Hashtags and Handbags – One man’s response to #1reasonwhy
#1reasonwhy is a hashtag, and it’s got less than two days to make any impact whatsoever before it becomes buried in promoted trends and the latest #ReplaceXWithShlong ‘craze.’ Two days is not a huge amount of time. In two days we’ll all go back to writing about games and the rising anger will quell and settle much like all social network based outrage.
Essentially, #1reasonwhy was a blow by blow account of how women are treated by their male counterparts and ‘fellow’ gamers. It makes for unpleasant reading.
The trend will go away and the problem will remain. Normality is easier than protest and, lord knows, there are a lot of games journalists out there who enjoy things being easy.
Like many people who woke up this morning (if you were lucky enough to do so), I investigated the #1reasonwhy trend on Twitter over a bowl of Coco Pops and a glass of freshly squeezed cynicism. Quick flashes of tutting and eye rolling began and I ran through nearly every sloppy cliché my sleep deprived brain could barf up.
“Typical, feminist robots sounding off again.”
“The problem’s only there because you keep screeching about it.”
“The gays, blacks and Jews all had it much worse, etc…”
I think it goes without saying that I’m not really a morning person. I jumped in the car and trundled off to work. I began to think of a witty and profound response to the hashtag. I wanted to provide a quick and simple answer that would silence the hardcore bra burners and belittle the ignorant scrotums who think women could never get their heads around anything that isn’t pink and doesn’t smell like wild strawberries.
That’s how my brain works. I’m a man – I want to fix things and feel good about myself.
I failed. From what I have read, there is an endemic problem with sexism in the industry, both journalistic and in production, and I couldn’t fix that in 140 characters. I wanted to dismiss the problem as the lowest common denominator having the loudest voice despite being the minority of male gamers; but the issue seems far more wide reaching, permeating the upper echelons of the industry. Perhaps it’s always been there.
I felt dumbstruck, as did many male commentators. Some chose to ignore it (women’s problems etc…) others tried, like me, to fix it, but all came up short. Well short. What was even more staggering was the bombardment of examples female commentators were able to pound the hashtag with. Terrible illustrations of abuse and rejection that would have deflated and disheartened even the most stout of heart – a real who’s who of rejection and prejudice that would have many people, male or female, reaching for the classified adds or a bottle of something over 13%.
The fact of the matter is – I can’t do much more than I already am doing. I’m a man, white, middle class, reasonably well educated and British. I naturally came with a superiority complex that was instilled at birth, but I’m not an idiot. I ridicule those who belittle others and I view chauvinism and machismo as a sign of hidden weakness, possibly brought on by an unresolved childhood trauma. I think the Alpha Male was the only one in the class still wetting the bed and crying for mother at 14.
I might be wrong, I have been in the past, but I’m not stupid. Being secure with my own position and standing in the world has made me honest, observant and sceptical of falsity. I can smell it a mile off. Insecurity reeks a putrid odour. It permeates emails and betrays eye contact. It slimes its way down message boards and vomits out private messages, those venomous, venomous private messages.
So where next? Unfortunately, I still can’t fix this… I just don’t know how. I’m not going to tell women what to do because I don’t know what the solution is.
What I am going to do, however, is go to work. I’m going to go to work tomorrow and not discriminate against a woman because she is a woman. That’s probably all I can do. I’m not the president of a multi-national games company and I’m not the editor of a string of gaming magazines. I work in an office with two brilliant, witty and stingingly intelligent female journalists who will achieve incredible things… and I won’t get in their way. I won’t tell them that they can’t achieve their goals and I won’t demand that they clean my desk. I won’t demean them with snide comments that sound a little bit jokey but leave a bitter taste on the tongue, and I won’t pat them on the head when they do something well.
I won’t tell them that they can’t drive very well and that they will never be able to park as well as I can. I won’t tell them that I think they’d get more enjoyment out of a pair of hair straighteners than a PS Vita. I won’t have a crack at the size of their handbags.
I’m going to treat them the same way I treat everyone else. Y’know, like a human.
What are you going to do tomorrow, when the hashtag fades and we all have to write about games again?