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Submitted on
April 18, 2012


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I've been noticing a trend lately where people seem to deliberately be missing the point behind stuff in order to complain. I used to think it was just me, as I watched people write up lengthy articles nitpicking and "debunking" a comic I made because they simply missed the point, but I've started seeing it happening to other people too.

Recently over on The Oatmeal, artist Matthew Inman made a joke about guy gamers vs girl gamers. The joke was pretty simple: A guy gamer makes a mistake and gets bitched out by his fellow teammates online. Contrast to that, a girl gamer makes a mistake and her fellow teammates try to comfort her, tell her she's doing great, and make suggestive comments about hooking up. To me the joke was clear, guys treat girls differently online. However, that's not how the rest of the internet saw it...

From what I've read of the whole Oatmeal flare up, the reasons for the hate seem grounded in the fact he depicted the girl as blond and bubbly (ie: stupid) and not as "realistic" as most girl gamers actually are. Obviously for a simple comic strip like this, drawing the overly simplified (almost stick figure like) characters via established stereotypes is a good strategy to get your point across. I'm curious as to why no one is complaining that the guy is both fat and brown haired, which could be perceived as negative gender stereotype of male geeks?

Matthew was accused of being sexist and discouraging towards women, and the internet blew up over his post. He tried to apologize and stem the onslaught of hate, but it didn't do much good. He wrote a post trying to clarify his position and explaining his reasons, but still the hate kept coming. Finally he ended up donating $1,000 to a Women's Abuse Prevention Organization to prove that he's not the bad guy.

I've had people miss the point of a comic of mine before, so I know how frustrating this can be. It's even worse when people use the social media outlets at their disposal to spread their ignorance across the internet before you have a chance to try and explain. I get a lot of heat for sometimes adding "edits" in my descriptions where I have to clarify a position i've taken, but it's because of things like this that I do it. It's just easier to edit the description and tell everyone all at once your reasons than it is to try and have a discussion with each individual who deliberately misses the point.

Worse thing about this is that it seems like most of the people who miss the point are people who WANT to find fault with your work. They're looking for reasons to hate you, or to nitpick your stuff, and they can't see past their biases and frustrations. I've had to turn off comments on a number of my works because people missed a point and started flaming and attacking them and generally accusing me of stuff that, if they just listened to what I had to say, was basically the exact same thing they were telling me.

Here's the thing though... it was just an opinion. Matthew had an opinion, based on experiences he had, and he made a joke about it. He didn't actually hurt anyone, he didn't even really say anything controversial at all, so why all the hate? Why is having an opinion so deplorable these days and why does it seem like there's this "universally accepted internet opinion" that you must not contradict? Also, why is someone who's accused of such negative things not "allowed" to try and defend themselves from the wrongful convictions?

I've never subscribed to the notion that just because an artist posts something on the internet they're not "allowed" to defend themselves if their art or beliefs come under attack. Having free speech doesn't guarantee that you're right if you disagree with an opinion and both parties should be allowed to have their say. If you're going to criticize someone, let them explain their reasons and actions so you have a better understanding of where they're coming from. Mass flooding an artist with hate and bile does no one good.

This sort of all at once complaining has been steadily increasing. People react swiftly without thinking, spread their disgust via tumblr and facebook, and before you know it you've got an army of people all complaining and whining over something really insignificant and trivial. I'm sorry but this amount of hate over a COMIC STRIP is pretty uncalled for and unbecoming. Maybe we should be focusing that anger and disgust on things that can actually hurt us, like politicians, political activists, and corporate greed rather than focusing it on if a cartoonist drew a blond instead of a brunette.

Like I said, this isn't an isolated incident. It's happened to me, it's happened to some of my artist friends, and it's happening more and more violently as time goes on. What's the solution? How do we stop this madness? What are your thoughts? Do you think the hate on Matthew's post is justified? Do you think people need to get a life? Do you think we can continue to have online social interactions without increasing the disagreements?

IMO: The joke was funny. It didn't offend me. I didn't feel it was a gender insult to display the girl as thin and blond. And I don't think the hate surrounding this incident is justified or right.
  • Playing: Kid Icarus: Uprising - Light VS Dark
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LeighAD Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013
Given the difficulties the gaming world is having with gender equality right now, it's not surprising people would interpret it as an attack on female gamers. If you were a girl, you probably wouldn't find it funny. The blonde and thin thing isn't so much the problem as the implication that girls are stupid, can't game worth crap, and are treated with understanding and kindness no matter how much their ignorance screws over the other players. The treatment she received for screwing up is very different than the reality, gamer girls often complain about having their gaming skills and accomplishments constantly scrutinized and questioned even when they win or get high scores or whatever. There's a reason girls often take on male pseudonyms when gaming online.

Without the extra context and explanation, it's pretty easy to see this as an attack on girls' ability to game and the false belief some male gamers have that guys go out of their way to help girls get ahead because they couldn't do anything without their hands being held. Not all male gamers are like this of course, but the vocal minority are a pain in the ass and something females have started to expect. If it can be seen as an insult, it probably will because it's expected.

That said, it's hardly the most offensive thing on the web. An alternative interpretation is far from inconceivable (I can definitely see where he is mocking MALE gamers for their behavior. He should have made the sexual innuendo more obvious since it's often far from subtle in the real world to help get his point across). I say he should have been given the benefit of the doubt and his apology accepted.

Even if he was mocking women, one comic in poor taste does not justify harassment. Again, there is far worse stuff on the net directed towards women.
llirbwerdnadivad Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2013
I find the whole arguing thing to be ridiculous...I think that some people are just looking for things to hate. It's not just in comics, there's a lot of similar arguments in various other subjects...I'm a gamer, myself, and I often see a lot of people arguing over some of the smallest subjects in gaming...
xenaferetek Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012
You have a good point, but from my experiences some girls get treated worse while some guys favor other girls in the guild more. It's just a popularity contest.
GoldenGal42 Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2012
I won't say that girls get treated worse but they do get a lot of hate sent their way. (loads of rude language) exists to collect the humorous/disgusting comments men send gaming women, so there's clearly some problem.

Also your avatar is lovely. I couldn't see it in your gallery, who drew it?
xenaferetek Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2012
Trust me they are either subject to adoration or hate. I've played games for a while...then realized I could just play rpgs and avoid these petty people altogether.

It's all about what separates you from another person. Since I was young when I made people mad they'd resort to comments that indicated my age.

There was this girl on the game that was known to apparently be wheelchair ridden and had cancer. People were always calling her names and dropping cripple jokes on her, but I didn't really feel sorry for her because she was a conniving asshole.

My avatar is from a porn image.
GoldenGal42 Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2012
Eep. Fair enough. I'm not one for playing online so I can't honestly comment, just that it's something people have had to deal with.

I guessed it was porn, but that's no reason to withhold the name of it and/or the artist.
ProjectZuel Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I read the comic (well the panel with the girl gamer in it) and I think people are really going overboard with this. I don't think his comic was to illustrate what female gamers are like and actually directing our attention to how MALE gamers treat female gamers. This is of course a stereotype treatment but I too find that when I play online any (of the few) female gamers I bump into are respected (or should I say drooled over) which is in stern contrast to how blokes treat each other online.

We should also note that the comic was done in 2 panels (I'm guessing) for impact and thus using stereotypes gets the message across instantly; as Andrew says here, no one was complaining about the stereotyped guy.
Pokefan8263 Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012
I totally know what your talking about i hate it when people do that, somethimes it does seem like they do it just to be trolls so cudos to you for saying somthing about it
chemicalTortuga Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2012
I have been a fan of The Oatmeal for somewhat over a year now. Yet the comic in question did, in fact, do two things wrong:

-It perpetuated the stereotype that girls are noobs when playing video games, as evidenced by her dumb mistake. While it's true that her mistake was exaggerated for the sake of comedic hyperbole, there's nothing there to suggest she's an otherwise capable gamer.

-It suggested that the general response of guy gamers to girls is that of an accepting, forgiving nature. These responses do occur, if anecdotal evidence from these comments are to be believed. However, it cannot be said that is not the norm. Depending on the game and community, girls may also receive slander, derogatory language, and unwanted sexual advances. This, too, is based on personal experiences and anecdotal evidence.

Thus, Tom is correct that the intent of the comic was to focus on how treatment of girl gamers is much more accepting than that of guy gamers, but that in itself is the problem: it is not an accurate portrayal of the reception girl gamers generally receive.

I am still a loyal fan of The Oatmeal. I disagree with his comic, and am thankful for his sincere apology (the donation is a surprising inclusion, but it's certainly an appreciated gesture). I've yet to see any complaints since The Oatmeal's apology statement, and have actually seen the opposite: sources once condemning Matt for his comic now praise him for his earnestness.

And thus, I give no hate. Life goes on.
After looking this up and reading some of the comments (some, not all), the impression I got was that the angry stemmed less from the depiction of the gamer girl and more from the overall implication that girls are treated better. One commenter stated that when she messed up she recieved death threats, rape threats, and a slew of misogynistic slurs. I can't really speak much about it since I'm not a big gamer, but my overall impression of gaming communities is that they are not as nice to girls as the comic depicted.

But like you said, it was most likely a comic made from personal experience and derived from his own opinion.
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