Neofeminism & Hypermasculinity: The War We’re Stuck With

blog_neofeminism_hypermasculinity I want to write about gaming’s preoccupation with the hypermasculinity, and how it is increasingly being opposed by neofeminist crusades.

 

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You may not know what neofeminism is.  It has nothing to do with political rights or legal equality, and everything to do with culture control and thought policing.  Much like “neoconservatism” and “neoliberalism”, neofeminism doesn’t call itself that; it pretends to honor its noble roots, and it uses traditional platforms for discussion, but pushes radical ideology for the sake of power and influence.

In this case, neofeminism is obsessed with bullying the free market with faux-outrage and an online presence that steamrolls politically-sensitive businesses and communities.  You’re either with them, or you’re against them.  It’s extremist, hyperbolic, and draped in a big rainbow flag.  Neofeminists don’t fight for fair wages and opportunities, they fight for a female protagonist in Grand Theft Auto V, reduced breast sizes in juvenile fantasies, and destroying the reputations of comedians who make jokes that hurt precious feelings.

 

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Penny Arcade is villainized by neofeminists and their followers to this day

 

Hypermasculine

The truth about hypermasculine games is that they offer males a chance to simulate being an Alpha Male in a safe, justifiable setting.  Neofeminists feel threatened by this.  Games where we play as a strong, independent males who take decisive action, destroy the opposition, refuse to compromise, laugh at consequences, follow their instinct, and manipulate the world around them until they accomplish their goal; classic characteristics of the Alpha Male.  It upsets neofeminists that we love these fantasies so much, and that we aren’t ashamed to do so.  They especially worry that, for many males today, this form of entertainment is preferred to subjecting themselves to women who constantly undermine their power.

Ironically, neofeminists are the ones fueling the demand for hypermasculine escapism by trying to neuter masculinity everywhere it exists.  Masculinity itself is controversial to them; with its crudeness, self-confidence, combative tendencies, and — most importantly — the undeserved “privilege” and they so darkly envy.  How dare we create things we think we will enjoy, without asking how it makes others feel, and then proceed to enjoy them without asking how that enjoyment makes them feel about themselves!  Freedom to provide their own alternative is not good enough, of course, even though tiny independent studios like Markus Persson and Mojang have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is entirely possible to become a global icon of the industry without conforming to the rules of the establishment or asking permission along the way.  Neofeminists want control, not responsibility.  They want to control the discussion and the decisions, and they want to do it from a soap box, not a work desk.

 

Escapism

Repression leads to escapism.  It’s not a new phenomenon.  Assertive men who aren’t afflicted with modern neofeminist self-loathing don’t need hypermasculine simulations.  They might enjoy it as entertainment for any number of reasons besides, but the “fantasy” is not as real to them.  This is partly why I’ve defended gaming as being cerebral and healthy in the past; because I don’t relate to the repression-escapism cycle.  But “bro culture” itself is built on the constant struggle to maintain what we perceive as masculinity untainted by neofeminist propaganda, with its Xbox Doritos and Mountain Dew frat boy fantasies, it would rather eat, drink, and play poison than sacrifice the basic values they’re too stupid to realize they have.  Bacon and Chuck Norris approve!

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But repression-escapism can also be understated.  I spoke with a middle-aged manager of an incredibly busy retail store once about Assassin’s Creed.  We were sharing what we enjoyed about the game, and I hinted that he probably loved the freedom to run, climb, and leap from place to place without feeling stuck in some big square building all day long.  He hadn’t even tried that.  With an astonishing lack of self-awareness, he said that he would play for hours just running through crowds of people and pushing them down.  It was one of saddest confessions of repressed impulses I’ve ever heard, as I tried to avoid glancing at the throng of customers passing us by.  Assassin’s Creed was a crowd-pushing simulator to him.

 

Online overlap

The internet provides endless, anonymous strawmen for both sides to cut down as they claim victory.  11-year-old brats with access to YouTube are not distinguished from 40-year-old enthusiasts in a tweet.  If you go by the numbers, there is much more “proof” that gamers are a toxic, woman-hating bunch of bullies who threaten to rape and kill anyone who speaks ill of their favorite games than we do reasonable voices of maturity.  It turns out there are more kids online making comments on stupid things than well-spoken adults.  Go figure.

You see, “gaming culture” has become inseparable from “online culture”, and this is very different than movies, TV shows, music, or books, which all found their groove in the old, accepted monoculture of the past.  Games more-or-less grew up with the Internet, hit its stride with the introduction of broadband internet, and inevitably tied itself in with social media.  We play games online, we download them online, and we discover them online.  The mass media isn’t talking about it, so we talk about it online.  We soak up a lot of pollution from the internet along the way.

Videogaming, if removed from online culture, is an inherently engaging medium that has endless potential to simulate, educate, inspire, challenge, and encourage people of all ages, genders, and backgrounds; but it has been caught in the crossfire of a gender crisis war, in what is easily the dirtiest avenue for discussion there is.  Even sadder is that, since gaming is currently the Wild West of entertainment where nobody is an authority and anything goes, it can’t seem to rise above the petty politics decisively, or ignore them.  We don’t have real journalists, real critics, or real respect.  If it wasn’t for the burning passion of the “hardcore”, developers and publishers would collapse under social scrutiny; or at least they would transform into something unrecognizable to us.  As much as they can, gamers keep it all afloat with their own energy and hard-earned cash, because instinctively, gaming culture has adapted to survive in a hostile environment, becoming even more vigilant, defensive, and radical in the face of doubt and doom.  Neofeminists have infected gaming culture to some extent, but the immune system is kicking in.  Meanwhile, if companies figure out how to actually listen to us — not the incoherent online culture surrounding us — they would find something very special and lucrative: love for a good thing.  I dare say companies like Valve and Sony are learning to trust us, with good results.

 

Culture Warriors

Still, we are notoriously associated with conspiracy theories, anti-corporatism, and social media campaigns.  Conspiracy theories: Xbox One’s DRM schemes with NSA spying.  Anti-corporate: EA voted the worst company in America two years in a row on the Consumerist.  Social media campaigns: #PS4NoDRM, the Mass Effect ending scandal, #BanderasPS4, and countless others.

Yes, in case you missed it, #BanderasPS4 was a ridiculous social media campaign created by gamers that got corporate attention.

Here’s a quote from computerandvideogames.com, reporting on the PS4 launch:

Banderas has become the unofficial (and unsolicited) mascot of PlayStation 4, most likely due to his capacity to act overwhelmed with admiration. Moving images of the Spanish star are currently scattered across the games forum NeoGAF, and in a bizarre and wonderful twist, had spread into the launch event on Friday.

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Several references to Antonio Banderas were made at the Sony event, including Shu Yoshida impersonating a particular meme gif.  CVG call it a bizarre and wonderful twist, but they also believe there’s a correlation between Sony’s willingness to pander to gamers’ stupid in-jokes and the hopelessly insular fate of the industry itself:

Console launch events are often reduced to chest-beating declarations about how mainstream this specialist hobby has become – overlooking, of course, how far games are from becoming a truly mass-accepted medium – which explains the cheap celebrities and hollow publicity stunts that gets the plastic into papers.

It’s not clear what to think of Sony’s decision to avoid that fake razzmatazz this time. There was no screaming from the rooftops in a bid to draw the fickle eye of the mass media, either because it’s smart to focus on core gamers for now, or because Sony knows that wider potential market doesn’t really exist anymore.

We’re social rejects, clinging to an alienating culture that defies neofeminism.  But neofeminists — which are just as often male as female, mind you — want to solve our alienation problem.  They see the multi-billion dollar potential in gaming as a medium, and they want to purge it of opinionated, reactionary, caustic masculine chaos that we currently have, and replace it with a new class of diverse tastemakers who speak on behalf of the that “wider potential market”, building a bridge to the rest of the world.  Nintendo pretty much accomplished this with the Wii, and found great success; although it’s running into the same loyalty problem as mobile gaming.  Tablets, mobile devices, and the cute little games they offer are being hailed nonstop by both the tech press and neofeminists as the rightful heir of the gaming culture throne.  It will rise up and crush us privileged, cynical males.  And why wouldn’t it?  It’s the friendly alternative, without complex 16-button controllers, and it’s already in the pockets of the widest market you could ask for.  Everyone takes for granted that the same passion and spending enthusiasm will exist in that market, but they don’t realize how unifying it is be part of a demonized minority.  Who is a better customer: the embroiled culture warrior looking for an ally, or the trend-of-the-day world of casual distractionware?

Filthy catharsis

Neofeminism attacks females and femininity too, but we don’t notice it as much because there’s almost no resistance.  Repressing female instinct (and neutering a generation of males simultaneously) has led to many interesting cultural trends, including the Fifty Shades of Grey series of books, which became known around the world for their ability to “unite” women like no other, much to the dismay of literary critics and males in general; but not feminists.

The fact that sadomasochism and pure male domineering fantasy is a uniting force in Western progressive society is a huge red flag that we just ignore, like we ignore the implications of the explosion of similarly extreme online pornography, especially of the “amateur” variety. The Fifty Shades novels have become famous not just for smashing records, but for doing so without the slightest marketing campaign or push from female culture juggernauts like Oprah.  They went “viral” faster than any book in history.  Women shared it with evangelistic zeal, suggesting a neglected and voracious appetite that can only be explained by deeply repressed basic instincts.  Feminists and neofeminists have defended the book as a harmless bit of entertainment, not indicative of any bigger cultural issue — no implications outside the privacy of a woman’s bedroom, so don’t even go there.  The same can be said for the hypermasculine escapist trash men consume.  But they have no problem extrapolating endless profound insights about those, in order to trump up a “toxic gaming culture” rife with misogyny and chauvinism.  The YouTube comments confirm it!

Repressed men and women find catharsis in high-school level filth, because that is where our repression begins.  Unsophisticated, uncreative, and raunchy, we partition our minds and allow ourselves to think about what it might be like to be a “real” (exaggerated caricature of a) man or woman, who is able to express him or herself and enjoy their gender instincts without shame.  And it all takes place in a harmless fictional setting.   When we put the book or controller down, or delete the browsing history, we return to playing another role: politically-correct thought police, constantly correcting ourselves and everyone else for the sake of neofeminist establishment approval.  It’s sick, and the cultural byproduct of this sickness is “bro culture”, fetishism, and the very things that seem to prove that masculinity is depraved in the first place.

Defeated men who are trying to cope with this new reality default into the “intellectual” side of the argument, becoming defenders of neofeminist crusades because they’ve learned to hate masculinity too.  They provide idiotic outrage and conspiracy theories of their own, connecting dots all the way from Ms. Pac Man to rape statistics.  As multi-million dollar franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, WWE wrestling games, Gears of War, God of War, Halo, and so on continue to thrive in the male gaming culture, remember to thank the neofeminist movement for creating a problem that the game industry is constantly exploiting.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can be thankful that there are plenty of well-adjusted people making, playing, and supporting games that do more than feed off dysfunction.

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