November 09, 2011


Sarah Darkmagic brings to gamerdom an ongoing discussion highlighting the ambient level of misogynistic rage women encounter when they make themselves known on the Internet.

It would be nice to believe that the sense of community we feel at gaming events, and the hobby’s aura of relative innocence, protect us from having to deal with predators, creeps and abusers. Really the surprise is that we don’t have it worse. Gaming, providing as it does a structured form of personal interaction, has always offered a haven to folks flummoxed by social demands others take for granted. They certainly aren’t the only gaming constituency. Most graduate from this phase, sometimes with the help of a lot of d20s, and move on with their lives.

But among the socially marginalized, there is a smaller slice still who are that way for a reason—because they’re so emotionally stunted, frustrated and consumed with bitterness that they can only reach out by lashing out. We can’t be welcoming to the shy and gloriously eccentric without also drawing in a certain percentage of the truly messed-up.

Hate mail is nothing new, but the net lends verbal assault a global audience and one-touch convenience. My assumption is that this hate impulse is more or less the same, no matter who’s being targeted. The hate junkie types the most vicious stuff he can think of. When it’s a man going after a woman, the language of sexual menace is only too readily at hand. Does it matter that some of these losers are moved to hate by their inability to connect with women in real life, while others some conduct their harassment in a calculating and impersonal way?

It would, I guess, if this were a problem solvable through exhortation, peer pressure, or other forms of social suasion. But hate junkies have already exempted themselves from the social grid, or have never managed to get onto it in the first place. I imagine that a surprising number are closet cases: able to show apparent empathy in their day-to-day dealings, but turning into covert, touch-typing Mr. Hydes with the blinds drawn and the computer booted up.

Misogynistic harassment, like other outflows of hate addiction, is the vengeance of the emotionally marginalized. We can speak up to offer solidarity and support to those subjected to it. I just wish that awareness campaigns, formal or otherwise, stood a chance of getting through to those who spew the stuff.