Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Witness: Blind-siders and Not My Toysers

I struggled this week to write. Not because there isn't material to write about, but because I felt so consumed and weighed down by the project that I didn't want to write. I wanted to stop noticing. I wanted to keep scrolling. I wanted to turn away and look at something else. I wanted to play Fallout and write for my RPGs that I'm running. I wanted to prep for the convention I'm organizing. I didn't want to write about sexism.

And then something happened. A game writer, John Wick, shared a post that was sexist towards women in gaming. The old "Did your boyfriend bring you" type of shit that I'm done with hearing. It was a post about boys inviting girls to play games because they need a healer. I said "This is sexist" and you can imagine the explosion from there.

Turns out, one guy said he experienced sexism because women didn't like him and that was women's fault. So obviously sexism was two sided. I didn't say "it's because you're a creep" and told him why this was wrong. Awhile later Wick told me it wasn't sexist because it was making fun of that trope. And finally, after multiple other posts by other people, said it was sexist.

In another conversation online I had one guy weigh in and say "I don't see sexism so it's not happening." I'm calling this the blind-side. The Blind-Side is the natural moment when someone with privilege can't see that they have privilege. They assume because they haven't personally experienced something, that it doesn't exist. This is akin to going: "I've never been to Egypt so Egypt doesn't exist." It's very post-modern of them, I'll give it that. Thus end my praise.

It's incredibly common for people who have grown up in and continue to occupy the space of male privilege to deny its existence. Often they'll do this vehemently. No amount of research or studies or even anecdotes can change a mind. The first will be written off with obvious bias. The latter with "well that's just your experience" and removed. How do you convince a Blind-Sider that sexism is real?

My answer: I have no fucking idea. The best I've seen is when someone says "Imagine it's your sister/mother/wife/daughter" but I'm not getting behind that because women are people, not just in relation to men. I usually retell stories and experiences I've had. I usually mention wage gap and being able to safely walk around and not being catcalled and not being slut shamed and all the other abuse females put up with. But even that is often written off.

Lucky for us, though, these Blind-Siders will most often listen to another person occupying the male space who admits that sexism is a thing. BS will listen to the witness to women's struggles and consider. He will still have the last word, as his privilege dictates, and he will still be skeptical. But another man's word will validate that the woman isn't just being oversensitive or crazy.

Blind-Siders are also often the Not My Toys perpetuators as well. Not My Toysers are the ones whom, upon hearing something they consume is problematic, knee-jerk reaction to "NO IT'S NOT!" Why? Because if the show they like is sexist, this means they must be sexist, and you can bet your nerd girl card that they're not sexist. All that rape in Game of Thrones? Well, it's historically accurate. All the shitty female characters in Walking Dead? Not sexist, they're all bad characters. Those sexually posed women on the covers of, well, everything? They're not objectified.

Not My Toysers are less likely to listen to other male's opinions. They are even less likely to listen to yours. They will scour their fandom for hours to find one shining example of something not sexist that will, in their minds, remove the sexist card from the table. They'll defend it into the ground, not realizing they're actively participating in the sexist culture that made their shitty show in the first place.

Blinde-Siders and Not My Toysers make up a good chunk of male nerds. Some times I can reach them, like a settler beacon near Sanctuary Hills calling out to the odd man who was maybe once a raider, but sees the error of his ways. But most of the time he's a feral ghoul and I might as well just throw a molotov and move on. Either way, I'm exhausted at the end. Usually a little broken. And always feeling defeated.

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