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Face-punching game-maker’s standoff with Toronto woman escalates

- July 10th, 2012

The flame-war continues, garnering headlines at the local, national and even American level.

Some background for those just joining us:

In one corner, we have Ben “Bendilin” Spurr, the 25-year-old Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., man who created the game “Punch Anita Sarkeesian In The Face” because he thought her Kickstarter project was a big vagina-based scam. Spurr is backed by a hoard of gamers, and a few anonymous trolls.

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In other other corner we have Steph “Amirightfolks” Guthrie, the Toronto activist who launched an public shaming campaign against Spurr for his game’s misogynist overtones. Guthrie is backed by feminist types and gamers who are sick of the get-back-in-the-kitchen culture.

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The whole thing has led to Bendilin’s brief Twitter suspension and, of course, all sorts of vitriol being lobbed Guthrie’s way, including death threats dismissed by some as “copypasta.”

While the Toronto Twitterati, myself included, have been watching and participating in this kerfuffle for a few days now, the death threats have propelled the story into the national sphere, prompting posts at Canada.com and, more recently, Think Progress.

Alyssa Rosenberg, feminist pop-culture writer extraordinaire, nicely summarized what many of you have been expressing in the comments: That Bendilin and his ilk are jerks, but that Guthrie was perhaps overly harsh in her shaming approach.

First, I should acknowledge that Guthrie’s language in calling out Bendilin Spurr—the initial tweet was “So I found the Twitter account of that fuck listed as creator of the ‘punch a woman in the face’ game. Should I sic the internet on him?”—was harsher than I would have used, though I’m not really opposed to publicly shaming people who do gross things or threaten people online, particularly if they do so under their real names or Facebook accounts, or leave a clear trail back to such things. People aren’t entitled to greater deference than they give other people. But I think if you’re going to shame someone, it’s probably better to take the moral high ground. That is not always an easy thing to define. Personally, I’m comfortable calling people by name and explaining why what they did was dangerous, offensive, or uncool, though I would never tell folks to respond with retaliatory harassment, or affirmatively contact employers or universities to suggest that they not hire or admit someone. If we want to keep the institutions of the internet and the real world troll-free spaces, we have to avoid adopting certain tactics ourselves.

But Rosenberg reserves the bulk of her criticism for the sexist trolls:

The thing is, given that trolls have failed to scare Sarkeesian into silence, and they now appear to be failing to shut Guthrie up, what do they think they’re achieving? Screaming violent, sexist trash at women doesn’t dispel the idea that gamers are sexist, or insensitive to women’s concerns, or afraid of people who challenge their ideas. It’s not as if this is an example of classical trolling, which is meant to reveal something about the target’s naivete or hypocrisy. Calling a woman a cunt reveals vastly more about what the speaker thinks is acceptable than it does about the woman who’s on the receiving end of his name-calling. Everything about this kind of trolling is oriented towards short-term efforts to get individual women to stop saying things that make the trolls uncomfortable. And if those efforts fail, the trolls have left behind huge amounts of evidence that reinforce the perceptions of people who think they’re a bunch of troglodytes, making it more likely that feminists of all genders will say more things in the future that make the trolls uncomfortable. In addition to being ugly harassment, it’s bad, stupid strategy. At some point, you’d think that dudes who don’t want to be called out as sexists would try something else.

What do you think?

 

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12 comments

  1. Anonymous | July 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Bendilin’s actions don’t represent anyone but Bendilin himself. Even people who disagree with Anita Sarkeesian don’t agree with Bendilin.

    With that being said, I resent being lumped together with “men” as some sort of collective group, as if everyone who happens to be male are all in this conspiracy against you together or even care for your existence.

    Many of us who have been called trolls do not identify with real people, those who have jobs in some industry trying to win the rat race. We’ve discarded such petty pursuits such as that, and even women. We don’t need nor care about women. We are hikkomori. To us, real women are irrelevant and 2D love is superior. Games have already become complex enough to simulate beings that can love and give us affection. The three dimensional world is meaningless to us and for the most part, we leave it alone.

    However, Sarkeesian crossed that line. Before I get into that, allow me to explain something.

    Amongst those who have rejected 3D, we jokingly call real people “3DPD” (3D; pig disgusting) and use the Japanese word “waifu” to represent our fictional, simulated love interests.

    Now, Sarkeesian. She insulted our waifus. This is why she was attacked ruthlessly. Many of us hikkomori saw this as a needless assault of 3DPD attacking 2D and our very reason to exist. Most of us did NOT care about feminism until this line was crossed.

    We realize that feminism wishes to eradicate the only thing that brings us happiness in this world that has rejected us. People like Anita picked the wrong people to mess with, and it wasn’t men out in the real world, it was innocent hikkomori who would have otherwise left you alone.

  2. Anonymous | July 10, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    My previous comment was originally directed towards http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/brenda-bailey-gershkovitch/sexist-videogames_b_1661594.html?show_comment_id=167370914#comment_167370914

    But it warrants being reposted here as this senseless assault on shut in culture keeps continuing.

  3. Anonymous | July 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I originally meant to post this on HuffingtonPost and their “Why Being a Woman Working in the Gaming Biz Gets Ugly” article but their moderation seems to be unwilling to publish the truth behind the cause.

  4. Justin Bell | July 10, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I wonder if some of these gamers are getting their backs up about Sarkeesian’s projects is because they feel they are being prejudged themselves. If she says these games are sexist, and they are playing sexist games, does that make them a bunch of misogynists?

    Unfortunately, the conversation hasn’t gone that way. There’s no careful parsing of what’s happening in these games, and what it says about their creators or users, or how to change them (assuming Sarkeesian finds them to be sexist). Instead, we have public shaming (maybe not polite) and death threats (definitely never acceptable and possibly criminal). It’s upsetting that a screaming match is what we’ve ended up with.

  5. Sheena Goodyear | July 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Actually, I think Sarkeesian aims to do just that — explore these issues in depth. And she’s good too. Check out her videos on women and tropes in TV. She doesn’t label things sexist, so much as she takes a analytical look at recurring themes and tropes.

  6. Sheena Goodyear | July 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    All I can think to say about this is that whatever your lifestyle, and I’m all for it, real women do, in fact, continue to exist. And in existing, we continue to play games and have a right to then dissect those games.

  7. Anonymous | July 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/magazine/26FOB-2DLove-t.html?pagewanted=all

    I suggest many of you to read this article on 2D love.

    Dissect games especially those tailored to our ideal all you want, but realize you are stepping on landmines by doing so. Wouldn’t it be better just to leave us alone?

  8. More Anonymous | July 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I love how the media has really made this a men vs women issue. The reason why the internet spewed hate on Sarkeesian is shes not a gamer. Notice I didn’t say female gamer or male gamer. The gamer world is genderless and honestly its one place in the world where a both sexes can compete with out the physical differences being a large factor ask any female gamer what its like to beat the boy and its why they play.

    The issue Sarkeesian isn’t addressing why don’t more girls play video games or developing the games them self. instead she attacking the industry for doing what they have been doing for years marketing towards the largest group of people who are willing to spend money on a product.

    Sarkeesian is a trope, she’s that feminism who cant see the issue is bigger than her own wants. Unless gamers are willing hold company to a greater standard by not buy sexist games the video will change nothing. Sarkeesian will be nothing more than a pr stunt for a company like EA.

  9. More Anonymous | July 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    I take great offense to this “And in existing, we continue to play games and have a right to then dissect those games.”

    I make Indy games I dont make them so you can dissect them. I make them to tell my story I make them so I can play the game I want to play. I dont force you to play them and I dont make you buy them. But when I put my games out in the world I sure as hell don’t care what any one thinks. Maybe I made the game to make you think. Maybe I made the game based around game play but hat chapter is done I’ll I care about is did you like the game and will you buy another. Mario does’t save the princess because shes weak, Mario saves the princes because Shigeru Miyamoto needed a plot device to make his platform game stand out. The reason they continue to use it today is out of tradition and homage to the original games. If they did something else it wouldn’t be a Mario game. But don’t think for one second Shigeru Miyamoto made that game so you could dissect it spending hours writing a thesis paper on it instead of playing and enjoying what it is a game.

  10. Scott | July 13, 2012 at 1:52 am

    After reading her tripe for the past several weeks I think it’s safe to say that Sheena Goodyear can be labelled as a “troll”.

    She writes:

    “The flame-war continues, garnering headlines at the local, national and even American level.”

    Flame wars are not reporting nor are they even newsworthy. I would suggest based on my reading of Miss Goodyear (if that is her real name) that her opinion pieces are fluff and belong on a personal blog or twitter.

  11. Scott | July 13, 2012 at 2:46 am

    I guess I’m not allowed to speak my polite, logical opinion in a free country? Really?

  12. Sheena Goodyear | July 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Sure is my real name!

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