Gaming's #MeToo moment: male fragility versus women's fundamental rights

The latest turn in the Gamergate sage: Zoe Quinn (previously) outed their former partner, game dev Alec Holowka as a sexual and emotional abuser, which prompted others to come forward with their own stories of abuse at Holowka's hands, which led to Holowka being kicked out of his Night in the Woods game project — and shortly thereafter, Holowka committed suicide.

Though Holowka made a point of telling people not to blame Quinn or the other women who came forward for his death, the shitty men of Gamergate — who already consider Quinn to be the living embodiment of the antichrist — launched a campaign of terror and harassment so extreme that Quinn has resigned from Twitter.

Central to Gamergate's indictment of Quinn is that she should have given more considerations to Holowka's emotional health before coming forward to reveal the ways he'd abused her.

Laurie Penny (previously) reaffirms her status as a national treasure in her Wired op-ed on the matter, pointing out the asymmetry of this concern for male fragility, and how it never extends to an equivalent concern for the much more severe emotional, physical and economic toll born by women who survive the abuse doled out by these broken men.

And the men are broken: toxic masculinity is a thing. Hurt people hurt people. Trauma, not contagion, is the source of radicalization. Any solution to sexism and misogyny will involve helping men as well as women, because men, not women, are the primary reservoirs of misogyny.

Penny's trademark is empathy without sympathy: understanding the forces that lead to people doing terrible things without letting people off the hook for their terrible choices. She's in perfect form in this essay.

Here's a thought: What if people started thinking about the effect on victims' mental health before they make the decision to abuse, bully, and rape? Women in games—like women in entertainment, politics, journalism, and every other industry that has been shaken by #MeToo allegations—have learned not to speak about our exhaustion, our pain and trauma. We have learned to come across as carefully neutral, as endlessly reasonable, to hide the depression, the fear, the anxiety. For every man whose behavior has been excused because of his mental health problems, there are countless women and queer people whose mental health problems have been weaponized against them, to dismiss what they say. The risk that male violence poses to women's mental health—women who have been harassed or assaulted are far more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and up to 13 percent of rape victims attempt suicide—is not considered worthy of comment.

This is what happens within industries where men have most of the power and seniority—and, crucially, it is also how male power perpetuates. Women quietly drop out of professions and workplaces where they are routinely hurt, demeaned, and isolated. The damage is borne in private by the victims themselves, and by networks of women doing the emotional deep-cleaning so that men don't have to be confronted with the damage they've done.

Gaming's #MeToo Moment and the Tyranny of Male Fragility [Laurie Penny/Wired]

(Image: Molly Crabapple)