I think I understand¹ these Gamergate kids².
¹: Please don’t confuse this with agreement or acceptance.
²: However old they are, they’re still children. They don’t get to act like this and have the privilege of being grown ups.
I get it though, I do. I know why angry male nerds act like this. It stems from a bunch of things.
One big part is feeling subjugated by beta male inadequacy. The world tells us that we’re owed certain things. We’re owed happiness, success, friendship and love. We read these narratives in the stories that raise us: books, movies, video games. The hero faces adversity and overcomes it to get their rewards, namely the aforementioned happiness, success, friendship and love. We’re all the heroes of the stories our lives write and when reality fails to align with how we know stories to progress we feel cheated. When we’re in a basement alone. When our friends exist as faceless personalities on the other end of the internet. When our social awkwardness repels and leaves us in the empty epicenter of our own unintentional making. When we’re repulsed by what we see in the mirror. When the love and affection we exude is tied to fictional concepts, characters or the evocation of a living person represented through their photo shoots. Cultural products exist as stand-ins for the substantive connections we lack. We lack those substantive connections because we don’t have the tools for forming them as a matter of course.
It may be shitty genetics. It may be poor socialisation or personalities divergent from the mainstream. It most certainly has to do with certain narratives endemic to toxic masculinity. If you don’t have the things you want, you take them. It’s how the animal kingdom works and society is pretty good at forgetting that evolution happened. These beliefs of male dominance are carry-on from a time before we had effective communication, negotiation and debate. They’re carrion, dead, bloated ideas that contain no sustenance for living beings who forage rather than scavenge. We should be searching for the promise of new things rather than holding on to tradition. We should be reaching out to discover, create instead of looking back. Instead we’re set on these old ways.a For a subsection of society who’s told that this is how society functions, they often find themselves incapable of living up to it. These Gamergaters can’t just go out and get the girl, they can’t manufacture a magnetic personality purely out of desire. Instead they contend with the distance between desire and tacit achievement and it tears them apart. Reflexively they seek to tear others down with them.
The other big part is a lack of perspective, resonance, empathy. These kids can’t put themselves inside the shoes of people beyond their own experience. They have no idea what it’s like to spend every day having to de-escalate conversation in order to minimize personal status. They don’t know what it’s like to constantly gauge potential threats in every situation, to fear for oneself. They don’t know what it’s like for the sheer act of forming connection and attraction to have very real consequences attached. For these kids, making the wrong social call probably means they’re going home alone. They don’t know how it feels for the wrong social call to lead to not making it home again. These kids only see the objects of their infatuation getting what they desire while these kids look on forlorn. They don’t see the myriad of slights their objects of infatuation face every day. They don’t see these women as people, merely objects, failed conquests. If these women don’t align themselves in the way these kids think they’re owed, then they’re worse than objects, they’re garbage. They treat these women like garbage and use words when they don’t truly understand what these words mean.
I was a different person when I was younger. I made rape jokes. Often. I made cancer jokes. Often. I told people on the internet to kill themselves. I knew what rape was. I knew what cancer was. I knew what death was. I know what those things meant in theory. Life changed this. A friend of mine was raped. Rape wasn no longer just an idea, it came with tangible baggage. It came with an unpredictable, unshakable rage that I didn’t know how to control or handle. I lost family to cancer. I saw slow degredation. I saw muscles atrophy and skin decay. I saw the ripple effect of sorrow the loss had on my family. I fell in love and found people I cared for. I imagined losing these people to illness, violence, accidents. I imagined how it would tear me apart, how my world would be shattered. Rape, cancer, death. These words transcended language, they came with vivid, unforgettable feelings. Life happened and consequently growth happened. The way I reacted to stories changed, because I understood new paths that could happen in my life’s story and how they would play out.
There’s this stage that happens with little kids where they learn the word “hate”. They don’t understand it, but they can see how it affects people. If they’re feeling slighted, if they don’t get their way, they can counter with “I hate you” and see their target shrivel in front of them. If they make the other person feel as bad as they feel, it helps them feel that little bit better. The feelings of their target don’t matter, only themselves. It’s selfish and childish, but they’re only kids, right? These Gamergate kids haven’t yet lived. They haven’t grown. They’re callous and cruel because they don’t understand the impact of the things they say. They feel like they’re owed something, they feel cheated. They lash out the only way they know how in order to feel empowered, to feel control in a world where they’re used to feeling marginalized. It makes them feel something other than helpless or worthless and other people’s feelings can go fuck themselves.
Really though? Gamergaters just need to grow the fuck up.