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Shhh…

26 Feb

There are certain commenters on feminist and other social justice blogs that I keep wondering about, or rather: whose behavior keeps baffling me. These people (most of them self-identified men) are no “trolls” in the usual sense, i.e., they do not linger around comment threads with the need for petty recogni­tion; the people I am talking about would probab­ly argue that they are ho­nest­ly interested in feminist and other social topics, that they do value the writing people provide on it, and that they are here to argue in good faith. Still, despite all these seemingly benign intentions, even lower-level moderated feminist spaces can’t be bothered publishing or even replying to their comments. But despite the fact that about 90 percent of these commenters’ ideas never see the bright and shiny light of comment thread day, they feel the need to give bloggers the benefit of their opinion on every other post.

Can I just ask… why? What do people think they (or the ones they are confronting with this kind of behavior) have to gain from tactics like these?

Why would you continue to comment (most redundantly) on a blog that has not acknowledged your last ten posts? Why would you think that a feminist blog is very eager to learn your spectacular insights as a white, heterosexual, able-bodied cis-man on every topic imaginable (and why would you think that you actually have the knowledge to talk about all of that)? Why do you think it is appropriate to force your half-assed analyses on every feminist blogger you can get a hold of?

This curious behavior is nestled somewhere between critical commenting, mansplaining and trolling, so I personally find it harder to handle (…engage yet again to repeat the same basics one more time? Ignore? Delete? Spam?). It is, however, quite similar to good ol’ trolling in certain regards: people who have little knowledge on feminist/etc. issues (although they most certainly think they do…) feel the ever-growing need to educate you about either very basic feminist 101 ideas that they’ve just recently learned somewhere and now need someone else to validate them, or about long-refuted hypotheses on, well, The World ™ and how it works. The other possibility (that I find particularly charming) is the devil’s advocate role where some random dudes just start throwing stuff at you (because it’s just the internet, right, don’t take things so personally, you hysterical oversensitive misandrist radical ball buster), even though paying lip service to actually agreeing with you “more generally” – Melissa McEwan at Shakesville has written about that many times, and why it is not only exhausting but privileged and disrespectful behavior in the first place.

Some of the latest examples for this kind of conduct were some of the reactions to Charlott’s post about the Oscars, over at Mädchenmannschaft. In reply to her pointing out the misogyny, anti-Semitism and racism of a show that centered around jokes about topless actresses, domestic violence, JewsControlTehHollywoodz and WeCan’tUnderstandLatin@sAmIRite?!, some people found it necessary to tell Charlott that this is just “the entertainment industry,” and what do people really expect from that? Yeah, thanks for that groundbreaking insight… In reply to Charlott stating the obvious, namely that the Academy Awards are given out by a jury of predominantly elderly white men to predominantly elderly white men, people thought it wise to interject that both in the categories of leading and supporting actor/actress, the same amount of Oscars have been awarded. No shit, Sherlock… When Charlott problematized the racist and miso­gy­nistic treatment of Quvenz­hané Wallis, people found it appropriate to “remind” her of Django Unchained and its oh-so-clear “anti-racist” message, and that this ceremony clearly was all about racial har­mony. Have you been staying under a rock recently…? I’d rather publish another response (ironically) praising the beauty of this “coal black child” than those trying to school feminist and anti-racist bloggers about, well, feminism and anti-racism with the most ridiculous assumptions and a bare lack of know­ledge, all while thinking they have a key insight to contribute to this discussion – over and over again.

shhh2And yet, magically, this happens with a large per­cen­tage of the posts on femi­nist blogs, and it is al­most ex­clu­sive­ly done by the same hand­full of people (mostly men*) in seeming­ly end­less loops of re­dun­dan­cy. So, let me give you a quick ser­vice an­nounce­ment that other bloggers are too polite to give you (…and we all know that subtlety isn’t for me): please shut up al­ready. No one cares about your ill-informed “in­for­mation” you think is pi­votal to the success of some­one else’s blog’s con­tent or their wri­ting sty­le. This is not de­bate cul­ture – this is simply draining re­sources from people who have to deal with you and full-fledged trolls on a daily basis any­way. If you have questions about feminism and/or racism, take a look at a 101 and then come back. There is no responsibility to answer every single douche canoe comment to make people happy, and there certainly is no benefit to having to repeat day in, day out, why feminist bloggers on feminist blogs care about feminism so much or why criticizing pop culture makes sense in a critical post about pop culture.

When you realize at some point that none of your comments (or very few) ever make it through, it might be time to step back from the hard and cruel comment game and start reading and listening a bit more. That’s how most of the feminist bloggers (surprise: including this loud-mouthed one) started out, by the way: shutting up and educating themselves in other feminist spaces, for example – not drowning everyone everywhere in a flood of useless comments. If you don’t have anything else but rudely phrased banalities based on superficial knowledge to add to the conversation (which, by the way, can be quickly determined by people’s reactions to your posts or the fact that your posts are never actually answered or never even appear on the page), you might want to reconsider your actions. You know, the basic common decency approach has proven quite popular here and elsewhere… Because right now, the thing you’re doing is essentially online harassment. You’re the guy who is “just not getting it,” no matter how pronounced one signals you to back off. It’s not sexual harassment, but it is gendered harassment – and No means No (including the “No” that is conveyed when ignoring you).

Now: step away from the keyboard, and try to keep it down.

Back To Shouting, Then.

8 Jul

One of the dangers of social media tools is that you’re always up to date, and this makes my particular decisions whether or not to be witness to yet another incidence of failure rather difficult. Discovering this morning that the public radio broadcasting company, Deutschlandradio Wissen, had decided on a round table, discussing an unorganized array of video games, cultural impact and sexism, and yet, did not have a single “expert” there who wasn’t a self-identified man*, this Saturday morning started out rather troublesome.

Many things were wrong with this “round table” and the fact that three men* kept musing on about what Women* (TM) really wanted in video games or what Feminists (TM) might have to say about sexism was just the most ironic part. The fact that a representative of this radio station felt the need to answer my twittered criticism by saying that if I didn’t like it, I should read newspapers or blogs instead and they thought it was a good show (surprise!), was also just another example of how alleged “professionals” deal with people who criticize their pseudo-”artistic freedom” (when this artistic freedom is nothing less than the marginalization of certain people) in germany. Not even the l**e [I apologize for using ableist language – thank you for pointing it out, zweisatz!] bad  excuse that the radio station simply couldn’t find any women* competent enough for this debate, that shit happens and that we should all calm the fuck down was particularly exciting. [Check out Femgeeks for their reaction!]

What annoyed me the most, yet again, was the publicly spoken white privilege and its subsequent defense. Two quotes were particularly sharp, namely – when (rightly) aiming at criticizing the white-man-default of video games – the continued talk of “people of other skin colors” (other meaning not white, as was the guests’ unspoken agreement, because white universality is awesome), and the half-sentence about the irritation of being prompted to battle against “Taiwanese 15 year-olds” when logging on a game.

Most people who have heard a thing or two about white privilege and racism probably understand what my problem is with this. Hints: whiteness as default and its constant reproduction, racialized clichés about “ethnic” groups, general dumbassery.

And, as it was to be expected, this was just too much for some people on Twitter. As this post might come across as putting the boot in with more than 140 spaces, let me just say that: 1. Totally. 2. Ben is just a wonderful example for a line of argument and behavior that is typical for some people.

So… Ben showed up! Male, atheist, non-smoker, and self-declared debater who thought that I read “too much into” the whole thing, and that finding racism wherever I can was my personal “wishful thinking”. Yes, he apparently believes I actively hope for discrimination, because I’m hooked on that sucker like no tomorrow. I am, actually, but not in the way Ben thinks… The “debate” rapidly worsened, because Ben was determined to show that the “context” of white privileged expressions (such as “other-coloreds”, or complaining about those videogame crazed Asians, amirite?!) is crucial, and posed investigative, multi-layered questions: if I always thought that racist language was a sign of racism, what about oral presentations about racism that are critical of racism by pointing out racist language, are they racist too…? Huh? Huh?!

I tried. Honestly. Because once in a blue moon, I think that debating people might help, and I shouldn’t virtually shout at them right away. So, I tried. I tried to explain that racist stereotypes are racist. That racist language is racist. That having three white dudes debate whether women* like a good rape background story in Tomb Raider is a really bad idea. But Ben kept asking for evidence!1! of where the actual racism or sexism lie in these words and interactions.

Not being convincing enough, he called me a “child”, accused me of trying to read between the lines (of “other skin-colored people”, because that’s such a subtle innuendo…), of being a coward and telling me that he totally believes in structural racism and sexism, but that he doesn’t want me to bring it up so much when talking to him, because he sees me as a human being, not as a woman* (yes, I had to chuckle – this sums the sexism issue up, basically…), and that I didn’t even know him, so I shouldn’t be so mean. He just doesn’t think that racist stereotypes and racist language mean racism, because context.

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Let Me Spell It Out For You: I DON’T CARE.

22 May

<rant> Honestly… Is there any debate anywhere where there’s not at least one random dude popping up, simply having to add his extremely important opinion? No matter the topic, no matter if it’s an explicitly feminist or whatever blog, some men* just can’t help but add their voice to the conversation, nevermind if they know what people are talking about or if what they’re about to say has been said 10 times before. Two of the latest, beautiful “But what about the menz’ opinions?” examples would be Caperton‘s post about men’s reactions to feminist body image discussions here on Feministe, and Helga’s post on sexual harassment here on Mädchenmannschaft.

Both of them basically boil down to the fact that most women* don’t actually care about whether some random dude finds them fuckable, and don’t want to hear a random dude’s opinion on their looks and various body parts while Being Female* In Public. Whether it is some random guy declaring that he actually likes small breasts when women* discuss mainstream body images on a feminist blog, or some dude being very upset and sees prison time in his near future for saying “Hello” to someone he deems attractive because women* discuss how offensive and annoying it can be to be constantly contacted by strangers by simply going outside, there never seems to be the possibility to have these discussions without some men* getting all flustered by the implication of taking away some of their privilege of dominance in public space.

But – wait for it – here’s the breaking news: I . Don’t. Care.

Let me repeat that: I DON’T CARE what you think about my looks when I’m going grocery shopping or meeting friends or riding my bike or reading a book on a park bench. I don’t care that you want to meet someone today and think it is appropriate to randomly approach people and persist in your contact efforts, no matter how pointedly one looks away or bids you farewell. I don’t care that you want to say Hello to someone you find attractive – Being Female In Public does not mean I’m here for your entertainment, and it does not mean that I want to meet you.

As Captain Awkward has phrased it: I don’t care about Notes From Your Boner. Leave me the fuck alone when I dare walk down the street or have the audacity to stand at a bus stop. You can fantasize all you like, and no one is saying that you cannot ever talk to someone in public. There are perfectly nice ways to interact with other people, to ask a stranger what time it is, or to give a little smile and see what happens. But all the butt-hurt desperation about how men* won’t ever find True Love if they don’t chat up every woman* on the street as they like, and men* whining that women* are totally mean and overreacting when they actually physically react to being slapped on the butt or having a boob grabbed? Disgusting. Horrifying. Exemplary of why you don’t meet anyone.

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Different Dimensions.

16 Dec

I take up physical space. At least 30 per cent more than many other people.  I fill out subway seats and bus seats and space on park benches; and you might have to scooch over a little when I ask you whether that seat is taken.

I seriously doubt that your balls do the same.

Yet, this dude in baggy sweat pants, taking a seat opposite to mine on the packed, rush-hour subway yesterday, had severe trouble in sitting somewhat upright in an already crammed 4 people compartment. And he thought it was appropriate that his crotch kept touching my knees.

So… Should the fact that he chose to wear loose crotched sweats make me assume that he has really big balls or a medical condition that requires him to sit spreadeagled in every possible sense of the word next to and in front of two women? If he had had a medical condition that required knee-crotching, would he have shifted with me as I awkwardly repositioned myself repeatedly instead of crouching a little lower to make up for the newly created space between us (due to my knee shifting)? Is it rude to assume that he might have had second thoughts about crotching other people’s limbs if I had been a fellow baller?

This is a subject that has been talked about very often, and I do not have anything new to add to the debate other than my recent annoyance with it, basically… People have talked and written wonderfully and adequately about the interlocking mechanisms of gendered ideas of public space, the perpetuation of power, dominance and the appropriation of the public sphere, sexism and images of women that portray them as ideally invisible when it comes to representing a whole person and highly visible when it comes to representing the sexaaaay.

Besides the multitude of more or less subtle indicators and messages, the physical appropriation of “ordinary” space in ordinary situations, such as the subway example, seems to be both crass and prevalent – the vast majority of *women I can think of has had experiences like the one mentioned above with cis-men in public spaces, especially public transportation.

I am particularly fond of the “sandwich”-move that has happened to me many times before on the subway: some bench seats that are designed for three medium-sized people are usually occupied by two at each end, but if things get full and hectic, someone has to take the awkward seat inbetween… Through some form of feminine, moon goddess magic, it is usually possible for women I have collectively travelled with to make this manageable. Yet, there is a “random dude with big balls” factor: the vast majority of men who employ the sandwich-move apparently feel the need to take up 66 per cent of the bench, spread their legs as widely as possible, and rub their thighs and arms against the bread slices (or: women next to them); reproachful glances are usually interpreted as encouragement in this scenario.

I have to break the news here, though: this is not a compliment. I do not want your crotch to touch my knees. I do not want you to rub up against me. I want 50 per cent of the goddamned shared arm rest of my airplane seat (dude, it’s economy class – I need all the space I can get!). I am not happy if you choose the bus seat next to me, the only *woman, although there are twenty seats closer to you but they’re next to another man and you would not dare invading his space.

You are not entitled to my space or to taking up more room than I do. Your balls aren’t anywhere near as big as you pretend they are (I’m sorry, but we both know that, and so does everyone else). This is not the way you always/’naturally’ sit, since you’re pretty damned good and quick at straightening yourself up and closing your legs when another dude sits down anywhere near you. There is no such thing as a signature subway swagger. Yes, dear, I know you have a penis and I do not; I am a fat woman in public space and I take up my fair share of it – could you let go of your imaginary pearls and get over it already?

Meet: The Phallic Cry-Babies.

8 Jul

It seems to be inevitable: Once you decide to start some sort of blog (e.g., because  Facebook rants and/or making people uncomfortable by reporting the newest fail on a daily basis does not seem to be the best strategy anymore to vent a bit) that concerns itself with social justice issues and tries to critique/mock/counter the various forms of societal discrimination and hatred of particular (groups of) people, they lurk around the corner. They = people – disproportionately male, white and heterosexual – who troll the internet, looking for blog posts that are critical towards their privileges, to then leave the average “zero argument, full-fledged you’re wrong/weird/stupid/fat/ugly/manhating/’reverse racist’” comments (cf. the delightful Derailing for Dummies).

The majority of such comments, from my experience, are simply aimed at annoying the affected blogger, inciting irritation and trying to shift all the attention from the actual topic to the troll and the BS s/he says. Yet, feminist blogs in particular attract a certain “troll deluxe”: explicitly or implicitly self-proclaimed “Men’s Rights Activists” (MRAs; or men who curiously behave like they were), virtually invading your space. In germany, MRAs are also known as self-proclaimed “masculists” (Maskulisten, see also their ideology being picked apart in a great article here), who proclaim that it’s “payoff” time for the “feminist manipulation of the media, culture and society” (and encourage to submit game plans to the extreme vicarious embarrassment inducing e-mail address “femiNot”@…). MRAs not only seek to derail, but are actually quite serious and consistent with their mansplaining why teh womenz get it all wrong, their usually rapid progressive decline from pseudo argument-engaging to the throwing of “You Whores!“-fits when one refuses to derail the conversation in favour of what the troll deluxe wants to talk about RIGHT NOW, and their ever-present baseline of “But what about teh menz?!”

I can proudly report that I have had my first influx of trolling during the past week; and as so often, trolls come out of the woods when you’re writing about rape culture and the newest example as to how pervasive is it (this time: DSK). As it happens, my first troll, “LG,” starts by mansplaining to me that, “just to be fair,” I had gotten the numbers of false rape accusations wrong (which I quoted from studies), and that there is “of course” (of course!) a higher number of false rape accusations behind it. Unsure whether this was a troll or a bit of a dimwit in good faith, I tried to answer these claims. Alas, “LG” showed that I should have known better, by then telling me to “relax” (my hysterical feminist self) and that he’s not saying that all women are “harpies,” but that women “create a rape story out of thin air” most frequently to get out of “responsibilities” (for example: a cheating wife lying about being raped to “explain away a sex affair” – didn’t you know?!). Obviously, statistics, arguments, examples, explanations just won’t get through to very concerned men who are convinced that their personal “experience” and “common knowledge”/”I once knew a guy who knew a guy”-truth trumps everything else.

Speaking of “common knowledge”: the second troll, “Double Dagger” (…not sure whether he has a thing for punk rock, alliterations or just really bad metaphors…) informs me that “tribal thinking” was “exactly” the reason why “you guys self-identify with false accusers” (i.e., the potential victim in the DSK rape case). Again, one-liners of alleged “general knowledge” or “personal experience” or just mere generalising and oversimplifying claims seem to be the answer to rather differentiated arguments on many feminist blogs. Men’s rights activists and/or menz concern trolls certainly make good rape apologists. None of the evidence that men (at least in the US) are more likely to become victims of sexual assaults themselves than being convicted for one, or that there are in fact cases where women are not only not believed, but are charged with “false accusations” of rape (and some are even put in jail for five days and/or are fined) although their allegations eventually turned out to be true, ever gets through their MRA skulls. And none of them cares about wrongful accusations regarding any other crimes, ever. For people who are so deeply steeped in misogyny, it’s all about their determination to frame society and the justice system in particular as “misandrist.”

My first personal thoughts on that? Stop whining, asshole! Male, White, heterosexual, cis-gendered, “able”-bodied people living in affluent societies stealing from the term “misogyny” and appropriating criticisms of privileges and oppression to claim that they have been the “real victims” for thousands of years? Ah, Hell No. Even if only one or two of the afore-mentioned identities actually matches yours: get the fuck in line. What Noah Sow has called a “privilege-caused effeminacy” (“privilegienbedingte Verweichlichung;”  and seriously, English language, that’s your word for it? Wow…) of White people whining about all the evils befalling them in daily life (like missing the bus, I guess), the idea of “misandry” seems to be its gender-epitome.

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