You know I’m now doing the web moderation thing, right? Well, one of the areas I work on is some gamer stuff – very male environment, teenage boys, vast amounts of swearing and masturbation references. But over the last couple of weeks I’ve got rather depressed by the sexism on there. Actually, no, by the nature of the sexism on there.
I’m not talking about the proliferation of sexist abuse against female writers online (the rape threats, the dismissal of an argument through disparaging comments about appearance / needing to ‘get laid’), though I’ll get to that. I’m talking about an earlier stage, where these kids learn to regurgitate sexist bullshit as a matter of course.
As I’ve said, a lot of the users of these sites are teenage boys. Usually young teenage boys (possibly not even teenagers, yet). I would give one hundred of my own pounds to anyone who comes up with an original comment on one of these things. The same ‘arguments’ get recycled again and again and again with the same words and the same phrases: why this game is better than this game, why this console is better than this console, why this ammo is different to this ammo, why this character is better than this character, why players of one game are better than players of another. The same memes, the same jokes, the same insults, the same questions come up over and over and over and over and over and over and you think this is repetitive? Try doing a six hour shift.
It’s a copy and paste culture, a similar thing to those stupid chain letter things (“OMG if everyone posts this comment to every Facebook page they know the makers of X product will HAVE to listen!”). Protection comes in packs. So I think that’s why, when faced with anything resembling a woman in gaming, the same things get trotted out.
Make me a sandwich.
Why aren’t you in the kitchen?
Tits or GTFO.
These have become actual memes. Kids have seen them in other places and trot them out as a Pavlovian response. (The sandwich thing in particular; it’s always a fucking sandwich.) The ‘arrow in the knee‘ snowclone from Skyrim I can live with – it’s annoying but it’s not hurting anyone. But nobody would accept an automatic resort to derogatory memes about black people, or Jews, or Indians. Yet it’s fine when it’s about women.
Am I overreacting to some kids having a laugh? Possibly. But I also think that these young boys are absorbing the idea that women are the group it’s acceptable to treat badly. Right now they’re not thinking about the meaning behind the words (when I was a messy child my Nana used to call me a “mucky erup”. It became a part of my lexicon. I found myself thinking about it recently and realised that phrase was actually “mucky Arab”. OH MY GOD, NANA), they’re just internalising the idea. Will these boys then go on to be the shitbags that make sexual threats to women online? Or the men that treat their girlfriends like crap? Or the managers who ignore suggestions from female employees? Where do these attitudes begin?