Penny Arcade's dickwolves problem is part of a bigger issue: misogyny
Geekdom has a dickwolf problem.
Now, most of you -- even perhaps some of the geekiest among you -- are asking, "What the fuck is a dickwolf, and what kind of problem is it having?" The dickwolf got its start as a throwaway line in a comic strip from the immensely popular -- and influential -- webcomic Penny Arcade. In its second panel, the strip in question contained a joke about some poor bastard being raped by these mythical dickwolves. (Which, by the way, are wolves made of dicks. Of course.) This lamentable rape joke was part of a larger joke about some of the odd situations that crop up in video games. The main joke, lampooning video-game tropes, was actually pretty funny. The rape joke ... not so much.
At this point in history, you have to live in a cave (or perhaps Fox News headquarters) to not realize that rape jokes are almost never appropriate. There are ways to make a rape joke that is both funny and non-offensive, but you don't do it by poking fun at the victims of rape, which is what this particular comic was doing. Anyway, there was a big Internet kerfuffle (you can read all about it with a simple "dickwolf" Google search, or check out this timeline of the incident), and the guys (of course it was guys) at Penny Arcade defended the joke, even going so far as to push things further by making and selling a Penny Arcade-branded Dickwolves shirt. Eventually they got tired of all the fighting and offered a typical non-apology and pulled the shirt. Okay, kinda squicky, but whatever -- they backed down. Agree to disagree on what constitutes a funny rape joke, nothing to see here, move along.
Until this past weekend.
Then, during a panel at the massive gaming convention they sponsor every year, Penny Arcade co-founder and artist Mike Krahulik stated, on stage, that they never should have pulled the Dickwolf shirts at all. Non-apology rescinded, and all of you people who have an issue with rape, well, fuck you! Naturally, this got a roar of approval from the crowd. And that is precisely why geekdom has a dickwolf problem.
Let's parse this a bit. Even if you don't find the initial comic that offensive -- I'd argue that it's offensive, but not horrifically so -- the sale of Dickwolf shirts is just ... WTF? These dickwolves, in the mythology that Krahulik and his partner Jerry Holkins dreamed up, exist solely to rape. They are a mythical embodiment of rape. What kind of fucking sleazebag, then, thinks it's a good idea to wear a shirt proudly proclaiming their fandom of the mythic embodiment of rape? Worse, what kind of sleazebags think it's acceptable to profit from the sale of these shirts? And the biggest problem of all: a room full of guys who roar their approval when Krahulik proudly defies his critics and announces that, if he had it to do all over again, he never would have stopped promoting rape in the first place.
Fuck those guys. Seriously.
Yes, okay, he couched it in terms of not backing down, not engaging with critics, etc. Honestly, that probably makes it worse, not better, because it shows that he just does not get it -- that he refuses to get it. And so do the legion of fans gathered to hear him speak, which is the real problem. He enables their mouth-breathing misogyny by standing up there and telling them, "Hey, if we find rape funny, we have a right to laugh! We have a right to promote it, and to profit from it, and anyone who has a problem with that isn't worth even responding to."
Was this joke funny enough to justify the shitstorm that followed?
This is much, much bigger than Krahulik and/or Penny Arcade as a whole. The bigger issue is that, across the board, geekdom is rife with misogyny. That's why when he stood up there defending his right to promote rape and profit from it, the room cheered instead of walking out in disgust. I'm sure some of those people were disgusted -- hell, a bunch of them wrote about their disgust, which is where I heard of the whole mess -- and some probably did walk out, convinced that this was not the kind of inclusive community that it's advertised as and that they had hoped it was. But the majority either cheered, or simply turned a blind eye. And that's a problem of dickwolfian proportions.
Women in our community are abused, ostracized and ignored far too often. Female cosplayers are leered at if they're lucky, groped (or worse) if they're not. Women get sneered at when they try to play games, or peppered endlessly with inappropriate comments. A woman who proclaims her love for anything geeky is accused of being a "fake geek" (whatever the fuck that even means), instead of enjoying the instant camaraderie of fellow fans that is the supposed hallmark of geek culture. All this shit happens constantly, and no one says a word.
That kind of treatment of women is dehumanizing and it enables rape culture. If you don't see women as equals, then raping them is a lot easier. Hell, it's funny in the proper context, right, bros? Just ask Krahulik or any of the other defenders of these types of behavior.
Geeks should hold themselves to a higher standard. Most of us know all too well what it's like to be on the outside looking in, to be belittled and abused for what we believe in or how we choose to spend our time. Most of us were bullied, unpopular and outcast. All of that should give us empathy for people in the same situation, but when it comes to women, at least, it just doesn't. We should be ashamed of that, not proud.
I know most of us, especially anyone who didn't instantly dismiss me as soon as I said "rape jokes aren't appropriate,: much less got this far, aren't really misogynists. But all too many of us let those of us who are -- and let's face it, this was not an isolated incident, there are plenty of them -- act with impunity, whether they're sleazing on some poor girl in a revealing costume or standing on stage defending their right to have a laugh at rape victims. That has to stop, and for it to stop, those of us who aren't misogynistic scumbags need to step the fuck up and say something when we see it.
The guy next to you at the Magic tournament is talking down to his female opponent? Call his ass out on it, right there and right then, in no uncertain terms. See someone grope a cosplayer? Don't just offer sympathy, get security and the police involved and make sure he's charged with sexual assault. And the next time some panelist, no matter how well respected he is or how much you like his art, says some misogynistic, hateful bullshit on stage, don't just sigh and feel awkward -- stand up and tell him what a piece of shit he is, then walk the fuck out. If we did this, the fear and loathing of women in our community would quickly become seen as the unacceptable anachronism it is and men would at least think twice about acting that way. If we don't, well ... we're going to continue to be plagued by all these fucking dickwolves.
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