I appreciate and understand the value of shocking an audience. Our society thrives on keeping us ignorant, passive, and docile. It doesn’t like change, and a lot of that attitude has rubbed off on many of us. So every so often we need to be outraged into action. But not all shock is beneficial, even if intentions are good.
Take for example this Danish campaign’s, Children Exposed To Violence At Home, latest offering that seeks to educate us on the issue of gender violence. They created a video game called Hit The Bitch. It depicts a young woman making several comments to the computer screen. Your task is to use a floating hand to smack her in the face. On the top of the screen are two meters. One is for Pussy, which sits at 100%. The other is Gangsta, which sits at 0%. The more you smack the woman, the more your Pussy meter decreases and your Gangsta meter increases. It works to men’s perceived insecurities because we all want to be gangsta’s right?
As the woman’s face becomes more visibly bloodied and bruised, and your Gangsta meter reaches 100%, it is then replaced by 100% Idiot. Then we hear a short public service announcement of the dangers of violence. This is the message of this game.
I don’t question the intent of the game. I just wonder how helpful something like this really is. As a man, I can’t help but be offended by the depiction of men. You are only given the option to smack the woman. There are no options to avoid confrontation, only to hit.
The only benefit to this game is for those who finish it.
If for some reason I begin the game and find it too offensive to continue, I am left with no public service message. Just the idea that men can only deal with conflict by committing violence. Or that refusing to hit a woman equates to being a complete pussy. It’s an incredibly misguided and false depiction of men and how we behave when confronted.
So the men who need to learn a lesson finish the game presumably and are treated with the designation of 100% idiot (which is questionably constructive in it’s own right) and are treated to the violence awareness message. The men who don’t finish the game come away feeling marginalized and alienated. This is a great shame because it’s the men who would refuse to finish a game like this that would be most likely to want to help in a cause like this.
The end result simply leaves our greatest potential allies disempowered by reinforcing false stereotypes. Shock value can be useful given care. When applied haphazardly it can be potentially devastating. The message itself being entirely lost in the process of shock. Make no mistake. It is lost, or at the least overshadowed and easily misinterpreted. Just for the sake of delivery.
Hit The Bitch?
Sorry. That’s just no game to me.
As a survivor of intimate partner violence, I am extremely sensitive to this particular issue. As an advocate, I come into contact every day with victims who are still in abusive relationships. I have seen many different campaigns to end domestic violence. There are different schools of thought in the trauma community surrounding campaigns that should and should not be used to promote awareness. A virtual line of sorts, that must be tread carefully to ensure that public awareness will not in contrast affect victims and survivors of violence more negatively. Oftentimes, people who have no personal experience with the issue are the same people creating these campaigns.
After learning of the game, Hit The Bitch, I became interested in seeing what kind of reception it received amongst the public. I’ve spent some time searching on the internet for blogs discussing the game and comments left by people familiar with it. The vast majority of comments endorsed abuse and violence against women. Obviously, the message meant to deter violence has potentially encouraged it.
As a female survivor, I can tell you that I felt the impact of those face-slaps. It is a very raw and triggering reminder that abuse is a very serious issue and one that, to this day, isn’t be adequately addressed. The woman in this video is not a pixilated computer character but rather video footage of an actual woman. Her bruises, facial expressions and responses are very real. Watching her being abused was a flashback into a very personal and demoralizing act of violence. It brought back the feelings of helplessness, isolation and fear that accompany domestic violence.
It sets a dangerous precedent when you put those experiences in a gaming format, which is designed for fun and enjoyment. The often subliminal, unspoken conflict here is that if something is put in a game then it must be okay and acceptable. It could equally be fine to laugh and make light of this virtual woman because it’s just a game right? So one wonders if this game educates our communities or simply reinforces negative stereotypes.
The lesson of this game is presented as almost an afterthought. An acceptable “in” for gamers to act out abusive behaviors some may already believe are acceptable. Violence in the gaming world can translate to the real world. It grooms young adults to what is an acceptable standard in our society. Lacking a strong and convincing conclusion makes it easy to disregard what can be learned from engaging in violent activity, whether real or on a computer.
If Hit the Bitch is viewed by the majority as acceptable, I wonder what is next in the gaming world. A virtual rape scene or child abuse scenario where the player actively molests the victims?
Those “advocating” against violence must be very cautious to pursue campaigns that eliminate confusing messages and pay careful attention to unintended consequences. Undoubtedly, supporters of this campaign may unknowingly cause more harm than good.