Gamergate and Shirtgate

In a previous post, I discussed how discussion topics can be reframed to the detriment of everyone. In that post, I referenced gamergate as an example, but have recently also been involved in a discussion about shirtstorm aka shirtgate.

I want to use this post to express my opinion on both; I haven’t done so in the past, which has led down the path of intarwebs arguments the world didn’t need. This post, then, is the frame of reference I am implying when I post about either topic.

Shirtgate

My position on this topic is that people focus far too much on Dr. Taylor’s wardrobe, and far too little on the Rosetta mission’s achievements.

It has been posited that the Rosetta mission’s achievements pale in comparison to Dr. Taylor’s wardrobe choice. I strongly disagree with that sentiment.

Pro Rosetta/Dr. Taylor:

  1. Nobody should be judged based on their clothing choices or outward appearance.
  2. Anyone devoting a decade of their life to trying to further the knowledge of mankind1 should be honoured for their achievements.
  3. Dr. Taylor’s shirt is not, in itself, an affront to women. More on that below.
  4. Whether you care about it or not, the Rosetta mission has made two remarkable achievements: it has made the most difficult landing on a remote object in space to date, and it has provided evidence for the theory that life on earth could have originated offworld. Either are indisputably furthering our reach and experience in a positive manner.

Con Rosetta/Dr. Taylor:

  1. Dr. Taylor should have known his shirt would cause a bad reaction.
  2. Dr. Taylor did not represent his agency in a positive way as a result.

Any other points I don’t even consider debating in this.

People may wish to use the opportunity of his wardrobe to reframe the topic of Dr. Taylor’s success into a discussion about sexism. All I have to say on the topic is that mildly eroticized depictions of women are not sexist, nor is wearing them. What is sexist is a culture in which such depictions are considered the norm, but similarly eroticized depictions of men are unusual.

It’s fine to point this out. It’s fine to use Dr. Taylor’s shirt as an example. It’s not fine to ruin a man’s reputation and life work2 to make a point that’s been made over and over again.

Gamergate

My position on gamergate is a little harder to express, because the topic is a little more complex to me. The basis of my position, however, are the following points:

  1. I am mildly concerned about ethics in games journalism. Games journalism is, to paraphrase a friend, a cesspool. It needs fixing. If your livelihood depends on it, you may care more about fixing it than I do, whose livelihood does not depend on it. But really, I am more interested in upholding ethics in journalism, never mind the games part.
  2. I am very concerned with sexist behaviour anywhere.
  3. I have long been troubled that sexism appears to be an entrenched part of gaming culture – much to the detriment of all gamers.

Based on these points, I view #gamergate critically. At the core of my argument is that at this point in time, it is actually hard to say whether #gamergate promotes ethics in games journalism, or rampant misogyny.

You can easily find arguments that it was about one, but has been reframed to be about the other – on either side of the divide. My own view is that the entire thing kicked off to be about both things pretty much simultaneously, which makes both sides right and wrong.

Pretty much nobody disputes that “the controversy began after indie game developer Zoe Quinn’s ex-boyfriend alleged that Quinn had a romantic relationship with a journalist for the video game news site Kotaku”. If you take this as the basis without further interpretation, you can derive the following conclusions from that:

  1. The Kotaku journalist will have been biased if he ever wrote about Quinn’s creations. His ethics can be questioned if he gives an unusually favourable review of them.
  2. The accusation is that Quinn behaved wrongly; the accusation is not that the Kotaku journalist behaved wrongly. Given the first point, this choice of target is not entirely fair, and indicates strong emotional motivations or possibly a sexist stance, or both.

I can’t speak about whether Quinn’s ex is sexist. I can, however, speak about the fact that Quinn and every woman in the gamer community speaking out in support of her has been harassed and threatened, and that is horribly misogynistic behaviour – the gender3 bias here erases any doubts as to whether misogyny is at the heart of the events.

This is not to say that all supporters of #gamergate must be misogynists. It is however to say that sexism is at the heart of the controversy, whether you want it to be or not. That means that in terms of framing, #gamergate is just as much about ethics in games journalism as it is about promoting misogyny, not because each individual supporter wants that, but because the roots of the controversy have formed public opinion in this manner.

What I then criticize about #gamergate is that I have seen no significant effort by the #gamergate supporters to disentangle their topic of “ethics in games journalism” from the “misogyny” topic.

I’ve had arguments suggesting that it’s impossible. I’ve written my post about reframing in response to that. I firmly believe it is possible.

The upshot is this: if you care about convincing me that something needs to be done about ethics in games journalism, devote your efforts towards ethics in games journalism. Whether you do that by “reclaiming” the #gamergate hashtag or abandoning it, I don’t care.

You have my support for the cause. You don’t have my support for the label.

As long as the #gamergate group is so mixed up in misogynistic behaviour4, I cannot speak out in support of it. I can only consider it a hate group, and write about it accordingly.

That’ll ruffle some feathers, no doubt. I’m sorry about that.

But if you respond to this, consider how trying to change my point of view really isn’t contributing any positive energy towards achieving more ethical behaviour in games journalism. You really can be doing better than that, by staying on the topic you claim you care about.

  1. In an ethical manner. You can argue that infecting people with a Zombie virus would further the knowledge of mankind, but it’d hardly be ethical. []
  2. To date. Let’s hope the guy rallies from this. []
  3. It’s not just about gender, as the targets appear to be anyone deviating from the hetero white male “norm”. []
  4. Of course only individuals are, and they’re even likely in the minority. []