Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Specter of Violence for Feminist Bloggers

In order to argue effectively against the blogger code of conduct, it’s imperative to say that bitches are crazy

Published by Amanda Marcotte April 12th, 2007 in Interblog

Markos doesn’t think death threats are real. Granted, they are a lot less common in my experience than rape threats, but I don’t imagine he thinks those are real, either.

Noteworthy: Markos is not a woman.

When I first started blogging here, I had a hell of a time running around deleting my home address out of the comments of the blog here. That is a death/rape threat. Very rarely do people threaten to kill you outright, but they simply imply it. Your address in your comments=”I know where you live.” My boyfriend at the time certainly picked up on the implied threat that other people would pretend they don’t get and talked about getting a large dog. He didn’t have an interest, I guess, in pushing the idea that women who complain about sexism online are just being hysterical.

But I suppose a woman’s word is not proof, of course, or even evidence. And hey, maybe it’s rare! Or it was just that one time.

I dunno, we deleted this one from comments yesterday, aimed at a blogger that isn’t me but is, as you can imagine, female:

I am a regular reader of this blog, and would like to float a question by you and your readers. We are toying with the Idea of offering rape insurance here at Allstate in Cananda. We offer home owners insuracnce that covers other crimes, we are thinking of exanding Our home owners along with indidual rape policies.

Do you think this would be something that might interest any of you?

He signed it Thomas J. Wilson, who is the president of All State, but that’s clearly not who he is. His IP is I suppose that’s not “proof” or even evidence, since we deleted the comment, but what can I say? I don’t let dickwads threaten my friends in comments. I suppose you could say that it’s not a threat to suggest that someone get insured against rape. Which is basically why men like this threaten like this, through implication, with a coat of plausible deniability. But the message is there and it is received by its intended audience for what it is. Surely liberal bloggers who know all about dog whistles in politics can admit they are there in other communications. And sliding in, harassing a woman, and sliding out is SOP for sexist pigs—you pinch when no one’s looking, because you know she won’t be believed if she complains. You scream at the woman from the car driving by so that she can’t catch your face and know who you are. You make sure at all times to take advantage of the “bitches are crazy and flatter themselves” stereotype.

You could say that Kathy Sierra is overreacting, and you might have a case there. I tend to assume that the vast majority of asswipes won’t follow through on their unhinged emails that either are threatening or mostly just the clear products of the minds of men who probably would rape if they had a chance. No telling. I don’t know the whole story, but she may have reason to think the threats are real. She does work in a male-dominated industry, and attempts to harass and assault women until they give up is pretty standard in these situations. But she might be overreacting. If you’re under an onslaught of abuse from threatened men, it can sometimes be a tad overwhelming and makes it hard for you to see that most of them are basement dwellers too scared to leave the house to follow you.

Even assuming that 99% of the wacked-out misogynists spilling violent fantasies at real women online don’t have the wherewithal to follow through, there’s always that 1%. Once glance at the statistics involving terrorism against doctors who perform abortions should put to rest doubts that some men are so invested in preserving male dominance they’ll gladly resort to terrorism. It does well to remember that for a lot of men, hating women is all they have.

The truth of the matter is that law enforcement does have reason to believe that these kinds of guys can turn dangerous. It does well to remember that John Hinckley was obsessed like this and did manage to go so far as to shoot the President. Not that I blame Jodie Foster or anyone for that, but once in awhile men with these obsessions do go off the deep end and it isn’t always easy to tell who it’s going to be.

I and several feminists were harassed and threatened by a man from England a few years ago. This man had sent me a death threat via e-mail. He said he was going to “slit my fucking throat”. He also annoyed me with his repeated messages that he thought were anonymous, but I was able to track down his real identity with a few Google searches. I never felt threatened by him because I live in Massachusetts and he lived in London. Plus I get annoying and sometimes harassing comments on my blog and in e-mail all the time. I have a high tolerance for tripe. However, other feminists who were at the receiving end of his messages did feel threatened. He had also posted anonymously to comments on my blog and on other feminist’s blogs. Several feminists who felt threatened reported him to Scotland Yard. I was contacted by Scotland Yard to inform detectives of what this man had sent to me. It turned out that he was about 18 years old and lived with his mother. He had a history of mental problems. I know he was convicted of communications harassment, but I don’t remember how he was sentenced.

Not to say that the criticism about the blogger code of conduct is wrong, of course. I think that it’s naive to think that’s going to work, but again, the tech blogging crowd may be old hat at this. But you can engage in a criticism of that without trotting out the tired stereotype that women are hysterical and paranoid.


MaxTurmoil said...

Why is it any surprise that women are harassed online? The internet has created this buffer zone, and by buffer zone I mean, true feelings can be expressed with the respect of anonymity. This is why Dr. Caric probably had us use fake names so he could get honest answers from people that would otherwise be intimidated and therefore not speak. He indicated this when he said that there was considerable more conservatism talk than in class. But back to the news article what are we suppose to do about this sort of thing? People resent change and a woman procuring more and more rights is going to fuel this hatred for change, such as desegregation. The women who took the first steps can be equated to Jackie Robinson who took the first steps and dealt with the idiocracy of those in power – white men. So is it any surprise that there is still hatred for women desiring equal rights, but not only that fair treatment. Speaking of America, masculinity is respected. If you are tougher than someone then you are cool. Boys don’t cry - girls do. Girls play with Barbie dolls, boys play with G.I. Joes. Girls put on makeup; boys are pretend killing each other with their guns. Now I am not blaming this type of environment to future behavior problems, I am just trying to clearly state that in America we have double standards and gender expectation roles. When women do not fir this mold they are subjugated to all kinds of mistreatments and harassment. Hopefully feminist's bloggers continue the fight for equality because sooner or later we will be an equal society and the harder we fight for it the sooner it will come.

Tara said...

It bothers me to think that women can’t vocally express there feelings anywhere without getting some type of harassment for what they say. To me, it tends to seem more one sided then anything. Women seem to get more shit for what they say and do especially feminists then men do. It doesn’t surprise me that the internet contributes to this problem. With online blogging you have a broader audience and more chance for criticism. I think that the harassment and criticism stem from the fact that what these women are saying can be perceived as progressive at times and many people are not willing to accept progressive views coming from women. I don’t think that this is any justification for someone to send out harassing messages to them because they don’t agree with what they are reading. Harassment in anyway shape or form is not right whether it be female or male.
I think that it is ridiculous that someone one would think that women who complain about sexism online are just being hysterical. It is a real thing that happens. By not talking about it how would we change or stop it from happening? I think that people just need to be more open minded and to so sexist when it comes to what they write and respond to in bloggs. Making sexist comments is not effective and only causes more problems in the end.

browneyedsoul06 said...

I find it morally reprehensible that incidents like the ones described in this article continue to occur, even as society has continued to advance and viewpoints have (supposedly) done the same. Someone like Catherine MacKinnon would not be surprised in the least, however disgusted that the knowledge of something like this would make her. She would think that this is just another case of men continuing their assault on women. In my opinion, anyone should be allowed to post whatever they want on the internet, as long as it won’t incite violence against another person. A woman simply writing about their experiences in a male dominated society and how change should be occurring doesn’t constitute the incitement of violence, so there’s no reason for chauvinists to be in such an uproar. They’re simply scared of losing the power that they’ve grown accustomed to, so any hint that things are going to change brings about a rage and fury that remains hidden otherwise. I think that there should be some kind of law on the books about gender violence, as it could certainly constitue a hate crime. There's no reason that threats and violence should continually occur. We need to do something about it and do something about it now. I personally don’t feel like the two sexes will ever be equal, as much as I would like them to be. But I do encourage feminist bloggers and thinkers to keep the fight going, as every little bit helps.

clintbanks said...

I think that threats like these directed toward female bloggers are exactly what Catherine Mackinnon has in mind when she talks about a society controlled by male violence and threats of male violence. She would view this as a women freely expressing herself, and men getting pleasure from threatening sexual violence to sort of 'put them in their place'.
What is absent from this discussion is exactly what the bloggers were talking about, (it may be referencing an event that I don't know about) other than to say 'feminist bloggers'. While there is no excuse for a threat, ever, they may have been championing radical ideas. And people who champion radical ideas whether it be about race, gender, football, you name it, are always threatened by people who feel they are going to lose a part of their life that is working for them. Should these feminists be subject to this? no, but should they be surprised? no.

Anonymous said...

420ComfortablyNumb said...
I was quite appalled when I read this article; I sincerely had no idea that “bloggers” were subject to such harassment, particularly female bloggers. It is really scary to think that even in an anonymous venue such as blog sites that people are still harassed and threatened for expressing their opinions. I think this is definitely a female issue also; I have no doubt that men are intimidated by smart women. So when you have a woman that is making men look like idiots in their blogs of course you will a backlash. I honestly think this is not uncommon with men everywhere. Men think this way about smart women all the time, but never have the anonymity veil to say anything. I am glad though that the women actually took action against their harasser rather than be afraid of him.

Hendrix said...

I think women arn't protected like they should be. For instance when a woman cries rape its like the boy who cried wolf. Women everywhere have to put up with men make harrassing comments and violence towards them. When it boils down to it I think men do this because they feel threatened by women having equal rights, I think it almost hurts their pride. As a result they lash out on women. Men have always been viewed as the dominant factor in society. As the hard worker, old wise man, the strong football player and when women stepped up there game and said, hey I can do that, it took the spotlight off the men. I guess now that women are suppose to have equal rights they can now have a voice and its no suprise their saying "hey cook your own dinner, I have to go to work" good for women.