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Fighting Sexism With Fire

 

"You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain," said Harvey Dent before becoming Two-Face in "The Dark Knight."  We shouldn't turn the other cheek against women beaters like Chris Brown just to stare and point our fingers at our culture's close embrace with misogyny. It is never OK to savagely beat a woman. Doubly so when the perpetrator is liable to skate by on apologies and ill-gotten good graces. Relativist ethics should not apply to concepts of brutality, including sexism, murder, or rape. What other profession would have Brown, still, after his brutality? He would be fired from his job as a CEO, or let go as a company manager. A line must be drawn, filled in with cement and pressed with a steamroller. Thick as our culture is with misogynistic concepts, we are still aware of the wrongness of oppressive behavior, but at times the cultural bubble gets too obtrusive for its own good. Patricia Hernandez, Kotaku columnist, tweeted "I'd forgotten about spanish musical classics with lyrics like 'hit your woman with a club, hit her with a club, she'll like it,'" discussing some of the music her Central American relatives listen to on get togethers. To remove sexism and racism from the discussion, we have to ensure it is erased from the cracks of the sub cultures of which it oozes downward; That certain acts are never OK, no matter how perverse our view from the hazardous shards of broken cultural inference.  

 

Enough has been said about the misogyny prevalent in the hip hop culture, and I use "hip hop" loosely, as it's become a blend of R&B as of late, much to '90s era Wu-Tang Clan's dismay, but not much has come from it. If the video game community, one so inherently misogynistic it actively tries to purge women through blatant acts of hate, can become self-aware enough to begin to heal, then so can hip hop. Chris Brown's latest single, however, is apologist culture at its slimiest.

 

"I don't wanna go there/ We should never go there," sings Brown. Of course, let's not go there, because why make ourselves uncomfortable discussing things that occurred in the past. This is the present, and bitch, don't judge me. Regardless of what Brown is singing about, in this case a rumor involving a girl he may or may not have cheated with, it doesn't matter cause he's Chris Brown, so, "can we change the subject?" 

 

Maddy Myers recently wrote of her experience penetrating the conservative fighting game community's core, where the boys seemed to treat her with detached confusion and misplaced intrigue: 

 

"A couple guys come up and try to make conversation with me. They both ask the same questions: 'What are you doing here?' 'Why did you come?' They seem genuinely curious. My response — 'I just wanted to play' — doesn't satisfy either of them. They keep asking that same question with different wording. So I say 'I don't know' until they go away."

 

Can we change the subject?

 

"This is a community that’s, you know, 15 or 20 years old," said Aris Bakhtanians, speaking of the fighting game community. "And the sexual harassment is part of the culture." I can imagine Brown saying similar things, and if we tug on that cord we'd find that he's right. That's no excuse, though, for his vile abuse of a former girlfriend. If Brown, or other misogynists like Bakhtanians, were truly unaware of the despicable nature of their behavior, we could argue they couldn't be held morally responsible for their acts, as their moral ineptitude would be intrinsic from their culture. But they both were already aware that assault on women and sexual harassment are horrible acts, how could they not be? They committed them anyway, because their culture embraces it more than it does shun it. It says, if you get caught then just apologize your way out of it: You've learned now, that this is bad, because you got caught doing it by people not as warped by the culture as you, so you've changed.           

 

"Just let the past, just be the past/ And focus on things that's gonna make us laugh."

 

Of course, though, there has been a backlash against Brown, but mainly because he was supposed to be this squeaky clean teenaged boy who sings about love, not a hardcore thug who beats women up. If he were a self-proclaimed thug, hardly a soul would question him, because everything then would be according to the plan. Like when students at Spellman College protested Nelly's "Tip Drill" video for its misogynistic and stereotypical treatment of black women, and while Essence magazine picked up the story by launching a "Take Back the Music" campaign, the media at large showed little interest. Or when a congressional hearing investigated Don Imus' "nappy-headed hoes" comment and hip hop culture's blatant misogyny and racism, the mainstream media kept out of it. It seems the general public isn't interested in the meta happenings of misogynist culture unless it's concerning less "hip hop" hip hop artists. If any hip hop acts do have the audacity to speak out against the established oppressive tropes, their songs must be soaked in a pop culture coating so dank, so impenetrable, that its meaning is muddled underneath a distractingly sugary coating. Those with the gall to speak clearly and passionately are labeled as "conscious" and relegated to underground sectors to be passed around ciphers of like-minded listeners, left largely unheard by anyone whose mind needs changing. As for the mainstreaming of backpack rap, it's come out of adolescence a hipster, without being hip to anything other than its own petulant Swag. 

 

Unfavorable repercussions may be the deterrent keeping the media from waging total war on hip hop misogyny, much like the volatile payback videogame culture's bottom feeding trolls showed Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist media critic, when she spoke out against the roles of women in video games. She was subsequently harassed by an anonymous horde of, as she put it, "male gamers who feel like gaming belongs to them." In particular, by a brutal Flash game with a not so subtle title, "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian," allowing players to punch a depiction of Sarkeesian until her face swells to a bloody pulp. 

 

These Internet Soldiers of Nothing, however, aren't on just one side, as group mentality is a weapon much like fire, with social media providing the kindling. Steph Guthrie, a Toronto-based feminist and defender of Sarkeesian, located the Twitter handle of the creator of "Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian," Bendilin Spur, and tweeted "So I found the Twitter account of that fuck listed as creator of the 'punch a woman in the face' game. Should I sic the internet on him?" What follows is an army of Twitter users attacking Spur, their reach extending as far as Spur's own hometown paper. In the process, Spur's potential employers were alerted to his Sarkeesian game, his private information shared online, and his Twitter account suspended without reason. 

 

None of that compares, however, to the payback the Internet gave Paul Christoforo of Ocean Marketing for his unprofessional and downright cartoon-villainy toward a customer who ordered the PlayStation 3 Avenger controller, a controller created for accessibility. After a series of emails between the customer and Christoforo, Christoforo threatened to cancel the customer's order and sell the controller on eBay. The email thread went viral, and Penny Arcade's Mike Krahulik banned Christoforo and Ocean Marketing from PAX. After the typical chest-beating on Christoforo's part, the rest of the Internet decided to step up for the little guy and tear a well-deserved hole in Christoforo's reputation. Destructoid, IGN, Nukezilla, GamerFront and TechCrunch, among others, ran articles covering the incident, highlighting Christoforo's ignorance and shady practices, including plagiarizing articles for his blog. In little more than two days, Christoforo became an official Internet meme, mocked in a tweet from Geico, received over a 1000 dislikes on his YouTube video, almost 300 one-star reviews on Amazon, was publicly disavowed by an IGN editor, received thousands of spam emails and even phone calls which Christoforo claims harassed his wife and newborn. 

 

"There appears to be a greater number of these dungeons than one could have imagined the hard heart of tyranny itself would contrive," wrote Helen Maria Williams of the Bastille after the French Revolution. Immorality, our enemy, should be struck down. Fuck sympathy. Examples must be made if there's any hope left to quell the further cementing of cultural prejudice, misogyny and overall immorality in our societies. We should sic the Internet on those on the wrong side of morality, beheading them, fastening chains to even the skeletons of past foes deep down in the recesses of the darkest corners of the Internet. Even if it comes at the cost of losing our souls in a fistfight with them, it is the only way for us to continue to live righteously, if at all. 


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