Several weeks ago, a young male colleague said that ‘sexual discrimination is not nearly as bad as it used to be’.  I wanted to respond that 1) he didn’t have a vagina so how the hell did he think he could even judge such a thing and 2) he hadn’t even been on the planet long enough to remember much of what life was like before the Internet, much less what it was like in the ‘good old days’.  I did not, however, respond at all, feeling that if I got started it would be pretty ugly or unprofessional.  He’s a decent man but a little unthinking at times. He is not the first to say such things, however.

I have heard this kind of reasoning before but mostly in regards to racism…”it’s not as bad as it used to be”. What does that even mean?  Because bands of KKK can no longer roam the streets stringing up people of color with impunity, it’s better?  Because now black men only have a one in ten thousand chance of being beaten to death by a bunch of drunk young crackers as opposed to one in a hundred, they should be grateful and lighten up?1  Well, yeah, there is a valid point that some stats have improved, but racism is not as simple as that and sStatistical improvements like the one I just mentioned can’t, by any means, be considered as a conclusive victory. The kinds of racism that we encounter today is much more insidious and as such, is not always obvious especially to someone in the white and/or male majority.  Just because it isn’t as obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t there and that it isn’t just as damaging.  Same thing with sexism.

But make no mistake the overt stuff still occurs. The only thing that has changed is the vehicle by which it is expressed.  Here is one incredibly worrisome  recent example of a woman who was harassed and threatened online because she had the nerve to express an interest in studying female stereotypes in computer games.

The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website.  These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape.  All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded.

It’s not like she came out and said that all men are assholes and she wants a new lawpassed that says we should imprison all adult males and castrate the ones we don’t want to breed with.  She just wanted to do some scholarly examination and share that study in a series of videos. Yes some aspects of sexism are better but it’s still not good enough.  Furthermore, with the anonymity provided by the Internet, now the sexist (and racist2 and just plain hateful jerks of the world) are pretty much free to be as overt or as subtle as they choose to be.  In the end, if you only give me a dichotomy of better or worse now, I will say sexism is neither–it is simply different in delivery method but not in outcome.


1. I am sick to death of people who have never been the target of an “ism” telling me to “lighten up”. Ironically it only pisses me off more and increases the likelihood of a verbal beatdown.

2. I fully expect the poor Harvard researcher who did this study to be harassed and threatened to a sickening extent–look at the way the woman was treated and she was only proposing to DO some research, much less having done it, published it and had the MSM distribute it worldwide.

  1. Ah, such a good question! Hard for any answer after your good points. Not better…just different. I have a different take on white men from living in Ireland – about the whitest men ever (hubby is translucent compared to me) but they are well aware of the -isims against them as a ‘race.’ Recently the ‘no Irish’ showed its ugly face again in Australia becuase so many Irish are yet again emigrating due to economic woes at home.

    • drangedinaz says:

      It’s strange that so many Americans have forgotten it wasn’t that long ago when the Irish were treated very badly here. I still find it to fathom that Australia, which is full of Irish descendants, would have a “no Irish” mentality…..thank you for sharing the differences in perspective

  2. I just blogged about the Anita Sarkeesian incident as well, and one of the things that struck me is that, although I realize racism and sexism are still alive and kicking, (especially since my move to Kentucky), the sheer amount and the “gang mentality” of the whole thing, especially in this supposedly enlightened day was astounding. I can not understand why so many people would be so hateful and angry over nothing! And it speaks to a bigger issue with society now as well, and that is that people feel no incentive, intrinsic or extrinsic, to be kind and respectful to their fellow men and women anymore.

    • drangedinaz says:

      Yes, you make two really good points. Re: the mob thought….I honestly think that psychologists, sociologists and law enforcement need to take a very close look at this “virtual mob” kind of activity so we can understand it better and react to it better than we do now. While it is very similar to the mentality that occurs when a group spontaneously forms a mob and violence occurs in the real world (it is probably a viral type thing, one or two leaders in a group, start it off and from there it catches people up in it) EXCEPT for a couple of things. First, online they have so much more anonymity (unless they are a moron). We see mobs happen a few times a year here in the U.S. and every single time, eyewitness, photos and videos help lead to perps. But online, that isn’t going to happen. Second, as a result of that extreme anonymity, the perps can not only do damage in a greater variety ways than a physical mob can, they can also continue the violence over a longer period of time. Usually in a real mob situation people get hurt, cars overturned and burnt, sometimes, but not always, it might result in serious injury or death. These perps don’t think it is any big deal to do things virtually. In the real world a mob tends to be over in hours because physically and mentally, the amount of energy it takes to stay angry and violent for many hours has a limit. But online, these perps can harass you for days, weeks or even months with little to no physical effort–hell they can program apps to attack you and not even be at their computer. They can attack the same thing repeatedly–if they destroy your car, its done. But if they keep hacking your Wikipedia bio, the damage is inflicted over and over and over. potentially forever. And to be honest, I would be more afraid of someone online telling me they were coming to kill or rape me than I would someone standing right in front of me in a mob situation because I can see the person making the threat, assess what I need to do to get away and gauge when it is going to happen. These online threats are completely unknown quantities and that can really do a number on a victim psychologically.

      Re: the idea that “people feel no incentive, intrinsic or extrinsic, to be kind and respectful”, you are spot on. Again it goes back to the the anonymity. Humans will do pretty horrible things if they think they won’t get caught. It also has to do with the way people view the Internet. Everything about it is, the way we perceive it (so temporary and changing on the screen), the lack of consequences, even the way we talk about it (It’s “virtual”, not “real”) tends to create a mindset that what a person does in the real world does not have equivalents in the virtual world. In this type of situation, ethical behavior ingrained in us by society simply does not exist. I wrote a paper about this many years ago (probably 10 or 15 years) after noticing that my CIS students would think nothing of hacking into someone else’s computer, wandering around the data, using storage space on it without the owner knowing, putting a little back door so they can come back whenever they want, and even leaving little annoyances to mess with the owner. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make them understand that it equivalent to breaking into someone’s house while the owner is away, laying on their couch, eating their food, leaving little booby traps to annoy and harass the owner and jerry rigging the lock on the door so they can come back easier in future. They were appalled that I would think they would do such a thing in the real world and that I thought they were the same. They were adamant, that they should not be punished for such hacks, which I knew they frequently did. I was appalled that they didn’t understand that the behavior was the same and that they didn’t think they deserved to be punished for such behavior. This is a major failure of society to understand this online moral vacuum that we are raising our children in and it has and will affect many generations until we get off our butts. AND as you allude to if society’s expectation of civility in the real world has dropped off, they are starting from a deficit of kindness to begin with. So, yeah, I feel you. 🙂

      • Exactly…even real world interactions are suffering horribly. And this moral “vacuum” you speak of does not necessarily imply a movement back to “religion” as some might suggest, but rather values and IMHO, CULPABILITY for actions, which, sadly, even the law is starting to let slide.

      • Wow, you two are really getting my brain going, and thank you. I feel as if I’m out of the moden loop over here in regards to how people interact online – the Irish as a nation are so small and close-knit that if you abuse someone you will be known and quickly. I myself still attempt anonymity on my blog but was recently ‘found’ by one of two people I really didn’t want to find me – but the abuse was pathetic in nature and volume and I refuse to be scared. Still, I’m both worried by examples like this and interested in being a voice in finding a way to keep it from being acceptable from where we are into the future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s