The equal rights of women, and those of any marginalised group - and by ‘marginalised’, I mean anyone who’s not a white, middle-class businessman, such as individuals with disabilities or those with differing religious beliefs - have always been low down on the list of society’s priorities.
And, particularly at the moment with all the questionable activity happening overseas, violence towards, and tolerance of, those who identify as anything other than ‘privileged’ has been thrust into the media spotlight.
Whilst this may seem like a positive thing; exposing violent & unacceptable behaviour, and the individuals or groups that partake in this, if it’s not done in the correct way, it can often do more damage than good.
The way in which violence is portrayed in the media - in newspapers, in films & TV, and in videogames - has been under continuous scrutiny for as long as I can remember; Martin McDonagh’s 2003 play The Pillowman being a beautiful example of desensitisation of the media, and the notion that the widespread portrayal of violence could inform individual behaviours (which was a big debate in the 1990s thanks to films like Chuckie).
However, over a decade on, and arguably more informed by the ever evolving powers of the internet & mobile technology, the ways in which we - both collectively and individually - react to violence in the media seems to have reached no real resolve.
Violence towards women and marginalised groups doesn’t seem to be easing and, in fact, as access to more immediate forms of documentation become as natural a part of our daily lives as breathing or eating, the profile and awareness of these, sometimes unforgivable acts, is rising. And not just this, but so too is our ability to speak out against it. Great! Gone are the days where we felt compelled to stay silent, pressured to agree with opinions we felt were wrong or without the tools to have our voices heard.
But, with this, also comes the opportunity to argue that, by being exposed to so much violence on such a regular basis we’re becoming even more desensitised to it than ever before and, actually, we’re beginning to laugh at it; to use it to further harmful thoughts and dangerous opinions, and to make light of the suffering of others.
A perfect example of this would be a recent social media post by a particularly well-known business in the heart of London, a business known for being a bit risque and unafraid to venture into the tentative realms of dark humour.
This business, on their most popular social media platform, shared a rather revolting meme on Valentine’s Day which poked fun at violence towards sex workers, claiming:
“What’s the difference between your job and a dead prostitute? Your job still sucks!”
Now, I’m not for a second implying that we should stop sharing things on our social media channels that we feel passionately about or we should stop raising awareness for hate crimes or violent acts or anything that we think is wrong and we wish to put a stop to. What I am suggesting is that we need to rethink the ways in which we discuss them, and then act on them…
Although I appreciate that this business would have planned their social media posts in line with their overall brand messaging, I can’t help but feel that a cheap joke such as this one was put out there to gain a few quick likes on social media, and give audiences a bit of a shameful laugh. What we would call a ‘quick win’.
What this business didn’t take into consideration was the long-term harm posts such as this one can do to the ways in which, as a wider society, we view marginalised groups of people.
Violence or the murder of anyone is never ok to laugh at, regardless of how large an organisation you are and, in fact, if you’re a large organisation with a large social media following, you should be setting an example; using your profile for social good, and to raise further awareness for your brand in a positive way, rather than furthering the desensitisation of violence or implying that it’s not even that important.
(c) Sophie Porter 2017