Comedy Central’s sketch comedy show Inside Amy Schumer did a skit recently that neatly summarizes a lot of the push back that women receive when they enter into masculine spaces, both real and virtual.
The piece opens with Amy watching her boyfriend playing a “very realistic military game” akin to Call of Duty. When Amy goes to take a turn at the controller, however, the game takes a decided turn.
Watch the clip here.
In addition to bringing attention to the very real problem of rape and sexual assault in the military, this video does a great job of lampooning the blind spot in geeky culture towards misogyny in games. Amy’s boyfriend is at first incredulous at Amy’s claim that her female avatar had been raped. He scoffs that she must have done something wrong to get the game to react in such a way and he runs off to check the forums to see if others have had the same experience.
When he returns, he reports that no one else had reported such a horrible game experience. He takes the controller from Amy, one again admonishes her for playing the game incorrectly, and tells her that she probably should leave the game to him from now on.
One concludes that the forumites that Amy’s boyfriend consulted either 1) never bothered to try playing through the game as a female character at all or 2) were so unaffected by such heinous treatment of a female character that they didn’t bother to discuss it or react to it publicly (or perhaps they were afraid that they would be shamed by their fellow gamers if they brought it up?). Either way, it is Amy who is blamed for disrupting the good times of the masculinist gamer culture. Rather than looking for ways to facilitate her entrance into gaming by addressing her concerns about the game’s content, her boyfriend’s “solution” is to suggest that she stay out of the boy’s club if its casual misogyny angers her. His comments echo the ones leveled at Amy’s avatar when she tries to report her rapist to the military tribunal:
“Be a team player!”
“It’s an occupational hazard.”
“You’ve got to go along to get along.”
Anita Sarkeesian and Courtney Stanton probably know how Amy feels… They found themselves receiving rape and death threats for publicly speaking out against misogyny in gaming culture. And like Amy, they were admonished for bringing those trolls upon themselves. They were told that they should have expected a barrage of gendered hate mail for daring to enter online spaces that are typically thought of as male by default. They were told that if they didn’t like the discourse being leveled at them, then they could always choose to stay out of gaming, to stay silent about their issues with gaming culture.
Theses scoldings are more than merely patronizing. They reinforce the conception that the Internet is for men, that women don’t really belong in virtual spaces and that their presences online will be tolerated only in so far as they don’t make waves, if they “go along to get along.”