The House They Built Around Us
Come inside, they said. They held the door wide as the light poured out, and in our relief to find shelter from the dark, we did not stop to notice that the shadow left behind was black and filled with teeth.
Come inside, they said, and we did.
We should have known better.
Growing up taught me to be ashamed. It taught me that to get on in this world, a girl needs a pretty smile, an impossible figure, and the endless tolerance to put up with—no, to welcome the demands inflicted, I mean, bestowed upon us by the masses. To smile at compliments that come on the sharp edge of a threat, and always know that if anything goes wrong, we asked for it.
There are rules, you know. Rules for a reason.
I was still in school when I understood that the rules were made for me. That it wasn’t the world who’d gone wrong, but me—that I should have, could have, would have if I’d only learned sooner.
That was life. That was reality. Grow up, or find another way.
Come inside, they said, and propped the door wide.
They say that gaming is fantasy, a release—and escape. They say it allows those of us who play the opportunity to be something that we are not—or aren’t supposed to be. Boys learn that they can be soldiers, assassins, mafia dons, wizards, dragon slayers, and more. They can achieve with the push of a button everything that they want in life, and this is true.
Girls learn that boys make the best soldiers, assassins, mafia dons, wizards, dragon slayers and more. They can achieve everything that the boys can, as long as they are willing to pretend to be a boy—and when they can’t be a boy, they should deliver at the push of a button everything a boy wants in life, and this is not true.
Unless you live in the house they built around us.
Come inside, they said, we’re all just gamers here.
But they did not say that the girls did not attend the meetings, that they could not speak because the sound of their voices did not mesh with the sound of bullets as they peppered the digital air. They did not tell me that after the welcome, when I had learned the rules of the games we played, that I would be expected to sit in the back with the others of my gender or general persuasion.
They did not tell me that there would be a quiz.
But they made sure I knew that I could pass, if I was willing to spread my legs. Because while my voice was not welcome, I had a place where a dick could fit, and that was enough to guarantee that I had a spot to sit.
Because it was a house, a place different from the horrors of everyday life, I stayed.
And that is my crime.
Come inside, they said, and the shadow smiled, filled with teeth.
But I wanted a house built for me.
Inside it, I found a library designed on the fundamentals of murder. Of one-sided sexualization that puts girls like me in digital situations that “work for the story”, if not for my peace of mind. Get stronger, the shadow tells us—us girls who watch from the back, or who brave the pants of a boy to walk among them. Get stronger so that casual depictions of rape and molestation no longer cause you to flicker an eyelash.
Get stronger so that when the boys on X-Box Live threaten to shove their cocks so far down your throat that you will choke and die, you will know that it was simply because you had the temerity to speak up while female.
You know better.
Get stronger, they said in the house they built around us, so that when we threaten to rape you until you hemorrhage, you will know that we are only joking.
You know better,
And when we release your address to the world, know that it isn’t serious—and if you are afraid, then think about what you did to deserve the fear you feel like a knife to the gut, and oh, yeah, I think we’ll give that to you, too. Because we know what’s best, little girl, and if you don’t want the world to know where you are, maybe you should shut the hell up.
Get raped, they said, or go home.
This is the house they built around us.
And I know better.
I know better than to talk. I know better than to have opinions on a subject that might matter to me, but ain’t no thing to the people who only want to play. I know that the house they built didn’t used to be co-ed, and that I’m at fault for wanting a better class of story, and yet…
I talk into the void that is one part people who already know what it is I’m saying, and ninety-nine parts vitriol from everybody else that doesn’t care about the fundamental truth—because it’s my mistake to open my mouth when there isn’t a penis inside it. I talk knowing that my words will be ignored, if I am lucky, and pulled apart and examined for every semantic detail if I am not—and I don’t know which is worse, but both have to be better than what it costs to examine to death every word, every line, every statement I make because of the the temerity of clicking online while female.
This is the house they built around us, and the door is wide open, and the harmless among us lean across the porch to call, Come inside.
And we who cannot speak desperately try to think as loud and as hard as we can, DO NOT COME IN.
Between the marrow and the bone there is a trench so deep that an ocean of forgiveness can no longer fill it, because it has been carved by hatred. Hatred for who we are, hatred for what we have become—hatred for the house we did not know was crumbling when we went inside.
Because this is the house we hoped would shelter us from a lifetime of expectation. A community of like-minded geeks and gamers, whose tenets had promised solidarity and delivered only a repackaged more of the same.
The message has overwhelmed the value of a life.
And still I know that so many don’t understand the meaning behind gaming—the point, the interest, the lifeline it has been for so many—and I cannot in good conscience describe it now. Because there are girls out there, girls who live in this country thinking that they are free to be what they want, who would listen to me and when the shadow at the door says come inside, they would go.
This is the house they built around us, but you can make your own.
…If you are tolerant—of the threats that come from those who do not understand the value of a human life.
…If you are able to smile—no matter what terrible, disgusting things they say at you every time you turn around.
…If you are confident in your place—and your ability to move when your place is shared with the world at large, and the names of your friends and family distributed where any can see.
…If you are flexible and strong and clever and patient—and capable of forging on no matter who or what threatens to shove a lead pipe so far up your orifices that you will forever understand that you dared speak in defense of the not-male. Because it is easier to slam the medium than it is to slam the cause; and we are slammed.
This is the house they built around us. You can do better.
Don’t come inside.
Banner Image Credit: Rage by Marc Moss