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How Mother Jones Set Me Up for Harassment

When I woke up this morning, I noticed that several friends had shared a Mother Jones article on street harassment. I pulled it up and noticed that it was several compelling graphics on the prevalence of street harassment along with a link to and brief description of the report the numbers came from. So I went and took a look at the report (pdf).

Generally happy with the report, and happy to have graphics that could carry its messages further, I went back and tweeted the Mother Jones article. I took their name off the tweet, as I often do when I want people to think more about the content than the source of an article. Then I forgot about it for the moment, until I received a Facebook comment on my tweet that said, “Not All Pigs Are Men! (Did I get that right?)

I had no idea what he was talking about until I looked at the tweet in place on Facebook.

Screen capture from Facebook, showing title, "It's official, Men are pigs". Contrast that with the title of the post on Mother Jones‘ website.

Screen capture of article with title, "Now We Know How Many Women Get Groped by Men in Public".That’s also the titled that showed up when friends shared the post directly to Facebook. Mother Jones set up their Twitter button to tweet a sensationalized, click-bait title in the place of the title they used for their own site. The URL for the piece is even more innocuous.

I promptly deleted the tweet. Then I yelled at Mother Jones for a few tweets on Twitter. Why? Two reasons.

The first is that calling people who harass others, much less only the men who street harass, “pigs” is incredibly unhelpful for those of us who are actually working to decrease harassment. Harassers aren’t pigs like rapists aren’t monsters. “Pigs” and “monsters” denote creatures incapable of change, unable to be held fully morally accountable for what they do and without the resources to make other choices.

They’re not. They harass because they’re told they can. They’re raised to think it’s part of their rights. They watch other people harass and be excused. They see people who are harassed complain and be made to shut up. They’re taught to harass. Calling them, “pigs”, suggests the fault is in their genes, not in our society. We know better than that.

The other reason I yelled at Mother Jones, and the reason I tweeted at them, is that tweeting “Men are pigs” is going to get me harassed. More.

I’m a feminist who made a successful push for anti-harassment policies at conferences and who continues to push for good implementation of those policies. I already get plenty of harassment. I already get people trying to discredit me on the basis that I’m prejudiced against men. That makes me a prime candidate for effectively and happily sharing Mother Jones‘ post. It also makes me someone who will turn into an instant target for a tweet like that.

So I’m done with tweeting Mother Jones while this goes on. I’m not willing to be harassed to help their hit count. I’m not willing to put up more hurdles to fighting harassment in order to tweet about it. I’m done with any other publication that pulls this nonsense too, as this sort of thing opens their writers to abuse as well. A sample:

Screen shot of tweets aimed at Mother Jones and the author of the article. Text provided in the post.

evidence I appreciate but the tweet is bullshit. I understand men need to respect woman. OMG

And no I won’t let this one go

retraction for all the non pigs

Mother jones thinks all men are pigs!!!

think about that tweet ladies

Those are only about half the tweets in his (I assume from his #NotAllMen-style indignation) rant. The rest were less coherent. He never did say what he intends to do instead of letting it go.

That guy’s an atheist, by the way. That puts him in roughly the same online circle as the people who’ve harassed me. He’s a bit of an amateur too.

So knock this shit off, Mother Jones. It’s abusive to your writers. It’s abusive to your readers. Find headlines you’re willing to stand behind and stick with those. No more putting cheap marketing ploys in other people’s voices.

Comments

  1. August Berkshire says

    In my life I have met exactly one woman feminist that I would consider to be a man hater – and another woman feminist agreed with me that she was. And I have encountered hundreds of women feminists. So on a percentage basis, in my own experience, the claim that women feminists are man-haters is absurd. And, no, Stephanie, you are not that woman! You’re going to have to try a lot harder if you want to wear that crown/tiara.

  2. Vicki says

    I wonder if they would respond to a tweet that said “All Mother Jones editors are pigs” and linked to this story.

  3. says

    How incredibly stupid is that? If they are making a shift from being factual, rational, and dare I say liberal, to simply marketing to the rational, liberal, fact-orientated population, I think that is sad. I’ve seen this “sensationalism in a title” (including complete misrepresentation of facts in a title) destroy too many outlets/platforms in my time. Oh, they are still there, they just suck a lot.

  4. says

    I first found this article through your FB and thought the pigs comment was a little weird. When I went to share it I noticed it was popping up as the article title even though when I read the article, the title was different. So I opened in my browser and shared from there and the correct title popped up. Otherwise, I didn’t want to share with that title. I’m glad you explained this.

    As for MJ- I was a long time subscriber long ago but quit due in part to the sensationalism used. In addition, they print some pseudoscientific scare junk. The first anti-vaccine article I ever read was in there long ago. I keep getting requests in the mail to join but they keep highlighting some article on how veggie burgers are toxic or some shit. A shame since a lot of their info is great, but I always feel the need to double check because of their appeals to shock value.

  5. says

    For those wondering, there are “meta” tags in a web page that control this behavior, here are the tags on that article that cause it to be sent to social media with the different title, I’ve changed the braces here:

    [meta property=”og:title” content=”It’s official: Men are pigs”/]
    [meta property=”twitter:title” content=”It’s official: Men are pigs”/]

    But wait a second, Stephanie, I have to call you to task a bit here. As per Twitter guidelines, the Tweet button on Mother Jones presents a prompt in a window with the proposed tweet and with the offending text highlighted!. You admit you removed their name from this box before pressing the Tweet button, did you not look at the rest of the box?

    Your post is worded as if Mother Jones totally surprised you with this wording when in fact they presented it to you for your approval.

  6. says

    Tim, any failure of mine in that action was in trusting MoJo when they weren’t deserving of trust. I had just looked at the headline as it stood on the page. I trusted them to use that same headline in the tweet, as is the standard among publications from blogs to news outlets. I didn’t look at that part of the tweet. I am now less trusting, and this is a post, in part, so that others know their trust isn’t warranted.

  7. jesse says

    Stephanie–
    per Tim Farley’s bit, the problem is that it’s one of those “features” that you have to be pretty hip to the way the tech is set up to control reliably. I know that most people don’t look that carefully at meta tags and until I read his post I was unaware they even existed in that way.

    So yes, you are quite right to be trés annoyed.

    There’s a whole other issue of media and being forced to click-bait (I’ve worked at places where the need for traffic outweighed a lot of other things). But that’s a whole other discussion.

  8. surreptitious46 says

    I agree with the general principle of not negatively labelling those that society finds offensive whoever they may be. But I think it more simple than your explanation. Using such labels creates a mental distinction between those that are given them and those are not. It amuses me sometimes when animal is used as a term of abuse when that is actually what we all are anyway. But the intention is the same and that is to distinguish those who commit certain acts from those that do not. This is rather disingenuous because as human beings we are all perfectly capable of the very same things that we condemn others for. The only difference is that most of us do not actually do them but that is not to suggest however that we do not have the potential to do so

  9. r davis says

    I was on board until you felt the need to throw in the atheist dig, Stephanie. Thanks for showing that you too are bigot. We atheists are not catagorically a people who harass as your comment implies any more than all racists in America are people of faith, though some are. The ‘circles’ I mix in online are those of intelligent caring people who strive to improve both themselves and the world we live in. Smearing an entire philosophy based on the actions of one person? THAT is an amateur move.

  10. says

    r davis, I’m an atheist who gets harassed by other atheists because I led the push for anti-harassment policies at our conferences. I also get harassed because I don’t let those atheists get away with harassing my feminist friends, also atheists, without consequences. Additionally, you might just want to read my bio and consider the name of the network on which you’re commenting.

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