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.
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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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