OK, I’m finished my experiment. It’s over now and I can “break character”.
First, I have to offer special thanks to “tshirtman” for being the first to unambiguously exemplify one of my main points. well done!
In case it’s not blindingly obvious (as it should be), the reason for my post was that I was outraged by the spectacle of one fairly high-profile member of the linux community trying to rally support to shun and exclude another fairly high-profile member because a nightmare had upset her.
Is that really all it’s going to take to destroy someone’s reputation and perhaps their career? even with the shunning target’s own words available and archived to disprove the ridiculous straw-man mis-characterisations of what he actually said? Not one of the arguments against him actually addressed anything he said, they ALL attacked him for things he didn’t say, for things that other people claimed he said.
I was further outraged by seeing everyone who even suggested that questioning of stats (or, indeed, ANY claim of fact or evidence) may be, in some small way, a valid and reasonable thing to do get instantly put in their place and dismissed as Yet Another Rape Apologist.
Are we supposed to be anti-science, anti-scientific method now? or are rape stats a special case like religion where we are just supposed to switch off our analytical brains and accept what we are told on faith, without question?
Surely we are capable of better than that? i know we are capable of better than that. Or, at least, i used to know that. Now i’m not so sure.
In 2011, all it took was Ted Tso (“TT”) making some fairly reasonable statements about the need for any claimed evidence or statistics to be viewed skeptically and that dissenting research should also be considered – and he was instantly vilified as a “rape apologist”.
Sorry, but questioning extremely dodgy stats (that even in feminist circles are viewed more as ideological propaganda than as serious research) is NOWHERE NEAR SUFFICIENT to earn the label of rape-apologist.
That is not how debate works – you can’t just refuse to engage with someone’s point and simply accuse them of being the enemy for not agreeing 100% with whatever you say…at least, not if you have any intellectual honesty or self-respect.
(sure, some people are complete jerks and deserve to be told to FOAD in no uncertain terms – but a) jerks like that are self-evident and obvious, and b) TT’s participation in that thread was at all times civil and reasonable)
But that thread is ancient history – it was over and done with nearly two years ago.
In October this year, for reasons which are not at all clear, Valerie Aurora (“VA”) decided to revive the issue (which had been resolved back in 2011 with a resounding “fuck no, we don’t want misogynist shit or porn in our conferences” from pretty much the entire linux community – including near-universal support for improved anti-harassment policies both for linux.conf.au and for geek conferences in general) and use it to attack TT.
And she did so by twisting his words and claiming in a post on The Ada Initiative blog that he said something which he didn’t, that “rape was impossible if both people were drunk enough”. If he chose, he could quite easily win a libel case against her and TAI on that. It’s not what he said, it’s not even close to what he said, and VA is clearly too smart to honestly believe that it is what he said.
In another post on her personal, blog she talks about how what he said was so terrible that it even now gives her nightmares, and that she can’t bear the thought of working with him.
Again, WTF? VA can say “I had nightmares and was upset and furious” and THAT is enough to justify a call to shun TT?? He didn’t attack her, or threaten her (explicitly or implicitly), he was polite and civil. What he did was disagree with VA by referring to other research that disputed VA’s preferred studies.
I agree with and support many (perhaps most) of VA’s and The Ada Initiative’s aims, I certainly believe that linux and open source etc should be very welcoming and supportive of human diversity (including gender and sexuality, identity, religion, politics and so on), believe that it’s a good thing that The Ada Initiative exists as part of that diversity welcome to be particularly supportive of women in geekdom.
And i wholeheartedly agree that Linux leaders should not make public statements belittling and condoning rape BUT:
a) I haven’t seen one instance of that happening, ever
b) I find VA’s choice of tactics here to be despicable. as i do when anyone else uses similar tactics, because they ARE despicable tactics. They are exactly the same as accusing someone of being a child pornographer for being against net censorship: You dared to disagree with me so I’m going to accuse you of being a monster.
(and, i must admit, the enthusiasm level of my support for The Ada Initiative is somewhat….diminished…by this tactical blunder by the spokesperson and co-founder)
There are far more deserving targets of VA’s ire than TT. And there are far better ways for the Ada Initiative to achieve their aims.
So why did I decide to comment when I knew that I was inevitably going to be accused of “hating women” and being a “rape apologist?
Mostly because I thought it would be gutless of me not to.
Hardly anyone else had, and they quickly backed down under the accusations of misogyny…and since I consider myself to be psychologically fairly strong, I felt that I am capable of wearing a little shit (or even a lot) for a while. In my egocentric fashion, I thought “if I can’t do then it’s no wonder that no one else dares”.
And also because anyone who cared to make even the slightest effort to find out what my actual views on sexual harassment, rape, women’s rights and numerous inter-related issues are can fairly easily see a very consistent record of the kinds of things I argue for and against, and my scathing responses to actual misogynists when they appear on lists that I participate in. they are not my kind of people.
and even then, i hesitated. it’s scary and intimidating to be putting yourself forward to be accused of being one of the things you hate. this is, of course, an instance of the chilling effect.
So, I found the prospect scary, almost terrifying….and I can’t think of a single person who has met me online or in real life who would even remotely describe me as being any kind of delicate or sensitive wall-flower.
again, “if i can’t do it, it’s no wonder no one else dares”. so i clicked the “Publish” button. an ego is useful for some things.
Also, I took VA’s words “but don’t be silent” as inspiration.
In the process, i discovered why it is that some people just simply refuse to engage in rational discourse. I’ve seen it many times from the other side, but i’ve never experienced the seductive pleasure of indulging in it myself before – there’s a liberating freedom in just ignoring any and every point that someone makes and simply accuse them of being the enemy. You don’t have to try to understand what they wrote, hell you don’t even have to really read it…you just need to quickly scan it for overall tone and if they don’t seem like they’re 100% supportive, you just accuse them of being the enemy or an apologist for the enemy. it’s that fucking simple and easy.
well, sort of easy. easy for some, perhaps. i personally found it extremely difficult – a struggle – to refrain from engaging, to remain in character (i’m not much of an actor). especially when i kind of agreed with whoever was arguing against my experimental character or if i thought they made a good point. and even more so when i thought that some comments skirted a bit too close to being the kind of misogynist crap that i didn’t want to tolerate having on MY blog.
(i resolved that issue by just approving any reply that didn’t squick me or that i could squint at and think ‘hmmm…borderline, give benefit of doubt’)
but even though i don’t like it, i can recognise the attraction it holds for some people.
I’m particularly disgusted by the men who intervene way too early – without an explicit invitation or request for help or a clear need such as an immediate threat of violence – in womens’ issues.
Many or maybe even most may not realise it, but they are just taking over and asserting male strength and control by “protecting” women rather than giving them the support and space to discover and practice their own strength and their own voices. These uninvited interventions do not help women, they weaken and undermine them, they perpetuate dependence, they steal strength from the movement. It is patronising and enfeebling. But mostly, they just re-assert male dominance and are an attempt to make women’s spaces more comfortable, more palatable, for men.(*)
(it’s also quite often very transparent self-serving and ingratiating behaviour from blokes who want to lay the groundwork for perhaps getting laid one day)
IMO this goes far beyond a problem with men over-involving themselves in feminist causes – i feel the same way for any relatively less-privileged group with a need to find their own voice and their own power – they’ll never find it if members of the privileged class (i.e. white males like me) just ride roughshod over the movement and speak FOR them rather then just silently lending their strength in support. For the most part, they (we) should just shut up and listen…we already have more than enough opportunities to have our say.
(*) yes, i’m well aware of the difficulty in writing something like that paragraph as a member of a privileged class, without coming across as either self-hating or patronising or both. if i’ve failed here, it’s not for want of trying.