ETA: NSFW (language) or for people who’ve been bullied (you already know)
Context, from Petula Dvorak at the Washington Post:
… Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff, 31, killed herself in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, the state medical examiner concluded. But even after the search for her was over, her body was identified and memorial candles began to burn, the cyberbullies — who claimed they were her fellow firefighters — kept scorching away at Mittendorff online.
There is an investigation at Mittendorff’s firehouse to find out who posted the vicious online attacks and whether they played a role in her suicide…
Online harassment gets directed at public-facing women on social media and by online commenters all the time… I know. I am on the receiving end of the onslaught daily.
Here’s a gem I got during a week when I wrote about a neighborhood bone marrow drive and Planned Parenthood:
“Hey Petula, you [profanity] ugly [profanity],” he wrote in a Facebook message. “Too bad your mother did not have an abortion.”
I Googled him. He’s an older income tax specialist living on Long Island who likes to post inspirational quotes and pictures of himself on his Facebook page.
He’s not a co-worker, just a foul-mouthed jerk trying to humiliate me for what I do for a living…
Men, part of the burden of cleaning up this kind of anti-social behavior has to be on you. Middle-aged tax specialists and nitwit stans on barstools alike don’t just do this for their own pitiful gratification — they think it makes them look manly in the eyes of their peers. I’ve seen for fifty years, starting when my younger brothers were forming friend-packs, that Y-chromosome carriers are every bit as susceptible to peer pressure as junior high girls; there’s always one trailing street ape who wants to push the mutual social displays a step too far, and it’s only his personal street ape cohort that can smack him back into line.
Twenty years after Anita Hill exposed the ugly realities of workplace sexual harassment, even the dumbest office workers have learned that Everybody does it and besides it was just a joke is no longer a free pass. Plenty of ugly stuff still happens, but persistent pressure has weeded out all but the real sickos (and even they’ve learned to be more furtive about it). And the anti-bullying school campaigns are giving the rising generation tools their elders don’t always have for calling out bad online behavior. Right now, it’s time for those of you who’ve finished puberty to call out your fellows who slide into this kind of anti-social behavior, if only because these guys are giving all men a bad name as would-be molesters and enablers.
Double dare anyone to make sense of that.
@NotMax: In the WaPo extract, Dvorak mentioned a middle-aged tax specialist cyber-stalking her. Urban Dictionary defines stan as “an overzealous maniacal fan for any celebrity or athlete”… the kind of guy I figured would feel called upon to text-harass female sportswriters. (I’ve read elsewhere that it was a Hollywood term for ‘stalker fan‘. )
I added the link to the post; is that better?
Mingobat f/k/a Karen in GA
@NotMax: I dunno, but the rest of it made plenty of sense, so I can overlook the typo.
ETA: Anne, I thought you meant to call them barstool stains. Didn’t know “stan” was a thing. So much for thinking it was a typo.
pseudonymous in nc
@NotMax: You get the gist, so don’t pretend you don’t.
It’s difficult. I think that my own male peer group is better than it was — probably because my female peers feel more able these days to speak explicitly about the kind of casual everyday sexism they encountered that even the best-meaning men just didn’t know was happening — but you can’t go into other environments and deal with the shit that comes out of it. That has to come from within.
Princess pepperspray may finally lose her jerb.
@pseudonymous in nc:
Part of the problem is that, as we all know, new peer groups can be formed online that may not be able to be policed the way peer groups can be IRL. People can find each other who otherwise would never have met.
For some reason, this made me think of the weirdo who was arrested for trying to kidnap Elie Wiesel (I think) and make him confess the Holocaust was all a hoax. The guy had been hanging around on denier websites and chat rooms, where they egged him on. (Though they probably never thought he would follow through because, really, who does that?) Without that peer support and echo chamber, would he ever have done that?
@NotMax: @Anne Laurie: I understood it. The real gist is men need to police men more. No more letting things go because it’s just “guy things”.
I didn’t read the excerpt because sleeping pill is making my eyes go crazy. I thought maybe AL was ribbing me a bit then a second read made me reconsider it being about me.
@Anne Laurie: Also has to do with the Eminem song “Stan”, in which he uses it as the name of a stalker fan.
@trollhattan: So that’s what happened to Janet Napolitano. I don’t think I ever want to get on her bad side. I don’t envy Pepper one bit.
Yes, thank you. This geezer is definitely an unhipster.
Urban dictionary is one landfill through which I don’t care to dig.
Men are like responsible for what, 95% of the world’s problems?
this runs afoul of the “not me” thing that decent people have. I mean No-Way would I ever do that kind of thing.
We have to learn to not only not do it, but to call people out when they do it.
@efgoldman: People dump all sorts of stuff on my street, I get lots of stuff.
It is more nasty now, I think, than I remember from my days as a server. On the other hand, I’m male, so I’m in no position to judge. My rule was to treat the women I worked with the way I’d want my mom or sister to be treated in a work environment. (Okay, except for when we were fussing at each other about something…) But a local brewpub owner pretty much nailed it in a public rant:
Black Acre Facebook post exposes reality of sexual harassment
Also, too – @efgoldman: were you thinking about Olivier as the Nazi dentist earlier?
@danielx: There’s no way sexism is worse now than 10-20-30-40- and so on years ago.
Maybe perception/awareness of sexism is much higher today.
@redshirt: It’s less intense and widespread but much more public now.
Major Major Major Major
i lost a leather bracelet so i made shortbread and live-instagrammed it
i think it’s really unfair for the writer to use her personal example in an article about that woman firefighter. being harrassed possibly by your coworkers is not the same as a rando calling a journalist a bunch of foul names. I can’t bring myself to agree with the author’s conclusions. It doesn’t “have to stop”. You’re never going to get 100% of the world to behave themselves, and the internet is a public forum open to virtually everyone. At the end of the day, if you choose to take a public media job like being a journalist, you suffer the slings and arrows of life.
This does not excuse actual harrassment/actionable threats, which are not legally protected speech.
@cokane: Hot take, dude.
No mention of MRA’s and GamerGate, sponsored by Breitbart?
We don’t even need to go to the dump. Curbside picking is much easier. Something you don’t want, put it on the curb and someone will stop within the hour and haul it away.
@MomSense: I’m considering doing that with my car.
I’ve been resisting watching this video. I see far too much of it online. People become creepy tyrants and I just don’t get why. It’s one thing to mock Jake Tapper, but the hurling of abuse is something else.
I haven’t watched the video yet, either. I’ve had some bad experiences with bullying and harassment.
I’m still really bitter about my last couple of years there, but Katehi losing her job would certainly make me feel a little better about it all.
@ruemara: The video is really hard to watch. It’s very well done–at first there’s music and it’s kind of goofy. Then the guys start reading the rape threats, and the music stops. Apparently the guys didn’t see the tweets before hand, and they though it was going to be like the Jimmy Kimmel segment where people read mean tweets. When they realize what they’re actually saying the guys are horrified, which of course is the point.
@cokane: Have you actually watched the video? The journalists in question are getting comments directed at them like “I hope you get raped again,” “I hope you’re Bill Cosby’s next victim,” and “The only reason to have a bitch around is to make me a sandwich and suck my cock.” In what universe is it okay to say that to someone?
I’m a guy who recently dropped out of an Internet chat room of which I’d been a member for 15+ years because the assholes who were participating had, though their assholishness, pretty much run off the nonasshole participants. I had on several occasions called out assholes for being assholes regarding their misogyny, but I finally decided that I didn’t have the time to deal with the assholes any longer. And that’s the problem with expecting guys to police other guys about this sort of crap. It means hanging out with assholes, and if you’re not an asshole, then you tend to make friends with other guys who aren’t assholes.
I saw this video on another blog – very powerful. The danger of the Internet is the anonymity. People, especially men, will say or write the most horribly stupid or vicious things, if they think they will never be caught. Take that away and this shit falls away….Notice how the one guy chokes up and can’t even read the ugly shit that was said on-line?
They also keep apologizing and they didn’t even write that shit. It’s a real eye opener for those guys. The one guy looks at the woman, pleadingly, like please don’t make me say this! I’ll bet they never harass a woman again, if they ever did.
@Yutsano: I honest;y think most people wouldn’t do half the stupid shit they do without being egged on by idiot peers who want to be entertained by the stupid. Just look at Youtube “Hey ma watch this” videos these folks put out. Some really DUMB shit is going on out there that would not happen if there were not an audience (usually cheering the future Darwin award winner on).
@Darkrose: I read the article, didn’t watch the video. I didn’t make any reference to the video in my comment. Hence the use of the word “writer”, hence the discussion about the content of the “article”. I did not once write in my comment that it was “okay” to make such comments. Literacy :[
But I was disagreeing with Anne’s statement that it was every man’s duty (or even possible) to make sure the internet is purged of offensive words.
It doesn’t strike me as fair to blame all men for the actions of a few idiots, the idea that every man is just standing around watching this happen and doing nothing can’t be supported. I remember a story of a guy who stepped in when some jackass was sexually harassing a woman on the street, and the guy went back to his car, got a gun and killed him. Confronting crazy angry people can be dangerous.
@redshirt: What’s changed is that sexism we’d consider appalling used to be built into the bedrock assumptions of daily life. There’s still a lot there, but the grossest stuff is now a reaction. 40 years ago, it was still kind of a new idea that women might want to keep having a paying job after they got married. Sex discrimination in say, lending still certainly exists, but before 1968 it was completely legal: women usually had to have a man co-sign.
What we’re seeing now is the backlash against the changes. It’s rude and shocking because these guys have realized they’re no longer tinpot lords of creation and they’re pissed. And the Internet serves as a force multiplier for every kind of creep.
@Tokyokie: Yup. For a public (kinda related) example, look at what goes on in the comment section at Kevin Drum’s blog. There are people there who seemingly have nothing better to do than argue nonsensical, and often mean, points for hours on end.
There often comes a point when one has to say “that’s wrong” and move on. It only takes a relative handful of people to ruin a place, but the time required to fight their nonsensical, often evil comments can be prohibitive for people who have other things they have to do.
Well sure, but how?? If it’s all happening in some place you never see (I don’t read the comments at any mass-audience sites), how the hell do you do anything about it?
The only way I’d know if someone I knew was spouting vile shit like this would be if someone else outed them. And if someone else outed them, I’d burn the bridges between them and me. But I’m not diving into the fever swamps of comment sections and Twitter and stuff just to find people like this and rebuke them.
So, any practical suggestions here?
@cokane: that statement would seem to be you’re, not AL’s. Calling out one’s acquaintances, real or virtual, who start into unseemly behavior is hardly “policing the Internet”.
@Gian: “we have to learn to not only not do it, but to call people out when they do it” and, I would add, believe women when they report that this is happening to them. To me, that is a biggie. The whole, “it is rough and tumble out there, grow a thicker skin, everyone catches s hit online” is just bull. Those guys were ready to read mean tweets, because mean is funny? I appreciate how tough it was for them to read it to her face, but what did they think they were signing up for? Good guys, but they were ready to laugh at mean tweets sent to someone.
I’ll bear that burden. And I’ll add that fathers and grandfathers play an especially important role.
I guess I’m lucky to have a group of friends and acquaintances where this behavior is essentially non-existent, and certainly unwanted and unappreciated. And I’m happy to say my sons attend a school with a great social environment and their other activities are also communities built on respect. I may have to pay a bit more attention over the next four to six years as my boys head off to all-boy high schools, but they already have a solid foundation, and the high schools are diligent in this area.
There is no doubt the anonymity provided by the internet has also provided power to cowards to say/write ugly things they would never say /write publicly. Remember the Klan members wore masks to hid their identity. These people also like to hide behind the protection of free speech, sick humor, and blaming the victim for having a thin skin. While no one wants to be on guard constantly to avoid offending someone somehow, at some point common standards of how we treat each other kick in. I do wish the term “political correctness” could be buried. We could just remember to treat others as we would like to be treated.
@low-tech cyclist: One thing that would probably would help is not be immediately dismissive of it as a problem with a solution, especially a solution men might contribute to. There’s a lot of off-hand “Grow a thicker skin sweethearts.” and “Boys have always been boys.” and reliance on the old “if you can’t 100% erradicate the problem then why do anything whatsoever?” dismissal running though this thread.
I just had this idea, and it’s not well thought out, but for what it’s worth: We know that environments, physical or digital, have subtle influences on the way people behave. It occurs to me to wonder whether in the real world women in groups are harassed less often than when they’re alone; I’d guess the answer is yes.
Online, on the most popular non-gaming social media platforms, the default is that you’re alone. You might be participating in a group activity or discussion, but there’s usually an identifiable you, distinct from everyone else, and it’s not hard for anyone to direct messages specifically at you, even if they may be visible to others. I wonder whether it would be possible to create an online environment in which this wasn’t as easy to do, and whether it might reduce harassment? That is, a harassing comment would be seen as the real-world equivalent of someone shouting insults across the room at someone else in a group of people, who might all turn around to say, “What the fuck?” We talk about online social media, but in some ways what’s out there is pretty restrictive compared to real-world society.
One problem: What guys would claim this douche as a friend? Better question, why? It’s not like he tells fun stories at parties.
OK, so someone fakes a friendship with El Douche.. for what? To smack him when he does stuff like this? Sounds like too much effort..
Issue seems to be that getting acceptance with some crowd of boys like this would… require already thinking like he does.
@slumpyb: Oh, look, it’s a #notallmen! Joy.
WHAT DO YOU THINK WOMEN DEAL WITH EVERY FUCKING DAY?! Women get shot for turning guys down at a bar. They get shot for not going on a date with a coworker. For not wanting to get back together with an ex-boyfriend. For telling a street harasser to fuck off. The ability to say, “no, I won’t confront harassment when I see it because something bad has a slight chance of happening to me,” is pure male privilege.
Harassers and rapists are enabled by their perception what they do is normal. That all men do it. The more men who tell them, “not cool, bro,” the more they receive the message they are in the wrong. And every man who might have joined in is discouraged.
Fuck your cowardice.
@RSA: Sounds like you’re talking about a chat room. Where the situation could go either way, depending on the denizens of the room and whether the troll has friends.
@Luthe: A chat room is one point in the design space, but it’s not the only possibility. I’m thinking vaguely about something that would scale better, that would support asynchronous communication, and so forth, closer to more modern platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and so forth.
@scav: OK, , but again, if I’m not them, what am I supposed to do?
Because this IS a real problem, and it desperately needs a solution. The anonymity of the Web, and the sheer ease of writing a comment and hitting ‘send’, really IS a force multiplier for all the creeps. And when you combine that with the tendency of assholes to band together, a dozen or so creeps can create a tsunami of abuse directed at a single woman that seems like it’s coming from a mob, and turn the Web into a pretty scary place for her.
It’s a horrible thing, and it really has to stop.
But I’m still unclear on the next steps.
Whoever wrote that sentence should be taken out and shot
” she’s a forefinger so let’s use lots of fire imagery and metaphors”. Not clever.
@low-tech cyclist: Cultural contexts are set generally, not only in the immediate presence of the worst offenders. It could be your immediate shere of direct influence isn’t that out of desiable norms. Maybe all you can do is actively remind yourself that it may not be the same in the personal bubbles around people you know, so not shutting them down if it comes up in conversation. Don’t discount them or make haste to return to safer, more pleasuable topics. Very first comment on this page was a deflection into grammar and vocabulary, a safer subject.
@Gelfling545: that’s a good point. If I know them, I’d call them out. But, no one I know — as far as I know — sends out “I’m going to rape you” posts online.
ETA: The important thing to remember is that only a tiny tiny minority of people do this… so most of us, don’t n aren’t going to know them.
@Luthe: Men are ~70% of homicide victims every year. Men get shot much more than women, if we’re going to worry about the sex of homicide victims.
@trollhattan: It was odd to see that announcement knowing that Napolitano was on the bay yesterday eating Humboldt Bay oysters and then touring the Redwood National forest and the Schatz Energy Center at HSU. The Humboldt-University of California extension (related to agrarian issues) is the oldest in the state and has been in operation for 103 years. It’s a great program.
@cokane: Except these aren’t the simple slings to be endured while being a sports figure in the sports world where an insult and passion are par for the course. These women work in public spaces and those spaces are sports venues and they are on the road staying in hotels (ask Erin Andrews about what it’s like to a woman in the sports reporting world about privacy and having a thicker skin) and they have to deal with death threats and threats of rape and assault that are very real.
Those threats are very real particularly to a woman who has already been raped and it only takes two minutes of googling to find the stories of thousands of women who were stalked online and that stalking carried over in their very real lives. That’s the story here, not pseudonymous insults passed through twitter, but the threats of very real bodily harm women face in a manner men do not. Stop dismissing their very real concerns, they are literally telling us that the dangers they face are real and that shrugging off yet one more threat of rape or one more threat of violence does not make them safe.
@Luthe: Just wanted to add, in case you doubt my stat, here’s the 100 most recent homicides in one of the highest homicide cities in the US http://data.baltimoresun.com/news/police/homicides/recenthundred.php
I want you to read that list very carefully and take note of every name and its demographic breakdown. The ultimate violence has a significant sexual disparity. Keep in mind that the events chronicled in that list just happened, from right now dating back to roughly December. And yet there isn’t nor will there be an Anne Laurie post highlighting this tragedy. And yet we’re talking about online harassment as if there’s a crisis. These lives however, are deemed expendable. Now take one more second to think about violence and male privilege.
@cokane: JFC you’re a dumbass.
For 2010, which is the year for which the FBI provides expanded homicide data, 77.4% of homicide victims were male. However, 90.3% of homicide perpetrators were male. Men are murdered more often than women, but they are being murdered by other men. Oh, and in cases where the circumstances were know, 37.5% of women were murdered by their husband or boyfriend.
@Luthe: I never once argued that men weren’t the majority perpetrators. You have reading comprehension problems. I don’t. Here’s an example, you said:
I was specifically responding to your own hypothetical, which has a hypothetical male assailant. As the data established, men have a HIGHER chance of being victimized by violence than women. Don’t lecture men about having a privileged isolation from violence — statistically the opposite is true. Men are not duty bound to confront random street harassers for precisely this reason. Men are much more likely to escalate to violence in a confrontation with another man as opposed to a confrontation with a women, and it’s not even statistically close.
Fuck your callousness.
Interesting that out of 55 comments, roughly half of them on topic, 9 are ‘what about the menz!’ or ‘not all men’ or ‘it’s everybody else’s problem, not mine’ or ‘they don’t really MEAN it’.
Still work to do.
@cokane: I give up. No matter what, it’s always going to come back to how men have it worse with you. Which completely ignores the lived experience of women and the reality of misogyny.
@Luthe: I only brought up the data because you specifically called men cowards for not wanting to bark at rando street harassers after being presented with an anecdote about how a man got fucking murdered doing so. You were then presented with empirical data showing men are the overwhelming victims of homicide. Also, an iota of common sense or real world experience should have informed you that two male strangers jawing in the street is never a shrewd idea. And you called any man who disagreed with this COWARDS. But yeah, go back to thinking you can never be wrong, never be educated about anything.
Frankly, the solipsism here is astonishing.
It’s more complicated than that. It is not simply male culture or peer culture that makes men do this, or that condones this.
By the way, I am not trying to minimize the problem. The sad thing is that people who would be restrained by social judgment in real life feel free to be as vile as they can be on the Internets.
But it is too bad that this started out as a late night thread. There is much more that can be said about this stuff.
@Luthe: Wow, amazing how you know about my cowardice based on reading a single statement. I’ve lived for 53 years and have NEVER had the chance to confront someone harassing a woman, and I work downtown in a large city. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen because I know it does. So who should I confront? How do I stop online harassment of women? Blaming all men for the actions of a few is wrong, just as it would be if we were talking about women, or any other group. How about getting rid of anonymous commenting? How about some means of confronting the person who sent the comments?
Unknown known (formerly known as Ecks, former formerly completely unknown)
Huh. Trying to post a comment here, but it just disappears. Doesn’t even give the “in moderation” flag. Just reloads the page with nothing at all added. Tried twice. weird.
@cokane: I’m wicked late to this thread, but you certainly seem to lack basic reading comprehension. AL doesn’t say that all men everywhere are responsible for keeping discourse civil on the internet. She wrote “Men, part of the burden of cleaning up this kind of anti-social behavior has to be on you.” It sounds like you don’t actually disagree but also are trying to change the subject a bit by bringing up homicide rates. WTF dude?
As humans it is possible for us to acknowledge that there are many aspects of shitty behavior in society. Calling out one aspect, which is also super well demonstrated, doesn’t mean that other shitty things don’t occur. The vast majority of women experience sexual harassment, rape, and abuse. Just because all of these women aren’t killed by their abusers doesn’t invalidate AL’s post. You certainly sounds like a MRA troll who’d rather ignore the fact that it’s up to ALL of us to call out shitty behavior. Particularly when you try to reframe the discussion to be about violence toward men, you’re start to sound as if the abuse most women experience only matters if they get killed. That’s pretty damn messed up.