh God, I know what you mean. I played wow for several years, starting shortly after the game launched and up through the last xpac before the panderans. I have to say, I noticed that the atmosphere got shittier with time. Maybe it was because Blizzard implemented those cross-server pick up groups, or maybe it was just because some really backwards parts of the States finally got high speed internet access, but during my last year of play it became increasingly common to end up in groups with people who thought rape and homophobic jokes were funny, and even some who slung the “n” word around like they thought it was cool. And the world wide trade channel became … ew. At least it did on my servers. Even though they had an in-game reporting system, that kind of thing continued, so I assume the penalties were light.

      And WoW was a game where close to 1/3 of players were women. Can’t imagine what it would be like to be playing xbox live shooters.

  • The gaming industry, and particularly venomous swathes of gamers themselves, are some of the worst offenders and the levels of vitriol regularly hurled around are almost off the charts. Thanks to the keyboard commando/hate-spewer-spawning environment that the anonymity of the internet has created, it is a problem that will persist.

    Until little Jonny’s momma catches him calling someone a fag or a slut or making rape-threats over XBL and stoves his skull in, not much will change even from the up and coming generation. The law being easier to uphold and law enforcement agencies clamping down on the very real and very illegal bullshit like rape threats would be a fucking start.

  • I’m agreeing with everything you’ve written in this post and the previous two. I wish I could write about this topic as well as you have, but my emotions always get the better of me and I usually have a meltdown before I can complete the first sentence. That’s why I appreciate people like you speaking out. So I can go, “yeah, what he said!” Thanks, Chuck.

  • I don’t have time to reply to all of this at the moment, but there is something which needs to be made clear to you:

    Intent is not magical.
    Intent Is Not Magical.
    INTENT IS NOT MAGICAL.

    It doesn’t MATTER how you INTENDED the phrase to be interpreted. All that matters is that the way other people actually interpreted it.

    Honey, I’m not Taoist. I’m not sure where you got that idea, so that skerbabble at the end about what monks do means nothing to me. Also, you’re not a monk. Stop derailing the conversation.

    Here’s what is crystal clear to me: You don’t fully understand women’s plights in the real world, are dismissive if a couple people dissent your post and a few more seem to agree with it, and most important of all, you are part of the problem. You are not an ally. Stop trying to act like one, because you’re failing hard. Very, very hard.

  • Yes!

    This especially: “If men don’t say anything, it sounds like they agree by default — or are at least not concerned enough to take those two steps up onto the soapbox.”

    I do think this. When men say nothing to counter the misogyny and harassment, I think it’s because they feel and think the same way, or are too fond of the benefits flowing to them on Mt Norm to try to change the situation.

    One of the things that gets to me worst about my day job (psychologist) is the never-ending stream of female victims of rape, abuse, battery, harassment, sexism, discrimination, and the deafening silence of men. All it takes for evil to prosper, is for good men to stand by and do, and say, nothing.

    So yes, if you don’t agree, speak up. Or take the shame.

    • Wow, this game industry is serious thing. A whole new world to me. I will add something, STOP CRYING, STOP CRYING, STOP CRYING. Talk about wusyfication…get over it, your boring,woman have already accomplished everything they can and more, I love woman, these feminist now a days are so bored they´ll have to continuously make something up to keep fighting for woman´s rights. So I take the shame of not speaking up, I´m a coward here with all these comments surrounding me. The easy,simple minded mentality(although I like the the authors writing and books, but apparently disagree on his politics)is to always be on the political correct side. In my last 4 jobs, your heard 4 jobs in less than two years(go top that record)woman where my superiors,did I bitch about it or think this F…king woman…NO, I just cursed at her under my breath because she was my superior, period. Can somebody tell me what job in the world in the U.S are woman banned from doing? cause if there are professional woman video gameplayers(that´s a joke,professional video gameplayers go figure but hey each one with his or her own thing)you can´t possible tell me the big conspiracy about woman exists. Are there dick heads who are misogynist YES, are there are dick heads you have to confront everyday being a man YES. Live with it, plus I can be quite confident in saying that these feminist if you go out of your way and play their game and say “Hey man don´t say shit like that about woman” The feminist will probably be the first one to say “I can take care of myself, you think that just because I´m a woman I can be bullied?” So with these people you´re doomed if you do and doomed if you don´t. Man are different from woman, woman are different from man, (than God) that´s why we complement each other each have our own weaknesses and strengths. Ex. Do I see a lot of caregivers who are man, NO. Are there good men caregivers YES. But the average is small, it´s called DNA Ex.2 Do I see a lot of bulky sexy woman doing weight lifting actually yes, and their quite disgusting to see, also see a man with all those muscles is disgusting like watching some alien. I´ll try another EX. Are there many woman as CEO´s, NO, why? probably because men have been quite longer in those type of positions, so it´s pure math, more men in those type of positions less chance for others, including ethnic minorities. Are there woman in those positions? TONS of them. And if somebody brings up you get paid 25 cents to the dollar less than the man, I´ll wip your ass with a contra-argument. You heard it, I can contra-argue(cool word). I´m getting bored of myself, and the constant crying of these stupid feminist and men who want to be politically correct that go so far of their way to be politically correct and most of these guys are the ones who treat woman like all other men, boys will be boys and girls will be girls, nothing wrong in that. And woman in general like a man to be a man and act like a man.You tell me girls if you would like your boyfriend or husband to be this guy who is constantly going out with you shopping for clothes or being around you and your girlfriends talking about the same subjects. Come on! who the fuck are you kidding.
      Stay Frosty gents and gentess. check me out at charlypriest.wordpress.com or twiteer me at @charlie_priest gotta self promote here. Nice audience. Let´s see if someone can argue with this, looking forward for this challenge,not really just stop crying.

  • “The anti-woman vibe amongst gamers is some of the worst out there.” I so fucking love that you brought this up. From someone like me… Awesome chick gamer who’s first computer was a 286 and I used run a WWIV BBS before the almighty Internet swooped in, I then graduated to work as a beta tester for a company that tested video games. I get what you’re saying. Prior to the handful of women who joined the ranks that worked at this company, that I will leave nameless, male employees had centerfold posters lining the walls of their cubicles and offices. Although, once a few women came on board this was tamed by a rule advising posters must not contain nudity. But they still put up posters of women like Sandra Bullock or other women objectified as sex objects. And that was fucking fine as long as they were clothed.

    Now as a writer in the genre that I focus on, erotic romance, I struggle with a very fine line. I only hope I ride it well and do both men and women the justice they deserve. Still I refuse to not write the truth. Unfortunately, the truth is women are very much sexually objectified. I can’t stand slut shaming or women who have issues with body image and embracing their own sexuality because of a culture that can’t accept a women’s sexuality as normal and natural.

  • Kelli, you’re putting words in my mouth.

    The White Knight comments are separate from my comments on Scalzi and Hines. I would never attribute motivation to someone else. Also, that entire comment was explaining to David what those tweets he apparently found so hilarious were about. Of course I know the fight and frustration goes a lot longer and deeper than that.

    But apparently him coming into this space to crack unwarranted and rather sexist jokes about me is way more excusable than me explaining to him why he’s wrong. Ok then.

    • Ah, I retread and see you meant Scalzi and Hines have been at it longer. Mea culpa, I need coffee.

      Still, what does it matter who did what first? My only point with the tweets in question and with naming them specifically is that they, men, usually receive more and/or more positive attention for the same things women have been saying.

  • It all comes down to sex, like so many other damn things. Lots of sexual frustration out there. Some of it gets transmuted into creativity, improvement, cool shit. Some of it gets channeled into stupid-ass tweets.

  • OK, I have nothing original to add, but your comment form says Word-Nerd, so I feel beckoned.
    I am taking part in a writer’s camp this week and the theme is Words Matter.
    That is true. Thank you for adding your positive minded words into the mix.

  • I have nothing original to add either. I’m a white female and other white people (not a lot, but certainly a couple over the years–and they’re memorable) who I don’t know, have come up to me and said racist things in ‘secret, white-person confidence.’ I totally get the same ‘you’re a pod person’ reaction from them when I call them on it. It is a very strange thing when it happens.

    I did want to say about the Death Star Princess thing is that Leia is written to be pretty awesome and not a damsel in distress. She totally sneaks the Death Star plans off the ship while being attacked by a huge star destroyer and before being personally arrested by Darth Vader. Then, as a prisoner and under threat of having her planet blown up, still doesn’t betray the Rebellion. It takes a creepy little robot with truth drugs to drag the Rebel base location out of her. She’s not given a lot of power in her situation, but she uses every opportunity to act that she gets.

  • Great post. It is good to have your voice added to the cry for change. There are a great many men out there that will only listen to other men. Men that make decisions. Men that shape and sit at the controls. When a woman speaks, these ment just nod and pat her head, if he likes the message, and if he doesn’t, he just walks away. Disregard is as harmful or worse to equality and mutual respect on every front. The more voices shouting for change the better. Especially men. Especially men up on that mountain. So Thank You! As a gamer and a woman I solute you.

  • In the gamer community there’s always this conversation about how the words people use are “different”, trying to make it seem like there’s an excuse for potentially hurtful and triggering language because it doesn’t mean what we think it means. Using the word rape to talk about a game seems harmless to a lot of gamers (mostly male) it’s so ingrained as just this okay thing to say because it’s not real. Gamers Against Bigotry had a really good article up the other day about this, especially in regard to the whole Xbox One conference on Monday. http://gamersagainstbigotry.org/2013/06/why-just-let-it-happen-itll-be-over-soon-is-a-rape-joke-and-extremely-problematic/

  • Thanks for your posts on this, Chuck. As for gamers, some of us are trying to raise the next gen to be different. My oldest son is a game journalist currently covering E3 and he’s nothing like some of those I’ve seen on the podcasts, Twitter, forums, and so on. He’s hopefully part of the future. I’m glad there are others like him, as Elizabeth mentioned, in groups like Gamers Against Bigotry. I know it won’t end today or tomorrow, but there are men and women there willing to push back. It’s happening all across the board, and eventually the change we need will happen. Heck, I couldn’t believe some of the comments I heard when they added the Wii Fit female trainer to Super Smash Bros. I think it’s amazing that they did so, and so do my other kids, both boys and girls (there’s 8 altogether, ranging from 6 to 22). My oldest daughter is an artist, and she’s constantly finding examples of bizarre female anatomy, as you brought up in your first article. So thanks, Chuck. The more people who chime in on this, the better, and the more men who speak up for change, the faster it will happen.

  • I really agree with what you say about solidarity. A couple of years back, ladies on YouTube were sounding off about misogyny they see in their comments. And a few male YouTubers made videos and that was very nice, but I noticed something missing.
    In the comments section itself, when someone said something racist, men and women were quick to shout them down. But if they said something sexist, only women said anything. Which, if I were the misogynist, I would think, “Here these bitches go again!” While if men were speaking up too, they would get the message that it’s seen as inappropriate by EVERYONE. And when I mentioned this to my female friends that this was a problem, I was met with blank stares. They didn’t even understand why I was upset.
    Thank you for writing this!

  • Yet another excellent article. For me, the key reason that men need to speak out on this issue is that men are most often the perpetrators of the violent ignorance that these women need to deal with. Someone has to apologize for those members of our gender who can’t help but shove their foot in their mouth every time they open their speak-holes.

    The gaming subculture is indeed more violent, and women in games do not deserve any of the shit that gets thrown their way. I will, however, say that Anita Sarkeesian is an individual that has been shown to be a muckraker at the very least, and while the violence and threats against her are not at all condoned or condonable in any way, shape, or form, there is a little bit more behind the tweets she gets than just random mysogyny.

    Of course I don’t want this to be in any way taken to be in support of people like @steedsoftware. That kind of “argument” is a waste of breath and makes the entire culture look bad. Maybe I’m just trying to caution against going to far in the other direction, where no female can do no harm.

    But I know that’s not what you’re saying either. Bah, it’s late.

  • And it really sucks to be a 13 year old boy (long past for me; I’ve turned 29 14 times now), but if you’re a 13 year old boy, people automatically assume that you’re a raging dickhead.

  • I have to say, though I come to your blog for the writing tips and the entertaining swears, I stay for posts like this (and then, often, I leave before I have to read any ignorant comments- but these seem alright, which is surprising). Although it does twinge a nerve to know that society will pretty much always value your opinion on misogyny over mine, I’m glad you address the White Knight argument and I agree- men need to speak up to avoid being a bystander.
    However, I do have to say: it should be made clear (though this is not necessarily a post that conflicts with this) that deference on the subject of sexism should be given to women who speak up on the subject.
    Still, admirable post, and thank you for using trigger warnings, as well. Gives me hope!

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