I enjoy a good debate. We shake hands and present our arguments, point out the flaws of said arguments, rebuttal, and then shake hands once more knowing it was a civil and friendly discourse. There’s insight into constructive argumentation and I do enjoy listening to theories I oftentimes disagree with, only to challenge my Honors Student brain. Anyone in the gaming community has known of Feminist Frequency’s “Tropes and Women” web series. While I do respect Anita S, creator and founder of this web series, for producing media that has sparked plenty of conversation and controversy in the gaming community, there is one thing that bothers me. For someone who wants to speak against tropes against damsels in distress, she has become a self-fulfilling prophecy of the archetypes she critiques.
To clarify, Anita S has received numerous messages, comments, and media from Internet trolls with rape, death, and the typical “you suck!” threats. While this behavior is never justifiable and childish to boot, she takes these very seriously. As far as Internet trolls go, think of them as the bully from middle school. Sometimes, it’s best to dismiss these trolls as 12 year olds with nothing better to do with their time. I much prefer the critiques and responses without the need of making personal attacks.
If you watch any interview with Anita S, notice that she goes in depth about her experience being a victim of Internet trolling. She provides examples and makes no screen shot uncensored. I was hoping to hear something insightful at her TEDxWomen talk. (For those of you who don’t know, TED is a very prestigious conference of erudites; one I could only dream of presenting at one day.) What I got was the same ramble from her interviews with major media. TL/DR: Look at what these horrible people did to me.
My problem with Anita does not come from her webseries. If anything, it’s inspired conversation among gaming nerds. What I don’t like is that she keeps making herself look like the victim. Any public appearances she makes, she goes into lengthy detail about how much she’s been a victim of Internet trolls. Truth is, if you put yourself online, you’re bound to get trolls regardless. It happens to anyone who places their art out there. Do they deserve it? No. However, it’s the unfortunate side of the Internet. I had trolls make fun of my hairstyle and sore losers debate masquerade winnings on /cgl, but at the end of the day, it does not bother me.
Anyone can attest that they have been trolled or harrassed at least once or twice. It’s not just women, but any types of people. At Bent Con, gaymer panelists talk about being harassed and the F word being thrown at them. When threats become real where someone’s personal information has been posted, that’s when online harassment becomes real. I think there is opportunity to discuss the nature of online harassment here.
For example, our copy editor has made a very heated online webseries critiquing current anime. He gets flack from Gainax fanboys and Hetalia fangirls. His weight, closet cosplay style, personal life, sexuality, etc have all been put on the troll buffet. None of these threats were real until I found people who were heads of security at a convention we were going to making threats about him to the point where they wanted to add me to Facebook to get more information about him. The president of an anime club that I was VP of also made threats to harass him at the same con. This was an awkward situation because security was involved, but luckily we knew higher ups at the convention to ensure his safety.
However, he’s not the only one that experiences Internet trolling. There are many more people who do get harassed online with real threats and are put in awkward situations. Again, there is opportunity to discuss the nature of online harassment in gaming and nerd culture. This is a huge door just waiting to be opened. I often enjoy going to discussion panels at cons where online harassment is discussed and what are the best ways to deal with it when you simply cannot ignore the problem. It’s a very complicated situation and one that needs to be brought to the table more.
This is not just about “cyberbullying” but also making safe online spaces for gaming and make it easier to report. This is what I want to see discussed by academics that have a chance to talk in front of TED types of conferences. Enough with playing victim, it’s time to address the problems. The problems are not inherently the media themselves, but the consumers who may not be as mature as ESRB ratings imply. Like many, I feel that Anita needs to stop playing damsel in distress and take the reigns of being the heroine she wants seen in video games. The problem here is to address behaviors among players and safety in cyber spaces. As gaming becomes much more accessible for all types of audiences and demographics, it’s time to address changing demographics and creating welcoming environments for all.