Once again it’s time to tell the men of the Internet not to threaten to rape and murder people. You’d think that this only needs to be said a few times, if at all, but nope, the message still hasn’t gotten through.
What are men threatening rape over this time? A woman felt a comic book cover was executed poorly. In doing so, she also had the audacity to tell a man how breasts work, as if simply walking around with a pair of them gave her any kind of authority on the matter. Still, a woman spoke slightly negatively about some nerd thing and sure enough the rape comments followed.
Here’s an article on Comics Alliance about the whole idiotic mess. Surprising no one, I have a few things to say about this.
Here’s an excerpt from that article:
Unfortunately the comics discourse remains extremely dire in most spaces, particularly in the ineffectively moderated message boards of the Internet. In a comments thread nearly 600 posts long (as of this writing), Janelle’s innocuous piece inspired all manner of questions beyond the content of her article: suspicion as to her “true” motives, speculation about past professional and personal relationships, accusations of political agendas, and outright sexist hatred.
Really, that kind of crap is in the comment thread? Why? Why are we just leaving it to fester there? The article goes on to say that we all have to take responsibility in calling out behavior that furthers this, but the behavior of providing a space for misogynistic trolls to vent their spleens without anyone telling them to take it elsewhere, that we don’t need to call out. We already know not to read the comments anywhere, so why even have them? You can’t say you want to improve Internet discourse and also run an unmoderated anonymous comments section. The two are not compatible.
But since these are commercial sites, that discussion is moot. (The author of that post, in a tweet to someone else, said that if he owned CA, it wouldn’t have comments, but he doesn’t, so it does.) Despite the well-deserved reputation of comment sections they’re still considered mandatory on advertising-based sites, as they drive page views.
But the other, darker problem, is that when it comes to comics and videogames and such, these loathsome trolls aren’t invaders who’ve come in to spoil everyone’s fun; they’re the audience. They’re not there because they heard a woman was getting lippy and needed a talking to, they’re there because they’re the regular patrons. We don’t like these crude, sexist assholes, but we really need them to look at this gallery of Captain America toys so we get paid.
Here’s a current “Top Commenter” on that article:
Another “Top Commenter” is currently concerned about that perennial MRA bugbear, false rape accusations. I’m aware that “Top Commenter” probably means quantity more than quality but again, the comments section is apparently a welcoming home for these people, regardless of what the articles above them say. They certainly haven’t been made too uncomfortable to post this kind of garbage by the community.
An this is not just this site, or comics, this is the nerd world in general. At any moment there are several discussions over on BGG in which some white guy is worried about feminazis stealing his Precious Bodily Fluids. I don’t need to tell you about the videogame world. This happens so often in nerd-dom that it’s fair to ask if it’s an essential part of it.
So let’s bring this around to my usual stomping grounds: the problem is, when it comes to nerd audiences, you are expecting thoughtful behavior from an audience which is regularly encouraged not to think. Current nerd culture, despite what Wil Wheaton thinks, is not about intellectual curiosity, it is about mindless consumption. It’s “turn off your brain”, it’s “I liked it for what it was”, it’s “not as bad as I was expecting”, it’s “shut up and take my money”. It is specifically designed to avoid any kind of serious thought, and that goes double for one’s own actions. You cannot pander to that audience and then expect thoughtful reactions. As I’ve said before on this subject, you can’t regularly serve dog food and then wonder why all these dogs keep showing up.
And that’s not just on these discussion sites, that’s on creators and producers as well. As long as you keep offering a world in which young white straight men are the center of the universe, in which balloon-bodied women exist solely as eye candy (that occasionally kicks someone because “strong”), in which sarcastic nihilistic assholes are the heroes, then you can’t be shocked when these boneheads make up your audience. You keep giving loud and proud asshole creators like Frank Miller, Dave Sim, Orson Scott Card, and others regular work because they move units. Creators who have been accused of all sorts of misconduct get a bye if their books are well-liked (does anyone remember who the big name writer was a few months ago whose name came up?). Bonehead money spends just like any other.
Why do misogynistic trolls feel safe and comfortable in the nerd world? Because it’s built for them. They scream when a woman rolls her eyes at ridiculous tits because by god those ridiculous tits are FOR THEM and how dare anyone think to deny them the ridiculous tits that they have coming to them. If nerd companies honestly don’t want these assholes around they should have no problem alienating them and telling them to get lost, that they’re not wanted. They’ve certainly gotten a lot of practice doing that to everyone else.