Please read – and parse – what I’m actually saying before posting a comment or linking on some outrage tumblr, thanks.
Recently there was a Kickstarter project for a ‘seduction manual‘ which turned out to contain some quite rapey and illegal advice on how to pick up women, involving being physically overbearing and invading personal space. For once the outrage levelled at something on the internet actually seemed to have a bit of substance and after some sniffing around and checking into it I joined the voices asking for it to be pulled. It crossed a certain line for me in advocating real, genuine, illegal and horrible behaviour in real life.
The project funded anyway, Kickstarter acted too slowly to withdraw it, but instead they apologised and gave a sizeable donation to a charity.
So far, so good. Until you read through the apology.
I’m a pretty staunch free expression advocate and getting more hard-line that way with almost every day and every twitterstorm over something or other that someone finds offensive. I made an exception in this case because the book was advocating a breach of personal autonomy, the chief reason I’m for free expression. Kickstarter’s apology is, however, worrying on several levels.
1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with seduction guides, per se.
That is, they’re distasteful and crappy but no more so than Cosmos’ ‘how to please your man’. Many of them – based on my limited experience – seem to be more like self-help guides to give guys the confidence they need to approach women and that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as it doesn’t advocate anything criminal. Sure there’s things like ‘negging’ and ‘peacocking’ but these aren’t the same as suggesting you shove someone around and, like the yellow and black stripes on a wasp, they act as a warning that the guy doing it is a douche.
2. Saying that content ‘glorifying or promoting violence against women’ is already barred.
It is all too common to conflate ‘depicting’ with ‘glorifying’ or even ‘promoting’. If you wanted to get backing for your 50-Shades-Alike via Kickstarter you probably couldn’t, because it would be adult and would depict fictional bondage. Tentacle Bento – a rather tame (but suggestive) card game was already knocked off Kickstarter well before its closing date unlike this one. Despite being coy and cartoony.
What about teh menz? Where’s the concern over glorifying or promoting violence against men?
This all seems very… reactive. Tightening an already rather strict and exclusionary funding opportunity from yet more people and skewing away from creators and towards vocal opposition.
3. Backing RAINN.
I’m sure RAINN does a lot of good work but they’re mostly known – to me – for their promotion of what appear to be vastly inflated rape statistics. I am deeply uncomfortable with my objection to the project having lead, indirectly, to funding an organisation that seems to use and abuse poor statistics. I don’t, personally, believe that you need to inflate the figures. Rape is a horrible crime and making people more afraid than they need to be doesn’t help. It just creates a climate of terror not unlike the irrational fear many old people have of crime based on watching the news.
In conclusion, Kickstarter is already one of the most restrictive crowdfunding sources out there. I tend to prefer IndieGoGo which seems to be more ethical overall when it comes to free expression issues and access to crowdfunding. There is no question, however, that Kickstarter is the big boy in crowdfunding and so any tightening of the rules becomes de facto censorship, no matter how justified in this instance.
Good: Kickstarter listened, apologised, made amends in a transparent way.
Bad: It’s going to make it even harder for risqué, grown-up or legal-but-difficult projects to get made.