Warning: There is some of discussion of anti-Semitism. Some links and images may include racial slurs, Nazis, anti-Semitism, and racism.

Something’s happened recently that’s massively interesting: Disney decided cut ties to PewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg) after he posted videos with anti-Semitic imagery and statements (or “jokes”) this past month. It’s partly interesting to me because he’s made headline news for this, which is probably because he has the most subscribers on YouTube’s platform. It’s also interesting to me because he finally was shown that even jokes that utilise “ironic bigotry” have consequences.

You know, that peksy responsibility that everyone seems to conveniently overlook or outright ignore that comes with their favourite right: freedom of speech? Yeah, that one.

Now, I don’t want to focus specifically on PewDiePie because I’m more interested in the overall conversation, especially as his supporters scream about how it was “just a joke” and we’re “too sensitive” and that “none of his supporters support anti-Semitic views because they know it’s just a joke.” He’s another in a long line of people who we keep defending when they make offensive statements without even considering that there are consequences for doing so.

 

Twitter user @Pyle1987 providing another example that people who are validated by “ironic jokes” also openly engage in further bigotry.

 

I’m also not interested in debating the “is he or isn’t he” question in regards to his racism; I just know that he did things that were racist. First, he intentionally selected two Indian men to do something that ended up getting them banned from Fiverr. Why? What was his logic in asking them to do this? I’m sure there were people on Fiverr who would’ve openly denied his request, as he seemingly “wanted,” because they were far more familiar with the language, the context, and the cultural issues of what he was requesting. Why didn’t he bother to ask them to do it? Was it because, as he states, he thought these guys would refuse his request? Even if it wasn’t an event intended to be racist (and that’s being polite, since it also reeks of remnants of European colonialism), we have to argue that his subconscious still overlooked the issues that these two men might have after doing what they were hired to do and selected them over anyone else; he may not have been intentionally racist, but he certainly engaged in actions that were.

As a result of his actions, these two men from a less privileged background than his own lost access to an important source of income because of a “thoughtless prank,” which also was anti-Semitic (even if meant as “ironic bigotry” or “just a joke”). People keep claiming that it was a “thoughtless prank.” The only part of the phrase that’s even remotely correct is thoughtless; he didn’t think, and that’s more than obvious. And while, yes, I know he ‘apologised’ and requested Fiverr to unban them, the fact remains that he did something he clearly knew was wrong and got two men of colour in trouble for it without first thinking of the potential consequences. He didn’t even consider the possibility that these men would do what he requested because it was”too absurd,” and he never thought that they’d get in trouble for it should they have done it at all; he’s said that he thought they wouldn’t do it. This implies that he understood it was wrong and also expected others from a different linguistic and cultural background (who state that they “did not know what ‘the Jews’ meant,” which I would believe) to have the same knowledge.

Then there’s the problem of his anti-Semitic “joke.” Since he openly acknowledges that what he did was wrong and still did it anyway, we should be able to recognise the problem. Clearly, we need to have the discussion again about how jokes shouldn’t punch down because that does nothing but support the status quo; it also does nothing except validate the people who do believe in such things (as seen above) and prompts them to act out more because they believe that others around them agree with those ideas.

In much of the discussion I see, I keep running into a few themes that I feel need to be addressed:

  1. What is ‘Freedom of Speech’ and how does it apply in these situations. Maybe a discussion about censorship.
  2. Dealing with the consequences of your ‘Freedom of Speech.’
  3. Impact vs. Intent and Ironic Bigotry still being bigotry.
  4. The rights that Disney and other companies have to sever ties with people (History, Modern Context, CSR)

There clearly are a lot more to address, but these are the ones that I feel more comfortable tackling because I’m not going to start speaking over Jewish people who have had to live with instances of anti-Semitism and have been watching its overt resurgence the entire election cycle and well into the first month of the presidency. And I don’t want to talk over people who had to watch a White House completely ignore Jewish people on Holocaust Remembrance Day, even when this is a very significant cultural event for them.

 

White supremacist and former Imperial Wizard of the KKK, who is also known for losing a gubernatorial election in 1991 where the slogan was “Better a Lizard than a Wizard,” continues abusing his right to freedom of speech in order to spread his hatred of Jewish people.

 

If our president is being supported by the KKK, is reported as removing them from the list of hate groups, and being linked to an increase in hate crimes, we need to be talking out and protecting people who will be harmed by such groups and individuals. We don’t need to be defending people who abuse their rights and use them to harm others; we need to be giving our support to people who are trying to speak out about actual injustices that are taking place (and ‘coming out as conservative’ and ‘having everyone ignore you’ doesn’t exactly count as an injustice, since you’re also ignoring the context of the entire situation by equating your changeable political stance to a person’s unchangeable identity).

We need to do and be better than this.

Next: I’m addressing those points in order, so I’m going to be discussing the Freedom of Speech and America’s history of ‘upholding’ it.

I feel like I’m having a weird relationship with the way that news media is being handled. As an observer, since I don’t work as a journalist, I feel like I’m more capable of watching the impacts of what is being done than the people producing it; I also feel like my conflict of interest is decreased, as many of them are pursuing clicks and views. This sounds like an insult, but I don’t mean it to be one.

This click-and-view culture is a bit problematic; for many journalists and creators, this is how they survive within their career. Getting these enables them to have more opportunities to cover other stories or participate in coverage that they might not be able to work with otherwise. This is the environment that has been created for – not by – them to have their work presented. If it doesn’t gain enough clicks or views, they don’t get paid and may lose access to the platform they’ve been given. I don’t fault them for this because it has become a major part of their job, but it does take away time from seeing how their work is impacting their audience.

And I feel like this should be a major consideration of the work that is created by anyone in media, regardless of the form (video games, movies, television, books, and so on). They should have to focus on the impacts of what they’re doing or whether or not the intentions they have are being met rather than accidentally creating a platform for people who don’t need one. But I am aware that there are people who do this and are very good about doing it; Sarah Kendzior is probably one of my top journalists, and she is incredibly cautious about how and what she reports. I would argue, however, that the industry itself has been lacking in caution while specific and individual journalists have been taking on this duty of care that the system has forgotten it needs to do.

What I’m talking about, in particular, is allowing people like Tomi Lahren, Kellyanne Conway, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Spencer, and so on to access platforms that enable them reach more people. We’ve seen articles written about interviews with these “dapper and polite” neo-nazis, we’ve had people mourning Milo’s “right to free speech” (while being incredibly silent as one of his supporters shot a protester in the stomach), we’ve had “liberal” satirical comedy shows asking for Tomi to come on so they can “roast” her (but providing her more time to speak and gain a following because she’s “so likeable”), and traditional news networks allowing Kellyanne to lie (then lie about her previous lies in the form of so-called apologies) and go completely unchecked (or trying to call her out but giving her three-quarters of the segment to lie about everything rather than just cutting her mic like they do to women of colour that they disagree with).

For years, we’ve had people talking about “journalistic integrity.” The unfortunate thing is that the people discussing this were focusing on stories that defamed people from marginalised communities; we saw that GamerGate pretended to make an attempt to talk about “journalistic integrity,” but they actually focused on abusing Zoe Quinn because of nonsense her ex released. As the “movement” went on, they focused on many other prominent women (and any of their supporters, regardless of following, were harassed along the way – I should know, as I managed with my small following to have a ridiculous number of pro-GamerGaters in my mentions and inboxes). Statistically, GamerGate’s goals were nothing more than testing the water for fascism and white nationalism. How far could you push before someone did something?

They merged with or created various MRA and PUA groups, which continued this project. The same sorts of men who are on forums like Roosh V’s are the same people who persist in harassing women. That literally is his stated goal. (And every time the media covers people like Roosh, Milo, and Richard? The media loves using pictures that show men who could be kind, polite, and attractive! They receive humanising imagery despite the fact they seek to systematically remove the humanity of groups they don’t like and are utlising oppressive language to incite violence.)

People who didn’t need a voice – both because they were misusing it to spew oppressive language and because it they were talking over people who were genuinely affected by the issues being discussed – were given space to harass people in the name of “journalistic integrity.” Having met and discussed GamerGate with academics who were attempting to archive video games and lost support as a result of the misogynist movement, I can safely say that their desires were anything but journalistic integrity or an improvement in ethics; their goal was to silence the people they disagreed with for “infiltrating” their hobby (while neglecting to realise that we were always there, and they were the ones who infiltrated our communities to harass us). Instead, they decided to divert traffic and essentially steal content, hurting people they disagreed with.

A lot of what happened in GamerGate happened again, except this time it mobilised a population of people outside of nerd culture (which has always had its own problems with neo-nazis and fascists, despite the recurring theme of Nazis Are Bad that they keep ignoring in their favourite media). They were clearly the antecedent to the election of POTUS 45 and his white supremacist administration; they insisted that we allow Milo Yiannoupolis his “right to free speech” (and freedom from the consequences), despite the fact that they were quick to silence groups like Black Lives Matter or scream over women talking about sexism. In fact, they love to do this while being simultaneously sexist, racist, and Islamophobic in their comparisons of women in the West who are “whiny” and “over-sensitive” while there’s “real suffering in Islamic countries” that they’ve vaguely heard about on the news. They use male abuse victims to gaslight women who are talking about issues while doing absolutely nothing to help them, and they ignore very real and very scary statistics about how many women (and people) are hurt or killed through domestic violence. They also really love using male abuse victims to gaslight women while doing absolutely nothing to help the victims their using.

And because of all of this, I’m confused about how media is going to continue covering these actions that show clear fascism without accidentally supporting it. In 1988, Oprah Winfrey had skinheads/neo-nazis on her show in an effort to show her viewers how tragically ignorant, hateful, and grotesque they are. The problem? She accidentally gave them a platform that helped them build their following, which she has since admitted in an explanation for why she never did it again. She realised that, by letting them speak for even a moment, she was giving them more power to reach an audience; you’d think that it would be the other way around, but it’s not. It’s a form of validation for people who already have tendencies leaning toward similar views (the same was seen with sitcoms like All in the Family and satirical comedy like the Colbert Report).

This is due to our natural inclination to engage in “selective perception.” We perceive or “see” things – in this case, the media we consume – in ways that are more in line with our frame of reference and experiences. While left-leaning people are more inclined to see the absurdity in the characters of Stephen Colbert and Archie Bunker and understand the intent of the jokes, people who are more ideologically similar are going to feel validated by their existence. This is also why many people have spoken out against rape jokes when they use the victims as the punchline; rapists/PUAs are more inclined to feel validated when they see people laugh at them. (They are, however, funny when the right target it is in the punchline: rapists, enablers, and rape culture.)

It’s also because oppressive language is inherently violent. You may not be directly harming people, but you’re still inciting the violence that takes place. We’ve seen this throughout history; we’ve watched this happen a number of times. The most egregious example of this is Pizzagate, where a shooter was so influenced by fake news about Hillary Clinton that he went to a pizzeria “to rescue children” and shot off an assault rifle (thankfully hurting no one).

And because oppressive language is violence and language can be weaponised to hurt, that’s why I feel that the media needs to start denying access to their platforms for people who are willing to do that. We shouldn’t be allowing Kellyanne Conway with the ability to try to talk her way out of the Bowling Green Massacre (which did happen, just in the 1600s to Native Americans – she wouldn’t ever want to talk about that, even in a history class) and call it a “mistake.” We shouldn’t be providing Richard Spencer with the opportunity to happily talk about himself and his goals for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” (an oxymoron, as ethnic cleansing is never peaceful), nor should we allow him or anyone else to even ask if human society “needs the Black race.” This is also particularly true because we’ve seen that 45’s favourite news network is already doing the same, as they rid themselves of George Will who was definitely not known for his support of the Trump administration (while making a questionable decision in deciding to sign pro-Trump, Brexit-liar Nigel Farage). [Update: We also recently learned about family ties to the Murdochs, as Ivanka recently stepped down as from her position of trustee for one of his daughters.]

We’ve had so many people explaining these concepts, and many of them have been women of colour (particularly black women). So to end this, here’s a quote from Toni Morrison during her Nobel Lecture:

The systematic looting of language can be recognized by the tendency of its users to forgo its nuanced, complex, mid-wifery properties for menace and subjugation. Oppressive language does more than represent violence; it is violence; does more than represent the limits of knowledge; it limits knowledge. Whether it is obscuring state language or the faux-language of mindless media; whether it is the proud but calcified language of the academy or the commodity driven language of science; whether it is the malign language of law-without-ethics, or language designed for the estrangement of minorities, hiding its racist plunder in its literary cheek – it must be rejected, altered and exposed. It is the language that drinks blood, laps vulnerabilities, tucks its fascist boots under crinolines of respectability and patriotism as it moves relentlessly toward the bottom line and the bottomed-out mind. Sexist language, racist language, theistic language – all are typical of the policing languages of mastery, and cannot, do not permit new knowledge or encourage the mutual exchange of ideas.

*Bolding is mine.

“Well, I tried” is probably one of my least favourite comments to hear when it’s regarding the progress of a relationship or the supposed happiness of the other person. In fact, it’s a phrase that I’ve heard far too frequently from men with whom I’ve been in romantic entanglements, and it’s definitely a phrase that indicates they’ve actually not tried because they actively refused to acknowledge the needs of the other person (in this case, me).

I cannot count the number of times my most recent (now-ex) partner stated “I tried to make you happy” but seemed to overlook a lot of key issues that I kept reminding him of: I suffer from both anxiety and depression, so sometimes I just need my partner to listen to me or be there for me in order to start overcoming those bouts. I don’t get to choose when to be depressed or what makes me anxious, so I do need to have some control over my coping mechanisms in order to get by. Telling me that I’m “not happy enough” and that I’m “being inconsiderate” for not responding to the attempts my partner makes isn’t helping. Not everything has an active solution; sometimes you need a passive solution that, to many of my partners, sounds a lot like “do nothing.”

If I ever have to hear “I tried to take care of you,” I may defenestrate everything I own. This largely accompanies the criticisms that I’ve heard regarding my health, and these focus almost entirely on my weight. I’m not a small person by any means, and I’d definitely be the first person to admit that I could engage in more healthy behaviours (like finding classes that could increase my level of exercise or just walking and biking a lot more frequently). That doesn’t mean, however, that all of my problems are cause by weight or “poor diet” (full of vegetables and fruit and low on processed sugars).

When my medical report came back with something that frightened me (“fatty infiltration of the liver”), my concerns were left unaddressed. Upon explaining that I have a family history of liver cancer and expressing that I was concerned this could be the start, my partner’s response was to tell me that I should “just lose weight” because “he knows this, since it’s his job.” That did nothing to quell the fear I had that I, too, may be in the process of developing liver cancer because of my close link to it; those few words expressed nothing helpful, and (now-ex) my partner – a person who works in pharmaceuticals and is conducting research to developing medication for metabolic issues and continually tells me that “female mice are useless” to the scientific process – never saw any of my ultrasounds or scans.

In fact, I didn’t see them and never had the opportunity to discuss them with a doctor because it was for my entry and resident permit in China. There was no way that he could possibly know, so at no point did he “try” to do anything that would be helpful to me or our relationship. He even went as far as to ignore things I’d told him about my past, about how my self-confidence was gradually growing because I’d finally started to be more comfortable in my own body; he wilfully “forgot” how I spent years of my life listening to people harass me for being overweight. So instead of trying to actually help me, he decided to fat shame me and criticise my body, disregarding my fear at that moment and months of knowledge about me.

Every time I hear someone tell me “Well, I tried,” I can honestly say that I’ve never seen them try. They do things how they think they should be done; they respond to things in ways that they think are correct. This can really only be considered trying when you’ve not been given the answer. When someone tells you that they need time to prepare for social events and you keep surprising them with parties, you’re not trying to make them happy; you’re pressuring them and leaving that person to be uncomfortable. When you’re not listening to their concerns or worries, you’re not trying to help them; you’re neglecting them.

When that person has given you the answers for how to handle situations beforehand and you intentionally never use them, you’re not trying. You’re making things worse.

I once had a discussion with my current partner which, for me, ended with “You’re lucky that you’ll never have such a difficult and complicated relationship with sex.” That conversation and others like it frequently weigh on my mind, especially when I hear men – and I’m going to be using this phrase to refer to cis, straight men – try to pull the “If your girlfriend/wife isn’t putting out, they’re responsible for the downfall of your relationship.” In all likelihood, while both parties are often at fault for the downfall of the relationship, the lack of empathy for how women view sex in any context probably doesn’t help.

It’s also true that my partner, and an overwhelming majority of men, won’t have the same kind of complicated relationship with sex that many women have. From young ages, many of us are sexualised by or are the recipients of minor sexual behaviours from grown men. This includes cat-calling and inappropriate flirting or gestures from older men, and it includes far more severe behaviours, too. This particular aspect increases, particularly in Western cultures, for women of colour and vulnerable populations, such as refugees. When it comes to the media that we consume, a study that was commissioned by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and backed by the UN found that girls as young as 13 years old were as equally sexualised as 39-year old women. And it gets worse when you start realising that we believe sexualised girls to be less intelligent or less deserving of help than others.

We’re frequently the focus of the majority of all dress codes at schools and work because our bodies “might distract boys and men,” but yet the market conveniently focuses on one whole style of clothing for girls and women that doesn’t even pass those dress codes. And rather than question male staff on why they feel uncomfortable when a girl is near them showing her collarbone, wearing leggings, having visible shoulders or knees, or wearing clothes that enable people to see our bra straps, we’re out there telling the girls to cover up; we’re not one bit worried about the men in the profession who are talking about girls as if they’re being sexual by merely sitting in class, but we’re concerned about the girls who just exist in those classrooms wearing clothing. And we’d rather shame girls who ‘violate’ the dress code by giving them detention or forcing them to wear intentionally humiliating clothing.

All of that is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to how women have to interact with their environments; it’s not even getting into the rates of sexual violence (assault, rape); how we have incomplete, inaccurate, or conflicting data regarding the actual numbers of victims because of things like victim blaming; how we frequently neglect understanding that rape and sexual assault have, for so long, been part of war; and how we respond to people who have been assaulted, especially when it comes to law enforcement. This was far more poignant when the letter written by the Stanford rape victim was publicly released, and the father decided to tell the judge his son needed a light sentence because of ’20-minutes of action’, seeming to completely forget the life his son completely altered in that time.

Now, before I continue, let me reiterate that I stated the overwhelming majority of men will not experience these things; at no point have I stated that it won’t ever happen to men. I do not deny the existence of boys who have been sexualised or sexually abused while our culture either normalises it (‘sex with an older woman’) or forces it into quiet spaces. Many cultures openly make fun of men who are on the receiving side of any form of abuse when it’s perpetrated by a woman, which is absurd. So I’m not overlooking the fact that men can be and are abused, but I’m just not talking about it here.

It’s hard for me to have what people perceive as a ‘normal’ relationship to sex; throughout school, particularly from middle school on, I had questionable experiences with male teachers and my male peers. I can recount far too many instances that have changed how I view sex, that have changed how I view relationships with men. Too many things have happened for me to just ‘get over’ it, as my partner wishes I would do; like most men, he views how it affects him rather than realising that these are things I’ve had to live with and experiences I’ve had to learn from in order to survive. But all of those thoughts have made me realise that it’s past time for me to share my experiences. Not because I feel I’m obligated, but it is because I feel it’s right to do so.

(more…)

“You need to act like you’re part of a couple rather than a single individual.”

This statement is something I’ve heard repeatedly from men I’ve dated, and I still can’t understand it. Every single time I’ve heard it, I’ve asked how I could better do that; I’ve asked what it is that I do that makes me seem as if I’m not trying to be a part of this ‘couple’, and I never get an actual response. I don’t get examples of times I’ve shown that I wasn’t trying to be part of that ‘couple’; I just get “I don’t know,” and that leaves me with absolutely nothing to do other than to either continue on the same path or constantly question whether I’m doing enough or anything at all. Really, it probably leads me to do a mixture of the two, which is a pretty messed up way to deal with a relationship.

Perhaps there are cultural differences that I’m unaware of, as my partners have not always been of the same culture as myself. I try my best to take someone else into consideration. I try to do small things: helping them out when they get busy with work, making sure things don’t get forgotten, and listening to problems that they may have. I attempt to do favours when they ask them of me, as long as they’re within reason. I make an effort to do activities that I wouldn’t otherwise do so that we can have things to do together.

But I know my limitations; I’m usually not as physically fit as my partner, so I request that they scale back if they wish for me to do things with them. I don’t like the atmosphere of gyms, so I tell my partners who do enjoy them that it’s fine to go without me. I don’t have the current stamina or endurance to climb mountains (or, rather, lots of stairs built into mountains, for my current location); it hurts my knees, but I can still do it. I just request that my partner scales down to my ability level when they wants me to join them because, otherwise, I feel as if I should’ve done it on my own. That seems like basic courtesy and respect to me.

I also request that my partner treats my interests and hobbies with respect, even if they won’t participate in them. I’m not insulted that they’re bored by things that I find interesting; it’d be difficult to find someone who is a 100% match for every interest. Just don’t tell me what I should do with my free-time; don’t tell me that my hobbies are ‘wastes of time’ and that I would be ‘better off’ doing something else. I may not enjoy many of your hobbies, but I certainly am not rude enough to try to ruin them for you.

When it comes to friendships, I never ask that my partners stop seeing their friends, but I do ask for advance notice of things like parties or dinners. I have social anxiety, so I need some time to prepare myself. I also need to know what kind of environment I’m entering. Is it a casual or formal event? How many people are going to be there? What will be expected of me at those events? At no point have I ever demanded that any of my partners stop going to events or stop seeing their friends; I just ask for information that would enable me to be more comfortable in those environments, allowing everyone to enjoy it more.

But – and this is particular to my current partner – when he points out that he’s stopped seeing his friends so that he could spend evenings with me, I find it a ludicrous example of things he’s sacrificing in the name of ‘being a couple’. First, I would never once ask him to do that, and I most certainly don’t agree with doing it. It’s absurd to think that a person should isolate themselves for a single person, regardless of what their relationship is. Second, I moved to a whole new city in a different country; I left my friends entirely, which means that I’ve literally sacrificed being able to spend time with them because I can’t. Despite the fact I’ve told my partner that I think it’s healthy for us to spend time apart and with our own friends, he makes a decision and compares it to one that I cannot possibly make because it’s not even an available option. If he wants to play the Sympathy Olympics with me, I don’t think it’s wise.

It’s also important to me to encourage my partner to make their own decisions and enable them to be more comfortable in their lives. When something has zero impact on me, I don’t feel the need to press the issue with them. If they ask me for an opinion, I’ll give it to them; I’m not going to interfere with something that isn’t going to harm us, them, or me. Do they really need to go to the library today? Do they have to conduct their business in the way you deem proper, or can it be done differently? If there are multiple ways or times to do something, I don’t see a need to get on their case about it. Let them be comfortable.

But compromise is something I find necessary. I cannot spend time and energy forcing issues where they’re too stubborn, even if it impacts us or me. My partner’s health is always important to me, but I cannot see a reason to keep harping on about something they’re doing if it’s only going to impact them negatively. If your partner enjoys a once-a-week single-serving ice cream, let them be; let them have a moment to enjoy something they like. It’s not hurting you, and it’s more than likely not going to be the nail in their coffin. And this extends to more serious issues than just being able to enjoy food.

I also acknowledge that there are times where, honestly, I shouldn’t have specific conversations. If they’re not conducive to anything, what is the point? Why continue pressing issues that have no impact other than to provoke an argument? If I know that discussing certain political events – Hillary Clinton’s emails, for instance – is going to leave us having an argument over something that doesn’t matter – technology and how people who oversee departments view it – and create a negative environment, I’m well within my right to express how pointless it will be for the conversation to continue. It has no bearing on our relationship, and it’s only going to lead to us being frustrated with each other. It’s not censorship; it’s simple boundaries, and you’re pushing them. What happens when the conversation is more serious and actually impacts one of us? It’s not going to end well.

With all of that in mind, I’d like to ask again: What can I do to make myself more a part of this ‘couple’? Because the only thing I can see is to be more submissive, passive, and do everything as I’m told without any complaint or suggestion.

And that definitely isn’t a healthy relationship, nor is it ‘being part of a couple’.

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