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April 8, 2012

Out of curiosity and vexation
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 11:02 AM * 228 comments

Can anyone tell me what to what kind of writing it’s appropriate to respond with threats of rape, comments about the writer’s fuckability, or belittling, sexist insults?

Because I’m reading a lot of stuff in comment threads which come damn’ close to saying that that sort of thing is OK, if the blogger is rude enough or criticizes the wrong stuff.

As it happens, I disagree. I disagree when people do it, and I disagree when they defend it because “men get crap on the internet, too”, or “it’s not that bad”. Because it’s not the same from the other side of the gender divide, not when one in six women are sexually assaulted at some point in our lifetimes, not when we’re socialized to be shut up by men, not when we’re outnumbered and outshouted in these masculine communities.

(And even if it were the same, would that make it acceptable?)

If you don’t believe it happens, gentlemen, I dare you: choose a female name and log onto a gaming board, or a deep geek IRC channel, or a heated political discussion. Disagree with the common herd and see what you get back. Then do the same with a male name. And then remember that you’re being kicked on undamaged flesh; it’s much worse when there’s already a deep bruise there from all the charming things people do in meatspace, too.

Look. Let me be clear on this, dear friends of the male persuasion. You want to be in my good books? You want to be among the righteous in my pantheon? Speak up. Stand beside women. Speak up and be counted, because the people who do this stuff, they don’t listen to us. That’s kinda their whole point.

This includes, by the way, women you disagree with. Give us the space to be ordinarily wrong, misguided, angry, weird, biased. If only the rational angels of sweetness and light are allowed to speak unmolested, that’s just another kind of gag. I want an internet where a woman can be angry and not be called a bitch; where she can say something stupid and not be told to make a fucking sandwich.

I am so tired of this crap.


Edited to add: Let me just forestall one of the usual lines of commentary that appears in these conversations. I’m only interested in “that’s just the way the internet is, whatcha gonna do?” comments and other More Cynical Than Thou fan-dances if you also include links to at least three comments that you, personally, have made fighting against the problem. Otherwise, save your weary ennui for another thread. I don’t want it here.

Comments on Out of curiosity and vexation:
#1 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 11:37 AM:

Thank you. I am either low-profile enough or selective enough about where I hang out that this has never happened to me (though I did get shouted off Watto's Junkyard for an unpopular opinion about the aesthetics of the male body), but I see it happening elseweb. I don't want this for anyone--not myself, not my friends, not my daughters, not my worst enemy. It is not okay.

#2 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 12:04 PM:

You want to be among the righteous in my pantheon? Speak up. Stand beside women.

Already doing that. I tell my female co-workers who came from abroad to let me know if they think I'm wrong, and to let other men know if they think they're wrong.

#3 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 12:58 PM:

Hey, Serge. Not an attack - just, why your female coworkers from abroad, specifically?

#4 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 12:58 PM:

After contemplating for a couple of days, this is what I finally posted on the Scalzi post you link to:

I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to post on this topic. It’s not the first time I’ve read blogs/articles re: men getting cut more slack for controversial opinions based on the fact that they’re men, or about women who dare to express any kind of opinion getting abuse and threats of a type men don’t get (or get infrequently enough not to be statistically significant). But S.M. Stirling’s comments in this thread have been bothering me for two days, so here goes.

I’m really sorry you’ve had all those bad experiences, Mr. Stirling. I’m also sorry you’ve decided that the abuse you’ve endured, like the abuse endured by women on the Internet–and in real life, and also by numerous other minorities both online and in real life–has made you conclude that it’s just people being people and some if not most people are shits, so what can you do but grin and bear it?

Rather a lot, actually, starting with standing up and saying that just because it happens doesn’t make it right.

I refuse to accept that people can’t get better. We already have gotten better: as an example, human sacrifice, once prominent in numerous human societies, is now frowned upon by most polite people. The mechanisms that accomplished this are no doubt wide and varied, and I’m not saying that said mechanisms might not have created a new set of behaviors that a later mechanism said were now unacceptable.

Does that mean there no longer exist people who’d be perfectly happy to take Joe and/or Jane up the mountain and rip out a heart or two? Of course not–but now they’re the barbarians. What it does mean is that society has progressed to the point where that is no longer acceptable behavior, whatever justification is offered.

If we can make it unacceptable to offer human sacrifices, why can’t we make it equally unacceptable to threaten women with rape, torture and death just for registering an opinion?

I tend not to frequent sites where women and other minorities get this kind of response, so I tend to hear about such situations well after the fact. But I hope that if I do wind up in a comment thread where that kind of abuse is happening, that I will have the guts to chime in and say it’s wrong.

Because it is. The fact that it happens in no way makes it right.
******************************

And of course, rereading it I now think I could have said it better, but oh well.

What I say here might not matter if I don't routinely interact on sites where comment threads head south in this particular way. I don't seek them out, as much because I don't really know where to look for them as whether I'd be even remotely interested in their general content--frex, I'm not a gamer, programmer, techie, nerd or geek (about anything but Star Trek, maybe), so reading those categories of sites wouldn't come to mind anyway. Let alone will I have the background to post to the point instead of being the equivalent of a drive-by for the White Hats (so to speak). Do I want to take the time to try to build credibility on a site where that happens a lot, just so a comment I make pointing out the wrongheadedness of that behavior might get a minute's worth of consideration before the haters and mansplainers and so on pile onto me as being a troll, or worse? (hell of a sentence there)

I guess I'm wondering just how effective my objections to shutting down female discourse via rape threats, etc., can be if I'm not in the neighborhood to object when it happens?

#5 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:08 PM:

On the one hand, I have seen the kind of behavior you're talking about both on the net and in meatspace, and it disgusts and angers me. It is really the same sort of attitude and speech that creates lynch mobs or roving gangs of "morals police". On the other hand, I worked in the computer industry for more than 40 years; I worked with and for both men and women, and I can't say I saw any difference in professional attitudes and abilities between male and female. But I certainly did see places where open contempt for female colleagues was accepted, and other places where it was considered gauche and ill-mannered to express such sentiments.

Wait, let me modify that last statement about difference. I think in general the women I worked for were better managers than most of the men. They tended to be a lot more perceptive of the interpersonal issues that can cause a team to fracture, and less concerned about who was "right" about technical issues. Let me be clear that I am not saying that women are "more supportive" or "more maternal" out of some misapprehended biological imperative; I am saying that the female managers I've known have been forced to face the dark side of organizational relationships, and have learned to deal with it, perforce. I think the difference between male and female managers is often the difference between those who have breathed in privilege all their lives and can't tell that it's there, and people who have had to push back against the lack of privilege and are constantly aware of its effects.

I'll say this (and have said it) in meat or virtual space, to anyone who wants or needs to hear it. That's the only way I know to convert the rude places into places where rudeness is not accepted.

#6 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:09 PM:

KaiTei @ 3...

Oh, that's because my female co-workers are ALL from abroad.
Darn my verbal shortcut. :-)

#7 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:13 PM:

Serge @ 6

OH! That makes so much more sense! :D

#8 ::: rosyatrandom ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:21 PM:

I'm in a theatrical society where casual misogyny, racism and general un-PC antics are the norm... but only because we're such a lefty liberal bunch that no-one could possibly mistake it for anything other than parody and irony.

In that regard, I think there is an acceptable place for all this, as long as everyone involved is aware of the deliberate insincerity. And even if not, it might serve to jolt people's expectations in some positive way (usually after they realise it's a joke).

In other words, it is OK to take on the appearance of something undesirable in order to emphasise its undesirability. Or, sometimes, just for fun. The first scenario requires a positive closure, the second a safe environment. Outside of that, no. It is not OK.

#9 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:30 PM:

Men do not normally get threatened with rape (men do get raped, but that's another issue entirely). Women do.

A threat of rape or sexual assault from an identifiable source should be reported to the appropriate authorities, I believe. Of course, the real problem is little fuckwads hiding behind anonymity/pseudonymity and trying to shut women up. The proper responses there are, I believe three:

(1) Jump in and condemn it, as Abi requested.

(2) Defend the right of women (or any other historically excluded group) to express their opinions. I believe that a healthy exchange of opinions is a good thing. That means that a range of people with a range of views should be able to express them.

(3) Engage with others without saying things like "that's because you're a __________" unless that is directly relevant to the issue (which it frequently is not). Even when it is, be careful of using group membership as a blanket category (the ecological fallacy) -- just because most Xs believe Y doesn't mean that a particular X does so.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:30 PM:

rosyatrandom @8:

As long as you're sure that someone with a problem could speak up without being labeled a killjoy. In my personal experience, deliberate insincerity doesn't always entirely soothe the sting of the nth flick on the same scar tissue.

Of course, different communities have different standards. I think it will be some time before my personal allergy to these sorts of things lessens enough that I can laugh freely at misogyny, however light-heartedly it is meant. But that might just be me.

#11 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:48 PM:

Rosyatrandom #8: Your liberal lefty theatre group might have a hard time with me as a member, then. Especially after I punched someone in the face. Some things can only be dealt with the old-fashioned way. Bullshit of that sort, I regret to say, is one of them. I refer you to the work of Frantz Fanon for a further explanation.

#12 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:54 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) #5:

I've had a number of discussions about management styles over the past few years -- about both male and female senior managers -- and the competence of both male and female senior administrators. What I've found interesting is that their gender has not come up once. The kinds of choices they've made have. In one case -- where I and others have had reason to complain -- it's been about personal style and affect, not the fact that the senior administrator in question was female. I consider this to be a very good thing.

#13 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 01:56 PM:

abi @ 10

Yes, this. I was a lot more willing to put up with that sort of nonsense as a teenager than I am now. The older I get, the less tolerant I am of even joking intolerance.

All too often, it's cover for people who aren't as tolerant as they pretend to be. I get that it seems to be a necessary transitional stage for some people, but I don't feel a need to make myself their victim while they sort themselves out.

#14 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 02:16 PM:

Abi, is it your preference to keep this thread limited to threats against women, or is it okay to address the issue of calling people on inappropriate and intolerant behavior, generally?

#15 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 02:26 PM:

I have actually come close to getting the kind of abuse women so often get. One guy could not stop referring back to his fantasy of my being gang-raped by men. He seemed to think this was soooo funny, or maybe he thought repetition would lead other members to think his story was true.

But I never feared for my safety on that account, and I won't pretend that I really know what it is like for a woman online, any more than I would claim I know what it's like for a woman to walk on a city street.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 02:29 PM:

I'm willing to let the discussion go where it wills, pretty much, apart from the limitation I put in the original post.

My particular vexation is with the issue of gender, because that's the boot that's been in my face of late. And I'm tired of how much feminism has, historically, taken a back seat to other struggles for equality. But my priorities aren't everyone's. I'll stand as an ally to people of color when I see the need, and I think my record on marriage equality is pretty solid.

Also, other experiences of unequal privilege in the common culture can provide useful insights for the dynamic I started with, by analogy or directly.

And, most of all, I started this conversation, and I'll moderate it to keep it civil. But I don't own it.

#17 ::: Gar Lipow ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 02:42 PM:

Just wanted to say that what Abi posted needed to be said. Normally I don't do "me too" posts, but given that this needs to be said, social reinforcement is a valid reason to post.

#18 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 02:54 PM:

What does an attainable better world look like in this regard? There are presumably going to be people who are more willing to wish horrors on women than men[1] for the forseeable future. That shit is poison, and I can see how to keep it out of polite communities the way ML or Ta-Nehisi does, by giving people who spread the poison a permanent invitation to go elsewhere. But that doesn't avoid the existence of communities where people do spread that poison.

The blessing and curse of the internet is that distant communities can be connected. You get to see the comments in communities whose standards are far different from yours, about you and your community. There is no authority that can decide what may be said on the internet, and I doubt that if such an authority existed, we'd find that a better world overall. So, what can be done here?

What I think is wanted here is support of the community. Nobody can stop some anonymous idiot from responding to a woman with a strong opinion by saying she deserves to be beaten up or raped or murdered, but decent people can make it clear that's a monstrous thing to say, and that it won't be tolerated in their communities. What else is there to do?

[1] Though I've seen men threatened with similar nastiness, though less often--notably people audibly hoping such and so male high profle criminal would be routinely raped in prison

[2] I can provide abis three links as needed (

#19 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 03:15 PM:

Fragano @ 12:

I suspect that the difference in our experiences is because you're working in an academic community where female managers and administrators are much more accepted than in large parts of the high-tech industries, where I've mostly worked. I've talked to my son and daughter-in-law a little about this; they're professors just about to get tenure in the same department, so they have quite a bit of common experience to compare, and their experiences sound similar to yours.

My experiences in corporate research groups is also similar; they seem to be much more collegial than the product development groups I've worked in, and much less likely to foster misogynistic hate speech.

#20 ::: Marc Mielke ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 03:16 PM:

I've always wished distinctly non-gendered horrors on those I despise. Is that particularly better? I actually think not, and try to avoid wishing, say, the person who cut me off in traffic has their skin flayed from their bones.

But I often fail.

#21 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 03:32 PM:

albatross @18:

No need for links. Your comment isn't within the parameters I was referring to.

I agree that in a distributed medium, the answer is cultural rather than rule-based. I have seen many rule-based communities, but I have never seen one of them effectively limit discourse unless the community was willing to eschew the topic in question.

In some ways, that's what I'm asking for. The rules are what we make them; the standards are what we as a community set and enforce. Extending Bruce Baugh's comment that the internet is phenomenological on an individual basis (in that someone who does a letter-perfect imitation of a troll might as well just be called a troll; behavior of person is essence of persona), our shared culture is best defined by what we do.

If the SF&F community (to stick to the one that prompted this jeremiad) decided, as a community, that misogyny was not an acceptable component of the discourse, then it would not be used. Not because there was A Rule, but because there was no percentage in using it. It wouldn't gain the speaker support or agreement; it would net them argument or (worse yet!) they would simply be ignored as uninteresting and irrelevant.

(This would not stop the disproportionate criticism of female opinion per se, but it would make it more easy for that problem to be called out and addressed by those willing to put the effort in.)

The problem is that there is no such consensus; opposition is fragmented by people who think freedom of speech is more important than the freedom of everybody to speak, those who resent what they see as women's special pleading in a community of shared persecution for geekdom, the variously privilege-blind and "PC"-loathing, and other types of pusher-back to numerous to mention.

Many of these people are not in themselves sexists or misogynists. But they give cover and protection to the people who really do think women should shut the fuck up and get back in their place.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 03:38 PM:

Marc Mielke @20:

I think there's a distinction between "actively good" and "better", and wishing non-gendered horrors on people falls neatly into that gap. Particularly if you're wishing your non-gendered horrors on people in an even distribution (so wishing flaying only on women who piss you off is still a problem, but wishing flaying equally on men and women is...a different problem.)

As for the issue of wishing ill on people: I always like the approach of calling down increasingly amusing and unlikely ills upon them. An unfortunate gift for correctly pronouncing the Name of Cthulhu. A rain of frogs inside their car. Badly fitting underwear. That sort of thing.

With luck, the creativity and amusement of the curses can be as effective at reducing the tension as the original expression of vexation.

#23 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 03:45 PM:

As a long-time World of Warcraft player, I have been exposed to the blackened malignant soul of American macho anti-female sentiment over and over again. The world of gaming gives you a view of the adolescent male soul unleavened by any pretense of politeness.

The term "rape" is used over and over again when they discuss victory and defeat. Example: "They totally raped us in Alterac Valley." Of course the subject of the verb is the winner and the object is the loser--giving the perpetrator the patina of dominance and glory. And "fag" is used freely as an insult any and all of the time.

It really bothered me for a long time and every now and then, I tried to do something when I participated in the main gathering place for my faction (for now it is Stormwind General Chat since I play on the Alliance side). As you might guess, it just took too much time and it was just not enough.

So I stick with my current guild, which has always been led by women; we have always enforced a real family-friendly atmosphere and we are quite serious about it so I don't have to deal with the nastiness outside.

Fortunately, there are some signs of hope. My generation (i am 40ish) is beginning to deal with how their children game. I am referring to a recent situation where Penny Arcade decided to take on one of the nastiest recent incidents of sexism in gaming.

So there is some hope, though I still don't hang around Stormwind these days.

#24 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 03:46 PM:

Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) #19:

That's probably the case.

#25 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 04:08 PM:

Thank you for this post. I've been following the conversations at Valente's and Scalzi's blogs since you started calling them out in the sidebar (and I've gotten a feel for which contributors in those comment threads I should just skip rather than make myself angry reading -- Syd's mention of S. M. Stirling brought that to mind). I don't have anything intelligent to add to the conversation at the moment -- just my intense gratitude to you for cohering it and putting it front and center for another good community to see, be aware of, react to.

#26 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 04:13 PM:

I usually don't post just to say I agree, but it's important to be counted on this one. I agree.

MEN need to stop tolerating this sort of behavior. I suggest that, for example, when someone calls a woman a c*nt in a blog comment, we a) post that it is never acceptable to do so, and b) otherwise utterly ignore the comment, even if it contains material addressed to multiple people.

I suggest using 'ccc;dr' in these replies, for "contains c*nt-calling; didn't read." Just act as if you haven't seen what they said. Some sites have an Ignore button that I've found very useful for dealing with people whose comments are so far past acceptable that I no longer want to hear anything they have to say.

Let them shout down a well for a while. After all, it's their turn.

#27 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 04:26 PM:

abi @ 21: Essentially, I think you are saying that a systemic solution is necessary. No one person alone can deal with with this kind of behavior. Eventually, it is the leadership of a community that must unite to fight this kind of problem. Individual posts, no matter how plentiful, will not be enough to address a problem.

For example, Penny Arcade seems to have changed its course from the usual tolerant/almost encouraging stance on sexism in online gaming and now is actively tackling the issue, most notably here.

So conversations like this, which allow concerned folks to unite and work as a community against virulent sexism online, seems vital to continuing the fight.

#28 ::: joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 04:30 PM:

It does get a bit depressing sometimes. I've been a member of a certain programming language forum for a number of years, and of late, either I've become more sensitive to it, or there's been a decided upswing in dismissive, thoughtless speech - from people who have taken to insulting and belittling viewpoints that disagree with theirs, to casual sexism that no one can see a problem with when it's pointed out.

Sometimes I get upvoted for saying something, and sometimes I get an argument. Of late, the "community" has been slanging on a long-time contributor and friend who is a fairly humble guy and who has both done a lot to promote the language and to create really useful software. He's one of the few people I know who would indeed have reason to be a bit arrogant - except that is totally unlike him, and he would not presume to do so.

The language and attitude alone appall me; the ingratitude heaped atop it brings me close to the "well, this is a lost cause" point.

#29 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 04:55 PM:

Rob, your link on the word 'stance' is borked. Here's the correct link.

#30 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 05:13 PM:

For those of us who've been unable to bring ourselves to visit Penny Arcade for a couple years now, can you give a -- well, not a full recap, but just enough of a summary of what I'd find by clicking on your 2nd link that I'd begin to understand why I should once more feel safe visiting their site at all?

(Not an attack on you! Just precisely what it says: Since the rolling series of incidents recapped in the aforementioned link, I just can't go there. But I'd love reason for that to change.)

#31 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 05:18 PM:

Quick addendum (but not quick enough that I thought to check things out and add it to my previous)...

Just read the latest Shakesville blog post concerning P-A. It's from December 2011, and coming after everything else, it doesn't inspire hope that I'll ever feel welcome or safe at PAX or at their website.

"At this point, it's not that they're just being insensitive to survivors who asked them to stop; they're actually being actively hostile to them." -- Melissa McEwan

*sadface forever*

#32 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 05:28 PM:

albatross writes:

"I can see how to keep it out of polite communities the way ML or Ta-Nehisi does, by giving people who spread the poison a permanent invitation to go elsewhere. But that doesn't avoid the existence of communities where people do spread that poison. "

Those communities will exist to some extent in a free society, yes. But we don't have to tolerate them as any kind of community worth respect, whether or not they're communities we run or endorse ourselves. And since "decent people" spend time in a lot of diverse communities, their cumulative effect can be significant.

I'm finding the conservative National Review an interesting barometer along these lines. You may remember they dropped Ann Coulter after she wrote a particularly inflammatory column about Arab nations back in 2001. Well, they just fired John Derbyshire for his latest racist article (which was actually published elsewhere).

Now, Derbyshire has written racist stuff long before this-- as TNC points out in a recent article, he said outright that he was a racist back in 2003, which to people familiar with his work was no surprise. And the NR itself has a long history of sympathy for white supremacy (reading some of William F Buckley's columns back in the 1950s and 1960s can be an eye-opening experience). But apparently in 2012, Derbyshire's continued association with the magazine become too much of a liability for its reputation, as the editor more or less admits in his notice of Derbyshire's departure.

#33 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:02 PM:

Rob Thornton @27:
Essentially, I think you are saying that a systemic solution is necessary. No one person alone can deal with with this kind of behavior. Eventually, it is the leadership of a community that must unite to fight this kind of problem. Individual posts, no matter how plentiful, will not be enough to address a problem.

I don't think that the community has a leadership that could unite it in that fashion. There are individuals with influence—John Scalzi is a great example, but fans of Parhelia will notice how often I link to Jim Hines†—but people follow them because they're classy and funny and cool, not because they're official leaders.

Basically, I do think that individual posts are how we address it. Because first it's one person, and they think he's a crank, so they won't listen to him. And if two people do it, they'll think they're just sock puppets and they won't listen to either of them. And if three people do it, they'll think it's an organization. But when it's fifty bloggers a day, I say, fifty bloggers a day, why, then it's a movement*.

More seriously, when the interesting conversations in our community are happening on blogs that don't tolerate that kind of crap, and when the interesting conversationalists won't link to or read bloggers who use that bag of tricks, it'll go away.

That's not leadership. That's not a diktat. That's consensus of community, and that happens person by person, conversation by conversation.

-----
† Hugo-nominated!
* Sorry, Arlo.

#34 ::: Craig Ranapia ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:09 PM:

In that regard, I think there is an acceptable place for all this, as long as everyone involved is aware of the deliberate insincerity. And even if not, it might serve to jolt people's expectations in some positive way (usually after they realise it's a joke).

Yeah... but nah. I was sexually assaulted over twenty five years ago, never reported it and spent decades silently dying a little every time I was in the company of men who thought it was OK to "joke" about rape.

Yeah, I fully expect to be told to "get over it" and "stop being a victim" (again), but it's not a subject where I'm willing to parse intent any more.

"Rape" and "joke" are two words that should never be used together in a sentence. Ever.

#35 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:14 PM:

Craig @34:
I was sexually assaulted over twenty five years ago, never reported it and spent decades silently dying a little every time I was in the company of men who thought it was OK to "joke" about rape.

I'm sorry to hear it. I hope that you're finding ways to deal with it now.

In case you aren't aware of it, the Dysfunctional Families threads have become increasingly about dealing with issues that people are encountering that may or may not stem from family history. If you need, or want, the support of that subcommunity, either under your own name or a pseudonym, please feel free to join the conversation.

In any case, please know that you have my sympathy.

#36 ::: Mark C. Chu-Carroll ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:29 PM:

I'm with Abi's comment on #10. Speaking from experience, groups of people often believe that they're doing something completely inoffensive because everyone is in on it - but if it makes someone uncomfortable, they throw a nasty little group tantrum on the killjoy.

In fact, I'd argue that that's a big part of the whole anti-feminist backlash from a lot of guys: we think that we're not being offensive, because we're being funny. But it's *not* funny to the women and other men who are the targets of the "humor". And when someone dares to speak up, and say that there's something wrong with our fun, well - those damned women are all just a bunch of no-fun controlling killjoys, right?

#37 ::: GuruJ ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:35 PM:

For me, the solution when online is pretty simple – I will only patronize sites and/or participate in communities that either actively moderate its commentary to remove things like this, and/or have an empowered and consistent voice that smacks this kind of thing down. ML is a great example of getting this right.

Much like a talkback radio show, the tone is set by who we allow on air and how we respond to those we do.

In real life, I am a little ashamed to say that I don't normally actively object to my married co-workers who do the "whoa, did you see that hot chick?!? routine, but at least I conspicuously won't participate in any such conversation.

Oh, and @23: It's instructive to compare and contrast to other sporting communities that face this problem. (Apologies for being parochial in this next bit, but I'm reasonably sure the experience will translate.)

In Australia, our cricket team got a bad reputation in the 90s and 2000s for "sledging": where the wicketkeeper would insinuate charming things like that the batsman's wife was sleeping with the opposite team. This was apparently a "psychological ploy" to break the batter's conversation. Clearly the approach of Aris is the same: to impose psychological harm to the other player in order to make them less effective.

So I understand the logic, but that doesn't make it right. And it doesn't harm the game to clean up outdated attitude. In fact it has been repeatedly shown that the opposite is true.

To take an example from the other weird Aussie sporting code, the AFL suffered from similarly racist sledging in the 80s and 90s (google "nicky winmar"). The response over time has been a conscious and deliberate effort to make such behavior unacceptable, including a 1995 racial vilification code. The game is more popular than it ever was, and now has Lance Franklin, an indigenous player, as one of the most popular sporting identities.

I know this is racism, not sexism. But I can't believe the same rules don't apply!

#38 ::: GuruJ ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:37 PM:

Argh: conversation = concentration!

#39 ::: Craig Ranapia ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 06:46 PM:

Abi:

Aw, bless... I've had my dark days and am now in a long-term relationship with a great guy and eternally blessed by a lot of unconditional love and support. The shame and self-hatred never goes away, completely, but you're right: Busting rape culture isn't women's work.

On reflection, I probably busted rosyatrandom's chops a little harder than was necessary. Hell, I'm not exactly Miss Manners myself when in the company of close friends -- but even then, I just don't see any context where "joking" about sexual violence or abuse is ever right. I'm in an emotional place and safe environment where I feel comfortable being "out" about what happened to me. A LOT of rape survivors don't, never will be, and folks should be really mindful of that.

If this is OT please feel free to delete, but another think men of the geeky persuasion need to speak out against rather than passively enable is what I like to call Lucas's Law of Fraking Vile Rape Analogies: “As an online discussion infused with nerd-rage grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving rape or anal sex approaches 1.”

Really, guys, just stop it. I've been assaulted and I watched The Phantom Menace. Even on the level of geeky on-line hyperbole, that's a moronically distasteful comparison.

Kevin Church is right on the button here (Link may be triggering for abuse survivors)

#40 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 07:11 PM:

Abi #0: Can anyone tell me what to what kind of writing it’s appropriate to respond with threats of rape, comments about the writer’s fuckability, or belittling, sexist insults?

Come to think of it, if your sense of justice runs a certain way, that question contains its own answer: "threats of rape, comments about the writer’s fuckability, or belittling, sexist insults".

Of course, that leads down the whole "eye for an eye" route....

#41 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 07:13 PM:

Several things --

Further to Craig Ranapia at 34:

There's no rape marker that someone wears after they've been raped to let you know that to this person rape might not be all that funny, so hush here and hush there, damn the world is full of killjoys, this consideration stuff is hard!

That's if they care enough to stop, and if they don't turn any personal experience brought up as justification of Dude Not Funny into a joke itself, because LOL who'd rape you? Or LOL GROPE GROPE every time you sign on because you dared to object with a story of being molested on a train. I generally run into this in gaming, but also sometimes in offline, which is why I will never participate in LAN gaming, ever.

But seriously: there is no rape marker. You don't know. And that is the point.

Another thing about not knowing, but on the other side -- that of the rapist. Kate Harding puts it well (formatting original) in her post On Being a No-Name Blogger Using Her Real Name:

"‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women–to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

And that guy? Thought you were on his side."

The post is worth reading. But yeah, that's the other side of why I find rape jokes and rape threats and harassment unacceptable. It might be a joke. It might not. Rapists don't wear signs on their heads, either.

#42 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:26 PM:

Abi, thanks for the reminder to speak up. Spoken.

#43 ::: debio ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:35 PM:

I am doing one of my very rare delurking things for this. Not that you need to be impressed or anything.

I agree with Abi 100%. This culture will not change until people start stepping up to say it is not right. And by people, I mean everyone who is unhappy with the situation, even a little.

One voice won't do anything, but many may.

I left one community after I was told to go back to molesting my students. The comment itself was bad, the guy who made it a well known jerk in the community. What made me drop the whole community was that not one person, not a single person, called him on it.

It wasn't worth my time or effort or personal well being to continue, so I cut that community off.

The good thing about the internet is that it allows all sorts of people to communicate. The bad thing, sometimes, is that it creates many smaller communities where modes of behavior are self-reinforcing.

ML is a wonderful example of the positive results of this self-reinforcing. The mods have set up a basic system and done an excellent job, but more than that, the community itself uses its power to maintain this atmosphere.

It happened because many people here work to make it happen. It happens because members, not just the mods, step up to say "this is not acceptable."

Thank you for giving me another peaceful place to hang out. Such places are far to rare, we need more.

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 08:51 PM:

I was beaten, stripped naked, sexually assaulted, and thrown into a holly bush by two white (that they were white matters a great deal -- I was the victim because I was not)louts on a school trip to Wimbledon Common when I was ten. Their punishment was a week's suspension from school. I don't find joking about rape at all funny.

If people are going to be able to talk, then they have to be able to talk without the fear that some nutter is going to seek to silence them in order to assuage his sense of powerlessness. Freedom of speech means that people have to be free to speak, not that they can say any damnfool thing they please without fear of censure.

#45 ::: Dorinda ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 10:11 PM:

Thank you for this post, Abi. And the phrasing about being kicked on a pre-existing (and daily renewed) deep bruise feels so spot-on to me that I find myself on the verge of tears just reading it. If I could just have one day without someone reminding me of how much they hate me and/or that I am Other. And/or From Venus Amirite Ha Ha.

forgotthename, that post by Kate Harding is indeed amazing. And it puts me in mind of a video I saw recently, "Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5P4eVjwVd_U) a project about men helping to curb/stop street harassment by speaking up. From now on when a good man of my acquaintance asks "But I already don't act like that myself, what else can I do?" here's one of the links I can use. And given this thread's topic, it seems applicable to other forms of harassment on other types of streets.

#46 ::: adelheid_p ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 10:12 PM:

Thank you for this thread. I am a frequent reader and big fan of Jim Hines (now Hugo-nominated) for this reason chiefly, and other and for John Scalzi for many reasons, this among them.

It is very important that men in particular speak out against and do not tolerate this behavior anywhere in their power to do so (not just online).

I have not yet been the victim of this kind of attack and I hope not to ever be. Someone I am close to has been the victim of rape. It's a horrible thing that I wouldn't wish on anyone ever. I don't believe that she has ever been threatened with sexual violence for anything she has posted online but I can't even imagine what the impact would be for her if that did happen.

@#41
I agree with the quote from Kate Harding's blog but I'd also go one better. These things that you say --you might not think you believe them but every time you say them, you condition yourself to accept them. If you don't want to accept them, then don't say them at all --not to yourself, not to your buddies in the bar, the bathroom, etc., not ever. If you don't allow yourself to say it, or think it, then you will not be conditioning yourself and others to believe it.

#47 ::: adelheid_p ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 10:19 PM:

I wanted to point out this program which is targeted at college campuses but might be adapted to a larger audience. I think spending some time viewing the videos might be helpful in building the culture needed online.

#48 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2012, 11:16 PM:

Can anyone tell me what to what kind of writing it’s appropriate to respond with threats of rape, comments about the writer’s fuckability, or belittling, sexist insults?

As far as I'm concerned - none whatsoever.

If the comment is crass, nasty or silly, it deserves to be labelled as such. If it contains factual, logical, or even grammatical and spelling errors, it deserves to have same pointed out (particularly if it combines these with being crass, nasty or silly). But none of those merit an attack on the author's person, on their sexual practices, or their expressed gender identity.

(Words do hurt. Words have power. Saying "Will nobody rid me of this vexatious priest?" is not the same as directly ordering a murder, but if the speaker has the political power and the underlings have the will to attempt to curry political favour by destroying the speaker's opponents, the martyr will be dead in the cathedral all the same).

If I'm in a sufficiently vindictive mood to let loose on someone's argument, I'll pick it to bits. I'll point out the logical flaws, the holes in the reasoning, the errors in the spelling and grammar, and dismiss same with a mark out of ten (usually low) and a letter grade (usually D- at best) at the end of the whole business. But the worst I'm going to say to the author is "your opinion is wrong for these reasons". Now, admittedly, for a lot of people criticising their opinion (for whatever reasons) is held to be criticising their self-concept at a very basic level. But the distinction remains: the words are not the person; the map is not the territory.

Often, though, if I find something is offensive to me, I'll tend to shut up. I've spent too many years being accused of being hyper-sensitive to insult and injury. If I have to reply, I'll tend to assume the person who said the offensive statement didn't know they were going to cause offence, and I'll politely ignore it. Every dog gets one free bite, after all. It might have been a bad day for them. But you get one bad day, and one offence. After that, my attitude is that I don't need that sort of shit in my life, and I will retaliate as I deem necessary.

#49 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 12:44 AM:

... aaand this is the other reason my handle has an initial in lieu of my first name.

I have been blessed to be reared in a family and a community that has never doubted that women are fully-realized individuals just as men are fully-realized individuals. My stubborn projected disbelief that anyone would think otherwise has served me well in several situations which might have been problematic. (I think the fact that I'm 5'8" and act 6'2" might also have something to do with that.) Sadly, there have been a few incidents I have not been able to confront because I only found out about them secondhand... but the fact that they still make me burn fifteen years later is pretty telling.

#50 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 01:19 AM:

Fragano, that crime appalls me, as does the "punishment" considered appropriate. I'm sorry you had to endure that. Bringing it up publicly must be extraordinarily hard, and - my - how it does ground the discussion. That is, take injury and pain from the theoretical to the concrete.

#51 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 01:47 AM:

Seconding Janet @ 50, because I can't say it better than that.

Speaking from personal experience, I think that kind of inappropriately light punishment is more common than people want to admit.

Sometimes I feel like fixing how we talk about things is disappointingly far away from the stuff I really want to see repaired. I could take the smack talk, if it wasn't coming at me in the context of things like still, as an adult, being intimidated out of going for walks in my neighborhood after sunset - not because anyone here as ever threatened me, but because, well, you know what can happen to women who aren't careful enough....

#52 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:41 AM:

There is a grey, context-saturated, area in all this where, for instance, public display invites comment. If you want to walk around a con in a skimpy hall-costume, you're inviting comments, but not all comments are appropriate to the context. And, depending on a few other aspects, I might have more than a few thoughts that I would be a fool to express.

But that all entangles with the ugliness of "she was asking for it". Yes, we communicate with more than words, but the obvious verbal abuse which is at the root of this thread is a sign, I think, a deep failure of understanding, being passed on through generations, where two of us will see the same symbols, and carry away radically different meanings.

It's hard to think of a name—a useful label—for this ugly language that others seem to read. It is more than a misunderstanding that can be explained and worked around. But I do see signs of it being reinforced, without much comment.

For instance, porn movies are often misogynistic. The woman is there to satisfy male lusts, in a stereotyped way, and what story there is, little more than a sequence of events, diminishes women.

Yes, I know how complicated human sexual behaviour can be. But I see things, presented as routine in porn, which only make sense to me as something very personal. Each of us has some particular kink, some specific cause of excitement derived from a past experience. There are things which I would do, because they intensify my reactions, which I know I shouldn't expect everyone to do.

It isn't the sex which makes porn movies a bad thing. It is the grossly distorting mirror they hold up to show us the diversity of sexual experience.

And that mirror, as I have said, is often misogynistic. A provocatively-clad women walks into a room, strips, and gets fucked. Her only purpose is to be a tool for a man's pleasure. Maybe the acts themselves are somewhat neutral, but the context isn't.

And that is part of why so many men read the wrong meaning from the symbols. It is part of their warped view of women. And, for some of the same reasons, you get the same warping attached to race. There are a whole set of threatening symbols attached to the black men who appear in porn movies, even if mainstream Hollywood can depict them as heroes, maybe of a secondary sort. They are the sexual supermen who will steal you women. You can see some of the same sorts of bias in music videos with black women writhing provocatively to the lascivious pleasings of some animalistic throbbing of the drums.

Cause or symptom: I don't know but I suspect these things are both, part of a social feedback loop. And breaking that loop isn't going to be easy. It may be learnt too early for people such as ourselves to make much difference. And see Abi's accounts of her life in the Netherlands, and the different ways in which her children are being taught.

The attitude to women is blatantly sexual—rape and abusive sexual activities as weapons—and I wonder, seeing the reports of how schools in the USA handle sexual information, how that pattern of ugly habits can be broken. It comes from parents, and yet the schools are almost forced, by aggressive prudery, to leave everything sexual to the parents.


#53 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:57 AM:

As several people have said above, men speaking up against this behaviour is key because:
a) It should be unacceptable and we should say so; and
b) women speaking up just get even more shit.

In the last couple of weeks, I have seen some encouraging signs of this happening with the sqoot debacle and the geeklist crassness both leading to rapid online backlashes that shut them up. A few more of these and maybe the Penny Arcade types will get the message.

#54 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 07:12 AM:

Mark C. Chu-Carroll @36:
those damned women are all just a bunch of no-fun controlling killjoys, right?

The usual term of art is "humorless bitches", though I do hope that professed liberals might manage better. But the point stands: when everyone's having fun except one person, how do they react? My experience of community dynamics is that, most times, the person with the problem is resented.

Happy to hear otherwise about the theater group in question.

Fragano @44:

Much sympathy, both for the incident and the glaring injustice of the "punishment".

Freedom of speech means that people have to be free to speak, not that they can say any damnfool thing they please without fear of censure.

Amen.

Dave Bell @52:
I might have more than a few thoughts that I would be a fool to express.

BINGO! It's not about what you think. People think all kinds of things that aren't appropriate to express in mixed company, or even in any company at all. I certainly do.

We are expected to exert control over what leaves the boundaries of ourselves: our actions, our speech, our writing. It should be no more appropriate to call a woman names and threaten to rape her for what she posts on the internet than it is to lovingly describe one's own bowel movements in the same conversation.

That's something that people so often forget: there already are generally accepted restrictions on what's appropriate to say in conversation. Not the ones it's cute and exciting to transgress, but ones we genuinely all accept. We just don't notice them, because they're habitual.

#55 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 07:27 AM:

Fragano #44: Adding my sympathies and horror.

Dave Bell #52: See also "state's rights", which is the same pattern on a larger scale. And in the USA, that basic pattern goes back to the Puritans, who AIUI came here to have someplace where they could be the persecutors.

What it comes down to is that the abusers and their protectors are enforcing their chosen power dynamic, which does not include <Those People> having the right to kick back about getting abused.

#56 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 07:50 AM:

@23, 27, 31: Since the events Rob links to took place in February 2012, the December 2011 post does not, in fact, "come after everything else". It's possible that Bakhtanians being such an egregious asshole actually shocked the gaming community (or part of it) into taking another look at things they normally didn't think about and clearly some people didn't like what they saw.

Personally, I'm unsurprised that you can be a fighting game player and an asshole, but if Bakhtanians means to suggest that you *must* be an asshole to be a fighting game player, I think he's full of it. "Shut up and fight" has a long tradition of its own, and some of the greatest fighting game players don't talk trash about anyone. (In fact, you can probably trace both traditions back to actual martial arts.)

Of course, I don't know if Melissa or anyone else actually changed their opinion of PA as a result, but they should at least have the opportunity to.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 07:53 AM:

David Harmon @54:
What it comes down to is that the abusers and their protectors are enforcing *their* chosen power dynamic, which does not include <Those People> having the right to kick back about getting abused.

I am teetering on the brink of asking you for the three links I mentioned in my addendum to the OP. Or, at least, a suggestion of what to do to tackle the issue as you have identified it.

Because this is the kind of comment that slides us so easily into despair and apathy. I'm deeply weary of being told that the problem is so big and so deep-rooted that there's nothing to be done. That all I can do is suck it up, and watch my daughter suck it up after me.

It's so tempting to give up. It would be so easy.

It makes me want to shut off the internet and walk away from it all.

#58 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 08:27 AM:

abi @ 56... We'd be QUITE unhappy if you did walk away from it all.

#59 ::: David Perry ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 08:40 AM:

My favorite thing about this thread is that now I know about Sady Doyle. My life is improved.

I was recently on a facebook thread (I can't link as it's f-locked) of an ex-marine, history professor, pro-union, but generally conservative (low taxes, for example), Catholic. He's a friend. We have good smart arguments on which we rarely, but sometimes, find common ground. I shall call him Bob.

Another ex-Marine on Bob's list made a rape joke. We were arguing about the US in Afganistan and the fear of US soldiers raping Islamic women (in both Afganistan and Iraq). Said ex-Marine, we'll call him Clark, wrote, "Raping Taliban wives, I'm all about that!"

I called him on it. He said he was just joking, that it was funny. I made all the usual arguments, strongly, and he defended his position with, "some of my best friends have been raped," in order to show his understanding and yet right to make the joke. This is not about Clark, anyway. This is about Bob.

I went to Bob and pointed out that the things Clark was saying were morally and strategically wrong. He agreed, but said, "Oh, Clark's a good guy, and he's an ex-marine, so you gotta love him." I suggested that I didn't have to love him, and that moreover it was interesting to me that since I called out Clark, the thread had gone silent. No one wanted to be accused of being PC. No one wanted to get involved. Eventually, I got Bob, ex-marine, to call out Clark, ex-marine.

This is about Bob. It's about getting Bob to be willing to say something to Clark, because Clark sure as hell isn't going to listen to me.

#60 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:13 AM:

janetl #50: Distance in time helps a bit. Thanks for the kind words.

I suspect that a fair number of the idiots who are eager to make threats of rape on the internet can be brought to understand that they're being idiots. Some, however, need a metaphorical 2X4.

#61 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:16 AM:

KayTei #51: Thank you. It was the 1960s, that was a very different time and world.

#62 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:17 AM:

Abi #53: Thank you.

#63 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:25 AM:

David Harmon #54: Thank you.

#64 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:27 AM:

abi #56: No, not cause for despair -- cause to fight. What I'm saying here is that this conflict, like others before it, is not simply a matter of "enlightening the ignorant sexists".

People who do these things, do them because it pays off -- they get egoboo from their followers, and triumph over their victims. The way to change that, is to balance or replace that payoff, with a price.

David Perry #58 just illustrated that process nicely: the thread went silent, as both sides considered their position. David's single voice wasn't enough to rally the anti-rape folks, surely because they didn't expect support from "above", that being Bob. But at the same time, Clark's potential allies noted that suddenly they weren't unopposed on the field -- and they backed off too. That in turn, left David's voice to convince Bob, who could exact a greater penalty -- enough to change the balance of payoffs.

#65 ::: Dani ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:46 AM:

@ #8 -

I'm in a theatrical society where casual misogyny, racism and general un-PC antics are the norm... but only because we're such a lefty liberal bunch that no-one could possibly mistake it for anything other than parody and irony.

You'd be wrong. "Lefty liberals" are just as capable of being racist and misogynistic as anybody else, and pretending that the left doesn't have problems with both racism and sexism is damaging to everybody. "Ironic" racism or sexism still hurts the same to someone who's been cut with a thousand verbal papercuts that day alone, and being a jerk in the name of irony still means you're being a jerk. It's possible to be liberal and funny and ironic without resorting to lowest-common-denominator sexism and racism, it just takes a bit more work.

#66 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 10:01 AM:

Putting it another way: This is a conflict of cultural features -- "memes" in the original sense. The "territory" here isn't people, but communities: While some people are active combatants, but most just want to know what the rules are. And so the fight isn't just a matter of convincing individuals, but of changing the ground rules for forums, communities, cities, and ultimately nations. No, we don't have an easy fight... but neither do they. Indeed, outbreaks of desperate viciousness, like PAX doubling down on their dickwolves, reveal where our opponents feel threatened and even cornered.

By comparison to the similar racial fight: We certainly haven't defeated racism in general... but we have reached a point where in most of Western Civilization, racial insults are not socially acceptable. When they do appear, it's often because the speakers are trying to be offensive. Even in the American South, "n*gger" is now a curseword -- the people who do still use it tend to be the sort who are potty-mouthed in general, and it doesn't get into the newspapers. Even politicians appealing to racists have to resort to dog-whistles, because saying it straight would lose them the support of everyone else.

#67 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 10:54 AM:

David,

There's another explanation for the thread going silent. I remember seeing this in one of Card's Memory of Earth books' and it clicked as an important social pattern:

Jerk A says nasty, horrible stuff to nice character B.

Bystanders C - E sit in shocked silence at what awful and wrong things the jerk is saying.

Nice character B takes home the message that all those bystanders must secretly agree with jerk A, but be too nice to say such things.

I think this often happens online. When a few people start saying nasty stuff, a lot of people leave the thread rather than deal with it, others resolve not to feed the trolls, and some people take this as agreement rather than ignoring bad behavior.

For this kind of thing, a detailed takedown is neither necessary nor probably even useful. A short comment often works better. Wow, this topic brings the trolls out of the woodwork.or Do Not Feed The Trolls. That doesn't work for community members, but it does work for anonymous commenters or new people making public asses of themselves. It's the equivalent of the pained looks when someone verbally drops a turd into the punchbowl in a conversation.

#68 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 11:09 AM:

John Mark:

There's an inportant distinction with Derbyshire's recent firing: In that case, he was fired for publically expressing ideas TNR didn't want to be associated with. I think what we're talking about is more a debating or silencing tactic.

Almost nowhere will you get any traction with an explicit argument that uppity women ought to be raped, beaten, or locked into purdah to silence them. Saying that stuff out loud makes it sound exactly as monstrous as it is.

Silencing women with this kind of comment works because the people making the comments can pass it off as a joke or blowing off steam or something. C'mon, can't you take a joke? It's independent of the ideas being expressed.

Like, if you're arguing for lower corporate taxes, and someone suggests that people who argue for such things ought to have their children adbucted and killed, nobody will think it's funny, they'll think Jesus Christ, I'm having a conversation with a psychopath. That's where we'd presumably like to be wrt rape references, right?

The other problem is the different standard for women than men wrt being allowed to disagree in public. Knowing about it[1] makes it possible to try to compensate for it some (make sure the women in your meetings get a chance to speak, draw them out when you think they know something useful), but I don't know how you fix it more broadly than that.

[1] Privilege is a useful concept that teaches you stuff about the world you have a hard tme observing, when it's not being used as a club in an argument.

#69 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 01:07 PM:

Albatross #68: Er, NR not TNR. A very different shop. 'Derb' thought that the heirs of Buckley would accept his 'mild, tolerant racism'. It turns out they wouldn't. Even when it was published at Taki's Magazine.

#70 ::: Autarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 01:31 PM:

Fragano@44: You have my deepest sympathies both for the horror you endured and the injustice of the "punishment" meted out to the perpetrators.

Freedom of speech means that people have to be free to speak, not that they can say any damnfool thing they please without fear of censure.

Amen to that.

#71 ::: Autarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 01:51 PM:

Rob Thornton@23
The casual use of language like that is one reason (though not the only) that I don't play MMORPGs.

#72 ::: Autarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 01:57 PM:

abi@0Can anyone tell me what to what kind of writing it’s appropriate to respond with threats of rape, comments about the writer’s fuckability, or belittling, sexist insults?

Absolutely none whatsoever. Unfortunately some people still haven't learned this.

#73 ::: Syd ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 02:51 PM:

I'm reminded of the FB incident I related on either the current OT or the one just before, when I pointed out the sexism in a cartoon posted by an online friend (or so I would have called him) and wound up getting de-friended and blocked by the guy.

For some people, shutting down the conversation only applies to the people who raise the unpleasant truth. And if the only way to shut down the conversation is to lock out the people who point to the truth, then that's what they'll do. Because they don't want a "teachable moment"--they want to say what they want, they don't want to be called on it or confronted or, heavens to Betsy! made to feel as if maybe they aren't as damned funny (or smart, or powerful, or whatever) as they think they are.

I guess the only way that particular incident could have gone any more downhill before I got the banhammer was if my "friend" and the other commenters (only 2 at the time) had treated me to a batch of rape/torture commentary, then blocked me when I responded to it. Because of course the guy whose page it was would have wanted to know that I'd read the nastiness, otherwise where's the fun?

And until this thread, I would never have thought to associate that series of events with this topic. But they do seem to be related, in general kind if not degree.

#74 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:21 PM:

Christ, Fragano, that's horrifying. A one-week suspension for criminal assault almost makes it worse. I read that as a serious enough penalty that the school has to have understood what happened; but at the same time, it's a completely inadequate response. And I'll bet you've had to listen to supposedly well-meaning people telling you that you should count yourself lucky that they got punished at all.

Which is all so completely inadequate. So are words in general; but at this remove, they're what we've got.

===

I'm seeing an upswing in the incidence of ugly, abusive language and behavior online. I don't think for a minute that it's spontaneous. This is election-year demagoguery trickling down into the general discourse.

To re-quote a bit of that great article by Kate Harding:

"...you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates women -- to the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was. And that guy? Thought you were on his side."
There are always thugs out there -- some obvious, others less so -- who are always listening for messages that tell them who's an allowable target. The way the signal is packaged doesn't matter all that much. They're experts at extracting the parts they care about.

One of the cumulative messages of the Republican candidates to them this year has been that it's okay to target women. Rick Santorum has been the worst offender. He's practically Candidate Troll.

Not every online misogynist pays attention to Republican candidates, but they don't have to. They can pick up their cues from those who do. I couldn't quantify for you how much misbehavior of that sort is imitative, but I'm convinced it's a fairly high percentage.

Many years ago, a co-worker whose father was a police officer in the greater Seattle area passed on to me a couple of interesting bits of information about people who behave badly or threateningly in public: 1. If you tell them you've called the police, they won't wait around for the police to arrive. They may still talk big and make threats, but they'll be retreating as they do it. 2. Young men hanging out in groups will egg each other on to do things they'd never do as individuals. If you arrest one of them, he'll keep acting insanely defiant and careless of the consequences as long as he's within line of sight of his friends. The moment he's out of their sight, he'll collapse and stop fighting.

I've kept those in mind ever since. The first is true, and they retreat even faster if you move to take their picture. Regarding the second, I'll confirm the part about egging each other on. If it can be taken as a measure of the second part that the percentage of them willing to write a simple email to get their accounts reinstated is down in the single digits, I'll tentatively confirm that as well.

I think that a few racists and misogynists online would act the way they do no matter what, but that the vast majority of them are taking their cues from each other. If true this has a number of implications, but IMO the most important one is that it limits how much you can affect their behavior by arguing with them. Their opinions aren't an expression of a coherent ideology. They get their opinions by collecting them from each other.

(This might explain some strikingly odd features one consistently sees in hardcore trolls' ideation, but the margin of this page is too narrow to write it out.)

On 27 March, during a campaign speech in Wisconsin, Rick Santorum did one of those "almost-but-not-quite" slips of the tongue -- I have no faith that it was truly an accident -- and used the n-word to refer to President Obama. The kind of thugs who wait in hope for exactly that bit of encouragement didn't miss it, and won't forget it.

(There's some disagreement online about whether Santorum actually said that. My answer is that if you search for sites that unambiguously reported that Santorum said it, a lot of your Google results are going to be sites with predominantly black audiences and contributors. I'll take the experts' word on it.)

I expect that this will increase the incidence of racist remarks online, but I also expect a further uptick in misogyny and homophobia. Those three issues are separately real, serious, long-standing problems, but they're linked in this: the appearance of any one of the Three Words You Can't Use if I'm Moderating has equal power to suck up all the positive energy in a thread, and tolerating any one of them encourages the other two. As I said back on Boing Boing when I first explained this,

"If you think this constitutes intolerable censorship, and that you should be able to say whatever you want, to anyone you want, in any context, then what I know about you is that you're very probably affluent, straight, white, and male. You don't belong in any of the categories targeted by the words you can't say on Boing Boing.

The people who do fall into those categories already live in a world where there are plenty of things they can't say unless they're looking for trouble. Non-coincidentally, they don't have what you have: a single word they can throw at you that means, "The category you belong to has no rights I am bound to respect. You're fair game, and you will never be completely safe, no matter what you do or how long you live."

Bullies often claim they're mistreating their victims on account of something their victims are -- weak, black, gay, foreign, Jewish, nerdy, stuck-up bitches, whatever -- and bullying flourishes in an environment of institutionalized inequality, but at the core of it, what their victims are is victims. If someone who habitually bullies blacks, gays, and prostitutes were magically transported to a world where none of those exist, they wouldn't live in peace with their neighbors; they'd find other justifications for bullying people in other categories.

The true ideology of bullies is that we live in a world of victims and victimizers, and they like being the latter. It has been a central enterprise of civilization, democracy, rule of law, and the world's great religions, to stop living in that world.

Language matters. Civility matters. To refuse to acknowledge that is to vote for a world where Rick Santorum derives political advantage from encouraging hate speech.

One more quote from Kate Harding's article:

It’s all well and good to advocate for ignoring trolls, except for the part where they don’t go away. They replicate like fucking Gremlins, and not a few of them are nakedly hostile toward women just for being women. And whenever a woman says, “Hey, anyone else notice how trolls especially go after women and say some shockingly hateful shit, apparently just because we’re women?” tons of good men come out of the woodwork to say, “Hey, trolls do this to everyone, not just women!” and “Maybe they just don’t like what those particular women were saying!” and “The reason you’re not taken seriously is that you insist on playing the victim!” and “I’m not a dick, so this hurts my feelings!” Not nearly as many say, “Yeah, wow, good point.”
Abi's right. You have to say it.

===

Here's where I get my sense of permission to act as a moderator: I've seen the pure luminous joy of people who've found fandom, or the right group or right online forum, and maybe for the first time in their lives there are people they can speak to freely, in their true native language, and have it work, been understood and responded to and valued. And they just take off and fly.

And I've later seen people like that get verbally abused -- assaulted isn't too strong a word -- and afterwards never be that open and joyful again. Even tough old internet veterans close down and stop talking when they take damage. That loss of joy breaks my heart. We're all made immeasurably poorer.

It's not acceptable, whether it happens in concentrated pile-ons or piecemeal over time. Whether or not it's intentionally malicious. Whether or not the person doing it realizes the damage it does. Intent matters to God. Damage matters to me.

What you have to do first is stop the damage. After that, you can explain to anyone who's interested why you did it and how it works. What you can't do is make damage control contingent on getting the perpetrators to understand why it's bad and they shouldn't do it.

#75 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:24 PM:

Thinking about this topic sent me back to a book on change that I know I've mentioned here before, Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath. Skimming through the book and its various case studies, one thing that stood out to me was the importance of having a very clearly specified change that you wanted to create. Even, or especially, when a situation is complicated, you need to provide a blueprint that is understandable and a first step that is small enough to not be overwhelming. This may mean that the change you propose is much smaller than the magnitude of the overall problem. That's okay. It doesn't mean you have to stop there, but trying to solve the whole complex mess at once leads to despair.

In this case, it might mean a clearly articulated norm along the lines of "Sexual violence: It's not a weapon; it's not a joke; it's not okay. Just don't." Then you do your best to spread that targeted message in the places and by spokespersons that are credible to the people you want to change. You're not so much trying to change the hardcore jerks; you're trying to change the people around them who are giving them a pass.

There's certainly still room for discussions about the complexity - how this issue connects to other problems like privilege, racism, and the position of women in society. But, as we know, those discussions don't seem to work very well at creating change.

I should probably say, as a very conflict-averse person, that I don't know how successful I personally would be at doing this. I am normally long gone from a group before things escalate to this level.

#76 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:32 PM:

I was talking about bullying in school elseweb recently and explaining why I thought some of the anti-bullying stuff was misguided because it attempted to make the bully "feel bad" for his victim, essentially by making the victim more victimy (his mom is dying, she's anorexic, etc.). I contended that this was not the way to decrease bullying, because bullies already think of their targets as victims/contemptible (even if their reasons for thinking this are ridiculous).

One of the other people in the conversation then said, well, what works? because I can't go beat the crap out of these people.

And I posted this, "What helps? A zero-tolerance policy at school that gets bullies called out on their behavior, that encourages people (students) to stick up for the person being bullied. An administration that responds to each and every occurrence of bullying and doesn't wash their collective hands or make excuses, plus recognizes that boys and girls usually bully differently and reacts appropriately. Removing the power from the bullies, supporting the bullied. That's what works."

#77 ::: Craig Ranapia ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:43 PM:

OtterB#75: "In this case, it might mean a clearly articulated norm along the lines of "Sexual violence: It's not a weapon; it's not a joke; it's not okay. Just don't." Then you do your best to spread that targeted message in the places and by spokespersons that are credible to the people you want to change."

Yup, and you know what -- site owners and moderators really need to step up and say "not in my house." Before anyone else starts screaming "censorship", may I respond with "Your First Amendment right to be a passive-aggressive misogynist-enabling tool does not oblige me - or anyone else - to give you a platform. Thanks for playing, frak off."

It's not rocket science. Really.

#78 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:45 PM:

Fragano, I'm appalled by what happened to you, and the lightness of the "punishment" for it. It reminds me of why I dislike the term 'bullying', even though people are now working to address it as an issue: what happened to you should have been dealt with by law enforcement, not the school (though given the time the outcome might not have been any better...possibly much worse). This doesn't fall under the category of "calling in the police is usually to be avoided." It falls under the category of "WTF kind of fucking godsdamned burn-in-hell SCHOOL thinks they have the fucking right to cover up a godsdamned sexual assault on a ten-year-old?!?!?!"

In the movies, some friend of yours would hunt down all the participants, starting with the school administrators who made that decision and working up, one by one, to the actual ringleader of the attack, and kill them in various creative and appropriate ways. Overall I'm glad we don't live in the world depicted in such movies, but sometimes, just for a moment, I wish we did.

#79 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:51 PM:

Autarch #70: Thank you.

#80 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 03:56 PM:

Melissa Singer #76: I'd make one amendment to your prescription: replace "zero-tolerance" with "committed".

"Zero-tolerance" policies are fundamentally mechanical -- they take away the judgment and discretion of the people who are actually enforcing and managing the policy. Bullies very quickly learn to game the system to set up their victims for punishment.

#81 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 04:28 PM:

Teresa 74: Young men hanging out in groups will egg each other on to do things they'd never do as individuals.

I have personal reason to know this is true, and would also point out that the young men who murdered Matthew Shepard were both appalled later at what they'd done. Too late of course, and my sympathy is TPIM limited, but it shows this effect: neither of them would have pushed it so far but for the presence of the other.

I think that comment will be widely quoted. And btw I've already linked to the OP elsewhere as my reason for deciding to say something (though it was in a discussion of this very kind of thing on Scalzi's blog, so, though I did swat at a couple of things some guys were saying, it didn't require courage).

Melissa 76: I agree with most of what you say, except that I think actual zero-tolerance policies are counterproductive. A true zero-tolerance attitude on the part of faculty and staff would help, but is rarely the result of such a policy. Instead, teachers try to find ways not to notice the things they're required to report, because "making a big deal out of it" is such a pain and causes friction with parents, etc. If all the teachers were educated about it and truly on board, that could work.

Also, what David Harmon said while I was typing the above.

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 04:37 PM:

Abi, when I started writing comment #74 I'd only read as far as Dave Bell at #52. I hadn't seen any of Dave Harmon's comments yet. It looks to me like he and I are substantially in agreement.

We say, "Threats of rape and belittling sexist comments are never acceptable." Some hearers will understand what we're saying. What others will understand is This is where the line is drawn. That's not cause for despair. It's cause to keep fighting and keep explaining.

The number of jerks for whom misogyny is its own reward is smaller than the number of jerks who affect misogyny online. As Dave says, they do it because it pays off. They get egoboo from their droogs, and triumph over their victims. We can change that, whether or not they understand why it's wrong to make nasty jokes about rape, by replacing the payoff with a price.

As you know, I'm big with the idea that while you can't always stop people from hurting you, you may well be able to keep it from being fun for them to do it.

Albatross @67, short takedowns can work, though I'm in favor of clearer and more direct judgements, like "B, that was crappy and uncalled-for."

However, if you're getting repeated misbehavior from B, and especially if this isn't really B's home forum, it can be appropriate to make B hurt in some detail. B probably won't assimilate your critique, but explaining how and why B was wrong will give flow and structure to the takedown, and make it more interesting for others.

"Don't feed the trolls" is an attempt to get rid of them by removing all nutrients from the environment. Rendering the available nutrients unpalatable is also effective.

#83 ::: Leigh Kimmel ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 04:38 PM:

Has anybody else seen the ad Yahoo's running for a new show called Fatal Encounters? It's got all the standard rape tropes -- young, pretty blond-haired and blue-eyed victim, motiveless killer (and implied rapist) who might as well be a force of nature, and of course the little sting in the tail of the implied "and it was her fault for failing to take the proper precautions to prevent it."

That ad shows up Every. Single. Time. I empty my spam trap on Yahoo! Mail, and I'm getting really tired of seeing it. Yeah, it's not near as blatant or in-your-face as somebody making jokes that imply that getting raped is funny, but once you start recognizing the elements of that mindset, it gets old Really Fast.

#84 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 04:42 PM:

David and Xopher: Yes, agreed. I was speaking to a less sophisticated audience, and merely copied and pasted in.

I've seen it work, at schools, and not work, at schools, and attitude makes a huge difference. But so does the "zero" part. Because you can have the right attitude about serious stuff and still let little stuff slide, which doesn't work/help.

I also agree that firm moderation is necessary. Moderation does not prevent free speech, but it can promote civility.

#85 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 04:56 PM:

I apologize for letting myself become so discouraged. It's just so overwhelming and pervasive, and we've fought so long, only to watch it all slip through our fingers again.

I want to try to do something achievable. Getting people in the communities we belong in to lay off the rape threats and sexist language seems big enough to be only marginally possible.

Overcoming the hierarchical-authoritarian nature of the post-Puritan cultural tradition as nurtured in America and spread throughout the world feels a little bigger than I can contemplate without serious dizzy spells.

#86 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:02 PM:

OtterB @75:

I should probably say, as a very conflict-averse person, that I don't know how successful I personally would be at doing this. I am normally long gone from a group before things escalate to this level.
OtterB, the big reason I believe in moderating early and often, rather than letting things reach the critical stage and then going at it with trollhammers and cricket bats, is that I like conversations that have people like you and Jo Walton and Pamela Dean in them, as well as people like me and Jim Macdonald.

In a civilized forum, it shouldn't be immediately evident who the heavy hitters are, any more than we should be aware of who's armed or has combat training in social interactions where we're physically present.

#87 ::: Antonia T. Tiger ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:03 PM:

I'm beginning to realise why I was prompted to write my first Wolf Baginski story. Yes, it's a reaction against stuff which, for me, climaxed with John Ringo's Ghost.

I thought it was mostly that I'd had it up to here—(raises paw to eye level)—with the ultra-Republican militaristic heroes, but there's that gender-hatred in that sort of writing too. There are some things that a proper man does not do.

I don't know if there's any deep psychological point in my hero being, in a furry-fic setting, a bear. My teddy-bear, uh-huh. He's a paratrooper, in the earliest days of paratroopers. He's dropping, at night, into an un-marked dropzone on a coral island, from a 'plane that's piloted by a woman. There are so many things that could go wrong, but he, and the rest of the team, are going to get the job done.

It's a world—a part of the world, anyway—where the women can be a tough and competent as the men, where they can be in charge, and nobody sees anything strange in it. It's a world where they don't waste the talents of half their population. It's a world where a skunk named Alberto Gonzales can be one of the heroes, and he's a clear-to-the-bone anarchist.

Sometimes I wonder if I am a bit too obvious. But, for all the flaws, for all the difference in sales, I would rather have written that story than be John Ringo.

#88 ::: Craig Ranapia ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:25 PM:

Abi #85:
I apologize for letting myself become so discouraged.

Please don't. Something I see way too often in on-line communities (and have to own contributing to it myself) is how often calling out b.s. ends up being "somebody else's" job; and surprise! being on 24/7 troll patrol becomes exhausting and traumatic.

Your OP is right on the button: Fighting on-line misogyny and rape culture isn't just women's work, and your "discouragement" is another reason why men need to step up.

#89 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:27 PM:

Too tired to say anything more than

. I want an internet where a woman can be angry and not be called a bitch; where she can say something stupid and not be told to make a fucking sandwich.

is something I'd like to see written in luminous green paint on the ceiling of every computer lab of every institution of higher education in the English-speaking world;

And Fragano @44: That's awful. I'd like to say I was astonished, as well as appalled by the school's response. Given what I know about education and authority in the UK, only the second is true.

#90 ::: Autarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:38 PM:

Fragano #79

I can't imagine what it was like for you, nor what dealing with it since has been like. I suspect that the school was more concerned with protecting its' reputation (i.e. covering it up), especially as the perpetrators were white.

#91 ::: Autarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:39 PM:

Craig@34
You have my deepest sympathies for the ordeal you've suffered and I hope that you find peace and happiness.

#92 ::: Autarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 05:49 PM:

rosyatrandom@8
Maybe you need to look into issues about privilege. "Ironic" bigotry can be pretty nasty if you're on the receiving end - especially if you've had to deal with the "nonironic" kind on a regular basis.

#93 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 06:17 PM:

Xopher #81: Yep, that's the other half of the problem with "zero-tolerance".

Teresa #82: Thanks! I should hope I'm "substantially in agreement" with you on this... since much of what I know about it, I learned from you.

abi #85: Getting beat-down and discouraged is not something you need to apologize for.

I wouldn't expect to abolish sexism anytime soon, no more than we've abolished racism (and for much the same reasons). But dealing with this sort of overtly abusive language... I think that is possible, and I think it's already starting to happen. More, I think that dealing with the language will take a serious bite out of sexism as a whole, which makes it a worthy goal, a waystation on the way to a more integral Humanity.

#94 ::: LMM ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 07:22 PM:

@83: Has anybody else seen the ad Yahoo's running for a new show called Fatal Encounters?

Yes, definitely. I usually have a high tolerance for ads that are completely opposite the message of a website (I figure that it's a waste of space), but that ad is just beyond the pale.

#95 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 08:51 PM:

Abi #85: See http://www.bartleby.com/101/741.html

#96 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 08:57 PM:

TNH #74: Thank you.

The school thought they did their bit by compensating me and my family for the material loss in the incident, my shoes. I recovered my clothes from the holly bushes where they were strewn, but could not find my shoes. I was told to be grateful to the ILEA for my new shoes.

#97 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:02 PM:

Autarch #90: Thank you.

I don't think it was worried about protecting its reputation, more about keeping things calm and quiet. It was working-class south London in the mid-sixties, and a lot more staid than you might expect.

#98 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:19 PM:

Here's where I get my sense of permission to act as a moderator: I've seen the pure luminous joy of people who've found fandom, or the right group or right online forum, and maybe for the first time in their lives there are people they can speak to freely, in their true native language, and have it work, been understood and responded to and valued. And they just take off and fly.

And I've later seen people like that get verbally abused -- assaulted isn't too strong a word -- and afterwards never be that open and joyful again. Even tough old internet veterans close down and stop talking when they take damage. That loss of joy breaks my heart. We're all made immeasurably poorer.

It's not acceptable, whether it happens in concentrated pile-ons or piecemeal over time. Whether or not it's intentionally malicious. Whether or not the person doing it realizes the damage it does. Intent matters to God. Damage matters to me.

What you have to do first is stop the damage. After that, you can explain to anyone who's interested why you did it and how it works. What you can't do is make damage control contingent on getting the perpetrators to understand why it's bad and they shouldn't do it.

Quoted not only for truth, but also for the sheer power of what you're saying. This is why "bullying" is wrong. This is why any sort of verbal assault on a person (rather than on their words) is wrong. This is why freedom of speech doesn't include freedom to be offensive without reproof or restraint. This is why scatological "humour" or the sort of "humour" which involves denigrating minority groups isn't funny.

This is why I love the internet so damn much sometimes. It reminds me I'm not alone, in a culture which at times seems determined to ensure I should be.

Thanks, Teresa.

#99 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 09:26 PM:

Fragano...I'd be grateful to the ILEA when they all dangle from a gibbet and their bodies are covered with crows.

#100 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 11:42 PM:

Fragano: It's all there in the language they used, isn't it? You "should" [have been] grateful. Because they didn't dare face what you were actually feeling at the time, they wrote you a script.

I'm sorry our world is like that. Nobody should have to go through such things, and they certainly shouldn't be back-handedly condoned.

#101 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2012, 11:46 PM:

Melissa Singer #76 "...remove power from the bullies, support the bullied." Word.
I've seen ugly misogynistic behavior by teenage girls to teenage girls. Nasty. And it melts when one other girl says, "Well, that's disappointing. I'd thought better of you."

#102 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 12:07 AM:

This is sort of a tangent, maybe, but maybe not.

The last few weeks, the comments on news stories, just like my Facebook feed, have been full of one story after another of some black-on-white murder, terrible stories, all of them, and the question, "Why aren't you angry about that like you're angry about the Treyvon Martin story?" The answer, of course, is that those stories do all make me sad and some also make me mad.

But every one so far has involved police the police investigating the death, going out and finding the killer, and the killer being brought to justice. In none of these cases have the police shown up to find the killer there yet fail to arrest him; in none of those cases have the police failed to investigate aggressively; in none of those cases has the killer gone free.

That's the difference, but it's a long-winded difference, and it's hard to express effectively, especially when the killings they reference are real, and generally tragic even as killings go.

And now, we've gotten the obvious, and I think in some cases the desired, result, in Tulsa:

A man angry the black man he believes killed his father only got six years in prison went out and shot and killed random black people, people just standing in their yards on a warm spring night.

What I want to tell my friends who post thee things--decent people, when they aren't being basted in racism and racist media--is that those people's blood is on their hands.

I don't. I keep trying to peck away at what matters most: The failure of a police department to rigorously investigate a crime. I think I'm doing a little good, but we're up against something big, impersonal, and unprincipled here.

I don't plan to quit and I don't plan to give in to despair, but man, it's hard.

I loved living in Tulsa.

#103 ::: ENB ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 02:38 AM:

Whew! I feel like I've been too long away fighting (a new milieu for me) with no evidence I'm doing any good. This conversation is like coming back to the Prancing Pony or Callahan's. Familiar names saying precise, intelligent, righteous things.

I've also seen that the uptick in misogynistic language and hate speech in general is flourishing and I hope that it's being magnified by the Republican and farther right rhetoric, but I see legislation being passed that makes me fear otherwise. My first reaction lately seems to be, "What? Didn't we already settle this (as in the absurd reaching of anti-abortion laws)? Why won't the viper stay dead?" Michigan leaves me speechless. Like Abi I've felt discouraged and as though I were fighting alone on the field. Coming here gives me hope. Thank you for the links. Thank you for being here and participating.

#104 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 02:46 AM:

abi @ 85:

Please don't apologize for being discouraged; we all feel frustration, discouragement, even despair at times in the face of so much casual cruelty. Hell, you've seen me post comments in which I'm ready to throw in the towel and go to the old hippie's home. I've been speaking, writing, and demonstrating against racism, sexism and genderism for more than 50 years; there's just no way you can push that boulder up the hill for that long without an occasional break for wondering if it'll ever be over.

But when I really look at the situation, I believe there's some light, preferably non-train-like, at the end of this particular tunnel. There was a time, not long ago, when few people were willing to stand up for a woman who was being bullied by threats of physical and sexual violence. I see more and more people doing it now, first in favorable environments like Whatever and Making Light, and then in more "open" environments, where the trolls are more accepted. No question that it will take time, but I think we're not many years from the kind of tipping point that's recently occurred in gender politics, with more and more states legislating equality for all gender orientations, and some of them bypassing civil unions and going directly to outlawing restrictions on marriage. Once things get to a point like that, the motion towards reform is irreversible.

And as unsettling as it is, the recent increase in that bullying may actually help abolish it. The hard-right wing of the Republican Party (which seems to be the only wing capable of flapping at the moment) has aligned itself firmly with the wrong side of the issues of women's rights and defense against violence of all kinds, and caused a very strong backlash as well. If they continue to push to restrict and remove women's rights, and champion the people who bully women, I think they'll create enough of a backlash to make a lot more people who've remained quiet up until now to speak out against hate and bullying, and to repeal many of these attempts to legislate the 1950s back into existence.

Incidentally, I lived through the 1950s. It was not a pleasant time, nor one I have any desire to see again.

#105 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 06:42 AM:

ENB #103: Why won't the viper stay dead?

Besides What Bruce Said at #104, I'll expand on my aside from #66: As with that viper, a lot of these these are reflex bites from something that's already mortally wounded. The Wisconsin guv, and many of their state reps, are fouling their nest in the face of a recall election. The Republicans are abusing their electoral (and corporate) position because they're already losing the support of the voters.

And across the Net, misogynists, racists, and their apologists are doubling down on their assaults precisely because people are starting to challenge them, and suddenly they're not feeling like "kings of the hill" anymore. They're hoping they can scare off their new opposition by getting even nastier -- "how dare you not be intimidated by my shining white phallus? I'll smite you until you go back to being cowering victims!" But those are moves of desperation, late-stage tactics in classic trolling. And they're not going to work, because the tide is already shifting.

#106 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 09:23 AM:

David Harmon @ #80, I can testify to that feature of "zero-tolerance" anti-bullying policies, as one of my daughters was repeatedly double-victimized first by bullies and then by the authorities (one example: no punishment for the kid who threw a punch at her, but for blocking it she was punished for 'using martial arts'). The school district's policy at the time was that in any "fight" all participants were punished equally--even in the case of multiple kids beating up a single victim. Note that in the event described the system didn't even follow its own inadequate policy.

I have another relative who was permanently expelled from his public school for bringing a plastic picnic knife in his lunchbox to spread peanut butter on his crackers. Because that was a weapon under the district's "zero tolerance" weapons policy.

In cases like this, "zero tolerance" means "the authorities refuse to exercise any judgment whatsoever".

#107 ::: Emmers ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 10:04 AM:

I got rage-defriended by a guy on FB over the "Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists" post on Skepchick. He was basically arguing that it's okay (or at least expected, and shouldn't be complained about) to say things/make threats like that, because I forget why.

#108 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 10:33 AM:

I've been doing it, sort of, for a while.

I've been tilting at windmills on Manboobz, under a non-gendered name. The point of Manboobz is to mock misogyny.

Having a gender neutral handle means that speaking against misogyny gets one called a woman, a lot. It's amazing all the things I've learned about my female self.

I'm fat. Men don't like me. Real men don't like me. I'm just bitter because all the male attention I get it from losers.

It's a moderated community, mostly, so the rape/death threats are minimal; or at least short-lived.

I've been other places, where I did the pretend to be a woman thing. It's ugly.

#109 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 11:32 AM:

In dog training there is a thing called the Extinction Burst. Let's say you're training the dog to not bark when someone comes to the door. You'll be chugging along, working your operant conditioning like a boss, and you'll notice your dog is finally starting to catch on. "Oh, you mean if the doorbell rings and I woof my servant monkey turns her back to me and ignores me, but if I don't make a noise I get a treat? Awesome!" But just when you think the dog has it all down and it possibly the smartest dog in the universe, your friend will ring the doorbell and the dog will go bugshit crazy, barking, woofing, yelping, whatever, and you'll just want to sit down with a pitcher of margaritas and give up. Don't do that. Keep going, because what you've just experienced is the Extinction Burst. A few more tries and your dog will be so silent it's like she's bored whenever the doorbell rings - like she never even reacted in the first place.

Why does it work that way? I have no idea - I'm not an animal behaviorist. But it's what I like to believe is happening with the GOP and greater society right now; they're in their back yard (Fox News) spinning frantically and barking loudly about B*ches and N**rs and F**ts because they know that very soon they're going to have to settle down and behave like reasonable mammals. It won't help if I sit down with a pint of cider and give up, but when they finally realize that their behavior has real consequences (like the Komen debacle, and the backlash that - god willing - will lead to embarrassing losses this election year) they'll behave. This helps keep me from despair. If operant conditioning works on dolphins and dogs, surely it will work on humans.

#110 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 11:47 AM:

Xopher #99: I get that feeling from time to time.

#111 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 11:48 AM:

B. Durbin #100: The world can be made better, that is very much the point.

#112 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 12:31 PM:

TNH: And I've later seen people like that get verbally abused -- assaulted isn't too strong a word -- and afterwards never be that open and joyful again. Even tough old internet veterans close down and stop talking when they take damage. That loss of joy breaks my heart. We're all made immeasurably poorer.

It's true. It's happened to me. There are places where I am loath to discuss certain things because of the ways in which people who are, so it seems, otherwise recent and reasonable, lose their shit on the topic. That I can be understanding as to why they are willing to throw out all sense of normal standards of behavior on the subject matters not a whit.

It hurts me to engage, at any level, on those subjects, if they are going to wade in.

It's a large part of why I don't spend time on Pharyngula. The commentariart there tolerates some truly horrid attitudes toward people who have religious sensibilities. They don't limit their attacks to those who are bigoted in the ways they express their religion. They call all who have a belief deluded, stupid, even evil.

It's not all the commentariat who do it, but the language is tolerated. Being religious makes one fair game to people who would, if they were speaking so on other subjects, often be banned for being too nasty to accept.

So me... no stranger to standing up and fighting for my opinions; thick skinned in all sorts of ways, I am subject to that sort of thing. It has to be dealt with, in all it's various guises. One windmill at a time.

#113 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 01:39 PM:

Thank you, Craig, David Harmon, Fragano, and Bruce, for the several forms of encouragement, all of which are much appreciated. It really does help.

nerdycellist, thank you for a term for that phenomenon. I've noticed it as a maybe-pattern (what parent hasn't?), but to know that it's a real stage in things helps me believe in it.

Terry, thank you. And I know what you mean about Pharyngula. I've said before that I think that's a necessary component in our shared discourse about the sacred—I acknowledge and sympathize with the genuine pain that much of it stems from—but I also think it's a really unpleasant thing to experience.

#114 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 03:07 PM:

> ...choose a female name and log onto a gaming board, ...

Some years ago I made a character on HellMOO. (Protip: the atmosphere there is approximately the antithesis of that found here. It's not for the faint of stomach or weak of heart.) I picked a non-gender-revealing handle, and female character gender, and went about playing the game and chatting with those others who were in-world at the time.

It actually took over six months before I got the first come-on.

I am a little surprised that an online space with full-on post-apocalyptic clientele handled the presence of a supposed female with more grace and tact than do the more popular services, the Twitters and WOWs of the online world. On the other hand, I recall that when I was young, many of the kids who were the kindest, most patient of my peers were those who wore leather and studs, who projected a world-weary ennui, who listened to punk and who, ultimately, followed their own lights, enriching the world on paths not already trodden into dust by generations before them.

I'll appreciate if gamers are not all lumped into one category and dismissed out of hand. We do ourselves no more favors in stereotyping on such lines than we do in stereotyping on gender lines.

#115 ::: FaultyMemory has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 03:08 PM:

Did I drop a Word of Power?

#116 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 03:20 PM:

FaultyMemory:

The name and abbreviation of Ball of Bushido are both Words of Power.

I don't judge a book by its cover in citing gaming communities. Many old-school ones were pretty much OK -- the old Amber DRPG mailing list I used to belong to had many problems, but sexism wasn't one of them.

My more recent experiences of gamer communities, and the more recent experiences of women of my acquaintance, have not been so sanguine. I think there's been a real diminution of community spirit, and an increase in Lord of the Flies savagery, in many of them in the last few years.

#117 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 03:27 PM:

FaultyMemory, I have found that the kids now called Goths (when I was a kid I was just that weirdo who wore black all the time) are the most tolerant of all. But then ISTM that we have a much, much better class of teenager today than when I was one.

And yeah, references to Kriegshandwerkswelt (in English)are Words Of Power.

#118 ::: jennythereader ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 03:55 PM:

I wonder if a group of blog owners agreeing on a common policy towards trolls of this sort would be useful.

Maybe something along the lines of a first hateful statement getting a response like "This statement reads as hateful/threatening/dismissive/(whatever is wrong with it). Please clarify your intent."

If they claim the joke defense, point out that easily misunderstood jokes are no better than the hateful statements they look like.

If/when they double down on their hatefullness, the only thing anyone says to them from that point is "I/we do not engage with trolls. Goodbye."

If nothing else, I'm going to be instituting this policy for those rare trollish comments I get on my LJ.

#119 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 03:59 PM:

chris: "@23, 27, 31: Since the events Rob links to took place in February 2012, the December 2011 post does not, in fact, "come after everything else"."

Well, not having clicked on that link, I couldn't know that, could I? That's why I asked for further description of what lay behind the link.

"Of course, I don't know if Melissa or anyone else actually changed their opinion of PA as a result, but they should at least have the opportunity to."

The reason I'm not clicking on Penny Arcade links right now isn't because I'm a stuck-up humorless feminist who refuses to change her opinion. It's because what those two men have got up to, along with the community they moderate, makes me feel unsafe there. I can't imagine I'm the only one.

If you did not mean to come across as brow-beating, please accept that yet you did succeed at it. And by the time your post appears in the thread, I still don't know enough to feel safe clicking that link.

#120 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 04:15 PM:

These words are offered not as justification, not as rationalization, not as apology, but possibly as explanation.

The decades-old economics of the inner city, of the lower-class minority ghetto, have since the late double-oughts become prevalent across suburbia and across the middle class. Most obviously with the Occupy movement, the authoritarian tools of class oppression that have long been wielded against the voiceless and powerless of the inner city are now used against a new class of "troublemakers", suburbanites who know how to exploit emerging media to an extent not seen since the 1960s, when TV brought worldwide injustice directly into the living room.

In the 1980s that simmering underclass oppression begat rap, with all its blatant misogyny and violence, as an expression of the anger brought on by impotence in the face of generational poverty and systematic racism. In the last few years, the ambitious youth of the suburbs see themselves falling towards the poverty of the inner city, away from the relative wealth of their parents. Their own economic impotence is also manifesting in anger, violence, and misogyny.

It would be counterproductive in the extreme to dismiss the entirety of minority anger over the inappropriately misogynistic lyrics of rap. Nonetheless, many people in political power went to great lengths to suppress rap while doing nothing to address the anger and injustice that led to its inception. It would be likewise counterproductive to dismiss the entirety of suburban middle-class anger over the manner of its expression. One need not condone uncivil behaviour in order to understand or empathize with the injustice that leads otherwise civil people to engage in uncivil acts.

I do not condone the misogyny that you see of late on gaming boards and elsewhere. However, I do view it not as a syndrome in and of itself, but as a symptom. As such, I think sensitivity training and the like may suppress the symptoms for a while, but such measures will only go so far. The underlying anger will continue to find expression until the economic impotence of the literate middle class is addressed.

#121 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 04:34 PM:

FaultyMemory @120:

That just pushes the problem down a layer without explaining it. Why does rap contain so much misogyny? Why are suburban teenagers, when feeling dispossessed, so quick to turn on women to express their disillusion?

Also, where are the teenaged girls watching their futures swirl down the plughole? Where did they vanish to in your analysis? Why are they invisible in your narrative?

I'm willing to allow that people have anger, and I'm fine with the idea that we address the root causes of it. But I am sick and tired of the fact that women are carrying the load, yet again, for angry young men who can't be fucked to control their tempers or express their anger in an appropriate and non-damaging fashion, and their elders who go around excusing it in this manner.

I think you're missing a hell of a lot about why boys are allowed to be that way, by the culture, and by people like you finding reasons not to tackle their bad behavior.

I demand your three links. What are you, personally, doing to change this problem? Or is this just another way of saying "suck it up?" Because I am all out of stock on that commodity.

#122 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 04:47 PM:

Having caught up with the thread in its entirety:

My thoughts and sympathies are with you all who related tales of real, actual, literal sexual violence, and my admiration for your being able to talk about it.

I am so very, very sick of stuff like that being treated as so abstract or outlier that it's fair game for jokes and metaphors.

I am still hurting -- because these things hurt for a long, long time -- from an incident last summer which began when a friend recounted, with every evidence of appreciation, a rape joke a man in her gaming group made at her. (She finally blew up at him for habitual sexist speech; his response, rot13'd, was, "Fuhg hc naq qevax lbhe ebculaby.") She characterized her response to this as being sort of "and my jaw just dropped," which, ok, sure, but then she went on to say how you just gotta laugh at something that was that wrong.

I couldn't laugh at it. I was vocally horrified about it. She scolded me for this, telling me that policing humor was just as bad as policing sexuality.

How do you respond to that? All I could think to say was, "The problem is, you're classifying rape jokes as humor in the first place. To me, they act as a species of terrorism -- they add to the overall message of rape culture, which is that I, as a woman, am not safe; and the danger I'm in will never be mitigated, nor will it be taken seriously. If I am attacked, or if I have been attacked, it will be seen as funny. And I will be expected to laugh at it, too, or suffer social censure."

Well, I tried. She cut me off several times and finally told me, "I can't stomach random feminist arguments over lunch."

Because rape jokes? Totally OK. But when a friend who trusts you tells you that what you said made her personally feel unsafe? That's a "random feminist argument" that no one should have to stomach.

Gods bless. I keep coming up with these awful stories of insensitive ex-friends who ruined my peace of mind for days, weeks, months... and they're not even actual violence and assault. But that crap is an inevitable symptom of the rest of rape culture, where of course trolls email us rape threats as punishment for having been Online While Female. Why shouldn't they? The rest of goddamned society threatens us with rape all the damn time, casually, via well-meaning advice about self-defense courses and where not to walk alone after dark and how really we should never be alone after dark out of the house anywhere ever, but didn't we know better than to be alone with that man, didn't we know we shouldn't wear those clothes, take responsibility for your safety, of course you got raped what did you expect, you didn't follow the intensely contradictory and often illogical rules that treat rapists as forces of nature, and besides it's funny, laugh, who do you think you are, the humor police? Don't you know that's "as bad as policing sexuality?"

I don't feel 100% safe against that anywhere. But I feel about 99.9999994% safe against that here, which is as safe as I can expect to feel, and for that I owe a lot of gratitude to the moderators who make that possible.

But, damn it, in the rest of the world? I want it to just STOP. So I guess that's why I'm not going to give people a pass on it, and why I'm going to keep sticking my neck out and getting hurt. Because as bad as that interaction with my "friend" was, keeping silent and thus giving the impression that I condone this shit always leaves me feeling worse.

#123 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 04:50 PM:

Nicole at #119 - you're most definitely not alone in your assessment. The guys at Penny Arcade have repeatedly made their misogyny and contempt quite clear - I won't click a link to, support, or post a link to Penny Arcade as a result. I don't foresee that changing.

Frankly, nothing either of them has to say on the topic of online misogyny is of any interest to me whatsoever, since they've long since opted to be part of the problem, not part of the solution -- and quite aggressively so.

As to the topic of the thread, I'm still pondering a longer and more articulate response - but thank you, Abi, for opening the conversation.

#124 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 04:57 PM:

@Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little #122

But, damn it, in the rest of the world? I want it to just STOP. So I guess that's why I'm not going to give people a pass on it, and why I'm going to keep sticking my neck out and getting hurt. Because as bad as that interaction with my "friend" was, keeping silent and thus giving the impression that I condone this shit always leaves me feeling worse.

I think, for me, this is the crux of the matter. I don't know what else to do besides calling out the behavior, on or off-line, and where I have the ability to stop it, to stop it from happening.

It is very hard to learn to speak up and say "this is not ok." I think women especially are culturally encouraged to take refuge in silence—and sometimes, "don't feed the troll" has a similar effect, however unintended.

Because the words are still there.

The fact that we have to brace ourselves every time we say "This isn't ok" is telling.

#125 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 05:26 PM:

albatross: What does an attainable better world look like in this regard? There are presumably going to be people who are more willing to wish horrors on women than men[1] for the forseeable future. That shit is poison, and I can see how to keep it out of polite communities the way ML or Ta-Nehisi does, by giving people who spread the poison a permanent invitation to go elsewhere. But that doesn't avoid the existence of communities where people do spread that poison.

It takes calling it out. It's as with racism. Are there racists still? Yes. Is it widely accepted to be publically racist? Not so much.

I can't imagine Belvedere Vodka going down a racist road, the way they went down the sexist (and rape excusing) road.

Social pressure is what we need.

There is some starting to be more manifest. Limbaugh has been dropped from a radio station (Philly, I think, but it might have been Pittsburgh).

We don't have to all do it all the time, but even if it only happens every so often, it adds up.

Silence = assent. Voicing disagreement is refusing to grant that assent.

#126 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 05:48 PM:

FaultyMemory has contacted me privately with links about support provided in the past.

#127 ::: Seebs ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 06:19 PM:

I am pretty sure that kind of response to posts is never okay.

The crazy way in which people treat people they believe to be female is pretty ridiculous; so's the way they treat people they believe to be gay.

There is a (far less significant) problem, which I think is enlightening as to the essential nature of the beast: People who have had this happen to them enough sometimes conclude that all criticism of them is a result of this phenomenon. They will themselves start bullying other people (and there's always someone), and if they get called on it, declare that it's just an attempt to shut them up because they dared to be female and disagree with a male. I've only seen this a couple of times, but it's really, really, creepy.

One of the most valuable things we get from communication is the ability to learn that we're mistaken or confused. Systematically lying to people about whether they're wrong or not deprives them of that useful feedback. So this is ultimately yet another way in which this harms women. As if we needed more.

Really good summary of the reasons for which this kind of thing is a Big Deal, though. Thanks; I'll be linking the community reps on an MMO forum I use to this one.

#128 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 06:27 PM:

@Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little #122

But, damn it, in the rest of the world? I want it to just STOP. So I guess that's why I'm not going to give people a pass on it, and why I'm going to keep sticking my neck out and getting hurt. Because as bad as that interaction with my "friend" was, keeping silent and thus giving the impression that I condone this shit always leaves me feeling worse.

@Lisa Spangenberg # 124
I think, for me, this is the crux of the matter. I don't know what else to do besides calling out the behavior, on or off-line, and where I have the ability to stop it, to stop it from happening.

And calling it out is exhausting. I confess I avoid many places online where this sort of trollishness is encouraged. But I'm a woman in a predominantly male profession (programming), with a predominantly male hobby (auto racing - as a driver, not a spectator). I have to be prepared for this shit in real life. Mostly, I don't have to do more than set a good example (I am not a girl who races - I am a woman who races). But sometimes, someone needs to be called out, and no one else steps up. So I get to do it. Again.

#129 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 06:31 PM:

Lila #106: Yup -- the part I didn't mention is that by letting the bullies game the system, ZT policies effectively give them access to the "big guns". Whatever exaggerated punishments got trotted out to "show everyone we mean business", those get turned against the innocent and the victims, far more than the bullies. And as your second example illustrates, this applies to all ZT policies -- it's just that "ZT for bullying" is no exception.

nerdycellist #109: Hmm! That is interesting. I'm not sure that such low-level phenomena are directly linked to the higher-level stuff we've been talking about, but I have noted that sort of "mirroring" across cognitive levels before. An amazing amount of human interaction is isomorphous to lower-level instinctual behavior. Roles become territory, dominance behavior sneaks into supposedly intellectual discussions, and so forth.

FaultyMemory #114: One factor there is that a female character is no indication of a female player. Indeed, in most MMPRGs, a significant number -- often most -- of female characters, are played by male players.

jennythereader #118: I think that at least for obvious offenses, there has to be a role for immediate action, more drastic than just calling them out. Disemvowelment would be my first choice, comment deletion next-best. Either should be accompanied with the explanation of what they did wrong. And then if they double-down, they get banned. For most forums, that ban should be temporary for first offense, "until direct apology" (to the mods, or in a special sub-forum) for the second, permanent for the third. (ML's mods are more patient, and spend more attention on individuals, than most larger forums can afford.)

Re: Penny Arcade, they never made it into my regular reading because when I did look there, the strips never seemed all that funny -- and in retrospect, a lot of that is because their supposed humor was mean-spirited. This sort of thing, every time it happens, makes me even less likely to poke my nose in there.

#130 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 07:13 PM:

I missed the whole PA fiasco. Never looking at them again.

#131 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 07:37 PM:

"There is some starting to be more manifest. Limbaugh has been dropped from a radio station (Philly, I think, but it might have been Pittsburgh)."

WPHT, a CBS-owned AM radio station in Philadelphia, dropped Limbaugh in favor of Michael Smerconish, a local radio and newspaper commenter who's endorsed both Republicans and Obama at various times. (WPHT had aired his syndicated show on delay; now it'll be live here.)

Limbaugh will probably land on another local station, but it's not clear which one, or how much reach it will have.

Mike Huckabee has also started a talk-radio show, marketed as a conservative show with a "different perspective" (read: not shouty), broadcast at the same time as Rush's show. I don't know if he's been picked up in Philly, though, or whether many radio stations running rush will switch to Huckabee (or Smerconish).

#132 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2012, 08:12 PM:

David Harmon @129: the words "letting the bullies game the system" are exactly right to describe a whole lot of systems that I'm noticing go wrong right about now.
It relates to Jim's "Equality? What's that?" thread; it relates to Abi's thread about UK's George Osborne feigning innocence of accounting tricks; it relates to the school administrations that tolerate bullying and to the situation in the courts in Israel (not only the obvious example; this morning I came across the case of 97 employees of their state broadcasting service who filed a labor dispute. In 1982. The case is still pending; there are only 91 plaintiffs now.)

Everywhere I look, I see a failure of checks and balances, a depressing "their donors" response to "who guards the guards?"

#133 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 12:21 AM:

Autarch @ 90

I feel like it kind of doesn't matter why they did it - it doesn't make it any less unjust. People who want to excuse the inexcusable will always come up with something, and it's not always the real reason. Squeamishness, racism, "rules-following," protecting others (institutions or attackers) or their own jobs and reputations...

Part of what makes this kind of inaction hard for individuals to effectively counter is that without being in the head of the administrators in question, it's hard to know what's really motivating them. And then, you don't necessarily have the ability to affect what's really motivating them, either.

People talk about how litigious our society is, but frankly, lawsuits are a hammer that makes all those conflicting and indecipherable motivations into a single nail.

#134 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 02:36 AM:

I admire those who are willing to go out and stand up for what is right and good, day after day. I take small steps in that direction and hope one day to provide a good example for someone else to see.

But what do you do when you have been thoroughly conditioned to flinch before even opening your mouth? I offer myself as an example: I grew up in a family and environment that were terribly misogynistic, though I didn't realize it at the time. [Illustrative anecdote: My father, my brother and I were at home making lunch. When dad got out 3 yogurts, I said I didn't want peach, I wanted strawberry. Dad called me a "castrating feminist bitch" for breaking the yogurt symmetry--all in good fun, of course.] After enough years of being hammered down for daring to have an opinion on the smallest of things while being female, I learned to keep my mouth firmly shut.

At the time, it was the best I could do. Now, however, I feel strongly that remaining silent in the face of abuse, misogyny, threats, and other assorted evil is Wrong. I consider that I, and every other civilized human, have a duty to stand up for each other and make it unacceptable for the bullies and trolls to do what they do.

How do I live up to my own standard? How can those of us too cowardly to dive headlong into the fray still do our part? I welcome advice or instructions, especially if the instructions come in the form of very small, easy steps.

#135 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 02:40 AM:

David Harmon@129:

How do you suggest that individuals who are male in meatspace become female players in-game? Playing female characters appears to be about the best available approximation not requiring hormone therapy and a scalpel.

#136 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 02:50 AM:

FaultyMemory @135:

You said you chose a non gender-revealing player handle. Next time pick a one like GrrlGamer23 or Jennifer and see how you go.

#137 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 03:09 AM:

abi @ 136, FaultyMemory @ 135:

Also, talk in public chat. At all. About anything. For maximum impact: Defeat a guy in PvP. That'll do it.

Laura Gillian, 134:

I had a similar upbringing (thought not quite as explicit about feminist-hatred, but probably similarly firm about what the proper place for a woman was) and I think I started with this: be one of the first to leave a room. It sounds like it's not a lot, and in the overall scheme of things it is: but being one of the first (you don't have to be first, or second, but aim for third or fourth) to leave a room helps. It helps more if you can eventually combine that with a lack of looking back over your shoulder to gauge their opinion.

I think one of the things that gets rolled into being part of flinching before saying anything is the concept of having to wait until the 'more important' people are finished, and then rise or speak. I spent a lot of time politely listening and politely waiting for an opportune time to politely interject, but of course the opportune time was after they'd left, because what they had to say was naturally more important and it was only when they'd left that they didn't have more important things to say!

It took me a while to learn how not to have to wait to leave, but I think it's important. It's okay to leave before all the men have left. It's okay to leave in the middle of a group of men, even, even if there are some still winding up their conversation. It's okay not to have to wait for them to pass before you get into line. Eventually I got more comfortable with the idea of being one of the first to leave, or maybe being the first. It doesn't matter that some of them might look at you when you walk away. It doesn't matter that you might be the only one.

I think standing up for yourself comes first. Sometimes that is in fact standing up as an action in itself. And the idea that I didn't have to physically wait and listen and keep my mouth shut helped me grasp the idea of being able to mentally open my mouth. Because I'd already practiced walking away.

I hope that helps. Your environment was most likely quite different -- but the 'don't walk away while I might possibly be talking in your direction and needing something from you!' thing is something that's fairly common, I've discovered.

#138 ::: jennygadget ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 03:12 AM:

Terry Karney @ 125

"It takes calling it out. It's as with racism. Are there racists still? Yes. Is it widely accepted to be publically racist? Not so much."

May I ask that people please not do this? Whether racism or sexism is worse depends on the weather and time of day and what you had for breakfast. Yes, Belvedere Vodka is unlikely to do an ad that centers around lynching. On the other hand, it's not my parents who have to watch their child's murderer walk free.

Even worse, that set-up completely ignores the reality of intersectionality. (Thus solidifying white, male, cis, straight, etc as the default and everything else as merely variations on that.) It narrows the discussion so as to make it impossible to, for example, tease out just why so many racist Hunger Games fans were appalled and angry to realize that Rue is black, and what that says not just about race and gender but specifically about black girls experiences.

FaultyMemory @ 120

I have been trying to type up just why your comment pissed me off so much, and every time I do I just come up with more reasons. So let me just list the top three, Letterman style:

3) That you discuss sexism and violence in rap in a way that accepts rather than questions white America's view of how it compares to music by white artists. (despite the fact that this point better matches your defense of gamers)

2) That your phrasing and overall tone - and focus on the motivations for their anger, but never on the reasons why they express it in this way - casts the oppression of Everyone Else as Plot B in the Show of White Boy Gamers.

3) That you end your comment by implying that the rest of us must wait our turn; we can't expect progress until white boy gamers are no longer scared.

(apologies Abi, if this is not allowed since you already said something. I was a little confused on what it meant that FaultyMemory had sent you links, but I took it to mean the conversation may continue?)

#139 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 03:51 AM:

Laura Gillian @134:
How do I live up to my own standard? How can those of us too cowardly to dive headlong into the fray still do our part?

I also brace myself before opening my mouth, so I've been thinking about this as well.

Something I'm planning to do more systematically henceforth in meatspace, whenever feasible, is to physically leave the conversation after voicing disapproval. Standing up and saying "This $KindOfStatement is not OK. Think about why (while I go have a coffee|bathroom break|smoke)" then leaving the room allows me to make my point very strongly without having to deal immediately with the backlash, which is the thing that makes me recoil from speaking out in the first place.

By the time I rejoin the conversation, I'll have had time to recover from the adrenalin rush of speaking up and they'll have had time to back away from the impulse to shout me down and actually consider what they just said.

I haven't tried it in this specific context, but it's worked in the past in other situations so I figure it's worth a try.

#140 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 04:15 AM:

jennygadget @138:

The conversation may of course continue. I demanded three links from FaultyMemory because I felt his comment crossed the line into "this can't really be solved" territory. And the one thing I will not permit on this thread is counsels of despair. Because FaultyMemory is protective of his real-life identity, and his links are not under that name, he sent them to me privately.

But the remainder of the issues in that comment are open for discussion.

#141 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 04:20 AM:

jennygadget@138:

I'm more fond of addressing root causes than symptoms. I think addressing root causes gets you more mileage out of your efforts. With that in mind, I look for root causes.

This doesn't mean I'm disinterested in solutions, that I condone the behaviour under discussion, or that I think the behaviour under discussion is inevitable, misinterpretations of my position to the contrary. It does mean I have been, and will continue to be, politically active in ways that I am hopeful will get at those root causes.

For what it's worth, "music by white artists" is your phrase, not mine. To the best of my knowledge, jazz, swing, and rock are colorblind. I cited rap as an example of an earlier phenomenon in which people in power focused on the symptom while ignoring the problem. I was not intending to focus on racial aspects.

If you would rather pursue some other avenue in addressing the problem, please do so. The approaches that I pursue are not necessarily right for anyone else.

abi@121:
> Why does rap contain so much misogyny?

Because angry people take out their anger on people they perceive as weaker. Taking out that anger on racist police might be more productive, but it's suicidal. The people who try that generally don't live to reproduce, or to get Top 40 airplay.

> Why do suburban teenagers...

Dispossessed white suburban teenagers are also striking out at gays, Latinos, Muslims, and Jews. No one has a monopoly on suffering here.

> What about the girls?

A lot of them are competing for the relatively few young men who appear to be financially and emotionally suited to being husband material. There's a lot of young women being nasty to each other in amongst the young men being nasty to women. Young women tend to go about it differently than young men do. The situations that make headlines are about young men whose guns and bats kill others, and young women whose words drive others to kill themselves.

#142 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 04:26 AM:

I had a brother with a habit of talking over me, reaching in and doing things for me rather than letting me do them, and generally steamrollering me. My parents never said anything that led me to think they considered this OK, but they also didn't stop it happening. It was just the way he was, you know.

As an adult, I really struggle with being interrupted and talked over, particularly by men (or boys—the fact that my son does it is a major trigger for me). Not just because it makes me frustrated, but because it shuts me up. Because it pushes some button in me that makes it harder for me to say, "hey, I have the right to speak, too!"

Sometimes I do speak up, but by then I'm angry and hurt and unhappy, and it's hard to put whatever point I had in a fashion that fits in with the conversation. Sometimes I get up and leave the conversation. Sometimes I just shut up and sit there, hating myself for being silenced.

It's never malice. I don't hang around with people who do that kind of thing maliciously. But even blithe ignorance does damage.

I don't have a solution, apart from persevering.

#143 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 04:39 AM:

FaultyMemory @141:
angry people take out their anger on people they perceive as weaker

That, right there? We part ways on what to do right there. You want to tackle anger. I want to tackle taking it out on women.

Partly because intermediate solutions to anger still leave women getting it in the neck, but also because I'm not genuinely convinced that eliminating the anger will solve the problem of treating women badly.

Also, anger comes from many sources. Economic injustice is only one of them. I think we'll be a long time in our graves before young men aren't angry. I'd rather women aren't carrying the load waiting for that day, you know?

A lot of them are competing for the relatively few young men who appear to be financially and emotionally suited to being husband material.

What is this, 1952? Very few suburban women expect to marry into economic security. Actually, a lot of girls are angry about the same economic dispossession that their male peers are. Plus the misogyny they get piled on top of it.

Do they compete viciously for mates? Yep. Teenagers are vicious. I remember middle and high school all too well. But that's not because they're looking for Mr Support-Them-All. They're hungering for love and emotional stability, like all teenagers do. Economics takes a backseat in adolescent pairings-up, just as it always has.

The more I think about it, the deeper a problem I have with your separation between the boys whose anger you want to solve and the girls and women whose motivations and burdens you don't account for.

#144 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 05:54 AM:

jennygadget @138:
May I ask that people please not do this? Whether racism or sexism is worse depends on the weather and time of day and what you had for breakfast.

I think that there's a difference between comparing struggles for equality to see how different tactics and strategies work and comparing them to see who's "winning".

There are genuinely fewer people in power in this country who will say aloud that people of color are inherently suited to a subordinate position in society than there used to be. I would love to see that same thing happen for women. That's not the same as saying that women haven't made strides that people of color would love to match, or that people of color are further along on the road to equality than women.

It's true that Terry's discussion, and mine, oversimplify the ways that these struggles interact and interrelate. But some of those are pretty contentious—the role of women in many of the mid Twentieth century movements for racial equality is the classic example—and that's not necessarily a helpful thicket to spend too much time in.

It's a big ocean. I want to boil this bay first. (Partly, I admit, for selfish reasons, but also because a lot of the views that women would like to express if they weren't being told to stfu and make a sandwich would be useful for other struggles for equality.) I know other people want to go about it differently. I'll travel with them when our roads are parallel, share stories and support, and wish them well when we part company.

#145 ::: forgot the name ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 06:01 AM:

FaultyMemory at 141:

I'm more fond of addressing root causes than symptoms. I think addressing root causes gets you more mileage out of your efforts. With that in mind, I look for root causes.

This doesn't mean I'm disinterested in solutions, that I condone the behaviour under discussion, or that I think the behaviour under discussion is inevitable, misinterpretations of my position to the contrary. It does mean I have been, and will continue to be, politically active in ways that I am hopeful will get at those root causes.

I'd be really, really careful about your wording at this point, because however you mean it, you're coming across very mansplainy. If misinterpretations of your position are inevitable, perhaps rethink how you express your position?

For what it's worth, "music by white artists" is your phrase, not mine. To the best of my knowledge, jazz, swing, and rock are colorblind.

You may wish to reconsider your knowledge. There's a long history of cultural appropriation of black forms of music, and rock, jazz, blues, swing and rap were/are majority-black music before white artists decided to put their names to the rhythms instead and steal them for their own.

These forms of music might appear colourblind (I hate that phrase!) now in being so thoroughly appropriated by white artists that it seems a natural state of affairs for black artists to have to reclaim their own art forms -- but they're not. They're really not.

> What about the girls?

A lot of them are competing for the relatively few young men who appear to be financially and emotionally suited to being husband material. There's a lot of young women being nasty to each other in amongst the young men being nasty to women. Young women tend to go about it differently than young men do. The situations that make headlines are about young men whose guns and bats kill others, and young women whose words drive others to kill themselves.

Of course there's romantic competition. I'm surprised that you think it's particularly a girl thing. There are also relatively few young women who meet the cultural standard of the Hot Thin Girlfriend. Muscle-flexing to get the attention of a Hot Young Thing, er, Woman, is a standard trope as far as I understand.

I'm also surprised that you're coming across as thinking this kind of aggression is particularly a teenage male thing and disproportionately about economics. Teenagers don't have a monopoly on misogynistic violence. It's part of it, absolutely, but I also think that sole focus is disingenuous for the same reasons jennygagdget outlined. The solution to the idea that men are entitled to better economic opportunities than women (and entitled to women) isn't to give them more economic and romantic opportunities which reinforce that base sense of entitlement.

I think my main issue with this comment and your comments in this thread overall, and similar comments, is that looking for root causes comes really easily when you don't personally have to slog through the symptoms. And when you do have to, symptoms matter. They really do.

Going back to gaming, and this is a crude example but in my experience unfortunately true across a lot of MMOs: I get that the guy who loses to me in PvP is pissed off. Does that justify performing a simulated gang-rape on the corpse of my female avatar?

Root causes matter more than symptoms to the people who don't experience the symptoms, I think. So while I'm interested in the root cause of this kind of behaviour in an academic way (or the partially academic 'please fucking stop'), while it's happening and keeps happening I don't particularly care why these individual people are angry, or why when I lose to a guy even more people come to pile on and take turns from head to toe and it's way more about them than it is about the Interchangeable Dead Female. In that situation and at that time I don't care.

I care that I'm being told I have to accept the gang-rape of my avatar as a consequence of participating in PvP, to continue my example. I care that it feels like that, in concentrating on what you decide are root causes and prioritising them, and saying that it's where efforts are best directed, I'm supposed to put up with this in the meantime. It's as though there's one approach to fixing these things. There isn't. There's a lot of approaches, and it's not about 'symptoms matter instead'. It's that symptoms matter independently of their causes and both should be addressed.

Also it feels weird to have it said as fact that girls kill other girls with words when I think it's part of a range of misogynistic violence that men are more acculturated to use, and that attributing this kind of verbal violence to women is eliding abi's original post in a way I'm not comfortable with.

#146 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 06:18 AM:

forgot the name @145:
Also it feels weird to have it said as fact that girls kill other girls with words when I think it's part of a range of misogynistic violence that men are more acculturated to use, and that attributing this kind of verbal violence to women is eliding abi's original post in a way I'm not comfortable with.

Would it help if I said that I'm as opposed to women calling other women bitches as I am to men calling women bitches?

I think the dynamic is driven by masculine misogyny, but there are certainly women who cut one another down. I also think that if it weren't such a good way to insinuate one's self into the good graces of a subset of fairly aggressive and bullying people, fewer women would do it. It's a race to be the token "good" $GroupOtherwiseBeatenUpOn. That's a dynamic I'd like to dissolve.

Does that mean that women will then treat each other with sweetness and light? Of course not. But it would reduce one set of motivations and tools to do it.

I also think that "women do it too" is not a very helpful meme to introduce into the conversation. Many individuals do many individual things of wildly mixed ethical value. And yet, when you add it all up and divide it by heads, we still end up here.

#147 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 07:24 AM:

I recall back in the 1980s, one of the local album-rock stations where I lived at the time ran a "500 greatest rock songs" marathon. A local weekly looked at the playlist, and counted the number of songs performed by black musicians (or bands with a black lead singer): it was quite low. Then they further narrowed it down to "number of songs by blacks not named Jimi Hendrix", and got a number in the single digits.

Color-blind? Perhaps, in the sense that the list compilers, and many of the fans of the station, might not have been consciously thinking about color when they made up their list, or threw songs like "Sweet Home Alabama" on it ("In Birmingham they love the governor..."), or Led Zeppelin songs that recycled black-written blues tunes without credit. Color-just? Not so much.

Which of course is part of the package of privilege: being "blind" about a difference that's the basis of discriminatory injustice in the larger society serves to perpetuate that injustice. So it's not surprising that most of the folks who proclaim their "blindness" to some such characteristic tend to be on the privileged end of that characteristic.

Some years later, by the way, the same radio station would describe their music mix as "the variety you love, with no rap". That was probably "color-blind" as well.

#148 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 07:26 AM:

Not sure what triggered it: no links, and I didn't *think* I was including any Words of Power, but perhaps there was one I missed.

#149 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 07:57 AM:

jennygadget: What abi said. I wasn't trying to say that racism is gone, nor that misogyny is a bigger issue.

I remember when hearing n****r on the streets was acceptable. When dropping the word c**n in a conversation wouldn't cause a painful silence. It's not quite like that anymore. That's all I was saying.

#150 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:01 AM:

FaultyMemory: I think addressing root causes gets you more mileage out of your efforts. With that in mind, I look for root causes.

Best hope you don't mistake what the root cause is. Then again, sometimes (as with a cold) you can't do squat for root causes. You can always treat symptoms.

There are also those who are actively wrong about the causes. I've spent a lot of time in "the manosphere" and they will tell you what "The Causes" of their anger are. Trust me when I say to you, what they see as the causes, ain't. So you can attack the real causes all you like, it's not going to change their attitudes one whit. And it's not going to do a damned thing to make it better for women now.

Really, that's a classic case of, "but what about the menz!" You aren't really arguing for making the world of women better, except as a prize for making the lives of men less unpleasant. That's shitty.

What I can do is make the wish they'd never tried to explain those causes (e.g. hypergamy). I can make them look as ridiculous as they are. I can make them afraid to talk about how inferior women are to men, for fear of being laughed at by everyone who reads something I said in response. That's helping women by making the men who are being nasty to them stop it. Maybe (almost certainly not) completely, but some. It makes the world of women a little better.

You aren't doing that. You are acting as an apolgist for sexism, in the guise of "fixing the root cause". Saying the sexist/racist/ablist/agesit/homophobic have legitimate causes for doing a wilful act is making excuses for the act.

To the best of my knowledge, jazz, swing, and rock are colorblind.

Your knowledge is faulty. They are, more or less, colorblind now, they weren't always (and you can add ragtime to the list of music that used to be looked down on as, "black").

A lot of them are competing for the relatively few young men who appear to be financially and emotionally suited to being husband material

Oh shit... here's a hypergamy argument. It's nonsense.
Citation needed
Show your work.

#151 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:09 AM:

Terry Karney @149:

Eliciting that painful silence is exactly what I hope to achieve by standing up and leaving a conversation when hateful speech comes up. Whatever I do to combat it has to make the speakers and those who tolerate such speech uncomfortable enough to consider changing tack.

Any other ideas on how to do this without exposing myself unnecessarily to further harm? Because it's painful enough as it is.

#152 ::: FaultyMemory ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:32 AM:

Terry @150:
> Citation needed

The social and moral cost of mass incarceration in African American communities. See especially section I(b) and note 111.

Imprisonment and Crime Rates See section "The Impact on Informal Social Controls" and footnote 49.

Wanna Support Marriage? End The Drug War. Fight Unemployment. This one is a lot less scholarly, but a lot more readable than the others.

All others and all other points:

As I am generating more heat than light, I am retiring from the thread. Do as you see fit, and may we meet again in a more civil place, in a position to thank one another for our efforts on different fronts of the same struggle.

#153 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:39 AM:

Abi #144 wrote:

There are genuinely fewer people in power in this country who will say aloud that people of color are inherently suited to a subordinate position in society than there used to be. I would love to see that same thing happen for women. That's not the same as saying that women haven't made strides that people of color would love to match, or that people of color are further along on the road to equality than women.

(1)What country are you talking about, Abi? The US or the Kingdom of the Netherlands? In the US, after all, there seem to be a large number of people who are deeply upset that a person of colour got the office of president of the United States legitimately. In the Netherlands, the highest ranking people of colour are still, as in 1954, the premiers of the Caribbean countries of the Kingdom.

(2) To talk about the struggles against racism and sexism as if they were parallel struggles is a category mistake. They are overlapping struggles. Half of all people of colour are women (the reverse does not obtain).

(3) The deeper point, though, is that what we want, I think, is a world which is a more decent, human place. Racism, heterosexism and sexism plain and simple all impede this. If we don't speak out against them we aren't helping.

#154 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:47 AM:

Faulty Memory: Which of those is about "young girls being nasty to get the bread earning males" you were talking about.

I put the "citation needed" after the claim that needed support. The one I called nonsense. The sexist one.

As I am generating more heat than light, I am retiring from the thread. Do as you see fit, and may we meet again in a more civil place, in a position to thank one another for our efforts on different fronts of the same struggle.

The first is probably true. The second is tautological: One always does as one sees fit. The third... if you think this wasn't civil, you don't get out much in the world, much less the internet.

As for thanks, you've not earned them from me. I think your methods, and attitudes (as expressed here) both ineffective, and counterproductive.

If you want my thanks, you need to do something i think makes the world (or at least my piece of it) a better place. So far, you aren't, and the passive aggressive tone of your telling me you deserve thanks that I am improperly begrudging you isn't leaving a good impression for me to carry to that theoretical next meeting.

#155 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:57 AM:

More fallout from zero-tolerance. The article doesn't note bullying involvement, but note that mention of a "zero-tolerance approach to discipline" -- and that the vast majority of the prosecutions for petty offenses still happening after the state legislature outlawed the practice.

Note too, the double-bind of the last kid mentioned: When you fine a student $2,500, that's not penalizing the kid -- that's clobbering their family, hard enough to cut into their ability to deal with their existing problems... much less pay for counseling or tutoring.

#156 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:00 AM:

Fragano @153:

1. In this case, the US, whose culture pervades the internet. I default to writing from an American perspective unless otherwise labeled; this is most unfair to my British side and less so to my Dutch fragment.

There are a lot of people in the US who are upset that a black man is President. But they know that they can't argue against his right to be President because of his color in the clear. Even dog-whistles are an improvement over what was said a couple of generations ago.

2. To discuss the two movements in parallel is a simplification, or perhaps an oversimplification. I do it partly because there is a whole swamp in there about how the civil rights struggle used its female members. It's not a productive swamp for this discussion.

This is not to say that I'm blind to how racism and sexism combine into some extra-nasty shit that women of various colors deal with. (I'm blurry-visioned and groping for glasses because, hello, privilege!) But I'm also trying to boil only one part of the ocean at once.

3. This is the point where we meet up, the one I'm trying to get to over this rocky ground.

#157 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:09 AM:

Faulty Memory: Which of those is about "young girls being nasty to get the bread earning males" you were talking about.

I put the "citation needed" after the claim that needed support. The one I called nonsense. The sexist one.

As I am generating more heat than light, I am retiring from the thread. Do as you see fit, and may we meet again in a more civil place, in a position to thank one another for our efforts on different fronts of the same struggle.

The first is probably true. The second is tautological: One always does as one sees fit. The third... if you think this wasn't civil, you don't get out much in the world, much less the internet.

As for thanks, you've not earned them from me. I think your methods, and attitudes (as expressed here) both ineffective, and counterproductive.

If you want my thanks, you need to do something I think makes the world (or at least my piece of it) a better place. So far, you aren't, and the passive aggressive tone of your telling me you deserve thanks that I am improperly begrudging you isn't leaving a good impression for me to carry to that theoretical next meeting.

#158 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:12 AM:

oops, double post. Maybe it needed to be repeated. :)

#159 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:29 AM:

I just saw a summary of the first day of the gaming videos. If they were all like that, I'm appalled that it took five days for someone to react.

ROT13, because it's foul.

Nevf, whfg unzzrerq bar bs gur cynlref, Zvenaqn, vaprffnagyl sbe gur ragver guvegrra naq n unys zvahgrf bs gur ivqrb. Ur pbirerq gbcvpf bs trareny vagrerfg, fhpu nf:

1: zhq jerfgyvat o/g Zvenaqn naq nabgure srznyr cynlre
2: Zvenaqn’f oen fvmr naq, bs pbhefr, oernfgf
3: Zvenaqn’f guvtuf
4: Zvenaqn’f fzryy
5: Zvenaqn’f gevc gb gur onguebbz (#1 be #2?)
6: gur cerfrapr be nofrapr bs pnzrenf va gur onguebbz
7: gur cbffvovyvgl bs vafgnyyvat n pbcl bs gur Zban Yvfn va gur onguebbz (jvgu pnzrenf jurer gur rlrf fubhyq or)
8: Zvenaqn’f oblsevraq
9: cynlvat sbe gur cynlref’ fuvegf
10: ohlvat be znxvat n fxveg sbe Zvenaqn gb jrne ba Qnl 2 (fvapr fur unqa’g oebhtug bar)

Vg svanyyl raqrq jvgu Nevf naabhapvat gung vs Zvenaqn ybfg gur cenpgvpr zngpu fur jnf cynlvat, fur jbhyq unir gb fhozvg gb uvf favssvat ure juvyr fnlvat ure oblsevraq’f anzr. Fur ybfg, ur favssrq ure, fur yrsg, naq Nevf fnvq, “V ubcr fur’f pelvat va gur onguebbz.

That's the sort of "culture" he wants to perpetuate.

I can't believe how bad it is. Honestly, I don't think I could have stood being around it for that day, much less five. And I'm not female. That there are women who can put up with it... I'm amazed. They have far thicker skins than I do.

Which is damning, because they had to get them somehow.

Tikkun Olam: God can't do it, so we sure as hell better.

#160 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:33 AM:

abi @ 140:

And the one thing I will not permit on this thread is counsels of despair.

Thank you. Sometimes I think that is the most productive general rule a moderator in a civil environment can have. (In an uncivil environment, other rules take precedence.)

#161 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:40 AM:

John A Arkansawyer @160:

Note that I will certainly tolerate despairing comments (I'd better; I've made 'em!). But not justifications for why it's hopeless, particularly by the not-currently-despairing.

#162 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 09:57 AM:

forgot the name @ 145

Root causes matter more than symptoms to the people who don't experience the symptoms, I think.

This is probably one of the great truths of medicine, science, and social reform. The people experiencing the symptoms generally don't give a damn about the root cause - they just want the symptoms to go away NOW, please.

In the same way, I don't particularly care about the sociological, economic, psychological, ideological, political or gender-image concerns which are making the hoon in the Holden (or the fsckwit in the Ford, or the twit in the Toyota) stick his head out the window and demand to see my breasts as he drives past. I just want him to shut up, concentrate on his driving, and leave me the fsck alone[1].

This is part of the reason I get so damn passionate about "good manners". The core concept of good manners is that one treats other persons as though they were human beings of high status and merit, regardless of how one feels about them personally. To paraphrase Shaw, good manners is about "treating a flower girl as though she were a duchess" or in other words, treating a low-status member of society as though they were a high-status member of society. Treating an apparently-female person in the same way you'd treat an apparently-male person. Treating a black person in the same way you'd treat a white person. Treating a known homosexual person in the same way you'd treat an assumed heterosexual person. Treating a person with a disability with the same respect you'd give someone able-bodied. Treating a fat person as though they were just as human as a thin person.

I don't think it's such a difficult concept to master. I also think that a wider social demand for and expectation of good manners from everyone from all walks of life would be a big help in providing symptomatic relief for the bigger, underlying problems. (I'm not going to ask that a confirmed misogynist believe I'm an equal; I am going to ask that they treat me as an equal in public).

[1] I may also call down Gunner Milligan's Anti-Aircraft Curse[2] upon him, should he prove persistent enough.
[2] "I hope you bloody well crash!"

#163 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 10:19 AM:

Megpie71 @ 162... I don't think it's such a difficult concept to master.

AKA "Do unto others..."

#164 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 10:32 AM:

Abi #156: All very good (and true) points.

#165 ::: jennygadget ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 11:11 AM:

@ Terry Karney and Abi

apologies. It's something I hear more often than I should and something about your phrasing made me think that's what you were saying. Thanks for explaining and I'm sorry I jumped to conclusions.


"I'm more fond of addressing root causes than symptoms."

This? This right here is casting everyone else's oppression as a side plot in the Show That is All About White Boys. The fact that it is women that get shit on when white boys are angry? The root cause of that = / = the reason that white boys are angry. As Abi pointed out, it does not go away when they are no longer angry.

My own oppression is more than a symptom of someone elses pain.

It is one thing to argue that maybe we should focus less on the less privileged youth and more on the patriarchs that set the tone, so to speak, but that isn't at all what you are saying.

"For what it's worth, "music by white artists" is your phrase, not mine. To the best of my knowledge, jazz, swing, and rock are colorblind. I cited rap as an example of an earlier phenomenon in which people in power focused on the symptom while ignoring the problem. I was not intending to focus on racial aspects."

I just....seriously? I don't even know where to begin. Yes, it was my phrase. Because trying to separate rap from it's origins of being a voice against racial oppression - while also talking about it's origins as being a voice against economic injustice - makes no sense. I wasn't talking about rap in comparison to other music styles, but music that is immediately produced by black artists to music that is immediately produced by people that have not experienced racism. Because the tradition that you were talking about is very much about rap that comes from the black community.

Pretending that the racial injustices that prompted the rise of rap are a separate thing form the economic injustices that also did so is not looking at root causes. It's cherry picking them to fit the points you want to make.

Megpie71 @ 161

I am skeptical of the issue of good manners in discussions like this because calls for civility and polite discussion has often been an effective tool for shutting down talk of things that make privilege people uncomfortable. I do not think anyone here would use it that way, but we have already had an instance in this thread of someone recounting a story in which it was used against them in this manner.

#166 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 11:17 AM:

jennygadget: No harm, no foul. I understand your reaction, because the, "what about the 'X'" response is so common, as is the idea that other groups pains are less than "mine", and the nonsensical idea that racism is, "solved".

It's not. But I do think (thank Ghu), it's better. I think the tools we use to keep making it better still, can be, should be, must be, applied to problems of a similar structure (if not parallel nature).

I'm sorry if my phrasing of that was unclear, and caused you pain.

#167 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 11:49 AM:

On the hopeful side The Big Picture, at Escapist said this: IT'S NOT OK/a>

And this was a, not atypical, response.

Chris Day · Sheffield Hallam University

As always a well thought out opinion which echos my own however when he mentioned the rape thing being offensive as a synonym for losing
I realised ive been a gamer so long I distanced that from what the word actually means and I still use that term.

I shall use this as an opertunity to better myself.

#168 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 01:04 PM:

I'm having some cognitive dissonance here. Because I really liked Megpie71 @162 The core concept of good manners is that one treats other persons as though they were human beings of high status and merit, regardless of how one feels about them personally.

This sidesteps telling people what they ought to think or feel, which is darned hard to enforce even setting aside the ways in which it is abused. You feel what you feel. You think what you think. I respect your right to do so. But nonetheless, in this public venue, you behave according to accepted standards.

But on the other hand, jennygadget @165 has a point with I am skeptical of the issue of good manners in discussions like this because calls for civility and polite discussion has often been an effective tool for shutting down talk of things that make privilege people uncomfortable.

I originally was thinking of the problem as someone telling people (women, in particular) that they were being rude and Not Nice for disagreeing, or for pointing out that the emperor was wearing no clothes. I think we could reclaim the idea of "manners" and mutual respect (for the other as a human being, not necessarily for their ideas) from that. Good manners do not require you to accept abuse or to defer to the pompous and privileged.

In larger terms, though, this touches on the "zero tolerance" problem. The person who is poked, and poked, and poked, and poked, until they snap "Get your damned hands off me!" should not then be subject to a lecture on respectful speech.

Perhaps that's just another instance of "rules apply to others and not to me." If you want to claim the protection of the rules, you have to have been playing by them.

This comes close to being an area in which I despair. I am unwilling to abandon the idea that we can be civil to each other even if we disagree strongly. I want to hold onto the belief that there is a core worth respecting in the most egregious troll, deeply buried though it may be. (Not, I add, that this belief requires me to put up with trollery. But it requires that my response go only as far as "This is not permitted here, and I will not discuss it any further" and stop before it gets to "and you are loathsome pond scum who should never be permitted to associate with decent folk again." Most especially, it requires that groups of people not be consigned en masse to the "loathsome pond scum" category.) And I do not want to believe that acting on this belief means I will inevitably be trampled by people who hold me in contempt and have no qualms about showing it.

#169 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 02:24 PM:

"Bob" is a word of power?

You mean Ivan Stang was right?

#170 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 02:28 PM:

OtterB #168: I am unwilling to abandon the idea that we can be civil to each other even if we disagree strongly.

And if they "disagree strongly" that being civil to you is appropriate?

What gets you "trampled", is being unable to get from "this behavior is not permitted here", to "you are egregious in doing this behavior, and therefore you are not permitted here."

That doesn't need to include "you are loathsome pond scum" -- but if someone does not accept your social authority, (e.g. the classic, "oh, you folks are so oversensitive"), then there is no amount of scolding that will change their behavior. The moment this situation becomes apparent, you need to move on immediately to consequences they will have to recognize.

And bluntly, there's no way you can "reform" someone who sees your lesson as so much babble they don't have to listen to (or worse, as the bleating of livestock, q.v. Wisconsin). Recognize those as human, fine... but also recognize them as your enemy.

#171 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 03:42 PM:

Forgot the name #137:

Yes, the habit of listening while all the important people talk first gets pretty well ingrained. The trouble with politely waiting for a break in the conversation so you can contribute your two cents is that by the time there's a space, the conversation has moved on without you to a new topic. Perhaps standing up first is a place to start.

Pendrift #139:

Thank you, that's an excellent idea. You're right, it's the prospect of a group pile-on that very often prevents me from speaking up, and I really like your solution. While I may not be able to convince anyone else, I can at least demonstrate that I mean what I say. Physically leaving the conversation is a clear way to underline the point without having to shout anyone down. I like it.

I also like how it allows time for everyone's first reactions to cool down. Usually when I want to call out bad behavior, it's not because anybody is being malicious, so going immediately to Righteous Feminist Rage seems inappropriate. It also shuts down conversation and leads to name-calling and really unpleasant family dinners. I'm glad to have a new tool that seems like it could work better with my manner of speech than, say, yelling.

Abi #142:

I think persevering is most of the solution. If the Good Guys (of any gender) give up, then the trolls win, and I for one don't intend to let that happen!

For the record, you are one of the people to whom I look to find the Right Way to respond to all this crap and stand up for myself and others. Don't despair, because what you're doing--including, for instance, beginning this conversation--helps people.

#172 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 05:35 PM:

One of the problems with seeing civility as (even) a (partial) solution to the problem of lack of respect and offhand derogation of other people is that most of the offenders will agree that civility is a good thing, they just won't agree on who deserves to receive it. Megpie71 listed a number of classes of people who clearly deserve civility because they're human beings like everyone else, and it was clear that ze intended to be as inclusive as possible in that definition of human. I agree with this inclusionism, but I've seen enough bigotry to understand that many other people want to exclude as many as possible from their definition of human.

It's probably true that a lot of the people who use hate speech against women or who derogate or ignore their contributions to discourse, work, and society don't consciously realize that they think of women as somewhat less than human. I wonder if calling them on that explicitly would be effective. For some it would no doubt trigger rage and denial, but others might be brought up short and forced to think about it.

#173 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:44 PM:

"Can anyone tell me what to what kind of writing it’s appropriate to respond with threats of rape, comments about the writer’s fuckability, or belittling, sexist insults?"

I don't think they're the kind drawn with a fine camelhair brush. Nor those that from a long way off look like flies. Those that have just broken a flower vase may deserve their proper names spoken in a firm tone, but that? I do not think writing deserving such responses are to be found under heaven.

Threats of sexual violence are meant to police what positions and emotions women are allowed to express publicly. But it isn't the only means by which women's self-expression is disciplined by those around them: just as common is the demand, less violent in appearance, that women appear only happy, only cheerful, even in the face of adversity. Sometimes it comes hand in hand with more obvious violence; sometimes it infiltrates even the voices of those who mean only to lend encouragement.

Which is to say that in my mind anger, determination, frustration, sorrow, despair, good humor, bad humor, snark and any other emotional reaction a woman might have when contemplating the beast of sexism all fall into the same category: those that owe nothing to anyone but her that has them.

#174 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 08:58 PM:

I'm finding myself hesitant to say anything here, for fear of putting my foot in it and saying something I then have to apologize for. But you know what? That's OK. It's perhaps a little taste, that hesitancy, of what women go through when they hesitate to comment because of the shitstorm they could easily invoke. Not the same at all, of course (since I'd actually be in the wrong if I said something offensive); it's the hesitancy itself I mean is instructive.

I just gently remonstrated with someone on another site who referred to Sarah Palin as "the Whore of Wasilla." I told him 'whore' is a misogynist hurt-word and that there are plenty of things you can say about Palin without resorting to such, and pointed out that using words like that lessens our standing to call out Rush when he slut-shames Sandra Fluke.

I am not reporting this for a cookie. I am saying that the case and context might have fallen under my threshold of response (it was a gloat thread about Santorum dropping out) had it not been for this post and thread. After reading what's been said here, I couldn't let it pass there.

#175 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2012, 11:16 PM:

forgot the name @137, abi @142, Pendrift @139, Laura Gillian @171 and probably others...

I also shut up when somebody interrupts me. A few times I've tried to mimic my interruptor's behaviour and just keep talking, but it's never worked yet so I've abandoned that tactic. Usually I end up sitting silently, fuming, while the conversation has moved to different topics as if I had agreed with the decision, or as if I hadn't tried several times to get more than a syllable in. Nobody else seems to notice, or if they did they didn't say anything.

I have a meeting coming up with a new manager whose idea of conversation seems to be to talk at the same time as the other person. I've only had a couple of... well, I can't call them conversations, with him so far. I have been bracing myself for this meeting for quite some time now, because I predict he and I will disagree on a few points and they're important points. Standing up is one of the ideas I was tossing around - standing up and saying to him, "you have interrupted me repeatedly, please be quiet and listen" when that's what he does. Standing up and leaving isn't an option, and this particular problem isn't about offensive speech, but about not being heard. And I have a lot of trouble with not being heard when in the area of an in-person group discussion.

He's not overtly sexist that I've seen, he just doesn't listen. I don't know if he's equal opportunity about his not-listening or not - like I said, I've only seen him a few times. Any other strategies I should tuck away if standing up doesn't work? Or even if it does; can't do the same thing all day long.

#176 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 01:07 AM:

janra #175:

I think your plan could work. Standing up in the middle of a conversation is sufficiently startling that it's likely to make a little space in his monologue for you to speak. If it's a group discussion, are there other people in the group who could help moderate the discussion? Surely it's in everyone's interest for all parties to be heard, after all. Best of luck to you.

It's funny, but this discussion has made me realize that my behavior WRT interruptions is different depending on whether I'm wearing my professional hat or my personal one.

When I'm working (I'm an interpreter), I don't have any trouble directing traffic within a conversation. If someone goes on for more than a paragraph or so, I merely give them a raised eyebrow or leap in at a convenient stopping spot, and I never give it a moment's thought. People don't interrupt me at work, I say everything that needs to be said, and conversations flow smoothly.

In my personal life I can't make the eyebrow trick work at all, and people talk all over my tentative attempts to interject. I do exactly the thing you describe, sitting quietly and fuming while sending telepathic messages as loudly as I can to LET ME TALK. It works about as well as you'd imagine.

I think it partly has to do with the way I perceive my role in these different conversations. At work, if I don't spit the words out, then for one thing I've failed to do my job. Whatever I'm saying must be valuable to people paying me money to interpret it, right? I have an absolute expectation that they want to hear what I have to say, so I'd better spit it out, but quick. I guess I don't really expect that people want to listen to what I say in my personal life, so I don't demand the same consideration. I wonder if I can port some of the tools I use at work over to the rest of my life?

(There's a-whole-nother conversation to be had about my skill in conveying other people's thoughts compared to the halting way I express my own, but that would really be a derail. I'll need to think about that for a while.)

#177 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 03:25 AM:

jennygadget @ 165

I am skeptical of the issue of good manners in discussions like this because calls for civility and polite discussion has often been an effective tool for shutting down talk of things that make privilege people uncomfortable.

Good point, unfortunately.

However, I would argue that encouraging polite behaviour towards all others (of all ranks, statuses, sexualities, visible gender identities, visible disability statuses, cultures, races, religious identifications, and so on) who are creatures who appear to be part of homo sapiens sapiens is a good starting point for improving the situation of those of us who aren't white, cis-male, able-bodied, apparently-heterosexual, apparently-Christian, citizens of the United States of America with wealthy Anglo-Celtic ancestors. Okay, it's a bit of a "chicken soup" remedy[1] for the majorly fucked-up state of public discourse across a variety of Western cultures, but we have to start somewhere.

Throughout all this, my mind keeps circling back to the thing I really want in all of this mess. I want the nastiness, the viciousness, the openly-flaunted aggressiveness, the harassment (sexual and otherwise), and the outright persecution to stop. I want it to stop. I'm not particularly worried about how any more. If that means that the people who are performing the nasty, vicious, aggressive, harassing and persecuting behaviours get their feelings hurt, well, TOUGH!

I do not deserve this. Neither does anyone else. If standing up and walking out will do the trick, great. If speaking up and saying "that's a [nasty/vicious/aggressive/harassing/persecutory] thing to say" will do it, great again. If saying "I'm not laughing at a joke you made. I'm laughing at the fool you're making of yourself" is going to make the point, so be it.

It's worth noting that the object of the bully isn't to win the argument. The object of the bully is to achieve silence and/or unconditional surrender on the part of their victims. Well, maybe it's time to start taking their goal for our own - and work to achieve at least silence on the part of the bullies.


[1] Might not help much; probably won't hurt, though.

#178 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 06:57 AM:

Sometimes when people interrupt me, I keep talking - but LOUDER - over their interruption. Maybe with a look at them. It required a conscious choice to not let people interrupt me, and it was hard to start doing.

#179 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:27 AM:

janra @175 standing up and saying to him, "you have interrupted me repeatedly, please be quiet and listen" when that's what he does.

Before you take that step, I would suggest saying very directly, "Please let me finish." If it's a style thing (he talks fast, he's enthusiastic, etc.) and doesn't seem to be a deliberate dominance move, then that may be enough.

I'd also suggest you have bullet points prepared for the key points you want to make, since it sounds like he won't be patient enough to listen to the long form of the argument leading up to your conclusion.

#180 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:45 AM:

Laura Gillian @176 - could it be because when you're acting as an interpreter, it's not you participating in the conversation, it's you enabling the others to have a conversation? I don't know about you but I often suffer from the "nobody is really interested in my ideas" (exacerbated by how easily I'm interrupted and ignored) and interpreting somebody else's words takes that bit of self-talk out of the picture entirely.

OtterB @179 - thanks, I'll try that first, and escalate to standing up if it doesn't work. It's good to have multiple levels of reaction available.

There will be other people in the meeting, but I'm not sure how many of them will speak up when he interrupts me - and I'm not sure how many of them will be interrupted in exactly the same way.

I'm definitely bringing in notes for the points I need to make. I've already started writing them down as part of my preparation for the meeting.

#181 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 10:18 AM:

janra @ 175

I think that a good first step is to just keep talking--escalate from there, if needed, but that works rather a lot of the time.

(On a personal note, this has been an ongoing issue for my wife and I. My family will happily all talk at the same time, and my wife's family talks one at a time. If I talk at the same time she's talking, it feels to her like I'm cutting her off--if I do the same to my sister, she just keeps talking if she isn't done.)

#182 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 11:21 AM:

Megpie71 @ 177:

I'm a bit wary of using bullying tactics as you describe. Only because I've seen that go toxic on a fair few online activist/social justice communities. People gain social status and cred by bullying the bullies, so bullying becomes the major activity, and verbal abuse becomes the main style of discourse. I know those communities aren't safe places for me.

Note that I am not saying "Be nice and polite to people who are bullying you."

I don't think any of the actions you listed -- walking out, saying "That's a nasty (etc.) thing to say" or "You're making a fool of yourself" -- are bullying. I think they're good and assertive.

Another example of assertive tactics:

Some of my husband's work friends will occasionally say "joking" sexist, racist, or homophobic things. In group conversations, he will usually respond by saying something like "Wow, dude, really?" or "Did you really just say [thing]?" It's a quick and effective way of saying "You just seriously breached a social norm," but it's still "jokey" enough to relieve tension.

In practice, it tends to make people self-conscious and uncomfortable about what they just said, which is the idea. Mostly they seem to get it and don't say it again, even if they try to save face by pretending the whole exchange never happened.

Occasionally the response is "Yeah, what's wrong with that?" in which case you can answer "It's just totally racist/sexist/homophobic, that's all." (Or similar, like "Seriously, a rape joke?" or "Seriously, the n-word?")

I think this method requires that you be among social equals or have more social power in the situation, so that the other people will respect you (re-)establishing a social norm.

It has worked for me, because "Wow, did you seriously just say that?" is my initial reaction to hearing a friend or family member say something sexist/racist/homophobic, so it's very natural for me to blurt that out.

#183 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 11:22 AM:

SamChevre @181:

I know you're trying to be helpful, but when janra @175 says:

I also shut up when somebody interrupts me. A few times I've tried to mimic my interruptor's behaviour and just keep talking, but it's never worked yet so I've abandoned that tactic.

...then perhaps the advice just keep talking--escalate from there, if needed, but that works rather a lot of the time might not be that well-chosen?

I get the feeling that you don't understand, or somehow genuinely believe, what several of us have talked about in terms of being conditioned to be silenceable. There's a word for that state of affairs, by the way (yours, I mean).

I don't know if you were intending to imply that said conditioning is not a feminist issue, because you know a woman not affected by it. Perhaps it's just bad luck that you managed to hit that trope as well.

Overall, although I am willing to accept that you meant well by your comment, you didn't do good with it. Would you like to clarify your intentions a little?

#184 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 11:29 AM:

Caroline @182: I think this method requires that you be among social equals or have more social power in the situation, so that the other people will respect you (re-)establishing a social norm.

This. Which is why it's so vital to get those who have clout with people over whom you have little or no influence to speak up as well. You won't be able to reach those offenders; they will.

Also, in these situations, explicitly saying "I thought better of you" makes it stronger.

#185 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 11:55 AM:

Something I try to do--when I notice--in large group situations, is if someone (almost always a woman) is getting talked over I try to reinforce their LET ME TALK telepathy with some supporting body language: orienting my shoulders towards them, looking expectantly in their direction, deliberately not paying attention to the interrupter. If there is a lull in the conversation, I might even try to insert a "I'm sorry, you were saying?"

I worry that this just ends up adding more pressure from another direction, though.

#186 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 12:04 PM:

heresiarch @185:
I worry that this just ends up adding more pressure from another direction, though.

For my part, if I seem to be signalling "I want to talk" when I don't actually have anything to say, and someone calls on me, I'm happy to say, "Sorry, nothing." And furthermore, I'll feel more relaxed about my ability to be heard when I do have something.

So go ahead and keep doing that, I'd say.

#187 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 12:34 PM:

heresiarch @ 185... When that happens, my approach is less subtle. I say "LET HER FINISH."

#188 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 02:14 PM:

I'll incline a conversation to someone who seems to want to talk, "Did you want to add something", or, "I think "x" wants to make a point", depending on the context.

Which has the advantage, for good and ill, that man has supported the speech.

Do it often enough and other people start to notice people who are being run-over. It's not much use when I'm the one on a tear, but it's something.

#189 ::: SamChevre ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 02:37 PM:

abi @ 183

I'm sorry that my comment wasn't helpful.

I get, very clearly, what being conditioned to be silenceable is like. It's very much the case for my wife.

In the case of me and my wife, I can learn (have mostly learned) to shut up and let her talk. But if she's going to be part of a conversation among my family, the only way that will happen is if she keeps talking whether anyone else starts talking or not. (Which she finds nearly impossible.)

As this thread is pushing too many of my buttons, I will try to avoid posting further.

#190 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 02:53 PM:

I've been pondering Laura's post, @176. I share her profession, and her insight was helpful in framing the following thoughts:

A useful feature of most of my interpreting assignments is that there is an arbiter to the discussion. In a court its a judge, in a deposition it's whoever called the deposition, in a meeting it's the chair, in a healthcare or community-interpreting setting it's the provider.

In all those cases I get to signal that I have stopped interpreting by stepping out of "invisible service provider" mode and prefacing a statement to the arbiter of the discussion with the words: "the interpreter asks that" and then make a comment about the conditions "counsel give the interpreter a chance to interpret before she continues the question." (Or whatever the offending person has done). The arbiter (who, as Laura points out, is aware of how expensive this all is) almost invariably backs me up.

Outside of the professional setting, a conversation often has no arbiter. Not having allies can be fairly lonely.
For a long time I assumed that this meant I was just not very good at group settings - but that is obviously incorrect, as groups that are polite & considerate are just *fine*.

I am slowly coming to the conclusion that educating allies is of utmost urgency. It is a step that anyone who is aware of the issue can take. And it has at least a chance of becoming an infectious meme.

#191 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 02:53 PM:

janra @ 175 ...
I have a meeting coming up with a new manager whose idea of conversation seems to be to talk at the same time as the other person. I've only had a couple of... well, I can't call them conversations, with him so far. I have been bracing myself for this meeting for quite some time now, because I predict he and I will disagree on a few points and they're important points. Standing up is one of the ideas I was tossing around - standing up and saying to him, "you have interrupted me repeatedly, please be quiet and listen" when that's what he does. Standing up and leaving isn't an option, and this particular problem isn't about offensive speech, but about not being heard. And I have a lot of trouble with not being heard when in the area of an in-person group discussion.

I've found that standing up, and just saying something like "I'm sorry, I just don't have a loud voice", and launching into what I'm trying to say, sans breath, so to speak, can be quite effective.

It avoids accusing somebody else of being rude (or seeming to do so), while simultaneously getting attention enough to start talking, and providing an ongoing reason for either doing the same thing on a regular basis, or getting people to pay attention to your wanting to say something.

If your meeting includes other people, it's also often helpful to get somebody to do the "I think $person has something to add" thing, if they're willing to keep an eye out/reinforce.

#192 ::: MacAllister ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 02:57 PM:

#189
...if she's going to be part of a conversation among my family, the only way that will happen is if she keeps talking whether anyone else starts talking or not.

Just...wow.

#193 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 03:02 PM:

SamChevre @189:

I might have reacted less badly to your anecdote about your wife and your sister if your advice to janra didn't basically deny the reality of the problem.

As this thread is pushing too many of my buttons, I will try to avoid posting further.

I'm sure you can find plenty of internet that doesn't do that to you. There's a word for that condition.

As for here, do, or do not. There is no try.

If you do, remember that there are people in this conversation who have made themselves deeply vulnerable, talking about things that have damaged them, and indeed are still damaging them. I am fiercely protective of these people, much more so than I would be if it were just me. In this thread, I am more protective of them than I am of you. One of the preconditions of participation in it is that you accept that.

If you do not, don't expect much sympathy for your feelings of rejection and exclusion.

#194 ::: Sanna ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 03:49 PM:

@187 Serge Broom & @188 Terry Karney

I'm reluctant to write this, in part because I know you mean well, and that it doesn't work for me doesn't mean it's wrong. But also because I'm a long-time lurker and reluctant to say anything at all without being absolutely certain that no one else will make the point for me, and better.

But since this discussion is about being conditioned to silence, it seems appropriate to say something. For what it's worth, I don't mean this as criticism, just an explanation of what it's like for me.

When I'm interrupted, silenced or ignored, it's humiliating, it hurts, and it reinforces the idea that nothing I've got to say is worth hearing.

When someone does what heresiarch @185 describes - turning towards me, ignoring the person interrupting me - it makes me feel as if I have an ally in the group. It's good. It might give me the strength and courage to keep talking, or it might just make me feel a little less invisible. But either way, I get to choose what to do with it.

When someone takes the "less subtle" route - saying "Let her finish" or "I think Sanna wants to make a point" - it's awful. Remember what I said about silencing being humiliating? Up until that moment it's a private humiliation. I can at least pretend that no one else noticed. But once you bring attention to it, you make it public and force everyone to acknowledge it.

To make it even worse: Suddenly I'm not only ashamed about being someone people ignore, I'm also ashamed about being rescued. It makes me feel powerless and makes it even harder to speak.

The only way I can get out of that situation is by insisting that I was actually done talking, and then remain quiet until the conversation is over. Yes. It's probably childish, and completely counter-productive. But I can't bear the double dose of self-loathing that comes from first being silenced and then being given a voice I couldn't claim for myself.

#195 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 04:01 PM:

Sanna @ 194... Point taken. In my case, I must add that very often the meeting's participants are scattered all over the country and can't see each other. Also, some of the interrupters I deal with tend to be dense and the sledgehammer approach may be required. That being said, I had no wish to cause you discomfort. My apologies.

#196 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 04:05 PM:

I'd just like to bring in Deborah Tannen's research on conversational styles, which are often regional or subcultural, rather than individual. Someone who has grown up in an environment where (Tannen's category) "overlap" styles dominate will be perceived as "interrupting" by someone whose native style is a non-overlap one; that non-overlap style person will be perceived mostly as silent in an overlap-style-dominated conversation!

This is not to say that men don't interrupt women all the damn time; they certainly do, and they do it because they're women (or are at least more inclined to do it to a woman than to a man). But there's another dynamic too, and I thought it might be informative about how to deal with these situations when they arrive.

I don't think New Yorkers are ruder than anyone else, for example. But DAMN they seemed rude when I first moved to NYMA from Michigan! I was not only a native speaker of a non-overlap style, but I had a tendency to load my information content to the end of my sentences, which in NYC means "no one heard my information content."

How to apply this: It's actually not too hard to distinguish an overlap style from a disrespectful interruption, if you're aware that the former exists. The overlap person may finish your sentence for you, but they'll be looking at you when they do, to see if they've got it right. The interrupter will talk over you to the other people in the conversation as if you're not there. Some people who speak overlap styles are also rude, however.

For people who speak an overlap style, or are acclimated to one, we have to be conscious of other people's styles and try to facilitate their entry into the conversation...and sometimes squelch attempted overlaps from others. I've sometimes found that an upraised finger, a suppressive vocal noise (I personally favor the vowel in 'flat', very short, between glottal stops), and continued eye contact with the non-overlap speaker will work. The problem is that in an overlap conversation, stopping people from overlapping is rude!

I've noticed a lot of resentment at WorldCons that I think may be traceable to these issues. It's hard to know what to do about it, but I sometimes try to facilitate.

#197 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 04:07 PM:

Sanna @194 When I read your comment, it seemed like one difference between what heresiarch propossed (turning toward you) and what Serge & Terry proposed was that heresiarch was focusing on you, thereby validating your participation in the conversation, while they were focusing on the person who interrupted you (who no doubt needed correction, but didn't need validation). So would you find it more helpful if any speaking was to you - maybe something like, "I'm sorry, I couldn't hear your last sentence, could you say that again?"

(oh, and welcome on delurking)

#198 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 04:17 PM:

Xopher @196:

I think it's useful to carefully distinguish between the styles themselves, which (as you say) are population-based rather than privilege-based, and the process of negotiating whose style will prevail, which is almost certainly affected by privilege. In other words, given that there are different styles, how can we assert that a less-privileged person does not have to be the one to move onto unfamiliar/uncomfortable/impossible territory?

Also, as you say, [t]his is not to say that men don't interrupt women all the damn time; they certainly do, and they do it *because* they're women (or are at least more inclined to do it to a woman than to a man).

I assert that both of these things are true things. Neither extinguishes or overshadows the other.

#199 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 04:23 PM:

Also, welcome, Sanna. You should comment more often.

I would also like to draw some attention to comments like Serge @195 and Terry @166 as examples of how to deal with being disagreed with or misinterpreted in conversations like these. Just in case anyone feels that it's impossible.

#200 ::: Sanna ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 04:39 PM:

Serge Broom @195

No apologies needed! I was thinking of meetings/conversations where all participants are in the same room, if not around the same table. I can certainly see how different situations require different solutions.

OtterB @197

I've never thought of it in those terms. Now that you mention it, I guess it's the difference between being seen/validated as a participant in the conversation in my own right and pointed out as someone who's trying and failing to be let in.

So would you find it more helpful if any speaking was to you - maybe something like, "I'm sorry, I couldn't hear your last sentence, could you say that again?"

Yes, that would work for me. And thank you for the welcome!

Abi @199 Thank you!

#201 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 05:07 PM:

janra @175: Any other strategies I should tuck away if standing up doesn't work?

When people interrupt me, I do say, "Please let me finish." However, this does involve the willingness/ability to interrupt them back.

In your place, I might ask around, see if others have noticed his habit of interrupting. This may also serve to alert your coworkers that this behavior on his part merits conscious attention.

Typically, in meetings while listening, I sit sit back, eyes down. (I'm usually doodling). When I want to say something, at the opportune pause, I look up, sit forward and open my mouth. For whatever reason, this usually brings the focus onto me before I even start talking.

The catch, of course, is that in both the above responses, my presupposition is that it is appropriate for me to take my turn, and it is inappropriate for someone to ignore/interrupt me.

Not tangentially, some the physiology involved derives from having learned how to do a Ki-ai. My karate instructor was very particular about how to do a proper ki-ai: it's powered by the abdominal muscles between the pubic bone and the belly button. But there's more to it than that; it has to do with gathering and aiming one's focus and intent in a forceful (but not aggressive) way.

Interestingly, when my sensei started having me teach, it was like pulling frakking teeth to get some beginner women to do a full-throated ki-ai. Sometimes I could goad, chivvy, coach, and encourage them into letting loose. Very often, though, I'd encounter women who simply couldn't emit more than a timid mouse-squeak.

#202 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 05:10 PM:

Piggybacking on Xopher: my family most definitely are masters of the overlapping conversation. We are, most of us, NYCers of long duration (several generations)--and, in the adult generations, there are more women than men. We always have at least three conversations going at once if there are more than 4 of us in a room; keeping track of the different conversations is a point of pride with some relatives, who can literally be apparently engrossed in discussion with 2 or 3 people and then pivot to insert a pertinent comment into a conversation being held by 3 other people. We all do it, all the time.

Now, some of us are more comfortable with this than others; when I was younger, I was often a non-contributor to the large family mill, or spoke only to the others who were around my age or who I knew liked me as me, not as "relative so-and-so." But in general, the tone is not exclusionary _on purpose_; there's no intent to make anyone feel bad or like they can't talk.

The people who have the hardest time with this are the ones who marry in. In the last 20 or so years, those people have mostly been men. I don't know if they struggle with it because they're used to dominating conversations and here they are unable to get a word in edgewise or because the conversational mill just runs too fast for them (we talk quickly too) or what.

I've been amused to watch the husband of one of my cousins find his feet. He was very quiet the first few years (he's a calm and quiet guy in general) and then gradually found a way in, first by engaging my brother (generational connection) and working out from there. Now he pretty much jumps in without hesitation whenever he has something to say. But yeah, I did say "years" there; it took almost 10. My SIL had a much shorter learning curve, maybe because she is also from a female-dominated family?

In my family, there is no attempt to make accommodation for others. It's sink or swim. Parents do intervene to allow their children to speak/participate, but once the kid hits the tween years, he or she is considered adult enough to stake her or his own territory.

If the same attitudes were applied at a meeting I was running, well, let's just say, they wouldn't be. I run a good meeting. There are people who are very fond of forcefully interrupting, often using a seemingly polite phrase to do so, but then derailing the discussion rather that contributing to it. I don't allow that in "my" meetings. We have an agenda, and I'm determined to let people speak as they need to on the topic. When subjects start to wander, I will stop the conversation and ask the entire table if anyone else has something to contribute. When someone interrupts and is off-topic, I will interrupt back and redirect. It took me a long time to learn to do that, and it's not easy, and one of the reasons I can do it is that I have placed myself in charge. If I was a mere participant in the meeting, it would be much harder for me to use the same tactics, out of concern for being seen to be taking over the meeting. I've done it, though, when things were particularly chaotic.

I do, however, use more direct phrases than some may be comfortable with, such as, "I don't think you were through?" (though I usually preface this with "I'm sorry," directed at the interrupter). Meetings are not conversations, so I'm not sure how good it would be to be less direct.

In conversation outside of the family, I'm much less sure of the rules, and therefore tend to speak less unless I'm with people I know fairly well. I'm less likely to interrupt or to react to being interrupted. Conditioned silence to an extent, as I am used to being the weird one no one wants to talk to.

#203 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 06:01 PM:

OtterB: I don't think my methods were clear. If I am in the position to be moderating, in some way, a conversation I'll make gaps to bring people into the conversation. If someone seems to want to talk I work to make it possible.

The focus is on the person trying to contribute.

#204 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 06:11 PM:

Overlapping conversation is one of the things that will back me off from a group.

I am hearing-impaired -- to understand someone talking in other-than-ideal conditions, I need to focus on that person (and to see their face). If someone else starts talking to one side of them, I may hear that they spoke, but I'm unlikely to catch what they said. When this happens too often, I usually give up on the conversation. (Back in college, I was marginally better at coping with such things, but over time, both my hearing and my patience have eroded.)

#205 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 06:30 PM:

As someone who gets interrupted, talked over, and ignored rather frequently, I tend to notice when it happens to someone else in a conversation I'm part of. I'll usually wait for a pause in the interrupter's speech, and then say to the interruptee, "But I'm sorry, $name, you were saying?"

In fact, when my husband and I interrupt one another -- which happens, I think largely because we both have plenty of ADD symptoms -- we will now tend to catch ourselves and end the interruption with "But I'm sorry, I totally interrupted, you were saying?"

(I only interrupt people I'm very, very close to and comfortable with. Otherwise, my social training to take care of other people kicks in, and I take care of their need to feel important and heard by assuming everything they have to say is more important than what I might have to say.)

My husband and I have a conversation-style problem, too. It's not overlapping vs. turn-taking. We're mostly both turn-taking. It's that we have different senses of when one person's turn has ended and the next person's turn has begun. His natural pause between sentences is much longer than mine -- almost exactly as long as the pause that, to me, means "I'm done talking, it's your turn to talk now." So we do this a lot:

Husband: … so everyone at work is really annoyed with this guy.
[pause]
Me: Well, I --
Husband [continuing thought]: I mean, he said to Fred yesterday … [etc.] … and then he complained to the manager.
[pause]
Me: Wow, that --
Husband [continuing thought]: And of course, the manager told him …

After a few go-rounds of this I do tend to get annoyed, which I demonstrate by stopping any attempts to say anything, even when he pauses. I also stop my usual noises of encouragement -- "uh-huh," "mm-hmm," "yeah," "ohmygosh," the little interjections that mean "I'm listening, I hear you, I understand" and are intended to be talked over. I actually think stopping the encouragement noises makes more of an impact.

My husband will usually notice after a couple of more pauses, and ask me if I was saying something, at which point I'll say what I was trying to say.

It is slightly passive-aggressive, but saying "Excuse me, let me finish" seems too aggressive for that particular situation (since I'm generally trying to respond to the story he's telling when this happens -- it would feel like saying SHUT UP, I'M TRYING TO AGREE WITH YOU).

I have wondered if my attempts to start speaking in that situation are heard as encouragement noises, rather than the start of a sentence.

I've also wondered if he feels like I'm constantly trying to interrupt him, trying to jump in before he's finished his thought.

But mostly it just seems like he doesn't hear my attempts at all when he's pausing in mid-thought. Whereas I pick up immediately on anyone else starting to speak, and tend to immediately cede the floor to them.

#206 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 07:36 PM:

Overlapping conversation is different on cell phones. There is a combination of time delay with the fact that it momentarily goes silent if both people speak at the same time.

#207 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 07:58 PM:

I hope my previous comment about speaking over was not hlepy or hurtful. I'm sorry if it was.

#208 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:28 PM:

Terry Karney @203 The focus is on the person trying to contribute.

Sorry, Terry, I was responding only to Sanna's comment and hadn't looked back at what you actually said. Her take made me think it was a delicate balance in helping and wonder if I was aiming correctly myself when it comes up.

#209 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:28 PM:

Laura @ 171 and above

When I was teaching myself to assert in mixed company, I was around a fairly rough crowd some of the time. A thing that worked for me as an interim step was to pull aside someone I trusted, who was assertive or in a position of authority, and say "When Dude says X, I feel really unsafe. Can you do something about it?"

Or if there wasn't anyone "safe" in the group I (uh, eventually decided they weren't worth my time, but) would go talk to someone safe about the interaction.

The point was just to get some experience talking about these kinds of issues to people who positively reinforced my speaking up about my concerns, so that the immediate "Oh my god, who am I to set limits?" panic became less reflexive, because I knew from lived experience that not everyone would think I was a horrible person for saying something.

More recently, I was thinking about sexism and gender roles, when I realized "Fck that noise! I make twenty more controversial decisions than that before breakfast!" That was really the end of a multi-year, incremental self-project, but I haven't had any qualms about speaking up or making direct eye contact since then, and when I start to revert, I just think "Twenty more controversial things before breakfast!," grin, and move on with life.

#210 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:31 PM:

The Japanese have a word for those little conversational interjections, by the way: aizuchi, literally "hammering together" (which according to a blog article I found comes from cooperative pounding of rice into mochi at New Years').

#211 ::: Singing Wren ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 08:48 PM:

I just want to say thanks for this conversation about conversation. I don't feel I have much to contribute directly, as my own issues are elsewhere.

I know my extended family was pretty non-standard in a number of (largely positive) ways. But I don't always understand that. Thank you all for reminding me of this.

#212 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 09:10 PM:

When I'm in meetings and I notice someone trying unsuccessfully to speak up, I have a tendency to catch their eye, tip my head inquiringly, and if they nod back (instead of shaking their head), I nod again, and raise my index finger to attract attention.

Which is the trick I personally use to make sure I get to say what I want to in meetings. If I can't get in edgewise, I will sit there, silently and respectfully attentive, with my index finger marking my place in the conversation, until acknowledged. As I succeed in catching people's eyes, I nod and smile slightly ("Yes, I do have something to say"), then return my attention to the person speaking (if I'm confident the person whose eyes I caught is in a position to make space for me to speak, I'll put my finger down until the current speaker is done). Once recognized, I can either speak my piece, or refer the conversation back to somebody else trying to be heard (generally a variant on "Actually, I was interested in what Person Over There was going to say").

I suppose it could be read as aggressively passive, but I really just got tired of being cut off half a word in. If I'm going to have to be "rescued," I will at least make an appearance of control and deliberation.

#213 ::: Laura Gillian ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2012, 11:41 PM:

Dena Shunra #190:

Hi! It's nice to meet a colleague! Yes, knowing there's an arbiter of the conversation who will back you up makes a big difference. I think there's also something to what janra said at #180, in that taking my own thoughts out of the picture frees me from a certain kind of hesitancy.

Mcallister #192:

Yeah. That's a discussion-ender for me. The pattern usually looks something like this:

Me: [Situation] is really painful/difficult/terrifying for me to participate in, so I feel excluded.
Them: You're wrong. You're not being excluded, you just need to [do something].
Me: I can't [do something], but I'd still like to participate without being hurt/stressed/afraid.
Them: I'm sorry you've misinterpreted what's happening. That's just the way things are.
Me: (Gives up, amid tears of frustration and rage. The problem must be that I've misunderstood something again, and the solution seems to be to become a different person.)

Regarding overlapping and non-overlapping speech:

My native speech style is highly overlapping. My mother and sister and I (actually, nearly all the family on my mother's side) have always spoken fast, loudly, and all at once. We've had to adjust our habits since my sister moved out of the country, because overlapping styles don't work well over phones or skype.

My husband and I sometimes speak overlapping, but we've had to carefully negotiate when that works and when it really doesn't. He is a loud and confident speaker and I...am not, so it's easy for me to feel as if I'm being run over. When we're chatting or talking through ideas about which we're largely in agreement, we interrupt and finish each others' sentences a lot. When we disagree with each other, or when we're discussing something highly charged, we take turns, so that both of us can actually say everything we need to say.

I also have a number of friends and acquaintances who are hearing impaired or not native English speakers. When I'm in a group that includes these people, I try to enforce a taking-turns dynamic.

From my observations, an overlapping style tends to favor the loud, the confident, and the people with high social status. That doesn't mean it's bad (on the contrary, I think it's really fun, as long as it's among equals), but I think you have to be really careful not to exclude people just because they're not comfortable diving in. It's also worthwhile to remember that people who are too uncomfortable to participate usually won't tell you they're uncomfortable.

#214 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 12:13 AM:

xeger @191, good idea, except nobody would believe me if I said my voice wasn't loud. :-) I can make a lot of noise in the right context (I once shouted most of the way across a playing field and was understood) but the context of a multi-person conversation causes me to stop making noise at all. Sometimes I think my brain is half-duplex - I can't speak while listening.

Jacque @201, I'll find out how many of the other people in this meeting have noticed the same thing and if they haven't I'll draw their attention to it. I know at least one of them is both a respectful listener and has no problem interrupting when needed.

Also, I've done martial arts too - and I remember both learning to kiai and teaching new students to kiai.

It's kind of funny how confident I can come across in some contexts (such as a martial arts class), while almost completely disappearing in other contexts (such as a meeting, or a party, or the lunchroom at work), to the point where people who only see me in one just can't believe that the other is possible.

#215 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 02:15 AM:

janra @ 214 ...
xeger @191, good idea, except nobody would believe me if I said my voice wasn't loud. :-) I can make a lot of noise in the right context (I once shouted most of the way across a playing field and was understood) but the context of a multi-person conversation causes me to stop making noise at all. Sometimes I think my brain is half-duplex - I can't speak while listening.

It's a polite fiction :) I can also project rather spectacularly at times, but those times aren't usually in work meetings.

'sides ... the context is the multi-person conversation, where you do arguably have a quiet (well, okay -- no noise at all ;>) voice...

#216 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 02:54 AM:

janra @214: It's kind of funny how confident I can come across in some contexts (such as a martial arts class), while almost completely disappearing in other contexts

Have you been able to tease out any specific factors make the difference?

Laura Gillian @213: From my observations, an overlapping style tends to favor the loud, the confident, and the people with high social status.

Hah! I was just reminded of something. There's a group of people I get invited to have dinner with once in a while. Two of that group are white hetero cis-male alpha types who tend to wind up dominating the conversation with their status-posturing. Very tedious and uninteresting—and frustrating for those of us who'd like to engage in a real conversation that includes the whole group.

Last time I had dinner with this group, I discovered, entirely by accident, how to short-circuit this dynamic: I sat between them. Throughout the dinner, I could detect, out of the corner of my eye, Alpha A trying to provoke Alpha B, and subsiding in frustration when B failed to play up. I probably took more satisfaction from that result than is really proper.

#217 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 03:10 AM:

janra @214:

I earned a varsity letter in high school on the basis of being willing to make unladylike noises. True fact.

I did shot put and discus. We didn't have a proper throw coach, so my team was pretty astonishingly awful against any team with actual training. But when we'd have a meet against another school without throw coaches, they'd draft a few long jumpers and sprinters in to fill out the roster. And I'd wipe the floor with them.

Although I did have better technique than the non-throwers, the real reason I would win is that one can get a measurable improvement, particularly in shot put, by vocalizing at the moment of release. We called it grunting, but it's really more of a Hoooah!

Those girls would not grunt. I encouraged them to, even if they were on the other team. No dice.

I can do that. I can speak up in work meetings, and even tell other people to stop interrupting me (and make it stick). I still pad my disagreements with "I think" and "It seems to me," but I can comfortably disagree with other people in a work context.

But if a man talks over me in a social context*, the whole unpleasant dynamic kicks in.

I suspect this is a result of some very good luck in the population of male colleagues I have had over the years, particularly at the start of my working life.

-----
* Been thinking about this further, because it came up recently with a male friend. If a man talks over me on the same topic, the whole silencing dynamic kicks in. If he interrupts me to start a new topic, particularly if it's prompted by an event (such as something coming into view on a train journey), I don't feel silenced.

#218 ::: Pendrift ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 06:48 AM:

I've been thinking about how this and similar conversations are particularly uncomfortable for readers, mostly male, who weren't (as) aware of the depth and breadth of the problem for women.

In how it pushes buttons, in how some people have to work up the nerve to say something for fear of the potential backlash, or decide not to risk speaking up at all, in how just reading the discussion is squirm-inducing.

I've tried to get well-meaning, privileged straight male friends and acquaintances to read and participate in such discussions. Most of them give up very quickly at the reading part because they feel like they're being attacked.

How do I impress upon them that that is what most of the web (and big parts of meatspace) feels like to me?

#219 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 07:12 AM:

Pendrift @218:
How do I impress upon them that *that* is what most of the web (and big parts of meatspace) feels like to me?

I think a big part of the problem is the perception that conversations like this make things unpleasant for men on purpose, either as part of some kind of object lesson or out of a spirit of revenge.

And sometimes, yes, there's a kind of gleeful satisfaction in seeing the (even unconscious) biter bit, in seeing someone has denied the existence of water suddenly and undeniably wet. But although it can be soothing, it's rarely productive—even a little of that tone can turn people who are on the cusp of genuine empathy off. (It also gives people who don't want to learn anything the perfect excuse. But they were write-offs anyway.)

And the alternative is that we still aren't letting our hair completely down, and we're still talking for the men or for the women rather than for humanity. Or we're being Bigger Than The Other Guys, which is another way of being left carrying the burden.

There's no magic solution. I tend to view the precarious balance that we strike in these conversations as a necessary evil on the way to a better world. I wish that set of male commenters who get huffy and flounce could do so as well, but in the end, there's only one person on the internet whose behavior I can control.

#220 ::: janra ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 08:59 AM:

Jacque @216: Not yet. I know for general socializing, my level of comfort in fluidly finding small (1-2 other people) sub-groups to chat with goes way up when there's a defined activity other than socializing to do, which still allows space for socializing. Near as I can figure, having something to do when I don't have anybody to chat with relaxes me enough that I can easily find somebody to chat with. A socializing situation without that "something to do" makes me uncomfortable and I end up standing in the corner feeling excluded. Larger group conversations though - not sure. Some of the "something to do" probably comes into play there too, but I'm not sure that's the main part of it.

#221 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 02:15 PM:

One thing I like about online communication is that it's easier for me to get a word in edge-wise. I don't have to wait for a break in the conversation, I can just post and in it goes.
-----
Last week, I attended a demonstration of our upcoming new bi-county interlibrary loan system. Almost everyone in the room, including the presenter, was female. The woman I was sitting next to and I had been chatting during breaks and quiet times, commenting on the demo, etc. When the presenter showed the check-in procedure, my neighbor murmered anxiously that she didn't use that check-in function in our circ system, she used the other one. On the second run-through of the demo, when questions were specifically invited, she again worried quietly about check-ins. I urged her to ask, but she didn't. So I stuck my hand up and, when called on, said "She [pointing] has a question about check-ins." She then asked, and got her answer. I was concerned that I might have over-stepped the bounds, but she did thank me afterward. I could have just asked the question for her, but I wasn't the one who wanted to know, and I didn't want to misstate her question. I hope I didn't make her feel bad.

#222 ::: Steve Downey ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 03:52 PM:

Caroline @ 205
I find myself doing that also, when I notice that I've stepped on the end of someones sentence, or accidentally interrupted or prevented them from starting what they were going to say. I admit that it would be better not to do it at all, but as I was raised with the overlapping style, it's sometimes difficult to remember to allow more gaps.

I also find that social vs. professional contexts are different. I'm much more actively moderating in professional contexts, and less willing to forgive interruption or talking over.

One anti-pattern I've seen with people who are willing to let themselves be silenced is thinking that it isn't important who makes a contribution or comes up with a solution as it is that a solution is found. In the context of one meeting, perhaps, but long term it is counter-productive, since it means that others don't know who has expertise, and it takes longer to solve the next problem than it should.

But then I feel bad because it's a bit victim-blamey. It's unfair, and I recognize that it's part of my bag of privilege that I don't have to work as hard to be listened to.

I do get to laugh though when someone I'm mentoring tells me that it's easy for me because I'm naturally outgoing and such an extrovert. Nothing could be further from the truth, I just work very hard to simulate the appearance of being outgoing and extroverted. If it were natural, it wouldn't be so much work, nor would I need to recover afterwards.


#223 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 05:49 PM:

I really didn't want to start reading this thread until I had the time to engage with it, so I'm arriving very late to the party.

albatross, #18: Yes, there's an uncomfortable amount of casual venomous joking about men being raped in prison. Generally because, to the people saying those things, the man in question has done something to deserve it.

Extend that reasoning to the situation under discussion here. Does a woman deserve to be raped simply for saying something controversial? Bringing up "raped-in-prison" comments about men as a comparison in this context implies that BEING A WOMAN is a crime comparable to... oh, molesting children or being a white-collar robber baron (the two most common categories of men about whom I hear those remarks).

Note: I'm not accusing you of doing this either on purpose or otherwise, but I think you haven't thought thru the implications of what you're saying, so I'm making them explicit. The whole "men get prison-rape comments" argument just bugs the shit out of me, and this is why.

Rob, #27: Well, that's somewhat encouraging. Given that the last time this sort of thing happened, PA was solidly on the other side of the line... maybe they are capable of learning, albeit slowly.

(Side note: PAX East sat on Anime Boston's weekend this year in Boston's other convention center, apparently more out of sheer arrogance than anything else. This fits into the same kind of pattern.)

David H., #40: Something which has occurred to me over and over again in this sort of discussion is that a lot of the trolls probably aren't as anonymous as they think they are, given a sufficiently-determined net-savvy tracer (or three, or 100). ML routinely leaves IP identification in place when removing spam; the same technique could be used or extended when policing vicious troll comments. By "extended", I mean posting the troll's real name and location right there in the nasty comment, removing the shield of anonymity.

forgot the name, #41: Given that roughly 1 man in 20 (PDF; go to pages 2 & 3) will self-report having committed rape and/or sexual assault as long as the questions don't actually use those words but merely describe the behaviors, I would say that the chances of any given man having been in the situation Harding describes approach 100%.

Fragano, #44: My deepest sympathies as well. This gets into a more general rant about "why criminal assault gets a free pass when the victim is a classmate", but in the interest of not derailing the thread, just consider it expressed.

Dorinda, #45: Bookmarked, thanks! Yes, that's a very useful reference for men who say, "But really, what can I do besides not doing that shit myself?"

Dani, #65: Hear, hear!

Craig, #77: Exactly. More blog and forum owners need to step up and say, "I wouldn't let you say that kind of shit in my living room, and I won't let you say it here either. Can it, or go elsewhere."

There will always be Internet cesspools, but we don't have to let our communities partake of that nature. And the more communities that stop doing it, the more people who can be salvaged will stop hanging out in the cesspools, because they'll have an alternative.

abi, #121: I am sick and tired of the fact that women are carrying the load, yet again, for angry young men who can't be fucked to control their tempers or express their anger in an appropriate and non-damaging fashion, and their elders who go around excusing it in this manner.

Word. "Take one for the team, girls" is Not Okay.

Terry, #125: A good metaphor I've heard for this is the "chorus singing a long chord". Nobody can keep it up 100% of the time -- everyone has to take a breath. But as long as everyone doesn't take a breath at the same time, the effect is of one long sustained chord.

Some days I do get outrage fatigue, and have to go read pleasant stuff for a while. That's how I get my energy back to keep fighting for justice.

abi, #156: Some of them absolutely DO say it in the clear. But they tend to get the Internet dropped on their heads as a result.

(Side note: I wonder whether that woman got death and rape threats, or her address or childrens' names and schools published online. Not saying that I don't think "our side" would stoop to such tactics, but that I don't know and don't have the stomach to go looking to find out. Either answer would be informative.)

Sanna, #194: Are you okay with interjections of the form, "You were saying...?" To me, that would read as "I was interested in hearing what you had to say, please continue." But I'm not you, and your reaction may be different. Since this is also the form of conversational support for the silenced that I tend to use, I'd like to know how much chance there is that it will be taken the way you describe responding to "let her finish".

#224 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2012, 08:51 PM:

The so-called humor about prison rape is generally quite misogynist as well. The jokers are essentially saying, ha, ha, this terrible man will get treated like a woman now (being someone's bitch, etc.), won't that be awful for him. (Plus, it never seems to occur to them that the guy might himself be a perpetrator of prison rape, not the victim, and that rapists are the ones benefiting from the chaos of the prison system.) Oh, and just incidentally, while there are way more male victims of prison sexual abuse, due to men's higher rate of incarceration, any given woman in prison is twice as likely as a man to experience such abuse.

#225 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2012, 08:35 PM:

We've actually seen this problem come through before, but it's back in the news:

Military diagnoses rape victims with personality disorders.

Key issues: Personality disorders are considered pretty much incurable, and "should have been caught before entering service". This crap lets the military not just expel them, but deny all military benefits on the conceit that they "accidentally" admitted and trained someone who never should have been in the military to begin with. Meanwhile, there's no concern whatsoever about keeping around the offenders who attacked their own fellow soldiers.

#226 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 12:39 AM:

David Harmon: That's appalling. And it's more appalling that it's not surprising.

#227 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2012, 07:07 AM:

B. Durbin #226: Yes... though part of why it's not surprising is that this is new reporting (CNN) of a long-standing problem -- it. It's good this is getting more publicity, though.

And I missed a "Key issue" above: The diagnostic standards for personality disorders explicitly require a long-term history of the disordered behavior, and specifically exclude the effects of trauma such as rape. For personality changes in the wake of trauma or extreme stress, the DSM suggests considering PTSD... but that would qualify as a service-related disability.

#228 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 17, 2012, 12:03 PM:

David Harmon @ 227:

The US military has a long-standing custom of mis- and abusing psychiatric diagnoses and techniques for its own benefit (as opposed to the benefit of its rank and file personnel). Even when the official position was mostly to deny the existence of psychological problems in military personnel (remember "shell shock", and "battle fatigue"? The Army doesn't), unwanted soldiers and seamen were often scapegoated using psychological terminology and given "unsuitability" discharges when legal charges would have resulted in investigations that might inconvenience higher ranks.

As nasty as it sounds, I suspect that part of the reason for the unwillingness to deal with the problem of rape in the military (which has been somewhat public knowledge for almost 15 years now) is that some in the military hierarchy believe that the rapists are showing the sort of aggression that they want in their fighters. After all, they think, most military victories in the history (of Europe in particular) have including the rape and pillage of the losers by the victors. This is an especially toxic version of the "boys will be boys" rationalization.

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