Second of October. I had breakfast while following the aftermath of another mass shooting in United States. Some feminist gamers I followed talked about 4chan and how international newspapers explained what 4chan is. Uh-oh.
It was uh-oh for them too. These women have been abused on Twitter and Reddit for being women who like geeky stuff. 4chan is another depth where they won’t bother venture. It’s the proverbial darkest corner where the nasty people hang out.
On the evening of 30 September (United States’ time) someone posted a message in the r9k (Robot 9000) board at 4chan, warning readers to avoid school in the northwest (usually meaning the states of Washington and Oregon). It’s never known if the poster was really Chris Herper-Mercer, or someone who knew his plan (even more disturbing), or if it was a crazy coincidence. All posts in 4chan are anonymous and the forum does not use registration.
The reaction of the board was unbelievable. Many responded positively to the mass murder threat (even suggesting assault rifle and targeting popular students). Worse, after Herper-Mercer killed nine people and injured nine others, the board erupted with cheers and sympathy.
And then came the distressing aftermath. Republican presidential candidates make unbelievable statements (the latest blaming 1930s’ European Jews for not arming themselves), and as I am writing, the University of New South Wales’ Sydney campus is under police supervision as copycat threats keep sprouting up in 4chan.
Herper-Mercer and his hero, Elliot Rodger, were motivated by male entitlement. Both of them were half-British, lived in California, and detested their biracial background. They hated black men (both) and Asian (Rodger), supported white supremacy, and blamed women for refusing their approach. They also nurtured paranoia that white women preferred black or Asian men over them.
What’s the difference between male privilege and male entitlement? Male privileges are advantages and rights that men take for granted, often to the point where they think that women also have access to these advantages. It’s the ability to go out at night without being judged. It’s the privilege of being called an “eligible bachelor” as opposed to a spinster. It’s living in a society in which people are more willing to focus on a man’s work instead of his look or body.
Male entitlement, on the other hand, is the belief that men deserve physical and mental satisfaction provided by women. Many people worldwide believe that men should be exempted from cleaning the house, looking after their own infant, or cooking. In some cultures and households those things are even taboo for men. On the other hand, men are culturally entitled to leer at passing women (some travelers know this well), to spend their money and time at red light districts, and to make sexist jokes – even at religious functions where women are present.
The video blogger Anita Sarkeesian reviews the trope of “woman as reward” in video games back in August 2015, in which it’s more than “Hero gets the girl. The End.” Rather it’s about using in-game currency to purchase skimpy battle costumes, collecting in-game items to unlock pinup images, and hiring sex workers to restore health.
Sarkeesian’s definition of male entitlement comes with a powerful image. It’s taken from a 1950s’ science fiction short story, and I used to be that guy. I was happy to spend a handful of dollars collecting female anime and video games character figurines, which are made from high quality plastic and have detailed hairstyle, muscle tones, and yes, panties.
It’s all just fandom, until I developed a similar mindset about women. Women should be as cute and caring as anime characters are. Women should be responsive to text messages and instant messenger chats like video game characters are responsive to controller inputs. Women should not be flirty with other guys.
This is the world of 4chan. It started when Christopher Poole wanted to create the American version of Japanese message board 2channel. Like its Japanese inspiration, the 4chan world rotated around anime, Japanese video games, and Internet memes.
Although in mid-2000s it became the springboard for the Anonymous movement, now 4chan are synchronized with 2channel – a place where men complain about video games’ development hell, national decline, and evil feminists (all are related). Indeed, now 4chan is owned by Hiroyuki Nishimura, the founder of 2channel.
Male entitlement is certainly not something that happens only to socially awkward guys who read comics and play video games. It is also held by popular men who have stable career and family. When trouble occurs, they and their supporters would blame women for picking faults at their “passion” or “eccentricity” instead of their great achievements in science, literature, entertainment, or politics.
Many video gamers have heard of Anita Sarkeesian, including those in Indonesia. Instead of being angry with her (for getting the “game logic” wrong, for being a killjoy, but essentially for being right), think hard about how pop culture influences your view on women and on life. As any couple would testify, having a relationship or having sex is not the happy end. It’s a commitment with yourself, with another person and with two people’s social circles.
Many 4chan regulars portray Reddit regulars as guys who adopt the Pick-Up Artist lifestyle and pretend to be cool, while they are satisfied to live in their dream worlds of porn and online shopping. Both groups are harmfully maintaining their sexist and misogynist worldviews.
There is a better solution, and this also applies to the so-called successful men. Accept that women are human. They are entitled to refuse your advance. They are entitled to choose another person, or nobody. Be a decent man because it’s good for you and for everyone, not because you think that the nice guy will be rewarded with sex. If you like a woman, communicate well with her, get to know her and respect her boundaries. The mantra offered by the very helpful Everyday Feminism article I refer to is “Check yourself”.
*Photo byPeter Steven
**Read Mario’s take on a nation’s obsession with schoolgirls.