Monday, April 9, 2012

It simply never occurred to me.

One trending topic on the web is the abuse that women get for simply expressing their opinions in public. Abi at Making Light has posted a rant about it.

Seriously - go read it. It's not new or anything. Here's another recent example. There are hundreds. What struck me about Abi's post was this paragraph:

If you don’t believe it happens, gentlemen, I dare you: choose a female name and log onto a gaming board, or a deep geek IRC channel, or a heated political discussion. Disagree with the common herd and see what you get back. Then do the same with a male name. And then remember that you’re being kicked on undamaged flesh; it’s much worse when there’s already a deep bruise there from all the charming things people do in meatspace, too.

Here's the thing. I have no problem playing any gender or sexuality in virtual space. I routinely gender-bend in tabletop and computer games. But what Abi is suggesting never even occurred to me. It blows my mind that it didn't.

As a feminist and LGBT ally, I sometimes worry that I don't fully understand people's struggles. It's the old adage about walking a mile in someone's shoes; you're trying to support people dealing with experiences you could never realistically have.

Except that Abi suggests a fairly obvious way someone could.1

I'm not saying it's a good idea. There's an air of voyeurism about it. The experience wouldn't really be the same, because I'd always know that I could simply log off and go back to being a tremendously privileged straight white dude. There's the question of whether "playing" at being a woman in a non-fictional space would be offensive to women or transgendered people, for whom this is their real, actual lives. And there's also the real, ever-present need for male allies to fight and shame those perpetrating sexism.2

But it would still be interesting as hell to try.

If I ever do, I'll be sure to post my experiences and findings here.

1 And yes, men have been gender-bending in MMOs for a long time. That's not the same as posting on a forum or in a comment thread. I could go into a ton of detail why but that's better saved for another post.

2 Not because women need saving or can't speak for themselves. Rather, because it's easier to convince misogynist idiots who are determined never to listen to a women to shut up and open their ears if you're confronting them as a dude.

Posted by Dave at 3:14 PM | Tags: activism, web

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