Game reviewer Alanah Pearce teaches abusive trolls a lesson

New Face of Feminism 3.0 Underscores Misdirection of American Values

Alanah Pearce, a 21 year old student and game reviewer from Brisbane, Australia, recently became the target of online trolls who unleashed a wave of sexual harassment on her. After posting game reviews to YouTube, Pearce inadvertently upset some male gamers, who in turn channeled their anger into vicious attacks, including rape threats, posted to her Facebook page. Coming on the heels of Gamergate, and a slew of other events highlighting misogyny in American culture, this unfortunate event doesn’t come as a surprise. The incident raises concerns about the influence of videogames and provokes much needed public conversation about respect for women. Critical analysis highlights lackluster parenting and a trio of values that America must address to curtail mistreatment of women.

Pearce initially thought that the hate mongering, male chauvinists were adult males. However, she soon learned that the culprits were young boys ranging from 10 to 15 years old. After the discovery, Pearce did some cyber sleuthing and came up with a fine idea. She dished out a highly effective form of justice by contacting the boys’ mothers and telling them what their sons had done.

Learning of the sexually abusive comments and rape threats, the mothers’ reactions left some of them aghast to say the least. A few mothers promised Alanah to admonish their sons, which they have held to. One mother made her son write an apology letter to Pearce. Sadly, the story further emphasizes a recent, Vesuvius-like eruption of mistreatment of women in American culture.

The misogyny and chauvinism underpinning the gaming culture has been a poorly kept secret for years, going back to games like Duke Nukem and the old PC ROM game, Leisure Suit Larry, to name a couple. Unfurling a lengthy list of games with thinly veiled themes demeaning women doesn’t take much effort. There are tons of other games to mention, including the latest edition of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, which graphically depicts sexual encounters with prostitutes, leaving little to the imagination. How does this complicate an impressionable mind, still trying to demarcate between virtual and real world, codes of conduct?

It’s fair to wonder if, after years of videogame indoctrination, boys become more susceptible to objectifying and/or demeaning women. This potential for subconscious conditioning that suggests women aren’t the equals of men, when coupled with the faceless attribute of the Internet, starts a bomb’s countdown timer. The explosion inevitably occurs because the Internet doesn’t foster accountability and worse yet, nurtures a degenerate mentality akin to lurid screeds written on bathroom walls at truck stops. So how does the bomb get defused and who should be ultimately held responsible?

Pearce correctly contacted the parents. Parents have to be held responsible for the behavior of their children. At best, parents are oblivious to how videogames are shaping their children’s reality of the world. At worst, parents aren’t teaching their boys how to respect, appreciate and love women. When submersed in a virtual world of games, delineating between reality and fantasy has all the visibility of the glass ceiling. Parents must have a direct, clear and firm hand instilling quality values in their children. Otherwise, apathy will leave the job of parenting to game developers. The country might already be experiencing the ill effects of parenting truancy.

Similar parental deficiencies have also surfaced in the rash of sexual assaults and harassment that currently plagues college campuses and some fraternities across the country. If you’re not aware of the NFL’s trials and tribulations this year (Ray Rice anyone?), you must be living in a WWII era, fallout bunker. The branches of the American military find themselves scrambling to address rampant reports of sexual assault among their ranks. Add Bill Cosby’s sordid past to the mix, and suddenly American culture exhibits a crippling inability to treat women with respect and as men’s equals.

This year seems to be manifesting Feminism 3.0. About a century ago we fought for women’s suffrage. Then the 1960s arrived, ushering in a new wave of liberties for women. Now society faces a new surge and third push bringing women’s rights and equality to the forefront of our collective consciousness. The demand for action and progress never comes easily or without backlash. To grow and develop, the country has to look at itself in the mirror. Drilling deeper, the affair draws attention to three vital issues currently defining the American zeitgeist: online free speech, accountability and whistleblowing.

Citing defamation, some of the misbehaving boys and their mothers, are uniting to file a lawsuit against Alanah Pearce. Besides this being patently absurd, the situation brings a closely related and volatile issue to the front page. Are online threats and harassment protected by free speech? The timely and likely landmark Anthony Elonis case will decide this. The expected Supreme Court decision will come in January or February.

In 2010, Elonis threatened to murder his estranged wife on Facebook. Prosecutors argue that these threats constitute criminal acts, while the defense claims that they are unfounded and fall under the 1st amendment right to free speech. However the Supreme Court rules, their decision will set a historic precedent as to how online speech is interpreted.

Interpretation stems from perception. Ironically, in an ongoing era of underreported rape and sexual assault, some of the boys who threatened Alanah Pearce disapproved of her outing them. They perceived her as a tattle tale. Interpreting this might tell us that it’s ok to threaten sexual assault online, but not ok to report it? Is this what parents are teaching their children?

Sure, as kids we’re all taught not to tattle, lest we get branded as a “rat.” However we should all be teaching our children that accountability trumps loyalty, and we’re missing a priceless opportunity to do so. Accountability forms the building blocks of fairness and justice, how we treat each other, and how we treat women. If we don’t foster accountability, we nurture cancerous organizational cultures that condone reprehensible behavior.

Consider cornerstones of American society: Wall Street, the police and the military/intelligence services. Has anyone on Wall Street gone to jail for helping to cause the Great Recession? In two recent, very high profile cases, policemen have killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner. In the public’s eye they have eluded accountability. Now law enforcement agencies across the country are under immense pressure to be held accountable. The armed services and American intelligence agencies have also had their fair share of accountability issues. The lack of accountability in these institutions influences all facets of American culture, teaching adults and children alike, that aberrant behavior will be condoned. But a newfound, 21st century hero sounds the call now, pointing out the failure of our ways.

Use whistleblower instead of rat or tattle tale. This simple choice of words changes the way we frame accountability, from negative to positive. The political climate for whistleblowers in America isn’t very welcoming at the moment. Think of Edward Snowden. Is he a whistleblower or a rat? A government continues to act in a criminal manner, with impunity, when no one sheds light on their sordid acts. The same holds true for children, gamers, college students…everyone. How can misogyny and rape culture be eliminated when the existing framework to report rape and sexual assault isn’t very welcoming or supportive? Alanah Pearce showed courage to blow the whistle on online sexual harassment.

Apparently for too long, we have turned a blind eye to our mistreatment of women because we have taught ourselves that there are no repercussions, thus devaluing victims. The Internet exemplifies this lawless, Wild West mentality. Trolls run amok online, cowering in the shadows of anonymity and nonexistent accountability. But now, with the curtain lifting on male dominated realms like videogames, football fields and frat houses, Americans have become acutely aware of our collective shortcomings in our treatment of women.

The influx of women to traditionally male domains won’t be stopped. Valuing women more, giving them all the respect and love they have earned and deserve, has become imperative. Men have to learn that their status doesn’t solely come by way of strength and/or success. More importantly, men are defined and measured through their kindness, compassion and humility towards women. Not acting accordingly leads to moral erosion and decay, as individuals and for the country as a whole. Curiously, a young woman from Australia has become the GPS of our misguided moral compass.

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