Trolling as Social Conditioning

Trolling is something that we’re all familiar with, and something that I’ve discussed in the past.  But I’m not sure that I gave the idea of trolling as social conditioning the attention that it deserves.  Trolling is a form of social conditioning, in the same way that people become apathetic to the things in our world that negatively impact us (non-bullied teens who are apathetic about bullying, poor living conditions in certain parts of cities that don’t get any attention anymore, etc.).

To start with social conditioning is when we, as people, are conditioned by social forces to believe, think, or act a certain way.  I think an excellent way to see social conditioning is to start with something we are all familiar with – social conditioning by government.  Governments take actions everyday, often at a detriment to the their citizens, and usually under some guise that it is supposed to benefit its citizens.  An excellent example of this is when governments install cameras on street corners, traffic lights, and sides of buildings to monitor the population.  I think we all recognize that this is something that we don’t actually want to happen – but it does.  And as time goes on and it goes on long enough people become desensitized to it and are conditioned to think of the cameras that watch them on a daily basis as something that is normal and things are the way they are.

Trolling does the same thing.  Trolling has become so common place that people just come to expect it and often times people merely ignore it when it happens.  The viewpoints that are put forth in trolling – fat, ugly, slut, stupid, moron, you suck, suck my c*ck – are all expected in the current day of online media.  Trolling, in a sense, has become normalized.  Because it has become normalized the viewpoints expressed are normalized.  When a woman gets called fat online it’s merely trolling and we go on about our daily lives doing our normal tasks because it’s not out of the ordinary.

Through social conditioning, we as an online culture have been conditioned to expect and accept the trolling that happens on a daily basis.  The more the trolls do it, and get away with it, the more we tell them it’s okay.  Like a child who pushes another child and then doesn’t get chastised for it, they haven’t been punished and they didn’t face any serious ramifications for their actions.  They will continue to see how far they can go and what they can get away with.

This is why it is important for people to report trolling as abusive behavior.  We should make sure that gamers are creating a safe and healthy environment for each other – not calling each other a faggot, queer, slut, bitch, or asking others to perform lewd acts upon us.

As always,
Your Resident (Not Really) Anthropologist

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The Culture of Bullying

Bullying is a hard topic for many people.  Those who are bullies often times hide behind the charade that they’re just poking fun, having a good time, and if you don’t like what they’re doing then you just don’t get the “joke” and you should leave. However, there is a distinct difference between poking fun and being a bully – and it’s called context.  Poking fun between friends, snarky banter,

The biggest issue that is happening in schools is referred to as exclusionary bullying.  Exclusionary bullying happens when people are made to feel outcast, alienated, and separate from the group (in contrast when snarky banter happens between friends it creates a bond).  By spreading rumors, mocking someone for the way they look or dress, or poking fun at the things that people feel insecure about, the person who is targeted is made to feel too inadequate to be a part of the group and they become excluded and alienated from everyone else.  This leads to things like depression in youth and has been documented.

What does this have to do with gaming?  Online gaming culture is rife with this sort of behavior.  When someone is mocked for low skill, a poor k/d spread, or an “inability” to perform well in online gaming they are being bullied by people, and often by people who are no better than they are.  Personally, when I encounter this sort of behavior I put down my controller and turn my system off.  I don’t want to be subjected to this sort of behavior because someone thinks that I’m not good enough to play with them.

But even more importantly is when someone doesn’t take the action that I take – removing myself from such abuse – and they continue to subject themselves to this behavior online.  When you continue to subject yourself to such behavior you end up accepting it and it becomes the standard.  It then becomes a widely accepted behavior and others begin to do it as well.  It’s the “Jones” effect.  When you see someone doing something you want to be a part of it, and when people aren’t encouraging online the only people you hear are those who are bullying online.  It seems even more common in the younger generation than the older generation now.  What was once trolling is now becoming an intention to hurt another to make one’s self feel better.

This creates a culture of bullying in online gaming.  When you see someone who performs poorly it should be standard to encourage them, not make them feel bad about themselves.  If we want gaming to be successful and a truly accepted form of entertainment, which I argue it still is not, then we should be encouraging people to game more and create a powerful and uplifting environment online for people to game in.

We need to check ourselves at the controller and remember that, just because you’re anonymous doesn’t mean that your actions are meaningless.

Female Gamers: Doing More for our Community than Any Misogynist Could Ever Hope

[TRIGGER WARNING: Some of these links contain extreme material including references to rape and death threats]

My first post, Cultural Relativity vs. Feminism, made mention of Anita Sarkeesian (known for her blog and YouTube channel Feminist Frequency) and the brutal internet attack that was launched against her in reaction to the series she wants to make (note didn’t actually make yet) called Tropes vs. Women in Video Games.  The attack was brutal.  She was the victim of threats such as rape and death in addition to people wishing death upon her friends and family.  (I’d like to note that a very good thing happened: she raised over $150,000 for her Kickstarter.  I’m glad that the unyielding support for Sarkeesian showed all the misogynists that they are weak in their attempts to bring down Sarkeesian and her intellectual endeavor)

I, in my first post, noted some of my reaction and was reticent about putting down the full force of my thoughts on the subject not only because I wasn’t sure about what I truly thought anymore, but more that I didn’t want to be on the wrong side of the conversation (and I should note that not taking sides, being in the middle, can be wrong).  However, over the past several days I have come to a full fledged opinion on the topic and it’s this: as a white male I am privileged, and those like me who try to describe the privilege as non-existent or describe not white males as having the same number of privileges are a product of tradition, ritual, and hold an inability to critically reflect upon their own views.  Or, in short, those who targeted Sarkeesian, and other women like her, are wrong.

This opinion wasn’t informed purely by the Sarkeesian incident, but also by some links and articles that I read from various friends and people I follow on Tumblr.  The first thing that really and truly opened my eyes to how pervasive the problem is was Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  This website made my stomach churn.  More importantly, the power that men clearly wield in such instances is overwhelming and panoptic.*  Fat, Ugly, or Slutty truly embodies this panoptic power.  Men attempt to reinforce the power they wield by devaluing women based on their gender.  The build and maintain their own power by silencing women and making them feel like their gender is their identity, not the contents of their character or the skills they have.  The website demonstrates how women are subject to it every day and risk being subject to it by merely participating in the community, even more so if they are good at what they are playing.  Not only that, but the problem is now coming into the mainstream media with BBC doing an article about it which linked Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  [LINK]

Then I read the article I linked the other day called Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is, by John Scalzi.  This article was such a great metaphor for what the men who attacked Sarkeesian clearly can’t understand.  The fact that one is male puts them in a position over females.  Even better if you’re a white male.

After this I started going through the comments of Felicia Day’s recent music video Gamer Girl, Country Boy.  I’m quite aware that many people dislike country music (I’m not one of them as my mother listened to nothing but it while I was growing up) and some even despise the genre.  Some people dislike the idea of gaming being joined with something other than gaming, or even just geek culture in general being joined with something like the culture associated with “country boys”.  But rather than judge the music video based on these things many went straight for the jugular and debased Day purely based on the fact that she was a women, many of the comments being similar to those that Sarkeesian faced.  Many also claimed that Day wasn’t a true “gamer” because she was a woman and women can’t be gamers.  It was not an attack on the video or the contents of the video, it was purely an attack on the fact that Day is a woman.

But what has motivated me to write this is not the fact that I now have a fully fledge opinion on the subject, because I think opinions in themselves can be boring.  What really motivates me to write this article is the reaction on Kickstarter to Sarkeesian.  The Kickstarter was called Misandry in Video Games.

I read a bit of the contents when I found the Kickstarter, but couldn’t get through them because the whole idea made me to angry and upset to continue reading.  I have since tried to find the Kickstarter again, but haven’t been able to find it (was it taken down?  If you know the link or know if it was taken down please comment or e-mail me. [The link has been sent to me via comment and can be found either in the comment section or at the bottom of the article.]).

This Kickstarter was set up in an attempt to reinforce the mindset of the men who attacked people like Sarkeesian, Day, and the men who send messages like those on Fat, Ugly, or Slutty.  But even more importantly it reinforces the idea that women can continue to be treated by men in this terrible way because men are supposedly subject to the same tropes as women via misandry with all the same ill-effects.

This behavior has to stop and many people are going to oppose to video game community if this behavior continues.  This behavior is going to kill the gaming community and more importantly it perpetuates a culture where women are fearful of even logging into the online community because of the messages they get, and the verbal abuse they receive over chat.  Moms and dads out there who are seeing this side of the video game community are going to start working even harder against the video game community.  This behavior only reinforces the stereotype of video game players as violent and morally unsound.  Video games will be seen as a morally and ethically detrimental to children and teenagers.  If BBC is picking up on it now who knows how long it is until the front page of large newspapers; headline reports of investigative journalism about harassment in the online gaming community.

So guys out there who are cognizant of their privilege, who are aware that women are subject to this kind of thing, who are playing video games when women are verbally abused online, and who recognize that women are people and not just the toys of men need to fight back with women.  We need to make sure that we are reporting the terrible behavior that is present in the online community.  We need to make sure that we are helping women in this struggle against the misogynistic mindset that is so pervasive in the gaming community.

And if you disagree with me and are a part of the gaming community then remember; Felicia Day, Anita Sarkeesian, and the women who you debase in the community have done more for the gaming community than you ever will.  By telling women to make you sandwiches, get back in the kitchen, and threatening them because they threaten the panoptic power that you wield in the community, you only hurt the community and more importantly you are hurting women everywhere by creating another place where women feel unsafe and are afraid to go because of the harassing and threatening messages that you send out.

Your Resident (not really) Anthropologist

Notes:

*Panoptic power is defined by Foucault in Discipline and Punish as power which is inescapable, pervasive everywhere in everyday life, and actively works to change the mindset and view that people hold of themselves, others, and the society that they live within.

EDIT: I had someone on Tumblr ask a question (although there were a few implied) so I’m going to add my response to further clarify the article.

To clarify the power is panoptic within the gaming community (probably should have made that clearer).  If someone wants to actively participate within the community they have to participate in the public space of the community (for gaming that could be commenting on gaming related media, creating gaming related media, or just playing online games).

As for the messages from strangers being panoptic, the messages are a way of reinforcing the role that women are supposed to play in the gaming community (aka, no role at all).  When enough people participate by sending messages to women which are disparaging and devaluing women based on their gender they are attempting to silence women and pushing women to believe that there is no place in the gaming world for them (whether it is successful or not).  There are ways to avoid these messages such as playing only with friends (on or offline), only playing single player games, using a gamertag/PSN ID/username which does not hint at the gender of the person, or playing without a headset (the last two of which would have to be used on conjunction with each other).  But I would argue that when women do these things it merely reinforces the misogynistic view of women in the gaming world and allows men to continue their behavior because women are actively silenced.  Women shouldn’t have participate in gaming covertly.

The re-appropriation of messages can be used as a way to try and shift or remove the power of men in the gaming community, but overwhelmingly they are not.  There is a very pervasive mentality that reporting does nothing (and often times when men are reported for their behavior and find that they have been reported they message the woman who they suspect of reporting them with that very message – that reporting abusive behavior does nothing).

I am actively working on an article that talks about the effect one of these women (Felicia Day) has had on the gaming community and what she is doing for the gaming community.  But in short, without giving too much about my next article away, these women are not only actively participating but helping to shape, create, and change the culture of the gaming community.  By doing what they have, such as Felicia Day making 3 dimensional female characters rather than relying on stereotypes and tropes of women that are pervasive in the gaming community/culture, they are helping to create a more realistic and friendly view of women in the gaming community.

EDIT 2: I have been sent the link to the misandry and video games kickstarter.  It’s here: http://www.indiegogo.com/misandryinvideogames Thanks to NUReviews for the link to the page.  (http://nureviewsnetwork.com/)