18 April 2007

Codes of conduct and my new influx of hate spam

By now, anyone who reads blogs with any sort of regularity has surely read this (Kathy Sierra's public statement about online harassment), this (the NY Times article) about this (the call for a blogging code of conduct), and maybe even this (a helpful overview of the situation from one of my favorite bloggers).

You've also probably heard, underneath the Virgina Tech cacophony, that the Duke rape case was thrown out last week due to a lack of evidence.

From the time that news broke, it took about an hour for the hate spam to start up here again.

(I hadn't posted anything new about it.)

I'm pretty sure most people, even my friends and colleagues, don't read this blog with any kind of regularity. I don't even blog regularly, mostly because I'm having an inward period and I don't feel like dissecting issues publicly just so people can argue about it. I'm busy, I've been sick, and honestly, I'm tired of defending a label ("feminist") that has always been common sense for me and represented a hope for equality across (if not an end to) all binaries, gendered or otherwise.

And maybe I've never come right out and said it: I quit blogging and videoblogging with the frequency I once maintained both here and elsewhere because I not only got random hateful comments about a year ago for saying videobloggers are a bunch of white men (which, in addition to still being overwhelmingly true, I continue to maintain is a fairly innocuous thing to say, even in anger - let's own our privilege and find ways to understand & use it to move forward towards a better, egalitarian world); for my supposed outburst, I got some of the most harmful, disgusting feedback from the so-called community I was addressing. Maybe that's to be expected, but I decided being vulnerable, as part of my message, wasn't really worth it after that.

I had open comments here - everywhere - until I couldn't take it anymore. I read january one's post contemplating a day of unmoderated feedback, and honestly thought it sounded masochistic. I welcome constructive criticism much like she does, but both in my past life as a weekly newspaper columnist (which came with weekly hate mail, usually from known parties with whom I had to interact in real life) and in my life today, I'm not really interested in being told I'm a "dyke with a tampon up my ass". That isn't criticism, nor is that reality. I have friends who don't agree with me on a variety of things (I even cohabit with some of them), but we maintain a level of respect for our backgrounds and experiences. When I occasionally have a friend who does not do those things, that friend may go by the wayside. Same should be true, in my opinion, for an open forum you have created where you and your viewpoints are being disrespected. People abusing your space? Keep them out. Pretty simple.

Do I - does anyone - want to spend time moderating comments? Hell no. But it comes with the territory. Sometimes the anonymous comments (which I never publish, as I say right there on the right) are particularly amusing, like this one that showed up in the middle of drafting this post:
Hello, can you talk about how women don't like dorky guys or nerds and instead go for the bad boys? It's sad when no one is attracted to you because you are a nice guy.
Yes, I suppose that is sad (albeit an errant assumption). But a lot of things are sad, sir.

I think it's sad that instead of addressing the violent nature of the rape culture in which we live, we cry foul when some young privileged men aren't better protected by the legal system. I think it's sad that we publicly disparage women who have to make difficult choices about the intersections of sex and money. I think it's sad - and sick - that we constantly question the legitimacy of rape charges when only 2-4% of rape reports are unfounded.

And it's personally sad that some of the worst comments I've received along the way have come from people I know: people who I see at conferences and pretend it never happened, people who think that spewing hatred on a listserv isn't destructive, people who don't seem to care if they disclose your personal information without consent. That's my name, dude, and I don't reveal it here for a reason. You know who I am? Bully for you (pun intended).

I don't suppose much will change. Haters will go on publishing personal information - from Kathy Sierra to the Duke lacrosse accuser - and we'll go on moderating comments. And we'll continue to lose valuable writers, videographers, and insight. A code of conduct won't do shit, in my opinion, and I wouldn't adopt it if a hierarchy of bloggers spits one out. Some brave women will continue to speak out and many of us will not. The risk remains too great, and the Duke case further cements that. I'm less afraid online than I am in public space, but I know that's not the case for many these days, and that too makes me sad.

But it's real.


This blog has been closed since this post was written. Some older videos of interest remain in their original locations:

Outfitted in Urban
Me & my HPV vaccine
It isn't a show
Social Potlucks
Dating 2.0

You can also visit my personal website for information about upcoming and ongoing projects, possibly or maybe not at all related to the feminist struggle.