Internet misogyny

by Chris Bertram on November 3, 2011

Anyone who blogs regularly gets annoyed by commenters. We do our best to screen out the worst here at Crooked Timber, but inevitably some get through, and, just as inevitably, they can sometimes upset us. But though I’ve had my intelligence, good judgement and moral character questioned many times, I’ve never had to cope with the kind of abuse female bloggers sometimes get. And the women at CT have had that too, from behind the protective shield of anonymity (though I did work out who on one occasion and warned a fairly prominent academic about what would happen if he came back). Now Helen Lewis Hasteley at the New Statesman has an article on this, complete with reports from some of the women who have been on the receiving end. Read the whole thing.

{ 143 comments }

1

Brett 11.03.11 at 2:40 pm

Good article. In most cases, I think it’s the “misogynistic permavirgin uber-loser” crowd. They tend to be disproportionately loud and troll-ish. The best way to deal with them is to flame them, ban them, and have a zero-tolerance policy for that type of posting on your forum/blog.

When you post on a controversial topic (particularly a topic like abortion, or Israel-Palestine), you’re also going to get the trolls with reactionary views on top of the usual uber-losers.

2

J. Otto Pohl 11.03.11 at 2:41 pm

This is a very good reason for banning anonymous and pseudnymous posters. If you post under you real name you have to own the social and legal consequences of your words. In general most people think much harder before they commit such stupidity under their own legal name.

3

bianca steele 11.03.11 at 2:47 pm

I think it’s pretty common knowledge that I use a pen name/screen name. I’m on my way out the door, but I’ll say that one reason I do is people who assume things along the lines of “he wouldn’t have said what he did if you didn’t deserve it in some way.” I can’t understand why anyone would think it would be safer for women if women were forced to use their own names.

On the other hand, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I’m among very few commenters here who use recognizably female names. In fact, on occasion, people using ambiguous and sometimes overtly male names have seemingly hinted that posting as I do, using an obviously female name, is somehow against Known Blogging Rules. I could post while masking more features of my identity than I do, and probably (until someone outed me) get treated differently.

4

ML 11.03.11 at 2:52 pm

I can’t let a reference to this topic go by without mentioning the other week’s excellent post on Tiger Beatdown. (I may be putting the cart before the horse, as I believe it touched off the current round of “people coming out and acknowledging the amount of abuse just about universally experienced by female bloggers get”):

http://tigerbeatdown.com/2011/10/11/on-blogging-threats-and-silence/

5

LizardBreath 11.03.11 at 3:02 pm

On the other hand, it hasn’t escaped my notice that I’m among very few commenters here who use recognizably female names.

I wonder about that. I think of my pseud as obviously female (childhood nickname for Elizabeth, for those to whom it isn’t clear), but I seem to get less of the misogynistic hostility than other obviously female bloggers/commenters, and I also get people who have interpreted my name as male a fair amount. I’d love to know to what extent the low level of gendered hostility I get is due to simply passing as male.

6

Barry 11.03.11 at 3:07 pm

7

politicalfootball 11.03.11 at 3:09 pm

I’ve only dipped a little bit into the comments on the New Statesman piece, but they are predictably funny/sad.

8

Harald Korneliussen 11.03.11 at 3:14 pm

Natalie Dzerins was the most sensible about this, I think. Trolls hit where they think it hurts, if all they know about you is that you’re a woman, that’s what they’re going to go by. It may be more difficult for them to figure out what a man’s vulnerabilities are, but they will most certainly try.

Especially if there are many of them, you’re going to see it. Blogging is mass politics, at least at the scale for instance this blog operates. If you reach a modest 10000 people, you probably reach at least 10 seriously mentally ill people, if your audience is at all diverse. How many rabid sexists? How many neo-nazis?

9

Harald Korneliussen 11.03.11 at 3:25 pm

> permavirgin uber-loser

Funny you should mention it, Brett. As I said, I have no doubt internet scum are less competent at attacking men where it hurts than they are at attacking women, but this is one of the more common and effective ones: suggesting that you have low social status and can’t get sex.

Some writers I am a fan of suggest that success (money, influence) holds a similar role for men as beauty does for women. If they are right about that, you’re attacking a man’s self-worth in much the same crude way as a misogynist calling a woman fat and ugly.

Don’t do it, please. Not even against misogynists. For one, it’s low. For another, it’s dangerously wrong to assume all misogynists are unsuccessful losers.

10

Brett 11.03.11 at 3:26 pm

@Harold

If you reach a modest 10000 people, you probably reach at least 10 seriously mentally ill people, if your audience is at all diverse. How many rabid sexists? How many neo-nazis?

That’s a good point. Get a large enough audience, and you’re going to draw at least a small number of sexists, neo-nazists, misanthropes, spammers, and general trolls in the process. You just have to be ready to flame-and-ban these people when they show up, and while some measures can help (a “real name” policy, which unfortunately can exclude a lot of good commenters as well), there’s no substitute for active moderation.

All that said, women do tend to draw more shit in general on the web, for the reasons I posted in my first post in this thread.

11

Brett 11.03.11 at 3:38 pm

@Harold

As I said, I have no doubt internet scum are less competent at attacking men where it hurts than they are at attacking women, but this is one of the more common and effective ones: suggesting that you have low social status and can’t get sex.

I wouldn’t say it if there wasn’t an element of truth to it. I believe that a large part of the trolls who specifically throw this crap at women tend to be losers who project their personal inadequacies and issues with women into a general misogynism on the web, where anonymity makes it possible to do it without directly personal consequences.

For another, it’s dangerously wrong to assume all misogynists are unsuccessful losers.

I never said they were. As I posted in my original post, another large contingent of trolls consist of reactionary types, particularly the hyper-nationalists, the racists, and the misogynists with “traditional views” on social issues.

12

politicalfootball 11.03.11 at 3:54 pm

Harald @7

I think referring to this sort of commenter as a “troll” fails to deal with the gendered and violent nature of the comments we’re talking about. These trolls aren’t guilty of the classic troll sin – trying to derail a conversation. They’re trying to forcibly suppress or end the conversation. Maybe the word “terrorists” is a little too dramatic, but we need a new word for this specific phenomenon.

I think it would help the women bloggers to keep this in mind, too. Caroline Farrow makes an effort to grapple with this distinction, though in the end I don’t think she comes up with quite the right answer:

I am well versed in dealing with the “you believe in sky pixies which is proof enough of your inherent irrationality” approach, but I find the personal abuse most difficult to take. One of the most upsetting was being informed that I “deserve to die at the rusty scissors of a backstreet abortionist” when I was heavily pregnant; “God is not your friend, he can’t help you now, may he strike you down”, cursed the enigmatically named “Teresa’s mother”.

“Sky pixies” is trolling and not gender-based. “Rusty scissors” is gender-based and a lot closer to terrorism, but one could argue that this formulation is still distinct from an actual threat. Still, her contemporaneous pregnancy adds a creepy twist of violent personalization, so it’s right on the edge, or just over the edge, of terrorism.

And this below misses the point. You seem to acknowledge that women are treated differently from men on the internet, but cite that as a case where different treatment is functionally equivalent:

Trolls hit where they think it hurts, if all they know about you is that you’re a woman, that’s what they’re going to go by.

Why is a woman vulnerable for being a woman, but a man not vulnerable for being a man?

Some people are awfully invested in the idea that there’s no meaningful difference in the treatment of men and women on the Internet, but that seems wildly at variance with easily observed reality.

13

NomadUK 11.03.11 at 3:59 pm

This sort of behaviour always makes me embarrassed to be male, and makes this story seem even more plausible somehow.

14

LFC 11.03.11 at 4:02 pm

Haven’t read the New Statesman piece yet, but re the first sentence of the post:
“Anyone who blogs regularly gets annoyed by commenters.”

Not true, I think. Most people who blog regularly or semi-regularly don’t get annoyed much by commenters, because they don’t have many commenters. High-traffic blogs that draw lots of comments are a small minority, as far I’m aware, of the blogosphere.

@2 – J. Otto Pohl: As someone who uses his initials rather than his full name, I am opposed to the idea that people should be forced to post under their full names, the way B. Leiter, for example, often forces people to do at his blog.

15

bianca steele 11.03.11 at 4:16 pm

I am pretty sure I would worry less about people thinking “she was really obnoxious to that Lemuel, I really like Lemuel” if I were a man. I suppose some men might worry about women thinking “he was really rude to that LizardBreath,” though possibly fewer where there are very few women in the first place. (And possibly fewer men and women alike where not many coworkers are online in the first place.) That also plays into my decision not to use my real name (again, assuming I haven’t already been outed).

There is also subtle or not so subtle pressure of the kind I’m sure men get as well. (For example, I suspect I lose some set of people who like posts on books whenever I post about politics, and sometimes when I change my strategy slightly when posting about politics).

16

Salient 11.03.11 at 4:19 pm

Thank you CB. Anyone genuinely concerned about terrorism should be aware that this is the most pervasive, relentless, and successfully objective-achieving form in which terrorism manifests.

If you post under you real name you have to own the social and legal consequences of your words.

For quite a lot of us the ‘social consequences’ of using our own real name include people calling and writing your employer with completely fabricated accusations of misconduct and demands to have it investigated, leaving specific handwritten rape threats in your department mailbox that you check every day on your way to your office, or chilling emails from people that (the most memorable one to be shared with me, was a terrifyingly complete obituary of the recipient, ending with a description of death by burglar). I’ve only had to deal with the first of those three (the others were shared with me by acquaintances), but that was quite enough, thank you. I will never write online under my own legal name again.

Doctor Science memorably proposed that we should employ a ‘teenage girl’ standard when designing and implementing a policy for site interactions (whether with commenters or people who provide the site personal information to you or whatever). Given the various and especially targeted types of threat, intimidation, and abuse we can anticipate a teenage girl might receive from hostile interlocutors, does the system contain and support a sufficient level of protection and safeguard to ensure a teenage female participant will not be subjected to abuse or intimidation?

You seem to think it’s the commenters who need to be exposed to sunlight, not the lurkers who exploit personal information they encounter to attack people off-site and offline. Please give some more thought to this?

17

Rich Puchalsky 11.03.11 at 4:26 pm

There’s a big difference between anonymity and pseudonymity, unless the pseudonym is basically a one-off. I have no idea who LFC, political football, Brett etc are, but they are instantly recognizable as long-running commenters.

I think it’s a mistake to somehow treat this as the end of a continuum that stretches from annoying commenters to trolls to threats from people who look up your personal information. I’ve been banned from a huge number of blogs over the years, generally for “being a troll”, and I’ve never seen a need to escalate among the people who typically do get banned. I think it’s a mostly disjoint set of people who go for all-out misogyny and threats, rather than their being a class of trolls who use whatever is handy. The number of stories that I’ve heard about some supposedly reputable professor who issues these kinds of threats online as soon as they think they can get away with it makes me think that the misogyny comes first, the online aspect second — or, in other words, you can’t start with the annoying guy who goes on about Leninism all the time and turn him up a few notches to get the death-threatener. They may be the same person, but in general they aren’t.

18

Salient 11.03.11 at 4:28 pm

There are important parallels in the millenials’ gamer culture too; identifiably female gamers in multiplayer game environments face pretty much the same intimidation and abuse, and for the same reasons.

19

RBurns 11.03.11 at 4:30 pm

I don’t follow as many threads as I did during the early oughts so I’m not as familiar with the envirornment today. In those heady times I observed some shocking attacks on women – at Atrios’ & Kos’ sites particularly. Course, Atrios and Kos themselves have put up with tremendous abuse but one would expect that the hosts of successful liberal sites would receive attention proportional to their influence. But the female commenters would gather virtual stalkers whose wordy comments were designed to inflict pain, rather than arguement. Most women could give back even better than they got but that’s an energy drain. I’d help, because that’s the kind of Joe I am, and found the most effective way of shooing the trolls away is to continually insist that their misoginy was a phycological defect and to seek guidance immediately. It helps that its true. I would express genuine concern for their sanity. “Seriously, man, most people don’t say things like that. Its a real problem. I worry ab0ut you. Seek help.” Etc. Often they would disappear from the thread. I hope they took my advice.

20

EKR 11.03.11 at 4:48 pm

LizardBreath @5:
FWIW, it never occurred to me, at least, that LizardBreath == Elizabeth. It could of course be that I’m the only one that obtuse.

21

JanieM 11.03.11 at 4:51 pm

EKR — no, you are not. It never occurred to me either.

22

Marc 11.03.11 at 4:55 pm

Why replace the word “sexist” with the word “misogynist” in all contexts? Some of the behavior described in that article is belittling (e.g. calling someone a little girl). Other behavior really is hateful (rape threats.) Why escalate the verbal stakes across the board (or equate two very different things)? I bring this up both because I don’t understand the nearly universal feminist usage of this linguistic tactic and because I think it drastically waters down the real point being made there (e.g. that male posters don’t tend to face the same level of deep threats.)

I can appreciate that women and men face different issues, and at the same time appreciate that there really are some generic issues related to online discussions. I see people being incredibly rude online to men and women in ways that no one would do in person, for instance. Sexism can then be seen an amplifier of an existing pathology, rather than something uniquely experienced by women.

23

Scott 11.03.11 at 4:59 pm

I’m embarrassed to be a man when you remind us how badly some men behave online.

I’m a working-class pleb and I never do anything online with my real name. I don’t need potential employers knowing that I read sites like this.

24

marcel 11.03.11 at 5:03 pm

Fun fact for John Holbo: The older brother in the comic strip “For Better or Worse” used to call his little sister (when they were roughly 5 & 3, respectively) “Lizard Breath” instead of Elizabeth.
(Not sure if JH ever read such wholesome comics…)

For that reason, I’ve always interpreted this nom du guerre that way, w/o even thinking about it.

25

bianca steele 11.03.11 at 5:04 pm

I have gotten mail at home, suddenly and uncharacteristically in comparison with what I usually get, that seemed related to topics I’d recently discussed online. As a woman, I felt compelled not to take this as lightly as I would have if I’d been a man. I’ve gotten private e-mail (besides those that started out insultingly) that got insulting when I didn’t want to be a person’s friend right away. I’ve gotten twenty-page e-mails from apparently quite respectable people I didn’t know, telling me about the other members of a forum I’d just joined, and implicitly criticizing how I’d interacted with them already. I’ve gotten private e-mail suggesting I should join AA. I’ve also had the unfortunate experience of having an e-mail address very close in spelling to an existing troll in the group (and the weirder experience of having a new troll appear with an e-mail address very close to my own).

Weirder, I dropped out of a discussion when it appeared to have been commenting (in advance!) on a layoff that had just occurred at my workplace, realizing that it looked bad although I’d had no idea the layoff would occur when I joined the discussion.

I absolutely got different reactions when I was 25 (and fairly timid) than when I was 35 (and had learned to hold my own, by and large, among a fairly aggressive set of male coworkers). I later discovered that the people in one forum generally were aged 14 to 24, with only a few who were older–in another forum I would get dinged for using “schoolgirl” grammar. At nearly 45 there is less I’m willing to put up with.

26

Sumana Harihareswara 11.03.11 at 5:04 pm

Responding to J. Otto Pohl, comment #2: The general critical consensus among people who have had to deal with jerks on the internet en masse is that the wallet/legal names policies don’t prevent harassment. See this essay for an example. “…Facebook, which has an (inconsistently-enforced) “real name” policy, has to have an abuse staff that’s probably larger than their programmer staff….”

27

Steve LaBonne 11.03.11 at 5:06 pm

I use my real name, so I can’t be accused of special pleading when I say: dumping on people who comment or blog pseudonymously is a load of BS. There are many good reasons why people need to do so, one of which is the subject of the OP.

(And yes, an anonymous drive-by is not at all the same thing as a consistently maintained pseudonym.)

28

Tangurena 11.03.11 at 5:12 pm

To begin with, I’m surprise no one has linked the relevant Penny Arcade comic on this issue. The lack of social feedback means that people will do things in their cars or online that they’d never do in the presence of people (like pick their noses, or be jerks).

If you post under you real name you have to own the social and legal consequences of your words.

No, courts in the US have been very reluctant to hold trolls accountable for their words. And restraining orders are not always effective in keeping psychos from killing women. Nor in driving their victims to suicide, such as Megan Meier or Phoebe Prince. As someone who ran for elected office in the past, I could also write a long essay about how wrong your premise is. The amount of trollery present in the internet is in the same order of magnitude that appears in political “attack work” in American politics.

There have been a lot of women in technology that had to completely drop out of both technology and the public eye because of death threats and stalking. One of the other fora I read had yet another tale of a woman forced out. I was saddened by the number of apologists for the troll that forced her into hiding.

The women of the “geek feminism” movement will be just as effective at excising men from the movement as Nina was at systematically destroying Hans Reiser’s life untill he saw no reason, nothing left in his life, that could hold him back from striking back.

This was one of the sorts of rants directed at the woman in the previous paragraph. The troll, who goes by the handle MikeeUSA, was also claiming that Hans Reiser was justified in murdering his wife (Hans was convicted in 2008, and was able to lead the police directly to where he buried the body) and the same justification will be used in murdering his target.

29

J. Otto Pohl 11.03.11 at 5:35 pm

Well, I am not important enough that my blog has any readers other than a few family and friends. But, I am failing to see where all this trollery is coming from. I have extremely controversial ideas. So controversial I doubt that there is anybody with a blog that agrees with all of them. For instance I am pro-Palestinians and I think the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans was morally wrong. Yet, I don’t seem to have any problems with expressing these ideas openly.

30

bianca steele 11.03.11 at 5:37 pm

Maybe the guy in the passage Tangurena quotes did have his life ruined. I did a Google search once on a troll from days gone by and found, unfortunately, evidence that he himself might have been mentally ill. Of course, first, that doesn’t fix the things he did for the people he did them to. Second, I also found evidence that people had been taunting him and egging him on. However, the people whose online reputations he affected, or who he pushed offline entirely, or people he didn’t even get a chance to bother but would have, shouldn’t be victimized a second time just because people feel sorry for him.

31

bianca steele 11.03.11 at 5:42 pm

Well, no, that would make some sense if the word “murder” and “wife” weren’t in that post, but the rhetoric’s not so far off from what you might see any day.

32

MS 11.03.11 at 6:06 pm

Sometimes women want to post comments anonymously or pseudonymously because the majority of commenters on blogs tend to be male and commenters also get rage-filled sexist flames. Also, when seen as female, they have their views discounted.

33

politicalfootball 11.03.11 at 6:18 pm

Why replace the word “sexist” with the word “misogynist” in all contexts? Some of the behavior described in that article is belittling (e.g. calling someone a little girl). Other behavior really is hateful (rape threats.) Why escalate the verbal stakes across the board (or equate two very different things)?

Well, there’s a language problem here that I tried to describe in 12, but I don’t think we agree on the nature of that problem.

There are many different methods and contexts for being abusive to women, and we lack the language to describe them easily. We’re like the apocryphal Eskimos and their snow: We need 30 words to describe the variations in the pervasive misogyny of our culture.

And I don’t quite get what you’re driving at with your discussion of sexism and misogyny. The Venn diagrams for those two words overlap a lot, and most of what we’re talking about here clearly fits in both categories. Certainly dismissing someone as a “little girl” fits both.

But you’re not trying to draw distinctions – you’re trying to ellide them. You conclude:

Sexism can then be seen an amplifier of an existing pathology, rather than something uniquely experienced by women.

Well no, not really. But even if we accept that it’s merely an “amplifier,” that amplification is uniquely experienced by women.

34

Salient 11.03.11 at 6:35 pm

But, I am failing to see where all this trollery is coming from.

This statement confuses me. The ‘trollery’ we’re discussing (if that’s what you want to call it, despite intimidation threats bearing nearly no resemblance to classical threadjacking) comes from people, typing on keyboards. I think maybe you’re trying to say something sort of like, “I have not experienced this form of intimidation myself, and this leads me to be skeptical that it is as widespread a phenomenon as suggested by this source.” You didn’t directly express skepticism or disbelief, so I don’t want to put those kinds of words in your mouth, but… what did you mean? I thought each of the examples so far gave a clear indication of where the threat was coming from, a hostile person, or occasionally a small group of hostile people coordinating. Not from automated spam bots, and seemingly mostly from people whose medical conditions and/or disabilities and/or life circumstances lead to most of their socialization occurring online, if that helps clarify.

I get astonishingly different treatment in forums where I am apparently assumed to be female compared to forums where I am apparently assumed to be male, but the starkest difference is that, if I am presumed to be male, as you are, I don’t seem to have any problems with expressing my controversial ideas openly. That’s kind of the whole point that is being made: on average, men who write publicly don’t have to put up with a lot of this kind of shit, and women do.

When I’m presumed male, or on a forum in which sex is genuinely ambiguous, even the most catastrophically hostile responses are neutered, in the absence of the sexual intimidation avenue. But all it takes is one use of ‘she’ or ‘Sally’ or even ‘Sal’ in reference to me to sour that atmosphere and eliminate that privilege (which is the main reason I get overly touchy when people abbreviate or modify my pseudonym). Some of the main differences:

* Interlocutors who disapprove of my whole approach to something but do not perceive me as female are on average far more polite and reasoned in reply. Diminutive language, i.e. words like “silly” are almost exclusively used when I’m perceived as female, where “crazy” might otherwise be used.

* I’ve never received a threatening expression of someone’s desire to physically or sexually harm or abduct me, or even to see me physically or sexually harmed or abducted, when they perceive me as male. But I actually had to change my email address at one point [to the one which CT is kind to not reveal] because I was receiving so many threats of harm and abduction, and so many sick fantasy stories of the harm or abduction they felt I was due, that I was starting to fail to function in everyday offline life. (It was only much later that I discovered replying to such an email with “I’m a guy; does this fantasy of yours make you gay?” is the easiest and most reliable way to get such a person to shut up and stop. But this obviously can’t work if you maintain any kind of non-ambiguous profile and are female, and by the time they’ve found your home address and taken photos of your pets from outside the window, they know for sure.)

* Interlocutors are far more likely to accuse me of lacking experience with a given phenomenon when they identify me as female, and correspondingly far more patient in their attempt to inform me or correct mistakes when they identify as male.

* Quibbles over details are generally not gendered, probably because if you’re engaging with somebody over details there’s no desire to oppress them.

All less true on a forum like CT, with standards of common decency relatively strong for the ‘net and pretty solid moderation. Much more true on newspaper forums.

35

MPAVictoria 11.03.11 at 6:36 pm

“Well no, not really. But even if we accept that it’s merely an “amplifier,” that amplification is uniquely experienced by women.”

Which in my opinion would make is a distiction without s difference as either way the effects are focused on women.

36

MPAVictoria 11.03.11 at 6:40 pm

“Which in my opinion would make is a distiction without s difference as either way the effects are focused on women.”

My god I need more coffee. Sorry for the typos. That should have been:
“Which in my opinion would make it a distiction without a difference as either way the effects are focused on women.”

37

Andrew Fisher 11.03.11 at 6:56 pm

I find Lizardbreath and Salient’s comments challenging, because like others I found that I had assumed Lizardbreath was male. Why would I have made any assumption at all on a matter of no possible relevance or interest to me? Yet clearly I had because I was surprised by her post @5.

I suppose I am having a blinding glimpse of the obvious here. (Gosh, do I *really* make sexist assumptions about people?), but still it is surprising to find oneself relearning lessons that are quite so basic.

38

bert 11.03.11 at 7:07 pm

Do the women writers on CT get subjected to what’s reported in the New Statesman from the commenters here? I’d be appalled if so. My sense is that Ingrid and Niamh post on subjects they know a great deal about, and their expertise commands respect among the rabble. Maria and Belle have the generosity to post personal experiences from time to time, which may encourage the more charmless among us to make themselves unpleasant, but I haven’t seen it consistently in the comment threads. The only person I can think of who often got given a hard time was Eszter, and I honestly don’t believe that was because of her gender.
But I’m on the outside looking in. If this is genuinely the problem you suggest it is, it’s worth making an issue of. Henry’s recent comments on the more general issue of trollery seemed to strike the right tone, to my cloth ears at least.

39

js. 11.03.11 at 7:16 pm

Jesus Christ. I guess I don’t read a lot of comment boards—I figured they’d be bad, but the stuff in that NS article is beyond horrifying. Don’t see how some of it isn’t straight up actionable (although I guess some commenters here have sort of addressed this).

Well, mostly wanted to register my horror. I suppose I would also defend the use of initials and other pseudonyms for the sorts of reasons mentioned above. And also because I was until recently petrified of posting under a pseudonym . While I haven’t been commenting on CT for long, I have been a long-ish time reader (2+ years qualifies as “longish time” on a blog, yes?).

40

elm 11.03.11 at 7:38 pm

bert @37

I’d be (pleasantly) surprised to hear that they aren’t subjected to horribly abusive personal emails. It’s something that’s easy for men to overlook (as we’re not subjected to it), but if you dig into it some, it looks pervasive.

Also, count me in the yes-to-pseudonyms camp. My name is very uncommon and I value my privacy, so the alternative is simple non-participation.

41

trane 11.03.11 at 8:16 pm

This is an important post.

“LizardBreath @5:
FWIW, it never occurred to me, at least, that LizardBreath == Elizabeth. It could of course be that I’m the only one that obtuse.”

It had not occurred to me either. I not a native English speaker, and I am a stupid male.

Cheers,
trane

42

Rich Puchalsky 11.03.11 at 8:27 pm

“The ‘trollery’ we’re discussing (if that’s what you want to call it, despite intimidation threats bearing nearly no resemblance to classical threadjacking) “

I’m repeating myself, but I agree with this bit by Salient. I think that it’s a mistake to call this “trollery”. Making threats against someone isn’t “trolling”. For the same reason I don’t really like the classic Penny Arcade comic that Tangurena linked to. It’s treating sending a threat with a picture of someone’s pet and their address as being somehow related to being willing to curse online … and I really don’t think it is.

43

Tangurena 11.03.11 at 8:31 pm

Why replace the word “sexist” with the word “misogynist” in all contexts? {snip} I bring this up both because I don’t understand the nearly universal feminist usage of this linguistic tactic…

Has anyone said to you: “oh, you’re just saying that because you’re a man”? Most women get the converse :“oh, you’re just saying that because you’re a woman” quite often when sticking up for some point. I’ve seen blowhards actually say that line at cocktail parties (usually while mansplaining, but not as snarky as this incident). If men got even within an order of magnitude snarked in this fashion, then there would be a reasonable argument for it being “just plain sexist” writing. Instead, this seems to go all one way – thus “misogyny” appears to be more accurate descriptor.

Very few men get stalked. Very few men get sent credible death threats. Many women bloggers do get both of those. Movies like Fatal Attraction and Play Misty For Me encourage the belief that women stalk men, but statistics show it is quite the reverse. But then, people tend to believe anecdotes more than statistics, and I suspect this will always continue to be a subject of research by economists (“when people hear a horror story about brand_x_car, are they less likely to purchase that car in the future”) and psychologists.

We also embed power differentials in the way we speak. Suzette Haden Elgin wrote a series of books with “The Gentle Art of Self Defence” in the title. I recommend reading at least one of them.

44

Rich Puchalsky 11.03.11 at 8:31 pm

Sorry to post twice in succession, but… has it occurred to the people surprised about LizardBreath that “bert”, “Brett”, “Steve”, “Andrew Fisher”, “Barry” etc. also may not be male? Why assume it for anyone?

45

niamh 11.03.11 at 8:32 pm

To Bert @ 38, blog comments are a bit like email in that a writer’s tone can be hard to judge, and that cuts both ways – I am sometimes surprised to find that readers interpret things I’ve said in ways I did not intend. Not especially gender-based to date I think. I think CT has good practices that keep discourse pretty civilized on the whole. But it’s a big world out there, as these links show us…

46

Watson Ladd 11.03.11 at 8:43 pm

This isn’t trolling. This is a step beyond trolling. Its the concerted harassment of women to keep them from public life. This on par with catcalls and jeers on the street, and not far removed in motivation from corrective rape. Its inseparable from the way we harass women in public life, questioning their ability to be rational or calling them bitches for behavior that would have won a man accolades for his toughness.

47

EKR 11.03.11 at 8:54 pm

Rich@44:
If you’re grouping me in the category of people “surprised about LizardBreath”, what I’m surprised about is that it maps to Elizabeth, not that the poster is female (or at least this is what I infer from comment #5). I would have been just as surprised to be told it mapped to “Richard”.

As for assuming it for anyone, some people here are clearly not posting anonymously, and if someone adopts a male-sounding name that isn’t obviously a pseudonym (Andrew Fisher) this seems like evidence (though not of course conclusive evidence) that they are in fact male.

48

roy belmont 11.03.11 at 9:09 pm

It’s comforting to think that “internet misogyny” is a self-explanatory phrase. But what it really is, what it signifies, is hatred of emotion, fear of the so-called “feminine side”.
This is why anti-gay-male prejudice is so much more severe than anti-lesbian prejudice . Because gay males are polluted by the feminine, a retreat from the masculine, while lesbians are a role-playing advance toward the superior masculine.
What’s in play is fear, but not of women. Of emotion. Of the place heart logic leads toward. To even say that phrase “heart logic” is weak, compared to the gleaming razor of rational mind. Gay: weak, soft, feminine etc. Femine: useless outside very narrow roles, weak, easily frightened, easily cowed, deserving of protection but not respect.
You can see why men would need to break from that soft warm cowardice to fill their roles as sacrificers, drones at the frontier.
You can see how it might get out of hand, become extreme, a kind of male self-worship, an ad-hoc patriarchy of solpsistic confirmations.
You can see how that might happen, because it has.
And you can see the monumental detritus of that patriarchy, the evidence of its passing, everywhere.

49

Bill Benzon 11.03.11 at 9:14 pm

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say. I just want to say that I’m appalled.

Nor is this new to me. Still, I’m appalled.

This is NOT merely individual men, case by case, being jerks. This is IN THE CULTURE. And it’s disgusting.

50

Matt McIrvin 11.03.11 at 9:38 pm

Banning anonymity and pseudonymity means that women can’t opt out of this kind of harassment by hiding their gender.

51

elm 11.03.11 at 9:41 pm

I just saw a timely example of this occurring not-on-the-internet:


Elizabeth Warren faced a right-wing heckler at a campaign event Wednesday evening … “you’re a socialist whore. I don’t want anything to do with you.”

For a mild example of misogyny here at CT (thanks to Salient @34 for pointing out the general problem), a look at one of Maria’s recent posts (on the UK Government’s worries about women) shows the first comment that concludes: “That’s just about the silliest post I have read here.” For all the jabs and barbs thrown at Henry, d^2, CB, JQ, etc… I can’t recall anyone accusing any of them of “silliness”.

52

Marc 11.03.11 at 9:50 pm

@43: The point is that it’s helpful to use different words for different categories of behavior, even bigoted behavior. It preserves the ability to differentiate between more and less severe things. If someone is being thoughtless, and you accuse them of being hateful, you’re unlikely to have a productive discussion. But you might be able to help them see the problem if you calibrate your response appropriately.

(It’s a bit ironic, by the way, to choose a word that denigrates men as an example of sexist behavior. )

53

TEL 11.03.11 at 10:34 pm

@ 46 and 49: yes, yes, and thrice yes.

Interesting to see so much well-meaning shock and perhaps even scepticism in this thread: ‘if this is genuinely the problem you suggest it is’, ‘I am failing to see where this trollery is coming from’, suggestions that of course CT women bloggers do not face similar abuse (although it is clear from Chris’ post that they do) and so on.

Does it really come as such a surprise to educated, well-read people that women face this sort of intimidation both on the internet and (usually but not always) in less overtly aggressive form in real life?

54

Evil is evil 11.03.11 at 10:37 pm

When I went to the link, my anti-virus and my firewall warnings went ballistic.

55

shah8 11.03.11 at 10:40 pm

This is why I had a problem with the whole ThinkProgress movement to Facebook comments. Now women are less of a factor in the more political areas of that site.

Of course, now, I also have a problem with Facebook because the commenting system is whack, slow, and unreliable.

56

Emma in Sydney 11.03.11 at 10:46 pm

Has anyone said to you: “oh, you’re just saying that because you’re a man”?

I’ve often wanted to say that, usually because the poster I’m replying to has just said something that is rooted in the male ignorance of women’s experience that has been well demonstrated in this thread. As a person posting under an identifiably female name, I almost never succumb to the temptation, because to do so would invite a torrent of accusations of sexism/passive aggression/silliness/paranoia that would usually totally derail the thread and lead inevitably to the kind of abuse discussed in the over post.
Which is the point. Many men feel quite enabled to say all sorts of things about people they perceive as women. Many women feel quite intimidated about doing the opposite, because other men will police the privileges they hold.
(and, yes, now I’m reflexively expecting the barrage, even in this company)

57

Jim Demintia 11.03.11 at 11:19 pm

@elm

Some anecdotal corroborating evidence re silliness: George Eliot’s notorious early essay, “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.” “Silliness” has long been typically gendered feminine.

58

bert 11.03.11 at 11:31 pm

Remind me. Was that before or after she started using the name George?

59

bert 11.03.11 at 11:39 pm

Meaning, what byline did she use for the essay? I suppose I could google…
It’s an interesting case study. She had all of Victorian prejudice to deal with. Any lessons for this thread?

60

Felix 11.03.11 at 11:42 pm

Thanks for posting this.

The main thing I notice here on this site is that there are appear to be far more men commenting on most (all?) posts, including this one and that I perceive there to be more confrontational comments on posts written by women (which are of course a minority here as well).

(I imagine I”m mis-perceiving the genders of some commenters – for example, I’m female with a male handle – but I doubt I’m far off on the general statistical averages.)

One feminism 101 principle is if the men talk a lot really loud, it doesn’t leave much room for women to speak up.

61

bert 11.03.11 at 11:48 pm

Google results: ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’ by Marian Evans, written immediately before starting on ‘Amos Barton’, the first George Eliot work.

62

bert 11.04.11 at 12:24 am

To be honest if the original post had been by a woman I’d have felt less entitled to comment. Since it’s Chris raising the subject I feel like comments from both men and women are invited somehow. Not sure if either feeling bears too much examination.

63

chris 11.04.11 at 12:32 am

Does it really come as such a surprise to educated, well-read people that women face this sort of intimidation both on the internet and (usually but not always) in less overtly aggressive form in real life?

Yes, it does. A lot of people (ISTM) tend to assume that other people’s experiences are pretty much like their own until explicitly told otherwise, so if they haven’t experienced this kind of harassment as either the victim or the aggressor, they’ll probably assume most other people don’t either.

…Come to think of it, the same phenomenon in reverse may also explain why people who *have* experienced harassment may think everyone else knows how common it is, too (and then attribute bad faith to people asking for evidence, etc. — discourse goes rapidly downhill after that).

64

Substance McGravitas 11.04.11 at 12:32 am

The main thing I notice here on this site is that there are appear to be far more men commenting on most (all?) posts, including this one and that I perceive there to be more confrontational comments on posts written by women (which are of course a minority here as well).

I agree and raise the male ratio all at once.

65

Meredith 11.04.11 at 12:42 am

elm@51. I’ve just returned from an Elizabeth Warren event for grass roots organizers. I got to shake hands with her, no less! (Feeling a little star-struck, I am.) I recommend the full story, about how she handled the heckler and her thoughts later that evening. Not a model that will work in every situation, but brilliant tactic (though I don’t think she thought of what she was doing as a tactic — just who she is and the right thing to do).

66

Henry 11.04.11 at 12:51 am

There’s also a selection bias, in that you folks are only seeing the comments that make it through. There is a steady-ish (it is a little slacker at the moment) trickle of nasty stuff which doesn’t. Most of it, but not all, is drive-by. And the really vicious stuff is aimed at our women posters. The shit that we guys get is mostly laughably generic – communist, socialist, idiot-professors etc. The comments that the women posters get are more intense, vicious and personalized. Not very much of this gets through the moderation queue, and when it does (e.g. it is someone who has posted here before), it is quickly deleted.

67

dbk 11.04.11 at 1:11 am

The amount of abuse a female blogger (commenters being a different category) receives may also depend to some extent on the blog’s topic field. Apart from CT, I also read (and occasionally comment on) nakedcapitalism, run by financial-whiz-turned-blogger, Yves Smith. She’s got a moderation policy (open but also pretty engaged) similar to CT’s, and boy, does she get serious, serious respect. Ditto for Hullabalo (digby), emptywheel (now off on her own), and the two women who initially started firedoglake – all these being pretty heavy (“wonkish”) politics sites.

CT is an “academic” blog, with posts by the academic contributors to the site (5 of 17 according to my count are women) and I suspect a fair number – though certainly not all – of its commenters being connected with “academe” in some way or another. This inevitably means lots of male commenters. That’s just what the site is (as I have remarked elsewhere in comments).

Overall the moderation policy seems really, really good (posters read comments, respond appropriately, and occasionally interject warnings to those who are crossing lines of what is perceived as acceptable commentariat behavior); I don’t think this is the problem at CT.

Rather, it’s more insidious. Case in point: Belle Waring’s post in late September on her tumblr. This post, which to me said maybe more than needed to be said re: the state of academic marriages (a subject on which I’m an expert), got threadjacked almost immediately and wandered off into a confrontational discussion of a fantasy writer with whom Belle herself was not familiar. Duh, what was that about? Nonetheless, she persevered for about 100 comments before signing off – but she was really, really angry when she left the discussion. And rightly so, in my view. Efforts by women commenters to re-orient the thread and support her were more or less overridden (why?) (including efforts by janiem, whom I’m happy to see back on this thread). And yet, Belle’s voice, which is unique among CT bloggers, needs to be heard, and deserves respect. I don’t consider the thread that followed her post as having evidenced respect – it was more like “oh, it’s Belle, we can talk about fantasy writer what’s-his-name all we want.” Why was this okay?

It’s good to see all the regular women commenters on CT appearing here – there are about 10-12, as best I can determine – and while we’re outing ourselves, I may as well admit that I’m a girl, too. I use my initials (here, and on nakedcapitalism), because (a) I don’t much care for the idea that my gender will affect responses to my comments, and (b) I’m not so keen on folks googling my name to see what I do for my (admittedly very humble) living.

And finally, a shout-out: women readers of CT, unite! Please, comment more! And to CT blogger Belle Waring: please, please, post more.

68

Kaveh 11.04.11 at 1:11 am

I wonder if people think my pseudonym sounds male or female.

Harald @6 For another, it’s dangerously wrong to assume all misogynists are unsuccessful losers.

Seconded. And the rest of the comment, too. Something about suggesting that a threatening mysogynist’s threatening mysogyny results from their failure to have sex just seems like a bad idea.

Salient @34
seemingly mostly from people whose medical conditions and/or disabilities and/or life circumstances lead to most of their socialization occurring online, if that helps clarify.

Do you mean to say that you think this is true? If so, I’m curious how you know.

Back when the internet was young, I was taught to never assume that a user is a woman just because they have a female online identity (much less merely a female-sounding pseudonym). “They’re all ugly fat dudes in their moms’ basements.” (Not that everybody on the internet is male, just that you don’t know.) Obviously this bit of wisdom no longer applies as much as it did, or isn’t being followed, and that makes me wonder how much other “internet common sense” (or at least what I think is common sense) is out of date. I feel like this has some importance to the current topic, but I’m not sure what.

69

tomslee 11.04.11 at 1:14 am

Does it really come as such a surprise…?

Chalk up another “yes” here to add to chris, Bill and others. I’ve seen three threads on this general topic recently (SE Smith at Tiger Beatdown, and Penny Red’s twitter stream this morning following her New Statesman article on poppies) and continue to be shocked. I (male) get zero nasty stuff at my own blog and it’s a wakeup call to see what the other half of the world is like.

Not saying anyone should leave offensive comments on their site, but an inevitable side effect of active moderation is that those of us with gender immunity are also protected from seeing what it is like for those who don’t.

[On the side plot: LizardBreath=Elizabeth obvious, Salient unexpected]

70

Substance McGravitas 11.04.11 at 1:19 am

and the two women who initially started firedoglake

Jane Hamsher gets a ton of vicious abuse elsewhere. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a proactive moderating policy at her site.

71

dbk 11.04.11 at 1:31 am

@70
“Jane Hamsher gets a ton of vicious abuse elsewhere. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a proactive moderating policy at her site.”

Excellent point – and Henry’s comment (which I hadn’t seen before pressing “submit”) suggests that there’s a good deal of abuse on CT that commenters/readers never see.

(btw, do you happen to remember the name of the co-founder of firedoglake? her moniker was “redhead” – Smith was her last name …. ? was it Christy?)

72

Substance McGravitas 11.04.11 at 1:48 am

Christy Hardin Smith.

http://homecelebration.blogspot.com/

73

Meredith 11.04.11 at 2:43 am

Back in the early days of women in academia (at least in real numbers), women assistant professors at many colleges and universities, especially those that had only recently gone co-ed (from being men’s schools), had lots of weird experiences with male students, including obscene phone calls and notes and such. We found it dispiriting but not surprising. We shared these experiences with one another, but it was several years before the subject came up in some forum or other with a dean and few other administrators (all male) who were consulting us about various issues concerning women faculty. This was around 1980. The dean and his fellows were genuinely shocked. They had no idea this sort of thing was part of our work lives and had never imagined that any of our students would ever behave this way toward us. (And, of course, it was a very small percentage of students.) We women were surprised by their shock. Didn’t they realize that women always have to deal with this kind of problem? It was good then and is good now for all of us to be talking about even the petty forms of harassment that people endure, and should not have to. Over time, it can be debilitating. (The word for most of this stuff, when it isn’t rising to the level of overt threats, is not terrorism, but intimidation.)

I’m glad uncivil comments by some commenters get proactively “moderated out” here. But it’s also important for all of us to be aware (see Henry @66) that the moderating is ever even needed.

74

Jim Demintia 11.04.11 at 3:34 am

@bert

That article appeared in The Westminster Review and I believe it was unsigned, like most of the journal articles from that period. Anyone in the know would probably have been able to recognize her writing already since she had been the de facto editor there for the few years prior. You can see that she was trying to exorcise some demons in that piece as she began writing fiction.

75

logern 11.04.11 at 7:25 am

Is there a qualitative difference between a pugilist who aims at another fighter’s cut eye because he knows it has the greatest vulnerability, versus one who just absolutely hates lacerations?

I assume Ann Coulter gets gender related hate mail too, Though (while there’s no excuse for it) I’m not sure if the “hate” really originates from what her gender is, — when it comes down to it.

Or does it? I really don’t know.

76

Harald Korneliussen 11.04.11 at 7:55 am

Elm @40:I’d be (pleasantly) surprised to hear that they aren’t subjected to horribly abusive personal emails. It’s something that’s easy for men to overlook (as we’re not subjected to it)

Speak for yourself. Unlike the authors of this blog, I reach a very modest audience with my sporadic net writings, but I’ve still managed to attract some rather unpleasant attention from none-too-stable individuals. There are also topics which I would dearly wish to speak on, but can’t afford to due to writing under my full name (and no, it’s probably not what you think).

Tangurena @43: Has anyone said to you: “oh, you’re just saying that because you’re a man”?

Yes, particularly in discussions like these. It may quite possible be true, too. I have many experiences specific to being a man that are damn hard for me to compare with the “equivalent” experiences specific to being a woman – but I’m usually expected to take it on faith that they’re in no way comparable, and that women have fundamentally better understanding of men’s experiences than vice versa.

77

Henri Vieuxtemps 11.04.11 at 7:57 am

Yeah, I was thinking about Ann Coulter too. So, you read something, you feel insulted by it, you are infuriated, you want to hit back, insult back. And when it comes to this, people tend to use words that they believe will have the strongest effect. Don’t necessarily mean they are misogynistic, or racist. See, for example, Mamet’s Homicide.

78

J. Otto Pohl 11.04.11 at 7:59 am

Okay I think this is just one more way in which I am totally unconnected with the very alien and wierd world of academic blogging. My assumption has always been that the vast majority of people here and elsewhere using fake names or initials are women. I would definitely guess that Kaveh is a woman for instance. But, most of the trollery or what ever you want to call things like advocating genocide against the Palestinians I have seen has been done by men with pseudonyms and yes many of them are academics working at US universities teaching students. Others are political advisors in Washington DC. They are pretty easy to banish from a comment section of a blog, however. Just insist that they give their full name and place of employment and then they can say whatever they want. Otherwise all anonymous and pseudonymous comments are banned.

79

kidneystones 11.04.11 at 8:02 am

There are a number of good reasons to permit anonymity in comments. I read and comment on boards of across the political spectrum and a provocative post or three will almost always prompt an google search of the userid. On board demanding ideological or other kinds of purity tests such searches usually result in the loss of posting privileges. Given that most/all the commenters at CT appreciate the value of anonymity in the peer review process, I’m surprised that we haven’t yet questioned/established the benefits of allowing users to create and use the same online identity. Moderating comments would continue as always. Ideas an arguments would be separated from individuals and stand or fall on merit. I enjoy posting as anonymous as much as I do with the ID I use here. The obvious answer is that people enjoy engaging a familiar “face” and enjoy the process of building an online identity. Even those advocating “real-life” user IDs can imagine situations where a little anonymity might come in handy.

Just a thought.

80

Alison P 11.04.11 at 8:03 am

I think there is a meaningful difference between sexism and misogyny, and the type of comments we are discussing here are (on the whole) misogynist. Belittling and infantilising may be merely sexist: women are OK in their place but they can’t Do Stuff. Intimidating comments and violent fantasies are misogynist: women must be suppressed and controlled, up to eliminated. I think roy belmont is right to say that attacking women is a suppression of personal weakness, by projecting it outwards and attacking it. But I feel it is a deeper and even more visceral phenomenon: the anxiety which we all experience from being corporeal, being flesh and vulnerable to the pains of flesh. This is something that we can’t escape, because it is our constant ground. Therefore we throw it outwards and hate it. I believe this hatred of one’s own flesh and sexuality and personal vulnerability underpins the violent fantasies to which women are subjected. I think shifting that is a daunting task.

81

etv13 11.04.11 at 8:58 am

Many women who don’t reveal their real, or complete, names in blog comments nonetheless are pretty up front about their gender. I’ve known for several years, for example, that Lizardbreath was a woman named Elizabeth because she quite clearly indicated so in a comment thread way back when. If you’ve missed that she’s a woman, or that I am, it’s not that we’re trying to conceal it from you, but that you’re not paying attention. That’s not necessarily a dig — oftentimes it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, matter. But no one is justified in assuming that male is the default or that women are actively trying to conceal their gender by using a pseudonym.

82

krippendorf 11.04.11 at 12:28 pm

Meredith @72: I was surprised, not to mentioned disgusted, when a woman professor in engineering told me that someone had peed on her office door. I was even more surprised when, in the same group of 25 or so women faculty, a professor in another department blurted out, “you too?” This was circa 2010, not 1980.

I suppose office-door-peeing could happen to men faculty, too, and I’ve just never heard about it. I also suppose it could have been female students who, with the help of stepladders and exceptionally good balance, peed on the faculty members’ doors. But I doubt it.

Not internet misogyny or terrorism or what have you, but it goes to the broader theme of the invisibility of this crap (so to speak) to many men and, conversely, it’s salience to many women.

83

krippendorf 11.04.11 at 12:28 pm

it’s = its. more coffee please.

84

politicalfootball 11.04.11 at 1:00 pm

I’m usually expected to take it on faith that … women have fundamentally better understanding of men’s experiences than vice versa.

But doesn’t this seem likely to you? When one’s viewpoint dominates a culture, it takes a real effort to learn about other people. When one’s culture is subordinate, one is still steeped in the dominant culture.

A lot of men don’t even realize how men’s views dominate public discourse.

I’m sympathetic to open-minded white American guys, being one myself, but I suspect I understand less about, say, New Zealand than a similarly educated New Zealander understands about the U.S.

85

politicalfootball 11.04.11 at 1:08 pm

I assume Ann Coulter gets gender related hate mail too, Though (while there’s no excuse for it) I’m not sure if the “hate” really originates from what her gender is,—when it comes down to it.

Or does it? I really don’t know.

The expression of that hate is gendered – being female is considered a weakness, and being female causes a specific kind of male hatred that’s more intense and violent than the hatred directed at men.

86

Kiwanda 11.04.11 at 1:28 pm

First off, I’d like to commend Chris for reading the piece before discussing it.

Regarding pseudonyms: I like it when other people use them, and I like not knowing very much about someone when I react to their writing. It makes it a hair less likely that I’m framing their opinions with my prejudices about their backgrounds. It’s actually a good thing that nobody knows you’re a dog.

87

Lynne 11.04.11 at 2:14 pm

@dbk at 67
Your post has drawn me out of lurkdom. The first and only times I have posted here were in the comment trail of the Belle Waring post you mention. And indeed, why was that weird hijacking okay?

But…the thread was actually hijacked in two directions. One was fantasy novels, one was closely related to this topic: a Sady Doyle post at Tiger Beatdown. She posted something about certain fantasy novels (G.R.R. Martin’s) that fans of said novels did not like, and she subsequently related the hate mail she got in response. Reading that Sady got rape threats for dissing G.R.R. Martin was the first time I read about the kinds of threats women bloggers get.

Those of us who defended SD’s right not to engage any more with the controversy—well, we were in the minority. The disturbing thing to me was the way those threats were swept aside by some commenters here, who insisted she defend her blog post on Martin. If memory serves, Belle was more okay with that thread than with the fantasy novel thread, but maybe I would think that because it was the thread that interested me.

I did not like the way it ended but could not think of a way to save it.

88

Belle Waring 11.04.11 at 2:27 pm

That fucking thread pissed me off so bad that my first inclination was to read the George R.R. Martin book in question so I would at least be allowed to contribute to my own threads, but shortly thereafter Mr. Martin himself drew my ire, and being in an unpleasant frame of mind generally I abandoned the project. Thanks for the support upthread; I do find a continuous parade of sexist comments to be wearying, and when I consider posting about something they form a thicket through which I hypothetically peer to see if it will be worthwhile. And hey, wow, women bloggers get dismissed and threatened with rape? Someone should tell the internet! In 2003.

89

Belle Waring 11.04.11 at 2:39 pm

Also: Sady Doyle is the shit. Also: since our culture is sexist, lots of men and women will enjoy cultural products, such as books, which are sexist, without it either being the case that the women’s enjoyment of them sprinkles magic “not-rapey” sprinkles on the books, such that they can now be enjoyed with a clean conscience; NOR is it the case that the men who enjoy such cultural products are bad people who have now been contaminated with rape cooties and ought to be cast into the outer darkness. So, guys, you don’t have to go to the mat for fantasy authors who are kind of sexist sometimes. And women who are not fans of genre writing are free to not like genre novels which are, hey, kinda sexist, even if those happen to be the least sexist genre novels available. We live in a fallen world.

90

Salient 11.04.11 at 3:00 pm

Do you mean to say that you think this is true?

…my apologies, I really should be less sarcastic, it’s a flaw that’s getting worse instead of better. I do not think that what I said is true, it was a sarcastic extension of “people, typing on keyboards” that I should have avoided in the interests of comity. FWIW, I regret how caustic it accidentally was (when I had sincerely intended to be just flip and funny and playful, with the intent to reassure J. Otto Pohl that I wasn’t taking things too seriously at his expense or attempting to come down hard on him).

To follow up on the “no” a bit: in fact, experience (when and where it was possible to identify a terrorist’s name) suggests otherwise. In a couple dozen cases where e.g. the email account was the person’s name @ whatever.com, or where Facebook-type information was readily available via google search of phrases used in the letter, or a name and return address were written on the envelope in careful legible all-capitals print, it was inevitably a male with some position of authority or clout.

P.S. Dear terroristy types, putting your correct full name and return address on a piece of hate mail is contraindicated a really awesome idea and you definitely should follow that guy’s example. It made the letter so much more… effective!

91

bianca steele 11.04.11 at 3:23 pm

But pace Watson and Meredith, “we” don’t really consider it normal to shout at strangers in the street or to make prank phone calls (or to e-mail people we’ve never met with strange, local-sounding insults about how they present themselves in public). We call it “juvenile” for a reason, and even among teenagers, similar behavior in public or nearly public situations is considered “normal” only within certain groups. Maybe I need to think about this some more, but I find it difficult to believe that most men and certain women really think that’s the “correct” way to act among strangers, and that they only refrain because they know other people (“women,” “feminists,” or whatever) will object.

LizardBreath’s comment also gave me pause. Might I really be considered “passing as male” by acting in a way that feels comfortable among many of my mostly but not exclusively male colleagues and friends? Might some women feel I was making things more difficult for them by failing to promote the idea of normal feminine behavior?

92

Tedra 11.04.11 at 3:45 pm

Another data point: I’m currently getting calls and texts *on my cell phone* in relation to a blog post I wrote in 2006 under a pseudonym. I shut down that blog years ago. I do not make my cell # public; I have no idea how this stranger got it. Last year I was getting calls on my land line; I don’t know if it’s the same person.

I now post almost always under my name, sometimes including my pseud, in part because I learned through hard experience that it is pretty much impossible to keep a determined stalker from figuring out who you are unless you absolutely *never* say anything personal online (so fuck it, why bother), and in part because I am a stone bitch whose response to intimidation attempts is usually to push back, but I am not gonna lie: getting calls at home and one one’s private cell # is scary as hell and it’s a big reason why my online presence these days is limited to commenting and social sites where I’ve locked down my privacy settings as much as possible.

93

Tedra 11.04.11 at 3:46 pm

Crap. I meant to say “sometimes including my surname,” not my pseud, which I’ve pretty much retired (except very rarely when I think it’s relevant and necessary to identify myself to internet folks who don’t know my meat name).

94

Substance McGravitas 11.04.11 at 3:56 pm

But pace Watson and Meredith, “we” don’t really consider it normal to shout at strangers in the street or to make prank phone calls (or to e-mail people we’ve never met with strange, local-sounding insults about how they present themselves in public).

We don’t consider it normal, but it happens often enough. Thanks to the internet it’s now possible to expose yourself to those people PLUS people who feel liberated by the technology to reveal their innermost thoughts to the world…and people who don’t understand how their writing looks.

95

bianca steele 11.04.11 at 4:01 pm

As for “sexist” vs. “misogynistic,” I don’t know. Which is it to be obsessed with the factoid that American women all turn all their sentences into questions, and correct total strangers about it? Which is it to falsify spelling bee results so only boys will get to the citywide bee? Which is it to be obsessed with the idea that women who reply to posts by men are trying to get into bed with them?

96

Kaveh 11.04.11 at 4:11 pm

logern @75 I assume Ann Coulter gets gender related hate mail too, Though (while there’s no excuse for it) I’m not sure if the “hate” really originates from what her gender is,—when it comes down to it.

I feel like there’s a very common basic misconception, which maybe you’re referring to here rather than falling prey to, about the relationship between motive, behavior, sexism, & mysogyny. To wit, who cares whether people who direct mysogynistic language at Ann Coulter are actually sexist, or just going for the pugilist’s cut eye? The end result is still that women (not just disgusting violence-inciting people like Ann Coulter) encounter more of this abuse online. A lack of sexist motive wouldn’t make the behavior any less mysogynistic.

Even if somebody wouldn’t actually defend sexist views, to ignore the consequences of mysogynistic online behavior is to condone sexism. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the idea that there’s no such thing as ignorance, that we should treat all ignorance as willfull and only judge actions and not take motives into account. But also, I’m not sure why the point that people might be behaving mysogynistically out of ignorance/carelessness isn’t too obvious for people to repeat it as much as they do.

Salient @90 Ah, I probably should have guessed it was sarcastic, I’m bad at that; anyway, the follow-up point is very interesting.

97

JanieM 11.04.11 at 4:13 pm

Might some women feel I was making things more difficult for them by failing to promote the idea of normal feminine behavior?

Now there’s a can of worms if ever there was one. Maybe it’s a good thing I’m buried in work today.

Suffice for the moment to say that I have been refusing to pretend I’m someone I’m not in order to promote the idea of “normal” “feminine” behavior since I begged for a Davy Crocket suit for Christmas in 1955. A major theme of my life has been to claim the right to be who I am in the face of contrary pressure from parents and other relatives, teachers, boyfriends, girlfriends, feminist friends, “feminine” friends, and the Roman Catholic Church. So anyone expecting me to act more “feminine” for whatever reason … is going to be disappointed.

But from another angle, Bianca’s question was subtler: One could try, for example, to “promote the idea of normal feminine behavior” by other means than just exhibiting it. One doesn’t have to wear a lot of makeup to “promote the idea” that people who do have just as much to offer at work (for instance) anyone else. That’s the answer I would give to anyone suggesting that I wasn’t doing my part if I didn’t dress in a certain way; in effect, it’s the answer I did give when the women students at my college of choice wrote to the incoming female students to suggest that we should dress up a bit to counter the campus stereotype of “the co-ed” (not a flattering/feminine one at that school at that time). Jeans then, jeans now…incurable. But me. (And wearing jeans, for a woman, is, I think, far more damaging to the prospect of being taken seriously than wearing making, i.e. being “normally feminine.” Look at women college basketball coaches…..)

This is a complex topic, and even if I weren’t so busy I would probably have trouble doing it justice in the space of blog comments.

98

JanieM 11.04.11 at 4:16 pm

wearing making

s/b wearing make-up…

Like I said, back to work.

99

Rob in CT 11.04.11 at 4:21 pm

So, guys, you don’t have to go to the mat for fantasy authors who are kind of sexist sometimes. And women who are not fans of genre writing are free to not like genre novels which are, hey, kinda sexist, even if those happen to be the least sexist genre novels available. We live in a fallen world.

I just wanted to chime in and say: this is really well-stated.

There is an instinctive fanboy/girl reaction to criticism of something you enjoyed. Even if (especially if?) it’s true. I know that I’ve read some things and totally missed what is, in retrospect, really really obvious garbage (see: Belgariad/Mallorean – David Eddings). I didn’t really enjoy a point-by-point exposition of the faults of that work a friend pointed out on the ‘net. It was dead-on though. Sigh.

100

LizardBreath 11.04.11 at 4:35 pm

Might some women feel I was making things more difficult for them by failing to promote the idea of normal feminine behavior?

I kind of agree with JanieM that you’ll only make yourself crazy thinking this way. First, defining ‘normal feminine behavior’ is its own can of worms. Second, there are plenty of women out there who don’t spontaneously exhibit ‘normal feminine behavior’ whatever your definition of NFB turns out to be, and if there’s pressure to support women who do spontaneously act that way by putting on an NFB facade, you’re making life more difficult for the non-NFB exhibiting women. And you’re also making your own life more difficult. (I do think it’s important for women not to join in misogynist behavior by attacking other women for acting feminine, or for not acting feminine, whichever, but that doesn’t require putting on a show of femininity oneself.)

101

Alison P 11.04.11 at 4:49 pm

Salient said: In a couple dozen cases where e.g. the email account was the person’s name @ whatever.com, or where Facebook-type information was readily available via google search of phrases used in the letter, or a name and return address were written on the envelope in careful legible all-capitals print, it was inevitably a male with some position of authority or clout.

I think this is a very significant point. I need to be more careful to avoid lazy mental stereotyping of Internet bullies. It means we are looking at self-satisfied people who perceive themselves as invulnerable and privileged, not at people over-compensating for failure.

102

Salient 11.04.11 at 4:54 pm

Salient @90 Ah, I probably should have guessed it was sarcastic, I’m bad at that; anyway, the follow-up point is very interesting.

Nah, it was a Poe’s Law violation on my part. But I’m happy to follow up on the follow up — there are a few distinct categories of people worth mentioning (and of course a ton I didn’t think of too):

* Unclassified. Folks that sometimes use gender-intimidating language or do/say things to intimidate female participants, who are basically unself-aware about it, and respond with some embarrassment and sometimes a little anger (at being misunderstood) when called out on their shit. The embarrassed reaction can range from apology to purely instinctual self-defense. The kind of person who types in that they ‘raped’ their opponent in Halo, and when told “that shit’s not cool man” say something ranging from “o sorry” to “that’s not what I meant, the word means two different things” but then stops using the offending language.

* Bonehead class. Folks that sometimes use inherently gender-intimidating. These folks get pissy when called out on their shit, because they want to employ gender-intimidating language for general fun, not calculated intimidation. Frankfortian bullshitters : truth :: boneheads : hurting people. These folks adamantly don’t care whether or not their language or behavior is intimidating, and make a show of not caring by deliberately repeating called-out behaviors emphatically. The kind of person who types in that they ‘raped’ their opponent in Halo, and when told “that shit’s not cool man” says something like “man f*** you nazi” and then says ‘raped’ a couple more times in ALL CAPS in the next match, or says something functionally equivalent, making a show of not conforming.

* The a**h*** class. Folks that make intimidating and brutal comments that do not rise to the level of overt threat, intentionally as provocative & hurtful as possible. These folks love getting called out for their shit–means it’s working! They tend to either voice fantasies aloud while referencing the target in third-person, or address the writer directly to describe various torments that they allegedly feel the target should receive. These folks enjoy exploiting opportunities to belittle you, and the opportunity they best exploit is to cut someone down for completely ad hominem reasons–they enjoy watching the flustered and upset responses this generates, and aim to intimidate the target into submission. Persistent; intentionally vile. In nearly every single case that I’ve been able to follow up on, the person held some kind of position of authority within some kind of organization (including a hell of a lot of left/lefty/leftist organizations — local Democratic party offices, organizers of atheist retreats that have more than a couple dozen attendees, co-chair of some socialist club in university, but also including organizations like a management business or executive position, teacher/principal, lawyer who was a partner of a firm, uh, a couple police officers… running out of memories… oh yeah, lots of doctors, holy god did the doctors ever clutter up the newspaper comment section type places and Facebook back-and-forths back in the day of lax moderation, sorry doctors).

* The stalker class. Folks that follow up by collecting personal information from what sources they can, and exhibit a knowledge of that information to the target. Some of these folks pair this with specific threats; others don’t bother; they all exploit the fact that a stranger displaying this kind of intimate knowledge will creep the target the fuck out. You’d think such folks would be anonymous and hackery, but my experience says this group is more diverse than that. I don’t have any real aggregate information here, mostly for abyss-stares-back-at-you reasons: don’t play their game; they’re better at it than you are.

103

Dr. Hilarius 11.04.11 at 5:06 pm

There are sites I no longer visit because the comments are full of rape threats, overt racism, and general psychotic nastiness. Even when other commenters flame the trolls the end product is a thread having nothing to do with the original posting. The problem isn’t pseudonyms, as demonstrated by Crooked Timber, it’s the lack of prompt moderation.

Sadly, there does seem to be a robust population of men who really hate women and will use any opportunity to express their hate.

104

Meredith 11.04.11 at 7:08 pm

“Normal” doesn’t make it “good.” Norms vs. prescriptions, and all that. But in social practice, norms become prescriptive (normative). In my comment about women assistant professors’ surprise at a dean’s cluelessness that we might suffer petty insults of a kind our male compatriots would never be subjected to, I almost added: we women learned from that experience to speak up not just about big matters of the kind the meeting with the dean was called to discuss (e.g., sexual harassment by tenured faculty — not yet in any way illegal, btw — and salary differentials between women and men), but about other things we had allowed ourselves to begin to accept as “normal,” like obscene phone calls from students.
Another reason for moderating comments: what people get used to they tend to begin to accept on some level. There can be tough calls, I am sure. You don’t want to repress honest expressions of opinions/feelings that can produce challenges and then (potentially productive) discussion and growth. But a certain basic level of civility — well, there are some “good norms” for that. It’s what we expect in a classroom, for instance.

105

Sumana Harihareswara 11.04.11 at 7:44 pm

Salient — thank you for that taxonomy! It’s helpful.

106

Maria 11.04.11 at 7:45 pm

Thanks to Chris for posting this.

Bert at 38 and Elm at 51; yes, there is a markedly different tone, from time to time, in the comments I get. The whole ‘silly’ thing is a case in point. I tend to clock it and move on, after many years of blogging, though I know I post on a far narrower range of topics than I once did. Henry and others do a lot more comment-policing than I do, so I imagine there’s a fair amount of unpleasant stuff that crops up. But I’m glad to say I’ve not had much in the way of nasty emails or indeed anything worse.

There are always some men who pay more attention to how different things are for women and do their best to mitigate it. It reminds me of when I was a college exchange student in Canada during the 90s. The guys there were adamant that not only was the threat of rape a real and terrible thing, but it was their responsibility to be part of preventing it. So they were good on stuff like having one person stay sober and walk us home, or not leave someone behind at a party, that kind of thing.

I remember being really struck and touched by it; there can be a thin line for a guy between being paternalistic and just practically solicitous in a sexist world, and I always appreciated men who took the chance.

107

Doctor Slack 11.04.11 at 9:20 pm

The Internet is stewing with racist, sexist nutcases aplenty. The ones who actually send threats and abuse to bloggers deserve to have further action taken against them, and in many cases it’s probably technically possible, though there isn’t enough time in a day to get all of them.

It’s also of an entirely different category from this:

Rather, it’s more insidious. Case in point: Belle Waring’s post in late September on her tumblr. This post, which to me said maybe more than needed to be said re: the state of academic marriages (a subject on which I’m an expert), got threadjacked almost immediately and wandered off into a confrontational discussion of a fantasy writer with whom Belle herself was not familiar. Duh, what was that about? Nonetheless, she persevered for about 100 comments before signing off – but she was really, really angry when she left the discussion. And rightly so, in my view.

I think attempts to present The Sin of Persistently Disagreeing With a Female Blogger as some form of abuse needlessly dilute the far more valid and obvious focus needed on the actual sexist abuse. Very often in cases like the infamous “Martin thread,” the story is far more complex than some club of patriarchs wandering into the thread and telling the ladies to shut up. [The Martin tangent on the thread in question, for example, could in fact very easily have withered and died without fuel from the poster, with whose participation it drowned out most subsequent attempts to respond to the actual post; if the thread contained unwarranted and vicious ugliness (and it certainly did), a very great deal of it was directed toward one male poster who wandered in via the Doyle tangent and swiftly found himself a lightning-rod, despite his responses being civil, non-hateful and sane throughout; the dynamic that led to many people eventually ceasing to interact with Belle and talk among themselves was partly born of the increasingly toxic and affronted tone dominating the Martin tangent, and it was not something that the subject inherently necessitated nor that the content of the discussion necessarily warranted.]

This is not some form of “insidious” abuse, but a cascading series of bad decisions by the poster and some commenters leading to an unfortunate thread all around. The moniker of “abuse” or claims of “misogyny” should not be used as a shield for anyone to avoid admitting to such errors. They happen. Just let it go and move on.

108

tomslee 11.04.11 at 9:43 pm

Just let it go and move on.

After four paragraphs of mansplaining explaining to the world “here’s what actually happened and what it means” I assume the last sentence is advice to yourself. In which case, yes, absolutely.

109

Nancy 11.04.11 at 9:47 pm

Yes, a wonderful taxonomy from Salient. What I find hard to estimate, however, is the actual number of people in these categories. In particular, the number of serious misogynists.

I grew up in a very conservative religious culture where women and girls were condescended to all the time, but where it wasn’t acceptable to be overtly hostile or crudely disparaging to women. So I didn’t see much overt hatred of women, and certainly not the kind fueled by the threat of violence. Then I went into the world of academia, in a humanities discipline, where again the sexism tends to be subtle (though sometimes more overt with students) and colleagues are often exceptionally supportive of women.

So it was only when I started reading and writing on comment boards on the internet that I was really exposed to the shocking strains of truly vicious hatred of women in our culture. I have subsequently become a little obsessed to know what percentage of American men out there harbor this kind of stark contempt for or anger at the whole sex. Not to mention the subset who seem very very eager to act out their rage and contempt beyond merely writing intimidating things on web sites.

If you erased the merely bone-headed and the equal-opportunity a-holes, what percentage of men really feel that way? I feel like Obama’s election provided a plausible test for estimating the percentage of truly overt, hard-core racists in the US (something like: number of Tea Party sympathizers – 30% who aren’t racist + racist disenfranchised population of white people who don’t bother with politics at all= maybe 18-25% of the adult population? ). Would the election of a woman as president allow for a similar kind of rough outline? Has anyone tried to find out what the percentage might be through samples, etc?

110

bob mcmanus 11.04.11 at 9:47 pm

107: Just let it go and move on.

Maybe. I think it can be useful and even fun to examine and analyze these competitions for hegemony in discourses. Even this one. Hard to find anyone disinvested enough to do a decent job.

There is one starting up at US Intellectual History. Bring your popcorn.

111

Lemuel Pitkin 11.04.11 at 9:48 pm

Sorry for lowering the tone, but Doctor Slacks comment @107 is just BS, as anyone who read the threads in question knows. It’s also a nice example of how some people just can’t (or won’t) see what’s being described here.

112

Doctor Slack 11.04.11 at 9:49 pm

After four paragraphs of response to multiple expressions of dudgeon upthread, I assume the last sentence is advice to yourself, but moreso to those who were far more central participants in the thread than I was and are obviously still stewing over it.

113

Doctor Slack 11.04.11 at 9:51 pm

Sorry for lowering the tone, but Doctor Slacks comment @107 is just BS, as anyone who read the threads in question knows.

Well… I’m someone who read the thread in question. And I don’t think it’s me who’s full of shit; sorry if that’s inconvenient for you.

114

Rich Puchalsky 11.04.11 at 9:54 pm

“The first and only times I have posted here were in the comment trail of the Belle Waring post you mention. And indeed, why was that weird hijacking okay?”

Yes, tomslee has a lot to answer for.

115

Kaveh 11.04.11 at 10:16 pm

Dr S is overstating the viciousness directed at the guy in the GRRM thread (which I went back & read…) who popped in, whose comment had started the whole stink on the Doyle blog originally, but I also don’t think that that guy was misbehaving in any way in the GRRM thread on CT; he was, in fact, entirely polite, reasonable, and willing to accept some blame for the original stink, and judging by his comportment in the CT thread, I’m not inclined to suspect him of having “mansplained” or “fansplained” or whatever in the first place. Also, I don’t think most people were being all that crazy in the CT thread, either–maybe a couple people were rude to him, but it wasn’t some big pile-on. Maybe I’m too thick-skinned?

So comments like Dr Slack’s @107 and Lemuel’s @111 puzzle me. Chill out, guys!

Salient @102 Thanks, that’s interesting stuff. The take-home message for me is this is yet another case of associating a misdeed mainly with not-too-privileged people when it is actually done by very privileged people (like what I see with bullying in general). I think the reasoning behind “you’re a mysogynist because you don’t have enough sex” is more widespread than just discussions over internet terrorism (trollorism?), and it’s an issue that merits some serious consideration, on CT or wherever else…

116

Kaveh 11.04.11 at 10:33 pm

Also, maybe I’m getting pedantic now, but upthread, people were discussing whether women know what it’s like to be a man. Of course they don’t. I’m sure that most women know mens’ view of things much better than vice versa, but that doesn’t mean that how men experience things is always already obvious. In virtually any situation I’ve been in where gender roles, relations, sexism or mysogyny are being discussed, I’ve felt that the gender-related problems women face are much better articulated than the ones men face. Of course that’s because they’re more serious, but there’s also a diminishing marginal returns thing going on, and if we want to have an honest, useful discussion about gender issues in general, we need to think seriously about “mens’ issues”, and not strictly through the lens of easily-identifiable marginalized groups like queer men, ethnic minorities, &c. A good start would be the fact that boys are expected to be able to inflict violence. Only a boy can be a wimp for not being able to defend himself physically, in much the same way that only a woman can be a slut for “attracting” too much male attention (or, if anybody disagrees with this, I’d like to know why & how). Men drift into the aggressive, predatory gender role for many reasons, not just because it looks advantageous.

I mean, clearly we need to look beyond the internet itself to understand why this kind of sexual harassment of female bloggers happens.

117

Watson Ladd 11.04.11 at 10:49 pm

bianca, you must be very lucky to avoid street harassment. I’ve heard many of my female friends complain about the constant stream of sexual comments they receive from strangers, and in some cases behavior tantamount to assault. Even if one in ten thousand people behave that way, and I believe that number to be a low underestimate, then a site attracting several thousand pageviews a day or week is likely to have the daily presence of at least one of them.

118

JW Mason 11.04.11 at 11:06 pm

Chill out, guys!

You’re right. If CT were like Facebook and gave you the option of deleting your comments, 111 would be gone.

119

JW Mason/Lemuel Pitkin 11.04.11 at 11:08 pm

(Oops, LP=JWM. Sorry for wasting bandwidth.)

120

Doctor Slack 11.04.11 at 11:24 pm

115: You’re right, I’m to some extent falling into the trap of portraying the thread as wall-to-wall horror, which of course it wasn’t.

121

bianca steele 11.04.11 at 11:29 pm

Watson,
True, but there’s a pretty large difference between “it’s statistically impossible not to run into this kind of harassment, at least once over 10 years” and “this is how ‘we’ treat women in this culture.”

122

bianca steele 11.04.11 at 11:40 pm

Also “Marry me!”, “Smile!”, “Get a skirt that covers your legs you whore!” and following someone down the street are very different kinds of things. (And FWIW in my limited experience panhandlers are more aggressive the farther west you go, and for all I know men on the street in general are also more aggressive.)

123

sg 11.05.11 at 12:07 am

“yo lizardbreath, have you ever been mistaken for a man?”

“No, have you?”

124

tomslee 11.05.11 at 2:00 am

Yes, tomslee has a lot to answer for.

I expect my comments to cause barely a ripple and most of the time I am proven right. And then one exception triggered an avalanche (for which I have already apologized).

I was nobbut a butterfly flapping my wings over Tokyo, and take a proportionate amount of blame for the storm in Timberland.

125

Belle Waring 11.05.11 at 2:40 am

Oh for Christ’s sake. Thanks for this post Chris. Whether or not we regard street harassment as “normal” depends on what we’re talking about; it’s normal insofar as it’s constant and actual. Less so if we mean “we consider people who do it normal.” Doc Slack, some people got pissed off in that thread, but to portray it as one in which the main problem was people being mean to Henry is idiotic and I’m quite sure he’d tell you the same. Also if I had just shut up and stopped commenting on my own fucking post, things wouldn’t have gone so badly? I’ll keep that in mind.

126

Belle Waring 11.05.11 at 2:55 am

Now I’ve already screwed my main goal for the day: don’t get into arguments about feminism online, because I’m not in the fucking mood, and I just woke up 45 minutes ago.FAIL. Nah, wait, my main goal is to make a shit ton of money selling furniture, so I’m still good.

127

Henry 11.05.11 at 3:19 am

I suspect that Doctor Slack was referring to Erik Kain rather than me – but if I am wrong, I obviously didn’t think that anyone was even faintly mean or unfair to me, and more generally, like Belle , I would _really, really_ like it if people could avoid relitigating this kthxbai.

128

Doctor Slack 11.05.11 at 3:30 am

The reference was in fact to Kain. And “Also if I had just shut up and stopped commenting on my own fucking post” is really obviously not what I said. (Frankly I think the overall takeaway is “don’t get overinvested in defending the views of toxic personalities like Sady Doyle,” but I’m no more interested in relitigating than Henry is.)

129

Chris Bertram 11.05.11 at 9:03 am

After some hesitation, partly because their sheer incoherence made me unsure whether the comments were offensive or not, I’ve deleted the recent comments from “John”. Whether they were unpleasant or not, they didn’t contribute anything of value to the discussion.

130

Belle Waring 11.05.11 at 10:12 am

Um, I didn’t see them but I trust your judgment.

131

Belle Waring 11.05.11 at 1:25 pm

Turned over SGD3,000 worth of furniture. Only OK, but lots of customers… Pretty pictures! Tomorrow and Monday (a public holiday) will be good, I can just feel it. Blind devotion to Sai Baba has gotten us this far, after all.

132

John Quiggin 11.05.11 at 1:33 pm

My experience here and elsewhere is entirely in line with Chris’ post. Even when being deliberately provocative, I don’t get anything like the abuse directed at women bloggers even on posts that would seem unlikely to offend anybody.

I’d also observe there are a set of problems that begin with an assumed “right to comment”. A blog post is a conversation, and commenters are participants invited by the person who started the conversation. There is absolutely no obligation to invite anybody, or to allow anyone to remain in the conversation if their comments are rude or unhelpful. The only way to bring this home, I think, is to enforce the standards by ejecting guests who refuse to take a gentle hint. Places where this is done (like CT ) end up with interesting discussions; place that don’t end in flame wars and, worse, the kind of thing quoted above.

I’m not saying that active moderation is sufficient to deter psychos like those quoted in the NS piece, but it’s certainly necessary if they are to be discouraged.

133

John Quiggin 11.05.11 at 1:34 pm

@Belle: Save some tiffin containers for my next visit to Singapore!

134

Gareth Rees 11.05.11 at 2:18 pm

Laurie Penny in the Independent:

You come to expect it, as a woman writer, particularly if you’re political. You come to expect the vitriol, the insults, the death threats. After a while, the emails and tweets and comments containing graphic fantasies of how and where and with what kitchen implements certain pseudonymous people would like to rape you cease to be shocking, and become merely a daily or weekly annoyance, something to phone your girlfriends about, seeking safety in hollow laughter. An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet.

135

bianca steele 11.05.11 at 3:45 pm

I’m not going to post more on this, because at this point I’m not sure who I’d be annoying. But if people are going to change the way they post, to deal with people who are troublesome, obviously there’s more than one way to do it. For women, there’s retreating to ultra-conservative behavior in the hope that will prevent attacks. There’s trying to guess who the worst offenders will be and catering to them in advance. There’s avoiding certain controversial topics, or sticking to very strong arguments, avoiding being political at all.

None of these is foolproof, especially if you guess wrong (for example, guessing the paradigm of conservative femininity is Sarah Palin where it’s not).

136

Kiwanda 11.05.11 at 3:58 pm

Belle: “Sady Doyle is the shit”

You think this because you agree with her piece trashing an author whose work you haven’t read? Or her twitters trashing a woman who disagreed with her about trashing an author whose work you haven’t read? Or was there something else?

137

Harald Korneliussen 11.05.11 at 4:59 pm

Since there’s so unpleasantness in the world already, and we’re discussing it, I think I’ll take the opportunity to say that the discussion itself has turned out to be a lot more interesting and pleasant than I expected.

I liked Salient’s taxonomy too, it agrees with my experience of (not gender specific) online harassement well. So we can establish that 4chan is mostly boneheads, whereas the anonymous google groups poster who linked to my tax records when I had the temerity to disagree with him on an issue, is an asshole :)

But, judging from what I’ve observed offline, I would think there is also a category of people who are unintentionally harassing out of sheer social awkwardness. This is unfortunate, but it’s largely a product of the gender norm that men should take the initiative in relationships, coupled with virgin shaming. If you express contempt for these men who “can’t get laid”, you’re aggravating the problem.

Abstaining from virgin shaming is low-hanging fruit when it comes to changing harmful gender roles.

138

Henry 11.05.11 at 5:04 pm

Kiwanda – as already requested above, please refrain from relitigating this thx.

139

Marc 11.06.11 at 3:30 am

@132: Absolutely. Unmoderated discussions are, at best, waiting for the first vandal to come in and destroy them. The decision not to moderate is the decision to shut down the conflict-averse and promote the reckless.

140

ovaut 11.06.11 at 4:00 am

Yes there is something about Laurie Penny that really gets some men’s goat, in a way that is I think embarrassing to them.

141

Belle Waring 11.06.11 at 4:23 am

Look at me: I’m not responding, like a motherfucking adult! Next, I will clean all the things.

142

Doctor Slack 11.06.11 at 4:33 am

Meanwhile… ZOMG Sai Baba! Haven’t thought of him in ages!

143

tomslee 11.06.11 at 7:08 pm

The Guardian has a follow-up to the New Statesman article linked to in the post, and the Laurie Penny case here.

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