You’re not playful, you’re an asshole

You probably heard about this awful interview with the cast of the upcoming Fantastic Four. Within a short space of time, it got incredible horrible.

As The Mary Sue reports:

If you don’t want to sully your day by watching the clip, it features the interviewers being intentionally ignorant about Sue and Johnny Storm’s familial relationship (“you’re black; how does that happen?”); berating the actors for not watching the movie, and criticizing [Kate] Mara’s short hair cut (apparently she was “way, way hot” before). The clip ends with Mara being asked if the hair comment made her uncomfortable, and Rickman assuring her, “I’m a toe guy, and your toes are fine.”

The cast were, to say the least, unimpressed. The boring “shock jocks” are shrugging at people’s responses, naming the film “hipster” and displaying all other manner of fratjock bullshit a lot of us are used to.

But one of the station’s hosts issued this statement to Buzzfeed in response (at bottom of article). In particular this part made me tilt my head. (My emphasis because goddamn.)

My partner’s (Southside Steve) [Rickman] conversation about Kate’s hair is something that came up while Michael B Jordan took a phone call so I think they were kind of just going back forth in a playful way. As for him complimenting her toes and why people are upset about that…sorry…no idea. Steve likes girl’s toes. People should be appreciative when they get complimented. Those that are upset on Twitter I guess don’t get enough of them. Who knows?

Oooooh boy.

First, notice assertions of it being “playful”, that it was just “complimenting” – downplaying the impact it had on both Mara and anyone else. Their feelings and interpretations are dismissed or awfully labelled as some kind of weird grudging response to not getting “compliments”. Because, yes, we all want creepy men telling us how toes makes their boners happy.

Dear cis dudes: Detailing what makes Captain Boner stand at attention is pretty much the least interesting thing in the world to strangers; it’s especially not interesting, at best, or horribly invasive, at worst, to the people you’re attracted to. “X attracts me” is like an unsolicited dick pic. Stop doing that. No one asked.

This is made worse when the person you’re telling this to can’t really leave the room and can offer no response, other than be a sexy* blank canvas on which you feel entitled to smear your boring boner details all over.  No one is saying you’re not allowed to find different aspects of people attractive; but, holy fuck, maybe consider the context in which you discuss that? I know a lot of men feel the world is their playground and waiting with bated breath to hear about their latest boner escapades, but I assure it is not.

Please, cis dudes. Stop.

But now we come to the real killer sentence: “People should be appreciative when they get complimented.”


People should be appreciative when they get complimented

Yes, he said that.

People should be appreciative when they get complimented

He really said that.

By “people”, he means “women”, more than likely. Notice again that by merely asserting it is a compliment, it just is one. Fuck your views or how you took it; Mr Man intended it as compliment and, regardless of time, delivery, context, words used, it is damn well a compliment. And if you don’t like it, you’re being uppity!

Please note: This is the exact same mindset that goes into catcalling and street harassment. “But she’s hot!” comes the excuse, as if it’s a woman’s fault you’re attracted to her and you have no willpower that you just have to become a jackass. It’s as if being attractive (to you) is a natural law that dictates men must dismiss decency and reduce women to fuckability. Notice agency is removed when men treat women this way: “She’s no longer a full being, she’s an entity that I want to fuck.” (Sometimes we do want that from our partners or certain people; but it’s contextual and still premised on respect for the other person. Even when we are “reduced” to fuckability, we can, and should, do so with respect.)

This removal of women’s agency, of personhood, is clearly on display in this entire response, as any thought to what other people were experiencing  – notably what a woman was experiencing – is shrugged off as irrelevant or mistaken because a man says so. Because a man intended otherwise.

This is nothing new. Women experience this every day. Women and those of us who are tired of our loved ones experiencing this aren’t shocked by it, we’re bored of it. And we want it to end. “Shock jocks” aren’t shocking; they’re so, so boring. I’m tired of people using “edgy” or “shocking” as an excuse to perpetuate bullshit so many of us are trying to erase as acceptable; the irony is we know this is status quo, even if these boring shock jock types and their audience think otherwise – after all, we’re not the ones with the big radio show interviewing Hollywood stars.

Nobody’s impressed cis dudes. Nobody cares about your boner.

* I use “sexy” as a shorthand for what you, personally, find attractive.

Public shaming and modern media

Jon Ronson has an adaptation excerpt from his latest book age out public shaming in the digital age. It primarily revolves around Justine Sacco, who you might remember as sending out that racist/unfunny Tweet.

Ronson writes:

The furor over Sacco’s tweet had become not just an ideological crusade against her perceived bigotry but also a form of idle entertainment. Her complete ignorance of her predicament for those 11 hours lent the episode both dramatic irony and a pleasing narrative arc.


By the time Sacco had touched down, tens of thousands of angry tweets had been sent in response to her joke.


For the past two years, I’ve been interviewing individuals like Justine Sacco: everyday people pilloried brutally, most often for posting some poorly considered joke on social media. Whenever possible, I have met them in person, to truly grasp the emotional toll at the other end of our screens. The people I met were mostly unemployed, fired for their transgressions, and they seemed broken somehow — deeply confused and traumatized.

At the time, I wrote about why Sacco’s Tweet wasn’t the worst part about the whole affair (and was subsequently quoted in the New York Times, when they wrote about this same issue): I was horrified by the reactions to it – and, mainly, how she was targeted by those with much larger platforms.

There’s an ethical dimension many haven’t considered with platforms and engagements: It’s difficult and tricky areas. I engage publicly on social media with people, quite often – but always with people who have anonymous accounts and aren’t traceable in any way. I don’t even try show up legitimate problematic individuals, unless they are threatening the livelihood and safety of others: if it’s just some loser Gamergater or MRA, I tend to just block, though inform others of the individual.

The point is it’s tricky and it should be tricky. Shaming shouldn’t be as easy as a Retweet, but it is and that’s dangerous. Platform holders like the Buzzfeed editors and Gawker’s Sam Biddle who thrive on public shaming deserve severe ethical scrutiny for their work and conduct.

Indeed, Sacco isn’t the one who should be ashamed; it’s those with major platforms who decided to draw the world’s attention to her, for her innocuous and clearly outrageous Tweet.

I made comments about comments sections

Comment sections are a fascinating topic for me, as I’m very interested in the new dynamics that comes with online interaction and the change in media.

Anyway, I made a Storify of some Tweets after a boring, persistent and verbose commenter I banned here followed me (?) to a game site I write for.

Bros are not happy with Men’s Magazines getting rid of pick-up artist bullshit

As surely as night follows day, men angered by having creepy behaviour questioned and criticised will stand proudly to defend such behaviour. I, for one, am glad to know who to avoid and inform my friends of. I feel compelled to send them Meninist hoodies, the poor things.

One such fellow is Christian McQueen who writes a blog for men dreaming of “living the playboy lifestyle”. His Twitter bio reads “I didn’t invent the playboy lifestyle. I just perfected it”, which is great and I am super happy for him. However, he doesn’t appear to be happy with my country’s Men’s Health’s recent decision to purge itself of pick-up artist bullshit.

There could be a good discussion on ethics policy: Is MH going too far? Are they not unecessarily removing content that’s proven to help and not harm? We can have those discussions, but I’m not certain Mr McQueen is interested in that, so much as yelling at “weak-kneed beta bitch boy editors”.

Let’s see what’s upset him. [Read more…]

To the men “concerned” about the new Ghostbusters that happen to star women

Hey, fellow male Ghostbuster fans. I wanna talk.

But let’s first recap.

So, I’m also quite the Ghostbusters fan. I saw the first two films probably about ten times each, owned the toys, watched the TV shows. A few years ago, I rewatched both and bought the video game (which was scripted by Aykroyd and Ramis, serving as the official third part of the Gozer trilogy).


In other words, I’m a really big fan of this franchise.

I was really excited about a third film. Then Murray showed hesitation. Then Ramis died. Then we heard rumours that it would star only women. And then, yesterday, it was kinda-sorta confirmed.

Via The Hollywood Reporter:

Melissa McCarthy, who was already in talks for one of the leads, has signed on for the Paul Feig-directed reboot, and Sony is now negotiating with Kristen Wiig as well as Saturday Night Live players Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

Negotiations are ongoing, but the quartet are expected to sign on as the specter-seeking, poltergeist-punishing, phantom-phollowing foursome in the reboot, which is eyeing a summer shoot in New York.

Of course, you may notice an issue that always upsets the internet: Women. Yeah. Women and their… existence. The Internet and humanity doesn’t seem particularly happy.

Amy O’Connor, from The Daily Edge, noticed some not very friendly responses. (I’ve blocked out the users’ names for ethical reasons.) [Read more…]

Patton Oswalt fans and how to outrage properly

Famous comedian, Patton Oswalt, Tweeted this:

Rich straight white guy telling the world he’d appreciate “less outrage”. This notion doesn’t sit well with those who daily face various forms of outrageous and awful kinds of oppression or marginalisation. How exactly should people of colour show “less outrage” while responding to racism? How should rape survivors and targets of sexual assault convey “less outrage”, while daily exposed to men who think they own women’s bodies? How should gay rights activists threatened with death convey “less outrage” in countries where their existence is a crime?

I’m not sure and I’m not sure Oswalt is either. Oswalt is a smart, compassionate person, from a lot of what I’ve read; I’ve no doubt he’s genuine in his intent, even if, in this case, he’s unsuccessful in his delivery. Oswalt, respectfully, doesn’t get a free pass though – as I would not get a free pass if I said something awful but well-intentioned about transgender people (i.e. when I kept using “transgendered” for example), targets of sexual assault (“don’t wear slutty clothes!”), etc.

Writer Ijeoma Oluo was equally unimpressed.

It didn’t help that this was his response, though.

While it’s important to not dehumanise your opponent, sometimes you aren’t dealing with a group or response worth investing time in to convey pity. For example, when racists mock me, when sexists threaten women with rape, why should our first response be pity? Why should I take time to try understand when they’ve made things unsafer with violent threats? It might certainly be a response, and perhaps those not being targeted could demonstrate it (say, a rich white guy), but we don’t get to assert to targets of oppression how they should respond.

This doesn’t mean all responses to bigotry is justified of course – but when you’re merely asserting, and asserting from a place of privilege, it doesn’t help anyone. Indeed, it only helps the people who want to see marginalised people silenced: See, my hero Patton Oswalt says you persons of colour/women/etc. lack compassion and can’t even respond to your oppression right!

And, indeed, when Oswalt publicly responded to Ijeoma (putting a “.” before Replying so that all 2 million of his Followers could see), this made the situation worse.

I think this, above the initial Tweet, demonstrates a profound blindness constructed by good intention: Oswalt is good to acknowledge her and acknowledge her making good points. But, too, Oswalt must surely know that amidst his 2 million followers, as a comedian and white man, that he’ll have reactionary, “edgy” men willing to say horrible things to women online; he must know there is an imbalance of replying to a women of colour, who is a writer on these issues, in a public forum he can’t control, that it would work out worse for her. If he agreed she made good points, why not discuss it privately and perhaps blog it, thus putting it on a platform he can control? This a media ethics failing on Oswalt’s part, considering the size and scale of his Twitter platform.

Oswalt is one thing. The flood of men telling Ijeoma to “take a joke”, “get a sense of humor”, and so on – i.e. please shut up and stop insulting my hero – was nauseating.

I’ll summarise their Tweets in italics.

Humourists get free pass to say whatever they want. I realise you just said being told to lighten up is awful, but I’m going to repeat it.

I can’t really offer a response, so I’m going to make a baseless comment on your character.

How dare you be so self-centered as the kind of person who faces regular oppression to tell a rich white man how to be a better ally?

Anything said or done in jest gets a free moral pass, Part 534.

Let me explain how satire works…

And on it goes.

Everything you do is wrong because of your race and gender – not because you misused your privileged position to tell marginalised people to be less outraged, instead of men like yourself to be less dickish.

“Male’s”. No straight white male has ever had opportunity to voice their opinion, including you, a celebrity comedian with 2 million Followers.

The mythical creature, the SJW, feeds off the need to be offended – there’s no way racism, sexism, etc., exist to such degrees, everywhere that warrants marginalised people to be responsive to those who should be helping.

Oh yes, nothing like wanting an ally to do better to convey how much marginalised people hate him.

Pwned. I’m a great guy.

Patton Oswalt is god because he makes me laugh, Part 3,344.

I’m going to make a slave joke at a black person. That should go down well. 

Please notice my boredom. Please. I am the spiritual sequel to Oswalt’s inital Tweet.

Until white men are in positions of power – like presidents, Nobel prize winners, scientists, head of bushinesses – we must keep defending them.

Marginalised people love bigotry. Persons of colour have to search far and wide to find racism; women really struggle to encounter sexism. 

So what do we notice,

1. Lots of men love explaining to marginalised people how to handle oppression. They can’t imagine maybe they don’t know what they fuck they’re talking about because this is a world designed to be a blank page for men – especially white men – to make their mark. “I’m a white man! You must listen to me!”

2. Humour doesn’t have any moral baggage to such people. Here, Oswalt isn’t being comedic, but he is a comedian. For some reason, that gives him moral immunity to say what he wants. Humour is a way of speaking, not an automatic free pass to say what you want. Just because humour makes people laugh doesn’t make it right all the time. We can criticise it as we do cartoons caricaturing Jewish people, white people who blackface, etc.

3. This was also telling.

As I’ve said before: nothing insulates bigotry more than thinking my friends/fans/followers can’t possibly be bigots! Indeed, the idea that the only bigots online silencing persons of colour is white supremacists is obviously false: but it’s a helpful picture to draw so you have neat moral boundaries. If you can say “only white supremacists silence people of colour”, it means you can get away with saying anything and never think “Maybe I’m being a bit racist”. Because, hey, you’re not a white supremacist, so you can’t possibly be doing something bad to people of colour!

As I say, Oswalt is a good person I admire. My issue is his fans’ responses and his media ethics failure, in making this public on an unequal platform (his +/- 2m million Followers versus 1) over which he has no control.

I can only hope he does better. We all fuck up.


Is it ever right to target an individual?

I blogged a longish piece about the ethics of using your platform to target an individual, as we recently saw with Bill and Emma Keller targetting Lisa Adams; and, recently, Caleb Hannan “outing” Dr V for being born a different sex in a piece about golfing equipment. Not to mention how so many piled on Justine Sacco, Melissa Bachman, and so on. I really dislike how this occurs and wish platforms were recognised as unequal between people, especially in light of people’s identity (the internet is not, in fact, a fan of women or trans persons for example).

This list of how American conservative media treated women in 2013 is too long


Lou Dobbs described a Pew Research study that found an increase in female breadwinners as full of “concerning and troubling statistics.” Dobbs said the study was suggestive of “society dissolv[ing] around us.”

On the June 20 edition of Fox News’ Hannity, frequent Fox guest and conservative radio host Bill Cunningham shouted down Fox contributor Tamara Holder during a debate saying, “You shut up. Know your role and shut your mouth” and asking if she was “going to cry”

On the November 18 edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Co, host Stuart Varney wondered, “Is there something about the female brain that is a deterrent for getting on board with tech?”

On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh offered his “suggestion” to avoid being accused of sexual harassment: “You walk up to the woman and say, ‘Will you please ask your breasts to stop staring at my eyes?'”

WSJ‘s Taranto Says Of Alleged Domestic Assault: George Zimmerman Simply “Guilty Of Being Male.” After George Zimmerman allegedly threatened his estranged wife with violence, James Taranto tweeted that Zimmerman was “guilty of being male”:

And so on and so on. Horrible.

Thanks to the researchers Emily Arrowood, Olivia Kittel, Olivia Marshall, & Samantha Wyatt at MediaMatters.

We know how this will end

Death – or rather dying – is terrifying for many people. Watching or hearing about a great figure like Mandela – one of the greatest figures and leaders of my country – suffering from the inevitable break down of his old body is difficult. However, at Big Think, I’ve taken issue with much reporting of it and the equally inevitable issues of sensitivities that will arise: Are you sad enough, are you grieving enough, are you respectful enough, etc.

In case you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend my favourite Christopher Hitchens documentary that examines parts of British media that were censored, following another almost universally loved figure, the Princess of Wales’, death. It makes for depressing viewing: where emotions and a rather creepy mob mentality undermined critical reporting and writing.

Hence, Hitchens.