Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling reports from the front lines* of the Massively Multiplayer Multiverse.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Objectifying Others: Another Trip Into the Monkeysphere

Raghead, Cunt, Faggot, Nigger, Retard, Spic, Papist, Mormon, WASP, Gringo, Kraut, Geek, Bible Thumper, Moron, N00b, Gay, Chink, Feminazi, Charlie, Gerry, Honky, Nerd, Whore, Gook, Slut, Haole . . .
It's funny, until you realize some people actually think that.
Offensive words, they are jarring to read, jarring to hear. In some cases, they end up co-opted by the the group they are used to describe in an effort to empower themselves, with varying degrees of success. Used outside the group, they are almost always harmful—or meant to be harmful. And they are all used to objectify an individual person by superficial characteristics, lumping them in with a group so you don't have to include them in your Monkeysphere.

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."

Political rhetoric is full of fallacies, often dismissing the arguments of the opposing view as wrong simply because they disagree on some other unrelated topic. They twist words in an attempt to demonize the other. Therefore, to the "conservative" view, nothing the "liberal" side says is correct, and everything is part of some agenda to overthrow society as we know it. The liberals do much the same to the conservatives, vilifying everything about them, even when both sides may have legitimate concerns.

Yesterday, I talked about sexism in the computer game industry. I mentioned the Orwell quote about corrupt language corrupting thought. I am a fan of precise language, and often take people to task for using what I feel are improper terms to either minimize or overstate the seriousness of an issue. Naturally this upsets people, because their use of a given word can be wrapped up in a great many personal connotations that reflect their fundamental beliefs about society and the universe.

I am not immune to this myself. For instance, on Tuesday, I got into it with @Petterm (for the second time) over his use of the word "copying" vs. my word "theft" to describe copyright infringement through downloading of Intellectual Property from the internet. Naturally neither of us can agree which is the proper word, because the words themselves related to that activity reflect deeply held beliefs on both my part and his. He accused me of painting him as a villain, which was not my intent. He still follows me, I still follow him. We both agree that copyright infringement is wrong, and that the penalties are overly harsh. But he feels my word for it overstates its wrongness, and I feel that his understates it.

The severity of sexism in gaming can also be overstated or understated. While it is a form of entertainment and art, it is a commercial venture, with producers and consumers. And some of those consumers have expressed concern over how they are made to feel while participating. As I said yesterday, reaction to these complaints ranges from minimizing the the issue to misogynistic threats against the complainants. Those more severe reactions concern me far more than the original issues brought up by the women.

"Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing."

Those reactions have to do with these women being outside the Monkeysphere of the men and boys making the threats. While there are some sickos (another epithet) out there who might make good on their threats, who have done horrible things (a euphemism) to women, I would like to think most of these threats are from folks "letting off steam" who would never dream doing such things in real life. But why say it in the first place? Are you threatened by the prospect of insufficient boobage in your video game? Are you so incapable of making a coherent argument for your position that you simply attempt to minimize the severity of the problem itself; or worse, use ad hominem attacks, "clearly the lady has a feminist agenda." Worst of all, are you so disturbed that you have to threaten the person in an effort to shut her up?

That certain members of the gaming community display hostility to other people on the basis of their gender or sexual orientation is reprehensible. Attempts to hide behind some Freedom of Speech clause do not excuse the speakers of their harassment, any more than it protects businesses from harassment claims by employees. Mind you, I am not saying that there should be laws against this behavior in voice chat on X-Box Live or any other chat system, voice- or text-based. But maybe the companies involved could think about the communities they are fostering, and the money they could be making, if they didn't assume that all gamers are straight males.

So, before you turn a person into an object by using some epithet to minimize their competence—to minimize their personhood—remember that the same may happen to you. And how would you feel? You might bristle in anger calling the person out for your unjustified treatment, or maybe you might just sit in shock that objectification just happened to you.

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