Editor’s Note: I have divided this post into pages, hopefully to make it more digestible. Some topics just can’t be compressed and summed up in a few sweeping statements and paragraphs, so I’ve attempted to back up every point I intended to make. I do apologize this couldn’t be shorter, but hopefully the read will be mostly, if not completely, worthwhile.

A person of good will, good spirit, great intentions, and with great bravery spoke up this past week. Earnest W. Adams spoke with integrity and he spoke as an ally of women. He tried to speak on behalf of all good men and I honestly believe he did pretty well, even if all of us don’t completely agree with his solutions. The fact is he took a crucial first step in his call to arms, the same step all of us have to take when confronted with mindless, immature, and violent behavior. He aired his indignation at people who would target those he loves and cares about for violence, harassment, and abuse. He was right to do so and I want to make that extremely clear from the outset. Because what follows are analyses on the ways in which I disagree with his solutions, even as I applaud the righteousness which inspired him to call out the problem. He has correctly identified a problem that plagues the gamer community and all human communities.

His article was published at Make me a Sammich, because Gamasutra, the site where he regularly writes columns on game design, declined to publish it. If you haven’t read it, go ahead and read it before continuing. Yes it will take a couple minutes of your time and yes you may even disagree with some of it, but I believe his article serves as a great centerpiece for a conversation amongst men about men. Women are NOT excluded from this discussion; I’m merely pointing out that men must take this call to arms and not rely on women to do all of the work for humankind. I believe women have a profound role to play in shaping the behavior of men. It’s time for the so-called good guys to take a highly vocal stance and I believe Earnest’s article is as good a rallying point as any at this time.

The Call to Arms

So what are we gathering for? This gathering is to address the silence of good men in the face of rampant harassment and threats of violence toward women; women who have an alarmingly high chance of becoming real victims, in no small part due to the silence of decent men. The incidents of 2012 are piling up: Anita’s very public harassment, the Readercon harassment, Hepler’s harassment …the list is growing. But so does the list of positive responses against this sort of harassment. I’ve noted that in 2012, so far, many of the “good guys” are less silent than they were in 2011. This is good, but not good enough. Speaking out is one thing, acting quite another, and the dissonance between actions and words nowadays is disturbing at best.

The call to arms is about action and, specifically, the action of men.

Earnest is correct to try to identify one of the greatest challenges we face as men when dealing with the vitriolic harassment our women friends face daily. It just …well, pisses us off very much. Very much. Earnest’s indignation is palpable in the article. I completely identify with his strong feelings on this. He points out that immature “9-year old boys” are a huge problem in our gaming community. He says that this 9-year old boy mentality has turned large swathes of our community into sewage. He attempts to draw a line between these boys and the real men by calling on the good among us to act out against harassment. He accurately draws attention to the fact that men hold positions of power within our society and it’s upon us to use that power for good, to turn the tide of the battle against the kind of toxic, trollish behavior that these “boys” direct at women for simply being born female.

The article describes in pretty good and relatively accurate detail the “boys club” mentality that these men have. Earnest believes that they cling to this because of immaturity and insecurity. He believes they behave in this way toward women due to misogynistic attitudes which escalate too often into harassment, threats of violence, and violence. I’m sure there’s some truth to that as well; insecurity stems partly from the idea that a person isn’t comfortable with something, someone, and/or situations. As a result, humans respond to it in whatever ways they feel is appropriate to maintain a sense of security. That isn’t some ill-understood phenomenon of human behavior so I think there’s merit to Earnest’s words there.

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  • Coeur-de-fer

    Amen. The red flags went up as soon as the first appeal to manliness was made. I very much appreciate that Ernest has a sincere desire to take action to combat the toxic elements that permeate contemporary gaming culture, but his solutions, and understandings of the social landscape, are riddled with a number of problematic assumptions regarding gender identity/performance. This, of course, is hardly surprising, given our culture’s obsession with normative notions of sex and gender, but they are no less troublesome for their ubiquity. Quite the opposite, I should think.

    Personally, I find traditional, hegemonic models of masculinity and manliness to be nothing short of repulsive. I may be white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, and male, but the assumption that I identify with and aspire to such a contemptible paradigm is rather off-putting (if not entirely unjustified, statistically speaking, given the unfortunate opinions of many in my demographic).

    I suggest Ernest take the time to reflect on his own understandings of gender, expand his horizons a bit, and revisit the problem. There is no shortage of quality literature on the topic, and it is well worth the effort to search out and digest.

  • Milady

    Brilliant analysis, Doone, and I agree with you wholeheartedly. Manliness equals domination, and that is what in the beginning allowed these kids to behave the way they did – if mass culture tells them that being a man is treading upon others, what else can we expect from our youth? There are indeed to fronts from which this issue has to be addressed: individually and collectively (or culturally). Let’s demand not only tools, but also accurate representations of the nascent gender relations of the 21th century.

    I’ve just started catching up on my rss feed, everything I had pending since the beginning of my holidays, and this was one of the most interesting discussions that I’ve come across so far, and also something that has been in my mind as of late. On an individual level, always be the change you want to see, and then call on others who are disrespecting you and your peers, and poisoning your home-away-from-home.

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