Monday, May 07, 2007

…Stay out of the kitchen…

By interesting coincidence, considering a current theme flying about the world of blogs at the moment, two relevant articles were published in the Sunday papers about blogging. They both were on the subject of the lacking laws within this new medium, and the consequences, or lack thereof.

One was David Bullard’s column, "Name & Shame Offensive Bloggers". If certain bloggers are still seeking out how to write sarcastic, intelligent, debate-stirring pieces that critically examine a blog in a respectful manner, perhaps observe the style of this column.

The other article originates from The Washington Post, and is titled “Harassment silences some women bloggers”. It primarily examines what has taken place with Kathy Sierra, and that she now feels forced to shut her site down because of threats that hinted at reaching a fatal stage. The article then examines what such implications are for all female bloggers.

“As women gain visibility in the blogosphere, they are targets of sexual harassment and threats. Men are harassed too, and lack of civility is an abiding problem on the web. But women, who make up about half the online community, are singled out in more starkly sexually threatening terms….it’s been hard to ignore that the criticisms of women writers are much more brutal and vicious than those about men. …Anonymity online has allowed “a lot of those dark prejudices towards women to surface”.

What is the possible result of this? That the voices of women, and our creativity, our perspectives, our thoughts on such topics will be silenced within the blogosphere? Half of the world’s “connected” population will be lost, because of a small selection of sick twisted men

We might be intimidated to the point of leaving this medium altogether. Or we perhaps could start “women-only blogging networks”. But then we are forced to cut out an element we find very necessary and often lovely – the many individual voices of men. Women might soon feel a need to create a “sexually-biased” space because all of us, of both genders, have allowed the bullying by a type of man who is unable to maturely handle the free reign offered by the lawless internet.

At first, “each new online venue has been greeted with optimism because the early adopters tended to be educated, socially conscious people who believed the form engendered the community. Even as recently as 2003…it was relatively rare to find negativity on blogs”.

Recent trends have shown a change. People cannot just be allowed to enjoy their site, and now are verbally attacked and viciously criticised for what they write. The rule of “if you don’t like it, click away” no longer seems to apply. And currently people across the global blogosphere are debating the need for a Blog Code Of Conduct.

A code immediately takes away one of the attractive features of blogging – extreme freedom. One I would be sad to see go. But if 100% of its users cannot cope with this feature, then perhaps such a code is needed.

With any new pastime, people come to it in individual ways. Some people first watch from the sidelines, they stay silent until they understand the basics, and then enter when they feel they have grasped it. Others immediately ask about how it works, why, have we considered this element etc; they enquire while still immediately engaging in it. Another type of person barges in and bangs about, trying to adapt the pastime to their liking before even really knowing its fundamentals.

This last type of person seems to be unable to civilly interact with others unless there is a higher authority governing him/her. They love and are thrilled by, but are completely lost in, the amount of freedom suddenly afforded to them. It is because of such people, who seem unable to realise basic unwritten rules - common human decency, interaction through respect, mature critical analysis, and where THAT line is – that rules become installed. And then they criticise the majority of people for having to take away the brief taste of freedom that they enjoyed.

There have been debates in the last while if this has happened within the smaller, tighter SA blogging network. If one man’s posts crossed that line in what he wrote about a female blogger. I became involved (This is me, and my Don Quixote fight against disrespect against women. I also respect this woman, her influential role in SA blogging and how she has helped break ground for female SA bloggers). At first he seemed to respect my comments. Finally my argument did seem to register with him, as his last comment stated he feels no need to apologise for what he has written. I also seemed to have touched a nerve by analysing his character on his public blog, by him saying that all my analysis is completely incorrect. And he has stated that he will no longer reply to my “long-winded” and “preaching” (paraphrased) comments. I respect this to mean that this debate is now over on his blog.

He also said that if she does not like “such” criticism, then she should not venture into certain more public literary ventures that she is about to. These areas put her in the spotlight, and the spotlight opens a person up to all forms of criticism.

But, for me, this is like saying that if a woman does not like having a picture posted of her being gagged or with a noose around her neck, she should not blog. If a woman does not want to run the risk of sexual harassment or even rape, she should not wear certain clothes or visit male-dominated venues. If a person does not like to have their life’s mistakes tabloid’d across the world, then they should not choose a career of acting. And if a person does not like the level of crime in SA, then they should just leave the country.

To accept such an argument is to accept power being afforded to the ugly side of our humanity. We fight everyday for improvement in our world, surely then we should not let power rest with the links at the bottom of the progression ladder? I would prefer that we find consensus amongst the majority of the people. Which seems not only to be fair, but even a universal human right? Intimidation should not take away the rights of some of us, because we are softer targets.

It does take the debate to the point of asking, Who has the right here? The person who wants to write WHATEVER he or she wants on a site, even if it is degrading to a single other person, it is homophobic or racist (the example in D.Bullard’s column), it incites violent actions against people because of their religion, culture, sex or geographical location?

Or should the right to Safety and Freedom from intimidation and degradation be upheld?

For me, rather than “If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen”, I think it is “If you cannot maturely cope with the freedom suddenly afforded to you….”.

[Update: Vincent Maher does a nice attack back at David Bullard's column. He does well, actually, in showing it up as also an unresearched defamatory load of "bull". Man, puns just crack me up.]

26 comments:

Peas on Toast said...

Well written Champs - it all makes for some interesting debate, n'est ce pas?

Dr Bullard has caused quite a storm in a teacup this morning, but perhaps his column couldn't have come at a better time, what with all the crap going on in the blogosphere at the moment.

Champagne Heathen said...

Thanks Peas! I was about to mail you these articles, but now you have them so my job is done.

I just read Vincent Maher's post about D.Bullard. Maybe I read the column too early yesterday morning and just saw it as lighthearted silliness. (How I actually view most of the S.Times, I have given up on getting incensed with their articles). Or maybe I just saw it relative to certain other posts & it seemed minor in comparison.

This is one fascinating debate.

HOWEVER, people should be careful by saying that their "overboard" actions were the cause, so we should be grateful. Most terrible events in the world continue to stir action (wars & dictators, disease via sex, genocides & Holocausts), but we all would rather they not have been!
....tangent thought here.

hot pink flush said...

reading all links then coming back to *hopefully* say something intelligent
(monday mornings, groan)

Louisa said...

You have mentioned some good points, and interesting perspectives to consider there...but I have to say that if "they" did start regulating it fiercely I would be more tempted to bow out than under the potential threat of harrasment.

Good post - even though I don't agree with everything :-)

hot pink flush said...

Just read Vince and Nic's posts.
Together with yours, Champs, its painting a fairly frightening picture for me.
Excellent post.
Interestingly, currently having a debate with the BF and his colleagues on the Kathy S. situation.
They seem to have the POV that flame wars are a long tradition on the interweb...
i'm beginning to feel like i did when i posted links to your "angry post"...like many of the guys who i respect, just don't get it.

BF is of the opinion that one must publicly shame the writers of such comments (one's like the sexist ones on KS's site) - somethign that i feel is anti-how we women are programmed to react (for better, i believe - ie. we "turn the otehr cheek", a philosophy i buy into)

Perhaps by allowing the world access to that commentors email? See how it feels then.

I dont know.

maurice said...

Dave is a fine south african althouhg perhaps he has a extremley small penis.

Champagne Heathen said...

Louisa - you have to ask who "they" is. It is you as well, if you consider yourself an integral part of blogging. Which means you get your say to how it is regulated. It is already regulated to an extent, through your blog-site provider.

HPF - "like many of the guys who i respect, just don't get it"... yeah, I am also feeling this way. That people turn a blind eye to this woman being degraded. That we are "overreacting". That it is now over & we must move on, even if he refuses to acknowledge that he hurt her. Till he or some other guy does it again. Then there will be small hype, and no decent follow up. No wonder men are taught they can get away with intimidating women.

The guy did not like me suggesting he needs to learn how to treat a woman with respect, and maybe that he will learn this when he has a wife or an outspoken young daughter.

I am watching with interest on where this is all leading. If the past is anything to judge by, nowhere really. Just minor awareness for some.

I agree with public defaming, or the ability to email the guy to a ridiculous extent. Or even that legal action can be brought against the person. Defaming on the internet is the same as defaming in other media.

Maurice - I prefer not to think of men's penis's unless I stand a GOOD chance of seeing them in the very near future. So I will leave Mrs. Bullard to be the lone woman who should be picturing it!

I do kinda like the guy as a South African, even if he is a grumpy older man.

maurice said...

maybe he drives a small car and can only test the big ones out and therfore is frustrated and therfore has a small penis.

Anton said...

Maurice, I think I'm starting to get you.

And you may have a valid point:

Something in his life is frustrating him and instead of a well-thought out attack on Bloggers or Blogging, he's gone into battle-rage mode, not really thinking about what he's saying.

Whatever the reason, penis size or his wife has a "headache" every night of the week, it's good so many people are calling him out on his column.

I doubt, unless the SA blogging community organises a boycott (the Sunday Independent is a far superior paper to the Times anyway), he or the Sunday Times will bother apologising.

In fact, he might like the idea of a feud and respond with a scathing attack on his critics next Sunday.

Koekie said...

One way to get attention is to attack the people who you know will be reading it... Bullard would never have drawn so much response if he had insulted the barefooted sheep farming community of Tarkastad. I see it as an emotive column designed to give him writing fodder for a few weeks to come.

As to the stories in the Washington Post: I read them with horror. I couldn't help thinking that we are extremely sheltered in the SA blogging community. Are these threats largely directed as women within the IT industry? Unfortunately it does seem to be the case - as you point out - that "if women don't want to get harrassed, molested and raped, then they shouldn't wear short skirts, or walk alone at night, or blog about outspoken views in a male-dominated environment..." WTF?

maurice said...

Maybe is an ex-NGO and therfore very frustrated

Champagne Heathen said...

Anton, I reckon you are right about D.Bullard's reaction to all of this. I am watching it with amazement. What do you think? Did he cross a line with that column?

And YES, if you don't like it, then read decent journalism from the S.Independent!! And remind editors what GOOD journalism is about.

Koeks - Exactly...WTF?!?!?

While watching all of this blogging today I am amazed by such reaction to a short column. And not ONE WORD is said by anyone else on that Washington Post article in the S.Independent. Did they not see it? Or is the silence of half the blogging world not an issue for these guys?!?!?

Typical dodgy Sunday Times to look to cause such outrage ;)

Maurice - I think you might have a point there! It sucks (or rather is that, it doesn't) being a NGO worker sometimes?? Also, why are all these bloggers getting upset about him saying they should get laid. I think EVERYONE should get laid. As often as possible. IN A SAFE WAY PLEASE!!!! Hell, I know that I should!

ChewTheCud said...

I would say that debate like this is necessary considering what some guys are capable of. It seems that there are always going to be a handful out there spoiling it all for the rest of us for the sakes of their own disgusting entertainment.

Jam said...

Fascinating. Although I don't think that this kind of attack is limited to female bloggers alone. It does seem that often when people express opinions others do not agree with, there are sometimes one or two people who feel the need to flame. I had this with my Doppio Zero post. I think it has a great deal to do with etiquette and common decency.

maurice said...

Mr david should put his cigar in where it will give him pleaseure. maybe he will forget about having a small penis and not always having a big car to drive around in. Me on the other hand i have a big truck with dif-lock.

Phlippy said...

Nice post Champers ;-)

maurice said...

what champagne are you a hethean on?

perhaps mr dave would reccommend a brand?

maybe 5ht avenue cold duck, which i have on good authority he drinks nightly. because that is all he can affrord with salary from the newspaper.

DaveRich said...

Wooah! This is a great post Champs. Well done!
I just read Bullards column and he doesn't present such a well thought out argument as yours. It just doesn't make sense. He likens bloggers to air guitar players. Well dammit I used to play air guitar for Guns n Roses and dammit it was fun. Thats why I blog , cause its fun.
I do not claim to write as well as him or as well as 90% of bloggers out there.
But writing is something I want to learn to do and blogging is helping me with that.

Dr Marcus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr Marcus said...

Well yes,it would appear to you as if criticising a woman's writing, even her appearance, is tantamount to rape and abuse. To posting pictures of a woman with a noose around or neck, or writing death threats. That's perfectly logical.

I have read, and re-read my posts criticising Peas writing. If you "struck a nerve", it wasn't your misdiagnosis of my psyche, but rather that a woman who expresses herself so elegantly may have read something that I missed. However, there is nothing in there remotely resembling the type of abuse you discuss above.

I put to you that have a problem with men. Perhaps not in general, but enough of a problem to leap blindly into the breach wherever you perceive mysoginistic behaviour. This based in part on that lovely post you put up some time ago - I'm sure you know which one. I'm sorry those things happened to you. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, and certainly wouldn't emulate those actions.

I notice that you had no particular comments on my rebuttals to Paul Jacobson's post about me, which was far more aggresive (my response, that is) than anything directed at Peas on Toast.

I wonder, Champers, how you would have reacted if Peas were male? IF you would have reacted? I highly doubt it. Also, the woman who writes that blog comes across as the type of person who wouldn't give a shit WHAT I said. Indeed, my "abuse" has not slowed her down in the slightest. More power to her - it's my opinion and shouldn't affect her any more than your opinion affects me. What I mean to say is - not at all.

I'm sorry for anything you've been through. I truly am. Incidentally, since you mentioned Don Quixote - you will of course be aware that the novel brought an adjective into the English language: Quixotic. Dictionary meaning: Possessing or acting with the desire to do noble and romantic deeds, without thought of realism and practicality; Impulsive; romantic to extravagance; absurdly chivalric; apt to be deluded.

Good day to you, madam.

Champagne Heathen said...

Chews - yes there will be, but you don't have to accept it. You do have to accept that if you are going to fight it, it might be one exhausting losing battle.

Jam - no, I seriously doubt that it is isolated to female bloggers. Although the article does say that research shows women to receive the majority of "flaming".

Phlippy - thanks!

Maurice - What is dif lock?? As for 5th Ave Cold Duck....bleaugh!! Thanks, but if that is what he is serving up, I'll be forced to turn down drinks at his place!

DaveRich - same reason that I blog...to improve my skill of writing. As for you blogging - it excels at making me incredibly jealous and getting that travel bug to itch uncontrolably.

Champagne Heathen said...

Dr. Marcus - thanks for the visit and the comment. A comment I enjoyed actually, as it argues on a level I do see as respectful. And thank you for the various compliments throughout.

I am aware of where several of your assumptions about me come from, some were once true, some I have debated with myself over time but settled that they do not hold true in my case. One does need to be careful though, to not see female empowering as being the same as male bashing. (Another situation that raises the question of “Where is THAT line”).

I did not respond to your comments on Paul Jacobson as he & you were engaged in a dialogue about what you wrote about Peas. He wrote about you, and you responded. What my comments were directed towards was your seemingly baseless attack on Peas.

You chose to click onto that girl's site regularly enough, to become incensed by her writing that was in no way (so it seems) directed at you personally, and then attack her on your site. And not only attacking her writing and choice of style and subject, but also attacking her personality. Why write vicious posts towards a woman who has in no way seemingly directed anything against you?

She also has vicious criticisms leveled against her almost weekly it seems. From posts about her, comments left on her site, or “real world” degrading conversations. Some of us who do respect her, her strength to post on topics that help us feel we have “an ally” in our thoughts, emotions, and experiences, and who respect her for what she has done for us in terms of breaking “blogging ground”, will ensure we live up to this respect & reacte to all forms of “abuse” against her. However minor or major. This is perhaps what people perceive & mock as her “groupies”. If we tolerate degradation towards her, not only might we lose this woman’s voice, but we too could easily be victims of such actions one day.

What your posts have caused are people to question where “that line” of acceptable criticism is? What indicates when a person has crossed it? And how do we, the majority of blog participants, who enjoy this medium and its freedom, ensure that a few people who do not "get" the blog atmosphere are not willing & able to cross that line regularly.

Just because the woman is outspoken & puts up hard posts, displaying a strong character, does not mean she is not affected by personal attacks on her. And yes, this does bring up one example I & others have been faced with. The stronger the woman is, it seems, the more certain men will do their best to break her. They will push and push until they expose the soft (weaker) target they believe all women to be. It is twisted, and it is very real in our society. This is their way of taking back power over a woman.

I cannot speak about men, I speak out of a woman's experience. And I have been able to have conversations on such topics with women far easier than with men, perhaps for the very reason that men are still coming to terms with admitting such incidents affect them. We know male rape happens, but for a man to own up to it seems to be defying his masculinity. To less of an extreme example, we know men are bullied even many years after school, but they are taught to “get over it”, to “not take it too seriously”. I know of two recent incidences where men received childish YET hurtful comments questioning their sexuality & implying they are weaker in character. It is through raising my topics that I have finally been hearing a few men talk about how they identify with what I have to say. So I am learning the men’s side of this.

HOWEVER, I still do believe that this society views women as the softer target, and a select group of (not immediately identifiable) men prey on this, through various means. Yes, I am wary to such incidences.

You ask if I would have reacted as I did if Peas were male. I have already asked myself this – with no conclusive answer as yet. But, what can be argued back to this question is “Would such a personal ridicule ever be directed senselessly against a man?” Your rebuttal to Paul Jacobson was only done once he posted about you.

I am sensitive to the fact that the incidences that have happened in my life have perhaps skewed (to whatever extent) my view on male/female relations, to sex, to criticisms of women. This sensitivity does make me try to not let a possible skewed viewpoint influence my readings of such posts and my rebuttals. Not easy BUT possible – possibly. I realize what you are putting forward, why I have “a problem” with your posts that you believe are light-hearted, paradoxical critiques. I think we are at a stalemate of who is “correct” here. Time, life lessons, and rereading the posts when we both have been removed from the situation for awhile might shed light on this. Perhaps I have “leaped blindly into the breach” and if I should one day realize this, then I will apologise. And perhaps you have been too harsh on a woman and you did cross the line with her. I do hope that one day we will know.

As for Quixotic – yes, that is what I mean. I have been told time and again that I cannot change men’s perceptions of women. My whole life I have had such mantras repeated into my head. I have been told that your sex is the way it is because of biology. I do not believe this, and in fact, each day I believe more in my fight to empower women. One element of empowering women means to change men’s perceptions of us, our abilities, our worth, that our “weaknesses” are not weaknesses but rather inherent elements that should be respected & treated accordingly.

Thank you for your sorrow at some of my past experiences. Always appreciated.

maurice said...

some people obviousley have to much time on their hands.

hot pink flush said...

No-one could have put it better, Champs, than you in that last comment.
Suffice it to say, I feel and think similarly.
I got your back, sister

Lost-in-Jozi said...

Well thought out and logical discussion. Congrats on waking some people up

Peas on Toast said...

Champs I always respect you for your sound and logical discussion. There's no anger pointed at the people concerned, only sound reason. And for that, utmost respect.
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