This is not just about Daniel Tosh saying it would be hilarious if a female audience member was gang raped. This is not just about the next Lara Croft becoming a victim of sexual violence in the next game. It’s not just about bands referring to their young female fans as groupies.
It’s about your audience. Specifically, it is about who you attract and who you alienate, who you serve and who you betray. It is about choosing to build the audience that you want, and it is about your art that leaves you with the audience that you deserve.
This is a plea, to writers and editors, comedians and metal bands, game designers and journalists, cinematographers and screen writers, producers and visual artists and world builders and actors and singers. Think about the art you make, and how it cultivates an audience. Think about who you want consuming your work, the fruit of your labour and the expression of your drive. Think about what you want that art to do in the world. Think about what it is for. And think about how you contextualize that art through interviews and press releases and ads. Think about how your own behaviour works for, or against, what you create as well.
Think about who you may hurt or alienate. Think about the teen girls who you humiliate and embarrass when you say you think of them as groupies, who are endangered by such statements, and who are made to feel that your art is not for them. Think about the people who suffer from sexual violence, who will turn away from your callous jokes and stop watching your shows or attending your events. Think of all the people who will not buy your games, or who will stop playing them, because a scene is triggering and a character they have always seen as strong has been broken down and made a victim.
Think about all the audience members you are losing. Think about the readers and listeners, ticket buyers and members of the crowd, who are no longer paying attention to the work you create because you have wounded, belittled or betrayed them. Think of everyone you are no longer reaching, can no longer reach.
If you make a game whose sole purpose is to beat up a feminist woman who dared to *suggest* that she would like to examine the tropes of women in video games, my god. Think of who your defenders are. Think of the people you are catering to. Think of the only audience who will be left to listen to you. The audience you have built, the audience you deserve.
Please engage with difficult subjects. Please make art that challenges and dares, that tackles everything that is hard and scary and ugly in the world. Make art that subverts and attacks, that exposes and demands revisions, that tears down and builds up. But please, do so with respect and intelligence.
Be good to the audience you want: tough, smart, engaged people. Honour their experience. Don’t shame or belittle or dismiss.
There’s a world of people who are looking for the narrative, the image, the show or the story or the act or the book that finally, finally speaks to their experience. That wants them as a reader or listener. That respects their identity does not seek to insult or hurt them. There is a huge audience waiting for you to serve their needs, to make art for them too. Do something revolutionary. Speak to them.