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‘Harassment’ Category

  1. On Twitter Toxicity And White Feminists

    January 30, 2014 by Miss Lemonade

    When I was a feckless youth in college, I had a job briefly for a group that billed itself as a public advocacy group. In less fancy-talk, it mean that they were a grassroots lobbying group. Our job as peons was to go door-to-door knocking and asking people for donations to help us in our fight cleaning up the Superfund sites across NY. Superfund sites are places that the government have earmarked as places of high amounts of toxic waste and waste dumping that need to get cleaned up because they are imminently damaging the lives of people who live near them. It struck me very early on that most of the people donating were doing so under the impression that we were working with the EPA to actually physically clean up these sites, but the truth of the matter was that we were soliciting the money so that the group could continue to go lobby in our state capital.

    This is a much harder thing to deal with when you are talking to a mother whose child has a birth defect because they live near one. I felt disgusting and disingenuous. I quit that job very soon after.

    I mention this because I see a rise in articles, seemingly from all pretty well-connected white women at mainstream feminist blogs decrying how toxic Twitter is, and by extension, the feminists that are on there. Feminism, from their perspective, is seemingly being torn apart by women fighting each other with Mean Girl-style tactics and being vicious, so much so that people are feeling shouted over or scared. The only problem is that these articles still only seem to be pointing at groups most often affected by how toxic Twitter can be, that is to say women of color, trans women and and throwing them under a bus for being “too angry” and not actually addressing the moments when Twitter can truly be a toxic place.

    The point I tried to make (and failed pretty spectacularly at) yesterday was that when it comes to having the discussions about Twitter being a hazardous place for feminists, the people running that discussion have been, and should be, women who are disproportionately affected by the fights and harassment that seem to crop up whenever they dare to talk about anything. Most of the time when a well-connected white feminist steps up to her microphone to write a pitched piece, it glosses over those narratives and simply skips to going on about “those angry people” who consistently get over fights about “unimportant things” like “cis” or “race relations.”  Very often, it seems like the authors of the pieces are frequently coming off a bout of being criticized themselves for marginalizing other feminists.

    So in this way, the problem consistently seems that the people most often making Twitter (and other forms of social media) places of hazardous, neglectful discourse are the same people who feel like they are most affected, and in turn, should be the ones to drive the discussion and look to save feminism from it’s nasty clutches. But are they really going to save anything? At most, it feels like they want to collect the attention, care and most notably, monetary rewards from being an outspoken advocate against it but not really reflect on how the mess got there in the first place or their role in not helping clean it up. It is a dishonest thing to shit up a place you don’t necessarily need to espouse your opinions and tell everyone who relies on it for activism, group consciousness-raising, and networking (or fun things like having friends) to leave because it’s disgusting.

    I do believe we need to have this conversation about Twitter fighting but one only needs to look so far to people like Flavia Dzodan (@redlightvoices), Mikki Kendall (@karnythia), or Sydette Harry (@blackamazon) to see that this has been going on a long time already. (It is almost as if following many different women on Twitter has been influential to forming opinions on how social media is used! Shock!) When I say “we” I do mean other white feminists. Because our complicity in this is often times more the reason social media is so aggressive and toxic, why the responses are vitriolic and why fighting happens so frequently – we say shitty, oppressive things while being feminists and refuse to listen to criticism about it and label the participants as unjustifiably angry. While I do believe that there are moments on social media when things can get “too heated” or nasty, I’ve had the privilege to only have those moments with other white feminists. Being criticized while online does not fall under “nasty” for me, especially if I say something terrible from my position of being a white lady.

    So when I remarked kinda off-the-cuff about “not being scared of other feminists”, it was my attempt to reflect on that idea. I recognize that too often people feel like they can’t truly dissent or express their opinion within feminism for fear of reprisal. But I feel like someone like me stands a far better chance of getting away with saying literally anything and getting away with it just because of my position in the community. The distance between myself and someone like Michelle Goldberg could easily be a one-way ticket back to Brooklyn and a couple of book deals. I’d be a terrible mouthpiece for why Twitter is so toxic within feminism, and why it’s problematic on a structural level to have only white feminists being the ones to have neglectful and downright dog-whistle-y conversations about what the “real dangers” of social media are within the feminist community. Even in writing this article, I am taking a big leap of authority to tell other white feminists who might want to sign on wholesale with the notions of Twitter toxicity and not look often at what is being said and who the fingers are being pointed at rather than letting people better suited for this discussion to really lead the charge (as they have been doing for some time.)

    Like I said before, it is dishonest to talk about the mess when you had a hand in it, and it’s unfair to work from a place where you can neglect an outlet so many of us use as feminist networking and socializing to tell us how terrible it is. Wanting to solicit support from the people who have been left holding the bag of our mistakes while simultaneously blaming them for the failures of feminism on social media is not only disingenuous but outright supremacist in its approach. We need to reflect on how this toxicity came about, recognizing that anger and criticism for our neglect and shitty behavior is warranted and working the hardest on making social media better for everyone.

    Follow-up: Suey Park knocks it out of the park with this takedown of “toxicity” from white feminists but also in support of Twitter feminism.

     

     


  2. Press Button, Receive Pain: Twitter Implementing Report Abuse Feature

    July 29, 2013 by Miss Lemonade

    If anyone hasn’t been following the story lately, Jane Austen recently was announced as going to go onto the 10 pound note in the UK. What does this have to do with Twitter? Apparently a lot of people were mad at the woman who petitioned it, Caroline Criado-Perez and flooded Twitter to send her rape threats.  Seems like a normal day in the life for a feminist with a social  media presence but due to the news profile that getting a woman on money got, the wave of threats and general shitbaggery was quite a lot more voluminous.

    So much in fact that Criado-Perez turned around and petitioned Twitter to implement a Report Abuse feature. Now, several days later, Twitter has already responded that they will be implementing it.  Seems like a good thing right? Well the problem is that many people over the weekend raised their legitimate concerns with why adding a Report Abuse feature to Twitter won’t really make the problem of threats or abuse go away, and might even hurt those it is supposed to protect.

    The problem is that Twitter, for being a free service (Caitlin Moran, shut the fuck up), doesn’t do much to aid those who use the service when it comes to potential violations of not only their Terms of Service but actual statues regarding internet harassment. Their website does have ways to report abuse right now, but nothing terribly convenient and many people, including even high-profile Twitter feminists like Feminist Frequency are given boilerplate answers that rape threats do not constitute “abuse.” It seems like Twitter has a support staff for these things but largely has a laissez-faire “everything is covered by free speech, we don’t step into disputes” attitude, even when someone is legitimately the subject of a one-sided hate campaign.

    How do I know this? Well, like so many other people on Twitter who were protesting the efficacy of this feature, I was a victim of Twitter saying one thing and doing nothing. Over the course of four years, I had a stalker who was dedicated in making most of my waking hours a torturous hell. Once he found out that I had a Twitter account, a prolonged daily attack of hundreds of Twitter accounts tweeting at me was my life for 2 years. He would Tweet at me innocuous but hurtful things about my appearance, post pictures of me but it soon escalated on most days up to and including threats on my life, that he was going to rape me, and posted my phone number, address (or enough to scare me once I got the cops involved.) He also would like to threaten me with literal genital mutilation, posting pictures and threats about what he was going to do. He’d tweet sexually harassing things as well. There wasn’t anything vile that he didn’t stoop to, including harassing people through me – my friends, especially other women. Twitter on multiple occasions either didn’t respond to me trying to keep up with the dozens of new accounts per day, or gave me the same answer – that it doesn’t violate their policies. It made me think, “What does violate?” Apparently spamming does.

    People have used the “Report Spam” button to either toss a bad person in the trash but also to get rid of  critical Twitter accounts if they have enough support. Anti-Racism Dog has repeatedly gotten the Report Spam treatment despite being a Twitter account that does nothing but tweet at racists on Twitter with barking noises. This is definitely not giving me a good feeling that implementing a Report Abuse feature is going to be used the same way.

    No one is going to be protected when Twitter puts this in on all their various apps or website because Twitter simply doesn’t have the moderation, concern or staff to make sure that anything that is reported is vetted for content. It shows that even when the content passes muster for 90 percent of humanity as abusive, that it doesn’t violate their rules. At best, what a Report Abuse button is going to do is nothing. At worst, abusers and other oppressive people who are upset that someone is justifiably mad at them (very often marginalized populations on Twitter – transfolk, WoC) are going to use it to further silence those people who already can’t fight back. Where are the celeb supporters for them? Petitions? Were they hiding around a corner somewhere while the rest of us were dealing with this?

    Stuff like this needs to come with not just an assurance of being created but actually enacted in a way that requires way more human interaction, time and concern for their users than Twitter has at the moment. Twitter has a responsibility, even as a free service, to do more to protect people from whatever the Internet decides to throw up on them in 140 characters or less. It is one of the juggernauts of the social media world and like Facebook, has really done very little to do this. It makes me exceptionally bitter that people who had been disenfranchised by Twitter and abused repeatedly were not given any audience in this discussion between one high-profile white feminist and Twitter as a corporate entity – well, except on their Twitter accounts of course. It is because Twitter is where all the actual good discussion happens.

    Imagine if all that good discussion starts getting snuffed out because detractors, abusers, and misogynists start abusing the Report Abuse button and Twitter continues the hands-off policy. It will be a sad day for the service indeed but more for the fact that Twitter has routinely been one of the few places online, harassment be damned, to actually interact with people in a way that isn’t moderated by oppressive policies. But in doing so, Twitter has also created a perfect place for abuse to go unabated, and this just seems like  more of the same.

     


  3. Johnny-Come-Lately: Famous Dudes and Sexism

    July 1, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    My silence screams ‘ha ha!’/And you call us wrong either way/It ‘just so happens’ to us everyday.  – Le Tigre

    Look, I’m sick of your shit. I don’t care if you’re famous and “erudite” arbitors of geek culture. I don’t care how many hits your articles or comics get, how many people know your name or laugh at your jokes. You have a big fucking problem right now and that problem is shitty behaviour. You’re all up in arms right now because someone called Felicia Day a “booth babe” but you conveniently forget that there are other, more famous Destructoid writers going around harassing women on Twitter and calling them “feminazi c*nts.”

    I see you, Wil Wheaton, who’s mad his friend got shit on and while I don’t want anyone to get harassed, much less Felicia Day, the idea that you’re just noticing and caring about gaming culture being shitty to women NOW? There’s been tons of other less-famous women who’ve been harassed before and no one gives a shit about them. Gaming and nerd culture turning on women didn’t start with Anita Sarkeesian (though that was horrible), and it definitely didn’t even start with the fucking Dickwolves debacle either. It’s always been there and the fact that nerd guys are shuffling uncomfortably and being angry about it now because it involves someone they care about finally makes me feel sick. Where were you guys when Penny Arcade was being shitty for the umpteenth time; what about what THOSE guys? They’ve been just as instrumental in being shitheads as a couple of Destructoid writers.

    If you really want nerd culture to change, you guys have to start being better people. You – the content creators, the talking heads and the guys who have thousands of followers on Twitter. Don’t sit around and huffily shake your fist at a culture you helped create by not giving a shit about this until now. Get rid of sexist language out of your peers, quash your fans going out and attacking objects of your criticism “for you” and definitely stop grandstanding and using  typically masculine arm-flailing when people say mean things about your women friends. Guess what, men have been saying mean things about any woman that dares to exist on the Internet and they aren’t all Felicia Day. There are a lot of non-successful, non-famous women that have to deal with this crap on the regular. Women you don’t have a close personal connection with need protection too.

    Protection from whom? Protection from Jim Sterling, Penny Arcade as much as a bunch of grognard nerd-types attacking via blog comments or @ replies. This is the shit palace you guys built by not smacking your bros for the awful things they say or joke about in a very real, public setting as much as not putting a muzzle on your fans. You’re mad about nerd culture attacking women? Why don’t you actually DO something about it? Women-bashing is everywhere, especially in nerd culture and none of you are doing a lick of work to help get rid of it. I’ve seen more responsible editorial staffs on blogs with a third of your budgets and twice as many women contributors. I’ve read tons of webcomics that don’t hinge on rape jokes or sexism to get their point across. I’ve seen tons of talking heads that don’t make shitty jokes with their male friends on Twitter.

    This shit doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen because men are threatened by a famous woman. It is because they’re allowed to be shitbags to women for whatever reason they choose. It is because they see us as outsiders, stealing their precious video games and rape jokes, they see us as less. That’s why the insults come out, that is why attack campaigns come out for their amusement, that’s why people are allowed to use anonymity to constantly shit on blogs like this one. It doesn’t help that a lot of them are famous, are well-known and possibly make video games.

    Sexism is coursing through your veins and now that you’ve all become “aware” of it in your precious nerd culture, take the power and privilege you have with all your fancy, angry words and put your vast empires where your mouth is. Realize how hard it is? Now you’ll realize what us nerd women have had to deal with for so long now. It’s not easy. And no one is going to pat you on the back for treating women with respect and watching what you say. This is baseline, basic human stuff here. Caring about others and how you present yourself professionally and publicly requires a much higher regard for your audience than talking amongst friends and you guys, those with so much much pull and reach need to fucking realize that for a second. You have the most responsibility to do the right thing and you need to not run around hoping people praise you for it. You should do it because it is the right thing to do.

    If you got huffy and defensive reading any of this, then you still have a long way to go. Maybe you’ll realize what you need to do now though.

     


  4. How To Talk to Women and Not Be Creepy

    March 20, 2012 by Miss Lemonade

    This originally was posted to my Tumblr. I’ve made slight edits for clarity or grammar where neccessary. I’ve decided to start this as my first post on the blog in dedication to International Anti-Street Harassment Week (March 18th-24th, 2012). – ed.

    I was talking on Twitter about how I was approached tonight when standing with my friend at a bus-stop downtown by a creepy guy. A male acquaintance asked me how he was being creepy, outside of “unreciprocated flirting”, with genuine curiousity. This is the difference between myself and men – I don’t need to explain how someone is creepy to other women. They just know. They know that when I say creepy, I don’t need to spell out what that means. Saying that I’m creeped out is enough, you know?

    So guys, I’m going to do you a solid and lay down some education.

    You don’t realize it but situations you put yourself forth in to a woman can come off really creepy and even scary. You don’t realize this because a woman has to always guess a guy’s motivations if she has no idea who he is and he’s just coming out of nowhere to talk to her. We don’t have the luxury of assuming that he’s harmless. What seems nice to you can be rude, creepy, or even terrifying to someone. This is good advice for anyone, but statistically speaking, women have a lot more problems dealing with this kind of behaviour and I’m also a woman so this is speaking from personal experience. Creepiness in guys makes me go from neutral to “should I be running away right now” mode.

    Now, I’m sure you know a lot of women who aren’t scared of men. How scared a woman is of a random man talking to her is not your business, ever. If she is scared of every guy, that’s her choice. Get over it.

    1.) Pick a good place.

    This means in a situation where socializing usually occurs is a safe bet. People go to places to socialize and be around other people and generally are more pleasant and less threatened by your presence. Bars! Mixers! Coffee houses! Parties! Areas of group activities or events like concerts or sporting matches! These are great places to talk to people.

    Places that you find people to be solitary, lost in thought or generally quiet on the lower end of “good.” Museums, libraries and such are examples of these.

    Places that you are forced to be out of sheer necessity (especially alone) are not ideal, if downright terrible places to approach women randomly. People don’t like you intruding on a place they HAVE to be or NEED to be at because there’s no way to leave or else they have to stop what they need to be doing to avoid you if they feel uncomfortable. Workplaces that are front-facing (interacting with customers or clientele), bus stops, grocery stores, etc. These are bad because not only is a woman usually alone but there’s nothing that predicates a social interaction AT all. Talking to someone or coming up to them and forcing a non-standard interaction with someone working (unlike asking for help or for product information) or breaking them out of a standard errand or routine is not only rude but can be very off-putting or scary. It says you don’t understand social rules very well or their business being there.

    Approaching when she’s all alone somewhere, especially somewhere remote (like a parking garage or sidewalk on an empty street) is a really, really bad idea.

    2.) Pick a good time.

    If a woman is talking with a friend, try to be polite and don’t interrupt her conversation. That’s just good manners, but this goes moreso when she’s in a non-social place (bars and whatnot are hard to NOT interrupt someone talking, or even hear them talking in the first place).

    Time of day is also important. Night-time and not in a social place? I know for me my hackles are raised a lot more. Daytime usually has a lot more people around, alert. It feels safer (which is not necessarily true for everyone) but night time preys on a lot more fears than not in most people. Places are more deserted, things are harder to see. Do the math.

    3.) Watch her body language…

    Don’t be an idiot and assume that just because she’s not telling you to away and splashing her drink into your face that you’re allowed to stick around and talk. Is she smiling genuinely? Is she not making eye contract with you? Body posture, tone and other non-verbal communication is pretty important. She might even give you her name or phone number (sometimes fake, sometimes not) just to get you to leave.

    4.) …and what she says! 

    If she has some excuse to bail, if she asks you to leave, or isn’t really talking to you extensively, just cut your losses and stop talking to her. Especially if she asks you politely to go. Even if she doesn’t ask you politely, leave her alone.

    5.) Have a conversation.

    Assuming you’re keeping said rules above in mind, know that leading off with asking for her number, intimating that you’d like to do something sexual or flirty or you like how she looks without any provocation is kinda creepy and weird. It says to the woman that you don’t really care about how she might feel about that, that your motivations are probably not innocent, pure or even safe. Presenting your thoughts so bluntly and up-front, in an unvarnished way, is demeaning and even a bit predatory.

    DO NOT EVER WHISTLE, CAT-CALL, USE A PET NAME OR SHOUT AT A WOMAN FROM A CAR, STREET CORNER, PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT. THIS IS HARASSMENT. DO NOT USE SLURS IF YOU DON’T GET A POSITIVE RESPONSE.

    6.) Don’t touch her or get up in her space.

    Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to touching and personal space invading. Anything more than a handshake (unless she’s already giving off signals that she’d rather stick her hand in a blender) or a shoulder tap is over the line. Being closer than a foot or so, especially if you’re in violation of one of the rules above is no-no. The closer a guy gets to me, the more I become alert and ready to bolt. A lot of men are more physically imposing and you don’t even realize it – sometimes you are taller, sometimes you look scary or have more body mass than us. Sometimes you just smell really bad.

    7.) Being drunk or high makes you forget said points above. 

    If your good judgement goes out the window when you’re drunk or high, maybe skip approaching people regularly. Especially if you get angry easily.

    8.) Enthusiasm is awesome!

    A woman who appears genuinely enthusiastic or welcoming that you are talking is easier to spot than guessing (and guessing wrong). It means she appreciates and welcomes your presence.

    9.) Rethink how you view a woman in general.

    Realize that some of the reasons I had point out said points above are because a woman is not there and does not exist to be asked out, give you her phone number, or need to hear her opinions on how she looks. You are not entitled to these things. You will not die if you don’t get to do these things. Respect a woman’s right (hell,everyone’s right) to privacy, personal space, and mental peace when out and about.

    10.) Don’t tell a woman you don’t know to “smile.”

    I’m not here to look happy all the time, fuck off.

    Now, I know that some of this is hard and some of you are probably angry that it all sounds so complicated and “does this mean I can’t talk to women EVER? GOD!”

    If you can logically work out things in a contextual manner and judge situations for yourself, this should be a piece of cake for you. If someone thinks you are creepy, guess what, deal with it. If being even a tiny bit mindful of what you do is really too hard, then yes, don’t talk to women ever. Please. We thank you in advance.