Tag Archives: harassment

Linkspam smash! (13 November, 2012)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Photograph of camera by Elliot Bennett

Discussion starter: Reddit, Predditor, and outing bad behaviour

So there’s Reddit. For the Reddit abstainers like me (I’m also not on Tumblr or Facebook, I’ll move on and set up neo-Luddite Feminism Blog any day now), a quick intro: discussion forum, encouraging the creation of Reddit subforums (subreddits) around any topic you can think of. Hugely popular: the mainstream press tends to cite Barack Obama’s Ask Me Anything thread as proof.

Reddit is strongly committed to what their users call freedom of speech, but that isn’t a very specific term on the Internet: it can mean anything from “I believe governments should not restrict expression” to “I believe that never deleting comments* from a forum improves the quality of discussion” to “I believe that never deleting comments from a forum is the only ethically correct way to run a forum.” (Or the disingenuous version: “I believe that I personally should be able to say what I want in any forum.”)

In Reddit’s case, freedom of speech basically amounts to “we believe that any user should be able to create a subreddit and moderate it how they and fellow moderators choose.” They host, for example, hate speech subreddits. They also until recently hosted r/CreepShots, a subreddit for sharing non-consensual photos of girls and women (up-skirting and such).

Over the last week, there’s been several eruptions around Reddit. Recently, Samantha** set up Predditors, which posts publicly available information about contributors to r/CreepShots, gathered from other sites linked to their Reddit pseudonym. It’s up and down: right now the first entry lists the full name, date of birth, employer, marital status and several photographs of one Eric Gore, Reddit username “ocbaud”, who submitted covert shots of women taken in his workplace. Jezebel posted about Predditors on October 10: How to Shut Down Reddit’s CreepShots Once and for All: Name Names. Predditors was temporarily closed by Tumblr shortly after, although at time of writing it is back with two profiles of Reddit users.

“Reddit’s defense of [CreepShots] is that it’s ‘technically legal,’ [Samantha**] explained. (The subreddit’s bio mansplains it well: “When you are in public, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. We kindly ask women to respect our right to admire your bodies and stop complaining.” You can also click here for information on how little Reddit’s administrators seem to care about policing the subreddit.) “So I’m doing something that’s technically legal, but will result in consequences for their actions. These fuckers think they can get away with it scot free, which is one of the reasons why sexual violence is so prevalent around the world.”

In addition, on October 12, Gawker published Adrian Chen’s Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web, identifying Reddit user Violentacrez, a moderator of r/CreepShots and several other subreddits hosting racist, misogynist and/or sexually abusive content, as Michael Brutsch, a computer programmer in Texas. Brutsch apparently moderated most of the subreddits out of a commitment to a “I believe that never deleting forums from Reddit is the only ethically correct way to run Reddit” version of free speech, but was more personally interested in r/CreepShots, regularly contributed content. Chen also describes a reasonably close working relationship between Reddit staff and Brutsch, who was active in training other moderators, and in identifying illegal content so that Reddit could remove it (that they don’t want to host).

It’s not yet clear how things will go from here: will Predditors survive, will Samantha** survive burnout, will creep shots remnants pop up all over the web like zombies? (The last is already happening***.)

Some of Geek Feminism’s authors have had a backchannel discussion over the last year or so about various Database of Harassers proposals. The proposal there is for documentation of in-person harassment incidents, for people who would rather not make their harassment accusations public in a blog entry or etc for the usual reasons We’ve taken a pretty skeptical view of the likely success of such a project. What do you think? Does the success of the wiki’s own incidents listing (which relies on third party public reports) or Predditors change your opinion?

* No one seems to believe this about spam.

** The pseudonym that was used in the Jezebel article.

*** Link is to a Jezebel article, not directly to a creep shots site.

When sex and porn are on-topic at conferences: Keeping it women-friendly

This is a cross-post from the Ada Initiative blog. Discussion is extremely welcome!

We’d like to start a discussion: How can the Ada Initiative extend the example anti-harassment conference policy to explicitly allow respectful, woman-positive discussion of topics like sex and pornography when it is on-topic, without creating loopholes for sexist and exclusionary behavior to creep back in?

First, let’s be clear: harassment and unwelcoming behavior at open tech/culture conferences are far from over. For example, one recent conference tried to “break the ice” using slides with sexual messages and/or animals mating and ended up getting racism and prison rape jokes (unsurprisingly – see this list of higher risk activities for conferences to avoid). That’s why the Ada Initiative’s advice on including pornography or sexual discussion at technology conferences is “don’t.”

A brief explanation of why pornography and sex are off-putting to women and LGBTQ people of any gender: Most pornography shown in this situation assumes that the audience is male and heterosexual, and sends the message that everyone who is not a heterosexual man is not the intended audience. Also, shifting people’s minds towards sex often triggers people to view women as sexual objects, in a context in which women want to be treated as humans with a shared interest.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop speaking

But showing pornography and talking about sex in public are not necessarily a “women not wanted” sign. Women are using open tech/culture to create erotica by and for women, and to have open discussions about sexuality in general.

For example, Archive of Our Own is a “fan-created, fan-run, non-profit, non-commercial archive for transformative fanworks,” designed and created by a majority women community, and hosts erotic fan fiction written by women among many other fan works. At the Open Video conference, Cindy Gallop talked about ways to change pornography to be more women-friendly, as well as more “open source” (and launched a startup actually doing it). for women in open tech/culture also need to speak about what keeps women out of their communities, which requires talking about pornography and sex.

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp DC

Valerie Aurora speaking at AdaCamp

What we want to do is support conferences that have organizers, speakers, and attendees who are sufficiently aware of sexism, homophobia, racism, and other forms of harassment in order to distinguish between, e.g., trying to “spice up” a presentation with a little off-topic pornography, and a discussion of ways to change pornography to be more women-positive. Our own AdaCamp is an example of a conference in which sex and pornography are on-topic.

The Ada Initiative’s current anti-harassment policy includes the following paragraph:

Exception: Discussion or images related to sex, pornography, discriminatory language, or similar is welcome if it meets all of the following criteria: (a) the organizers have specifically granted permission in writing, (b) it is necessary to the topic of discussion and no alternative exists, (c) it is presented in a respectful manner, especially towards women and LGBTQ people, (d) attendees are warned in advance in the program and respectfully given ample warning and opportunity to leave beforehand. This exception specifically does not allow use of gratuitous sexual images as attention-getting devices or unnecessary examples.

We then add a blanket provision approving discussion about topics that are appropriate for the specific conference.

What do you think? Comments are open (but heavily moderated).

Food for discussion: A few examples of anti-harassment policies from conferences where sex and pornography are on-topic: BiCon, Open SF, and Open Video Conference.

If you like our work and want to support our work making conferences more women-friendly, please donate now.

Donate now

Raiders of the Lost Linkspam (18 September, 2012)

  • Gender equality influences how people choose their lovers: Do men go for looks and women go for status? Not in the most gender-egalitarian countries.
  • Women Who Display Masculine Traits – and Know When Not to – Get More Promotions Than Men: “In the business world, women who are aggressive, assertive, and confident but who can turn these traits on and off, depending on the social circumstances, get more promotions than either men or other women, according to a recent study coming out of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.”
  • Racism: It’s Elementary!: “However, some Sherlock fans, and others, are very fixated on the casting of Liu as Watson. They claim Watson can’t be a girl because that’s all wrong; he’s supposed to be a boy, you know… Yes, canonically, Watson is a man. However, there are a lot of departures from canon in adaptations of Conan Doyle’s work, because that’s what happens when you adapt work; you change it, you make it more interesting, you make it more dynamic, you take it in new directions.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment] Hypermasculinity & Dickwolves: The Contentious Role of Women in the New Gaming Public: “Although the original gaming public’s identity is based upon the outsider group mentality, their in-group dynamics have expanded upon women-hostile concepts of masculinity within the larger social sphere. This discourse, as amplified across social networks and in public online spaces, allows for extreme and virulent lashing out against those who are perceived as others, most notably women. Such silencing warps the seemingly social spaces of Web 2.0 into tools for the exclusion and perpetuation of a male-dominated gaming social public.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Sexual Harassment] Let this be a lesson: “If you want to get a group of people together to laugh at two zebras mating and giggle at jokes at the expense of others because they’re “SO wrong, tee hee!”, you can do that! It’s called a group vacation! Don’t sell me a ticket to it.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Look Upon My Linkspam and Despair (11 September, 2012)

  • 10 Characters Whose Genders Were Swapped In Production: “With many of these characters you also have to wonder: would their character arcs have been different if they’d stayed the originally planned gender? Would Ripley have had a love interest, would Dory and Martin had some on-screen chemistry, would Luke and Han have remained just friends?
  • Women Avengers… Assemble?: “Women read comics. Anyone at all engaged in social media knows this. Women read comics and are a driving force behind fandom. I think I could call them the driving force behind fandom and put up a convincing argument. Just think about it: what fandoms have driven America crazy in the last decade? Could anyone dissuade me from saying that they were Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games?”
  • A Diversity of Rolemodels Key to Getting Girls Into Science | The Mary Sue: “Does emphasizing appearance mean female professionals are taken less seriously? Or is it a necessary way to maintain place in a system that, in certain respects, is still stacked against women? Should getting ahead be achieved by any means? Or should more attention be paid to altering the judgement that makes this an issue at all? One thing’s for sure. There are no easy answers.”
  • Reckless Theorizing Without A Net: Women, Blogging, and Power: “Whenever a group of academics are gathered and the idea of social media comes up, I have found extreme resistance to the very idea of online engagement. I don’t mean just dismissive attitudes about that new fangled technology but virulent, vocal attacks on social media that usually include things like it’s a waste of time, it distracts from “real” life, and that it is some kind of elaborate fad for “other” people… I’ve found that women academics, regardless of rank, are the most vocal about their dislike of social media.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Harassment] The Great Geek Sexism Debate: “Over the past few months, three of the most influential conventions in geekdom — Readercon (for science fiction writers), The Amazing Meeting (for skeptics), and DefCon (for hackers) — have been at the center of very public discussions about sexism and sexual harassment in their communities. After all three conventions in 2012, women spoke out publicly about episodes of sexual harassment and humiliation they experienced at the cons. The fallout was ugly — but also awesome. Here’s what happened, and what’s still happening, as formerly male-dominated geek spaces make way for women.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The word LINKS spelt out in clips (safety pins)

To Hit Armor Class Linkspam (7 September, 2012)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Closeup of the paint-covered hands of a child (by Steven Depolo)

I take it we aren’t cute enough for you?

A few times within the lifetime of this blog, there’s been a major emergency in geekdom: a geek girl has needed a confidence boost.

I hear you cough. Someone just said “geek girl” on Geek Feminism, the home of “ahem, geek women, THANK YOU”?

No really, I mean it, a geek girl. A prepubescent girl has been bullied or heard some gender essentialist crap, and a call to arms goes out. The best known is probably Katie Goldman, the then seven year old whose mother wrote in November 2010 that Katie was being bullied for liking Star Wars, a boy thing:

But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, “My Star Wars water bottle is too small.  It doesn’t hold enough water.  Can I take a different one?”  She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, “I’ll bring this.”

I was perplexed.  “Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one.  I think it is actually smaller.”

“It’s fine, I’ll just take it,” she insisted.

I kept pushing the issue, because it didn’t make sense to me.  Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.

She wailed, “The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle.  They say it’s only for boys.  Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it.  I want them to stop, so I’ll just bring a pink water bottle.”

Katie’s story went viral including at the official Star Wars blog and a year later CNN reported that at GeekGirlCon when a brigade of Storm Troopers formed an honor guard for Katie, and that there’s an annual Wear Star Wars day as a result.

We had our own smaller burst of geek support on the Geek Feminism blog in May this year, for five year old Maya, who was turning away from her love of cars and robots. 170 comments were left on our blog for Maya, second only to Open Letter to Mark Shuttleworth (200 comments) in our history. In addition, it wasn’t an especially difficult thread to moderate as I recall: a few trolls showed up to tell Maya goodness knows what (sudo make me a sandwich LOL?) but in general people left warm, honest, open stories of their geek life for Maya.

Here’s something I was struck by: when I tweeted about Maya’s post, back in May, I saw replies from men saying that they were crying (with joy, I assume!) about the response to Maya. I have to say I do NOT see a lot of admitted crying about other posts on our blog, no matter how positive or inspirational. (People love the existence of the Wednesday Geek Women posts, but they are consistently our least read and commented on posts.) Or crying about stories that are negative and horrifying either.

It’s going to be hard to stand by a statement that I don’t begrudge Katie and Maya their outpouring of support, but: I don’t begrudge Katie and Maya their outpouring of support. I don’t think they should have less of it.

… but I think geek women and other bullied or oppressed geeks should have more.

Thus I do want to ask why girls? Why do we not have 170 comments on our blog reaching out to women who are frustrated with geekdom? I want to get this out in the open: people love to support geek girls, they are considerably more ambivalent about supporting geek women.

I’ve compared harassment of adults with bullying of children before: they have a lot in common. What they don’t seem to have in common is a universal condemnation from geekdom: bullying children? Totally evil*. Harassing adults? Eh… evil, except you know, he’s such a great guy, and he hasn’t got laid in a while, and (trigger warning for rapist enabling) he does have the best gaming table, so what are you gonna do, huh?

There are a number of reasons, I know, even aside from the (provocative!) title of the blog post. Some of them are more sympathetic than others:

  • Talking to adults about overcoming difficulties is harder. There can’t always be as much optimism or tales of It Gets Better. For some adults, that’s bullshit. (It’s not always true for children either and telling children this can be a disservice too, but it is more culturally comfortable.)
  • Adults are often angry when they’ve been mistreated. In this case, feminists are often angry. It’s harder to engage with angry people. They (we) are less appealing. We may not be grateful for your thoughts. Sometimes we pick them apart publicly if we don’t like them enough. And call you mean names.
  • When a child is bullied by another child, the bad guy is reassuringly definitely not you.
  • Children don’t talk back, or can’t. If an adult says that It Gets Better, the appropriate role for the child is to smile and look grateful. (This is also true of women when listening to men, but generally somewhat less so.)
  • Many of us are more familiar with the experience of being a bullied child than being a harassed or oppressed adult, and can be empathetic more easily.
  • We really really want to believe that things will be basically OK for Katie and Maya, even if they haven’t been for us and people we love.

There’s no easy answer. Many of us are very deeply invested in It Gets Better rhetoric, because the alternative is sure pretty sucky. But at the same time, if you’re doing one thing to stop gendered bullying this year, say, leaving the 170th supportive comment for a five year old girl, while kind, was probably not the single best use of your one thing. Join the fight. Make it better yourself. And, since you aren’t in fact limited to one thing, leave kind or supportive or co-signed righteously angry comments too, while you’re at it, and not only for children.

* At least, in the context of these discussions. I am far from believing that geeks are universally actively working to save children from bullying, nor that they are incapable of perpetrating child abuse.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Ready Player Linkspam (14th August, 2012)

  • Straw Feminists in the Closet: “God, what a nightmare! To wake up to Straw Feminists in the closet, one of the greatest bogeymen of all time!” Amazing drawings.
  • Philosophy gender war erupts after call for larger role for women: “‘I think many of the senior men in the field believe philosophy would be better if there was more gender equity, and I think [a boycott] gives them an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is,’ she said, adding that she applauds Mr. Collodel and his co-organizer, Eric Oberheim, for adding women to their program, albeit at the last-minute. ‘People worry about tokenism, but as far as I’m concerned the important thing now is to improve the profile of women in philosophy.'”
  • The Women Who’ve Transformed A Mars Rover Into A Sassy Social Superstar: “‘It’s easier to anthropomorphize rovers,’ added Smith. ‘The cameras make it look like she has eyes. So it’s tempting to think of the rover as a bodacious chick on the surface of another planet with a rock vaporizing laser on her head.'”
  • The Better Name for Girlfriend Mode Is Probably Co-Star Mode: “The word ‘co-star’ elevates the status of the second, presumably less-skilled player. It clearly labels them as something other than the best player. They are not the ‘star’, but they are the guest, the visiting celebrity, the fellow great. They’re the celebrity walk-on in a sitcom or the other actor who isn’t being interviewed at the moment. They may be a mere supporting actor, but ‘co-star’ makes them sound so much important. It’s better than ‘girlfriend mode’ or any other construction that would label the second player as inferior to the first (see: ‘casual mode,’ ‘person-who-sucks-at-games mode’).”
  • [Trigger Warning: Harassment]What It’s Like For a Girl Gamer: “This story of harassment is, inside the industry, considered old hat—no one wants to hear your tale of woe. When I talk about this kind of thing at industry or academic panels, there are people eager to wave off 90 percent of what I just wrote because they are, allegedly, already busy looking for the solution. Then there are the others who dismiss me because I’m not addressing feminist concerns in the ‘real world.’ But this is my real world, and I would argue that for most of us, gamers or just Facebook users, these online social interactions are very real, with very serious consequences.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Harassment]Without My Consent: Paths to justice for survivors of online harassment: “This website is intended to empower individuals harmed by online privacy violations to stand up for their rights. The site will focus on the specific problem of the publication of private images online. We are currently in the beta phase of launching the site, which means that content is being added and edited regularly. Our long-term hope is that the site will also inspire meaningful debate about the internet, accountability, free speech, and the serious problem of online invasions of privacy.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The word LINKS spelt out in clips (safety pins)

World-Record Linkspam (10th August, 2012)

  • Frustrations of an Asian American Whedonite: “Would you ever tell a story that purported to have major elements of American gay culture, without having a single gay character in-frame for more than 3 seconds? What about a show that claimed some feminist themes, but cast only men, with women barely seen and never heard?”
  • Olympians: Superhero Bodies and What Real Athletes Look Like: “In fact, [the bodies of Olympic athletes] seem a lot more varied than the characters in the pages of most super-books. So are superhero comics getting it wrong?”
  • The Trouble With Wife Aggro: Aro reacts to a panel with “Wife Aggro” in the title appearing on the PAX Prime schedule: “When you title your panel ‘Wife Aggro,’ what you are saying is that this is a place for dudes and that women (unless they’re committed monogamous lesbians from one of a handful of US states or Canada, I guess?) are not invited…”
  • Scalzi: An Incomplete Guide to Not Creeping (at cons): “Yeah, I do meet a lot of people and/or I do find many of the people I know in a casual way to be attractive in one way or another. The very last thing I want is for them to feel that I am a creepy assbag. These are the things I do to avoid coming across as one.”
  • Meet Ouya, The $99 Android-Based Gaming Console With a Woman CEO: “To Uhrman, the Ouya is a ‘love letter to gamers,’ and its a beautiful letter thus far — I just hope its addressed to all gamers, 40-year-old Farmville-loving soccer moms included.”
  • Why It’s Important To Cut That Creeper Guy From Your Social Group: “Beyond having good anti-harassment policies at the executive level of the convention, you and your friends or peer group should have an anti-harassment policy amongst yourselves.”
  • The Importance of a Gay Gamer Convention: “When you accuse these folks of segregating themselves, you forget that they were already pretty fucking segregated, and having them band together is the last thing their haters want, really — because keeping them isolated and singular is the best way to keep them quiet.”
  • [Trigger Warning: Rape, Rape Apologism] The Pervocracy: The People You Meet When You Write About Rape: Cliff Pervocracy has compiled a list worthy of a new bingo card.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The word LINKS spelt out in clips (safety pins)

All you need is linkspam (7th August, 2012)

  • What the Backup Ribbon Project is all about | Backup Ribbon Project: “Stories have come back to us about “Backup” people helping to break up fights, escorting women to their hotels, distracting That Person from obnoxiously hitting on other fans. And each and every one makes us proud to be a fan.”
  • ‘Fake Geek Girls': How Geek Gatekeeping Is Bad For Business – Forbes: “In the face of this insecurity, “fake geek girls” are the equivalent of Communist sleeper agents in the uncertain 50s – the number of women who have no interest in geek culture but want geek attention at a personal level is vanishingly small, but their phantom is used to justify prejudice more generally, with the aim of keeping an unknown quantity out of the clubhouse.”
  • NYT: In Silicon Valley, Showing Off: “And while some women here still worry that they will not be considered serious technologists if they care about clothes, as Katrina Garnett was in 1998, when she wore a slinky black Hervé Léger bandage dress in ads for her business software company, many are confident enough to dress the way they want to.”
  • Notes From an Ayewards World – An Old-School She-Geek: “If it’s OK for women to be anything they want, then they can want to be decorative and well dressed and impeccably made up. Of course they can!
    But are they going to judge me unworthy because I am not, and don’t want to try to be?”
  • Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault Feminist Romance | Finding Gaia: “I don’t read a lot of romance because too often I end up finding parts that conflict with my values as an educated, independent-minded, political woman.”

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.