Oh, #Gamergate

I’m a gamer. Yup. You got it. I’m a 55-year old black woman (er, well, genderqueer) gamer. I’ve been playing video games since PONG. Right. PONG. I don’t have a console now, but I’ve had 4 in my life. I have 144 games in my Steam Library, and I have downloaded probably hundreds of Android games. I play a game (or two) just about every day. Every once in a while I’ll even spend a good chunk of the day on an especially compelling game. I spend far more time gaming than I do watching TV and movies. I have been sitting on my hands, drooling, waiting for the release (tomorrow!!) of Sid Meyer’s Civilization Beyond Earth. And I will happily plunk down my $50 to get it and play it (tomorrow!!) And, my dream (really, my dream) is to write for games. I would love aspects of my novel “The Right Asteroid” to make it into a game. I love strategy, space, puzzle and sim games. Really, I love them.

OK, I’m done with the gamer creds. But truthfully, if you play Candy Crush Saga on Facebook, you’re a gamer. If you play Bejeweld on your phone, your a gamer. Most importantly, if you ever have spent a dime on a game, you’re a gamer. You might not resonate with that label, but as far as the game industry is concerned, they want to know who you are. And you know what? It turns out, that there are a lot more women and people of color gamers than anybody thinks. Well, not anybody. The industry knows. They have been slow to respond, but they are responding, and games are changing, and great diverse indie games are appearing. Hence, #gamergate.

So what is #gamergate, anyway? I don’t want to spend much time outlining it here. This is the best article summarizing the whole thing that I’ve read recently. Go read it. I’ll still be here. What is fundamental to #gamergate is that it is, as that article says, a symptom of a much bigger issue. Let’s be frank, here. It’s White Guy Fear Syndrome.

Maybe I’ll coin that term: WGFS. White Guy Fear Syndrome. Maybe it will make it into the DSM VI (that is, if there actually ever is a DSM VI.) Of course WGFS is everywhere. The backlash against women in technology is a symptom of WGFS. Ferguson was a symptom of WGFS. People like Mike Huckabee show the classic symptoms of WGFS. You can think of many, many others. The news is full of them. (Note: Luckily, WGFS is found in a minority of white men.)

The hallmark symptom of White Guy Fear Syndrome is the desire to cause fear in others. In some cases, this is creating fear in allies, so that they will act in certain ways. The other is to cause fear in enemies.

Actually, I don’t really want to pathologize these men (although some of them have done pathologically horrible things.) What I want to say is that the core of all of this is fear. Their fear of not having a place. Their fear of not having control. Their fear of losing what they have. They are afraid of change.

Sound familiar? Guess what, we all have those fears. They are deeply human, and normal.

What happens when a woman challenges the status quo in the gamer community? She gets threats, and she gets doxxed (which means her physical address is shared publicly.) This has been happening a lot, and most recently, Felicia Day, a well-known actress and fabulous geek, spoke out about #gamergate, and she got doxxed. Many men have also spoken out on #gamergate, including Will Wheaton and football star Chris Kluwe (read this article, it’s great.) Men don’t get doxxed. There is no question, that #gamergate is aimed squarely at scaring women. It is misogynistic at it’s core. And misogyny is fear of women. Yup, there’s fear again.

So what to do about #gamergate? I think the only answer is for all of us, especially on the female side of the spectrum (born or identified) to stand up and say: “Yes, I’m a gamer, I want a game industry that is diverse, and not misogynistic, and I’m not scared of you.”

Go ahead. Dox me. No, wait, I’ll dox myself. 2480 Rio Lindo Ave. Healdsburg, CA. 95448. I’m waiting for ya. You’ll get some tea.

Update: Upon posting this, getting some interesting responses on Twitter and other places, it appears this is getting pretty complicated.  It seems #gamergate proponents are a much more varied, diverse lot than the press is suggesting (even feminist/progressive press, which is where I’m getting most of my news on this – I don’t read about games and the game community much – I just play games.) Some are still very adamant about ethics in game journalism (ethics in journalism is always a good thing.) Also, apparently (although this is disputed) there is a pro-#gamergate group called #notyourshield, which is made up of women, trans and poc gamers. So I want to clarify one thing: I clearly can’t say #gamergate as a whole is a symptom of WGFS, but I will say that responses to women and others that were anti-#gamergate, where they were doxxed and/or threatened under the aegis of #gamergate is a symptom. And I stand by my statement about a game industry that is diverse, and truly represents the wide variety of people who play games. For me, that’s the bottom line, the crux of the matter, and any backlash against that is where the problem is.


Fat: Fear, Hate & Love

I just finished watching a documentary film called “Fed Up” about how totally screwed up our food system is, particularly when it comes to sugar. (I’ve also seen quite a number of documentaries on our food system, all of which are incredibly damning.) And I’ve read some blogs and such about the movie, and one of the primary critiques of the film is that it exploits fat hatred, and fat phobia. And then I came across this post, about a powerful art installation (the post does not include information about who the artist is – if you know, please let me know.) The post’s primary critique was this image, saying that among other things:

I call SUCH FUCKING BULLSHIT on the picture with the fat child. First, because being fat ISN’T A FUCKING CRUCIFIXION, ASSHOLE. It isn’t a damage or a blight or a sickness or a perversion or any kind of wrong. A kid being fat isn’t automatically a kid who’s got something wrong with them.

And what’s true is that statement above is very right, and very wrong. Across the spectrum, we have a set of truly problematic ways of thinking about and dealing with the issue of fat.

One one hand, we have a society which feeds us photoshopped pictures of models and stars that set completely unrealistic (CRAZY unrealistic) ideals for how women (particularly women) should look. We have objectified and fetishized thinness, to a degree that is, actually, crazy. It is simply not healthy to be as thin as women are “supposed” to be, and the amount of money that is spent on diet books, diet plans, surgery, gym memberships, etc. is, well, part of the reason I expect those ideals get perpetuated.

There is a lot of fat-phobia. It’s considered our fault if we don’t meet society’s standards. “You don’t work out enough, you eat too much, it’s all your fault.”  But there is evidence that diets actually harm people, instead of helping them (and cause people to gain even more weight.) Sugar substitutes are harmful (and can also cause weight gain, and increase likelyhood of diabetes.) And these standards have made their way into the medical community, which has affected how research is done, and what conclusions are drawn.  The whole “low fat” craze, which was based on faulty research, has probably harmed a lot more people than it benefited, since, it turns out fat isn’t the problem (except for transfats. They aren’t good). And doctors use the beauty standards instead of research when they talk to their patients (I’ve experienced this myself.)

But yet, there is a problem. Childhood obesity, which used to be rare, isn’t. And kids are getting Type II diabetes (it’s actually called “adult onset” for a reason.) Most of the food that is sold in most grocery stores is so processed, that it lacks much in the way of nutritional value, and totally screws with our metabolism. Industry leaders like McDonalds are a critical part of the picture. Food in our country has been designed to be addictive. It’s also designed to deliver the highest number of calories for the lowest cost. In many places in the US, obesity is a manifestation of lack of food security. And it turns out that the whole thing about “energy balance” (that is burning as many calories as you eat) is not so accurate. What kind of food you eat is at least as important as the number of calories you eat.

I was small (very small) for most of my early life. I didn’t get tall until college, and didn’t gain weight until I was in my 30s, when for a number of reasons, I stopped being so active. I would have gained some weight even if I’d kept active – because, genes. When I was growing up, there were varied pictures of thin women on the refrigerator. It embedded in me that standard that I know I can’t meet (and, at this point, have truly no interest in meeting.) I am learning to love this body, this big body. And part of learning to love this body is changing how I eat, and how active I am.

I don’t have a lot of money, but I do have enough privilege to make the choice to spend a much larger percentage of my money on food than most people. I eat as little processed food as I can, and I try to lessen it more and more (I’m down to brown rice pasta, gluten free bread, crackers, and organic tortilla chips – which I’m trying to eat somewhat sparingly, but it’s hard to give those things up.) and I have a new commitment to use sugar like I’d use cinnamon, or curry powder. It’s meant to be a seasoning. It’s actually pretty poisonous, and addictive. I’m working with a personal trainer (a trade, thankfully) and I’m focusing on flexibility, strength and endurance. Not losing weight. I don’t even have a scale.

We need both things. Proud fat/large/zaftig/big women and men proclaiming that there is nothing wrong with us. And the medical community needs to look at our actual health, not our weight.

And we need an honest discussion about our food system, and how it relates to our health (and the health of the planet, too.) We can’t let our responses to fat hatred and phobia blind us to the truth of how we have to change how we eat, and what food is available to whom.