Friday, November 28, 2014

Another Post About Blogging and Civility

My thanks to those who have privately checked in with me regarding recent conversations happening here and, about me, elsewhere.

I've been blogging long enough to know that some people on the Internet seem to forget that they are interacting with actual people, albeit through Internet.  Perhaps it's the medium that eases people's tendency to frame others as caricatures. Narratives can be important to maintain, after all.

Indeed, that's why I created this "self-portrait," many years ago, to give folks a cartoon version of me to direct their projections and ire:


Anyway, I am fine.

I have often been on the receiving end of poor behavior by anti-gay and anti-feminist folks, and even at times, by pro-gay, feminist, and "feminist" folks.  Engaging is not usually a fun endeavor, but I try to participate in good faith, giving people the benefit of the doubt that they're doing more than showing up here with a single-minded, fingers-in-the-ears vendetta. Up to a point.

I have said before and I'll repeat that it's my experience that a blogger and commenting participants can quickly become containers for others to displace their anger, accusations, threats, hobby horses, and hurt. Moderate too much, and people question your motives, start whinging about free speech.  Moderate not enough, and people write novellas on your blog that get amplified to a readership you've built and which are potentially defamatory.

One mis-step, one thing you've said (or not said) that's misunderstood or misrepresented, and Bam! You are a Very Bad Person. A bigot, racist, a sexist, a misandrist, a misogynist, a transphobe, an abuser, a religion-phobe, a cat-hater,  or what-have-you, despite any other long-standing track record you've built up. All of the good things that you are become instantly erased by the bad. (Free tip of the day for not pissing people off while blogging: Don't Blog!)

I have blogged here, at other feminist sites, at LGBT sites, and even at a conservative site.  What is consistently reinforced in me from all of these experiences is that people of all political stripes can be unfair jerks but also decent and kind, even as popular political narratives in the US are extremely binary ("liberals are this, conservatives are that"; "feminist are this; MRAs are that"; "Christians are this; atheists are that").  Political opponents or those with whom we have disagreements on Internet are continually painted as 100% pure evil, with little to no concession that people can hold nuanced positions and that we are all imperfect.

This observation isn't new or super startling, I know.

What does seem to deserve some lengthier conversation is the not uncommon co-opting of social justice, anti-violence, feminist, persecution, and victim buzzwords and lingo in questionable circumstances. Many people are simply far more attuned to slights against themselves than they are attuned to their capacity to harm.

Thus, when people see themselves as victims, which they can do at even the smallest of slights or perceived slights, it seems really hard for them to also seem themselves as capable of inflicting harm and abuse on others. I have seen this pattern time and time again, and I'm not just referring to the group/discussion that spurred this post.

When I guest blogged at a conservative site, a couple of the regular conservative bloggers often said things that were horribly anti-gay. When civilly asked to explain their thoughts further, or when respectfully critiqued, they sometimes claimed they were being "abused" and "harassed" by gay commenters.  Practically every other day, groups like the National Organization for Marriage frame legitimate, peaceful opposition as harassment inflicted upon Christians by "radical homosexual activists."  Liberals, feminists, and progressives, too, can mis-appropriate the language of abuse and victimization when they're being aggressive or when it's not warranted.

It is a tough dynamic to deal with.  We are sometimes told to believe those claiming abuse and that it's up to the abused, rather than outsiders, to determine whether abuse occurred.

In the case of anti-gay Christians, an entire culture of conservative Christianity is on their side along with powerful institutions, convincing them that they are under attack.  So, even when gently confronted, they often over-react: Stop persecuting us!  When confronted with actual aggression, they generalize the aggression to the entire group "gay people."

It also seems that something is at work that makes people, particularly people who see themselves as victims, incapable of or unwilling to accurately gauge the level of harm that they are capable of inflicting on others.

So, back to the conservative blog I used to participate in -- When I asked one of the anti-gay bloggers to consider that her words were hurtful to gay people, she genuinely seemed to feel so powerless in society that she said something to the effect of, "What does anyone care what little old me thinks, anyway?"

Anecdotally, that comment stuck with me as an indicator of how when some people feel small, they seem to think their harmful actions don't have real consequences to others: I don't feel powerful, so what I do or say doesn't really matter. They dish out rude, aggressive behavior that they would find unacceptable  - possibly atrocious - if directed at themselves. This mindset seems true even if, say, powerful institutions are on their side, or if their blog is a group blog of, say, 50 or more people obsessively picking apart every action of one blogger that they vow to take down.

Anyway, I note all of this while acknowledging that I am not perfect, myself. I have made mistakes and will continue to make mistakes. It is easy, lazy, and oftentimes inaccurate to think of our political opponents as monsters with whom we have little in common - and I have done that myself, particularly with anti-LGBT folks, because I have genuinely, legitimately thought they were monstrous.

In this shared tendency, many people of all political persuasions have more in common with one another than we'd ever care to admit.

The Civility Series
Civility and Understanding
Trolls, Online Civility, and Political Agendas

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rome Hosts Conference on Complementarity

Last week, several offices of the Roman Catholic church held an event in Rome called The Complementarity of Man and Woman: An International Colloquium.

Many American opponents of marriage equality were thrilled by this conference and some, such as Rick Warren, were even speakers.

I guess, if you're looking to better understand what is meant by "gender complementarity" that is at the root of many people's opposition to marriage equality and, oftentimes, anti/non-feminism, the conference site would be good to check out.

What I'm so often struck by is the almost childish, emotional, romanticized way that complementarists talk about "man and woman." And yes, they often use the singular versions of these terms - which speaks to the belief that little variation exists within each gender category.

Anyway, from the conference's Affirmation about marriage and gender:
"See man and woman together. They are not just two people. He is for her, and she for him; it is inscribed in their bodies. Their union will bring life that binds and mingles families, encourages faith to flourish, and brings humankind and the world’s diverse cultures to flower again."
So, it's fine to be emotional about this stuff - but this Disney version of reality shouldn't be the determining basis for whether same-sex families deserve equality rights, protections, and dignity.  And, people are right to call out this thinking as irrational, unfair, and yes bigoted when it's consistently put forth to erase and marginalize non-heterosexual, non-cisgender, and gender non-conforming individuals.

A final note is that complementarists often talk about how "man and woman" are "different but equal."

7 out 32 speakers at this conference were women. Unlike their male counterparts, it is impossible for any of these women to be at the top of the hierarchy within the Roman Catholic church.

Just like within the US anti-equality movement, which is grounded in complementary thinking (at best), male voices, perspectives, and opinions are amplified and prioritized, even as they simultaneously tell us how important both "man and woman" are to life and marriage.

That is what gender complementarist "equality" looks like.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Patriarchal Christian Family is Patriarchal, Christian

Libby Anne reminds that reality TV family The Duggars are not just homophobic, they're lots of other things too:
"So let’s get this straight. The Duggars support an extreme version of patriarchy that holds that wives must be constantly sexually available for their husbands, and no one bats an eye. The Duggars promote child rearing practices that involve spanking infants and punishing children for frowning, and no one cares. The Duggars don’t allow their adult children to be unchaperoned or to text their beaus without daddy reading over their shoulders, and everyone smiles and calls it quaint. The Duggars support a sexual predator and continue supporting his ministry even after his actions are made public, and everyone yawns. Michelle Duggar records a transphobic robocall and most people just shrug. But the Duggars delete pictures of gay and lesbian couples kissing from their personal facebook page, and that is enough to bring a hundred thousand people out of the woodwork to demand TLC to pull the show."
Homophobia, the subordination of women, and the disrespect of personal boundaries and autonomy so often go together.  The mainstream gay rights movement isn't great about highlighting these intersections.

Duggar Takes Position at Family Research Council

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Commenting Update

It's the weekend, I have a lot of shit to do, and I'm not going to deal with people who want to turn my blog into their own free-for-all forum against another feminist blogger with whom they have a Very Important Vendetta.

I'm placing comments on automatic moderation until things calm down a bit here.

See ya round.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thoughts on Blogging, Moderation

In reference to this conversation from awhile back, it seems that the person who made a hate site targeting a popular feminist has shut it down.

While the site owner and many participants openly mocked the idea that running a blog is work and scoffed at the very notion of moderation as a necessary component to Internet community and communication, it turns out that, newsflash, both running a blog and moderating it in a way that satisfies all readers is…. oftentimes both difficult and thankless.

A significant portion of Internet users expect zero moderation while another significant portion expects moderation that is perfectly crafted to filter out anything that offends their particular sensibilities while allowing the free amplification of their own thoughts/obsessions, with many people falling somewhere in between these two ends.

I'm not sure people fully appreciate what it's like to moderate a forum unless they've done so themselves.

I've seen and been involved with many approaches to comment moderation and have yet to see a system that's perfect or, hell, even great.

In "anything goes" forums, hostile commenters tend to drive many people out, which I see as a loss of many potentially thoughtful commenters. I've seen many people laud certain blogs for being super lax about comments, but I think those people don't fully appreciate what conversations they're missing. Many people won't comment at all if they know or suspect they'll be attacked in response. I, for instance, read many more blogs than I actually comment on, including MRA and anti-LGBT sites.

Yet, creating a forum with commenting rules, requires those rules to be implemented. At best, in any forum (including my own) these rules are usually implemented imperfectly by imperfect humans. People banned or moderated end up feeling, justifiably or not, attacked, scolded, abused, harassed, or otherwise mistreated because the rules are, or supposedly are, implemented in an unfair, unjust, or discriminatory way.

And, of course, if you have a forum with rules, you must also at times implement these rules among even those whose politics and basic core beliefs you might share. Which can be awkward and, even for the person enforcing the rule, shitty.

For me, banning or calling out commenters who are, for instance, overtly misogynistic of the MRA variety is much easier than, say, calling out a commenter who is or appears to be feminist but who nonetheless has said something problematic. Recently, for instance, someone new to commenting at Fannie's Room said something that I mostly agreed with but used the word "lame." So here's my dilemma, just as someone who runs a small-fry blog like mine:

A) I could say nothing about the person's use of the word "lame," even though I'd prefer that the term not be used in that way in my space.

Some readers would interpret my silence as implicitly approving of the term. Indeed, some readers have, in the past, overtly said that I am responsible for every single thing people post in my space - as though every comment I see and do not delete I must, therefore, agree with even if I'm too busy in any given week to pay much attention to comments. (Anyone remember "Neckbeard"-gate of 2012? HA HA HA. Fun times.)

B) I could request that the commenter not use the term "lame" at my blog, thus setting a clear boundary in this space.

In the ideal world, the commenter would respond with something like, "Okay, I understand - I respect your rules in your space" (which, to her credit, this particular person pretty much did!). Yet, moderating a comment, even if gently done, also runs the risk of the person being offended, feeling harassed, feeling embarrassed, getting angry, escalating the conversation, stopping participating at the blog, and/or going to another blog to publicly talk about how over-sensitive/mean I am.

Over the years, I have lost readers and Internet friends for, even gently, trying to moderate comments. I'm not writing this in a "woe is me" mentality, I'm just explaining a thought process that I sometimes engage when it comes to moderation. And, hell, if I'm busy, it's a thought process I refuse to engage. After more than 7 years of blogging, I see patterns in commenting and can pick up pretty quickly when a person is going to become A Problem.  When I see it, I don't tolerate it, it's just, Bam.  You're out, douche. (Are we still saying d-bag?)

Anyway, for larger sites, I'm sure these considerations are greatly magnified.

My point here is that about a month or so ago, I had actually drafted some long-winded (if you can believe it!) thoughts about the particular hate site that I'm vaguely referencing and don't want to give publicity to. I decided against posting it.

Sometimes, running a blog is enough of its own punishment*.  People learn that eventually.

(*But, of course, I love you all. For being perfect. Did you get a hair cut? It's lovely!)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Quote of the Day

I've been catching up on news, and finally got around to reading the much-lauded dissent in the 6th Circuit's same-sex marriage case (PDF), authored by Judge Martha Daughtrey.  The 6th Circuit upheld (2-1) the bans on same-sex marriage in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

In addressing the "responsible procreation" argument that marriage defenders often deem to be a "civil," "rational" reason for banning same-sex marriage, Daughtrey observes:
"How ironic that irresponsible, unmarried, opposite-sex couples in the Sixth Circuit who produce unwanted offspring must be 'channeled' into marriage and thus rewarded with its many psychological and financial benefits, while same-sex couples who become model parents are punished for their responsible behavior by being denied the right to marry."

The 6th Circuit's upholding of same-sex marriage bans represents a departure from the four federal appellate court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage, potentially leading to Supreme Court review that could lead to a ruling with nation-wide implications.

I'm glad appellate court judges are addressing and countering the "responsible procreation" argument, because it's, perhaps, the best argument marriage defenders have to assert any semblance of a rational basis for marriage bans. And, of course, this "best" argument isn't even good.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Checking In

Hello readers!

Just to check in, I'm doing fine, just quite busy with the work that pays the bills.  That is, I haven't had the mental reserves to devote to blogging at the moment.  I hope to get back to it very soon, however, because an end to current projects is in sight.

The Reading Experiment continues, as the end of 2014 approaches.  I just finished Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring, and thought it was fantastic.  I'm so grateful for the many book recommendations I've received from readers this past year, as I've read many authors I would likely not have encountered.

As I've been away from Internet, I've been contemplating GamerGate, and particularly its so very meta- quality.  Namely, I'm convinced that many of the purveyors of harassment, whether consciously or not, kind of see the Internet as a massive online role-playing game.  They seem to see the harassment they inflict on those who annoy them or who they deem to be ruining "their" as both real and yet also not inflicted on real human beings.

Like the violence within games, their harassment is something they can undertake, strategize about with like-minded "players," and obsess over with little real-world consequence to themselves.

Their treatment of women mirrors both the way many female characters are designed/treated in games and the way that many men treat/disparage/harass female players within gameplay itself.  That is, GamerGate and the harassment many women are experiencing demonstrates that the real and virtual treatment of women within male-dominated gaming cultures is near-fully merged.

In many ways, the legal system needs to catch up.  "Virtual" behavior that has "real" world consequences should have "real" world penalties.

Civility and the "Real"/"Virtual" Dichotomy