Locked Tight
September 21, 2015 12:32 PM   Subscribe

In fact, women have never once asked me why my account is locked—and unlike some of my male editors, they’ve never recommended opening it up. They understand that the online world has become a horror show, and that men largely drive that horror.
Stacey May Fowles: I am afraid of men on the Internet.
posted by MartinWisse (98 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
I feel this so very hard.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:52 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


And witness the very first comment, where a man totally misses the point, offers a ridiculous "solution", and then gets offended when he's called on it. Awesome.
posted by Huck500 at 1:01 PM on September 21, 2015 [43 favorites]


For all the potential the internet and online (vs. dead tree) publishing has for democratizing which voices get exposure (i.e. not just traditional publishing venues and the academy), I can't help but wonder if it's also had a chilling effect on writers who are women.

In other words, I'd still much rather be a writer publishing under the name "George" at this fucking point in time.
posted by blue suede stockings at 1:07 PM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


My current approach is to have an open account that is, essentially, anonymous. The only way anyone would know who I am (now that I have my privacy settings on lockdown) would be by reverse-searching my icon, and at current I'm in the well-if-someone-wants-to-try-that-hard.... position, but of course, I'm gonna be regretting that if the day ever comes that some asshole decides he wants to actually track me down. No mention of gender does help, and at current it's working for me.

But I'm still a fresh-faced twitterer with like 80 followers, probably about 15 of whom are real and that means I have a small, as-far-as-I-know pretty trustworthy little group. It's nice and quiet and well behaved. Like. I like to have my thoughts out there where more people can access them but I'm also not interested in (most) friends/family seeing them. So I don't use a lot of hashtags and I keep myself to limited searchability, stuff like that.

But yeah. The limits of that, like she talks about in the article, are that I can't really 'go public' and I can't 'use' my twitter profile in any way related to networking or getting my name out there, or in other words it's pretty much no benefit to me at all on any larger scale. It's worthless on any professional level. And that's ok for me right now, in part because my feed is half shitposting that honestly employers/connections would really be thrilled about, half opinions that a lot of internet men would get their hate-on about. But that doesn't make it less of a shame that that's the way it is and it doesn't make it any less crappy that this is the reality that women live with.
posted by nogoodverybad at 1:08 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Being a woman on the Internet is like being given this incredible tool, and then being pelted with rocks while you try to use it—and then having your rock-free colleagues ask why you’re shielding yourself.

Ohhhhh yeah. And then it turns into "I dunno, no one would throw rocks at someone for no reason. Maybe you need to re-think the way that you interact with the people throwing stones at you. Let's be honest-- do they really have any way of knowing that you don't want them to throw stones at you?"
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:10 PM on September 21, 2015 [71 favorites]


"Have you thought about not getting in the way of their rocks?"
posted by skycrashesdown at 1:17 PM on September 21, 2015 [66 favorites]


Or you end up with some guys saying "well, someone threw a single pebble at me once, and I got over it, so I don't see why this rapid-fire big-rock targetting is a problem."
posted by rmd1023 at 1:17 PM on September 21, 2015 [43 favorites]


I've been aware for decades of my male privilege, but I've never thought about it so long and so hard as I have since women began sharing their stories extensively on MeFi and essays like this began to get traction online. There's no point apologizing for my gender (though I have done so in the past and will doubtless do so again), but I sure wish women didn't have to deal with this shit every fucking day. For their own sakes, of course, but also for all of us—look at how much we miss as a society because women like Stacey May Fowles (and goodness knows how many others) can't allow themselves to share their thoughts, ideas, and feelings with the world at large. I wish I could believe things were getting better; at least the problem is being talked about, and I guess that's a start. But a room of one's own shouldn't have to be a locked dungeon of one's own.
posted by languagehat at 1:18 PM on September 21, 2015 [61 favorites]


That pretty much describes all the women I know- most of them have gone dark, only paying to a select group of friends. I have a friend who had to subscribe to Twitter to get work announcements, and in the next breath she said "There's no way in hell I'd post to it.".

The public space for women on social media is on the way to being eliminated. And three main response I see from the ghettos that facilitate these attacks is "Well, why aren't you doing anonymous posting?"
posted by happyroach at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Twitter is good for direct messages. Everything other use I find has an SNR that renders the platform barely useable at best to traumatic at worst.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:26 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm puzzled by the idea that Twitter would feel safer than Facebook. My experience of both platforms (which I use extensively) is that Twitter - because of hashtags - brings a lot more random people to my door, many of whom are there to fight. Twitter feels much more aggressive to me. I still like it and use it (open not locked), but I have the advantage that my handle is my company's name, so I'm not immediately identifiable as female.

On FB, I go by my name (my company has a page) so I'm more obviously female. I get a lot of weird friend requests from people who don't share any friends or share one or two, who when I ask how I know them or if they are writers (because, as a publisher, I'm happy to follow back writers who are strangers to me), will tell me garbage about how gorgeous I am and how they can tell I have a generous heart or whatever, obviously either harassers or some sort of long con. Currently my profile picture is of a bear mauling a man's face, because I'm testing to see if these characters even look at the profile pic (results are inconclusive so far).
posted by joannemerriam at 1:33 PM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


> "well, someone threw a single pebble at me once, and I got over it, so I don't see why this rapid-fire big-rock targetting is a problem."

And what about when Indiana Jones had to run from that giant boulder!? But of course feminists never complain about rock throwing in the media when men are the target.
posted by postcommunism at 1:35 PM on September 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


FB is far more granular in how your presence is. You can limit access to your profile or individual posts. Twitter is just a binary choice between a public profile with all of your tweets public or a private one with none of them.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:40 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


There are easy, palatable answers I have given to those that ask; I value my privacy, or I like to keep my circle small and manageable, or I prefer to keep the personal aspects of my life away from my employers and ex-boyfriends.

Now see, I think those reasons right there are perfectly valid reasons for locking one's Twitter account, and I don't even have to deal with being a woman online. But then, that's why I'm not on Facebook/Twitter/etc. in the first place....
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:41 PM on September 21, 2015


Yeah, they are. Now she gives another reason. This is an article about the other reason.
posted by LogicalDash at 1:42 PM on September 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


My own clueless male question is why anybody would have a Twitter account in the first place, especially under their own name.

This comment on the article is a rhetorical move that has been driving me especially crazy recently for whatever reason. The thing where a (woman, person of color, LGBT person, whatever) writes about something that's harder for them or some inequality in society, and some straight white guy replies "Yeah, well that thing you want equality with regards to is dumb anyway, so whatever" as if 1) we've got equality for all the non-dumb things and 2) this random dude's opinion about the thing matters even a little bit. I mean a lot of problems are attributable to dudes thinking their opinions matter when they don't, but this is particular manifestation is bugging me right now.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2015 [47 favorites]


Just today I posted a Harvard Business Review article titled "Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?" on my public Twitter account, and was legit scared to do so for fear of attracting the wrong attention. And my public Twitter is pretty tame and slow. Most of the posts lately are about professional wrestling, so it's not like I'm a known "SJW". But for me, tweet a critical thing about men --> be afraid of harassment from men is an unavoidable path.
posted by misskaz at 1:50 PM on September 21, 2015 [29 favorites]


No mention of gender does help, and at current it's working for me.

Which raises a troublesome point for me.

I often refer to other posters here as 'he' or 'she' or 'him' or 'her' based mainly on what I've gleaned from their contributions, but occasionally from their profile pages.

However, non-members can't see the gender field on the profile page, and many members, including me, have not filled it out.

Am I outing people's genders by doing this, and should I just start referring to everyone as 'they' or 'them' from now on regardless of what I know?
posted by jamjam at 2:01 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have had a public twitter for several years, but as time has gone on, I am more and more careful about what I say on it. My publishers expect me to have social media, but trying to be perfect on it makes me anxious.

By perfect, I mean: phrasing everything exquisitely so I cannot be misconstrued, avoiding topics that would give any number brand of malcontent reason to dox me, stringently avoiding spoilers, hyperbole, links to anything that might in any way displease my publishers, and never, ever assuming that anything I say will be taken in context at all, ever.

So, mostly I tweet about soup. I'm not even kidding. Sometimes I will get on a tear about feminism, queer rights, or pop culture that done pissed me off. But not as much as I used to. And the last time I (a queer woman) talked about being queer on Twitter, there was a minor furor because a particular queer blog decided that I was straight and had no business talking about the subject.

Ironically, the subject was, "Queer topics I don't approach on Twitter because they tend not to go well."

Twitter's not worth the risk to me anymore. Which is a damned shame, because I really enjoyed it. I loved livetweeting shows with other authors, or riffing on YA stuff, or just goofing around.

But, I value more the lack of death and rape threats in my inbox. I'm glad I don't have to worry about my mom's address being posted online, or my spouse's boss getting hatemail because I said something some MRA asshat didn't like.

I'll keep taking the risks in my books, but online? Just not worth it.
posted by headspace at 2:01 PM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


Over the summer, I stumbled on Vanessa Veselka's article about Robert Ben Rhoades and the invisible epidemic of killings of prostitutes, runaways, and other vulnerable women by long-haul truckers (and via that, to her recent, unsettling talk about hitchhiking in the 80s as a 15 year old on the Everything is Stories podcast.) Talking about them a few weeks later, a friend recommended reading Charles Bowden's incredibly disturbing essays "Rape" and "Using Our Children for Sex" (unfortunately not available online).

Post-Gamergate and the hundreds of smaller, similar attacks on women online, I think I was finally primed enough to get it very viscerally when reading Bowden and Veselka - that brutal misogyny is the nearly universal norm, always seething just below the surface, and driven by far more powerful and pervasive forces than the flimsy, comforting platitudes of civilization that we pay the most attention to culturally. And that these act as almost a magician's sleight-of-hand, constantly drawing our attention away from the actual, ghastly state of things. Obviously privilege is what insulated me from it for so long, but I get it now. It clearly takes guts for Fowles to interact with men online even in the limited way that she does, and that fact is just one more seemingly intractable problem destroying the promise of the early internet.
posted by ryanshepard at 2:08 PM on September 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


Now she gives another reason. This is an article about the other reason.

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. I wasn't discounting the author's stated reason; I totally believe her and don't blame her at all. That was just me trying to express my shock (though ultimately I guess I'm not surprised) that people would even ask - her or anyone else for that matter - why they locked it in the first place.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Two ideas I'm finding puzzling: first, that someone is blind enough to think a women dealing with certain topics having a public twitter account is a good idea, and that Twitter ever was some sort of safe place or good to have meaningful conversations. With 140 characters it's not suited for a lot more than being a one-liner deployment machine... or hate, and being honest, it's way easier to distress a stranger with just four words, as opposed to being pleasant.
posted by lmfsilva at 2:19 PM on September 21, 2015


I got bizarrely popular on google+ back when it was as much of a thing as it ever was. I haven't logged on in at least two years, and muted all my notifications. I had to find a community invitation yesterday, and slogging through the literally thousands of invitations to video chat with strange men, interspersed with messages that started "Hey baby" and were followed up by "Fuck you" and other more violent and/or explicit things when I never responded was truly disheartening.

Twitter's been good to me so far, but I'm just a baby on twitter and really only participate in academic/science twitter, which has so far been pretty low key with minimal confrontation. I haven't managed to draw anyone's ire, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time because I am an unapologetic lady with strong feelings about feminism and other things.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:21 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can't recall correctly who tweeted it originally but it went something like:

Guy: Oh wow, something I wrote is being massively retweeted or shared!
Other guys: Awesome! You go, dude!

Woman: Oh wow, something I wrote is being massively retweeted or shared!
Other women: Oh my god, are you okay?
posted by Kitteh at 2:41 PM on September 21, 2015 [62 favorites]


If you are a writer, or if you're in any other job where networking and self-promotion are really important, it's not so easy to just opt out of it and say "Well, Twitter's just awful." I mean: you can opt out of it. But if you do, you keep second-guessing yourself for the harm you might be doing to your own career.

I locked my Twitter for a couple of months last year, not because I was getting targeted for saying feminist stuff, but because of a person I'd briefly met in real life who insisted on following me into every single social networking thing, and I really felt cut off from the larger Twitter communities that I belong to. It was fortunately in a time-frame where I didn't have any important news to announce or stuff to promote, otherwise it would have been really hard on me. (And I did think, for about a day, of just erasing my real-name accounts and starting over under a pseudonym. It's not like I have thousands of fans or anything, but that's not the point; it would've felt like erasing every tiny bit of progress I'd made toward building an audience.)

It's a bit like the stereotypical images we have of country clubs or smoke-filled rooms where important deals are getting made, where it's very easy to say "You wouldn't want to go there anyway, it's terrible there," but the truth is, it's a way that people get access to power and influence, and it's terribly hard to feel like you have to cut yourself off from that if you want to have safety and peace of mind.
posted by Jeanne at 2:42 PM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


With 140 characters it's not suited for a lot more than being a one-liner deployment machine... or hate, and being honest, it's way easier to distress a stranger with just four words, as opposed to being pleasant.

That's not true and that's again minimising the harm done by driving people of Twitter. It's a powerful publicity tool especially for things not covered in mainstream media, a groundsup medium that connects individuals from all over the world together and can mobilise them for a common cause, even if only to make fun of David Cameron.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:44 PM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


With 140 characters it's not suited for a lot more than being a one-liner deployment machine... or hate, and being honest, it's way easier to distress a stranger with just four words, as opposed to being pleasant.

You didn't want those grapes anyway, they're sour.
posted by PMdixon at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


> Over the summer, I stumbled on Vanessa Veselka's article about Robert Ben Rhoades and the invisible epidemic of killings of prostitutes, runaways, and other vulnerable women by long-haul truckers [...]

From that article:
I needed to find rides and usually couldn't get into the restaurant. The general rule was that you were a prostitute until proven otherwise. And then you were still a prostitute. Waitresses were the first to kick you out. That forced me into asking for rides in the hallway by the showers. Over time, I learned safer ways of getting rides by having truckers navigate the CB radio for me. Women couldn't really get on the "zoo channel," as they called it then, because the sound of their voice would trigger twenty minutes of crass chatter. There was only one word for woman on the CB, and that was beaver. Even the guys who were trying to help had used it.
Not really an exact corollary with Twitter in this case, but if you've been online for a bit then that sounds pretty familiar, doesn't it?
posted by postcommunism at 2:51 PM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?
posted by Omnomnom at 2:53 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, people have important exchanges on Twitter every day, so while it's "not suited" for traditional long-form discourse, talking about how a large swath of users are subject to horrible treatment is really important. Women should not have to jump through hoops in order to be visible.
posted by Ashen at 2:54 PM on September 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Maybe I was just lucky, but I really feel like being online has become worse for women. Dangerous. I was active on local BBS in the mid-nineties, and the girls, because we were girls then, were included and safe. We made ANSI art and wrote columns and weren't accused of faking geekiness and yeah, there one or two creepers, but they didn't scare us. They'd make lewd comments, but they'd also get unanimously shut down. Maybe it's because I'm older and wiser, but my online life is locked down in a way I wouldn't have dreamed of back then. I miss those days.
posted by Ruki at 2:57 PM on September 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


And this is precisely what online abuse and threats do—they ruin the party for everyone.

This is such a great "this is why we can't have nice things".
posted by Phredward at 3:13 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I’m the kind of fragile human that experiences undue, irrational neurosis at the very idea of people looking at me, and the prospect of showcasing myself in an exposed forum was a nightmare.

I am not like that and I am a man but I got a Twitter account a couple of years back and I posted a thing on it and got a couple of retweets, then I went to post a random thought I had and an almost physical spasm of revulsion at the exposure that would entail jerked my fingers off the keys.

Twitter is awful, Twitter ruins lives and I support this woman's decision to tell it to go fuck itself.

(but, yeah, I have tens of thousands of comments on this and other places under a nick that's trivially linked back to my identity so go figure. the modern agora is just weird)
posted by Sebmojo at 3:34 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I lay low on the internet less because I'm afraid of men, and more just because it's my preference.

There was a fair amount of pretty easily identifiable information about me on the internet that originated back before there were publicly accessible, central archives of content. So for the past many years, I've relied largely on compartmentalization and on letting that information go dormant so that casual busybodies don't see it. Now, I mostly just try to avoid context collapse, use varying degrees of anonymity, and try not to cross pollinate different accounts. It's not even just that I'm afraid of people harassing me IRL, although it's happened. It's more that I like to compartmentalize, and I find it creepy and weird when people I know from one context start trying to locate me elsewhere, just like I'd be creeped out if someone I knew from work started following me around in the grocery store.

But it is fucking ridiculous how often people expect me to justify why I will not use real name accounts or use central commenting systems, and why I don't like them trying to look me up on the internet or revealing identifying information about me without my permission.

And by the same token, I don't expect people to justify their decisions to me. I respect women who use their real names and maintain their own identities and talk openly about controversial topics.

And I think a really good starting point for everyone would be to stop questioning and debating adult women's personal choices as though they're matters of public interest.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:36 PM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

I haven't, and that's why I continue to post here. If you go back through my comments, I share a lot of personal stuff here and make myself vulnerable because I've never been afraid on Metafilter. (And considering I wrote the blog post that started the whole "Is Kaycee Nicole real?" saga, I think that's saying something.)
posted by headspace at 3:39 PM on September 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


That's not true and that's again minimising the harm done by driving people of Twitter. It's a powerful publicity tool especially for things not covered in mainstream media, a groundsup medium that connects individuals from all over the world together and can mobilise them for a common cause, even if only to make fun of David Cameron.

Ideally? Yeah. In practice, Twitter was just the first service of the kind to get traction with high-profile users. You could click a button a few times, and follow a journalist, an author, a musician or know what was CERN up to. But it was meant for quick updates, shower thoughts and yes/no questions, not discussion. Storify (or whatever the site that allows to do a timeline of tweets is named) is far from being a useful way of organizing a narrative.
It sucks that there isn't a service as easy to use and better featured, and a lot of the problems on twitter that make people go away are caused by the platform itself.
posted by lmfsilva at 3:48 PM on September 21, 2015


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?
posted by Omnomnom at 2:53 PM on September 21 [+] [!]


Mob harassed? No. But I did make a comment here back when I was relatively new that some guy disagreed with. So what did he do? He started digging into my profile to see what "dirt" he could find on me.

Now I've been online long enough and in enough situations that I don't put personal information out on the Net and I don't link any of my online activities or accounts to other ones. So all that's in my MeFi profile is my first name and my country (which, to be honest, is typically more information than I provide for most other social media accounts).

And how do I know he did this? Because he took the one tiny scrap of information he could find (my first name) and threw it into his posts. I get the impression, and of course I have no way of backing this up with RealProof(TM), that my being a woman was an extra piece of ammo he could use against me.

At the time, that type of "doxxing" (or doxxing-lite) almost made me quit being a member. I was upset because I broke my own personal code about what information to provide because I was feeling relatively safe on MeFi, but that single action proved to me that this place was just as bad as the rest of the Internet, and that I had been a foolish idiot to display the information I did. I was also new enough here that I didn't realize that was a dickish move that isn't supposed to be approved under the normal MeFi rules of operation. If I knew then what I know now, I would have contacted the mods so fast that the asshole's head would have spun off his head from the reaction. But again, that's been a common reaction in my life: if I had only known/only reacted better when confronted with X ugly situation Y creepy male put me in, things would have been okay. But then I have to stop myself and remind myself that it's not my fault. It's the fault of the asshole male who decided his needs/wants were supreme, and that as a female, it was my role to bend to his wishes or make him feel better about himself.
posted by sardonyx at 4:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Ideally? Yeah. In practice, Twitter was just the first service of the kind to get traction with high-profile users. You could click a button a few times, and follow a journalist, an author, a musician or know what was CERN up to. But it was meant for quick updates, shower thoughts and yes/no questions, not discussion.

So? The street finds its own uses for things. The service isn't perfect, but that doesn't stop people from communicating with it. Discussions are had, connections are made, even if you personally do not use Twitter that way.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:21 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

Not mob-harassed, but a member (whose account is now inactive) once sent me a series of emails to my personal account, which was then listed on my profile, because he disagreed with my personal experiences of living in Detroit. Prior to that he had sent me messages on MeMail, which I had ignored because, like, you can disagree with me in the thread. He accused me of several things, none of which were true, and he continued to send messages after I asked him to stop.

I took my email address off my profile that day. It will never return. I also removed any links to any other web services I used. While MetaFilter is better than most web communities, it is still a part of the internet, and therefore should not be considered a 'safe space.'
posted by palindromic at 4:38 PM on September 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I never got Twitter. I have an account, under a pseudonym, and pretty much all of it is "What is this thing?" posts.

I am, however, active on Facebook and I am frequently creeped out by both men and women who tend towards fascism (I know people who have stated they prefer fascism to brainswashed socialism, and also who proudly identify as zealots). Many of them are gun owners who think I'm a commiesocialist. Sometimes, I get the feeling that if I do something where people will know I'm there, someone just might be packing...my FB "discussions" are often political and there's certainly a level of creepiness that comes from the gun-totin' right.

I can't imagine the levels of vitriol and fear that women experience online. I don't have to imagine it, of course, as it is often there for you to see it, maybe "fathom," is the proper word.

I don't know what to do, is there some advice that women (or men) can give to men like myself who want to see this stop? I have children who are girls and they are about to be old enough for this stuff to affect them. Is there a MetaTalk thread on solutions to this problem?
posted by Chuffy at 4:39 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

I've seen mobs form and mock/verbally attack fellow members in Metatalk, occasionally with mention of said members' activities elsewhere on the internet. Does that count?
posted by mylittlepoppet at 4:39 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Twitter is not awful and it is clearly not useless. It is one of the most joyful, powerful, positive tools ever invented to connect us. It is patently unfair that half of humanity can't use it blithely like the other half can. Not sure what the solution is but "Hide" should not be on the list of suggestions.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 4:45 PM on September 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


i've had things i've said here show up in the more unsavory parts of reddit while dudes angrily debated whatever it was (some of them members here). i had things i said about the russian woman show up elsewhere on the internet with some eye rolls. i've had the subject of an fpp get very angry at things i said in thread and then edit her blog post to yell at me. a now banned member started linking mefi accounts to twitter accounts and i was one of the people he decided to do that to. that last one is why my profile here is now pretty much completely empty and i still consider shuttering this profile and starting anew because there's so much identifiable stuff i've typed here.

the thing that made me lock my twitter for a bit though wasn't mefi related - milo of brietbart/gg/not understanding color correcting conditioner fame retweeted something critical of him i had said (with no @s or hashtags) and his userbase descended on me and started digging around. since that happened i took my pic of my profile and have been more nervous about what i tweet. i like to be public but i'm not sure the trade off is worth it.
posted by nadawi at 4:54 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


For all the hyperbole, the Internet seems to have created a situation where even your online friends are simultaneously unserious and humourless. And the specific brands of social media are simultaneously chilling most discourse and providing hate amplification machines.

It's a situation I don't have any real solutions for, other than selectively not participating. I've been slowly, in fits and starts, disengaging with most social media.

I only come here to make smart ass comments, though I occasionally add to the conversation. But this is a walled garden with a lot more direct editorial input.

So much for the great democratization and free bazaar of ideas. We went from cat pics and fandom to run of the mill backlash misogyny in less than two decades.

Good job, us.
posted by clvrmnky at 4:55 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


The big problem is not that this kind of thing isn’t opposed at all – it is, but certainly not to the degree it should be – but rather that there don’t seem to be many remedies.

If you have a troll with thick skin counterhetoric doesn’t do much. Abuse and threats do indeed ruin things for everyone. I have issues with certain limitations on speaking freely, words being scary in and of themselves devoid of context, but none at all with the concept of their being arbiters and clear lines being drawn where abuse takes place.

The loss of any voice is the loss of greater complexity and diversity of ideas and any online forum has to value that or jerks will destroy people’s (in this case specifically women’s) work.
It’s not just the right to speak at stake it’s the right to listen.
And more generally speaking we as a society have tolerated this for a very long time. Plenty of female writers like D.C. Fontana have had to hide their gender to sell something on spec.

I’ll say I think the net is cast a bit wide: “The Internet” and “Men.” Which I think is a valid criticism if for nothing else they are not easily manipulable concepts.
And it’s not a behavior issue but one of control.
In public, in most cases, you rarely see men screaming abuse openly at women. Not that oppressive acts and words don’t exist in those quarters but it is mostly surreptitious. What exists in public that doesn’t, for the most part, exist online is that anonymity. Or at least the perception of it. The best response to interpersonal abuse (apart from calling the police) is bearing witness and exposing the abuser to scrutiny for their actions.

The traditional “out” for men has been the private vs. public (or career) excuse. What a man does in private is ok as long as it doesn’t affect his job.
But you rarely see anyone take ownership for those ideas. And the ideas are old, there’s just new outlets that don’t have the social controls we’ve put in place in other areas. And indeed, the issues of how relationships and sex are taught and how socialization occurs are a point of contention themselves.

There’s no doubt it’s a problem and has to change. How we define men as men needs to be in relation to something other than work, where women’s contributions have always been challenged, and the dichotomy of public vs. private responsibility for one’s words and actions has to be addressed. Because it affects us all.

And the “affects us all” part is what needs to be highlighted. For the most part if men realize they’re affected too, they would get more involved.

There have been a number of “experiments” where men pretend to abuse women and vice versa with varying results. The only common denominator I have seen (and I’m not a sociologist) is that public response diminishes the further from a “public” setting the event gets.
So, bright day in a park, everyone seems to step up and/or notice. Closer to a building – less response. Indoors – less. In an elevator – etc. etc.

The perception is that the privacy, or apparent privacy, means we’re not as responsible for it. And not a lot of websites, not a lot of “the Internet” has a public park during mid-day feel to it like everyone owns the space and is responsible for what goes on in it. And you can call a cop on the beat if it gets way out of hand.

One of the things Metafilter at least has done right IMHO.

And yeah, no member should have to hide. I want to hear dissonance. I want to hear in the strongest possible terms why my idea is wrong.
No one should have to put up with abuse. And when we allow anyone to suffer it, it covers all of our ears.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:56 PM on September 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is there a technology solution waiting in the wings somewhere? If anonymity is the problem, is an identity-verified social network app the solution? (Something like how quora works for example?)

On second thought, anonymity isn't the problem. It's that (a hopefully small) percentage of people are using anonymity to harass and attack others.
posted by storybored at 5:19 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is there a technology solution waiting in the wings somewhere? If anonymity is the problem, is an identity-verified social network app the solution? (Something like how quora works for example?)

Ask Tinder users how effective Facebook verification is at reducing sexualised harassment.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is there a technology solution waiting in the wings somewhere?

Not exactly.

There is a saying in the hacker community: "There is no patch for stupidity."

Similarly, there is no patch for assholes.

It really is a cultural problem; there is a culture of tolerance of harassers.

That being said, there is hope. 50 years ago one could be an open racist, spouting shit openly advocating violence against minorities. Now most folks use 'dog whistles' so they can signal to their (racist) tribe how much they hate minorities. That change came about because social norms changed.

The bad news is that we're all part of the problem (everyone that allows a misogynistic statement to go unchallenged, that shrugs in the face of friends/acquaintances saying godawful shit online).

The good news is that we are all part of the solution; as a culture we need to stop putting up with this shit. The change doesn't happen overnight, and requires dilligence and hard work, but I believe it is possible.
posted by el io at 5:27 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Mob and personal attacks are why I'm using this account now. Gamer gate isn't a game. For the record, I've been a part of mefi since about the turn of the century. I was harassed here back in 09 or 07, whatever year I created this account by a mefi member, now gone, who tracked me down and sent letters to my boss because he didn't agree with me. After he got banned, after doxxing a number of people, I went back to using my "real" account.

After the gamergaters and redditors though, that account is probably never safe to use again.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:40 PM on September 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


This account is in itself one of those tightly-locked accounts. I mean, I'm conscious with every comment that someone will likely one day try to dig down through what I have shared, find me, and threaten me. It's happened before (not on MF, but elsewhere), it'll likely happen again, and keeping my inbox open is an act of faith. Every time I log in I look at the mail icon and think about turning it off just in case. Haven't yet, but it gets likelier and likelier.

My twitter is also super locked down under the same rules as this account -- entirely new name, entirely different location and timezone settings, entirely different email, entirely different password rules, etc. I alter my writing style from account to account as well, counting commas, creating rhetorical commonalities, am I the kind of person who oxford commas or not (E. Whitehall is, because I picture E. Whitehall as the sort of person who believes in oxford commas because she is Proper Enough to mark that the E. is a shorthand with a full stop. [Decision right there - does E. Whitehall call it a full stop or a period?]). It sounds like a lot to keep track of, but I find it necessary as a self-defense measure.

My main/general internet handle is very old, has a lot of stuff from when I was a child and loudmouth teenager who was much, much more comfortable with telling the creeps on AOL to go fuck themselves when they tried to cybersex me and send me dick pics when I was 11 in a pokemon chatroom, and as I get older the less and less I use it because there's a lot that could be dug up about me just by google searching that username. It's already happened that I've been stalked/tracked down several times in my loudmouth fuck-you days, once by this one dude and his child-pornographer friends who just wouldn't stop asking for pictures of me in my sleepwear.

Which, yeah, does likely contribute to the depth of my security measures, because that was scary, but I also am kind of wary of mentioning that because then I'll likely get written off as "that's an extreme", but I am really, really far from being the only one but there's also no real way to convey just how many stories like that I've heard, like the danger of the internet is less "axe-murderers" and more "they'll stalk you and ask if your parents are home and where do you live and what country and what town and what time is it where you are and where are you from and what's your number, what's the first digit, what's the last one, can I just come over tonight, what are you wearing lil girl, asl sweetie, remember me, I miss you baby, for fucking eternity, to the point where at some point you get drunk and rank them by order of annoyance".

Which ... is a thing I've done repeatedly. So. I would prefer the axe murderers. (Growing up on the internet also seems to have a bit to do with my perspective on this, to be fair.) And all that seems like a derail, probably, but in my mind growing up dealing with that kind of pushiness is not too different from the way dudes get super pushy to women on twitter and elsewhere. The tenor of it's different directed at adult women, I guess, but it's super familiar because it's not like the fake-sweet actually hides the fact that the persistent threat of "I will find you and do whatever I want to you, and also here are my friends who will always back me up, you are alone" is the same, you know?

Once it happens it seems to get likelier to happen again because someone else already made the connections in a forum post or there's an ancient archived page floating around on google. And, you know, I worry about my family. I don't want them to be affected, I don't want my friends pulled into it, I don't want the mess of backlash to touch them because it's really not their fault and it's not anything to do with them.

I've always wanted to be a writer, to put myself out there and be like "hey, I have a thought, may I tell you about it?" but I'm just not brave enough because, yeah, see: previous experience which is kind of not actually 'previous' by any means. Dedicated dudes are gonna dedicate.

But it's also like, this is kind of an impossible standard of bravery, right? But I am just never, no matter what I do, going to be able to delink enough to prevent someone dedicated the way I know dudes can be dedicated to harrassing girls and women. So the question becomes "is it worth potentially incurring someone that dedicated?" and generally the answer is hell no, because really, I love my mother and I don't want her answering calls telling her how horrible and awful her daughter is. I don't want to do that to her.

But also also fucking also, why do I need to risk doing to that to her to say something on fucking twitter? Why is it even a risk? It's ridiculous, fundamentally.

I can't say any of this as myself, obviously. E. Whitehall kind of can, maybe, but this account is on the verge of deactivation most days as it stands anyway, I'm prepared to walk away from it, so ... we'll see.

So yeah, like the FPP says. Blame men.
posted by E. Whitehall at 5:43 PM on September 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


My real name is attached to my handle here (same as on most services), which has "lass" in it, my first name is female, at least to Americans, and my account icons are ofter purple. So I'm pretty obviously female. I got harassed some in the warblogging days for various things I posted about PP and once got some dude asking me to send him pictures of my teeth (?!) but otherwise I've been pretty lucky for an old loudmouthed feminist bitch on the internet. I'm always shocked when I get actual mild harassment and fight-picking attempts.

I know this makes me super-duper lucky and I'm not doubting other women's experience, just saying this is mine.

The last time someone tried to pick a random fight with me on twitter (after I got retweeted on Rick Perry by an old warblogger friend), it was a nominally female account. What I have internalized from Gamergate and harassment on the internet was the assumption that it was a #notyourshield account. I blocked with prejudice.
posted by immlass at 5:49 PM on September 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

I never have, maybe because I like to think I write such smart comments, but more likely because I'm a man and this stuff seems to be almost entirely directed at women.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:59 PM on September 21, 2015


I have been ok here on MeFi, I only use Twitter in a limited way. Recently I had an unpleasant experience with a female who saw fit to make life unpleasant for me on a couple of sites, which included Facebook.
The parties to this were all female. I've actually NOT had huge problems with males on the 'net. My worst male trolls had to do with military history forum. There were two who were memorable.
These female trolls are vicious, and dedicated. My preference is for any online activity of mine not to be too interconnected. It just works better that way. The ONE time I dropped that rule cost me.
The other side though is the three little trolls have annoyed Hell out of a place I left. I have had numerous expressions of support and made a few new friends.
Then again, people decided to go ahead and hate for trivial reasons online. I really dislike that side of online activity.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:07 PM on September 21, 2015


Metafilter is a forum, as opposed to some of the other sites like Twitter, Facebook, even YouTube and Reddit, which are more platforms. People can use those sites to connect with selected groups of people much moreso than on Metafilter, which is smaller and more uniform in its presentation. When someone gets bullied or harassed on one of those sites, they're probably a lot more likely to stay in order to maintain their presence and their connections there. If they get bullied here, well, that's probably all there is for them. They're probably going to either fade away or straight up disable their account.

The point being that, if you don't see a lot of people chiming in to recount stories about being harassed here, it doesn't tell you much. Most of them probably just aren't around to answer.

It's not bad now in terms of misogyny, and there's pretty tight moderation of direct personal attacks usually, but there are still dogpiles and other collective behaviors that run people off.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:23 PM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have seen people complaining about and mocking a few of my comments from here on unrelated sites, but nobody ever went out of their way to find me and do it in an aggressive or threatening way. I make it pretty easy, so if they wanted to, I suppose they could. I hope they don't, though.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:26 PM on September 21, 2015


Going back to my earlier comment, Ruki is the diminutive of my BBS handle, and makes me fairly identifiable to those who knew me then. I have an incredibly common first name, so I'm more inclined to respond to someone shouting Ruki than my actual name, and that's happened IRL. That I'm comfortable enough to use it here is a testament to how I feel about Metafilter.
posted by Ruki at 6:34 PM on September 21, 2015


I'm a man, and I use my real name pretty much everywhere online. I did this as a conscious choice many years ago. I didn't think I was my best self when I was anonymous, that personally it led me to express myself more in the extreme, more sarcastically, more venemous than what I wanted. When using my real name, I have to assume that people I know will be able to read it, and it makes me think twice about posting. There's good and bad to that, but, for me, I think it's led to me being less of an asshole online.

Not everyone needs that, but I did.

Until today it never occurred to me that this crutch of mine is also a privilege. There are probably even more that I'm not aware of, dumb little life hacks that get me through my day that aren't available to other people.

(Probably the biggest downside is that there are some things I'd like to share about my life, but I can't, because they involve other people. Telling an anonymous story about someone unidentifiable is an extremely minor sin, but once someone could find out who they are it's no good)
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:09 PM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

No. I did have one person take things to my memail, following a message about how I was all wrong with a message that upon reading more of what I'd said on MetaFilter they'd found I agreed with them on other things, and so maybe we could get along. I was entirely nonplussed and just didn't respond.

I have been discomforted by watching how other women were targeted and vilified, though - usually for being snarky. There's a reason my style on MetaFilter tends to be longwinded and thoughtful with deliberate additions of emotional labor soothing.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:16 PM on September 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

I have received both death and rape threats on a fairly regular basis for the past 4-5 years on non-mefi-related sites which directly reference my mefi participation. I will never have a twitter or a facebook, and creepers have thankfully (and mysteriously and unusually for such a godawful site) been pretty simple to block on tumblr.

tbh it's funny that whoever is doing it thinks that it will shut me up
posted by poffin boffin at 10:06 PM on September 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


I have had very little online harassment compared to everyone else. Then again, I don't post my e-mail anywhere super easy to find and that cut out all the harassment I did get from strange men once I did, I stopped using the few social media sites I signed up for very quickly after signing up and aren't on the rest of them, and my name is generic on websites. I don't have popular websites, thank goodness, especially when none of them are super easy to repost to social media with the click of a button. So far I've been okay. However, like everyone else I now wish I had taken all of the steps in the past that E. Whitehall has taken because someday they will come for me too, as they will come for us all. E, if you taught classes in this sort of thing I think you'd have a monster hit on your hands.

Remember the days when everyone was anonymous online? Now everyone is constantly being tracked online and it's only the sexual harassers and stalkers who somehow continue to remain unfindable, wtf? Social media really is the devil because the ease of posting has unleashed tsunamis of hate combined with ease of stalking upon us all.

Pretty soon we'll have a public Internet with no women at all to be found. We may have the online equivalent of being in one of those countries where the women are completely covered up because men can't handle seeing their presence in public.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:24 PM on September 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Maybe I was just lucky, but I really feel like being online has become worse for women. Dangerous. I was active on local BBS in the mid-nineties, and the girls, because we were girls then, were included and safe.

I think it undoubtly has gotten worse, for several reasons. One is the march of technology that just makes it easier for flocks of assholes to gather and mass harass somebody on Twitter or elsewhere. The centralisation of the internet too: there is no alternative to Twitter, which is either uninterested or uncapable of containing harassment, unlike with BBSes where you could kick the assholes off much easier and keep them off.

Part of it of course is also the backlash (and pre-emptive strikes) at women getting more organised and outspoken and intolerant of harassment. We've seen that in science fiction fandom in the past six-seven years, with Racefail and the various con harassment stories where things that had been festering in silence got the spotlight on them and in response the worst offenders doubled down and organised.

You also got the knobhead aggregators like 4-chan, the skeevier parts of Reddit and the whole manosphere environment, where harassing behaviour is rewarded with attention.

And another huge part of it is the ongoing American rightwing culture war that has spent three decades now training its followers to be harassers through the Drudge Report, the warbloggers, Breitbart undsoweiter, all trickling down into geek spaces in the form of GamersGate, Sad Puppies and others.

As a bloke, it's incredibly easy for me to ignore all that, because for the most part I don't have to deal with it; I got some paedo accusations back in the nineties when I was spam fighting on Usenet, some grumbling when I was quoted in the NYT speaking against Instapundit, but nothing like the sustained, months and years long abuse that seems to happen to any woman speaking up online and even plenty who don't. The frustrating part of this from my perspective is that even as it happens it's hard to make harassment visible to others than the victims and that it's easy to think it's normal that online spaces are dominated by (white) men and women (and/or POC) just choose to stay silent.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:41 PM on September 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


I was once in a newsgroup where somebody mentioned that a long time member had emailed her privately, struck up some kind of friendship/flirting thing, started chatting on the phone occasionally, and then turned into a nasty stalker with some unpleasant and offensive opinions who wouldn't take "please leave me alone" for an answer.

Then it turned out that literally every single other female handled person on this newsgroup had had the same experience with the same person, some of them being more or less receptive to the friendship initially but all of them ending up with the obnoxious internet stalking. ALL of them had felt too embarrassed to mention to the group what they thought was a personal, individual (and off-topic) problem, that they had perhaps contributed to somehow by the way they interacted with that guy.

On inspection it turned out that the guy never interacted with male-handled people on the newsgroup at all; we wondered if he systematically killfiled them.

Later I accidentally posted to that newsgroup with a female handle and a working email address (something I never did for safety reasons, but it happened by accident) and bing! right away I got an incredibly pleasant email response from stalker-guy engaging with what I had said. Luckily I knew enough at that point to direct him at my spam folder. I'm sure he thought we were a bunch of evil colluding witches, but luckily he didn't feel like discussing this publicly on the group, probably because it would spoil his game.
posted by emilyw at 1:45 AM on September 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


Weirdly I have found Instagram much more unsettling for me than Twitter. I have open accounts on both platforms - I run a business that requires social media presence - but I only started using Instagram recently. The difference has been startling for me. On IG I get requests for private messaging constantly from men and intrusive comments on some pretty innocent photos. I feel more .. sexualised/objectified .. there than I do on Twitter, yet I post the same type of content. I mainly post photos of knitting, for crying out loud.

FB is a whole 'nother realm. I mainly get poorly spelled messages from random men in football shirts. I don't know what they want with a middle-aged knitter.

Twitter feels more of a safe space for me. I have found that if I do post about 'controversial' stuff (like the fact I was once stalked by a male blog follower) and trolls appear out of the blue, other people actually step in and argue with the trolls. I still get creepers, incessant man-splainers, and the occasional 'whoah, dude" moment, but it feels less horrific/explicit than it does on other platforms.
posted by kariebookish at 3:17 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was once turned down from a job because and I quote, "We googled you and you don't exist online, and in this day and age that seems suspicious to us."

So if women have a presence online we find ourselves targets but if we don't maintain a visible presence, that's suspicious.
posted by FunkyHelix at 3:38 AM on September 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


The traditional “out” for men has been the private vs. public (or career) excuse. What a man does in private is ok as long as it doesn’t affect his job.
But you rarely see anyone take ownership for those ideas.


Indeed, a lot of doxing harassers seems to focus on informing their workplace, in the case of mature men, or their parents, in the case of kids. e.g. "Did you know that your employee/son has an account on Twitter and uses it to call women 'f----g c---s'?"

As I (and others) have said elsewhere, the quality of discourse is generally (though not perfectly) correlated with the amount of anonymity and psychological distance from the communication. At one extreme, 4chan is anonymous to the level that people with persistent identities are mocked and abused, and participating as anon has very low stakes - because of this it is full of trolls and people using abusive and extreme language.

Conversely, a personal interview (such as for a job or immigration or background check) is the opposite level of anonymity and stakes - I would guess that relatively few people troll the immigration official who decides whether you can stay in the country or not.

This isn't a perfect explanation though - people post the most questionable stuff under their real names on Facebook.
posted by theorique at 5:23 AM on September 22, 2015


I would like to know, given the candour of opinions expressed here, whether any of you have been mob-harassed for things you have written on Metafilter?

I had a series of creepy MeMails from a MeFite who disagreed with me regarding the inferiority of women, along the lines of "I see you live in xxxxville. I travel there often. The next time I'm there we should get together and you can prove your physical strength."

I keep my location in my profile, because I like meet-ups. But I used to have my full name and email address. I too have scrubbed everything else and sometimes consider starting a new account.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:18 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've just gone and scrubbed some info out of my account. I've always been cautious about what I post, as I work for a conservative organization, but now I have to wonder if I've posted too much even so?
posted by Mogur at 6:41 AM on September 22, 2015


I've gone back and forth with having my social media attached to my MeFi account. Luckily I haven't had any bad experiences (there was one person who was a bit creeper but I don't think he's active anymore) but I do wonder if should something go down, it'll be too late to go back and scrub my accounts of identifying/connecting info.
posted by misskaz at 7:05 AM on September 22, 2015


Now I'm pissed because Internet jerks have taken away my ability to enjoy light conversation with poffin boffin about protein shakes. What a bunch of fuckwads!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 8:39 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just dropping in there to say if people want to let us know about stuff like this happening on MeFi, bring it to the contact form and let us know -- the form sends an email to all the mods, and one of us is on duty at all times to respond quickly. And know that you can block MefiMail, either as a whole (in your user preferences page) or user-by-user (by going to the person's profile page).
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:43 AM on September 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


“as a culture we need to stop putting up with this shit.”

This. One of the domestic violence in public things shows how many people get involved in public when a man is threatening a woman whereas when a woman is actually slapping a guy, most people shrug or smile a bit and walk off.
The shit itself is a problem, not who it’s aimed at. It’s bad for all of us to tolerate abuse of any kind. And we should feel comfortable addressing the shit itself, no matter who’s on what end.

“it's not like the fake-sweet actually hides the fact that the persistent threat of "I will find you and do whatever I want to you, and also here are my friends who will always back me up, you are alone"”

Exactly. Abusers have to make you feel like you’re alone. When, in fact, there are people like myself who will go out of their way to inflict serious harm on them. Not because I’m some kind of hero, but because it’s on them. To me, it’s nothing anyone should be ashamed of or feel they can’t share with, well, everyone they know.

Look at it this way, if some maniac were trying to light your house on fire, would anyone feel ashamed by it? Like some arsonist nut is less nutty because it appears to be personal?
No, setting a house on fire in a neighborhood is everyone’s problem. Fire spreads. And so does displaced emotion. It doesn’t just go away. People absorb that and their behavior changes. And it’s not their fault any more than it’s your fault if some arsonist sets your house on fire and it spreads to my house.

“Pretty soon we'll have a public Internet with no women at all to be found.”

So like, the Internet.

The comparison to the attitudes around the hijab (and by extension niqab/burka) is apt. In some places in the world (and famously Ancient Greece) women are to blame if they get raped, for example. But it only takes one person to change this. The willingness to risk looking “weak” and asking for help (although I’ve never thought of cooperative effort as weak. Good luck mining your own coal for that power plant you built yourself)

Dramatic stories don’t make good examples for mundane solution but the story of Bishnu Shrestha shows the willingness to help and to recognize rapists and bullies are truly cowards at heart. If you’re not familiar – around 2011 when rapes in India were getting pretty high profile some 40-odd bandits attacked a train and started robbing people. They grabbed an 18 year old girl and were going to rape her in front of her parents. The parents asked a soldier for help.
That soldier was a Gurkha.
He killed three with his khukuri, wounded eight and the rest fled. That’s 40 to 1 odds. I respect Ghurkas. But no one can take on 40 armed coordinated men singlehanded, unless they’re cowards (and fighting in a constrained space where they can’t use their number advantage, like in a train isle).
And that’s the thing, bullies, trolls, rapists, the acts themselves denote a level of selfishness so in any real fight where they have to risk anything, they’re going to run, no matter how outgunned it seems, no matter how lopsided the odds look. They are cowards. Maybe one or two of them are genuinely dangerous (someone stabbed Shrestha for example) but their only real weapon is intimidation.

One person can break them if they call them on it and is ready to go to war. All it takes is the willingness to share and break the threat of shame. Believe me, there are plenty of people in this world who are more than willing to call them on it. That’s why those fuckers have to hide.
And again, this being a discussion about teh interwebs, that’s not white knighting. The vast majority of people feel this way.
Shrestha’s quote is perfect: “Fighting the enemy in battle is my duty as a soldier. Taking on the thugs on the train was my duty as a human being."
posted by Smedleyman at 9:00 AM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


>>“Pretty soon we'll have a public Internet with no women at all to be found.”
So like, the Internet.

Really man? REALLY? Jokes like this make those of us who have been female online for decades feel pretty horrible, fyi. Even when you are making them in support. Even when you are making them as a way of saying you wish the world was different.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:05 AM on September 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


This issue has been on my mind a lot the past few weeks.

I'm in the process of making a career change and the number one piece of advice I've gotten from many different circles is that having some sort of online presence is key way to differentiate yourself from the crowd when looking for a job and establishing a career. It is really encouraged.

It pisses me off because for me as a woman, I get to go through this awesome possum risk calculation. All the people passing on this advice are well meaning and they are correct, it is a good thing to do but it would be nice if there was some awareness that giving this career advice to women in this industry is not without it's risks. And it really puts someone like me in an awful position because if you say anything about it then you get to go through all the fun of getting told that it's not such a big deal and geez you're too paranoid and versions of 'insert every single reason why this really isn't a problem' or just getting yourself labeled as some crazy 'blah blah blah' female.

I really, really want to do the online thing as has been recommended. I have a blog ready to go. Even programmed it myself. It's not live yet and I'm still not sure if I'm going to push the go button because I'm not sure I'm ready to add another element of risk to my life. I want to think it will be fine and nothing bad will happen. With the current state of things it really is a gamble.

Maybe once I get myself more established I can look at addressing these issues from a more insider perspective. Even if it's just putting a bug in the ear of the people that hire for these jobs that for certain people, like women, there are other reasons for not being active online that the typical male candidate does not have to deal with. Reasons that aren't super easy to talk about when you're at the entry level of the industry.
posted by Jalliah at 9:32 AM on September 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember when I first heard of recruiters and HR people looking candidates up on the internet, I honestly thought it would be a short-lived trend before corporations started prohibiting it. I know for a fact that people use that to weed people out based on protected categories, and searching the internet for personal information that people have not volunteered is such an obvious method of illegal discrimination, I was sure that openly admitting to doing so would create a real liability for a company.

How he hell it didn't happen I honestly don't know, but if anything, it's even more outrageous now that you're expected to maintain a personally identifiable web presence even to get a regular job. They're discriminating against a lot of marginalized people who are already subject to discrimination. That is totally predictable, even if they can think of some super-good excuse for it. It is the obvious outcome to the point that you could very convincingly argue that it's the intent.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:34 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


> When, in fact, there are people like myself who will go out of their way to inflict serious harm on them.

> One person can break them if they call them on it and is ready to go to war.

This kind of macho bullshit is part and parcel of the very problem we're talking about.
posted by languagehat at 11:36 AM on September 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


I was ecstatic to take my husband's name when we got married, because it made me that much harder to narrow down. I went from a very unique name that showed up in search results right away to something that you really had to dig at, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't help the day be more magical.

I used to be so prolific online, participated in all these forums, made so many friends and worked on so many projects that I was excited to associate with my real self, and I just... I wish I could be that happy about being online again. Instead I'm absolutely petrified. Mr. Meatsack and I talked plenty about forming our own indie game company once our projects are closer to complete, and I have absolutely refused to be more than a randomized name/blank silhouette/whathaveyou.

I don't post to art boards I frequent (and thus don't participate in communities that end up helping other people with their careers), you couldn't pay me to touch twitter (while Mr. Meatsack is reaching out to prominent programmers and having fun being recognized), I dread having my name in the credits of projects at work (what an awesome thing for most people who aren't women in the industry!), etc etc.

I'm under no illusions that I need to be as anonymous as possible in order to be safe.

It makes me sick.
posted by erratic meatsack at 11:45 AM on September 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


One of the job interview questions I really, really hate (even though it has some relevance to my occupation) is "what websites do you read or spend time on?" I always stumble on that one. Why? Because the majority of my online time (and therefore the first ones to come to mind) are the forums I belong to including MeFi, but I'm sorry, there is no way I'm bringing them up in a job interview.

It's not that I've got anything to hide. I don't. I don't (and I've never have) posted anything I'd be really ashamed to admit to: nothing threatening or harassing, nothing too extreme in my political views, nothing that can tick the racist or homophobic box. As I said up thread, I've always been very aware of the very public nature of Internet. Possibly that's because when I first gained online access, it was via a university account that forced you to use not just your full name but your general program of studies. But I like to think it's more than that--it's that I've been aware right from the start that what you admit to in public stays on the record forever.

Even though I'm not ashamed of what I've said online, I still don't want an employer linking employee me with MeFi sardonyx or ForumMemberA. No way, because if something goes bad in one area of my life, I don't need it spilling into another area. And on the off chance I do want to anonymously vent about a person or situation in real life to my cyberspace buddies, I don't want to leave big flashing neon lights (forget a trail of breadcrumbs) leading from there to work.

So I hum and haw about what other sites I read. Yes, I know I should have an answer already prepared, but I find a lot of the answers have to be reflective of the potential employer's website, and their goals with their online presence, and I don't always know what that is (especially the goals) in advance. For example, if their goal is to have a pretty, singing and dancing website, I don't want to say that most of the sites I read are text-heavy ugly messes, or vice versa.

So yeah, having a limited, hard-to-track down Web presence is great for my general safety and mental health, but it does create its own unique set of barriers and roadblocks.

I guess what I'm trying to say (and doing so in such a bad and long-winded fashion) is that I completely agree with Jalliah and ernielundquist that HR requiring people to have an obvious Web presence is yet another burden on people who don't, due to one factor or another, fit into the stereotypical preferred candidate concept.
posted by sardonyx at 5:10 PM on September 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


FB is far more granular in how your presence is. You can limit access to your profile or individual posts. Twitter is just a binary choice between a public profile with all of your tweets public or a private one with none of them.

Instagram has this problem too.

I'm beginning to think that platforms which don't allow granular posting/privacy/interaction control are not only obviously designed by men, but are kind of inherently designed for men with no consideration to women, or other minorities/people who need to control their exposure for safety and harassment reasons.

I know people who constantly fresh-start their IG/other platform presence or regularly change their handle/UN to try and keep from getting pinned down too easily as well... being themselves.

I don't know any men who do this.

The problems with techbros creating huge swaths of the internet and app world run deep.
posted by emptythought at 7:59 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'm beginning to think that platforms which don't allow granular posting/privacy/interaction control are not only obviously designed by men, but are kind of inherently designed for men with no consideration to women, or other minorities/people who need to control their exposure for safety and harassment reasons.

Yes, that's exactly it. It's not a problem for them, so it's not a problem. For example, that asshole Zuckerberg claiming in 2010 that "Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity". He has nothing to fear from overzealous employers or stalkers, so no one does.

Thankfully, Facebook has moved on from that policy, but that made me want to smash things.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:57 PM on September 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. Smedleyman, I fully appreciate your supportive intent here, probably best to just leave it be at this point.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:08 PM on September 23, 2015


Couple things, maybe this will be deleted too, but I have to say it: one, acknowledging a thing is not an endorsement of it. White people generally have it better than people of color in the U.S. Women have a tough time on the internet. That’s not avocation but recognition.

As, apparently, one of the few light skinned, heterosexual male, non-language professional/English majors on Mefi I get a lot of challenges and exclusion because I’m in the dominant group.

Well, erasing men who are willing to engage in introspection and their roles in abuse directed toward women whether online or in reality, from the conversation is I think a mistake.
Abuse against women by men is about men. At least 50% no? More when it’s multiple men piling on on Twitter.
And I get that women want to talk about their end of the equation. Talk about how men have done thus and so and I would never exclude that from the conversation.

But – and the bystander approach
has been discussed on MeFi before and I alluded to the issue myself here – the question isn’t about women and the answer doesn’t stop at “men” but rather why do (some/many) men do this?

And we recognize, not all men. But then people bring up that individual men not doing it isn’t an excuse. Well, that’s wrong too. Because it’s not about individual behavior but a social institution.

A bunch of individuals don’t get together and decide to abuse women online. It’s seen as a socially acceptable thing. There’s some form of consensual validation at work.

So when I say men need to stand up and change that, and that it can be done individually in even the most extreme of circumstances and I get shouted down as a macho pig for it – understand this, you’re perpetuating that social engine far FAR more than you think I am.
Because it’s not that *I* as a man can’t say anything about the subject because I don’t know what women go through.
Rather it is I as a man, as one who is around other men and part of the dominant social order – again, white, not poor, American, male, (drop very large and muscular into that and I’m perceived as being towards the top end of that order and again, not an endorsement, just a recognition – who has the greater responsibility to do/say something about abuse.

The anti-male/macho rhetoric bugs me. Not that it’s wrong, but it seems exclusionary. I certainly feel excluded and shut out. And given my comments, given my inability to state more clearly what I mean couched in my traditional barracks room tough guy manner (it’s my background, tough habit to shake) I’m not arguing unwarranted or uncalled for.

But recognize the impulse toward solidarity and that males too – and this is absolutely an unstated truth here and elsewhere – that males too are victims of other men’s abuse.
This is why I say it’s in our common interest to have men unite and speak against it. To have men, maybe particularly brash, loudmouths in particular, speak out against it.
I’m in a lot of masculine dominated cultures. I’m around a lot of meat eating, gun toting, sport playing, hairy caveman bastards like myself

In the past I’ve said things like “I can’t believe ‘X’” where ‘X’ is some man doing or saying something in public without some other guy doing or saying something about it.
And the response I’ve gotten is typically “It goes on because you don’t believe it” as though I think misogyny and abuse don’t exist.

It’s precisely the opposite problem. Those things don’t occur around me in the real world because when they have I’ve said or done something about it in manner that shows very clearly exactly how intolerant of such things I am.

And I exude this, at least in the real world where tone and body language are available and I don’t have to delineate things at length where a cold stare speaks volumes.
Men who are capable of healthy interaction with women need to straighten out men who aren’t.

I don’t know if that sounds condescending or internet white knighty but the closer to the event the more vehement the response has to be. If some people are intent on gangraping a young girl, I apologize if I seem like a throwback, but hacking them down en masse with a kukuri would more than likely be my response (barring the threat/use of firearms).
However, and if I didn’t make this more explicit because I thought it implicit in the prior statements and rather obvious as a general principle – akin to violence interruption, men need to check misogynist statements or forms of abuse or degradation, sexism or harassment and straighten the guy out.

I’ve done this, and IIRC related doing this concerning racist and anti-gay remarks (granted I disparaged Kansas on mefi in relating one story), and advocate others doing the same thing to the best of their abilities.

Because silence kills. Shame kills. Embarrassment or ignoring such things is complicity in them.
And I think I am involved. I’m sorry if you might think I don’t get it or I’m not allowed to speak because I’m a man and thus part of the problem, but I see it completely opposite.
I am a privileged minority in an ethnically, sexually and gender diverse society. I didn’t do it. It was like that when I got here. But the facts are that I’m in a leadership position in a number of ways.

And if I fail to say something, that’s a failure of leadership. Not to some woman on twitter, but to all the people who look to me as to how to be a man.

And the pressure for the most part doesn’t come from being gainsayed in places like Metafilter (I mean, I love ya and I like being here but…) it comes from my peers. Those who aren’t well adjusted and/or can’t deal with women or people of color who think showing solidarity and camaraderie is abuse or status equals abuses of power and leadership.
Frankly, you need me. You need men like me. You need people willing to (metaphorically) scrape a knuckle or go to the (rhetorical) matt. Or even further if need be to create the sea change.

I’ve spoken at length as to how violence isn’t conducive to creating those broad changes, but again – implicitly – people are MORE afraid of social pressure than they are of violence, so excuse my violence metaphors, but I need the extreme example. Because truly more people are afraid of public speaking than death.

Hell, I know I am. Obligation is hard, death is easy.

But I am obligated and that’s why I take this seriously and took the time to write at length (overlength perhaps).
Because more than you need men like me, young men, lost men, men who don’t understand or don’t know how to be men, need men like me.

And, hopefully, that will lay the ground for someone better with words who doesn’t need to use as much force, We can’t run on just guts. But without the guts to break the silence and make that stand to so many men, young and otherwise, who think that abuse somehow denotes strength, there will never be clarity. They’ll never admit to being abusers much being victims (because of the perception of weakness, and again, that’s how it is seen, not what is real or ideal).

And whatever the medium or setting, they will never understand – not just their duty or manhood, that’s why I used that Shrestha quote – they’ll never understand their humanity.

TLDR: Jackson Katz spoke to us a bit back, most of my ideas came from that and it's worth hearing some of his talks. Probably much better at laying this down than I have.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:08 PM on September 23, 2015


As, apparently, one of the few light skinned, heterosexual male, non-language professional/English majors on Mefi I get a lot of challenges and exclusion because I’m in the dominant group.

I'm not doubting your feelings or experiences, but this has not been my experience (as a white, male, non-English major, etc) at all, and I very much doubt that it is universally or even generally true.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:45 PM on September 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


A bunch of individuals don’t get together and decide to abuse women online. It’s seen as a socially acceptable thing. There’s some form of consensual validation at work.

It's considered "acceptable" only in some non-mainstream cultures - e.g. abusive internet subcultures like chans where everyone gets abused, women and minorities worst of all. In these worlds, I agree that "consensual validation" is at work.

In the mainstream, it's not considered very acceptable at all. Abusive comments are deleted from web forums and news sites, threatening tweets get people banned, and so forth. It is broadly recognized as a problem that lacks an obvious solution. Fortunately or otherwise, much of this abuse tends to be mostly invisible unless a victim makes it public (screen shots of emails, etc).

The phenomenon is like an iceberg - we have only limited means to gauge how much internet abuse a person is getting (aside from aforementioned personal disclosure) because we can't read their emails and PMs. It could look like a nice, respectful discussion above the surface, and then in private someone could be getting abuse and threats in email and PMs. Unfortunately, going public with threatening communications often winds up being a further lightning rod for abuse.
posted by theorique at 3:04 AM on September 24, 2015


> So when I say men need to stand up and change that, and that it can be done individually in even the most extreme of circumstances and I get shouted down as a macho pig for it – understand this, you’re perpetuating that social engine far FAR more than you think I am.
Because it’s not that *I* as a man can’t say anything about the subject because I don’t know what women go through.
Rather it is I as a man, as one who is around other men and part of the dominant social order – again, white, not poor, American, male, (drop very large and muscular into that and I’m perceived as being towards the top end of that order and again, not an endorsement, just a recognition – who has the greater responsibility to do/say something about abuse.


But nobody's saying men don't have a responsibility to do/say something about abuse; it's great that you recognize that and want to be part of the solution. What I was reacting to was specifically your "inflict serious harm on them"/"break them"/"ready to go to war" phraseology, which is, as I said, part of the problem of patriarchy that we're talking about. Beating people up is not a solution. Yor write:

> And if I fail to say something, that’s a failure of leadership. Not to some woman on twitter, but to all the people who look to me as to how to be a man.

But you seem to think what you need to say is "I'll beat the shit out of any asshole who even looks the wrong way at a woman!" (paraphrase, obviously, but that's what I take from your various comments), and that's not what women want to hear and it's not going to help. I know a lot of men, including apparently you, have been trained to think that "how to be a man" involves physical violence and the threat of physical violence, and I realize it's hard to break that kind of training, especially when you're hanging out with "a lot of meat eating, gun toting, sport playing, hairy caveman bastards," but if you really want to be part of the solution, getting that out of your system is a prerequisite. I'm sorry you feel beleaguered and I'm not trying to paint you into a corner or anything, but you've been around these parts long enough you must know what I'm talking about. I've always felt affection for you, because I'm fond of caveman bastards myself, but those macho/violent instincts have got to go.
posted by languagehat at 9:07 AM on September 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I know a lot of men, including apparently you, have been trained to think that "how to be a man" involves physical violence and the threat of physical violence, and I realize it's hard to break that kind of training, especially when you're hanging out with "a lot of meat eating, gun toting, sport playing, hairy caveman bastards," but if you really want to be part of the solution, getting that out of your system is a prerequisite. I'm sorry you feel beleaguered and I'm not trying to paint you into a corner or anything, but you've been around these parts long enough you must know what I'm talking about. I've always felt affection for you, because I'm fond of caveman bastards myself, but those macho/violent instincts have got to go.

I've often said that that in parallel with so-called "rape culture", there exists an "anti-rape-culture" wherein men become truly outraged (and willing to do physical violence) at those men who victimize the women who are part of their circle (or 'tribe'). Mark Manson at Good Men Project wrote about this phenomenon, which he called 'Knight In Shining Armor Syndrome'.

I am skeptical that we will ever be able to completely erase this killer instinct in men, useful and practical as it would be for managing organizations and societies. Different societies certainly have their ways of taming it - through education, generally - and channeling it - into sports, 'socially useful violence' (i.e. police, military), and exercise. But I would wager that even the most domesticated men experience occasional urges to defend their tribe through the use of physical violence.
posted by theorique at 9:39 AM on September 24, 2015


It's not just an instinct in men - I'm betting most women have felt at least an occasional flare of homicidal rage towards men who rape and victimize them and other women. When we express it, though, we're often accused of misandry.
posted by rtha at 10:18 AM on September 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Even setting aside the violence issue at the moment, what Smedleyman proposes isn't workable.

So I as a woman start getting harassed online. What are my options under his scenario? Open myself (and my private correspondence) up to another man that I don't know, and I have no reason to trust during a time when my capacity for trust is likely at a low point? Not likely. Ask said man to fight my battles for me, thereby proving to the cretins bothering me that I'm just a weak woman, unable to fend for myself? Can't see that helping the situation any, especially once the taunts start to kick in, "ooh, look at the trouble the bitch stirred up, now she needs a man to rescue her." What proof do I have that Smedleyman has any more cyber skills than I do and that he'll have that capability to get things fixed? None. What are the odds that he's just going to make the situation worse by escalating it? Probably even money or better.

Believe me we've tried standing up to bullies. We've tried adjusting our tone. We've been as fierce as can be and as meek as possible. We've looked them in the eye and called their bluff. We've deliberately taken the fight to them, and we've engaged in defensive positions when our online homes have come under sneak attack. We've had support from male allies. We've tried everything you can think of and possibly more. What make you think outsourcing our battles to you is going to be the answer that solves all our problems? What qualifies you to be the Ghurka of the scenario?

I think it's great whenever anybody stands up to cowards and bullies and abusers and offers support to victims. Where I start to get nervous is when somebody comes in and says, "one person can break them if they call them on it and is ready to go to war." (Of course in this case person=man because I've likely already been that "one person" who called them on the issue, with predictable results, hence the need for rescue.) Fine maybe that works if you're Superman or Batman, but if you're not, I'm not going to be in any position to count on you winning a war on my behalf. Sorry, that's just how it is.
posted by sardonyx at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Right, the landscape is entirely different online versus in real life. Even when there are people willing to "kick the asses of bullies", it's hard to do that with anonymous trolls online. My examples refer almost exclusively to IRL cases. About the only thing that is the same is the emotional impulses.
posted by theorique at 11:22 AM on September 24, 2015


> I am skeptical that we will ever be able to completely erase this killer instinct in men

I am too, but it's not a matter of erasing it, it's a matter of controlling it. Civilization is made possible by controlling instincts; if we decide that anything we feel the impulse to do is "natural" and therefore we should just go ahead and do it, we might as well call the whole thing off. I'm an anarchist, but I've come to realize over the last few decades of viewing the world through those spectacles that anarchism, however fine in theory, will be completely impractical until we figure out how to stifle the "kick enough asses that I wind up on top of the heap" instinct, which won't be for many generations if ever. The thing is, though, that the anarchist project is intimately connected with the feminist project, because the "kick enough asses that I wind up on top of the heap" instinct is intimately connected with the "use power to dominate women" instinct. In my opinion, of course.
posted by languagehat at 11:44 AM on September 24, 2015


> I am skeptical that we will ever be able to completely erase this killer instinct in men

I am uncomfortable with phrasing this as a male thing.

I get pretty fucking homicidal sometimes when I'm reading the nth case of some child being murdered in the streets, or women working three jobs with no health care being expected to travel over 100 miles on a bus without vacation time to get basic health care that should be available from her PCP. Sometimes I want to burn the world down and salt the earth, making whatever person I've chosen as my stand-in for evil watch while I destroy everything they could ever value. I don't say these things not because women are beneficent angels who can rise above their lesser selves, but because the response I get to it outside of very narrow, angry feminist spaces is uniformally negative.

But men? This is male fantasy. Video games of men walking through and slaughtering everything in sight is almost literally the entire AAA video series. It's every action hero movie staring a man, all westerns, a sub theme of noir, and metaphorical in debate, mystery, and all of the "white man and his girlfriend side-kick do stuff" genre. Men who don't do that shit often get made fun of or even beaten up by other men.

This isn't some inherent male thing, this is taught and encouraged from childhood on, reinforced in adults, and rewarded in school and business while women with lesser displays of aggressive violence are sidelined and punished for not being nurturing.

And frankly, it's usually bullshit. Contrary to 75.5472% of popular media out there, being an asshole will piss people off, not make them want to shag your or give you money. It will burn bridges, make the world less safe, and kill more people. Murder rates in Stand Your Ground states go up. You can't conquer people into stable democracies. Killing people adjacent to terrorism creates more people with nothing left to lose. Insulting an abusive misogynist just reinforces that he is right.

I don't know how to change these bullshit narratives, but I'm pretty sure punching people won't do it.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:43 PM on September 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


> I've often said that that in parallel with so-called "rape culture", there exists an "anti-rape-culture" wherein men become truly outraged (and willing to do physical violence) at those men who victimize the women who are part of their circle (or 'tribe').

Anymore, I've started to think of that dynamic wherein people see a problem caused by violence -- specifically masculine, interpersonal, physical violence -- and immediately decide: "aha! we will solve this problem with masculine, interpersonal, physical violence!" as a sort of instinctive defense of violence in and of itself. I used to be very much where Smedlyman is (and I still get the same emotional hit of "wow, that person did a horrible, violent thing: a horrible, violent thing will thereby restore balance"), but I feel like the reasoning of "X is a problem; X is the best way to solve it" only comes so readily to mind if you're within a culture that really, really values X.

American culture might not like all violent acts, but we fundamentally respect and admire the ability to deploy violent action. (Especially, again, physical and interpersonal violence. We're not such fans of social violence, for example. Too girly.) So when we see something that makes violence look wrong or illegitimate we instinctively want to not only stop that particular act, but also to make sure that we can still imagine violence itself as a legitimate action. Thus we imagine the man beating his wife "fixed" by other men beating him, or the abusive bully being "fixed" by a heroic surge of violence from his victim.

And tbh that still makes emotional sense to me. But why on earth does that come to mind more readily than, say, turning a communal back to the violent actor and unanimously comforting his victim? Because we like violence just that much more. We're used to it being one of the main themes, often the main theme, in those particular stories. We want it to stay that way, and we want to tell and hear stories that correctly honor it.

(And, of course, that honor us as men, since that kind of violence is so bound up in the platonic male identity for which we are all so gently encouraged to strive.)
posted by postcommunism at 1:17 PM on September 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


American culture might not like all violent acts, but we fundamentally respect and admire the ability to deploy violent action.

I agree, and I think this cuts across most, if not all, cultures. Even America's hated enemy #1 (well, former), Osama bin Laden is quoted as saying: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse”.
posted by theorique at 1:41 PM on September 24, 2015


The Selling Of Masculinity:

Unfortunately, mass media doesn’t send the greatest of messages about how to be a man. In fact, we are regularly bombarded with messages selling the idea that masculinity is violent, physically aggressive and sexually domineering and that anger and stoic toughness are the only appropriate emotions for men to display. Male-oriented advertising is targeting young and impressionable men looking for guidance… so it’s time to take a look at just what they’re selling.
posted by languagehat at 9:00 AM on September 25, 2015


> When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse

Strength (and more generally, I guess, useful competence) is great and yeah, pretty universally admired. But strength can exist without a victim: violence can't. We specifically admire violence.
posted by postcommunism at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2015


Fine maybe that works if you're Superman or Batman

Well...I am Smedleyman.

To clarify, I'm not saying women be dependant on men. But rather that men recognize that other men are victimized by this behavior as well and that it's all our problem. One man as seed or snowball rather than superhero.

(paraphrase, obviously, but that's what I take from your various comments)
Then I'm not communicating clearly, obviously. I'll cut the hyperbole.

I think Jackson Katz makes all the points I'm failing to make more clearly. And I think his framing it as more than just a female problem or male insensitivity is valid.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:41 PM on September 25, 2015


To clarify, I'm not saying women be dependant on men. But rather that men recognize that other men are victimized by this behavior as well and that it's all our problem. One man as seed or snowball rather than superhero.

I think in this case the best seeds to plant are kindness and understanding.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:24 PM on September 25, 2015


Strength (and more generally, I guess, useful competence) is great and yeah, pretty universally admired. But strength can exist without a victim: violence can't. We specifically admire violence.

I believe the context of the bin Laden quote was him praising his organization, al Qaeda, for being the "strong horse" in striking at the 'great Satan', the enemy of Islam. It's a quote from a man who used violence to pursue his aims, and believed (probably correctly) that others who shared his goals would admire him and his organization for that.

My point in using the quote (which I didn't really explain very clearly in the previous post) was that a cultural love/hate relationship with the power of violence is hardly an uniquely American thing - it cuts across culture, race, language, land of origin. It probably originates deep down somewhere in primate neurophysiology.

Back on the main topic of the thread, people tend to respond to online 'attacks' as real. This means that there are rough parallels with real life. If a person gets criticized by thousands of angry or violent comments, the emotional response is similar to if this was happening in physical space. So it makes sense that mens' reactions when women of their tribe are 'attacked' would be similar to when they are threatened in physical spaces.
posted by theorique at 3:57 AM on September 26, 2015


> a cultural love/hate relationship with the power of violence is hardly an uniquely American thing - it cuts across culture, race, language, land of origin.

I don't want to claim that Americans have a unique lock there. But I do think the way we respond to problems caused by male violence -- especially when that violence is inflicted on women or children -- demonstrates how we're reluctant to think poorly of it. We want macho pugilism to be the hero of the story, especially when it's in fact the problem: otherwise male violence only makes an appearance as the antagonist, which is a terribly unjust way to portray something we know deserves applause.

It's like the logic which comes from a deep love of guns: if a problem has been caused by guns, guns themselves must be presented as the solution. To do otherwise is unfair to something cherished.
posted by postcommunism at 6:40 AM on September 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


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