First of all, a necessary disclaimer: although this Soapbox will discuss with a certain degree of freedom the differences between the two genders, you are not entitled to whap the author of said 'Box over the head because you think he has no clue about women.
How long has the issue of safety for women on the Internet been an issue? Ever since the Internet hit public, yes? So what would spur me to tackle such a tired, overdone topic?
Quake, of course.
It seems, although I admit I haven't thoroughly researched the details surrounding this, that a certain woman who plays Quake online by the name HellKitten has received a lot of offensive and abusive comments. The trouble started when Dhabih Eng, a friend I've traded secrets and info with since around the end of last year (this guy got a job at Sierra On-Line at age seventeen or so, doing freehand artwork), drew a picture of HellKitten as she requested. I've seen the pic. It has Dhabih Eng written all over it. The woman is in Quake attire and is of course meant to look stunning with her arrogant hairstyle and tattoo on her flat stomach. Dhabih covered up the breasts, which was a tasteful choice, in my opinion.
Okay, so I saw this on Blue's News and I thought nothing more of it than, "Goddamn, Dhabih's good at this stuff -- HellKitten should be thoroughly pleased with this." I'm sure most people were thinking the same things about it. Well-adjusted individuals.
But, and this was part of what led up to the big hurt, with the posted picture was a URL to HellKitten's site. She of course gathered plenty of attention for all of this and it wasn't long before she started getting the e-mails.
Now, if you're not familiar with the Quake community, I'll give you a brief profile. As a whole, the Quake community is amazing -- I've never seen a community with so much disposable income to spend on increasing the framerate for Quake, or the knowhow of how to set up even the most arcane systems, or the experience in programming to release single-author modifications to the Quake engine. If you meet a Quake player, chances are he knows a Hell of a lot about the gaming and computer industries. But Quake also tends to attract the lowest levels of scum, since it is, at its most basic state, a game where you just run around and blow the shit up out of everyone else.
So we're talking about a mainly male Quake community here. With the age group hovering around the mid-teens to the mid-twenties. Hell, the game was written by people who are around that age. The game's death messages range from "You accept Sexy Pimp's shaft." to "Shithead makes PurplePenis his whore." Player's names are commonly those of the names used above. It's a real male testosterone thing. When players get pissed off, they'll spout vulgarities and ICMP ping flood opponents and spam until they get kicked off the server.
So you can imagine how these same people reacted when they went to HellKitten's page and looked at her real-life pictures. Word is she got some very lewd e-mails, the bodies of them probably consisting of disgusting propositions and harassing sexual fantasies.
After what may have been a week, HellKitten took her site down because of all the negative trash she had to put up with from the segment of the Quake community that would be perverse enough to harass her.
Women have been trying to make a name for themselves in the Quake community for quite awhile, what with an all-female Quake tournament and many press reviews of all-female clans, like clan PMS. But, you see, for most of the players, women are already accepted and they're seen equally unless they just plain suck at playing Quake. The good female players like KillCreek, who beat one of the programmers for Quake one-on-one are very respected and are constantly being asked for their hands in marriage (some in jest, some in pathetic seriousness), but no doubt they get their share of disgusting material themselves. It's just a shame that it takes one pervert out of ten people to ruin the fun for someone -- I've seen myself that someone with a feminine name (probably a guy with a feminine name, but anyway ;) ) will be asked all sorts of sick questions during the course of a match.
The men and boys who have to resort to such childishness are hiding behind an Internet entity -- they know that they're relatively safe, no matter what they do online. They can spam and swear and tell women what they'd like to do to them and not fear any recourse unless an admin is online (and even a Quake server admin can't do much unless he really goes out of his way). Many times these perverts will be young boys who have yet to learn that the deprecating games they played with each other as children do not work in winning the heart of a woman and, well, getting women into bed. You know...bragging about sexual prowess and experience when they've never even ventured past their own hands' dexterity. I guess boys will never change in this respect, but I wish there were a way to curb the freedom they enjoy online. Even men who are older and who should have matured past the initial impulse to see it and fuck it will be the ones abusing and harassing women online. For whatever reason, not respecting women, hating women, just wanting sex (A.D.I.D.A.S...), being a complete ass to anyone and everyone, some of the male Quake players are just as guilty as the boys half their age or less.
Maybe their behavior stems from some desire partially brought on by mass media to have a voluptuous woman subdue them and spend a meaningless one-night stand with them. I don't know.
At any rate, this is a plague to both the Quake community and to the online community. These stories pass all the way along to non-Quake players. Hell, harassment of women doesn't even have to occur through Quake. I don't know the exact names of the women who have had to do this, but many female website authors have taken down their sites after they've been abused because of the frankness of their writing, their real-life pictures, just the fact that they're women, or whatever. It is a concern for a majority of women before they put up a site whether they want to go through with it. I know a female friend of mine who recently asked me if it was safe to put up a site. I told her about some cases, including HellKitten's, but I told her it was reasonably safe to put up a site as long as she understood that there is a possibility she will encounter harsh criticism. I also told her to be extremely careful of what she puts online -- real-life pictures are pretty much a no-no for most women, as are personal addresses and phone numbers. Talking about provocative issues like love and sex should be taken very seriously in discussion. Stuff like that.
Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but it's my impression that the feedback a woman gets for a site is a realistic concern. For men, we don't have to worry -- no one cares about us and no one goes to our sites just to get into our pants.
This is sad. This shouldn't be the case. There's no way to legislate this, no way to protect against harassment completely. If you receive an offensive e-mail, you can forward it to the postmaster of the originating address, but come on, the emotional damage has been done already. So it is just safer not to put anything permanent and public up on the Internet, right? I don't know. I see the expression of one's opinions and feelings as very powerful for all those who invest the time in it. I know in my case that the insight my site has given to me is immeasurable. But then again, I don't really have to worry about harassment because of what I write. I've never had to experience the fear and pain that are involved.
What it all comes down is to how much you value your personal safety and how much you care about putting yourself out there for the world to see so you can write and create things which show how you feel.
And in whatever case, whichever gender, it is always important to protect yourself and play smart -- just doing that will save you a heap of trouble from those perverts and psychos out there who have nothing better to do than tell you just how shallow an individual you are, how bad your writing style is, or how fuckable your body is.
In conclusion, a favor to ask...come on, people. Grow the fuck up. If you're aware that you're a pathetic individual, don't take it out on others. Try to improve yourself -- that's the ONLY way you're going to feel better about yourself. Dragging people down with you only compounds your self-loathing. You know I hate people...I detest them. But most all people do not deserve to be treated poorly and if you make someone afraid or scared or whatever, you can bet I'm going to be there to check you.
I don't want people near me, but that doesn't mean I don't want them to be happy. Hey, if people are happy believing in Christian evangelists who touch them on the chest so they fall over in a fit of love for God, fine. Whatever. If that's what they need to keep them going, no problem. But I can guarantee you that if you come in and make their lives unhappy and less worth living, you'll have to explain yourself thoroughly to at least just me.
Treat women in general like the beautiful creatures they are. Don't bother other people unless they bother you first or if your intentions aren't hostile. Leave everyone alone. Leave more fortunate people alone. Leave me alone.
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