Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker
andrewducker

So, I was talking about women, gaming, and online spaces last night

Last night we went to a fun party, full of academic people, their partners, and their friends. And I sat around and chatted about dozens of different things, and got to give two people my explanation of "Why The Middle East Is A Mess in 45 seconds"*.

And in the middle of this there was a discussion of computer gaming, multiplayer gaming, and online gaming. In which about half of the people involved were women. Who were, when I joined the conversation, discussing the finer points of JRPGs versus Action RPGs. But when it turned to online gaming there was a definite feeling of tension, anger, and frustration at the fact that if they went online they absolutely could not be themselves. Because going online as a young women meant putting up with all sorts of shit, all the time. It meant putting up with people who either didn't believe you were "a girl" because you were good at the game. It meant putting up with people making everything about sex. It meant that particularly the insults were all about sex.

And I realised that this was something it had taken me, originally, a long time to realise was different for men and women. Because (a)I didn't treat women badly, (b)neither did my friends, (c)not being a woman I didn't experience it. I mean, obviously I experience trash-talking online. And to me that was part of the fun. You played competitive games against people, and when killed someone you got to shout "In your face!" at them. And when women talked about the abuse they faced online it always sounded like that kind of thing, only a little bit exaggerated. Because, presumably, they were fainting flowers who couldn't handle that kind of smack-talk.

It took me getting a few friends (both in-person and online) actually explaining the sheer scope of things, and that it was different in scale and effect, both quantitatively and qualitatively, for me to really get it. And I'm grateful for them to take the trouble to do so. And because I don't like the idea that it's every woman's job to teach people how awful things online are I'm glad that some people have done this research, which I bumped into today:
"The study found that female bots received on average 100 malicious private messages a day while the male bots received an average of 3.7. It found that the user gender had a significant impact on the number of sexually explicit and threatening messages received."
That's nearly thirty times as many malicious messages received by a _silent_ bot because their name happened to be female rather than male.

And then they also found that
studies suggest that women under-report cyber harassment due to feelings of shame, not over-report as the commentator suggests.
Because we train people to blame themselves for harrassment. I've lost count of the number of times that people's first reaction to "Something bad happened to me" is the equivalent of "What did you do to cause it?", when most of the time the answer is "Was recognisably part of a group that a chunk of people think of as subhuman."

If people treated me like that because of the way I presented myself online, I'd hide who I was too.

Which didn't stop it being hilarious when one of them talked about pretending to be a 75-year-old grandmother, and how suddenly everyone was acting much more respectably, the swearing dropped to nothing, and people were behaving themselves altogether better. But you shouldn't have to pretend to be a grandmother in order to get treated like a human being online.

*Which I really must write up for LJ, but I want to fact-check it first. Which is why I don't write for LJ as much as I used to.



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