Tone arguing

An argument recently blew up on my gaming forum, truegaming, concerning the treatment of female cosplayers in the community.  For those of you reading who don’t know, cosplaying is like Halloween, except all year round.

The gist of the post can be summarised as “gamers tend to be nerds who can’t find a girl, so that’s why they hate women”.  The board, predictably, exploded at this assertion, prompting all kinds of responses.  Those deeply offended by the post called for its removal, calling the poster a shill for the evil feminist agenda.  Those who make a point of pushing for equal treatment in the gaming community voted in favour of the post, though their comments were generally voted down.  So what did I do?

I deleted the thread.

It didn’t quite have the effect I assumed it would.  I thought the detractors would commiserate, opining that it was a tough call but had to be done.  I thought the supporters would agree enthusiastically.  The result was quite the opposite: some of the detractors (who I never particularly agreed with in the first place) were glad to see their moderator sticking it to the feminists.  On the other side, I was accused of using a “tone argument” in my justification for removal.

A tone argument is one in which those in a position of privilege basically say “calm down dear, we can’t take your complaints seriously with all this female shrieking”.  I’d never encountered the term before I was accused of employing the tactic, and when I found out about it, I went into a pretty deep funk for a while.

I’ve come out the other side, though, and I’m willing to tell myself that I didn’t, in fact, use the tone argument – or rather, if I did, it wasn’t simply to avoid the issue.  That, to me, seems to be the crux of the problem, that those on the defending side derail genuine concerns by dismissing the argument as ‘hysterical’.

Sexism in the gaming community is a big problem, and it’s not going to go away any time soon.  If someone came onto my board and posted in a profanity-laden rant about how the treatment of women was utter bullshit, that we have a severe “boy’s club” mentality, and that it exists directly as a result of our collective apathy, I’d allow that.  I’d welcome it.  It’s confrontational, sure, but it’s a point.

I don’t think calling an undefined group of people “dateless nerds” achieves anything.  I think it reflects badly on those who push for progress, because the vocal, backwards segment of the gaming community already thinks of feminists as ridiculous, easily-offended, man-hating hippies with too much time on their hands.  I believe that reinforcing those notions – when there is no genuine point to be made – will result in that vocal, backwards segment retreating further and further into their narrow lines of thought.  And that’s just going to make it harder the next time you try to convince them this is a very real and serious issue that needs to be addressed, not only by liberal faux-intellectuals, but by themselves.  It seems to me that the stonewalling we receive is a direct result of being incredibly defensive, and making them more defensive for no appreciable gain only hurts the cause.


I don’t know; I’m still pretty upset that I might’ve crossed a line.