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Posts Tagged ‘gender’

neo-mouth

Men grunt, grunt, grunt
Men fart and scratch – don’t listen.
If they don’t agree with you then there must be something missing.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

Men swear and punch and act out ’cause they don’t have the words.
Touching, feeling, talking out – that’s just for the birds.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

Men are silent men are strong.
Men endure, they’re always wrong.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

Men shout and yell and butt heads, men settle arguments with fists.
Men suck it up when you hurt them, don’t file it away in lists.

A woman likes the strong silent type.

Oh yeah, a woman likes a man who doesn’t dare to disagree, who doesn’t call her out when she’s wrong.
Sweet reason doesn’t apply, feelings conquer all. Don’t argue with your lover, if you do she might be gone.

A woman likes a man who knows how to ‘lose’ an argument.
A real woman likes a really good loser.

Men condescend, men patronise, logical thinking’s a patriarchal affliction.
Accuse them of anything and it must be true, it couldn’t be fiction.

A woman opens her mouth, only misogynists disagree
A wise man keeps his trap shut, submits and bends the knee.

Mansplain, man ‘splain.

A man’s words can be ignored now
And ignored later.

Men, ‘splain.

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personal_trollface_hdThere’s been – yet another – blow up about trolling on Twitter but the context provided by the UK porn filter discussion makes this a slightly different debate.

It is my bitter experience that while I hate to condescend to people, assuming too much reading comprehension skill on the part of the internet as a whole is to invite misinterpretation and problems further down the line. So if this post comes across as a little patronising it’s not because I intend to be, it’s because I don’t want to be misunderstood.

Let’s get a few things said up front to provide some context:

Misogyny is bad
The word gets overused a bit, but in its original meaning ‘irrational hatred of women’ yes, it’s absolutely a terrible thing. Anyone promoting or engaging in misogyny deserves little or no sympathy and like any other irrational prejudice or hatred it’s unacceptable. I am against misogyny and everyone should be in my humble opinion.

Trolling is bad
Like misogyny, the term ‘trolling’ gets overused to include anyone who vehemently and passionately disagrees or gets into a heated argument. Still, genuine trolling does still exist and it is destructive, problematic for debates and more and more of a problem because people don’t seem to understand that they’re being trolled.

As defined in: “Trolling in Asynchronous Computer-Mediated Communication,” by University of Central Lancashire lecturer Claire Hardaker, a Troll is:

…an individual “who constructs the identity of sincerely wishing to be part of the group in question, including professing or conveying pseudo-sincere intentions, but whose real intention(s) is/are to cause disruption and/or to trigger or exacerbate conflict for the purposes of their own amusement.”

How do you deal with it?:

“Trolling can (1) be frustrated if users correctly interpret an intent to troll, but are not provoked into responding, (2) be thwarted if users correctly interpret an intent to troll, but counter in such a way as to curtail or neutralise the success of the troller, (3) fail if users do not correctly interpret an intent to troll and are not provoked by the troller, or, (4) succeed if users are deceived into believing the troller’s pseudo-intention(s), and are provoked into responding sincerely. Finally, users can mock troll. That is, they may undertake what appears to be trolling with the aim of enhancing or increasing effect, or group cohesion.”

Women bloggers, columnists, article writers etc who keep bringing up the trolling they get as a serious issue are giving the trolls what they want by virtue of ‘4’.

Again, nobody – I know of – is arguing that trolling it a good thing.

Let’s also be clear that this isn’t a uniquely female problem. Express a political, social, religious or even an artistic/critical opinion and you’re likely to attract trolling. The major difference seems to only be that – for some reason – women take it more seriously than men.

Trying to control the internet is also bad
Internet sites that allow users to post their own content – such as Twitter – are more akin to paper manufacturers than they are to TV channels. Given the sheer amount of content and the problems with automated processes expecting Twitter or Facebook or even a website host to control or monitor the content ‘written on their paper’ is a mug’s game. It should not be their responsibility but rather the responsibility of the person using their ‘paper’. The ISP or host can help once abuse is correctly identified but doing this is frustratingly slow – so long as we provide decent protection against false reporting.

Kafkatraps & False Dilemmas
Whether it’s the proposed porn filter or asking Twitter to police ‘harassment’ this is presented as a kafkatrap. Any response at all is interpreted in the worst possible way and as support for the proposed stricture.

  • Oppose the porn filter? You must be a creepy paedophile or an abuser.
  • Oppose pointless efforts to control or censor Twitter? You must be a misogynist.

It’s an emotional appeal on an emotional issue from an emotional reaction.

It is perfectly possible to both oppose child porn, or abusive harassment and to oppose proposed tools or controls to deal with it.

The cost of control & abuse of control systems
The internet routes around censorship and control as though it were damage. Like DRM or the porn filter trying to control abuse/harassment/trolling will have virtually no effect on the trolls and will have a big effect on normal users. Indeed trolls are likely to use and abuse any such system to silence people themselves.

This already happens.

As part of the #atheist community on Twitter I regularly see people who are merely strident or effective debaters getting their accounts suspended due to organised abuse of the spam report button that already exists. The process seems to be somewhat automated (volume of communication is too big to expect people to go over it all). Enough spam reports and your account is suspended. It takes some time to get it back. As a case in point I present @RosaRubicondior, an active Twitter atheist currently knocked offline due to abuse of the report system by a Catholic apologist with multiple accounts. There are even whole groups that coordinate spam reports to knock people offline.

Adding an abuse button – as is being proposed – will just provide another means for legitimate users to get knocked offline and it’s likely to be used against the very people asking for these controls and tools.

Will it stop a determined troll?

No. They’ll make multiple accounts, they’ll use proxies etc to get past any protections that are put down. To be even moderately effective any tool will have to identify the user (which presents its own problems). Remove anonymity and you don’t particularly stop a determined troll. Anonymity has a cost in terms of cyberbullies but it also has a big positive side that lessening anonymity would hurt:

  • Political dissidents use twitter and other online media because of their anonymity.
  • Homosexuals – still criminalised in many countries – are able to get a sense of community and support only because of anonymity.
  • Battered spouses and victims of real life abuse can seek help through anonymity and safety.

That’s a tiny few examples of many. You threaten to destroy that by changing things.

You already have options
‘Don’t feed the trolls’ is getting a bad rap for some reason, but it remains the best way to deal with it. The payoff for a troll is getting a big reaction a twitterstorm, newspaper articles, people wringing their hands and even making blog posts like this!

We play into their hands by doing so. Block the person, ignore them and they get no payoff from you.

I don’t see any other way to deal with it that doesn’t have a massive cost in terms of free expression, abuse of the system and loss of the upside of anonymity. We don’t seem to be able to change the trolls so we need to change ourselves (or at least some of us do).

  1. Block ’em.
  2. Don’t take ’em seriously – after all, how many online ‘threats’ actually come to fruition?
  3. Understand what trolling is and change your reaction to it.

1. Almost every social media platform has a block function. Even outside of social media there are plugins for browsers that will block forum trolls and even cut off  whole websites. You can set your email spam filters too and most newspaper and other, similar hosts are much more heavily moderated.

2. Come on. Really. How many internet threats go flying around every day? I’ve been trolled, harassed and threatened by a combination of trolls, true believers, social justice warriors and militant Islamists. I’ve been threatened with burning, stabbing, beheading, ruination, maiming etc etc. Here I still am. Why should I take these threats seriously and why should you? Why do you? The only people that have come close to following through are the supposed progressives!

3. A troll is a parasite who gets an emotional high (and a salve to their boredom) from provoking you and making you react. If your reaction is to take them seriously and demand changes and censorship you’re doing what they want. ‘Ur doin it rong’. You simply cannot control or stop trolling in a way that allows us to preserve the upsides of the internet. The only thing you can change is your reaction. I think it’s somewhat telling that men don’t seem to react in the same way. Perhaps due to a culture of ‘joshing’ and ‘friendly insults’. This does seem a healthier way to react though.

These kinds of kneejerk reactions to what absolutely is reprehensible behaviour threaten to cause more harm, not less.

Take a breath, think about it as a whole.

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Pearls

On reflection, I probably shouldn’t have done an image search for ‘pearl necklace’

Or, perhaps more properly, The Great Gender Con.

The debate is toxic, whether you’re talking about gaming, genre fiction, technology or anything else where there’s a current gender disparity, yet I still keep coming back to it. I don’t know why really. All it gets me is opprobrium and misrepresentation but I feel that there have to be counter voices.

We are now at the point in this ‘debate’ that merely pointing out that there are any nice guys at all is somehow controversial and problematic.

Off the back of that Sarah got some flak and I, foolishly, felt compelled to stick my oar in.

Why?

Well, we’ve seen the fallout in the atheist and skeptic movements, it rumbles on in gaming. To see it spreading to genre fiction meets and conventions is depressing, for several reasons.

  1. There is no indication that sexual harassment is any sort of particular or special problem at any of these events any more than it is for the general public in any social situation. This isn’t to say sexual harassment isn’t a problem, just that making it seem that these sorts of events are hotbeds of sexual misconduct is not correct.
  2. Creating the impression that they are full of harassment reduces women’s involvement in these causes, activities and meet-ups. Completely the reverse of the supposed goal of the crusaders who spread the idea that it is. EG: The Amazing Meeting’s female attendance ratio dropped massively. Not because of any indication of endemic harassment, but rather because of the fearmongering.
  3. The scaremongering is predicated upon a demonisation of male sexuality and is thoroughly gendered, as the response to Sarah’s post shows.
  4. The proposed solutions, such as harassment policies, are unnecessary, negatively impact socialisation at events and cement the fear and sexism towards men in writing, subject to wilful abuse.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to create an inaccurate atmosphere of fear, particularly of something as serious as sexual harassment.

I don’t think it’s a good idea, or in line with what these people say they want to do, to put women off attending conferences.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to tar the male gender with the same brush.

I don’t think it should be controversial to point out that there are also nice guys – or that they’re the majority.

Why do I regard this pearl-clutching pseudo-feminism as a problem? Because it’s a lie, because it’s irresponsible, because it creates a bad impression that doesn’t reflect reality (as does their response to criticism), because it’s sexist, because it’s preying on people’s fears for no clear end.

The Daily Mail and other media create an impression of the rate of crime which makes many pensioners and others afraid to leave their houses and terrified of youths. It makes them afraid to a level utterly disproportionate to the actual levels of crime or the ‘risk’ they take in popping down to the shops. Sure, it sells papers (or webclicks) but if it’s causing unnecessary fear and genuinely causing harm is it a responsible thing to do?

How is this any different?

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$(KGrHqN,!o0E9cz)Z3E7BPm0!92M)g~~60_35Latest internet shit-storm was over a couple of articles in the SFWA bulletin.

I’ll attach the scans of the article below, they’ve been circulated pretty widely but it’s good to have back-ups and redundancy is one of the chief advantages of the internet.

Honestly, I don’t see anything particularly bad with what these chaps are saying. They’re expressing bewilderment at what seems to be a backslide towards the kind of censorship that existed before the 60s and 70s shook up the SF scene and liberalised depictions of sex, drugs, blasphemy etc.

I share their bewilderment and, like them, I worry about the atmosphere of de-facto censorship when someone (a woman even) has to resign because of the presentation of a point of view in an author’s circular. I share their worry about the catch-22 of ‘writing what you know’ and the desire for there to be more women and persons of colour in SF&F and the implicit assumption that you can’t imagine or empathise with someone else’s situation that goes with it.

Troll McTrollington (Vox Day) doesn’t help matters, but nor does notorious ‘Uncle Tim’ Scalzi. These guys are poles of the same magnet and equally problematic in their own way.

We write fantasy, science fiction, we surf the ‘could be’s’ and the ‘what if’s’. We imagine better worlds and worse worlds, transhuman futures and bloody battles for the throne. We need to be free to write good fiction and bad, to write about things we know and things we don’t, to indulge adolescent power fantasies alongside mature and nuanced points of view. We’re supposed to be in the business of dangerous visions.

The landscape will change as we make different art but it is not acceptable to silence other voices for being ‘insufficiently radical’. Old soldiers deserve their rest.

Whatever you think about all this we can’t have any meaningful dialogue, progress or understanding if people are shouted down, if people assume their points are so clear as to not need explaining and if people are forced to resign for airing different, or difficult, points of view. All that’s happening is that people are getting entrenched and embittered, people who – really – believe in much the same things. It’s also possible to explain one’s points clearly and evenhandedly and still be wrong – or at least not believed.

I’ve only written a few games, some short stories, some erotica and an unpublished (as of yet) literary/crime novel, as well as sticking my oar in on censorship issues in the past, so I don’t expect my point of view to be particularly respected but it would be nice just to add my voice to a call for genuine dialogue rather than shouting at each other and then running back to Tumblr to complain about everyone.

Pax

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xlargeI’m sure you’ve seen that picture, above, doing the rounds. Many people seem to think it makes some clever point about gender, SF & Fantasy art and so on. I don’t particularly think that it does. The aim is, apparently, to show the silliness of the first cover by changing the genders around to create some kind of ‘aha’ moment in the viewer but in that task I can’t see that it succeeds. The humour here is not the ‘aha, look how ridiculously women are treated in art’ but rather the ‘haha’ of the pantomime dame or the incompetent transvestite. Its not funny because its a transposition its funny because its a bunch of unfit men in feminine poses. Tellingly, the woman in the supposedly ‘masculine’ pose doesn’t look silly, which rather demonstrates how one-sided this all can be.

The cover on the left is clearly a call-back to James Bond, steeped in reference and film and literary history. An actual reversal has been done in James Bond and wasn’t ridiculous. That was a genuine like for like substitution and, tellingly, it’s a) not funny and b) beloved by many women.

Any point that might be trying to be made is lost because of the stupidity and, yet again, all you end up with is a circle-jerk of the already convinced talking about how clever and meaningful it is. There are discussions to be had on this topic, but cheap and nonsensical stunts like this (and the other cover poses) that fail to take into account gender dimorphism, athleticism, reference etc and fail to do a like-for-like change don’t add anything to it other than being a jumping-off point for discussion.

If I had the skills to do it it might be interesting to do a genuine like-for-like substitution of the same cover, (Tom Daley might make a good swimwear substitute rather than out-of-shape writers) but alas I don’t.

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leda and the swanTired of people linking to this article (or more specifically this article’s title) without paying attention to the content. IDoR a link to the original. To remove any ambiguity whatsoever, the point of the article was simply this: No topic should be off limits. Nothing should be exempt from being story fodder. Whether rape, murder, torture, mutilation, cannibalism, racism or any other nasty thing anyone can think of. Artists must be free to explore without being censored, controlled or limited. The mere existence of something nasty in a story, game or piece of art is not sufficient reason for the art – or the artist – to be pilloried. Nor should we only allow people we consider (subjectively) skilled or politically acceptable to tackle difficult subjects. TL;DR – Censorship is bad, offence, upset or discomfort isn’t a good enough reason to prevent something being made. If you still object to that, stated as plainly and simply as that, we’re going to have a problem.

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