“Slut Plate” Part 2: A Rebuttal and the Tyranny of Language

A list of search strings, various terms of highlighted in pink.

When I set out to make a point on my blog, it still surprises me at this “early” stage of getting my feet that people will not only take what I say seriously but run with it. Last week was a bit of a whirlwind for me – not just because I had a Serious Thing to Say, but that so many people agreed with me and passed the message on. There was also the usual round of criticism and I anticipated that. But the fact that it got discussed and debated and hotly argued over is really what impressed me. I like it when the things I think about open up a dialogue and make the gears start going with regards to our culture and how our language is symbolic of it. There were blog posts, comments and I even got linked as part of a larger post on WoW Insider.  I do want to address some things though before I tackle that particular hornets nest.

First of all, I felt like some people focused exceptionally hard on the precise terms I used. Is “slut plate” a term that has landslide usage? That could be debated, I move around in different circles than other people and I could say that they might be more prone to  using the term. However, is “slut plate” indicative of an very damaging, problematic concept that’s been going on for a while now? Oh, I do think so. (Warning: sexism/rape triggers) The screenshot linked as well as the header image are the search terms that lead to my blog – I know it was a joke tossed around that this is was a monster I birthed into being but I present to you some damning evidence that this is something that lurks in the hearts of many people who type things into Google. “Sassy plate” was my lighthearted attempt to at least use a term that didn’t feel so negative. I didn’t feel like people had to use it, but it felt a fair shade better than referring to something in such a harmful way.

The second and larger problem with talking about “slut plate” was that it focused on an entail without really giving my audience enough of a foundation in where my feelings were coming from on the armor in WoW in general, despite making several calls to it. World of Warcraft has a very problematic history with armor in that it’s consistently refused to give parallel coverage for both male and female characters in the game across all types of armor and that bothers me. It’s not a perfect system by any stretch of the imagination and I’d love to see that changed. However, giving people the option to transmog in or out of said armor is a slightly more preferable option from the outset. Wanting to destigmatize choosing skimpy armor when giving a free choice was my ultimate goal, but largely giving people a way of thinking about why the stigma was so harmful in the gaming world. It was pointed out to me that wearing said armor isn’t inherently a feminist choice in and of itself and yes, I do agree. We all make choices that lie within the larger cultural context, even in gaming culture. However, part of gaming culture is shaming people who make a choice that is “sexual” and that includes wearing armor that doesn’t cover. I want to abolish the sexist rhetoric that surrounds it, especially when it is women who make these choices and the language is incredibly gendered. I want to talk about it, I want to get a discussion going. I don’t want to stand idly by and accept that this is normal or acceptable. I felt like some people got angry about the mere hint that I might be trying to control their minds about how they view people who choose to dress like that in a video game, and honestly, I don’t care. If you really want to feel your feelings on other people’s sexual expression, even in a video game, that’s your right. However, the problem is when those thoughts and perceptions influence others when you say things.

That right there is the biggest issue I want to crack.

Words Are Words Are Words Are Words (Not)

Anne Stickney published a really interesting opinion piece on Wow Insider shortly after I posted up my piece on slut plate and it really made me think. However, I don’t know if it made me think in quite the way that Anne intended; I largely disagree with her opinion on where the power of words comes from. She makes some really good assertions but I think comes to an erroneous conclusion, despite grasping most of the problem. However, her bringing it up means we can have a larger discussion about it. This is why I’ve written this secondary piece – that and some of the frivolity that embroidered the Twitter replies and comments I saw on my blog and elsewhere about wanting to hang onto slut/skank as both descriptive terms and bon mots of all things. It is this idea that at the end of the day, words are words. They are malleable and flexible in terms of being divorced from their meaning and shouldn’t really affect you, as the reader or audience.

A-buh?

Let’s focus on the WoW Insider article instead – “What Makes a Bad Word Bad?”

Stickney talks about what words are – a collection of lines given meaning and used. Their meanings can change over time, even from negative to positive and vice-versa. Language is flexible and this is not an inherently new concept to discuss. However, she asks a lot of questions regarding this, in the true nature of criticism that I find appealing:

When did that happen, exactly? How did people take a word with one meaning and give it another — and more importantly, whydid we let it grow and fester into a word that we are now ultimately offended by?

If we have the power to change the meaning of a word from positive to negative, why do we seem to lack the power to stop it from changing at all?

It shows an awareness that language DOES have power. She then goes on to place that power squarely in the hands of those who are offended though.

It’s a power play, and there are far too many people out there who buy into it on a continual basis.

In short, it’s not the words that are harmful; they’re collections of lines. Placed in order, and given meaning. The person who gives those words meaning is the person who holds all the power over those words, not the person who is saying them. The person who is saying them is hoping beyond all hope that the ones who are listening are going to give those words the worst meaning possible and have some sort of negative reaction to it.

This makes me sad, ultimately, and while I feel I understand her personal motivations for the conclusions (I mean, who wouldn’t? It gives you a feeling of control) the fact that she’s espousing this across the board makes me upset. You cannot acknowledge that words have power but say it is all resting on the audience to grant that power to said words. No, the power of words is precisely why word choice is so thorny to begin with. Anne’s analysis skirts dangerously close to a couple of concepts that get tossed around in feminist discussion all the time: victim blaming (which we’ve touched on before) and the notion that things will stop hurting if we “get over” them hurting us. It’s a thick brocade of guilt, shame and blame that often traps most people are marginalized in some way.

Let’s pull it back to see why making a point like that is so boggling if it wasn’t evident from what I said already.

Language is a really fascinating thing – it isn’t just sounds, it isn’t just letters, it isn’t even just meaning or context or non-verbal/verbal gestures. It isn’t just tone. It is all of these things in a giant soup. They can be abstracted and pulled apart, mushed back together and analyzed a billion different ways. At its basest form, it is an attempt to put thoughts and feelings into a way that communicates them to an audience. We even think in “words” a lot of the time, which is a conversation to ourselves. Communication is the interaction that occurs between the sender and receiver, the speaker and the audience. The message and the medium, as Marshall McLuhan used to speak fondly about. Communication theorists, language scholars, and philosophers have all tackled the questions of the very nature of language and what it means, how it works. To me, the cornerstone of the process is words. Any way you want to look at language, you have to acknowledge that the gateway to all facets of its study is within words. A collection of lines or sounds, given meaning. They are the little sailboats we float across the river and hope drift safely to the far shore.

Where words get their meaning is a collection of simultaneous decisions on the part of us as a society, as groups, and as human beings. Words and their meaning can shift between precise and imprecise, with wildly different usages, histories or nuance given any number of things. As a communication graduate, a lot of what we looked at was how communication breaks down between sender and receiver and oftentimes that had to do with an imprecise or incongruous understanding of the meaning of what was said. The misfire between intent and reaction is fascinating. I could stand here most of the day and talk about why this occurs, but I’d like to interject two very big elephants in the room when it comes to the collision between language and social sciences.

I’d like everyone to say hi to Power and Emotion.

Power and emotion are two very complex, very different kinds of subjects that give some words and meanings more influence over others. It is what makes them more effective, more persuasive, more coercive, more harmful or beneficial. This is why Anne’s argument falls apart in my eyes. She feels that the power comes from the audience, but that’s looking at it from an emotional standpoint and it is a very lopsided way of understanding the dynamics between Power and Emotion. Words are given power by our collective society, and in turn, they have the power to make an audience feel things. In that way, she is correct, we do feel things from the words said to us. Anyone who has been taken by an enthusiastic speech or cut down by a sharp turn of phrase in a fight knows that words do hurt. We have the ability to be moved by the language of others. This is a natural reaction of sentience. However (and this is a fundamental part of philosophy and social issues), words and meanings have power that flows in from our larger network of societal advantages. A speaker can do a lot of things knowing what kind of power a word has, that’s the whole reason they are said. Our language has the power to inform, to shape our reality. This comes to a head when that power is given to the feelings of hate and discrimination we feel inside. Historically, there have been many groups we have cut down and kept down even with our words. Our words enforce and permit a cage that people can be trapped in, long after we’ve stopped physically harming them as a society (or even if we haven’t.) This is where the complex emotional latticework I mentioned before comes back into play. Even if the speaker has the privilege of not caring or not being aware of the power a word can have on someone, it still can wreck grievous harm on the audience. This is because words are never quite divorced from lived experienced, history, or context.

Pull this back out of abstraction and you have scenarios like this:

A woman is walking home from work in a big city. A car of young men drives by and shouts “SLUT!” at her. It feels scary. 

Same woman is reading the internet and comes across people in a video game discussing “slutty outfits.”

This might be a bit of an extreme example (thought it has happened to me) but it shows that one word used two different places can speak to a larger emotional experience as the audience and it comes from people having the power to denigrate the woman with their words. To say the people speaking said words are inscrutable and not culpable for wielding the power of destructive words and meanings is short-sighted and harmful. It gives people more social currency to continue not caring about how they affect others or gleefully allows them the permission to keep doing it for their own benefit. To chastise the audience (intended or not) for their feelings and to ignore the power we give words not only is double-faced (acknowledge that a word had power over you, now pretend it doesn’t have any power at all) but callous. While I believe is empowering if someone can move into a space of not being hurt by a long-standing slur or trigger, to believe that all people should move past it in the face of real historical or social inequalities (enforced and illuminated by words) is terrible. It says, “You should ignore people hurting you” when we should be focus on the people doing the hurting. We’re not stupid. We know what hurts people and when we don’t, and are informed that they do and why, why do we tell victims to shoulder it and move on? Why not acknowledge the feelings of others and become better people?

Does it suck to feel like shit all the time? Totally. I get, like I said before, the desire for control in a world that seeks to shit on your face regularly. Control and your own power where you’ve largely  had none. But I’m never going to feel comfortable turning around and telling people that it is their own fault that a word makes them upset when we’ve built social mechanisms behind making those words hurt as hard and long as possible, with very little consequences for people who use them thoughtlessly, aggressively, repeatedly. This is why gamer culture is feeling such growing pains lately – what has been a long-standing tradition of mocking those who feel hurt by legitimately hurtful things, to use words to denigrate and inflame others is now being criticized and studied, turned on its head. I do not accept Anne’s argument that we as people victimized by language are the sole arbiters of the power these words have when they have very large social contexts. When we let people in power speak the hate they feel in their minds and hearts, these words are a crushing blow to those they feel like discriminating. When you add in a culture that gives them a high five for doing so, that gives them justifications for dehumanizing people, it lets them compartmentalize their brains. It gives us things like “Well I didn’t mean it THAT way” because they do not value the feelings of their audiences.

It is a long standing edict in social justice discourse that “intent isnt magical.” What this means is that your intended meaning doesn’t matter if you hurt someone, what matters is that the hurt occurred. Gamers are some of the most egregious offenders of pretending that they can divorce their words and messages from their long-standing cultural meanings and viciousness to mean something “tame” and inoffensive. It is a false ability they believe they’ve been given when they’ve long been the group most likely to benefit from not being on the sharp pointy end of hurtful words.

We should not have to get over someone hurting us. What we should get over, as a culture, is using words to reduce others in a myriad of ways that speak to larger societal issues. We should stop letting our gaming spaces be trickle down streams of the gaping inequalities we still enforce in our culture. We should stop suckerpunching others with gross terms and smug positions of power and then telling our recipients to just stop feeling the blows. It is an argument that is the logical equivalent of “stop hitting yourself.” While I feel Anne’s heart was in the right place in that she doesn’t wish people to feel upset about the stupid shit people say, the fact that we should ignore the larger problems of said stupid shit is wrong.

Words are words, but they are very powerful things indeed.

 

37 Responses

  1. Absolutely fantastic post – this really helps to clarify and put more of a focus on things I was trying to grapple with and convey when trying to write up the Sleepy Hams etiquette page.

    On the other side of things – if our default response as a society is to tell the offended victim “Well, stop feeling hurt, it’s your fault” – I have to wonder if this has any impact on the flip-side of the coin, that of praise and kindness – do they have a harder time believing the good when they’re constantly being bombarded with the message that the only person that gives words any weight is them, and not the speaker? Getting a shot of Novocaine doesn’t just numb pain – it numbs all sensation, period. Just a random thought, I guess.

  2. This is why I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate the sadly predictable linking of Louis C.K. and/or Chris Rock’s bits about the word “faggot” every time someone says “please don’t use that word”. Hate it hate it hate it. “Well gosh I just love [affected group] but [injurious term] is SO MUCH FUN. I couldn’t bear to part with it.”

    Thanks. Totally feelin’ the love, dude.

    Like, it wasn’t really that hard for me to give up a bunch of horrible mannerisms I used as a teen once I finally developed a sense of empathy. Hell, even before the empathy happened I had friends call me out on some B.S. once and even though I didn’t get it, I understood that my friends were hurt by it and eventually went “ok, I’m sorry, I’ll stop.”

    Why is this always so hard for everyone?

    The only thing that complicates the “slut” issue is the phenomenon of stuff like the SlutWalks. I get what folks are trying to do with those, but I’m unsure if I think it can really be successful. But maybe it can! I dunno.

    • Yeah, Slutwalk is a case you could make for reclaiming a word. However, as a woman and a sexual assault survivor, reclaiming a word like slut feels really tricky to me and is more off-putting than not. Even if it did indicate the original reason why the walk was being held, I feel like there’s no way to really pull slut out of the clutches of a problematic past. Here’s one of those prime examples of words having shifting meanings and effects for multiple people but you have to be responsible in large, mixed audiences. Which a publicized walk is. I want it to BE successful, I’m not sure I can stand behind the name though (or the problems that some of them have been having with regards to holding up incredibly racist signs at some events, etc.)

  3. And sadly.. “slut” in reference to armour type is one of the milder used words that can offend. :(

    I really don’t think it’s ever going to change when anonymity is involved. Maybe for a minute few, but the general masses will still be “raping” those “retarded” “downy” “gays” in battlegrounds, and you even try to speak up, you’re a “retarded noob” who is clearly bad at the game.

    Honestly, the worst part of this entire thing, because I’m sure we all acknowledge that it’s quite sad on the playerbase’s behalf, but the fact that Blizzard will very rarely take action against people like that and if they do it’s usually for a racial slur. Gender and sexuality issues are very much a non-issue. :/

    • Maybe it won’t change, but I want to feel that we can change things even a tiny bit when we open up the lines of discussion. I feel that while still immensely shitty, the fact that more people are aware of this and involved is a good thing and means there’s some progress. Social movements don’t happen overnight.

  4. What Anne Stickney said was just a bunch of clichéd nonsense, she obviously has no idea what she’s talking about and just rambles aimlessly, trying to say something substantial based on your article, failed and probably did more harm than good.

    Do I sound angry? Yes I am, and I’m glad you put these topics out there and treat them with the intelligence they deserve!

    Ps: Maybe Stickney should consider reading “1984”… just to begin with.

    • It can feel really logical to blame people who are upset in the short-term if we feel a lack of control and powerlessness in our own lives. However, it disregards systemic power and historical applications of denigration and subjugation through language and physical actions to many different groups of people. It also disregards that emotional reactions HAVE weight and value. While yes, it isn’t smart to constantly remind yourself of how shitty the world is or can be (especially with regards to triggering material – for instance, I’ve had to move away from message boards and other places online that gave me agita every time I read them), the idea that this doesn’t somehow constrain a marginalized person is hilarious. I can’t shut out every instance of sexism in my life and the idea that I HAVE to get over it in the end is upsetting. It also forces a hierarchy of those who are “STRONG” enough to get “OVER IT” and those who are too “weak” to – feels very masculine, eh? Stoicism and all that. Emotions are babies, etc.

      This is why I had such problems with Anne’s summation, even if I felt she was grasping at the same questions I do all the time. She just came up with a conclusion I couldn’t logically support. However, I do support her ability and right to open up that discussion, it has given me the ability to post a rebuttal. That’s what is so nice about open discourse online.

  5. “If you really want to feel your feelings on other people’s sexual expression, even in a video game, that’s your right. However, the problem is when those thoughts and perceptions influence others when you say things.”

    You’re still espousing a double standard, then. If you’re going to fuss about expression, what you’re wearing is expression as well that affects other people. If you’re calling for someone to be shamed for what they offer in public, you can’t turn around and say you’re completely innocent for what you present to the public. Words have meaning, but so do clothes. You even noted last time that they communicate, you just want them to mean what you want them to mean, not what other people take them to mean. You can’t have it both ways.

    • “Don’t hurt people,” is not a double standard.

      Wearing clothes doesn’t hurt people.
      Calling someone a “slut” because of what she’s wearing – either real or virtual – does hurt people.

      I will never understand why the response to “please don’t do hurtful things” is “no, hurting people is my right.”

      • No, but she is asking to be viewed a certain way. That’s central to Apple Cider’s point about controlling the message and reclaiming the language. Thing is, what she (our generic she) is trying to communicate with her clothing and what someone else interprets isn’t usually the same thing. As is noted elsewhere, you can only control your response, not someone else’s, and you shouldn’t be surprised or take offense when someone else doesn’t agree with you or your interpretation.

        Incidentally, Cameron, I’m not calling for hurtful actions. Curious that you’d leap to that conclusion. I’m saying you can’t demand others think the way you do and then not afford others the exact same demand. That’s hypocrisy and yes, a double standard. If someone seeks to hurt you *with words*, the proper response isn’t censorship, it’s ignoring them and/or using your own terms.

        If anything, I agree that the “slut” insult is inappropriate and shouldn’t be a part of civil conversation.

        • Once again, to be clear, your position is that I’m not allowed to be offended or upset if someone assumes that the clothes I’m wearing express “rape me” and they then act on that expression? I can’t find another way to read it.

          I don’t think you understand that this is not an academic debate to 51% of the population.

          • I think Tesh’s point is that if someone provocatively then they are expecting to be viewed in a particular manner. Now the general and reasonable expectation would be “Hey, she looks sexy” a fairly non-offensive term to describe a skimpy outfit for example. HOWEVER…you cannot nor should you assume the person is reasonable. They may be that fool who interprets the outfit as “Hey, check out that slut”.

            So the receiver can choose to ignore the commenter or not have dressed that way to begin with knowing full well they cannot control the another person’s perceptions.

            Additionally…at no point was there advocating the crass “She was askin’ for it” mentality. Don’t read into it more than what is on the screen.

            The truth is…sometimes a situation is avoidable. Noe one is ever asking to be harmed, sexually or otherwise. But we are all guilty of sometimes making poor choices that can lead to us being harmed. Do we personally bear the full responsibility of our own harm…absolutely not. But generally speaking we always share some culpability (The primary exception to this is of course a child who has no true control, power, or ability to advocate for their own decisions – but that’s not part of this).

            I am curious what do you mean by “I don’t think you understand that this is not an academic debate to 51% of the population.”

            I don’t understand what that is in reference to nor who is represented by 51%.

          • @quori:
            “Do we personally bear the full responsibility of our own harm…absolutely not. But generally speaking we always share some culpability”

            This is literally the “crass ‘she was askin for it’ mentality” you insisted was not on the page. I am not misusing the word; that is actually, without exaggeration, what you are saying here.

        • Tesh –

          You have now made the argument that to both think you’re correct about anything and then to advance your view is necessarily hypocritical.

          Also, your objections continue to be irrelevant to the original post.

          To repeat once more the original thesis, as I understand it: don’t do hurtful things. Bam, that’s it, end of story. Everything else surrounding it is evidence in support of the assertion that calling someone a slut is hurtful.

          Wearing particular clothes is of course not hurtful. There is no conflict.

  6. Question. So some puritan or other ultra conservative or religious person or persons consider “sexy” to be a violation of some sanctimonious nonsense. Ostensibly, they are offended. Now we can certainly discuss about agreeing or disagreeing on whether or not “sexy” is derogatory or not. Its meaning, root form, etc etc. Point of fact, they’re offended. Do we stop saying “Sexy Plate” as a result?

    My point here is that Anne is correct to a point that words have power if you let them. A very wise Pastor and very good friend once told me “You are surrounded by a sphere of control. Everything inside the sphere you can control, everything outside of it, you cannot. The only thing in there is YOU!” To the point and so completely true. I cannot stop that fool from calling it slut plate or sexy plate or anything else. I CAN however, not use that term(s) myself, and tell the person they shouldn’t either.

    I think Anne’s point was to say if we as a player base ignore and not give power to such words or language, in time those that use it may in fact stop…seeing as how more than likely the entire driving factor behind then use of such language is in fact to wield power, control, or have affect on others. In short…don’t feed the trolls.

    Having said this, Apple, you are correct. Words can hurt. It is difficult to say the very least to stand there and listen to words that hurt and face them with composure and dignity. My wife and I are an interracial couple, and we have faced racism openly and quietly in its various forms. Sometimes words, sometimes tone, other times merely in body language. But screaming at someone and raging how wrong they are never helps. Quiet resolve however does. It defuses their power and control over us. Is it hard…sure is. My Irish blood boils and my heart beats loudly on my sleeve…but her calming hand on my back reminds me to not give them such power. That’s America. This is the first amendment in action.

    America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours. You want to claim this land as the land of the free? Then the symbol of your country can’t just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest. Show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms. Then, you can stand up and sing about the “land of the free”.

    Its from the American President, and it perfectly puts into perspective the status of language and its fair use in our society. You and I may not like certain words, and we can agree on not using them for every reason you have stated in these 2 posts….but we cannot assume all people will agree with us. We must accept that not all parties will feel offended or see any wrong doing with their use of such language with intended harm or not.

    Additionally, if you know that the very reason fools such as these use such language are in fact FOOLS….you can very well expect backlash for standing up and saying something. Your poking at a sleeping monster…its going to roar when it wakes up. You know this. As I stated before…I would prefer the folks at Blizz would simply have avoided some of the issues and been wiser and more sensitive in their choices of armor design. However, since many of them fall right into the same stereotype of those gamers using such language and terminology, I’m not surprised. The general population of games like WoW provide the right petri dish conditions for this swirl. Sad as it is to say.

    Point blank….I agree with you Apple. Truly I do, but my expectation of change I think vastly differs from yours.

  7. Why did you name your mage leveling guide, Leveling Through Misandry? Do you feel it’s appropriate to name a leveling guide that cuts out half of society before the fourth word? Do you find the title empowering somehow as though you have more control over your audience through man-hating? Or was it a joke, a satire, a giggle among friends that made it to the public web? That, combined with a two-post topic on a term that I nor any of my WoW friends had ever heard before, makes me feel very unwelcome here. Hard to engender honest discussion when you make it clear half your readers should not engage you in discussion. Or was this unintentional, that you did not mean to alienate and subtly insult all your male readers?

    We cannot know everyone’s mind. Sure, there are things we obviously shouldn’t say, but there are things that we think are benign that hurt others. How can I know everyone’s thoughts and feelings before speaking? Should I warn people whenever I speak? “Warning: May contain bad puns and silly sex jokes.” Why are someone else’s emotions more important than mine? Do they feel emotions more than I do? Strength of an individual’s emotion should not be basis for control of language.

    Both the speaker and audience are responsible here. As a speaker, I need to be cognizant of other people’s emotions, but not handcuffed or muted in hopes of not offending anyone. As an audience member, I need to understand that the speaker may not intentionally offend me, but, if he does, I have the right to correct him and/or leave. Blaming one party entirely for seizing control leads to unnecessary divides between the speaker and audience. Blaming society is unproductive at best. We’ve all been offended, insulted. The world would be an awesome place if hate speech vanished. It won’t. We can fight the good fight and tell people when they’re being hateful and hurtful. We also need to be prepared to cope when people are hateful and hurtful. This war won’t be won overnight.

    • I named it Leveling Through Misandry because that’s what my mage alt is called. Her name is Misandry. I felt it was a hilarious tongue-in-cheek reference to what bitter, angry men say about feminists like me. I’ve even been mistaken as a Men’s Rights Activist man before with that toon name since it’s such a prevalent word now around that part of the internet.

      I felt it appropriate since I actually, you know, named my guide that. And my mage. To suggest that a leveling guide that uses “misandry” in it really hurts or cuts out half the population is hilarious, considering that misandry, if you really want to discuss it seriously, nebulously exists since women in actual real world cultures do not have systemic societal privilege like men do. There’s no way me as a woman could hate a man in quite the far-reaching way that men can do every day. So quibbling over a joke using that word in a leveling guide (one that quite a few male WoW players have used to great effect) as hurting real people is hilarious. Why don’t we talk about actual women who get hurt by real stuff that real men say in WoW and create an atmosphere of hostility while trying to game?

      I’m legit glad you nor your friends have never heard of the term before, but just because your experience has never lead you to come across it does not magically make it not exist. And if women discussing a term that hearkens back to a larger problem that exists in the world makes you feel unwelcome…well, continue feeling unwelcome. Too bad, really. Stick around and learn something maybe and realize that not everything on the Internet is for you?

      When you say “honest” discussion, do you mean honest discussion that doesn’t automatically have a dude validating my experience or what? What about it isn’t honest? Does every discussion need a guy’s opinion in it? (Despite the fact that a few have weighed in on the topic, discussed it with me, blogged about it, promoted it…) Clearly I’m making it clear that guys shouldn’t be here!

      I like the presumption that my “exclusion” might be unintentional, as if I’m too stupid to grok what my words are doing and clearly you need to educate me.

      If you don’t feel welcome here, well, by all means, no one is forcing you to stay. If you want to legit come to the table, why don’t you drop that stupid first paragraph off at the corner and just respond with those last two there instead of being insulting from the outset. If any of this really bothers you, then I’m sorry but this blog isn’t really for you then.

      • When I say “honest discussion”, I mean coming to the discussion with as few preconceived notions and assumptions as possible. Open-minded and honest discussion would be ideal. Considering I had never heard of slut plate before, I came here wondering what it might be, what the blog would be about. “What is this? Something new on the WoW scene? Interesting. Let’s learn more about.” I leave realizing I walked into a trap topic, one in which I, because I am a man, have no chance of leaving unscathed. I suppose I could have walked away quietly, but if I’m getting beat up, I’m going down swinging.

        “There’s no way me as a woman could hate a man in quite the far-reaching way that men can do every day.” = All men hate women = I dont hate women. I love, honor, and respect my wife. I know many men who love, honor, and respect their female partners. = Your assumption is incorrect. I can’t imagine hating women. To assume that all men have a latent hatred of women is insulting and wrong. Some do, unfortunately, but to generalize is offensive and hurtful. Might as well stop right here as it’s clear that we’ll never see eye to eye if this is the foundation upon which all your arguments are based.

        “So quibbling over a joke using that word in a leveling guide (one that quite a few male WoW players have used to great effect) as hurting real people is hilarious.” = So it’s okay to joke about women hating men but not men hating women? You scream at men for ignoring the fact that words in virtual worlds can hurt women, but then you conveniently ignore that your words can hurt men in the real world? Or do you assume that men do not have feelings and thus cannot be hurt by words?

        “When you say “honest” discussion, do you mean honest discussion that doesn’t automatically have a dude validating my experience or what? What about it isn’t honest? Does every discussion need a guy’s opinion in it?” = I cannot help the fact that I am a man and I have thoughts on this topic. I suppose I could have a sex change, but that’s a bit radical for a blog comment. Because I am a man, does that invalidate my opinion and thoughts on the subject? Your experiences are more important, more complete, and, in short, better than mine? Not equal, but better?I never said that you needed a man to validate your experience. Dont put words in my mouth.

        “Clearly I’m making it clear that guys shouldn’t be here! I like the presumption that my “exclusion” might be unintentional, as if I’m too stupid to grok what my words are doing and clearly you need to educate me…If you don’t feel welcome here, well, by all means, no one is forcing you to stay.” = I’m having a difficult time discerning your actual message through all the sarcasm. Do you want me to stay and discuss or are you happy excluding people who dont wholly agree with you?

        “If you want to legit come to the table, why don’t you drop that stupid first paragraph off at the corner and just respond with those last two there instead of being insulting from the outset.” = Nevermind that you completely ignored my third paragraph. Whatever.

        “If any of this really bothers you, then I’m sorry but this blog isn’t really for you then.” = I’d be happy to have an open, honest discussion about language and it’s power. But I don’t converse with hypocrites who assume I am a horrible person because of my gender. I assume you would not want to converse with me if I made the same assumptions.

        • Lyraat, you’re really not conversing in good faith.

          You started from a position of “she will think I’m wrong because I’m a man.”

          This is untrue. Further, from that untrue starting position, you tried to pick a fight about the “leveling through misandry” title.

          Again, the central thesis of the slut plate posts (as I understand it) is this:
          1) reduction of women to “sluts” based on what they wear is harmful
          2) we shouldn’t do harmful things

          You seem to want to create some sort of equivalence between the two things:
          1) Calling someone else a slut
          2) Calling one’s self a misandrist

          I guess I could go into a laundry list of the ways in which those two things are not equivalent if you wanted me to? But I think that that when you state them in the barebones fashion that I just did, the differences between the two become fairly clear.

          If you want to argue with any of these things, you’ll have to present some sort of extremely compelling evidence that woman are not harmed – often grievously – because almost every culture in the world tries to split things up into “good” women and “sluts” who can be freely assaulted. The criteria for this split change from culture to culture, but almost everyone tries to do it, and it leads to awful, awful stuff.

        • Beyond what Cameron said, I just can’t read your comments without hearing “how dare you have a safe space where institutionalized misogyny isn’t allowed?”. If you do not believe that women who feel the need to erect safe spaces away from the male-oriented, hateful, degrading, oppressive culture of gaming should be allowed to do so, you don’t have anywhere NEAR the respect for women that you’re claiming to.

  8. Pingback: Words Words Words « The Bossy Pally and the Giant Spoon

  9. @Tesh and @quory

    To clarify what Noel said about you being a hair away from the “rape” comments.

    You proposed that if a person dresses a certain way, that person can’t stop the receiver from saying she’s a slut or any other thing. You proposed that she provoked the action. You’re wrong. Individuals control how they act. Supposing that a commenter can somehow provoke a receiver into bad behavior is to believe that that victims deserve how they’re treated. I’m very sure you can see this implication and therefore you can hopefully understand Noelles statement that you’re just a hair away from “asking to be raped”. She was kind with those words; I think you’re already there.

    Now your point is that commenters can evoke a certain response from receivers. That’s true. But it’s also true that a commenter is NOT responsible for the behavior, good or bad, of the receiver. They must choose to not harm others. The Golden Rule and all that. I’m very sure you guys can understand this.

    @Tesh

    “no but shes asking to be viewed a certain way” …and so the receiver must find out through conversation with the commenter how it is they are asking to be viewed. By your own statement you imply that the receiver doesn’t know how the commenter is asking to be viewed. The power of words, language and all that. Talk and you will learn. Never forget that your bad behavior is your own fault (not you in particular, “you” in general).

    @Apple

    I agree with you mostly on the commenter wielding power through their words. Anne did a poor job of explaining the kind of power a receiver also has in a conversation, but there is some small grain of truth.

    People choose everyday to absorb the good and ignore the bad. It’s precisely the reason poverty can possibly exist in our world. The problem is that there are things that people universally regard as good. This is why telling some one “good job” when they achieve something is positive and telling them “good job” when they make a blunder is understood to be negative. In both situations, the commenter and the receiver understand each other exactly.

    With words that have been claimed by misogynists, the conversation gets trickier. What did he/she mean when they called me a sexy bitch? Why does the coach of the men’s soccer team call them ladies? The use of negative language to communicate positive ideas or to evoke positive emotions is precisely where this kind of language is prone to go wrong. Far from reclaiming the word, any marginalized/victimized person or group will find it difficulty to portray themselves meaningfully to this kind of audience. The receiver does wield some power in how they interpret the words they hear. Sticks and stones and all that.

    It’s tricky, but I still rest on the side that it is the speaker who wields the power over an audience. In the same way that we all talk to our different friends/colleagues at work in different ways is an acknowledgement that we know exactly what we should say to get the appropriate reaction. Anne cannot escape that fact. When I want to hurt someone’s feelings, I know exactly what to say. If I want to show support, I know exactly what to say. If I want to remain ambiguous in a discussion, I know exactly what NOT to say. All these are things we all do every single day to every person we come across.

    • Shifting language based on the immediate audience is a very well-worn concept in communication study circles, I am so stupid that I didn’t bring it up! Thanks for reminding me. Also like the part about the use of negative language to communicate positive ideas. The receiver wields an option to deal with the words they hear, but I feel it is unfair to say that you have to “get over” something that by all rights is intended or has been intended in the past to hurt you. It is awesome if you can deal with it but telling people that they HAVE to not feel emotions is disingenuous.

      • Extremely disingenuous …I really agree. There is some more thinking and reading I need to do on reception of words and the role of the listener. But I do tend to land on the side that the listener is the listener, while the commenter is speaking through the filters of culture history.

        I think that may be the more salient point there: the filter through which the commenter is speaking is something I think a few people have ignored in their arguments. The commenter is in most cases aware of these filters.

          • I’d probably say mostly naivety. People don’t like to believe that they come across as bigots, bullies, or what have you. So they tell themselves it’s ok, doing more to justify it than it would take to simply recognize that they’re in error. Other times it seems apathy or otherwise unquestioning popular behavior. These are just my experiences both as witness and audience.

          • Naivety with social constructs on top of it is what we refer to as “privilege” in feminist discourse – it is the societal bonuses one receives in almost an invisible fashion for being part of a non-marginalized group. You literally don’t HAVE to question what you say or how it affects others. Because you never have to think about it.

  10. @doone

    In no way did I state the person “asked for it” when dressing in a certain way. Your making an assumption that I feel they “fostered” a bad situation. I am not. What I am saying is that perhaps they didn’t fully flesh out the causal effects of their choice.

    Let’s back off the “rape” scenario because that in and of itself makes it incediary….

    You look outside, you see the sun shining, you step outside and its fairly mild out. Let’s say mid-40’s. You put on a light jacket, no hat, no gloves..you dont feel you need it. But…its mid February in New England…and mother nature turns on a dime up here. Later in the day you have to go outside for a fire drill in your building. Cold front has moved in, its in the high 20’s. Wind has picked up…so it feels like teens. You have no hat, no gloves, and a light coat. We’re you asking to be freezing your tush off in the middle of Feb…absolutely not. Did you invite it…as if daring the weather to turn cold by not wearing a warmer coat or taking the gloves and hat along? absolutely not.

    But you cannot control the weather. You also cannot always predict it…some one say you never can. Point of fact…its mid Feb. Its New England. You should have worn a thicker coat and brought the gloves and hat…just in case.

    THAT is what I am implying here. plainly. simply. People are ALWAYS responsible for their own decisions. Moving back to the rape scenario that Noel is pointing to…the individual who would commit such a nefarious act as a sexual assault does not care what the person is wearing. I would argue never has the clothes on anyone’s back ever been the true “cause” of that kind of violation of someone’s person. Additionally, we are not …we are NOT…talking about “rape”. We are talking about the perception and reaction in verbal language of how someone is clothed. And not in RL, but in a game. The attitudes and perspectives do also transcend said game, which is what apple has directly attempted to confront here, and she is certainly correct: The word and its use is intended to devalue and belittle based on gender and appearance. Bad word is bad.

    Point blank Doone…you cannot control what someone says or thinks. PERIOD. If you feel its acceptable to BAN all people from thinking “slut” whenever they see a bra strap or bikini…then they in turn can BAN you from saying whatever it is they disagree with. As I stated above…America is a bitch. Free speech is some hard stuff to contend with.

    Communication is a two way street. The sender can affect the reciever, the reciever can affect the sender. Words aren’t even always necessary!!
    John: “Will you marry me Susan, I love you!!”
    Susan: *awkward silence*
    John: “well, crap.”

    I would thank you not to put words in my mouth (I would guess that tesh would feel the same way). If I didn’t say “She was askin for it” then don’t assume I meant it. Having read enough of Apple’s blog, one could assume “Apple hates ALL men, she wants them ALL dead and wiped from this Earth!” While I think she feels that way about specific ones, and certainly about certain “types” of men; I don’t think she feels that way about all men everywhere. Avoid assumptions at all possible. Simply ask,
    Doone: “Hey, I interpret you are saying this…is that what you meant?”
    Q: “Absolutely not. Let me be clearer.”
    Doone: “ah, ok gotcha now.”

    • Aye, my words mean precisely what I mean them to mean, not what someone else wants them to mean. We have here an interesting case study of imputing motive and interpretation, right in this discussion.

      It’s almost as if someone is taking what I write and twisting it to find a way to take offense. It’s remarkably easy to do if you’re itching for a fight.

      • If you assume people have to twist your words to FIND a way to be offended, then you’re pretty mistaken. Anyways, this conversation is firmly at an end if you want to say stuff like this. Have a great day!

    • All the points Cameron, Apple, and Noelle have made still stand. No one has put words in your mouths. Tesh said, to quote: “No but she’s asking to be viewed a certain way”. I addressed this directly in my reply, in which I said such a statement proposes that the commenter is provoking the receiver into a cultural response. I went on to say that this may very well be true, so since we are human beings with high intellectual faculties it’s up to us to act appropriate in our response; to treat everyone as you yourself wish to be treated. Unlike the uncontrollable weather, a receiver can ask for clarification, can ensure that the commenter is conveying a clear message …they can even offer to share their coat, sweater, hat and protect someone from a situation they perhaps weren’t prepared for. All things a human being to do for another human being.

      I further commented, if you read it (possibly I wasn’t clear), that the commenter is speaking through the filters of culture and history. That provides crucial context which helps the receiver understand what’s being said. In all cases, two human beings can clarify misunderstandings.

      Dressing through the filters of culture and history are a circumstance the abused/disadvantaged/marginalized/minorities have no control over. They are filters created by a privileged class. Their message is BOUND to be hated, misinterpreted, misunderstood …you name it. It’s on the individual to reject bad cultural norms where they encounter it. So instead of saying “Oh he looks gay in a pink wig”, you can decide to reject it by saying “its not really fair to judge a book by its cover”.

  11. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I think it’s safe to say that I agree with you. Uh, I think I’ll stay away from Anne’s article because that “words only have power if you LET THEM” viewpoint makes my head hurt.

    *slinks back into hiding*

  12. I’d have to agree with those posters who point out that communication is two way as both receiver and sender control aspects of the message.

    From my perspective, there are words that have never had a polite usage, slut would have to be one of those and likewise, there are perspectives on this debate that clearly exclude others.

    My curiosity takes me to the question … at what point did bare skin or parts of anyone’s bodies become promiscuous, slutty, sexually provocative while not exposing skin became seen as repressed, controlled or oppressed?

    Further more, why does clothing choice become viewed only as a form of communication … what is that person saying about themselves?

    I think they are questions worth asking simply as there does seem powerful language choices associated with dress either for those who choose to reveal their skin and those who choose to cover it up each existing at either end of a continuum.

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