This past September, I wrote a long response to a friend about the idea that sharing stories about the harassment of marginalized people will help them, or their careers, in some way.
I do understand how the visibility of a harassment campaign like Gamergate does help naive people become more aware of internet harassment and how it works. But that isn't the same as saying it helped the people who've been harassed.
My internet buddy and fellow musician Mako Fury decided to turn my response into a beat poem with drums, and I added some keytar melodies into the track as well. This is the song we made, embedded below. You can also read the text of the response underneath that.
I get why this is such a popular framing of GG because it makes people feel good to think about it in those terms, as though the visibility of the widespread harassment of women has somehow aided those women (or ANY women), and shows some evidence of how much progress has been made, etc. I'm just not sure that's demonstrably true.
I think that the visibility of GG has definitely made men (and women who are in power) feel good about themselves ("wow, thank goodness i'm not THAT bad / thank goodness I'm safe and work at a company that is somehow 'good' in comparison to the incredibly low bar set by this bullshit"), but in terms of actual demonstrable efforts to help women in tech/games ... ? I've seen very little, other than efforts done by the women who've been targeted (e.g. Zoe's crash override program, Leigh's "but what can be done" guide, etc). Much of those efforts have been ignored by folks who don't actively need them. Institutions that could do more to protect marginalized people ... are doing nothing.
For example, those wishy-washy words from Twitter and Reddit (and, this past week, Google) about getting rid of hate speech on their services ... Every report I've filed hasn't gone through. I've filed multiple reports this year with Twitter and Reddit and received absolutely nothing but "this doesn't count as harassment according to us." You'd be shocked (unless you've gone through this yourself) to see what "doesn't count" according to them: slurs, threats on my life, etc.
Movements like GG and its ilk have encouraged a lot of women to either quit, or become martyrs, or go dark and say nothing. I think all of those options are really bad ones. The third one is the "best" option in terms of career advancement, so that's what a lot of women do, which is why outsiders find it so "shocking" when they learn how bad it truly is. (Some people might think "martyr" is the best option for career advancement; it is not. There's a plateau.) Even now, those are the three options that women are having to choose, day to day, moment to moment. It's not over, and it's also not new.
I read the report from the UN about cyber harassment, and, sure, I think it's *nice* that we're finally discussing legislation against cyber crime. As it stands now, it seems to me like people can type basically what-the-fuck-ever on the internet and it'll never matter, neither to the cops nor to the services who host those threats. I think that will change eventually, and that in the future we'll look back on this time with shock and horror. But that change will happen on the backs of people who are already suffering NOW. And for the moment, we still live in a country where the laws we supposedly have in place to protect victims of abuse aren't respected -- even the laws based on "in person" threats (restraining orders are a joke; violations seem to result in little more than a wrist-slap at best). Also, tons of marginalized people don't and can't trust the cops, so relying on legislation isn't going to help them feel safe anyway.
The only thing that needs to change is everything.
What GG showed me is that people are more interested in discussing how much progress we've all supposedly made than considering how bad it has already been this entire time. I got my first death threats in 2010 over an utterly bland Feminism-101 opinion that I had. Only five years later, I'm somehow considered a "veteran," because the burn-out rate is so short in games that people don't even REMEMBER that this shit happened in 2010, 2011, 2012.
The problem isn't really that people don't remember, though. Nor is the problem that they don't care. I think people do care; they're just clueless, and they want to feel good about themselves, and thinking about systemic oppression makes people feel uncomfortable and helpless and bad so they just DON'T think about it. Some people can't escape it, though. And it's easier to say that "things are getting better" without really considering who's doing the work to MAKE it better, or how much they're going through in order to achieve that. It's "getting better" because of those invisible labors. And almost no one is actually helping anyone with those labors at all. That's pretty fucked up.