Good for the Gander

I do some backpedalling of my own.

Semifireballed
Here’s something that’s objectively unfair: when a female blogger gets linked by Daring Fireball, she receives death threats and gets called a whore. When I get linked by Daring Fireball, the worst I get is that I’m “too wordy.”

I think it should go without saying, but I want to emphasize it while I’ve got whatever diminishing traffic this blog gets from being fireballed: Anyone who says that women and men are treated equally on the internet is an idiot.

They’re simply not. Men have the luxury of being called out for what they write, while women always have to suffer through personal attacks. That’s bullshit, and it’s not fair.

And even on top of that: when a man gets called a “moron” or a “dick,” it just plain doesn’t have the same weight as calling a woman names. Fair or not, we just have to remain conscious of that, and I don’t want that idea to get lost in a sea of words.

I still believe that the only way to fight that is to “rise above” it, although that makes it sound too charitable, since what I’m really saying is that we should be free to harshly criticize anyone’s work when we vehemently disagree. It doesn’t sound so noble when I describe it as: “We should all be free to call each other morons and assholes.”

I acknowledged in the comments that it’d be disingenuous to claim that people weren’t bringing Violet Blue’s online persona into it. But I was completely naive in underestimating how much baggage was being dragged in. That makes me uncomfortable, since the line’s gotten blurred between attacking an online persona based on the ideas expressed (which is fair), and attacking a person trying to do her job (which is of course unfair). I don’t know what it’s like to be internet famous or notorious, and I’m pretty thankful for it.

I mentioned the one time somebody told me to “fuck myself in the neck” on twitter. It’s obviously a laughably stupid comment, and there’s obviously no way anybody could feel threatened by it. Still, it did exactly what it was supposed to do: made me feel bad, and even a year or so later I can still remember it and who wrote it. Multiply that by 1000 or more, give everything a nasty personal spin, and yeah, that’s got to really, really suck.

I wasn’t so naive to be completely unaware that I’d be adding to an internet pile-on. I was aware that I was, and I genuinely regret that part of it. The only explanation I’ll give for that: I sincerely believe that in the 21st century, calling a man a misogynist is as offensive as calling a woman a whore. No it doesn’t have the same weight, but it has pretty much the same intention: completely dismissing a person based on his gender.

And accusing someone of being complicit in misogyny just makes my blood boil, since there’s just no way to respond to it without sounding hollow, the sexism equivalent of “but I have black friends!” It’s intellectually bankrupt, it comes across as “If you really weren’t misogynist, you’d already know what you did wrong,” and it turns genuine discussions of gender inequity to “Women Be Different From Men!” stand-up routines from the 90s, except not funny. So: exactly like stand-up routines from the 90s.

(And finally: this blog gets like 40 hits a day, tops, so the theme doesn’t even support replies to individual comments. I’ll get around to responding eventually. For now, let it be clear that I’m approving everything except the most transparently stupid comments and spam. That doesn’t mean that I agree with a comment, at all).

3 thoughts on “Good for the Gander”

  1. I appreciate the direction you’re going in here, Chuck. And I didn’t comment on your last piece because this is your personal blog, your turf, your place to say how you feel about shit. It’s not my place to come to your house to start a fight.

    But I have to ask, when you say “I sincerely believe that in the 21st century, calling a man a misogynist is as offensive as calling a woman a whore” and later “And accusing someone of being complicit in misogyny just makes my blood boil,” well, what do we call it, then, when someone (they don’t have to be a man, as you pointed out in your previous post!) is shitty to, hates on, dismisses, or is otherwise discriminatory women?

    If the term “misogynist” is out, are “racist” and “homophobe” out? Do they make your blood boil, too?

    I appreciate that you acknowledge that people treat women differently than men (it’s not just on the internet!). But when that happens, we have a couple options — and by “we” I mean you, and me, and Violet. We can act like it doesn’t happen, or ignore it and hope it stops.

    Or we can call it out for what it is — and the word I know it by is “misogyny.” So what word should I be using to keep your blood at a comfortable temp? Because I’m going to keep on calling racism, homophobia, misogyny, and the overuse of mangos in salsa out when I see it, but I don’t want you to go all teakettle on us.

    Oh, and as a side note referring to your earlier post: Violet uses the “registered trademark” symbol next to her name, on the advice of her lawyers, after a porn actress attempted to, in short, adopt her persona. You can learn more about the suit here:

    http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2007/10/sex-journo-viol/

    http://www.tinynibbles.com/blogarchives/2006/10/i-am-teh-real-vb-i-am-all-the-violet-blue-youll-ever-need.html

    As her SF Chronicle editor at the time, I can’t overstate what a distressing problem it was to have this, for lack of a better term, brand confusion. It was no “I’m Not That Guy,”* I tell you what.

    Violet won that suit, and Ada Mae Johnson had to stop calling herself “Violet Blue” while performing sex acts on camera for money. And, wow, you think Apple fans are loyal? You should try porn fans! They really had a lot to say to Violet about that suit, and “whore” was probably one of the nicer remarks.

    I appreciate the edits you made regarding this that I saw when I read your post early this morning, but thought the additional data points might be helpful to you continue to ponder this sticky wicket.

    *http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I’m_Not_That_Guy

  2. Hey, Eve, for starters, I really do think it’s cool that you and Rain are making a point to defend Violet. It’s nice to see any example of somebody having a friend (or a friend of a friend) who’ll step up and try to counter things that are said about them, no matter who’s saying them.

    But I have to ask, when you say “I sincerely believe that in the 21st century, calling a man a misogynist is as offensive as calling a woman a whore” and later “And accusing someone of being complicit in misogyny just makes my blood boil,” well, what do we call it, then, when someone (they don’t have to be a man, as you pointed out in your previous post!) is shitty to, hates on, dismisses, or is otherwise discriminatory to women?

    If the term “misogynist” is out, are “racist” and “homophobe” out? Do they make your blood boil, too?
    […]
    Or we can call it out for what it is — and the word I know it by is “misogyny.” So what word should I be using to keep your blood at a comfortable temp? Because I’m going to keep on calling racism, homophobia, misogyny, and the overuse of mangos in salsa out when I see it, but I don’t want you to go all teakettle on us.

    The sarcasm’s appreciated, but the word you’re looking for is indeed “misogyny.”

    If somebody’s shitty to, hates on, dismisses or is otherwise discriminatory to a woman, you could call him any number of names depending on the situation. He could be saying things that are racist, xenophobic, homophobic, or just rude. And he could even be a racist, xenophobe, or homophobe, or just an asshole.

    If somebody’s shitty to, dismissive, or discriminatory towards a woman because she’s a woman, then that’s misogynist. Being rude to a woman, especially a high profile woman, isn’t automatically misogyny.

    That’s not just me trying to be cute, either, or arguing semantics. It’s a crucial part of what I’m trying to say. I think the accusation of misogyny gets thrown around too often and too casually, and I want people to stop and think about what they’re accusing someone of.

    For some reason, that’s always equated with trying to brushing off the problem of misogyny, or saying that “we’ve grown past it! Yay!” To which I respond: “For fuck’s sake! Shut up!” Because like I said, temper.

    Or else, people are comfortable (I’m assuming) with making the accusation because they consider it a teachable moment — they’re not calling you a name by saying you’re a crypto- or blatant misogynist, they’re simply trying to educate you. “You just don’t understand how offensive it is to assume a woman doesn’t know what she’s doing, or to call her a whore.” To which I don’t respond, because by that point I’ve gone into apoplexy.

    And yes, again, I’m making a distinction between men and women here, because it is undeniably worse to call a man sexist or misogynist than it is to call a woman that. Not fair, but there it is. And there are lots of men, myself included, for whom it’s incredibly offensive to be making such accusations, or to accuse of being complicit in it. If you’ve got evidence to back it up — and yes, calling a woman a whore on twitter just for something she wrote is ample evidence — then yes, call it for what it is. But when someone’s saying something that you think is rude or dismissive, and you don’t have real evidence that it’s motivated by misogyny, then you just have to settle for calling him an asshole.

    As for bringing racism and homophobia into it again: yes, if somebody were being unfairly accused of being homophobic just for criticizing a homosexual, when there’s no evidence that the person was actually homophobic, then I’d call it out. I’m not just making shit up; I’ve done it. (Albeit on a message board instead of anywhere high profile). If it’s wrong for one, it’s wrong for anybody. And yeah, I do resent it when anybody implies that I’m making an exception for stuff that directly affects me.

    Try a roughly analogous hypothetical: you post a link to this on the Appeal or somewhere, quoting sections of it in full context, along with an explanation of what you think is wrong with it. I get dozens or maybe hundreds of messages from people in the city and elsewhere, dragging in whatever they’ve got from past grudges against me, occasionally making death threats and nasty messages. In response, I post a tirade saying that Eve Batey is a notorious homophobe who’s sent her minions on an unwarranted attack against me. And “As we all know, homosexuals are outsiders in San Francisco culture.” For evidence as to why I called you out, I say “Are you denying that institutionalized homophobia exists? This person on Twitter called me a faggot!” My post could be instantly and unceremoniously dismissed, and I’d deserve to be mocked. It’d have nothing to do with my being a homo.

    And thanks for the links explaining the registered trademark; it’s good to know. Like I said, I made an incorrect assumption without doing any fact checking and it turned out not to be relevant anyway. I read that article, but I’m wary of reading much more. I’m still taking advantage of knowing nothing more than “that person who used to write for Boing Boing and is friends with a few of my friends.” Because I want to keep all the grudges and baggage and personal attacks out of it and keep it clear that I’m responding to the posts in question and those posts only.

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