Faggot is a dirty word


Welcome to the another edition of Fanny Fridays (shamelessly inspired by Grant Morrison’s Lord Fanny character from The Invisibles). These weekly posts examine the mirror of gender and sex that occurs between our culture and videogames. This time? Attempting to address the discourse we find in game communities.

Let me reiterate, faggot is a dirty word. So is pussy, nigger, bitch, or any of a number of slurs that I’ve heard over the last week of gaming.

Valve put up Team Fortress 2 for sale, and seeing as I did not own it, I purchased, downloaded, and started playing it last weekend. Not knowing what I was doing, I just started by randomly selecting servers with which I had a good connection and started playing.

I’m not sure why I was surprised. Initially I ignored the load screens for said servers, but after a few hours I started paying more close attention. Some banned racism, sexism, and slurs in general (I didn’t come across one that explicitly banned heteronormative insults). Ones that did not? I came to slowly avoid them, quickly disconnecting and going on the hunt for another.

Which makes me wonder, why?

This year marks a decade of my having been ‘out.’ In that time I have lived in states, attended schools, and found myself in company that did not see kindly to my correcting persons when slurs of the aforementioned kind were slung about as if language was just a joke and the people to whom it referred some form of societal inferior. Perhaps it’s because this year saw the first year in which I was physically assaulted for ‘looking like a faggot pussy,’ but I don’t think I can take it anymore, nor do I believe I should stick to places that will coddle me. Confining my habits based on the ignorant or deliberate maliciousness of others is not within my capabilities for a long period of time.

Playstation Home launched recently, and from the reports, playing a female avatar is less than empowering and generally is not a pleasant experience. Harassment isn’t a pleasant experience. It’s created a few posts, Tweets, and general discussion of the atmosphere gamers generate. Anonymous internet theory? In full blast.

Which brings up the internet age-old question of what do we do in such instances? Is it up to the service providers to police their own product, or should we as a community be the ones to push for a less hostile environment?

I tend to go for the latter, supported by the former. What I mean is an environment where I know I could go to the moderators of said product and receive support if need be after my own attempts have failed.

Instead, I’ve been trying a different tactic with mixed results: stay in the game and let it be known that what is being said is not cool.

Why?

If I listen closely, on most of the servers on which I’ve played, it’s usually one or two people who are bandying about the offensive terms. If I speak up, sure I’ll have faggot hurled in my direction. Here’s the catch: what’s new? I, personally, have been insulted any number of times in real life for daring to speak up in hostile environments, or just walking down the sidewalks, minding my own business.

Am I asking for it?

I am asking for acknowledgment and acceptance, yes. Any time a person tells you about his or her wedding, boy- or girlfriend, or recent date, what is being subtly exchanged is an acknowledgment and acceptance of what has been presented. I am not even asking people to accept any of those, I am merely asking for the same in regards to my person. As is someone who is of a different race, sex, gender, or what-have-you.

It seems an uphill battle, but it is one that sees its victories. I have also had people find ways to directly message me and thank me for standing up and saying something. These people may or may not speak up at the time (it varies), but it sets an example of a time someone voice an opinion. People are often quite passive and allow a range of abuses that are hurled until someone stands up against them. Look at it as being a shield that someone can step behind and further support.

Is this the solution to everything? Will this magically cure the effort to bring about civil discourse not laced with hate speech?

No.

But I am asking you to speak up before you just step away and find a more safe server, group, or community. We all need those bastions of support, but it is just as important for us to at least attempt to sway one person; there are no illusions on my end that the person you sway will be the offender (it’s possible, but not probable), but instead someone else who may be listening will get the message–not just the words, but the cause. Much like with champions of equal perception and treatment of people from any of varying backgrounds, it does not gain foot by just those people standing up and making their voices heard, but also enlightening and giving a new voice to the population behind which anyone can stand.

I’m asking a lot: Stand up and likely face abuse? Make an effort that will at times be completely futile? I am asking it regardless. Be a voice, not just angered.

About Denis Farr

Writer interested in intersectionality, games, comics, nerdy stuff in general, theater, and how it all mixes. Graduate of Wabash College, with studies in Theater, English, German, and Gender Studies.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Faggot is a dirty word

  1. In case you didn’t see this on Kotaku, it’s a pair of psychologists’ take on < HREF="http://kotaku.com/5093970/vexed-by-online-bigots-language-psychologists-say-they-want-you-to-be" REL="nofollow">responding to bigoted speech in online games<>.I think their take is actually correct. Being offended is reacting in the way the bigoted speaker wants you to. The best response, in my opinion, is the mute button. What the speaker wants is attention, the best thing we can do is deny them that (and kick them from the server if you’re the host).

  2. Denis Farr says:

    There is a way to speak up, say it’s not cool, and not act offended, however. Whenever dealing with such, I’m much more prone to keep a level head. As I stated, I’m primarily doing such for the benefit of others, rather than attempting to influence said person. I’ll also speak up when these remarks are focused on someone other than myself. If it becomes more direct, I’ve at least stated my case, and then I start muting.There is no point in a protracted argument that goes nowhere beyond the initial stage.It reminds me of a quote, which I shall badly paraphrase and cannot correctly attribute: You have offended yourself, I have done nothing but exist. It’s what I keep in the back of my mind when I tell people, “Hey, not cool. Be civil.”Which means I should have included the caveat that one has to go into raising such consciousness with the mindset that one will not personally be offended (or at least not let it show).

  3. Yeah, totally. The second of the two professors in that article suggests calling things out without giving the insulter the rise they were looking for.I wasn’t saying your post was in error or anything; I just thought it was interesting there had actually been some academic thought applied to this issue.And it’s fierce bullshit, don’t get me wrong. It’s hurtful, even if it’s not directed at someone else and in a lot of ways, it’s the worst thing about games and gamers. It takes a lot of restraint not to get pissed, but as a community, that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to call it as the bullshit and then stop listening if people don’t shape up.So yeah, I think we’re on the same page here. I just wish more people were. And maybe they are and they’re just not as vocal about it. In which case, they need to read your blog and take this post to heart.

  4. Scott Juster says:

    Anonymity and lack of consequences can be powerfully destructive to a social environment, and on-line gaming is a prime example.Regardless of how bad it is out there, I remain hopeful for a few reasons:1. Gamers are growing up – as more and more gamers creep towards “adulthood” (whatever that means ;-) ), I would guess that at least some of them would gain maturity as they grow.2. The increasing complexity of on-line social networking allows non-hateful types to find each other and strengthen their communities. Additionally, this also makes it easy to isolate folks who refuse to be civil.3. We talk about hate more openly now than ever before, which has lead to some good ways of facing it (such as the “cool-headed” technique you mention in your post). Tools to fight prejudice will only continue to become robust.Anyway, I’m glad you wrote about this. I usually find myself simply ignoring bigoted comments, and it was a good reminder that sometimes non-action isn’t enough.

  5. Drew says:

    Whoa. No clue why Blogger went nuts and decided to link a bunch of my posts to this particular post of yours, though.Good post, by the way.

  6. The End says:

    I recently signed on the the Playstation Home Open Beta. I was excited about it at first. But since I have to used the stupid on-screen keyboard to communicate, it’s a slight drain on my patience at the moment.On top of that, the environment seemed hostile enough that I didn’t see the point of being there. Am I going to make friends with the hordes of kids spewing hate speech at each other? Or am I just going to get tired of stepping between the girl trying to enjoy the scenery and the guy harassing her with canned dance moves and crude and ignorant pickup lines?I suppose I’ll have to wait and see.

  7. Good for you, Denis. I’m inspired by your stance to do much the same in the future.

  8. My business partner is gay, and we run a TF2 server for our community. As such, we clearly don’t tolerate malicious slinging of the word “faggot” on our server, and everybody who belongs to our community knows that. When we get the random pub that comes on and acts a fool, they get kicked immediately.That said, the word “faggot” is thrown around so casually in gaming that once in a while we get honest bewilderment by people who have been kicked for saying it. A few times, I’ve kicked a player for calling someone a fag, and they come back on and actually apologize and then continue on playing in a civil fashion. I have never had that with people who call people “niggers”, however.It’s interesting to note that depending on where you’re from, “faggot” carries different weight. While “nigger” is basically universally reviled at this point, I think it’ll be a while before “faggot” carries the same weight. I’m no linguist, but I find it interesting. At any rate, it can be hard to police this kind of thing, especially when you run a gameserver. I find that your levelheaded approach is best. Clearly, as a gamer, my gay friend hears ‘faggot’ constantly, and the word bothers me just as much, but I’ve found that being cool about it and saying “Hey. Not cool. We have gay gamers on this server” tends to work far better than getting pissed and shouting at them and kicking them without warning. Usually when you act cool about it, people apologize, and continue playing peacefully.

  9. Denis Farr says:

    @Nels: That’s what I get for skimming the article. Will read it more carefully. It is actually heartening that there has been research on this topic, as I do believe it creates a new way for us to look at how self esteem can be affected beyond just the usual media images.@Scott: I was just thinking we’ve come a long way, though I tend to keep striving for further goals. Fifty years ago, I would have been jailed for speaking about these topics so openly, most likely.@Drew: Must have missed it. What exactly did Blogger do?@TheEnd: It becomes more difficult to do such, I agree. In that case, I’m not sure what to suggest–once again my PC bias shines through my words.@Daniel: After reading your words in that one message board that was linked to on Twitter a few weeks ago, I think you’ve already been doing quite a bit.@primesuspect: Which is why I think it can sometimes be useful to state that something is not cool before just ignoring/kicking. Some people are genuinely surprised (while nigger would be the most extreme example, there are still subtle race ones that still make their way into our language) when they realize something that has been rote is not acceptable in some communities. I’ve never run such a community, but am glad that ones such as yours do exist for when we need a respite.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s