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In the early-2000s, conservative mothers everywhere were clutching their pearls.
After the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, conservative mothers were frantic. They blamed everything except what was actually to blame—that two disturbed teenagers, one peer-pressured by his more controlling pal, decided to commit a school shooting. They blamed rap music. Eminem and Tupac were vile, brainwashing monsters. They were inspired by the ’80s Satanic Panic and blamed rock music. Marilyn Manson was the early millennial’s Devil. They even blamed violent books, like Stephen King’s Rage. But most of all, they blamed video games. Led by now-disgraced and disbarred lawyer Jack Thompson, the conservative mothers of America came out in force. These school shooters had to be inspired by shoot-em-kill-em games like Doom and Wolfenstein, right!? In 2001, a popular video game franchise released its third installment, the first one to be 3D. That game was Grand Theft Auto III. Jack Thompson and the conservative mothers of America reached a consensus: violent video games are corrupting our children. Even though Grand Theft Auto has an adult rating, you’ve got to THINK OF THE CHILDREN!
Never mind these were the same parents who likely bought their kids Conker’s Bad Fur Day in 2001, and were blissfully unaware of the dark truth behind Happy Tree Friends, because cutesy-wutesy animations can’t possibly be violent, even if they are rated for Mature Audiences. No bother. We have to ban all the games (*insert outdated early-2010s meme). Children are being corrupted. We believe everything! Grand Theft Auto is a series about murdering prostitutes for points. Mass Effect has a scene where you can have sex!
Basically, this movement was about misconstruing video games (or computer games, as the conservatives called them, regardless of the game being on a computer or console) as violent, brutal serial killer machines indoctrinating boys into becoming evil. And they had influence. While Jack Thompson faded into laughable obscurity, he was idolized by the Fox News-watching crowd. Even to this very day, conservatives will find any study that vaguely says video games can be potentially negative, and there’ll be a segment on Fox News or a morning breakfast show, or an article in a News Limited newspaper. Countries like Australia didn’t have an R-rating in video games until very recently, because why would adults play video games? Plenty of pro-Gamergaters—a group of people who label themselves as gamers—were part of the Conservative Video Game Panic prior to 2014, such as Milo Yiannopolous, another figure who has faded into obscurity, who believed video gamers are losers because they spend more time with their controllers than their, er, figurative controllers.
However, while the conservatives who freak out about video games still exist, they’re nowhere near as prominent as they were circa 2001. Donald Trump believes the Florida school shooter was inspired by video games. If this was 2001, Trump would have been lauded. In Current Year 2018, only pretty extreme conservatives agreed with his statement. In a cringeworthy debate on Fox News, Laura Ingraham and Ben Shapiro echoed similar sentiments.
A new breed of anti-video gamer has risen from the ashes of the defeated conservative mom within the past five years. And that is the Conservative Left.
The Conservative Left? you might ask. How can that even exist?
Well, it shouldn’t. By their very nature, the Left should be progressive. There is a certain subset of the far-Left that would disagree with you, because words and dictionary definitions mean nothing to them anyway.
This specific subset of the Left may label themselves as “sex-negative feminists”, and a sex-positive feminist reading this might call these sex-negative feminists “white feminists”.
A sex-negative feminist is exactly as the name implies: a feminist who is critical of all things sex. However, not all members of the Conservative Left are feminists, but a fair portion of feminists are anti-sex. These people see sex everywhere, because they are worried about fictional women being oppressed, and their version of the conservative mother’s refrain is: THINK ABOUT THE WOMEN!
Where an early-2000s conservative may panic about prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto because it will manipulate impressionable boys into thinking they can shoot people in public for “points”, a late-2010s Conservative Leftie will panic because that fictional woman is being oppressed by “male gaze”. What is the male gaze? A made-up term by second-wave feminist Laura Mulvey to describe men looking at things. Because OMG WHY DO MEN EVEN HAVE EYES!!1!
The Conservative Left is in a moral panic because fictional women are being oppressed. Members of this cohort such as Anita Sarkeesian, one of the early movers of sex-negative feminism, spends more time critiquing media representation of women instead of, say, critiquing real life representation of women. bell hooks is probably the most notable critic of fictional women.
These people will tell you that fictional portrayals have real-life repercussions, that beating up a suffragette in Red Dead Redemption II will lead to real-life men beating up feminists and women in real life. That scantily-clad women in video games will lead to…I dunno, scantily-clad women in real-life? These new conservatives believe women have no choice in anything, much like conservatives of old believe children are manipulative, gullible fools. Why would a woman choose to wear a pair of shorts!? That’s clearly male gaze. They cite characters like Lara Croft, because she’s probably the only video game character they’ve heard of, as examples of male gaze. Men will stare at Lara Croft’s breasts and backside and that’s baaaaaad.
Despite a fair percentage of the Conservative Left not actually being video gamers, something they have in common with 2001 Conservative Mom, they have a huge influence over the video game industry and mainstream media. Whereas in the past you would see a Fox News segment about how a teenager killed someone and Doom was to blame, nowadays you will likely see an article from The Guardian talking about the important issues like How video games are fuelling the rise of the far right.
According to many on the Conservative Left, everything is political, and that includes video games. Their minds are already made up: video games will make you sexist, just like conservatives of old are already one thousand percent sure video games will make you violent.
Yet these Conservative Lefties do not see the hypocrisy. They believe they are better than the Jack Thompsons. After Donald Trump’s announcement in March to hold a meeting on violence and video games, these Modern Conservatives mocked him in force. No! they shouted. Video games aren’t the problem. It’s guns! Yet some of these same people will immediately jump to alt-Right video gamers who watch that evil Nazi sympathizer PewDiePie whenever a man who happens to be white commits any act of violence. Even though gamers make up the whole spectrum of political belief, and PewDiePie is not a Nazi. Get that through your head, Ghazelles.
The Conservative Left have enough influence that video game addiction was considered a mental illness by the World Health Organization. By that logic, shouldn’t excessive reading or Netflixing be considered a mental illness? Video gamer is still seen as an insult to the general public, and the Conservative Left are well on their way to making the public associate “gamer” with “misogynist.”
Much like the conservatives of old, these people are not helping their cause. Conservative mothers of the early-2000s didn’t care about protecting children. They just wanted something they personally disagreed with to be banned off the face of the earth. The Conservative Left do not care about protecting women. If they did, they would spend less time focusing on made-up women like Lara Croft or Bayonetta or the hypothetical prostitutes of GTA and more time on real-life women facing real issues. While some of them may do this, for example, by attending Women’s Marches like in 2016, they sure seem focused on made-up women.
Why do they focus on fictional women over real-life women? Because it’s easier. It is much easier to complain about the sexualization of Claire Redfield and Ada Wong in Resident Evil 2 or the ill-treatment of the female suffragette in RDR2. It’s easier to rant about toxic male gamers in your video game “journalism” site of choice than to realize that doesn’t really matter and you should be focusing on real-life women affected by real-life toxic men. Of course these people will say they’re doing exactly that: they’re criticizing the ill treatment of Christine Blasey Ford by Brett Kavanaugh. But that’s easy. Almost everyone else is doing that.
Why not the women who don’t have a voice? Like the struggling activists in countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, who are accused of being “Islamophobic” for daring to ask for basic human rights. Like Naomi Wu, who has been harassed by popular feminists who think they have it worse in the United States than Wu does in China. Like these women here, a majority of whom are ignored over issues that have been sensationalized by a dying mainstream media who only want clicks.
Because anyone who thinks harassing prostitutes for points or beating up a suffragette are actually focal points of previously mentioned games, clearly don’t play these games. Just like the early-2000s conservatives, these are people who just want to be offended for the sake of being offended.
So why do we keep giving them attention?
We need to stop. The Conservative Left are worse than the Right in a way. By saying “think of the women” in the same way “think of the children” used to be uttered, they are equating women to children. The term “male gaze” implies women have no autonomy of their own, and being a woman is like being defenseless, weak and useless. Constantly blaming men for every woman who isn’t a feminist-approved female or every character that isn’t feminist-approved is the wrong way to go about. Even to say “internalized misogyny” if a woman created a non-feminist approved female character is to denigrate women and shout WOMEN ARE NOTHING from the rooftops.
To the Conservative Left: Would you rather a man sexualize a woman in a video game, and not do anything bad to women IRL? Or are these basically the same? Because I know what I’d rather. One is made-up, and one is real.
And, no, not every video gamer is that Australian Twitch streamer. Just because one in every whatever of gamers partakes in sexist behavior online, doesn’t mean they will do it offline. Multiple reasons constitute sexist actions IRL. These video gamers also breathe air. You breathe air. Are you sexist? Coincidence?
To the Original Conservatives: Studies show video gamers have the same levels of violence as non-video gamers. They’re acting out a fantasy in front of a screen. It is not real life. By mowing down pedestrians in GTA, people are less likely to be violent. Would you rather someone commit a violent act in real life or online? Because I know what I’d want.
And, no, not every video gamer is going to commit a mass shooting. Just because a shooter happened to play vidya games, doesn’t mean all video gamers commit violent acts. Multiple reasons constitute murderous actions IRL. These shooters also drank water. You drink water. Coincidence?