Nakamura’s Rhetoric Has Some Flaws of Its Own.

Before I begin I should state that I am very uncomfortable posting regarding these readings. As a straight white male I always feels as if anything I have to say on the topic of gender will be considered at best misinformed and at worst blatantly misogynistic. And why shouldn’t I feel that way? As John Scalzi while receiving praise one moment for his criticism of white male privilege is condemned the next for constructing his argument using rhetorical strategies that Nakamura imagines reinforce the idea that the realm of gaming is an inherently male space: “As a man, Scalzi employs the discourse of gaming–leveling, “points,” dump stats–as a technique to appeal, specifically, to straight white men like himself, who “like women.” (And presumably don’t want to see them oppressed; cranky women just aren’t as fun for men to be around!).” It is precisely this sort of ridiculous nitpicking that drives men away from discussing issues of gender. Why should I openly converse with Nakamura about my feminist views, our shared desires to end gender inequality when she insists on seeing it as the mere appeasement of a “cranky woman”.  I can assure you that if all I really wanted was to get in your pants (because that’s the only thing the big evil patriarchy really wants from women ever) I wouldn’t choose post-modern feminist theory as a topic of conversation. I don’t know that there is anything that can drop out of my mouth that won’t be considered sexist in some way in someone’s perspective. I find myself scratching my head because a large part of Nakamura’s issue was that women are not accepted as members of gamer culture without skepticism or even outright resistance. But if Nakamura believes that gaming rhetoric is automatically male gendered or “gender capital” for males than how can she blame us for our skepticism? Wouldn’t Aisha Tyler identify with Scalzi’s rhetoric? Does not Nakamura herself? It’s infuriating, because my issue is with only two paragraphs of Nakamura’s article. I agree with everything else she’s saying and the entirety of my blog post is concerned with defending this little blip of an issue. But it’s important to me. Because isn’t the whole premise of the article about rhetoric? In my years at college I have read a good deal of feminist theory (we’re kind of big on it here) and while I have almost never taken issue with feminist goals I find myself constantly at odds with feminist rhetoric. On the incessant need to paint all men as enemies and never potential allies. Because somehow, even unconsciously, in his defense of women, Scalzi “perpetuates the notion that men are automatic members of geek and gamer culture (which many men are not) and that women aren’t.” What utter garbage.  Though he may be talking specifically to men, Scalzi never claims that his gaming metaphor is somehow less comprehensible to women. And he never intends it to be. Nakamura is simply projecting her own insecurities.

I suppose I should end by playing devil’s advocate against myself. If these little issues in Nakamura’s rhetoric bother me this much, I can only imagine how angry Nakamura must be when reading any sort of male rhetoric at all. I can forgive this tiny insult, because the rest of Nakamura’s article is quite good and full of important points. Just as I’m sure Nakamura forgives the perceived insufficiencies of Scalzi’s article in support of his larger argument.

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2 Responses to Nakamura’s Rhetoric Has Some Flaws of Its Own.

  1. mkhalifa503 says:

    I think your issue with Nakamura’s point about Scalzi’s rhetoric reinforcing the problems it aims to address is fair – but I think you’re arguing it with the wrong tools. Scalzi never claims his language is somehow more comprehensible to men vs. women, but neither does Nakamura. What she IS saying is that by assuming that all men will understand his metaphor, he equates “heteronormative, white masculinity” with gamer aptitude (or at least the aspiration to be adept in videogame culture). In so doing, he reinforces the space as naturally masculine.

    Scalzi isn’t saying there isn’t a space for women or non SWMs (obviously his work is intended to argue the opposite), but what he ends up implying is that it has always been, is, and likely always will be, a place where SWMs naturally belong in a way that isn’t necessarily true for any other group (and arguably, leaves room for people to claim that the space is a place where presence of non-SWMs is something that can be contested, debated, etc. and not a natural right/privilege in the same way it is for archetypal SWM gamers).

    Essentially: If you’re saying Nakamura’s wrong about Scalzi’s rhetoric (actively?) reinforcing SWM privilege in games, then I agree with you. But if you’re saying Nakamura’s wrong about Scalzi’s rhetoric being problematic at all, I’d have to vehemently disagree. I think Nakamura attacks (if she’s indeed attacking) Scalzi wrongly on grounds of intentionality, but her point about his language being not entirely helpful is valid. The only saving possibility for Scalzi is if he’s purposely trying to address his audience from their own paradigm (THEY believe SWMs have a natural place, and so he’s using their viewpoint to bring them closer to ours, even though he disagrees with the implications of that paradigm).

  2. cstabile says:

    After our convo in class on Tuesday, I re-read Nakamura. I think there’s some truth to the original poster’s critique (a point that some of the comments on Nakamura’s article also raise). She could have been less snarky. I think that as M. points out above, she’s criticizing the structural advantage conferred on Scalzi. Some of her own frustration at being shut out of that privilege comes through in the piece.

    On the other hand, one thing I’ve learned over the years, and this is mainly in regard to my own racial privilege — something that makes it possible for me to play all sorts of games NOT on the highest difficulty setting — is a move that E. makes at the end of his post that I consider to be a really crucial move. That is, to try to understand how one’s own rhetoric looks from a different vantage point. I would add that I don’t think Nakamura is frustrated by male rhetoric: she’s frustrated by rhetoric (male or female) that doesn’t try to grapple with issues of power and privilege.

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