March 18, 2011

Violent games

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:14 pm by sacetalks

Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day. While its original purpose is linked to a popular figure in the history of Christianity, it has now become a holiday to celebrate the Irish, drink green beer, and pinch people who choose not to, or forget to, wear green on March 17.

For me, the pinching part seems more from my days in Elementary and Junior High School than my experiences as an adult. However, sometimes even adults pinch their friends, co-workers, brothers and sisters, etc for failing to wear green clothing. While this might seem like a light-hearted game, it involves potentially painful physical aggression towards a person who may not voluntarily agree to being pinched. I know. I’m a party pooper.

Which brings me to the real intention of this post – there are a lot of behaviors, attitudes and ways in which people interact with each other that are harmful, painful, derogatory and violent, such as name calling, hitting, discrimination based on race, sexual harassment, etc., that we minimize with phrases like, “Oh, I was just having a little fun,” “It’s no big deal,” “It’s just a joke,” “I’m only racist when I drink,” “Why do you have to be such a prude?” Those phrases are used to both minimize the harmful and negative consequences of words and/or behaviors as well as cut down the voice of anyone who chooses to speak out in resistance to their minimizing tactics. If I say pinching people on St. Patrick’s Day is a way to normalize violence as a game, and someone calls me a prude, that is their effort to make what I’ve just said less legitimate.

There are a lot of words we can call people to de-legitimate what they have to say and what they choose to do. Some include: prude, stupid, lame, idiot, snitch, frigid, bitch, gay, faggot, freak. They represent one of the ways language has so much power to distort and create the meaning we make of our lives by de-legitimating the voice and perspectives of certain people.

And they have central roles in how groups of people can justify violence.

For example, in a environment like a Junior High School, boys pinching girl’s bottoms can become a game, something that is fun, and anyone who questions it is a prude, stupid, lame, a snitch, frigid, a bitch, gay, a faggot. Those words help minimize the reality of sexual harassment and distort that reality into a game in which the only participants who matter are the ones who enjoy the game. People who speak out, who refuse to participate in the game, face name calling tactics that take away the power of their resistance and legitimate the violence that is being done to people in the act of sexual harassment.

Sometimes, we think that these words are harmless and we’re just using them in good fun. It’s important to realize that they have a powerful impact in dictating how we interpret the world around us, potentially transforming a violent world into one we see as frivolous fun. In the use of those words, we lie to ourselves, cover-up our misdeeds and silence the opposition of those who suffer from violence.

by Meagan Simon

 

** Please note that comments from this post have been deleted. If anyone has concerns regarding this, they can contact SACE at (780) 423-4102 or e-mail in regards to the blog at info@sace.ab.ca

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