When men are harassing women online (insulting them, reducing them to sex objects, threatening to rape and/or murder them — you know, typical day-on-the-internet stuff) it’s not hard to recognize that those men are total losers. It’s easy (and probably accurate) to assume that these dudes are not just bad with women, they’re bad at life, and they’re blaming strange women on the internet for their own ineptitude.
Well, now a new study from Michael Kasumovic from the University of New South Wales and Jeffrey Kuznekoff from Miami University has proven exactly that. The two set out to investigate what triggers sexist behavior in men and why only some men feel and act out this sort of misogynistic rage. Because, as they put it:
“Although social constructionist theory argues that sexism is a response towards women entering a male dominated arena, this perspective doesn’t explain why only a subset of males behave in this way.”
They hypothesized that the impulse to be a sexist asshat was one that was specific to lower-status males, linked to “evolved differences in intra-sexual competition.”
“We hypothesised that female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status.”
The two chose Halo 3 as their method of study, in part because the characters aren’t sexualized or gendered outside of their voices, and because they could then track players’ responses to both male and female voices over positive (kills) and negative (deaths) encounters, as well as overall maximum skill achieved. There’s a lot you can pore through in the study itself, but the results are also pretty easily distilled into simple comic form. Which one of the researchers did himself, with artist Savanna Ganuchea.
Yup, dudes who did poorly in the presence of men who outperformed them respected those men. Men who sucked at Halo 3 when a woman was watching were CONSUMED WITH RAGE BECAUSE HOW DARE THAT WOMAN JUDGE HIM??
So we can file these results into the Yeah, Duh (But Still Grateful to Have Evidence) category. The problem isn’t women playing video games. (And it sure as hell isn’t ethics in video game journalism.) It’s that a smallish subgroup of neanderthals who don’t know how to handle their own failings with women, video game skills, and life in general, and who then decide women are at fault.
There’s a lot here I’d like to see expanded upon. The study doesn’t have any data on age (I’d love to know how teenagers and younger boys react versus grown men) or race, or how women react to other women. In the the 163 games the researchers played, 189 players spoke to them, and all were male. Of course, “this is not to say that women did not play, just that they did not speak.” Which obviously also says a lot about this gaming environment.
For now, I’m just going to pretend we live in a world where sexist, verbally abusive gamer guys might actually take Kasumovic’s advice here to heart.