Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thoughts on Blogging, Moderation

In reference to this conversation from awhile back, it seems that the person who made a hate site targeting a popular feminist has shut it down.

While the site owner and many participants openly mocked the idea that running a blog is work and scoffed at the very notion of moderation as a necessary component to Internet community and communication, it turns out that, newsflash, both running a blog and moderating it in a way that satisfies all readers is…. oftentimes both difficult and thankless.

A significant portion of Internet users expect zero moderation while another significant portion expects moderation that is perfectly crafted to filter out anything that offends their particular sensibilities while allowing the free amplification of their own thoughts/obsessions, with many people falling somewhere in between these two ends.

I'm not sure people fully appreciate what it's like to moderate a forum unless they've done so themselves.

I've seen and been involved with many approaches to comment moderation and have yet to see a system that's perfect or, hell, even great.

In "anything goes" forums, hostile commenters tend to drive many people out, which I see as a loss of many potentially thoughtful commenters. I've seen many people laud certain blogs for being super lax about comments, but I think those people don't fully appreciate what conversations they're missing. Many people won't comment at all if they know or suspect they'll be attacked in response. I, for instance, read many more blogs than I actually comment on, including MRA and anti-LGBT sites.

Yet, creating a forum with commenting rules, requires those rules to be implemented. At best, in any forum (including my own) these rules are usually implemented imperfectly by imperfect humans. People banned or moderated end up feeling, justifiably or not, attacked, scolded, abused, harassed, or otherwise mistreated because the rules are, or supposedly are, implemented in an unfair, unjust, or discriminatory way.

And, of course, if you have a forum with rules, you must also at times implement these rules among even those whose politics and basic core beliefs you might share. Which can be awkward and, even for the person enforcing the rule, shitty.

For me, banning or calling out commenters who are, for instance, overtly misogynistic of the MRA variety is much easier than, say, calling out a commenter who is or appears to be feminist but who nonetheless has said something problematic. Recently, for instance, someone new to commenting at Fannie's Room said something that I mostly agreed with but used the word "lame." So here's my dilemma, just as someone who runs a small-fry blog like mine:

A) I could say nothing about the person's use of the word "lame," even though I'd prefer that the term not be used in that way in my space.

Some readers would interpret my silence as implicitly approving of the term. Indeed, some readers have, in the past, overtly said that I am responsible for every single thing people post in my space - as though every comment I see and do not delete I must, therefore, agree with even if I'm too busy in any given week to pay much attention to comments. (Anyone remember "Neckbeard"-gate of 2012? HA HA HA. Fun times.)

B) I could request that the commenter not use the term "lame" at my blog, thus setting a clear boundary in this space.

In the ideal world, the commenter would respond with something like, "Okay, I understand - I respect your rules in your space" (which, to her credit, this particular person pretty much did!). Yet, moderating a comment, even if gently done, also runs the risk of the person being offended, feeling harassed, feeling embarrassed, getting angry, escalating the conversation, stopping participating at the blog, and/or going to another blog to publicly talk about how over-sensitive/mean I am.

Over the years, I have lost readers and Internet friends for, even gently, trying to moderate comments. I'm not writing this in a "woe is me" mentality, I'm just explaining a thought process that I sometimes engage when it comes to moderation. And, hell, if I'm busy, it's a thought process I refuse to engage. After more than 7 years of blogging, I see patterns in commenting and can pick up pretty quickly when a person is going to become A Problem.  When I see it, I don't tolerate it, it's just, Bam.  You're out, douche. (Are we still saying d-bag?)

Anyway, for larger sites, I'm sure these considerations are greatly magnified.

My point here is that about a month or so ago, I had actually drafted some long-winded (if you can believe it!) thoughts about the particular hate site that I'm vaguely referencing and don't want to give publicity to. I decided against posting it.

Sometimes, running a blog is enough of its own punishment*.  People learn that eventually.

(*But, of course, I love you all. For being perfect. Did you get a hair cut? It's lovely!)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

I've been catching up on news, and finally got around to reading the much-lauded dissent in the 6th Circuit's same-sex marriage case (PDF), authored by Judge Martha Daughtrey.  The 6th Circuit upheld (2-1) the bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

In addressing the "responsible procreation" argument that marriage defenders often deem to be a "civil," "rational" reason for banning same-sex marriage, Daughtrey observes:
"How ironic that irresponsible, unmarried, opposite-sex couples in the Sixth Circuit who produce unwanted offspring must be 'channeled' into marriage and thus rewarded with its many psychological and financial benefits, while same-sex couples who become model parents are punished for their responsible behavior by being denied the right to marry."

The 6th Circuit's upholding of same-sex marriage bans represents a departure from the four federal appellate court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage, potentially leading to Supreme Court review that could lead to a ruling with nation-wide implications.

I'm glad appellate court judges are addressing and countering the "responsible procreation" argument, because it's, perhaps, the best argument marriage defenders have to assert any semblance of a rational basis for marriage bans. And, of course, this "best" argument isn't even good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Checking In

Hello readers!

Just to check in, I'm doing fine, just quite busy with the work that pays the bills.  That is, I haven't had the mental reserves to devote to blogging at the moment.  I hope to get back to it very soon, however, because an end to current projects is in sight.

The Reading Experiment continues, as the end of 2014 approaches.  I just finished Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring, and thought it was fantastic.  I'm so grateful for the many book recommendations I've received from readers this past year, as I've read many authors I would likely not have encountered.

As I've been away from Internet, I've been contemplating GamerGate, and particularly its so very meta- quality.  Namely, I'm convinced that many of the purveyors of harassment, whether consciously or not, kind of see the Internet as a massive online role-playing game.  They seem to see the harassment they inflict on those who annoy them or who they deem to be ruining "their" as both real and yet also not inflicted on real human beings.

Like the violence within games, their harassment is something they can undertake, strategize about with like-minded "players," and obsess over with little real-world consequence to themselves.

Their treatment of women mirrors both the way many female characters are designed/treated in games and the way that many men treat/disparage/harass female players within gameplay itself.  That is, GamerGate and the harassment many women are experiencing demonstrates that the real and virtual treatment of women within male-dominated gaming cultures is near-fully merged.

In many ways, the legal system needs to catch up.  "Virtual" behavior that has "real" world consequences should have "real" world penalties.

Civility and the "Real"/"Virtual" Dichotomy

Friday, October 17, 2014

Now Will Sommers Listen?

[Content note: Terrorist threats, misogyny, anti-feminism]

I wonder what (anti)feminist video game culture expert Christina Hoff Sommers has to say about the recent misogynistic, anti-feminist terrorist threat made via email toward Anita Sarkeesian, who was scheduled to speak at Utah State University earlier this week (at an appearance that was later cancelled when authorities would not disallow firearms to be present during the event).

You know, since Sommers spent several weeks looking at video game culture, and all.  In addition to alluding that Sarkeesian is a "hipster with a cultural study degree," Sommers waived away all critique of video game culture, saying:
"I spent several weeks looking at gamer culture, talking to gamers, looking at the data, and I don't see pathology or imminent death.  What I see is a lively, smart, creative subculture consisting mostly of tech-savvy guys from all over the world, but also including a small, but distinct, group of very cool women.  Now, if you love games, they don't really care about your age, your race, your ethnicity, your gender, or your sexual preference, they just. want. to. game. My suggestion to their [feminist] critics: Stand down!"
Now that's a fun reversal, yeah? Because, you see, it's feminist critics of video game culture who are violent, not the misogynists. Just to recap, the person who threatened Sarkeesian, wrote:
"If you do not cancel [Sarkeesian's] talk, a Montreal Massacre attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as the students and staff at the nearby Women's Center. I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs. This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I'm giving you the change to stop it….. 
…. Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge, for my sake and the sake of all the others they've wronged."
Anti-feminists have threatened Sarkeesian's life multiple times for merely speaking.

I really wish I better understood what motivates anti-feminist women to excuse, dismiss, and enable male violence toward, and hatred of, other women - particularly feminist women.  I think Dworkin was on to some of these motivations when she wrote Right Wing Women, but with women's expanded opportunities since the 1980s, surely the patriarchal head-pats and protection for being a Good Anti-Feminist Lady are becoming less valuable, right?

Or, do professional ideologues, personalities, and blowhards really even believe half of what they say?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cross-Gender Convos About Feminist Interactions

Over at Shakesville, Liss has written some helpful tips for how men can communicate more effectively in good faith conversations with women about feminist issues.

I thought I'd share both because it may be helpful to some male readers who may be seeking such advice, and because I think it can also be helpful for many women to see these suggestions articulated.  I know that when I have engaged with men on feminist issues, even if all parties are engaging in good faith and with good intentions, the interactions have still felt hostile.

Yet, like men, many women have internalized the stereotype that men are more objective and rational than women and so sometimes when men are engaging in sexist behavior it can be hard to immediately recognize and name what's going on.

I agree with all of the suggestions Liss makes, and in the comments I added one of my own:
When discussing feminist issues, "joking" about how scared you are "as a man" to be in the conversation is not helpful (eg, "I'm just going to say this and *duck* outta the way!"). These kinds of statements usually precede statements that are hostile to women while simultaneously putting the onus on women to center the man's feelings and ensure that he feels safe and not-too-challenged at all times in the conversation.
Even guys who are generally open to feminist arguments will trot this jokey-joke out. I've gotten, for instance, "Don't kill me for saying this, but Title IX should have never happened." The "joke" has always felt so unfair to me, and it wasn't until relatively recently that I really began to consider and articulate why.  Through the "joke," the man gives himself permission to say something offensive while pre-emptively framing any response that's not 100% appeasing as unduly hostile.

Now, when I see men make this "joke," I recognize them as men who are not adult enough to stand by their positions.  It's the equivalent of if feminists preceded gender conversations with men with, "Don't get pissed about this, but all men should be kicked in the nuts twice a week. Whoa, whoa down boy! You mad?"

On Humor and Civility

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Anti-Equality Spokesman Warns of Civil War, Because of Course

Welp, the Family Research Council is publishing reliably reasonable statements about the recent marriage equality victories in the US.  Via the agency's blog, authored by Rob Schwarzwalder:
"I’m haunted by the memory of William Seward’s comment, immediately before the Civil War, that strife between North and South over slavery constituted 'an irrepressible conflict.'
Millions of Americans simmer with resentment at the coerced redefinition of marriage the courts are imposing on them, despite referenda in dozens of states where they have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage quite explicitly. 
The Dred Scott decision did not decide the issue of human bondage. The Roe v. Wade decision has not decided the issue of abortion on demand. And the continued federal court confusion over same-sex unions only postpones a day of legal reckoning that could create a measure of civic sundering unwitnessed in our nation for decades.
Even if the Supreme Court has valid reasons for postponing their decision on this issue, postponement is not resolution. I fear that whatever decision the Supremes finally reach will not resolve it, either."
Three observations.

One, from the blogs of the conservative advocacy groups that I read, the "simmering resentment" primarily seems to be that of the dozen or so well-off white Christian heterosexual anti-LGBT men who lead these agencies and who are therefore big-time pissed off that they are publicly losing on the marriage equality front in the US and might have to come up with new strategies to maintain their relevancy and livelihoods.

Two, it's neat how white Christian heterosexual anti-LGBT men so often co-opt historical slavery, which so many of them insist, in other contexts, has had no lingering impact on African-Americans today. If this man were a person of color threatening war and civil uprising, especially a non-Christian, he'd be widely lambasted as an un-American terrorist.

Three, I'm somewhat intrigued by the rightwing "bunker survivalist" mentality.  Like, I watch those shows on Netflix of people who stockpile food rations and, oh yes, guns. Lots of guns and ammo and traps and such. And, it seems like they're almost always featuring white hetero families with a strong patriarchal figure leading the charge, at least when all the guns and militaristic planning is involved.

I don't doubt that some of what many of these people do is genuine concern about civil unrest and survival.  I mean, I have a plan - do you?  If you see something, say something!

But,  and perhaps it's due to that way they talk about their armaments, I always get this inkling that, like, maybe some of these people want the civil unrest to happen? I don't know because maybe they're unhappy with the current societal structure and set of rules, but if something BIG happened, they would finally get to be like, BA-BAM and shoot shit up without consequence. Like, all the planning, all the warning maybe is a bit of a hopeful fantasy for some people?

Anyway, my point is that of all the harms to society that bigots tell us will result from same-sex marriage, the suggestion that it will cause civil war is just so fucking absurd that I start questioning what else is going on behind such a suggestion.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Some Men Say Sexist Things

It can be oddly validating.

Via Bloomberg Businessweek:
"At a Sydney technology startup conference, Evan Thornley, an Australian multimillionaire and co-founder of online advertising company LookSmart(LOOK), gave a talk about why he likes to hire women. 'The Australian labor market and world labor market just consistently and amazingly undervalues women in so many roles, particularly in our industry,' he said. When LookSmartwent public on Nasdaq in 1999, he said, it was one of the few tech companies that had more women than men on its senior management team. 'Call me opportunistic; I thought I could get better people with less competition because we were willing to understand the skills and capabilities that many of these woman had,' Thornley said…. 
Thornley went on to say that by hiring women, he got better-qualified employees to whom he was able to give more responsibility. 'And [they were] still often relatively cheap compared to what we would’ve had to pay someone less good of a different gender,' he concluded. To illustrate his point he showed a slide that said: 'Women: Like Men, Only Cheaper.'”
Yes.  Women being paid less than less-competent, less-qualified men.  Hmmm, kind of like what feminists have been saying since forever.