An email to @Ariadnex about Rape Culture and assoc. ideas
So, to have us on the same page here’s the things that have me thinking about this at the moment:
The “rape instruction manual” that got funded on Kickstarter: http://caseymalone.com/post/53339539674/this-is-not-fucking-harmless
Kickstarter’s apology for allowing it: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/we-were-wrong
Ctrl+Alt+Del just posted this comic http://www.cad-comic.com/cad/20130621 , and I’ve seen a bunch of people I respect badmouth/stop reading as a result.
Penny Arcade had the dickwolves thing: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/11/ , backlash to that here: http://debacle.tumblr.com/post/3041940865/the-pratfall-of-penny-arcade-a-timeline , and then recently this thing happened: http://www.uproxx.com/gammasquad/2013/06/your-guide-to-the-most-recent-penny-arcade-controversy/ and people I respect have bailed on them in turn.
So, I’m coming at this from an angle of “I am a big free speech advocate”, and I think there’s some kernel of value in the dickwolves strip, and I think that even if boycotting Penny Arcade as a result is the right thing to do we are making a sacrifice to do it. That said, it might be the right thing to do, and boycotting a thing is very different from top-down government censorship. The point as I see it is actually less to suppress the idea being boycotted and more to generate conversation (just like this) about it.
I’m not going to be the most compelling orator on this subject, ‘cause my answer to just about everything is going to be “maybe” and “I don’t know”. I’m pretty confident that there is merit to most perspectives on this issue, and that all of them are at least partially wrong.
Here’s a fact: Slavery existed in the United States in 1800 because people communicated their belief that slavery was not evil to each other. On some scale, the notion that “hurting people in X way is acceptable” can be transmitted from person to person and will manifest in actual behavior. During that time period, that idea was not transmitted through mass media, so this doesn’t prove mass media is a vector for this stuff, but those ideas exist/spread/have power.
School shooters are probably motivated by other school shootings a lot of the time: http://www.upworthy.com/how-the-media-coverage-of-mass-shootings-makes-everything-worse
I was just hired at a major IT company and in my class of 23 hires there were six women. That number was unusually high. So, women tend not to go into IT and the reason for that is not that women are biologically less suited for it, so it has to be cultural. It happens because the road to IT for women involves being treated differently than men in some way, and that treatment results from ideas people have. All the people involved didn’t have the idea independently, so it probably spread among them via communication. Maybe all that communication took the form of “I witnessed another person behave a certain way IRL and when I was put in the same situation and didn’t know what to do, I fell back on what I’d seen before.” and maybe none of it happened via mass media… but probably not.
Censorship doesn’t solve the problem; among other problems, censorship is just too hard and too leaky. Sons of plantation owners are going to figure out about slavery, even if you do your very best to conceal it from them. So what you want to do is expose sons of plantation owners to more media that says “Slavery is evil” than they see that says “Slavery is good”, and maybe they become Union soldiers instead of Confederate soldiers. Now that slavery is a solved issue (well… not quite, but it’s not as bad as it was. Let’s pretend it is for argument), we can enjoy Sonnet 57 or some other really old work that happens to have some slavery-accustomed mindsets embedded in it without having to worry about slavery mindset. It isn’t hurting anybody anymore, ‘cause those issues aren’t relevant right now. And it definitely has redeeming merit! It’s friggin’ Shakespeare. So we don’t want the world to contain less Shakespeare. Furthermore, there’s no way to tell Shakespeare “Write something that has all of the merits of Sonnet 57 with none of the downside.”. He wouldn’t know how to do it and neither would anybody else. That creative value is super tightly tangled with the context it exists in, which happens to include slavery. So…
Frigg, I dunno. Ideas do create harmful behaviour, harmful behaviour should be suppressed, problematic creative works have value and abandoning them has a cost… somewhere we need to balance cultural progress with social justice. I don’t know exactly how the ideas that create harmful behaviour propagate (so I don’t know how best to stop them), and I don’t know where that balance is. I’m pretty confident that it needs to be struck, though.