I Don’t Have to be Hot to be Right: hiding from internet sexism
I have lived a lot of my life online, and much of that time was spent trying to hide my body from the internet.
Ten years ago I would routinely Photoshop any exposed photo of me as much as possible. Hips got smaller, boobs got bigger, eyes wider, blemishes disappeared in a blur. I even made my hair more blonde once or twice. I got tired of that, though, after a while. As someone who is essentially pretty honest I was uncomfortable with even minor levels of deception.
After that, instead of creating computer-assisted versions of myself I spent a few years just not existing as a corporeal being on the internet. Photos of me in my early 30s simply do not exist, online or elsewhere. Profile photos on social networks would be a decade old or simply shots of my assorted game characters. I never lied about who I was or what I looked like if someone asked in an appropriate conversation, but I was more than happy to hide behind a monitor otherwise.
There are many reasons I went to such lengths to hide my “real life” self, including just some plain old self esteem issues. I was also incredibly aware of the patriarchal message in our society that women have nothing to contribute except being hot and making babies. Appearance is often the first thing latched onto by trolls and haters when they deal with women, and even as a self-aware feminist it’s hard to ignore the inherent message in “you have made my penis sad and therefore are of no value”.
It’s not good enough to be smart or thoughtful or kind, if you’re not hot to go with it, says popular thought. It was entirely evident that being overweight and not traditionally attractive would cause people to stop taking me seriously, and there is nothing I hate more than being intellectually marginalized.
Perhaps I’ve just gotten older and wiser, or at least less patient with putting up with dumb shit, but in the last few years my body has begun appearing on the internet again. I use real, untouched photos of myself for my social media profiles, and my full name (and with it, my gender) is very easy for anyone to find. I even appeared on camera during our live podcast at PAX Prime earlier this year, and while it made me a little nervous I was pleased that it didn’t stop me from trying something new.
In fact, it was about two days after posting the livecast video and mentioning that I was writing for RiftJunkies now that a comment arrived in my email. It said, “RiftJunkies must be really fucking desperate to hire a fat chick. No one cares what you say.” I wrote back a carefully manufactured “lol, wutever” response, but truth be told I was momentarily devastated. There it was, the reaction I had been dreading all along. No one cares, old fat lady. Go home.
(This was particularly exacerbated by the fact that the dude who sent this email then proceeded to follow me around the internet for a while posting the same thing whenever he felt like it, as though I might forget my status as useless unattractive woman and start thinking that my opinion mattered.)
I put it aside and tried to keep pluggin’ on until I saw this great tweet by Very Lemonade which I included at the start of this post. Then I got really, really angry.
Hey dude who wrote me and all other dudes who have done the same thing to other women (and there are many of them): fuck you. Fuck you for implying that women have to reach some standard of penis-pleasing to write about video games, of all things. Fuck you for not attacking me for what I say or what I do, or for any metric to which I can respond. Fuck you for being an asshole.
There are professions and hobbies where physical appearance is a critical element of doing a good job (model being the obvious one) and enjoying and writing about video games is so far from that, it’s laughable. Asshole Dudes, you might think you’re chasing icky girls out of your hobbies by following them around demanding sexual gratification in some way, and sadly in some cases you’re probably right. In other cases though.. cases like mine.. you’re just making us more determined to be involved in our hobbies, if for no other reason than saving women in the future from having to put up with the same bullshit.