Anti-feminism on and off the internet: Thoughts about #gamergate

gamergateThe controversy surrounding an event known to the internet as “Gamer Gate”, or “#gamergate,” if you prefer, has lead me to reflect on some common misconceptions about feminism.

For those unacquainted with the gamer subculture, this confusing and depressing series of events involves Zoe Quinn, a game designer who was unfaithful to a boyfriend with multiple journalists in the gaming industry. Her actions were met by a huge response from online gamers, who claimed to be crusading for journalistic integrity (allegedly Quinn slept with journalists for a better review, which seems to me a rather difficult accusation to substantiate), but who were in reality crusading for misogyny. It was a tremendously depressing experience for me, observing the absolutely toxic comments hurled at Quinn.

What do I mean by anti-feminism? It isn’t the anti-egalitarian philosophy of Phyllis Schlafly, though that is rather odious unto itself. I’m talking about the dark corners of the internet (Looking at you, Reddit) that function more or less as a way for disgruntled boys and men to vent about their negative experience with women, “sluts”, and feminists, whose supposed goal is simply power over men.

On Reddit, anti-feminist communities have begun to use terminology from The Matrix: “Brainwashed” pro-feminists have taken the “blue pill,” whereas men informed as to the sinister nature of feminism have taken the “red pill.” “Red pill” users are encouraged to adopt misogynist behavior, on the grounds that women enjoy subservient roles.

Now, I am no super-feminist. I can’t pontificate on topics like gender identity or the male gaze. I can’t quote Gloria Steinem or bell hooks or Audre Lorde. But I can grasp the simple principle behind feminism: That sex should not determine one’s future. That individuals should not be prohibited from life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness by the sexual organs they were granted at birth. In short, if you believe in equality, you are a feminist. Who could object to this? Unless one subscribes to nonsensical religious or pseudo-scientific explanations that women were meant to serve and not act, I cannot fathom a decent argument against feminism.

I suspect many of the “red pill” set are in actuality broken-hearted guys whose anger overwhelms their reason. This is why a lot of their arguments boil down to “I was hurt, therefore all women are bad.” In this capacity they are to be pitied as misguided, rather than insulted as “butt-hurt” fedora-wearers.

We must also concede that just as sometimes the internet brings out the worst in men, it sometimes too brings out the worst in feminists. There are dozens of blogs out there with mean-spirited takes on feminism that regard any sort of dissent as pure evil. However, the toxic minority should not dissuade us from adhering to fundamentally good principles. Religious people do not let fanatics ruin their belief. When a politicians are caught in a scandal, we don’t allow ourselves to become cynical about their ideas and policies. The same should go for feminism. Maybe you read a Tumblr post by a feminist that you didn’t like; this in no way invalidates the idea that gender should not determine one’s future.

As the socialist George Orwell once wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier, “As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents,” but that these adherents do not disprove the original ideas. We should feel the same way about feminism. Upon the realization that there is no feminist mafia hellbent on male castration, one is presented with a fairly simply choice: Believe in equality of opportunity, a concept that should appeal to most across the political spectrum, and you are a feminist. Do not, and you are not a feminist. The rest is detail.