Another excerpt from my paper about blogging. This is my formal response to all of the awful comments I received from my Grand Theft Auto IV post. I guess, if nothing else, I can thank those commenters for making sure that I have a career in feminist scholarship....
Early in its history cyberfeminists and other social justice activists had high hopes that the Internet would be a great equalizer. Because physical appearances would not be immediately detectable, people could share ideas without concern for race, class, gender or sexual prejudices. In discussing the amazing possibilities offered by blogging as a pedagogical tool and feminist community building it would be irresponsible not to discuss the limitations of blogging and Internet spaces in general. The egalitarian or utopian vision of the Internet has proven itself false. Apparently, people are no more comfortable with ambiguity online than they are in the real world. All of the social ills of the ‘real’ world have come to life online as well.
As of June 11, 2008, this blog has been viewed 13,851 times. With this fairly large amount of traffic comes the possibility for amazing dialogue but also for threats of violence and verbal abuse. On April 30, 2008 I read a post about the video game Grand Theft Auto IV at Feministing. I was inspired to write a post on the topic myself. As it turns out, a blogger at www.gamefaqs.com re-posted my post on that site and gamers from all over the world read my post. This cross-posting lead to a hateful anti-feminist backlash that I could not have predicted. To date, that one post has received fifty comments on my blog alone. Over at Game FAQs it received hundreds. Below are a few of the anonymous comments from the post “I Am Angry About Grand Theft Auto IV.”
“Actually I think you'll find if u beat up (or even push women) about in the game men come and help them. Sorry you might have to rethink your jam rag lesbo rantings.”
“Wow, feminists are stupid. Get over yourselves, you pretentious assholes.”
“Go make us some sandwiches.”
“What are you doing out of the kitchen?”
“You really need to get over yourself. People like you suck the joy out of everything because you think you know what is better for people than themselves…. Have fun being the old, lonely, senile cat lady, because most men will not put up with your non-stop bullshit. Feminism is a failed experiment. You wish for equality when it benefits you, but stand up in arms when you don't have doors held open for you. You cannot have it both ways.”
“Shut the fuck up. Bottom line dont bitch about GTA 4 unless you have played it for a minimum of 10 hours and if you are unwilling to do that then go burn your bra and fuck off.”
“Are you really so fucking dense? Of cousre she's not under obligation of discussing it, she only likes to discuss about things that she wants to. Like a little child that only wants to play catch up because it's the only game s/he's good at.”
“Q-What do you tell a woman with two black eyes? A- Nothing. You've already told her twice.”
“get back in the kitchen!”
“you’re a dumb cunt.”
"dumb bitch, fuck feminism and fuck you. I will go home and hit my girlfriend because of you and maker her wash my dishes and clean my clothes, because that is what women do."
Contrary the utopian vision of the Internet, online anonymity seems to allow people to display their hatred and misogyny without fear of social reprisal. Jessica Valenti, co-founder of Feministing has also experienced violence and misogyny online. In her article, “How the Web Became a Sexists’ Paradise,” she writes,
“When women are harassed on the street, it is considered inappropriate. Online, though, sexual harassment is not only tolerated- it’s often lauded. Blog threads or forums where women are attacked attract hundreds of comments, and their traffic rates rocket. Is this what people are really like? … There’s the disturbing possibility that people are creating online environments purely to express the type of racist, homophobic, or sexist speech that is no longer acceptable in public society, at work, or even at home.”
The Game Faqs page on which my blog post was re-posted attracted more comments than any of the other posts on that page. In support of Valenti’s argument, all of the vitriolic woman-hatred on my comments page was posted anonymously.
Just as in the ‘real world’ women who dare to take up space and speak their minds online experience backlash. The Internet, just like the world in which it exists is a patriarchal space. This makes cyberfeminist activism all the more important. The hateful comments on my blog were not responses to what I actually wrote as much as they were personal threats meant to scare me out of posting about video games which largely remain a bastion of unfettered male bonding over violence and misogyny. Whether female bloggers receive more threats than male bloggers is debatable but the sexualized nature of threats against women bloggers is not. I wonder how many male bloggers have been told to ‘get back in the kitchen’ or have been called ‘a dumb cunt,’ a sexualized insult for which there is no male equivalent. Kathy Sierra sums these threats up quite well in Valenti’s article,
“Well-known software programmer and Java expert, Kathy Sierra… thinks that online threats, even if they are coming from a small group of people, have tremendous potential to scare women from fully participating online. ‘How many rape/fantasy threats does it take to make a woman want to lay low? Not many,’ she says.”
While some of the comments I received were valid attempts at dialogue around misogyny and violence in video gaming culture, most were sexist epitaphs with little or no actual mention of the ideas I brought up. I am pretty sure some of the posters were under the impression that I posted a link to my blog on Game FAQs which is simply not true. I had no interest in engaging that community precisely because of the vitriol that I have come to expect from them. If I thought that a reasonable discussion could be had I would be more than happy to engage them but it seems to only prove my point that many gamers are violent and misogynistic and that is why they enjoy violent misogynistic entertainment.
These threats only serve as proof that feminist blogs are necessary forms of cyber activism.