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Jun 05 2012

Attention whores unite

Oh looky here – That Weird Atheist Girl on the concept of the “attention whore.” Back in November. Funny how it just never goes away, isn’t it.

As any women who’s online a lot (in certain places) or who games will tell you, the number one sin is admitting you’re female (in any way). You can never do this, even if it’s relevant to the current conversation. Everyone assumes you’re male unless you say that you’re female (ugh, it’s like they think they’re real people or something!). The second you let that bit of information slip, you’re told one (or more) of the following three things: (1) tits or GTFO, (2) get back to the kitchen, or (3) you’re just an attention whore.

Hipster misogyny, in other words, as Natalie Reed put it.

It’s depressing that the battle for feminism has to be waged all over again but this time against what would otherwise be one’s own tribe – the off-center, the nerdy, the eccentric, the seeded onion roll as opposed to Wonder bread. Four centuries ago when I was a yoof and Second Wave feminism was roaring, the opposition was…you know…the growns, the stodgy, the timid, the conformist, the unthinking.

Well no, that’s not actually right. That was part of what put the roar in: the fact that lefty men were not one bit better than anyone else. You know: the position of women in SNCC is prone. Hardeharhar, that’s a good one. But still – the way I remember it they caught on pretty quickly, if only because they had to. But hipster misogyny just sits there, sniggering and saying tits or GTFO.

TWAG is on the board of directors of the Florida Humanists (pres. EllenBeth Wachs), and she introduced a no-harassment policy. Go Weird Atheist Girl!

27 comments

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  1. 1
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    It’s depressing that the battle for feminism has to be waged all over again but this time against what would otherwise be one’s own tribe – the off-center, the nerdy, the eccentric, the seeded onion roll as opposed to Wonder bread.

    The “tribe” thing is grossly exaggerated, whether we’re talking atheism, fandom, professional geekery, or any related subculture.

    Also, veering slightly off subject, I’d point out that the seeded onion roll is still white.

  2. 2
    Emptyell

    “It’s depressing that the battle for feminism has to be waged all over again”

    I probably don’t need to say this. It’s not all over again. It’s ongoing and all over the place. I’ve actually been pretty thrilled by how much progress has been made in my lifetime. Still a long way to go but I am encouraged by folks like you and the young people I know (not representative here in NoCal of course).

    Ms. Daisy Cutter,

    These things take time. If we let the seeded rye in next thing we know pumpernickel will want a seat at the table.

  3. 3
    Jayne Hunter

    Hi, It’s almost as if men assume that womens primary interest and concern is always them, MEN. Men seem to have difficulty thinking of women as separate autonomous free individual human beings, they only think of us in relationship to themselves. As if they’re the standard human and we’re secondary or complimentary somehow. I really noticed this in another of your posts, regarding Islamist men, who seem to think that all women want to do is fuckfuckfuckfuck any man they can get their hands on. It seems to be difficult for them to think that we may have needs, interests, ideas or desires that have absolutely nothing to do with men at all. It strange, so egocentric, it’s always puzzled me. Jayne

  4. 4
    Lou Doench

    This kind of behavior rankles me to no end. I’ll freely admit to perhaps some rose-colored hindsight, but this is not the geek culture I grew up with in the 70′s and 80′s. Geek and gamer culture certainly had its misogyny problems, but I remember a more chivalric attitude pervaded what was mostly a boys club. The woman who showed up at “Wrath of Con” was likely someones wife or girlfriend, someone you knew. Or if she wasn’t you didn’t act like that because… well geeks mostly didn’t. If there was an unattached female in the group she was much more likely to be white knighted than groped. If a guy had acted like that at our wargaming group several Vietnam Veterans would have escorted him forcefully from the building.

    I think what we’re seeing here is part of the mainstreaming of geek culture. And the mainstream has always had a sexism problem. How many of the jerks on WoW wouldn’t have been caught dead at the d&d club 20 years ago, they would have bullied those kids. Something changed (anonymity of online geekery?) that allows behavior we would never have allowed 30 years ago.

  5. 5
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Lou,

    but I remember a more chivalric attitude pervaded what was mostly a boys club.

    Chivalry is a pile of patriarchal shit.

    The woman who showed up at “Wrath of Con” was likely someones wife or girlfriend, someone you knew.

    Yes, that’s the problem. She “belonged to” one of your mates. She wasn’t a geek on equal terms with the men, so she wasn’t threatening to them.

    If there was an unattached female

    Uh, no. We’re women, not “females.”

    I think what we’re seeing here is part of the mainstreaming of geek culture. And the mainstream has always had a sexism problem.

    Ah, I see. No True Geek™.

  6. 6
    John

    As someone who games a lot online, with my wife, this is largely true for experiences that are more anonymous than not. XBox Live or PSN? You’re getting the treatment in question, but then those networks are largely seeing immature pre-teens and teenagers who spout garbage insults repeatedly (N word, etc).

    But for more social style interactions, like in an MMO where someone’s in a guild and people build a community, then this isn’t nearly an issue.

    Basically, there are lots of assholes no matter what medium you’re on, and anonymity lets the shit flow out of these assholes.

  7. 7
    =8)-DX

    I’d just like to point out two things:

    1) Everyone gets called attention whores or drama queens online – these aren’t specifically female-oriented phrases in my experience. (Although you’re right about this being a dumb and sexist reaction to just saying you’re female)

    2) Hipster *anything* is rather obnoxious.

  8. 8
    Vall

    Lou brought up the 70′s, and I remember those days as when women’s liberation started to gain ground. My family has confident women that shaped my attitude while I was a kid. I like to hear different points of view. It’s not just refreshing, it is important. About half the population, if my figures are correct.

    Equality in general was promoted as a good thing. Race, sex, and orientation barriers started to be seen as barriers instead of a good thing. Anita Bryant taught me that I don’t have enough hate inside me to be a christian. Even as a kid I knew she was vile.

    What I see now is people who forgot those hard learned lessons, or people that never learned them in the first place. Just a smidgen of empathy could smooth out some of these problems. Take two seconds to consider someone else. It’s not hard.

    When a person speaks up for themselves, listen. To those yelling “attention whore,” that’s called projection.

  9. 9
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    =8)-DX:

    1) Everyone gets called attention whores or drama queens online – these aren’t specifically female-oriented phrases in my experience.

    Both of those terms are gendered, so you’re making the “But I call men cunts, too!” argument.

  10. 10
    John

    @Ms. Daisy

    At this point aren’t we arguing over gender-oriented pronouns for cursing? Men are “dicks”, women are “bitches”, etc?

    That said, you’re absolutely correct that there seem to be way more female gendered insults than there are male ones, and that says something about how society and those curses evolved into our language.

    Does that mean anyone using the term “attention whore”, even when referring to a male with it, is a case of unintentional misogyny that should be corrected nonetheless?

    Still, it seems really hard to try and change peoples behavior when it comes to using obscenities.

  11. 11
    Sivi

    @Jayne,

    I’ve read interesting stuff online lately about how the domination of books and music and movies by male characters means women grow up knowing men are people, having to be able to identify with men, having insight into men, and knowing that there’s a broad range of men.

    Whereas men have no real need, growing up and consuming media, to gain insight into women, to be able to identify them, or to see them as anything beyond a few different “types” common to various media.

    That might explain a bit of the egocentrism you describe.

  12. 12
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    John:

    At this point aren’t we arguing over gender-oriented pronouns for cursing? Men are “dicks”, women are “bitches”, etc?

    There have been numerous discussions about gendered slurs across FTB. I don’t see that cursing is a special case of their use.

    I should add that “dick” does not have the impact that “bitch” does, because men aren’t oppressed qua men.

    Does that mean anyone using the term “attention whore”, even when referring to a male with it, is a case of unintentional misogyny that should be corrected nonetheless?

    Yes.

    And, yes, men can be prostitutes, but the word primarily refers to women — and, I should add, is a slap at sex workers. I would make an exception for sex workers reclaiming it, though I’m not aware that any have.

    Still, it seems really hard to try and change peoples behavior when it comes to using obscenities.

    This argument wouldn’t fly if we were talking about racial slurs.

  13. 13
    eric

    My experience is similar to @6s – back when I was playing them, the MMO behavior within guilds tended to be a lot more adult and less sexist or bigoted than the behavior outside of it. While not doing anything to improve individual behavior, such groups at least give you more control over who you play with, thus making it more like inviting someone over for a game night.

    Also, most of the serious gamers I knew considered something like ventrilo or other voice chat app practically mandatory. So anonymity with regards to sex was difficult. It also made it easy to avoid those damn Canadians. (J/k)

  14. 14
    Lyanna

    I think the problem with “attention whore” isn’t just the term “whore,” though that has sexist implications.

    The “attention” part is even worse, in my opinion. Women can’t be participating in a debate because the subject matter really matters to them, because they find it interesting, because they’re infuriated or heartened or saddened by it–oh, no. That’s for real people, i.e. men.

    If women are flapping their mouths, it must be because they just want attention, like the spoiled giddy vain butterflies they are. They just want the spotlight.

    And women aren’t allowed to want the spotlight. That’s for men. Women should self-efface.

    I haven’t seen men called attention whores just for posting on a topic a lot, or even for starting controversies a lot. Who calls Richard Dawkins an attention whore?

  15. 15
    Lyanna

    Lou and eric: might the sexism have worsened because the number of women has risen? And because the amount of attention paid to “woman stuff” (i.e., everything from feminism to female characters in geeky media) has also increased?

    I think some male-dominated places are just fine for the few women who show up because there aren’t enough women to count as a threat and trigger the sexist reflex.

    But when they start showing up in larger numbers, watch out.

  16. 16
    John

    @Ms. Daisy

    You make an excellent point, especially with the analogy to racial slurs. You’ve shown me a separate problem exists where I didn’t see one before.

    Thanks

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    Very very very good point about the attention part, Lyanna.

    Do people even call PZ an attention whore? People call him variations on evil a lot, but attention whore? I dunno, I don’t see everything, but I have my doubts.

    Hey DJ is an attention whore for doing all those interviews on Point of Inquiry. He should have used a nym and disguised his voice. :b

  18. 18
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Lyanna:

    If women are flapping their mouths, it must be because they just want attention, like the spoiled giddy vain butterflies they are. They just want the spotlight.

    Exactly. And we saw a prime example in the case of the 15-year-old girl on /r/atheism who posed with a photo of a book. The misogynists claimed that she was an “attention whore” and that men never pose with photos of their possessions, despite copious evidence to the contrary.

    Women are only supposed to have attention when men deign to grace us with it, and usually for our fuckability. Or, occasionally, for being a self-effacing, other-centered paragon of selflessness. Or for parroting what teh menz say.

    And because the amount of attention paid to “woman stuff” (i.e., everything from feminism to female characters in geeky media) has also increased?

    Oh, christ, THIS. The fanboys are pissed that “their” subculture has been infected with girl cooties.

    John: No problem.

  19. 19
    C. Mason Taylor

    Is “attention whore” even a thing you can be, really? Is there really any opportunity cost to just giving people the benefit of the doubt that they are who they say they are, like what they say they like, do what they say they do?

    Do we really gain anything by leveling this accusation? Ever?

  20. 20
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Very very very good point about the attention part, Lyanna.

    Do people even call PZ an attention whore? People call him variations on evil a lot, but attention whore? I dunno, I don’t see everything, but I have my doubts.

    Hey DJ is an attention whore for doing all those interviews on Point of Inquiry.

    The Chrises Mooney and Stedman (especially the latter) actually are huge attention hounds. I doubt Grothe’s ever noted this publicly in those cases.

  21. 21
    John

    Is it agreeable that the behavior that “attention whore” refers to can be regarded as negative, but is equally available to any person regardless of gender?

    This isn’t to say that I find the phrase appropriate. It also certainly gets (wrongly) leveled at women for doing the exact same thing men do in many situations that isn’t questioned.

    As for

    And because the amount of attention paid to “woman stuff” (i.e., everything from feminism to female characters in geeky media) has also increased?

    Being a geek, watching/playing lots of geek/nerd media, I don’t necessarily think this is the case. There are a few new shows going on that me, my wife, and our circle of friends enjoy that have strong female lead characters (Avatar – Legend of Kora being a recent one, if I can geek out a bit), that appear to be widely popular and don’t illicit a misogynist response that I’ve seen.

    I think it’s much more about immature teenage boys acting like immature teenage boys who are largely anonymous and immune from consequences of their actions.

    I can remember what it was like when I was a teenager playing online, and what my attitudes were back then. It took a whole lot of rude awakenings throughout my life to get me to realize how fucked up my behavior was in a lot of situations.

    Hell, since I’ve started reading the feminist blogs here at FTB there’s been a whole lot of moments where I’ve realized problems/issues exist that I didn’t know were there before.

  22. 22
    DutchA

    I have the same impression as John (#6). In a MMORTS I once played for 2 years there are alliances. In most stable alliances I have seen and known players of, either harrassment in alliance chat did not occur or was treated harshly (expelling from alliance and hunted down). The occasional flirting was something else. In fact, women usually form more than 50% of these alliances. While trying to tear down the enemies we’d talk about everyday occurences and stuff.

    Of course, there was also world chat channel. Usually to be avoided, sometimes losers, drunk, racists and sexists would show up and annoy everyone.

    Just my 2 cents worth of online experience. Definitely not intended to go against the OP.

    #18: I read the reactions on reddit. A young girl showing a Sagan book IIRC (Demonhaunted world?). Those reactions made me almost throw up. I have to admit that the recent postings on this site, Greta’s blog and No Country for Women make me quite depressed. Still hope that non-believers can leave the dark-age idiocies (like religion and sexism) behind them…

  23. 23
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    John:

    I think it’s much more about immature teenage boys acting like immature teenage boys who are largely anonymous and immune from consequences of their actions.

    Yeah, no. If you’ve been paying attention to FTB for the last year, you may have noticed that an awful lot of “grown” men feel entirely free to voice the same sentiments, and often not anonymously.

  24. 24
    John

    @Ms. Daisy

    Fair enough, you’re right there. To be honest I’ve been reading FTB for about a year now I think, though I’ve only started reading comments within the past few months (about the same time I’ve started reading the more feminist blogs), and actually commenting only fairly recently.

    I knew the internet was home to a lot of bigotry/misogyny, but I used to think the kind of blatantly misogynist comments like “tits of GTFO” are limited to assholes who are using the fact that the internet prevents them from seriously being held accountable for their statements.

    That doesn’t excuse it, and there’s a huge problem to be solved there.

    I guess I’d like to think the problem is something that’s already there for other reasons and isn’t related to more feminist themes or strong women characters popping up in geek media.

    The whole thing seems to just play out to the message of “just because someone’s liberal/geek/atheist doesn’t mean they’re not doing things that are misogynist” that I’ve picked up from here lately.

  25. 25
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    John: It’s not as much “the internet” that’s full of misogyny/racism/homophobia/transphobia/etc., it’s everywhere. Absolutely all of us are marinating in all that bigotry. Unlearning it, taking the red pill, is hard, and getting it about one thing doesn’t mean you get the rest.

    I’ve seen “Tits or GTFO” used seriously, in real life. In public. This isn’t the ease of anonymity. This is what has always been going on, except now we have records. You can see it.

    in a geek context in particular, there’s a tendency to let a lot of nasty shit fester, which I think is related to the Geek Social Fallacies about not excluding fellow geeks (which would work a lot better if more geeks were aware that this includes minority geeks).

  26. 26
    dirigible

    Hipster misogyny really annoys me. It’s two of my least favourite things in one grinning, ignorant package.

    “Avatar – Legend of Korra”

    Squee!

  27. 27
    Emptyell

    John:

    I think it’s much more about immature teenage boys acting like immature teenage boys who are largely anonymous and immune from consequences of their actions.

    Yeah, no. If you’ve been paying attention to FTB for the last year, you may have noticed that an awful lot of “grown” men feel entirely free to voice the same sentiments, and often not anonymously.

    +1 Ms Daisy Cutter,

    John,

    I don’t think this was your intent but I am tired of “the kids theses days” sort of comments.

    It was crap when I was a kid and it still is. From what I see even more so now. It’s far from a representative sample but what I see of today’s teenagers impresses the hell out of me (yeah there’s a quite a bit of proud dad talking here). Attitudes toward same sex marriage seem representative with opposition so positively correlated to age.

    The extent to which teenagers are a problem is just a reflection of society as a whole. It’s adult mysogynists and proselytisers struggling for power by crapping on others that are the problem.

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