12 October 2013

So, something weird happened recently in the gaming world. There was this Xbox One event at Eurogamer Expo 2013, where a transgender woman might have been “humiliated” by a comedian. Turns out it’s more complicated than that, and in the end everyone got out of there with a formal apology and looks like the case is closed.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the reaction some people had to this story.

So, I learned about the whole thing on Kotaku, which is known for two things: lacing their news with editorials, and tolerating an immense level of bullshit on their comment threads. So, naturally, there’s plenty of trolls and assholes in there, and since you should never underestimate the power of the GIFT on the Internet, then of course you’re going to feel depressed if you go in there without a supertanker full of salt. It’s like Reddit, but worse.

Many comments on there could essentially be summed up as “she should grow a thicker skin”. And that infuriated me, because it’s not the first time I see that kind of bullshit, and I figured now was as good time as any to talk about it.

Saying someone who is being verbally assaulted he or she should “grow a thicker skin” is essentially standard issue blame shifting. Because now the bad guy isn’t the one making the offensive comments, no, the bad guy is the one who can’t take them. Why is it acceptable to throw dirt at someone? And don’t you dare say it’s “not that bad”. I’m not talking about saying “fuck” or criticizing one’s taste in alcoholic beverage. Attacking one’s very identity is not acceptable. Whether it’s meant to be humor or not. You can probably get away with it if it’s obviously sarcastic, but sarcasm is sometimes hard to decipher, and even then you should first check if the person in front of you is okay with it.

As far as humor goes, there’s already so many subjects to joke about, going for stereotypes about minorities is essentially going for the low hanging fruit. It’s a pretty good example of laziness. Come on, you can do better than that.

There’s also the whole “freedom of speech” thing. Indeed, in most jurisdictions, it is not illegal to be a jerk. That doesn’t mean it’s something you should strive for. If you’re really proud to be an asshole, then I’m afraid you have bigger problems. Like not being invited to my birthday party.

I don’t say you should never be rude or never insult others. I’m just saying it’s still a type of violence. And I’m fairly sure most of you don’t punch people for fun, unless you know they don’t mind that kind of thing.

Said differently, whether it’s with words or fists, pick on someone your own size, coward.