"Guy On The Internet" is a term we came up with to describe a certain sort of person you meet online (maybe it's a guy, maybe a woman, whatever). You have no idea who they are or what they're like in real life; that doesn't really matter. Online, they behave exactly as the Internet tells them to behave.
There are a lot of these people. Recently, as you may have seen, a feminist blogger/video gamer named Anita Sarkeesian started work on a project examining the representation, and portrayal, of women in the world of gaming. Anyone who's played many video games lately knows that this culture isn't quite an egalitarian Utopia. Sometimes the misogyny is sneaky and casual, and sometimes it's almost unbelievably flagrant, but it's perpetuated on an institutional level.
So somebody wants to examine this critically. Not militantly, not threateningly, not like she's trying to break into your house and steal your video games. Just critically. And holy shit, did this bring out a clone army of Guys On The Internet. They harassed Sarkeesian, insulted her, and repeated "go back to the kitchen, go make me a sandwich" with the same rote, unthinking determination you might observe in the guy selling "mystical life stones" in a mall kiosk. They'll balance your qi! At least that guy isn't trying to take your happiness and self-esteem, just your money.
Humans have fallen for this gag for thousands of years: they're tricked into thinking they're fighting for a revolution, only to do and say the same old shit, the shit that's shackled humanity ever since we decided to start living next to one another. They see a wave of people saying, "make me a sandwich, bitch," and holy shit do they want to belong to this party. Holy shit do they want to buttress the status quo that has stood firm for eons before they ever came along, and totally does not need their help at all.
I saw this last Saturday, when ESPN's Twitter account acknowledged the 40-year anniversary of Title IX, an amendment that works to guarantee girls the opportunity to play sports. I'm having difficulty painting Title IX in a light that isn't fair and egalitarian — or, at the very worst, from some worldview that isn't mine, benign — and after reading through the waves upon waves of misogynist junk that followed on Twitter, I have a lot of trouble believing that the authors of said junk had an actual, considered opinion on the matter either.
It was like they were sneezing or something. Like it was a reflexive, unthinking act to pop in and type 10 words of bigotry, many of which were paraphrases of the same three things: "make me a sandwich," "get in the kitchen," "barefoot and pregnant."
This is the trademark of the mediocre, the unthinking among us. These people are the kid you knew in high school who wouldn't — maybe couldn't — stop making the same terrible Austin Powers impressions. Every day he'd sit down at the cafeteria and look down at his rectangular pizza and bellow a, "GET IN MAH BELLAH," years after everyone else stopped giving a shit. But he never stopped. It was what he knew.
That, in itself, is not a sin. Maybe that person isn't cut out for comedy or observational wit. Maybe he's instead really good at designing bridges, or writing dramatic fiction, or building custom motorcycles, or any other thing. And that is totally fine.
But this is how he becomes Guy On The Internet: his eye catches a chunk of viral garbage. A grain silo that goes BANG when you chuck a rock at it. The simple cause/effect phenomenon that appeals to the caveman in all of us. Maybe this guy is willing and able to think critically, realize that this sort of language is misanthropic and hurts everyone, and decide whether he wants to live as an individual.
If he doesn't, he is Guy On The Internet. He is thoughtless and gullible. He's firmly entrenched at the intersection of Mediocre and Cruel, which is just about the most weak, miserable place a person can find one's self.
(If you press him, he'll likely tell you that he's "just bored and screwin' around on the Internet." Well, as someone who has screwed around on the Internet for a really long time, let me tell you: there are a million and one creative and interesting ways to do so, and you somehow managed to find the one that isn't. Good work, dingus.)
I recall Guy On The Internet being around in the mid-to-late-'90s. He'd go to public, visible places on the internet — AOL chat rooms, mainstream baseball chat rooms, etc. — and drop the n-word. As these venues became moderated, and as Guy On The Internet started to get shamed by the community, he cut the act, or at least retreated to some weird, shady corner of the Internet where saying "n——-" made you hot shit.
Later — through most of the 2000s, actually — I saw Guy On The Internet embrace homophobia. Certain large, popular websites dropped words like "f——-" on the reg. Not that this battle — and for that matter, the racism battle — isn't still being fought, because it sure as hell is. But if Guy On The Internet uses that language these days, he's far more likely to catch shit for it or be banned from further participation entirely.
But man, if you tell Guy On The Internet you've got a cool party going, he's totally on board. He's a tool like that. That is what we're seeing with these newest waves of spazzy misogynist mumbling.
So, Guy On The Internet: like I said, I doubt you're sold on this movement out of any sort of moral/intellectual principle. And I know how badly you want to join some sort of outlaw Internet motorcycle gang and wear spiked shoulder pads and blast "Bad to the Bone" out your speakers (motorcycle speakers!) and all that shit.
Well, if you want it that badly, join the group that, quite often, finds itself in the minority. The people who actually think critically about things, and recognize that bigotry screws everyone over, not just its targets, and stand up and say so without giving a fuck about what they might think about it.
It's worth it. I regret to inform you that, in the end, you don't get a T-shirt that reads INTERNET'S BADDEST DUDE or anything. Just the knowledge that you've done right by your fellow humans.
Which is almost as cool.
This post originally appeared on Progressive Boink. Republished with permission.
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