"nah we can’t have female leads or characters of colour or gay characters or else our show will bomb"
My friend Christine Heppermann’s book POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU MY PRETTY released this week. This collection is an unabashedly feminist look at girls, body image, and eating disorders told through the lens of fairy tales, designed for young adults.
The book is arriving at an interesting cultural moment; when the already ridiculous should-adults-read-YA conversation, has taken a bizarre turn. Did you know the patriarchy was dead? It must be true, as I learned that by reading it in an essay printed in the newsletter of the patriarchy.
For New York Times columnist A.O. Scott, the patriarchy’s demise is not even significant in and of itself; no, it symbolizes a greater issue: “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture.” Now, the equation of the death of the patriarchy and the death of adulthood is a problematic one at best, and if you’re expecting Scott to address the troubling implication here or at the very least explain himself, well, he won’t. Because apparently the fact that patriarchy=adulthood, too, is something we can all agree on.
Part of the essay takes on YA, of course, because apparently we have to do this again. Scott pats the head of everyone who gets offended when people put them down for reading YA, saying that of course they bristle; people don’t like it when someone else attacks, in his words, “the juvenile pleasures of empowered cultural consumers.” Scott also spends a lot of time talking about women in the arts, ascribing to them some kind of plucky-but-aimless adolescent rebellion:
Why should boys be the only ones with the right to revolt? Not that the new girls are exactly Thelma and Louise. Just as the men passed through the stage of sincere rebellion to arrive at a stage of infantile refusal, so, too, have the women progressed by means of regression.
He later asserts that the predecessors of the “modern man-boy” had “something to fight for:”
…A moral or political impulse underlying their postures of revolt. The founding brothers in Philadelphia cut loose a king; Huck Finn exposed the dehumanizing lies of America slavery; Lenny Bruce battled censorship. When Marlon Brando’s Wild One was asked what he was rebelling against, his thrilling, nihilistic response was “Whaddaya got?” The modern equivalent would be “…”
Author Laura Ruby, in her response to this essay, says it well: "The implication that our art, our characters, our stories, represent nothing but a certain adolescent pleasure in bucking the system, that only white men can be truly serious in their subversion, is as laughable as it is enraging. "
Yes. Scott’s assertion is remarkable in so many ways, but I suppose if you’re going to argue that the patriarchy is dead then obviously women can’t be making conscious political actions, because whatever is there to fight about? Women, by nature, cannot be intentional in their art. It’s almost like he’s infantilizing them
Pulling up his own big leather armchair in Club Patriarchy is Christopher Beha, who wants us to know what he thinks of this whole conversation. In his New Yorker essay, “Henry James and the Great YA Debate,” Beha muses on what makes a book YA. “It does seem,” he writes, “that many books have the YA label slapped on them purely because of their subject matter. (After all, there is little cost to a publisher for labeling something YA if the label doesn’t put off adult readers.)”
This is a rather adorable conception of how publishing works, but, okay. He continues:
On the other hand, the label is sometimes wielded to make a real literary distinction. It is obviously possible to give a subject a treatment that is more appropriate for a young audience. For the most part, this involves simplifying things—first the diction and syntax, but finally the whole picture of life. There is nothing dishonorable about this simplification—it is a way to make material accessible to children.
Wow, thank you! Gosh, I’m so flattered! I don’t think your simplifications are dishonorable either.
Beha is speaking with a lot of confidence for someone doesn’t seem to have any exposure to YA, but part of having an endowed chair in Patriarchy HQ is no one asks you to question your assumptions much. Though apparently it’s perfectly fine to call yourself a completist and yet make blanket statements about a field for which you’re vaguely familiar with three books.
But the real problem in this essay is Beha’s assumptions about the creation of these books—and here he uses Henry James to show where YA books fail. According to him, James makes for great reading because, “…there is always a governing intelligence at work behind the page. I missed this intelligence when I read novels by other writers, which so often gave me the enervating sense that things were happening for no reason except that it had occurred to the author to make them happen.”
To which I might suggest he read more children’s books, because our readers don’t have any patience for that masturbatory crap. But I digress. Beha continues:
What is being lost here [in the “Great YA Debate”] is a distinction that James himself insisted upon, between the artist’s subject matter and his treatment of that matter. In “The Art of Fiction”, he noted, “Of course it is of execution that we are talking, that being the only point of a novel that is open to contention… it is in the execution that the fatal weakness is recorded. ”
So, Beha posits, the problem with YA novels is in execution and in a lack of governing intelligence, and that’s why it’s “strange” that adults read kids books. YA books are necessarily simpler, and therefore cannot possibly contain the same aesthetic or intellectual pleasures as reading literary adult books.
Here, he is tacitly agreeing with Scott; YA writers write without vision or intent—and Beha adds artistry on for good measure. We must—we’re infantile.
So, what makes a work adult, then? Beha gives us a pretty good clue: “If we really are,” he writes, “living through the decline of the cultural authority of the straight white male, that seems like a rich and appropriate subject for a sophisticated work of narrative art.”
Ah, here we are. Appropriate subjects for sophisticated narrative art. A serious novel is about things these gentlemen find serious—like the decline of the cultural authority of the straight white male. It astonishes me how endlessly fascinating some men find themselves.
Both writers cite Leslie Fielder’s Love and Death in the American Novel, a work of literary criticism from 1960 that is in Beha’s words, “a long engagement with the fundamental childishness of American fiction. Fiedler saw Twain’s Huck Finn, Melville’s Ishmael, and countless other canonical American literary characters as boys who refused to be civilized, who preferred a perpetual, homosocial boyhood to the responsibilities of adulthood—in particular the responsibilities of mature heterosexual relationships.”
It’s funny (haha/hmmm) that they are basing their ideas on a book published in 1960, before post-structuralist/ postmodern/ feminist/ postcolonial critique, before people started getting all weirdly rebellious about this patriarchy thing. But, really, it was a simpler time back then, at least for some people.
(For further analysis, please see Sarah McCarry at The Rejectionist.)
According to Fielder classic American fiction is, in essence, not about adults either. Or, as Scott says, “…notwithstanding a few outliers like Henry James and Edith Wharton, we have a literature of boys’ adventures and female sentimentality. Or, to put it another way, all American fiction is young-adult fiction.”
And there it is. ”Boys adventures and female sentimentality” defines YA fiction. Because even though this book was written in 1960, we still use the phrase “female sentimentality” like it’s perfectly appropriate.
But apparently when describing YA fiction, it is.
Because this is the insidious undercurrent of all this head-shaking. YA literature, after all, is thought by anyone with a three-book-deep knowledge of the field to be the province of female authors and the silly teenage girls they write for. The books are simple, with simple world views, and they definitely do not address “appropriate subjects for sophisticated pieces of narrative art.” Because how could literature written for and about teenage girls be sophisticated pieces of narrative art?
If there’s one thing our culture tells us, again and again, there is no one sillier or less significant than a teenage girl.
We know the drill. Boys don’t read. Girls read. Boys certainly don’t read YA, because it’s all women writers writing about girls, and we absolutely cannot ask of boys that they read about girls, and we’re going to keep telling boys that they don’t do that in case they accidentally do.
A piece ran in the London Times this year with the headline: “Are Boys Not Reading Because of All Those Women in Publishing?” The article, only half-available in its original form, but recapped here, is an extensive interview with children’s author Jonathan Emmett who asserts: “But there is a literacy gap – boys are underachieving, boys do not like books as much as girls. I am arguing that this is because the industry is dominated by female gatekeepers.”
And women, apparently, ruin everything.
Julia Donaldson, another children’s author agrees: “Emmett probably has got a point,” she says. “He wrote a book where there was some bad character who bashed up people, but a gentle female editor thought we couldn’t even show someone bad doing bad things or doing destructive things.”
Gentle female editors? She sounds like she’s arguing that women shouldn’t have the vote.
As for girls, according to an unnamed editor in a breathtakingly sexist 2011 New York Times essay by YA writer Robert Lipsyte, they want “to read about mean girls, gossip girls, frenemies, and vampires.” Lipsyte juxtaposes this assertion with a quote from a male librarian that says that boys want to read books that invite them “to reflect upon the kind of man they want to become.”
Unlike girls, see, boys want serious, important stuff.
As for the authors (the ones who aren’t him), Lipsyte says:
The current surge in children’s literature has been fueled by talented young female novelists fresh from MFA programs who in earlier times would have been writing midlist adult fiction. Their novels are bought by female editors, stocked by female librarians and taught by female teachers.
Can we just stop and unpack this one for a second? Why are these women destined to be mid list? Is it their female sentimentality? Is it their inherent lack of artistry? Is it just that women can’t write important books?
So, anyway, girls read YA and write YA, and no one is doing the serious work of taking care of boys. Everyone knows this. Never mind that eight out of ten current NYT YA bestsellers are male authors, or that the last four Printz winners have been men and the last five have had male protagonists. That’s irrelevant when truthiness in on the line.
It’s remarkable how both of these articles end with the authors talking about their own work, which is exactly what boys like, and their own struggles with publication as proof of their theses— that this oppressively matriarchal system is to blame for not just ruining boys in general, but keeping them from having the success they deserve. What does that sound like to you?
Now, all of these arguments are equally offensive to boys, but no one making them seems to realize it—it might interfere with their own self-promotion. And to the outside world none of it matters—YA is written by women, for girls. And with its sparkly vampires and “female sentimentality” it can’t matter because it’s not doing the important, serious work of telling male stories.
I heard a teacher joke that forcing boys to read Pride and Prejudice in high school was turning them off from books for life. And, haha, hilarious. It’s an important work and gives students plenty to analyze. But we just can’t expect boys to appreciate the merits of the book, to engage with it, to grow as readers, because, girl book. We cannot ask boys to think outside themselves. They won’t do it, say these particular men who refuse to think outside themselves.
The girls, though, everybody believes the girls should read Huck Finn and Heart of Darkness and Lord of the Flies and The Old Man and the Sea, because those books are Literature. They are Serious and Canonical, and a book becomes Canonical simply by objective worth, certainly not by a system of biases that keeps self-perpetuating like an undead Ouroboros. And the girls, they’re all right. They’re reading. We don’t have to worry about them.
Except the girls aren’t all right. Not at all.
According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Assorted Disorders, 91% of women surveyed on a college campus had attempted to control their weight by dieting, 22% dieted “often” or “always,” and 25% of college-aged women binge and purge as a way of controlling diet. 1% of female adolescents are anorexic, and 20% of anorexics die from complications of their eating disorder. Hospitals are now reporting cases of anorexia in girls younger than ten.
Girls are told in ways large and small, that they are silly, that they do not matter, that their job is to become invisible. And so they become invisible.
The way women get treated in the media, on the internet, casually, is, among many other things, a serious failure of empathy in our society. Women who speak out, who dare to exist and have opinions, get rape and death threats, get slut-shamed, get pictures of their bodies leaked on the internet. The failure of empathy gets repeated, again and again, by organizations and institutions that see rape threats (or actual rape) as a cost of doing business and nothing worth acting upon.
You don’t matter, these institutions say.
And girls hear the message, again and again.
The girls are not all right. They wage wars on their own bodies, and should they dare to speak out about something, people will wage war against them.
Books for girls matter. Books for kids, teenagers matter. And that’s why we write them.
That’s why we tend to bristle when people come in to eruditely piss in our sandbox. It never occurs to people like Scott and Beha that we might be choosing to write for young readers for reasons other than money or our own mediocre skills. (Or as some kind of female hobby, like pianoforte and needlepoint.) But, see, to those of us who write for children and young adults, men and women, this isn’t a market. These are people. We are writing for someone. And they deserve the best we can give them of ourselves.
We write for young readers because we care deeply about our readers. We work hard because we give a damn. We pick our words and sentences and forms to serve our stories in the best way we can—not to talk down to readers, but to talk up to them.
Me, I find the idea of writing for someone to be much more adult than wistfully sighing about how much more grown-up you are than everyone else. Though I suppose this idea of taking care of children is, to the glass clinkers in that particular corner of Patriarchy HQ, women’s work. Separate spheres and all. And, so not really that adult, if you know what I mean.
Scott and Beha are advocating a certain literary solipsism as “adult,” while proudly demonstrating an incuriosity about an entire field of books. I don’t believe I could give them or their very grown-up friends a single children’s or YA book that would change their minds about the field, but I also don’t think that has anything to do with the books. And I can’t help but think that people who can’t find a single YA or children’s book worth their time also have serious issues with empathy.
Isn’t this really the marker of adulthood? Learning to look beyond yourself to others? Isn’t a marker of intelligence a hunger to see the world outside your own experience? Isn’t that maybe why so many people outside of traditional power structures are draw to this lit in the first place? Everyone who insults reading these books is not just denigrating the quality of the books themselves, but of the very act of using your time to give a crap about kids and the things they give a crap about.
And here, from inside the HQ, C.S. Lewis turns around in his swivel chair, clinks his glass, and tells everyone in that particular corner that they are full of crap:
Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. … But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
-“On Three Ways of Writing for Children”
We do not fear childishness, and so we write for children. We write with intention. We write with awareness. We write with artistry. And sometimes we write about girls. And in this culture, as the essays above prove, writing about girls is a political act.
I wish every single teen and adult in this country would read Brandy Colbert’s Pointe and Meg Medina’s Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Both books do an exquisite job of letting the reader live in the bodies of girls who are getting told again and again how worthless they are, and both meticulously demonstrate how girls might come to feel that way. They do the work of art. Pointe shows how girls are taught to internalize shame over abuse, Yaqui Delgado unflinchingly demonstrates how bullying can destroy a girl’s sense of self. I suppose some people might call this “female sentimentality;” I call it giving a damn.
Now that the patriarchy is dead, Poisoned Apples might seem out of date to someone, since, you know, there’s no beauty myth anymore, no sexual shaming, no more eating disorders. It might seem small to someone of Scott and Beha’s, as its concern is teenage girls, and infantile, because it uses fairy tales. Personally, I think it’s one of the most adult works of art I’ve ever seen.
Like her peers, Christine Heppermann has decided that the best way to be a grown-up is to help those who are just about to become grown-ups—to give them emotional vocabulary for so many unnamable things. (And, with fairy tales, she allows them the ability to live in metaphor.) It’s challenging to write narratives of eating disorders in a way that isn’t seductive to a disordered mind, but by using the language of fairy tales Heppermann can engage with the compulsions while at the same time laying bare their brutality.
From Poisoned Apples, reprinted with permission from the author:
Blow Your House In
She used to be a house of bricks,
point guard on the JV team, walling out
defenders who could only huff and puff
and watch the layups roll in.
She traded for a house of sticks,
kindling in Converse high-tops and a red Adidas tent.
At lunch she swirled a teeny spoon in yogurt
that never touched her lips and said
she’d decided to quit chasing a stupid ball.
Now she’s building herself out of straw
as light as the needle swimming in her bathroom scale.
The smaller the number, the closer to gold,
the tighter her face, afire with the zeal of a wolf
who has one house left to destroy.
Girls matter. Books like Pointe, Yaqui Delgado, Poisoned Apples tell the young female reader: I see you, I see what’s happening to you, I see how you feel, but it does not have to be this way. Let me show you.
I would buy every middle and high school library and classroom a copy of this book if I could. It deserves to be read, studied, discussed. By girls, yes—given them a space to converse about the issues this brings up freely. But boys too.
Just as we can tell girls that they are worth poetry, we can tell boys that they are worth our faith in their empathy. We can give them credit for the ability to step outside themselves and their own concerns. We can show them not just that we expect them to care about issues other than their own, but that we believe they’ll want to. They are worth that.
It matters, that boys read about girls, that they engage closely with books that speak to what it is to be a girl today. It matters that they understand how it feels to be catcalled, to be touched in a way you don’t want to be touched. And that they understand how it feels to wake up every morning desperate to be skinnier, having that desire consume you like fire. How it feels to get by on 1000 calories a day, 500, 100. How it feels to schedule your whole day around exercise, or around eating meals and then throwing them up. It matters that they engage deeply with the forces in society that might cause a girl to feel this way. This is a human issue.
It matters, greatly, that we all engage with literature that treats girls like people, so perhaps we can we actually can celebrate some small crumbling of the patriarchy some day, so more boys are equipped to take on the rampant misogyny in the world, so that everyone understand a feminist critique of, say, video games, isn’t designed to threaten anybody, but to better us all.
It matters greatly that YA literature exists, that books like Poisoned Apples exist, that girls and boys and even some enlightened grown-ups read them.
Then, maybe, we can all be better adults.
Okay so the guy who prompted this post is going around calling myself and super talented cartoonists hacks. He also claims he can’t find the email I sent him so here is the whole thing for me to link to him.
So first he sent me a spam email begging for money and to promote his kickstarter. 30 people who’s emails I can see very clearly also got this email. Spike Trotman and I then learn that all the images in his “manga” Kickstarter are stolen. He also wants 3k to fund printing his book and fund a promo tour for the book. So I respond to him with:
1. Don’t send people you don’t know a form letter they didn’t ask to receive. It is disrespectful of you assume that I am not worth the time it takes you to write an email, but that I am worth using as a device to promote your work. If you want MY help you have to write me a personal email with MY name and reasons why people who follow MY work would be interested in your work. That or we better be friends or at least a friend of a friend I have met.
2. If you are going to ignore 1, learn to use Blind CC. Because currently I can see that not only am I not worth your time but a dozen of my peers aren’t either.
3. I don’t promote comics with traced or stolen art work. Since that is your main kickstarter image I have to assume all the artwork is stolen or traced.
4. $3000 is not enough to both print a “manga” and rent a bus/pay for stuff while traveling to promote it. So either you haven’t look into your actual costs (meaning your book will have A LOT of trouble actually getting to print) or your kickstarter is a scam. Either way I will not support or promote it.
Quite possibly the most offensive message I’ve ever received.
This is why no-one trusts men.
NO BUT THIS LITERALLY READS AS “HI, I’M A POTENTIAL MURDERER AND YOU SHOULD DATE ME”
STOP WHITE BOYS 2K14
why are people so stupid?!?!?
dating really shouldn’t feel like walking through a land mine field, but it really fucking does
This message is LITERALLY saying “if you don’t date/fuck me, i will murder you and other people, and blame you for it.” Literally.
Since everyone is shedding light on Sam Pepper for all of his sexual harassment towards women in his videos, I think we need to visit a topic that has never really been fully brought to everyone’s attention. Which is Shane Dawson.
Aside from his obvious blackface:
He has so many “characters” of hispanic and african american descent that are horribly offensive. He tacks on offensive “ghetto” accents and tangled cheap wigs and gives the characters the stereotypical racial persona’s like prostitutes, criminals, maids, cholas, etc.
Just a random example of one of his characters that is a maid with an offensive hispanic accent who he depicted having sex with a dog
He was made popular for his character named Shanaynay who he’s played for years, every video the character is featured in contains extremely racist content. She’s depicted with a “ghetto” accent who makes horrible jokes. I mean there are countless videos of that character and every single one of them contain racist, homophobic, sexist and just outright offensive slurs and jokes. Just go to youtube, type “shane dawson shanaynay” and dozens of videos will pop up and i guarantee each one will have extremely offensive jokes and content.
In character or not, Shane’s videos always contain rape jokes, molestation jokes, racist jokes, sexist jokes, pedophilic jokes and homophobic jokes. Whether he’s in a costume and wig while doing it or just him out of character speaking. I actually lost count on how many times this man has said “F**got” over the years.
I am just making this post based on personal experience watching these videos and I am 100% sure there is way more horrible stuff so if you have anymore to say about this please feel free to reblog and add it on because I didn’t even go into depth of his videos and this is what i found with just about 10 minutes of searching things up.
Shane has been making youtube videos for over 5 years now and he’s slid by with no repercussion or consequences of his seriously offensive actions.
Sam’s video was taken down from YouTube within 24 hours of people complaining and he’s now been banned from Vidcon. When will POC on YouTube get this kind of support from the YouTube community? Where’s the petition from famous YouTubers saying this isn’t right?
So I went to see The Boxtrolls today having been very excited about all of the publicity, the general theme of the film, and all of the posters I saw of what appeared to be same gender families.
I left the cinema in tears because of it. It’s very transmisogynist. I do not advise anyone, especially trans women, to see this film without warning of what’s in it. I’ll explain why below.
TW FOR THE CONTENT BELOW. It contains spoilers and descriptions of transmisogyny.
PSA: Big corporations putting feel good feminist messages in their advertisements wont result in women’s liberation as much as it will result in goading liberal minded folks to buy more shampoo or whatever. There’s no point in fawning over these commercials.
Friendly reminder that the company that owns Dove
is the same company that owns Axe.
Additional reminder that the company that owns Dove also sells skin bleaching creams to dark-skinned Black & Asian women.
What Is GamerGate?
It’s the Tea Party of video games. And Zoe Quinn is its Benghazi.
Okay, But What Is GamerGate Really?
GamerGate has been disingenuously framed as a grassroots campaign of gamers “concerned with the quality and integrity of video game journalism.” The campaign is, in truth, an effort to fold in, rehabilitate, and retroactively justify a previous campaign of blatant gender-based harassment against a female videogame developer for the capital offenses of having (a) a vindictive ex-boyfriend and (b) friends within the industry.
GamerGate is a campaign run by people who don’t understand what a real conflict of interest actually is, and who would institute standards of disclosure and prohibition on reporting so restrictive as to essentially disqualify all actual journalists from the space. They sincerely believe that the mere act of patronizing a developer precludes one from objectively reporting on that developer - a standard more stringent than that found in political reporting, and for a field of journalism that is far less important.
Yet even if GamerGate’s proposals were reasonable (they’re not), it wouldn’t matter, because no matter how noble its purported aims, the campaign sprung up from one of the most noxious onslaughts of sexism to rock the gaming industry in years, and a not-insignificant number of its proponents continue to engage in that harassment to this day, tarnishing the rest by association. #NotAllGamers, you say? Tough. Welcome to the word of open-invite politics, where anyone who lays claim to a movement is technically part of that movement. See also: the Tea Party. You live and die by your worst members, and right now, your worst members are utterly and openly putrid.
Admittedly, the Tea Party has managed to do well for itself in certain parts of the United States, so why couldn’t GamerGate? The answer is simple: The stakes are too low to stomach the vitriol seeping out of the movement’s underbelly. The Tea Party, laughable as it may be to some, seeks to address real-world issues impacting the country at large, where lives, jobs, and communities are actually at stake. That people within the games industry sometimes hook up doesn’t quite rise to that level of seriousness.
GamerGate, at its core, is about a woman being denied sexual agency. Yes, there is high-minded rhetoric about a lack of integrity in journalism, but with a curious inability to point to any examples of inaccurate journalism that can be traced back to any sort of influence-peddling. It is impossible to see the tenuousness of these claims and the ferocity with which they are made as anything but overcompensation for what gamers have done to Zoe Quinn. And the refusal to admit this is only making it worse.
The Unflattering Genesis
For those unaware, GamerGate can be traced back to a single event: The Zoe Post.
In short, indie game developer Zoe Quinn was recently made the subject of a novella-sized blog entry by her scorned ex-boyfriend (“The Zoe Post”), who laid out a sordid and overwrought tale of interpersonal betrayal. His professed goal was to “warn the public” as to what kind of person Quinn supposedly is. The immediate reaction was predictable: burner Twitter accounts began to pillory Quinn with cruel invective, memefying her alleged infidelity and hounding her on every corner of the Internet.
Around this time, digital hazmat teams were deployed by many websites to stop their message boards from being used as coordination hubs for harassment campaigns against Quinn. The hue and cry of “censorship” reared its head, forming one of the core conspiracies of GamerGate: that the upper echelons of the gaming industry attempted to suppress any discussion of The Zoe Post to protect “one of its own.”
This is where accusations of corruption begin to fall apart. Zoe Quinn, while certainly a colorful personality in the gaming industry, is not by any means a power-player, and her peers are not beholden to her from any sort of financial or publicity standpoint. How easy would it have been for Kotaku et al. to run stories on The Zoe Post and rake in easy ad revenue thereby? They forfeited these opportunities, however, in the name of integrity and an attempt to elevate the collective image of the gaming industry – to show the world that we are not captive to sub-TMZ levels of malicious voyeurism.
Yet as the old adage goes, you can’t save someone from themselves. With members of the press refusing to validate The Zoe Post as an actual story, schoolyard cruelty turned to outright animosity. The details of this chapter are highly disputed, yet simultaneously unimportant – whether Quinn was “doxxed,” or doxxed herself for attention, there is no doubt that the campaign against her hit a fever pitch of venom and outright misogyny. One way or another, gamers were going to make Quinn into a headline.
And it worked.
The press finally took notice, but not for the reasons that GamerGate proponents wanted – they had unwittingly become Exhibit A for why the gaming industry was still widely considered a cesspool, unbefitting the respect accorded to traditional media. Quinn was a victim, and the gaming community her assailant. Well done, gamers!
The Incredulous Transformation Into GamerGate
To most outside observers, the discussion of Quinn was not only highly offensive, but downright embarrassing for the community at large. It was a tawdry affair with no real public interest component, one conducted with a high school-level of maturity, and the fact that so many gamers seized on it with such fervor only reinforced the “man-baby” image that our industry has been trying to shed for years. The refusal of the gaming press to validate it was, in fact, an attempt to save the community from itself. But the community made clear that it wanted nothing more than to set itself on fire.
At this point in time, it was safe to say that the campaign against Quinn had been a failure. If the intent was to ruin Quinn’s personal life, her detractors certainly came close – she and those around her endured weeks of harassment and personal threats, made even worse by the suggestion that they not “feed the trolls” by fighting back against the torrential abuse. Yet Quinn’s professional life had never been more secure. Her Twitter followers went up by 50%, Patreon funds flowed in, and the industry realized more than ever how much it needs people like Quinn – people capable of revealing just how much adolescent rage and misogyny still exists amongst rank-and-file gamers.
Quinn’s detractors quickly found themselves on the receiving end of some well-justified scorn for how they had collectively conducted themselves. They realized that, in order to gain any sort of foothold into legitimacy, they would have to shift focus away from “Zoe Quinn is an awful person” as their mantra, as too many of their members could not resist dragging Quinn’s irrelevant sexual exploits into the discussion. Instead, they attempted to seize on the one kernel of The Zoe Post that might conceivably serve as a springboard for objective critique: Zoe Quinn once dated a video game journalist.
Seriously. That’s all they had.
Gamers Put On Their Journalism Hats
The story goes that Quinn got into a relationship with a guy shortly after he wrote a piece on her involvement in a scrapped webseries. The guy then went on to write for Kotaku, where he never reported on Quinn again. Somehow, this non-story got spun into a whole web of accusations about bias and corruption in the media, failing to identify a single instance of alleged bias in the journalist’s writing. Even now, people still accuse Quinn of sleeping with journalists to generate good press and/or reviews for her games, yet have been unable to provide any examples of this actually occurring.
The hysteria of GamerGate has, amongst other things, reduced the concept of a “conflict of interest” to absurdity. Are gamers simply unaware of how industry - not just video gaming, but any industry - functions? Do they think restaurant critics are not friendly with chefs? Film critics with actors? Music critics with musicians? Without relationships, there can be no reputation-building, no insight, no nuance or holistic understanding of subject matter. To reduce every point of interest to a presumptive conflict, as GamerGate does, both fundamentally misunderstands and kneecaps journalism, and will inevitably result in journalists getting worse, not better.
The unfortunate thing is that there is certainly corruption and a lack of ethics in many pockets of the video game industry’s journalistic wing. Suspect sponsorships and payola have been standard for years; anyone remember when Jeff Gerstmann got fired from GameSpot way back in 2007 after writing a middling review of Kane and Lynch, advertisements of which were plastered all over the website? Where was GamerGate back then? Why did it take The Zoe Post, a story utterly bereft of actual corruption, to galvanize gamers into pushing back against these entrenched practices?
No matter how desperately GamerGate proponents try to sweep this detail under the rug, the fact is that they only got truly interested in this subject when there was a woman to sexually shame for it. And that’s more damning than anything in The Zoe Post.
The Oppressors As Victims
Right out of the gate, GamerGate has only managed to find traction as a data point in a wider discussion of sexism and persecution in the video game industry. It is a desperate attempt to put a constructive gloss on what started and continues to operate in the shadows as a vehicle for gendered abuse and scorn. And so the narrative has taken another turn, this time towards “gamers” as an oppressed minority, vilified simply for wanting a certain level of decorum in discussion of them and their activities.
I’ll let the irony sink in for a moment.
The big problem with that angle is that GamerGate proponents conflate the act of gaming with their self-ascribed identify as gamers. Gamer doesn’t simply mean “one who plays games” – rather, it describes those who build a lifestyle around games, who emotionally invest in gaming subculture, and who take an active interest in the internal politics of gaming. And many of those so-called “gamers” are, in fact, the ones who were first to seize on The Zoe Post in its nascent, most prurient stage. Before anyone was interested in “journalistic integrity,” it was gamers launching incendiary volleys of slut-shaming Quinn’s way, choking her Twitter feed with blatant harassment.
Gamers are not being vilified for the mere act of playing games. They’re being vilified for constructing and nurturing a subculture that readily allows fiascos like The Zoe Post to take hold. One simply doesn’t see this level of sustained, community-based harassment in other spheres of media; not even comic book nerds would have the gall to conduct themselves in this manner. To throw up one’s hands and whine “#NotAllGamers!” is to abdicate any responsibility for taking care of one’s own house - a house that desperately needs tending before termites destroy the whole foundation.
Video gaming has come a long way in the past decades, from being a niche nerd hobby to now constituting a multi-billion dollar global industry. Attempts to shed its reputation as the #1 hobby of stunted man-children, however, have been regularly stymied by the “core” fanbase of gamers who perceive any critique of their subculture as a personal affront, one requiring not merely a retort, but retaliation. It is this childish mindset that prohibits many gamers from perceiving what is and isn’t fair game in a discussion.
In case they need it spelled out, the number of people someone has slept with isn’t fair game. Nor are weak gestures at legitimate issues when they operate as Trojan horses for gendered animosity. And until a sufficient number of community members digest that lesson, the remainder must accept that they will be judged alongside their brethren.
Don’t like it? Tell your brethren to knock that shit off.
Why GamerGate Won’t Succeed
The preceding should make it abundantly clear that the ostensible overarching goals of GamerGate have been entirely subverted by the muck and mire it crawled out from. The prevailing headline is not about any journalistic crisis in video gaming, as the GamerGate community has failed to provide any journalistic product that demonstrates inaccuracy linked to bias. Instead, the headline is about how gamers attempted to destroy a woman’s entire life (additionally targeting anyone in the blast radius for the sin of proximity) largely based on alleged crimes of gender.
(Again, #NotAllGamers is irrelevant. They were gamers. They came from the gaming community. They did it in the name of gaming. And they get away with it because of the nature of the gaming community’s prevailing subculture, which many gamers continue to defend in substance, if not in form. The community is culpable for what it births, and that culpability grows every time its member try to sweep the abuse under the rug.)
Whether or not you agree with the preceding capsule summary is irrelevant – that’s the headline. It’s the one that’s been carried from The Guardian to Time Magazine, with only a handful of low-level webzines and YouTube channels buying the GamerGate version of events. And every subsequent attempt to change the narrative has only collectively dug the community in deeper as it runs from one corner of the Internet to the next, desperate to avoid a mea culpa - to find something, anything, to exonerate it, instead of lifting a finger to try and help the people hurt by its own members.
This is the conduct of children. This is the conduct of screaming toddlers unable and/or unwilling to admit the extent to which they transgressed, desperately deflecting to purported issues of substance in the hopes that enough flailing and kicking will make everyone forget what got them in trouble in the first place. This is why gamers are infantilized – because they so often act like infants. And GamerGate won’t change this perception, because it’s an extension of that infantile aversion to responsibility.
Let’s not mince words: GamerGate is stillborn. It will not be salvaged by a public relations cleanup. No number of cute mascots or appeals to broader principle like censorship or journalistic integrity will negate the damage its members have done to their own cause, simply because the cause is not one of sincere origin. It would be as if the Ku Klux Klan (or a group that includes members thereof) tried to convince the public that their real concern is high levels of inner city crime created by low-income residents – knowing where the Klan came from, why wouldn’t their superficially legitimate concerns immediately be seen as suspect?
(A note for the slow: No, this is not to compare all gamers or GamerGate proponents to Klansmen. It is to say that the foundational movement of GamerGate, borne of The Zoe Post, is a heinous one, and the linkage between the two still manifests to the detriment of every single constructive element of the campaign’s current form.)
If gamers really want to make a positive impact on the perception and function of their community, they will get their priorities straight. The first goal should be to make sure what happened to Zoe Quinn can never happen again – at the very least, not on the appalling scale that it did. After that, maybe we can start to talk about those ”standards of conduct” that were curiously absent from GamerGate’s entire first act.
I would watch about a hundred seasons of a romcom where two lady serial killers wind up sharing an apartment and trying to hide their crimes from each other
YES GOOD PLS
The cops come by to investigate something unrelated, like a rash of bicycle thefts. Both room mates are super nervous & relieved when they go.
They both are super secretive about their bedrooms & so wrapped up in their own paranoia they don’t think to investigate the other one.
One uses the other to establish an alibi which comes in handy for the other later.
A transgender woman was murdered just steps away from her home in North Memphis on Friday night. Alejandra Leos was shot in the 1600 block of Berkshire…
7 Trans Women of Color; all killed during the season that holds Pride Month. The queer community is still abuzz with the last vestiges of the season that promises parades, alcohol, and ‘a freedom to be you.’ So often, the larger LGBTQ “community,” has this idea that we’re all equally policed for being a part of this population. Without doubt, the summer of 2014 has proven that this is not the case.
- Kandy Hall
- Tiffany Edwards
- Zoraida Eles Reyes,
- Yaz’Min Shancez
- Cemia Dove
- Brittany-Nicole Kidd-Stergis
- and Betty Skinner
…are the names of the 7 women that have fallen this season before Alejandra; and there is no protest for them. They are the silent-fallen that have fallen silent. There is an epidemic of trans female genocide; a cure to this maddening, tragic plague has yet to be seen.
Please #RememberAlejandra. If we continue to brush over the victimization of TWoC then again and again these beautiful lives will be cut short; again and again, #GirlsLikeUs will be made victims of hatred.
This gate-keeping bullshit on nerd girls is ridiculous, I am glad she trolled him! Thanks for playing, rando nerd dude, but you clearly don’t deserve to talk to an awesome nerdy girl. GTFO!
(PS, I can name dozens of anime that I’ve seen that aren’t on Netflix or Hulu. Also can name dozens that are less than 24 episodes. Plus, been playing vidya since the Atari 2600. Don’t test people’s nerd cred, it’s shitty behavior.)
could that guy on the left have any more of a punchable face
is it even possible