It’s a tough time for the manosphere. SJWs are infiltrating our games! Meanwhile toxic masculinity is mansplaining an oppressive, cisheteronormative standard upon the playerbase and disempowering diversity. What is even going on?
Okay. Firstly, let’s just look at all this sexism controversy calmly and in more than 150 characters at a time. Actually, quite a lot more than 150 characters because, quite frankly, you could write entire books on this subject and still be nowhere close to having it all covered. It’s fiendishly complicated and an absolute semantic minefield, but it’s a topic people need to discuss. This is just a quick summary of a few important points. Anyway:
What’s the problem? It’s that people think there aren’t enough women playing competitive Pokémon, and that the ones who do are often treated badly by male peers. Let’s see how this stacks up.
According to recent studies, the majority of gamers are female. Crappy methodology and twisted interpretations aside (No, “the stereotype that female gamers are interested almost exclusively in casual smartphone titles” is not “tested by the data” when said data shows 44% of female gamers have never played on a console), it’s an undeniable fact that lots of women play games. Especially relevant is that lots of women love Pokémon. The majority of Pokémon GO players are female, even. Lots of women own 3DSes, and lots of those own the main series Pokémon games.
So surely you could expect a roughly 50/50 split between men and women in competitive Pokémon, right? And no differences in competitive achievement?
Wrong. Dead wrong. Aside from one genuinely hilarious and contentious exception (The story of which 100% affirms my love of this game and the legendary people I’ve met through it), no woman has ever top cut Worlds in VGC in the highest age division. (Juniors, interestingly, is totally different. Lots of girls playing and lots do well!). If you’re looking at CP rankings, the current global top 100 players are 97% male. 2016’s top 100 are again 98% male. 2015, 99%, 2014, 98% again. Female competitive players are, far from 50/50, firmly in the minority, for whatever reason.
The figures are pretty well-supported by anecdotal evidence. If you scope around the average VGC event, you’re probably looking at something like the first film I ever saw in an empty cinema.
That is: dudes. it’s mostly dudes. Mostly dudes, and mostly dorky dudes.
Pokémon has a beautiful community full of the most wonderful people. But let’s be real: in a room full of the corporeal manifestations of Twitch chat posters, at least some of them are gonna be awkward fellas whose interaction with women amounts to “omg, a gril”. Some of these guys will be lonely and “tfw no gf”. Some of them will plainly be idiots: making cringeworthy menstruation “jokes” on a highly public TCG Facebook group. People who do these things are, unquestionably, displaying symptoms of a kind of toxic mindset.
Many would immediately point to the cause of this as being “misogyny” inherent in male-dominated communities; that gaming communities are full of men who hate and fear women, deliberately making it difficult for women to enter videogaming communities. That’s an antagonistic, simplistic assumption.
“OMG A GRIL”: the primal scream
The truth is more complex, but one thing is certain: the people saying these things; the vocal minority, offputting as they may be, have no real power whatsoever. They are the spunk-encrusted tissues in society’s wastepaper basket. They are nothing. The guys typing offensive jibes into Twitch chat aren’t some unassailable menace: they’re a disorganised mess of archetypal 4chan posters, the self-described Wojaks and Pepes, who’ve retreated into video games, a fantasy world where they have some semblance of authority.
(not my pic lol this is one of 4chan’s own)
The simple fact that these guys spend their time spamming “omg a gril” on Twitch chat should make it abundantly clear that these are aimless oafs desperate for attention and, most importantly, affirmation of their existence. “omg a gril”, sexist jokes, chan culture in general are a primal scream, but its participants aren’t unsalvageable: they’re toxic, but more than anything these nowhere men need help, direction and understanding.
In doing that these people need to be told that their divisive opinions aren’t worth shit. That divisive mentalities aren’t worth shit.
There is no place in civilised society for divisive rhetoric and mindsets. People who deliberately sow discord and prejudice are literally the worst kinds of people and need to be held accountable for their ideas: they are ridiculous and need to be laughed at. Wilfully ignorant, divisive, “you-can’t-sit-with-us” mindsets (Hereafter referred to as “toxic” mindsets) need to be removed.
I’m sure this is a point that everybody can agree with, but there’s an aspect that a lot of people forget: a community is only truly inclusive when there’s honesty and an open dialogue.
This is because toxic people can’t be cured by others: they cure themselves through realising accountability, responsibility and maturity, which can be spurred along if somebody makes them question themselves. If you avoid or shun toxic people, they surround themselves with other toxic people within the hobby and it becomes a problem. If healthy people leave or never enter the hobby due to toxic attitudes, the problem becomes further entrenched. The only way to actively combat toxic mindsets is if people stand up against anybody who’s being a dick.
That means, if you hear some dumbass say “Ha, yes, I’m playing a girl. Free win!”, you call him out on it. You say, “I’m sorry, what did you just say?”. “I’m playing a girl, free win”. “Why would you say that?”. “Cause girls are weak?”. “You’re a moron and I hope you lose”. When this chump then goes and loses, you beat it into him remorselessly, every time you see him, you say “How does it feel being so crap at Pokémon you lost to a girl”, until he accepts responsibility, that there’s nothing wrong with losing to a girl and she’s a rightful Pokémon player just as much as if not moreso than he is. The second he accepts responsibility and apologises for saying that, all is forgiven and you go back to normal. Everybody’s happy. These are the easier cases to deal with.
Some people are truly toxic, and more difficult to handle. For example, when lonely weirdos try to “waifu” real life players (That is, to idolise and idealise them as objects of sexual fantasy) and make them uncomfortable, you call them out on it. You tell them, “These are real people with real lives. They’re normal people. Stop idolising women you don’t know. Who the hell do you think you are, Dante from the Devil May Cry Series?”.
Granted, they’ll probably not appreciate the pithy literature reference and may respond with “fuck you”, either in a lilting cadence whilst sneering and shifting to one side, like a much less handsome Van Darkholme, or with impotent anger, like Dante from the Devil May Cry Series. At that point, there’s nothing more important for you to do than drill in the unacceptability of holding a toxic, unrequited idolisation of a real person. Make them own their behaviour. Make them individually accountable for their choices. Show them that objectifying someone isn’t something we should accept or tolerate. Whether or not they take responsibility for the incident in question, make them acknowledge that treating people, women or otherwise, as objects, is disrespectful and unpleasant. If they refuse to agree to that, that’s when you should open up the floodgates of ridicule.
These people need to be told, firmly and fairly, that they need to knock it off, in a figurative as opposed to a literal sense. They are, in both senses of the word, wankers. They need to get out of that jabroni outfit and settle this in the ideological ring, and the objective truth always wins. Remember that when you argue with people who refuse to respect others, it isn’t just a petty squabble. You are literally defending the basis of civil society: the Golden Rule, “treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself”. Fight hard and fight mercilessly, because anyone who consciously disagrees with the Golden Rule is by definition evil. That is, almost literally, the definition of evil. Not even exaggerating: that’s plainly what it is. So you don’t let up on these people. Every time you see them, you make that sinner own those words until they repent. You tell them, “It apologizes for objectifying that lady or it gets the hose again”. You say, “Forsooth! How fare thee in thy quest for thine fair maiden? Doth thee have grabbed a couple of nudes, or doth thee wanna step when thee on the Henny?”. You don’t give them an inch until they apologise, but the second they do all should be forgiven, even if they call you “Reddit: the person”.
I don’t even have an account!
Always be fair, always be courteous, and if somebody’s being a tosser, verbally cut them down with no remorse. That is, in short, a good way to deal with toxic people. Tough love, in a way. It’s (obviously) not for everybody, but it works. There’s a lot of fine lines to draw, a lot of case-by-case judgment involved, but that’s the way I do it.
Now… that’s enough about one kind of toxic mindset. There’s actually another kind, which receives a lot less attention.
WE’RE ALLLLL IN THIIIS TOGETHEEEER
People forget that the Pokémon community exists because of something we all have in common: the hobby and love of playing Pokémon. So first of all, anyone who loves Pokémon is allowed to enter: that’s part of being inclusive.
People who choose a hobby choose it because they like it. Maybe they find it interesting, maybe their friends do it and they want to do things with friends, For many people (Including the Wojaks and the Pepes), hobbies and communities, including Pokémon, are a form of escapism from the rest of their lives, and that’s okay. You can disagree personally and think “that isn’t what I would do” but there’s always a reason why people choose to do what they do and whatever the reason is (Provided it isn’t harming anyone), you have to respect people’s choices. It’s irrational and hateful to question why people choose their hobbies.
So for that reason, I’m going to have to slaughter a sacred cow and ask:
WHY DOES ANYONE CARE HOW MANY WOMEN PLAY COMPETITIVE POKÉMON?
Different people like different things. People play competitive Pokémon because they want to play competitive Pokémon. So what if less women are interested? So long as all the women who genuinely want to play competitive Pokémon are playing competitive Pokémon, Who the fuck cares?!?
Loads of gay people like musicals, a lot of black guys play fighting games. Predominantly women enjoy knitting and it’s mostly old men who play boules. I’ve never seen a body-positivity hobbyist who wasn’t overweight.
Likewise, more men enjoy playing competitive video games.
Is any of this a problem? No!!! Because, I reiterate, who the fuck cares?!?
The most insidious aspect of this mindset applied to Pokémon is that these guys are looking around events, they’re seeing that whilst there are plenty of Pokémon-loving women present, many aren’t particularly interested in competing, a lot of them are spectators or girlfriends of players who are their to cheer on their partners, and these nutcases (none of whom are actual competitive players) see a problem with people having fun in a way that isn’t competitive. So what if someone prefers the noncompetitive aspects of the game? Are you calling my girlfriend a patsy for enjoying Pokémon Amie more than battling? So long as they aren’t bashing anybody else’s love of the game, there’s nothing wrong with people playing how they want to. We’re all Pokémon fans; we should be united. Whoever you are, if you like Pokémon, we have something in common. Whilst this kind of logic has directly led to me becoming Facebook friends with murderers, robbers and convicted paedophiles, that’s surprisingly healthy. It’s enriching to know such a truly diverse range of people.
Nobody is being harmed (Well, apart from that guy’s mum lol); people are having fun. People are enjoying the hobbies they chose to do. Let people enjoy themselves and do what they want to do, you fun-hating soulless lunatics.
It’s commentary like this, like the infamous “Woman Comes From Nowhere”, that not only draws attention to the fact that Zoe Lou is, gasp, “omg a gril”, but carries with it the implication that maybe women shouldn’t be playing competitive Pokémon. It takes away her achievement and marginalises her as a minority, some form of outlier. Fuck that. (Worth noting it was Jason Krell’s Kotaku editor who pushed that title, so don’t blame him, but the fact the article exists at all is a telling sign that people found it somehow “controversial” that a female player did well)
Everyone who plays Pokémon is, above all, a person and a Pokémon player. Whether they’re male, female, gay, straight, trans, a shiny hunter, it doesn’t matter. You could wear jeans from Jacamo, like late season Simpsons, or enjoy spraying (your own) canned cream straight into your mouth. Maybe you keep spiders on your bedside table and your favourite James Bond is Roger Moore (same tbh). It doesn’t matter. Anybody can play Pokémon, and they can play Pokémon however they want to: the only requirement is that you want to do it. There’s no shame in admitting that different demographics of people can tend to enjoy different things; the important part is that you treat everyone equally. Acting like something is wrong, something needs to be said when someone in a minority achieves something is creating a problem where none exists.
You don’t achieve equality if you define people by the things they don’t choose. It is, effectively, accentuating the differences between people: it’s inherently negative, divisive and implacable. Identity politics, essentially the term for caring more about the groups somebody is related to than who they are as an individual, is pure, distilled toxicity.
Thinking like this, being constantly preoccupied with whether or not somebody is a minority, how “oppressed” they are, how “against the odds” it is for them to “succeed”, is an utterly toxic, debilitating mindset. Valuing people, like objects, through a sick kind of oppression hierarchy. Somewhere, these wild-eyed vultures are circling the internet waiting for the first gay, bipolar Muslim transgender quadraplegic “PoC” Pokémon champion in a wheelchair so they can rake in those sweet, sweet ad revenue clicks. They don’t care about people’s rights; they care about clicks. It’s not being progressive: it’s a demeaning ideology peddled by soulless, greedy people. Promoting that outlook does, quite literally, have its roots as a consumer capitalistic sales technique intended to indoctrinate thick people into dissatisfaction and a search for constant novelty and spending, but that’s an issue for another day.
What’s important is, it’s a shallow, reductive, joyless way of seeing the world. Dogmatic and defeatist, the identity politician is more concerned with labels and conforming to a pre-defined set of parameters than they are actually doing anything. These are, ultimately, people with no individual identity or self-respect. They care more about other people’s opinions than their own. It’s easy to complain that the community is difficult to participate in if you’re more concerned with the ignorance of any small-minded idiots than you are doing a hobby you enjoy. Anybody with backbone would tell those people “I’m sorry but I don’t speak dickhead”, and get on with it.
These guys, the “SJWs” who take it too far and essentially live to be like LOOK AT ME GUYS, I’M A MORAL AND OPEN-MINDED PERSON but I can’t be bothered to do anything useful, the people who buy a red iPod because they think that counts as a good deed, the university LGBT society barring gay men from the board because they’re “already over-supported by mainstream society”, the militant vegans that have a go at people for eating meat but still happily eat egg waffles and Yorkshire puddings, the ones who fly to Colombia to take Instagram selfies with sighing jungle villagers and build a (shit) wall that the locals knock down when they’ve gone home, and these are all just people I personally know. These guys, like the Wojaks and Pepes, are pretty pathetic, weak-willed people. But again, more than anything, they just need some help: their problem is, aside from possibly just being a bit thick, that they lack self-esteem, and maybe don’t know it. They’re not bad people, but a lot of them do being good wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me here, there’s loads of social movements with good messages: that’s the point of democracy. It’s the (all-too-common) slacktivism-type shite that people need to look at more critically. Genuine altruism doesn’t involve changing your Facebook picture, and real feminists don’t complain about manspreading on the subway, they talk about how there’s still places where women can’t vote or drive. This stuff should be obvious, but apparently it’s sacrilege to point it out. It’s genuinely nuts.
Honestly, I could go on about this kind of thing for far too long. I’m no Marxist, but you can’t deny that Guy Debord was right when back in the ’60s he said the 21st century would see lived experience replaced by representation of experience. It takes power away from the people and distorts their narratives from what used to be stories of themselves into stories of their interaction with other people’s consumer products. Completely forgetting computers and the virtual (Which his work predates), he hit that one right on the head. Oh well. Shame the guy was a literal communist, cause he had a real point there. People just get more caught up in the idea of doing something; of what other people are doing, than actually doing things and being their own person. Carhartt are selling out of $300 overalls to 25-year-old metropolitan IT workers, for Christ’s sake. Because apparently people like to look like a manual labourer (at multiple times the cost of if they’d bought the proper gear), but they don’t want to actually be a manual labourer.
That just about wraps up my brief summary on the two most prevalent toxic mindsets. It’s a complex subject that people don’t tend to think about, but I hope you enjoyed it.
Is there a problem? Are enough women playing competitive Pokémon?
Yes, there is a problem. It’s a problem that people feel any need to pressure women into playing competitively, as opposed to noncompetitively. In fact, it’s a problem that people do, for whatever reason, disparage anybody who plays noncompetitively as being some kind of weakling. You shouldn’t criticise people who are just playing to have fun: it’s their choice. The only time they should be criticised is if they’re playing competitive with a noncompetitive mindset and wish to improve their results.
Let people have fun, you morons.
Do female players experience sexism, and how do you eradicate it from the game?
Unfortunately, this is real life and fucking idiots do exist and can’t be fully eradicated. What you can do is verbally destroy them when they open their stupid mouths. They’re not evil, honestly. Just uh.. misinformed. So set them straight. Whilst female players might experience some sexism from the odd total moron, I think it’s healthy to see that as a challenge: keep winning and these guys will run away with their very small, very dusty tails between their legs. If it’s an authority figure, fortunately most of us live in a gender-equal society where there’s equal opportunity regulations and ombudsman and if an authority figure does something sexist, you can complain and the fucker will lose their job. Doesn’t apply if it’s the President, though. Sorry Americans. That said, we have a crap one too and she wasn’t even elected. Though she is very “strong and stable”.
How do you combat toxic mindsets in the game?
The biggest underlying issue with toxic mindsets is that they’re caused by low self-esteem and a lack of confidence. If you’re jealous, other-driven, have a lack of agency, you’ll never be successful with anything, let alone Pokémon. Fair enough if you genuinely try and you keep trying and keep getting shot down, but if you’d rather blame your lack of effort on other people, that’s one way to become a loser.
Everybody is capable of achieving something, and let’s be honest: anybody can succeed in life. Different people want different things, but you’re successful if you’re happy. People who criticise a “happy pig” out of some kind of holier-than-thou hard-on are honestly pretty laughable. Like, I enjoy a challenge (the entire reason why I wrote this mindbendingly difficult piece), so I mostly enjoy Pokémon when I’m winning competitively, but it’s wrong to hate on people who aren’t harming anybody.
Very obvious but often-forgotten, somewhat soppy moral of the story:
What I’m saying here is, at high risk of being scoffed at: the world would be a better place if everybody would just be nice to each other. “Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself”. Like, that’s basic stuff, but people forget it all the time. “Duh, obviously”. You say you’re nice to people, then you go and use Wide Guard Smeargle… oh no baby… what is you doing…
But it’s all too common to see people being nasty and ignorant. The amount of times I saw anybody who expressed disapproval of Hillary Clinton being equated to firstly Trump supporters and by extension nazis is honestly outrageous. I’ve been called a “white supremacist” for disagreeing when somebody (who, bafflingly, like me also has an MSc and yet still said something this dumb) accused me of, as an English/Irish white person, being responsible for US slavery and suggested I pay reparations. He wasn’t messing about. Just the other week a random old man in the street, unprompted, called me a “faggot” and told me “I hope you’re wearing those clothes for a dare”. Everywhere I go, I see poo left unflushed in the toilet, on the floor, on the walls. People genuinely seem to have been afflicted with the Twitter “hit and run” mentality, they’re too used to the old Trump-style WRONG and disappearing with zero accountability. They’re leaving poo and running and don’t even bother justifying their arguments any more. It’s the ideological equivalent of walking past someone in RuneScape and saying “noob”.
I can laugh about it because I’ve the bulletproof thick skin of a bolshy little knobhead, but honestly, what is wrong with people?
In all seriousness, just don’t be like that, please. I implore you. I’m sick of seeing poo everywhere.
Please just think independently, live life critically, swear by the Socratic method. Actually listen to people instead of jumping to conclusions (bet some of you did at that title and preview, eh? yeah I did that on purpose). Say what you see and if you think I’m wrong, fucking tell me why. Do some reading, know your philosophy, know your politics. Don’t be afraid to get into deep conversations. Always listen, but defend your principles when you have to. Never hate on anybody who doesn’t hate on others. Live, laugh, love laughing at people who buy live, laugh, love signs. Be friendly, be open, be good to everybody you see.
Soon as everybody does that we’ll have everlasting world peace. Everyone will be happy, the Israel/Palestine conflict will be resolved, Mexico will be free of drugs. Our toilets will be free of unflushed poo. But most importantly, competitive Pokémon will be free of toxic players.
You’re probably better off if, unlike me, you don’t go ahead and call millions of people dumbasses like I did just then,