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June 8, 2009 7:31 PM   Subscribe

The direction of the teen modeling post went really Meta and callout-y really fast ... do we have informal standards to apply here?

(While trying not to call out anyone in particular, because I think all sides are at least partially to blame). I'm dismayed by how fast the thread became not about the article (nor even about whether its concerns were legitimate) but about whether various commenters in the thread were sexist or said sexist things. If chunkling_express was a new member, I think a thread breaking down like this would be really discouraging to his posting again. I think if a new visitor saw the thread, they would get a bad impression of Metafilter as a snarky, angry place. I'm not saying "flag it and move on", but I think I'm saying "flag it and steer the conversation back to the FPP." Am I way off base here?
posted by l33tpolicywonk to Etiquette/Policy at 7:31 PM (144 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Eh, it's not that bad. I think the prevalence of straw men even indicates that people are trying to not be too offensive towards each other.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:33 PM on June 8, 2009


Oh hey I may have actually started this one!

I thought the thread was winding down at this point, but my initial assertion was that casual "it's ironic because you know I don't mean it and I'm using ALLCAPS" sexism is still pretty tiresome, and accusing other people of basically being closet rapists because they don't share your ideas about just how terrible what's happening to teen models is, is sort of a stupid fight to pick.

In short, the point that I was happy to drop after a few comments in that thread but that I'm happy to restate here is that using over the top irony -- it's okay to rape chicks who are hot, if I recall correctly -- to express disgust with someone else's sincere though possibly lame and poorly thought out belief turns a discussion about ideas into a fuck-you-no-fuck-you brawl.

I know this sort of thing, and many sorts of things, make people unhappy and angry on MetaFilter, I just wish that talking about difficult topics didn't bring out the fists-a-swinging talk the way it seems to. I've been trying to drop notes in threads when I see it but, surprise surprise, that just gets people all pissed off.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:38 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for popping in, jessamyn. I don't really think you started it (and I can't really tell), and its not that your concerns aren't totally valid, I just felt like somewhere along the way the air got sucked out of the room for the kinds of comments that make MeFi unique on issues like this (personal experiences, supplemental links, the kinds of stuff that gets sidebar-ed, etc).
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 7:43 PM on June 8, 2009


I know you are, but what am I?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:43 PM on June 8, 2009


That post started tanking pretty quick when people started saying who gives a fuck about your opinion. There was a discussion to be had there, but when people turn on the OUTRAGE! it's game over.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:53 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


There has been a real air of meanness and negativity blowing lately. I don't know if I'd rather think that it's been this way all along and that I'm just noticing it more lately, but whatever it is has definitely started to give me pause about linking to the blue in other places, because I don't want people to get the wrong idea about a community that they know I'm pretty invested in.

If I'm perceived as contributing to said negativity, I really regret that and want people to know that I'm always working on it. I'd like to think I'm a better mefite than I was several years ago. Especially when I read comments by people like Joe Beese, whom I have nothing personal against. Between him and a bunch of other users I'd rather not name, the race to the bottom has gotten to be a real Olympics-caliber game that I dread in advance when I read the front page. If you have to shit in the thread, I guess we can't really stop you, but it would be somewhat kind of you to not sit in it and smear it around with your fingers while everyone else tries to have a conversation and actually learn something.
posted by hermitosis at 7:54 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


I thought jessamyn said we were going to have a fuck-you-no-fuck-you brawl? Hello? Where is everybody?... Damn

*takes ball, goes home*

posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:54 PM on June 8, 2009


Great, now I get to get beat up in two threads.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:55 PM on June 8, 2009


Life is so rough.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 7:59 PM on June 8, 2009


There has been a real air of meanness and negativity blowing lately. I don't know if I'd rather think that it's been this way all along and that I'm just noticing it more lately, ...

This could be a random correlation, but it seems to me that while public discourse used to be conducted in a somewhat gentlemanly fashion, in recent years it's become more vitriolic, where diametrically opposed sides would rather provide a beat-down to those who disagree, rather than using discourse to find common ground. It's not always about finding truth anymore, but it's about winning and looking good in the take-down. It doesn't surprise me when this bleeds over to other places, as well. Metafilter simply starts to reflect the way that ideological positions interact on a larger scale. I'd like to think that we could rise above it, but part of me thinks we've entered a social slide that is hard to redeem.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:11 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


In the next thread down they're talking about how much more civil the site is now than it used to be.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:13 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


That thread, paired with the hipster thread, is a prime example of one of the wider stripes of unpleasantness found here: namely that a large portion of people on MetaFilter are besotted with envy. I don't know if the people who make these sad comments realize how much of themselves are exposed when they reveal that they think the way they do.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:17 PM on June 8, 2009 [9 favorites]


besotted with envy.

I'm pretty sure no one in that modeling thread was envious of not getting sexually assaulted by a photographer.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:19 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh, here we go...
posted by P.o.B. at 8:20 PM on June 8, 2009


Eh, I don't know. I think even the people who were saying "So what?" were coming from a place where they're aware there are children being sexually exploited in much worse conditions in the world. I think that argument's a bit misguided, as it's a way of saying sympathy is somehow alloted only to the Highest Bidder or something, but at least there were also plenty of voices sticking up for these young girls, pointing out their circumstances, the bad behavior of the adults in their care. In other words, a pretty well-rounded discussion albeit with some bumps along the way.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:27 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not just envy, though, I think. It's the Competitve Suffering and Outrage Olympics that are so tempting to cheer on. Where only the absolute lowest of the low are deserving of our sympathy, as if pain were inherently noble, and the downtrodden were morally superior. Which puts us into a bit of a moral quandry, though, if you think of it, because if we were ever to actually do something to help the most horribly suffering, then they'd suddenly have a leg up on the second most horribly suffering, and would no longer qualify for empathy.

Like that other famous game - that I just lost - the only way to win is not to play. Putting qualifiers on our compassion doesn't just shut the world out of our hearts. It locks us into ours.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:27 PM on June 8, 2009 [20 favorites]


hermitosis: "Especially when I read comments by people like Joe Beese, whom I have nothing personal against. Between him and a bunch of other users I'd rather not name, the race to the bottom has gotten to be a real Olympics-caliber game that I dread in advance when I read the front page."

I don't have anything personal against you either. But in fairness, it was you who decided to go the "you jeering nerds" route. [Bait I regret having risen to.] In my opinion, that kind of ad hominem insult lowers the tone of the site more than my callousness, as you see it, ever could.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:28 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


Once again, MetaFilter's champion moralizers clash in an epic battle over who the real victims are. Oddly, it doesn't go well.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 8:31 PM on June 8, 2009 [12 favorites]


do we have informal standards to apply here?
posted by l33tpolicywonk


Eponysterical?
posted by educatedslacker at 8:32 PM on June 8, 2009


I came here for the snuggle puppies and all I got was the Outrage Olympics.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:34 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Champion moralizers"? What happened to Thought Police?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:34 PM on June 8, 2009


do we have informal standards to apply here?

I only recognize business casual standards like "Beer o' clock."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:37 PM on June 8, 2009


You never leave a minor girl alone with a man period.

Heh, man period. Bloody cumstains we are.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:39 PM on June 8, 2009


Well, hey -- as a relatively new user, it's actually heartening to me to see the OUTRAGE! sometimes. Reading that thread, I had begun to wonder whether I was the only person who thinks it's wrong to skimp on the sympathy for underage victims of sexual assault, or to tell women they should get another job if they don't like the sexual harassment in their current one.

For some of us, it's a good thing, not a bad thing, to see "WTF?" from other users in response to comments that make us go "WTF?"

I especially appreciated nasreddin's first comment in that thread, which was definitely of the WTF variety.
posted by palliser at 8:40 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


For some reason, the phrase Outrage Olympics makes me think of an elderly lady in a pink bathrobe and curlers in her hair throwing a frying pan at someone as if it were a discus. All because they were in her yard.
posted by educatedslacker at 8:43 PM on June 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think it's hard to discuss such charged topics without the discussion becoming personal fast.

In that thread we had posters who may have experienced some of the behavior discussed in the post, and others who seemed to feel that the post was inaccurate and possibly a smear on their profession (and perhaps, by extension, themselves).
posted by zippy at 8:44 PM on June 8, 2009


There are some really amazing personal stories and professional observations in the modelling thread, many of which oppose each other and could lead to a great discussion. Too bad they're all but buried in the rest of the dreck. THOSE contributions are why I (and a lot of others, I imagine) read MetaFilter -- it's a way of finding out way more about what's going on than you'd ever be able to on your own. Those sorts of contributions are really hard to hear over people whose contribution process boils down to:

1. Show up in the first five minutes after a thread is posted.

2. Take a deliberately provocative position on a complex issue in which you have no real stake.

2. Harp on it until everyone is paying attention to you.


But in fairness, it was you who decided to go the "you jeering nerds" route.

I didn't say anything at all until the thread was well over a hundred comments and derailed beyond any hope of repair. And I don't think it lowers the tone of the site to remind people that our personal baggage (stemming from being intelligent and creative people in a society that usually only pretends to value those qualities) often imposes limitations on our reason, our imagination, and our empathy. It sort of validates my point that you got hung up on the "jeering nerds" part of it and didn't really seem to consider what I wrote in the last paragraph.
posted by hermitosis at 8:45 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Having read only a few comments in that thread (enough), I was pleased to come away with the delightful phrase "less horrific". It's a keeper.
posted by carsonb at 8:47 PM on June 8, 2009


educatedslacker: "do we have informal standards to apply here?
posted by l33tpolicywonk


Eponysterical?
"

Is it wrong that I feel honored to finally have this in-joke applied to me? On my first Metatalk post no less ... now I'm really part of the family.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:54 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you knew my family, you wouldn't brag.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:55 PM on June 8, 2009


zippy: "I think it's hard to discuss such charged topics without the discussion becoming personal fast."

Fair. At the same time, we're a relatively educated bunch who should be able to handle conflict in a timely and mature manner, no? Without throwing down a crazy number of banflags, can at least some of us agree to keep the really personal stuff on the gray?
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:59 PM on June 8, 2009


I'm fine OUTRAGE!, but not when it's served up as overcompensation for the huge differential between what's presented in an article/post and what's boiling up in the thread. I can't help but see that somehow the outrage is accountable for the mixed translation that appears. But when the anger seemingly seethes at epidemic levels, it's an almost impossibility to go about correcting inaccuracies of the contextualization without coming off as "hey guys, I'm for sexual assault". It's a losing battle at best, and at worst you become demonized. So with all that in mind it's easier just to watch the train wreck.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:03 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


educated bunch who should be able to handle conflict in a timely and mature manner, no?

I think this has more to do with wisdom than education.

[Roy Batty voice] I've seen university infighting like you wouldn't believe.
posted by zippy at 9:08 PM on June 8, 2009


It sort of validates my point that you got hung up on the "jeering nerds" part of it and didn't really seem to consider what I wrote in the last paragraph.

You sound surprised people stopped reading your comment after this:

"You jeering nerds with your scars left over from middle-school who can't wait for bad things to happen to people who are prettier or luckier than you are."
posted by smackfu at 9:10 PM on June 8, 2009


I mean, that's quite a load to dump in a thread.
posted by smackfu at 9:10 PM on June 8, 2009


But when the anger seemingly seethes at epidemic levels, it's an almost impossibility to go about correcting inaccuracies of the contextualization without coming off as "hey guys, I'm for sexual assault".

Yes, I see that; I think one subtlety that was waved aside in all the OUTRAGE! was whether modeling was inherently conducive to harassment. At one point, the documentary-maker noted that when you're a model, people are always touching you, your collar, your breasts -- to adjust the clothes, I'd imagine. That probably shouldn't be happening in other professional settings. Makes it harder to draw lines.

But hey, guys, I'm not for sexual assault.
posted by palliser at 9:11 PM on June 8, 2009


I mean, that's quite a load to dump in a thread.

In the next sentence, I included myself in the group of people who have these same thoughts.
posted by hermitosis at 9:13 PM on June 8, 2009


I don't think that works very well as a debating style, unfortunately. People don't really care that you're insulting yourself... they only care that you're insulting them.
posted by smackfu at 9:17 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eh, I don't know. I think even the people who were saying "So what?" were coming from a place where they're aware there are children being sexually exploited in much worse conditions in the world.
Do you think so? Would there have been a similar reaction if this had been about, say, taunting and not-terribly-injurious physical abuse of middle-class American boys who were bad at sports? Because in the grand global scheme of violence and abuse, being called a faggot for being bad at sports isn't a huge outrage. There are a lot of kids in the world who would kill to be those bullied American boys, who take for granted that they will have three meals a day and a bed to sleep in and won't be forced to become a child soldier or harvest cocoa beans for fourteen hours a day. But I certainly still have sympathy for middle-class American boys who are bullied, and I suspect most people on metafilter would. I think that people here tend to be a little selective about their selective outrage. But maybe I'm just imagining it.
posted by craichead at 9:20 PM on June 8, 2009 [15 favorites]


I totally agree with you on that point paliser. That was one of the specifics I remember from the article and I thought it was interesting that somehow that was automatically translated as assault in the thread. It could definitely be assault, but it was implicit that it wasn't and was meant as context for the young woman's story for her assault.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:31 PM on June 8, 2009


Do you think so?

Do I personally think so? No, not at all. As you see, I do sympathize with the models in question, and encouraged one other user in particular to re-think his position about them. What I am trying to do is read the comments of others more generously, by pointing out that at least they were coming from a place of sympathy for the less fortunate. This does not change the fact that they're being stingy with that sympathy; that it's reserved solely for the lowest of the low, and that this is a misguided way of handling compassion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:34 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


I guess I should apologize, since I was the one who took the thread in the OUTRAGE! direction in the first place. I don't think it was a very helpful comment, but I do wish fewer MeFites would use poverty as their criterion for moral worth.
posted by nasreddin at 9:44 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


palliser: "But hey, guys, I'm not for sexual assault."

That's what made this brouhaha so silly. To the best of my recollection, not a single person in that thread was making any justifications for lechers preying on underage girls. Just the opposite: there appeared to be universal agreement that they should be reported and prosecuted.

Where the fighting started was "just how terrible" - as jessamyn nicely put it - we should feel about it. No one likes it when something they care about is shown what they believe to be insufficient respect from others. In my recent, doomed post about the Andes survivors, I was appalled to see the tragedy met with "HURF DURF CANNIBALISM" jokes. But I knew better than to try berating the jokers into feeling the same sadness I did.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:48 PM on June 8, 2009


Actually, I shouldn't have said "moral worth"--more like "suffering deserving of sympathy." At any rate, the point is that it's laughably presumptuous and reductive to assume that you can quantify the amount of sympathy someone is entitled to by looking at their socioeconomic (or geopolitical) status. That anyone could think themselves into such a corner is just mind-boggling to me.
posted by nasreddin at 9:56 PM on June 8, 2009 [3 favorites]


No one likes it when something they care about is shown what they believe to be insufficient respect from others.

"Is it OK with you if I feel sorrier for the sexually abused minors who don't collect a paycheck afterwards?"

Maybe you felt that the earth had already been scorched by then and were just trying to yank my chain rather than really argue a point, but if you felt that way about your Andes thread then why do still you try and score nasty points like this? In a thread where people who have actually been abused have shared their stories, no less?

You don't have a link to a blog or anything posted, Joe, and I think that's a real shame because a lot of mefites like your comments and would probably read it -- hell, I probably would. The stats seem to indicate that you have a lot of steam to blow off.

As a frequent poster you have all kinds of power over how threads go, and that includes realizing when your presence in a conversation is hurting people or running things off a cliff. I'm not asking you to dry up and blow away, I just wish you'd be a little more judicious in the opinions you share and the way you share them.
posted by hermitosis at 9:59 PM on June 8, 2009 [8 favorites]


Jessamyn, I find it sad and funny that you accuse me of casual sexism for calling out sexist, horrible comments in a mean-spirited way, while the person saying he has no sympathy for sexually assaulted girls is just someone with whom you "disagree." Your personal antipathy for me has clouded your judgment in both that thead and this one.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:22 PM on June 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


As a veteran of way too many real (and other) world situations where relevant discussion turned suddenly nasty-personal-hurtful-outrageous at virtually lightning speed ... it seems to me that two profoundly obvious points are worth making:

1. it's really fucking easy to hurt someone's feelings without intending to and without realizing it.

2. it's really fucking easy to have our feelings hurt by somebody who didn't mean to, and isn't aware they even did it.

In other words, shit can happen in a dynamic situation. If we were all saints, we'd never cause another hurt via unintended slight. Likewise, if we were at the receiving end of such a slight, we'd assume it was not intentionally mean and/or hurtful, and not fire back with all guns-ablazing.

But we're not saints, are we? Just humans (and occasional aliens), stumbling along.

I'm sorry, by the way. I'm not sure what for. But I'm still very, very sorry.
posted by philip-random at 10:27 PM on June 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


That's like the third time you've misrepresented my position, Optimus Chyme. Way to go, good on you. I never said I couldn't care, just that I have a hard time caring. At no point did I endorse the despicable behavior, nor call for it, nor try to mask what was done.

> "What I wrote seems hyperbolic, but it's no different than what [...] cjorgenssen wrote."

If you actually think this you are willfully misreading me.

I feel much worse for people when things happen to them that was totally out of their control. I feel bad for the person killed by a drunk driver, but not the drunk that kills only himself while driving. I feel bad for a mugging victim, but a little less bad when you read the person was walking alone, at night, in a bad part of town. I feel bad for the woman that gets cervical cancer from HPV, but a lot less for the smoker that gets lung cancer. I could go on all day here.

When given a choice I am always going to feel worse for the person without a choice in the matter. It's my sympathy. I get to dole it out how I see fit.

And that was my complaint with the article. If you're going to ask me to care you need to humanize them more than was done here. Show me how they don't have any power or choices. People in the thread did a better job than Louise France. Hell, I got to the end and I didn't even believe it. I walked away feeling like the article has about as much credibility as James Frey's "A Million Little Pieces."

Or what P.o.B. wrote up thread
posted by cjorgensen at 11:52 PM on June 8, 2009


It's not just envy, though, I think. It's the Competitve Suffering and Outrage Olympics that are so tempting to cheer on. Where only the absolute lowest of the low are deserving of our sympathy, as if pain were inherently noble, and the downtrodden were morally superior. Which puts us into a bit of a moral quandry, though, if you think of it, because if we were ever to actually do something to help the most horribly suffering, then they'd suddenly have a leg up on the second most horribly suffering, and would no longer qualify for empathy.

Right, but they would also be less worse off. Which would you rather have, the sympathy of foreigners on a website you can't read, or enough food to eat and your leg not blown off by a land mine?
posted by delmoi at 11:52 PM on June 8, 2009


cjorgensen, it seems like you are saying the following:

You feel bad for an underaged victim of sexual assault, but a little less because the person is a model and chose that career for herself.

Is that correct?
posted by slimepuppy at 1:36 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


No doubt, people in, say, Sudan, who are on the run from government sponsored thugs, and who have witnessed their siblings being killed, are much worse off than this.

Does that mean I should not care about a pretty, white girl being exploited? Because my energy would be better spent stopping the genocide in Sudan?

There is very little I can do to stop the genocide, except - perhaps - vote for politicians who are willing to work in international fora to put pressure on the Sudanese government, and perhaps send in peace-keepers. Sudanese leaders aren't gonna care even slightly what I and other random internauts write on the internet.

On the other hand, photographers living in our own communities are going to care about what people on the internet write. Not that I have any statistics at hand, but I'm guessing that these guys google themselves several times per hour. And they are fantastically vain. And they are largely freelancers. Their reputation matters. If the first google hits lead to threads about how utterly creepy they are, it's gonna be a problem for them.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:21 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some of these marathon threads have this quality wherein all participants are judged successes or failures by only the amount and direction of their theoretical disgust and anger at the various facets of whatever exploitations are presented. It's as if an assembly line passes before us, with little electrodes stuck to our scalps and intermittent flashes of red light trying to determine to what extent our pupils are dilated. Notes are taken: "Subject 40221 is not showing enough outrage on Slide #5, and not the right kind on #31." Just another calibration of the Two Minutes Hate machine.

I think the part I find most curious is that we've all been trained to sit down, stick on the 'trodes, and pick up our clipboards quite so readily. We are the personnel on that assembly line, and, admittedly uncharitable as I am, I have to ask, "Whom does this benefit, this little behavior, that we must turn to savaging one another for not wailing and gnashing our teeth in some exact prescribed manner?" It's certainly not the people in the slides before us, victimhood to a degree undetermined and indeed unmeasurable, so again I ask, who wants us to do this, and why?
posted by adipocere at 3:52 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Especially when I read comments by people like Joe Beese, whom I have nothing personal against. Between him and a bunch of other users I'd rather not name...
posted by hermitosis at 10:54 PM


The only person you don't mind naming is someone you have nothing personal against?
posted by gman at 3:59 AM on June 9, 2009


If chunkling_express was a new member...

You managed to bastardize his already bastardized username.
posted by gman at 4:13 AM on June 9, 2009


hermitosis: "Maybe you felt that the earth had already been scorched by then and were just trying to yank my chain rather than really argue a point, but if you felt that way about your Andes thread then why do still you try and score nasty points like this? In a thread where people who have actually been abused have shared their stories, no less?"

I regretted that post about two seconds after I made it. Blood in the water, etc.

There are some threads that I really ought to avoid. That was one of them.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:41 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I regretted that post about two seconds after I made it.

I'm really glad you said that. Because I read your comment in the thread and it seemed like you were saying that these women and girls are basically whores. Intellectually, I knew you didn't really mean it, but it still made it hard for me to breathe for a second or two.
posted by Ritchie at 6:10 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


receive the great cosmic kertwang.

Jeering nerds give me the screaming fantods.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:39 AM on June 9, 2009


What a train wreck that thread became. Sometimes it's good to be on jury duty on not be able to read everything on the blue.
posted by rtha at 7:09 AM on June 9, 2009


Nobody is being savaged for failing to wail and gnash their teeth, adipocere. I'm annoyed at some people for feeling the need to announce their failure to wail and gnash their teeth and for further elaborating that they fail to care because the girls in question had it coming or aren't worthy of sympathy.

And you know, this is pretty familiar behavior. It happens to any woman who is sexually assaulted by someone she knows. This time she had it coming because she chose to be a model and isn't worthy of sympathy because she earned a lot of money, but there's always something. She shouldn't have worn that short skirt, and she isn't worthy of sympathy because she's a slut. She shouldn't have gone on vacation alone, and she isn't worthy of sympathy because she's an outsider who isn't from around here. She shouldn't have let her boyfriend come to her room if she wasn't going to sleep with him, and she isn't worthy of sympathy because what kind of awful person is willing to ruin her boyfriend's life by charging him with rape and getting him sent to prison? She shouldn't have done something and she isn't worthy of sympathy for some reason, always, every single time. So don't pretend for an instance that this is about pretty models and their privilege. This is about whether you think women, or in this case girls, have it coming.
posted by craichead at 7:24 AM on June 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


cjorgenson, you keep clarifying your point, but all people hear is you blaming victims for participating in their own assault. And the reason that outrages people is because you seem to deliver this opinion as a complete generalization that eclipses all of the very real, human, understandable factors that cause young women to find themselves in that position (which happens to be what Ziff's documentary is about. At least, I think...). No one is, as adipocere suggests, determined that you display the correct amount of hand-wringing. They're just amazed that you would make (and repeat) such thoughtless victim-blaming statements. No one is twisting your arm to comment, just like no one is twisting your arm to care.

Loot at comments like Kat Allison's if you want to see what these young nubile "accomplices" are really like inside. Being 14 and pretty is like having your veins pumped with liquid optimism. Until an actual devastating event happens to you, you don't really believe it can. Hell, that's teenagers in general. Afterward you feel stupid and you blame yourself for not having seen it coming, or for having caused it in some way, which is why sexual abuse is drastically underreported. Abusers grow more confident when they suffer no ill effects for their crimes, and victimize more people.

I know that you know all this and don't really care. I don't care about that. However, your persistent and loud indifference seems so strong in this case that it was worse than not caring. There is a whole lot of MetaFilter for you to go romp around in at any given moment, but you chose to hover over a thread that other people might have gotten a lot out of, and then act like you were being martyred when people misinterpreted your questionable perspective. From your first comment here, it seems you've accepted this as your lot in life rather than a sign that you could spend your time on the site a little more constructively.
posted by hermitosis at 7:27 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Woo, somehow the strawman army from the other thread made it over to this one.
posted by electroboy at 7:27 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hang on, hermitosis -- that's not how I read craichead's comment at all. I thought s/he was pointing to all the horrible examples of how society inevitably figures out a way to blame the victim of a sexual assault, e.g. she was dressed slutty, she was asking for it, she should've known better, she shouldn't have put herself in that position, she had it coming, etc.

I didn't think s/he was actually advocating some version of "you can't rape a prostitute" or whatever. Or maybe I interpreted it wrong, I don't know.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:35 AM on June 9, 2009


Yeah, the thread turned out way different then I thought it would. I do realize people here like to show off just how much they don't care about stuff, but child abuse is child abuse, and usually even cynical-internet-lamers do care about stuff like that. I'm glad there were people more thoughtful posting in the thread. I think I've favourited more comments in that thread than I have in any other. I don't think the thread is a total loss.

You managed to bastardize his already bastardized username.

It's go time!
posted by chunking express at 7:39 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is an episode of Degrasi Jr. High where Steph goes off on a 'date' with a soap opera star all the girls have a crush on. Erica or Heather tries to point out that it's probably a stupid idea to go on a date with a creepy old dude, but she's all, "I'm 14 i'm not a kid." And then she almost gets raped, because Steph is an idiot.

Degrasi is the best show ever.
posted by chunking express at 7:41 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think that comment was aimed at cjorgenson, not me, shiu mai baby!

FWIW, I do care and I do think that the sexual exploitation of child models is a problem worthy of concern. Having said that, there's a lot of prurient interest in this kind of thing, and for that reason this documentary makes me a little nervous. It's good that it was made by someone who has actually been a teenage model, but I still wonder if people's interest in it has to do with tabloid culture or with wanting to pursue meaningful reform of the industry.
posted by craichead at 7:44 AM on June 9, 2009


And wow, do I really need to lay off of the hallucinogens. Thanks for the clarification, craichead, and my sincere apologies for the mis-read, hermitosis.
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2009


Was that the new Degrassi or the old Degrassi?
posted by GuyZero at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2009


That's the new Degrassi. Every episode of Degrassi is "A Very Special Episode."
posted by hermitosis at 8:13 AM on June 9, 2009


Scratch that, I was thinking of Paige in the "new Degrassi" episode Shout:

"When Degrassi beats rival school Bardell at a soccer match, it does not stop the losing team's star player, Dean, from having a party. The evening takes a sinister turn when Dean locks Paige in a room with him and refuses to take no for an answer. Meanwhile, J.T. and Toby struggle to maintain their friendship when they cannot keep their shared locker clean."
posted by hermitosis at 8:18 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Nobody is being savaged for failing to wail and gnash their teeth, adipocere. I'm annoyed at some people for feeling the need to announce their failure to wail and gnash their teeth and for further elaborating that they fail to care because the girls in question had it coming or aren't worthy of sympathy."

I see. So, it's okay to care differently or not as much, just as long as it is not done within earshot. Gotcha.

I think you're missing my point. We're all "supposed to" do the same thing, to the same direction and degree. It's gotten to the point wherein those who do not do so feel compelled to of course explain why. That's the elaboration of which you speak.

And it does not matter which issue it is, the exact same behavior appears in one thread after another: synchronized hand-wringing to the extent that, were it audible, it might well sound like the beginnings of that camp counselor/rainstorm bit.

It's like that joke, Q: What's the difference between humans and sheep? A: You can't train sheep to bite one another for trying to wander off on their own.

I wasn't making the Two Minutes Hate comparison casually, either. Part of the exercise is to look around and see who isn't screaming loudly enough. Demanding conformity in reflexive outrage is a creepy tactic whether it is used by a fictitious nation, the Right babbling about flaming American flags, or the Left. It's okay if not everyone cares about something in the same manner, and it's also okay if they don't try to hide it, too. It's okay if not everyone is outraged all the time by the parade of articles which go by, and it's okay to announce that you're spent. Hit the deleted threads section on blogspot, "OutrageFilter" posts are regularly deleted. I see things get deleted that I would like people to get mad about, but that's just tough, you know?

MetaFilter does not speak with one voice, nor does it outrage with such. It would be a dull place if it did.
posted by adipocere at 8:19 AM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Part of the exercise is to look around and see who isn't screaming loudly enough.

This is absolutely not true. There's a huge qualitative difference between "this is awful" and "I have no sympathy." No one is looking to separate the people who say "this is bad" from "this is REALLY bad." If you have examples, by all means, post them. The reason that I and many others were horrified was because a half-dozen posters were saying that because these girls were models, they put themselves in that situation and thus deserved blame.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:34 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


You can't train sheep to bite one another for trying to wander off on their own.

That's a pretty distorted view of what's going on in there. There is plenty of room in any thread for questions and arguments. If you don't feel outrage, no one is going to call you out for not expressing it. They will call you out, however, for being deliberately provocative or willfully ignorant. If people would "wander off" a little more literally from threads that they can't participate considerately in, then far fewer people would get bitten.

Oh sorry, did I just blame the victims?
posted by hermitosis at 8:38 AM on June 9, 2009


And the "new new" Degrassi (with most of the "old new" Degrassi characters gone, except for Spinner, who's still hanging in there, god bless 'im.) has an episode similar to this as well:

Uptown Girl: Mia believes that her junior year will begin on a positive note when she is scouted by a top model agency and befriends a new student. But trouble is in paradise when Mia learns the dark side of the modeling world.

I've only seen the episode once, because I can't watch any of the "new new" ones more than that, (and yet I have to watch them at least once) but I believe the "dark side" involves cocaine and a threesome.
posted by SpiffyRob at 8:46 AM on June 9, 2009


> But when the anger seemingly seethes at epidemic levels, it's an almost impossibility to go about correcting inaccuracies of the contextualization without coming off as "hey guys, I'm for sexual assault".

That's not true. "Taking a moment's effort to compose a comment" is not the same thing as "almost impossible." It should be perfectly obvious that the subject is contentious, the thread is contentious, and tossing off an ironic/snappy comment with the idea that "hey, everybody will understand that I actually care about suffering and that I'm being deliberately over-the-top and/or referencing Quentin Tarantino" is a bad idea. It's really not that hard to qualify one's comment appropriately; the problem is that too many macho-intellect types feel that sort of "pandering" is beneath them. Let the losers whine. Then, of course, when people take them to task, they themselves whine.
posted by languagehat at 8:50 AM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's really not that hard to qualify one's comment appropriately;

Yeah, do like these guys did.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:03 AM on June 9, 2009


Was that the new Degrassi or the old Degrassi?

OLD! I'd be explicit about calling "New Degrassi" Degrassi TNG or something like that. The new Degrassi seems alright, except the kids aren't as ugly and the acting is better. I'm not sure I can support that. The episode I was talking about was What a Night. It's strange how Steph was featured so prominently in the first two seasons, and then disappeared from the final season of Degrassi Jr. High, and never appeared in Degrassi High at all.

I LOVE YOU CATLIN!!
posted by chunking express at 9:09 AM on June 9, 2009


My sister's friend's brother dated either Caitlin or Spike for a brief period. 4 DEGREES!
posted by GuyZero at 9:16 AM on June 9, 2009


Yeah, do like these guys did.

That's a good example of the sort of comments provoked by the kind we're talking about, U. If a person is having an emotional reaction to the content of the post itself, then chances are they'll have an emotional reaction to dismissive, trolly comments and wisecracks. Languagehat's comment is an excellent explanation of how to avoid this sort of snowball effect.
posted by hermitosis at 9:17 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


hermitosis, I wouldn't call 4 comments out of 197 "persistent and loud indifference," or "hovering," and I don't feel "martyred." I do feel like people are ascribing statements to me that I did not make.

Like it or not sympathy is going to be affected by proximity. I am going to feel worse if something like this happens to a family member than I am if it happens down the block. I am going to feel worse for the person down the block than I am about it happening in China. Does this make the actual event any less tragic? No. Proximity is also emotional. If you relate to the person it's a lot easier to feel bad. I have a difficult time relating to someone with the resources to get out of a bad situation that does not choose to. Instead, it reads as though these models are living in willful ignorance in order to pursue a dream of fame a fortune, or worse, putting up with this behavior or perpetuating it themselves.

This isn't a gender issue at all. I'm not blaming the victim. I am refusing to absolve the victim of all culpability. Yes, in a perfect world we wouldn't have cancer, assault, random acts of violence and crime. We don't live in that world. We have a responsibility to minimize our exposure to danger. I don't see these people doing this.

At no point did I say they deserve to be exploited, or that the victimizers should go unpunished (or that even the punishment should be less). It's politically correct to pretend that all people matter to us equally and that circumstances never play into bad events.

If this was an exposé on immigrants being promised a better life, then being forced into slavery, with no control over their lives, and no platform on which to seek redress, I'd feel way differently than I do about someone that refuses to leave or even speak up. If it was an article on the exploitation of the mentally disabled, people powerless to defend themselves, then my sympathy gets engaged at a much higher level.

If anything, I am giving these women more credit than many of you. Too many people are pretending these are poor powerless women incapable of defending themselves. Not savvy, intelligent, women with lots of advantages, women that people pay attention to.

Since Ziff is not naming names, the article comes off as hysteria (like the daycare sex abuse scandals of the late 80s or McCarthyism). You even have bradbane calling the validity of the accusations into question.

slimepuppy, "You feel bad for an underaged victim of sexual assault, but a little less because the person is a model and chose that career for herself."

Not at all, and I think you know that. Minors in this equation confuses this issue. If these were all adults choosing to put themselves in this environment, then I would trust them to make their own decisions and to defend themselves. If they choose otherwise, well then, again, I'm going to question the choices made. When it comes to minors I don't understand how a parent could allow a child to enter into this lifestyle (I also don't understand parents who let their kids become child actors), and I sure as hell don't get how a parent abrogates parental duties like protecting their kid.

I think there's a big difference between a societal response and a personal one. From a bigger picture it doesn't matter who these people are, or how they managed to get into the situation they are in when it comes to passing and enforcing laws. People need to be treated equally and criminals need to be prosecuted.

When it comes to personal empathy one does look at these things. You make sure your own kids are fed before you worry about your neighbors'. The impoverished in your town probably mean more to you than the ones in mine. The store clerk that gets shot doing her job gets more sympathy than the man getting shot buying drugs.

People make these distinctions all the time. To pretend otherwise is just that, pretending.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:22 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So was adamms222's comment trolly or a wisecrack? It read as sincere and on-topic to me. And it was shouted down as heresy.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:24 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the following means anything different if I switch the gender.

And you know, this is pretty familiar behavior. It happens to any man who is sexually assaulted by someone he knows. This time he had it coming because he chose to be a model and isn't worthy of sympathy because he earned a lot of money, but there's always something. He shouldn't have worn (those jeans) and he isn't worthy of sympathy because he's a slut. He shouldn't have gone on vacation alone, and he isn't worthy of sympathy because he's an outsider who isn't from around here. He shouldn't have let his boyfriend come to his room if he wasn't going to sleep with him, and he isn't worthy of sympathy because what kind of awful person is willing to ruin his boyfriend's life by charging him with rape and getting him sent to prison? He shouldn't have done something and he isn't worthy of sympathy for some reason, always, every single time. So don't pretend for an instance that this is about pretty models and their privilege. This is about whether you think men, or in this case boys, have it coming.
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on June 9, 2009


If this was an exposé on immigrants being promised a better life, then being forced into slavery, with no control over their lives, and no platform on which to seek redress, I'd feel way differently than I do about someone that refuses to leave or even speak up.

Based on zoomorphic's comment, I think it might be closer to that than you think.
posted by hermitosis at 9:31 AM on June 9, 2009


Too many people are pretending these are poor powerless women incapable of defending themselves. Not savvy, intelligent, women with lots of advantages, women that people pay attention to.

On what planet does anyone pay attention to what teenage girls have to say, particularly about their own boundaries, bodily autonomy, and sexuality? Because I want to move there.

Saying that teenage girl models are disempowered by their profession and by society at large is hardly an insult to them--it's a reflection of social reality.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:41 AM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


So was adamms222's comment trolly or a wisecrack? It read as sincere and on-topic to me. And it was shouted down as heresy.

It definitely started a series of eyerolls, that's for sure, but again "shouted down as heresy" is still really not what's going on here.

Everyone comes at this sort of topic from a different perspective. The thread was pretty interesting because we had photographers, former models, former 14 year old girls, former sex abuse survivors and a lot of other folks discussing what they thought about the topic. In this context, people who show up with a sort of shruggo comment seem like they're less interested in talking to other people and more interested in pushing buttons and/or expressing their own depth of don't-careness. I'm not sure what those people expected to happen, conversation-wise.

The open question seems to be how much you can ascribe personaly responsibility to the young women who get assaulted by their photographers. The documentary seems to put this in a really stark contrast, as if it were saying "is it worth $150K to get sexually assaulted as part of your job? What if you are a minor? What if you are not a minor?" which I don't think is the best way of exploring the topic without getting people into an awkward side-picking standoff. Put another way, I don't really see any thread about the sexual abuse of children going well on MetaFilter because I don't seem people being able to look at the subject dispassionately enough to not have it make them angry and come into threads angry. I'm not saying that's something we should aspire to, either, but that as a site populated by humans I don't see it as totally suprising that this sort of thing keeps happening.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish I would have added in my first comment that the NYMag link to model profiles are really only the tip of the iceberg. The women on that site were deemed important enough to profile because they'd walked in famous shows, and a vast amount are foreign and not in the Italian-foreign way, but really, most of the models are relatively anonymous, numerous, and so invisible that, as people mentioned upthread on the blue, people forget to offer them food.

My favorite anecdote about the globalization of the fashion industry was 15 minutes before a show, when one of the junior assistants was looking for a specific model backstage to try on an enormous horsehair jacket. He had pins in his mouth and he was yelling, "Olga! Anya! Tatiana! Whatever the fuck her name is, I need the Russian girl to try on her jacket."

9 of 12 the girls stood up nervously, wondering who was calling her name.

For another article about the diminishing status of models, from Cindy Crawford to Olga Whatsherface, NYMag ironically, hypocritically published a decent exposé last year.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:02 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't disagree with any of that, jessamyn, except maybe the characterization of adamms222 and cjorgensen's early comments as 'shruggo'. I think it's a valid point that shitty things happen to most people, that the scale of shittiness is pretty wide, and that Ziff doesn't necessarily deserve everybody on the MetaFilter to especially give a fuck about the shittiness in her and friend's life. Why should we? Because she had the resources to make a movie and profit from the outrage?

(Also, thank you for responding to Optimus Chyme's comment. Putting outrageous words into someone's mouth irks the fuck outta me.)
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:07 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


cjorgensen: I'm not blaming the victim. I am refusing to absolve the victim of all culpability.

These two sentences mean the opposite of each other. The first means: I assign no blame to the victim. The second means: I assign blame to the victim.

If anything, I am giving these women more credit than many of you. Too many people are pretending these are poor powerless women incapable of defending themselves. Not savvy, intelligent, women with lots of advantages, women that people pay attention to.

We are talking about women under the age of 20, many as young as 14. I don't know about you but I was not very experienced or smart at 20, and I was a positive imbecile at 14.

Since Ziff is not naming names, the article comes off as hysteria (like the daycare sex abuse scandals of the late 80s or McCarthyism). You even have bradbane calling the validity of the accusations into question.

We're supposed to publicize the names of sexual assault victims if reports of sexual abuse are to have any credibility?

And sexual abuse in the fashion world is a well known phenomenon. Journalist Donal MacIntyre made a documentary where he went undercover in the fashion world and found many examples of chilling abuse.

Minors in this equation confuses this issue.

No they don't, they make the issue crystal clear.

If these were all adults choosing to put themselves in this environment, then I would trust them to make their own decisions and to defend themselves. If they choose otherwise, well then, again, I'm going to question the choices made.

They're not adults.

Furthermore, defending yourself against assault is not easy peasy, especially in a situation of unbalanced power dynamics like models face in the fashion business.

And questioning the choices of assault victims is problematic, to say the least, because that's how assault victims are revictimized. You may not be trying to revictimize but you are using arguments that do.

When it comes to minors I don't understand how a parent could allow a child to enter into this lifestyle (I also don't understand parents who let their kids become child actors), and I sure as hell don't get how a parent abrogates parental duties like protecting their kid.

It's hard to say no to a boatload of money. Making a mistake doesn't make you complicit in an assault on you or your loved ones.
posted by Kattullus at 10:11 AM on June 9, 2009 [16 favorites]


I wasn't making the Two Minutes Hate comparison casually, either. Part of the exercise is to look around and see who isn't screaming loudly enough.

I missed the part of the thread where people were castigated for not commenting in it.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:27 AM on June 9, 2009


Bookhouse, apparently you also missed where I said "I see. So, it's okay to care differently or not as much, just as long as it is not done within earshot. Gotcha." It's just four small paragraphs up.
posted by adipocere at 10:35 AM on June 9, 2009


Well, that sort of ruins your two-minute hate metaphor, doesn't it?
posted by Bookhouse at 10:41 AM on June 9, 2009


Not at all. Read further. "Part of the exercise is to look around and see who isn't screaming loudly enough."

If you've got any other questions, see me after class. And there will be a quiz tomorrow.
posted by adipocere at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2009


me: I'm not blaming the victim. I am refusing to absolve the victim of all culpability.

Kattullus: These two sentences mean the opposite of each other. The first means: I assign no blame to the victim. The second means: I assign blame to the victim.


So you can't see the distinction I'm making at all?

I was once walking home alone from a friend's house where we had been drinking. This was in a bad part of town. I saw a man urinating in the doorway of a business that I frequented. I had the audacity to say something to him. He and his friends proceeded to assault me.

Am I absolved of all responsibility? I could have stayed sober, made sure I wasn't alone, taken a cab, and not confronted a group of men at night. This actually happened to me, and if by your standards I am blaming the victim, so be it. I think I do deserve some of the blame. I put myself in an easily avoidable situation and proceeded to play it stupidly.

Kattullus: We're supposed to publicize the names of sexual assault victims if reports of sexual abuse are to have any credibility?

From the article:
"The scene: a casting with a photographer, one of the top names in his profession."
"The photographer's assistant, who is watching, eggs her on."
""A very, very famous photographer, probably one of the world's top names", according to Ziff"


Not talking about the victims. But if Ziff is aware of these abuses going on, and is indeed "an unusual whistleblower," then what good does it do to stand up and say, she has a list of pedophiles if she's not going to report them or make their actions known? This kind of strikes me as being an accomplice after the fact.

I just looked up Donal MacIntyre and I can't imagine him writing lines like that.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:48 AM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not at all. Read further. "Part of the exercise is to look around and see who isn't screaming loudly enough."

Well, I guess to me the fact that actual Two-Minute Hates weren't optional sort of deflates the metaphor. But go in peace.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:55 AM on June 9, 2009


In that thread we had posters who may have experienced some of the behavior discussed in the post,

I think some of them were lying because they wanted to claim to have experienced it so no one would question their outrage. I'm still confused by mygothlaundry's comment that she had been a nude model for life drawing classes "for years" before turning 17. I think it's terrible how these girls get treated, but I think lying and overstating a case through personal fiction is ridiculous.
posted by anniecat at 10:58 AM on June 9, 2009


cjorgensen: I'm not blaming the victim. I am refusing to absolve the victim of all culpability.

Kattullus: These two sentences mean the opposite of each other. The first means: I assign no blame to the victim. The second means: I assign blame to the victim.


Everything else aside Kattulus, that is not a good rendering of the statement. I'm not talking about the article or rape here but have you ever had anything happen to you where you felt victimized and then thought afterward maybe you were at least partially culpable for the outcome? Argument with a friend where they eviscerated you for something? And so on?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:03 AM on June 9, 2009


I just can't help but laugh at all the "OH MAN I AM BEING SO SARCASTIC RIGHT NOW YOU CAN TELL BECAUSE ALLCAPS BUT SECRETLY THIS IS WHAT I THINK YOU BELIEVE: ALL MODELS DESERVE TO BE RAPED" comments in that thread. It's like certain issues just make people forget how to argue.
posted by tehloki at 11:06 AM on June 9, 2009


Everybody in our society knows the social consensus moral positions (in both "down-to-earth" and "politically correct" variations) and just about everybody on MetaFilter can regurgitate them at the drop of a hat. That's why it's incredibly boring to do so. What's actually interesting are positions that diverge from the consensus view. (Paul Graham has a brilliant essay on this issue.) I'm interested in non-standard ideas and why people hold them. Sometimes, depending on the position, the mere fact that someone holds it (and isn't afraid to express it on MetaFilter) is interesting.

What's really boring and pernicious is the contingent on MetaFilter that shouts down any perceived heretical position. Why do they feel compelled to do so? I don't know, but it clearly has nothing to do with exploring ideas or learning anything new. Aristotle said: "It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." MetaFilter is supposed to have a high proportion of educated members, but I guess education just ain't what it used to be. I used to think that online discussion (something truly new under the sun) would be incredibly liberating because the relative anonymity would free the participants from the stultifying effects of social pressure. Somehow it hasn't worked out that way. Of course, MetaFilter bills itself as a "community", and seems to take that seriously. I'd prefer it to be a seminar. I know, that'll never happen.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:18 AM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Aristotle was a socialist.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:21 AM on June 9, 2009


Whoops, anniecat is right. It was not years, it was a year, singular. Sorry about that; did not mean to get hyperbolic but did.

And actually, while I'm here, I'm not trying to conflate life drawing classes, where I've never seen anyone get hassled, with photographic models, which the fpp was about and where I do believe girls rather routinely get harassed. They're very different scenarios.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:21 AM on June 9, 2009


metafilter: It's like certain issues just make people forget how to argue.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:26 AM on June 9, 2009


cjorgensen: So you can't see the distinction I'm making at all?

I don't see it, no. It's so finegrained as to be meaningless.

I was once walking home alone from a friend's house where we had been drinking. This was in a bad part of town. I saw a man urinating in the doorway of a business that I frequented. I had the audacity to say something to him. He and his friends proceeded to assault me.

Am I absolved of all responsibility? I could have stayed sober, made sure I wasn't alone, taken a cab, and not confronted a group of men at night. This actually happened to me, and if by your standards I am blaming the victim, so be it. I think I do deserve some of the blame. I put myself in an easily avoidable situation and proceeded to play it stupidly.


I don't think the assault is in any way your fault, in any meaningful sense of the word "fault." You didn't ask to be beaten up. Nobody can be at full alert at all times. Everyone makes mistakes but just because a mistake is made it doesn't mean that people are at blame if other human beings choose to assault them.

To give an example from my own life, last year persons unknown attempted to firebomb my apartment but their ineptness at making Molotov cocktails saved it (luckily I was in Australia at the time, a suspiciously ironclad alibi). The firebombing was almost certainly aimed at my roommate, an Israeli employee of the Brown University Hillel. That this was also my apartment was completely incidental to the attack. Should I be assigned blame for having placed myself and my belongings in danger because I chose to live with an Israeli citizen? Of course not, that's absurd.

Placing oneself in a position where one is in danger of suffering physical damage by another human does not mean that one is to blame for the consequences

P.o.B.: Everything else aside Kattulus, that is not a good rendering of the statement.

How would you render it? I really see no way of reading those sentences in any other way than as being in opposition of each other.

I'm not talking about the article or rape here but have you ever had anything happen to you where you felt victimized and then thought afterward maybe you were at least partially culpable for the outcome? Argument with a friend where they eviscerated you for something? And so on?

Of course I have blamed myself for bad things that have happened to me. It's the human thing to do. But short of picking a fight suffering physical harm is not the fault of the assaulted.

And victims of sexual attacks are never, ever at blame.
posted by Kattullus at 11:27 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Aristotle was a socialist.

Interesting. But I was expecting "Aristotle was a pedophile." Your taboo is old and worn out.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:37 AM on June 9, 2009


Your taboo is old and worn out.

Tell me about it! And I can't even take a pill for it, onacounta I got the high blood pressure! Wait - what were we talking about?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:40 AM on June 9, 2009


What's actually interesting are positions that diverge from the consensus view.

I would be completely in agreement with you if the view in question hadn't been "poor people are inherently more deserving of sympathy than people who have been or may be rich at some point in their lives." This isn't exactly a shining example of courageous iconoclasm. What's more, it plays right into the Che Guevara T-shirt MeFi consensus. If you rail against the cops, attack the Bush regime, expose the crimes of the capitalist system, or whatever, MeFi is always there to give you a pat on the back and a fist raised in solidarity. For many people, it's a straight shot from there to the drooling, unthinking mockery of class warfare that's on display in that thread.

Also, Paul Graham? Dude.
posted by nasreddin at 11:41 AM on June 9, 2009


If these were all adults choosing to put themselves in this environment, then I would trust them to make their own decisions and to defend themselves.

I think this veers toward saying that adult women who are sexually harassed in their workplaces should just quit if they don't like it. It's not fair to ask women -- grown women, even -- to choose between bodily integrity and a job.
posted by palliser at 11:43 AM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sorry, meant to italicize first sentence.
posted by palliser at 11:44 AM on June 9, 2009


Kattullus, I get what you're saying here, and agree with you. I'm not sure what word works then.

Sometimes people are not innocent victims, but are still a victim. You can do everything within your power to do everything right and still have things go wrong. I also think people can make choices that makes what happens to them blindingly predictable. In the second case, assuming freewill, there's a distinction I am making that you call, "so finegrained as to be meaningless," while to me it means a lot.

People have choices, and while I can still feel for the person that got cancer from smoking, the adult that refused medical treatment, the drunk driver that kills himself, the assault victim alone at night, I am going to feel more for the person that made the right choices and still had something bad happen.

But you're also right that mistakes happen. I'm probably not leaving enough room for this.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:49 AM on June 9, 2009


I agree with what you said languagehat, but here is an example of a counterpoint in action:

And victims of sexual attacks are never, ever at blame.

(Nothing against what you said Kattulus, just that it was a moot point in our conversation.)
posted by P.o.B. at 11:54 AM on June 9, 2009


Stupid, worthless, no good, goddamn, freeloading son of a bitch. Retarded, big mouth, know-it-all, asshole, jerk. You forgot ugly, lazy and disrespectful. Shut up bitch. Go fix me a turkey pot pie. No dad, what about you? Fuck you. No dad, what about you? Fuck you. Dad, what about you? Fuck you.

Is that for real?

You wanna come to metafilter sometime?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:55 AM on June 9, 2009


> I think this veers toward saying that adult women who are sexually harassed in their workplaces should just quit if they don't like it. It's not fair to ask women -- grown women, even -- to choose between bodily integrity and a job.

Oh no, didn't mean it that way at all. Can see that reading though.

I meant if kids were taken out of the equation, if it were 18+ only, then I would trust the woman's choices. For better or worse we call 18-year-olds adults. I would expect a woman to quit at all. I meant it when I said trust.

Certain jobs have dangers. Military, police, meat packer, construction worker, etc. As long as the person is an informed adult I don't care who does the job.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:55 AM on June 9, 2009


nasreddin, I agree, I should have saved that post for a more suitable occasion. And once in a while, Paul Graham gets something right.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:56 AM on June 9, 2009


I wouldn't expect a woman to quit at all.

Last thing I need is for someone to use a typo against me.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:03 PM on June 9, 2009


cjorgensen: Kattullus, I get what you're saying here, and agree with you. I'm not sure what word works then.

Agreement?! THIS IS NOT WHAT THE INTERNET IS FOR :)

Sometimes people are not innocent victims, but are still a victim. You can do everything within your power to do everything right and still have things go wrong. I also think people can make choices that makes what happens to them blindingly predictable. In the second case, assuming freewill, there's a distinction I am making that you call, "so finegrained as to be meaningless," while to me it means a lot.

People have choices, and while I can still feel for the person that got cancer from smoking, the adult that refused medical treatment, the drunk driver that kills himself, the assault victim alone at night, I am going to feel more for the person that made the right choices and still had something bad happen.

But you're also right that mistakes happen. I'm probably not leaving enough room for this.


For me there's a distinction to be made between self-caused harm and harm caused by others. If I got behind the wheel of a car drunk and crashed it would squarely be my fault, no matter how inebriated I was or if someone had caused me to swerve by cutting me off. But if I drunkenly bumped into someone who took offense at the bumping and beat me up, the fault would be my attacker's (just to be clear both are invented hypotheticals, not actual events from my life).

But yeah, it's easier to feel sympathy for a kid who falls down a well than a habitual drug user who gets beat up for trying to steal a dose.
posted by Kattullus at 12:20 PM on June 9, 2009


I also can go on the record as saying I got somewhat entrenched in my position, which also isn't good. To say I don't care about these people's lives seems a lot more callous than I ever meant it to. I also failed to apply even the smallest amount of foresight to how what I wrote would be perceived by others (or might affect them).
posted by cjorgensen at 12:29 PM on June 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


Am I absolved of all responsibility? I could have stayed sober, made sure I wasn't alone, taken a cab, and not confronted a group of men at night. This actually happened to me, and if by your standards I am blaming the victim, so be it. I think I do deserve some of the blame. I put myself in an easily avoidable situation and proceeded to play it stupidly.

cjorgensen, I get exactly where you've been coming from. I might even have had experiences like you've had, we live in the same general region, and I find your humor fairly amusing normally.

But.

You're not absolved of all responsibility in this case because you have had life experiences that have taught you to know better. You've drank before, so you know that your behavior is altered. You know being alone is risky, because you have been told so and have experienced that. You confronted a group of men, despite knowing that men who are doing stupid shit may be violent and may not take criticism. Most of all, you know that what these men did to you -- the assault -- was wrong.

If you were more naive, like a 14 year old model girl, who's been told the wrong thing by her parents and peers or nothing at all, you might have thought that the guys were right to hit you, because that's what happens. You might have decided not to speak out next time, because getting home safely is more important than getting hit. You might have never told us about this, because you would be ashamed that you did something that made you get beat up -- even though it may have been the right thing to do, you had no moral reference point.

That's what people are pissed about, the fact that you're applying rules that you need life experience and knowledge to apply. Saying an abused model can just walk away is even dumber than saying that an abusive housewife should just walk away, because they may not even know it's abuse and just think it's part of the industry, and this is how you get ahead, and there's a lot of pressure to get ahead, and you don't see how life works outside that bubble because you're either really young, or you've never been outside it.
posted by mikeh at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Additionally, by saying these women may someday be women that "people pay attention to" you're diminishing what they might go through to get there. Are you saying that the spokesmodel types either didn't go through this abuse, or they went through it and don't care now because it's just what you put up with in the industry? Because the latter case is even more sad, in that people who could speak out about something nasty they have firsthand experience of are not because hey, that's the way it goes, and it's apparently fine because people are still lining up to get exploited.
posted by mikeh at 2:23 PM on June 9, 2009


Certain jobs have dangers. Military, police, meat packer, construction worker, etc.

There's a difference between the dangers of those jobs, which result from the nature and risks of the work in hand, and the dangers discussed in that piece, which resulted from teenagers being harassed and assaulted by their employers and more powerful co-workers.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:25 PM on June 9, 2009


Certain jobs have dangers. Military, police, meat packer, construction worker, MODEL, etc.

One of these things is not like the other.
posted by chunking express at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2009


And no, being molested by your superiors really isn't (and shouldn't) be an on the job danger for any profession.
posted by chunking express at 2:29 PM on June 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Not to mention that the "certain jobs have dangers" argument is just ridiculous in the first place. You know what happens when a cop gets shot? They don't just shrug it off, they treat it as a tragedy and start a full-scale investigation. Same with soldiers (see Mogadishu, for instance). Same with construction workers.
posted by nasreddin at 2:41 PM on June 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Also a distinction must be made between "fault" and "cause."

If we are interested in preventing victimization of any kind we have to address what both the victim AND perpetrator do previous to the event - that has to with identifying cause. But the fault lies entirely with the perpetrator of the harm.

So. Yeah. Don't walk down dark alleys at night drunk with wads of cash. But IF you DO get robbed in said alley it's the mother fucker that robbed you that should get punished and pilloried by society. Not you.
posted by tkchrist at 3:33 PM on June 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Woo, somehow the strawman army from the other thread made it over to this one.

Yeah, I managed to have it happen to me in this very thread. Trying to give other people the benefit of the doubt by saying "Well, at least the critics seem to be coming from a place of sympathy for the least fortunate, BUT that's still misguided, in that it takes the argument that sympathy is reserved solely for the highest bidder", I in turn get called out and given an extended metaphor on the nature of empathy. Which was baffling to me, because all you'd have to do is read the rest of the paragraph to see that I side with the models here. That I get proffered a counterargument for my consideration that I already agree with was confusing to say the least. But c'est la vie, I guess.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:02 PM on June 9, 2009


It's an interesting discussion and I'd just like to point out again that compassion isn't a zero-sum game. Just because you feel compassion for sexually abused fashion models doesn't mean you can't also feel compassion for people suffering in Sudan. There's enough to go around for everybody.

Also: Grading compassion is kind of silly. Saying "Well, I feel bad for them, but I feel WORSE about so and so..." doesn't really help. You don't need to quantify whether a victim is an innocent victim or not, or whether you feel worse about some injustices than others.

My own 2c: I think that it's sick that the fashion industry functions in a way where girls have been exploited. Despite my interest in fashion as such, I've stopped reading any and all glossy magazines where I can be pretty sure that the girls have been mistreated at some point in their careers. It's not much that I'm not giving Vogue my $5, but there it is. The real solution to the problem is to make societal standards higher, so that women aren't being treated as objects in the first place.

Of course, that's a much higher mountain to climb than just holding photographers accountable for their actions. So, I'm willing to start with demanding that grown ass-men face consequences for taking advantage of girls who have absolutely no power in the situation. That shit just ain't right. No matter how many injustices are also going on in the world, there's one that can be solved and hey, I think we ought to solve it. If getting visibility for the "dark" side of the modeling industry will lead to a shift of practices by photographers and agents and so on, I think that these first-person accounts should be shouted from the rooftops.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it time to quote Vonnegut yet? Because both this thread and the original one--and, really, a lot of the discussions that we end up saying got out of control--would have been a lot better if we had all following his most basic, best advice. God damnit, we've got to be kind.

I'm not really adding anything that anyone doesn't already know... But everyone agrees with Vonnegut, right?
posted by Ms. Saint at 4:24 PM on June 9, 2009


I agree with his moustache.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:40 PM on June 9, 2009


I disagree with his mustache, but I agree with everything else.
posted by Kattullus at 4:53 PM on June 9, 2009


But everyone agrees with Vonnegut, right?

Hardly. I think Mr. Rosewater can go right to hell.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:56 PM on June 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


mikeh, point conceded, but where I think that fails is, it's hard for me to envision a world where you go home at night questioning whether your job is different than stripping, and you still show up the next day, after having cashed a check for 150k the night before. Same world, different planets.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:00 PM on June 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


gman: "If chunkling_express was a new member...

You managed to bastardize his already bastardized username.
"

Apologies to the OP. I really should pump up my text size...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:47 PM on June 9, 2009


But everyone agrees with Vonnegut, right?

I agree that we should endeavor to be kind ... but I also agree with Nick Lowe.
posted by philip-random at 9:17 PM on June 9, 2009


cjorgensen - mikeh, point conceded, but where I think that fails is, it's hard for me to envision a world where you go home at night questioning whether your job is different than stripping, and you still show up the next day, after having cashed a check for 150k the night before. Same world, different planets.

If you haven't already and you have the time, i'd ask you to read the NYmag story linked above. This one. It's very good, and i'd direct you specifically to the parts where it says things like this:

'Although top girls can make up to $100,000 in a week of shows, the vast majority get nowhere near that; some of the more prominent designers pay the girls only in clothes.'

This is very true, and very common. My aim here isn't to change your opinions on this topic at all, only to say that you're forming them based on ideas about the industry that aren't accurate, or are accurate for only a handful of models, at most.
posted by pseudonymph at 12:21 AM on June 10, 2009


Yeah, I managed to have it happen to me in this very thread.

Yeah, unfortunately a lot of the nonsense gets started by either an accidental or deliberate misreading of what is posted. Seems like people read just enough to get outraged, then let fly.
posted by electroboy at 7:43 AM on June 10, 2009

Yeah, I managed to have it happen to me in this very thread. Trying to give other people the benefit of the doubt by saying "Well, at least the critics seem to be coming from a place of sympathy for the least fortunate, BUT that's still misguided, in that it takes the argument that sympathy is reserved solely for the highest bidder", I in turn get called out and given an extended metaphor on the nature of empathy.
I dunno if you're talking about me, but if so, I didn't mean to call you out. I just think your generous reading is maybe a bit too generous. My issue isn't with you. It's with people who claim to be coming from a place of sympathy for the truly oppressed because that's more socially acceptable than saying that they're coming from a place of resentment of and hostility towards beautiful, well-paid women and girls.
posted by craichead at 8:39 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who cares where the posters are "coming from"? Read and react to comments for what they say instead of trying to place people's motivations and psyche into some ill-defined box.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 8:45 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


> I also can go on the record as saying I got somewhat entrenched in my position, which also isn't good. To say I don't care about these people's lives seems a lot more callous than I ever meant it to. I also failed to apply even the smallest amount of foresight to how what I wrote would be perceived by others (or might affect them).

cjorgensen, I'm really glad you said that, because I was surprised at how tenaciously you were clinging to what seemed to me a basically indefensible position. I mean, yes, you had a point, but one that 1) was only tangentially related (since, as has been said repeatedly, very few models make big bucks) and 2) was guaranteed to, and did, start a shitstorm. However, I know firsthand how easy it is to paint oneself into a corner and then get increasingly defensive; good for you for being able to retreat with grace.
posted by languagehat at 9:10 AM on June 10, 2009

Who cares where the posters are "coming from"? Read and react to comments for what they say instead of trying to place people's motivations and psyche into some ill-defined box.
I care, because like every woman in the world, including totally average-looking ones like me, I live with the consequences of this kind of thinking. And there isn't a lot that's new here, if you pay attention to the way that people talk about sexual assault and abuse of women. Katha Pollitt has a similar story about how her parents reacted in the '60s when Andrea Dworkin went public with her story about being sexually abused in police custody:
I first heard of Andrea Dworkin in 1968. She had been arrested in an antiwar demonstration and jailed at the old Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village, where male doctors subjected her to brutal internal exams. Her name was in the news because she had gone public with her story. My good, kind, radical, civil libertarian parents thought this was ridiculous. What did she expect, this privileged white woman, this "Bennington girl"? It wasn't that they didn't believe her, exactly. It was that they didn't see why she was making such a big, princessy fuss. It was like getting arrested and complaining about the food.
Like Pollitt, I'm not a fan of Dworkin. But like Pollitt, I understand the ways in which the "privilege" discourse gets used to excuse or write off or diminish sexual abuse of some women, just as other discourses get used in exactly the same way to write off or dismiss or excuse sexual abuse of other women. And in the end, it's open season on all women, as well as on certain men. (I don't think that this functions any differently with men, but men are much less likely to be sexually abused unless they end up in prison or another institutional setting.) Either you think sexual assault and abuse are unacceptable or you don't. To me, it's irrelevent what terms you use to excuse or diminish sexual abuse. The point, and the only point, is that you think there are factors that mitigate the horror of sexual abuse or assault. Once you've crossed that mental bridge, you can find a way to write off pretty much anything that happens to pretty much any of us.
posted by craichead at 9:47 AM on June 10, 2009 [6 favorites]


So anybody that posts anything that could be read as a mitigating factor for a given (possibly abusive) situation, you assume they have "a place of resentment of and hostility towards ... women and girls" inside them?

It must be nice to live in such a uncomplicated world.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2009


I just think your generous reading is maybe a bit too generous. My issue isn't with you. It's with people who claim to be coming from a place of sympathy for the truly oppressed because that's more socially acceptable than saying that they're coming from a place of resentment of and hostility towards beautiful, well-paid women and girls.

That's what I meant about sympathy for the highest bidder being misguided, not to mention that yeah, there really were some comments that made think this was less about "I'm saving my compassion for the really, really, really bad off" and more about "Pfft, fuck the pretty and well-paid". I guess I try and give people the benefit of the doubt about where they're coming from because lord knows, I've banged out any number of comments without really thinking it through that read in a whooole other way than I intended. I see that after questions were raised, a few people have backed off or revised or further explained their positions, which is all good. I'm happy to better understand where people are coming from, for better or worse.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:46 AM on June 10, 2009


Metafilter: I've banged out any number of comments without really thinking it through that read in a whooole other way than I intended.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:53 AM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


languagehat, Well, I also stuck to the position because it seemed like 1. people were deliberately not getting the point I was making, 2. ascribing positions to me that I do not hold.

I also had my mind changed on a couple of issues, but those posts never go over well either, and I was more than done by that point. I honestly should have figured out this one wasn't for me when I was more upset over a damn cake that day.

A lot of what I wrote is valid, but probably in a more abstract way. When applied to a specific situation it seems callous.

I'm not going to disagree with grapefruitmoon, but I honestly believe compassion is a zero-sum game. At least if you want to stay sane.

If all the world's problems get the same level of response and empathy, you'd have to maintain a list of all the world's ills and dwell on it every day. I'd become non-functional.

This doesn't mean I walk around with blinders on, or discount someone just because I can't relate, but certain causes just aren't going to resonate with me as much as others. I know this is a truth for most people, just as I know most people have a hard time admitting it. It's not acceptable to say the kid down the block is more important to you than the kid in the Sudan, but most likely she is. Making sure your mortgage is paid is more important to most people than crime in Moscow.

Metafilter did a better job of making these girls' real to me than the article did.
jessamyn: Generally speaking I see a lot of early commenting in threads as really setting the tone for how a thread will go overall. Early comments that are just saying that you don't like something sort of poisons the well. Use the flagging feature, feel free to email/im us but don't fill the place up with your negative comments just because a post isn't relevant to you personally.

There's also a small subset of people who seem to do this a lot. We'd like them to maybe consider doing that less.
I don't think what she was directing this directly at me, but it resonated, and this is my new MetaMotto. I wasn't deliberately trying to "thread-shit." I didn't have a problem with the post at all, but I know taking the position I did colored the thread.

It's my intention, in the future, that if I can't be constructive with my first comment, and it's a new thread, I am moving on. Of course, all bets are off if it's well-underway.

And apologies to chunking express (and to anyone else that needs it) if my contributions were seen as adversely affecting the thread. I honestly believe that thread can serve as an example of the best and worst of this place. A lot of the discussion was substantive, too many of the attacks were personal, but if I'd posted it I would have been happy with the result of the sum.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:30 AM on June 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


and hosted from uranus wrote:
Who cares where the posters are "coming from"? Read and react to comments for what they say instead of trying to place people's motivations and psyche into some ill-defined box.
And craichead responded:
I care, because like every woman in the world, including totally average-looking ones like me, I live with the consequences of this kind of thinking.
craichead, it's great that you care, but that doesn't make you even a little bit better at reading minds. Imagining that you know what's in another person's heart and responding to that instead of what they actually said is the best way to turn a civil discussion into a bitter quarrel.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:56 AM on June 10, 2009


I'm not going to disagree with grapefruitmoon, but I honestly believe compassion is a zero-sum game. At least if you want to stay sane.

Dude, just call a spade a spade. That is disagreeing with me. Which is, y'know, your prerogative, but call it like it is.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


No way, since I am not disagreeing with you, I understand the position you are taking, can even believe you are this kind of person. I can conceptualize what you are saying, but for me it doesn't work. In my world view, only two people have managed to have compassion amongst all. Jesus and Mother Theresa. I'm neither religious, not catholic, but I still respect these two figures, just as I resect you and what you have said.

I don't see it, but in no way am I discounting your world view. If I felt my stance was one and true then yes, I would call you out, but I am not a fanatic.

If you would feel better if I said you were wrong, I can do this, but I don't think you are, and the world is probably better off with more people in it like you than me.

If I thought you were incorrect/wrong in what you wrote I would have said so.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:02 PM on June 10, 2009


Respecting someone and agreeing with them are two different things. You said "Not to disagree with gfm BUT" and then disagreed with exactly what I said.

I didn't say anything about my own POV, I just said that compassion isn't a zero-sum game. I'm not claiming to be *good* at it. You say that it is. Ok, we disagree. Good enough. We don't need to argue about it and no one needs to lose any respect. Let's just be honest here and say that we don't agree on the issue.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:03 PM on June 11, 2009


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