Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Devising Week - Cruelty of Facelessness

We had a great day during devising where we watched three inspiring TED Talks. One discussed cyber mobs, one talked about how easy it for someone with a little determination to find your location from things you've posted on the internet, and one about how hard it is to remove digital "tattoos."

Overall, our group spent the most time talking about the TED Talk where Anita Sarkeesian revealed how her life was invaded by a cyber mob who threatened her, put her likeness on a website where they could beat her, and made her feel like less of a human because she wanted to examine the role of female characters in video games. We were struck by how easy it was for a group of people to pick up so many followers to attack a woman when the internet acted as a barrier between person-to-person interaction. The facelessness of the cruelty both made it easier for the "mob" to attack and for Anita to feel absolutely alone and defenseless.

We also spent a lot of time poring over how disgustingly misogynistic the cyber mob became. Because although there were plenty of types harassment enacted against Anita that could have been towards either males or females, the cyber mob additionally felt the need to attack Anita's gender specifically. They used threats of rape and sexual assault as a weapon to the point where pornographic images were given Anita's likeness and shown being raped by various video game characters. Because our devising group is mostly composed of women, this was particularly disturbing.

 It seems that once the element of facelessness is incorporated, it becomes all too easy for threats and violence to take a very gender specific angle. I feel that cyber harassment is a huge issue at this time. In the same way that drivers on the road are able to shout nasty things at one another when they can't be heard or seen by other drivers, angry people on the internet seem to feel that the hatefulness they show towards others somehow doesn't count if the person is not there in front of them. But the pain inflicted by these cyber bullies can be very real and frightening for the victims. In fact, there have been many news stories about school-age children committing suicide because bullies from their schools took to the internet to humiliate and devalue their victims. So overall, Anita's TED talk led me to think about the thousands of people this happens to every day and why this nastiness occurs on a much grander scale when there is an element of anonymity involved."

-Arielle Fodor

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