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Posts Tagged ‘misogyny’

jodie-whittaker-doctor-who-reveal-portrait-300x450The announcement of the new Doctor being a woman has understandably ruffled a few feathers, and there have been a plethora of articles about it. Most of these seem to run along the lines of:

“LOL! CRY HARDER MANBABIES!” and various accusations of misogyny directed towards anyone who regards this decision as anything less than ‘stunning and brave’ or expresses even the slightest misapprehension as to the motivations and effect of changing the show in such a fundamental way.

It seems like nobody is going to write the article we should be seeing, so I guess I’m going to have to do it. I’ve tried, already, in comments etc, to stem the tide of “LOL! FRAGILE MASCULINITY!” but even belabouring the point to excess doesn’t seem to get the point across, so let’s try something else…

Dr Bewb

So by now, you’ve all had a few days to absorb that the next actor to play the role of The Doctor is going to be a woman. This shouldn’t really be a surprise, NuWho has been hinting at this – initially jokily – since 2011 or so. Moffat wasn’t keen and said it wasn’t going to happen on his watch, but he’s leaving and the new guy – Chibnall – is coming in with a new broom to sweep through. Maybe this is a good thing, maybe it’s bad. RTD was getting pretty tiresome towards the end of his run, Moffat had some good stories in him but seems to have run out of steam, a new guy might reinvigorate things, or not.

Similarly, a female Doctor could be a kill or cure moment for the series.

I don’t think you’re misogynists for being antsy, in fact, many of you are women. Many of you who are women have had nerd crushes on the various Doctors. That has certainly been a part of NuWho that people into the original series never really expected to happen, even with the relatively young and pretty ‘New Romantic’ run of Peter Davison (weren’t those costumes great?).

NuWho has already made a bunch of changes, some to the good, some to the bad. Resurrecting the series seemed to require a bunch of changes, changing to a breakneck-speed episodic format rather than a serial format for a start – something I very much bemoan. The scientific and educational aspect has also taken a hit, in exchange for more ‘pure’ entertainment, but it seems to have paid off. Dr Who finally ‘broke’ America. bringing romantic plotlines, especially ones including The Doctor was controversial, and something I – didn’t like, but we coped with that.

If there’s anything this change is similar to it’s when Matt Smith took over. He was too young, way too young. His publicity shots looked like an otter that listened to Green Day. Every time there’s a regeneration people are in an uproar and this is no different. People’s concerns about Smith were justified and he overcame them. People’s concerns about Whittaker are similarly justified. She doesn’t have a penis though, so your concerns and worries aren’t just dismissed as ‘nerdy’ or unreasonable any more. They’re being called ‘misogynistic’.

That’s not fair, is it?

I mean, you love Doctor Who. You want it to succeed and you want it to continue. This is a big change and a risky one that tinkers with the whole story dynamic of the series. So you’re worried. That makes sense, it doesn’t mean you hate women, does it?

This is also happening against a background of other things going on. The BBC has quotas for staffing and on comedy panels. It is discriminating in its hiring and has fired ‘cishetwhitemen’ from positions and shows. Doctor Who has been painfully PC for some time now, to the point of revising history to make it more palatable in recent episodes. In that context, the change to a female Doctor can’t help but look political and seem to be part of a trend. It needn’ be, but it’s understandable that it can look like that. I might just be that Chibnall wants to bring a familiar face with him. It might.

It might.

Being worried about that doesn’t make you reactionary or conservative. You probably just want people to succeed on their own merits and don’t want things to be mucked about with for no reason. You probably think these kinds of policies are sexist/racist or whatever else. You’re not wrong, but we don’t know if that’s what’s going on here.

Maybe you’re worried about the stories. That’s understandable too. Such a shift to the whole story dynamic could change everything. Could be for the worse, could be for the better. There’s no real way of knowing how that’s going to work out until we see it. It’s a risk, but so was a shift to a younger Doctor, and it did change the dynamic and feel, but it worked. This might, it might not.

Your concerns are legitimate. There’s a lot to be worried about. Merchandise sales are down, viewership is down. This is a big risk to take in that relatively fragile situation. People are playing around with something you love and their motivations might be political, the people giving you a hard time and crowing about ‘male tears’ certainly are being political.

Fuck those people. You’re not bigots. You know it, I know it, anyone worth talking to knows it.

But we won’t know if the fears are justified until a few episodes into the new series, and because it’s a woman people are reacting differently to you saying exactly the same things you said about Matt Smith. So have your concerns, but how about we all just wait and see if it’s as bad as it can seem. The whole NuWho project has been one long set of risks, fucking with something beloved and cared about – and its great that people care. Let’s just give it a shot.

And if people could lay off screaming misogynist at you guys too, that’d be great.

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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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$(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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