Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Clementine Ford and Backlash Against Consequences for Men

On the Internet Civility front, Clementine Ford has posted a piece explaining her decision to report misogynistic abuse she received online to the man's employer.

For brief background, a man left a single word comment "slut" on Ford's Facebook page.  As his Facebook page included his employer, she took a screenshot of his comment (along with his agreement/approval of racist jokes) and shared it on his employer's Facebook page. The employer ended up firing the man. Some additional context here is that Ford is an Australian feminist and reports receiving ongoing abusive comments/emails, as one does when one is a feminist online.

I have said repeatedly that advocacy for the Internet to be an "anything goes" free speech "utopia" works as its own silencing mechanism. For, such an environment doesn't mean that all people are actually participating freely. It primarily means that people like the man Ford reported can bully lots of people into not actually participating.  Thus, the voices that end up sticking around are those who are, by and large, not targeted, threatened, and harassed to the extent other groups are (or who accept the abuse as a condition of their participation).

The issue is made worse by application providers who do not adequately address abuse or who treat the issue as "not their problem" even though they create these platforms (and make huge sums of money off of them).  Ford writes:
"Facebook's methods for responding to abuse are useless, and the company has made it pretty clear that their scope for community standards lies squarely on the side of free use of sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist slurs. The only recourse possibly left to the women ritually targeted by gendered harassment is to try and create consequences for people in their everyday lives. The alternative is for women to remove themselves from the online world - a space which is not separate to the 'real world' but now intrinsically enmeshed with it - and be silent. And while I know that's the preferred outcome for the boys and men who have never been made to take responsibility for their actions, it's also complete bullshit."
Ford also notes that, because the man she reported has been fired, some of his defenders are claiming that she's ruined his life or taken away his ability to support his wife and kids (that he doesn't even have).

Well, I don't know about that. I'm sure there's a spot for someone like him in Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

I say that only half kidding.

For, it seems Trump's very popularity is largely due to (a) the general assholishness of many Americans, yes, but also (b) the raging backlash against the idea that white men and bigots should be held accountable for their words that offend nearly every group other than white men.

Anyway, this is not a new thing - this idea that male reputations and livelihoods outweigh women's. I'm glad to see the pushback.

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