That Weird Atheist Girl has an excellent post on her blog entitled She’s Just an Attention Whore examining the problem of simply being a woman in an online community traditionally dominated by men. If you’re a girl and like Star Wars or video games, you’re just “seeking attention” (a.k.a “attention whore”) — you don’t really like those things, you’re just faking it so boys will like you. But if you don’t like those things, you’re shallow and vapid.
Despite girls making up at least 40% of the gaming market presently, it’s far more likely than not that if you pick a female avatar or feminine-sounding username, you are presumed to be a GIRL — a “Guy In Real Life” — or you are accosted by the forever-lonely. And if you dare speak up on voice-enabled multiplayer games, especially on servers that aren’t explicitly for role-playing, accidentally exposing yourself to be a mere girl amongst manly-men, no matter how good you had been doing up until that point you’ll inevitably hear a chorus of “women can’t play this game!”
Worse, some well-intentioned males might suggest that “the world needs more gamer chicks”, but without clarification, as far as anyone’s concerned, they’re just looking to increase their pool of potential mates. Why would the world need more gamer “chicks”? Why not more women willing to prove that video games are not simply a man’s domain, to normalize the otherwise supposedly novel happenstance of having a top shelf you can rest your controller on between rounds.
It goes beyond online gaming, though.
Any time women speak out, they’re called attention whores. Female skeptic talking about an awkward situation? Attention whore. Female activists bringing attention to victim blaming? Attention whores. Smart woman who blows shit up? Attention whore.
We’re already well aware of the misogynist trolling, and the feminist and accompanying antifeminist wars fought over such in our own community. The howler monkeys — whether employing a Sybil attack of sockpuppets to amplify their voices, or simply calling in their Personal Army to swarm their newly acquired target — come out first, screaming “cunt” and “bitch” and “rape you to death”. Then when we dare moderate our online spaces to remove the abuse and off-topic nonsense, cries of “censorship” follow suit in short order. Taking any step to protect yourself from needless abuse is apparently anathema to the concept of freedom of speech to these folks, which evidently means that every person providing a platform of any sort must needs allow every bit of hate and venom directed at them to be aired wherever it is.
Women often have to disguise their identities online, since “online” is a traditionally male space, though “tradition” is hard to come by in a space so new. Admitting to be a female online is tantamount to transgressing onto that male territory. Ergo the charges of being interested in what you’re interested solely to get men’s attention, since they’re the only people there in this parallel reality. Maybe at its inception the internet was a sausage factory, sure, but certainly not by necessity. It was built primarily by male researchers in a field dominated by men, and primarily used by the mostly-male university staff and alumni and electronics hobbyists. Since those are traditionally “not women’s areas”, it’s no wonder early adopters were men. And those women that do, naturally have to hide their genders lest they get caught in the inevitable ensuing shitstorm.
So, male got set as the default gender (like it needed any help for that, in our patriarchal society!) for the author of the disembodied text being disassembled then reassembled at the other end of an electron stream. So now, when women engage in conversation online, whether on their own blogs or on others’, they are treated far differently than if they were a member of the “default gender”. Regardless of whether they’re cis-gendered females or not, they are exhorted to suck dick, show their tits, or return to the kitchen — never mind that, as Weird Atheist Girl points out, these tropes are so far overused as to be impossible to find funny, even when these women are thereafter told to “lighten up, we were just joking”.
That is a technique called gaslighting, after the 1944 film Gaslight. It is a psychologically manipulative technique that, when it works, convinces people that their complaints are simply an oversensitivity on their part. In this way, the abuse can be ratcheted up slowly, like a frog in a pot of water, til the abused person is convinced that they are in fact crazy or somehow otherwise abnormal. It is victim-blaming at its finest: convincing the victim to blame themselves.
Pointing all this out will, of course, raise the hackles of those same howler monkeys, the antifeminists, the misogynists, and the male supremacists. It’s not even limited to men — women can be any or all of those things, slut-shaming or denouncing any perceived lack of seriousness. The only real course of action I can find at present is to simply give these people an opportunity to meet women off the internet — not for dating purposes, but for cultural exchange. As the Daily Mash reports, albeit flippantly, it actually stands a chance to change some minds.
He said: “At first I was scared because she was fully clothed and much bigger than monitor-size. But she was very nice.
“When I asked she said that Nikki was her proper name, not a made-up name for being in porn films. Apparently most women aren’t even in porn films.
“We had lots of similarities. I asked her what food women eat and she said it was the same as men.”
Fancy that — women and men have similar diets! And real women are, in fact, life-sized!
If only more of the howler monkeys knew that the people they were busy seeking-and-destroying, protecting their territory from outside incursions by those folks engaged in the terrible transgression of being a woman, are, in fact, carbon-based bipedal life-forms much like, you know, the rest of us normal humans.
It just so happens that “being normal” is not contingent on having male genitalia.