First off, for those that don't know - I am an old, white female. My gender has occasionally been questioned, but I can describe menstrual cramps in detail, and I can also now give a crash course in early menopause... and the threats of those are usually enough to confirm my gender. I'm also an old white woman who plays FPS games online, with a mic. Yes, I've encountered harassment, and on occasion I've also been guilty of dishing it out. Well, apparently Microsoft plans on perma-banning
Halo 4 players for sexist comments, and all I can think is "which stupid cunts at Microsoft decided this was a good idea?".
Now when I say the word "cunts", I don't mean it to refer specifically to women... the same as all those British players who game online tend to use it to refer to a moron - male or female. It's just a swear word simply intended to denote feelings of vehemence towards.... well... someone - usually the player that just teamkilled you or teabagged you. I've noticed that American players seem to use the word "bitch" in the same way. At first I often thought the "bitch" comments were directed towards me - often the only female in the game. It took me awhile to realize that it's used more often towards other men. These words are still exceedingly sexist because their primary purpose is to apply female characteristics to other men in an derogatory way - but this use of "sexist" language is most often used to harass other men, not women. So is it sexist language that will earn the ban? if men call each other sexist words will they be banned, or will it be actual sexist acts towards the opposite gender to undermine their gaming enjoyment that is a bannable offense. If it's sexist language, who determines which words are sexist? A friend of mine often affectionately refers to her friends as "you silly cunt"... would she be banned for the use of that word, even though her intent of the word is simply affection for a friend? Will intent be the overriding factor? I recently ran across an annoying MAG player who would meow every time I was in his squad... and when someone would finally ask why he was meowing, he would say "I smell pussy in this game, and girls shouldn't play my game". He used no swear words - but clearly and annoyingly harasses women whenever there is one in his squad (I finally blocked little pussy boy). So is it the use of words... or intent? If it's words, then where is the list of banned words and will their use evoke a ban for anyone - male or female? If it's intent, how do you prove intent or give proof of intent that the actions were sexist and intended to specifically harass women?
It's also only "sexist" language that will apparently earn this lifetime ban... so I guess if you want to use racist or homophobic language you'll be safe. I'm sometimes confused for a male in online play and have been called a " faggy, homo guy"
or a "tranny" - will this continue to be acceptable, or will the perpetrators be subject to a ban - not because I'm actually a homosexual male, but because I am a heterosexual female who was harassed with sexist language that implied I was a gay male rather than a straight female, even if the intent was not to actually harass a female, but the end result was? (oh my, things do start to get confusing don't they?)
Does the term "sexist" work both ways? When being teabagged it's not at all uncommon for me to say "grow some balls before you teabag me, you dickless moron!" (well, either that or "what, no dinner and a movie first?"). So I'm guilty of using sexist insults towards a male - am I now subject to a ban because as a women I used a sexist insult to a man? I'm also a bad driver and have been known to laughingly say "ok, so I drive like a woman!" when I crash our team vehicle into an obstacle while trying to drive it to a bunker... should I be banned for using sexist language in reference to myself?
What about the more obscure harassment... most every female gamer has experienced that male who really, really, really wants on your buddy list and floods their inbox with pleas to be added. They claim they are not sexist and that the love women gamers... which in itself is sexist in that they differentiate "female" from "male". It's a subtle harassment, but it's still annoying. Would this sexist behavior be banned?
What about women who evoke harassment? Most of the nasty PSN notes I receive are because I said something derogatory to someone in the game... if the criteria for banning is the receipt of XBL messages such as those highlighted on sites such as "Fat, Ugly or Slutty", then what's to prevent some women from manipulating this response?
If the criteria is verbal, what's to prevent women from grouping up and lying about one of the group-member's ex-boyfriend? Claiming harassment in order to get the person permanently banned or at least temporarily banned while the complaints are investigated? If people don't think that women can be vicious... then apparently they've never been divorced.
The "sexist language" threat of a permanent ban has no balls when Microsoft and 343 don't spell out EXACTLY the actions or words that will get players banned for life. What they have done is either an empty threat, or worse, it will be a threat applied with bias - moderators will use their "personal judgment" regarding who gets banned for life and who doesn't.
Vicious harassment exists in gaming. It's not just sexist harassment aimed at deterring women from playing, it's also racist and homophobic harassment. There is harassment of younger players who's voices still reflect their youth. There is harassment of well... anybody and everybody. There are answers though and the answer is NOT some poorly thought out reactionary plan to specifically target sexual harassment of women in gaming. A more effective answer is to give players the agency to easily institute a voice ban. When a player is muted by two other players in a game, they go on auto-mute. They are simply and effectively informed that they have been muted. Anyone who wants to speak with this player must actually go to the trouble of un-muting them. If a player is auto-muted in say 5 games - then they are perma-muted. Again, anyone who wants to listen to this player or speak with this player would then have to go to the trouble of actually un-muting them in order to communicate with them. This is a clear and easy answer to harassment of all kinds, including that idiot that feels the need to blast rap music at very high volumes through their mic in every game (and if it's one of those "gangsta bitch" misogynistic rap songs - is that considered sexual harassment of women?). If the harassment is via messaging, then have an auto-ban on the player's ability to send messages after "X" number of complaints. If they want the ban lifted, they would have to exonerate themselves.
The thing is that there are answers. The answer though is not a narrow minded focus on sexism, while ignoring other forms of harassment. It's not perma-banning people from a game based on some nebulous criteria. Instead it's giving players the agency to better control who they play with. Microsoft already has a good start with their ability to use the party chat system. They even have gamer "zones" such as Recreation, Family, Pro and Underground. These zones don't actually seem to have any purpose or effect, so why don't games create their own Zones. In a game with the population base of something like Halo 4, it should be easily possible to at least divide players into "Family" and "Underground". Any one found to be swearing and abusing the "Family" rating could be automatically re-classified permanently into "Underground" if enough players mark this gamer via an in-game system.
Answers... yes, they are there. Perma-banning for sexism in Halo 4 - not an answer. Instead, I'm starting to feel used and dirty... that "banning sexism" is simply a marketing tool aimed at women to encourage them to play Halo 4, aimed at the press to generate publicity, and aimed at the Sarkeesianesque sympathizers who buy into the whole issue with their white knight dollars. The irony is that in banning players for making "sexist" comments against women - they themselves are acting in a sexist manner by treating males and females different. By singling out "sexism" instead of harassment, they are playing the big ole gender card and they are doing nothing more than exacerbating the existing male vs female negativity.
Halo 4.... look for ways to battle harassment, but please get off the sexism sympathy train. It's quickly running out of steam. and I'm getting damn tired of being used as fuel. The problem isn't sexism or harassment against women... it's just plain harassment against anyone!
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Captain of the Zanarkand Abes 1