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Jun 25 2013

Internet Activism Matters: An Update On Kickstarter and Ken Hoinsky

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Remember that awful rapey Kickstarter project?

So, not only did Kickstarter release an amazing apology for allowing the project to get funded, but the authors of the petition to get it pulled have spoken with the author of the rapey book. Here’s what he said:

Today, Hoinsky said in a statement that he ‘wholeheartedly apologizes to everyone I offended’ and is committed to writing a book that promotes consent, respect, and healthy relationships.

‘Ben Kassoy of DoSomething.Org, a non-profit that encourages social change, reached out to me,’ he says, ‘…to provide alternate opinions and insights to help remove all of the potentially harmful advice.’

Hoinsky realizes he needed to ‘seriously evaluate every last word of my writing to make sure I wasn’t encouraging sexual assault in any way, shape, or form.’

‘I am proud to say that his was the first of many meetings I will be having with anti-rape and anti-abuse organizations and experts to make sure that the advice I am offering is free of any tinge of sexual assault or rape vibes,’ he added. ‘I will be rewriting Above The Game under their guidance and insight.’

Are books like this still totally dumb? Yeah. But thanks to the petition I and 63,623 other people signed, the book will no longer promote sexual assault. The men who read this book will no longer receive the message that grabbing a woman’s hand and putting it on your penis without consent is okay. They will not read a book that tells them to “force” a woman to “rebuff” their “advances.”

So. $25,000 donated to RAINN by Kickstarter, a new Kickstarter policy banning “seduction guides,” and an apology from Hoinsky along with a commitment to work with anti-violence organizations while rewriting his book.

Not bad!

I don’t know how else to say this: Internet activism matters. The next time someone tries to give you shit for “just blogging” or “just signing petitions,” point them to this and dozens of other examples of small things adding up to make a big difference.

Of course, if you are able, you should do more than blog and sign petitions. But not everyone is able for various reasons, and there’s no need to devalue what for many people is the only way they can participate in activism. Further, there are some things that can only be accomplished through collective action. Where would you have held a protest against this book? Volunteering at a soup kitchen is important, but would it have convinced Hoinsky that his advice was harmful?

A strong movement is comprised of many different kinds of activists doing many different kinds of things. We need the voters who write to their congressional representatives. We need the protesters who march in front of state capitols. We need the writers who produce blog posts, op-eds, and letters to the editor. We need the advocates and counselors who volunteer or work directly with survivors. We need the psychologists and sociologists who research sexual assault and its prevention. We need the artists who make art, visual or written or performed, that challenges rape culture. We need the teachers who lead sexual assault prevention programs. And we need the people who put pressure on businesses and individuals like Kickstarter and Ken Hoinsky to stop promoting sexual assault.

If you devalue any piece of this puzzle in favor of the one you happen to hold, you’re ignoring the fact that there’s no concrete thing called Change that there’s only one definitive way to accomplish. Volunteering with survivors is important, but it ultimately means little unless we’re also doing stuff to make sure that there are going to be less survivors in the future. Marching in front of state capitols is important, but it ultimately means little unless there are writers and researchers there behind the scenes, suggesting how politicians can make better laws about sexual assault.

And writing, by the way, has historically been an agent of change–consider Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto (whatever you may think of its results), and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. 

Writers have changed the course of history. Now that we have the internet, it’s even easier for them to do so. Don’t for a second believe that your obligation to improve the world ends with signing a petition or writing a blog post*, but also don’t believe that doing so means nothing.

~~~

*I actually think this is a strawman argument. People who belittle internet activism love to make fun of people who apparently literally think that signing a single petition is The Most Important Thing and that they are now Real Important Activists for having done so, but do these people actually exist? Or is it just annoying to have people ask you to sign a petition? Hmm.

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  1. 1
    mythbri

    I knew about Kickstarter’s apology but I hadn’t heard a word of Hoinsky’s response. I’d seen links to it, but I figured it would be more of the same apologetics, claiming that we evil penis-chopping feminists were trying to see all sex as rape and trying to criminalize male sexuality.

    If he really does what he says he’s going to do, then I will be even more impressed. I’m so used to these kinds of people doubling-down that it’s thrown me for a loop.

    1. 1.1
      Onamission5

      I read about Hoinsky’s response this morning. I am just going to stand over here with my jaw on the floor and an I’ll believe it when I see it posture, never mind me, I am so hopelessly cynical. If the book does manage to get launched with a full revision that includes no rapey advice whatsoever, I will eat my damn hat.

      *runs off to buy tasty hat because she wants desperately to believe in humanity*

    2. 1.2
      Klangos

      I’m so used to these kinds of people doubling-down that it’s thrown me for a loop.

      Yes! I’m pleasantly amazed. I would never have expected the author of this book to even respond, and if he had I would have envisaged the usual ‘censorship’ nonsense. Kudos to him for obviously recognising that he was not informed on this issue and taking steps to rectify it.

  2. 2
    CaitieCat, in no way a robot nosireebot

    This is another place in which Liss McEwan has a brilliant approach that I love: she makes the point that if you’re emptying an ocean, using a teaspoon is a slow way to go. But if everyone uses their teaspoon, well…you’re still going to be going slow, but a bunch less slow than with only one spoon bailing.

    It’s okay if a teaspoonworth is all you can manage, because with the Internet, we’re not using them alone.

    Good point, Miri, and well said. :)

  3. 3
    cgilder

    Internet activism was what pushed us over the edge at the Texas senate on Tuesday. I was there screaming my throat raw in the rotunda, my husband was at home on parenting duty, but watching the livestream and texting me constant updates of what was happening inside the chamber.

    At one point, he texted me that they could hear us,on the livestream outside the chamber doors and inside the rotunda screaming along with the gallery. It was amazing to find out that 180K+ people were watching and listening to us civilly disobey to fight such an injustice.

    1. 3.1
      Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

      WOW. I was watching and was going to write a blog post about that today. Y’all saved the day. Thanks for being there.

  1. 4
    Quicklink: Internet Activism Matters

    [...] Internet Activism Matters: An Update On Kickstarter and Ken Hoinsky – the authors of the petition to have the offensive “seduction guide” by Ken Hoinsky pulled from Kickstarter have spoken with him and he has pledged to write a book “that promotes consent, respect, and healthy relationships”, that he needed to “seriously evaluate every last word of my writing to make sure I wasn’t encouraging sexual assault in any way, shape, or form”, and that he’ll be working with anti-rape advocacy groups and experts to ensure that “the advice I am offering is free of any tinge of sexual assault or rape vibes”. [...]

  2. 5
    Help Stop Ohio’s Terrible New Anti-Abortion Bill » Brute Reason

    [...] (614) 466-3555 or email him here and let him know you oppose House Bill 200. I just did. Remember what I wrote about online activism? We can make a [...]

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