Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Ethics of Doxing

When it comes to the ethics of doxing (doxxing?), context matters, according to a post by feminist/atheist blogger Rebecca Watson, "Why I'm Okay With Doxing." Revealing the IRL identity of people who send harassing and threatening messages is ethical; revealing the identity of people who simply disagree with you is not.

But who decides what meets the criteria of "harassment" and "threat?" I believe that the person who doxed me viewed my mockery and attention as "harassing" because he views anyone who criticizes him as "a hater" and a mortal enemy. That's a function of his own pathology. Similarly, I am sure Paul Elam, Mike Cernovich and Chuck C. Johnson can justify their own outrageous violations of women's privacy on the grounds they are engaged in an ideological war. The threat their victims pose is very real to them. "Exposing" their opponents by publicly humiliating them is an intimidating weapon in their arsenal (well, pretty much their only weapon).

Complicating the whole issue is that the word "doxing" (like the word "troll") has come to mean a lot of different things. Is it "doxing" to Google, and then publicize, the address of someone who blogs under their real name? Is it "doxing" to publicize public records or private blogs?

And in an era when it is commonplace for both sides of the cultural divide to tweet vengeful fantasies of murder, rape and mutilation to one another, how credible are these threats? When I was doxed, I received a number of anonymous comments from people urging me to kill myself; as unpleasant as these sentiments were to read, it would be disingenuous for me to claim that I considered these to represent real threats against my person.

I love the anonymity of the internet, but I have never felt it was sacrosanct. Perhaps that's because I'm of a generation that did not grow up with the expectation that I had a "right" to anonymity. I've always recognized that the privacy of the internet is an illusion. I've learned that if anything characterizes the age we live in, it is that all of us are constantly under surveillance. People -- including me -- should be prepared to be held accountable for their words and actions. And perhaps the threat of being doxed is not an entirely bad thing, if it reminds us of that. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Rape Story

False rape accusations: the New Misogynists are obsessively fearful about this. Even though the statistical probability of being raped themselves far outweighs the chances of being falsely accused of raping someone else.

A long time ago, in a rural community in western Colorado, I was assigned to be a personal advocate for a sixteen year old girl who had been raped. My role was never clearly delineated, but basically I was available to drive and accompany her to appointments, to help her navigate the criminal justice system, and to just be a friend in need.

I was awful at all of this. I had no idea how to do anything but try to sympathize with her, and even that was difficult because frankly, I found her to be -- at least initially -- a highly unsympathetic character. A high school dropout with bleached hair, shredded jeans, dirty bare feet encased in three inch patent leather "fuck me" pumps, raccoon eyes glaring at the world, she dared the world to pity her. She was sullen, defensive, resentful, and uncommunicative with both her estranged mother and me, the two harried, helpless matrons who doggedly flanked her throughout the process, deigning only to address me when she wanted me to run for coffee, candy, or cigarettes. Like most of the victims of domestic and sexual violence I met while volunteering at the project, she failed to meet my ideals of what a "good victim" should be.  

Yes, I am aware that all of this speaks much more harshly about me than her: my arrogant expectations, my insatiable appetite to be recognized, my clueless class privilege.

And I was initially as skeptical of her story as anyone else in the community:

She had gone over to her boyfriend's house, a cabin in the woods, even though she knew her boyfriend wasn't home at the time. She had agreed to play a drinking game with the boyfriend's roommate. Within a short time, she was drunk. When the roommate jumped on her, tore off most of her clothes, and attempted intercourse, she ran away. Now she wanted him to be tried for assault. Her primary concern was to be vindicated in the eyes of her boyfriend, who, in response to her accusations, had immediately distanced himself from her and allied himself with his buddy. In other words, it was easy to characterize her as just another girl who had made some foolish choices, and sought a rape conviction in order to avoid being "slut-shamed."

And then I heard her tell a detective a part of the story I hadn't heard before. And these details changed my whole perspective, and made it impossible for me not to believe her. In an attempt to escape her assailant, she had fled the cabin naked save for her socks, and dashed through subzero temperatures down the frozen moonlit rural road. As the accused took after her in his jeep, she dodged into the dark woods and stood waist deep in a snowbank for twenty minutes until she was sure that he had given up pursuing her. She then proceeded to stagger half a mile through the woods to a house with lights on, where she found refuge. The neighbors there drove her to the hospital where she was treated for hypothermia.

The jury believed her story, too, as it turned out. The young man was convicted; he wound up serving several months as I recall. This was no triumph for the girl, whose reputation in the town was now in tatters, and who finally, at the sentencing, gave in to a cascade of bitter tears because -- despite the conviction -- she had lost her boyfriend's "love."

I have personally known several women who reported being raped. (I don't know anyone who has been falsely accused of rape.) In all cases the accused rapist was arrested, tried, and convicted. And in all cases the women who endured not only the rape, and the trial, but also the aftermath of trial, suffered long past the conviction of their assailants. They suffered not only from PTSD, but also from the loss of dignity, privacy, employment, friends, and even family members. The attention female rape victims get is not something any sane person would seek, and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that for male rape victims, it's even worse.

I'm not saying, of course, that false rape accusations are never made: I expect that occasionally they are. But my own experience suggests that they are rare. That rape isn't always proven (because one or both of the parties were too addled by alcohol to provide credible testimony) is not evidence that women are likely to falsely accuse men of rape. The JuicyJuice's story of fighting his own "false rape accusation" is a case in point. Instead of citing his expensive, stressful ordeal as proof that rape victims are liars, I wish the young men who read it would draw the following conclusion:

Having sex with someone who is too drunk to give consent is not only unethical, it is not likely to validate your ego or satisfy your quest for pleasure. If seduction is, after all, a "game," it is about as "sporting" as shooting a tranquilized lion tethered to a pole. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, it is putting you at risk of being accused of rape. You may or may not be convicted, but the outcome either way will cost you, and it will haunt your future. 

Silence is not consent. Chemically-induced immobility is not a green light (and what are you, a necrophiliac?). If a potential partner has not enthusiastically and unambiguously signaled his/her desire to proceed, stop. It's just that simple. Why is this hard to understand?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Roosh -- Now a Journalist!

UPDATE: "Jackie" was doxxed today by budding right wing, "C grade" journalist Chuck C. Johnson. Well done, Chuck! That'll show the liberal press a thing or two. Cuz it's all about "ethics in journalism."
Roosh claims today to have the identity of "Jackie," the young woman who may or may not have been raped at UVA, and whose veracity is at the heart of a recent controversial article in Rolling Stone. His dilemma: Should he dox her?

Hard call, indeed (hard call, that is, for someone who has no moral compass whatsoever). Good thing he has the sagacity (and flattery) of the Juice Bro lawyer to guide him!

   ·  2h 2 hours ago
This is a heavy decision. I do not envy right now.  
 ·  18m 18 minutes ago

The Panopticon of the Like Economy

The "grifters" who have emerged to exploit controversy within the gaming industry include unsavory characters already familiar to those that have followed online misogynistic subcultures for a period of time. These include the Usual Suspects (Roosh, Mike Cernovich, Thunderf00t). It's interesting to watch people in larger communities, who have hitherto been unfamiliar with them, react to the havoc they can play. 

Some of the most interesting voices right now include Katherine Cross, an academic who writes from the perspective of feminism, trans activism, and sociology. Also,  "A Man in Black" is an interesting twitter commenter who recently published a "storify" article called The Panopticon of the Like Economy.  Some of the tweets that particularly resonated with me:

"When the internet made us all a journalist and publisher, it made everyone as vulnerable and public as a reporter."

"There isn't any way to retaliate, when the source of the defamation just doesn't give a shit."

"Is there a word for defamation that includes true things?"

"It doesn't matter if it's true or not, all that matters is that the accusation sticks enough to make you popular while you say it."

"You can make a living on hurting people, in a way that leaves you accountable to nobody but your audience, who are there to see people hurt."

Gamergate and the Use of Online Technology to Silence Women

Tim Watts, Federal Labor Member for Gellibrand (Australia) speaks about the use of online technology to threaten and intimidate women who support feminist issues.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Bill Price Retires The Spearhead

Bill Price has announced that he has, at least for now, has retired from maintaining his virulently misogynistic website, The Spearhead. Reason? His wife has had a baby, and he therefore has to seek work beyond begging for donations. 

When Bill's wife popped up in the comments section of We Hunted the Mammoth some months prior, identifying herself as a feminist (!), I wondered how their marriage would play out.

It strikes me that Bill has made a good decision... a decision that is likely to lead to greater happiness for all the parties involved. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Wringing the Last Out of Gamergate

Even Ken White at Popehat had fun with Roosh's new Reaxxian website.

Meanwhile, Mike Cernovich is sore because newsweek did a story this week about Randi Harper and although he is mentioned (unfavorably) the story doesn't link to his websites, but rather to a critical piece by Sam Biddle on the "D List Rightwingers" who hijacked Gamergate and tried to lead them to the Red Pill. This is a big deal to Cernovich because of SEO or something: Newsweek in collusion with Gawker is denying him hits on his blog that are rightfully his.

JuicyFruit is venting his spleen by retweeting photos of his followers' gun collections, whilst complaining (or bragging?) that no SJW had the guts to attend his "meetup" in Chicago, and then making the curious statement that he "has never met an SJW in real life."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Poetry Corner

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

-- William Butler Yeats, "The Second Coming" (1919)

Written in the aftermath of World War I, this poem had great resonance with a variety of artists in the sixties... and surely is as relevant now as ever.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Cruelty of Seagulls

Seagulls can be awfully cruel.

The Bronies Phenomenon

I'd run across some dismissive references to "Bronies" on the Internet, but had little idea who or what they were until I happened to catch a documentary by Morgan Spurlock on Netstream tonight. "Bronies" are fans of the cartoon program "My Little Pony Friendship is Magic." There are, by conservative estimate, seven million self-identified "Bronies," the majority of whom identify as straight white males. The average age of a Brony is 21, although they range in age from adolescent to middle aged.

Who knew there were more Bronies than manosphereans?  There are Brony conventions that draw thousands from all over the country. And who is buying all that "My Little Pony" merch at Walmart? Truckers, military veterans, motorcycle mechanics.

What draws these men to a program that was originally targeted for little girls? The values of kindness, loyalty, and optimism... a determination to expand the narrow confines of conventional masculinity... and an attraction, I must surmise, to cute pastel animated horses with adorably squeaky voices.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Randi Harper: Coder, Gamer, SJW

For the sake of my own mental health and quest for personal happiness, I have been trying to lay off the "manosphere," but the other night found myself pulled back in. I'd seen a retweet on Chris Kluwe's feed from Randi Lee Harper, a coder and game enthusiast, who has been working on an app that will allow twitter users a means to block gamer-gators from accessing their feeds. I thought that was an interesting idea given that social media platforms like twitter are unable or unwilling to develop anti-harassment policies with any teeth. 

I don't fully understand how Harper's program works, but it is based on an algorithm that identifies block-list candidates primarily by their link to the gamergate hashtag, and those they follow. Undoubtedly, some innocent parties have been swept up in this -- obviously, many who follow the misogynists are doing so in order to keep a wary eye on them -- but there is an appeal process, by which people can be (and in fact are being) removed from the "blacklist".

Harper's project isn't sitting at all well with the gamer-gators misogynists, most of whom appear to live online and who have grown accustomed to unfettered access to their "enemies" -- and they've reacted in predictable ways: by attempting to use the power of SEO to smear Harper's name on Google.

I watched, transfixed by the sheer horror of it, as Mike Cernovich threw up on his twitter feed shot after shot of Ms. Harper's old personal blog (in which she candidly discusses a bad breakup, among other painful experiences) along with a mugshot from a traffic violation ten years ago and other personal pictures. This was not the first time Ms. Harper's online reputation had been violated by disgruntled, anonymous trolls -- this seems to go with the territory of being a young woman in tech or journalism -- so Cernovich dug around in the libelous cesspool that is Encyclopedia Dramatica too, to throw up a post that is a bizarre mash of innuendo, frank speculation, fact, and outright fabrication.

My mouth literally agape, I watched this online attack unfold in real time. Of course, Cernovich deleted the most outrageous tweets immediately (and moved the attack to a post on one of his blogs). I'm sure the tweets have been screen capped and saved. Cernovich appears to fully expect, and even anticipate, being banned from twitter.

As enraging (and needless to say, immensely triggering) as it was to watch this online attack take place, Randi Harper's responses, curiously, made me feel stronger.

If you've been unfairly blocked on Twitter for enforcing ethics in journalism, call the Offices of Butthurt and Whaaa. Operators standing by.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Safe Place For Gamers

I for one fully support the new addition to Roosh's media empire, a gaming site for heterosexual men. He saw a need and he stepped in to fill it like the true entrepreneur he is. Glad too to see he has a strong ethics policy which explicitly prohibits doxxing and online harassment. Most of the SJWs and feminists are equally thrilled. As one wag tweeted, "Can we now replace the gate with a wall, put razor wire on top, and keep them all in there?"

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

A Wall of SJW Champions

Following the manosphere can really fill an old broad like me with despair. And it's been a particularly horrible year for many women on the Internet, thanks to the misogynistic shit goblins and grifters who broke out of the confines of the manosphere to invade gaming. What gives me hope is seeing so many successful men come forth and stand up as self-identified feminists in the wake of a twitter-driven witch hunt -- a veritable orgy of doxxing, threats, and harassment -- that was ostensibly about "ethics in journalism," but was never, ever about anything but angry white, mostly anonymous guys having meltdowns over their perceived "loss" of privilege. 

Today my students are writing about whether celebrities and professional athletes should be role models, so this is on my mind today:  

To anyone who uses his position of power, his louder voice, to champion those who have relatively little power, I salute you. I want to throw you a ticker tape parade, bury you in flowers, buy you drinks, kiss your hand. You make a difference. You give others hope and strength.

I have so many masculine heroes right now, I can't name them all: Aziz Ansari, Louis CK, Stephen Colbert, Chris Kluwe, Arthur Chu... Help me out, who am I missing here?

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Trip to the Middle East

OK, so this video has been making the rounds. And it's been criticized for perhaps being racially biased (i.e., they edited out the white guys).

And here is a typical manospherian response:

Matt Forney retweeted
Being called a slut is a compliment. American feminists need to take a trip to the Middle East to see how bad women really have it.

OK, Mr. KirillWasHere, I am an American woman who spent ten fucking years in the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen), and guess what? It was pretty much the same damn thing.

One day I was strolling down the streets of Teheran with a male colleague. All along the route, we heard the hiss of "coos... coos... coos..." (= cunt... cunt... cunt...)

"My gawd, Cinzia," my colleague said. "Is it like this every time you walk down the street?"

Well, yup, it was, which is why I took to wearing a chador when I went out. If I could have managed to pass as a man (as another British teacher did with her anorak and slim hips) I would have done that instead, but presenting myself as a pious Muslim woman was the best I could do. Disguising myself in a swath of black nylon didn't eliminate the harassment entirely, but it kept it down to a dull, manageable roar.

Now that I'm identifiably post-menopausal, I am no longer the victim of this kind of walking nightmare forced to walk a gauntlet every time I venture forth in public. And no, I don't "miss" being cat-called in the street. Being ignored in public is one of the few consolations of becoming a crone ( = invisible to the Masculine Gaze). Having one's sexuality acknowledged by John Q. Public is not a compliment, it's simply harassment. 

This iconic photo from the fifties speaks as powerfully as last week's video, doesn't it?
Embedded image permalink
Nothing new here. And no, I don't think she's enjoying that attention one bit.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

He's The Boss

I've been trying to rent one of my duplex units for two months. We've tried various means of marketing it, including hiring a rental manager who appears to have done nothing more than post an obscure sign for his company on the lawn. Part of the problem is that we're putting it on the market at a time of year when relatively few people move. With the holidays fast approaching, we started to get impatient. We finally decided to post our own sign, and finally started getting a few calls.

This weekend a likely prospect showed up. A young woman (I'll call her Emily) took a look at the place, and was very enthusiastic. "It's so clean and spacious! I haven't seen anything this nice!" Since moving to the area a month ago, she, her husband, their three small children AND a large dog have been sharing one room in a budget motel while they look for a house to buy.

"I can't take being cooped up in there one more day," Emily said. "I can't even put the baby on that filthy floor."

We offered the couple a three month rental agreement. That would tide us over the holidays, when the rental market was likely to pick up, and would be a great mitzvah for this pleasant family in need. The rent they would be paying us would be less than what they were paying for the motel; it would take them at least two months to find and close on a house; they would be able to spread out and relax in comfort. They even had a fenced yard for the dog.

It seemed like a win:win for both parties, and we expected them to sign the agreement and move in today. 

We were surprised to get a tense call from Emily this morning. "Dale doesn't want to move out of the motel," she said. "I'm still talking to him about it."

As the day wore on, my partner and I wondered how Emily's conversation with Dale was going, There was not one doubt in our minds that Emily would quickly prevail. After all, as the old adage goes, If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

At three the phone finally rang. Emily was sobbing. "Dale won't let us leave the motel," she said. "He says it won't kill me and the kids to stay here another few weeks."

That didn't make sense to us, and we couldn't help expressing our surprise.

"I know it doesn't make sense," Emily said, "but he's the boss."

I felt a frisson of fear at these words. Were Emily and her children (and their large loveable dog) safe?

My partner said, "He's gonna pay for this later."

I thought about some of the men of the manosphere who brag about their ability to exert dominance over their wives, and the other men who complain bitterly about women who "frivorce" them. I thought how Dale may have won this particular "battle" but is likely to wind up losing everything. I thought about how people fall out of love, so often, because over time their needs and desires have been dismissed by the partner with more power.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Videogames and Disco

Here's an interesting article by Arthur Chu comparing #gamergate to the anti-disco rebellion of the seventies. I actually came of age during the seventies, didn't much care for (or about) disco, and have no recollection of the frenzy of violence that was triggered by an ill-advised White Sox promotional stunt (burning disco albums in front of a crowd of hysterical rock "purists"). I guess I was too busy listening to the music I did like (Neil Young and other folk-rockers; the taste for punk came later). 

In making the analogy, however, Chu makes an interesting and important point that applies equally well to the "manosphere" and the MRM: The people who embrace these reactionary movements are always, almost exclusively, white guys who perceive themselves as victims.

"Our various “culture wars” tend to boil down to one specific culture war, the one about men wanting to feel like Real Men and lashing out at the women who won’t let them. Whenever men feel like masculinity is under attack, men get dangerous. Because that’s exactly what masculinity teaches you to do, what masculinity is about. Defending yourself with disproportionate force against any loss of power? That’s what masculinity is...  I’m afraid of masculinity, and privilege, of the male sense of “honor” they combine to create, and the incredible reservoir of madness that “honor” can unleash when it’s threatened. Of how incredibly petty the offense can be and how insanely disproportionate the retaliation can be."

Yes, this. 

Chu points out, the ugliness of their rhetorical chest-thumping and behavior (doxxing, threatening, harassing) is in direct proportion to their desperation. They know they can't win. They know they're on the wrong side of history.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Sarkeesian Effect: A Measured Response

Remember Davis Aurini, Matt Forney's hiking chum, clad head to heel in black, his bald, naked pate gleaming under the blazing sun of the Arizona desert? 

With #gamergate, Aurini is hustling for funds to complete his documentary "The Sarkeesian Effect," and he's apparently raised $9000 so far. 

Aurini, the Ed Wood of the manosphere, is always a ripe subject for ridicule. Many have had their way with him, including David Futrelle and myself in a previous post because he is so deliciously weird and pretentious. Futrelle has compared him to Anton LeVey. but I think he is as campy as John Waters. Although Aurini actually seems to believe the terrible crap he spouts, I can't help but have a soft spot for someone who can make me laugh as hard as he (inadvertently) does. And I'm not alone -- watch this: 

This video is the best, but wait, it gets even better! Aurini actually responded to this assault on his dignity:

I've had people asking me to respond to this video, but I really don't see anything to respond to.  From what I can tell, it's nothing but a bunch of insults and snark coming from some anonymous hyena... I suppose the $15k for making a movie thing is worth addressing - but really, all I have to do is point towards the budget of any movie you care to name to demonstrate how expensive it is.  Jordan I will be doing a video shortly updating our Patreon supporters on everything including the financing, but really, it's a paltry budget.  He's just bringing it up to try and undermine the project.

And then the reluctant King of #gamergate weighed in on twitter:

Criticize the project? Fine. But don't insult my intelligence by claiming that and are trying to scam people.

Sometimes I seriously wonder if the manosphere isn't just a venue for frustrated performance artists. It's comforting at least to be reminded that they really are a bunch of buffoons.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What A Feminist Looks Like

Sure, he knows his way around a thesaurus. 
But what's his T level?

In a hilarious, furious rant laced with creative profanity, former NFL punter and dedicated gamer Chris Kluwe had (what should be) the final word on GamerGate. If winning arguments on the internet really is a matter of shouting the loudest, Kluwe is clearly the victor in the eyes of this (Seahawks) fan. Meanwhile, manosphere consigliore Mike Cernovich has been manically provoking Kluwe and many other critics of #gamergate as he manufactures amasses twitter "evidence" of harassment and threats against himself. (You don't want to mess with Mike, bro. When he's not threatening to sue people, he's challenging them to boxing matches.)

Otherwise, the New Misogynists haven't been calling much attention to Kluwe's post. And I think I know why: This, ladies and gentlemen, is what a feminist looks like.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Is Mike Cernovich a Snake Oil Salesman?

I'm amused by how many defenders of Mike Cernovich are in awe of his ability to "market" himself on social media even while conceding he's a complete ass-hole. I like Matt Binder's take on all this, BTW.

I can't see how manipulating or boon-doggling people into buying a really terrible "product" (whether it's quackery or bigotry or just one's own name) is admirable behavior; rather, I think it's something to despise. There are a lot of gullible people out there to market shit to, so it's not even that difficult to do... if you're willing to sell your soul.

Mike Cernovich: Appealing to the "aggrieved young white male gamer market" -- very good market!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mike Cernovich -- Bullied or Bullier?

Mike Cernovich is the body-building non-practicing attorney / Matt Forney mentor / RoK contributor who hosts the website Danger & Play ("for men who want more out of life" -- or at least higher testosterone levels). You might expect someone who has recently been admitted to the California bar to be busy building a practice, but not Mr. C.! Instead, he is taking a year off to promote his own enterprise (selling juicers & things). For the past month or so he has also been aggressively positioning himself in the forefront of the GamerGate "movement." And now, after weeks of pummeling Zoe Quinn online he is getting a taste of his own medicine.

Hey, I think we can all agree that doxxing is evil -- although I'm not sure posting a photo of a publicly listed law office address qualifies as "doxxing" when the owner of that address is making every effort to promote his legal prowess; I believe that's called "googling". (Apparently the accused doxxer did not realize it was also Mr. Cernovich's residence; she has apologized and removed the photo). Certainly, deliberately filing false or frivolous police reports is wrong. 

Yet one cannot help thinking, "What goes around, comes around." 

And now I know who Peter Fox is, so the evening has not been a total waste.

UPDATE: A few days have passed, and in that short time I have come to see this post as naive. Cernovich was no doubt tickled pink to have been "doxxed." He's actively looking for opportunities to wreak havoc, create doubt, and thereby take cynical advantage of the #gamergate chaos. Just... unbelievably evil... 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Remembering Fred Rogers

I once asked a friend who her biggest celebrity crush was, and was surprised when she immediately answered, "Mister Rogers."

"I dream about him some nights," she admitted. "How beautiful it would be to have a physical relationship with a man like that, so tender and kind! I imagine us losing our virginity together."

I have to admit that up until our conversation, I'd never seen Mister Rogers in that particular light; in fact, sexually fantasizing about Mister Rogers was a bit... well, creepy. For me, his show had been the adolescent equivalent of valium: I'd come home from school, fix myself a huge bowl of sugary cold cereal, and zone out in a soothing bath of unconditional love and acceptance for an hour. Mister Rodgers was the proxy for the parents and teachers I'd always longed for. Certainly he was the only adult who ever told me, "I love you just the way you are."

Because Mister Rogers was the masculine embodiment of acceptance and nurturing, qualities traditionally identified as "feminine," many people have assumed he was gay, a notion his new biographer wishes to dispel. 

In fact, Mister Rogers was a pretty radical character for his era. He challenged viewers' perceptions of what it means to be "a real man." 

Perhaps he had a greater impact on my childhood psyche than I have previously given him credit for. After all, I grew up to be openly attracted to men with recognizably "feminine" qualities: Those teachers, nurses, and therapists that combine physical masculine strength with sensitivity and empathy; those "sissy" straight boys who aren't afraid to surround themselves with color or soft sensual fabrics, whose hair is just a little too long, who openly cry at movies or concerts. And then, in late middle age, I took that predilection even further (and I've never looked back).

What explains the enduring appeal of Mister Rogers? Well, even an agnostic like me believes that, as a force for change and a source of happiness, nothing in this world is stronger than love: Mister Roger's call for compassion and the need to embrace tolerance, not only of others but of oneself, has never been more powerful, or more needed.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Will Trolls Break the Internet? Part 2

Lindy West, unabashed SJW, in a post on the Daily Dot today, challenges the notion of Internet "neutrality," and predicts that if social media site owners like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter refuse to protect their users from harassment and intimidation, others will take their place.

And she means to win this "culture war," too:

There’s only one thing, really. I want a site with a fucking backbone. I want a site that has an ideology, that is explicitly feminist and anti-racist, that is proactively progressive and cares more about users than their abusers.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Don't Feed the Animals

The newest post at Depressed Feminist makes me wish I could address all those people who are reacting angrily to Matt Forney's newest "click bait," a post in which he declares tattooed and pierced women to be, essentially, broken slags. No, I haven't read it myself and I'm not going to link to it here. Enough is enough! It's time to stop feeding this particular troll who makes his living (well, some kind of a living) generating "viral hits." 

We all need to consider that every time we link to Matt Forney or Return of Kings, we are putting a penny in their hate-filled coffers; we are financially supporting their own pathology.

Whatever one says about Forney (and I myself have obviously said entirely too much, to my own detriment), the kid is an indefatigable outrage machine. Every time he comes up with a new population to insult, their anger precipitates a volley of tweets and links to his monetized site. One of his admirers (and he does have some) once observed that Forney is a genius at "amygdala hijacking," and truer words were never tweeted.  

Matt Forney will post anything -- anything -- to generate publicity for himself. It doesn't have to be true. It doesn't have to be something even he, in his twisted amoral mind, believes to be true. It's all about "bringing down servers" with an avalanche of furious attention. For reasons only a psychiatrist could fathom, Forney is a young man who has elected to devote his considerable gifts to generating negative attention by lashing out at... well, pretty much everybody... in a desperate, relentless validation of his own importance. He will not only doxx and smear his critics, he will similarly treat his own (former) friends.

The best way to "fight" the Matt Forneys of the internet is to block them on twitter and only link to their posts through It's time to stop feeding these kinds of trolls. For his own well-being, Forney needs to be put on a diet of severely reduced attention. 

Really, it's for his own good.

And on that note... I've been listening to Lucinda Williams' new album:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Zoe Quinn's Depression Quest

The only "good" thing to come out of the harassment campaign against Zoe Quinn is, perhaps, that it will bring her game to the attention of people who would otherwise not learn about it. "Depression Quest" is free to download here. (Players choose whether or not to donate to the suicide prevention organizations that are the recipients of any profits.)

It is designed as a text heavy "interactive fiction," a form of "game" I happen to enjoy. There is no "winning" or "losing" in this game. The objective of the game is to take the player into the mind of someone suffering from severe depression. In other words, it aims to educate players about depression, and to develop empathy for people who suffer from that condition. And in that objective, it is almost unbearably successful.

It is estimated by the World Health Organization that 350 million people in the world suffer from depression. According to the Center for Disease Control, one in ten Americans report being depressed. Severe clinical depression is debilitating and notoriously difficult to manage medically, as the suicides of David Foster Wallace, Robin Williams and many other brilliant artists have demonstrated.

Lost in the fracas surrounding #GamerGate is that its creator was a young woman who was motivated by her own experience of depression and love of game creation to raise awareness about a medical condition that cripples the lives of many of the brightest and most creative minds.

And somehow this makes what happened to Zoe Quinn even more... well, depressing.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Will Trolls Break the Internet?

Back when I was the target of one little troll, I briefly consulted a local professor who is an expert on "cyberlaw". He did not encourage me to pursue a legal remedy (see this report). All he could do was to refer me to an organization for support of victims of revenge porn. That was of little direct relevance to my situation, of course, but it was then that I learned just how pervasive, profitable, and ruinous the "revenge porn" industry was. 

Should "revenge porn" be criminalized? I certainly believe so, and in fact, several states are already working on laws to that effect. To what extent such new laws will compromise our much valued social tradition of "free speech" remains to be seen, but it seems to me that it is practically inevitable that we will move in the direction of criminalizing online conduct that is deliberately destructive.

We must find ways to balance the rights of people to exercise free speech with their rights not to be violated by those who abuse the anonymity and ubiquity of the internet to persecute others. First Amendment devotees wring their hands about the "chilling" effect the loss of anonymity would have on public discourse, but we also must acknowledge the "chilling" effect that fear of harassment currently has -- especially on women (well, anyone who isn't a white cis-gender male, really). 

We cannot have bullies running the means of communication on which all of us have come to depend. And hoping that the internet will somehow regulate itself isn't really working out. We may romanticize the Wild West in movies and fiction, but the horror of being at the mercy of bandits in reality mostly led to unruly posses, lynchings, and a lot of innocent civilians bleeding out in the dusty streets of Laredo.

In the past several months, I'd been looking for a book that would help explain how the internet has become such a fertile playground for sociopaths, and why victims have such limited legal recourse.

I am currently reading Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, which is what compelled me to read up on programmer Kathy Sierra, one of the cases described in the book. And if you thought the wringer Anita Sarkeesian has been put through in the past year has been bad, Sierra's ordeal will take your breath away, in part because she faced it down all alone. Sierra was one of the first female high-tech bloggers to be targeted by hacker trolls and their followers ("Weev", her primary tormenter, is currently in prison for an unrelated conviction). She was sufficiently terrorized to withdraw from the public for several years, but now she's back -- and she's just published a rather raw but very compelling account of what happened to her "Why the Trolls Will Always Win."  

Campaigns like the ones against Sarkeesian and Kathy Sierra are relentless and sustained attempts to quash women who have earned a modicum of success or celebrity.* They are motivated by envy, fear, malice, and mob hysteria. They have little to do with ideological conflict or girls' intolerance for hurt "feeeelings". They are designed solely to inflict emotional and financial distress on women who are perceived as a threat (to insecure masculine egos that is); indeed, they are launched in order to intimidate an entire gender by instilling fear of real physical harm and the ruin of their professional and personal lives.

Will online misogynists and bullies "break the internet" by forcing us to forgo the very real benefits of anonymity? I sincerely hope not, but we need to start exploring alternative ways to stem the tide of abuse.

Social media sites like twitter, facebook, and youtube are finally getting on board, developing codes of conduct and policies with teeth, and not a moment too soon: their bottom lines depend on it. 

And it is amusing to note that nobody is faster to play the "victim" card than my own little troll, who was much incensed to discover, this week, that some malicious prankster had been impersonating him on twitter! He was even threatening to dox and sue participants in a subreddit who had dared to call him a fat, virginal neckbeard!  (And also "dox" his family although he provides no evidence to substantiate that claim.)

Apparently, sadistic, amoral trolls have "feeeelings" too! (But then, in the words of film-maker Errol Morris, "What is life without irony?") 

*Also check out Zoe Quinn's "Five Things I Learned...

Social Justice Warriors and the New Culture War

I enjoyed this essay by Laurie Penny and maybe you will too.

I'm not blogging much these days. I'm reading instead.

Monday, September 22, 2014

You Know, He's Right!

A number of MRAs have complained that women get preferential treatment at clubs and bars that offer discounts or free admission to women. I always dismissed their resentment as frivolous at best. My knee-jerk reaction was they should be grateful for institutions like "Ladies Nights," which at least improved their odds of actually meeting "a lady" in the flesh. Then I stumbled on this interview with grad student / DJ Trevor Doughtery about why "ladies nights" are downright pernicious, and it got me thinking.

Fact is, in all my years of being an XX person-in-drag, I had never taken advantage of a "Ladies Night" special. In large part, this is because I have always recognized on a subconscious level that because I was not the kind of "lady" these promotions were designed to attract, taking advantage was a violation of the terms of an unwritten contract. I would be cheating the system. Then I fell in with a group of cross dressers who thought such promotions were a fun way to "turn the tables," so I thought, Why the hell not?

One night my SO and I met up with some other "ladies" at a local piano bar that had "Ladies Night" specials on slow Tuesdays. It was not a pleasant experience. In fact, it was the only evening I have ever felt that we, as a couple, were in real physical danger. To make a long, creepy story short, a party of "frat boy" types locked us in their cross hairs, relentlessly imploring us to join their table, and wouldn't take our polite "no's" for an answer. There was a predatory vibe that unnerved us to the point where we wound up "sneaking out" of the back of the club and high-tailing it back to our vehicle as fast as we could. 

Any woman who attends a "Ladies Night" does so at her own peril. She is placing herself in an environment where the men who are paying full covers feel that they are "entitled" to her favors. OK, to be blunt? She is whoring herself for cheap drinks (and mediocre entertainment). She is putting herself in harm's way. 

No wonder "Ladies Nights" are now banned in five states.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Twitter Blocking

Has blocking people on twitter become the modern equivalent of "shunning?"

Some of the manosphereans and neo-reactionaries are upset because they are finding themselves literally shut out of feminist and liberal conversations. Cuz censorship! Freeze peach!

What kind of activism will they be able to do if they are no longer allowed to intrude on or "re-tweet" their "enemies"? How will they fight the Blue Pill now? There are even "feminist blockbots" out there that will automatically block social undesirables them.

"I don't get it," one little shitbot tweets plaintively, if a bit disingenuously. "I don't block anyone." Indeed not, since provoking people young women via his smartphone is his raison d'etre.

At least I don't have to worry about it: I've never twittered, and never will. I don't even have a smartphone (to the endless derisive amusement of my students). As far as I am concerned, people already have far too many ways to communicate with me, and I already have far too many ways to get myself in trouble. La Strega + twitter account + 2 martinis = hella trouble.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nobody Knows

Nobody knows, nobody can know, what goes on between couples. Curious onlookers, we may wonder what keeps them together, or what drives them apart, or whether they are truly as happy as they purport to be, or which party loves more, but we cannot know anything more than what they choose to reveal in their actions and words. Often the people involved don't know themselves! I've read that, while fifteen percent of married Americans admit to having "cheated" on their partners, the majority of these "adulterers" maintain their marriages are "happy." And not even swans, who are said to mate for life, are entirely monogamous. 

Of course, some people can only screw up their courage to leave an unhappy relationship by hopping, like anxious frogs, onto the next lily pad. And some people engineer spectacularly hurtful breakups because they enjoy creating drama, or they need to force the other person to leave them. And sometimes they just can't help falling in love with someone else, or they're in the process of becoming someone different than the person who once swore, in all sincerity, to be loving and true 'til death dost them part.

Shit happens.

I've been cheated on more than once, and nothing is more wretched. I've howled at the moon and torn my hair over the unfairness of it. Years later, I could start to acknowledge the role I had played in these dysfunctional relationships, and it was both humbling and healing. And now, many years later, I am mostly grateful, because the breakups that ensued pushed me on down the path of my own personal journey. And I must say, I am happy where I've wound up, so I guess it was all worth it...

When it comes to matters of the heart (or loins) I can only say this:

The older I get, the less judgmental I can be. Life is complicated and messy, and nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors.  [cue Charlie Rich]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Zoe Quinn

UPDATE: I came back to this blog after a few days off the internet, and was surprised to see the number of comments. Zoe Quinn is, to me, a complete "non-story" except insofar as yet another young woman being the target of online harassment. I'll admit I am not into games, and I'm in no position to judge whether or not she wrote a good one, but that is the only question anyone should care about. It's absurd to care a fig whether, or with whom, Ms. Quinn cheated on her boyfriend. Substitute the name "Tyler" for "Zoe," and imagine Zoe were the angry ex who had thrown up a website for the purpose of humiliating him. You can be sure "Zoe" would still be the target of angry, jealous little shitbots like Matt Forney. 
So apparently Matt Forney's latest "doxing" victim is Zoe Quinn, a talented young female game designer who had the misfortune of having a vindictive ex. And so it goes...