liv: cast iron sign showing etiolated couple drinking tea together (argument)
[personal profile] liv
When I started to make the post about Ello I was going to talk about women and crowdfunding as well, and ran out of room / time. Now I'm reminded again, partly because of some current discussions in my circles, #GamerGate dragging on in all its horribleness, the Requires Hate story, and other things. And what floated this up to the top of my mind (I'm still not very organized about making lists and plans for what I'm going to post to DW) was that I was talking about playing Ingress and a comment discussion developed about whether the player community is toxic or not. And that made me step back and realize that the first thing I do when I consider playing an online game is make a threat assessment. And that's just for what is for me a potentially fun, time-wasting hobby, not my actual livelihood.

Basically, if I'm going to participate in any kind of website or online community, I have to consider what level of "toxicity" I'm going to get exposed to. How easy is it to avoid to avoid constant misogynist comments? I mean, I can use a not too obviously female handle / avatar, but even if it's not personally directed at me I don't want to spend my time in environments where there are constant, unavoidable references to people's fantasies of anti-woman violence. So I'm assessing, and this is such a habit that I hadn't really registered it until now, both what the general atmosphere of the community is like, and if it's generally pleasant, whether there are tools to select which bits of the conversation I interact with. Because even a relatively small proportion of misogynist jerks can suck a lot of the fun out of a space, and even if the core community is generally pleasant, if there's no anti-abuse tools it's pretty much only a matter of time before there's an invasion from one of the more toxic bits of the internet, 4Chan or so-called Men's Rights people or just free-floating haters who can't bear the idea of women having fun anywhere in public. Ingress passes this bar whereas something like Ello doesn't; there is a clear mechanism to block people you don't want to interact with, both hiding their spew from getting in your way while you're trying to play, and hiding your own activity from them. And no self-righteous nonsense about how it's supposed to be social and you shouldn't even want to be a big meanie who blocks people.

Several of my Ingress-playing friends reassured me about the gender balance in the game, but what I really want to know is not how many men there are, but how many misogynists. In general, I feel comfortable in male or mostly-male environments, but I do find it telling that I express a concern about griefing and immediately get reassured that there's a reasonable gender balance and there are several prominent women playing too. And yes, I was looking for misogyny specifically, because that's the main thing likely to make a space unbearable for me. But it's not like I'd want to play in a space where everybody is completely gender-egalitarian yet massively racist either! That's not something I look out for very much, because in my experience it's usually correlated, anti-woman communities are usually racist and homophobic and ableist as well. And there are online spaces where people aren't very socially conscious, such as much of the Rational / atheist blogosphere, but I haven't seen them making concerted attacks on anyone who isn't white in the way that plenty of forums will systematically gang up on female-appearing participants. (Actually I think Twitter is nearly as bad for this kind of systematic, mob-based racism as for sexism, in addition to as it were institutional / embedded racism which I might or might not be aware of.)

When I said threat assessment, I'm not just talking about predicting whether a space will be unpleasant. I've seen far too many examples where just shouting at women and going on about rape all the time doesn't succeed in completely driving women away, so the misogynists escalate to publishing people's home addresses and making credible threats against them. And, well, Ingress doesn't quite stick a tracking beacon on players, but given that it's all about playing in the real world, it's not far enough off that for me to feel like I'd be safe if I did get targeted. I mean, let's be honest here, I'm not a serious gamer, I'm not one of those women who are justifiably outraged about facing sexism when they put many hundreds of hours into complex games and are internationally competitive at their chosen games. And I'm in no way a major internet personality, I'm just a random person who likes blogging. I'm looking for something fun (whether gaming or chatting) to occupy my downtime, and much as I admire people who are fighting for women's rights in the virtual world, for me personally it's not worth being brave and facing down all the people who want me dead for being near them while female. And even short of people actually trying to kill me, I don't want to take the risk of a harassment campaign, people following me around even my virtual spaces making horrible remarks every time I try to speak in public. So I'm simply going to avoid online communities full of misogyny, which kind of means that some of the women-haters are getting their way, but that's not my fight. And at least I do have some online spaces where I do feel basically safe.

It's a different situation for women who need the internet for their livelihood. I mean, everybody needs it to some extent, these days we're all supposed to be promoting our brand on social media, and I'm pretty sure that when someone gets round to doing the research it's going to come out that women have a significant career disadvantage in any career where internet presence is in any way a factor in how one is judged. I've certainly seen some articles discussing this from the point of view of academics; "engagement with social media" is starting to be a metric for funding as well as selection for jobs and promotions, and for men the cost of "engagement" is that they have to find the time and develop the skills to communicate their work to a general audience, whereas for women, there's the additional cost of having to protect themselves against the possibility of getting shouted at, harassed or possibly even stalked, raped or killed, and that's a big discrepancy.

Even beyond that unfairness, though, there's women who want to run internet-based businesses. Women probably statistically have more need than men to be able to make money as their own bosses and work from home or convenient locations, because women are far more likely to be the primary or only carer for young children or elderly / sick / disabled relatives, and because women are also more likely to be disabled themselves. Also, if employers are sexist and tending to discriminate against women (either deliberately or indirectly), interacting directly with your customer base could be a way round that. The traditional models of entrepreneurship don't serve women well, partly because investors are directly sexist against women and because you need the kind of personal network that's much more open to men than women to attract investment. And also because the expectations of how start-ups and self-led businesses work really don't match at all well with the kinds of caring responsibilities and physical limitations that women are more likely than men to have. (I also saw a horrible business incubator thingy that was generating outrage on Twitter where they said they were only interested in helping "real" businesses that were developing apps and tools, not Mommies using blogs to advertise their cakes and crafts. Because a few lines of code for doing a meta-search of what's already on the internet and some thrown-together graphics is totally bringing more value to society than making food and clothes, and that totally has nothing to do with the stereotypical genders of app developers versus home-makers!)

So it makes a lot of sense for women to run internet-based businesses. Blogs paid for by contributions or advertising, distributed retail sites like Etsy, and crowdfunding. And all of those kinds of businesses are at best dismissed by commentators as being frivolous and girly, and at worst actively targeted by misogynists. I started thinking about this because [livejournal.com profile] siderea made a completely awesome Patreon. Which you should all go and support, because she's looking for crowdfunding to write fascinating thinky LJ posts. It's such a completely great idea, and she knows her niche really well; just look at how many of her sponsors are people who like me created accounts specifically to be able to support Siderea. I am not entirely sure why I feel more comfortable signing up to sponsor an internet-friend via Patreon, than I do chipping in when people put Paypal buttons or tip-jars on their blogs, but that's probably a discussion for another time.

Anyway, the germ of this post was that Patreon had, as many of these sites do, a Twitter ticker for people talking about Patreon. And pretty much everything that scrolled past while I was looking at the page was complaints about how Patreon has too many women, and too many [slur for trans women], and too many social justice warriors. And when I say "complaints", well, in fact what I mean is detailed fantasies of violence against anyone who dares to mention that sexism and other discrimination affect their ability to earn money, so they're asking for direct sponsorship. Most of the worst stuff I saw was transphobic, but there was plenty of common-or-garden sexism too.

I was painfully reminded of this article about Gittip. Now, Croeser takes a very specific editorial stance, but if she's right, it really does look to me like active backlash against the fact that women, some marginalized people, and social justice activists were successful at raising money via Gittip. So it's not just that women are being driven out of conventional industries, it's that if they make any sort of progress towards finding alternative economic models, those models, and the women themselves, are viciously attacked. And now there's #GamerGate, about which much ink has been spilled, but again, a few women made successful games that didn't follow the standard, marketed to aggressive young men model, and there's a coordinated effort to discredit them to the point of ruining their careers by spreading weird rumours about "games journalism ethics". And anyone who complains that this is maybe a little bit unfair may attract large and persistent groups of people who follow them all over the internet harassing them and threatening them with rape and murder. And "doxxing" them, which no longer means connecting someone's online handle to their wallet name and outing them to their employer, which was quite bad enough, but publishing targets' and their families home addresses in arenas full of people who enjoy plotting elaborate violence against women.

At this point I'm starting to believe there is actually a conspiracy, and it's really scaring me. I mean, I realistically think it's not a literal conspiracy of angry misogynists who want to drive women off the internet, but there's a whole lot of people who find it rewarding to egg eachother on to more and more extreme reactions against women online, and that is pretty much functionally equivalent to a conspiracy. I do not at all have any good ideas about what can be done about this, mind you. Handing over control of online discourse to the police and the state is a solution that's worse than the problem, and the problem is pretty bad.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-12 07:37 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
I'm going to think about this some more, but two immediate points that spring to mind in reading it:

"engagement with social media" is starting to be a metric for funding as well as selection for jobs and promotions

I think your points here are well made, I just want to add a variation from another (minority) perspective. The growth of social-media-presence-required for advancement threatens to become another barrier to disabled people breaking through into the workplace. I've got a reasonable social media presence, but I more or less stumbled into that, if I had been tasked to develop it as a condition of getting a job I'd have been at best horrified, at worst completely unable to do it, even to the point of drawing back from existing networks (I've done that in the past), and as neurodiverse types go, I'm more able to face that (to pass?) than many. Add people with Mental Health issues to the group and many may find it not just impossible, but actively threatening c.f. the almighty mess with #SamaritansRadar. At the moment I'm not sure how we address that, but it's one of the issues that is sitting there at the back of my mind while I worry that it may increasingly become a barrier.

At this point I'm starting to believe there is actually a conspiracy, and it's really scaring me.

I think the analogy you want is the lynch mob, and I've dealt with enough bullies and thugs in my time to know that they're far more dangerous in groups.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 12:08 am (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
I think the analogy you want is the lynch mob

Does that have the connotations of a systematic terror campaign against black people that it does in the US?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 03:10 am (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
I wasn't thinking about that, but I should have been! I don't know if Brits in general know of the anti-black people focus, but I am aware of it to an extent.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 12:26 am (UTC)
heliopausa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heliopausa
"The growth of social-media-presence-required for advancement threatens to become another barrier to disabled people breaking through into the workplace."
And a barrier for the semi-poor and poor, as well, who might be relying on very time-limited internet access via the local library. Even worse for those living in places where there is no such public internet access, of course.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 03:12 am (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Very good point, and disabled people are unreasonably well represented in being on the wrong side of the digital divide (which we keep trying to get clueless civil servants to take on board when they propose digital-only management of benefits).

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-14 10:08 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Yet that was the intention for Universal Credit! I actually was in email touch with someone at the Cabinet Office over it and when I pointed out the massive digital divide they seemed to be ignoring he replied 'we're just about to start looking at that' - that was a month before it was due to go live... The only reason UC hasn't been an accessibility disaster is that the IT is an even bigger disaster and claims are being processed by hand with complicated ones (i.e. disabled people) excluded. It's so incompetent it's barely credible, yet IDS regularly swears blind in front of parliament and select committees that there is no problem with UC.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 05:03 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Someone suggested my online presence as a possible source for the false allegation of benefit fraud that was made against me several years ago. I don't know if I was convinced, but I could actually think of a candidate (another disabled person, unfortunately). Meanwhile a friend of mine had direct threats made to her facebook page that lead to the police having to be involved (she said they were great).

It's not purely the social media side of comms that's an issue, either, I always got hammered at my annual appraisals on communications skills, I always put that largely down to just the fact I find it really difficult to talk to people when I'm in pain, but having now had a psychologist say he thinks I'm clearly neurodiverse in some fashion, there's the effects from that to consider as well.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-14 10:02 pm (UTC)
davidgillon: A pair of crutches, hanging from coat hooks, reflected in a mirror (Default)
From: [personal profile] davidgillon
Yes, having been through the process is one of the reasons I tend to be rather short with anyone claiming 'if you're innocent you have nothing to fear', I had about the best possible resolution, with the investigator agreeing that the claim against me was infeasible even before she got across my doorstep, but even so the process insists that you are formally warned even if shown to be innocent, and the stress of the whole thing triggered me into the worst flare-up I've ever had, which went on for three months. It's a large part of why I'm not currently claiming any benefits. The friend I referred to was at the time probably one of the two most prominent disability benefit campaigners in the country, regularly on TV and radio and talking to people like Ed Miliband and IDS (hiss!), yet for some people that was grounds to attack her for being disabled and part Jewish. I despair.

Thank you for linking to that article (and for taking a stand), it's superb, and very applicable to my own situation. I'm going to pass it on to a bunch of people who may be interested.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-12 07:49 pm (UTC)
randomling: Nine (Doctor Who) sits in the Big Brother chair with his eyebrows raised.  "you have GOT to be kidding" (kidding)
From: [personal profile] randomling
I think you're incredibly on-point here, too. I too tend to either play solo games or find communities that let me avoid the horrible misogyny that is a feature of lots of (for example) MMOs of the sort I otherwise quite like.

And I'm running across the "have a social media" presence barrier right now - finding myself assiduously making notes about how to write a better LinkedIn profile (for example) and then assiduously avoiding actually *doing* anything about it at all. I'm not sure whether that's directly linked to sexism and transphobia or just my generic social anxiety, but the misogyny and transphobia is definitely a reason that I've started retreating from coding even though I really enjoy it as an activity...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-12 09:51 pm (UTC)
cjwatson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cjwatson
Hmm. When I commented about gender balance I meant to observe that that's a proxy indication of a somewhat reasonable environment in games, rather than implying that it was something you were looking for specifically. But then again something like Twitter has a reasonable gender balance and it can be an utterly toxic environment sometimes (in all kinds of ways), so on reflection this may have been a nonsense thing to say. I shall have to ponder this some more and try to unpack what I was thinking, because I'm not sure it made sense.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-12 10:43 pm (UTC)
cjwatson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cjwatson
The whole GamerGate thing is particularly terrifying because the whole "ethics" thing, while risible if you look at it more than in passing and with a shred of empathy, represents a particularly unpleasant crowd coming up with a message and internal logic that's just about plausible enough to take in a bunch of people around the edges, and the whole thing feeds upon itself. Stacked on top of the fact that it contains people willing to issue death threats and who knows what else, I have huge admiration for its victims who haven't retreated into their shell.

I've seen it argued that it's part of the last gasp of a group that's losing the culture war. It would be lovely if that were true, but I'm not sure I'm optimistic about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 12:12 am (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
Hm, that's a link between the GamerGate thing and the Requires Hate imbroglio, in which one person appropriated a lot of social justice rhetoric in order to encourage unpleasant behaviour and (apparently) eliminate competition and/or cause trouble for the sake of it. I have friends caught up in that one on both "sides", and it's painful to watch, partly because it's implicitly gendered & racialised.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 05:39 pm (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
That makes a lot of sense, and I have seen a couple of people saying in public that they've been put off SJ because of her actions, which is incredibly sad. I'd have been much more surprised if a male and/or white author had been outed in public that way, too, and I'm glad I have the luxury of not being in the industry myself and therefore not having to choose whether to risk working with the man who outed her.

Possibly part of the outcry is due to being able to put a single identifiable name to a stream of macroaggressions, rather than the constant drizzle of Horrible Things Mostly Happening To Other People?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 03:21 pm (UTC)
damerell: NetHack. (normal)
From: [personal profile] damerell
Mmm. One of the things that worries me about the 'gaters is the supply of well-meaning useful idiots (and they are idiots - even if everything they've dug up is true, which it's not, it would hardly be the biggest problem with games journalism, and all the problems with games journalism don't amount to Murdoch's nose hair) who have no idea why we're apparently on their case...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 05:40 pm (UTC)
mirrorshard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mirrorshard
Or - perhaps worse - to dismiss that as a sideshow compared to ethics in games journalism.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 05:56 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
it's too optimistic to assume GamerGate is an extinction burst

I think it might be apt to characterise it as a backlash against the perceived trend that people might be beginning to lose a privileged position, even if society is a very very very very very long was from actually having athena gold rating everywhere? :(

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 12:51 am (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
This is something I also think about a lot as at the moment I'm at the level of being-read-on-the-internet that I get fairly regular creepy paternalistic comments from men but not yet frequent violent threats. I think it's also a reflection of how the recent institutions of the internet, like Twitter, are extremely libertarian; that gives people from marginalised groups, who might be further silenced by a more controlled speech environment, the space to communicate freely, but gives abusive people the same freedom.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 05:54 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Twitter has no problem doing things like mass-banning sex workers because their advertisers find that kind of thing unwholesome.

I was thinking of this sort of thing -- that one thing that has to change is that platform-owners come under sufficient pressure that they apply that level of censorship to obvious-harassment (and preferably, don't apply it to sex workers). Which doesn't solve the problem, but may make more communities acceptable-communities rather than toxic-communities.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 06:41 pm (UTC)
kerrypolka: Contemporary Lois Lane with cellphone (Default)
From: [personal profile] kerrypolka
Ah I didn't realise that about Twitter, I had it in my head as more protect-free-expression-at-all-costs.

I think there are two slightly different problems with being a woman online: one is being exposed to abuse, like people @-ing your Twitter handle, but the other is things you mention like doxxing, which we don't have to see or know about online before they potentially hurt us.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-13 04:15 am (UTC)
silveradept: The emblem of Organization XIII from the Kingdom Hearts series of video games. (Organization XIII)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
This is a really good piece. The analogue that comes closest to mind is the systematic campaign against doctors, women's clinics, and women who seek abortions. When the legislatures can't put enough obstacles in the way (or, horror of horrors, the are liberals in charge), things escalate to public protests and shaming, as well as the perpetuation of entirely untrue things at high volume. Failing that, then the names and addresses of the clinics and their doctors are published in the context of wanted posters, and while there's no overt inciting to violence, the context makes it quite clear that all actions are acceptable, including shooting doctors in churches. It's not an organized conspiracy, but it is a well-funded terror network.

The only question, really, at this point, is "at what point are you going to leave because you are afraid for your life and safety?"

The part I wish I had is "And here's the foolproof way of stopping then and reducing their ranks."

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-14 10:49 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Thanks for this post. And thanks for the heads-up about [personal profile] siderea's Patreon, which I'd missed. In addition to offering some support I've learned a thing or two about how my own campaign might be improved (and been reminded of several others).

One of the reasons I started using Patreon myself is that I simply got tired of looking for a publisher who was willing to play ball with me on the Creative Commons thing, especially as I am relatively unestablished and unknown composer who they don't have to take seriously. It's something I feel really strongly about, but I also know that for small-ish publishers and composers nobody really does much about it if people are photocopying your music anyway: the stakes are too low, and the costs are too high, for legal action for anyone but the bigger names.

However, the longer I associate with other composers, the more I wonder whether not being taken seriously is a function of being a woman, rather than anything about my music or education or experience. I was whingeing about this a bit on Twitter once and was offered the name of an American woman who is a composer and quite successful doing that full time without teaching etc as an example of how the composing world isn't sexist -- but her name reads to me as gender-neutral.

I've seriously considered starting again with a gender-neutral pseudonym that most people will codify as white male, but I don't quite have the wherewithal to manage the social interaction aspect of it; and my writing style, coupled with commitment to Creative Commons, might just get me outed anyway.

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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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