Get this, I’m walking along a strip of bars and restaurants with my friend and I spot an absolutely beautiful car. I’m talking a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air Sport Coupe that looked like it had cruised right out of the 50s. Cherry red, white top, a real work of art. I stopped to drool shamelessly for a bit, and the owner came out and noticed my adoration. He asked if I liked old cars, and I responded with a blatant “Duh, I do possess eyes with sight” sort of statement.
He then launched a series of questions about engines and mods and whatnots and I was instantly lost. I told him I only know the basics of how an engine works thanks to many engineering classes, but I do like the way old cars looked. The guy was instantly aghast, his friendly demeanor doing a complete 180 into sour and closed off. He proceeded to tell me that I couldn’t say I liked cars without knowing anything about the specifics, and not to waste people’s time with my “girlish musings”.
Boy, I got a lot to say about that last bit. But that’s a whole other article.
What that guy just did was something I’ve encountered a great deal in things I’m interested in. It’s called gatekeeping, and it’s something that affects many individuals. Urban Dictionary defines gatekeeping as “When someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.” Personally, I’ve come across it in the Warcraft community, Dungeons and Dragons groups, Automotive/car shows, and many others. Even though I would show up willing to learn more and with an open mind, people would openly shun me for not already possessing the knowledge and be unwilling to teach me.
Let me be very clear: I am not making this a feminist thing. I’ve seen this happen to both men and women, and be done by both men and women.
While men in said communities tend to attribute my unawareness to being a woman, they do the same thing to other men so I don’t believe it to be sexist. I do, however, believe it to be just as hurtful. Groups cannot grow like this, communities cannot thrive if they’re filled with gatekeepers. Gatekeeping is a horrible disease, discouraging people who long for a community or are passionate about something from learning. It’s unhealthy and truly harmful to our society. Imagine if politics were dominated by gatekeepers, if America was discouraged from learning about the branches of the government or the lawmaking process. Or if programmers and software engineers were unable to find online communities to learn from. It would be a disaster, no one would learn anything and technological progress would eventually come to a standstill.
Gatekeeping does nothing but hurt communities, both members and outsiders. It’s a sick, elitist practice that more people should be concerned and speaking out about. Thankfully, my friends were kind enough to teach me about things I was passionate about, such as Warcraft games and lore, Dungeons and Dragons, and even some basic programming skills. These things that I am now extremely passionate about have given me joy that can only be found in hobbies. However, because of the toxic, elitist people in some communities, I feel I can only enjoy them with my close friends.
When I was new to D&D, I was afraid to go out looking for campaigns to join because I was concerned about the community being full of gatekeepers. Even now, with being allowed access into such communities thanks to my knowledge I am still afraid to go looking for other players. I feel like by joining elitist communities, I’m enabling such toxic behavior. Also, I just don’t want to be around people like that. Only elitist pricks like other elitist pricks, and I, for one, don’t have the patience to deal with such blatantly crappy behavior.
Being a gatekeeper means you are okay with letting something you’re allegedly passionate about stagnating and eventually dying out. Doesn’t sound like passion to me.