As common users of the internet know well, every once in a while there is a picture, gif or video that shakes up the online world. Sometimes it’s light-hearted, like a grumpy cat or success kid meme. Other times, things get serious. Two such examples are the videos by Anita Sarkeesian on female tropes in video games and the street harassment video, featuring actress Shoshana Roberts. Honestly, I was excited when these videos made heads turn. Finally, we can have this very necessary discussion on sexism in our culture. Finally, women can feel welcome to share their experiences and join a public discussion on how they are made to feel on a daily basis. Perhaps most important, finally women can be threatened with rape and murder when they dare to speak their minds.
I’ll put all the cards on the table right now. I don’t necessarily agree with Anna in every video she creates. She makes good points, but I also feel there are aspects of video game culture she neglects to mention. When it comes to the street harassment video, I’m much more supportive, though I admit many of the comments she gets are hard to define as harassment out of context. Trust me, “hey beautiful” can be flattering or creepy depending on how, when and where it is said.
Despite all that, these videos make it glaringly obvious how big of a problem sexism is in our country and across the world. Perhaps America enjoys more gender equality than other nations in the world, but clearly we are far away from regarding each other as equals. Just look at the comments.
As far as I’m concerned, these videos could be 100% false and contrived and the comments on the videos would still display a clear sexism problem. Discussing the message of these videos, and even being a little insulting, is just fine. “I think you’re a lying jerk and I completely disagree with your message. I don’t think that video shows harassment and I think the other video is cherry-picking video games to make a point.”
GREAT! Let’s have a discussion!
“You’re a b**ch. I am going to rape and murder you. If you come speak at my college, I will shoot up the school!”
Um…………… no. A comment such as the one above does not want to have a discussion. It aims to shut it down. It makes people afraid to so much as mention these issues, let alone discuss them in the open. These threat effectively shut down the discussion. While I’m sure there are threats made toward people who speak out on a number of issues, this one sticks out because the loudest voices are the voices trying to shut down the discussion.
It makes me sad as I type on the internet, because I have thought twice about typing this article. When I came up with this idea, I was a little more afraid than when I wrote the post on why my religious ideas cause me to support homosexual marriage. Writing my Tuesday post on rape made me afraid as well, but this topic is a whole new thing.
Obviously, I’m writing about it so I won’t be silenced. Still, that doesn’t stop an internet troll from trying to threaten me. I’ve seen women severely harassed online for so much as mentioning these discussions. Little do those people know, as they vehemently claim there is no sexism, these videos are stupid and those women should die, that they are the acting proof of sexism in the world.
Maybe I’m too much of an optimist. Maybe I expect too much out of the internet. I know there are women with far more problems than cat calling across the world. To think their issues are being ignored because these videos became popular would be incorrect. However, our culture is not perfect. It will never improve and may even regress if we don’t keep having good discussions about who we want to be.
Is that street harassment video full of crazy, horrible, threatening street harassment? That depends on who you are. Every girl has had a guy say to them “hey there, girl” in a way that made them uncomfortable. Intuition goes a long way. One of the commenters on my blog Tuesday mentioned many rape victims had a suspicion about the perpetrator before they were attacked. The one comment that actually makes me angry is the guy who snaps back “hey, someone’s acknowledging you for being beautiful, you should say thank you more.”
Hey, maybe I’m having a bad day and your comment, good intentioned or otherwise, didn’t help. Maybe I’m in a hurry and didn’t hear you. Maybe your a stranger who I have an uncomfortable feeling about, so I don’t feel like engaging you.
Maybe these videos are more important than we think. Rape most commonly happens during the day, near the victims home and without drugs. What if telling women to ignore these – let’s call them microagressions – is telling them to ignore their intuition. What if women who have a bad feeling about men who speak this way to them have a good reason for feeling that way? What if boys who play video games are more sexist than other men? What if they are more likely to harass women?
Worst of all, what if we never have the answers to those questions because people (i.e. internet trolls) try to silence women starting the discussion every chance they get?
Have you seen the harassment video or some of the video game videos by Anita Sarkeesian? What do you think about the comments these women have gotten? Do you agree or disagree with their messages? How do you think these videos and their comments reflect on sexism, or lack there of, in our culture?
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