How to Not Be a Jerk (politics-y)

The inspiration for this post came from two other posts that I don’t even want to link to, because giving them hits seems wrong. One was a post by an MMO blogger about how all feminists are part of a cult of angry man-haters (and the ensuing comments about how much people hate those crazy bitches). The second was a post by a video game correspondant for a well-known news site who wrote that “geeky” women shouldn’t try and stand out in a crowd or they’re just fake geeks doing it for male attention.

Seriously, what the hell people?

If you read this weblog with any regularity you know I’m a feminist and I’m not afraid to drop 600 words of social justice theory on you at the slightest provocation, but that’s not what I’m gonna do right now. Instead, I wanna talk about the main way I personally try to be more understanding about the world, instead of just getting upset and writing crazy insular posts about how everyone who I don’t like is a slut.

Are you ready? Here it is: My experiences are not everyone else’s experiences.

Pretty much my favorite phrase in the whole world of rhetoric is “anecdotes are not data”. My personal experiences and stories other people have told me during my life and shit I see on television does not equal the entirety of human experience.

For example, I have never been harassed in a scary, overtly sexual manner in an MMO. I’ve had some people try to good naturedly push the line, but never out of anger or as a power play. One of the big arguments against the original plan for RealID was that using real names on the official forum would expose people who were victims of stalking and other scary sexualized harassment. If I’ve never been harassed in that way, does that mean I didn’t support people who objected to RealID for that reason? Does that mean I think Apple Cider’s story of harassment isn’t real or significant? Of course not!

I was the guild leader and occasional raid leader for a heroic raiding guild for quite some time. Thanks to recruitment methods and just guild culture out of the hundreds of people I’ve recruited over the years only 2 or 3 at the most ever had a problem with having a woman as “the boss”. Does that mean that women raid guild leaders are a common occurrence, or never experience any struggles with being respected? No, of course not — hardcore raiding is infamous for its general “get back in the kitchen” culture. It may not have held back my raiding experience, but that doesn’t mean no one else has ever found themselves in the position of not being listened to or being marginalized in a raid group because they’re a woman.

I had a really good discussion in IRC this morning with a guildie about PVP in MMOs. He was explaining that what he’d really like to see is PvP where no advantages are granted for the time invested — basically a Team Fortress 2 mini-game in an MMO. And to be honest, my very first response was to get my back up. MMOs are all about time investment! I like to invest in my character and be an achiever! What is this “everyone is a winner” crap!

But.. hang on. My guildie said he’d like it to be an option, not the final word in online PvP. Okay, so maybe a game could cater to both of us. (In fact, I believe GW2 will do this, but that is for another post.) But.. well, now that I think about it, why would it have to cater to both of us to be acceptable? There are a ton of MMOs that grant superiority based on the time invested. Why couldn’t there be one game that just has “casual”, TF2-style PvP? Must every game cater to my whims?

Of course not. Despite my bad attitude and PvP experience I am in fact not the final arbiter of what a “real PvPer” is, just as being a woman or a geek does not make me a final arbiter of what a “real woman” is or a “real geek girl”.

Take a step back, everyone. Are you assuming that your life experiences are the same as everyone else’s? Or that yours are more “correct” for some reason? Perspective is your friend. Go get some.

Author: Jessica Cook

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9 Comments

  1. Well put :) I have nothing of value to add, but I think our experiences are alike in encountering (seemingly unnumbered masses) people who really can’t see anything outside of their own experience. It’s frightening: these are people who are giving input daily on shaping our world. No wonder it’s a mess at times!
    Doone´s last post: Nintendo Greats

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    • Thanks, Doone! :)

      As I just wrote in the comments of another blog just a little while ago, stereotyping and namecalling and refusing to acknowledge the experience of others is the easy way out. Honest analysis of our own opinions is really difficult, and god knows I do it to varying degrees of success, but I also think trying to understand the views of others deserves more respect.

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  2. I think what makes wearing someone else’s shoes, even just mentally, such challenge for many people, is that it’s actually very uncomfortable. We might discover things about ourselves that we don’t like, things that can unhinge our own bubbles. We want to be good. It takes courage to face other realities than our own and it can hurt. Growth hurts. But then, there is time. When I read particularly thoughtless posts, I know there’s often a younger person writing them and some insights can only be the fruit of time and more experiences. no better teacher than life itself.

    In this context, I was reminded of a quote by Freeman lately in a recent interview (where he was asked what role money plays for him today):

    “money is not important as long as you have enough of it”

    And so it goes for every nonchalant, dismissive answer given on social topics – issues do not exist, if you’re not affected by or have never experienced them. It’s called privilege. Or alternatively ignorance.

    Great post!

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    • Thanks, Syl! And you are so right, examining our beliefs and accepting that we’re wrong sometimes is really uncomfortable. Even today — first thing this morning when I read the blog post that Spinks linked I was all, “Rawr stupid [name calling name calling name calling].” and it was almost physically painful for me to stop and try and be thoughtful and not just write a post of invective.

      Practice makes.. well, not perfect, but better I hope. :)

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  3. Learning to exercise empathy is an on-going project of mine, and I think that the world would be a much much much better place if more people were better at it. =)

    Regarding the PvP thing! I think you could even make an argument that no-grinding PvP game emphasizes different skillsets. Depending on the game those could be twitch skill (a la shooters) or skill at reading the metagame, if you had some sort of a system where everyone had the same pool of customizable things to shift around (DOTA-likes have some of this).

    As you say, there’s definitely enough room for everyone. Even the people who think everything should be for them and them alone.

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