Gamergate, autoblocker, anti-trans violence and sea lions: Katherine Cross for the win

One of the most productive commentators about so-called gamergate is Katherine Cross.  Her recent post on Feministing is so on point that it deserves some archival / expansion work.

1.  There is an autoblocking program for twitter that removes most of the posts from gamergate trolls.  For anyone out there interested in civil space, this is a big improvement.  Cross describes it this way:

What offends GamerGaters about the autoblocker, aside from the fact that a woman found a technical solution to a social problem, is that it denies them the ability to impose themselves on targets. The idea that the women, people of colour, and queer folk who’ve comprised the majority of GG’s targets might be able to curate their online spaces and have certain discussions only with those of their choosing is repugnant to many GamerGaters. In the absence of genuine legal recourse, the worst thing you can do to a bully, harasser, or troll is ignore them after all.

via Revenge of the Sealion: GamerGate’s crusade against blocking.

2.   Underscoring much of the gamergate vitriol is a toxic anti-trans politics.  Much of the visibility of the violence seems to have a direction.  Again Katherine Cross gathers enough targeted tweets and message board quotes to rile me up.   For those who are trans-inclusive, trans-positive, or simply kind human beings, it is worth marking gamergate as a particularly anti-trans moment in time.

3.  Katherine Cross introduces me to the idea of “sealioning” — a refined bullying tactic.  Cross explains:

“Polite” GGers, defined as those who do not explicitly swear or use slurs, nevertheless harry the people they target because they do not take no for an answer and come in packs. The phenomenon of “sealioning”– barraging a target with politely worded but interrogating questions asked in bad faith– gained a name under GamerGate because of how common the tactic was.

via Revenge of the Sealion: GamerGate’s crusade against blocking.

Also provided is this nice comic!

Sealion-Comic

 

 

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Thinking about racist fraternities who love Waka Flocka Flame

Yesterday the noxious video of Oklahoma frat guys chanting racist stuff on a bus hit the interwebs.  The chant not only bragged about preventing “niggers” from joining the fraternity, but also threatened lynching.

The fraternity was dismantled and student members told to move out of their house (and two members were kicked out of school).  I think it is worth thinking about this moment in time not only for the accountability for racist insults (which I support) but also the redemptive narratives of those-kids-weren’t-that-bad (which I think is worth examination).

One redemption thread was that the closure of the house was going to mean that the long-time chef of the fraternity house Howard Dixon would lose his job.  Fundraisers quickly raised tens of thousands of dollars for Mr. Dixon.  In addition to brightening the reputation of the fraternity members, this also points toward the nasty preference to imagine that a ‘few bad apples’ are what spoiled the bunch.

Having attended several fraternity-rich universities, my take is that the whole system is a nostalgic white supremacist dream.  To select your friends and cloister is an invitation for toxic entitlement to blossom.   (Thinkprogress has some good context for this particular fraternity.)

My initial thought about SAE was that the interwebs were enraged because this example is such old-school bigotry that its an easy critique.  The language about gamergate or sexualized violence at college campuses seldom gets this kind of swift action.  I think we doth protest too much.   It’s easy to point as SAE as racists while ignoring larger structural injustices.

Waka Flocka Flame, an unlikely political advocate, rushed in with a quick cancellation of a show.  Initially I was wondering how many of the racist chanting frat guys on the bus ALSO had tickets to go see Waka Flocka Flame?   Quite a few it turns out.

Racism doesn’t mean that you aren’t into black culture or hip hop.  The poisonous element of this racist chant was the proud exclusionary bragging of a (mostly white) frat in keeping out black people.   Checking in with the Reddit thread on this discussion, a number of people made the same observations.  That they had known white-identified people who were into rap music and also prejudiced.   As one commenter put it: “It’s sad… they can be performers, servers or the nannies. They could be their life-saving doctor, their pastor, their therapist, their mailman, and pretty much everything else in the world. Except simply a person.”

The double consciousness of racists.  To objectify and divide marking difference to ensure that white supremacy continues.   I wasn’t surprised when someone mentioned that Waka Flocka had been hired by this very fraternity to perform at a show.   Thus the video of Waka Flocka Flame shotgunning beers and performing for what seems like a mostly white Oklahoma SAE crowd last year.

It puts Waka Flocka’s cancellation of the show in a slightly less charitable light.  We might read it as solidarity against racist injustice.  We might also call it covering your public relations.

Turns out Waka Flocka has a ton of fraternity shows on youtube. Check the Baylor video where he explains that he doesn’t like a woman in the crowd grabbing his ass.  Note his justifications at 2:05.

Let’s note that the Baylor Waka Flocka show has some visibility  of the entitled audience members who are consuming Waka Flocka Flame.  When Waka is grabbed he explains that he “feels like a bitch.”  It is dumb sexist stuff, but we can also note his refusal to be grabbed and the part about “in my community.”  I think Waka Flocka Flame probably has crazy stuff happen during his live shows (including being grabbed), but something about this rebuttal suggests that this moment is ‘beyond the pale.’

The normalcy of partying to Waka Flocka and then having a racist admission policy (and chanting about it) seems like the interesting part of this SAE duality.  Challenging racism in our day and age needs to be more rigorous and intersectional than this one example, but its a good thread to get access to some key arguments.

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Gay stormtroopers, DIY art and becoming more villainous: Suck Lord

Thanks to Boing Boing for the link!

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Mimi Thi Nguyen: punk and resistance

There are a lot of smart insights in this Bluestockings interview with Mimi Thi Nguyen.  Feministing shared the link and gave me the heads up that there was some discussion of guilt and professional expectations in the essay.  Nguyen seems persuasive to this punk professor when she writes:

The disjuncture then comes when I consider how we are encouraged to carry ourselves in the academy. I feel a lot of pressure to professionalize, and the prescriptions for professionalization often run counter to my way of being in the world. I also struggle with the directive that I am supposed to professionalize my students. I don’t hold with the idea that I should train students to be better workers, because the content of “better” — more obedient, more efficient, whatever — runs counter to what I want to teach. In my feminist theories courses, I say, “Yeah, I just gave you assignments with deadlines! But I also want to say to you, what’s so great about work? Why do we believe work is supposed to be edifying? Should we always have to be productive? Why do we imagine work as something that gives us dignity? What if it’s just wearing us down?” My history in punk totally informs these attempts to practice other ways of being in a classroom, and other ways of being a professor.

via (Un)productivity in the Digital Age — A Conversation with Mimi Thi Nguyen | Bluestockings Magazine.

Like Nguyen I was a reader of Maximum Rock and Roll since my teens.  I was deeply informed by the DIY spirit and raw love of music and counterculture that ran through MRR.  Along with that inspiring freedom were some toxic interview discussions and columns that also were a big part of MRR.  I remember a particularly racist / sexist sex column, perhaps from Mykel Board?  Nguyen as a young punk writes MRR and challenges the columnist for MRR and gets a hateful column in reply.  The scrap with MRR inspires her to create her own zine Race Riot.

The impetus for Race Riot came when a columnist at Maximum Rockandroll wrote about his Asian fetish, suggesting that Asian women’s eyelids look like vulva, and that their vulva might be also horizontal. It is an old imperial joke — there are all kinds of imperial jokes about how racial, colonial women’s bodies are so inhuman that their genitalia might reflect this alien state. I wrote a letter to Maximum, cussing and citing postcolonial feminist theory. He then wrote a lengthy column in response about how though I’m Asian, because I’m an ugly feminist, he wouldn’t want to fuck me anyway. There was a discussion at the magazine about whether or not to publish this column because the magazine had a policy — no racism, no sexism, no homophobia. But the coordinator and founder of the magazine decided that this column qualified as satire, and so it was acceptable.

It was really infuriating for me to be 19 years old, totally invested in punk and politics, to be attacked under the guise of racist cool in the punk magazine. I was like, “Fuck it, I’m quitting punk.” But I figured I should do something, to leave something behind as a practice and as a document, to reach other punks of color who might feel as isolated as I did in the aftermath.

via (Un)productivity in the Digital Age — A Conversation with Mimi Thi Nguyen | Bluestockings Magazine.

I know a lot of punks who saw the academy as a reasonable place to continue thinking about punk praxis.  Or more particularly, many of us go to an academic job and are reasonably punk in that and other parts of our lives.  Many of the punks I knew are still working with intentional collectives, creating media, hosting shows, playing music, creating alternative spaces and doing-it-themselves.  I’ll give a shout out to my friend Zack Furness and his book Punkademics.  I think you can read the whole book at Minor Compositions.

I’ll note my appreciation and agreement with Nguyen’s analysis of internet communications and the need for pauses for reflection.   She argues:

New technologies have produced expectations that we now have more democratic access to more knowledge, and that we must accommodate ourselves to an accelerated sense of time. But I am wary of this internalization of capital’s rhythms for continuous consumption and open-ended production. I hate feeling obliged to produce a post or tweet on a timetable. It makes me anxious. There is value in being about to respond quickly to an object or event, of course, but I also want to hold out for other forms of temporal consciousness, including untimeliness and contemplation of deep structures, sitting with an object over time to consider how it changes you, how the encounter with it changes the nature of your inquiry.

via (Un)productivity in the Digital Age — A Conversation with Mimi Thi Nguyen | Bluestockings Magazine.

Good interview and strong arguments.

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Online harassment in Massive online classes

Massive Open Online Classes (MOOC) were a big deal a few years ago.  Turns out that one of the most prominent MIT MOOC teachers, Walter Lewin has been  using his MOOC to harass (mostly) international students like French student Faïza Harbi.  Inside Higher Education has the details and a discussion over whether students enrolled in free classes get Title IX protection from gender-based discrimination:

Whether MIT could be held liable for not protecting Harbi and the other women is still an unanswered question. MOOC providers differ on whether learners who are not enrolled at institutions eligible for federal financial aid are covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which some researchers have warned about. But when it comes to discrimination, legal experts said, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 should apply to anyone who registers for a MOOC.

“Title IX talks in terms of ‘no person’ shall experience discrimination — not ‘no student,’ ” Buzuvis said. “That broad language creates the possibility for anyone who’s a victim of discrimination [to] potentially have a claim under Title IX.”

Buzuvis, who runs the Title IX Blog, said that, based on the severity of the Lewin case, a lawsuit against MIT could come down to if the institution knew about the harassment and didn’t act to protect learners.

via Complainant in ‘unprecedented’ Walter Lewin sexual harassment case comes forward @insidehighered.

Buzuvis mentioned is: Erin Buzuvis, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University.

Thanks for Feministing for the link!

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Fighting the trolls: Lindy West engages

I like Lindy West’s pop culture analysis.  She writes for a few online spots like Jezebel.  Feministing noted that she had been harassed by a troll who opened a twitter account in the name of her deceased father.  This is the feministing quote:

Lindy, who you might know from her writing at Jezebel and GQ, was trolled by someone who set up a Twitter account in the name of her dead father. She wrote about how awful that made her feel, and to her surprise, he wrote to her again – but this time, to apologize.

Then, she called him and interviewed him about what had gone through his mind when he decided to do what he did. And recorded it all. “It felt like if I could just get the specifics,” she says, “gather them up and hold them in my hands — then maybe I could start to understand all the people who were still trolling me.”

They talked for two hours, and by the end, she’d forgiven him for the terrible things he’d done – the meanest thing anyone has ever done to her. She understood what his life looked like at the time that he was trolling (he’s since stopped, he says) and she felt sorry for him. Still, she says, it’s disturbing to know that there was nothing wrong with him per se. “It’s frightening that he’s so normal,” she says. He’s not your idea of a monster, and unlike a fairy tale troll, he certainly doesn’t live alone under a bridge. He has women coworkers, and a girlfriend, and women friends. “They have no idea that he used to go online and traumatize women for fun.”

via “It’s frightening that he’s so normal.”.

In a Jezebel essay, West notes her reasoning to humanize and engage with trolls:

I feed trolls. Not always, not every troll, but when I feel like it—when I think it will make me feel better—I talk back. I talk back because the expectation is that when you tell a woman to shut up, she should shut up. I reject that. I talk back because it’s fun, sometimes, to rip an abusive dummy to shreds with my friends. I talk back because my mental health is my priority—not some troll’s personal satisfaction. I talk back because it emboldens other women to talk back online and in real life, and I talk back because women have told me that my responses give them a script for dealing with monsters in their own lives. And, most importantly, I talk back because internet trolls are not, in fact, monsters. They are human beings—and I don’t believe that their attempts to dehumanize me can be counteracted by dehumanizing them. The only thing that fights dehumanization is increased humanization—of me, of them, of marginalized groups in general, of the internet as a whole.

via Don’t Ignore the Trolls. Feed Them Until They Explode..

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Anita Sarkeesian and accountability for online harassment

Anita Sarkeesian does really good critical analysis of video games.  For that work she has received death threats and brutal online harassment.  What do you do with this kind of vitriol?  Sarkeesian explains her approach in an IGN interview:

I have a few strategies for dealing with harassment. First having a good support network is important. Whenever possible I try to look through the worst of the comments and messages with friends who can offer moral support and witty observations. Second, I never respond to any of the hateful messages, emails or comments directly. Its just not worth it on a tactical level or frankly, on an emotional level. You really can’t have a well reasoned argument with folks spewing blatant sexism all over the place.

Instead, after long discussions and careful consideration, I decided to document the abuse I was receiving and strategically post portions of it online. I knew that by refusing to be silent, and making the abuse public, I ran the risk of further enraging my attackers and becoming even more of a target but ultimately I felt it was worth it to try and bring more attention to the epidemic of sexist harassment that women face everyday just for wanting to be full participants online.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

Sarkeesian also notes some potentially fruitful tactics to think structurally about accountability.

When it comes to the question of accountability, we obviously need our service providers to take online harassment seriously with built in structures and functionalities that actively deter bad behaviour and actually encourage good behavior. We also need to be creating a larger cultural shift away from impunity and towards a measure of social accountability.  This is a long process of course but it starts with community members especially men publicly calling out harassment and challenging misogyny when they see it. It’s critically important to make it clear that abusive behavior will not be tolerated in our digital spaces.  These small personal actions might not immediately change the mind or world view of the person doing the harassing, but if enough people speak up it can definitely help to create an environment where perpetrators will feel less comfortable and less supported in their abusive behaviour. Harassers might think twice before making a sexist, racist or homophobic comment next time around because they can’t be sure that their fellow gamers will just ignore or go along with it.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

I also like her response to the idea that she should “grow a thicker skin.”

AS: Honestly, this is kind of a difficult question to answer. The events in question have of course had a pretty substantial impact on my life both professionally and personally. I would be lying if I said that it isn’t sometimes a struggle to deal with this kind of persistent vitriol on a daily basis.  I think one possible response to this much vicious hostility would be to simply become jaded and cynical or to “grow a thicker skin” so to speak.  But I don’t think that the price of admission to the world of gaming should be to have to disconnect from your emotional capacity or distance yourself from your own humanity. I don’t think that’s a fair trade. Its simply not ok to ask people to jettison their ability to feel in order to deal with a constant barrage of threats, slurs and abuse. So instead I try to balance it all by focusing more on the tremendous outpouring of support for my project. That incredible encouragement has really inspired me and deepened my convictions about the work I do and I think is an indication that the industry, and gaming culture more broadly, is already in the process of changing for the better. Although, this metamorphoses may be slow and painful at times, there can be no doubt that change is happening and will result in a better more inclusive gaming culture for everyone.

via Full IGN interview with Anita Sarkeesian | Feminist Frequency.

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