Special Address: Mysoginy and Rape Culture in the Media World Part One

Hey guys, getting serious again. For anyone who does not wish to think deeply, get offended or question social norms: I have written a nice and cute article on the new Sonic game, I would advise you to read that. Okay? You’ve been warned. This address does not deal with a pleasant topic. Today’s special address begins to deal with rape culture, which for the purpose of this article will be defined as “a concept which links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society, and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture).  As this topic is tragically large and extends into much of the media world, I will do my best to be as focused as possible. However, before I dive into it, I would like to do a brief follow-up on the last Special Address.

For those of you who don’t want to scroll down, simply look here: http://redringsofredemption.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/special-address-an-open-letter-to-facebook/. Facebook, being as large and as powerful as it is, did not act quickly. It would take a group of dedicated individuals (http://www.womenactionmedia.org) to join in and help us achieve victory. They led their own campaign against facebook (briefly highlighted in this article here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/facebook-still-doesnt-consider-rape-jokes-to-be-hate-speech) and I am very proud to say that Facebook has listened and now the two are working towards improving the culture. Here is the link to the official statement: http://www.womenactionmedia.org/fbagreement/. I would like to extend a thank you to everyone involved in bringing this matter to Facebook’s attention. This is definitely a step in the right direction. I’ll of course follow Facebook’s content and monitor just how noticeable the change is.

However, WomenActionMedia addressed the larger problem which my past article did not. The debate of rape culture. Let me clarify what I mean by debate: there is no debate that rape culture exists. Some people may deny it but some people also deny evolution due to a lack of “evidence”. Some people are willfully ignorant and no amount of sane conversation will convince them of anything they don’t want to believe. Those people are on the lowest rung of humanity and I am not going to waste breath and words trying to address them. Rape culture exists so the debate becomes: how do we cure it?

One last quick digression, I would like to make clear a difference between rape culture and sexually themed vulgarities. Words like cunt, dick, prick, pussy, cock, tit, boob, balls, asshole etc. are not part of rape culture in and of themselves. Can they be used to perpetuate it: yes, however any close examination of the English language reveals a certain affection for use of sexual organs and terms for profanity. It’s a comment on us as a culture to be sure but not at all in the same category. There is nothing inherently wrong in using these terms so long as their usage is not restrictive (example: men can be as an annoying bunch of cunts as women can any day. Likewise ladies, some of you are dicks too). Should you resort to profanity right away: no. Yet if it really offends you, I advise that you take a closer look at the world and what is happening in it. There are a lot worse issues out there to trouble a civilized mind than who called who a shithead. Let’s address one right now:

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This is a real example of rape culture. It is both extreme and disturbing and was taken from this article here: http://sgvnowproject.weebly.com/rape-culture-sexism–misogyny-in-gaming.html. I want to make it clear that I do not agree with some of the arguments used in the above link as I find that they ignore gaming on a much larger context. There is a level of misogyny in gaming that is sad but I wonder how much higher it is than other media forms. For example:

Painting depicting Perseus and Andromeda.
Painting depicting Perseus and Andromeda.

There are many paintings and sculptures from this period that depict nudity and violence. In a large number of them, women are involved in both. Yet there is much less scrutiny for classical art than there is for video games. I’d like to make clear that that last sentence was not intended to evoke any type of argument that paintings are as misogynistic as video games or that either, in themselves, promote rape culture. Furthermore I acknowledge that classical art does not have nearly as large an impact on today’s world that video games enjoy. I simply wish to make this point: this is not a new problem, it has existed for a long time. Now is the first time we can track it.

On some levels this is a good thing. Yes, PhrixuZ is a horrible human being but his words are linked to his account. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and many other corporations do not tolerate this level of abuse. That account was banned to punish the individual, I guarantee it. Did he make a new one: probably, like I said this is not a problem that has of yet been solved but please mind the “progress”.

The world has come a long way since that painting was created. Back then, if you wanted to insult someone you either had to write a letter or tell them to their face. Either way, it was correspondence with no level of anonymity. This is not the way we communicate today: welcome to the age of anonymity. Thanks to the internet, everyone now has a voice: what a double-edged sword that has become. The more anonymous the arena, the greater the likelihood of extreme comments. Look at the comments page on Youtube some time. Now look at politicians (in their public addresses). Note the difference.

So why am I saying this? Let me make it clear: I am not trying to excuse the excess of rape culture in any way. The current height it enjoys in anonymous forums is staggering and above the level of acceptable. There will always be idiots that will say anything if they think they can get away with it but I’ve even caught myself using the term once or twice without thinking.  This is what must be targeted and one of the double-edged dangers.

Rape may just be a word but it carries with it a current lack of education. Rather than paraphrase, I will quote an article that does an excellent job of addressing the issue:

“If, after reading that, you’re still on the pro-rape bandwagon (Oh, sorry, does that sound ridiculous?  That’s because it is), I’ve got more.  As I was personally sorting through this, one of the questions that kept popping up in my mind was ‘games are all about violence, and rape is an act of violence, why should that be precluded when saying ‘I’m going to shoot you in your f*cking head’ is okay?’

“I was having a hard time reconciling that particular issue, so I asked someone who knew more about the whole thing and could lend me some words to help.  Alex Duffy provided me with the following response, and I think it’s just plain fantastic.

“‘The difference between rape and murder is that there is no murder culture. By that, I mean our society has fully accepted murder as absolutely horrible crime. It’s (almost always) fully investigated and afterwards there are pretty much no questions like ‘Were they asking for it?’ ‘What were they wearing?’ ‘Did they ACTUALLY not want to die?’. It’s always taken seriously. There is rarely victim blaming or objectification. Rape is a different story.'”

Sorry to include so much of the quote but I felt that it was absolutely fantastic and very to the point. Full article here: http://gamersagainstbigotry.org/2012/07/why-you-should-stop-saying-rape-casually-in-games/

Like many of the problems in today’s society, rape culture is born out of ignorance. There will always be those too stupid to listen but they are a small minority on the planet. Humanity is ready to think and evolve and this is one issue we can all definitely work on. In further articles I shall dive into specifics, examining certain movies, video games and books to track the evolution of this problem (Duke Nukem Forever and Metroid: Other M will be discussed in the next part). Education is the key to evolution. I don’t want rape to become known as the “r” word (since we turned nigger into the “n” word and that didn’t do much to cure racism, if anything it has perpetuated it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF1NUposXVQ) but I do agree that it is used too casually.

I also feel that we, as a species are on the right track to removing rape culture and making sure it is regarded as the serious problem that it is. Call me an optimist but wait until I have finished my argument. And anyone else out there wishing to weigh in, please do so. Any and all comments are read and appreciated. I will respond and further debate any issue you wish (although I will save things for the later parts of the article).

Apologies if this sounded like a stream of consciousness, it was one. Please enjoy these other articles to get more involved on the issue. Please return next week for part two.

http://www.shakesville.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

http://critdamage.blogspot.ca/2012/05/quit-pretending-there-isnt-videogame.html

http://whatculture.com/gaming/xbox-live-defense-against-racism-or-free-speech-restriction.php/2

Thoughts? Comments? Am I full of it or onto something? Let me know now in the feedback section of this article.

Special Address: "An Open Letter to Facebook"

Hey guys, I know it’s highly unusual that I post twice in one day but there is something I wanted to bring to everyone’s attention. Here is the link to the original article. Please read it thoroughly before we continue and I would advise looking at the comments below as well.

Warning: this post contains nudity. If that offends you, well in this instance I’d like you to read anyway.

I would like to thank author Jackie for bringing this matter to the forefront as I feel it addresses a large problem with the media culture that is currently in place. She writes a valid point that yes, if Facebook wishes to allow sexual objectification on their website, it really isn’t too much to ask that they promote sexual education as well. There are even marketing advantages to promoting both (I’m sure Trojan and other companies would welcome higher levels of sex education). So again, thanks Jackie. You are bringing up an issue of the old media machine and why it is so important that new media has risen. As Red Rings of Redemption is a web blog devoted to the realm of media (and all matters contained within) we gladly offer our support to your goal.

However, it is crucially important that, going forward, the central focus of this campaign remain in the spotlight. This is not, I repeat, NOT a battle between men and women. This is the inevitable problem that arises when old ways of thinking are adapted into new systems. What do I mean by that: very simple. It is incredibly hypocritical to live in a world that preaches both body shame (particularly associated with certain areas of the body) and the use of sex appeal as a marketing tool. It just doesn’t add up.

The culture of body shame is the older one and the one that (in my opinion) needs to be lost. This attitude that we should be ashamed of our bodies is a remnant left over from days when the world functioned under a different order. Was it right back then: maybe, probably not. Is it right today: definitely not. I’m not saying to go naked everywhere as you please, clothes were invented for very sound and logical reasons. However, the fact that both women and men can wear clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination and still be completely accepted whereas if even one nipple is flashed it becomes offensive does not make sense. Here is a perfect example:

Yes there is a boob in this picture. Did that affect you? Please consider why.
Yes there is a boob in this picture. Did that affect you? Please consider why.

In February 2004, Janet Jackson became a center of controversy after a planned “wardrobe malfunction”. This ignited a lot of moral outrage while at the same time giving the event more publicity than any Superbowl before or since (the two systems in action). Let’s please look at this. What is she wearing? Why is that not offensive, it is incredibly sexually suggestive. She was on stage singing “Rock Your Body” with Justin Timberlake, are you going to tell me there is nothing contained in the lyrics of that song that is any less than a nipple. That’s what offended so many people. A nipple! Not the fact that is was her breast, not the fact that Justin Timberlake tore off a section of her costume (people worked hard making that you jerk). Not even the fact that she was wearing really bizarre looking nipple jewelery (I don’t understand that culture). Just the fact that you could see her nipple did more to offend people and captured more news media than all of the current atrocities happening in Syria.

Western media needs to evolve past this. Let me stress that more: American media (I include Canada as well, I’m not familiar enough with Mexico’s media to lump them in) needs to evolve past this. And they have been. There has been progress as, little by little, the culture of shame has begun to chip away. Obviously we’re not there yet, this post would not exist unless it had to.

Companies like Facebook and Google enjoy an unprecedented level of power in the early 21st century and power is what is needed to change culture. I’m sure people like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg are not big believers in the culture of sexual shame.

This next statement is pure theory and conjecture: I believe that ending the culture of sexual shame might also help subdue (or at least weaken) the culture of sexual objectification. Think about that for a moment. My train of thought right now is operating on the Forbidden Fruit principle. Tell a child they cannot have a cookie then leave the room. What is the first thing that child will go for? Tell an eighteen year old they’re too young to drink, what will they do? Tell a person that it is wrong to have pride in the human body and it will become a major presence in the world of media marketing. Is this the correct response: absolutely not but it is the response that has happened.

Pictured: two people walking topless on a beach. If you're thought was that one was not okay and the only reason for that was: cause she's a woman, congratulations you have just had a sexist thought today. You're welcome.
Pictured: two people walking topless on a beach. If your thought was that one was not okay and the only reason for that was: cause she’s a woman, congratulations you have just had a sexist thought today. You’re welcome.

I don’t know what will happen if we remove the culture of shame but I honestly don’t foresee any real negative repercussions. When has more open discussion ever hurt an issue? We have been removing cultures for the past two centuries: we are currently in the midst of removing a culture of inequality (more people can vote and express their opinions now than ever before, think about that). Point is: cultures fall and we can all do our part to remove this one. No one, man, woman, transgender, should ever feel ashamed to question their bodies or afraid to seek out education in regards to that matter.

So I am joining my fellow blogger Katie in writing to Facebook and asking them to revise their guidelines. It is a small step but a necessary one. I am asking that my readers join me in this if they support my argument. If you don’t please, feel free to talk it out with me. I look forward to such discussions. I believe in this and will defend it but it’s important to keep thinking and keep changing. Nothing in our world is perfect, that includes our media. Great thing about technology is it has given us all a voice. And we can make a difference. Even if it’s small. Thank you for listening, I hope this made you think.

FRS MRO