Tag Archives: accountability and the internet

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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Solidarity against rape culture at Vanderbilt

The editor of the Vanderbilt student newspaper wrote a nice opinion piece about the visibility of rape culture on a fraternity message board.  After summarizing the toxic discussion, Andre Rouillard shares his conclusion and noted that he had saved the message board discussion and posted it for posterity:

If all of this isn’t rape culture made manifest, then I don’t know what is. I’m not going to waste my limited word count railing against the enabling power of anonymous message boards and social media, the insularity and cliquey-ness of Greek life, or other favorite targets of those who write on this subject but who don’t pay witness to it. This single, 44-post thread is a glimpse into a rape culture that is alive and well here at Vanderbilt. It’s alive in dorm rooms, Greek houses, classrooms and public spaces. It is a culture that commits rape and then comes together to shut down its victim.

“Consider yourself lucky if no one finds this thread,” warns one user. Well, now no one can: The thread was deleted from the website yesterday after 8 p.m. However, you’ll be able to find the entire thread saved here, with the name redacted.

It is plain now that there are groups of individuals at this prestigious, beautiful, diverse institution darkening its classrooms and hallways and making it a less safe and accepting place for the women in attendance. After all of the steps forward that Vanderbilt has taken in my four years here, this thread represents one hundred steps backward. I am deeply ashamed to share classrooms, professors and the name on my soon-to-be-printed diploma with the students represented in this cesspool of destructive gossip and self-serving intimidation. I’d like to think we at Vanderbilt, the lucky few, are better than this — but now, I’m not so sure.

via ROUILLARD: The girl that ratted – InsideVandy: Opinion.

In a badass moment of solidarity, another student has written a shared letter declaring that she is the ‘girl who ratted.’  Sharing risk and making the threats of retaliation visible are both smart responses to the incident.  Julia Ordog explained her strategic thinking:

“I wanted to just do something to make my thoughts on it heard in a concrete way,” she added. Ordog also wanted to demonstrate her support for the alleged victim.

“I came up with this idea of ‘I am the Girl That Ratted’ because in my head, I was thinking about how it really could have been anyone, and how even though I haven’t been a victim myself, it’s something that I feel very passionately about,” she said. “I wanted it to be an ally statement, but also more powerful than that.”

She only circulated the letter to about 60 people initially, who she says were students she had talked to about the online postings, students who she knew were passionate about the issues involved, and close friends. The message spread throughout campus during the course of the day, with Ordog being contacted by several students requesting permission to forward her email along to others.

via ‘I am the girl that ratted’: Collegiate ACB thread sparks viral solidarity movement – News – Inside Vandy.

Small numbers, smart organizing and strategic thinking change culture.

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Women intellectuals under attack . . . on the internets!

The interwebs are structurally sexist – with whole areas where women are disrespected and policed through abuse and threats of violence.

Recently some academic dude wrote some article suggesting that professors  learn about twitter and blogging.  A good reminder to “ask the other question” (Matsuda) when Gwendolyn Beetham points out the risks to women who enter the internet public sphere.

In fact, I cannot think of a prominent woman in the public sphere who has not been the target of sexism, usually in the form of being threatened with sexual assault, which in the case of women of color undoubtedly takes a racist tone.  Amongst countless others, recent incidents of female public scholars who have had these experiences include Mary Beard (@wmarybeard), who was threatened with rape and having her home bombed via Twitter, and Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk), who was physically threatened while speaking on a panel at the Brecht Forum in New York. If you’d like to do your own test of this, read the comments of any article published by a woman in a mainstream news media outlet – or read almost any mainstream account of women in the public sphere. Indeed, as Mary Beard recently stated in a talk at the British Museum (recounted in The Guardian ), the very real, and very negative, push-back against women who enter the public sphere is nothing new in Western culture: it extends all the way back to Homer.  Although not surprising, it is nevertheless disappointing that Kristof and others continue to ignore the risks that women have faced when entering the public sphere for the past two millennia.

via Women and Public Scholarship | Inside Higher Ed.

Thanks to Feministing’s Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet for the link.

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The Brain Scoop on bullying

Science video blogger Emily Graslie has a crisp response to the nasty emails she receives.  Graslie hosts her show the Brain Scoop.  I like the performative readings of the emails themselves.

Thanks Feministing for the link.

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Laurie Penny: phenomenal feminist wisdom

Thanks to Laurie Penny (author of Cybersexism: Sex, Gender, Power and the Internet) for a few insightful quotes about fighting sexism on the internets.   I happen to agree about the rising moments of accountability.

Look. The internet makes dicks out of us all, but it means that for a few people, the perceived costs of extreme douchebaggery are far lower than they would be otherwise. But that sense of inviolability is beginning to erode. Men — and I do believe that it’s mainly men, even though I’ve had troll encounters with women and others — are beginning to realize that there are actual consequences to behaving like this. It’s happening in “the real world,” too. Comedians now think twice before making rape jokes. Tech conferences think twice before lining up scads of all-male panels. And it’s happening because of the internet. I think.

via Laurie Penny Vs. Cybersexism: “Not Letting the Fuckers Win” – ANIMAL.

When asked about men, Penny responds:

Capitalist patriarchy hurts everyone, not just women. What I really hope is that this explosion of debate and discussion about gender and sexuality, facilitated by the internet, will give men permission to speak honestly about what capitalist patriarchy does to them.

Right now, though, it seems men only feel empowered to speak of how gender affects them when they’re directly attacking women and girls or bawling artlessly at feminists. I meet a lot of MRA’s who genuinely seem to believe that an attempt to make the world fairer for women and freer for everyone is a direct attack on men, and that calling someone sexist is worse than actually being sexist. Those are lies, and we need to stop treating them as adult arguments.

If women are shamed and harassed out of full digital participation online, everyone loses.

via Laurie Penny Vs. Cybersexism: “Not Letting the Fuckers Win” – ANIMAL.

And perhaps one of the greatest approaches to internet trolling:

But none of that is terribly helpful when all you want to do is slam the laptop shut and never look at Twitter again.

At which point I’d advise a long walk, a strong cup of tea, and a healthy dose of spite.

Spite is underrated. Sometimes, on dark days when I believe every awful thing mouth-breathing misogynists say about me online, when all I want to do is give up, I remember how important it is not to let the fuckers win.

via Laurie Penny Vs. Cybersexism: “Not Letting the Fuckers Win” – ANIMAL.

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