html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: I've not challenged Dizzy's troll, either. That's crap.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

I've not challenged Dizzy's troll, either. That's crap.

I’ve been thinking about Kathy Sierra’s situation and the anonymous graphic death threats she got. I’ve been thinking about my comment policy, and being a woman on the internets. I’ve been thinking about what a zero-tolerance policy means. But mostly I’ve been thinking about what I’d’ve done if I’d seen the situation happening. And what I would want people to do if it were happening to me.

My understanding is that Ms. Sierra’s writings on technology earned her a lot of attention; some small part of that from what is likely to be one man who has made sexually violent threats against her. I’ve seen the threats, they are far beyond the pale. That is very clear. It is also helpful that her writings are technical; nice not to have this clouded up with allegations that she has presented a sexualized version of herself and what can you expect of men who encounter a sexualized persona? (Which I object to as a bullshit assessment of men.) But that’s about all I am clear on.

So. Occasionally I write things that provoke reactions. Sometimes, people reprint them to strangers who don’t give me the benefit of the doubt. Those strangers then write things about me, the person, rather than whatever I wrote about. I mostly don’t mind; ‘fact, I mostly think their conclusions are funny. But last week, when Peter reposted my TSA rant, I was glad he didn’t post my gender. People assumed I’m a man, and I got responses like “What a fucking idiot.” But when I get negative responses from people who know I’m a woman, I get two more things. I get ‘she must be physically unattractive’, and I get this nasty descriptive scare-stuff. So far, no threats directed at me, but definitely stuff intended to keep me scared of an unidentified but menacing man (‘you won’t be so proud of your tkd as you feel his thick fingers rip your larynx out of your neck’ type-writing). In small doses, I can dismiss that stuff easy. It doesn’t conform to my perceptions of the world. In large doses, it would change my perception of the world.

I don’t expect to have large doses of that vileness turned on me for my usually benign dorkiness. (But, I imagine, neither did Ms. Sierra, for her tech writings.) If I run into it, it’ll likely be as a spectator. In that case, what would I do? Well, if I had run across the site with the threats against her, I probably would have backed the hell out of there. It was foul and mean and I guard against exposing myself to foul meanness. Would I have dropped a line to Ms. Sierra, expressing sympathy? No. I don’t know her or of her. Would I have posted something, saying this is unacceptable? No. I wouldn’t have wanted to alert them to my existence. Would I have written to the site administrator, saying ‘what are you doing, allowing this on your site?’ No. Well, just barely maybe (10% chance) if I’d seen a very large email address next to something about how they want feedback on what should be allowed in the comments. Yep. I would have done nothing and clicked back to my people.

What would I want people to do, if pictures of me mutilated were posted with sexually violent text? Well, I would want them to speak up. I’d want them to write to me, post comments, write to the administrator, saying that is unacceptable and they will not tolerate it. I would want them to make noisy withdrawals, explaining why they are shunning a site and then truly shun that site. No even-handed links for bad people. Let them wither in proportion to their vileness. Or become concentrated and isolated.

So, what’s the deal with me not acting the way I would want people to act? Well, like any protest, it would take some (minimal) effort, and alone it wouldn’t accomplish much, and there is some (slight) fear it will re-direct the nastiness to me. Strangely, I’m over that in the real world. In the last month I’ve gotten out of bed to call the cops and intervene in violence on my street. I think of Kitty Genovese and I act. I could do that much on the internets. I will do that much on the internets.


Anonymous Peter said...

But last week, when Peter reposted my TSA rant, I was glad he didn’t post my gender. People assumed I’m a man, and I got responses like “What a fucking idiot.”

I was careful not to let on that you were a woman because I figured some people would make inappropriate responses. Most of the people who post on are thoughtful and mature, but inevitably there are some who are not.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I appreciated that.

8:41 PM  
Anonymous Mike Jenkins said...

The general conception of the Kitty Genovese story is almost certainly wrong. (The wikipedia article alludes to this, though doesn't go into too much detail; other published sources are more explicit.) It is very possible that not a single person in Genovese's neighborhood thought her life was in danger; most thought they were hearing an argument. The NYPD told an NYT reporter that there were "37 witnesses"; technically this was accurate, in that 37 people could give statements about things that they heard. The NYT reporter either deliberately misunderstood or was just confused, but the "Kitty Genovese Story" is mostly a mistake.

Having said that, Megan, I think you've hit a nerve with me. I think of myself as courageous, but would I throw myself into the ring with those psycho's who were attacking Kathy? I mean they are probably all talk, but, ... I mean I have young daughters. You can't expect me....

10:31 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Passey said...

Eh, I think Kathy is being a bit of a drama queen. I've personally been getting as bad or worse than that for years. Welcome to being an opinionated woman on the internet, or just a woman on the internet, or any sort of female public or semi-public figure. Death and rape threats are pretty much inevitable.

The blog haters/stalkers/trolls are actually significantly less scary than the stalkers I had to face when I was more involved in the Libertarian Party. Those actually showed up where I lived, or where they thought I lived. Whereas people who just post shit on the internet rarely ever actually do anything offline.

3:11 AM  
Blogger Megan said...


But I thought how people treated you was unacceptable as well. I said as much, here and other places. I want troll behavior to end, not for us to deal with it. In the places I can influence, that will what I try to make happen.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Jacqueline Passey said...

I think it's unacceptible too, but her over-reaction of OMG I AM SO SCARED I WILL NEVER BLOG AGAIN just encourages the trolls and makes things worse for women everywhere. It also makes me doubt the sincerity of her motives -- is she really that afraid (and if so, is she really that dumb/sensitive?), or does she just want attention?

10:19 AM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

I didn't really get death threats, so I don't know how Kathy should feel.

I think Megan's point is important though, and it's being lost. We have to stick up for other women. Maybe part of the reason women are so vulnerable on the web is because a man may kick your butt, but a woman probably won't. And a man may garner support from his buds and even strangers through the "guy code." But a woman usually stands alone.

Maybe if a guy posted, "I will find you..." and 60 women said, "No I will find YOU..." it wouldn't happen as often. And yes, it is scary to get involved. Because a man can find, or at least blog harshly about, one or two women. But he can't do it to EVERY woman who writes, if there are enough.

1:03 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Dizzy, you're making it hard for me to dodge this. I have a whole not-polished line of thought to respond to Ms. Passey's comments. I even started a draft, but it trailed off. (A big part of me thinks there is little more boring than bloggers carrying on conversations in their posts and responses. How many people are really interested in my dialogs with Ms. Passey?)

And then, I feel bad 'cause I didn't say anything to your more recent troll who wants to see more of you. But I couldn't think of an approach that would reject the premise of his comments and defuse the situation. I very much want women and men to visibly support each other against nasty online comments.

I am not really in favor of responding in kind and escalating. I can't top 'I'm going fuck the hole I rip in your neck and cum in your bloody throat." Well, yes I can. I am well read. But I can't match it and stand myself. And the last thing I want is to "FIND this guy". I am not in search of interactions with him.

I don't think there is a "guy code" about piling on and attacking women. But I do think that you can create an atmosphere that allows sociopathic mob behavior.

Honestly, I would rather see a simpler, kinder demonstration of unity. Something along the lines of people chiming in - "It isn't OK to talk to people like that.". I should have said that before to your troll. I'll go say that now.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Dizzy said...

I like that better too :)

8:32 PM  
Blogger Spungen said...

Oh, man, somehow I missed this. I guess it's over now.

The problem is that you ladies don't appreciate of all the attention lavished on you. (wags finger) Due to your hedonic adaptation you feel entitled to be fussy about which harassment you're turned on by. Or something like that. (grunt, scratch)

2:14 PM  

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