sabotabby: raccoon anarchy symbol (fuck patriarchy)
[personal profile] sabotabby
I just had a bunch of surprisingly productive discussions around feminism and harassment, spurred by the stupid verdict in the case of Gregory Alan Elliott, the latest Tropes vs. Women video, and the overall imbalance in what we mean when we talk about freedom of speech.

Both of these cases have a lot to do with how the law is unwilling (I almost typed "unable," but this isn't true—they're perfectly capable of understanding Twitter threats against cops) to take into account both gender dynamics and internet culture. Elliott was acquitted (and may go on to sue his victims) because they didn't act like perfect victims. Why, one might ask—and the judge did—would they block him and continue to respond to his tweets?

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of how these things work. I know, because I've had stalkers and trolls. There is no perfect way to engage with them. Your mother might have said, "ignore the bully and he'll go away," but you knew even as a child that this wasn't true.

Internet discussion is largely public. This means that if I am telling the truth and Igor the Troll is telling a lie, our discussion is witnessed by outsiders. A typical exchange might go something like this:

Igor: Obvious falsehood nevertheless believed by those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo.
Sabs: Bunch of facts in rebuttal.
Igor: Shut up you cunt bitch ill rape your eyesocket.

(If you think I'm exaggerating, you're naïve af. This is mild by comparison to some of the things I've seen.)

Now, a logical judge, not taking gender or power into account, is going to think, "well, she can block him, why doesn't she just block him?" But Igor is not going to shut up. And to an audience—because this is the internet, and there is always an audience—if I shut up, Igor looks like the winner.

This is something that just won't make sense unless you spend a lot of time around kids, which I do. If you show kids a political debate and ask them who won, the kids will not identify the person who said the most accurate facts. They will identify the person who was the loudest and who, preferably, spouted the most insults. The primary reason, I'd argue, why Trump is popular is because most Americans haven't progressed past the developmental stage that my kids are in.

So my choosing to block and ignore may be, to me (and the judge) a sensible move of self-preservation, to Igor the Troll, and everyone watching, it looks like he won. Now, I can choose to ignore this, and I probably would, but it will be galling. It will sit under my skin. Igor the Troll will not stop talking because I've stopped talking. He may go on to talk about me, to spread rumours and lies, and he's less likely to be challenged because sensible people don't bother.

I fully understand why Guthrie and Reilly wouldn't, in this circumstance, act like perfect victims and just ignore the scum harassing them. Why should they? Why does Elliott get freedom of speech and they do not? Why is it always down to the woman to run away, to withdraw, to not go out at that time of night wearing that skirt?

Anyway, one dude messaged me and said he didn't get feminists. Did we want equality or supremacy? He compared feminism to vegans, and how there are some vegans who just are, and some vegans who reminded you that they were vegan every five minutes.

I used to draw this distinction too, before I saw what was happening to a vegan friend of mine on Tumblr. She'd post a vegan recipe and immediately get anon hate. Was it any wonder that rather than be intimidated into silence, she'd get louder in response? That got me thinking to just how often omnivores remind us that they're omnivores—bacon memes, posting jokes about vegetarians murdering carrots—but this stridency is entirely invisible, because most people are omnivores. Vegans are perceived as more obnoxious about their dietary choices not because they are (I'm firmly convinced they're not) but because it's Other, and thus marked as a political statement, while eating meat is neutral and unmarked.

Dude admitted he was afraid of women, so I unpacked that. It's the old Margaret Atwood quote: "Men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them." We went back and forth for about 45 minutes, at the end of which I think he got it a bit more.

I had a similar conversation with another young man who'd posted a "political correctness has gone too far; you can't say anything without being called a racist or a sexist, FREEZED PEACH"-type rant. Now, it's probably not a secret that I don't believe in freedom of speech—as in I don't believe that it exists, period, or can exist—but I questioned him on his consistency. Did he believe, for example, that ISIS sympathizers on Twitter should have free speech? Was he vigorously defending their rights to say what they liked? Of course, he wasn't, so I walked him through his own flawed assumptions about what was violent and what was peaceful. I don't think he agreed with me by the end—I wouldn't expect him to, as he's not the sharpest chisel in the toolbox—but he remained remarkably civil throughout and thanked me.

I don't always have the time or patience to educate people about power dynamics or feminism or anti-racism, and I tend towards the hairtrigger emotional at the best of times, but I'm kinda pleased with how these various discussions went. I mean, it stresses me out that we still gotta fight these stupid battles, but what else can you do?

Date: 2016-01-23 03:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
What Igor does: create a bunch of hoax identities to troll'em back! Because they deserve it! Who? The vegans? No, the stalkers and harrassers. Sorry, but I just don't have the time to spend my life like that filling the hollow holes of their souls but if you feel like doing it, know I'm right behind you. As an omnivore, boring hetero, I mean! I won't post recipes because I can't cook, otherwise I wait, I actually did and what was it? Borschtj! Vegan!

Date: 2016-01-24 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I quite understand, here is my Viking Way of self protection suggested by yours truly to the artist as her muse at the time but my borscht is the East German/Posenish variety that may or may not include sour cream or quark as gran called it and one could have the best ever in this wonderful place where I will go as soon as possible possibly in the company of my brothaheart who was always capable as was my dad of demonstrating more interesting possibilities about being of the male species;=)
Four letter word, sobbed very, very loudly...I just looked up Piastowska and they just closed last night...sorry, but I'm gonna cry a bit now, it was one of those best places in the whole wide world, the original owners as I knew them long gone but some afiçionados took over because they didn't want it to disappear and now they give up and it does. Et sic transit gloria mundi *snif*
Edited Date: 2016-01-24 02:49 am (UTC)

Date: 2016-01-25 01:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Last week I decided to cheat, and made borscht by running Bic's Sliced Pickled Beets (two jars) through a blender with some Tetra pack beef broth, some peeled potatoes, and a few chunks of onions, and then heating the lot up together.

I had to do it in a few blender batches as I couldn't fit it all in at once, but I love borscht and would eat it far more often if it wasn't such a pain to make.

I am happy to report that it went very well indeed, and was the simplest borscht I have ever made. Most tricky part was peeling the potatoes, which I did not find tricky at all.

I may have added a little salt and another splash of vinegar before dishing it up, but that was all. I am sure beef stock could be replaced with vegetable stock just fine.

It probably won't compare with Russian Black Cherry borscht; but compared to peeling and grating all the bloody beets by hand, it's amazing.

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Date: 2016-01-23 04:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You are amazing. I (sadly) am often too quick to snap-back at asinine people. I would be exactly the kind of "every five minutes" feminists the first acquaintance mentioned. I appreciate that you took time to actually convince someone with rational means. It exhausts me to think of having a forty-five minute conversation just to convinces someone that all humans deserve the same treatment. *curls up in a ball* Ugh. The world sometimes...

Anyhow. Back to the first thought. YOU. ARE. AMAZING.

Date: 2016-01-23 04:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The "the loudest person = winner" thing isn't even exclusive to kids, it's known by basically everyone that in literally everything, if you say something with enough determination and loud enough, people will believe you.

The issue with blocking Igor the Troll isn't just "losing". It's the consequences of losing: your detractors will think you're being a coward, that Igor was right after all, that you can't stand up to facts. It's a lose/lose situation.

Plus, Igor the Troll & his friends can create a ton of sock puppet accounts to keep trolling you even if you block them, so blocking one single person won't necessarily make the issue go away. And sure, in lots of platforms you can make your content visible only to a chosen few, but what if you want it to be public or if it's part of your work or something to speak out publicly?

I'm pretty sure that if Igor sent you a letter containing these threats, he'd be viewed a lot differently... because the ridiculousness of saying "why do you have a house with an address that people can send you letters to?" would be blatant, and because this form of misogyny is stuck in the same past where sending letters is not just a quaint thing.

Date: 2016-01-23 11:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
It's one thing if Igor thinks he's won, but the appearance to Igor's friends, the mushy middle, and passive observers of the conversation is quite important in terms of setting the discourse.

Yep, exactly. Igor & co. probably want to get a reaction out of people, and if they're a certain kind of troll they want that reaction to be shutting up and being afraid (another kind of troll just wants the attention, it can be hard to say).

Of course, I think that nobody has an obligation to stand up to trolls if they'd rather care for their own safety, or if they'd rather not waste energy/time/emotions on crafting a reply to Igor and his friends.

Sadly, twenty years ago a letter might have been considered harassment or hate speech, but in my experience, the tolerance of both of these has grown.

I had no idea that applied to letters/mail too (I don't get much mail), but that really, really sucks. Clearly, that form of misogyny is so outdated, it has no idea what to do with this new "mail" thing.

Date: 2016-01-23 04:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There's two sides to this (as I'm realising more and more having spent more time on tumblr).

Now don't me wrong. There AREN'T two sides to the issue you've been posting about specifically. There ARE over-privileged men on the internet (and even in real life) who don't understand the nuances of these issues. There are ALSO trolls on the internet who harass and insult with no interest in discussing issues in a reasonable way. This issue, at least, is clear cut for me.

However, based on my experience over the past several months, I have to conclude with more certainty than ever that the backlash against SJWs is warranted.

Now, on the one hand, there are cases where people are sometimes misidentified as trolls by reasonable internet users. So similarly there are also cases where people simply arguing for feminism are misidentified as SJWs by reasonable internet users. But I don't accept that the SJW term is unwarranted and is simply a way to shout down feminists.

I have seen several ridiculous items reblogged on tumblr:
- An article claiming that ISIS members have never read the Qu'ran. (It's based on a claim by a hostage that they had no Qu'rans for them to read. The hostage would have needed one written in French or possibly English. It should be entirely unsurprising the ISIS only had Qu'rans written in Arabic.)

- A petition asking for Mark Duggan's case to be re-opened because the police could potentially have arrested the guy who sold him the gun before the incident. (Mark Duggan was, unfortunately, shot by UK police while no longer armed. His gun was found near the scene of the crime. He tossed it beforehand after sending a text to his friend saying that the anti gun crime unit were onto him.)

- Apparently criticising "radical Islam" is bigoted. Apparently calling ISIS an Islamist terrorist group is also bigoted. *shrugs*

- Apparently the feminist statement "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" is racist.

- Apparently setting an American movie in Japan and using a lot of actual Japanese actors in the cast is racist.

- I was enjoying blogs concentrated on opposing fatphobia. But when I was told that it was fatphobic to make a personal decision to lose weight for health reasons, I found myself becoming rather less supportive. (The tumblr blog The Exercist is still very cool though. Focusses on the importance of exercise for fun, no matter who you are, at a level that suits you. Very opposed to pressure to have a particular body type and very against the view of exercise as a mandate or punishment.)

- I am so tired of people using the term problematic to refer to issues which they are apparently not sufficiently familiar with to state openly and specifically. One tumblr blogger was happily reblogging a comment that Laci Green (the one with sex education vlog on Youtube) should have never been born. When I messaged her about this she removed the reblog, but she also gave me this link. I haven't checked out most of it (I do actually have a life to live), but I clicked on the "I know lesbians don't know much about penises" one to check whether it was a joke - and it was so obviously a joke that I wonder whether the person who wrote the post even has a sense of humour.

Now you may not agree with me on everything and that's fine. But there is a kind of feedback loop with certain issues with many users keenly slapping each other on the back over any criticism of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. One tumblr blog says "I'm bored with all these posts about David Bowie" and another says "Exactly! He's just a white dude. Who cares?" These bloggers are quick to prop each other up - and I guess that's human nature, but often they are quick to jump on tirades seemingly without taking any time to consider the logic, never mind considering whether what they've been told is true.


Date: 2016-01-23 04:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
And outside of Tumblr entirely, there's the example of Mariam Namazie giving a talk at Goldsmiths University in London and receiving heckling, harassment and disruptions from Muslims trying to prevent her from speaking. The response from the Islamic Society was to say that their members were never there. However, there is video footage of the event. The response from the feminist society and LGBT society to the harassment of an ex-Muslim woman delivering a talk on free speech was to support the Islamic society. This support continued from both societies after the video evidence came to light, even when the Islamic society leader was forced to resign shortly afterwards for his extremely homophobic tweets.

That's how polarising things have become now: That the left will support the right in opposing the moderate.

Perhaps we don't want speech to completely free, but we do want the truth to be accessible. You can't have missed the recent news about Cologne, where coordinated abuse against women (including two rapes) was covered up out of fear that announcing the attacks by mostly North African and Arab men would be perceived as racist. That is madness! So I can't entirely disagree with the claim that "you can't say anything without being called a racist or a sexist" since that's how the ridiculous decision to cover-up the events in Cologne came about.

Anyway, that's my two cents. What do you reckon?

Date: 2016-01-23 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Nobody has "covered up" the events in Cologne.

I wonder if the same people who are so concerned for the women of Cologne in this situation give the same amount of fucks about sexual assault in every other situation... because somehow, I don't think so.

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Date: 2016-01-23 07:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I wish I had our hostess's patience, but I will ask you a couple of questions.

Because someone (foolishly) called your decision concerning your own body to lose weight fat phobic, does it then follow that you no longer think it's wrong for a random man to smack an ice-cream cone out of my hand and lecture me on my weight until I pretty much ran away from him? Or for one of the teachers at the school I used to work at to recommend against admitting a student with excellent grades and musical talents because she was fat?

Does it have any bearing on "I'd rather be a rebel than a slave" to point out that in US history the rebels were fighting to keep the slaves enslaved, and that the slaves didn't choose slavery, or is the issue that race has no intersection with or influence on feminism and more specifically that Black women should learn to "leave behind" being Black in order to understand feminism "properly"?

It is atrocious that men of Arab descent committed rapes in Cologne. Is rape only wrong when the victims are considered White or of European descent? I ask because I have seen multiple examples of people being vocally upset about attacks on people they consider White turn around and dismiss sexual assaults of various groups of nonWhites.

All of these questions are related to the "perfect victim" concept Sabs referenced above. Because some people use social justice as an excuse for bullying, or have half-baked ideas, or otherwise are fallible and human, many people, such as you here, argue that their concepts are false and the bigotry they claim to fight against simply doesn't exist. I don't think that's the accurate conclusion to draw from this situation.

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Date: 2016-01-23 11:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, and one last thing... tumblr is not a monolithic SJW* hivemind. I've seen a little bit of everything on there, including neo-Nazi blogs. You can't be sure that all of the posts you're complaining about were written by SJWs, and not by people with the exact opposite views (or just trolls, which happen on tumblr sometimes too).

I don't know about the specific posts you're complaining about. I don't know where those people were coming from. Sure, "setting an American movie in Japan and using a lot of actual Japanese actors in the cast is racist" sounds like a weird claim, but as your complaint about the "I'd rather be a rebel than be a slave" shows, you're more likely than not ignoring the context in which someone may have been saying these things.

* As much as I think that term is a strange combination of loaded and meaningless, I'll use it in this comment since it's easier than debate about the origins of the term and how it's used.
Edited Date: 2016-01-23 11:30 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2016-01-23 04:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Excellent essay thanks for sharing it.

"ignore the bully and he'll go away," means "Ignore the bully and I'll be able to ignore you." It is a thing I think authority figures needed to say.

Date: 2016-01-23 05:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Hello! Your entry got to top-25 of the most popular entries in LiveJournal!
Learn more about LiveJournal Ratings in FAQ (

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From: [identity profile] - Date: 2016-01-23 11:51 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: 2016-01-23 06:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think there's an even bigger problem with blocking and ignoring bullies, which is that in order to keep ourselves safe, we have to keep an eye on them. Having no idea what a bully is doing puts you at an information deficit, which can be very dangerous if he's the sort to act on his threats.

Date: 2016-01-23 07:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I cheered aloud when I read this.

Also, re: my comment above: am now trying not to have lied. :)
Edited Date: 2016-01-23 09:05 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-01-25 09:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know what was said on Twitter, but I see those types of people arguing publicly on there. It makes me think they, like me, have no interest in interacting with these people in person. There's no way to just go out and find them, after all. Well, unless you're targeting a specific group and they're holding a rally or meeting in opposition of your beliefs, but who goes out and seeks that out?

I think, from both sides, they get their daily dose of Twitter arguments and when internet followers back them up, they like to have their ego boost for the day. They feel they've won as long as some people agreed with them. But when no one agrees with them and the troll is the louder more persuasive one, it crushes their ego.

It's best not to get involved at all if the law is going to get involved. Too much drama, and I'd have peaced out long before it got to that point.

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