The #GamerGate kerfuffle might lead some of you to think that OMG, there’s so much sexism out there. You probably should have seen it thirty years ago:
I got the job on a whim. I happened to be in the store looking at Intellivision games. I didn’t have an Intellivision, but was interested in perhaps buying a console. I got to talking to the manager of the store about video games and at the end of the conversation, he offered me a job. I took it.
That job was a lesson in sexism. All too often, guys would come in looking for advice on which games or console to buy, or to browse our massive D&D section and when I went to help them, they would ask if my manager was around, or they would tell me they didn’t need my help. I’d try to engage them, talk to them about the games, but they would always, in various phrasing, say they want a guy to help them. That they didn’t think I’d be able to answer their questions or know enough about the games to help them make their decisions. Sometimes I would be the only employee in the store (when my manager was there, he backed me up) and they were stuck with me. They would pepper me with questions, making me “prove” my knowledge or my fandom. This was the same attitude I faced as a sports fan — guys often making me prove my worth, as if i had to pass a test to be allowed into their “club.”
“But you’re a girl!” followed her all through womanhood:
I eventually quit that job — a job I thought was my dream job (I was only about 19, what did I know) — because I was tired of being on the verge of tears all the time. The thing was, I still loved working there. I loved being surrounded by video games all day. I loved that part of my job was demonstrating the games but I also loved that part of the job was demonstrating my knowledge and so often I wasn’t given that chance because I was a girl and what do girls know about video games?
Which is not to say that things have actually improved since those days:
I’m just as frustrated now as I was when I stood in that store and had a guy tell me “I don’t mind you working here because you have a nice ass, but I still want Steve to help me.” The harassment women are feeling today is a hundred times worse than that. The internet has allowed men to swarm in masses and attack as one. Women are being driven out of their homes because of threats made by rabid misogynists.
There are, of course, no stories with but a single side. If you’re just now coming upon this issue, here are two of them. My usual position on these matters is that everyone who steps into them eventually gets something unspeakable on their shoes. The “swarm” technique, I assure you, is genuine, an unwanted reminder of the atavistic tribalism that not one of us has ever completely outgrown.