I’ve been a long time member of Fark.com. I distinctly recall the night I was mulling about on 3k mud when I found myself talking to Drew Curtis, founder of the website. In those days, I simply knew him as Cletus while he only knew me as Plague. I was bored, so we talked for a good hour or two before he shot me the web address for the fledgling website. The premise of the website was simple. Users submitted off-color content by way of news stories or links. It was often sexist in nature, but it was all in good fun. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Fark hosts a unique community. Those of us, who have belonged since its inception, are exceeding loyal to the site and Drew himself. In its early days, we had the occasional user that overstepped the bounds of propriety even by Fark’s standards, but we handled it as a community, often shaming the offender, who failed to return. (If they did, they certainly kept a low profile with their tail between their legs.) Today, the site boasts hundreds of thousands of users and probably millions of visitors each day. That’s a far cry from my low Fark ID number that I was branded with when I first started.
Over the years, as the occasional contributor to many of Fark’s threads, I’ve encountered unsavory remarks aimed in my direction as a woman. I’ve received comments ranging from questioning my intellect to comments on my breast size while dotted with the occasional comment aimed at my promiscuity or lack there of. (Seriously, what women hasn’t been called a slut or a prude in their lifetime?) But I’ve never had the urge to play the misogyny card because, quite frankly, the remarks never bothered me. I just chalked it up to some asshole that felt empowered by a sense of anonymity, who felt they could get away with it. Most people are cowards without a computer screen to hide behind and wouldn’t act on half of their virulent diatribe. You’re either witty enough to put them in their place or you ignore them and drive on. Simple as that.
That being said, Fark.com has instituted misogyny guidelines, aimed at curbing derogatory comments and jokes aimed at women regarding rape and demeaning terminology. While I applaud Drew for the effort, I can’t overlook the fact that women are often as brutal in their remarks toward men as well. Let’s be honest. I’ve observed a fair share of disgusting remarks that have been aimed at our masculine counterparts. When did it become acceptable to stand up for women but disregard men? Will a comment like, “Get in the kitchen and make me a sammich!” earn an immediate ban-hammer because a woman finds it offensive? Or will it slide? (In all honesty, if you’re that offended, you needn’t be on Fark anyway. Harsh, but true.) If you come down on comments like that, are you going to come down on the women who spout their own misandry1 toward men however minuscule?
While Drew’s efforts are a step in the right direction, I think that it should go one step further. Let’s be honest. These guidelines shouldn’t center around one type of behavior while dismissing the other. I’m not advocating abusive behavior toward women, but why can’t we just discourage such behavior in general no matter what gender it’s aimed at? Comments about one’s sexuality and race are already taboo, why should we exclude such behavior toward men? Oh, that’s right! It’s only acceptable when the victim is male.
Drew stated, “There are lots of examples of highly misogynistic language in pop culture.” A subtle joke can be laughed at because we know it’s a joke and enables us to dabble in a bit of harmless schadenfreude. It’s a generalized subject that we can poke fun at with the knowledge that it targets no one in particular. And that’s okay. These sort of jokes that serve as a release valve for society, and I’d be so bold as to say that we’ve all had similar thoughts upon hearing them from time to time. Part of the reason why headlines are green-lighted on Fark is due to the story’s overly peculiar circumstances. Fark is no stranger to news stories highlighting the act of rape. Often times, the victim’s accusations are called into question, not because we inherently believe the victim is deserving of it but because the circumstances surrounding the crime seem off. These stories often have, what I like to call, the WTF-Factor.
I had a very similar debate regarding this issue on Twitter with former child actress, Mara Wilson, over a case relating to a 13-year-old girl that was allegedly raped while attending a party and then subsequently shamed on Twitter by the accused. (The girl waited two months to report the crime and only did so because she was embarrassed by the posts made on Twitter.) Apparently it’s wrong to question the behavior of the victim or the circumstances leading up to the crime, as I was told, even in the realm of reasonable debate. I think, in the minds of many, it’s easy to default to the misogynist notion that the rape victim was asking for it in lieu of well-informed discussion regarding the matter. And why wouldn’t there be when no one wants to think about the fact that the victim may have attributed to the circumstances, which helped enabled the rapist to actuate the crime?
Two wrongs don’t make a right, apparently, but we can’t ignore the responsibility we have to ourselves and to that of others. That doesn’t even include the countless times that a woman has cried wolf, leaving innocent men to be burdened with inherent shame for the rest of their lives. Can we blame men when they are affronted? We offer them little recourse for them as a society. We judge and sentence men without so much as a proper trial. Does anyone remember the case regarding the Duke lacrosse team? Men are gun shy to express thoughts on the subject without being targeted as supporters of the crime. It is often easier to say, “She was asking for it,”out of frustration instead. Of course, the Internet wouldn’t be what it is without the proverbial mud slinging, but to be fair, Fark is a far cry from the community found on Reddit or similar cesspools.
My biggest fear with Fark’s new guidelines is the adoption of a zero tolerance policy that not only discriminates against men but will ruin the very spirit with which Fark was founded. I don’t like group defined policies of this nature because they instil the idea that the victim is given carte blanche to turn the tables on the perpetrator, so to speak. If such behavior is wrong when it comes to women, then similar behavior must be upheld when it comes to men as well. Drew’s admitted that he’s still determining where the line should be drawn, but the fact is, Fark is revenue driven. (This is a sore subject for some Fark members, but it’s true.) Since Fark services such a wide number of visitors, Drew has to find a careful balance between membership and sponsorship to ensure survivability. After all, Fark is influential. There isn’t a day that goes by where someone hasn’t brought up a joke or headline that originated there. They’d be hesitant to admit it but listen to you local radio show tomorrow morning if you don’t believe in the site’s far-reaching effect. Headlines are often culled from its pages along with the colorful comments that give the site its unique flare. A humorous battle of sexist wits has always been synonymous with its pages and would be missed should the guidelines become far too stringent for the sake of revenue. Like others, I welcome the notion that a man jokingly thinks I belong in the kitchen as I would easily challenge him, quid pro quo, that he’s failed his role in the bedroom if he doesn’t believe otherwise. This is the lighthearted and sometimes crude banter that Fark has and will always need if it wishes to retain it’s member-base.
In short, I support Drew and Fark.com’s endeavor in this, but it will be a tough row to hoe if he wants to find a suitable balance. Fark has matured, no doubt, as it is no longer the perpetrator of crude locker room jokes but a place where lively yet well-meaning discussion can take place all in the name of tasteful humor. It’s not about political correctness. It’s about, in the spirit of Wil Wheaton‘s famous axiom, not being dicks to one another.
And if you don’t like it, I’m sure you’ll get over it.
- Writing his, my spell checker fails to recognize misandry as a word. Sad. ↩