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January 6, 2014 2:58 PM   Subscribe

Why Women Aren't Welcome On The Internet By Amanda Hess (2nd link NSFW)
posted by turbid dahlia (240 comments total) 87 users marked this as a favorite

 
(I know this topic usually falls apart really badly, but I wanted to share as I think it's a great article and I know others will appreciate it. I guess if you think you won't, don't bother reading it. Straight from The Browser, of course.)
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:00 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I'm always surprised by how threatened some people are by the idea that females are human and how combined with a certain degree of anonymity they feel compelled to bully and harass anyone that dares to challenge their idea of the proper place of women. It's interesting and sickening how many of the threats seem to revolve around the idea of raping women as a way of dealing with their perceived transgressions (presumably being a female with ideas and a willingness to share them online).

I just kinda wish the the process of transforming the internet from the wild west to something more inclusive could go a bit faster and that we didn't need to have to repeatedly show that threatening people online is completely shitty behavior that needs to stop, in order to accomplish the goal of making it more inclusive.
posted by vuron at 3:13 PM on January 6 [13 favorites]


It's pretty horrific.
posted by dfriedman at 3:13 PM on January 6


I always figured it was something to do with 1) the culture of the early internet that still remains, in which people feel like they're a part of something that is a refuge from Real Life; 2) cultural biases that individuals carry in Real Life (your average, everyday sexism); and 3) no real sense of consequence, so people feel free to act in horrible ways they likely would never act in Real Life.
posted by grubi at 3:14 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I just read this article a few minutes before you posted it. It's one of the better articles I've seen written about online harassment and the real problems in dealing with it in a productive, constructive fashion. Her recitation of the number of times police had no idea what to do (even if you were giving them the benefit of the doubt that they were trying, which I am not so sure that they did) and the terrible advice she and other women got is just disheartening.

I had a recent experience (NOT HERE) where I got random "I should shoot you in the face" emails from a user who was displeased with an admin task I'd done that happened to involve him and was incredibly lucky that the people I was doing work for took it dead seriously, got their lawyers involved and were crystal clear to the guy (basically a John Doe with a geographical location that we knew and a string of gmail addresses) what the next steps would be if he continued down this path. He didn't. I was lucky. And big props to the Internet Archive for being responsible about the whole thing.
posted by jessamyn at 3:14 PM on January 6 [79 favorites]


And there's the weird second part of being worried forever more that just mentioning past harassment will invite future harassment. So lousy. Such a bad set of choices.
posted by jessamyn at 3:15 PM on January 6 [26 favorites]


The Internet makes it so much easier to do so much that the fucked-up biases are often magnified and amplified to comical (if it wasn't so tragic) degree. Which is to say, these same people suck, but the Internet makes it clearer who some of them are.
posted by grubi at 3:16 PM on January 6


I always figured it was something to do with 1) the culture of the early internet that still remains, in which people feel like they're a part of something that is a refuge from Real Life;

This internet is a much, much more hostile environment than the early internet.
posted by Jairus at 3:16 PM on January 6 [79 favorites]


Indeed. This shite makes me so sad I can't even see straight.
posted by asavage at 3:17 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


This is the sort of thing that makes me OK with doxing, frankly.
posted by jquinby at 3:19 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


This internet is a much, much more hostile environment than the early internet.

Oh, no doubt. But the reference I made to the early internet is because I think that sense of "we're doing something different" sticks around and certain people get weirdly threatened when something hampers that sense of separation and exclusivity. It certainly isn't likely conscious on their parts, but still. Or so it seems to me.
posted by grubi at 3:19 PM on January 6


This is the sort of thing that makes me OK with doxing, frankly.

I suppose there must be incidents of complaints of doxing not being the defense of a shitbag, but every time I hear about them they are.
posted by Artw at 3:24 PM on January 6


Odd though: What if the NSA, instead of illegally spying on everyone yadda yadda yadda, actually had a division that was tasked with handling these kinds of online harassment? Like, what if BECAUSE they had copies of all your e-mail, and had the metadata and everything else and could link it to every individual, they could enforce a really strong anti-harassment law (which doesn't really exist) and literally minutes after someone sends of a threatening or harassing e-mail, they'd get one from the NSA saying "cut this shit out, asshole."

Maybe we don't have to tear it all down and can put it to some good use?

Of course, I know this is silly and would probably never happen. But what if?
posted by daq at 3:25 PM on January 6 [20 favorites]


When law enforcement stops treating the Internet as some kind of unenforceable interzone between fantasy land and a frat house, we might be able to make some progress. Until then, the hard-won, if comparatively small victories by the likes of formidable feminist Caroline Criado-Perez and the cyber-stalking target of the odious Patrick Macchione at least point us in the right direction.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:25 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I think it's just as bad in "real life". Look at the shit women put up with at conventions, and if they speak out about it, the outrageous things a subset of men do/threaten to do.

Our culture is really shitty.

Fortunately, more and more people are sharing their experiences and are speaking up when they see shitty things going down. Things are changing!

(I think the primary driver for change is sharing of experiences. I think most people empathize with victims, and that the more they experience empathy, the more action they take.)
posted by five fresh fish at 3:26 PM on January 6 [16 favorites]


It's insane how many out-of-the-blue horrible comments a woman will get by simple virtue of having an opinion.

When the whole Tosh rape joke shit happened, I made a comment about how rape jokes weren't funny on my Twitter (no hashtags, no direct mention of Tosh's name because I figured anyone who followed me knew what I was talking about) when I got a comment from a total stranger calling me a "humorless cunt." My best guess was that this jackhole was trolling certain keywords looking for women to harass because I dared to have an opinion.

Sure, blocking/reporting/etc is a start, but it doesn't feel like much of one.
posted by Kitteh at 3:28 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


The fundamental problem is that someone who is disposed to be an asshole can be a much bigger asshole online than in real life because it's so easy to do so much more with so little worry about consequences.

And there are enough guys who are disposed to be assholes toward women to make their presence very noticeable. But they're not the only ones; when my teeny little spark of net.fame was running its course at kuro5hin I regularly got this kind of comment and email too from people who thought I was getting attention I didn't deserve.

The internet is a pretty miserable place if you become well known to too many people for any reason, and particularly if you do this without actually being famous or wealthy enough to have people to manage this shit for you. As with things like catcalling and general confrontation the problem is much greater for women but it exists for men sometimes too, and it's far worse on the internet for everybody for the same reasons.
posted by localroger at 3:29 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


This internet is a much, much more hostile environment than the early internet.

My early days on the internet -- and pre-internet, BBS days as a teen -- involved men and women more or less equally. I think it still does. I suspect what's wrong is that we've all embraced it as part of normal, day-to-day existence, and so the ugliness of normal, day-to-day existence now exists here (plus anonymity, exacerbating the bad stuff.)

I vividly remember three specific stages, in fact:

Stage one: most of the people I encountered online were in college, or were the daughters/sons of people who worked with computers (like myself), and there didn't appear to be any kind of gender imbalance. Also, people were quite polite.

Stage two: AOL appeared, specifically chatrooms, and once people realized it was a great way to hook up with people for one-night-stands (at least in Chicago where I was), seemingly everybody was on there -- again, both genders -- whether they'd cared about/had access to computers before or not, and suddenly it was a mainstream thing. People were very focused on using it to meet/hook up with people, specifically in "real life", rather than maintaining any kind of relationships online, so interactions became banal or outright hostile (if a real-life hookup didn't seem to be on the radar.) Stage one types were still there, but were quickly outnumbered.

Stage three: everything since, where online life just became this normal part of most folks' normal lives, and so now all the ugliness exists there as much as anywhere else. And the last time I checked, the "real world" is pretty hostile to women, too (at least where I live.)
posted by davejay at 3:29 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


The first time I reported an online rape threat to police, in 2009, the officer dispatched to my home asked, “Why would anyone bother to do something like that?” and declined to file a report

I kind of wonder if this is partly a generational issue. Like a lot of government employees, police officers are boomers on the cusp of retiring. Once that happens, younger officers will come into power, who know what Twitter and other online services are. And they'll be better able to enforce laws and respond to these sorts of death and rape threats online. Because this low hanging PR fruit stuff that makes cops LOOK good, so why wouldn't they want to do this (once their tech know-how jumps up a bit)?
posted by FJT at 3:30 PM on January 6


The Headline of the Article and the whole Sentiment that all Women are not welcomed on the Internet is rubbish.

Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.

As much as it is pretty obvious that Sexism and Stalkers have to be fought, such sensational Titles that create the predictable Fake-Outrage of political Correctness as well as some real Concern are just the usual Ping-Pong.

PS: A Website called "Sex with Amanda Hess" doesn't help either, because it just sends mixed Messages as well.

PPS: Constantly quoting ""Amanda Hess is a genius" — James Deen" on all your Webspaces also makes you sound less then adorable.
posted by homodigitalis at 3:35 PM on January 6


This is the sort of thing that makes me OK with doxing, frankly.

Is there a good reason not to dox an online harasser?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:36 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


I've always been a cynic, and have never had a particularly high opinion of the human species. Still, even as recently as a decade ago, I kind of always assumed that the majority of people are basically OK, decent-at-heart folks, and that truly horrible people were a relatively small minority that were nevertheless very good at poisoning the well. I always knew that even good people can do horrible things when the shit hits the fan, but that's a slightly different subject.

But the Internet has convinced me that there are probably more assholes than decent people, maybe even by significant numbers. People who need no excuses to be horrible. Horrible is their default. I've also become convinced that these numbers skew highly toward the male population. Not sure if this is just because doods are used to having the power to openly be assholes, or what, but that's been my observation. Obviously just my view, subject to confirmation bias, etc.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:37 PM on January 6 [21 favorites]


"Is there a good reason not to dox an online harasser?"

Cognitive dissonance for a major privacy advocate?
Fear of being doxxed back?
posted by daq at 3:37 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


What if the NSA, instead of illegally spying on everyone yadda yadda yadda, actually had a division that was tasked with handling these kinds of online harassment? [...] Maybe we don't have to tear it all down and can put it to some good use?

Er, no. The harrassers are despicable and this is a very serious problem, but surely eradicating the privacy of every citizen is not an acceptable solution. Also keep in mind that the vast database of data on every citizen's communication (calling it metadata misses the point, I think) has itself been used as a tool for stalking by members of the NSA, who gave it the adorably Orwellian name LOVEINT.
posted by whir at 3:37 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


whir,
I agree it's not a realistic solution, but it is a reality, so it's kinda like trying to make lemonade out of, um, shitty government agency acting outside the law for unknown and probably no good reasons. Anyway, chalk it up to fantasyland musings about how to use a hammer to make quiche.
posted by daq at 3:40 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Scientology is fond of doxxing their anonymous protestors/ex members.

Not that I'm excusing the assclown misogynists that make life difficult for ANYONE on the internet.
posted by Twain Device at 3:41 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


The Headline of the Article and the whole Sentiment that all Women are not welcomed on the Internet is rubbish.

Citation needed, because there is a great deal of evidence that women on the internet are exposed to a great deal of sexist harassing bullshit. For example, 63% of women in online gaming report being harrassed or threatened.

Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.


So? Does that mean they should be harrassed?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:41 PM on January 6 [65 favorites]


Wow. I expected the "if they just ignore them it will go away" or even "aw, it's not that bad" but I did not see the "they were asking for it" coming.
posted by zombieflanders at 3:49 PM on January 6 [66 favorites]


Er, no. The harrassers are despicable and this is a very serious problem, but surely eradicating the privacy of every citizen is not an acceptable solution.

The article doesn't directly say it, but hints that privacy is being used by companies and people as a way to block and delay any sort of constructive action that could be taken.

Also, nobody wants every citizens privacy to be "eradicated", but I don't think it's tolerable that up to half of our citizens' privacy (and other rights) are being violated right now. There should be a compromise somewhere; and yes,I know, I know about what Mr. Benjamin Franklin has to say about security and liberty, but he also said that human felicity is an accumulation of small advantages that occur everyday. And this shit happens everyday.
posted by FJT at 3:49 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


PS: A Website called "Sex with Amanda Hess" doesn't help either, because it just sends mixed Messages as well.

PPS: Constantly quoting ""Amanda Hess is a genius" — James Deen" on all your Webspaces also makes you sound less then adorable.


She writes about sex. I'm not seeing the problem here. If you were a literary critic and Donna Tartt called you a genius, that would probably be on your website.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 3:49 PM on January 6 [22 favorites]


Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.

I think it is worth trying to understand this phenomenon. The general trend seems to be that women perceived to be successful in their professional and personal and especially romantic lives are being attacked mainly by men who feel inferior. I can't imagine there are many men in happy, healthy romantic relationships taking time out of their day to go threaten random women on the internet.

To grossly oversimplify, a lot of the driving forces seems like an intersection of the patriarchal roles/demands placed on men, a feeling of not living up to those roles, and witnessing women who are "out of their league" that is driving some small subset of men to violent, abusive thoughts as a way of feeling they can regain their status "as a man".

I also think the "63% of women report being harassed" is likely conflating issues to some degree. From my experience there seem to be a huge number of women who are basically hit-on to the point of discomfort/borderline stalking by men they vaguely know on Facebook etc, but although that may be happening for related underlying reasons I think it should be seen as a somewhat separate phenomenon than receiving rape/decapitation threats from anonymous people thousands of miles away - that sort of thing does seem significantly more common among high-profile female blogger/journalists, especially those who openly discuss sex.
posted by crayz at 3:49 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


But the Internet has convinced me that there are probably more assholes than decent people, maybe even by significant numbers. People who need no excuses to be horrible. Horrible is their default.

I would disagree; I think the online assholes are a relatively small minority, perhaps 2 to 5 percent. Comparable to the number of sociopaths in a particular population.

But they cause much, much more trouble here than in real life because it's so easy and there are so few consequences. While sexism is certainly a big problem, the reason it seems so enormous here is that all such problems are a lot bigger here, and of course sexism starts out as a bigger problem before being fed through the Internet Assholery Amplifier.
posted by localroger at 3:52 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I know it's a lazy argument and I know it deflects responsibility and I know it's not an answer, but anytime I see this happen, I reflexively wonder: who raises sons who grow up and say these kinds of things?

I suppose what I'm really asking is: How do you become this person? That's just not normal, is it? Not for someone who has, in fact, grown all the way up, right?

This is not just being an asshole. We're all assholes, sometimes. Close to everyone has said "I hope you die" or "I'll kill that idiot!" in a fit of rage or a lesser fit of pique. But who actually makes a graphic threat of sexual violence and gruesome murder? And to a stranger? And not just a stranger, but a person who has never approached you in anyway. How does this happen? How do these people come to be so broken, so despicable?

The regular explanations that anonymity and pseudonymity make it easy to be an asshole and encourage escalation of one's assholeness don't cut it for me.

I mean, I've been a victim of violence in a sexual relationship and I can understand that more readily than I can this type of internet hatred.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:53 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.

If there's publishing of a sexual nature out there, I am doing it wrong. Near as I can tell, what Amanda Hess does is typing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:53 PM on January 6 [9 favorites]


I also think the "63% of women report being harassed" is likely conflating issues to some degree.

That link was specifically about online gaming, and was provided as an example only.

There are some serious logistical issues in generating stats on online abuse, as noted by the Guardian.

However, you will be hard pressed to find any woman who publishes online that hasn't received threats of sexual violence. And subject matter is largely irrelevant. There's nothing particularly sexual about the band Chvrches, and looks at the abuse Lauren Mayberry received for just existing online, and the further abuse she received for talking about it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:59 PM on January 6 [12 favorites]


[Comment removed - I would strongly strongly suggest we not turn an already difficult harassment topic into a doubly difficult "let's bring race into it" topic. ]
posted by jessamyn at 4:00 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


On odd take on an old (badly paraphrased) quote; "If I can't rule them because they love me, I will rule them by making them fear me."

I would almost be willing to bet that this might be a major motivating factor in the "logic" (if you can even call it that) of why a person would deem to engage in any form of harassment.

Is there a solution to culling this behavior? Or is it part and parcel with our social animal behaviors? The need for love is part of Maslov's hierarchy, but would the need to be feared also align in some dark corner of all human psyche? Can we understand this drive better, and in knowing it fully, be able to defeat it (or at least give it a good thrashing every time it pokes it's head out)?

I mean, it's a noted psychological drive, the need to hold rank in a hierarchy or society in general. Does being stunted or oppressed in one area of social life manifest itself as a need to feel powerful over others (usually those seen as easy targets)?

I guess I'm just wondering what the next step is in addressing online bullying behavior (and sexism in general, but that can be seen as tangential, as bullying is not limited to men behaving badly towards women, though it is easily the most prevalent). We've seen plenty of awareness campaigns, but what is the active role that people can take (aside from doxxing or just reporting it to the police)? Vigilantism is kind of off the table, just for the sake of constructive argument.

To some degree, it used to be that you could register complaints with ISP's and many ISP's had very clear rules and guidelines and you could have your internet access shut off. However, with the prevalence of free wifi at coffeehouses and other places, that rarely solves anything except for people in isolated rural areas with severely limited access to the internet. Realistically, it is something that has to be met with real world consequences, if anything is to actually solve the problems. It would also need a major societal shift in discourse in regards to not just sexism, but equality and equity in society for everyone.
posted by daq at 4:01 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


Is there a good reason not to dox an online harasser?

Well, I'll make the argument against, though I do find harrassers to be miserable specimens of humanity whom I have no sympathy for. I'm not terribly comfortable with the notion of just doxxing people. Even if they might deserve it in some instances, it's not really the way I'd like to see justice meted out in my society (to wit, by private citizens violating the privacy of other private citizens without being under the color of law or whatever the phrase is). Obviously from the article law enforcement is not very good at protecting women from these kinds of actions, and I think that would be a good place to start as a way to improve things.

I can certainly understand the impulse to do it, and I suppose if enough people are doxxed it might have some deterrent value as well, but ultimately I think our existing system of laws and punishment, while thoroughly flawed, is the right way to address this.
posted by whir at 4:04 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I think the online assholes are a relatively small minority, perhaps 2 to 5 percent. Comparable to the number of sociopaths in a particular population.

I hope you're right, localroger. I really do. It's absolutely possible that I've just achieved peak weariness. I did say I've always been a cynic. But I feel like maybe sociopaths are just worse at hiding their overall shitiness than the rest of us. And, of course, are more likely to take things to extreme levels. But I've become convinced that there are more people than we'd like to believe who would do what the true sociopaths do if they thought they could get away with it. There's just too much abuse out there to pretend it's all 5% of the population acting up.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:05 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Is there a solution to culling this behavior?

Some consequences for making criminal threats online would be a nice start.

Platforms and service providers need to have effective moderation policies, so their services don't get used by abusers to commit crimes. Very few do.

Law enforcement needs to take criminal threats online more seriously, and actually prosecute where they can. This is blocked by the fact that lots of cops think the internet isn't real, or just don't understand the online world at all. Then it's blocked by the fact that cops don't have the resources to deal with meatspace crime, so they don't want to or can't prioritise non-violent online crime.

But at the base of it is that law enforcement has a poor record with dealing with sexual violence against women generally.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:08 PM on January 6 [18 favorites]


I, too would like to believe that misogyny just seems bad online. Then I remember that in most elections (at least here in the US), majorities, pluralities or large minorities of voters vote for people that say and/or do things that differ from /r/theredpill and the like only in grammar and depth of vocabulary.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:09 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


homodigitalis: The Headline of the Article and the whole Sentiment that all Women are not welcomed on the Internet is rubbish.

Dude, and before i start, you know how i know you're a dude? Because you said this;

Shut up for a minute, and really think about what you're saying. Do you have any personal experience with this? has anyone in your family or close friend group experienced it? is it just some nebulous thing to you that you've only vaguely heard about online and from blog posts that seems like as far away and nebulous of a concept as nuclear war?

You do not know what you're talking about.

This is one of those things that, even writing this as a man, is incredibly obvious to see if you pay any attention at all and have participated on basically any large online forum, blogging platform, or gaming network/the only aspect of any game.

Literally, barring stuff that is small or heavily moderated(or BOTH) and online platforms such as nintendos in which very little direct interaction is allowed and what is gets filtered, this is PERVASIVE.

Have you actually talked to a woman about this? Because i have never met or talked to a single woman who hasn't been harassed in some way online in a way that i, as a man, have never experienced and have only seen from a 3rd person perspective. And i'm writing this as someone who has been cyberstalked, doxed, and severely harassed. It just wasn't the same. I was harassed because of who i was specifically, not because i was a woman and a sort of generic fair game.

So yea, you literally do not know what you are talking about here. You are some combination of uninformed and misinformed, and operating with confidence from that position and platform.

Hopefully you'll change your tune when one of your friends is actually crying in front of you from online harassment they received simply for existing, or as bad in a different way, just completely bemused and drained with a flat affect since it's the thousandth time they've experienced it in the recent past.
posted by emptythought at 4:10 PM on January 6 [76 favorites]


My comment was removed, and that's fine. I didn't mean to complicate or confuse the issue. I am speaking annecdotally. I see the abuse coming from mixed race men frequently enough though that I wonder if there shouldn't be a study. I am one of those guys. A lot of my friends are those guys and I've noticed a trend that many of them come from mixed families where the father is a recent immigrant. I read men's rights and I think most of it is puerile posturing, and hilariously tone deaf, but I read it because I have the same kind of anger issues and I want to understand the worst aspects of my own psychology.

I want to talk about the psychology of the individuals who participate in online harassment, but I'd love to talk about the 99% that makes the rape and murder crowd feel justified and safe in saying what they say.
posted by thebuddhaofdoubt at 4:16 PM on January 6



It's not rubbish. I've been doing online things ever since there has been online. These types of things have happened and still happen to me to varying degrees no matter where or what I do. Unfortunately if you go online as a recognizable female it's just something you are aware of as a possibility. The only way to stop it is to pretend to be male or make your online moniker more gender neutral.

Metafilter to it's credit and to the credit of the people here is one of very few places that I've never had something like this occur. It's one of very few places on the net where I actually feel free to be female with no concern about getting this type of crap spat at me.
posted by Jalliah at 4:18 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I think pretty much all the women I know who blog and who are even vaguely famous for their blogging have gotten rape threats. Most of them don't write about sex, so I guess in some universe they don't "deserve" it because they're not sending "mixed messages"?

There's this horrible thing that happens when you mix "boys will be boys" and "they're just trolls ignore them" and a lack of consequences. Bleh.
posted by rtha at 4:18 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Is there a good reason not to dox an online harasser?

Well, I'll make the argument against, though I do find harrassers to be miserable specimens of humanity whom I have no sympathy for. I'm not terribly comfortable with the notion of just doxxing people. Even if they might deserve it in some instances, it's not really the way I'd like to see justice meted out in my society (to wit, by private citizens violating the privacy of other private citizens without being under the color of law or whatever the phrase is).


I agree. But I also think that people being harassed online have the right to defend themselves. People have a right not to be assaulted, but if someone attacked you in meatspace, few would argue that you don't have a right to punch back at your attacker.

Further, privacy as a right has always been limited and bounded by other rights and considerations. For example, privacy rights don't shield you from criminal investigations. And if someone is attacking you in a public online forum such as Twitter, I'm not sure that it would be an unreasonable breach of your attacker's privacy to try and identify them so you can defend yourself, any more than it would be try and identify a person in a mask who walked up to you in the street and threatened to rape to you face.

It's something of an ethical quagmire. Ultimately, I agree that law enforcement should be doing this work. But if you can't get law enforcement to even take notice without an identified attacker (and often not even then), then what are victims to do? And where law enforcement will take not action, it's simply not fair to tell victims to lie back and think of England.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:21 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I encourage my fellow men to setup female Twitter and Reddit profiles. It is a depressing experience.
posted by humanfont at 4:24 PM on January 6 [23 favorites]


I've posted far too many times on here about my disdain for the majority of reddit that I voluntarily have to remind myself to not bring it up, but this seems like a post where it's legitimate.

Artw: I suppose there must be incidents of complaints of doxing not being the defense of a shitbag, but every time I hear about them they are.

I may be reading this wrong, but are you saying that when people complain about doxing it's because it happened to a shitty person, such as violentacrez (previously) rather than when it happened to someone more innocent? If so, I totally agree. That whole situation completely outraged so much of reddit to a point where even subreddits that had nothing to do with him banned links to Gawker, and to this day people still defend him.

homodigitalis: Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.

That doesn't excuse men from harassing them. It doesn't matter what medium you are in, you shouldn't have to live with being harassed. How many men get harassed for publishing columns about sex? Do you see droves of women threatening to mutilate them, rape them, find where they live, or even bomb them? It's ridiculous.

Those threats are completely fucked up by nature and I really don't understand what inspires such hatred of women. Don't these men have girlfriends, or mothers, or sisters, or grandmothers, or aunts, or simply any contact with women whatsoever? What kind of world are these people living in?

It's not just direct threats such as those, either. There are so. many. instances of casual sexism that skim the surface of threatening, or allude to the idea that actions such as rape should be commonplace. Here's just one example: "There's always room for rape." And that's only one! Every time I go on reddit I find stuff just like this all over the place, especially the default subreddits where this type of "joke" (and if you are a woman just remember it's "only a joke") is extremely commonplace.

crayz: I think it is worth trying to understand this phenomenon. The general trend seems to be that women perceived to be successful in their professional and personal and especially romantic lives are being attacked mainly by men who feel inferior. I can't imagine there are many men in happy, healthy romantic relationships taking time out of their day to go threaten random women on the internet.

I agree with your first sentence as I definitely think that is part of it, especially in regards to women such as Amanda Hess, and the many, many others, who receive such vocal threats. On the flip side, I can imagine there are many men who are in happy, healthy romantic relationships who may not take the time and go the length of threatening random women on the internet, but those men are posting and saying things online and to their friends that are sexist in nature, and they may be living in an echo chamber with their friends no matter how loving their relationship is.

localroger: I think the online assholes are a relatively small minority, perhaps 2 to 5 percent. Comparable to the number of sociopaths in a particular population.

That's possible, and I agree that if that is the case then it's a largely vocal minority that is causing extremely high amounts of problems, but I also remind myself that these are actual, real people behind a keyboard. They aren't always some 14-year-old kid, they are actual adults at jobs with functioning careers. I don't have to be online to find people making suggestions about raping particular women. These sorts of people are everywhere.

One thing I don't completely agree with is the idea that online anonymity is the reason why these people act this way, but rather the aspect of anonymity simply makes it hard to figure out how many people act and think this way. Like I said, you can go out into the world and experience people saying these things all over the place, and they aren't afraid to be public about it. The guy who makes a casual rape joke about a woman, who otherwise is a cool dude that everyone likes, could also be the guy who is going online and threatening women. You wouldn't know it. The other reason why I think the anonymity defense doesn't hold up is that it's overwhelmingly simple to "dox" someone since publicly available information is so readily available on the internet. Once again, look at what happened to that guy violentacrez. If someone really wanted to take the time then one could easily create a database full of peoples' full names, where they work, who their friends are, what their phone numbers are, possibly what their address is, etc. based off of usernames on reddit, where this type of speech is extremely commonplace. As for emails, I am not so sure about that. I imagine you could figure out where the email was sent from, but I don't know how to do that and I am sure a lot of other people don't either, especially the victims of such attacks. Ditto with twitter, unless the person who is DMing you has a username that they use for other websites and it isn't one they just created for the sake of harassment. A lot of people use the same username throughout many different forums and other websites, all it takes is for someone to search for it.

His thoughts were red thoughts: And if someone is attacking you in a public online forum such as twitter, I'm not sure that it would be a breach of your attacker's privacy to try and identify them so you can defend yourself, any more than it would be try and identify a person in a mask who walked up to you in the street and threatened to rape to you face.

I've always been under the impression that doxing was the act of gaining private information and making it public, but wikipedia tells me it is both that AND posting publicly available information. If you can google somebody's username and find their Facebook profile with their information sitting right there, and this person just sent you a DM on Twitter saying they're going to round up their buddies and rape you, then to hell with them.
posted by gucci mane at 4:26 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


This is awful, and I don't mean to make light of anything, but I spent the first 75% of the article flabbergasted at the fact that Amanda Hesser stopped writing about food and started writing about sex.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:27 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Does it count as doxxing if you don't disclose the info publicly? I managed to identify somebody who was sending a friend harassing emails and instant messages, but I only shared the info with her, and the harassment stopped rather soon after that. I can't see how there's anything wrong with that.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:29 PM on January 6


No one should have to explain what Twitter is in order to contextualize their harassment, especially in 2014. But the online beat covers an enormous neighborhood and local law enforcement may be hard pressed to employ officers who live in that neighborhood the way that we do. Online threats seem like the kind of thing the FBI cyber crimes folks might be better suited to take on. Someone's sure got to.
posted by Songdog at 4:36 PM on January 6


Stop Fucking Harassing People
This is the anger: “Who is this woman who is fat and opinionated and outspoken and happily in love and content in her life and unafraid of making a connection? It’s an injustice that I’m miserable and she’s not.” This is the anxiety: “I need to pick on her perceived weaknesses as a surrogate for coping with my own.”
“The men targeting Occidental’s anonymous report form are mad that women are being listened to, that men’s voices are no longer given so much power that they can effectively drown out the voices of women. They’re mad because they’re not the only ones that matter anymore. I get it. To them, it really does feel unfair. Something really is changing. They ARE being demoted—from a superior to an equal—and it feels wrong to them because they’re so used to being privileged … [The backlash is] a good thing. It means we’re winning the fight. They’re gonna have to get used to it.”
This is it in a nutshell IMHO.
posted by Talez at 4:37 PM on January 6 [34 favorites]


I spent several years writing about politics and policy online. Not sex. In fact, mostly I wrote about civil liberties, poverty, and food policy.

I was harassed on a regular basis in gendered terms, called a stupid bitch and a cunt and a harpy. I received multiple threats of rape and violence. 95% of the inappropriate harassment / threats I received came from men.

This is not happening solely to women who write about sex. But even if it were it would still be wrong.
posted by BlueJae at 4:39 PM on January 6 [41 favorites]


(Oh also I was called ugly, of course. Women with public opinions are always ugly.)
posted by BlueJae at 4:40 PM on January 6 [13 favorites]


Ugly is as ugly does.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:41 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The Headline of the Article and the whole Sentiment that all Women are not welcomed on the Internet is rubbish.

Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.


I understand the Need to capitalize Random Words as if you were writing in the nineteenth Century, but surely you can leave its Attitudes behind.
posted by mightygodking at 4:48 PM on January 6 [114 favorites]


I would disagree; I think the online assholes are a relatively small minority, perhaps 2 to 5 percent. Comparable to the number of sociopaths in a particular population.
I think this is incomplete: there are probably a relatively small number of men who will make direct threats or start stalking someone but there's a larger group which forward / vote up “jokes” and otherwise provide encouragement and cover for the more abusive. When you see a particularly offensive Reddit comment there are almost always dozens of up votes and a protective flak screen telling anyone who complains that it's just a joke, you're making too big a deal, etc. I believe this group benefits the most from anonymity keeping their online and offline activities separate, whereas the true hopeless cases usually sound dangerously bereft of normal social links.
posted by adamsc at 4:49 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I understand the Need to capitalize Random Words as if you were writing in the nineteenth Century, but surely you can leave its Attitudes behind.

I get that the capitalization makes his ridiculous sexism look even more ridiculous, but if you look at his profile, he's German. German capitalizes all nouns, and he's carried that tic over to his English writing.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:53 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


Is there a good reason not to dox an online harasser?

I may be in the minority on this one but I am really not a fan of public doxxing most of the time. I feel like the missing link here is that these giant websites basically don't step in and sort of act like they can't step in. Watching Twitter have to be actively hassled to do the right thing in the cases outlined in the article was the bummer part of this for me.

If you have anyone at all who is employed at your organization (i.e. you're not just some homegrown bbs situation) you should be mindful of the fact that you probably need to have people employed to deal with this sort of thing and that you should have a process and that you should be serious about it. I think cops should be better at this sort of thing, as I said upthread, but I think the people who run websites should also take threats and harassment much more seriously than they do and maybe this wouldn't have to get to the cop part as often.

The same economies of scale that lets these sites grow so big that people claim they're impossible to police are also raking in money for their founders and funders. Some of that money should be spent keeping people from using it as a tool for behavior that can be fairly narrowly proscribed. Being boorish and gross and awful online is annoying but not necessarily actionable. Rape and death threats should be actionable. We should be able to differentiate the former from the latter. We just banned someone for calling someone a cunt on MetaFilter, today (someone who was basically minding her own business). Not okay. Not on my watch. Get out. Come back if you can act like a grown-up. Tough to scale that sort of thing, but possible if you care about it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:03 PM on January 6 [83 favorites]


The same economies of scale that lets these sites grow so big that people claim they're impossible to police are also raking in money for their founders and funders. Some of that money should be spent keeping people from using it as a tool for behavior that can be fairly narrowly proscribed.

Exactly. Certainly the quality of moderation that you find, well, here, is difficult to scale.

But Facebook and Twitter have literally billions of dollars. They can afford to scale it. They're just too lazy and too cheap - they know (or they think that they know) that improving their moderation wouldn't make a significant different to the size of their user base, and hence their profits. But it would cost them money. So they don't do it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:07 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


We just banned someone for calling someone a cunt on MetaFilter

Thank you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:09 PM on January 6 [65 favorites]


I am not denying sexism, but Twitter reminds me of Stanislaw Lem's Altruizine.

Lem had his own problems with women (fewer women in his SF than in Tolkien's HF, and the most prominent woman in Lem turns out not to even be real).

Nonetheless, in one of Lem's Cyberiad stories, engineers invent a telepathy-inducing substance called, optimistically, Altruizine. They hope that instant communication will spread peace and understanding. They plan to test it on a small scale, but have an accident and dump it into a river.

Strange things start happening downstream, very far from peace and understanding. Do you want to know what the people around you are thinking and feeling ... REALLY thinking and feeling?

No.

Twitter was a bad idea.
posted by bad grammar at 5:10 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


The general trend seems to be that women perceived to be successful in their professional and personal and especially romantic lives are being attacked mainly by men who feel inferior.

This is how I perceive it as well. I entered the workforce in '96 as a 22 year old female computer programmer. I was shocked and baffled by the behavior of men around me. In my first month on the job, two utterly insane things happened:

- A man threatened me for debugging something he couldn't. He cornered me in the office and raged: "You think you can come in here in your *lipstick* and *high heels* and solve problems?"

- A man cried when I was in his office because he wasn't "smart enough" to code. At one point he yelled at me, "I can't do what you do!"

These were the first of many men to take my intelligence as a personal affront, as an act of moral transgression. The first to scream at me for being female and not being inferior to them. The screaming that's going on now on the internet was always going on, but it used to be that if you wanted to personally attack and shame someone, the best you could do was yell at them in a public place. The internet just makes it easier for them to contact / scream at you and amplifies them when they do.

(Also, I think it's important to note that there were no consequences for these men yelling at me this way. Sexist harassers then never had to fear repercussions, and they still largely don't. People always say that anonymity enables these guys, but I think that's a red herring. They behave the same way without its protection.)
posted by january at 5:12 PM on January 6 [100 favorites]


Twitter was a bad idea.

No more so than any form of communication between people. These are old problems. It's just that they're more visible and better recorded now.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:12 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


> When law enforcement stops treating the Internet as some kind of unenforceable interzone between fantasy land and a frat house, we might be able to make some progress.

I would say: When law enforcement starts treating women as human beings whose concerns are just as important as men's, we might be able to make some progress.
posted by languagehat at 5:14 PM on January 6 [42 favorites]


On a theoretical level, I find all of this fascinating because I do really think that bad grammar is right, that the problem isn't entirely that Twitter doesn't moderate, or whatever, it's that these things were going through guys' heads long before there was a Twitter or even an internet. But the being visible and better recorded is a blessing and a curse. We're now actually dealing with it, which is probably better. On the other hand, it's a lot more harrowing to have people shouting shit at you than it is to just have them thinking it about you. This is a difficult transitional period, and we're definitely not yet on the better side of it.
posted by Sequence at 5:17 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


jessamyn: We just banned someone for calling someone a cunt on MetaFilter, today (someone who was basically minding her own business). Not okay. Not on my watch. Get out. Come back if you can act like a grown-up.

This sort of thing is the reason that i would literally pay a monthly fee to use this site if that was a requirement, and it's what keeps me coming back.

The exact antithesis of this and "free speech" attitude of sites like reddit, and honestly most of the greater internet in general is what makes it crap honestly. A lot of the people who post things like that actually do need a damn Chaperone when they sit down at a computer.

The entire concept of "open no limits discourse!" online seems to just lend itself to some bizarre mad max thunderdome in which everyone who isn't a straight white dude just gets told "shut up $APPLICABLESLUR" and then gets fist bumps and high fives until their arms fall off from every surrounding bro. The sooner a lot of people realize that's a broken concept that only sounds good on paper(or in practice, to internet libertarians) the faster we can climb out of the primordial ooze here.
posted by emptythought at 5:22 PM on January 6 [14 favorites]


Anonymous retaliation isn't anything new; poison-pen letters are a plot point in a lot of old novels. The barriers to doing this on the Internet are lower, but I don't think that's the reason why it has become more of an issue: it's because people can be anonymous without being isolated. In the past, someone scratching out a grubby missive was necessarily acting alone or part of a small group; the whole point of the exercise was to hurt someone while remaining safely anonymous, which meant secrecy was paramount. But nowadays we can be mostly-anonymous even when acting as part of a community and receiving encouragement.

I think the solution has to be a rigorous attitude towards piercing online anonymity when that ability is abused; if people send or boast about their threats using static identities then there's usually sufficient information to track them down. Threats are illegal; we need to take them seriously.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:23 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


"You think you can come in here in your *lipstick* and *high heels* and solve problems?"

Er...yes?

I mean, wasn't that your actual job?

Seriously, that story is crazypants. I don't even.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:26 PM on January 6 [4 favorites]


Most Women mentioned in the Article are publishing in one Form or another - and also of a sexual Nature.

....I got harrassment based on a blog post I did on the topic of bootlegging. Whatcha have to say to that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:32 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


"Is there a good reason not to dox an online harasser?"

Cognitive dissonance for a major privacy advocate?
Fear of being doxxed back?


I'll throw in "what if you make a mistake and associate an innocent person with the harasser's account?"
posted by davejay at 5:34 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Fabulous article; uninflected by anything other than great and humane intelligence, and delineates the problem in great and horrifying detail without ever succumbing to the overwhelming desire I would have felt to allude to some (any!) kind of possible way forward-- no matter how absurd and unworkable-- just to break the almost unbearable tension she generates.

She points out an aspect of this kind of harassment of women by men which I think is the key to exploring its roots in human nature:
And there is the mobbing problem: One person can send just one horrible tweet, but then many others may pile on. A single vicious tweet may not clear the hurdle of discriminatory harassment (or repetitive abuse). And while a mob of individuals each lobbing a few attacks clearly looks and feels like harassment, there is no organized group to take legal action against.
This is a form of mass hysteria peculiar to males, similar and closely related to lynching, in my opinion.
posted by jamjam at 5:34 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


The exact antithesis of this and "free speech" attitude of sites like reddit, and honestly most of the greater internet in general is what makes it crap honestly.

And there is that weird attitude that the "right" of men to free speech should trump the rights of women to, you know, go about their internet day without random death- and/or rape-threats. I mean this is not even a difficult moral issue....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 PM on January 6 [19 favorites]


I witnessed a guy sexually harass a woman we were interviewing. I reported him. There were no repercussions.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:36 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


I witnessed a guy sexually harass a woman we were interviewing. I reported him. There were no repercussions.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson


And there probably won't be; I'm sure you are a very valuable employee.

(I wish I could claim that was entirely a joke.)
posted by jamjam at 5:45 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


If I worked at Twitter/Reddit/$MajorNewsSite and I knew my site hosted systemic abuse like this, it would be top priority to lance that fucking boil.

Here's an obvious idea to start -- sites should act as middlemen and screen comments/messages for abusive content.

I find it VERY hard to believe that we're making self-driving cars but we can't automatically detect and prevent threats in a string of letters.
posted by serif at 5:47 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


I think given the managerial culture at Twitter among others it's a feature not a bug in their eyes - which is horribly damning. Makes me all the more grateful for this place!
posted by leslies at 5:49 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


The ignorance of police leadership and inaction of police officers is just ludicrous.

First of all, if it's your job to protect people from violence, get yourself a goddamn passing education in the concept of online social spaces, the same way you learn to recognize and understand the dynamics of other spaces that were previously unfamiliar to you. Secondly, even if you don't understand the venue where the threat took place, shouldn't the luridly-detailed threats of rape and murder perk up your interest a little bit? Maybe enough for a report to be filed? Good grief.
posted by desuetude at 5:51 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


This internet is a much, much more hostile environment than the early internet.

I disagree. I have been using the internet for a long time. Not from the very very beginning, but long enough to remember glowing green letters and terminal emulators and so on. The humor was pretty retrograde and I can remember some specifically sexual threats and insults. A key difference, at least very early on, was that almost everyone was university- or lab-affiliated and what they were saying was tied to that net id. The transition in the 1990s when people started getting online en mass was very noticeable in terms of tone and content, but I don't know that it brought an upsurge specifically in hostility.

The same economies of scale that lets these sites grow so big that people claim they're impossible to police are also raking in money for their founders and funders. Some of that money should be spent keeping people from using it as a tool for behavior that can be fairly narrowly proscribed.

Things that are considered important, or a potential serious liability to the business, are already treated with great seriousness. Try making violent terroristic threats against the president on any of those sites and see how long it lasts and how quickly your IP address and other information is provided to authorities, for example. That violent threats against women are not taken seriously tells us a lot about values and the current legal framework.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:54 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


I find it VERY hard to believe that we're making self-driving cars but we can't automatically detect and prevent threats in a string of letters.

That would be the difference between soft and hard AI.
posted by Artw at 5:55 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


adamsc: I think this is incomplete: there are probably a relatively small number of men who will make direct threats or start stalking someone but there's a larger group which forward / vote up “jokes” and otherwise provide encouragement and cover for the more abusive. When you see a particularly offensive Reddit comment there are almost always dozens of up votes and a protective flak screen telling anyone who complains that it's just a joke, you're making too big a deal, etc. I believe this group benefits the most from anonymity keeping their online and offline activities separate, whereas the true hopeless cases usually sound dangerously bereft of normal social links.

Oh yeah, definitely, I 100% agree with you. The guilding of incredibly offensive comments is almost worse, in my opinion. I mean, there are literally so many examples of reddit where it's something like: "well that's nothing a little rape couldn't fix
edit: thanks for the gold!" and it's +2536 votes.

The guilding and incredibly high upvotes imply that the content in question is generally acceptable, which means that when such a comment does arise (and they do, all the time, in every subreddit, but most especially in the default ones) that THOUSANDS of people either find that funny or agree with it, and that doesn't even count the other people who comment. You could literally have tens of thousands of people agreeing with such things.
posted by gucci mane at 6:12 PM on January 6


artw, I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that detecting verbal threats (string parsing, basically) is computationally harder than driving a car on a highway?
posted by serif at 6:14 PM on January 6


Didn't Twitter just scramble madly to add a woman to their board when people started noticing their board was all-male, right before their IPO?

(It must be weird to be that woman.)
posted by rtha at 6:16 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


artw, I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that detecting verbal threats (string parsing, basically) is computationally harder than driving a car on a highway?

The problem there would be the "string parsing, basically" - human language is not something you can monitor with a big of RegEx.

Positions of solid bodies in space is by comparison a very natural domain for computers.
posted by Artw at 6:18 PM on January 6 [5 favorites]


gucci mane: "One thing I don't completely agree with is the idea that online anonymity is the reason why these people act this way, but rather the aspect of anonymity simply makes it hard to figure out how many people act and think this way. Like I said, you can go out into the world and experience people saying these things all over the place, and they aren't afraid to be public about it."

I have talked about this before in a different context, but shortly after I had a baby (like, two weeks after) I attended a public meeting in my capacity as an elected official and voted on some stuff and some people didn't like how I voted. Some people were posting all over the local newspaper comments section and local news blogs, many of them using their real names quite openly, about how I was so fat and ugly I was going to break their television sets and how I should be ashamed to appear in public when I was so fat and someone should go bar me from entering the building so I couldn't be on TV because I was a fat stupid bitch. (I also get a lot of "she only voted that way because she's sleeping with him" or "he only supported her idea because she's sleeping with him." UGGGGGH that is actual defamation.) It was about 90% men, 10% women, who were going by their real names in a tiny town where everyone knows everyone. Of course you can't respond to any of it without inviting twice as much vitriol, it just has to sit there being ugly.

Anonymity does give some people license to be nastier, but, yeah, this is absolutely about either a) keeping women from participating in the public sphere by making it intolerable to be a woman in a public role; or b) shutting down those you disagree with, who happen to be female, by means of nasty gendered attacks. Or both. And plenty of people feel perfectly free to do those two things quite publicly and openly, and they're right -- there's virtually never a consequence for it.

There were some threats but they were so typical I don't even remember what they were. That's so sad -- EVEN I DON'T REMEMBER these threats against me because it was so run-of-the-mill. Certainly none of the news organizations took the fat-shaming, the name-calling, or the threat-making seriously enough to take any of it down. If you say something ragingly racist, the local news organizations usually remove it, but vitriol against women is just par for the course in comments sections and is totally ignored. And I know the publishers and station owners and reporters and anchors and they are nice people, they are good people. It just isn't seen as a problem -- to the point that people are totally willing to say nasty, misogynist things about someone they know as a neighbor and co-worker under their real names and not feel that they'll face any repercussions about it. And mostly they don't!

(And I just want to emphasize again about these people's nastiness: They were fat-shaming a woman who had JUST HAD A BABY. I mean it's not okay to fat-shame in lieu of reasoned argumentation ever, but I had JUST HAD A BABY. They also made fun of me for being a whale when I was pregnant so I guess it wasn't a surprise.)

Actually, now I think maybe I'm going to keep a casual log of nasty anti-woman comments (that are not about me) on local news sites for a few months and ask the publishers/station owners for a meeting and talk about it with them. I feel like maybe they'd see it as a problem if someone brought it to their attention in an organized fashion, because they're not bad people, and like Jessamyn said, there are solutions available. I always like it better when I'm fixing things instead of just being upset by them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:26 PM on January 6 [67 favorites]


"First of all, if it's your job to protect people from violence"

It is very much not the police's job to do this. Their job is to respond to crimes. In the case of online threats, it's very likely that the perpetrator is thousands of miles away (or at the very least outside their jurisdiction). So the police who may respond the victim of a threat don't have access to the person who made that threat. And the cops that may have access to the person who issued the threat (assuming you can identify them) don't have a victim in their jurisdiction. Not only do you need the police willing to engage in action (on the perps side), but you also need a local DA willing to prosecute someone for making a threat online.

Please don't mistake this as me defending the police, but it's probably unlikely for DA's to start prosecuting internet threatoners consistently.

On the other hand, if an employer is made aware that their employee is issuing death threats and rape threats from company property, it's probably unlikely that the company would want to be liable for the actions of their employees.

I'm not saying everyone should go ahead and doxx people that threaten other folks on the internet, but it certainly is more likely to have reproductions than calling the local police.
posted by el io at 6:28 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


human language is not something you can monitor with a big of RegEx.

Not to derail, but this thing you say is impossible? That's how Twitter makes money! Twitter sells data to analytics firms who then use software to figure out what people are saying.

Semantic analysis of tweets is the basis of Twitter's business model. They could easily flag abusive content with software and have humans double check it, etc, there are lots of ways they could solve this problem, but apparently preventing this abuse isn't a priority for them.
posted by serif at 6:30 PM on January 6 [11 favorites]


I know the convo has moved on, but I wanted to share my experience.

Even though I'd been on the internet since 1986 (bitnet, really), I only really started getting seriously harassed about 1997 or 1998. I had spent the previous 12 years on usenet, internet bbses, and several other internet communities. Heck, I went to a women's college, and although I'd get cheesy or clueless come-ons on the Vax from boys at a local college (it was always from that college, not the local U or other college) and even lashing out when rejected, it was never vituperative and it didn't generally feel misogynistic.

By 1997, I had been running a website indexing and annotating websites dealing with the ancient world for four years, and I suddenly started getting rape or rape/death threats for: 1) Politely refusing to do some guy's homework (or in one notable case, his son's homework), 2) catching a guy trying to game the user voting system by automatically voting a 10 everytime his home page's masthead image was loaded, 3) removing several sites that whose domain had lapsed and a porn site had bought the domain, 4) my failure to categorize his site as he would have preferred meant that I should gang-raped, and 5) Not being positive enough (read: gushing) about his site in my review/annotation. My various other sites sparked the occasional gender-related threats, and a low-level stream of woman-bashing began to be shuffled to my mailbox by that time frame.

It wasn't the major reason I closed the Ancient World Web (I had a full-time jobs that paid me that took up 10-12 hours a day plus traveling), but it was certainly a contributing factor. I mentioned some of the extremes of course, there was plenty of everyday gendered insults, implications I had stolen a job/the site/credentials/a place from a worthy man who deserved the stolen thing, that I needed sex to fix whatever the writer found wrong with me, that I used sex to grab power from whoever really built the website, that I must be ugly to spend so much time online, that someone should tell my boyfriend what a bitch I was so he could fix me, that posting a link to pictures of naked people (i.e art history websites that discuss ancient Greek sculpture and vessels) was proof that I should lobotomized for my dirty mind, etc.

There's been a continuing low-level stream of stuff ever since then, even though I keep my public internet persona low-key. As the internet audience grew and anonymity options mushroomed, the inhibitions have been loosened. I totally see people feel free to append their real name to terrible misogynistic things because almost nobody who is slinging those arrows suffers repercussions, whereas the target is frequently the one (who appears to be) wounded, suffering, or reacting exactly as they hoped/wanted/expected. It seems like a win for those guys and emboldens them.
posted by julen at 6:40 PM on January 6 [25 favorites]


Not to derail, but this thing you say is impossible? That's how Twitter makes money! Twitter sells data to analytics firms who then use software to figure out what people are saying.

There are substantially different factors involved in knowing if someone who uses the word "Pokemon" might be worth showing a Pokemon related advert to than whether someone who uses the word rape is making a rape threat, making a complaint about a rape threat or directing someone to a rape crisis line.

People have been trying to automate this stuff for decades (see porn filters) and it's always a complete disaster.

They could easily flag abusive content with software and have humans double check it, etc

Then you'd be getting people involved, which is a much better idea, but costly. The report button is probably a better input for that, at any rate.
posted by Artw at 6:42 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Having victims flag abusive threats is not a solution, because this still satisfies the abuser -- their message got read by the victim, and new accounts are cheap.

A better solution is for the site hosting this interaction (e.g. Twitter) to intercept suspicious messages and trash them, without the target of abuse needing to react.

Putting the onus of detecting threats on the victim is a lazy, stupid solution, and these companies can do a lot better.
posted by serif at 7:05 PM on January 6


Having victims flag abusive threats is not a solution, because this still satisfies the abuser -- their message got read by the victim, and new accounts are cheap.

And yet, this is actually one of the most effective methods. We use userbase flagging here, and it works pretty well (because we have full time active moderators, and the best in the business at that). But there are always going to be far, far more users than moderators, and there always will be. And human users are a better judge of what is offensive content that any automated systems are likely to be for a long long time.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:10 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Putting the onus of detecting threats on the victim is a lazy, stupid solution, and these companies can do a lot better.

I think you are vastly underestimating the capacity for these kind of systems to generate false positives without actually working.
posted by Artw at 7:15 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


Business model: filtered Twitter. You don't connect to Twitter; you connect to a server that pulls them up as they're requested. Each message is quickly reviewed by a human moderator who flags it for acceptable content; acceptable ones are passed through, unacceptable ones are flagged. Moderators are paid per message reviewed, modified by a formula based on how often users disagree with their review. Bad moderators are sacked. In exchange for all this you pay ... $20? Same as in town?
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:20 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


A better solution is for the site hosting this interaction (e.g. Twitter) to intercept suspicious messages and trash them, without the target of abuse needing to react.

One can:

* keyword ban, in which case you're going to get more creative insults (and prevent honest discussions of rape statistics, sports teams from Scunthorpe etc)
* trash based on bayesian filtering, in which case you're going to end up either letting a lot through or killing a lot of messages. This should also be done with caution as otherwise you might end up assuming a duty not to let things through;
* employ humans to flag things, in which case you have to size up with user base and generate a lot more revenue per user to pay for the human review.

If this was an easy problem Twitter would almost certainly have solved it.
posted by jaduncan at 7:25 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


"First of all, if it's your job to protect people from violence"
It seems to me that it's society's job to protect those that are vulnerable in any way. I'm far from an expert in this area, but what's to stop those who see this sort of behaviour, particularly on-line, from fighting back against those that perpetrate this sort of abuse? My view is that most of the men that do this do so in the belief that they are 'only saying what all other men are thinking' or use similar rationalisations. Perhaps it's time that those of us who are male but don't think like this toward women stand up and make ourselves known. Or does that only make things worse?
posted by dg at 7:36 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


If this was an easy problem Twitter would almost certainly have solved it.

No, if it were a costly, easy problem Twitter would solve it.

I suspect ensuring good conduct among their users isn't on Twitter's priority list, especially since our expectations for human behavior on the web are so low.

And for the people saying "software can't do contextual semantics", to be frank you are just wrong/out of date. I suspect your expectations are low because no company has been pressured into using such tools for regulating user conduct online.
posted by serif at 7:46 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


It wasn't the major reason I closed the Ancient World Web (I had a full-time jobs that paid me that took up 10-12 hours a day plus traveling), but it was certainly a contributing factor.

I think I used your site to research papers in high school and I would just like to say that it is a crying shame this happened.

that posting a link to pictures of naked people (i.e art history websites that discuss ancient Greek sculpture and vessels) was proof that I should lobotomized for my dirty mind, etc.

I don't usually advocate burning everything with fire, but when I do, it's over senseless, mindless, twisted blather like this. And worse, as a lady with an interest in archaeology, it makes me rethin blogging or posting publicly under my real name and credentials. So thanks, internet juiceboxes, for making the internet a worse place to be.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:51 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I periodically go to /r/theredpill and add anyone submitting to my ignore list. It doesn't put a dent in it. The internet would be so much better and more fun if girls were allowed to be on it.
posted by Teakettle at 7:55 PM on January 6 [6 favorites]


Having thought about the doxxing issue a little more, I find there's some nuance in my position. I don't support what I think of as doxxing in the sense of breaking passwords and then publishing harrassers' private information (street address, social security number, etc) - this constitutes private individuals breaking the law for a punitive purpose, and doesn't seem right.

However, I do think there's a distinction to be made between this and the other sort of "doxxing" that's been talked about in this thread, which is to out a person as having made the comments based only on publicly available information (eg, same twitter handle as an account on a message board that links to the user's blog or facebook, etc). I'm in full support of victims doing this, assuming that they can come up with reasonable evidence to make the claim. (I don't think this will always be possible, however.)

I think ultimately if the situation changes for the better (that is, if the men in question don't feel so free to say these loathsome things from the cloak of anonymity / I did it for the lulz) it will need to be because some people feel the weight of consequences for their actions. Unfortunately there will always be a fresh-faced young cohort of idiot teen boys just behind them, so I'm not incredibly optimistic about the near future.
posted by whir at 8:08 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


And for the people saying "software can't do contextual semantics", to be frank you are just wrong/out of date. I suspect your expectations are low because no company has been pressured into using such tools for regulating user conduct online.

Sorry, but this just isn't true.

Automated systems can not at the moment do pragmatic analysis (or "contextual semantics" as you call it) of natural languages, which is what automatic filtering of tweets would require. In fact we're still far behind on syntactic analysis of spontaneous language, so there are plenty of utterances that we can't pass yet.

What web companies generally offer to advertisers is sentiment analysis which produces information about broad trends in an audience's orientation towards something which is usually developed from keyword searches.

Automated real-time analysis of tweets, even just to put them in a pending queue to be analysed by humans would be very hard.
posted by elephantday at 8:12 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


I don't see what new law or great change is needed rather than a swift impersonal vanning, first expensive, then increasingly imprisoning, for this shit. No muss, no fuss, just make it so that you'd no more fire off an internet toughguy death threat than you'd smoke a joint in front of a cop outside of the Green States*. I don't think you have to do anything to anonymity in practical terms. I can generally manage anonymity from website operators & police, but have only very rarely bothered, and am far enough out on the curve in technical proficiency to just maybe have some chance against the NSA, but then who could I securely communicate with, Snowden, Assange, and RMS? I don't think we usually have brain geniuses perpetrating this shit, I'm sure you'd find few of them are taking measures beyond using throwaways. Also no one gets to complain when the Die Cis Scum brigades get slapped down just the same.

*The thing about the Internet is we've pretty much at least minimally connected everyone modulo language barriers, North Koreans, Sentinelese, old people who will never get online, illiterates, etc., but basically a whole lot of people, and it's getting so a motherfucker can't even coin a phrase anymore. It's getting so the dirtest dirt poor at least know a guy who will lend them a smartphone. I am interested what is going to come out of Africa like, leapfrogging tech levels through diffusion and 10 turn research / resource deals.. This also amplifies shit like this, as I believe it's really very few who get up to this shit - I kinda think 2-5% is probably high not even for death threats but for the amount of people who actively spend time and are the main factor making Internets shittier for women, as opposed to having backwards or insufficiently SJ gender politics but practically spending time making inoffensive doges, talking about X-Com & religion, and writing Wikipedia articles on National parks.

A better solution is for the site hosting this interaction (e.g. Twitter) to intercept suspicious messages and trash them, without the target of abuse needing to react.

A question to the room advocating more control of Twitter - why not similar restrictions on the use of the telephone instead of the current system, where I could totally call up anyone right now and start making jack-off threats, but I'd expect a rather predictable vanning if I kept it up to any degree?

Business model: filtered Twitter.

I believe in applying all the levers of society as and where appropriate and effective, and I really believe so many tech-feminism complaints could be solved with the engines of capitalism but I swear to god I think feminists just hate math. Women can certainly math, program, and produce technologies, and I've worked with plenty, but non more than mild & liberal feminist, and a lot of Asians & Indians who seem kind of invisible to Western/Americentric feminism. I haven't seen any stats when I've looked but it definitely seems more equal there, though with some dropoff as you get less Asian/Indian and more Asian/Indian-American. Feminists come from Women's studies, obv., and Comp. Lit., and Sociology, so they don't learn math, or learn basic stats & SPSS which is better than most but still, the GINI coefficient on mathematical knowledge has to be ridic and full technologist needs a little more.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:24 PM on January 6


This is an excellent article. Thanks for posting.
posted by triggerfinger at 8:28 PM on January 6


Excellent article; I read it earlier today when a MeFite tweeted it.

I was talking with my girlfriend a week ago about the source of misogyny among young American men, and I remain convinced that its origin is somewhat more complicated than "men see women as objects" or "men are upset and need to take it out on happy women who they do not perceive as being properly sexy". I say this as a young American man myself — one who was raised to treat women respectfully, who was taught that men and women are equals in every way, yet who grew up with some twisted and sexist beliefs despite all that.

Young men are affected by the patriarchal culture in which they grow up, and they're affected by it in certain male-specific ways — even if they don't subscribe to douchey bro culture or football mob mentality or any of that. Even if they are taught very strictly and thoroughly from a young age not to treat women any different than they treat men. The problem is that thanks to the gender imbalance in our culture, women behave differently from men, for reasons which those young men aren't privy to, and unless you teach them to notice the culture and not the individual, a lot of them grow up thinking that they're fair-minded and perfectly non-judgmental, but that women are [insert your favorite misogynistic bit of sludge here].

From a young age, girls are bombarded with messages about beauty. Those messages involve body type, weight, hair style, makeup, skin tone, style advice, behavior put-ons, and a bunch of nuances that I don't know a damn thing about. I have teeny family relatives who started obsessing over various aspects of feminine performance when they were barely old enough to form sentences, and the segregation of gender between them and my teeny male relatives seemed blatant from a very young age. The result is that by the time our kids are 9 or 10 or so, a lot of girls have already put a lot of thought into fashion and looking certain ways, and over the teenage years of their life they'll put a lot more thought in. Nothing that boys are taught to do comes close to what girls start dealing with at a very young age.

And from a young age, boys pick up on this aspect of being a girl in our society, even if they don't understand it. They don't understand the messages fired at young women and they certainly don't understand what exactly they mean. All they know is that young women are going to this effort to make themselves look more attractive — and, arguably, that the effort succeeds — which they interpret in a number of different ways. Among those interpretations are majorly-problematic notions like...

— They're doing this because they're shallow
— They're doing this because they want to look attractive to me
— They're doing this because they want to entrap me (an escalation that becomes more common as we proceed)

...none of which have anything to do with what these girls want, and everything to do with how our culture is designed to teach women to behave like. But the impact on young boys is that they perceive women as being materialistic and boy-crazy, and that latter part is what escalates things the worst.

See, our male-centric media teaches us all that every single story about every boy in existence is that he's going to meet a girl, and that girl's going to fall in love with him, and either he'll pursue her or she'll pursue him and either way no matter what happens is, they're gonna live happily ever after. Tripe movies from my childhood as fluffy as Snow Day and Max Keeble's Big Move still managed to push this narrative on me. And maybe you're a bit of a media cynic and you don't think that you're entitled to romance from any hot girl you've ever had a crush on, but you're still left with this notion that you ought to be acting a certain way to "win over" girls, at like the tender age of 8 or 9 or some shit. Probably even earlier; I kissed my first girl at 6, so clearly I knew the gig even then.

My experience as a counselor working with pre-teen and teenage kids gave me some perspective on all the possible things that happen next. Some girls get kind of swept up in the notion of oh, boys just act like this all the time, and if I don't go along with it they won't be my friend. That can lead to nasty things very quickly. Some girls develop an immediate cynicism towards boys' behaviors, and develop a world-weary resignation at, like, 12 or so, which is sad for its own reasons (and which sometimes leads to some creepily manipulative behavior that's part-defensive, part-immature). Most girls, I think, at least among the ones in the groups I worked with, make the mistake of treating the boys they're working with as sane, rational, and on the same playing field, give honest answers like "I never thought of you that way even once," and this is totally not as effective as it ought to be because 1) boys have been thinking about girls that way for years now, and 2) boys have been taught that girls think about boys that way as much as boys think about girls that way, and therefore, if a girl isn't thinking about them that way it means Bad Things.

Sometimes this manifests in basic, you know, crippling insecurity, resulting in years and years of a young guy not daring to talk to young women for fear of being "rejected" again (and having their utter undesirability confirmed). Frequently this manifests as something uglier: resentment, hatred, and a lot of blaming the young women in question. After all, how could they possibly not obsess over us guys? When they're wearing makeup and cute outfits and doing all sorts of devil-magic to look made-up and fantastic in a way that they totally would not look if they were as devoted to Animorphs and cool TV and kickball and shit the way that boys sensibly devote their attentions to at that age? Clearly they're either lying to us to make us feel better, in which case they don't trust us enough to be honest, or they were deliberately trying to ensnare us because they're insecure or [insert viler sludge here].

I don't know if it's a necessary tangent to have on MetaFilter as grown people, but I do think that the various efforts that women go through to look good have an effect on men at a very, very young age. I had girl-friends who didn't go through as much of a process (or at least they didn't seem to), and though they were all very pretty people they definitely felt less overwhelmingly attractive, to the point where my fellow guy friends considered them ugly—and ugh, I'll be honest, I probably did this too, even if I don't remember doing so now. I think this isn't strictly a part of the argument I'm making, but I personally think it is a significant factor in how amplified boy-feelings get at a young age. Hormones are one thing; hormones in an environment where it feels like everybody you're attracted to is going to great pains to be attractive is another thing entirely.

There are a lot of individual nuances here that I'm kind of brushing over in an attempt to paint a broader picture of troubled male youth, but I feel that there's a reason why such misogyny lurks in so many young men, and why so many of those men are incapable of noticing it in themselves. To their minds, they are behaving rationally; it's the world around them that's irrational. Which isn't even wrong, except they substitute "women" for "world" and then develop a bunch of opinions which aren't rational in that they think all women are sex-craved bimbos and therefore can't possibly be good at anything or good people or whatever else you want to say here. I'm 23 years old and I have gone to a lot of effort to dispel the bullshit ideas I formed when I was young, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't harbor prejudices today — prejudices I'm aware of, mostly, but ones that are still problematic and which probably affect my behavior in less-than-pleasant ways.

In a very real way, young men are victims of the patriarchy as much as young women are, and in my limited experience addressing their problems I've felt like being aware of that particular dynamic makes it a lot easier to explain to guys with ugly thoughts on their minds exactly why I think their thoughts are so ugly. I also think that a lot of men who've moved past these feelings feel the need to treat their former biases and beliefs with scorn, and to move themselves far past their ever feeling that way. It's definitely something I hesitate to talk about, not just because men already have a tendency to dominate discussions that ought to be about women (about which, sorry; I won't post anything more about this in this thread for fear of derailment), but because I feel uncomfortable saying that, as a young guy, I felt like I did respect women, and I did respect their potential and their intelligence and on and on and on, and yet despite that I formed all sorts of ugly biases that led me to behave and think reprehensibly. It's tempting to say "that was foolish, I've moved past this, fingers crossed for all those other idiotic boys!", but I feel like that's ignoring the ways in which the patriarchy hurts young men and teaches them to feel that women are the source of all their hurt. For a long span of time I was convinced that my own misfortunes were entirely the fault of women too obtuse to recognize the rationality of my own behavior, and the thing is that I did feel like I was behaving rationally, because I didn't recognize the ways in which the culture I had grown up in was founded on some very fucked-up beliefs.

That's not a complete explanation of the whole rape-and-murder threats thing, but I do believe it is a significant facet of it. (By the way, I also know a handful of young women who think very sexist thoughts about their own gender, and they operate along the same logic as those sexist young men do — they're bimbos, they say they don't care about men but clearly they're lying, et cetera, et cetera.) There's also the way in which 4chan and SomethingAwful delighted in using violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia to unsettle unsuspecting audiences, mocking the way that other people weren't as "detached" from the Internet as they were. It's a behavior that is rooted in a lot of privilege, and it doesn't work if you were ever on the end of frightening anonymous threats yourself, but it spread from 4chan onto Digg, and from Digg onto Reddit, and now Reddit has become, for better or for worse, a fundamental part of the Internet's DNA as it stands today. Rape is considered trivial, threats are considered humorous, and everything's cloaked in a sense of elite detachment which blames the victim for feeling scared.

What makes these conversations so tricky, I've noticed, and I make many efforts to debate misogyny and rape humor on Reddit because I like calibrating my idea of who the opposition is here, is that you're dealing with a multilayered self-justification here. On the surface level, I think a lot of these people genuinely believe that feminists are just entitled women seeking more than they deserve, and that beautiful women care more about being beautiful than they could possibly care about anything else, and that if you're not a beautiful woman, well, even liberal icon George Carlin had some very ugly things to say about that. Beneath the surface, you have these justifications for why these people feel the way that they do, and I find that it frequently has to do with some of these things I've been talking about: a sense, from a young age, of a double standard, without the context or insight that realizes how much worse the double standard affects women than it does men. That the things these young men espouse are so horrible makes it even tricker, because no fucking way is it a woman's responsibility to face down a guy telling her he's going to rape her and explain to him that his perceived injustices are part of a greater picture that concludes with "and that's why you should feel ashamed of threatening to rape me". And even if you do make the attempt, it is so tricky to navigate the waters of "how do I tell you that you're doing a bad thing without making you feel defensive and victimized" that even with a lot of patience and lengthy, exhausting, repetitive discussions, you only reach the other person a fraction of the time.

It's a fucked-up situation, and I do think that things are going to change for the better: awareness of how poorly society treats women is filtering down to the young'uns nowadays, and I hope that the younger generation will become vocal enough and quickly enough that they can drown out the nasty voices in a flood of insight and discussion that gets more people thinking about what awful, awful things they're saying. I can't help but have empathy for the men who say and do those vile things, however; I think that the problems they genuinely do face are lost amidst the (far greater) problems of the people they threaten and attack. That doesn't justify their actions, not in the least, but it explains them somewhat, and I went far along in that direction when I was a teen to know how easy it is to fall bit-by-bit, step-by-step, into the sorts of delusions and beliefs that your own experience seemingly reinforces, because you don't trust the experiences of the people you've learned to hate enough to hear them out. A number of fortunate circumstances interjected and have started knocking me back towards rationality and reason, but I'm not all the way there yet either, and I can't help but feel a sort of there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I when I see the sorts of nasty, shitty nonsense hurled by men at women en masse. I could have been one of them without too much more of an effort. I'll try and hope that time, and people more patient than I am, will be able to make these anonymous jackasses realize the error of their ways, and feel some amount of shame and contrition for what they've contributed to. I know I certainly do.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:32 PM on January 6 [65 favorites]


Rory, I agree with what you've said, but I think you're leaving out the way society teaches young men that they're entitled to girls and women -- our sympathy, our attention, our time, our bodies. I think that's where the resentment comes from; it's not rejection, it's being denied something they've been taught is already theirs.
posted by jaguar at 8:45 PM on January 6 [77 favorites]


> "First of all, if it's your job to protect people from violence"

It is very much not the police's job to do this. Their job is to respond to crimes.


They might wanna change their mission statements, then. In my city, the PD is charged with, among other things, "fighting crime and the fear of crime" and "safeguarding the constitutional rights of all people." Similar language is used in other cities.
posted by desuetude at 8:46 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


Are there any constitutional rights that are typically protected by local police departments?
posted by aaronetc at 8:50 PM on January 6


Rory, I agree with what you've said, but I think you're leaving out the way society teaches young men that they're entitled to girls and women -- our sympathy, our attention, our time, our bodies. I think that's where the resentment comes from; it's not rejection, it's being denied something they've been taught is already theirs.

There's something I don't quite agree with there, jaguar, but I'm worried that if I try to put my thoughts into words here it'll come out a lot messier and worse and wronger than I'm comfortable with posting in public. Would you mind if I MeMailed you about this, or would that be too much of a bother?
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:06 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


If you say something ragingly racist, the local news organizations usually remove it, but vitriol against women is just par for the course in comments sections and is totally ignored.

When I was a daily blogger at a major metropolitan daily, I was routinely pilloried in the comments section -- and pressured by my editor to wade in and engage with the same people who were busy saying whatever dreadful fictions they had dreamed up. I told my editor I had no intention of wading into any newspaper's comments section unless it was moderated ...

... Which was when she told me that the paper's policy was to keep the comments unmoderated because the users were pushing up the page counts every time they egged each other on to new levels of insult and threat. I was being asked to throw myself into the lion's den to whip my would-be bullies into a frenzy so the paper could record website traffic growth. Using women as punching bags was part of the paper's business plan.

I seriously doubt local news (or metro news) will ever treat sexism with the same moral outrage they treat other forms of discrimination. Misogyny is a cultural pastime in the U.S., and it's a lucrative one.
posted by sobell at 9:09 PM on January 6 [21 favorites]


Rory, MeMail away! I'm having the same prickly sense of missing something in your original comment, and not quite getting at it with mine, so I'd love to continue the conversation.
posted by jaguar at 9:13 PM on January 6 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, before they shut down anonymous comments, my local newspaper was seriously just a cesspool of totally overt racism. I'm not at all minimizing the really horrific misogyny that many women experience online, but I'm not sure I would agree that racist comments would be dealt with more sensitively.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:13 PM on January 6 [3 favorites]


Rory, I agree with what you've said, but I think you're leaving out the way society teaches young men that they're entitled to girls and women -- our sympathy, our attention, our time, our bodies. I think that's where the resentment comes from; it's not rejection, it's being denied something they've been taught is already theirs.

I think it's more insidious than that. It's not so much that we're taught that we're entitled to women, it's that we're taught that some men are entitled to you, but first we have to beat the other men in the competition and then figure out the cheat codes that unlock the door. You are prizes for men, but not all men. Just the ones who can level up. It's sick and twisted, and not conducive to a healthy view of anything. Some of us are lucky enough to have strong women and deprogrammed men in our lives at a young enough age to knock the dumb out of our brains by sheer counter example, but many, apparently, are not - or don't recognize the lessons.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:26 PM on January 6 [18 favorites]


IRFH has it closer, but I still don't quite agree. Let me take a stab at what I'm thinking before I resort to MeMail, because his comment gives me something to work off of.

I'm hesitant about the word "entitlement", not because it's wrong, but because I feel like there's a reason behind that entitlement that needs articulation. What I was trying to get at is that young men often feel like there is a mutual game being played, or a process being observed, which is not-at-all-deliberate on the part of the women. They're raised to behave in certain ways that are intended to mimic sexual readiness/availability/desirability, without ever explicitly being told that that's why they're being told to behave that way. Men observe this and assume, okay, this is something mutual, and they go about doing the sorts of things they've been raised in turn to believe they should do, and when they get rejected it feels like much more than a mere rejection.

Describing it to my girlfriend, I think I used the word "negation" instead of rejection, which is a bit melodramatic but not entirely off-the-mark. For a guy, the feeling of being "shot down" is often, especially at a young age, a much more brutal feeling than a simple "no" ought to be; there's this sense that because you've done the thing you were told to do, and been rejected nonetheless, you are therefore in fact doing something very wrong. Or, just as frequently, that you are somehow inherently worthless in this sense, that you are completely valueless as a source of romantic or sexual desire, because obviously otherwise you'd have been approved.

This sense that you deserve something for going through the motions is the entitlement you're talking about, and it is entitlement—you're 100% correct. But what I was trying to get at was the notion that you don't feel entitled in some general, generic sense; very often, you feel like you're receiving specific signals, and in fact I would argue that you are, suggesting that you ought to be doing something—and the fact that those signals are being broadcast due to messed-up cultural norms rather than out of any personal inclination on the part of a woman is a detail that gets lost in translation.

I think that this leads directly to what IRFH is talking about, and to a lot of the bullshit masculine performance that men are seemingly compelled to display at a certain age. I think that some of the advances made by young men in this fashion are accepted by women — either because the men are more persuasive, or the women are more okay with experimentation, or some combination of the two. When you recognize this whole process as a kind of accidental fart within the patriarchy, it's easy to shrug your shoulders and go, "Yeah, that's going to happen", but when you're the guy with feelings of entitlement who's just been rejected, it feels like something vital to your manliness (as defined by that same culture) is at stake. Out of a fear that that will happen to them (and odds are it does, it happens to most everybody), they start pushing really strongly towards these "masculine" behaviors, because they believe that that is what will make them sexually viable candidates. They are wrong, but they lack the perspective to realize this.

But that strain of performed masculinity interests me less, and I think it's a bit more obvious. What I wish I understood better was the way in which, upon realizing that they understood the system improperly, many men turn immediately to blaming the women for their predicament, because women are the most obvious symbol of what's gone wrong. Even though it's the culture reinforcing these beliefs and wants and needs, it reinforces them through a steady stream of objectified women, both in media representation and in cultural trends. So when men recognize that something's up, they see women as being the source of all their problems.

It's fair to call this entitlement, and I know I'm probably making a mountain out of this molehill. However, simply saying "men feel entitled" overlooks the question of where that sense of entitlement comes from, and I'm uncomfortable with the notion that they're simply taught that women are objects and therefore you can do whatever you want to them. I think that certain—not all—behaviors that get classified as objectification are in fact something a bit subtler: they're men responding to cultural signals as if they were individual ones, and assuming/acting as if the women they interact with are equally aware of how men are interpreting those signals. The problem lies with the miscommunication between the two genders, and the ignorance as to how both genders' behaviors are shaped by the patriarchal culture that we all belong to. Which isn't to say both sides are equally to blame—clearly the misogynists are in the wrong. But I feel the need to empathize with them even as I condemn their actions, because I think that to some extent they feel they are behaving reasonably, and even respectfully, and that our culture has given them a certain amount of reason to believe that that's the case.

The problem is with the culture, and all the individuals in question are caught up in it. I don't sympathize with the assholes who send rape threats and ruin women's lives, but I do care about understanding why they got around to behaving the way they behave.

(Hopefully that makes sense? I'm really hoping this doesn't come off sounding like a justification or a brush-it-all-under-the-carpet explanation. I'm very nervous that I've crossed a line somewhere in this comment or the last one, and if I did I sincerely, sincerely apologizing for doing so.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 9:58 PM on January 6 [28 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd want to trust the police with, well, policing the Internet - not when there are already bloggers being arrested just for being vaguely anti-Government, and not when there's such police violence against marginalised people. Not to mention that they may not take issues like harassment so seriously when they're also playing by the "she asked for it" mantra.

(seriously, how is homodigitalis's comment still here?)
posted by divabat at 10:01 PM on January 6 [7 favorites]


"First of all, if it's your job to protect people from violence"

It is very much not the police's job to do this. Their job is to respond to crimes.

They might wanna change their mission statements, then.


I think that the part in bold might be a reference to that fact that US courts have ruled several times that police do not have an obligation to protect individuals:

Warren vs. DC (1981)
Castle Rock vs. Gonzalez (2005) (see also NYT article)
posted by dhens at 10:18 PM on January 6


[One comment deleted; please don't derail the thread by arguing over whether this subject is as important as something else entirely.]
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:30 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


This is a form of mass hysteria peculiar to males, similar and closely related to lynching, in my opinion.

Pack behaviour.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:37 PM on January 6


I'm not sure I'd want to trust the police with, well, policing the Internet

I sure don't trust a police too much either but in the end it kinda comes down to the monopoly on the legitimate use of force & the barrel of the gun, don't it? For the most part, better the police than the army, the vigilante, or the crowd.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:15 PM on January 6 [1 favorite]


I really like Rory's description, but my first reaction was to think "It's missing something" -- but on reflection, maybe what's missing is something that isn't really part of what's being described in the first place.

Something that (IME, etc, lots of biases) that comes along with female socialization, along with the superficial preening sort of thing (whether it takes or not), is kind of a subtle drumbeat that you don't really get to just say 'no' to something, or at least that doing so is something that you kind of have to pay for or justify with reasons that are substantially stronger than a preference. That's not just in the dating/sexual dance -- it can be in little incidental things, like turning down a food or a social activity (not that this is strictly limited to women, just that there seems to be a bit of a thumb that's persistently on the scale), or not talking with chatty folks on the bus, or disagreeing with an idea, or whatever. With regard to dating specifically, there's messages like "well you led him on, so you've got to follow through" or "now don't turn down that nice boy, you never know, he could end up turning into a prince and then you'll be sorry for missing your chance".

And, well, it's definitely a thing to consider that one shouldn't be cruel when turning someone down, also that there might be merit (or might not) in considering an apparent long shot a bit more. Still, it has a way of adding up, in a way that doesn't get outright stated, that "because you're female, other people get a little extra bonus foothold on claims to your time and attention". That folks behave in that way probably reinforces the concept a bit to people who weren't taught that as a core socialization component, but that doesn't mean that they acquire an internal sense themselves that they are entitled to women -- just perhaps something like "that person broke an implicit social rule that I've picked up, and I see that as rude and compare it (in a way that ends up unequal, but I don't know that) to other rudenesses of various sorts", not "I flat-out own that woman, and how dare she not do whatever that I want her to do?"

If one gets to the point of perceiving that messaging, though, as a female-socialized person, one might sense that there is entitlement and that it comes from an external source. It also comes to mind when dealing with receiving an approach and deciding what to do about it -- so you get an offer, and see it in an unformed way as another one of those external entitlement claims, and the fact that there's a person standing in front of you asking something of you makes that person an obvious potential source of the improper part of the demand. Even though they didn't make the overall problem, and even if they're not deliberately taking advantage of it.

That guys who have the corresponding other unfortunate programming might react with (similarly displaced) hostility to a refusal, though, doesn't exactly unmuddy the waters.

(And, of course, regardless of whodidit, it's still got to be fixed.)

Anyway, I think this might be all a pile of VAGUE as I'm kind of plumbing through the junk bin of mostly discarded memes that yet manage to crop up at Christmas and make me irate, but I think there might be something in the notion that the entitlement bit is a component of the female socialization more so than the male.
posted by sparktinker at 11:47 PM on January 6 [8 favorites]


I don't have much to add to this conversation, other than an observation that nothing brings out The Hater like a powerful, confidant woman. Why this may be I can only guess, but I circle back to the basic misogyny prevalent in mainstream culture. If men didn't feel they were somehow inherently 'better', they wouldn't be threatened when confronted with those who persuasively disagree, would they?
posted by cell divide at 12:21 AM on January 7


Sometimes I think "Thank fuck none of this has happened to me".

And then I think "But what has been happening to me that I've just glossed over? What am I just dismissing with 'oh, it's the Internet' and not saying 'Hey, this isn't cool, and you need to stop it right the hell now.'"

Maybe that should be my New Year's resolution. Stop letting fuckwits get away with it just because I've been on the Internet too long.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:45 AM on January 7 [4 favorites]


PS: A Website called "Sex with Amanda Hess" doesn't help either, because it just sends mixed Messages as well.

PPS: Constantly quoting ""Amanda Hess is a genius" — James Deen" on all your Webspaces also makes you sound less then adorable.


I know this comment has already been discussed, and well refuted by several others, but this is the problem. People that think like this are the problem.

Look at the crazy shit that dude wrote, this is exactly the type of justification that leads to online threats. Just another way of saying that her skirt is too short, or she shouldn't have walked to her car alone, or had too much to drink...
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 2:14 AM on January 7 [24 favorites]


The internet would be so much better and more fun if girls were allowed to be on it.

I get where you mean to go with this, but it has the unfortunate side effect of erasing the women who are online and struggling to remain so.

Also, we've moved on, but one reason not to doxx is that if you get it wrong you really can ruin an innocent person's life.
posted by gingerest at 2:57 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I believe in applying all the levers of society as and where appropriate and effective, and I really believe so many tech-feminism complaints could be solved with the engines of capitalism but I swear to god I think feminists just hate math. Women can certainly math, program, and produce technologies, and I've worked with plenty, but non more than mild & liberal feminist, and a lot of Asians & Indians who seem kind of invisible to Western/Americentric feminism. I haven't seen any stats when I've looked but it definitely seems more equal there, though with some dropoff as you get less Asian/Indian and more Asian/Indian-American. Feminists come from Women's studies, obv., and Comp. Lit., and Sociology, so they don't learn math, or learn basic stats & SPSS which is better than most but still, the GINI coefficient on mathematical knowledge has to be ridic and full technologist needs a little more.

Feminists hate math? Really? I'm not sure why this seemed a good idea for mefi of all places. I'm just going to say that there's a certain woman on here who is one of the smartest people I know, and is a feminist material scientist who has no issue with maths. The fact that she doesn't rub your face in her qualifications doesn't mean that she doesn't have them, and I wonder if that type of restraint is feeding a confirmation bias for you.

Also eeugh. That is what my less sophisticated side says.
posted by jaduncan at 3:03 AM on January 7 [27 favorites]


It's not as if the many women from IT here or the other threads about geek sexism aren't already feminists...
posted by sukeban at 3:08 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


It's not as if the many women from IT here or the other threads about geek sexism aren't already feminists...

It's almost as if there's some kind of attitude in the tech community that makes many people in the workplace not want to express strongly feminist viewpoi...wait a second!
posted by jaduncan at 3:24 AM on January 7 [18 favorites]


[Comment removed. If you want to raise an issue with the mods, feel free to reach us via the contact form.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:24 AM on January 7


I'm going to go out on a limb here since my original comment probably failed to articulate what I needed to articulate for the purposes of discussion.

A lot of what I read about this topic is divisive. Things like auto-censoring parts of the social media Internet so that strangers can't say bad words? If there's one thing that FFXIV has proved it's that people will always find some way to say "Y0|_| F|_| C |< | |\|G |\| |GG3R 8|7C|-|" using Unicode. It's completely fruitless in a war where the opponent is some bored asshole with more time on his hands than you to devote to the imagined cause of men becoming second class citizens in the world with less privilege than females.

I don't know how but we need to reach out to people on this topic instead of shaming and excluding. We need to extend a hand to them and say "Yeah, what we're doing, it's scary for you. It requires you to trust us that we only want to be equals and after what we've been through, I can understand why someone would think we wouldn't stop at equals. But we just want to be heard, just like you always have been." Their concerns may not be valid, they may be valid. They don't want to be excluded from the process and not have their say and they are desperately afraid that this is what will happen over the next 20 years, the effective emancipation of the western white male. We need to show some god damn empathy no matter how angry, hurtful and fucked up these people are. And that's the real test of whether you want society to actually move forward or if you just want to fight some shitty liberal battle to prove your SJ credentials.

At every opportunity we need to emphasize that it's not about taking your power but sharing it. We can't throw historical precedence of "well you screwed us for tens of thousands of years" back in people's faces and we must do what we can to keep the trust that this is all about the equality of all humans.

Without it we may as well start considering these threads I/P with the same shit we'll rehash and redux every damn time it comes up.

I don't know what else to say other than to summarize: Show empathy, encourage connection and always work with these people in good faith no matter how shitty they are.
posted by Talez at 3:49 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


And then I think "But what has been happening to me that I've just glossed over? What am I just dismissing with 'oh, it's the Internet' and not saying 'Hey, this isn't cool, and you need to stop it right the hell now.'"

I also wonder how much of it we avoid by just... pre-emptively shutting up, really. I don't go out of my way to hide that I'm female online, and I don't remember ever consciously thinking "well I'd like to speak up in this discussion about women/feminism but I'm scared of being harassed or threatened so no". Even so, though, I have done my fair share of picking gender-neutral names, not correcting people who assume I'm male, and not stepping into conversations about gender where things are already going in a casually sexist direction, because I knew it would mean some degree of hassle and sometimes life's just too short to bother dealing with that. Stay quiet and hey presto, hassle avoided (most of the time).

Of course, learning to stay quiet means I'm perpetuating the fucked-up system where that's a reasonable thing to expect women to do just to get treated civilly, and making it that tiny fraction easier for the next chest-beating internet warrior on Reddit to say "well what did she expect, most normal women on the internet don't make a big thing out of being a girl or talk about sexism all the time, she must be [doing it for the attention/making stuff up/being a misandrist]". Ugh.
posted by Catseye at 4:06 AM on January 7 [15 favorites]


Feminists hate math? Really? I'm not sure why this seemed a good idea for mefi of all places. I'm just going to say that there's a certain woman on here who is one of the smartest people I know, and is a feminist material scientist who has no issue with maths. The fact that she doesn't rub your face in her qualifications doesn't mean that she doesn't have them, and I wonder if that type of restraint is feeding a confirmation bias for you.

I'm also bothered by the whole implication that "female=feminist" and "feminists come from Womens Studies, obviously" thing. I, for one, can't think of any feminists (of any gender) in the tech industry that came from Women's Studies, certainly not among those that I know. That includes my mother, an ardent feminist who spent 35 years in the statistical field. In fact, I only know a couple that came from anything but the math and non-social sciences.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:08 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I don't know how but we need to reach out to people on this topic instead of shaming and excluding.

Why is it the duty of the oppressed to be nonthreatening and hold the hands of their oppressors? Seriously, if that shit worked we'd be doing it already. It doesn't. If the poor menz have their feelings hurt by being called out as benefiting from a societal system that physically, emotionally and sexually abuses women and forces us to spend mental energy protecting ourselves and then blames us for not building our walls high enough when we are still harassed and assaulted, I don't really see how it's my goddamn problem. I've tried working with shitty people. I've tried holding their hands and explaining that I'm not out to get them, really. It was frustrating and it failed to be useful.

Every fucking time you or anyone else says that we'll do better if we just adjust our attitude, all I see is someone telling me that maybe the men will listen if we wait our turn and act prim enough. I'm done with that shit.

The only way we're going to move forward is with shame and exclusion: by calling out these jackasses as jackasses, by publically shaming them and by banning them from the spaces on the internet that aren't already goddamn cesspools.
posted by NoraReed at 4:17 AM on January 7 [48 favorites]


The Headline of the Article and the whole Sentiment that all Women are not welcomed on the Internet is rubbish.

The Sun! Beautiful.

I understand the Need to capitalize Random Words as if you were writing in the nineteenth Century, but surely you can leave its Attitudes behind.

Even more beautiful.

Oh, yeah.
posted by flabdablet at 4:21 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I don't know how but we need to reach out to people on this topic instead of shaming and excluding. We need to extend a hand to them and say "Yeah, what we're doing, it's scary for you. It requires you to trust us that we only want to be equals and after what we've been through, I can understand why someone would think we wouldn't stop at equals. But we just want to be heard, just like you always have been."

Oh, great. Now I have to add "treat people who threaten to anally rape your steaming, blood-spurting decapitated corpse with the unending patience, love and charity of Saint Francis of Assissi" to the already enormous list of Things To Do To Make Men Feel Good About Themselves. Poor men. Poor, poor men, so obviously *hurting*.
posted by sukeban at 4:37 AM on January 7 [49 favorites]


Men must call each other out, IRL and online, for even casual, thoughtless, yo bro misogyny. Men. Man to man. You must. No more laughing, no dirty remarks under the breath, no gross gestures behind a woman's back, no giving a guy a pass 'cause you went to high school with him, no more "it's not my business," no gang-mentality, no ignoring hate/rape/violent comments, no more no more no more. Please, just turn to each other and say, Hey, that's not cool, I don't want to hear that. It won't stop the crazies, but it will dial down the incessant anti-woman white noise they hide behind.
posted by thinkpiece at 5:03 AM on January 7 [41 favorites]


Their concerns may not be valid, they may be valid. They don't want to be excluded from the process and not have their say and they are desperately afraid that this is what will happen over the next 20 years, the effective emancipation of the western white male.

Ugh seriously no, their concern of what exactly? That a woman talk in public? That she write online? Because that's the baseline here: existing as a woman. Anywhere! Public meetings! Internet forums! A job! What part of that is valid and worthy of my time and concern? What part of that means anyone should be allowed to threaten, harass, or write out scenarios of rape and murder? Nope, sorry, no one should have to preemptively apologize for being female. This has nothing to do with "taking power" and "emancipation(?)" and "sharing," it has to do with total assholes on the Internet saying total asshole things that happen to be horribly graphic, violent, and inexcusable.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:08 AM on January 7 [20 favorites]


I believe in applying all the levers of society as and where appropriate and effective, and I really believe so many tech-feminism complaints could be solved with the engines of capitalism but I swear to god I think feminists just hate math.

I...what? Why? I have no idea what this is supposed to relate to.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:12 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Calling awful people's awful opinions is a great way of showing solidarity for the real victims here, who are the ones receiving all the rape threats and being slowly herded away from participation online.

What's the saying? Justice and mercy coexist? Justice, in this case, is pushing so hard against these people's ugly worldviews that we make a space for the millions of women who feel like they can't participate online without horrendous shit happening to them. Until that safe space exists, justice has not been delivered.

A couple of hurt feelings, or a fear of physical assault and more. Your call which one needs to be prevented more immediately.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:16 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I'll say, though, that as a guy who attempts to be a feminist and an ally, I often feel a responsibility to engage with people espousing shitty opinions and try to get them to at least reflect on why what they're saying is problematic. I know that my privilege gives me a detachment from the day-to-day struggles that women pretty much all have to go through, and I like to use that sometimes to get into the sorts of exhausting conversations that that detachment leaves me comfortable with getting into.

Talez, what you miss in your comment is that these struggles are not "historic". They are not "tens of thousands of years back". They are NOW. They are happening TODAY. And asking people to show empathy and understanding to the people who are ACTIVELY THREATENING TO RAPE THEM is kind of... not the most understanding request to make. Even if it does come from a good place.

Be the change you want to see in the world. If you want to push for more understanding and empathy and sympathy, you've got to get out there doing that. But women who deal with this shit day in and day out are not the ones responsible for being fair and merciful and loving to everybody, and that includes their supposedly-sympathetic allies.

When I first joined MetaFilter, I was trying very hard to be feminist and understanding, and I still said a lot of things that people shot down or got angry at or treated me in a manner that I felt was unfair, and I got huffy a few times before realizing that no matter how much I try to sympathize, this is not my fight and I don't get to call the shots, because I don't experience this stuff firsthand. I can theorize all I want, but my theories and notions have nothing to do with the day-to-day experience of anybody else in this thread, and I have to adjust my theories to match that experienced reality.

Which is to say, seriously, go out there and find some bruised misogynists and show 'em some mercy. Really actually. Maybe it'll help somewhat. I said above that I spend time on Reddit doing exactly that. But you can't go from "this is how I want to behave" to "this is how we all ought to behave", because it's not your place to determine that, and you lack some very important context here that affects your decisions. I do too.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:26 AM on January 7 [15 favorites]


Talez, I don't know how you could have quoted this, way up top, and then advocate that I show empathy to and work with people who threaten to rape me, burn my house down, kill my family, etc. Or are you speaking of some other "we" that should be empathetic reach out and so on?
posted by rtha at 5:43 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


The problem is with the culture, and all the individuals in question are caught up in it. I don't sympathize with the assholes who send rape threats and ruin women's lives, but I do care about understanding why they got around to behaving the way they behave.


Rory, I think you've done a lot of interesting thinking about this, and a lot of what you've said makes sense to me. The big question on my mind right now is: how can we help to speed up the cultural change that, in the end, would be better for both men and women? I suppose individuals can attempt to become aware of the way this culture has impacted them, but as you pointed out, we are often dealing with kids who just haven't had the chance to see how much of an impact culture can have on their thoughts and behaviors.

Another point that might look slightly familiar to you: the same culture that teaches men that women want to be found attractive etc...also teaches women that men have very low standards when it comes to potential sexual partners. As a relatively homely high school girl who dared to ask boys out and got rejected, I felt, as a girl, a similar incredible sense of rejection that you described. I was a GIRL and I wasn't good enough somehow? Even though people had taught me (incredibly unfairly and wrongly) that men were sex-crazed sacks of testosterone who wanted to get with anything that moved, I was rejected? It hurt. Now, that was a stupid way to think, but I was a stupidly sensitive high school girl. All of this is not to invalidate your point about the pressures and rejections that men feel, and it is not to make some kind of stupid claim that "girls have it harder." I suppose it's just interesting and potentially important to think about. It is another perspective that shows how damaging certain aspects of our culture can be to male and female self-esteem.

(Also, like Rory, I heartily apologize if I have offended anyone or said something out of line.)
posted by Lee Shore at 6:18 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]


But that's what that article says. That these people are lashing out because they're deathly afraid because their lives are shitty and the one thing they think they have (male white privilege) is about to be absconded with. And the only way we can make them less afraid is to connect.

Western society is caught up in a culture of fear, shame and disconnection. Only by reaching out can we start to change this shitty society into a better one.

Or we can do exactly what we're doing and maintain pointless adversarial sniping at each other. SRS can continue to point and laugh at shitlords and TRP/MRA can continue to shit all over everything with their filth.

They are not "tens of thousands of years back"

Tens of thousands of years ongoing not back.
posted by Talez at 6:21 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I just can't fucking fathom this shit, pardon my French. [Beware: more "French" below.]

First, the annoying qualifier, to get it out of the way: at the end of the article, she suggests a point that had occurred to me partway through: that, without much solid evidence of physical harm resulting from such threats, part of the unresponsiveness of law enforcement may be a result of the fact that there genuinely are worse problems that they have to attend to. People actually being physically harmed and so on. With respect to non-online threats, does law enforcement evaluate them on the basis of their credibility? Anyway, maybe this is what's up, but that's being pretty damn charitable.

But, that, having been said: physical harm isn't the point. This fucking stuff is psychopathic, and no one should be expected to just put up with it. Physical harm is not the only harm. People just shouldn't be able to say such things to others.

Long experience as a dude has convinced me that about 5% (maybe rather more) of the male population is just flat-out fucking batshit crazy and dangerous if you give them half a chance to be. There is just something bad wrong with them. Give the wimpy ones--the ones who have longed to hurt people their whole lives, but lacked the physical ability to--a platform for assaulting people that doesn't require them to risk physical harm, and it's like candyland to them.

I wonder whether there will eventually evolve two versions of every site--a version that's totally unregulated, and a version that's set up to filter out/punish psychopaths. (One worry, with reference to an earlier post, is that such things will be taken too far, and that indiscriminate accusations of prejudice will be given weight... But, honestly, this really isn't hard for sensible people to avoid.) Online harassment doesn't frighten me at all...I'm more than willing to respond in kind... (though it pisses me off...) But I'd gladly eschew unregulated versions of a site in favor of regulated versions in order to further the campaign against online harassment. Boy this stuff makes me angry.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:26 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Western society is caught up in a culture of fear, shame and disconnection. Only by reaching out can we start to change this shitty society into a better one.

I'll be blunt: what, specifically, are you doing? Have you reached out to homidigitalis about the comment he made way upthread? Have you got a memail in the works to him? Do you go on reddit and reach out to the guys making rape jokes? Do you offer help and an ear to the terrified MRAs? When you see or hear one of your IRL guy friends making horrible sexist comments or jokes, do you talk to them about that?
posted by rtha at 6:33 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


When you see or hear one of your IRL guy friends making horrible sexist comments or jokes, do you talk to them about that?

This one mostly. Especially over Vent in a WoW guild. It can get pretty fucking terrible at the best of times.
posted by Talez at 6:35 AM on January 7


But that's what that article says. That these people are lashing out because they're deathly afraid because their lives are shitty and the one thing they think they have (male white privilege) is about to be absconded with. And the only way we can make them less afraid is to connect.

This is emphatically not what the article is saying, at all. The closest it comes is to point out that there are a number of guys who have this fear but aren't necessarily engaging in the violence aspect of things, and that some of them can still be reached, but it's hard to determine the difference between them and the "silent predator" type. These are the lost causes, the lost generation even, and the only effective recourse is the law and the companies. Sadly, the efforts thus far have been minimal at best. That's why the article is titled "Why Women Aren't Welcome On The Internet," and not "How Women Can Deal With Assholes On The Internet."
posted by zombieflanders at 6:41 AM on January 7


Well Fists O'Fury - it's nice that "Online harassment doesn't frighten me at all" but as a guy you're also not likely to face the kind of worry about being raped or assaulted that all women are aware of under a variety of circumstances in real life let alone online. And Talez - it's great to reach out to people you know but as a guy you're doing in a in privileged situation because you're essentially part of their club. I don't mean to say you're a harasser and in fact I think if more men did this in situations like Vent over WoW it might be productive. As a woman however if someone texts, tweets or comments to me that they want to rape me until I die or the like I am going to take it seriously - especially if it's someone who adds comments like "I know where you live" or the like.

I think this culture needs to change. I think we're seeing a lot of horrendous backlash against the progress that women have made but that only means we need to step up our game and call out this kind of behavior and pressure companies like Twitter to take it seriously and address it in a systemic way. And to a large degree that means that men need to step up their responses to the assholes because the harassers have already made it clear that they don't regard women as equal people. I don't think it will necessarily change minds but if it changes behavior that's a huge step in the right direction.
posted by leslies at 6:44 AM on January 7 [5 favorites]


But that's what that article says. That these people are lashing out because they're deathly afraid because their lives are shitty and the one thing they think they have (male white privilege) is about to be absconded with. And the only way we can make them less afraid is to connect.

Yeah, that's not it.

Or, rather: it's an empirical question, and an answerable one, and my hypothesis/prediction is that that cultural components may be some *part* of it... But some people are just bad people. People can get sucked into sub-cultures that encourage assholery--obviously. But that's not the only factor here--I assert.

But look: it seems to be a liberal myth (and, for the record, I'm mostly liberal) that bullies bully because they feel inferior or threatened. Bullies, according to at least some studies (too lazy to Google it), bully because they feel superior to others, and see them as deserving of being bullied. It's a convenient, comforting idea that such people are just misunderstood, and that all we have to do is reach out to them and show them kindness or whatever...but it does not seem to be true. Many liberals don't like the idea that some conflicts can't be resolved by kindness and understanding... But that's the way it is.

But (and ignoring the fact that "privilege" isn't a concept that can actually bear the weight of such discussions), this is not about guys sitting around fretting about their loss of "privilege." You think these guys would not have been sending such messages had the internet been available in, say, 1900? Or that, even if they were guaranteed that society would freeze in place in terms of social change, they'd stop sending them? So fear of change doesn't seem like a plausible cause here.

It's much more plausible that you've got a core of bad people (males, in this case), and bad males have certain known characteristics. They enjoy hurting and frightening people. There's not much that can be done to change this. Then there's a penumbra of guys who aren't irredeemably evil, but have those tendencies, which can be fostered or tamped down by social interactions (including cultural stuff). And then there's probably an outer ring of guys who really aren't like that, but got sucked in by social stuff. (And, of course, there are the just-plain irrational/not sane dudes...not sane in other ways, that is, than enjoying causing pain...)

Many people can be reasoned with, and much bad action is based on ignorance. I've been with guys who thought that catcalling girls wasn't a big deal. But when you yell at them about it and explain to them why it's not ok, they respond immediately--or, anyway, that's my experience. And we'll find that with some cyber-threateners as well. As we move toward the core, however, reason and changes in social stuff will have less and less effect. By all means, let's save the people we can with reason and social pressure... But I expect we'll always have to deal with the core of bad people/badness in people. Perhaps it's small enough to not worry about here. My prediction is, however, that it's non-trivial.

It would be good to be wrong about this.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:49 AM on January 7 [3 favorites]


Well Fists O'Fury - it's nice that "Online harassment doesn't frighten me at all" but as a guy you're also not likely to face the kind of worry about being raped or assaulted that all women are aware of under a variety of circumstances in real life let alone online.

What's your bloody point? How is anything I wrote in any way inconsistent with that? The very reason for pointing out that I'm a guy and that it doesn't bother me is to emphasize that, even given those things, I'd support versions of sites that filtered out harassment. That is--I have no personal stake in such sites, but I'd still enthusiastically support them. I'm absolutely poignantly aware of the fact that my position is dissimilar to that of a female in this case. How could have I have possibly made that any clearer?

Jesus...no matter how genuinely, enthusiastically supportive you are in conversations like this, you're still going to get "called out" for some crap or other. This is why so many people who'd otherwise be supportive get annoyed and go do something else.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 6:56 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I think that this leads directly to what IRFH is talking about, and to a lot of the bullshit masculine performance that men are seemingly compelled to display at a certain age. ... but when you're the guy with feelings of entitlement who's just been rejected, it feels like something vital to your manliness (as defined by that same culture) is at stake. Out of a fear that that will happen to them (and odds are it does, it happens to most everybody), they start pushing really strongly towards these "masculine" behaviors, because they believe that that is what will make them sexually viable candidates. They are wrong, but they lack the perspective to realize this.

For what it's worth, the most virulently sexist men I've met in real life were total failures at societally expected "masculine" performance -- they weren't good looking, financially and sexually successful, strong, or a paterfamilias. I don't know that you can expand that to the world of online sexism, but at least anecdotally I'd say it's specifically not because they "start pushing really strongly towards these "masculine" behaviors, because they believe that that is what will make them sexually viable candidates" and instead it's the opposite, men who are failing at masculinity and therefore lash out.

But I think it's also a derail to take a thread about violent threats faced by women and turn it into long explanations about men, what their motives might be, how to reach them or not reach them, and so on. The central point to the article is that societally -- in our courts and criminal justice system -- we have decided that violent threats against women don't matter, aren't worth investigating, and even current laws against it are not being enforced. That has absolutely nothing to do with the motivations of the perpetrators and everything to do with why it is so hard to get the FBI or your employer to take threats of rape and even murder seriously.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:59 AM on January 7 [19 favorites]


At every opportunity we need to emphasize that it's not about taking your power but sharing it. We can't throw historical precedence of "well you screwed us for tens of thousands of years" back in people's faces and we must do what we can to keep the trust that this is all about the equality of all humans.

I think a better place to start is that people are expected to behave like, well, people. That the internet, with its veneer of distance and anonymity, does not make it OK to engage in antisocial posturing. Threats of rape and death online should be treated seriously, both through formal channels of administrative and legal action. The bottom line is that this behavior is utterly unacceptable, and people need to get on board with that.

The examination of why this happens is kind of interesting, but I think it casts too much attention on men and their frustrations (legitimate and/or imagined) and away from women and their very real fears. If someone is terrorizing people, after all, their motives are mostly interesting as a pathway to getting them to stop. If that can be done through gentle means of getting them to realize that they would be happier if they started acting like socialized adults, that would be great, but, honestly, I would settle for fear of legal repercussions if it would get them to stop.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:06 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


But look: it seems to be a liberal myth (and, for the record, I'm mostly liberal) that bullies bully because they feel inferior or threatened. Bullies, according to at least some studies (too lazy to Google it), bully because they feel superior to others, and see them as deserving of being bullied. It's a convenient, comforting idea that such people are just misunderstood, and that all we have to do is reach out to them and show them kindness or whatever...but it does not seem to be true. Many liberals don't like the idea that some conflicts can't be resolved by kindness and understanding... But that's the way it is.

On the contrary, positive psychology is generally considered to be a far better alternative and fixes the core of the problem.

People want to be understood and accepted. If we as parents and as society continue to teach kids that aggression is a valid path to that acceptance bullying will be learned naturally. If we are role models to how we want our kids to be and teach our kids to love themselves it starts to short circuit the circle.
posted by Talez at 7:15 AM on January 7


When Misogynist Trolls Make Journalism Miserable for Women
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:36 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


People want to be understood and accepted.

True. But I don't happen to think it's my job to keep turning the other cheek (I am totally out of cheeks, FWIW) to men - anonymous men, especially, men who are not in my life as friends or acquaintances or co-workers - who threaten me. I'm glad that you push back against this in areas of your life. I think that's a good and valuable thing. I think your expectation that all of us who are subjected to violent and repeated threats must do the same is unrealistic.
posted by rtha at 8:01 AM on January 7 [35 favorites]


Yeah, why is it the victims and targets of this sort of thing who have to show empathy and compassion, specifically? Talez, it's great that you handle this sort of thing in WoW, but what about the rest of your life? Because I don't have the option of only engaging with it in one forum; I get to deal with it everywhere I go, as well as real life. Like rtha, I am out of cheeks.
posted by KathrynT at 8:03 AM on January 7 [34 favorites]


I remember way back before I was on the internet but was instead hooked on CB radio from the ages of 12 to 19 or thereabouts how much I enjoyed yapping away but I was always, always stymied when someone started flirting or getting really personal about sex out of the blue and how quickly they got pissed off when I tried to divert the subject with humour, or anger, or sarcasm, or anything really that didn't involve playing along.

It used to piss me off something chronic, mostly because I didn't know how to combat it without it becoming a shitshow and letting them know that I wasn't interested made things worse! Quite a mindfuck for someone who has never believed that they were in any way inferior or different because they happened to be female.

When I discovered local BBS's in the early 90's and then a few years later the internet, things weren't all that different. Yap yap, fun fun, surprise tell me about your vagina comment *cue cliched screech sound effect*

Even now, almost 30 years later, I still don't really know how to handle it when I'm offered a surprise cock out of nowhere, metaphorically and literally.

The main thing I'm doing to combat this shite, and it's a long game, is teaching my two boys, currently aged 8 and 12, that girls aren't exotic, consent is important and sexism sucks. At the very least, they'll never be able to say that they weren't told.
posted by h00py at 8:03 AM on January 7 [16 favorites]


I rarely have the attention span for long-form writing anymore, but I read this to the end and then forwarded to several other women. This is the best article I've read on the subject, thank you for posting it.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:29 AM on January 7


Still thinking about this. I really can't imagine engaging with empathy and compassion with someone who'd send me messages like

“I am 36 years old, I did 12 years for ‘manslaughter’, I killed a woman, like you, who decided to make fun of guys cocks.” And then: “Happy to say we live in the same state. Im looking you up, and when I find you, im going to rape you and remove your head.” There was more, but the final tweet summed it up: “You are going to die and I am the one who is going to kill you. I promise you this.”

Over on AskMe, if someone says that they're receiving harassing and threatening messages from [a stranger, an ex, their estranged parent, etc.], we don't tell them to engage with compassion and empathy and to seek to lower the threatener's fear. We tell them to read that book you know the one I mean, we tell them to never, ever reply, we tell them to send the messages straight to a special folder, we tell them to contact the police.

I still remember this crank call I got when I was in high school. I'd just gotten home, my mom was still at work, and the phone rang. A man said to me "Hello, little girl. Want me to come over and rape you?" I hung up and sat down on the floor, because my knees gave out. I called my mom. She called the police. The police called me. They offered to send a female officer to my house to hang out until my mom came home! Can you imagine?
posted by rtha at 8:57 AM on January 7 [40 favorites]


Curiously, this hit just after something that I think is related, and got me thinking again about the weird relation dudes have with Internet harassment.

A pair of video bloggers on the games site The Escapist released a video called "Is Anita Sarkeesian Wrong" [previously]. In a textbook example of kidding on the square, the vidéastes joked that they were only doing it for the views, whereas in fact... they were only doing it for the views.

The piece itself was nothing special - basically repeating the first couple of paragraphs of the "let's be rational and logical" post on every Reddit thread about Anita Sarkeesian for the last year. The harassment is bad, of course, but what has she done with all the money, and how come she asked even for $6000 when she already owned a video camera, and why won't she respond to her critics, and it's sad that nobody ever disagrees with her for fear of being attacked by white knights. The usual.

But the key phrase regarding the solid 18 months so far of death and rape threats she has received for funding and making a series of You Tube videos - the one they were so proud of that they used it to promote the video - was:
If I slather myself with honey, and put fish in my pockets, and start pushing at bears...

I don't really have a case when suddenly I get mauled and I go to the bear-judge and say, 'Hey, why did your bears maul me?'
Funnily enough, when people started pointing out that this was victim blaming, they complained that people were calling them monsters, despite their reasonable and logical analysis. Which did kind of have me thinking "Guys, it's been two days. Call back when this has kept up for eighteen months, and involved regular online and emailed fantasies about your rape and murder. Then, apparently, we can tell you you shouldn't have slathered yourself with honey and put fish in your pockets in the first place."

Related - two people who tweeted death threats to Caroline Criado-Perez during her campaign to have Jane Austen memorialized on the British £10 note just pleaded guilty to "sending by means of a public electronic communications network messages which were menacing in character". Sentencing will take place later this month. That's going to occasion some complicated feelings.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:09 AM on January 7 [13 favorites]


I debate, frequently, trying to do what I actually want to do in life instead of my current "settle for" career. Right now I pretty much fly under the radar in life and on the Internet and get very little crap, since I figured out in college how to ah, minimize that. However, if I do that, then I become a woman in public and I'll get stalkers and death and rape threats just like everyone else. Is it worth it to try to do what my heart wants to do if I'm going to get attacked for the rest of my life just because more men know I exist?

I still debate if there's any way I can minimize this stuff. Don't hand out my e-mail or any kind of contact information is one of those ideas, I kind of keep that stuff on the down low anyway, which is why I get a lot less harassment from jerks because most of them don't want to work very hard to find my info. Don't post a lot of pics of yourself (or at least, not ones where you see your head well) on popular websites. I keep my blog readership low, but that would be something I'd have to stop doing if I started publishing. Stay off Twitter and Facebook--well, I hate those anyway, but if I went for a public career I'd be forced to use them and be wide open for rape and murder threats that I can't get away from. And then there's the obvious answer of hiding my gender, but pretending to be a man on the Internet isn't as easy as it used to be, especially given how much you're supposed to be publicizing yourself and putting your smiling picture on everything and showing up on YouTube or whatever.

As always, it seems like the only way to not get death and rape threats is to keep your mouth shut and hide in the kitchen, bitch.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:09 AM on January 7 [2 favorites]


The police response to the Caroline Criado-Perez case was especially outrageous, considering how quickly police in the UK will go after someone who makes a racist tweet in a footballing context. They have the capabilities, and it just shows you where their priorities lie.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:16 AM on January 7 [1 favorite]


This Just In ... (tickertape noise)
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 9:32 AM on January 7


If I slather myself with honey, and put fish in my pockets, and start pushing at bears...

Sometimes I wonder whether men who say these things about other men (calling them animals/animal-like) realize or care how insulting they're being to their own gender. Or do they consciously understand they way they're using other men to keep women in line by using them as threats in a good-cop bad-cop routine of policing women's behavior?
posted by immlass at 9:34 AM on January 7 [9 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder whether these men have really internalized how fucked up it is when "You selfish c***, I know where you live and I'm going to rape you to death" is an acceptable thing to say to a stranger but "Wait, aren't you blaming the victim a bit?" isn't.
posted by KathrynT at 10:39 AM on January 7 [54 favorites]


They don't want to be excluded from the process and not have their say and they are desperately afraid that this is what will happen over the next 20 years, the effective emancipation of the western white male.

Was this supposed to be "emasculation?" What is "emancipation" supposed to mean in this context?
posted by sweetkid at 10:45 AM on January 7


The police called me. They offered to send a female officer to my house to hang out until my mom came home! Can you imagine?

I...kinda think that is good? They listened and wanted to send someone there for your protection, right? I am not sure what else they could have done, honestly, unfortunately. Unless you got the number of the guy who called you, but presumably this was back in the day before caller ID was a thing. I know most of the obscene phone calls I used to get happened back then.

Which is why I definitely think anonymity IS a factor in the rape and deaths threats women online experience so frequently. I just don't know what we should do about that.

That the death threats came from someone who claimed to be living in the same state may have made this particular case the concern of the police, but that is significantly statistically not the norm for most threats. Even so, it's obvious the local police are woefully unprepared and unversed in how to deal with this stuff, as their response shows. And while I roll my eyes at the officer not knowing what a Twitter was, not everything they advised was wrong, exactly. I wouldn't want anyone to tell me that I should stay off of Twitter because someone was harassing me--make the harasser stay off! Why should I have to curtail my actions because of this jerk?!--but given the limited resources they have to deal with the situation, the police advising her to stay away from the medium allowing her harasser to have access to her makes sense. It's like suggesting someone change their phone number and address to avoid a stalker. It sucks, but it may be in your best interests.

More commonly, of course, there are no easily identifiable clues to where the perpetrator of the harassment is physically located. What else could work against online harassment? You can get an IP address if you can get Federal law officers involved AND the website or email carrier cooperates--but that means we have to all be okay with the precedent of Facebook, Twitter or our email host giving up that information. I already balk at Facebook wanting to track me with cookies, and grumble over services, like Google+, wanting to go by my legal name! And I am not a harasser.

I was once the victim of internet fraud online (some loser trying to break into a PayPal account I no longer have) and appreciate very much the way the Federal prosecutors were trying to crack down on that stuff. Even having had that experience, I am not such a patriot that I trust everyone in Federal law enforcement not to misuse access to all our online activity, and I am well aware that in this case I represent a more privileged member of society. I would empathize with any man who balked at the idea of the Feds being privy to his personal info so easily; a disproportionate number of young men in this country are already in prison before reaching adulthood.

Not to mention that as Amanda Hess herself acknowledges, shielding an IP address is not that hard to do. You can find out how to do that by just searching for "VPN" right here on metafilter.

So we are left with the possible solution of online social sites and services policing or at least moderating comments. I am a fan of Amanda Hess (enjoyed her previous article in Asylum!) and this article is very well-written, but I think she does Twitter a disservice when she gives them a hard time for deleting harassing or offensive tweets. I know she wants a paper trail for documentation purposes, I get that. But I think the "Report Abuse" button is one (albeit flawed and limited) way to discourage online harassment.

As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats. The poster is mouthing off for attention and upvotes and internet fame (or infamy). Disappearing their contributions is the most effective way I know of, right now at least, for stemming the tide of harassment from internet trolls who target women, at least without requiring the rest of us having to give up more of our own rights to privacy.
posted by misha at 11:25 AM on January 7


I think the "can you imagine?" was meant to convey amazement that the police ever actually cared, unlike today.
posted by elizardbits at 11:33 AM on January 7 [24 favorites]


Seconding this interpretation.
posted by jessamyn at 11:34 AM on January 7 [8 favorites]


Thirding.
posted by localroger at 11:37 AM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I think the "can you imagine?" was meant to convey amazement

Confirming this interpretation.
posted by rtha at 11:47 AM on January 7 [11 favorites]


As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats. The poster is mouthing off for attention and upvotes and internet fame (or infamy). Disappearing their contributions is the most effective way I know of, right now at least, for stemming the tide of harassment from internet trolls who target women, at least without requiring the rest of us having to give up more of our own rights to privacy.

Even if they're empty threats, they're still harmful. Yeah, most rape and death threats don't come true, but victims are still harassed and bullied on email, twitter, Facebook, their personal websites/blogs, and sometimes their phones and texts. These are virtual spaces are anonymous, but unlike bathroom walls or a flyer on a pole, they are also very immediate and intimate. Partly because the Internet has grown and reached every part of people's lives and is carried into and become their homes and places of work and everything in between.

And, unless disappearing intercepts a message before the receiver reads it, it's ineffective and can be abused by the threat maker. I don't think solutions like Snapchat, where messages "disappear" after minutes is really going to work.
posted by FJT at 12:09 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats.

At the time you get one of these threats, though, you don't know that. Even if you have gotten a lot of them in the past, there is always the kernel of doubt in your head that "but maybe this time they mean it". And having to go through that moment of doubt that this time they might mean it again and again and again and again and again is....well, the phrase "death by a thousand paper cuts" comes to mind, but doesn't seem quite strong enough.

Although, I note that in the article, the author notes that a lot of these threats had historically come from a person who had a history of actually stalking her in real life. So those particular threats were particularly more firm.

And the fact that I felt I had to validate someone's fear just maddens me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:23 PM on January 7 [26 favorites]


As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats.

Well, so what? The rape threat rtha received over the phone when she was a child was probably an "empty threat," but it still harmed her by causing extreme terror and distress, and the police still took it seriously. The fact that threats can now be delivered digitally rather than telephonically, and in greater volume than ever before, doesn't alter that.
posted by scody at 12:38 PM on January 7 [16 favorites]


As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats.

On what are you basing "vast majority"? Because reality says otherwise: violence against women (US).

Anecdote also says otherwise, FWIW. I know I'm not the only woman here who has been stalked, threatened with rape, and threatened to be beaten... and who was indeed then stalked, raped, and beaten. How many times does it have to happen in reality for threats not to be okay?

Serious stalkers (plural) in my life so far, age 38: three.
- One stalked me starting when I was 14. He escalated when I moved into a dorm in college, as in, the very same night I moved in, I got a phone call from him to let me know he knew where I lived and was watching my movements. He showed up outside a couple classes. He died of a cocaine overdose a year later, which is when his daily phone calls finally stopped. I was 19. So not only did I spend my childhood dealing with a fucked-up abusive family, I spent my adolescence scared out of my wits that a dude knew where I lived, found my number before my best friends did, called my best friends with threats (wheeee), and, wow, I guess I should have had compassion for him? Excuse my French, mais putain y en a marre, c'est complètement anormal et j'ai pas à supporter ce genre de conneries qui me volent une bonne partie de la vie juste parce que je suis née avec deux chromosomes X.
- Another I don't want to give information about. More than twenty years now.
- The third raped me. More than once. Because no one listened to me.

Not a stalker, but beatings:
- Father, who hated women. (No really. He fucking hated women. One reason my childhood was so messed up is that he wanted a firstborn son, not the "useless" daughter he got. So guess who was there to protect me from stalkers and support me in reporting them? That's right! No one.)
- First boyfriend, who hated women. He started with threats, liked showing me misogynist threads online, thought it was funny that I was like every other woman on the planet. I tried speaking Japanese to him since his reasoning meant he was like every other man on the planet, but the point never got through to him. Yes, my humor tends to be quite dry.

I would much rather listen to an expert on violence who says "take your fear seriously" than random intarwebs people saying "have some compassion for men who do this kind of thing, anyway it's no big deal." Perhaps it would behoove doubters to entertain for more than one nanosecond the radical proposition that women can tell the difference between issues that should be taken seriously, and those that are less serious. For starters, because we have a lot of experience with them. I know the difference between a nitwit who says "you look like a cow" and the freak who repeatedly posts rape and death threats. Hell, I even know the difference between a short-term ex who threatened to burn my apartment down (yeah right, lol) and the first stalker, who waited outside my dormitory. (I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned of his demise. As a direct result, I almost never use my phone; its silence is sheer luxury.)

Protip: It would be even LESS of a big deal if people took women's fears seriously. I reported all my stalkers. Shit was done. Shit as in zero, nada, rien. I warned my parents-not-quite-in-law about their son. Same thing. Nothing. Which is precisely what showed them that they could act whenever they wanted, because they would face no consequences. They faced no consequences. I am not alone. It would be nice if I could be more alone. I would like to share such experiences with vanishingly few women. That is not the case.
posted by fraula at 12:54 PM on January 7 [45 favorites]


Something that strikes me is the rate of reported rapes by country. The difference between Canada and the US is quite striking, 1.65 per 100k in Canada vs 30.57 per 100k in the US according to 1 study.

I realize there are lots of statistical problems when dealing reported rapes, but a factor of 20 difference seems pretty surprising. Can anybody speak to this? Is the US much more sexist than Canada or most of Europe?
posted by ryanfou at 12:58 PM on January 7


Actually, thinking of police taking threats seriously and comparing it to the article, I have a question now from anyone who is up on any legalese inside-baseball kindsa stuff.

The scariest threat I ever had, I've talked about before - a really scary obscene phone caller who recited my full address to me and then proceeded to tell me that he was going to "rape and mutilate" me if I did not comply with his demands. He then went on to ask me a detailed and sexually-oriented series of questions, kinda like a guy taking a Gallup poll only it was about things like "what color is the hair at your cunt" rather than "what do you feel is the most pressing issue facing Brooklyn voters" or whatever. As soon as I'd confirmed all the doors and windows in my apartment were locked tight, I interrupted him mid-sentence, told him to fuck off, and hung up and then dialed 911.

And like in rtha's case, the police took it very seriously. They sent two uniformed cops to take my statement right away - they showed up within five minutes - and the following day I got a call from the SVU detective assigned to my case who spoke with me even more about it, told me everything he was going to do to pursue the case, gave me advice and spent time talking with me to make sure I was okay. And he stayed on the case for three months until we found out where the guy was calling from, and even wanted to try to pursue the case anyway when we learned the caller was six states away, and a single offense wasn't good enough for an inter-state jurisdiction thingy. He made me promise I'd call him immediately if the guy ever called me again. (By this time I was more amused than anything else because I swear that this guy was the real-life Elliot Stabler, and I kept wanting to ask him how Munch was doing.)

But here's the thing - at the time, I was told that because the guy had made verbal threats over the phone, that automatically made it a felony. It also sounds like rtha had the same kind of response from the police. And that's got me wondering - is the lack of police response to Twitter threats possibly because they're taking place on email instead of the phone? Is this simply a matter of technology not having caught up? Or is that "verbal threats = automatic felony" a thing that varies state-to-state?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on January 7 [16 favorites]


If you're looking at rapes reported to the police in different countries, definitely check that the legal definitions are equivalent. Also, if the requirements around reporting rapes for statistical purposes are different.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:19 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


IMO, violence against the bullies, stalkers, and rapists will prove to be the only viable solution, because violence is the only language they understand.
The end of anonymity will help.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:20 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


That violence, btw, should probably take the form of law enforcement, not vigilante justice.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:28 PM on January 7


I don't know how but we need to reach out to people on this topic instead of shaming and excluding. We need to extend a hand to them and say "Yeah, what we're doing, it's scary for you. It requires you to trust us that we only want to be equals and after what we've been through, I can understand why someone would think we wouldn't stop at equals...
No. The message that gender equality means equality not a reversal of the old ways has been around for long enough that anyone who hasn't got that message either doesn't want to (maybe because then they'd have no excuse for their shitty behaviour?) or simply isn't listening. The solution to people that refuse to treat human beings like human beings is not to hold their hand and explain gently that they don't need to be scared because they won't respond to that.

I hate that we even need to consider gender in this, because we are all human and all have the same value and the same right to be heard, but these arseholes are never going to listen to women on this issue, simply because they don't value what women have to say. Men need to stand up and tell them, in language they understand and in words that make it clear the message is coming from another male, that their behaviour is unacceptable and that they need to stop it right fucking now. They need to get this message every single time they make a threat against a woman, no matter how veiled and they need to get the message that it won't be tolerated.

I'm reluctant to go down this path, because men that stand up for women are often criticised (including by women) of playing the 'white knight' in order to win the affection of the target or, less often, told something like 'I can take care of myself, I don't need you to protect me' but, fuck it, I don't care any more, this shit needs to stop. I almost feel ashamed to say that I don't even know where this abuse happens, because I don't see it first-hand, but I'd be happy to be pointed in the right direction. I'm not advocating violence or threats of violence, because that won't work. I believe absolutely that theses arseholes honestly think that they're the 'voice of manhood' or something and are only saying what the rest of us are afraid to. They need to learn that they're wrong.
posted by dg at 1:29 PM on January 7 [6 favorites]


Something that strikes me is the rate of reported rapes by country. The difference between Canada and the US is quite striking, 1.65 per 100k in Canada vs 30.57 per 100k in the US according to 1 study.

I realize there are lots of statistical problems when dealing reported rapes, but a factor of 20 difference seems pretty surprising.


Where are you getting 1.65 per 100k? For example Statistics Canada gives the rate of sexual assault for Canada in 2006 at 68 per 100,000. So I put forward the proposition that the 1.65 per 100k is bullpuckey.
posted by Justinian at 1:41 PM on January 7


Oh I see, wikipedia. Well there's your problem.
posted by Justinian at 1:43 PM on January 7


(By this time I was more amused than anything else because I swear that this guy was the real-life Elliot Stabler, and I kept wanting to ask him how Munch was doing.)

I was gonna ask if Olivia showed up at your house! Stabler's pretty good too, I guess.
posted by rtha at 1:47 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I'm reluctant to go down this path, because men that stand up for women are often criticised (including by women) of playing the 'white knight' in order to win the affection of the target or, less often, told something like 'I can take care of myself, I don't need you to protect me' but, fuck it, I don't care any more, this shit needs to stop.

I think the difference, though, is that in white knighting, the man's objective (at least partially, and maybe sometimes only unconsciously) is to win the affection or gratitude of the woman he's sticking up for. What you're suggesting -- and what I absolutely welcome, and I think plenty of women do as well -- is to speak up against the dehumanization of women simply because it's the right thing to do.
posted by scody at 1:49 PM on January 7 [12 favorites]


Justinian: yes, I've been looking around since I posted the comment and have found a bunch of wildly differing statistics, so I think it really is difficult to compare apples to apples, or even one apple to the very same apple in this case.
posted by ryanfou at 1:51 PM on January 7


I was gonna ask if Olivia showed up at your house! Stabler's pretty good too, I guess.

The dude even sounded like Chris Meloni. It was actually kind of awesome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:55 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


ugggh Chris Meloni. Hotness.
posted by sweetkid at 1:57 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats.

Voices of victims online: "Getting threatened online makes me feel awful and terrified"

And the response is: "don't worry, those aren't real threats"

The problem is not the ontology of threats, the problem is that women using public forums are being treated terribly, and there is no effective method for dealing with it.
posted by serif at 2:05 PM on January 7 [13 favorites]


I actually don't know if he looked like Chris Meloni. And I was more reassured by the familiar vibe than I was all into the hotness. (Also, a jerkoff threatening to rape you isn't a situation conducive to fantasizing about the cop assigned to your case....)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:09 PM on January 7


I think the difference, though, is that in white knighting, the man's objective (at least partially, and maybe sometimes only unconsciously) is to win the affection or gratitude of the woman he's sticking up for. What you're suggesting -- and what I absolutely welcome, and I think plenty of women do as well -- is to speak up against the dehumanization of women simply because it's the right thing to do.
In fairness to both sides, it's pretty much impossible to discern intent in this situation. It's somewhat understandable that a woman would think a man defending her may be doing so with some 'gain' in mind, but that's part of the reason at least some men shy way from doing this - a horrible circular argument in a way. I'm past caring, though, that someone might question my motives.
posted by dg at 2:38 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I think the difference, though, is that in white knighting, the man's objective (at least partially, and maybe sometimes only unconsciously) is to win the affection or gratitude of the woman he's sticking up for. What you're suggesting -- and what I absolutely welcome, and I think plenty of women do as well -- is to speak up against the dehumanization of women simply because it's the right thing to do.

I think the point might be that accusations of "White Knighting" are an easy way for concerns to be dismissed and put a person on the defensive, effectively deflecting the original criticism (in a way that is designed to embarrass and derail the person who raised that criticism, regardless of their actual intent.) It's infantile, schoolyard bullshit, but it still works as an effective deterrent.

The trick, perhaps, is to step in using a context that excludes the woman/women involved entirely. To say "Hey, that's fucked up, shut your mouth" rather than "Hey, don't say that to her, shut your mouth"; to engage it on a level that's between you and the offender, on behalf of decent people everywhere (or just yourself and your own moral standards) rather than women everywhere or the particular woman/women involved. That allows you to say "Yes, I am being a White Knight, for myself, because I don't want to put up with that kind of thing, so knock it off or I'm out." Harder to do online, though, because walking away has an impact in person, but walking away online looks like you're implicitly admitting you had an untenable position.
posted by davejay at 2:40 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


dg: "I'm reluctant to go down this path, because men that stand up for women are often criticised (including by women) of playing the 'white knight' in order to win the affection of the target or, less often, told something like 'I can take care of myself, I don't need you to protect me'"

Here are the things that can make it "white knighting" and a little unsettling, IMHO:

1) A man who jumps in when the woman in question already has it in hand, in an attitude of "I, the strong man, will handle this for you, the weak woman." That's disempowering a second time.

2) A man who expects praise or congratulations for jumping in, which he has done for the praise and not because the actions in question were wrong.

3) A man who thinks that life is a movie and jumps into a verbal altercation by grabbing the guy's collar or shoving him against the wall or in some other way escalating the situation, making a scene, or making it SCARIER, because he must show he is the manliest man. In movies, women are always grateful and relieved for the physical defense; in real life, I've never met a woman who found this anything but terrifying. Part of the implicit threat in saying nasty shit to women is that you (the nasty-thing-saying man) could escalate to physical violence because you are larger and maler; so when a second man comes along and actually does escalate it to a violent physical altercation, that is literally almost as bad as the first guy doing the same thing.

Anyway, tone's tough on the internet, but in both the internet and real life I've never felt "white knighted" to by a man saying something like, "Come on, man, that's not appropriate," or "Clean up your language," or "Don't talk that way in this forum," or "Stop attacking other posters/participants/people."

Regarding situation 1, if I am obviously upset or frightened, jump in with whatever you got and I will be grateful even if your words or tone are not perfect, or even if they are retrograde and in fact white-knighting.

Any time you're intervening to stop a bully, there is a chance the person being bullied will be angry about your defense of them -- that is like a staple of children's literature, that even when people can't effectively fight their own battle, they're not always thrilled that someone else is fighting it for them, even when it's obviously the right thing for the other person to do. But that is like, a risk of being in the world with other humans who have complex and unpredictable emotional reactions to things.

But you have the right motives. It's okay if sometimes people don't understand your motives properly or misinterpret your actions, or even if you screw it up completely and intervene wrong. You're doing what you think is right, to the best of your ability, for the right reasons. You are a good person, even if sometimes things go a bit sideways in specific situations. (In fact, I sort-of want to stamp this on people's foreheads so they can read it in the mirror: You are a good person who is trying hard, it's okay if sometimes people misunderstand you.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:00 PM on January 7 [12 favorites]


Such a depressing topic and thread. As a guy I don't really have anything particularly useful to add, except maybe to say that it makes me nostalgic for the strange old days of the internet, when, to my recollection, it was 90% female online seemingly... before even the advent of blogging tools, using 14.4kbps modems, HTML was a new thing and CSS hadn't been invented yet, Google wasn't even heard of yet so everything mostly ran on links and circles because AltaVista / Magellan was so crap anyway, and all the online communities were basically girls cutting their teeth on web-design and emo writing in tiny, tiny font and custom javascripting, and we all celebrated the turning of each month by creating a new themed website layout. Some 18 year old girl (gosh that was so old then) would scrape together enough money to buy some hosting, then invite younger people to join her "stable" of hostees, and the better the quality of your hostees (in terms of design and writing) the more prestige the hostess got. The internet was very very pink then, literally. Even I made a few soft pastel pink themed websites and joined a stable of all-female designers and bloggers. (you very sadly "blogged" back then by manually rewriting the HTML of the page whenever you wanted to update). For whatever reason, there were really few guys to be seen in the online communities back then. I had a pet theory that girls innately like building (Sims, Farmville) and guys innately like destroying (Call of Duty, Battlefield), and early on, the internet was ALL about building.

Those were strange days.
posted by xdvesper at 3:28 PM on January 7 [8 favorites]


Meh. The importance of identifying and dealing with white knighting seems to me much like the quest to address the scourge of women maliciously accusing men of sexual assault in order to ruin their lives. In the sense that these are largely imaginary problems turned into catchphrases by people seeking to deflect attention from the real issue.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:53 PM on January 7 [16 favorites]


Whoa whoa whoa, please do not mistake me for some kind of harassment apologist here!

When I say the vast majority of these threats never go beyond reatening, I am specifically talking about threats made over the internet, and yes, that is backed up statistically.

That doesn't mean that behavior isn't harmful! It also doesn't mean that the person being threatened can afford to believe that necessarily in her individual case.

Oh, and I'm sorry if I misread that "Can you believe it?" from rtha's anecdote. Which it sounds like I did! I thought it was coming from a place of frustration that sending a female police officer to sit with you until your mom came home was ALL they could do. Doh.

As far as anecdotally goes, I--and most women I think will agree--have experienced harassment in various forms, and sometimes it does escalate to scary places, especially if there is some kind of history with the harasser, like a disgruntled ex.

We can go down the list and discuss those other forms of harassment and cite all the statistics if people really want to pave that road YET AGAIN, but I think a discussion of internet harassment is important here in part because it is different from other abuse, and becoming more, rather than less, prevalent.

One unique issue with internet harassment is that because it comes from a place of anonymity, there may be no accountability at all. Unlike obscene or threatening phone calls and stalking, there are very few legal avenues set up to deal with it, which is what my comment was getting at. The judicial system hasn't kept up with the technology (big shock there), and also we aren't sure what the best way to hold those accountable should be. Here on Mefi, we have mods who will step in a ban a user who makes a disgusting sexual slur, but that is NOT the norm.
posted by misha at 4:10 PM on January 7


One unique issue with internet harassment is that because it comes from a place of anonymity, there may be no accountability at all.

I don't think it's the anonymity that creates the lack of accountability. Most of us are pseudonymous here, and we manage to get by without being hateful motherfuckers for the most part.

As you say misha, we have good moderation and other places don't. But then, the difference between Mefi and other anon or pseudonon forums (like Youtube comments, for example) is the moderation, not the the ability to be anonymous or pseudonymous.

And, as has been noted above, there are plenty of arseholes who are willing to be arseholes online even when identifiable. Removing anonymity alone will not fix the problem of online harassment and abuse.

What I'm saying is, the lack of accountability is created by the powers-that-be not making anyone accountable, not by anonymity itself.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:59 PM on January 7


[Ack! - I forgot that Youtube switched to real name comments via Google+. Mia culpa]
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:07 PM on January 7


Interestingly, South Korea found that its nationwide real name comment requirement was ineffective in reducing abusive and malicious comments.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:12 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Interestingly, South Korea found that its nationwide real name comment requirement was ineffective in reducing abusive and malicious comments.

That is incredibly depressing. I thought a lot of this behavior was brought on by the anonymity. I am going to have to rethink that position.

Hope, of course, is not dead yet. I would like to see if the same effect is found in other cultures, or if it takes a while for the social feedback to affect people once their real names are known and for that feedback to drive down the bad behavior.
posted by bswinburn at 5:24 PM on January 7


Enough theorizing, there’s actually good evidence to inform the debate. For 4 years, Koreans enacted increasingly stiff real-name commenting laws, first for political websites in 2003, then for all websites receiving more than 300,000 viewers in 2007, and was finally tightened to 100,000 viewers a year later after online slander was cited in the suicide of a national figure. The policy, however, was ditched shortly after a Korean Communications Commission study found that it only decreased malicious comments by 0.9%. Korean sites were also inundated by hackers, presumably after valuable identities.

Further analysis by Carnegie Mellon’s Daegon Cho and Alessandro Acquisti, found that the policy actually increased the frequency of expletives in comments for some user demographics. While the policy reduced swearing and “anti-normative” behavior at the aggregate level by as much as 30%, individual users were not dismayed. “Light users”, who posted 1 or 2 comments, were most affected by the law, but “heavy” ones (11-16+ comments ) didn’t seem to mind.

Given that the Commission estimates that only 13% of comments are malicious, a mere 30% reduction only seems to clean up the muddied waters of comment systems a depressingly negligent amount.


I am somewhat confused as to what this all means. 0.9%? 30%? 18%?

Sadly the links are 404s.
posted by Artw at 5:34 PM on January 7


I thought a lot of this behavior was brought on by the anonymity.

You can see it for yourself with Facebook comments on non-Facebook websites. There are a remarkable number of people out there who don't care that their real names are associated with unambiguously awful, hateful things.

What I can't figure out is why it doesn't seem to be much of a deterrent. It's hard for me to imagine being in a position where there wouldn't be consequences for that sort of behavior, but I guess a lot of people are, for whatever reason.
posted by asperity at 5:35 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


Not to sound like a broken record, but sites that refuse to prevent abuse should be held accountable for it. The guys composing these vile messages aren't sending them through the ether -- these abusive interactions are hosted by companies like Twitter or WordPress.

Remember email spam? It's a type of unwanted message that contains stereotypical content from someone you don't normally communicate with. Once email services decided to do something about spam, software got really good, (but not perfect), at destroying spam email. Detecting unwanted attempts to sell you shit is actually the same computational problem as detecting unwanted attempts to threaten and insult you.

If we could build spam filters for email, we could build threat filters for any other messaging service. Assuming a basic sense of decency isn't forthcoming from the likes of Twitter, this solution will require a financial incentive for them to act on it.

But for now, forget about the police, forget about internet society casting a healing spell on abusers, focus on the companies that actually control the channels for abuse.
posted by serif at 5:37 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


Email spam is, again, a massively different problem and a simpler one due to its bulk nature.
posted by Artw at 5:39 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine who set up a facebook group for people grieving but who don't believe in god has gotten a horrifying amount of harassment. Some of it I gather is from people using real accounts tied to their real names, but one particularly nasty asshole creates lots of new accounts and fakes their IP address and so on. From what I've read and what she's told me, actually getting anyone from facebook to respond takes a gigantic amount of screaming and shouting from multiple users.

And yeah, there are zillions of people on fb, right there with their real names and towns and pictures of their families who have no problem at all saying terrible shit for all to see. Anonymity isn't the problem; accountability is. And if it costs fb more money than they think it's worth to actually do something about it, then why would they.
posted by rtha at 5:44 PM on January 7 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like while there's absolutely room to grow in the content-monitoring department as a means to supplement human moderation, it's as Artw says not really a slam dunk to compare bulk spam detection to the very different and more complicated problem of reliably identifying generalized threatfulness in natural language.

One of the reasons email filtering works as well as it does is that it's not actually much about the semantics of the language used in spam.
posted by cortex at 5:46 PM on January 7 [1 favorite]


I would guess that the ability to quickly drop old accounts and spin up new ones is a bigger part of the annonymity/accountability problem than a lack of "real names" - a consistent and well rooted screen name being almost as good as that anyway.

Some people are just terrible regardless, but with a consistant identity at least you know who they are, and can effectively ban/block/ whatever.
posted by Artw at 5:55 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


Come on guys, Siri is two years old, and she answers spoken questions. Even Cleverbot can detect if you threaten it (I tried just now). And remember, lots of people said software spam filters would never ever work.

If this was a priority for silicon valley, like spam is, they would absolutely come up with something that would be way more effective than the status quo.

Maybe Twitter would have to hire more people to verify threatening content. Big deal! They just had their IPO, they can afford to provide a decent service to people. But they won't, unless their users demand it.
posted by serif at 6:00 PM on January 7 [2 favorites]


I am honestly completely, 100% befuddled that people are bringing up the whole "hold their hands and try and walk them through not being a worthless person!" thing in here. Why the hell does that come up every time? It reminds me of during a big battle about whether or not some football player or something was in fact a racist someone really tried to jackhammer home a point that it's worthless to call someone a racist, you should only bring up that they're saying racist things because calling someone a bigot is unproductive and ad-hominem and bla bla bla.

Why did i bring that up? because i think that's the same kind of thing happening here. Someone, calling someone a misogynistic or sexist dolt is seeing as the worse offense and some kind of declaration of war. It is no ones obligation to bring it up in some nice doilied up "Hey, so what you said there was kind of woman-hatey. I don't think you're a gigantic misogynist, so..."

If someone punched you in the face would you want to sit them down and go "look, i don't think you're a violent person but what you just did was violent and..." if they were over the age of 6 and not mentally ill? Because that's what you're essentially saying here. And a lot of times we're talking about actual full-on threats of violence which are violence in and of themselves.

Yeah, I feel like while there's absolutely room to grow in the content-monitoring department as a means to supplement human moderation, it's as Artw says not really a slam dunk to compare bulk spam detection to the very different and more complicated problem of reliably identifying generalized threatfulness in natural language.

I think this too, and i think there's a lot of programmer-nerd "the perfect is the enemy of the good" thought process going on here. And i'd know, as an IT nerd.

It would not be hard to develop a system that flagged on say, a scale of 1-20 on priority things that looked iffy. Any of these words used? Add a point for each one. Caps? another point.

Another thing i feel like no one is acknowledging is that the system could easily be weighted to extra-flag anyone who had been flagged before when that flag was confirmed as genuine abuse.

Plenty of sites already have mechanisms in place to detect if someone is trying to make new accounts to get around the rules that work VERY well. Many big ecommerce sites like newegg and amazon are scary good at this. In addition to this you could(and should!) weight the system against accounts newer than say, a couple weeks so that any flags they gather carry double the weight.

This isn't a moon landing project here. It wouldn't be fully automated, but every single bit of the system you'd need to develop these "abuse tickets" and order them by priority already exists for other uses. Yes, you'd need real humans to review them... but hell, make it an omegle moderator type of thing where random people can volunteer to do it. Have random awesome rewards for people who do lots of moderation.

What's a couple $500 TVs, laptops, game systems, etc to a company valued at freaking billions like twitter that's raking it in? give away a couple cool things a week and you'll have plenty of people not only doing it to fight the good fight but to get cool free stuff.

I would also utterly support this being a "fail-deadly" type of system wherein someone whose been kicked off once coming back is a lifetime ban, and that it should NOT be hard to get kicked off. A couple instances of "FUK U WH***" should be a lifetime ban. All kinds of cookie tracking should be part of this too, as much as people whine about that. The tech is there. Visits with a referrer of a personal page of someone who was banned? Ban, you can appeal later and prove your not them just like the real name proving system on facebook.
posted by emptythought at 6:05 PM on January 7 [5 favorites]


On the one hand, automation plus manual secondary review of potentially threatening tweets sounds like a good idea. On the other hand, there are lawsuits in progress because Google uses automation without manual secondary review to scan mails to content-match ads to content. If they started reviewing email content to look for threats as well, with secondary manual review (without explicit permission from the recipient -- which is what the "report abuse" twitter button does) there would be more lawsuits. Personally, I think the simplified one-click "you have my permission to review this crap that I find offensive/abusive/threatening" is as close as they can get legally right now (esp. With the NSA et al.)
posted by davejay at 6:10 PM on January 7


Even Cleverbot can detect if you threaten it (I tried just now).

There's a great big canyon between being able to produce an example of a true positive and being able to consistently and accurately sort out the true positives from the false positives and the outright misses. And try and have a conversation with Siri some time that isn't about a handful of handy but very narrow baked-in domain specialities. It's mostly still just ELIZA; we're a very, very long way from actual generic semantically-nuanced artificial conversation.

I would actually like the same thing you would like, here: to see someone come up with an effective, consistent, accurate tool to help in identifying shitty harassment and threats algorithmically. And I agree with you in spirit that (a) more work can be done there and (b) if there was more motivation to do that work already, more progress would have been made by now. But you seem to be presuming that it'll be so easy to get things working so well that the primary reason it's not accomplished already is some kind of active deprioritization rather than that, all else aside, it's actually a pretty hard problem.

Maybe Twitter would have to hire more people to verify threatening content. Big deal!

It's a big deal at that scale, yes. Remember, Metafilter employs basically five Full Time Equivalent positions to monitor a few thousand comments a day. Twitter sees daily traffic on the order of a million times that. Proportional staffing at that point is beyond expensive.
posted by cortex at 6:13 PM on January 7 [10 favorites]


On the one hand, automation plus manual secondary review of potentially threatening tweets sounds like a good idea. On the other hand, there are lawsuits in progress because Google uses automation without manual secondary review to scan mails to content-match ads to content. If they started reviewing email content to look for threats as well, with secondary manual review (without explicit permission from the recipient -- which is what the "report abuse" twitter button does) there would be more lawsuits. Personally, I think the simplified one-click "you have my permission to review this crap that I find offensive/abusive/threatening" is as close as they can get legally right now (esp. With the NSA et al.)

The difference being that email is "private", whereas you can go on any persons twitter page and see the tweets they sent to someone. I forget exactly how direct messages work on there, but the vast majority of content is "public".

Personally, i'd say that the way this should work if they really need to have a button like that is that you can't send a private message without checking that box.

Bam, problem solved.

I agree however, with others, that the big problem here is you'd need a call-center type setup of thousands of people constantly reviewing this shit 24/7. That's a major obstacle.
posted by emptythought at 6:21 PM on January 7


There's a great big canyon between being able to produce an example of a true positive and being able to consistently and accurately sort out the true positives from the false positives and the outright misses. And try and have a conversation with Siri some time that isn't about a handful of handy but very narrow baked-in domain specialities. It's mostly still just ELIZA; we're a very, very long way from actual generic semantically-nuanced artificial conversation.

cortex,
In filtering abuse on a comment site like twitter, false positives are cheap: most tweets and comments are frivolous. If your tweet is flagged as nasty, you're informed of this and you can submit it for human review or you can write something decent. And I would argue that threats of violence and insults fall into your category of "very narrow baked-in domain specialities" that even crude analytics should be able to detect.

The false negative rate is what I would worry about, unfortunately without filtering it's currently 100%

Think about it this way -- suppose there was only one diner in town, outside the reaches of law enforcement, and a minority of patrons were causally threatening other patrons with violence. Since the cops aren't available, the obvious solution is for the diner to spend money (e.g. hire security) to prevent the abuse. This is a solved problem in real life!
posted by serif at 6:35 PM on January 7


In filtering abuse on a comment site like twitter, false positives are cheap: most tweets and comments are frivolous. If your tweet is flagged as nasty, you're informed of this and you can submit it for human review or you can write something decent.

This presumes a userbase that is onboard with being robotically informed that things they said that weren't threats or offensive content or so on were. That's a humungous presumption. People do not like being told they fucked up under the best of circumstances, but when they're being told by a robot, and the robot is wrong? God help whoever does customer support there.

And I would argue that threats of violence and insults fall into your category of "very narrow baked-in domain specialities" that even crude analytics should be able to detect.

Which is I think a fundamentally flawed argument that assumes a simplicity to the problem that just is not there. Semantics is really, really hard, and a threat is more about rhetoric and context than it is about any given specific word. Apparently threatening lexemes can be harmless in context; apparently innocuous ones can be deeply menacing.

So, I think we can probably agree that for some subset of threatening or insulting language you could get better-than-baseline accuracy, and that's where I see the main room to move in the short term in improving some notional threatfulness-detection process (run the tiny percentage of things with the very brightest red flags up into a human review process for examination, say). But that's not the same thing as coming anywhere near close to solving the general problem, and until you solve the general problem you cannot reasonable deal with the bulk of threats and insults that don't match some conveniently narrow definition, or reliably parse the difference between a genuine threat and something that in context is clearly, to the humans involved, joking or whatever.
posted by cortex at 6:47 PM on January 7


What someone wrote earlier goes right to the heart of this and tells you everything you need to know: just look at the comments for any entry on any website concerning a political figure who's a woman (politician, commentator, whatever), liberal or conservative, including MetaFilter before 2007, to find comments about her sexual attractiveness or its lack. If it's partisan and the person discussed is in the opposition, a very large portion of the comments will be about how unattractive she is and some that hint at sexual violence (if not some that are explicitly violent).

You'll find this everywhere where the administrators don't actively delete it. Left-wing or right-wing, doesn't matter. Progressives will say the same things about Sarah Palin that conservatives say about Hillary Clinton.

This is not just the attitudes of a regressive, sexist minority of men. Our entire culture is sexist and misogynist, the sexism and misogyny are there just below the surface at all times and will make an appearance under the right conditions in even the most progressive and apparently least-sexist men and women. And for a large portion of men, possibly a majority, when they feel particularly challenged by a woman the sexism and misogyny will reveal itself as a full-on hateful threat of sexual violence. And for some of them, actual sexual violence. This is the reality, this is at the heart of it.

52% of the population of this entire planet, including the population of North America, are second-class citizens who live with the near-constant threat of sexual violence, whenever they call attention to themselves in the public sphere, when they walk down the street, when they are in the workplace, and in their homes. Men don't have a fucking clue what it's like to live with this — to even have an approximate understanding of it we have to make an effort to pay attention and listen and look and, generally speaking, most of us absolutely don't want to do these things because then we'd have to ask ourselves why we've had our eyes closed for so long and how many times we've aided-and-abetted or, worse, done it ourselves.

So, instead, a lot of us explain it away, minimize it, blame the victims, or decide that what we really ought to be talking about are the poor, insecure men who suffer from the unfortunate condition of being a misogynist asshole, and why they are the way they are. Maybe we should understand them more.

Fuck that. If you're not aware of, and really goddamned pissed-off about the way that women are treated in this world, then you're blind to the single biggest human rights issue in history. How is that possible? I don't know. I do know that many people have lived in slavery cultures and believed that everything was right and just.

Someday, I hope, people will look back at all those who deny the existence of endemic sexism and minimize it and make apologies for the sexists and misogynists the way that those of us today look back on the apologists for slavery. With disgust. Just reading this thread means that you have had the opportunity to Have A Clue about it. Slavery was normal in 1800. But abolitionism wasn't unheard of. For those with the ears to hear, the message was there. And so it is today.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:52 PM on January 7 [32 favorites]


As disturbing and potentially frightening as these threats are, the vast majority of the time they are simply empty threats. The poster is mouthing off for attention and upvotes and internet fame (or infamy).

I see that you've clarified that you meant that internet threats in particular are largely empty. I want to take issue with the other logical step here, which I see all over the place, namely the notion that when a person's primary motive is attention-seeking, that somehow means the threat isn't serious. But people have committed arson, child abuse, and murder in ploys for public attention. There is no way to know whether any particular anonymous harasser is in the tiny proportion who will escalate to violence, and the more harassment a woman gets online, the likelier it is that she will come to the attention of someone from that miniscule population.

It's a big deal at that scale, yes. Remember, Metafilter employs basically five Full Time Equivalent positions to monitor a few thousand comments a day. Twitter sees daily traffic on the order of a million times that. Proportional staffing at that point is beyond expensive.

I think the model needs to be more like the phone companies dealing with harassing calls than like standard website moderation - supported by enforceable laws and policing, with strong discouragement of frivolous reporting; triggered by an initial report, with supporting automation, instead of a monitoring-based system; supported by staff whose sole job is threat management. (I am thinking of what I had to do when I was getting serial obscene phone calls - I called the phone company, they put my number into some sort of tracking system, and I logged every obscene call after hanging up, with a key sequence. The phone company wouldn't identify my caller to me or tell me if he faced prosecution, but they told me they'd identified him and that there would be no more calls.)
posted by gingerest at 8:11 PM on January 7 [6 favorites]


I don't doubt anyone's good intentions, but there's something disquieting about commenters here saying there's an easy technical solution to the problem. I feel dismissed, like my actual concerns have been turned into an interesting engineering problem.

I agree that changing these troglodytes' behavior is important, which maybe can be solved technologically, but there is value in considering how to actually stop these men's hatred.
posted by jaguar at 8:55 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


I don't doubt anyone's good intentions, but there's something disquieting about commenters here saying there's an easy technical solution to the problem. I feel dismissed, like my actual concerns have been turned into an interesting engineering problem.

Well, that and it's a lie. There is no easy technological fix, and I suspect the appeal of that nonexistence fix is that we can blame everything on Twitter without expecting anything to happen. It's a cultural problem and the only solution for that is fostering goodf cultural values, and that is a project for us all.
posted by Artw at 9:33 PM on January 7 [3 favorites]


I sort of agree and disagree. It's true that serif is mistaken about how much content filtering is possible and there is certainly no simple technical fix. And you're quite right that this is a cultural problem — it is very deeply a cultural problem.

But there's a great deal more that can be practically done than is being done; gingerest's suggestions are good suggestions. I think there's a strong parallel between internet sexual harassment and telephone sexual harassment and it's easy to imagine a world where no one took phone sexual harassment seriously and there were no effective practical mechanisms used to combat it. But phone sexual harassment is taken seriously.

Or for that matter, it wasn't that long ago that almost all sexual violence wasn't taken seriously and it was thought that it was impractical that it could be reduced or prevented. Discussions about it centered on how men will be men and women shouldn't do things that provoke them. Not unlike how this discussion so often goes. Only the worst cases of rape were prosecuted, such as stranger rape that was penetrative and where there was all sorts of corroboration — and, even then, the victim was always effectively put on trial. Everything else was ignored and basically tolerated. When I worked in rape crisis, there were still a number of states that explicitly exempted marital rape from criminalization.

Criminalizing marital rape doesn't solve the problem of sexism and misogyny at the core of our culture, but it criminalizes marital rape and makes a start on reducing it. Sexual harassment laws and their enforcement don't solve the underlying problem, but they reduce the amount of shitty things being done to women and that's pretty damn important.

But also, that's a very large part of how the cultural is changed. Piece by piece, one practical thing at a time. No one part cures the sickness or makes everyone suddenly realize that there's something wrong. But over time, collectively they erode these cultural attitudes and, not coincidentally, slowly reduce the constant pressure that keeps women in a defensive position with a feeling of relative powerlessness and gives them space to more greatly empower themselves and change what they tolerate around them, in their own individual lives. Thus do such profound cultural changes occur.

We can see how that works right here on MetaFilter. Changes in moderating policy about what's tolerated with regard to sexism and enforcement against it signaled and empowered a change in the site's culture. By themselves, the policy changes couldn't affect much more than the most egregious cases, but slowly the site culture changed and the community itself has a greatly different idea of what is and isn't acceptable behavior than it used to have. And a wide range of the women here these days don't assume that MeFi must necessarily be like everywhere else on the web and they speak out against sexism when it appears.

Even those of us with a lot of experience in this stuff and with the best of intentions can look at the scope of the problem and find ourselves thinking that it's too big, that it's like the tide and can't be effectively fought. But it can be. Can it be absolutely vanquished? Not in our lifetimes. But much more can be done than we tend to think can be done because, to be perfectly frank, it's the more egregious and blatant stuff that's the easiest stuff to eliminate. We can mostly eliminate rape threats and death threats and the worst stuff that women on the internet are subjected to. It just has to be taken seriously by the relevant institutions — law enforcement, service providers, and the like. Less blatant and extreme stuff will be harder to fight. But I'd say that reducing the frequency of rape threats to "very rare" would be a really big win on its own terms.

We've done this sort of thing with sexual violence and workplace sexual harassment. Really bad stuff that was tolerated a generation or so ago is no longer tolerated and it is much less frequent. Other things are still big problems, we didn't win the larger fight. Nevertheless, it is a less hostile world out there for women today than it used to be. And that's no small thing. The same thing could be said about the internet, we just have to decide to do something about it. That will start with people organizing together and insisting that something be done about it. How do you think the changes in workplace harassment laws and how sexual assault was reported, investigated, and prosecuted came to be? People organized together and worked for those changes. We can organize and work to change the internet. It's totally possible. These conversations are a start.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 10:32 PM on January 7 [9 favorites]


(By the way, if it's not perfectly clear: I believe rape threats are damaging to a woman's security and well-being independent of the likelihood they'll be carried out. That level of malice and frank hatred is certainly as hurtful as any obscene phone call I've ever had.)
posted by gingerest at 10:40 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


I don't doubt anyone's good intentions, but there's something disquieting about commenters here saying there's an easy technical solution to the problem. I feel dismissed, like my actual concerns have been turned into an interesting engineering problem.

I'm sorry if you felt like I was dismissing your concerns -- I think abuse online is a serious problem, which is why I suggested a solution that I think could actually work.

Ignoring the specifics, like whether content-based filtering of text "is a lie" (seriously, wut?), my overall suggestion is: hold companies who host and control abuse accountable for preventing it.

And before people say it's impossible for Twitter/WordPress/Facebook to proactively prevent abusive interactions, show me evidence that they tried and failed.
posted by serif at 11:47 PM on January 7


cortex: This presumes a userbase that is onboard with being robotically informed that things they said that weren't threats or offensive content or so on were. That's a humungous presumption. People do not like being told they fucked up under the best of circumstances, but when they're being told by a robot, and the robot is wrong? God help whoever does customer support there.

Not buying, not sold.

This is operating on the theory that people will actually "vote with their dollars". How many people actually quit youtube over their new stricter copyrighted content filtering? or the half-assed and forced google plus integration? How many people actually do anything but whine when facebook pushes some awful new requirement or "feature"?

Remember how many people though that the new pay-to-play format of pushing posts from popular pages was some kind of death knell that would kill the site?

A bunch of people will whine, but everyone will just keep using it because it's there and it has no real competition in that space. Twitter is established in a defacto way the same way that facebook is. These sites are essentially the windows and outlook express of the internet; some sort of "ring 0" core sites that are essentially worth a limitless amount of money in the same way that the google front page is.

Any sort of auto-filtering would have so much input data to be tested against that it could fairly quickly be tweaked to have less false positives if some things were getting abnormally flagged, and be tuned to auto-flag new common abuse phrases/sentences/phrasing structure/etc based on user reports of abusive messages that repeatedly contained similar or identical phrasing or structure.

I still reiterate that this doesn't even need to be ELIZA/smarterchild/etc levels of intelligent. Even getting in to google adwords sort of clippy-ass "It seems like you're trying to call her a fucking C***! let me help" is going to do the job here. Scan for specific words, and search for some other phrases near them. This kinda is something you can pretty much regex the way that stuff does. "And then he called me a whore" is completely different from "shut up you fucking whore". Just adding in a couple of variables to look and see if within 3 spaces there's a word or phrase that would make it likely to be discussing that vs looking for swearing and phrases + the lack of the previous words gets flagged.

I mean, i'm not even a CS major or a real pro dev and i'm half asleep. I've done some web dev and scripting. I bet me and a couple of my friends who are devs could BS up some sort of script or rails type of stuff to accomplish this in a rudimentary way in a pretty short amount of time. A company like twitter is basically JPL for cleverly coding things too, and if they wanted i bet they could have a beta of this shit ready to go in a couple weeks.

Hell, even if they just tried it out for a freaking week the amount of attention it would generate online would start a powerful, widespread conversation about this type of harassment. Both from a bunch of buttheads on reddit going "OMG SRS HAS HIJACKED THE INTERNET WE'RE ALL LOSING TO THE PC POLICE" to you know like, actually worthwhile people who would talk about it would really shine a light on this ugly rot that it desperately needs.

This doesn't have to work perfectly, or even super well to do it's job and prove its point.

jaguar: I don't doubt anyone's good intentions, but there's something disquieting about commenters here saying there's an easy technical solution to the problem. I feel dismissed, like my actual concerns have been turned into an interesting engineering problem.

I agree that changing these troglodytes' behavior is important, which maybe can be solved technologically, but there is value in considering how to actually stop these men's hatred.


And as someone who has moderated online communities before, and has years of experience online i can't think of a non-technological way to solve this. A lot of the people who are abusive like this online are relatively to completely normal seeming unless you prod them in to weird conversation corners in real life. These people are not open jacket flashers in public parks or catcallers.

They only behave this way when they put on their batman mask and get to hide out behind a keyboard and a monitor. This type of abuse occurs entirely because of the lack of ability to enforce rules combined with pseudo-anonynimity.

Preventing them from being able to sling abuse online is easier than tracking them down in real life and getting laws changed so they can actually be prosecuted, plus getting the police to actually give a fuck.

And that's easier than actually changing their minds and making them think this is a shit thing to do. I'm not saying this is some inherent male nature thing at all, rather i'm saying that if you tried to have a conversation with a lot of guys like this about this sort of thing in an attempt to get them to change you'd just get a bunch of "Why should i?" smugness.

I would know, i've tried to have a "man on man" talk with a bunch of fuckwits like this. Even as a dude who they don't immediately dismiss for various misogynistic reasons a lot of these types of guys would just go "oh whatever, shut up mangina. Why are you defending these attention whores?"
posted by emptythought at 3:12 AM on January 8


...that's easier than actually changing their minds and making them think this is a shit thing to do. I'm not saying this is some inherent male nature thing at all, rather i'm saying that if you tried to have a conversation with a lot of guys like this about this sort of thing in an attempt to get them to change you'd just get a bunch of "Why should i?" smugness.

Because most men do treat women with respect. Just sayin'.
posted by flabdablet at 3:38 AM on January 8


From the article
And when Rebecca Watson reported the threats targeted at her to the FBI, she initially connected with a sympathetic agent—but the agent later expressed trouble opening Watson’s file of screenshots of the threats, and soon stopped replying to her emails. The Broadwell investigation was an uncommon, and possibly unprecedented, exercise for the agency. As University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire criminal justice professor Justin Patchin told Wired at the time: “I’m not aware of any case when the FBI has gotten involved in a case of online harassment.”
Runs counter to the Erin Brockovich of Revenge Porn article linked here on November 22nd 2013, or maybe we are more up to date than Mr Patchin.

Anyway, this subject does tend to be quite depressing, but then I remember that the majority of the world is not really in the same ball park as regards willingness to acknowledge that these things are worth discussing. The patriarchy is far more entrenched in most countries, in my experience. This is a 'some parts of the first world' problem. So go us I suppose.
posted by asok at 5:55 AM on January 8


I would know, i've tried to have a "man on man" talk with a bunch of fuckwits like this. Even as a dude who they don't immediately dismiss for various misogynistic reasons a lot of these types of guys would just go "oh whatever, shut up mangina. Why are you defending these attention whores?"

Re-read this thread and the others like it. You can answer this question, and I'm thrilled that you are giving it some hard thought. This is not a one and done thing. It's the work of a generation. Get on it.
posted by thinkpiece at 7:44 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


I have absolutely no problem with the idea that better enforcement needs to happen, I'm just finding the "Does content filtering actually work?" derail a derail. Better moderation, better training for law enforcement -- basically, more humans taking this seriously -- is certainly the way this needs to go.
posted by jaguar at 8:31 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


The women-hating Twitter trolls unmasked: From a respected military man to a former public schoolboy, men who anonymously spew out vile abuse online

Interesting to me because of the range of anonymity of the harassers, including one who used his real name, and the reactions of their partners, who seem to think such harassment is fine and dandy.

It's not about anonymity, but about changing the culture.
posted by jaguar at 8:39 AM on January 8 [4 favorites]


Interesting to me because of the range of anonymity of the harassers, including one who used his real name, and the reactions of their partners, who seem to think such harassment is fine and dandy.

It's especially ironic considering that the articles in the Daily Mail ("Femail"), let alone the comments, are sometimes pretty close to vile.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:47 AM on January 8 [1 favorite]


It's especially ironic considering that the articles in the Daily Mail ("Femail"), let alone the comments, are sometimes pretty close to vile.

I'm guessing there's a bit of Madonna/Whore complex going on here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on January 8


We Must Not Shut Up About How Women Are Treated on the Internet by Lindy West, who knows something about the issue to put it extremely lightly
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:03 AM on January 8 [11 favorites]


It's especially ironic considering that the articles in the Daily Mail... are sometimes pretty close to vile.

I was totally surprised to see them give that whole issue a reasonable treatment.
posted by jessamyn at 1:50 PM on January 8


NPR interview with Hess and two other female writers, Bridget Johnson and Mikki Kendall.

KENDALL: So my experience has been both gendered and racial. I'm going to get called the B-word. I'm going to get called the N-word. I'm often going to be called them together. You get a lot of this - I think we all can all agree that it comes almost regardless of your topic. I had someone troll me - I posted a video yesterday of me and my kids having sort of fun science experiments in the deep frost. And I got a couple of angry trolling comments about throwing boiling water in the air to turn it into snow.

If you can find something controversial in snowed-in science, I don't really know what else to - I can't please you. And I've definitely had - I wrote about abortion. I definitely got a lot of flak and stalking and harassment behind that. But I've also, frankly, gotten from people who were theoretically on my side - you know, men of color, women of color, white women, whatever - who just don't like what I have to say that day. And they want to make sure that I know that they don't think I have a right to say it.

posted by jaguar at 4:29 PM on January 8 [6 favorites]


It would be great if this was a case of the couple of people who shout the loudest get heard while most people don't bother shouting or holding these views but the things that are being said, openly, in the States (and elsewhere of course) in regard to the poor, women, "ethnics", "the gays", religions that aren't Christian, etc., and so forth are so hateful and go without much uproar (see many Tea Party and Republican politicians for example), and indeed, are accepted by millions makes me believe that it's not just a few people shouting their lungs out, there's a lot of hatred out there, there's a lot of acceptance of what shouldn't be acceptable.

But the Internet has convinced me that there are probably more assholes than decent people, maybe even by significant numbers.

Commuting to work in traffic convinced me of this long before the Internet.
posted by juiceCake at 7:09 AM on January 9


more assholes than decent people

Certainly would explain a lot about the staggering amount of violence in the US. The homeless rate. The healthcare system. The loons that get elected. Texting while driving. Etc. "Too many assholes" explains everything.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:30 AM on January 9


"Too many assholes" explains everything.
Some days I feel like Dark Helmet.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:48 AM on January 9


More from Lindy West: A Man Is Facing Jail for Harassing Women Online, and It's a Big Deal
posted by zombieflanders at 7:30 AM on January 10


Jill Filipovic: Let’s Be Real: Online Harassment Isn’t ‘Virtual’ For Women
posted by tonycpsu at 7:49 AM on January 10 [7 favorites]


Man, the first comment (by "Maxie") on that Filipovic article is a bingo all on its own.
posted by KathrynT at 8:22 AM on January 10


> Jill Filipovic: Let’s Be Real: Online Harassment Isn’t ‘Virtual’ For Women

That's a great article; I'm sorry it can't be posted on its own ("put it in the ongoing thread!"), but I urge everyone who has this thread in Recent Activity to read it. (You might want to skip the comments, though.)
posted by languagehat at 8:31 AM on January 10


I think reading the comments is essential, actually. It gives a wider illustration of the problem. It's a beautiful demonstration of Lewis's Law.
posted by KathrynT at 8:37 AM on January 10


> It gives a wider illustration of the problem. It's a beautiful demonstration of Lewis's Law.

Yes, of course, but that doesn't make it "essential." Pretty much everyone can imagine the shitty comments likely to be made; that is, after all, what this whole thing is about. But a lot of people don't actually need to have their faces rubbed in it just after reading Filipovic's moving and powerful piece. For those who do, of course they should go right ahead. I was just giving fair warning.
posted by languagehat at 8:46 AM on January 10


I had to get up and walk out of my office and out of the building for a minute when I got to the comment that began with telling the author it was a poorly written piece and what was it she said anyway that made the rape threats start? Screaming in my office would be bad form, and thanks to some noisy construction going on across the way I could go outside and be shouty without anyone really hearing me.

The comment here, way upthread, about how, well, these women are writing about sex sometimes, so of course they're going to get rape threats, is in the same vein.

Note to anyone who doesn't get it yet: Rape threats get made not because women are talking about sex, or feminism, or how yucky men are, or cooking, or coding, or anything. They get made because women are talking, and some men really hate and fear that, and other men don't see what the big deal is, it's just trolls it's just boys it's just

It's bullshit.
posted by rtha at 9:23 AM on January 10 [22 favorites]


Why having a woman’s body under patriarchy is a job in itself
Thank the Lord for the ongoing union between capitalism and sexism because there are some days I’ve been waking up and I haven’t been feeling bad about myself. “Women can now rest easy,” promises Fresh Body as they describe the way their product can replace my “dreaded boob sweat. . . with smiles.” Which is impressive because they’ve managed to stop me worrying about something I didn’t even know I was worrying about. Or start me worrying, as the case may be. These people can simultaneously tell me what’s wrong with me and sell me a solution for it! That’s time efficient, as much as anything.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:08 AM on January 13


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