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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

This author has written 3457 posts for Hoyden About Town. Read more about tigtog »

24 responses to “The thing about intimidatory silencing tactics?”

  1. rainne

    What’s that saying: first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you’ve won? Something like that, anyway.

    I’m incredibly sorry for the women who have become casualties. I don’t treat that lightly at all. But the war is continuing, and we’re going to win.

    Today I decided to resume blogging. I promise I’m not touting that; there’d be no point checking mine now anyway, it’s embryonic. I’m only saying it in agreement: we won’t all be silenced, there will always be voices, for every one that gets shut down there are two* that spring up.

    *okay, I’m making that up. Could be three. Could be ten! It’s a number greater than one, is my point.

  2. Megpie71

    I got my first taste of the sorts of lengths some people will go to in order to shut down women’s speech on certain topics when I first started posting in soc.support.fat-acceptance, and then later in soc.support.fat-acceptance.moderated. In both of these newsgroups, the majority of posters (well, the majority of on-topic posters in ssfa – that group got trolled to a fine fare-thee-well) bore usernames which were female-identified in Western society, and they were, as the names suggest, about being fat and not being even vaguely unhappy about this.

    Soc.support.fat-acceptance was a cesspit. About two-thirds of a day’s postings at the very least were either trolls, or replies to trolls, and the trolls were very much of the “offended misogynist” variety. At least half the troll posts were taking the tone that the regulars of the group weren’t pretty enough to be considered fuckable by the trollers (the majority of whom had masculine-identified usernames); the rest were a mixture of the concern trolls who were only concerned for our health; the concern trolls who were only concerned about their tax dollars being wasted in the US health care system (those always gave me a giggle); the ones who wanted all the fat chicks to commit suicide en masse; the ones who were angry that we weren’t fuckable; and the ones who were extremely angry that we weren’t immediately rushing off to make ourselves as attractive as possible for them. I swear, I got most of my education about the arguments of the MRAs from the first plunge into ssfa, before I got the killfile really fired up.

    I also got my first taste of online harassment from posting to ssfa and ssfam – either in the form of offensive email replies to my posts, or as happened at one time, in the form of a concerted campaign by someone who called themselves “DAVE” and used throwaway Yahoo! email accounts to respond to any post I made to the moderated newsgroup with extremely nasty emails. The one which sticks in my mind was the time he sent me over 1500 lines of the same insult copied and pasted. It was an effort to get me to stop posting to the group.

    I did eventually wind up not posting to ssfam, but not through DAVE’s machinations – instead, it was because the ISP I was using at the time stopped carrying the group in their newsfeed.

  3. orlando

    I saw Jen’s post this afternoon, and felt everything you describe above. Thank you for putting it all down.

  4. Stewart Henderson

    Hmmm. I’m writing a post now about Atheism+, which was discussed at our atheist meet-up the other day. It was generally civil, but there were tensions, with a few men coming up with the ‘hey we have a hard time too’ line, and a lot of frustration from the only really articulate [or I should say 'willing to speak'] female in the group. Needless to say the men vastly outnumbered the women at the meeting. And now, on reading that Jen has been intimidated into silence, I can’t help but see or imagine something seething inside these guys, and that the civility is only a pretence.
    Really, though, I just find all this very, very bewildering.

  5. Eden

    Good description of the Catch-22 situation, and how troll technology is a two-way street. I keep telling myself I’m going to go back to blogging, but then something like this always happens. I’m so over it.

    I’m so tired of men looking at my chest more than they look at my face (It’s a compliment!). Of the men who stop being my friend once they find out I’m a lesbian (what do you expect? Don’t you know men and women can’t be friends?). Of men who feel entitled to comment on a twelve-year old’s body, to see her as an object first and a person second (it’s just being friendly). Of the men who make rape jokes (lighten up). Of men who “accidentally” grope you in a situation that if you make a fuss then you’re the bitch (why didn’t you say something?). Of men who scream from cars (sticks and stones…). And most of all I’m so goddamn tired of the men who stand there and do nothing about it. Be my ally or GTFO.

    I’m just so tired. But I know if I want to help make the world a better place then I need to get back to speaking out. Maybe next week :P.

  6. tigtog

    rainne, Eden, and sundry lurkers considering wading back into the cyberfray,

    consider taking some first steps in that direction under HaT’s sheltering wing by submitting a guest post or three to us? That way you would not have to moderate the threads yourselves.

    You would only see the replies that are deemed acceptable content by our moderation team, so while there may well be some dissent published, you will definitely not see the hateful abuse. In rare cases we disemvowel a particularly nasty comment and publish it for the purpose of demonstration, but we’d always run the disemvoweled text by our guest posters first to check whether that’s OK.

    Our moderation team can handle it. It’s always easier to cope with abuse that’s not aimed at oneself – we have the luxury of distance and can point and laugh at it instead. So please, if you’re burning to write something but reluctant to put it up in a blog of your own, do consider pitching it to us here instead.

  7. Helen

    +1!

  8. Megpie71

    I’m not sure whether this actually is related, but there’s an article at The Conversation today:

    Hate Mail and Cyber Trolls – the View from Inside Public Health

    I find it interesting because it’s a male writer talking about the level of online harassment he’s received for writing about public health matters. It doesn’t address the gender component of harassment that tends to get dealt out to female writers who speak up on these same topics, and nobody’s raised this in comments as yet (indeed, most of the commenters appear to be male, or are at least using masculine user names).

  9. Eden

    Thanks tigtog :) I will definitely think about it.

  10. Kirsty

    I’ve been a longtime lurker here, but have only made sporadic comments. I put my online shyness down to some previous horrid experiences online (on a BtVS forum) and the silencing I face from many of the working-class bloke types in my circle of friends. But no more. I’m so very sick and tired of wonderful brave online voices being barraged with hate. So I’m going to start commenting here and in the other spaces I frequent with a view to maybe creating a little online space to join my voice to the wonderful cacophany of feminist voices online.
    Thankyou for this space, for your work, and your wonderful voices.

  11. SunlessNick

    Women are told all the time that if we were just “clearer”, if we were just more forceful in saying no, then men would back off.

    If the men in question gave a crap about not bothering or harassing, but were genuinely terrible at telling when they were, then the logical course for them would be to – absent specific evidence to the contrary – always assume they were being a bother. And therefore back off at the drop of a hat. And therefore need less, not more, forcefulness.

  12. tigtog

    Kirsty, welcome to the feminist cacophony! I’m currently working on a post full of newbie tips for social justice bloggers (well, any woman on the internet really, since cyberbullies can and do go after knitting bloggers) on managing their inbox, their moderation software and their social media configurations in order to filter the festering gits into “read later” folders, so that the gits no longer have control over when one sees their bile. It’s taking away their virtual bullhorn that intrudes upon one whenever they choose to roar into it, and turns their campaigns into little hisses of background noise. I did a post on it a while back, but it needs updating with a few more basics that should be known right from the start of setting up one’s blogs and social media accounts.

    SunlessNick, absolutely yes. And this is what you see in genuinely socially-awkward but well-meaning men (and women) – they’re anxious about making people uncomfortable already, and are super-likely to back off at top speed. Some genuinely oblivious types don’t get typical body language hints to stop talking, and can be rather tedious about telling their anecdotes instead of anxious about their effect on others, but in my experience these folks back off readily at the usual social escape clauses (excuse me I’ve got to talk to a friend I just saw over there, sorry I need to take a bathroom break, sorry I’ve got a headache and need to be alone for a little while etc)

  13. Kirsty

    Thankyou for the tips, I’m not the most tech-savvy person so it all helps. I think for the most part I feel like I have a few spare teaspoons at the moment and want to put them to use.

  14. Janet

    I’ve been online doing stuff for 8 years now. I know that a lot of the legal stuff thrown my way is to try and shut me up. It hasn’t worked. I also get a lot of hate mail, comments on my blog, attacks on twitter (One dude there only ever calls me The Child Killer), I’ve been hacked, had a wealth of gossip, outright personal attacks based on utterly incorrect information on wellknown blogging sites which otherwise pretend to be all about anti-bullying and “fairness” for women, I’ve had death threats.

    I deal with it by ignoring it. And so far so good. It’s stopped apart from the occasional douche who feels they simply must get their brilliance off their chest and into my inbox. The scary times have been the publishing of my address in concert with death threats. My local police said in order to have threats addressed I must print them out and attend the station with them. Seems kinda pointless if you want to trace someone, huh.

    Ignoring is awesome. I recommend it.
    http://janetfraser.id.au/blog/2012/07/03/why-i-dont-read-hate-mail/

  15. tigtog

    Janet, thanks for sharing your post. I do quite a lot of ignoring as well, although I’m also a fan of those moments when the hatespam produces those outpourings of contemptuous clarity which can enable one to deliver devastating deconstructions. Although of course one doesn’t have to respond directly the hatespammers to demonstrate how one is refusing to be silenced.

  16. tigtog

    Wow, the festering gits have expanded their bullying campaign to include Jen McCreight’s father now, through his blog.

  17. Aqua, of the Questioners

    That’s … something else. So not only do feminist bloggers have to seriously think about each post they make and what kind of backlash it might generate and whether they’ll be able to deal with that, they have to notify their family and friends, too???

  18. Mindy

    Her Dad is belittling her by standing up for her? What a complete load of codswallop.

    Further on trolling – the person whose dead mother was mocked, which is just appalling, tweeted that the PM should get a noose for her 50th birthday. Nice. That hasn’t stopped people from defending him and saying that other people can’t take a joke. So yep, if you are female and trolled you have to harden up. If you are male and trolled OMG call in the police and tell the PM (the one you suggested a noose was an appropriate gift for) that she must do something about it.

  19. Mindy
  20. Chris

    Mindy @ 19 – an apology is all good, but really its only his future behaviour which will illustrate whether he has actually learnt from his experience or just doesn’t like being on the receiving end.

    Unfortunately in the recent public debate I think that trolling and cyberbulling (and even stalking) are getting presented as the same thing. And the direction that some of the proposed solutions are heading are not too encouraging either – its not going to be long before someone in the government or opposition decide that they can create a law to ensure that everyone must use their real name on the internet or must at least divulge that real name to the social media sites. I’m already hearing a lot of “they should be able to track down who said that on Twitter” by public figures.

  21. Mindy

    @Chris, yes lets make it really easy for people to be bullied. Public figures need to update their understanding of social media, it seems that some people have no trouble at all tracking down people from their profiles so that they can bully them in real life. [from what I have seen, haven't experienced it personally thank FSM]

  22. Megpie71

    Chris @20 – if the notion that “legal names” are the only valid ones to be used on the internet comes about, I foresee a lot of work for the registrars for things like legal names (is that Births, Deaths and Marriages?) I, for one, would be getting my legal name changed to something like “John Smith” as fast as I could. Possibly with “Megpie71″ as a middle name.

  23. Chris

    Megpie71 – fortunately that sort of thing will not be necessary no matter what the government legislates. If totalitarian middle east governments can’t track down the identity of twitter users who don’t want to be found what hope has the Australian government?

    Mindy – I would guess that those cases where non public figures do get tracked down to their real identities and addresses/phone numbers occur simply because they have themselves published too much identifying information if really they want to stay anonymous. Mind you I’d still put thread or abuse I received via postal mail or phone in a totally different category to one received by email/twitter, especially when the latter is from someone I’ve never met in real life.

    Was rather interesting to hear on The Drum the other night an ex 7:30 reporter comment that they have a wall where they post up rants/abuse received from people who have watched their show. I’ve worked at places where we’ve had similar pin up boards – and this just as programmers with little public profile.

  24. Chris

    I think this is an interesting case to consider:

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/technology-news/police-called-on-comedian-over-newman-kill-tweet-20120914-25wg5.html

    Basically Deveney tweeted “You want I kill him?” in a twitter conversation about Newman and ended up with a police visit after Newman complained.

    Whilst I think it was unwise of Deveney to tweet something like that, I wouldn’t really consider it to be a death threat, or incitement to do so. And the response seems to be a waste of police time. We don’t always need a legal/police response and I think in this case either Newman ignoring it or because Deveney is a public figure replying saying that they think that sort of statement is inappropriate (ie a social sanction) would have been better.

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