Harm in Translation: Slurs Are Never OK

Blurb: It’s no secret the #dota2 community is especially judgmental and toxic, but is being bilingual an excuse for harassing & discriminatory language? …@Jennga_d thinks not!

“I can say the R-word if I want to.”

After an amazing weekend at TogetherCon talking about consent in gaming, minority identities, and mental health, THIS is what the real world gave me to deal with today. The words “I can’t even” come to mind.

Since gaming became a more friend-exclusive experience for me as of late, it’s been a while since I’ve launched into an advocacy laced speech in a voice chat. Let me tell you, it came back as naturally as the lyrics of my one-woman car-based production of Wicked do. Unlike my yet-to-be-Tony-nominated performances, these spats are fueled by anger instead of joy.

Both, however, fall on tragically deaf ears.

With no statistics to back me up, my gut instinct is to say that I have come across more slurs and hate speech in my time traversing European servers than those in America. My best guess as to why is that they are culturally distant from the tragic history that Americans and people of color are living through. ((In all fairness, they are living through their own tragedies as I type, and it is not possible for everyone to be familiar with every topic)). While that is a possible explanation, it is not an excuse.

But let’s focus back in on this article’s inciting incident and the “R-word.”

Before even stepping foot out of my team’s home base in DOTA, I was graced with a stranger’s insistence that another player was an R-word. Having recently soaked up all the positivity that TogetherCon had to offer, I was in a particularly patient mood and compassionately, but firmly I informed the team that I found the negativity “to be unwarranted” and asked that we refrain from using slurs.

Half an hour later, the same player launches into a lecture on how I am trying to limit their freedom. To be fair, I may have said something that escalated rather than deescalated a feud he was having with a teammate. However, I also feel somewhat validated in pointing out the hypocrisy of feeling entitled to use slurs but also tell someone else to stop typing strategy suggestions in chat.

Instead of focusing on our virtual combat, a verbal sparring match broke out. I parried every excuse with what I felt was an appropriate and fair response.

“Well, it’s medical terminology.”

To be “mentally r******d” is no longer used as a medical term.  

((Here, I admittedly lost my cool and added an abrasive “get educated,” which I am not proud of.))

“I have ADHD how dare you tell someone who is R-word to get educated.”

I also have diagnosable mental illness. It’s still a slur and its use is deeply hurtful to me.

“Well, rappers say it. So, I can say it.”

They shouldn’t either. Besides, rap as an artform is currently under mega [legal] scrutiny for its contribution to violent crimes.

“Well, it’s direct translation is okay in my mother tongue.”

I’m sorry, I wasn’t aware of that and don’t know what constitutes a slur in your language. But I know that the r-word is one in English and its extremely offensive.

“You’re so toxic. I can say whatev-“

Sigh of relief as I finally mute them.

As of now, I have yet to find out if the “r-word’s” Swedish counterpart is or is not a slur. I don’t think that’s a question Google gets asked often and I don’t speak enough Swedish to ask Google.SE. On top of that and to SEO’s credit, the question spawned a myriad of “why the R-word is unacceptable” articles instead of the yes or no answer I was searching for.   

Regardless, it is my deeply held belief that everyone who speaks multiple languages has a responsibility to moderate their use of slurs and hate speech. It is also my deeply held belief that learning moments are only as cinematically magical as the learner’s level of humility.

What is most repugnant to me is that slurs intended to harm minorities and those with disabilities are even in your English vocabulary to begin with. For some in the European servers I frequent, they are even the only English I hear and see being used. While I may dip into calling you an a-hole in German and find it giggle worthy that the slang term for “vagina” is “mushy,” I could not for the life of me tell you any German slurs.

Because they are not worth knowing and never bear repeating.

No matter how many stars and filters DOTA or other team-based games with comms functions insert into their games, there is always a workaround for those truly deadest on being offensive. The lackadaisical response is understandable. No in-game punishment is going to shift the most adamant in our community away from their idiocy… yes idiocy (a word that even though it can be marginally offensive is at the very least not a slur).

I get it…

Players gonna play.

Creepers gonna creep.

Haters gonna hate.

But you know what…. writers gonna write and if nothing else, I have now screamed my frustration out in the form of eloquent and intentional phrasing. While you may point out that here at RWoG I’m preaching to the choir, oh dreadfully misinformed ex-teammate of mine, I would retort by saying:

It takes an army of love to squash the legions of hate, and everyone loves and underdog story.

P.S. If by some chance you’re reading this: I hope you enjoyed being carried to a win by my fiancé and me, because I have too much dignity to let your pettiness sabotage the hard work I put into that match.


Published by JenngaD

Educator. Gamer. Writer.

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