Safety and homes

Someone came into my home and yelled at me and my family today. All day long I’ve been dealing with feelings of insecurity, fear and anger.

It is weird being an adult that can deal with strong emotions, and then experiencing someone else having an episode where they apparently can’t control themselves. I’ve had no recourse or closure, I just got yelled at and then was left to wallow in the silence that happens after a violent act.

I haven’t been yelled at in many years, and it really puts me on edge, because those times it was followed by the people yelling at me doing things to actively harm me or my living situation. I’ve had my home destroyed, or been beaten, or kicked to the streets.

And writing this I just realized the last time someone yelled at me was triggered by that person having lost a loved one. I understand that grief is powerful, and can overwhelm people. It is difficult to communicate a healthy way to emote to those that are in mourning.

I don’t have any answers. Think I will just take a shower and cry.

Mothers and careers

Trigger: I talk about abuse and violence in this post.

I had wanted to articulate something that was bothering me about the narrative forming around the women who are executives of large companies. fortunately, Carolyn Edgar did it for me.

This is close to me, and not because I am concerned by wealth distribution (I am) or because I harbor a secret socialist agenda (I do). It is because I was old enough to see how my mother was affected by inequality and gender roles.

When I was in second grade, one day my mother’s husband went to work, and she packed our Plymouth station wagon with a bunch of stuff and her three kids, and we left the state. It was the bravest, scariest and craziest thing I think my mother ever did that involved me. Her husband habitually beat her, in that same year having sent her to the emergency room after throwing her down a flight of stairs. My mother didn’t graduate high school, was pushed into being a homemaker by a variety of factors, and had no real way to escape an abusive partner that also supported her and her children.

I have a complex and just plain not great relationship with my mother, but I consider her actions that day we left to be one of the best gifts of my life. So when I hear about people who made more money in the last year than I may in my life, it seems offensive to categorize it as an issue for women. And it is a disservice to actually help people who are suffering from poverty, malnutrition, lack of education and the various symptomatic abuses that follow those environments.

Having become a parent now, my goal is to generate enough income to allow our small family to have healthy and engaging lives. We live in this world, which means that my life is only engaging if I am helping better the world for everyone, not just the women running Fortune 500 companies.

Violence in games

Since the Sandy Hook shootings I’ve played with the idea of reducing violence in my media. The worst music I listen to is LMFAO, which is sexist and stupid, but they have great bass lines. If they sang about shooting, I wouldn’t listen to it. Movies and tv are a mixed lot, but I don’t actually see that much violence, and when I do it is over the top, and often one side is advocating a stop to aggression (Naruto comes to mind). It may be that I just watch a lot of stuff, so the proportions are better.

Video games pose a problem. I don’t think that games make people violent, based on my experience and those of others around me. I played Dungeons and Dragons at a time when people thought we would go kill each other in steam tunnels. The actual game session is amazingly boring to non-players; if you didn’t have the audio, it would be like watching people working on an invisible puzzle together, but marking down notes and using grid paper as reference. I’ve also played many first person shooters, which are the obvious candidate for training people to be shooters.

Despite not believing that they are assisting people in murder, I wanted to give it a try, to see if I can get away from violence in video games. It isn’t easy.

There are genres that make it easy, like puzzles or racing simulations (though even those have popular titles that are laden with violence). When I look at my own favorites, it seems like the repetitive mini-game in each of them is to hit something with a sword. That isn’t great. And I am trying to figure out why. Is it conflict? Do we just naturally share stories that have people in danger?

I haven’t been exposed to real violence in years, and I feel like it fades from memory, the thrill and pain involved in suffering from or observing a human receive physical trauma. Maybe violence in media is a way that humans retain a cultural memory of just how bad things can get.

Regardless, I am troubled, because I have an opportunity to invest in violent games, or do something else. I am starting a new RPG campaign, using a system that seems to lean on violent encounters. At the same time, I will soon have a laptop that can play Guild Wars 2, a game that I’ve been excited to play for years, and which is basically grinding through violent acts for hours with friends online. I wanted to play because I am working so much it is useful to have a grindy and entertaining distraction to decompress before sleep. Now I am not so sure.

I am a gamer. The materials and processes that have emerged in my life time makes it easier than ever to create interactive stories for people. I love it. I want Clover to enjoy and learn from them. But I have a lot more thinking to do while I figure out how I want to be exposed to violence, and what it says about the stories we share.

Violence doesn’t consider gender

I am working on this essay-ish post about pacifism. It is taking a while, I have a lot to say on the subject. I wish I had it finished, because I think it would provide a lot of context for this post.

I read about Nicole Polizzi (aka Snookie) getting punched in the face in a bar during the filming of a reality TV show. The show is called Jersey Shore, and I think it is about Italian-Americans who like to party, or something. I am unsure because reality TV shows do not interest me in general, but I have heard about it peripherally due to its depictions of Italian-Americans. Google it, if you want to know.

Anyhow, I read about this at Huffington Post (which also contains a video of the clip). From there I followed a link to an article on Jezebel that talked about the PSAs MTV is planning to air concerning this incident.

It was there that I read something that made me what to comment on this:

The episode of Jersey Shore that includes Snooki getting punched by a man in a bar will air next week, followed by a PSA cautioning, “Violence against women in any form is a crime,” reports the Daily News.

The article goes on to explain the crafting of the message:

The case is clearly not a classic example of “domestic violence,” given that the perpetrator was a man in a bar Polizzi had never met. The PSA addresses the issue by modifying the usual text: “If you or someone you know is being abused by a boyfriend, family member or total stranger…

The emphasis in both the above quotations are mine. I can’t find any videos of the PSA, and so I am merely reacting to what this post says.

“Violence against women in any form is a crime” is a subset of “violence against people in any form is a crime”. That they modify the domestic abuse message to include “total strangers” is borderline absurdity. I have firsthand knowledge of domestic violence, including successful recovery (if there is such a thing) from it through the use of counseling and the help of loving people. Getting the message to people that there is a way out is important. Tacking “total strangers” on is just that, tacky (okay, that was an awful pun).

Let me make a few points that plainly state my opinions.

I don’t mind violence being shown in media. I believe it, like most actions by humans, requires discretion. I am not going to see the latest Ranbo movie because I don’t believe it has any value, and I am comfortable with my current level of sensitivity to violence, and I think that movies of that caliber do not serve to keep my sensitivity where it is at. When I watch the video of Polizzi being punched I feel my face spasm as my brain tries to figure out the body language that will show the people around me my shock. I think that is of value, in certain contexts.

I would challenge the idea that this isn’t simulated violence, at the very least referring to the clip that I saw. I hold onto the hope that people are not “dumb” in the way non-commentators seem to be when it comes to consuming media. I think that people are capable of using that discretion I was talking about to figure out how the things they perceive interact with their personal values. That being said, an internet video meme of a women being punched in the face (and the subsequent dialog that emerges) is different from the music video-style clip that literally uses 17 seconds to compare a person talking about being accepted in a group of peers to the same person antagonizing another person and then being punched out. The clip even ends with, I am guessing here, the arresting cop telling the aggressor, “you’re going to jail.” Did we all take lazy pills and forget this is MTV?

Focusing on the gender dynamics hurts the dialog. There are women getting in fights with each other on TV shows all the time. Men beat each other to a pulp (boxing), and are celebrities for it. A man punches a women and suddenly MTV feels the need to warn people about it? WTF, mate? How about the fact that the confrontation allegedly came about from the aggressor stealing booze from Polizzi and her party? Where is the scathing commentary about the pressures to perform in public on camera? Or perhaps the simple acknowledgment that the violence ensuing in the clip is neither correct nor simple?

I feel like I am wasting my digital breath, because the millions of viewers who thrive on this stuff, and thereby reinforcing many of the issues that I pointed out, are never going to see this. It is not flashy, it hurts. Violence is insidious in that way, just talking about it can be painful. It gets easier over time, but we are using every bit of technical and attention-absorbing trickery we can to put off the conversation.

One last thing I want to point out is on the matter of people laughing at the clip. I didn’t, but I know that in a month from now I am going to watch some clip where someone gets “snookied” or something, and I will react on the spectrum of shoulder shrug to howling laughter. If someone you know laughs about this, consider what you know about them. Do they seem like a person who will assault you? Or, do they seem like a person uses laughter as a way to emote built up energy in a way that is acceptable in public? Let’s not use this as yet another diversionary tactic.