I play online games quite a bit, over Steam. Mostly it’s L4D2, or TF2. L4D2 I tend to play only with my close friends – people I know in real life. The larger servers on TF2 mean that I’m often playing with strangers. Sometimes I stack a team with my friends, sometimes I don’t.
I also use my microphone. A lot. I like talking – sometimes to tell people what’s happening in the game, or to ask questions, sometimes just to dick around. However, sadly, I have a very obviously non-adult-male voice, as do the two women I game with most frequently.
The first thing that happens is that people try to guess whether we’re female, or young boys. We’re different, you see. The norm in online gaming, they believe, is to be a post-pubescent male. After establishing that we’re female, the other players seem to split three ways.
1. People who don’t care either way, and just continue playing. These are my favourites. They’re the people I’m mostly likely to accept friend requests from. People who enjoy the game, like having a chat and a bit of fun, and who enjoyed playing with me, but aren’t going to get weird about it. They’re well-adjusted and mature, and tend to be people like myself and my friends – adults who are unwinding with a bit of fun.
2. Young men who get kind of… obsessive. They’re fascinated with the concept that women are on the internet, and you can tell, over the course of a few rounds, that they’re beginning to imagine themselves in love with us. They are lonely, and they are a bit sad, and I feel kind of sorry for them. I won’t accept their friend requests, though – that way lies madness, and angry steam messages because you were logged on and they tried to talk to you and you were AFK and they assumed you were ignoring them. No thanks.
3. Men who have a seething hatred for all womankind, and choose to express it using incredibly violent, vitriolic, sexist language. People who will tell you how much they hate you, simply because of those two X chromosomes you’re carrying around.
This post is about that third group.
Last week, Heather told me about a particularly negative gaming experience she’d had, in which men on a TF2 server hurled huge piles of abuse at her, including the phrase “Speak when you’re spoken to, bitch.” That’s a particularly violent example of the kinds of things one hears as a female gamer, but jesus, it made me pretty angry to hear about it.
The issue here is not that gamers like this are making TF2 a less woman-friendly place, and therefore cutting off their nose to spite their face. I mean, sure, that’s an issue, but that’s kind of a male-centric one.
My issue with this is that the men who talk like this are the most fucking gutless idiots on the face of the earth. They are the worst kind of internet tough guy.
Can you imagine these young men, late teens, early 20s, in a real-world situation, using that kind of language? I’m a teacher, and while I’ve copped some abusive language, I’ve never heard anything quite like that. Imagine them using that in the workplace, to a superior, or even to just a colleague. Imagine them trying to tell a female student in a tutorial, or a lecturer, to speak when she’s spoken to. Imagine them saying that to their mother.
We have social rules that clearly state that behaviour is inappropriate. They know it – there’s no way they can’t. And I know a lot of you are thinking, well, what do you expect, it’s the internet, people behave badly there.
No. There is no excuse for that kind of behaviour. The internet is becoming an increasingly important means of communication – young people are doing most of their socialisation on it. Hell, I do most of my socialisation on it. It’s where I get my news, where I plan my social events, where I unwind with my friends at the end of the day. Imagine if Heather and I were on the bus, having a conversation, and a guy behind us started telling us to speak when we were spoken to, or that old chestnut, to make him a sandwich.
I would call the cops. If someone was harassing me like that in public, I would get the five-oh on them. That behaviour is completely inappropriate, and it’s not okay on the internet either.
The shitty thing is, though, my opinion doesn’t matter. Douches like that guy have managed to transform the internet, and online gaming, into male space. Women are told to show tits or GTFO, as though the whole internet is one of those “exclusive” but seedy men’s establishments where women are only allowed in if they’re taking their clothes off. ‘Fraid not, guys.
But if you are a lady and you encounter behaviour like this (and you will), even your actions are limited. If you go off at them, you’re a raging bitch feminazi lesbian who needs a good dicking to sort her out. If you leave the server to find one where you can play without being subjected to verbal violence, you’re a whiny crybaby. There’s only one way to make them happy, and that’s to giggle, to get sexually suggestive (in a non-threatening way) and tell them you’ll make them that sandwich, while wearing a french maid’s outfit. This is because by making it male space, they also get to redefine people’s reactions to their awful behaviour in ways that fit their skewed worldviews. And in turn, it makes women feel as though we’re playing those roles. Leaving a server feels like losing. Getting angry can feel like losing. Either of these actions are, of course, totally justified. No one should stay somewhere they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. And no one should be made to feel bad for defending themselves.
Strangely enough, I, and all the women I know, don’t really feel like stroking the egos and confirming the world views of a bunch of pathetic, angry losers who have, for some unknown reason, complete and total rage for my entire gender. Because that’s what it is, at the end of the day. It’s not just because it’s acceptable behaviour on the internet – it’s because for some reason, they want to treat women with that level of contempt and disrespect. You only do it on the internet if it’s how you want to act in real life.
What the fuck is that about? People will say things like “oh, they’re just mad because they can’t get girlfriends” or “they’re lonely basementdwelling losers” and so on, but the truth is, some of these guys have jobs and girlfriends and friends and lives and yet they completely and totally hate women.
Remember that guy I used to know, the one who ended up being the worst person in the entire world? He was a guy whose complete hatred of women developed over time. I figured it was largely a joke, but then, no. He spent a lot of time at the bodybuilding forums, and you want to see some misogyny? Go there. It is mindblowing how much they hate women. Now, not hating women is a pretty key element for any person I’m friends with. I need all my friends to be people who have decent gender politics. I don’t think this is completely unfair. And I don’t hate men – I love them. I don’t think all men are dreadful people. Hell, until I started using the internet, I hadn’t really experienced that level of total hatred for women. I don’t know why some men can hate women that much. I know I don’t want to be around women who hate men that much, either. That’s a lot of hate to be carrying around with you all the time.
The internet is normalising this kind of behaviour. It’s not normal. If it’s not appropriate to say it in real life, it’s not appropriate to say it on the internet.
Finn showed me this video. Have a look at it. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but while you watch it, consider the fact that during my hundreds of hours of online gaming, I’ve had most of those things said to me (the female version, anyway). I’ve had random strangers threaten to rape me. I’m not particularly afraid because, well, they don’t know where I live, but I want you all to seriously think about what kind of person actually says these things to another human being, actually attempts to verbally intimidate them and silence them and make them feel bad about themselves simply because of a factor like gender. Think about if you’d tolerate that kind of behaviour in your workplace, at your uni, in your home.
Now; do me a favour. If you’re a guy, and you’re gaming, and you witness behaviour like this, speak up, even if you don’t know the people involved. If someone does something dreadful like this, make your opinion known. Tell them it’s not okay. Help reduce the shitty misogynist culture of gaming; it’s the right thing to do. Ladies: I’m sorry that this happens. I hope you keep playing, because fuck, these games can be so much fun. If you feel like you can speak up, speak up. There are good guys on the internet – I know, I game with them all the time. Or, you know, you could just ask for a sandwich for yourself.
Okay so guys! Long time etc etc.
I have been working full-time recently, and I have a post coming about what that’s been like, but first I would like to tell y’all about another project I’ve got going on at the moment.
I have embarked upon a diet. There are two main reasons for this:
1. I am desperately unfit, and far above a healthy weight. I would like to NOT develop diabeetus, and also I would like to be a healthy weight before Tom and I decide to make a tiny little person.
2. I am lazy as shit (see causes of #1) and working fulltime has completely sapped my ability to care about food preparation.
I have a complex relationship with food. On one hand, it’s a beautiful thing that I closely associate with celebration and good times. On the other, I was bulimic for about 6 years in my teens and early 20s, so sometimes I can get a bit crazy and out-of-control with it. This has hindered weight loss efforts in the past – calorie counting, other diets, etc, all involve CONSTANTLY THINKING about food, and it is usually only a couple of weeks before the urge to purge shows up in full-force and sends me mad.
But I found, as I was teaching, that I had ceased to care about food. I wasn’t thinking about lovely things I wanted to cook, or even eat. This is generally a sign that my stress levels are at their limit – in good times, I love the whole process of preparing and eating food. However, I would come home from work, take a nap, and then when Tom got home I was too exhausted to either cook food, or even to actually care what we ate at all. This led to a LOT of takeaway. Unhealthy, expensive food.
So currently, I am eating food that comes in nutritionally balanced bar form. The discount chemist near my work sells them cheaply, I buy them (berry, chocolate or cappucino flavour), and I have one at recess, and one when I get home from school. Then, at night, I have a microwaveable meal, which provides me with enough savoury so I don’t get grumpy.
Tom and I are calling this diet “fatchelor chum” because it is the weight-loss equivilent of Stagg Chilli, or Bachelor Chum. Pre-prepared food for lazy people.
The laziness aspect makes me really love this diet (as does the fact that I feel a lot healthier since I started it, except for right now because I’ve been eating pizza all weekend). On weekdays, it is so lovely to just chuck a couple of bars in my bag, knowing that I’ll have time to eat them even if I have playground duty, that I won’t have to join the line at the staffroom microwave, and that I can eat what is essentially chocolate for lunch. I love the fact that when I get home from a day of watching intellectually disabled students jump up and down on tuna sandwiches in their socks (“I don’t like tuna, miss”), I do not have ANOTHER job to do. My epic laziness is also why exercise plans don’t work for me – I kind of hate gyms, and sweating. But recently, I am more okay with walking longer distances. Last week, for community access, we went on a half-hour-each-way walk that we’d done at the beginning of term. Last time, I was red in the face and breathless (there are a few hills). This time, I was fine. That’s fantastic, for me.
I feel, a little bit, like I’m giving the finger to societal perceptions about dieting and weightloss. I have had, for a long time, a theory (possibly I read it during uni, but I can’t remember now) that since it is generally okay for women in western society to have and enjoy sex, we must now prove our virtue by removing a different sensual pleasure from our lives; food. Food is frequently marketed to women as “sinful”, “guilty (or guilt-free)”, “naughty” – rather than just using the paradigm of “healthy all the time” “healthy some of the time” “only healthy in small doses”, which is basically how food rolls.
It is okay to eat food. It is okay to enjoy food. It is even okay – on a moral level – to eat too much food. For me, the amount of food I was eating was not okay in terms of my health. In terms of whether or not I was a good person, well, it had no effect at all. I still did nice things for my parents. I still went off to my social-justice job. I still voted against Tony Abbott. Having a Big Bondi Burger with bacon doesn’t make me an immoral person, it makes me an unhealthy one. And sure, there’s an ethical argument to be made that I owe it to my loved ones to not develop heart failure, but that’s not the argument that the media makes. The argument they make is that to be “good”, if you are a woman, you must be shown to be denying yourself pleasure. It is about self-sacrifice and hard work and control over one’s baser urges (like the urge to nom on some bacon). It is weirdly puritanical.
So, even on this diet, I am not really being the good, hardworking, virtuous person that whoever decides these things wants me to be. I am not working hard to do this. This is actually less effort than eating badly. I am not denying myself good times – I eat regular food around my friends, and try to not be crazy about it. I cut my coffees down first to skim lattes, then to long blacks (with faux sugar) – because it means I can have a beer in the evenings without pushing my calorie level up too high. That’s probably the only real sacrifice I’ve made thus far, and it was only swapping full-fat milk out for beer.
And worst of all – this diet means that I am no longer in charge of what Tom eats. Fantastic wifefail there, on my part. He cooks bachelor chum for himself – and most nights, even microwaves my strange freezermeals for me. And then sometimes I SIT IN BED and eat it. I am the very pinacle of laziness and unfemininity, and it is helping me become healthier. Suck it, dominant paradigm!
Interestingly enough, I think I’ll stick with the fatchelor chum when this term ends. It’s still the easiest thing in the world (although I might just keep the bars and do a lot of greek and caesar salads in the evenings, now that summer’s on its way). This weekend I have eaten pizza and an enormously greasy schnitzel, and the end result is that I feel a bit shit. It feels uncomfortably heavy in my stomach, and I’m regretting it a bit – not because of the extra calories, but because it wasn’t awesome. I didn’t feel this way last weekend, when I ate a million tapas. Obviously my body is becoming acclimatised to healthier food, which can only be a good thing. I find myself craving apples, rather than mint slice. And I don’t seem to want to throw up. I also don’t hate my body – I can still look supercute sometimes (my red polkadot dress, let me show you it), and this is because I surround myself with rad people of all shapes and sizes who love me for reasons that are not at all about what shape I am. This kind of emotional support – knowing that even if I don’t lose weight, I am still seen as a worthwhile person – is what is making it possible for me to try this project out. One of the things I absolutely hate is when people who subscribe to the belief that thin = better person notice that I’m losing weight, because the way they talk about it makes me hate myself. I do not like my body being seen as public property. Essentially: if I would not be comfortable talking about my former eating disorder with someone, chances are I am not comfortable with them commenting on my body or eating habits AT ALL.
I want y’all to know that I am in no way pushing my lifestyle choice on you. This is currently working very well for me, but it may not for all people. Everybody gotta do what they gotta do. I’m not going to tell you about the calorie levels in food that you eat, or how many kilos I’ve lost, or anything like that, because that shit is BORING.
This has been the first thing I’ve written in a long, long time, and so I apologise for the lack of style. I’m going to try, like Percy, to update on a more regular basis. And it’s my birthday in a few weeks, so you can expect my yearly musings about where my life is going, and what I want to accomplish over the next year.