some thoughts on power and lizard brains

So recently I was WORKING HARD and also listening to Day9 play Hearthstone when a serious conversation came up that gave me many thoughts. And since I’m a curmudgeonly old lady who hates tweet threads here I am trying to articulate them in a concise-ish fashion.

The topic came up of “boobie streamers” and all the hate that comes up around them and their boobish ways. I won’t go through the whole thing, but Day9 made some seriously good points, many of which ended in a more eloquent version of “just be a kind human being”.

But something occurred to me about the attitude towards women in gaming and other geeky pursuits that may be somewhat interesting based on my background.

The thing I’m going to be talking about is the animosity directed towards some women, particularly ones who are successful. In geek culture, the animosity is (I would argue) greater than in “mainstream” society and I think there’s a reason for that. I remember Back In The Day when I could only rarely be taken seriously when shopping in a game or comic store because “I must just be shopping for my boyfriend”. I mean, I experienced it less than most but I definitely got the side-eye my fair share for being a “fake geek girl”. The condescension and general hate is real.

Before I get started, I will mention that I’m going to use the phrase “lizard brain” a lot. By that I mean the impulses (for good or bad) that we all get before our reasoning, logic, and human compassion have a chance to process what’s happening to us. Not that I’m anti-lizard. I think they’re great. It’s a metaphor… aaaaand moving on.

The first thing I’m going to talk about that I think may explain this societal trend is the psychology of the bullied and breaking the cycle of abuse. It is a thing that I have experienced that folks who are victimized in any way can (and in large numbers do) try to alleviate their suffering by victimizing others. I think our lizard brains, when we are bullied or abused, process our bad feelings and conclude that if this is making us feel really bad the other person must therefore feel really good. And so a mentality of power = feeling good starts to form through extrapolation. Lack of power, power being taken away makes us feel bad. Geek society, to me, has been built on the idea of being the one on the outside. The unaccepted. The abused. And it’s been demonstrated that sometimes the abused becomes the abuser. I’ll come back to this.

Now I’m going to talk about something that’s a little hard for me, but I think is important. The culture I was raised in was - for lack of a better term - very anti-feminist. To put it bluntly, I was taught at a very early age that I had to be really careful with my body because it was a devil’s playground of impure thoughts for boys. I had to dress “modestly” because if something about me sparked a sexual thought (SIN) in a male’s mind it was fundamentally my fault. I still struggle with thoughts and behaviors surrounding this weird attribution. Basically I was raised to believe that my physical self was a powerful mind-control device and, being the one possessing of such a great power I was burdened with a terrible responsibility.

If that is the way I grew up, it stands to reason that some (not all) males were brought up to believe that their adolescent urges were fundamentally not under their control. They were, rather, controlled by this outside female force. And I spoke above about how having our power taken away feels bad. So maybe, the lizard brain of dudes who see a girl and have sezzual feelings immediately makes them feel bad because they believe their power is being taken away. Suddenly their bodies and minds are not their own and that hurts.

Keep in mind, these thoughts are informed heavily by the way I grew up. Not everyone grew up the way I did. But a fuckload of people did.

The bottom line is I think one of the sources of all the animosity towards “fake geek girls” and “boobie streamers” stems from this perceived theft of power. I should probably say that because I feel like I understand it I think it’s ok to behave in a way informed by this animosity. It is so not ok.

Thing is. My body is NOT a powerful mind control device. Sexual attraction does not equal a theft of power. I am trying to reject the hypothesis that has been hammered into my brain since I was little - and that is that we ought to have control over every aspect of ourselves all the time.

Let me just lol over that for a second.

Has a movie ever made you cry? Has your heart melted over a picture of a kitten or puppy? Has Day9 ever made you laugh really hard? Then I’ve got news for you (me) - you’re not in control all the time.

Sometimes - as I said in my last post about reactive thoughts - we’re not even in control of what we think. But what we are (should be) always in control of is what we do and say. So is your lizard brain telling you that you should be really angry at a female streamer because she’s attractive and has viewers? Fine. Nobody is a bad person because of their lizard brain. It’s what you do with it that matters. So maybe don’t pop off on twitter or twitch or whatever about it. Maybe sit with it for a bit and figure out why you're really mad.

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