April 18th, 2015


Bigotry Blind Spot: Fighting Stereotypes While Stereotyping Others.

About a month ago, an episode of Law an Order SVU aired which tackled the subject of Gamergate. For those who may not be familiar, Gamergaters describe themselves as being part of a leaderless consumer revolt against a lack of ethical standards in gaming journalism. However, since Gamergate got its start as a result of a tell-all expose from the boyfriend of feminist indie game designer Zoe Quinn, the movement is seen by feminists as a concerted effort by misogynists to promote anti-woman values and run women out of the gaming industry.

It is the latter description of Gamergate that the aforementioned episode of Law and Order bases its script on. In the show, male gamers are portrayed as monsters who hate women and will do everything in their power to silence any female voice. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of gaming and gamers can see this episode for the alarmist propaganda that it is, but what I find most interesting is the response it has received.

Gamers were angry (and rightfully so) at the monstrous portrayal of gaming as a whole and male gamers in particular. They were upset at all the stereotypes and outright lies that were being shown on the screen and promoted as truth. How could anyone believe such baseless nonsense, they wonder.

Except this is nothing new. In fact, some of the same people criticizing the show for stereotyping a fandom have themselves stereotyped other fandoms in similar ways. One particular discussion, which I read in the comments section of a video belonging to a youtuber who is respected in the Gamergate movement, involved the harsh stereotyping and hatred of bronies. According to the comments, males who watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic are all immature man-children, fags and horsefuckers, who live in their mothers' basements and want to stay 12 forever.

Someone asked how this is any different from the stereotype espoused by feminists and the mainstream media that males who play video games are all immature man-children, misogynists and harassers, who live in their mothers' basements and want to stay 15 forever. It was almost impressive, the level of mental gymnastics some people went through to explain why the stereotypes against themselves are unjust, but the stereotypes they use against others are perfectly justified.

I use bronies as an example, but I've seen similar stereotyping in regards to other fandoms such as trekkies, whovians, larpers, anime fans, metal fans, etc, etc.

What I found particularly interesting was the use of the argument that "stereotypes exist for a reason," when explaining why they're justified in stereotyping others, and how this justifies condemning an entire fandom. Yet the people who use this argument do not apply it to themselves. Should it not logically follow that, since stereotypes exist for a reason, then the episode Law and Order SVU was a fair portrayal of gamers. After all, there wouldn't be a stereotype that all gamers are racists, homophobes, misogynists, and overweight man-children who wouldn't last 5 minutes in the real world without their mothers to bring them bags of cheetos and cases of Mountain Dew, if there weren't some nugget of truth to that statement; so therefore we should assume that everyone who plays video games fits that description and judge them accordingly.

The fact of the matter is that a hobby or an interests tells you absolutely nothing about a person, except that they have that particular hobby or interest. Think of how it makes you feel when you read articles online or see on the news and in popular TV shows the stereotype that gamers are a bunch of sexist shut-ins. It's doubly frustrating because you know, you KNOW, that there are gamers of every kind. There are male and female gamers. There are Black, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian gamers. There are Christian gamers, Jewish gamers; Wiccan, Buddhist, Shintoist, and Hindu gamers. There are rich gamers and poor gamers. Every color, every stripe, and every creed; gaming is open to it all.

These are all very different people, with different backgrounds and beliefs. Many of them could have absolutely nothing in common with each other except an interest in games. Yet, according to the stereotypes, these people are all white heterosexual males who live in their mother's basements, stuffing their mouths with fast food and energy drinks. As if being a gamer will magically change who you are on a fundamental level and turn you into that.

It's stupid to say that about gamers, but it is equally stupid to say that about other hobbies and interests as well. There is more to a person than his entertainment choices.

An issue of the Penny Arcade web comic once said that the difference between an homage and a ripoff is whether or not you personally like it. By that token, it seems that the difference between a ridiculous stereotype and a "hard truth" is whether or not you are the target.