There’s a lot of talk about “inclusivity” around, especially with the advent of Gamergate. People talk about it like it’s some kind of virtue, like it’s some kind of universal good that every community should strive to uphold.
I wholeheartedly disagree.
Inclusivity doesn’t work, full stop. The idea of just allowing anyone and everyone into a subculture is absurd. It’s the most expedient way to kill a subculture. Unchecked proliferation of “inclusivity” dilutes the culture and brings the community closer and closer to baseline mainstream culture.
What’s so sinister about the inclusivity edict is that, on the face of it, it sounds like a wonderful idea. Why wouldn’t a given subculture want to open its arms and welcome more people into it? The diversity and varying perspectives implied by the idea of welcoming more people into a community can only improve said community.
What people don’t think about, however, is what needs to happen to the community in order to attract so many more new people. People who are interested enough in something to want to find other people who are interested in the same thing will find and join communities based around what interests them, provided those communities are well-promoted enough. In those communities, the focus is on the interest. The Virtual-On community is focused on Virtual-On, and so on.
When “inclusivity” takes over, however, that focus changes. The inclusivity edict requires the community change its focus from the central interest the community formed around to the very concept of attracting more people, no matter what. If the game is too hard, it must be made easier to attract people who might be put-off by its difficulty. If the anime is too “dangerously Japanese,” it has to go away to attract more people from countries with larger populations. If a community is too insular, it must compromise the culture it has created within itself to attract people who don’t have the patience to understand a subculture.
When talking about “inclusivity,” however, it’s very easy to get caught up in identity politics, with proponents of the inclusivity edict claiming that opposition to inclusivity is synonymous with an effort to keep women, racial minorities, and sexual minorities out of a subculture. The thing is: When it comes to subcultures based around hobbies, things like gender, race, and sexual preference mean nothing. There is a case to be made about representation of racial, gender, and sexual minorities within a subculture “permitting” other members of those minority groups to join the subculture they’re in, but that has to start with people of those groups already being in that subculture naturally.
Tossing identity politics into the inclusivity argument muddies the waters and makes it seem like there’s no choice but to compromise a subculture’s focus in service of attracting everyone and everyone. It’s populist. It encourages the dilution of the subculture to make the subculture palatable for everyone, even if they don’t care all that much for the subculture’s focus. It causes the breakdown of a subculture by shifting its focus from the shared interest that it grew around to being everything to everybody.
The inclusivity edict flies in the face of the very concept of a subculture. Subcultures are naturally discriminatory. They exist on the concept of excluding people who can’t hang. It’s not malicious. It’s just a difference in interests.
We discriminate because we are different. It’s not a value judgment. It’s recognition of the fact that people have different interests. We should respect that and not just expect a group of people who have worked hard to form a culture around something they love to lower their gates to anyone who demands the gates be lowered.
Subcultures are inclusive, but only to people who endeavour to become part of the culture, rather than demand the culture morph to suit them. Respect the culture and it will respect you back. Be humble and willing to learn, and the community will welcome you with open arms.
These subcultures do want to grow. They do want to include people.
Just not at the expense of everything they build their subculture around.