The last few weeks have been a tough time to be a geek woman, heavy with victim-blaming, brutalization and creepy gender-based harassment and lameness on a number of fronts. All of it has been fraught with victim-blaming.
1. Culture and video game critic Anita Sarkeesian, of Feminist Frequency, was terrorized into leaving her home. It’s one thing to call people names over the internet; it’s another thing to write graphic rape threats along with a person’s address. I don’t care if you agree with her, no one deserves that. (But I agree with her.) Sarkeesian does videos criticizing video games from a feminist perspective, and her last one was really good, albeit extremely hard to watch. You barely notice two minutes of violence against women in an otherwise-also-violent video game, but when those two minutes are strung together with 2 more minutes from dozens of other games over and over again… well, it turns your stomach. And it should. Sarkeesian was right, and the misogynistic abuse she has received since merely reinforces that–but people are blaming her for the abuse.
2. Video game developer Zoe Quinn became the target of a concerted campaign to destroy her career, organized by a small group of people pretending to care about games journalism. However, logs of their conversations have been released showing that it was never about journalism ethics–it was always about destroying what those people call “social justice warriors,” who want to see women and minorities positively represented in video games. People blamed Quinn for daring to produce a video game that became popular and used the old “slept her way to the top” gimmick to explain it–even though the journalist she dated did not, in fact, write a review of her game at all.
3. A major comics company hired a porn artist to create a cover for a comic book led by a female character– a book that was supposedly targeted at women. The image the artist came up with was of Spider-Woman presenting her butt like a baboon, yet the company didn’t see anything wrong with it either before it was published or afterward when women pointed out how creepy that was.
4. Someone hacked into Jennifer Lawrence’s phone and got naked pictures of her, then released them to the public. Other stars were also hacked. Rather than blaming the sex offenders who posted or passed on the photos, people are blaming the celebrities who took photos of themselves–often for loved ones. In some cases the photos were almost immediately deleted, so the criminals had to go to some effort to get the photos. If you leave your window open a crack while you are home, it is still a crime for someone to enter your home and steal from you; this is not different from that.
5. The video of Ray Rice knocking his then-fiancee unconscious was released. Rather than focusing on the professional football player who struck a woman so hard she had to be dragged away, much of the conversation has focused on how terrible the woman is for still marrying him afterward. Comments have included how stupid she is or how greedy, with speculation centering on how much money Rice makes. Women suffering domestic violence often convince themselves they are helping the abuser, that they are the only ones who truly understand and love the abuser and that they are worthless and incapable. And abusers often cut off their victims financially–exerting financial control is a common abuse tactic that squeezes off a victim’s options of escape.
Not all of these incidents involve geekery or the geek community at large, but they do all have one thing in common–women were blamed in every single circumstance.
It was Sarkeesian’s fault someone threatened to rape her to death. It was Quinn’s fault people tried to get her fired. It was women’s fault for not liking the Spider-Woman cover, because it’s a comic and they should be used to being sexualized all the time even in work meant specifically for them. It was Lawrence’s fault for taking a naked picture and keeping it. It was Janay Rice’s fault for being greedy.
And they all got called the same crappy gendered insults that women always get called.
What can you do? Sure, you could speak out and take up the cause, but at the least, at the very, very least, at the smallest possible level of humanity, there is this: Stop blaming the victims. Stop finding reasons Sarkeesian or Quinn or Rice or Lawrence deserved it. Stop. Just stop.
It is time to stop.
(And to that end, I’m going to be tougher about moderating this particular post. Normally I’m pretty lenient, but any victim-blaming is not going to be posted here, and if it gets through, it will be removed. Sorry. I’m tired of hearing it, and there are plenty of places you can post that sort of thing to if you like.)