Making Light

[TRIGGER WARNING for discussion of domestic and sexual violence (not graphic).]

This post contains a spoiler for Metal Gear Solid 4.

This morning I was trying to listen to the Joystiq Podcast’s Metal Gear Solid 4 special from last year, having just finished the game last night. I had to stop halfway through because I just could not stand David Hinkle’s misogynistic jokes any longer* (thank goodness he isn’t a regular on the show).

But I’d like to address one of his comments in particular. The one where he “joked” that Naomi deserved to die, because she “broke my man Otakon’s heart.”

Naomi did lead on Otakon and use him, though she also makes it clear she genuinely liked him. And she deserved to die for that? Really?

Hinkle, I found out this week that a young woman who went to my high school, who graduated with my sister, was killed by her ex-boyfriend, one week after she dumped him. Did she deserve to be killed for breaking his heart? Evidently he thought so.

I didn’t know her very well, but hearing this “joke” reminded me of her, and brought back all the sadness from when I first found out about this. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for family and friends of a domestic violence victim to hear someone joke around about such things, as if they are insignificant, as if they don’t actually happen.

In fairness, Hinkle isn’t the only game journalist to make light of violence against women. This week, I also unsubscribed from the GiantBombcast because Jeff Gerstmann just will not stop making jokes about domestic violence. He compared himself to a “battered wife” because he keeps playing bad Sonic games (this is not the only place I have heard this comparison). It’s really easy to, you know, not buy and play Sonic games if they are so bad. Calling yourself a “battered wife” because you “keep coming back for more” makes a joke out of ACTUAL battered wives, ACTUAL abused women, who are emotionally and financially dependent on their abusive husbands, who CAN’T just up and leave.

I can’t speak about the rest of the world, but the US has some serious attitude problems about domestic violence. When the average person hears a story about a woman abused or killed by her husband, they don’t ask “Why would he hit her?”, they ask instead, “What did she do to provoke him?” or, most commonly, “Why didn’t she leave?” In other words, most people immediately blame the victim for her abuse, placing the onus on her, rather than on the abuser, where it belongs. In a society where we force victims to take responsibility for their abuse, comparing being an abused wife to buying a fucking video game reinforces the narrative of the woman who is too stupid to just leave, as if leaving were as easy as not buying a game.

Stop making it easier for your listeners to blame victims of domestic violence.

Further reading:
Feminist Gamers (A post about Melissa Batten)
Two posts from Better By Design:
Melissa Batten
Game designing while female (about Jade Raymond)
(If anyone knows of any other articles related to making light of domestic violence, please post them in the comments and I will add them here. I did a brief search but was only able to find posts about sexual assault jokes, which have similar ideas but isn’t quite the same thing.)

* The last straw was when the others were joking about how, if Tomonobu Itagaki, creator of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive, made a game about Raiden, he would give Raiden huge, jiggling breasts (I actually thought that was pretty funny). Hinkle said: “[Raiden] is a whiny bitch, so maybe he deserves a pair of hooters.” Translation: Raiden is such a “whiny bitch” (bonus points for the gendered slur!), he might as well be a woman. WOW. Just wow.

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7 thoughts on “Making Light

  1. Joystiq reports on Jay Mohr’s hosting of the 12th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. Mohr’s most-reported “joke” of the event mocked the assault against Rihanna and was both misogynistic and racist. Griffin McElroy (who, based on the text, was not present) celebrates the remark at the end of the post in a juvenile way.

  2. Thanks, Jonathan, I hadn’t seen that post. (So other readers don’t have to search for it, it’s here: http://www.joystiq.com/2009/02/20/dice-2009-jay-mohr-pokes-fun-at-developers-at-aiaa-awards/ )

    “Thugs beating up ho’s”… Unbelievable. There are no words.

    Not to mention the one comment saying how messed up that “joke” is is voted down to a light gray. And video game bloggers wonder why they have a hard time finding women to write for them? The environment is just toxic.

  3. Could you put a trigger warning at the top of the post? It’s not clear from the title that you’re going to address triggering issues such as domestic violence and sexual assault and survivors of abuse deserve a warning so that they can avoid the post if need be.

    In terms of other posts, I also wrote about Melissa Batten.

    In terms of other posts, I’m a little surprised that you didn’t link your GTA IV post.

    Personally, I would also consider what happened to Jade Raymond to have been an act of sexual violence, even though she wasn’t physically assaulted.

  4. Thanks for taking the time to call this out. It is far to common for us to blame the victim and the usual response is that we are being to serious. People need to learn that every time we just let this sort of commentary go we are encouraging the idea that violence against women is acceptable.

  5. Thank you, Renee!

    Andrea, thanks for the reminder. It is kind of messed up that I remembered to put a spoiler warning but not a trigger warning =(

    I didn’t link the GTA post because it doesn’t address domestic violence specifically. I will add your posts, though, thanks again.

    • Andrea, thanks for the reminder. It is kind of messed up that I remembered to put a spoiler warning but not a trigger warning =(

      Unfortunately we live in a culture where you’ll get jumped on terribly if you forget your spoiler warnings, but most people don’t even know what a trigger warning is.

      I didn’t link the GTA post because it doesn’t address domestic violence specifically.

      It discusses the making light of sexual violence against women and sex workers in particular. Personally I think that the two are related because both domestic violence and violence against sex workers are rationalized in a similar way; namely that those women can’t really be victims because the fact that they were around to receive the violence means that they “consented”.

      Victims of domestic abuse are seen as “consenting” because, as you pointed out in your post, there’s this meme of“If she’s being abused, why doesn’t she just leave?”that obscures the brutal realities of what living with abuse (both physical and verbal/emotional) is like. Since sex workers will trade sex for money as a job, this translates in most people’s mind to them losing their right to “consent” (or just having their “consent” switch permanently in the ON position). This mindset is, of course, also applied to those who can be proven to be “sluts”.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think that making light of domestic violence isn’t just about domestic violence, but is rather part of the greater societal meme of making light of sexual violence of all kinds (especially when the victim is a woman).

      PS. I just wanted to make sure that you were aware that the blog theme now allows you to reply directly to comments. It’s a new-ish feature of WP and I made sure to make the current theme compatible with it.

      • That’s true… and thanks for filling a hole in my reasoning. After I wrote this I thought there was something I was missing, and the consent issue was part of that. Clearly there is a stronger connection than I originally thought. And it’s an important one.

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