Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Thoughts On #Gamergate and #SPJAirplay Part 2

Ok just a short update on my thought on SPJ Airplay.

So last night I was on a stream discussion with Michael Koretzky and many others to discuss SPJ Airplay. A huge thank you to Oliver Campbell and John Smith for setting it up, to Michael Koretzky for his time and to all the other people that were on the stream and made some excellent points. It’s a serious slog at over 6 hours but if you fancy a listen it can be found here.
A while ago I wrote this twitlonger on why I was skeptical about Airplay, last night’s stream seemed a good opportunity to address some of the concerns that I had with Michael Koretzky. So the first point I made in the twitlonger was that Koretzky did not seem to be supported by the rest of the SPJ when it comes to talking about Gamergate. As far as that is concerned it has become clear as time has gone on and speakers/panelists have been announced that this is not the case. The SPJ are supporting Koretzky in this endeavor and they do indeed seem to be taking the whole thing very seriously. It still strikes me as odd that they were so afraid to talk about it in the first place but there you go, it’s a non issue now.
However, and those of you who listened to the stream won’t be surprised to hear this, I’m still skeptical about Airplay. Now I don’t want to be the one that’s negative about everything, I don’t want to be the grumpy old git at the party pointing out everything not quite right about it. After I wrote the first twitlonger people were very quick to jump on me, saying that Airplay would fix things in game journalism and that I don’t care about Gamergate. That’s ok, people are welcome to disagree with me. When I made the point that the SPJ as an organisation exists to support journalists, that journalists pay money to be it’s members, and that the SPJ was never going to vindicate Gamergate or declare them to be heroes. Koretzky agreed with me on this
 The SPJ is not around to support gamers, it’s around to support journalism
One of the main reasons why people seemed to be upset and concerned by the latest Airplay update was that in it Koretzky said he didn’t care about some of the evidence being presented to him by supporters of Gamergate as far as harassment is concerned, a position that he defended on the stream saying that this evidence was irrelevant. However as the stream went on it became clear that there are still many aspects of Gamergate that Koretzky is unfamiliar with, such as the harassment patrol. Therefore I don’t see how Koretzky can be dismissing any evidence as irrelevant at this point. Like pieces in a puzzle the evidence may seem irrelevant now but may become so when Koretzky becomes more familiar with things, to dismiss things now seems premature to say the least.
If you all had condemned harassment, the journalism around GG would have been different.
As many pointed out on the stream, we’ve condemned harassment for the last ten months Koretzky. We’ve condemned it till we’re blue in the face. What difference did it make?  None whatsoever as to the way that Gamergate supporters have been portrayed by the media. The other point that I made is that Gamergate is a hashtag, not a group. The only behaviour supporters of Gamergate need to be responsible for is their own. I don’t need to condemn harasssment, unless anyone can find some instance of me harassing anyone it should be a given that I don’t support it. To use the analogy I used on stream, unless you see me out in the street kicking puppies you can take it as a given that I don’t support puppy kicking. Gamergate is still being treated as a group, with every member responsible for the actions of the whole. This while aGG is treated as individuals only responsible for their own words and deeds. This is unfair, all parties should be being treated the same and they’re not. I said as much on the stream and did not get a satisfactory answer.
As I said I don’t want to be the one ruining this for everyone else but Airplay needs someone to be critical, someone to ask questions. If that someone has to be me then so be it. I’m willing to take that role precisely because I DO care about Gamergate. I care that Gamergate gets their chance to discuss journalistic ethics, I care that Airplay is not merely Gamergate being put on trial and forced to defend itself as a guilty party. They say at the heart of every cynic lies a disappointed idealist, nothing would make me happier than for Airplay to be a huge success and fix things for everyone. But that will not happen, we will not be hailed as heroes, we may not even get the fair treatment we want. At best it will be an interesting exercise.
Oliver says that just because Koretzky is not a friend it does not make him an enemy. I say that journalists up until this point have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, and just because you cannot see the knife it doesn’t mean one isn’t there.
Thanks for reading

Thoughts Of A Feminist Gamer, Why I Don’t Want To Talk About Street Harassment And Why I Need To

Urgh, give me strength.

So it seems to be that time. I had thought that at some point it might come to this, although to be honest I had hoped that it wouldn’t. It is time for me to talk about Street Harassment, an issue that up until this point I had managed to avoid (on purpose I might add)

So why have I been so keen not to talk about it? Well because it is an issue so contentious, so debatable and so provocative that I’m aware that even the presence of the phrase ‘Street Harassment’ in the title of this post may make even my most loyal readers roll their eyes and hit the corner X. An issue that fully splits people down the middle and that a great many people are very keen to have raging disputes about. That in itself is not the problem, I don’t shy away from a good argument. However street harassment is an issue that deals with human interaction, the way that we connect, communicate and influence through mutual or reciprocal action. Human interaction as a subject is complicated and dependent upon a myriad of variables. Any debate on elements of human interaction needs to be thoroughly researched, complex, rational, and deeply nuanced, ideas which are usually the first things to go out of the window in any online discussion. It has been my experience that any conversation on street harassment usually finds people so entrenched in their ideas on the subject that it rapidly becomes a collective of individuals talking and shouting AT each other rather than TO each other since the only opinion anyone seems to be interested in is their own.

So why is this? Well part of it is the use of the word ‘Harassment’ a word which has in itself become a subject of debate, particularly in online spaces. Harassment as a concept appears to mean many different things to many different people and so behaviour that is considered harassment by some is not considered so by others. Online the word is so often used to mean trivial things, such as replying to public tweets or disagreeing with someone even respectfully, that for some the word ‘harassment’ has become largely meaningless.

hiharassmentgrilled-sexual-harassment funnyharassment

harassment tweet1

So instead of getting into a protracted discussion on what may or may not be harassment I’m just going to provide some legal definitions of the word ‘harassment’ from the US (though of course there may be minor differences depending on the state) and UK and then explain what is defined as street harassment by street harassment organisations.

Now as far as the definition of street harassment goes, according to Stop Street Harassment, an organisation that campaigns against street harassment

There is no standardized definition for street harassment (yet). Our working definition (updated March 2015) is:

Gender-based street harassment is unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.

Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.

So while the legal definition of harassment seems to be continual or repeated unwanted attentions from an individual or group the definition of street harassment does not necessarily make that distinction, so a single incident of unwanted attention is enough to be defined as street harassment. This is where the waters start to get muddy.

Catcalling, while not the only aspect, is one of the most common forms of street harassment. However, it is an unfortunate fact of life that being shouted at or stopped in the street by strangers happens to everyone for one reason or another. Recently there seems to be this idea that every time this happens it is an instance of being harassed, because we’re all entitled to go about our day without being hassled by a stranger. However, when you think about it, this isn’t really true is it? If mankind truly felt that it was a fundamental human right to go about our lives without ever being hassled by strangers then such things as telephone cold calling or door to door sales would not exist, and the fact is they do, and a great many people make their living from such jobs. In the UK, where I live, we have people with coloured vests and clipboards that randomly stop you in the street and try to convince you to give them your bank details in order to make a regular donation to good causes. In my area they are not so affectionately known as Chuggers (Charity Muggers)

chugger1An unsuspecting victim is caught and mercilessly guilt tripped by a predatory Chugger


Let us not also forgot that many of the fundamentally instinctive patterns of our mating behaviour involve interacting with strangers in order to seek potential partners, whether it be at work, in a social area such as a bar, or through mutual acquaintances. Talking to strangers is pretty inevitable. So how then do we make the decision regarding what is acceptable street harassment and what is not? Because, from what I have seen, street harassment discussions and organisations rarely make any distinctions regarding severity, preferring to leave that to the one who feels that they were harassed. This leaves us with the frankly ridiculous premise that a stranger calling a woman “Sweetheart” or saying “Good Morning” uninvited is perceived by some with the same graveness as being groped, propositioned, or threatened with violence. On Twitter there have been various hashtags, such as #YesAllWomen and #FirstHarassed, that were designed to encourage women to share the stories of their experiences of street harassment. These tags have usually started out with good intentions and great earnestness before descending into mud slinging, accusations, and defensiveness as those that do not agree that street harassment is a huge problem put forth their perspectives. Certainly there are plenty of people that believe that street harassment is very much a non issue or a first world problem.

So why do I need to talk about street harassment? I suppose you’re expecting this to be the moment where I share my personal experiences of street harassment with you right? Well I’m not going to go into details, the purpose of this is not to shame anyone or to claim victimhood. The only detail that is relevant to this is that when it first started happening to me? I was still a child, and I am far from alone in that being the case. According to this survey from Hollaback! and Cornell University from 2014 the majority of women that they surveyed first experienced street harassment between the ages of 11 and 17, most commonly at 13-14.

One of the most common responses when someone says they were catcalled is “Take it as a compliment” however it’s hard to do that when you’re at an age where you aren’t sure what’s happening and may not know how to deal with it, you just know that it makes you deeply uncomfortable and perhaps a little afraid. Now, to be clear, this is not an attempt to demonise anyone, there are many reasons why people catcall and sometimes young people look older than they really are. If you’re reading this blog post and you just happen to be the kind of person that enjoys paying compliments to young people that you don’t know then you might want to be advised, they may not be as old as you think. When arguments about street harassment happen online there are invariably criticisms that those talking about their experiences are living in the past or allowing those experiences to rule them. I can’t speak for everyone but I can say that because it happened to me when I was young it was part of what shaped my perceptions of people at that time. I was sexually assaulted and I was just told that it happens to everyone, that there are bad people around and sometimes you’re unlucky enough to encounter one. I was young and I wasn’t even sure that it was assault until much later, I didn’t report it. I was taught that you only called the police if it was an emergency and the only context I had for what constituted an ’emergency’ was what I had seen on television. What happened to me didn’t look like it did in the soap operas, it seemed much less dramatic. From my perspective the conversation about adult to adult street harassment needs to be handled differently from the kind of street harassment that occurs adult to child. We can teach our children that sometimes people do things we don’t like, that sometimes people are mean or say things because they want to get a reaction from us, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say that that shouldn’t happen. We should be able to say that children should not have to deal with this.

Now I am fully aware that there are problems with the Hollaback! research, it’s overall sample sizes are small for something claiming to represent entire countries. It also doesn’t appear to have included any men in it’s research, ignoring and erasing any experiences that men may have had with street harassment. Part of the problem with the way that street harassment as whole is dealt with us that it is very much painted as a crime that only women endure as victims and only men commit as perpetrators. Is it then any wonder that when discussions about street harassment occur that some men can get defensive? No one cares that it may have happened to them, they are expected to ‘man up’ and get on with it while being judged as a harasser or potential harasser themselves. How is that fair? So much of the discussion on street harassment is focused on women. So much that it seems to be designed to make women terrified, of life, of men, of stepping out of their front doors. Now while there are places in the world where what is perceived as the wrong response to street harassment can place the recipient in real danger of physical harm. Does that mean that every single woman is in danger of rape every time a man says “Good Morning”? No. That is why I must talk about street harassment, however much I may not want to. Because women are NOT the only ones that are catcalled or assaulted while out in public, men and children are too. Yet they are completely ignored while women are told that they constantly have to be afraid, that men will abuse them if only given the chance. The balance of this discussion is all wrong, it only takes into account the perspectives that women are victims and men are aggressors or that there is no issue to deal with and people need to be a little more thick skinned about catcalling and report more severe behaviour to the authorities.

And so that’s where I sit, right in the space between those who say “Street harassment is not a problem” and those that say “Street harassment is a HUGE problem for women” Human beings are complicated, and the discussion of street harassment should be equally complicated. As for myself, as I have gotten older occurrences of catcalling have lessened and I have tended to take them less seriously. In fact, the last time I was catcalled I was thinking about writing this very blog post. So I’d just like to say, to the man on the bicycle with the gap in his teeth who said “Hello baby” as he rode towards me when I was on my way to work the other day? That’s why I laughed in your face, hope you weren’t too miffed.

Thank you for reading

Find me on Twitter @angelheartnight