This is a first for me – the first time I ever make a “simul-post” on both of my websites. But there is a point, as this is a subject that crosses both of the fandoms I am a part of.
This comes as a result of my seeing this article posted by “Dr. Nerdlove,” an online relationship guru, that goes full throttle in addressing the issue of sexual harassment in the online geek community, calling out not only those who dare threaten women who try to take part in this fandom but also those who do not speak out against said threats. This article more than anything else has forced me look over my own stance on this and similar issues.
In addition to being a sports fan/writer and online entertainer, I admit to being a bit of a social crusader, and violence/oppression against women is something I fight pretty hard against. And I find that this is apparently a big problem in both areas I am a big fan of. And for some reason, I find myself reacting in different ways despite having the same opinion toward the treatment of women on either side.
Let’s start with the sports angle, where I am admittedly the most vocal, particularly toward football players and a certain local radio station, Sportsradio 1310 The Ticket.
Among the issues I have long had with the most popular sports radio station in Dallas has been my belief that the station is rife with sexism. The station has never had a woman among its on-air talent (a rival station once had three; they are now all gone from that station, and sources have told me the new program director wanted to “get rid of the estrogen”; I have stopped listening to it), and they frequently make jokes/comments that can be seen as disparaging to women. The morning show does a segment called “Women Say the Darndest Things About Sports,” meant to make said women look stupid. The midday show, during an online local poll for most popular broadcaster last year, campaigned for a female duo that is little more than a pair of models over actual female broadcast reporters. And the afternoon show has frequently ridiculed national reporters like Erin Andrews and called local women writers bitches.
Much like the “not all men” crowd of the geek community, I am vilified by the hardcore fans of this station, who try to argue that the people at said station are nothing like this. Their lone argument has always been that said afternoon show has, on very small occasion, had on one woman who is a longtime field reporter for the Texas Rangers telecasts. But 1. Said segments always involver making her talk about relationships, pregnancy and other “girlie” things instead of sports, and 2. They admitted on the air that one of the main reasons they have her on is in the hopes that she’ll dump her husband and sleep with them.
But that’s still nothing compared to my criticisms of football and the backlash against said criticism.
Unlike the geek community, where people seem mostly concerned about just threats, the game of football is infested by players that go so far as to actually commit rapes among other hard victim crimes. And the issue here is not just how many are committing such acts but the fact that the overwhelming majority of fans and media accept it happening.
A rape by high school players in Steubenville, OH, was covered up by the town until a hacker brought it to public light, and there was still more sympathy toward the perps than the victims. Another victim in Maryville, MO, was run out of town with her family after reporting her assault by a high school player, with townspeople burning down her home. The police at Florida State University recently failed to properly investigate a rape case because the perp was the school’s star quarterback.
My stance has been loud and clear: Football is loaded with monsters who commit rapes and other violent crimes and nothing is being done to stop it. Once again, cue the intense backlash from football fans, rushing to the claim that it is only a small portion of football players committing such crimes. One such critic went so far as to respond with “get out of your parents’ basement, get a girlfriend and find out what real life is like” to my accusations. Dave Zirin has done a better job explaining why the “it’s only a few” argument is a terrible one.
I stand by my claims and will continue to post information validating until I see at least more people stand up to such monsters and the likes of Ben Roethleisberger, Ray Rice and Jaemis Winston start being driven out of the game.
But despite this, I find myself torn and feeling just a touch of hypocrisy. Why? Because when it comes to the similar issue in the geek community, I find myself occasionally siding with the “it’s not everyone” crowd.
Admittedly, this is largely because, since I have struggled financially in recent years, I have not attended many conventions and publicly interacted with many in the video game/comic/etc. fandom. I can only claim to interact with a select number of people online, and thus I have not personally seen/heard of many such horrible incidents. That doesn’t mean I deny any exist. But the people I do associate with lead me to believe the other side is not being properly represented.
Basically, the online community and geek culture has long been accused of things like women being poorly represented in the likes of comic books and video games, where female characters are accused of being made to wear clothing that is too revealing and are often victims of brutal assaults/kidnappings for little more than to be plot devices for the male hero’s story. And I won’t deny these problems at all. “Batman The Killing Joke” is one of the most despicable comic books in history in my view because of Barbara Gordon getting shot and permanently (at the time) crippled, a move that was approved by DC Comics because the editors wanted to eliminate her character.
But there are incidents when I think such accusations go too far. One such example is Anita Sarkeesian, an online “feminist gamer” who in the last year or so has criticized the gaming community for its treatment of women. I would NEVER make any sort of violent threat against Sarkeesian or anyone else for that matter, and I don’t deny such threats have happened. But that doesn’t mean I support her claim of “all video games that are about a man recuing a woman must be eliminated; if you play and enjoy such games, you believe in the victimization of women,” because I have never believed in such despite enjoying the likes of Super Mario and Zelda my whole life. Sarkeesian insinuates that no man supports the inclusion of more female protagonists in video games, which I know to not be true, having read plenty of calls from gamers, men and women, for just that before Sarkeesian even became a big name. But by trying to peacefully and logically speak out against her and her hate-mongering, I become thrown in with the group that takes it too far and threatens her, which I do not mean to be a part of.
I admit to watching the Japanese anime Sekirei, which is basically about extremely busty women fighting each other with superpowers. But said characters also have depth and personalities that are engaging, with many falling in love with the show’s main protagonist BECAUSE he’s a nice person who cares about them as humans; the show is more than just showing off T&A. Yet I know many online “feminists” would crucify this show and people like myself for watching it just because of the huge boobies. Sorry if I take offense to that.
Dr. Nerdlove calls out people who do not sexually harass/threaten women in the geek community, saying their simply not being monsters is not enough, that the must speak out against said people because no one is doing it. But that’s the thing; not only have I spoken out against sexual harassment and in favor of accepting more women into this community, just like in sports, pretty much everyone I have gotten to befriend online speaks out as well. Yet, to hear the Nerdloves and Sarkeesians of the world, we do not exist. Every man on the internet is a misogynist according to these people, and those of us who are not are forced to just take being lumped in. So all we can do is trumpet our causes more vocally.
So here I am: Stuck in between two fandoms that have a huge similar problem that I strongly oppose. On one side, I cry out that nothing is being done about said problem, while defending against those who say the same thing on the other side – torn in my attempt to find the balance.
What can be done? Well, I guess it comes down to this. Yes, in both these communities, and probably quite a few more, we still need to speak out against inequality and violence/abuse and in favor of inclusion. But at the same time, those that do speak out should be recognized for what they do. They should be praised for their actions as much as those who threaten to do harm should be vilified. Is this something I myself need to work on? More than likely. But it’s the best way toward a brighter future.
It turns out the sport and geek world have more in common than one might think. Sadly, it’s something that can’t be celebrated. Maybe one day, it can be.