Trigger warnings: Penny Arcade (read: rape and rape apologism)
I’ve been watching this Penny Arcade business with some interest. After all, I wrote about it for The Border House way back in August. August, mind you.
Many, many people have written about this topic now, and what I wish to contribute at this point is one more voice to make clear that I find how this has all unfolded abhorrent. One of my best friends in the States and I had this discussion–we disagreed on most points about the original comic. At the very least, we had a calm discussion about it and were able to not resort to mocking each other over it. I’m not sure if I communicated my viewpoints on rape culture to him effectively, but he was willing to listen.
However, mocking has come from the side of Penny Arcade. The threats by many anonymous people on Twitter to persons who spoke critically. The invalidation of rape experiences.
I will quite clearly state that I am a survivor of both rape and four years of molestation. The fact that I would be asked to prove such by some rather angry Twitter folks (which hasn’t happened, Courtney has taken the brunt of that, unfortunately) is only more triggering. See, the other side of the coin, as people have been pointing out over and over again, is the dismissal of other peoples’ triggers and experiences. Have you sat in front of a jury and had their judging eyes leveled at you, while sneering? Had your gender and sex called into question because of what happened to you, not something you did? All of this on top of reliving an experience you would rather not.
Asking for the burden of proof for someone who has been raped, as I have seen done to Courtney, is absolutely out of line (besides, one does not need to have been raped in order to find something worrisome). Yet our judicial systems, alongside that of our peers, shames most people into wishing to avoid the circus of a trial. If this cannot paint for you the picture of a rape culture, I’m not entirely sure what can. Systemically. Systemically there is a rape culture reinforced by our very courts–victims’ rights are a joke. There is very little cultural support for a survivor of rape.
Now, I’ve had discussions with people how the fans who are doing such are a fringe of the main Penny Arcade fanbase. Which might be true, for all I know. However, I also know the vehemence and number I have seen are hiding behind the Penny Arcade jerseys and team, and are not being dismissed in a public manner. One person being told to knock it off does not set an example.
The two men behind Penny Arcade have a public forum. What is not being said is just as loud as what is. This is a matter where not being forthright gives fans leeway to speak for you. The dismissive air with which Mike has acted only further incites fans who would attack people on Twitter, particularly when he tells people if they don’t like it, don’t read it. What is being said is that you should only cater to the part of the world with which you agree.
If only it were that simple.
As I’ve stated on Twitter a few times now, what it looks like to me, and this may or may not be true, is that Mike and Jerry have not fully grasped of what their community is capable. This also means they are not quite aware of their own impact on said community. Instead of focusing on such issues, the projection from Mike has been to set a clear line where there are the fans, and there are the other. The dissenters. The crazies. The “rape culture” people.
Dismissing someone for offering criticism and calling it censorship is a quick reaction that says one does not actively wish to listen. As I stated in my Border House blog post, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t spoken up when I found something offensive before. Not because I wanted to censor, mind, but because I wanted to raise awareness. After all, when the first person openly asked me if I was gay when I was in high school, I outright denied it. Sometimes I just don’t have the proper resources or energy to confront things. I am only human.
Which is why Mike’s reactions are confusing me. From my end, all the way in another part of the world, he has assumed the persona of the character in the comic. As I know he is not just a cartoon character, the disappointment stems from his not being willing to have more than a caricatured reaction. Whether or not he wishes it to be so, he is a public face of an organization.
Given the recent discussions the U.S. has had over both bullying and the very recent discussion of forcible rape (which is a term that brings a sneer to my lips), it is not difficult to understand why I enjoy having a community to which I belong, and where I can, as Mike has suggested, just not look at times. I don’t read the comic anymore. However, I had an inclusive experience at PAX East last year. That experience is not ruined, but I fear it can no longer be replicated at that particular venue.