Recent victories don’t erase online toxicity

My latest for The Daily Beast examines the recent sentencing of “revenge porn” king and the “most hated man on the Internet”, Hunter Moore, in light of ongoing toxicity so many face. I don’t think his sentencing carries the weight some think it does and I highlight some contours of why combatting bigotry online is so difficult – and maybe some small ways we can help.

(Basically: if you understand why I find overt racism less troubling than constant dismissal from people who should be allies, then you understand what combating bigotry is so hard.)

A Voice For Men doesn’t speak for me

So GQ published a profile piece by the excellent Jeff Sharlet on the Men’s Rights Movement – specifically the colourful cast at the awful A Voice For Men at a conference. Given that it’s examining men’s rights activists, there would be some disturbing reading. I Tweeted some.

Here on fatherhood and rape…

There is a horrible description of how they treated Sharlet’s (woman) friend, Blair.  She was taken aside by the collegiate-activism director of A Voice for Men, Sage Gerard.

[Sage says] “You could put down your book right now and yell ‘Rape!’ and I would be led away in handcuffs.” They think about this. Sage says, “I hope it’s okay if I hug you.”

Before she can respond, he pulls her in, pulls her up out of her chair, pulls her against his chest, and holds her there. He rubs her back. An embrace Blair will later describe as “the most unconsensual hug I have ever known.”

Blair: “I still don’t know what to do about the poem.”

Sage loosens his grip. “I apologize for dragging you away,” he says. “I wasn’t going to feel okay until I talked to you.” He warns her not to send mixed messages. For instance, she shouldn’t put her hand on a man’s knee if she doesn’t want to have sex with him. Sage puts his hand on Blair’s knee. This is not a mixed message, he wants her to understand. She’s here, in the VFW. She’s taken the red pill. She needs another hug. He needs to give it to her.

Later, they joke about raping her.

“I’m curious,” [Paul] Elam says. “What did your friends think when you told them you were coming here?”

“To be honest?” Blair asks. Elam nods. She says, “I had friends who said I’d get raped.”

Blink. You can almost see the struggle in Elam’s bones: Play the nice guy? Or the perv? No question. “All right!” he booms, swinging his arms together. “Let’s get started!”

Jazz winces.

“Get the video camera!” Factory yells at his girlfriend, who giggles weakly.

I should be very clear here: At no point does it seem like Elam or Factory is actually going to rape Blair. We know they’re joking. Just a couple of middle-aged guys joking around about rape with a young woman they’ve never met before in a hotel room at one in the morning.

Sharlet’s piece is hard to read. And Voice for Men were certain to respond. They did in a way only A Voice For Men would: by targeting Blair as being “pimped” out by Sharlet. It’s literally in the title.

Elam doesn’t say what Sharlet got wrong, only that he takes offence at the idea that a writer needs to highlight Elam wasn’t actually threatening rape. Why would anyone think that of someone who claims women beg to be raped, likes inflicting pain, gets aroused by targeting his opponents, and makes website to put feminists alongside murderers?

It’s also unlikely that Blair consented to the pictures the site has of her, which link to her Facebook page. That’s some serious unethical media. Elam also refers to her as “pretty young Blair”, while trying to wave off worries about an attempted rape. That doesn’t exactly help, dude.

UPDATE:

My brilliant friend David Futrelle has a better write up about AVFM’s response.

 —

This site doesn’t speak to me or for me. It’s the voice of misguided men, filled with toxic masculinity that leads to fathers dismissing and mocking their own daughter’s claims of rape; to entitlement to women’s bodies because of their wardrobe; to rewards for being decent. It’s ideas that come to someone who’s identified a sickness but looks outward, instead of inward.

Men face numerous troubles and MRAs blame feminism, not the targets of feminism – which should be the targets of men, too: a sick society, a broken world, one still struggling under the heavy load of homophobia, transphobia, poverty, inequality, racism. A world that seems designed for only a select few to benefit, while the rest of us struggle just to stay afloat.

Men who use their platforms to berate women for problems are acting unethically: they are using finite time, finite resources and a powerful tool on the wrong target. Instead of trying to make better men, we’re making bitter ones. So many are straight, able-bodied, cis men who’ve never faced serious pain until a woman rejected them to some degree; and they use that poison to paint all of women in a single, ugly colour, smearing their humanity across the canvas of their worldview.

Women want to help men; women with platform and voices have spoken out in defence of male rape survivors. I know where Lindy West was, during the Shia Labeouf rape allegations – where was A Voice For Men?

It’s a voice for men – just not alleged rape survivors. So some men, who have non-problems and blame feminists. Oh, they’ll mention prison and suicide and work-deaths, but they won’t do anything about it. They never have. Indeed, they make it worse by making it seem like they’re a voice or men who have these issues – they make it worse by using these as touch points to launch nonsense diatribes about the evils of feminism.

This is not a voice for men, it’s a voice for poison. It’s a voice for toxicity that makes any efforts we want to make toward helping men who have mental health problems, who are rape survivors, who are abused by their wives much, much harder. Our gender requires serious self-reflection, we need to be helping men, creating better men, with better views, to learn how to listen, how to apologise, how to be… just better.

Don’t let A Voice for Men be the voice for men. Let’s show that men can be and are better than Paul Elam and his band of unethical content creators.

UPDATE:

My friend David Futrelle has a better wrpte

Why it matters that the internet’s made by men

The amazing Soraya Chemaly has a piece up about the internet being made of bros and why that matters.

Tech’s institutionalised male dominance, and the sex segregation and hierarchies of its workforce, have serious and harmful effects globally on women’s safety and free expression.

This is what Soraya documents throughout the piece. From revenge porn to the kinds of abuse women face, that segregates it from the kind men receive.

[Read more…]

I am made dead by Gamergate verbosity

I wrote an article about Gamerbro-types owning up to their own politics and social agendas – instead of making boring, obviously false assertions like “We just wanna play games”, “Keep politics out of games”, etc. Why am I comfortable enough to play and review games, and also talk about my own view of politics and social issues, but my “critics” are not?

Why is it OK to mention the number of pixels but not the low number of people of colour? It’s never been explained but we can all start having proper discussions when such folks own up to their views; just admit “I find race issues boring”, “It makes me uncomfortable to confront sexism”.

That’s so much more honest, so much more fruitful than trying to silence us with “make it about games” – when, for me, so much of diversity issues is seen in games. It is about games, for me: Telling me to keep quiet about race in games is telling me not to experience games. And if you don’t want to read about my experience of games, don’t read my reviews. These people are not babies, but for some reason this needs to be explained.

Regardless, a very boring commenter went on a verbose rampage, trying to drown us all in words – because, I guess, mortality isn’t an issue when you have an endless spawn option. I mean just look at this Niagra fall of words!

I’m working some things out, so here’s a fisk.

[Read more…]

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…]

What progress looks like: Men’s magazine wants to purge itself of Pick Up Artist bullshit

So a few days ago, a friend of mine made fun of me for writing for our local Men’s Health, on how men need to care about everyday sexism. He showed me a post they published about to “how to get a girl’s number”. I read and Tweeted about it.

As almost always, these sorts of articles come off as creepy blatant or glorified pick-up artist bullshit. I explained a little.

This morning I received some messages from the official Men’s Health (South Africa) Twitter account. [Read more…]

Steve Jobs is anti-boner

This is quite an old little screencap and I saw it again today.

Here we can hear the lamentation of the boner, as it cries out against the wall of earbuds caging it in a blue kingdom. Woe to the boner that stands up but can find no release that women’s choice, decision and Steve Jobs hath design’d!

My favourite is how he misses everything:

“You can’t approach a woman with earbuds in her ears.”

Give the man a bells! Truly amazing. It’s almost… well, like woman intentionally wear earbuds to avoids creeps?

Now you may ask: But how will women know who are creeps and who are the nice guys, if they have their earbuds in? The answer is: If you are thwarted by earbuds, you’re a creep. If you feel that earbuds – and the subsequent intentional isolation they allow – are less important than you, you’re a creep. Indeed, the whole point is earbuds help identify who the creeps are, while simultaneously helping people not deal with them.

That’s their beauty.

And if you’re a dude who yanks earbuds out women’s ears or demands/requests they take them out so you can comment on their body, well I hope that Meninist Hoodie fits you nicely.

HT @ThatSabinGirl 

Comics are not for kids… or women

I thought I’d be writing about why I find this article a little problematic: It’s about a dad, Dave Phillips, who takes his kids to a comic store and has a road to Damascus moment, enlightened to the issues of women’s representation in comics and in general. His daughter can’t find a woman superhero wearing clothes and yet his son has little trouble choosing among 3,000 different fully-clothed Batmans/Batmen/Bat…people?

You’d think as someone who focuses on diversity and hating casual and outright sexism I’d be happy with it. But then some phrasing just… leapt out at me. [Read more…]

Tech support (bullies and creep)

After a DDoS attack, 8Chan has eventually been taken down because the domain was “seized”, due to it hosting child abuse images - as nauseatingly documented by Dan Olson. (Please call it abuse images, not “pornography”).

This happened due to numerous complaints sent to ‘the “pass-through” content delivery network that had been operating 8chan’s servers’, as Sam Machkovech describes it, called Cloudshare. The complaints highlighted 8Chan’s hosting of abuse images and called for them to cease hosting illegal, horrific content. However, Cloudshare did something really fucking disgusting.

Machkovech writes (my emphasis):

In accordance to Cloudflare’s abuse-report policy, the company responded to complaints by forwarding them back to 8chan’s administrative address—essentially telling an alleged offender who blew a whistle and how they did so. Brennan responded to those complaints by reposting them, complete with the complainants’ full names and e-mail addresses for 8chan and Twitter users to see. As a result, the complainant quoted above, who used his real name and e-mail address when writing to Cloudflare, was subsequently “doxxed” by imageboard users, and his personal and private contact details were posted on 8chan-friendly boards.

Cloudflare gave information, including details of identity, of people concerned about child abuse imagery to the very people hosting that content. This seems akin to telling an apartment block super that you dislike the loud metal from Apartment 34, then the super telling the thuggish gang that lives there you complained and your apartment number.

This is a wonderful example of internet culture catering to abusers and bullies, creating new targets and insulating the continued harassment of marginalised people. See creeps defending catcalling; see Gamergate; see online harassment of women.

The Internet is a pretty shitty space and we need better thinking when it comes to who we’re giving information to and how we think they’ll use it. Seriously, fuck Cloudflare.

EDIT: Wrote Cloudshare instead of Cloudshare, for some fucking reason. HT Comment #1.

EDIT2: Wrote Cloudshare twice in my correction Edit about writing Cloudshare instead of Cloudflare. I can brain.

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.