On “Just Ask Them To Stop”

Here is a reaction I see all the time when someone complains about harassing behavior, or behavior that makes a person uncomfortable:

“Why don’t you ask the person doing it to stop?”


“How do they know there’s a problem if you don’t ask them to stop?”


“Before [someone in authority] can act, the person who feels bothered/harassed/upset has to ASK THE PERSON DOING THE THING THAT’S BOTHERING THEM TO STOP. Then, if the behavior continues, [someone in authority] can step in.”

A nerd analogy, to start.

I play World of Warcraft.

I play World of Warcraft on a roleplaying server.

I have lost count of the number of times, over the last *mumbledycough* years, that I’ve been sitting around RPing with friends — in a tavern, out in the world, wherever — and someone’s come along, LOLed, stripped to their pixellated skivvies, and danced on the nearest table (or whatever else happens to be smack in the middle of the group.) Or they sit down and start speakething in Ye Olde Faketh Englifhe. Or unleash a series of area-of-effect spells that players can’t not see. Or they buy stacks of booze, chug them one after one, and repeatedly trigger the puking animation. You know. Obnoxious shit like that.

Blizzard’s recommended way to deal with these people, the ones who are intentionally and knowingly disrupting other players’ experiences?

“Ask them (politely!) to please stop.” (Because they’re being so polite to us, right?)

THEN, if they don’t, you can report it to a GM. But only if you, the harassed, ask your harassers to cut the shit first.

I’ve never had this work in my favor. I’ve never, not once in *mumbledycough* years, had the person I asked to cut the shit actually cut the shit. Most times, they find some way to up their asshattery. Some call in guildmates, even. Some, if you decide to vacate the spot and go elsewhere, follow you as far as they can to continue the griefing.

We have one guildmate — ONE — who has a high success rate with this method. I think she has secret internet mind control powers.

The point here is, asking harassers to stop usually only gets them to keep doing it. Hold onto that thought for a moment, shall we?

When I was little, there was a kid in my kindergarten class who liked to pull my hair. Probably because it made me cry. He learned: pull hair, get reaction. I was told by multiple parties, “Ignore him and he’ll go away.” Tried that! Didn’t work! Hair got pulled even harder! Eventually a teacher had to intervene.

That advice, the variants on “ignore them and they’ll go away,” is ALSO bullshit.  Women hear that all the time, too.

Ignore the trolls!

Ignore the misogynists!

Ignore that guy who says women can’t code can’t play video games can’t build houses can’t take apart an engine can’t write science fiction can’t can’t can’t et-fucking-cetera.

First, telling us to suck it up and ignore it is silencing.

Second, how do you want it, world? Should we face our harassers or ignore them?

Consider, too, that “just ask them to stop” assumes the person who’s bothered by those actions feels safe enough to do so. Speaking up for yourself puts you into a terribly vulnerable position. You get told you’re overreacting. Or “it was just a joke.” Or the classic gaslighting response of “it wasn’t that bad.”

It can put you in a bad situation socially or even professionally, as others around you brand you as someone who is an over-sensitive shit-stirrer.  “She’s just looking for something to be upset about.”

We stay quiet, we’re not assertive enough. We speak up, we’re no-fun-having bitches. Awesome.

How about, instead, the people who have some sway, who are standing on the sidelines saying “yeah, not cool” to themselves actually try saying it the fuck out loud?

Because here’s the thing: if you are not the target of the “jokes,” if you are not the target of the slurs and the comments, you have more power than the person who is. Generally, that’s going to mean men need to call out other men when they hear shitty things being said about women. In this case, gents, you are the Blizzard GMs. You are the kindergarten teachers.

You might not think you have that kind of power, but you do.

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One Response to On “Just Ask Them To Stop”

  1. Bika says:


    Though I’ve been guilty of saying things like this in the past, I’ve seen enough messed-up situations by now to know it’s not a blanket solution to being harassed. When you’re dealing with a hostile party who genuinely believes that the problem lies in your reaction (“don’t be so sensitive!”) or that you deserve the abuse, confronting them does exactly fuckall.

    The only time it actually works is if you’re dealing with a person who saw/heard someone else do it and didn’t realize it was wrong. This person must be both open-minded and capable of shame, and you just can’t assume that’s always the case.

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