Microsoft’s “Rape Joke” Flub and Feminism (from a female gamer’s perspective)

In the wake of the Tosh O rape joke scandal, Microsoft goes and flubs their shit during a game demonstration at a Microsoft Xbox one event.  I provided the link, but the general gist of things was a game banter gone wrong kinda deal that came out disgusting and offending a lot of people for it’s tastelessness and what some see as blaze’ reference to rape.

“I can’t even block correctly, and you’re too fast,” she says.

“Here we go. Just let it happen. It’ll be over soon,” he says.

The audience laughs at the remark that many have been interpreted as a rape joke. The banter continues between the two, further adding fuel to the allegations that the joke mimicked a sexual assault scenario.

“You have a fight stick,” she says.

“Wow, you like those,” he says.

“No, I don’t like this,” she says.

I didn’t actually hear about this until a gamer friend of mine, with whom I regularly have “debates,” asked me what I thought of the whole thing.  Even though we are very like-minded, it seems our conversations always take on tangentially adversarial note.  As if we agree, but not exactly.

My initial take on what I read about the “rape joke” was judging from the info in this link, was that it was intended to be normal, harmless gamer banter.  If you’re a gamer, you know how we like our trash talk!   That said, considering how damn sensitive everybody is about everything, it was not something that should be done “on stage” as it were. The first comment was fairly ambiguous, but the following comments made the situation worse, and added additional sexual connotations. The fact that Microsoft claimed the “banter” was unscripted and they were aiming for “friendly game-play banter”, but used two employees (who are not improv actors) to give said unscripted banter strikes me as a rookie mistake for a big company to make.

My gamer buddy, we’ll call him *Leon Kennedy, had this to say:

Well what bugs me about this is that it’s normal gamer trash talk. I’ve said stuff like that to guys I was beating and heard the same when they were beating me. Hell you know how we get playing Resident Evil.

His point brought me to an important idea…something I’ve noticed before in other aspects of my life as well.  Well, yes it is normal trash talk, but why is it that trash talk almost always seems to have sexual connotations?   Especially in an industry still rife with sexism (Anita Sarkeesian, anyone?), in a world that has become super-sensitive (sometimes to a fault) but very vocal, one would think Microsoft should know better.  SOMEONE is gonna get their panties in a bunch over SOMETHING.  (See what I did there? 🙂 )

And yet, the fact that all our trash talk is still geared overtly or subtly to sexual domination or gender stereotypes says something, doesn’t it?  Maybe it’s because I hung around with a lot of guys when I was younger, or maybe it’s because I have always struggled to be strong, independent, take no bullshit, not girly girl… but I have caught myself making misogynistic remarks too, in the form of banter.  For instance, when hearing about some of my husband’s co-workers or “friends,” and their bad behavior, I have been known to tell him they were acting like “whiny bitches,” or ask him if they had “sand in their vaginas.”  I know, terrible, isn’t it?  But it seems like this aspect of gender stereotyping is, to an extent, so ingrained in our culture that I don’t even take offense to it in the traditional sense.  I’ll admit, the fact that this is the case is probably indicative of further need for a shift in attitudes in this country… I’m just not sure what to do about it, because railing against “the man” or the status quo over it seems to me, a largely futile pursuit.  At least, to it’s not worth the aggravation it would cause me.

Edit: Leon adds:

I think this Microsoft thing brings up so many issues.  If he was playing with a guy no one would have blinked. If we are supposed to be equal than we have to be equal. It can’t be equal until its inconvenient.

This statement also struck a chord with me, because it ties into role of feminism in my life lately.  And it’s not what you might think.  If anything, I am apparently not enough of a feminist for some people, I mean, to the point where I am losing friends…which is ironic to me.

Have you seen any of the photos from the “I Need Feminism Because…” project?

Well, I came up with my own, and I don’t even know if it’s really relevant to the Microsoft thing, but it certainly applies to the concept of feminism in my life.  It also applies to other aspects of social equality and humanity that one would think are a given, but for some reason are not… like for instance, the right for gays to marry.

I NEED FEMINISM BECAUSE:  there are still some “feminists” who believe that I’m “not enough of a feminist” because I am a Stay At Home Mom.

Consider that a hyperbole if you will.  It generalizes to mean basically this: Having the “right” to do something does not mean you have an “obligation” to do it.

Basically, equal rights is not about following a prescribed set of behavior “because you can/should,” it’s about having choices to begin with.  

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When the Interwebz Attacks

Until now, the perception has been that you can say anything you like on the internet, without any consequences. Recent cases… show that is getting less and less true.

I’ve blogged…at length…about sex in video games and the experiences girl gamers face.  Some of these experiences are amusing.  Some of them are even funny.  Some are just plain irritating.  And anyone that has spent even a modest amount of time in online pursuits where there is some sort of interaction through either comments or live chat, has likely had at least one or two negative experiences with trolls or people that are just flat out ignorant asshats.  These are people who either intentionally look for others to harass, or  just feel free to say whatever half-formed thought crosses their half-formed brains due to assumed anonymity.  Maybe they think they’re “just having fun” or perhaps it makes these pitiable human beings feel better about their own ineffectual and pathetic lives to be able to take a virtual shit on people who might normally kick their asses in real life.   And some of them are just plain assholes.  Mean.

And these people will use whatever dirty epithet or blasphemous racial or sexual slur they can think of to insult you and tear you down.  It’s their only real weapon in place of something intelligent to say.

But even knowing all of this, even experiencing a lot of this, I was still shocked by the vicious cyber attack on Californian blogger, Anita Sarkeesian, after she launched a project to make a web video series about video game tropes and  women.  Not just the ignorant and inflammatory comments, but the fact that this woman was the victim of a concentrated effort to vandalize her Wikipedia page and organized efforts to have her YouTube videos flagged as “terrorism.” Additionally, she became the target of threats of violence, rape, and death.

Now, if you follow some of the comments made on the videos, you’ll notice that even people who supported this woman in a respectful way were subsequently flamed by some of the other commenters.

I am really floored.  Do all the idiots congregate in one place (comment boards on the internet?)  Or is it that most of the normal and good people (not all, mind you, but most) know there’s no point in even wasting time trying to argue with these narrow-minded, disrespectful morons?

It appears that Anita Sarkeesian has not only offended most of the remaining misogynists in the world, but even worse,  she has offended video game nerds by “insulting” their beloved games.  And by “video game nerds,” I don’t mean just “people who like or play video games.”  (After all, I play video games.  So does my husband and a lot of my friends.)  I mean those people who are so sad and pathetic that they live vicariously through their video games.  You know who you are.

Now, while the very existence of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church should clue me in on the fact that there are still evolutionary throwbacks in humanity’s pond, I have to admit, even I am still stunned that there are so many socially and intellectually stunted people in this world.  Watching the news everyday is depressing enough without this happy horse shit.

I wonder what it was about this woman that pissed so many people off.  As my step-father used to say “opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one.”  I’m sure she is not the first person out there to spark a feminist debate about video games.  Is it just because she is semi-well known?  If I was more well-known, would I receive nasty remarks and threats of violence for this post?  Maybe I should ask WordPress to create a Widget exclusively for keeping track of death threats.  To hell with overall views and “followers.”  You’re not popular until you’ve received death threats from the dregs of society via the internet.  Bring it on (and I’ll happily ignore and delete them as per my comment regulations!)

On a more serious note, given the disappointing and disturbing trend in the past couple of  decades or so of the legal system’s increasing support of people’s unwillingness to take responsibility for their own actions, part of me hopes we will begin to see repercussions for online harassment.  Because that’s what it is.  Aside from rude remarks, some people seem to think they have the right to threaten and verbally assault others by dint of being online, and that having “freedom of speech” gives them the right to act like total assholes, when if they said some of this stuff to people’s faces, they’d get arrested or punched in the mouth.  If you ask me, some people could really still benefit from a punch in the mouth…

Cuz this is what would happen if you said that shit to mah face!

But maybe that’s just this humble female blogger being a “bitch.”