Justin Vacula has a typically clueless video responding to Stephanie’s post on his “advice” to feminists being harassed on the internet. Stephanie and athcyo combined to produce a transcript. I started emitting steam before I was halfway through the transcript. I want to say why.
My recommendations here, for people who face criticism and hate to reduce the criticism and hate, are very reasonable things people can do. It’s what Karla Porter refers to–and I’m sure many others–as reputation management. The way people present themselves [image of a tweet by Amanda Marcotte] has something to do with their perception, with the criticism they receive.
After all, as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, there are many women on the internet–there are many feminists on the internet, some of them including men, who write about feminism, who write about women’s issues, who write about anything given in the world, and they don’t receive the level of criticism, negative feedback, what Stephanie Zvan calls harassment and cyberstalking. [image of a Twitter exchange with EllenBeth Wachs] They don’t receive this.
So the situation is that some people negative criticism and pushback on the internet while other don’t. So there has to be some kind of reason why this is the case. Magical harassment fairies, magical cyberstalking fairies, magical negative dissenters–whatever you want to call them–don’t just appear out of thin air and criticize people on the internet. It doesn’t happen that way.
There’s a lot that’s wrong with that, and the commenters on Stephanie’s post do a good job of spelling it out. But one thing that particularly generated steam in my locality is the fact that the harassment we get is not remotely in proportion to anything we do. Not even close. Yet Vacula never even approaches an admission of that fact. He does the opposite. He claims there “has to be some kind of reason” that we get epic levels of harassment while others – nameless others, nonspecified others, conveniently vague and general others – don’t. Then he claims that harassment and cyberstalking fairies don’t just appear out of thin air and criticize people on the internet.
Oh yes they fucking do.
They do appear out of thin air and join an existing swarm of bullies harassing people – not “criticizing” them as Vacula yet again translates it, harassing them – on the internet. That swarm did form out of thin air when a few thugs who like to call women cunts and twats found each other on Abbie Smith’s blog. Yes it was out of thin air in the sense that what they claimed or pretended to be enraged about was always way too small and minor to warrant their rage and obsession.
There is no logic to it. It is not a product of reason, and there is no genuine “reason” for it. There’s just a large bunch of people having themselves a good time harassing a small number of other people. That’s it. They’re not “critics,” they’re not thoughtful, they don’t have good ideas, they don’t have anything.
But there has to be some reason behind it, right? These people aren’t just going to randomly pop up. So I give some advice for people. [image of a tweet from EllenBeth Wachs] And I really think that if you’re going to be on the internet, you’re going to be talking a big game, you’re going to be saying really nasty things about people–calling people “sexist”, calling people “misogynsist”–instead of approaching the situation in a different manner and being charitable and saying, “Well, maybe what you have to say there could have been reframed differently.” Instead of engaging in a call-out culture in which you’re going to talk about how your ideological opponents or whomever said this nasty thing–this alleged nasty thing–you can use the moment as an instructional tool [image of Vacula's advice] and say something like, “Well, here’s how I would have said it. Here’s the message I think that’s being conveyed by this piece.” Not making it nasty; not saying nasty things about the people.
But Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, PZ Myers—they don’t do that. They’re very often very uncharitable, and they reach the worst conclusions possible. And I believe (and this is just my hypothesis) that the reason they receive the negative pushback is because of the way they present themselves on the internet.
And the reason that puny ugly little kid gets all the “negative pushback” is because she’s so puny and ugly. The reason that faggot gets all the “negative pushback” is because he’s a faggot. The reason that abortion doctor got all the “negative pushback” is because he was an abortion doctor. These people aren’t just going to randomly pop up. They’re going to pop up because you wrote something that they don’t like, and that entitles them to pursue you and harass you until the end of time. It happens that way.