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Yes, It DOES Matter April 15, 2011

Posted by Stormy in General Whinging, Guild Stuff, Meta, Moar Ranting.
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Subtitled: “Wherein I get pissed off” or “Wherein I use too many asterisks”.

I promised myself I’d never write this post*. I promised I’d never write this post when I was pissed off**. But I got into a bit of a snit with @buglamp of Tusks ‘n’ All on Twitter this afternoon, and sometimes Twitter’s not the best medium for thoughts that require more than 140 characters. Go figure. DISCLAIMERS before I go any further: I started the snit by a) unfollowing him, and b) announcing to the world that I was upset with him and unfollowing him, but having spent a half hour chewing nails as I drove to my local caffeinated beverage establishment, I rethought that. Nothing I say here is meant to  disparage Buglamp personally, and I feel it necessary to mention that he wouldn’t have gone on the tirade he did if he wasn’t exactly the kind of WoW player I love playing with and respect like crazy…so don’t hate on Buglamp.

*That’s a lie. **That’s also a lie.

Anyway…

The gist of Buglamp’s Twitter rant that prompted this post is that those of us who attach identity politics to our gaming life are over–thinking things, that we’re visiting the sins of a small group of WoW trolls on the larger WoW community, and that, in short, he doesn’t give a damn that you’re a girl who plays WoW and neither should you, because it doesn’t matter.

In a sense, he’s absolutely right. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I play WoW with my fingers, my hands, my wrists, my brain, and sometimes my voice. What may or may not be between my legs and what I may or may not do with it are completely irrelevant to my success within WoW. Honestly, this is Reason One why I made most of my now–RL friends in a chat room five years ago, was heavily into Second Life before I played WoW, and why I play WoW. At least 60% of the contacts in my cell phone directory are people I met online, and *all* of the real friendships I have in my life are friendships that started online and moved offline. Offline, I fight battles every day. I work for a large multinational corporation that, if they ever found out I was gay, would fire me in a heartbeat and it’s totally legal for them to do so. Offline, government at every level is chipping away at my right to be a human being and exist.

In WoW, it all goes away, right? In WoW, the fact that I’m a 29–year–old* white homosexual male with a serious physical disability is totally irrelevant…theoretically. Theoretically I can log into WoW, strap on my shield and my sword and stand underneath Keristrasza and kick her ass, and no one will ever know anything about the real me, or frankly, give a damn. I can log into WoW and for a few hours every day, not have to fight that battle.

*29? Seriously? When the f*ck did that happen?

This is the part where a large number of the women and the LGBT people reading this post are rolling their eyes going “Yeah right.” Every day women and LGBT people face a full–on assault from a not–insignificant part of the WoW playerbase. In WoW, the phrases “That sucks!” and “That’s so unfair!” don’t exist. They’re replaced by “That’s so gay!” In WoW no one ever gets called a loser, a jackass, a moron or an idiot**. It’s always “YOU FAG!” I’m pretty sure at this point every server’s infected with the infamous trade chat “anal” meme. A recent episode of WoW Insider‘s Drama Mamas about a transgender woman run out of her guild when they found out about her trans status generated a bigger cesspool of hate and ignorance than I’ve seen online in recent years*.

*And yet, (at least) two of the more popular WoW Insider columnists are out, and the Drama Mamas themselves, Robin Torres and Lisa Poisso, are allies. **In his Twitter diatribe, Buglamp specifically mentions women who found themselves on the receiving end of an awkward Vent or /w encounter. My favorite story in that genre: At the tail end of Wrath some folks in my guild decided that they wanted to see ICC25 for the achievements and the gear, but we didn’t have the personnel for it, so we pugged a few people. We get to LDW and a few of the guys we pug start talking about how they feel LDW would be a much nicer person if she was just “getting some wiener.” At this point my guildies have been pretty quiet in Vent except for our RL, but our MT, a 46–year–old woman, pipes up. Vent gets *dead silent*.

These aren’t trolls. This is not a small segment of the WoW community. This *is* the WoW community. A couple years ago the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation* hosted a forum on homophobia in online communities, and Blizzard Entertainment, the purveyor of the granddaddy of the MMORPG genre, refused to attend. Several years ago they actually suspended a guild that advertised itself as LGBT friendly. If nothing else, Blizzard has done their market research and knows that their target audience, males ages 12–30, are the least tolerant when it comes to these issues**.

*Do I really have to write out what GLAAD stands for, or do you all know?

**Side note: The other day I was farming ore in Hellfire and noticed there’s a place called Stonewall Canyon. Now that Proudmoore’s full, I think the least Blizzard could do is open another server called Stonewall, and if this rumored paid guild transfer thing ever comes to pass, you can bet your sweet bippy I’d move Sane Asylum to Stonewall in a heartbeat.

And so, I get to a point where when I log into WoW, I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. When I have the choice, I surround myself with people who I know are fun and safe to be around. You can accuse me of walling myself off, of not being willing to put myself out there, of being thin–skinned. Fine. But WoW is my escape. In WoW I can be Grimsey, the blood elf paladin who’s 4’10” and 90 pounds soaking wet and goes toe–to–toe with Ingvar and wins. In WoW I can provide Sane Asylum, a safe haven for women, LGBT people, and others who just don’t want to deal with the slack–jawed morons who call us fags and say we tank like a girl*.

*See my story above. Jeez, I wish I could tank like her. She’s my tanky idol.

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Comments»

1. buglamp - April 15, 2011

This is a very good reason why I was a stupid little idiot and decided to post my rant on Twitter as opposed to a blog post: not confined into 140 character mini-thoughts, we can actually get into the depths of what we believe instead of what fits w.r.t what we’ve already written. If nothing else, lesson learned.

I honestly cannot find much fault with your logic. I can disagree, which I kind of do, but there’s nothing here that jumps out at me as says “This person is wrong for reasons A and B”. I can only find one minor – miiinor -fault with this:

When you divide the playerbase into a male and female group and pit the two at each other, you and I have an issue. My main complaints were of the people who say “I’m a girl gamer” and then the next post “I’m a girl gamer” and then the next post “I’m a girl gamer” and then the next post “watch out, boys!” like there’s something wrong with being a dude. There’s a scism there, and often it’s not a very happy one (schisms are like that in nature I suppose). There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with being a gamer who happens to be gay or a woman or a dude or a woman-what-once-was-a-man or vice versa. My stance is: why can’t we be gamers first, and the other stuff second?

Dividing to *unite*, on the other hand, is an admirable thing. While I’ll always maintain the idea that the trolls are a very small minority of the playerbase (the largest group, unfortunately, are the people who aren’t that mean but say nothing at all), they are still out there: and you and the realm of Proodmoure have opened your collective arms to those who feel the need to move to a place where it’s a very verbal rule to be not-a-dick to the LGBT crowd. This is a Good Thing!

Even if we never, ever see eye-to-eye, I think it’s super cool that any form – neutered or otherwise – of rational discourse can happen so close to hot-button feminist topics. Go you!

2. Rush - April 15, 2011

I agree that it does matter. While my in-game avatar may not be anything like the real me (although I personally would love to through balls of fire and flay others’ minds), I’m still the person on the other side of the screen.

Misogynistic or anti-gay remarks are just as offensive in the physical as the virtual world, but too often we allow the anonymity of the internet and the “just a game” mentality to be the excuse for bad behavior. I try to confront these comments when they happen, let them know that it’s not acceptable, and try to use it as a growing moment. Does it always work? No. Do I sometimes pull the next wave of mobs and then drop group leaving them without a healer when they get all indignant that I object to “That’s gay”? Yes.

Wait, what was my point? Oh yeah, it may just be a game, and it may be an escape from the world, but that doesn’t mean we should excuse rudeness. Nor should we excuse “Oh well, I didn’t mean it like that gay. I just meant it was stupid.”

I look at the example just set by Kobe Bryant. He gets upset and lashes out at the ref with the two “f” words. It says volumes about him that those are the words he jumps to. Yes, he apologized, but the harm is already done.

(This rambled and wandered and I’m sorry. So many emotions and thoughts to organize.)

3. Fuzzy_Magicz - April 15, 2011

Wow. This is really deep and angry.
Well, I feel I owe you a comment as a long-time follower. I guess you needed to write this post for yourself, and you’re right on a lot of points. But I would say that you’re painting the majority of WoW players as these… casually offensive persons – in my opinion, they are a minority: a very noticeable minority, but a minority nonetheless.
Keep fighting the good fight but don’t lose yourself in it.

4. Nairu - April 15, 2011

“if they ever found out I was gay, would fire me in a heartbeat and it’s totally legal for them to do so.”
Things like this make me want to go berserk. :X

And I understand your reasoning. People who are being discriminated have to stand up and show their presence, because that’s the only way everyone else will get used to the fact that they exist and they dislike being treated like they are.

I once met a person in a BG who misused the word gay to describe whatever. I told them: “Gay is no insult”, and they replied: “I’m straight and if someone calls me gay I feel insultet, so it’s an insult.”
This little conversation tells so much about what is going on in those people’s minds. Most of them don’t even actually think being gay is something negative because they hate gays, they think it because most times they hear/read the word it is being used to say something sucks. They grow up with this association, and thus think gay people do suck just because that’s what they’ve learned the word means. and this is why I think it makes sense if people to a certain degree identify with their sex or sexual orientation when stepping into this world; they show everyone that gays are people like themselves, and it’s just ridiculous that everyone seems to care about whom they’re sleeping with.
Oh well I’m rambling, hope you get what I’m trying to say.

5. taylormattd - April 17, 2011

Stormy, I hope you don’t hate that I am posting here, but I just have to post here.

And I just have to say after reading this: I LOVE YOU!!!

6. taylormattd - April 17, 2011

Oops, cut me off, was also going to say: RIGHTEOUS POST!

7. redcow - April 18, 2011

This is a good post (and in my favorite style of ranty-ness :3)

Without delving into the complicated politics of uh…tweeting? with the following and not following and ranting, I think that the idea of just being your avatar and leaving real world issues at the login screen is one of those very wonderful-sounding but as-yet-unobtainable ideals. Like you said, you play WoW with appendages that are a commonality of humankind, not men, women, or any other gender. Buglamp’s response in this post actually brings up my point with this comment:

[…]and then the next post “watch out, boys!” like there’s something wrong with being a dude. […] There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with being a gamer who happens to be gay or a woman or a dude or a woman-what-once-was-a-man or vice versa. My stance is: why can’t we be gamers first, and the other stuff second?

The thing about hateful language like bitch, fag, and other tradechat swill is that it says “watch out, bitches/fags/minorities!” to other gamers. I’d reckon that a lot of gamers would LIKE to be thought of as gamers first, and whatever else second, when playing WoW. But, like the trolls, they come into WoW still attached to whatever identity they possess in meatspace. If trolls are going to include real life hate speech in game, those on the receiving end can’t help but be reminded that no matter that they are in game, that real life identity has been called out while playing.

This is why I like it when minority players reveal themselves; it declares them as part of a group and often times suggests support of similar players. I don’t think proudly proclaiming “girl gamers unite!” is a bad thing. It announces to other players – I am not the default (cis, straight, white, male, repeat 5x fast!). If a statement as simple as “I am a woman who plays games” is bothersome, it’s time to delve into why that is. Looking at the DragonAge2 commentary, it is obvious that many gamers still think that “gamers” look like the above stereotype (5x fast again!), so announcing that you are different from that isn’t trying to get attention, or prove you are special; it’s just to challenge poor assumptions!

tl;dr Good post, go you, moar ranting!! 😀

Stormy - April 18, 2011

This comment. I loves it. Muchly.

8. Analogue - April 18, 2011

I do think you’re putting too much weight on Blizzard kowtowing to an ignorant player base and not enough to what they probably are more worried about – parents who pay for their teenager’s WoW subscription getting pissed off about something. Not that it really changes anything.

I do think identity politics is not helpful because the only people who are going to care aren’t the people you’re having trouble with anyway. I’m a woman Player. I play with men, women, teens, straight and gay. I don’t let anyone gay with crudity in raid and I call them out in guild chat – but that doesn’t happen because as a guild we don’t tolerate it. We don’t have this big “we accept everyone” recruitment thing. We just make it known that we do not accept bad behavior.

Stormy - April 18, 2011

While I get what you’re saying that having a big No Sexism/Homophobia Allowed sign on the door is perhaps overkill, for me it’s more of a reaction to the experiences I’ve had with other players, particularly in the Very Large Guild I started out in. This guild had a similar sign on the door, and time and time again I heard from various guild members that they had previously had issues with this kind of stuff in other guilds (I’m thinking in particular of a 60ish black woman who would frequently bemoan the trash that she saw in her previous guilds) and that they appreciated finding a guild that is intolerant of intolerance. That tells me there are at least a few other people out there like me who are looking for a guild that’s a safe haven, and would actually go out of their way to find a guild like ours that advertises itself as a safe haven.

red cow - April 19, 2011

I think you are right on the money…if people are bothered by guild policies that explicitly extend acceptance to all sorts of people or forbid certain behavior, those are probably the type of people you DON’T want in your guild. Those who are looking for that type of guild can also rest assured that the leadership is aware of and enforces their policies. It’s good advertising!


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