How Critics of #GamerGate Are Silencing the Voices of Women


Either #GamerGate is about ethics in journalism or it is about harassing women. Thus proclaims Taylor Wofford in a recent article for Newsweek. Operating under this presumed dichotomy, Newsweek surveys the tweets and finds that:

[U]sers tweeting the hashtag #GamerGate direct negative tweets at critics of the gaming world more than they do at the journalists whose coverage they supposedly want scrutinized.

Therefore, concludes Wofford: “GamerGaters care[] less about ethics and more about harassing women.”

In Wofford’s mind, “direct[ing] negative tweets at critics of the gaming world” necessarily equates with “harassing women.” This erroneous equation arbitrarily homogenizes women, assumes that agreement with social justice critiques of the gaming world are an essential element of being female, and silences the voices of all women who disagree with those criticisms.

What Wofford and so many others fail to recognize is the existence of Secret Third Option C: #GamerGate is not about journalistic integrity or about harassing women, but is a backlash against social justice fascism. In a wonderful article, I encourage everyone to read, Cathy Young, writing for Reason summed it up as follows:

This is an anti-authoritarian rebellion, not an antiwoman backlash.

Yet Wofford and his ilk do not even recognize this as a possible motivation. Or perhaps they do, but treat it as the equivalent of “harassing women,” an assumption that only works if one presumes all women march lockstep with the likes of Anita Sarkeesian.

I don’t.

I don’t have a problem with violence against fictitious women as props in video games. I don’t have a problem with fictional women being sexualized as background scenery in video games. If I did have a problem, I just wouldn’t buy the games (or, since I am not a gamer, the books and movies). I think other people should be free to buy what appeals to them, including games with background violence and sexualization of female characters that don’t even actually exist in the real world. I do not think that because women are capable of other roles, they must never be portrayed as damsels-in-distress. I do not think that portraying women (or men) as objects of sexual desire implies they lack other value.

What does rub me the wrong way are people who want to sanitize the world, who want to dictate how we are allowed to interact with each other, and what sort of fantasy lives we are permitted to augment with fictional books, movies and video games; who want to remove all the darker fringes and seedy nooks from our mental landscapes and herd us all into a more civilized and domesticated imaginative realm; where every fictional woman must be treated as representative of all real women and heresies against the enlightened orthodoxy are not permitted.

Since this is how I feel, it seems logical to me that a not insignificant number of #GamerGaters might also feel this way. Since I am not misogynist or interested in “keeping women in line,” it seems logical to me that a not insignificant number of #GamerGaters could be motivated by a desire to push back against social justice crusading without disliking women in general or wanting to “harass” them.

When critics deny these alternative motivations exist, or insist that they necessarily equate with misogyny, they are in effect silencing my voice and the voices of all women who feel as I do. When the critics insist that hatred of one woman or one group of women equates with hatred of all women generally, they treat us as a homogenous class without distinction or individuality.

They should know better.

Sarah Baker is a libertarian, attorney and writer. She lives in Montana with her daughter and a house full of pets.
  • Frank Furter

    Brilliant. Thank you. I actually see the journalism ethics problems as not mutually excessive with option C.

    Both are interrelated both look at video games as more than a form of “fun” or “entertainment” but want to view it with a pseudo-intellectual filter and with pretentious values. Both seem to have a disdain for gamers (and likely see them as the mindless unwashed rabble). They want video games to be artistic an vehicle to drive broad social messages. They are progressive liberals trying to frame video games in fitting in certain restrictive dogmatic overly politically correct ideologies to fit with their wants.

    They wish to transform video games. Now we can guess as to how or why BUT I will say that whilst Bayonetta gets criticised and voted down by Polygon (on the basis of admitted “progressive” values and critique) Depression Quest (which I understand did not even meet the definition of game – no scores, text-based and no levels, etc) won awards and endorsement of the progressive crowd though was almost unplayable if Metacritic is to be believed.

    This says something to me. But more concerning is the fact that the current method of game development is a Meritocracy. You, as a game developer, come up with an idea, front the cash, make the game and take all risk. You have freedom with the only caveat being – it has to be something the consumer wants and will enjoy.

    Why would you want to change this? Want diversity? Fine make whatever game you want and how you want it. Pitch your idea to the game developers, make your own age with your own personalised protagonists and inject whatever social commentary you want OR crowd fund OR pool money and talent.

    In fact IF you did any of that, you would certainly have a lot of people talk it up Polygon almost certainly would and I reckon Anita would perhaps Brianna too and probably get Zoe’s endorsement. Plenty of people.

    But here is where it hits the tarmac rather unceremoniously. Unless you transform the industry and away from Meritocracy Gamers are going to prefer Bayonetta over a social issue drive Depression Quest. THEY do not hold the same value in it.

    So get the gaming press that has sympathetic people in it to help drive the change in values and denounce the mindless unwashed gamer that does not appreciate video games in the ways the progressives do.

    If the gaming press can open the door wide enough and gamers neutralised, then when the SJWs descend, they will control the narrative through the press and change the meritocracy and all dialogue around it.

    They would be well on their way now except for one thing. They are having rather more trouble neutralising the Gamers.

    Gamers are not only holding their ground but pushing back. Gamers are used to long drawn out missions and people saying bad things about them and to them. The online medium is gamers territory. Gamers are grinders and play to win.

    As this continues on and on into the months. More and more people come out in support of Gamers. It becomes increasingly difficult to put this down to a flaw in the pan or a disorganised rabble and articles pronouncing the movement as dead, tend to seem a little dishonest.
    I am really enjoying the ride. Why not? I lose no money, advertisers, I do not have to explain my drop in profits to share and stakeholders. I enjoy seeing this play out.

    The picked the wrong battle and hill to die on.

  • Ceara

    Fuck yeah! Preach! This is one of the most amazing pieces I’ve seen so far. I hope you will keep writing because you are awesome. :D

  • Sarah Baker

    You make many good points, among them that concern with ethics in journalism is not mutually exclusive with an urge to rebel against SJW authoritarianism. To the extent that the journalism angle is a “guise” for something else (I’m not saying it is), it need not be a guise for misogyny or harassing women. It could equally be an expression of the urge to rebel against social fascism.

  • TomK

    I played Depression Quest after I started looking into #GamerGate.

    It’s the only “game” I’ve ever played that was so boring I actively sought out a way to lose.

    In no way, shape, or form is it a “game” as usually understood.