Hey! So, sporadic posting! It happens! I’m going to stop making promises about being better about it because they will probably be lies.
So, as you may or may not have heard, I was involved in a round table over at The Walking Eye in which we discussed how identity and gaming interact with each other. The response has been really cocklewarmingly positive, but some comments on the podcast have me wanting to write out a longer response (mostly because they are things I wanted to talk about anyway). This won’t be particularly organized, just quotes and responses. As always, if you want to engage about what I’ve said here you’ve got the comments section.
If you don’t speak up about activity that offends you, especially if the other players weren’t even aware they were being offensive, then how could they ever know to be different? If I had been at that table and just discovered in this podcast why that lady never came back to the game, I would be devastated; both because I had caused offense and because I had been so judged without any chance to make amends or learn from my mistake.
I think that, on the one hand, calling people on their shit is helpful, particularly assuming good intentions on the part of the person who was doing something icky. On the other, I know that I personally don’t have the energy for it, be it online, with friends, or at a convention (as is the context this came up in the ‘cast) and, speaking from experience, it’s something of a risky endeavor in that it can result in anything from genuine contrition to, in some cases, ugly words and threats of violence. It’s like Schrödinger’s cat, but with hateful words instead of a dead feline.
So, yes, in a perfect world someone would say something shitty, someone would call them on it, and everyone would move on happily, but, to be a little cliché, this really isn’t a perfect world. Marginalized folks really aren’t under any obligation to educate the uninformed, even if (as was cited in the podcast) they’re doing something really fucked up like spouting imitation Chinese. (You’d think that not being okay would be a no-brainer, no?) As mentioned, it takes time and energy and I’m not always willing to expend those. (For a longer, more in-depth discussion of the topic, Alas! A Blog has reprinted a nice piece on the issue.)
Anyone who consults a dictionary will be aware that the word ‘rape’ has multiple different senses of which it can be used, and only a few of these senses have anything to do with forced sexual activity. To suggest that the word, when used in it’s other, perfectly valid senses, somehow trivializes forced sexual assault is not making any sort of political statement: it simply demonstrates that the person suggesting this is ignorant of the basic facts of the English language…
If the listener chooses to deliberately select, from the definitions offered by the dictionary, the one allows them to be offended, in preference to the other offered definitions and despite the alternative definition both making more sense and being inoffensive in the context of use, then this is a choice that I believe shows a lot more about the listener than about the person who used the word.
Alright, first off, I looked rape up on dictionary.com to contextualize this and approximately 1/3 of the definitions of rape provided (excluding botanical uses for obvious reasons) did not explicitly mention sexual violence. None of that 1/3 was offered as a primary definition. I feel like it’s a little disingenuous to say that one simply chooses to associate rape with sexual violence, that association has been around (based on some cursory googling) since the 15th century. On Google you hit rape as a botanical term (page three) before you hit a reference to it as general atrocities (Amazon result for The Rape of Nanking, page 6, although the Nanking Massacre had a heavy component of sexual violence [TW: graphic images, descriptions] , so even this is a little dubious), and I’m pretty sure that players aren’t talking about an annual tap root being done to their character/base/whatever. Further, I doubt when someone says “Oh man, I totally got raped in game” what they are actually trying to say is “Oh man, I was really seized forcefully/despoiled in game.” Let’s add to that the fact that it’s often explicitly sexualized (“I’m going to rape your ass…” etc etc etc) and, well, ick.
Bottom line, there are plenty of other words that you can use to convey the same message without tapping into the sexual imagery of rape, and plenty of words that won’t trigger folks.
Speaking of triggers!
Can we please stop using recently made-up terms like “triggers” that are only really in use within a very specific community? It’s called being sensitive about something. There’s nothing wrong with the word sensitive. I take offense at the thought that people need to be cuddled and protected like that. If you have an issue that you cannot bear to explore in play bring it up before you do so as a veil or a line. Expecting a similar social contract on a worldwide scale seems rather silly.
Setting aside the (what I read to be, at least) patronizing tone of the comment, I completely agree that a lines/veils discussion is really, really important to have and respect in game. I don’t think I ever called for an out-and-out ban on material that’s potentially triggering games, just that people should be aware of it. I disagree, however, that this is simply being sensitive and, further, that people at large see nothing wrong with being sensitive. I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told “Oh, you’re just being sensitive” when I’ve objected to something I found questionable. While there is nothing inherently wrong with the descriptor, it’s often used to write folks off and, as such, has become sort of a loaded word.
Now, on to triggers! Some cursory googling (I am using that word a lot today!) turns up “trigger” used as a term in discussions about mental health and trauma, particularly as a shortened form of the phrase “trauma trigger,”
as early as the mid 90’s for a very, very long time. It’s by no means exclusive to the feminist community, and one of the wonders of the internet is the ability to research and clarify terminology so we can have discussions across semantic lines. I am a little surprised that someone would refer to having triggers as being sensitive to something, I feel like it may be due to a misunderstanding about what being triggered is. In my experience sensitivity doesn’t set off panic attacks or flashbacks. Saying that something is a trigger is referring to a very specific experience. I’m sorry if it offends you, but this is reality for some trauma survivors. Can we please stop telling people which words to use about their experiences because it is clearly just _____? It smacks of “Oh, well, clearly I know better than you” and isn’t terribly productive.
Now, I’m not really up on the new-feminism terms and I might have misunderstood you but the “privelage” [sic] concept sounds incredibly divisive and destructive. I can sort of see a flawed logic in it, but only just. PLEASE correct me if I am wrong, but is the point of this to create equality not by restoring the dignity, rights and well being of a marginalized group but rather by vilifying the antonym of that group. I don’t like the idea that instead of making things better for group A, lets make it a bit worse for group B and everything will be alright.
Say I am white, and black people are being oppressed. Me, the individual has “white privelage” [sic] and as such the injustices that one black individual experiences are now my fault, just for being a member of the white group. I am being judged by what some individuals in my group might be doing to one black individual. Even worse, it’s implicitly said that whatever my actions might be are irrelevant, by being a part of the white group I have the privelage backpack construct that control my behavior. I’m expected to act a certain way because of my skin color so society must make sure control my actions and shame me, or my built-in tendencies will surely run amock!
To be blunt: no, not even a little. Privilege isn’t about “fault” or “blame” or “making things worse” for anyone. Rather, it’s about being aware of the invisible advantages we are afforded by factors outside of our control. Saying, for instance, that I have privilege is in no way a statement about my character or an insult or saying that I am somehow directly responsible for the oppression of marginalized folks, it’s just a statement of fact, like saying I have blue eyes. I am not bad for having privilege just like I am not bad for having blue eyes. It’s a way to frame and discuss life experiences, that’s it. If you’re curious/want to read more I’d recommend starting here, here, and here. Go forth and educate yourself! (Keep in mind that all three tend to frame privilege in terms of maleness, but, like I said, it takes a bunch of forms. Yay intersectionality!)
I may post later this week about some other ideas brought up, but nothing as directly related.