It’s not being a straight white guy that makes people dislike you

Special thanks to T. for hunting this down after I had never actually saved it.

Well, thanks for clarifying.

You can’t avoid seeing it if you’re online for a while.  The internet has provided space for a lot of people to pipe up and say things like “let’s not see a whole bunch more games starring stubbly white dudes,” and this is invariably followed by a whole lot of people whining in the comments.  “I can’t help being a straight white guy!  Why are you being so marginalizing to me?  Why do things have to change!  I’m sick of all this political correctness, why can’t we just focus on the games?  You shouldn’t hate me for being a straight white guy!”

Good news, guy!  Nobody hates you for that.  Well, not nobody, there are a couple people who probably do hate you for that, but I’m going to go ahead and say that’s not your primary problem here.  Most of the people who are writing these articles, and most of the people who are going to call you out for being a turd in the comment section, aren’t doing so because of some hatred of straight white guys.  You’re doing a lot of other things to make people dislike you.

If you really want to see how MRAs think, then... actually, just don't.  Remain curious.  You'll be happier that way.

I really wanted to include that Kool-Aid Man picture with the photoshopped “not all men,” but searching for that on Google for two minutes convinced me that the human race would be better off if we had never figured out fire. So, here, have an adorable kitten instead.

See, here’s the thing, dude: we won the freaking lottery.

I know, your life isn’t perfect.  Believe me, I know.  Having been a straight white dude from birth to the present, I’ve gone through some shit.  That’s not what anyone is going to say.  But for all of that, I never had to figure out a plan to get from a building to my car at night without the threat of being raped.  I never had to consider that walking around with a sweatshirt might get me shot when I’m walking through an otherwise nice portion of town.  Even if you don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, can you admit that no, these problems are not ones you’ve had to face in your life?

Because brother, for a huge part of the world, these things are background radiation.  This is the equivalent of having a headache.  Think about all those times that your life has been at its worst, and imagine if on top of all of that you had to deal with having a headache.  Or with the constant threat of being raped and marginalized and all of that.

“Okay, but none of that explains where this hate comes for straight white guys!” you cry.  Easy, tiger.  I know that you’re looking at this and saying to yourself that we live in a society that’s moved past sexism and racism and all of that, and you’re not racist or sexist or whatever, because you totally don’t believe you are.  Because you’ve been told since birth that these are Bad Things, and the way things are now are Good Things.

But doesn’t that seem just a little weird to you?  Do you really think history was full of people saying that they were proud to be racists?  Outside of people like Rudyard Kipling and H. P. Lovecraft, do you really think that society was congratulating itself all the way along on being racist as hell?  Or do you think that society was coming up with reasons all the way along to justify its behavior?  There’s a reason I mentioned those two authors, because they both invented elaborate justifications for being a pair of racist white men, either by explaining that white people had an obligation to fix the behavior of all non-white people or by saying that non-white people worshipped alien horrors from beyond space.

But it's all right, guys; sexism is over!

The change of this character’s outfit from the one on the right to the one on the left provoked a huge outcry and screaming accusations of censorship. The character in question is fifteen years old in the original Japanese version. This is skeevy on so many levels.

And that’s really unsettling, when you start thinking about it, because if you really stop and think you have to face the fact that this is how we’ve always been.  Across the entirety of human history, we’ve always been coming up with explanations to justify our prejudices while telling ourselves that the way things are is normal.  It’s almost as if no one really thinks of themselves as racist or sexist, they always just see themselves as defending the status quo.

So… yeah, dude.  You’re the status quo.

Sure, you’re not being exclusively catered to, but you’re getting a lot of bonuses along the way.  Stuff that doesn’t cater to you is marginalized right from the start.  There are articles that talk about gamers and contrast them with girl gamers or black gamers or gay gamers, all of which plays into the assumption that most gamers are none of these things.  By definition, if you thought that most gamers were women, “girl gamers” would be a meaningless term.  It’s only a worthwhile adjective if there’s something different about a woman who plays video games.

You’re the ruling body.  You’re the one in charge.  You’re the gatekeeper.  What are you going to do with that?

Maybe you’re going to stand up and say that this isn’t all right.  Maybe you’re going to get annoyed – very much so – over the fact that 80% of video games star a white guy with a dusting of stubble when that’s not 80% of the freaking planet.  Maybe it’s going to suddenly become apparent how many movies celebrate how a man’s penis heals every problem a woman has.  Maybe you’re going to wonder why it is that comic books feature a lot of scantily-clad women that don’t look as if they can lift a toaster ad a bunch of fully-dressed men that might have rippling pecs, but certainly aren’t portrayed as sexual beings in the same way that women are.

And if all of this stuff doesn’t jump out at you, maybe you’re going to ask and listen.  It’s sort of like a filter, something you can’t unsee once you’ve started to see it.  Once you learn about story structure, you can’t stop seeing it in media.  Once you learn about whitewashing, you can’t stop seeing that everywhere.

If it doesn't, think about it for a few more minutes and then try again.

Your character in Saints Row IV could be whoever you wanted. Every trailer showed off this same stubbly white guy. Doesn’t that strike you as a little bit off?

Or… maybe you’re going to keep using the fact that society designated you as the default as a bully pulpit.  You’re going to jump into discussions about why we need to see more women and people of color represented in stories by saying “well, shouldn’t the quality of the story be more important?”  Which is marginalizing and dumb, assuming that somehow the stories are weaker without featuring a straight white dude, or that these things are better if written by a straight white dude.  It’s ignoring a huge amount of advantages that exist for a straight white dude to get noticed and published compared to literally anyone else, and at the same time it’s implying that straight white dudes shouldn’t or can’t be inclusive in their writing, to boot.

Maybe you’re jumping into a discussion with the tired old adage “not all men do/are X,” which is equally pointless.  Because you’re not arguing that men don’t do this, you’re arguing that not all of us do instead of being pissed off at the men who do fall under that generalized header.  You’d rather attack the tone than look at the actual problem critically and ask why someone would say that in the first place.

Maybe you’re arguing that there’s no need to let political correctness run amok, as if somehow people who aren’t white dudes haven’t earned the privilege to see stories about people other than white dudes.  Maybe you’re arguing that we have X character as a positive example so everything’s fine, as if having one example of a trans woman portrayed sensitively and positively makes up for mountains of material either ignoring the existence of transgender characters or treating them as punchlines.  Maybe lots of stuff.

The point is that you’re the ruling body and you’re saying that things are fine while the people who aren’t straight white dudes are saying that things aren’t fine.  You see a world full of fiction and media catering to what you like to see, and you think “yep, this is perfectly normal” and you would rather argue with the people saying otherwise than take a closer look.  You build up ideas where you reassure yourself that it’s all right, those people are just racist against white people or sexist against men or whatever, neglecting that we have an entire society built to make you feel like the safe and comfortable default.

You’re taking every attack on a society and media built around celebrating straight white dude-ness as a personal attack, and you’re treating everyone who questions that establishment as if they need your presence to guide them.  That’s what you’re putting forth as the epitome of being a straight white dude.  You’re the one arguing “oh, it’s not sexist, these characters have always been men/white/heterosexual” in speculative fiction which could rewrite things to be about literally anything with minimal explanation, as if the past is some sort of law.  You’re saying that it’s somehow toxic to criticize someone for being sexist from a position of power, as if the real problem is with the person bringing up the issue.  You’re defending a gross, broken system because it’s a gross, broken system that puts you on top, and then you get angry that there are certain places in the world where being a straight white guy is not automatically cruise control to being super important.

You can’t help being a straight white guy, but you can decide how you’re going to use that fact.  Use it as a platform to attack the status quo even while you’re standing on it, or use it as insulation against a world full of people who aren’t you.  And if you’re upset with people disliking you because you’re a straight white guy, odds are you’ve opted for the latter, even if it’s mostly by default.

That’s why people don’t like you, dude.

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About expostninja

I've been playing video games and MMOs for years, I read a great deal of design articles, and I work for a news site. This, of course, means that I want to spend more time talking about them. I am not a ninja.

One response to “It’s not being a straight white guy that makes people dislike you”

  1. Cindy Michaud (@geeklatte) says :

    Bravo! That’s all I got to add. 😀

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