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Love Means Sometimes Having To Say You're Sorry

Written By mista sense on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 | 4:13 AM


I didn't really want to come out with some huge statement about dickwolves. I am aware of my status as one of the more prominent female voices on games, which means people often would like to see me lead discussion on things people categorize as "feminist issues."

Note I think it's perilous for anyone to suggest rape is something only women can talk about. But in any event, whenever I say something about an issue people see as a "feminist issue"I always somehow manage to whip up the jerks and dissatisfy the feminists; I get boxed into being "that woman writer" again, and not only do I have to deal with emails about what a dumb bitch I am, I don't actually feel like I'm helping the conversation.

But I was asked on Formspring for my opinion and it seems my response got pretty widely circulated, so I figured I'd link to it here.

Two depressing things: First, I said how I felt and have now been aggregated, from what I can tell, into some kind of "anti PA" box despite the fact my response says "I love Penny Arcade" and that I was refraining from opinion on the joke itself, which does not really personally offend me. [Note: After I complained about this on Twitter, the 'Pratfall' timeline made an edit to note this -- this site is a great, uncolored chronology of the events and I appreciate the keeper's attention to my position.]

Second, after I basically said "since I don't have a strong opinion it seems obvious to default to respect for people's feelings", someone still saw fit to say "the truth of the matter" is that people are making too big a deal out of it. I wonder if it's a gamer thing, to always need to segregate everything into two opposing sides, and to genuinely believe that the idea of absolute fact can be applied to every situation. The truth, huh?

Actually, since I answered that question and began following the discussion more closely I probably approve less about how Mike is handling things publicly. The joke doesn't offend me, but the idea that what people wear or don't wear at PAX is going to create some sinister delineation between people who were hurt and people who weren't creeps me out.

This weird combativeness, like promising to wear the shirt to PAX, or playing Tori Amos while drawing? [Amos has sung about surviving rape and was a founding member and major fundraiser of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which will receive proceeds from the 'anti-Dickwolves shirt', but Mike says playing her music was just a coincidence, his iTunes was on shuffle and that you would be "crazy" to suggest otherwise.]

I do understand it sucks a lot to be at the center of an echo chamber that seems to be saying you're a bad person because you made a joke you didn't intend as offensive. But the willful refusal to even consider "hey, we may have been wrong here, and we feel bad that some of our fans are hurt" just seems weird, and inconsistent with the smart, fun tone I've always enjoyed about PA.

People are going on Twitter to try to publicly harass and insult rape survivors over this. They're leaving harassing comments for one of the most vocal objectors in this conversation claiming she must be fat, ugly and bitter to be insulted by rape jokes. You guys. This is fucking sick.

Who tolerates this? Regardless of their own position Gabe & Tycho have an opportunity to speak up to at least encourage compassion and education within a gamer community that's so often self-absorbed, immature, entitled and outright hateful. I'm trying to understand what would make them want to pass on that.

Something I learned in writing about games is that after a point you do kind of have to feel responsible. "I'm just doing my own thing and if you don't like it you can leave" doesn't work anymore after you've taken active steps to cultivate and lead a community. I've written some articles or blog posts in the past or said some things in public that I am not super proud of, looking back, things I would never consider saying now that there is a much larger community of readers who may be influenced.

Nobody asks to have others look up to them, and you could argue that if you're just making art, or comedy, or commentary, it's others' decision to pay attention or not and that you don't owe them anything (I sure feel that way about my Twitter account!).

But like it or not, if your audience grows large enough, people will start to look to you to help them shape the way they feel about issues or interact in their community. I do the work I do because I love the world of gaming, and because I love it, I try to make sure that the examples I set will help create positivity in the community.

I mean, sometimes I feel angry or resentful or aggressive and that comes across in my work. I have a bold personality, I sometimes speak before I think. I feel irritated sometimes at the obligation to be super duper nice to people and I can sometimes be haughty or judgmental. I'm not going to sit here and represent myself as some shining example of social responsibility. And it can be hard to field people's anger if I've said the wrong thing-- or even if they just think I have and I disagree.

You work for years doing everything you can to contribute good stuff to the gaming community, and then you do one ugly thing and the sheer volume of noise online can make you feel like the whole world's razed everything you created and now hates you.

I've been there. There's been a time or two (in my past, not related to this discussion) that I made some visible missteps and ended up not coming out of my room for a week. It felt like the whole world wanted to make fun of me, say these hateful, sexist, abusive things to me, and discuss how I acted on one or two occasions without knowing me at all -- and I hadn't actually said anything that could be perceived as discriminatory or injurious.

So despite the fact that deep-down, I wasn't pleased with my own behavior, I determined not to be sorry to those losers for anything. I clung instead only to people who would stick up for me.

Maybe that's how Jerry and Mike feel right now. Maybe it feels like an enormous assault over something that to them was one of however many zillions of jokes they've made over the years. The feeling that everything you've worked for can be made worthless to some people over one misstep is actually traumatic.

For me, the worst thing about my experience was not the negative reactions themselves. The worst part was feeling like people had got me wrong. That people now believed I was this awful person, that the fact I had been rude once meant I didn't respect others or that I wasn't loved enough as a child or something.

Maybe Jerry and Mike feel like people have got them wrong, too, that they're now being accused of "supporting rape" or of being these dismissive, insensitive people. When a community turns on you like that it's sick-making. It can be hard to want to say you're sorry. It's hard not to say "if you don't like me anymore, then leave." Admitting you're wrong often feels like you're giving your power away to these people who are tearing you down or are taking their reactions to an extreme that feels unfair.

I mean, those are the only reasons I can think of for those two not to take a more constructive stance here, to try to lead the discussion in a positive direction. Because unfortunately when you become a community leader, whether or not you explicitly asked for it, people look to you for how to act and react sometimes. It's not always easy to find ways you can do the right thing and still be yourself, but you should try. It's your job. People are believing in you.

Anyway. I said I didn't wanna say much about this, but I guess I never could shut up, eh? That should do it; I said on Formspring already and now I'll say here that that's all I want to say on this.

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