At The Border House, Michelle Ealey wrote a piece titled “Blaming [INSERT CHOICE OF ENTERTAINMENT HERE] Solves Nothing.”
It takes a common and not altogether controversial view of media and violence: Yes, there maybe a relationship, but we should really be more focused on a bunch of other causes of violence. I’m pretty much with her in all of that, and she does something a lot of writers on the subject haven’t done, which is to ground her arguments in real world examples–specifically her experience educating children who live in places where real violence is nearly impossible to escape.
But in so far as the connection between real life violence and virtual violence is weak, or at least too complex to currently understand in any meaningful or helpful way, I’m curious what this means for how other intersections between cultural attitudes and video games are treated.
So I did a little experiment. I ran “replace” in Microsoft Word and had each instance of “violence” switched to “sexism,” and each instance of “violent” switched to “sexist.” Below I’ve copied the excerpts that made the transition the most easily. I’m not going to put forth any of this as evidence that arguments about violence and video games should necessarily be treated similarly to arguments about sexism (or racism, homophobia, etc.) in video games, but I do think it’s good food for thought for the moment:
“We have to accept that we do live in a sexist culture, and we can’t deny that consuming entertainment doesn’t have an impact on children. However, we have to be careful of focusing just on products of the entertainment industry. Many influences shape a child’s life, and if we ignore all of the factors, then we are not doing enough to stop the cycle.”
“With all of this sexism in entertainment, it is very easy to blame it for the reason why students act in any sexist manner. Some of my colleagues took this route; many were parents that claimed blocking all offensive entertainment would solve the majority of our problems. They were very convincing, and I almost fell for their way of thinking.”
“Many parents have told me that overcoming the influence of real sexism is more difficult than the influence of fictional sexism.”
“Not all parents were stellar. Some taught their children to hate those not of their culture. Teachers are expected to teach students to respect everyone, but it can be difficult to do when parents tell their children to hate homosexuals and other ethnic groups. In some families following the footsteps of a father or older brother was expected, even if the path was sexist.”
“The media is sexist. There’s the answer. Case closed. But it’s not that simple, it never has been. I’m not a parent, but I’ve been a part of the development of over 1000 children ages 12-18. Over the course of my career I’ve come to realize that children are influenced by their entire environment. What they see and hear in fictional works and in real life influences how they act and what they decide to do. The presence of people in their lives to counteract the negative influences and bring balance to their lives is essential for them to make the right choices.”
“Blaming media is not a new move. Today it’s video games and movies, in my teen years it was heavy metal, and in my mom’s day it was Elvis Presley. We should discuss the sexism in our entertainment, the images children are exposed to in advertising, our relationship with guns—every aspect of sexism in our culture should be examined. Time needs to be devoted to studying how to rid real-life sexism from the daily lives of children. A lot of work is needed to do this because of how complicated the matter is. Poverty, the lack of psychologists and trained counselors in schools, poor health care, and other socio-economic factors all contribute to a hostile environment.”
“Blaming the media while refusing to address the more serious concerns solves nothing. If we’re going to go after sexism in media, then we have to go after all the reasons why someone wants to commit sexism…”