“It’s Not Offensive. It Has a Lot of Different Meanings.”
Gamers frequently use racial slurs and hateful terms of lieu of words like “stupid” or “I’m not good at this game,” but this past week saw a few streamers hit with steep repercussions for their use.
Twitch recently slapped a series of streamers with lengthy bans for their use of the word “fag” during live sessions. Among them were users MoE and Destiny, who, in the wake of their punishments, defended their actions with follow-up statements. In MoE’s case, he defended the use of the term by citing context and intention.
“My intent was never hate filled,” MoE said on Twitter. “If you know me at all you would know that homophobia is one word that has never been associated with me before.”
And in the same stream that got MoE banned, he said “I’m going to try and stop using the word ‘faggot,’ but it’s one of my favorite words.
“It’s not offensive. It has a lot of different meanings.”
Certainly, many slurs have been adopted into the vernacular of gamers. But, as we’ve seen with the surge of Twitch and YouTuber personalities, the toxicity that comes with everyday slurs is now in the limelight. Therefore, it’s no wonder Twitch has implemented the policy that endeavors to block and punish derogatory terms wherever they may be found:
“Hateful conduct is any content or activity that promotes, encourages, or facilitates discrimination, denigration, objectification, harassment, or violence based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, medical condition, physical characteristics, or veteran status, and is prohibited. Any hateful conduct is considered a zero-tolerance violation and all accounts associated with such conduct will be indefinitely suspended.”
While MoE’s argument seems like an effort to normalize hate-filled speech based on intent (which can’t be measured), policies like Twitch’s are part of an effort to stop just that. Furthermore, many critics would agree that the meaning behind a word can’t be downplayed just because of the frequency of use and context. Kim Knight, an associate professor at the University of Texas, Dallas said as much in a statement to Polygon.
“The challenge here is that we aren’t talking about language in a vacuum,” Knight told Polygon. “Language is situated culturally, historically, etc. The language is deeply imbricated in power relations. The words are harmful because they refer to wider systems of power imbalances, violence, and so forth. So one can’t make a compelling argument for an evolution of the words until we have an evolution of the power arrangements that the words invoke.”
Obviously, this is a complex discussion, but I think we can agree that slurs don’t become inoffensive because a person or string of people says it daily. Ubisoft has clarified as much with their ongoing bans in Rainbow Six Siege. Contrarily, a new endorsement system has improved player behavior in Blizzard’s Overwatch. Thoughts? Feel free to comment down below.