Gatekeeping: What It Is and Its Impact


Novella F., Texas

Gatekeeping is an extremely toxic form of online trolling, not only on social media but in real life too. Gatekeeping is, simply explained, barring people from taking part within a community or a community as a whole based on things such as how much you know, how big of a fan you are, or the circumstance of your discovery of this thing. For example, a skate brand called Thrasher was a huge topic of gatekeeping between people who simply liked the designs and people within the skate community. Skaters would claim you couldn’t wear a thrasher if you didn’t skate, which was gatekeeping. 

A community with a lot of gatekeeping is the anime community. For some stupid and absolutely baffling reason some within this community like to say you aren’t a real anime fan or something of that variation if you haven’t watched a certain “classic” anime, usually Dragon Ball Z or Naruto. In regards to its toxicity, it can affect people’s perception of self and/or take away community opportunities for people who may need it. 

The alt community is also heavily hit with gatekeeping. In itself, alt is more of a broad category under which many subcultures exist. There are subcultures like goth, punk, kinderwhore, riot grrl, and lots more. There are also sometimes variations of these subcultures.  One big thing I’ve seen when it comes to this gatekeeping is people saying if you wear lighter coloured things like pastels, brighter colours, and neons you can’t be alt. That’s very wrong, those would be subcultures such as scene, pastel goth, or hippie. In addition, being any type of alt is based on mindset and if you gatekeep you’re the one who is not alt. Chances are if you’re like this, either no one actually likes you or you have a small group of friends who are also gatekeepers.

There are exceptions, but they are very rare. That exception being the community is either based on something or has a special rule that you absolutely must follow to be in the community.   For example, within the alt community, there are rules as alt is mostly mindset along with fashion and pop culture. Alt mindset is, in its most basic sense, things like ACAB, general equality, BLM, social justice, Anti-trump, usually anti-capitalism, etc. Someone who is against or disagrees with even one of those beliefs will be not allowed to join. The reason being it would go against the belief of that community. In this case, it wouldn’t matter how you dress or what you listen to. Overall if you don’t follow the basic principles of the community, you aren’t part of that community. That is the only exception to gatekeeping. 

Gatekeeping remains very toxic, exclusionary, and hurtful to many. It can be very harmful to someone’s mental health. While yes, sometimes it is minor, it can get very serious and very harmful quickly. I have personally seen gatekeeping being taken as fair as gatekeepers calling black people and other POCs racial slurs. Why people want to exclude others because they don’t fit the cookie-cutter example of that community is beyond me. At the end of the day if you don’t own it you can’t and shouldn’t even try to dictate who can participate in a community.