Some new commentary for the new year.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN COMICS: THE TIPPING POINT – This is posted to the Comics Alliance website and is about sexual harassment in the comics industry and comics culture, rather than gaming culture. But since there is such a large overlap between the two communities, and since both communities suffer enormously from the same problem, her article is well worth reading.
To contextualize: Laura Hudson is the founder of the Comics Alliance website, and its former Editor-in-Chief. She began the site as a personal blog, basically, to which she was the only contributor–and in a matter of three years she grew it into one of the largest sites for comics criticism and commentary on the web, with a great many contributors offering content on tracks for News, Opinion, Humor, Art, Film, Toys and Cosplay topics. She has since stepped down as Editor-in-Chief and moved on to other jobs, but she has still made a significant contribution. And reading about people sexually harassing her in public filled me with rage, for various reasons.
ALTERNATE ENDING: ON ANGER – Mattie Brice on the process of creating a more inclusive gaming culture, and on the recent kerfuffle associated with the appointment of Ben Kuchera, who recently lost his job as editor when Penny Arcade Report folded, as the new Opinion Editor at Polygon.
The piece covers a lot of territory, including her own struggles to find any way to participate in gaming culture as a journalist or a critic and actually receive any compensation for her time and trouble. Well worth reading as an example of the way that the culture closes ranks against women and minorities by denying them opportunity. Screaming asshats who will react negatively when a woman or a non-white person gets hired for a decent job with some public visibility? Then women and non-white people DO NOT GET JOBS. No matter how qualified or needed they are. The toxicity and bigotry of the community finds a willing accomplice in the cowardice of those in authority, who too often bow to screaming asshats rather than tell them, quite bluntly, to stop being jerks.
One thing that I personally pulled out of the piece, and which I will reflect on further in the future, is her attempt to define the differences between Anger, Violence and Toxicity. I think these three words are very much worth considering.
ANGER – Anger is an emotion. A reaction. It has no ethical or moral value in and of itself: it is neither good nor bad. It simply exists. And everyone feels anger–good people and bad people alike. But there are times when the difference between a good person and a bad person is how we manage and express our anger.
VIOLENCE – Violence is an action. It is a deliberate infliction of harm or damage, through words or deeds. Violence does have a moral/ethical value: it is negative. For this reason, violence must be justified or legitimized in some way. How much justification or legitimization is needed, in order to raise the moral value of a violent act into the neutral or positive zone, is a matter of some debate.
Some people believe that there is no positive intent or end which can ever justify violence. Some set the bar very high, and argue that violence can only be justified when the alternative is death. Others set the bar very low, and argue that violence is justified by boredom, a need for entertainment. Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, fall somewhere in the middle. The greatest danger we face as ethical beings is that too often, we AREN’T honest with ourselves about the violence we commit, physically and verbally. We give it other names to paint a halo on it.
Examples: We often call violence against children “discipline” or “teaching respect”. In fact, in this society we often paint such a halo on violence against children that we even have NEGATIVE terms for non-violence in parenting. (“Spoiling”, etc.) Historically we have sometimes called violence against the mentally ill “therapy”. And very often people who commit verbal violence will paint a halo on it by calling it “honesty”, “telling it like it is”, or saying that they are “just joking”.
TOXICITY – Toxicity is a climatic condition. It is an environment in which people are silenced, because it is unsafe for them to feel, to speak, to express themselves and respond to what others say and do. Creating a toxic environment is sometimes an unthinking, unwitting or insensitive act, and sometimes a deliberate, malicious act. But regardless of whether the toxicity of a situation is intentional or unintentional–the poison exists once you put it into the air, and will remain until you clean it up.
Unwitting/insensitive toxicity – Making a casual gay slur reference in front of a person that you do not realize is homosexual. Making sexist remarks or assumptions because you have not ever been asked to examine your own male privilege before. Making racist remarks or assumptions because you have never been asked to examine your white privilege before. Being very open or loud in your expressions of emotion, without realizing that they intimidate and silence the people around you, and make them afraid to “upset” you by being honest about their own thoughts and feelings.
Or, as Brice points out in her article, being so consumed by your own anger, and so free in your violent verbal expressions of anger, that you become completely unapproachable… and create an environment where people with opposing viewpoints can only hate and condemn each other, rather than being able to respect and listen to each other.
Deliberate/malicious toxicity – Harassing a female game developer or journalist who operates in the public sphere. Threatening the companies who hire women and minorities with boycotts if they give jobs, particularly leadership roles, to women and minorities. Flooding the channels for corporate feedback with hate whenever a woman is given work on ANY game, or by ANY game company, in any capacity. (Note: in Kuchera’s case, there was a moderately toxic stink raised because a man was given work–by a company that has done nothing but hire white men to hold positions of power and authority.) Flooding all social networking and media channels with bile and hatred so that companies and individuals who employ certain people, or uphold certain values, are unable to promote and market their work on an equal footing.
MIKE KRAHULIK’S NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION FOR 2014 – Given the previous discussion of Anger, Violence and Toxicity, I think that Mike Krahulik’s editorial on the person that he has been in the past and the person he wants to become in the future is well worth reading.