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I can barely believe the things I'm reading on this page. Lots of comments similar to "It's just trolling, get over it." And "she's just reinforcing negative stereotypes of women by not being strong enough to handle the internet." And "men deal with negative comments all the time and don't whine about it."

These are the exact attitudes that are the problem! Why can they not see this?

By definition, privilege is a lack of perspective--that includes [straight] [white] male privilege. That's why it's so hard for many guys (not just programmers) to understand.


I'm pretty sure the definition of privilege is not lack of perspective.

Maybe Zed Shaw should quit too, he seems to get a lot of online harassment, too bad his white straight male privilege isn't stopping it. There are a lot of shitty things in any community, lets focus on fixing the community and not trying to figure out which genders / sexual orientations / races are to blame.

Maybe people should stop trolling everyone and not just women.

Have you considered that the troll is anonymous because the community would never put up with this kind of behavior? This isn't an issue of community standards, it's an issue of someone being an asshole who possibly happens to share a gender / race with myself.


Women get a whole other dimension of online harrasment that men don't.

For a gaming-centered sample, look at http://fatuglyorslutty.com/ .


Yeah, men have absolutely never been accused of being fat, ugly, or accused of having a societally unacceptable number of sexual partners.

What exactly is wrong with the idea that we shouldn't harass anyone?

What is wrong with the idea that all people are created equal and that people don't need special privileges or protections based on gender/race/sexual orientation?


Did you ever play an online game and identify as a woman? It's usually a bad idea, believe me.


Similar actions don't have the same force or effect systematically when they are applied to groups who have different levels of power in society.


granting privileges to a select group of people and denying then to others in particular contexts skews power even more.


Sorry, I should have written that a little more clearly. I wrote "By definition, privilege is a lack of perspective," but what I meant was, "By definition, privilege implies a lack of perspective."

I feel like you may have misinterpreted my intention, though. You wrote "[let's not focus on] trying to figure out which genders / sexual orientations / races are to blame." I certainly wasn't trying to blame any particular demographic. My response was specifically aimed at addressing the grandparent poster's confusion. I agree that it's more important to focus on fixing the community.

Privilege and perspective are important to talk about because they're part and parcel of the solution.

It was actually a little unfair of me to throw out a term like "privilege" on this forum; it's a common idea in feminist rhetoric, but as a result it carries a lot of meaning that isn't included in its casual usage.

Zed Shaw's straight white male privilege doesn't stop the trolls. What it does prevent is dysphoric emotional reactions on his part. I'm feeling a little awkward about presuming so much about Zed's emotions here, so let us instead discuss a prototypical straight white male public figure in the tech community named Shed Zaw. Shed gets trolled a lot, but he doesn't quit the community. Why not?

Why is it fair for Shed Zaw to get trolled and not Alex Bayley?

Let me rephrase that.

Why is it rude & kind of silly (but "acceptable") for Shed to get trolled, but abhorrent & destructive (eg. "unacceptable") when it happens to Alex?

Well, "acceptable" and "unacceptable" are still blunt instruments. I happen to think that Shed Zaw shouldn't be trolled either. But I do think that we ought to prioritize addressing the kind of trolling that happens to Alex Bayley first.

Shed Zaw can probably count on one hand how many times he's been afraid of being beaten, killed or raped--if the count is even greater than zero. Not so for most women. Remember, this is about emotions. It's "more OK" for Shed Zaw to get trolled because he has a better support structure in place: he's a straight, white male. He generally doesn't have to worry about whether it's safe to be walking alone right now, or whether the guy grinning lasciviously is actually a stalker-rapist, or whether it's worth the conflict to confront his boss about grabbing his ass whenever they pass each other in the hallway. In those specific ways, Shed Zaw's life is just straight-up EASIER than Alex Bayley's. This doesn't mean Shed Zaw never suffers, feels shame, or fears for his well-being. It just means that there are a disproportionate amount of situations which Shed simply does not need to deal with. Indeed, their lack of abundance for him--and thus his inability to understand how they affect Ms. Bayley--is part of what is referred to as "male privilege".

It's about context. Us guys have trouble empathizing with women being harassed because we mentally put ourselves in their shoes, and it doesn't seem that bad. "Why are women offended by guys slapping their ass on the street? If a random woman slapped my ass on the street, I'd be flattered! Thrilled, even!" The context is different--the perspective is different.

Imagine if everyone except you had metal jaws. Fierce steel chompers that require oiling and can bite through concrete. Except you--you just have a regular old human jaw made of flesh, muscle and bone. Now in this incredible world, people greet each other with a lively punch to the mouth. Just right in the kisser. If you don't punch hard enough, well, what's your problem, buddy? Not feeling up to a greeting? Of course, this puts you at risk of having a broken jaw every time you leave the house. An innocent walk to the grocery store could turn into an expensive trip to the hospital; all it takes is running into a coworker! The real problem is that no one else seems to notice that your jaw isn't made of metal. Maybe their jaws are really well-made, and they look completely human on the surface. Maybe you slept in the day they were giving free Ferro-Mandibular Surgery certificates and can't afford one now. Maybe you have TMJ and no surgeon will risk their career on botching your mod-job. Who knows.

The point is, while everyone else is doing their own thing, you're living in constant fear: Do I know that person? What if we met at a party and they remember me, but I don't remember them? My teeth will be all over the pavement before I even see it coming. Maybe I can just sprint past them. Sure it's rude, but it's cheaper than another trip to the emergency dental office! If only they understood. But every time you bring it up, you get laughed off. "Sure, it's a little rough, but it's just how people greet each other! Why can't you just deal with it?" "A weak jaw? Well, it's your own fault now, isn't it? You should know better than to walk around with a weak jaw. You should know better than to have a weak jaw in the first place! Why should it be our problem?"

It sure would suck.


Some of what has happened to Zed Shaw really isn't acceptable, it is straight up harassment and not funny trolling. It is considered acceptable to threaten men with violence because they are men; it's the same as the pervasive belief that men cannot be raped and the idea is funny.

If you haven't ever been afraid of being beaten, killed, or raped, that doesn't make you a man, that means you have had a very safe life. There is no necessary reason why women must think that. I am certainly not doing ANYTHING to make women rationally afraid of being beaten, killed, or raped, so why should my penis make me responsible for that? Some vague handwavey notion of 'privilege'?

What's up with the jaw thing? Women don't have especially fragile jaws. I guess you are saying that women have especially fragile emotions?


> What's up with the jaw thing? Women don't have especially fragile jaws. I guess you are saying that women have especially fragile emotions?

Other way around. It's a bit of a tortured metaphor, but it's not about women being weaker. Men are emotionally insulated by their privilege--it's an extra layer of resilience (the metal jaws) that we take for granted which makes it difficult for us to understand why people without it are having problems.


> Shed Zaw can probably count on one hand how many times he's been afraid of being beaten, killed or raped--if the count is even greater than zero. Not so for most women. Remember, this is about emotions.

Is it really about emotions? I'm looking at the statistics for 2009/10 in my country[1] and it seems men are more than twice as likely to be murdered as women. I don't have statistics but I'd be quite surprised if women were actually more likely to be assaulted than men, particularly by non-partners, which is what we're talking about. Is the actual level of hazard not somewhat relevant, as well as the emotions? If (and you may disagree) the level of fear doesn't correspond to the level of hazard, is it not counterproductive to expound the idea that women are at constant risk of violence?

[1] http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-s...


I see what you're saying--if (and it seems likely) women really aren't at greater risk, we don't want to go around saying that they are. But, that's what I meant by "this is about emotions". For the purposes of this issue, it doesn't matter what the actual risk level is--the most relevant fact is that, for most women, it feels (emotionally) like they are constantly at risk. In the same way that a PR problem is still a problem, a perceived danger is still something that needs to be addressed. This is why perspective is important: because we don't perceive the danger, it's hard for us to empathize (or even sympathize), and you get comments like "just get over it".

Also, my focus on the terms "beaten, killed or raped" may have been more distracting than necessary, because we are talking about more than just physical oppression; there is also shaming, ostracism, objectification, and a host of other emotional attacks.


Could you clearly state "the problem"?

Based on what has been posted, it's hard for me to clearly see a problem beyond "in a society with free speech, some people will speak in ways that others dislike." That is a legitimate (unsolvable) problem, but I don't think it's the problem you are referring to.


The problem is people's unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that free speech has boundaries, and that some people abuse their free speech rights in ways that go far beyond being disagreeable. For example:

Go to the local women’s group office and liquidate it (kill the feminist women there). Wear a dark suit and drive an expensive car (these are more likely not to be suspect). Continue destroying the people who have helped to destroy countless of your fellow Men untill you are killed. Go from women’s rights organisation’s office to women’s rights organisation’s office, maybe throw in a few domestic violence shelters and abortion clinics if you wish.

This isn't illegal speech, but it's getting perilously close to that threshold. If similar sentiments were sent via email rather than posted on a blog, it would be reasonable to classify it under 'death threats,' and that does cross the threshold of criminality in some jurisdictions. Free speech is not unlimited, either in theory or in practice.

Reading a variety of MikeeUSA's online proclamations suggests he's a rather disturbed, and disturbing, individual. I'm not a psychiatrist, but he presents as someone with a high potential for violent behavior. It's a problem to dismiss that behavior or insist that it be tolerated in the name of free speech. In the US, the constitution protects him from governmental censorship, but it does not mean he's entitled to a platform for promoting his themes of violent aggression or that other people's concern about the dangers he presents is dismissable. Sure, there is lots of sexism on the internet and much of it is silly, harmless, and ultimately inconsequential. But there's a significant qualitative difference between sexism of the 'LOL boobs' variety and indirect threats of terrorism. To pretend that the latter is of no more concern than the former, or that the concept of free speech validates all utterances equally, is to provide such threatening language with your implicit endorsement.


Ok, I believe I now understand what you believe to be the problem: many people disagree with you on what should be the boundary of free speech. It's a little unkind to categorize disagreement as "the problem", but whatever.

If that's what mootothemax and airlocksoftware meant, then I'd suggest they are wrong. Most of the people reading this page do "get it", but disagree because they assign a higher value to free speech than mootothemax and airlocksoftware do.

This is good - we are all on the same page regarding the facts, we merely disagree on the underlying values.


No, you do not understand. You think my problem is that 'many people disagree with [me] on what should be the boundary of free speech.' This is incorrect.

I am not making a normative argument about what the boundaries of free speech should be. Frankly, I don't know exactly where they should be; where many people see boundaries I tend to see a grey area, and my ideas on this tend to shift around a bit. It is much easier to be like Justice Potter Stewart and say 'I know it when I see it' than to identify and articulate some objective standard for what is an isn't acceptable. For mathematical reasons, I'm not altogether sure that it's possible to define such things consistently.

The argument I'm making is not about where I think boundaries should be, but where boundaries actually are, as drawn in different jurisdiction by statute or precedent. Certain kinds of speech are actually illegal even in the US where speech is sheltered by the 1st amendment and the large legal umbrella that provides. It is not legal for you to incite a riot, or utter threats of imminent physical harm, or carry out blackmail, to name but a few examples. There are conduct laws that limit the freedom of speech but which are nonetheless held to be constitutional. The problem I refer to is the invocation of 'free speech' to dismiss complaints about all undesirable speech, inclusive of that which may qualify as criminal.

We don't really know what kind of communications Skud received via email. Some have asserted that it could not have been so bad, on the bases that the blogger did not explicitly complain about it and that the police did not consider they warranted an investigation. This inference is unjustified. First, the blogger might abstain from citing the content of personal emails from fear, humiliation, or strategic reasons; the assumption that she would have taken such content public is just that, an assumption. Secondly, the police might well feel the complaints warranted an investigation, but be unable to proceed for want of actionable evidence. to the extent that MikeeUSA is able to cover his digital tracks using anonymizing protocols (something that Skud might well have explained to the police as part of her complaint), they may decline to proceed because the time and trouble required to obtain that information might exceed available resources; or because the police themselves are a sexist bunch in Australia; or because they know from experience that prosecuting such a crime across international borders is a non-starter and that the danger is too remote to justify the use of the extradition process.

You stated above that you did not see a problem 'beyond "in a society with free speech, some people will speak in ways that others dislike."' But it is a fact that some speech is not merely dislikeable, but criminal (whether or not we agree on whether it should be); and it is a fact that some kinds of criminal activity are difficult to prosecute because they are forensically obscure (eg by using anonymizing protocols to cover one's tracks); and it is a fact that sexual violence is a risk that disproportionately affects women. While we should not assume that 'sextremism + stalking behavior + fact of rape = proof of mikeeUSA's inherent criminality,' because it most certainly does not amount to that, nor should we assume that 'free speech = no cognizable risk' and casually dismiss incitement to violence and focused personal aggression as mere disagreeability.


The problem I refer to is the invocation of 'free speech' to dismiss complaints about all undesirable speech, inclusive of that which may qualify as criminal.

Who has done this? I'd be curious to see which posts you believe do this.

I suspect all you will find is a set of posts which assume MikeeUSA committed no criminal acts. This is the assumption I'm working under, based mainly on the fact that no one has even accused him of doing so.

Perhaps the real problem you have is that the rest of us are assigning a lower probability of guilt (of crimes he has not been accused of) than you are?


When we document what MikeeUSA does, or participating in documenting his emails and actions and talking in public (or possibly in private) about being one of his targets, makes us more his target. It makes us more of a target for other harassers too. It is like declaring a security vulnerability, which then draws more attention and thus attacks. If you have been going around as we have at geekfeminism.org, and asking people if they've been targeted by MikeeUSA, then you'd hear more stories of the reasons people have for not revealing and exposing every incident like this and every detail of it.

Also, when women report harassment, they get a wide range of scrutiny and criticism of every aspect of their life, personality, personal history, looks, and so on. The way they've reported the harassment is always criticized as being too private, too public, not official enough, or overreacting by going through official channels too quickly rather than trying to solve things informally. If you as a man watch a person you know go through this process, as their confidante perhaps, you might see some of these patterns crop up.

It can be disheartening to find that so many harassing incidents, assaults, and rapes go unreported because women don't want to put themselves in a position where they will be subject to even more attack.

To you all it's like a quirky little exercise in logic or something, and you get to have fun with your academic debate over whether harassment really exists or not. You don't have to think, not only will MikeeUSA stick you in his trolly, psychotic, rapey crosshairs on his pedophile message boards, nor do you have to know that you probably have just filtered yourself out of several possible future jobs since someone won't hire you because you are a known troublemaker who might accuse someone of sexual harassment at work. It is so deeply offensive to have you all debate the existence of our oppression while you understand about 1% of its surface. But, obviously, it is a learning experience people need to go through. I just wish that some of you all would bother to listen more, go do some reading, and actually try to educate yourselves in a significant way rather than waiting for the magic feminism fairy to bless you with enlightenment. Cheers!!!


This is an institutional problem, despite your heroic efforts to recast it as an individual one.


Yeah, sure, I'll try to clarify. I'm not advocating that we should stop them from speaking with any kind of legal measure. I value free speech too highly for that. I'm referring to the specific comments that I paraphrased. I don't think those posters have any specific malice towards women. I don't know them, but they're probably smart, generally respectable guys.

But they are an example of people who are apparently unwilling to acknowledge that maybe the harassment some women receive online or in the workplace could possibly be outside the realm of their experience. We have one group of people, women in tech, who are saying that they are being harassed (and providing examples of specific threats against them). Then we have a certain subset of men in tech who are saying "I know better than you do, and I say that you aren't being harassed any more than men are." That attitude is the problem (as well as the people in the community who don't immediately call them on it).

People with no personal experience in the matter saying it's not a problem and ignoring the fact that those who do have personal experience are saying that it is. And I think you could make a case that the underlying cause is that somewhere deep down they believe themselves "smarter" (or something) than women. How else can you tell someone that their own interpretation of how they are treated is incorrect?

Does that make sense?


So the problem is, near as I can tell, that some people don't accept personal experiences and want harder evidence. Is that right?

Incidentally, your comment exhibits some bias of it's own: People with no personal experience in the matter saying it's not a problem and ignoring the fact that those who do have personal experience are saying that it is.

Wait a second - women have no personal experience being a male public figure. So how can women know what level of harassment a male public figure would receive? Do women really believe that "I know better than you do, and I say that you aren't being harassed as much as women are"?

Is this attitude among women also a problem?


I'd totally be up for more research into this area. The comments I'm talking about are not asking for harder evidence. They're saying "my personal experience is worth more than yours."

And there aren't any women (that I know of) who are telling men that they can't complain about their treatment as public figures. So you've created a false dichotomy. Plus there's the fact that there are male public figures in this thread saying that women are harassed more than they are. So really, we've got people who aren't might not be public figures of any kind telling women who are to suck it up.


When she complains about the trolling, there is nothing we can do about that. It's a completely different mindset to just try to empathize without trying to solve the problem.


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