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A couple of days ago, embattled indie game designer Zoe Quinn embarrassed some of her biggest critics by posting screenshots she’d collected from a 4channer IRC channel, showing an assortment of hateful and duplicitous #GamerGaters literally conspiring to wreck her reputation and create the illusion of a vast grassroots uprising against alleged corruption in the gaming business.
Her critics, put on the defensive, tried their best to dismiss her screenshots as “cherry picked,” and a few even accused her of writing the very messages she screenshotted and posted. Oh, there might be a few bad apples in the bunch, some were willing to concede, but they were in the minority.
And then they pulled out what they thought was their trump card: the full chat log from the IRC channel #burgersandfries from when the Zoe Quinn “scandal” first erupted in mid-August up until September 6th. All anyone had to do, they suggested, was to read the log, and they would soon see that Quinn was presenting a distorted picture based on out-of-context, “cherry-picked” quotes.
Of course, reading this particular log is a bit easier said than done: it’s 3756 pages, in 10-point type, of chaotic overlapping IRC conversations.
This is a classic case of what’s come to be known as “doc dumping,” which Wikipedia helpfully defines as
Sometimes it seems like the internet, or at least huge portions of it, is essentially a giant harassment machine, directed primarily at women.
This week, the target of the Great Internet Lady Harassment Machine is game developer Zoe Quinn. Quinn, best known as the creator of the text-based Depression Quest, faced down two previous waves of harassment from gamer dudes who were angry about her game, for some gamer-dude reasons I can’t claim to understand, and who grew even angrier after Quinn spoke publicly about being harassed.
Her harassers claimed that she was lying about being harassed previously, and apparently figured there was no better way to prove that she hadn’t been harassed in the first place than by harassing her about her claims of harassment. I’m sorry if that’s confusing, but the “logic” of internet assholes tends to be a bit circular.
The latest wave of harassment is on a whole new level of viciousness. Because this time her haters have what they see as proof that she is indeed the evil [insert favorite anti-woman slur] that they’ve always claimed her to be. Their alleged smoking gun consists of a series of excruciatingly detailed blog posts by a vengeful ex-boyfriend describing how she allegedly cheated on him and lied about it; at roughly 10,000 words in all, not counting all the screenshots of online conversations presented as proof of his claims, his story is nearly the length of a novella.
You might ask: why is any of this any of our business? It’s fucking not. Some have tried to claim this is about “ethics,” accusing Quinn of trading sexual favors for a positive game review. But the journalist she allegedly slept with never actually wrote a review of her game.
Of course this has nothing to do with any real ethical concerns on the part of her attackers. As Quinn has pointed out herself, the people who are gleefully sharing her personal information, posting nude pictures of her, sending her threats, and otherwise trying to destroy her life don’t have any fucking ethics.
No, this is just another excuse to go after an outspoken woman on the internet, and a chance for misogynistic gamer dudes to score a symbolic victory against any and all women who are trying to enter what these guys want to see as a clubhouse where girls aren’t allowed. Anita Sarkeesian has been dealing with the same sort of shit ever since she first set out to examine sexism in the gaming world.
I honestly don’t have the psychic energy to collect together examples of the horrible shit people are saying about her; just type her name into Google along with your favorite anti-woman slur and you’ll have more proof than you need. Or go to Reddit and make your way to any of the numerous subreddits devoted to gaming and/or misogyny, where many people will be thrilled to tell you all about how “the video game industry is being fucked over because of these women.” (Actual quote.)
I am not going to link to, or address anything having to do with the validity of the specific claims made by an angry ex-boyfriend with an axe to grind and a desire to use 4chan as his own personal army. This is not a “she-said” to his “he-said”. The idea that I am required to debunk a manifesto of my sexual past written by an openly malicious ex-boyfriend in order to continue participating in this industry is horrifying, and I won’t do it. It’s a personal matter that never should have been made public, and I don’t want to delve into personal shit, mine or anyone else’s, while saying that people’s love and sex lives are no one’s business. I’m not going to talk about it. I will never talk about it. It is not your goddamned business.
What I *am* going to say is that the proliferation of nude pictures of me, death threats, vandalization, doxxing of my trans friends for having the audacity to converse with me publicly, harassment of friends and family and my friends’ family in addition to TOTALLY UNRELATED PEOPLE, sending my home address around, rape threats, memes about me being a whore, pressures to kill myself, slurs of every variety, fucking debates over what my genitals smell like, vultures trying to make money off of youtube videos about it, all of these things are inexcusable and will continue to happen to women until this culture changes. I’m certainly not the first. I wish I could be the last.
Because I’ve had a small degree of success in a specific subculture, every aspect of my life is suddenly a matter of public concern. Suddenly it’s acceptable to share pictures of my breasts on social media to threaten and punish me. Suddenly I don’t have any right to privacy or basic dignity. Suddenly I don’t get to live out normal parts of life, like going through a bad and ugly breakup in private. I have forfeited this by being a blip in a small community, while those who delight in assailing me hide behind their keyboards and a culture that permits it, beyond reproach.
My life and my body are not public property. No one’s life and body are public property.
Sexuality is one of the most personal, hurtful, and easy things to demonize a woman over, and also has nothing to do with my games. Yet large swaths of the gaming community are either unable or unwilling to separate the two. I’m convinced that my ex chose 4chan as the staging ground for his campaign of harassment and character assassination because he knew this; he knew that someone claiming to be “from the Internet” has shown up at my house once already, and he is counting on the most reviled hubs of our community to live up to their sordid reputations. This is another example of gendered violence, whereby my personal life becomes a means to punish my professional credentials and to try to shame me into giving up my work. I’m still committed to doing my small part to create a world where no woman is at risk of experiencing this.
I don’t have anything to add.
This is a NO TROLLS, NO MRAS thread. Anyone posting any doxxing shit in the comments below, or adding to the harassment against her in any way, will be banned.
This blog has been getting a lot more traffic lately. The downside is that we’ve had a lot more trolls here lately as well.
Because of this, and because of a shitty situation in one of the comment threads earlier tonight involving an abusive troll who I wish I had banned sooner, I want to open up a discussion to everyone here (that is, everyone here who is not a troll or an MRA).
The question is: Do I need to crack down harder on trolls?
Generally my approach has been to let trolls post unless and until they’re abusive. I know a lot of people here like engaging with trolls and taking them down.
The problem, of course, is that these trolls can quickly become abusive. And this can trigger people.
Should I be quicker to ban people — banning trolls at the first sign that they might become abusive rather than giving them the benefit of the doubt (which, unfortunately a lot of them don’t deserve)? Should I be stricter about who I let post in the first place?
There are actually a lot of people I don’t let post here at all; if their first comment is too aggressive or hostile or (obviously) contains a slur I don’t let their comments through. I’m especially strict when it comes to people posting in threads about women who’ve been harassed.
But I could be stricter, and I could ban more quickly if that’s what you think I should do.
Frankly, I gave up a long time ago on the idea that it’s possible to have any kind of “open debate” with these people. Too many of them are abusive assholes for that to work.
So my priority here is the regular feminist and feminist-friendly commenters on this blog, and coming up with a comment policy and procedures that work better for you all. There are people who enjoy and in many cases feel empowered by being able to confront the trolls here. But I don’t want, and I don’t think any of us want, more situations like the one that happened tonight.
To be honest, I do think I need to crack down harder. I just want to hear what you all think on the issue, and to hear your suggestions as to how to do this most effectively.
The other aspect of this: I think I need to put up more no troll, no MRA open threads. And so I will be doing that.
(I may not be able to get back to this thread for a little while, but I’ll definitely be back later in the evening.)
I had an interesting conversation recently with a woman on Twitter who told me that my policy of letting MRAs and misogynists comment here, at least so long as they’re not abusive, was keeping her and others she knew from joining in the conversation; she wanted a place to discuss MRAs where she didn’t have to deal with them.
I know a lot of the regulars here like engaging with the trolls and MRAs who stop by, but I’d like to create some space here for commenters who want to discuss the issues in a Troll- and MRA-free zone.
So I thought I’d try starting a new kind of Open Thread: A No-Troll, No-MRA, No-Misogynist, No-Rape-Apologist, No-Douchebag Thread to discuss the issues I cover on the blog and anything related to that: Misogyny, MRAs, PUAs, MGTOW, the “Red Pill,” and so on. Enjoy!
Oh, and if a troll wanders in, or if someone starts being douchey, ignore them and send me a note. I’ll delete their comments and ban them. No warning, no moderation, straight ban.