Having Thick Skin – Harassment in the Industry
Note: This article contains graphic language. You can find the original Polygon article here.
I try to avoid the pieces on sexism and harassment mainly because I think I fear attracting that kind of vicious attention, and maybe because sometimes I’m just tired of hearing about it. There comes a time when it becomes exhausting to hear about the brutality that exists in this (and every other) field, to the point where I simply turn my head and focus on something else. Frankly, it’s wrong, and I know that. I compare it to refusing to watch the news because of the negative impact violence and other horrific highlighted stories have on me. It’s not that I’m purposely ignorant; I understand the travesties that take place, particularly against women, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
I think I’m finally getting to the point where I can acknowledge it, call people out on it, and tell them that this is wrong. That maybe if more people become aware of the destruction, more people can stand up to it. Maybe women damaged from this can reclaim their confidence and strength.
An editorial by Brianna Wu on Polygon focused on the harassment women in the gaming industry receive, beginning with a shocking introduction:
“Women are the niggers of gender,” the email said. “If you killed yourself, I wouldn’t even fuck the corpse.”
Wu leads a development studio that makes video games, but she also writes about issues that focus on the equality of women. In her Polygon article, she comments, “My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.”
“If you are a woman working in the games industry, especially in a public way, you’re going to experience harassment. I imagine telling my 12-year-old self that fulfilling my dream of making games would lead to constant threats. Would she still do it? Would any woman?”
As someone just really starting out in this community with the intent of (hopefully) turning it into a career, these reports are downright terrifying. As a woman just trying to do what I love, this is absolutely depressing… which is probably exactly what the disgusting predators hope to inflict on the internet.
Wu continues her article by highlighting other women’s stories in the industry, beginning each section with a known “myth” that is effectively countered by reality.
The Myth: Everyone in the games industry experiences harassment. Women are just too sensitive about it.
The Reality: If you are a woman in the industry with a critical opinion, you will get a disproportional amount of criticism, hostility, and scrutiny compared to men.
This section, or Case Study, focusing on a woman named Nina explained, “We live in a society that’s sexist in ways it doesn’t understand. One of the consequences is that men are extremely sensitive to being criticized by women. I think it threatens them in a very primal way, and male privilege makes them feel free to last out.
“This is why women are socialized to carefully dance around these issues, disagreeing with men in an extremely gentle manner. Not because women are nicer creatures than men. But because our very survival can depend on it.”
I can remember countless times where I’ve rebuked the unwanted advances of men online with a timid joke. There are several messages I’ve simply ignored, and I’ve pressed the block button numerous times because I didn’t want to deal with it. Sometimes men need to understand one thing: We don’t always dance around subjects because we don’t know what we want. We simply don’t want to be attacked and degraded for saying no. You’d be surprised how often this happens!
I remember a while back when I was focusing on YouTube videos. This was before I had started strictly focusing on PhoenixDown, and I was becoming more popular as a personality. I had a voice that could be heard and a face that could be seen. There was this one guy that had subscribed and followed me. He left thoughtful comments that would positively ignite conversation, and I thought it was incredible. It eased the nervousness and fear that I felt going into video-making, especially considering I mainly focused on Call of Duty (which can be absolutely cancerous).
So when he began sending personal messages pertaining to gaming, I was eager to reply. And then suddenly they changed. They grew more personal, more demanding, to the point where if I didn’t answer, I was cursed at and called names. It was an eye-opener to me as I learned that anyone, anywhere could inflict such vulgarity on someone.
It sounds downright silly and makes us looks extremely insecure when we dance around subjects… but it’s fear that stems from it. Not always… I know many women who dance around subjects because they just don’t know how to speak up and say no. But each situation is handled differently. If I get weird vibes from you, you may just end up ignored.
The third Case Study kind of mirrored what I received, granted in a more vicious way. This focused on Elise who was getting fanfiction that focused on sexual content between her and the anonymous writer.
She added, “The worst part is not knowing who the guy is. Is it someone I talk to on Twitter? Someone who emails me for advice? I could be interacting with this guy all the time and not know it. Everyone’s a suspect.
“Every time I’m interacting with an enthusiastic fan, I’m wondering in the back of my mind, ‘Is it you? Are you doing this to me?’ And then I feel uncomfortable with the interaction. It taints any sense of ease or honest connection.”
And it’s true: You don’t ever recover from this kind of abuse. You just change.
Having a thick skin beneath such magnified attacks–not criticism–is nearly impossible when your entire being is being mangled. Thankfully, I’m very grateful that the majority of the attention I receive is positive and inspiring, but maybe it’s time to stand up and acknowledge that horrible things are happening to people–to women– who are simply doing what they love. I wouldn’t want people to turn their heads if the same was happening on here (and I know most of my readers wouldn’t). And for that, I say thank you!