Wednesday, February 26, 2014

MWG 3: Men, Success, Failure, and Frustration

It turns out I lied.

After beginning work on the third part of this series, I quickly realized that I have a lot to say about the male perspective. Go figure, right? After a lot of writing and proofreading, I felt that trying to split a post into “male perspective” and “solutions” would be doing a disservice to the whole endeavor for a variety of reasons.

First, if we’re talking about creating an equal environment, equal time should be given to discussing both perspectives. Second, it’d be silly to pretend I know more about the experience of women in the gaming community than men. For all the questions I can ask and the empathy I can give, I’m not a female gamer. Third, this post rapidly became too big when I bulk-packaged it with my suggestions for solutions. Fourth, attaching the male section with the solutions carries the suggestion that the only people who will be doing work when it comes to establishing our equal community will be men, and implies that I’m targeting them with specific criticisms, which I’m not.

The goal here is, hopefully, to have both men and women understand both perspectives better. To step outside the issue, see things impartially yet empathetically, and compose solutions together.

So what does it feel like to be a male, and a gamer?

Measuring Output

One of the most important things to understand about many men is how much we evaluate ourselves in terms of output and success. For that matter, it’s the way that most people evaluate us. If I had to split up the perceptions as simply as possible, women get identified more as “being” and men are more identified as “doing.” Women get analyzed and valued based on their attributes (things like appearance and status) while men get analyzed and valued based on the outcome of their actions. “What are you” versus “what have you done?”

I don’t think it’s so perfectly clear-cut and simple as that, nor am I implying that women don't exert effort and men's attributes are ignored. Obviously women are judged for behavior, and are judged for innate qualities. But, to my observation, the scope of accepted actions and efforts for women becomes culturally narrowed--hence, by association, this changes what we’ve come to automatically expect and value from women. For men, the scope of judgment is based almost entirely on actions and outputs.

When you evaluate output and outcome, you begin categorizing things as good-bad, win-loss, pass-fail. You establish criteria, you judge, you scrutinize. This is perfectly fine, normal, healthy, and useful in a variety of conditions. Not all the time though.

As men, we’re often conditioned to view things as purely objective-based, so we seek clear-cut markers of success and failure,. This becomes the driver for men to become action oriented, to go succeed and achieve. However, it is also an avenue through which men become dehumanized and depersonalized. It simultaneously elevates us and pushes us down.

Why is it terrific? Deeply rooted within me, as a male and also as somebody born in a society that encourages upward socioeconomic mobility, is the belief that I will be judged by the outcome of my actions. I define myself through what I do, so I seek to constantly act, produce, and evaluate it for improvement. In many ways, this viewpoint is the great equalizer. The evaluation of actions and outcomes is what lets you see past circumstances of birth. You don’t control how you were born, but you do control your choices. Any time a culture begins judging people and groups by choices alone, it becomes a way to begin the process of equalization. The road is always a rocky one (since humans are insanely notorious for discriminations and misinterpretations) but it is a start.

So how can this viewpoint be bad? How can it harm us? Like many views, when it gets taken to an extreme. If you literally evaluate everything you do on the basis of success or failure, particularly when you’re using criteria handed to you from other people, you can easily lose yourself. You can lose what you want and value, you can see yourself as an executor of external commands rather than an autonomous decider.

When we look at male-female interactions, it’s frequently interpreted that the man must attempt to pursue women. He is frequently the initiator. He is the one proving himself. Men run game, men get the girl. When he walks away without the phone number, he might think “what did I do wrong?” Men give each other advice on what they should say, when and how they should say it. How do you become “good” with women? How do you win? They’re desperate to know.

The win-loss mentality is pretty clear when you look at the vocabulary. Good with women suggests you possess a skill. Men that have lots of success with lots of women are players, after all. And what do you call a woman that’s too easy to persuade, to attract? Just that. She’s “easy.” Some women are beyond your capacity to attract, and are therefore out of your league. Don’t even start on the subject of bases and scoring. It's all phrased like its a game, and games have winners and losers.

We’re encouraged to delineate our lives and behaviors into successes and failures. You execute the skill or the routine properly, and you win. You do things right, you get rewarded. And if you aren’t doing things right, then you are failing and you get nothing. Not even a sweet participation ribbon. Associatively, that means that if you go into a situation and get nothing from it, you failed and did things wrong. You wasted your time. And for men, who are encouraged to evaluate themselves purely on the basis of action and outcome? That makes you a failure.

Imagine feeling like you have to think like this all the time. Your job? What kind is it? On some level we understand that a wide variety of jobs are necessary for the stable functioning of civilization, but having to do certain crummy jobs when you could have been president or a CEO becomes a mark of shame. How much money do you make? You want to make what a career? Do you have a small business on the side, at least? What kind of car do you drive? Oh, you’re still in high-school. Well, make sure you pick out the right career and go to the right school so you have the right future.

Is your girlfriend a seven, an eight, a ten? Whoa, a nine and a half?! Nice, solid, great. Good luck keeping her though. Women want a man who is going somewhere, so make sure you are always acting and improving and protecting and impressing her because if you aren’t, she will just find somebody who does. Maybe she’ll keep you on the side while she looks for a more alpha to validate her.

Can’t you just be yourself? You don’t have to constantly try and impress people to be worth something, right? Well, no. You really don’t. But just like a woman doesn’t have to match an arbitrary weight or dress size or look like a photoshopped model to feel healthy and whole and valuable, a man doesn’t have to be a tech-entrepreneur doctor lawyer guitarist with a nine-inch stock portfolio to feel like a fulfilled and self-actualized human being worthy of respect. But we look out there, we see other people moving and shaking, doing what we can’t and having what we don’t.

So we compare, we measure, and we judge. Even when we don’t have to. Especially when we don’t have to. Sometimes they damage us and our ability to interact well with each other. Particularly when it comes to dealing with women.

Adding Up Numbers

Remember when I asked you to imagine being a girl in a gaming community? Where you show up to a tournament and the guy at the front assumes you came to watch your boyfriend play, so he doesn’t bother asking you to register? And then it feels like all the socially awkward guys that come up to you are probably hitting on you, in a super awkward way, hoping you will fulfill their girlfriend-gamer dreams, so they’re hanging around you constantly, but since they don’t want you to reject them they never say anything directly, meaning you can’t say anything without looking like a total bitch? And maybe you didn’t have to do any imagining because you’ve already been that person before?

I’m going to ask you to imagine being a male gamer.

Please remember some of the things I talked about in the first article. That to compete, and love games enough to compete, you typically must spend lots of time playing and practicing, frequently solo, which means you are less likely to be highly extroverted or social. For spending extra time alone in lieu of developing social skills, you are more likely to have some degree of social awkwardness. Because excessive love of gaming is stigmatized, you are more likely to feel some degree of shame about your hobby when explaining it to other people (I think this is changing a bit as games become more mainstream, though it’s definitely applicable to my own age-group). And because you’re getting limited social experience in an already male-introvert dominated hobby, you are less likely to meet tons of ladies either. Congratulations, you’re a living stereotype.

I stated it before, we’re all individuals with unique life experiences, perspectives, etc. These are not hard and fast laws, just increased probabilities. I’ve met more than enough gamers who are fashionable (or unfashionable), gamers who are physically fit (and unfit), gamers with girlfriends and wives (or who've never touched a girl). There are no guarantees. And having said that, I will still confidently state that the odds of being introverted and socially inexperienced, particularly with women, go up significantly among competitive gamers. It’s a selection effect, plain and simple. The current gaming environment screens a little harder for those above traits.

Oh, and everything I said above about men feeling conditioned to evaluate things based on output and results? That effect increases among gamers as well, because video games care only about what you do. You can be anybody, male or female, old or young, active or sedentary, sweetheart or scumbag, and the game shows no preference. Arguably, this is one of the greatest things about video games. Inside the game, there is nothing but meritocracy (and, depending on the game I guess, a bit of luck). But the more competitive you become, the more you evaluate outputs and value improvement, so we can double down on this probability once more.

This Doesn't Help With Women

One of the main downsides of evaluating most situations in terms of success and failure is that we frequently do so with social situations as well. This applies to interacting with women, particularly when you want to ask one out or flirt with her or hit on her, but sometimes even if you don’t.

We worry about what we do and say. We stress about the first words that will come out of our mouth (even though “Hi” does a remarkably good job in most cases). We want to make sure that we do things just right so that the girl will like us and, of course, we interpret rejection as failure. We must have read the signals wrong, we must have said the wrong thing or we shouldn’t have tried to escalate things so quickly (or so late). I should not have brought up that I spent this past weekened playing video games and watching cartoons, otherwise she might have gone on a date with me. What can I do to fix it? How can I make her like me? How do I succeed?

How do you even measure success? By obtaining phone numbers, scheduling dates, receiving positive signals, making contact. Do things right, and you get the girl. If you don’t get the girl, you screwed up. You are bad and you should feel bad.

For a woman, hearing yourself discussed this way probably feels kind of crummy. It’s nice to imagine that somebody out there “gets” you, but this isn’t exactly what you had in mind. At best, it feels like you’re being tricked or manipulated; at worst, it feels like you’re being possessed and hoarded. You know, like an object. It’s dehumanizing for somebody to approach you and feel like the only way the interaction is worth anything is if you reward them with yourself. The guy honestly thinks he just has to do the right things and Girlfriend Achievement Unlocked? What about making a connection? What about personality? Or, for that matter, what about just having a nice conversation and leaving it at that?

Like I said, it’s dehumanizing. This viewpoint suggests women don’t even make any choices, like it’s all up to the guy’s performance. Of course, she's the one scoring the performance, but if he does everything right and she rejects him... well then, something is clearly wrong.

But what doesn’t get covered very often is that this entire process dehumanizes the man as well. It is only about what he does. It doesn’t matter who he is. “Get her to like you?” Like you weren’t worth it before? What about basic human respect and positive interactions? Can't you just be likable? Sure, just follow these steps.

Much like a video game, it becomes about inputs earning outputs, and winning versus losing. The man can easily feel like he doesn’t have a choice either. Like he has to be winning, he has to be charming and saying the right things constantly. And if he doesn't? She'll walk away and find someone who does.

Single man walks up to woman, talks to her, and walks away without a phone number. If he wasn’t just asking directions to the nearest restroom, then he probably did something wrong. Right? Wait, you didn't even ask? I mean… why wouldn’t you try? Didn’t you see her? She was pretty cute. You screwed up dude. You failed, by virtue of not even trying to play the game.

Look at all the single men and women who feel crappy on Valentine’s Day. The women feel unattractive, the men feel like failures. Some people laugh it off or bump fists and say “ha, I don’t need anybody to validate me.” But a lot of people just get depressed. Why? Because success with the other gender implies that not being with them implies failure. And for a man, it can easily hang over your head every time you talk to women.

Does it get worse from here? You bet.

It Gets Worse For Gamers

Let’s go back to some of the points of the first post.

First of all, never underestimate rarity values and novelty effects. It goes beyond just being noticed for being unique. When you are a male who may possess one to all of the following characteristics:

  • Measures himself by success and failure, and in accordance with current cultural values, bases some of that success on experience with women,
  • Lacks that experience because he spent a lot of time gaming, and,
  • Feels like the gaming itself is a point of shame or embarrassment,

Then imagine what happens when you finally meet a girl who is into gaming, possibly as much as you are. Imagine what she might represent to you on multiple levels.

There’s the validation of your hobby, which you may feel some degree of stigma or shame for enjoying. There’s the fulfillment of cultural expectations that you will find a significant other; choosing to be single is only acceptable for a male if it’s clear that he actually has a choice (won’t date, or can’t?). There’s the fulfillment of your sex drive, which itself is also an emotional validation, because being a male virgin is not something you proudly admit (and God forbid you get a girlfriend and don’t have sex). It’s fine if you’ve demonstrated the ability to get laid and now you don’t feel like it, but the implication that you can’t? Ouch. It's not just physical. If it were, you'd hire somebody to take care of the problem for you.

And last of all? This female gamer is so rare the guy may feel like he won’t get another chance anytime soon. Is it any wonder that the end result can easily be creepy and unwanted attention? Guys following them around and being extra nice for a very obvious reason, or guys trying awkwardly to flirt with them? Is it any wonder that he doesn’t want to do things directly, because the direct rejection would hurt so much? The girl can represent many things to this man. It also explains why men can exhibit an insane amount of needy behavior to receive that validation, and any woman who wants to exploit the attention can find a way to do so.

What does she start representing? Success. Validation. That girl gamer begins representing everything that we’re encouraged to believe we’re supposed to want. Heck, you don’t need to be a gamer to participate in this fun game, as plenty of men do this with women in various contexts all the time.

And all that aside, who wouldn’t want somebody that loves what they love? Somebody that will accept a part of them that often feels stigmatized elsewhere, the love of gaming? Somebody who understands why you would want to spend a whole weekend grinding materials in an MMO, or rehearsing combos in training mode? Even moreso if the woman is competitive and has skills, because this further defies expectations; she’s not like those other girls who are just here to socialize. The novelty and rarity just shoot through the roof, and she dominates the field of attention, whether she (or the men around her) like it or not.

Of course, who she is and what she wants might get lost a bit in the process. But as a male, you feel the need to try and do something anyhow. You might not get another chance.

Once Is More Than Enough

There’s another side-effect, based on other things I’ve mentioned. The more emotionally significant an event is, the more importance we place on it. Our first experiences heavily color our attitudes. This is why traumas that occur at a young age can shape people so drastically and take so much work to overcome. It’s why people tend to remember big losses more than small victories. If you consider the other two things I mentioned in the first post, the tendency to generalize from limited data and the confirmation bias, then the results become interesting.

First off, many people’s earliest romantic experiences are turbulent and hard to deal with. Part of this is the emotional landscape of adolescence, part of it is the fact that our first experiences in anything receive tremendous importance, as our brains give extra attention to novelty. A large percentage of gamers, particularly dedicated ones that have the time to devote to gaming are still in adolescence; the exact time frame of its effects on us aren’t specifically pinned down (nor are they universal) but they often persist as far as the early twenties. So you can just toss those factors into the whole situation as well, and you end up with extremely emotionally charged experiences.

Second, because we frequently (and unconsciously) generalize from limited data and those first experiences are emotionally important, the lessons we draw from them (whether accurate or not) stick with us and are difficult to shake. They dominate our memories and shape future actions and viewpoints. You find both men and women who will conclude, after one or two bad experiences, that all women or men behave a certain way. They will actively seek evidence that confirms their views, place more importance on the evidence of people who agree with them, and further cement their conclusion as an absolute truth. This is not some mystical process that only happens to the horribly irrational and sexist; people everywhere do this automatically unless they carefully watch for it (and even then, people have an excellent knack for tricking themselves anyhow). It happens in every context. It feels perfectly rational to do so, because hey, look at all this evidence you have.

People do it to persuade themselves that the RNG in a video game is busted. They definitely do the same with other people's behaviors.

So with that in mind, it’s not hard to see why some men generalize that all women want attention. One or two experiences, combined with corroborating evidence and stories from other people, and you have a whole briefcase of evidence proving your point. On the flip-side, this also explains why it can seem like all gamers are desperate to give women uncomfortable attention. Or that they’re all confident that women can’t game? Same deal. The uncomfortable experiences stick out more, and then they’re confirmed by other people who experienced similar things.

Like I’ve said several times already, and I will feel compelled to say again and again, it’s not all male gamers who think and feel this way. I think certain factors contribute to a higher likelihood, but the truth is it’s probably not even a majority. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be a majority to create the impression that it’s coming from everybody. It just has to happen frequently enough to dominate your perceptions.

Besides, when it comes to things like being dehumanized, objectified, condescended to, manipulated, used, or hurt, once is more than enough, isn’t it?

Why Can't We Be Friends?

When I began describing some of these ideas to one of my friends, she asked me “why can’t they just… you know, interact platonically?” Why talk so much about dating and rejection and getting girls?

Well, men and women can interact platonically. Part of the reason I haven’t discussed it yet is because generally speaking, if a guy and a girl have a nice platonic conversation where both respect the other’s whole personality, finish their chat and then happily go their separate ways, does a comment need to be made on the subject? That’s like somebody carefully passing you on the highway while leaving you plenty of room, and it causes you to remark, “can you believe they didn’t sideswipe me? How amazing!” This seems like something that really ought to be the standard. And in truth, it happens plenty of times. Lots of men out there, even gamers, are friends with women, interacting comfortably.

The second thing is that when you’re being measured for your sexual and social prowess (or if you believe you are), if you’ve been single too long, or if you just really want to date somebody and feel rejected, or if you have been rejected by all the girls you've asked (even if that number is 1), then friendship can seem like a crappy consolation prize. It can seem hollow, a condescending pat on the head. The friendzone is for guys who weren’t manly enough for the woman to date.

Then let's say somebody else starts dating that person you asked out--especially if you are prone to evaluating, measuring, and comparing your behaviors--it begs a question: What did I do wrong? Then, if you actually ask the question, somebody might reply, “you didn’t do anything wrong!” and it begs a new question: if I’m not doing things wrong, but I’m still not succeeding, then what’s wrong with me?

A social interaction between men and women doesn’t have to be win-loss. It can be done purely for the sake of interacting with another human being and seeing what happens, with no goal in mind. But when you’re a male who expects more and more out of himself, this becomes more difficult. This is one of the reasons most guys have no problems when meeting each other, but suddenly clam up or act different around new women; the feeling that their interactions with women must yield some kind of outcome makes them stressed. It can feel like it needs to be a performance or follow extra rules.

This pass-fail mindset, when it seeps its way into every interaction, becomes stressful. If you’re socially inexperienced, it only gets worse. You constantly wonder “what am I supposed to be doing,” and that contributes to uncomfortable behaviors as much as anything else. People who are completely socially isolated feel this way around people of both genders; they have no idea what to say or how to say it. Those uncomfortable behaviors demand uncomfortable responses, and nobody leaves feeling like things turned out that well.


When you develop a drive to do things right, whether it’s to become a success or avoid becoming a failure, there aren’t many conclusions you can draw if you think you’re doing things right and still not getting the success you’re supposed to achieve. You might internalize the failure and blame yourself, or externalize the failure and blame the game (or, possibly, women).

And what really sucks is that most of the advice out there is bad. Or, rather than being bad, it’s incomplete. It does not get at the root of the problems. It sounds good, and some of it is even true. But when you try and jigsaw that advice with how men evaluate themselves, there’s no way to make it fit.

“You’re bad with women? Be confident, women love men with confidence.” But how are you supposed to feel confident when you have nothing to base that confidence on? Few, if any, situations have gone your way. How are you supposed to act confidently and comfortably? Should I fake it until I make it? Should I lie?

“Well, just be yourself. Don’t try and be something you aren’t.” But wasn’t being myself, pursuing my passions and things that I liked, what got me all this inexperience and discomfort in the first place? I don't know what I'm supposed to do, my natural instincts are to screw things up.

“Okay then, work on improving yourself! Step outside of your comfort zone and grow.” Ah, you’re right, I wasn’t good enough before. Good thing I didn’t waste time trying to have confidence and be myself.

“You’ve got to go out there and meet people!” Why? I thought you said I was fine the way I was. Why aren’t they coming out and meeting me? Why should I have to do all this work to make things better?

The cultural landscape tells men that they need to get out there and get results to be valuable and to matter. That failure is bad, that success is good, and there are tons of dudes out there doing it so you should too. Mixing that with telling them they have to change is akin to saying "the current you sucks, and the only way to win is to change." So some men try harder and harder because they really want to figure out how to win.

“Look, it’s not that hard, okay. Just treat women with respect. Treat them like people.” This advice is probably the best advice with the worst effects and most insidious results.

What do I mean “worst effects?” How can “treat women like normal people” be insidious? It’s not, really. It’s great advice. It’s the cornerstone of this whole conversation. We want to adjust our social environments so women can self-actualize, act freely, and be respected when they do so. In short, we want to treat them like people deserving of respect. So why do I think it has ”insidious” results?

Because there’s a lot of confusion on what it means to respect women. A lot of it boils down to one of the most dehumanizing elements of this whole conversation and our entire social landscape, which is the criminalization of our sexuality.

Sex is bad and wrong. Why aren’t you getting any?

What’s the difference between sexualization and sexual objectification?

It’s not a complicated difference. Sexualization is when you include sexuality as part of something. Adding sexual characteristics or wants or desires to something sexualizes it. Easy enough.

Sexual objectification occurs when you steadily reduce something to nothing but the fulfillment of sexual function. It’s a process of dehumanization, a removal of a one’s choices, feelings, and autonomy from a situation; objectification boils them down to nothing more than a purpose.

One of the quirks of this distinction is that you can objectify somebody by overemphasizing their sexuality, but de-sexualizing something or someone is a method of dehumanization as well. If you perceive a woman as nothing but a vessel for your pleasure and aggrandizement, that's objectification; at the same time, if you try and cut women off from their sexuality completely, you're still reducing them without giving them a choice. We seem to have a tough time hitting that middle ground.

Society simultaneously criminalizes and overglorifies sexuality. How is it criminalized? The language surrounding it is negative. Sex is “dirty,” “naughty,” “bad.” Virginity is synonymous with innocence and purity. Half of our epithets and insults involve genitalia and sex acts. We have certain bits of ourselves that it’s completely wrong to let other people see except in specific contexts. More Americans would rather their child see a brutal murder on television than a nipple (well, unless it’s a male nipple, that’s cool). So sex is bad, sexuality is bad, we get it.

Wait! It’s also good. It's great. You should be living the life and having lots of it. What about orgasmic pleasure and making love? Babies come from sex and that’s the miracle of life. Besides, you need to live it up while you're young, these are the best years of your life. How nice. Oh, and remember virginity being synonymous with innocence and purity? It’s also synonymous with being a giant loser. So go out there and get some. If you do, you’ve gotten lucky! It's the best lottery ticket ever.

Oh, but don't forget. For women, you can’t have sex or you become impure. You’re used goods, broken in. Who wants another man’s seconds? Oh, but if you don’t put out, you are prudish and conservative. What is this, the 1700s? Be a modern woman. And for men? Well, we just assume you want sex all the time and that you’ll do anything to get it. Men only want one thing, after all. You see a guy going up to a girl to have a chat, and it’s obvious what he’s after, right? Even though we culturally condition men to over-focus on this at all times, because we make him feel like his sexuality and prowess is always in question.

The man is expected to chase after the woman so that he can have sex. And he has to persuade her, because sex is a debasing act that renders her impure. Guys who get laid frequently are successful, they’re players, but women who do so are called sluts. Are we supposed to ignore the fact that to have heterosexual intercourse, a man needs a woman there? Does the elevation of the man have to involve the debasement of the woman? Apparently.

So how do you respect a woman and treat her as a person? It's simple. Don't hit on her. Don't treat her like a sexual object. This is the only conclusion you can come to if you reach the (not uncommon) interpretation that your sexual gratification is antithetical to her worth. If you’re a male who buys into the notion that any mention of sexuality is a harassment or objectification, you can become rather confused. You’re supposed to approach, meet girls, be confident, be good with them; now that you're showing them respect, you must somehow do this without sexualizing her, because to do so is debasing.

Well, no, it's not. Because women have fought for years, as part of their social and civil rights, to be permitted access to their own sexuality. But given how we treat male sexuality (a simultaneous glorification and demonization), it's no surprise you draw strange conclusions.

Once again, we see a lot of curious behaviors coming from this. One of them is men looking at the unreasonableness of it all and blaming women for wanting it both ways. One of them is men becoming very determined to never directly mention sex around women at all as a way of showing that they are respectful. So they desexualize in an attempt to show respect and treat them like people (which they heard is part of being good with women). It's kind of a pain if you’re sexually attracted to somebody to avoid all mention of the idea out of a misguided notion of respect, particularly in a culture that still expects you to make the first moves. So now you have to figure out an even more convoluted way of letting her know that you’re interested.

One option--which a lot of people seem very keen on trying to implement--is to rely on a big network of non-universal, vague symbols and indirect gestures to try and suggest that they’re okay with the other person liking them a bit and that they’re maybe interested but not if you’re offended oh jeez sorry I’m sorry. You touched your hair and you were smiling. I read online somewhere that this meant you liked me. Sorry.


Well, while you’re busy apologizing, here’s what you can do to fix things… and now we’re falling into this realm again where we give men yet more advice on exactly how they’re supposed to do things or else they are, once again, doing it wrong. We don’t talk about the individual, we prescribe processes and routines that cannot possibly account for every unique scenario or person. So it doesn’t surprise me that a lot of men become frustrated when you broach the topic with them. Because when all these chance factors, cultural messages, and incomplete pieces of advice and frustration help things go wrong? You get blamed. It is just another thing that you are doing wrong. Because you are, first and foremost, defined by your actions.

The worst part is that this will become harder the more and more you try to do the right thing. Obviously, none of this is a big deal if you just don’t care. You can just go out there, do whatever, and let other people deal with the fallout. But the more you try to reconcile all this stuff, the harder and more confusing it gets, and the more you blame yourself when it unsurprisingly goes wrong. Or you blame other people for being unreasonable and unfair.

Most of the situation, as it unfolds for some men, is extremely unreasonable. And a lot of it has to do with the conflicting messages we send to both men and women about how they're supposed to behave.

So Now What?

I said it before, I’ll say it again; there are as many ways to respond to these situations as there are people involved. I don’t think what I’m describing happens a majority of the time, but it doesn't have to for it to be a giant problem.

I think these are some of the values and expectations that are drilled into men that guide how we think and feel about ourselves. I think those expectations put pressure on us, and when we keep adding that pressure in more ways, like steam bursting from a pipe that pressure finds some way to manifest itself.

And if we bring ourself back to the specific topic of gaming communities, when you add their own particular factors and attitudes, we create an environment that deters most women and easily frustrates the men. Again, it’s not necessarily a majority, and it doesn’t have to be. Once somebody experiences enough, male or female, they probably just want out.

For their part, men become extremely frustrated because the messages of “you’re doing it wrong” never seem to end. There are so many ways to be judged and measured that the pressure becomes overwhelming. Now, with the realization that gender relations need to change, it can feel like yet another criticism of how we’re doing it wrong. It never even matters how mild or moderate or understanding the suggestions are, the implication is there: it’s your fault again. Fix it.

The funny (read: depressing) thing is that constantly happens to both men and women. We are all bombarded with information about how we aren’t what we’re supposed to be. In fact, now that there is some degree of enmeshment between gender roles, it’s not actually better, it’s worse. We get both barrels from media and culture. Now it’s not enough to be judged for appearance and social status as a woman, you also need to strap on your rocket shoes and blast through the glass ceiling or you aren’t progressive and impressive enough. It’s not enough to get a career and buy a house and be the family man, we also demand that you be fashionable and sensitive and get laid a lot while also being very respectful and wholesome. We are all judging you, all the time, and you aren’t good enough yet. I’ve asked this before, I’ll ask it again: is it any wonder we all become frustrated? And is it any wonder we direct that frustration at each other?

How do we fix it? I don’t have a hard and fast solution and I don't think an easy one exists, but I do have some ideas and some suggestions, and they’ll be in the fourth and (probably) final part.

Thanks for reading.