Bombs, Silence, Building a Better Culture

Let us be plain for a moment. Silverstring Media is a feminist studio. We believe that women are entitled to equal opportunity, pay, consideration, and respect in the gaming community, and everywhere else. We believe that women have the right to control their own bodies, and their own lives. We believe that people of colour are still at the mercy of systems, institutions, and architectures that are inherently set against them, and we are committed to challenging this institutional and structural racism and sexism whenever we see it, and whenever we can. We believe that people of any and every sexual orientation are entitled to have their choices and identities respected, and they will always have our support. We believe that trans* and genderqueer people also deserve to have their identity, their bodies, their experiences, and their existence respected and acknowledged, and we pledge to do just that.

If any of that bothers you, you can keep it to yourself, and if you can’t, you can leave now. We don’t want you here, and we don’t want your business.

Our culture, our community, and our creative mediums are broken, and are filled with festering and disgusting rot. Every member of the Silverstring team believes that interactive media holds a host of exciting creative prospects, and we're enthusiastic for what the future holds, but we’re not going to say anything more about how great this field is right now. When your house is flooding, you don’t stop to admire the drapes.

Three days ago, on July 1st, Samantha Allen, a writer, game designer, and critic we have massive respect for, faced an unbelievable amount of harassment. The stated cause was that she criticised Giant Bomb for refusing to have any women on their staff, for filling their latest vacancies with yet more white dudes, and for passing over women and other marginalized candidates who were also clearly qualified. But let’s be honest, Samantha was also attacked because she is a woman, because she dared to speak her mind, and because she dared to make her existence known. She was attacked for taking up space that some feel doesn’t belong to her. Finally, she was attacked for telling a guy on twitter to "go fuck themselves” when he asserted that maybe the host of brilliant but marginalized writers who applied really weren't qualified, and that maybe only white dudes are currently capable of doing this kind of work.

We want to double down on what Samantha said. If you don’t believe there are women, POC, or queer candidates who are talented and qualified enough to be an *Associate* Editor at Giant Bomb, you do need shut up and go away; you are part of the problem.

During the day-long torrent of abuse, Samantha quit games criticism. In fact, she quit early in the morning, before the abuse hit its stride, but of course, that didn’t stop it. She pleaded several times for the abuse to stop, told her abusers that they had already won, and that she would leave. The abuse only escalated. Contrary to the claims made by her abusers, she didn't even apply for the job.

This sad episode in a season full of them should underscore to anyone who is paying attention that the people who abuse marginalized creators and community members aren’t aiming to chase them off, they are aiming to terrorize and potentially kill. When they arrive, so do threats of violence and encouragements of suicide. These people exist all across our community, but they gather in the greatest numbers on 4chan, Reddit, and Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) forums. The people who attacked Samantha are scum, and their philosophies are as vile as their tactics. They are not reasonable and they don’t “have a point.” They are not welcome here, and they are not welcome to enjoy our work.

When we play the devil’s advocate we are advocating for the devil. When we try to find a happy medium between a woman who raises a valid point, and a mob that wants to see her terrified and dead, we are contributing to a long-standing war on women. When we stop every few steps to qualify that “not all men” are bad, and that someone should have squeezed that disclaimer into every one of their tweets, we are part of the problem.

And if you feel the sting of criticism leveled against “men” or “journalists” or “gamers” whilst knowing that it doesn't pertain to you, imagine waking up every single morning with the knowledge that you are more than your gender, your race, your orientation, only to be confronted -- every single day -- by a world that wants to stamp that out of you, a world that prefers you as a caricature.

When we hesitate to speak out against abuse, when we wait to “see how things shake out” before standing up for a member of our community, when we think better of using our podium and position to publicly denounce this kind of blatant misogyny, we are part of the problem.

Taking to twitter to personally condemn such abuse is great, but like the phrase goes: “opinions expressed are my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.” We need to fight bigotry on multiple fronts, and all levels. Institutions should not and cannot sit intransigent while minority voices struggle, fight, and die on the fields below.

Members of our industry! If you took to twitter to stand against the abuse but have no intention of using your professional positions to also rebuke it, you are part of the problem. The silence among major media outlets on this latest string of abuse has been deafening.

We don’t expect it to be easy. Being an ally is extremely hard. We don’t get to take credit, we don’t get to be the hero, we don’t get to say “I’m trying here, ok” -- there will always be someone there to criticize us, to push us to do more, and that’s ok. We just get to try, and fail, and apologize, and try again. Apologizing will become our forte. We will become a master of apology as we *actually listen to and believe* marginalized voices, and vow to do better. We aim to be part of the solution.

We recognize and acknowledge that we, like Giant Bomb -- like almost every entity in gaming -- are not nearly diverse enough. Our audience and community grows in diversity every year and our institutions fail to keep pace. We have failed to keep pace. As we grow and establish our studio, we promise that this is one of our utmost concerns.

We understand that sometimes, we will be part of the problem. And for that, we are sorry.

We make this pledge honestly and earnestly: we will do everything in our power to make our community a better, more welcoming, more diverse, more beautiful place. If you ever think we can do more, or better, please let us know.

But if you want to debate our “feminist agenda” further, if you want to claim we’re “censoring” community members, if you want to accuse us of “ruining gaming,“ don’t expect for us to rush to respond. If you ask us questions respectfully, and with the thought in mind that we are all busy people who don’t owe you our time, we very well might respond with an answer, or more likely, a link to an essay that better answers your question than we ever could via email or twitter.  But if you can’t engage with us and our friends like we are people, like we might have better things to do than answer the same question 20 times in a single day, then you are also part of the problem.

Regardless, the chances are extremely good that your question has already been answered by a brilliant writer -- a writer like Samantha Allen -- a writer our community has now lost -- probably for good. These writers put in hours of their time to do just what you wanted: address your concerns and questions. It is not unreasonable for you to take the time to find and read this writing for yourself. For example, many of the ideas in this post were eloquently put forth by Samantha a year ago in her Open Letter to Games Journalism. As a teacher at Emory University, Samantha pioneered new ways to use videogames to teach feminism, and you can read about that work here and here. She's written a handy guide to being a better ally here, and she participated in a whole issue of Memory Insufficient on the topic of Women's Histories in Games here. Maddy Myers recently wrote a beautiful essay about her experiences in the games industry. Finally, Leigh Alexander has also just written up a fantastic piece on the Do's and Don'ts to Combat Online Sexism. We strongly encourage you to read these works.

Samantha Allen, Maddy Myers, Kris Ligman, Aevee Bee, Mattie Brice, Lana Polansky, Liz Ryerson, Leigh Alexander, Carolyn Petit, Katherine Cross, Patricia Hernandez, Anita Sarkeesian, Cara Ellison, Jenn Frank, Danielle Riendeau, Merritt Kopas, Alison Fleming, Anna Anthropy, Laura Kate Dale, Cha Holland, Elizabeth Simins, Porpentine, Tracey Lien, Zolani Stewart, Zoya Street, and every other marginalized community member struggling to be heard, stay afloat, and make a difference -- you all have our respect and support. And if you, dear reader, cannot extend that respect and support as well, keep that fact to yourself. And if you can’t, you can leave. We don’t want you here, and we don’t want your business.


Silverstring Media