Too Much False Rape? February 20, 2015 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Lately, I feel like there have been a lot of FPPs concerning false rape and related topics in the past few weeks. In addition to the one today , we had one on Emma Sulkowicz recently centered around an article arguing for the innocence of her rapist, one on a highly dramatic "false rape" trial in Toronto as well as a similar situation in Stanford, and one on an article arguing against more proactive approaches to campus rape.

I know topics come and go - and we've previously discussed on MetaTalk how sometimes we go through phases where topics are discussed more heavily. Similarly, I understand how posters can avoid topics that they feel might be toxic for them. That being said, I felt like this one was important to bring up because as we've previously established that Metafilter is a target for MRA/anti-feminist trolls. While I'm not accusing any of the FPP writers of being an MRA, given that the tactic of constantly bringing up false rape is a common tactic used to push-back against gender equity - which has clearly become a site value, I'm concerned about the impact that the constant rehashing of these arguments and placement of individual outlier cases into the site spotlight might have upon the participation of women on the site, and more broadly, site culture.

To be clear, I'm not asking for any hard-line changes in moderation. Rather, I wanted to start this MetaTalk to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women. As rtha said in a comment in the latest FPP, "It's interesting how many threads we've had on this site alone where many thousands of words have been used in service of picking apart every rape story as reported in rape-on-campus articles, but here, so far? We have "Maybe it isn't true. Doesn't mean it's not believable."; I also get the sense that many women on the site have perceived the moderation curtailing sexist tropes to have become more lax lately - certainly, I can see how the constant wave of false rape FPPs may be wearing people down.
posted by Conspire to Etiquette/Policy at 12:14 PM (1389 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

Yeah, I'm super not in love with that thread this morning and agree that as a collection of recent posts it feels a little thick on the ground. With a time machine I'd probably delete today's when it went up on that basis and the fact that whatever interesting substance it may have it's pulling in great scads of related difficult stuff for no really great "we need another thread about this" reason.

That being said, I felt like this one was important to bring up because as we've previously established that Metafilter is a target for MRA/anti-feminist trolls.

I kinda feel like this is overstating it. Or to whatever extent Metafilter is a target for that sort of person, it's not a very good one; if the definition of successful targeting is "ever getting a word in edgewise before getting shut down", I can sort of see it but I think that's a real weak point from which to proceed. I think it's sufficient to just talk about this more in terms of how folks on the site in general feel about the balance of posts/discussions on these various topic without looking at it through the lens of a notional troll invasion or subversion or whatnot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:19 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


we've previously established that Metafilter is a target for MRA/anti-feminist trolls.

I really don't think we did, but then again I tend to stay out of conversations about these topics (which is increasingly hard to do these days), so I admit I may be wrong there.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:23 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, I was referring to this link specifically. To be fully honest, I brought that up because I don't feel fully charitable about some of the repeated actors in some of the conversations going on, but like cortex said, it's probably not wise to dwell upon whether people are being disingenuous or not in these conversations, as it's a tangent to the main issue which is the impact these arguments may be having on women on the site. So I'd prefer the thread to not get derailed over this point.
posted by Conspire at 12:30 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I was referring to this link specifically.

Yeah, my level of concern over the grumping on a hostile subreddit by people who didn't like Metafilter to begin with is about as low as concern level can be, is where I'm coming from there. Guy signs up with ill intent, gets quickly shut down and banned: that's the system working pretty well, I figure. Whether he crows about it on KiA has about zero effect on our actual community and I mostly think people would be better served ignoring that stuff entirely.

Am happy to likewise leave it at that; I agree that the broader stuff in your post here is a better focus for this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:35 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


My interest in justice for all, victim and accused alike, and a belief that it's always productive to talk about process... survived about 90 seconds worth of perusing that thread. Yuck.

I don't want to believe that there are things We Can't Talk About but this sure challenges that.
posted by phearlez at 12:39 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I would love to see less posts made about this topic sure, every one of them linked above was problematic, we were on the fence about letting them stay, and catching lots of heat over contact email when we did remove one.

the tactic of constantly bringing up false rape is a common tactic used to push-back against gender equity

I feel like the last year of news on popular publications was generally good in terms of stories about gender equity. There are outrageous stories of setbacks and horrific events, but overall, gender equity seems to be a topic coming up more often and spoken about in areas that were silent before, and there are many stories about progress being made.

As a result, I think news organizations and reporters are always looking for an outlier that gets pageviews and sells papers that generally goes against the grain. I'm seeing a few of these "false rape" kinds of stories coming out in more respectable publications than I did before. Today's was from the Guardian UK, which is a generally left-leaning publication that wins prestigious awards and it kind of boggles my mind a bit.

It feels like a topic coming up in popular news more often and maybe it's a bit of misogynist backlash trying to fight against the tide of generally good stories of strides being made elsewhere, and people are making posts to MeFi as these stories rise up in popular news venues?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:01 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think today's posted article is easily best of those links - were I a mod with a time machine, I would delete the rest and leave this one.

Of course, the thread itself has colossal problems, but I'm not sure if this is the MeTa for that discussion. It would be weird if it was.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:03 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women.

i have talked recently with other mefites, former and current, who are survivors about how we don't feel as comfortable approaching things that touch on rape culture here any longer. i don't have any solutions to offer sadly, but there it is.
posted by nadawi at 1:07 PM on February 20, 2015 [49 favorites]


I also get the sense that many women on the site have perceived the moderation curtailing sexist tropes to have become more lax lately - certainly, I can see how the constant wave of false rape FPPs may be wearing people down.

All I have the energy to do is wearily nod in agreement with this. People who are emotionally invested in pushing the agenda that false rape accusations are equally or more common and/or equally or more important than actual rape statistics appear to have been emboldened -- individually, socially, and culturally -- by the UVA/Rolling Stone debacle, and it's been bleeding through on MeFi in what feels (to me) like an incredibly obvious way.

To that end, the same people who are so fond of clamoring for "evidence" and "proof" in every. single. discussion. related to any woman's experience with her own rape* are more than happy to take what "he said" as incontrovertible gospel truth whenever the topic turns to a dude who claims his accuser is lying. None of them have crawled out of the woodwork to remind us that his accuser is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, which is odd, considering they're very quick to do so in situations where the genders are reversed.

I don't know what to say or do about any of it but it's totally discouraging to see this kind of multi-pronged anti-woman charge happening here and it makes me desperately want to find another corner of the internets to call home. Instead, I just avoid those conversations altogether. It doesn't feel like a solution, but it makes me want to die a little bit less than the alternative. Thanks for starting this MeTa, Conspire.

* "When someone enters a conversation about rape, and the only thing they want to talk about is the possibility that the victim is lying, they don't want you to be talking about rape. They want to talk about how women are liars."
posted by divined by radio at 1:09 PM on February 20, 2015 [126 favorites]


Maybe the rule could be that posts that allege an accusation can be false can only be links to peer-reviewed studies, but stories about real rapes can be in any format and asking for verification is grounds for deletion. Would that even things out?
posted by michaelh at 1:18 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


michaelh, please don't do that.

I'm happy that there's more stories investigating sexual assault and its impacts. I wouldn't have found out so much about it if it wasn't brought up so much on MeFi. As the topic becomes more culturally relevant, as it should, there's going to be articles investigating difficulties in implementing changes. It's true that more articles will come through supporting the status quo than should be based on merit, but I don't think mentioning this is wrong. Just as silencing all opposition on any point would be wrong.
posted by halifix at 1:22 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


"As a result, I think news organizations and reporters are always looking for an outlier that gets pageviews and sells papers that generally goes against the grain. I'm seeing a few of these 'false rape' kinds of stories coming out in more respectable publications than I did before. Today's was from the Guardian UK, which is a generally left-leaning publication that wins prestigious awards and it kind of boggles my mind a bit."

There definitely is that perverse journalistic impulse involved, yeah. But I think the bigger influence is just that this is how this stuff works. More than anything else, my time on MeFi has really made it punishingly clear that the really obvious, blatant stuff is only a proportionally small part of the overall problem and the vast majority of this stuff exists and is perpetuated through subconscious, culturally-sanctioned conventions and perspectives that take for granted a whole bunch of problematic shit and which goes to a great deal of effort to appeal to "reasonableness" and "civility" and "common sense" and being "serious" and "responsible", one of the sober adults, and such, and holy god does a big portion of mass media utilize this because it is in these terms that we all like to think of ourselves. So take one portion of rape culture's message of both minimizing the prevalence of rape and holding women responsible for it, and one portion of this conceit of being fair and balanced and rational and mature, and you get these think pieces that appeal to both the prejudices and vanities of their audience while very strongly protecting the status quo. And I am really, really sick to death of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:26 PM on February 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women

yes.
posted by twist my arm at 1:26 PM on February 20, 2015 [27 favorites]


That being said, I'd really like to hear how people feel about this issue. That's what MeTa is for, right?

nadawi, if this isn't impertinent, can I ask what topics you consider are touching on rape culture?
posted by halifix at 1:27 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's hard to understand why a focus on edge cases would be so interesting unless people wanted to delegitimize and undermine all discussion of rape. So yes, it's kind of exhausting to see this all over the place - not that it's new to be exposed to these ideas of false accusation, they're certainly ones we all grew up with if not experienced in a more up-close-and-unpleasant way, but it's not a discussion I am interested in having because of its political goals. I do think it's reflective of greater general progress in gender equity, which is likely producing greater anxiety about shifting balances of power.

I mean, this much relentless discussion of all rape is pretty tiresome, but every now and then there's a good reason to engage in it because it may make more space for voices and ideas and facts less likely to be heard in the society. I don't know that every story of this kind that shows up on MeFi is there for that good a reason. It doesn't seem that the women of the site are the primary ones posting these discussions and introducing them - I could be wrong, I haven't studied the phenomenon that much in depth and have mainly avoided these threads.

So, yeah, if the MeFi community writ large wants this to be the kind of site that's always focusing on the wider privilege distress related to a particular narrow component of the difficulty of gender relations regarding consent in a small number of cases about which it is difficult to generalize anything useful, it would not be surprising if fewer women and people of goodwill bowed out.
posted by Miko at 1:27 PM on February 20, 2015 [49 favorites]


With a time machine I'd probably delete today's when it went up on that basis and the fact that whatever interesting substance it may have it's pulling in great scads of related difficult stuff for no really great "we need another thread about this" reason.

I realize this may be a separate pony request, but why not just announce to the community that threads which the mods judge to have become either horrifically toxic or have turned into full out flamewars will now be summarily deleted (or closed) no matter how long they've been open.

Obviously you'd set the bar high. And just as obviously, you'd wait until threads actually fit either of those two criteria before deleting (as opposed to "precognitively" deleting threads before they became toxic.)

There's virtually no benefit in keeping such threads open, simply to allow people to shout at and be vicious to each other. They take up gobs of time Team Mod simply doesn't have to spare, and they frequently wind up being carried over into MetaTalk, where two simultaneous threads about the same topic then have to be monitored.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on February 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


I realize this may be a separate pony request, but why not just announce to the community that threads which the mods judge to have become either horrifically toxic or have turned into full out flamewars will now be summarily deleted (or closed) no matter how long they've been open.

It's something we can in theory do now without making any specific pony-granting announcement, it's just something we do have a pretty darned high bar on. Beyond which, at this point the thread seems to have settled into a more substantial groove of discussion from where it was earlier, so then it becomes a question of deleting a thread for where it was at its worst vs. where it is now. If it felt like it was managing to continue to actively go downhill at this point I'd feel a little bit differently about it, I think.

But yeah, it is a frustrating thing—both on our end and on the user end—when it's sort of a slow-boil thing where a thread's not immediately obviously unredeemable but still ends up getting really heated or generating bad feelings. Sometimes we can peg something pretty early on as a likely problem or as likely fine, sometimes not so much. Sometimes the slow roll of (or even sometimes outright absence of) flagging or heads up at the contact form leave us sort of furrowing a brow at something people are otherwise thinking should go, so hitting one or both of those avenues really promptly can help a lot.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:39 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's hard to understand why a focus on edge cases would be so interesting unless people wanted to delegitimize and undermine all discussion of rape.

Because MeFi is generally concerned with issues of injustice performed by the authorities, and the article in question is about how ass-covering by people in power results in serious injustice. The idea that no one would want to talk about powerful people punishing innocents unless it was part of some sinister agenda is itself rather ugly. And it gets extra ugly when you're trying to silence an article explicitly about intersectional issues.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:41 PM on February 20, 2015 [18 favorites]


Today's Title IX FPP is not a "false rape thread".
posted by spaltavian at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I enjoy talking about edge-case weirdness surrounding sexual assault law and procedure as much as the next person (probably a lot more, tbh), and would be happy with a much higher bar for posts on the issue. It's only interesting in a very narrow manner, and the harm it causes is too high.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


As rtha said in a comment in the latest FPP, "It's interesting how many threads we've had on this site alone where many thousands of words have been used in service of picking apart every rape story as reported in rape-on-campus articles, but here, so far? We have "Maybe it isn't true. Doesn't mean it's not believable.";

Yes, it was a meta comment discussing previous threads that should have been deleted and was far from an accurate depiction of what was going on in the thread. The doubt that the story told in the article was the whole truth was instant and seemed to me to be the majority view.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Rather, I wanted to start this MetaTalk to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women.

Nope. Discussion of rape, rape culture and gender issues in general is at a watershed moment in society. That's not just good, it's great. That is an unequivocably good thing.

At the same time, it's going to bring up issues like false accusations, privacy, presumption of innocence, how to deal with double accusations, both as misogynist FUD and as real "good governance" challenges for feminists and feminist-aligned political entities.

I 100% understand that some ladytypes (and dudetypes too!) will personally just Not Want To Deal with those kinds of topics, and the occasional idiot MeFites who Don't Fucking Get It, and that's fine. I don't always have the energy either. But I really don't see how "there has been too much discussion of feminism lately, needs less feminism on the blue" is supposed to be more welcoming to women?

All I have the energy to do is wearily nod in agreement with this. People who are emotionally invested in pushing the agenda that false rape accusations are equally or more common and/or equally or more important than actual rape statistics appear to have been emboldened -- individually, socially, and culturally -- by the UVA/Rolling Stone debacle, and it's been bleeding through on MeFi in what feels (to me) like an incredibly obvious way.

I sympathize with this on a personal level, but I think extending it to the level of editorial control is actually anti-feminist.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:45 PM on February 20, 2015 [20 favorites]


It's hard to understand why a focus on edge cases would be so interesting unless people wanted to delegitimize and undermine all discussion of rape.

I am not interested in delegitimizing or undermining discussions of rape, because I think those discussions are valuable for increasing visibility of the issue and consciousness of the complex underlying societal sexism. I believe that rape cases are routinely mishandled and that we as a society are generally failing to punish or prevent rapists. I am also interested in discussions about the edge cases because I think that properly adjudicating rape cases is a legitimately thorny problem, and my analytical disposition makes edge cases inherently interesting to me.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


Because MeFi is generally concerned with issues of injustice performed by the authorities

I think that's it exactly. It's the same reason there is so much focus on illegitimate use of force by the police and very little about legitimate use of force.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Count me as definitely among those women who feel disappointed and less comfortable talking about these things here than I used to. Nothing's changed THAT dramatically; the needle has just moved a little bit more towards taking men's stories at face value and requiring proof for women's, towards having every flaw in a victim's narrative being generalizable to the whole while every bad action and bad actor is an aberration and an outlier, and just generally towards an atmosphere of men snarking about how regret isn't rape and chicks, amirite? There's been more than one thread in the past couple months on the topic where I've deleted my half-typed comment and and just decided not to engage, because I know that the probability that I'm just going to end up stressed and angry while others joke smugly at my expense is higher than I'm comfortable with.
posted by KathrynT at 1:46 PM on February 20, 2015 [73 favorites]


I thought that today's post was great, actually, as it presented a perspective that I haven't yet read -- that of the feminist lawyer talking to other feminist governors, asking them to pre-emptively consider how they will begin to enforce newly considered standards in hard/ambiguous cases. If Metafilter can't handle talking about this stuff, I think that's too bad, as these issues aren't going away and will, if anything, be more and more central in social discussions as universities begin enforcing standards more aggressively.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:54 PM on February 20, 2015 [25 favorites]


it gets extra ugly when you're trying to silence an article explicitly about intersectional issues.

(a) I didn't read the post or the article so my comment is not a comment on its content.
(b) Did I try to silence anything? No, I did not. Reread.

Daveliepmann, I appreciated your comment. I'm not sure the discussions that follow these posts are always driven by concerns similar to yours, but I do get what you're saying.

and by fewer I meant more.
posted by Miko at 1:57 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Ironically, this post was about a women who has engaged first-hand in things she found very problematic and worthy of a greater discussion in society.

And (in my mind) there was a thread largely full of people questioning her experience, calling her a liar, questioning her motives, and certainly questioning her bona fides as a feminist (indeed, folks accused her of being an MRA shill).

I would understand the general tone of the thread if the author WAS an MRA shill and this was published in some highly politicized context, and her stories were 2nd-hand anecdotes, but none of that was the case.

There is a huge sexual assault problem on campuses across America. That isn't in dispute (by anyone other than hyper-partisan folks trying to score political points). It seem fair however, to have a discussion (as a society) on how best to deal with the situation. The author of the original article was trying to point out problems with our current approach.

It would sadden me if we can't have these discussion on the blue (and maybe we can't - that thread certainly isn't going great), because it would signal to me that reasonable folks (which I consider mefites, on the whole) are incapable of discussing the matter.
posted by el io at 1:59 PM on February 20, 2015 [25 favorites]


It's hard to understand why

I didn't read the post or the article


These things might be connected.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:00 PM on February 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


These things might be connected.

Come on, there's no need to be a jerk about it. This MeTa is about a general issue and references several posts. There was a question about how interested the userbase was in these topics, generally ["I wanted to start this MetaTalk to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women"] and I answered, generally.
posted by Miko at 2:01 PM on February 20, 2015 [25 favorites]


It's hard to understand why a focus on edge cases would be so interesting unless people wanted to delegitimize and undermine all discussion of rape.

Because we're winning. Janet Halley isn't from TheRedPill, no matter what the conspiracy theorists and "feminism as PR firm" say. We're winning, and these kinds of issues are ones that need to be dealt with when you win, because the status quo ante is that "false accusation" isn't an edge case worthy of consideration because no accusations are handled well or taken seriously at all.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:04 PM on February 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


But I really don't see how "there has been too much discussion of feminism lately, needs less feminism on the blue" is supposed to be more welcoming to women?

Well, "there's been too much discussion of feminism" isn't the same thing as "there's been too much discussion of falsified rape accusations"; I don't think it's a good idea to conflate the two, and it seems like it's more the latter than the former being voiced here.

And as much as I don't have a simple answer to striking a balance on this stuff, one of the memorable things Jessamyn has talked about on more than one occasion in related discussions on Metatalk is that, yeah, being constantly confronted by rape and discussions of rape and questioning of rape and rape rape and more rape is itself something that can be basically hostile and unwelcoming to women on the site. Even the discussions motivated specifically by more of an outright making-it-better perspective or trying to shine a light on and overturn longterm systemic injustice are still each another bale thrown on the Let's Go To Metafilter And Talk About Rape cart.

Rape being an issue that feminism is concerned with doesn't mean that everybody who identifies with feminist thought is really up for talking about rape all the time. It's an emotionally exhausting topic.

Which is why it's hard to find a balance on this stuff; there's both the sense that this is a topic of great relevance and importance to lots of people's lives and the sense that this is a topic that can get sort of emotionally oppressive when it's contanstly brewing on the site. That's part of what led to divined by radio feeling understandably burnt about having their post deleted a couple months ago, and part of why some folks don't like the idea that today's might have been deleted. And there's a bunch of different angles and experiences driving the details of those reactions.

I don't know what the answer is. I don't think there's a simple answer; I think we're stuck no matter what with a mixed strategy, a compromise approach that tries to get as close to a decent equilibrium as we can on neither quelling the topic nor fostering a sort of Always Be Discussing Rape atmosphere on the site, much like we have to find that balance on a lot of other difficult topics. It's something we basically never stop thinking about on the mod side, but that doesn't mean we've got it dialed in right, so its worth keeping talking about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:06 PM on February 20, 2015 [31 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd agree that's the status quo ante, because of course we have a long history of rape litigation. But I see your larger point.
posted by Miko at 2:07 PM on February 20, 2015


I'm not trying to be a jerk, sorry, I didn't communicate that well. I'm just saying that maybe you should read the article under discussion from today by a feminist lawyer and academic and it might not be so hard to understand.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I 100% understand that some ladytypes (and dudetypes too!) will personally just Not Want To Deal with those kinds of topics

Yeah, this is probably me from a dudetype perspective. I get that these discussions can be productive and interesting etc, but at the same time I think it's a super fraught topic, I don't know if metafilter Does It especially Well, and I can't help wondering if the preponderance of statistical outlier cases like this contribute to a perception that rape charges are more contentious than they actually are in real life.

I perhaps don't think a ban or anything is needed, but raising the bar, would be helpful. I mean, there's lots of other interesting legal case studies that don't make it to the front page.

I don't know if I would say "we" agreed that mefi is a specific target for MRA campaigns. I would argue the opposite, myself.
posted by smoke at 2:08 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Master and Margarita Mix: "Discussion of rape, rape culture and gender issues in general is at a watershed moment in society. That's not just good, it's great. That is an unequivocably good thing.
I agree that it's a good thing that these discussions are being held more and more. I'm appalled, though, that those discussions at a place like MeFi, wich collectively thinks of itself as fair and balanced, lead to members feeling like this:
KathrynT: "... I know that the probability that I'm just going to end up stressed and angry while others joke smugly at my expense is higher than I'm comfortable with."

It's the same issue that comes up around discussions that touch on gender issues in any way - at the same time as thinking we're 'better than that', we fail to provide a space where those on the receiving end of bias in society feel safe to truly be themselves. It's clear to me that, while we probably are better than most places on the Internet about being inclusive, we could be a lot better. I'm sure I'm not alone in that, hard as I try to, I often don't truly get just how tired some people are of having to constantly defend themselves here - a place where they should be believed and trusted and be able to trust others in turn. I don't know how to stop the tide of disrespect for women (particularly women, but not exclusively) and for minorities apart from having the discussions until people see the light. I don't think it's at all fair that a small group of people (both within MeFi and more broadly) should have to keep being upset and re-opening all sorts of wounds so that tide starts (and keeps!) turning, but I don't know how else it's going to happen. In a perfect world, change would happen because enough people want it to but, in a world where societal power is vested in such a small majority and where relinquishing any of the power is anathema to them, well, that's were we are today.

I both hate that these conversations are difficult and hope that we can keep having them. The alternative is letting the bastards win.
posted by dg at 2:09 PM on February 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Having posted one of those stories, only to have the first comment link to another article that gave a wider view of that particular situation, I think it's good for to post this sort of stuff, especially if others have more information that debunks or sheds more light on the original story.

Those people willing to listen will learn something, while others will just be shut down and/or ignored. WIN WIN.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:10 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


it might not be so hard to understand.

Right, but to try to be super clear, I was not having a hard time understanding that article, I was having a hard time understanding the general fascination with a minority of cases. The idea of false accusations of rape, generally, is an issue I have been aware of since puberty and my experience has usually been that there was an underlying agenda of continuing oppression when such discussions were brought to the fore. I realize that may not apply to every such post but suspect I'm not alone in feeling that internal sigh of letdown when the lead line is "false accusation." It may be helpful for users to be aware that any posts on that topic, even ones taking a very progressively justice-focused stance on false accusation, are likely to spark that 'not this again' reaction in at least some users. There is a history to be aware of.

There have been some good arguments here as to why these cases can be important and evidence that the posts themselves are not always coming from a contestative perspective, even if the discussion sometimes is.
posted by Miko at 2:11 PM on February 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


Well, "there's been too much discussion of feminism" isn't the same thing as "there's been too much discussion of falsified rape accusations"; I don't think it's a good idea to conflate the two, and it seems like it's more the latter than the former being voiced here.

In that case I'm honestly a little confused about part of the discussion here, because falsified rape accusations were just not a part of the post in the thread from today. I know that sounds like the kind of thing someone says when they're trying to feign obtuseness but I'm really not trying to do that. I feel like I read a different article or am missing a big part of it or something.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:13 PM on February 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Right, but to try to be super clear, I was not having a hard time understanding that article, I was having a hard time understanding the general fascination with a minority of cases.

Yes, just be aware that when you say you can't understand why anybody would interested unless they want to delegitimize all discussion of rape you are talking in large part to an audience that just came from that thread most directly. I am not questioning your clarification that you are talking more generally, just saying keep that sort of dynamic in mind in the future.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:14 PM on February 20, 2015


Nope. Discussion of rape, rape culture and gender issues in general is at a watershed moment in society. That's not just good, it's great. That is an unequivocably good thing.

Discussing them is a net good, I agree.

I'm not a woman, but I often find threads about those subjects draining and disheartening. In the past, survivors have been told in related threads that their experiences don't qualify them to weigh in on the topic. That our lived experiences are probably being misremembered. Or that not having sex on demand is akin to rape. I may be a biased observer, but I think victim-blaming happens a lot in threads about rape and sexual assault. "What about the men" or "Not all men" comments aren't hard to find either. Assumptions that a guy accused of rape, sexual assault or harassment must be innocent, and that their accuser should not be taken seriously also come up.

All of this and more are parts of rape culture. And sometimes, on MeFi, it's an endless parade of shittiness. Repeated, demeaning, victim-blaming accusations that take energy and time to counter. So those of us who are invested in the topic spend our time giving explanations, countering inaccuracies with facts, providing reading resource links, etc., to have discussions that will hopefully change things for the better. But they tend to result in the person who made the claim(s) drawing defensive lines in the sand and doubling down on their arguments, rather than learning. Or leaving, rather than learning. Only to poke their head up another day, so they can start the same cycle anew.

Is it any wonder that after a while, some of us say, "fuck it, why bother?"
posted by zarq at 2:15 PM on February 20, 2015 [31 favorites]


I think you're just reading me too narrowly, Drinky Die. I also think it's too much to assume that MeTa readers and users are always coming from the specific threads in question and already thoroughly familiar with them; often, perhaps more often, it works the other way around.
posted by Miko at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


In that case I'm honestly a little confused about part of the discussion here, because falsified rape accusations were just not a part of the post in the thread from today.

My impression is that the post today (which touches on the idea of disputes about sexual assault on campus) was more a straw-and-camel-back situation regarding the cited clump or posts in the last month than the whole be-all, end-all of the feeling Conspire and others are talking about. Sometimes the thing that pushes you over the edge to writing up a metatalk post or a note to the contact form isn't itself the core or totality of the issue, basically.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:16 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think you're just reading me too narrowly, Drinky Die. I also think it's too much to say that MeTa readers and users are always coming from the specific threads in question; often, it works the other way around.

Okay, I'm not sure we are on the same page yet entirely but we have done our best. Again, sorry if I came off as a jerk.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:17 PM on February 20, 2015


It's something we can in theory do now without making any specific pony-granting announcement, it's just something we do have a pretty darned high bar on. Beyond which, at this point the thread seems to have settled into a more substantial groove of discussion from where it was earlier, so then it becomes a question of deleting a thread for where it was at its worst vs. where it is now. If it felt like it was managing to continue to actively go downhill at this point I'd feel a little bit differently about it, I think.

Understandable.

You make a very good point that the impression we form of a thread in progress at a particular moment in time may not be where it's going to wind up at the end. Sort of like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle applied to MeFi threads.
posted by zarq at 2:26 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I was having a hard time understanding the general fascination with a minority of cases

An added tough aspect of discussing edge cases is that they're often about very nuanced positions and situations. Obvious situations are obvious, but weird edge cases usually involve a lot of caveats and "just in this case alone" kind of nuance that is at odds with a big public site having a big open discussion among a broad userbase where every comment is posted on the same level.

Lots of users have said in the past they might have a difficult-yet-fascinating discussion over dinner among a few friends about nuanced edge cases involving sensitive topics ("Hey friends, what should we think about third trimester abortion?), but on a big thread at MetaFilter or Twitter or Facebook, it's tough-to-impossible to do since the nuance can be quickly gone.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:33 PM on February 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


(Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates wrote: In that case I'm honestly a little confused about part of the discussion here, because falsified rape accusations were just not a part of the post in the thread from today.

The article's discussion of "hard" cases involving voluntary intoxication, as well as the section on post-relationship assault cases, is explicitly about false rape accusations. The FPP's pullquote isn't, but a good amount of the article is.

el io wrote: Ironically, this post was about a women who has engaged first-hand in things she found very problematic [...] I would understand the general tone of the thread if[...]her stories were 2nd-hand anecdotes, but none of that was the case.

The story that caused the most disruption was indeed a secondhand anecdote. She was (is?) an advocate for the accused. To imply that doubting the completeness of her description of her client's situation is analogous to doubting the account of someone who has been assaulted, and thus to insinuate that comments here are an example of feminist hypocrisy, is just flat out off the mark.
posted by nobody at 2:36 PM on February 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


Thanks, Drinky Die, I appreciate the response and am glad to know your intent was not the way I read it at first.
posted by Miko at 2:39 PM on February 20, 2015


> (indeed, folks accused her of being an MRA shill)

MRA folk have p0wn3d a woman professor at Harvard Law, not to mention the Harvard Law Review itself? If that's true then just give up, fight's over, there's nothing left to do except pray for intervention from benevolent aliens.
posted by jfuller at 2:41 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


zarq: "Assumptions that a guy accused of rape, sexual assault or harassment must be innocent, and that their accuser should not be taken seriously also come up. "

A position that is unfortunately and inextricably linked with the concept of 'innocent until proven guilty', of course - a concept paraded out as irrefutable proof that such accusations should be taken as lies until the course of what we laughingly call justice has ground along its course (more often than not presided over and declared by someone without any concept of what it's like to be powerless or to not have access to enormous amounts of power). It's clear that many people are willing to blindly accept this concept where it is someone on the shitty end of the power balance making accusations, yet equally willing to uncritically accept without question accusations, however baseless, made by someone in a position of (social or other) power.
posted by dg at 2:50 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The story that caused the most disruption was indeed a secondhand anecdote.

A second hand anecdote would be if I recalled a story that a friend had told me. Being involved with legal proceedings means she had more knowledge of the incident than anyone other than those directly involved. It's like saying that OJ Simpsons lawyer only had 2nd hand anecdotal evidence of the case. According to her, the 'accused' was not actually accused of doing or saying anything. She might be wildly misleading about the nature of what happened, but the student as described wasn't 'accused' in the normal sense of the word.

I'm sure she was involved in cases that were 'normal' and straightforward, but this entire article was about 'hard' cases. And (parts) metafilter largely accused her of deception (or being a shill). It's certainly (in my mind) disingenuous to characterize her knowledge of the story as 'a secondhand anecdote' (presumably she had access to the investigation the university made, interviews they conducted, etc).
posted by el io at 2:53 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


We really super duper need to not re-litigate that whole argument in here. It already got a looot of air in the original thread.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:55 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


My impression is that the post today (which touches on the idea of disputes about sexual assault on campus) was more a straw-and-camel-back situation regarding the cited clump or posts in the last month than the whole be-all, end-all of the feeling Conspire and others are talking about. Sometimes the thing that pushes you over the edge to writing up a metatalk post or a note to the contact form isn't itself the core or totality of the issue, basically.

I just wanted to chime in that this is the case indeed - in fact, pretty much all of my linked FPPs have areas of greyness and have valuable discussions contained within them. So the thing is, if you look at each FPP individually, they were all perfectly fine conversations to have. But in the larger scheme of things, you have to wonder why we're having the same conversation five times in a month - and consider the emotional drain that might be taking place as a consequence.
posted by Conspire at 3:04 PM on February 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Is it any wonder that after a while, some of us say, "fuck it, why bother?"

Yeah, totally. I've been there. Hell, sometimes I'm there more often than I'm not. But that's a personal instance of "fuck it, why bother?", yeah? No matter how often I feel that way, I'm not throwing in the towel on my beliefs, just engaging or advocating or doing activism because I'm too damn tired, and then only for a period.

I think, extending that to Metafilter, if there's any kind of editorial move towards "we've discussed this too much, better squelch it" as policy, to me that seems more like the collective version of actually changing your politics and beliefs because you're too tired to act for them.

Obviously, this all should be occuring in the context where, if people really are directly concern trolling rape survivors or posting pure, unadulterated MRA filth or making shitty, fighty, baity FPPs, the mods should of course go ahead and bust out the napalm and nuke that shit from orbit, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:05 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


"Obviously, this all should be occuring in the context where, if people really are directly concern trolling rape survivors or posting pure, unadulterated MRA filth or making shitty, fighty, baity FPPs, the mods should of course go ahead and bust out the napalm and nuke that shit from orbit, but I don't think that's what we're talking about here?"

Yes it is. For every genuine MRA activist and concern-troll, there's a hundred people who make the same arguments and advocate the same positions, or chime in to support aspects of those arguments, and that's where the fight is actually won or lost, not with regard to the easily identifiable hateful fringe.

I'm sorry -- I thought you were on the same page about this sort of thing in a different MetaTalk thread you participated in recently. You weren't nearly so concerned about discerning motivations and the importance of continuing to have difficult conversations in that thread, you were rightly concerned with how objectionable things manifest and function in society, and the harms they cause; and you strongly defended the legitimacy of the claims of those, like yourself, who were made to feel unwelcome.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:20 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


But that's a personal instance of "fuck it, why bother?", yeah?

But, the more people who say "fuck it, why bother," the more constrained our discussions get. I think it's valuable to have women's voices and survivors' voices in those discussions, but we're not going to get that if we keep incrementally ratcheting up the emotional cost of participating in the discussion to the people behind those voices. The more we make people swim upstream to be heard, the less we're going to hear from them.
posted by KathrynT at 3:22 PM on February 20, 2015 [29 favorites]


Obvious situations are obvious, but weird edge cases usually involve a lot of caveats and "just in this case alone" kind of nuance that is at odds with a big public site having a big open discussion among a broad userbase where every comment is posted on the same level.

If nuance doesn't work for a big public site, then neither do controversial topics, since they inevitably provoke the discussion of exceptions and "hard cases." If the nuances of rape policy or abortion cannot be discussed effectively here, perhaps no rape or abortion discussion should be permitted at all.

As a bonus, get rid of all the controversial topics and you could probably cut moderation duty on the Blue by 80% and nearly obviate the need for Metatalk.
posted by shivohum at 3:30 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


shivohum, have you been nearly as eager to discuss hard cases and false accusations of other crimes, like murder, robbery, arson, money laundering,etc.?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:33 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


That's pretty damn disingenuous.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:35 PM on February 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


That thread would have gone a lot better if certain posters didn't insist on cherry picking parts of the original article and then forcing the worst possible interpretation on them because it suits their own personal narrative.

Given that the same posters were pulling exactly the same crap in the Scott Aaronson thread I don't expect them to quit any time soon: all that outrage has to go somewhere apparently.
posted by pharm at 3:37 PM on February 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm fairly certain people would be very eager to discuss hard cases when it comes to murder, robbery, arson and so on. But those subjects don't come up as often as rape does. Well, murder does in certain contexts and when it does people do discuss edge cases.
posted by Justinian at 3:38 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


That thread would have gone a lot better if certain posters didn't insist on cherry picking parts of the original article

I think the biggest problem is that the weirdest anecdote was the one quoted at length by the FPP, which makes it out to be a bigger and more central part of the author's argument (and naturally makes it what will get interrogated first in the thread).
posted by nobody at 3:41 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


"I'm fairly certain people would be very eager to discuss hard cases when it comes to murder, robbery, arson and so on. But those subjects don't come up as often as rape does."

So your assertion is that people would talk about these things more often if they talked about them more often? I don't think you've made the point you intended to make.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:41 PM on February 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm saying that robbery and arson in general don't come up very often as posts. If they did, people would talk about hard or edge cases. I thought that was fairly obvious.
posted by Justinian at 3:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


(And murder/killings do come up fairly often and people do talk about hard and edge cases.)
posted by Justinian at 3:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


But, the more people who say "fuck it, why bother," the more constrained our discussions get. I think it's valuable to have women's voices and survivors' voices in those discussions, but we're not going to get that if we keep incrementally ratcheting up the emotional cost of participating in the discussion to the people behind those voices. The more we make people swim upstream to be heard, the less we're going to hear from them.

Not every victim/survivor necessarily agrees with you, though. This line of argument is basically just you setting up a false dichotomy about which victims viewpoints are considered real and valid.

I have endless sympathy for survivors who don't always feel like engaging, but I don't have sympathy with anyone who insists that as a survivor, I am supposed to feel constrained in a particular way (the general "fuck it why bother" sense) and that I'm not allowed to feel constrained in a different way (the "fuck you, don't speak for me, let me speak for myself" way), or that if I do I'm automatically siding with rape culture proponents.

I'm sorry -- I thought you were on the same page about this sort of thing in a different MetaTalk thread you participated in recently. You weren't nearly so concerned about discerning motivations and the importance of continuing to have difficult conversations in that thread, you were rightly concerned with how objectionable things manifest and function in society, and the harms they cause; and you strongly defended the legitimacy of the claims of those, like yourself, who were made to feel unwelcome.

Well I am just so very fucking sorry not to have lived up to your expectations of what you think my position ought to be.

I really don't think my position here is fundamentally different from the Israel/anti-Semitism thread, honestly, if that's what you're talking about. If any given topic gets overrun with anti-feminist MRA bullshit, yes, by all means, nuke it from orbit. But you can't pre-emptively say anything about what's going to happen in a particular thread just because of the subject or even just because of who posted it; that's different than the mods taking care that those kinds of discussions not get bogged down in shit, so to speak.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Im not, because there are people who like to discuss edge cases of rape in order to discredit non-edge cases. There's no such agenda w/ arson, murder, etc.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, it's pretty easy to prove that people like to talk about hard cases when it comes to murder. We do it all the time. Drone strikes. The Zimmerman trial. Mike Brown. And so on. So I think that's a slam dunk.
posted by Justinian at 3:46 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't have sympathy with anyone who insists that as a survivor, I am supposed to feel constrained in a particular way

You're under no obligation to feel anything in particular, obviously. But I think when you have a bunch of people speaking up and saying "hey things have been changing around here such that I'm less comfortable discussing these topics and my experiences in them than I was a year ago," that's not something to just blow off or say "well, who cares, other people are still willing to discuss it." It says nothing about how your responses should be constrained -- not sure where you're getting that notion.
posted by KathrynT at 3:48 PM on February 20, 2015 [24 favorites]


Not every victim/survivor necessarily agrees with you, though. This line of argument is basically just you setting up a false dichotomy about which victims viewpoints are considered real and valid.

i disagree - it's acknowledging that some survivors do have the specific issue being asked about in this thread - that some of us are feeling like our participation comes at too high of a cost. we've already lost some great people because they feel it's too hard to swim upstream. other survivors and feminists are totally free to disagree, but the disagreement doesn't cancel out people who feel like that.
posted by nadawi at 3:49 PM on February 20, 2015 [24 favorites]


But surely simply the discussion of hard cases isn't what's at issue here. What I think a lot of people are objecting to is the perspective or lens through which these cases are presented, and I would add my voice to those here who are upset if the post from today had discussed these cases from the perspective of the accused. But the perspective was from that of an administrator, and particularly from the unique perspective of an administrator who (I am assuming, from her tone) had and has pushed for more aggressive campus policing. In each of the cases presented, the author starts from a position of believing the victim/accuser. As a self-described feminist governor, she states: My own hope is that governance feminists designing and running a new campus sexual assault establishment can acknowledge the full weight of the responsibility they are taking on.

Of course some people are not going to enjoy or prefer to have this discussion. But some people must have this discussion, as part of their job or by serving on a committee or something. I am thankful that these people are having these discussions, because a) damn, who wants that job? and b) particularly if having these discussions now helps other campuses avoid some of the injustice and chaos we've seen at UVA and other places.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 3:52 PM on February 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure it's necessarily edge cases that people gravitate towards as much as it is areas of potential open debate or disagreement. Look at the political threads here, I think if I gave a general quiz on the issues even the most far right folks on here would be more than 50% in agreement on nearly every topic and most of us would be 90% on the same page. But, find any political topic and the conversation often drifts towards that tiny area of disagreement. It doesn't matter what the disagreement is, it can still get heated.

So, a good faith reading of fellow users who are focusing on edge cases is that they agree with you 100% on everything short of the edge unless they say otherwise. Of course, that doesn't mean you let individuals with proven track records go, just don't cast the net too wide when you don't have to.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:06 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I agree with that; it's the edge cases that get discussion because almost everybody agrees on the non-edge cases.
posted by Justinian at 4:07 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


That being said, I felt like this one was important to bring up because as we've previously established that Metafilter is a target for MRA/anti-feminist trolls.

Given some of what went down in that thread, I suspect MeFi is a target for SJW trolls as well.

Which really sucks, because it makes it really difficult for everyone else to have a useful discussion.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:11 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


a) damn, who wants that job?

Yeah, I have a family member who is an officer in the US Military who has had responsibility for handling rape allegations among people under his command. The military is definitely another institution that has a lot of work to do on this issue. He is a smart and sensitive guy and he does his best, but it seems to me to be one of the most difficult and crushing parts of the job because even if you do it the best you can there is a very real chance you are going to fail someone in a serious way. I don't think it's a responsibility I could handle all that well.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:12 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Folks, if you think someone is actually trolling, in the sense of saying things they don't believe in order to stir the pot, please let us know (contact form is probably best). Otherwise, maybe ease back on the generalized trolling accusations.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:17 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


MeFi is not a target for shit. MeFi is, and I say this with love, too boring and old. None of the organized trolls care or are even particularly aware of it. The occasional Redditor wandering over, ponying up the $5 and farting up his Reddit-level ~logic~ in a random feminism thread isn't evidence of MeFi being a targetted. It's a big, popular site, sometimes discussions here get linked on other big, popular sites, and not everyone on the wider Internet is going to fit the very vague general demographic or tenor of MeFi. It happens.

Given some of what went down in that thread, I suspect MeFi is a target for SJW trolls as well.

Not everyone on the left is good at or even particularly bothered with procedural liberalism. Unfortunately, it feels to me like the left is getting much worse at it. That doesn't mean they're insincere in the other dimensions of their leftist beliefs, including feminism.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:23 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


/me raises a toast to being old and boring
posted by uosuaq at 4:38 PM on February 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


Hear, hear.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:40 PM on February 20, 2015


/me raises a toast to being old and boring

I think we are more like the back room of a restaurant where you can have a half-way decent conversation divorced from the craziness of the world on a Saturday night, including all the drama that gets created at the bar. Few people are going to wander in the back to stir things up.

And I like it like this.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:50 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Folks, if you think someone is actually trolling, in the sense of saying things they don't believe in order to stir the pot, please let us know (contact form is probably best). Otherwise, maybe ease back on the generalized trolling accusations."

There was a time when this was really a problem and the distinction was relevant here. It's not relevant any longer because there's basically no people left on MetaFilter who are deliberate shit-stirrers. And for that we are all better off.

I do think that there's a lot of people who believe that there are a lot of other people who are deliberate shit-stirrers because, frankly, there's a personality type who temperamentally thinks that most other people's motivations are malevolent or at least dishonest. This suspicion tends to make these kinds of discussions much more difficult than they otherwise would be, because these suspicions are raised either implicitly or explicitly and then it becomes all about what's going on in people's heads. Which is deeply counter-productive.

Some people function as trolling shirt-stirrers, whether that's their intention or not. I happen to believe that in almost all cases (here, anyway) that they're just authentically acting upon and elucidating their beliefs. And in doing so, they're part of the problem. Intent and motivation no longer matter very much to me. I care about the result -- not intent or what's going on in someone's head, which I can't ever really know, anyway.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, it's pretty easy to prove that people like to talk about hard cases when it comes to murder. We do it all the time. Drone strikes. The Zimmerman trial. Mike Brown. And so on. So I think that's a slam dunk.

I don't think those are the hard cases by any means. Those are cases in which there is really widespread agreement that ambiguity and probably injustice existed. A better analogy to constantly raising the spectre of "false rape" in the context of murder might be the kind of rebuttal story I've seen in my Facebook feed in recent memory "black cop kills white guy, therefore police racism is not a real problem." Yes, crime discussions are crime discussions, but there are crime discussions that recognize that questioning the conditions of the crime is about questioning a power system, and crime discussions that don't. A lot of the time "but false rape!" is a discussion that seeks to omit attention to power systems.

I have a family member who is an officer in the US Military who has had responsibility for handling rape allegations among people under his command. The military is definitely another institution that has a lot of work to do on this issue.

That is indeed a fascinating arena and the legal presumptions and burdens of proof (and consequences) also seem really strangely unrelated to expectations in civilian law. This recent piece in the New York Times Magazine, which I don't think was FPP'd, is a fascinating glimpse into that world.

MeFi is, and I say this with love, too boring and old.

Our trolls are also old and boring.
posted by Miko at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


Our trolls are also old and boring.

Ahem.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:01 PM on February 20, 2015


It was an attempt at humor, not an accusation.
posted by Miko at 5:05 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay. Good try, I guess?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:07 PM on February 20, 2015


I'm not the one who gave it a bad-faith reading, but hey, nice try for you too. You'll have to wait for another gotcha opportunity, I suppose.
posted by Miko at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


I don't think those are the hard cases by any means. Those are cases in which there is really widespread agreement that ambiguity

Maybe I don't know what people mean by "hard cases" then. If the case is ambiguous that's what I mean by it being a hard case?
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I personally called them "edge cases," in the sense of "very unusual circumstances," and I'm not sure how the term "hard cases" got mixed in with that. It appears in quotes the first time it's used, but I am not aware of what it may be quoting.
posted by Miko at 5:13 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


(I meant "good try" at humor, or, in your words "an attempt at humor.")

You may not have been accusing anyone of being a troll, but you were still suggesting that there are trolls here, which strikes me as a circumvention (at best) of LobsterMitten's comment--and I don't really know how it can be read any other way.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:16 PM on February 20, 2015


I thought she was joking, not suggesting. Was how I read it, anyway.
posted by rtha at 5:17 PM on February 20, 2015


I understood that you meant "good try" at humor. Yep, joking, not suggesting.

But be assured if I think anyone is trolling, I'll communicate with the mods.
posted by Miko at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2015


Fair enough. Cheers.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2015


I just want to say that I'm probably not yet old and boring in your views, but I aspire to be. Thanks, people.
posted by halifix at 5:24 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


I guess the distinction between 'edge case' and 'hard case' is an edge case would be one where coming to a resolution that people feel is morally correct is difficult to achieve procedurally, but hard case is one that is procedurally correct but morally dubious.
posted by 99_ at 5:26 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I personally called them "edge cases," in the sense of "very unusual circumstances," and I'm not sure how the term "hard cases" got mixed in with that. It appears in quotes the first time it's used, but I am not aware of what it may be quoting.

Hard cases was a term used in today's article. There seems to be a lot of using various terms like "edge" or "hard" as interchangeable. I think any serious real debate on this would have to define those terms ahead of time so everybody would be on the same page, otherwise it's a recipe for miscommunication.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:27 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


black cop kills white guy, therefore police racism is not a real problem

That's what I don't see happening here. I don't see an invasion of 'this one example invalidates all other evidence'.

I would disagree with many of the assumptions in the original MeTa post.
Considering the aggressive misreading of the most recent FPP linked, it frequently feels that if a comment or article doesn't simply say ' I think campus sexual assault is a widespread and poorly dealt with problem that needs serious efforts to fix', it gets accused of being MRA propaganda or a rape apologist. Whether the next part says 'but this one case does not seem to be entirely based on fact', or 'but can the application of Title IX as the blanket solution cause other problems', or anything which doesn't invalidate the previous statement, merely explores more of the issue, that gets treated as denying rape culture - and as denying the lived experience of certain users in particular.

It appears to be a further attempt to police the other users so they only say the agreed-upon sentiments and discuss things in an agreed-upon way.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:33 PM on February 20, 2015 [26 favorites]


By devoting such a huge proportion of the conversation to these rare cases - things like universities overreacting to Title IX complaints as apparently happened at Nameless Oregon U, or false rape accusations - the conversation becomes dominated by rare cases. It gives the impression that THESE are the real problems, not the epidemic of rape and sexual assault on college campuses or the pervasiveness of rape culture and sexual assault writ large. By devoting so much energy to these cases which are a really tiny proportion of the problem, we're burning out on the big challenge of fixing the way our culture deals with sex and rape and sexual assault. And then, after 5 or 6 of these contentious, angry, "edge case" kind of threads, when the opportunity comes to have an interesting, honest, important, relevant conversation, very few people have the energy left for that.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:40 PM on February 20, 2015 [63 favorites]


I think it's worth talking about how there was a mild and tenuous recent mod consensus that talking about rape at all was "part of rape culture" and that posts concerning it might need to clear a higher bar, and yet, somehow, amazingly, a whole series of hand-wringing posts about supposed false accusations of rape went undeleted -- when, surely, more than other example of how we discuss rape, this particular subtopic is a precisely how rape culture prefers to talk about rape.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [20 favorites]


It appears to be a further attempt to police the other users so they only say the agreed-upon sentiments and discuss things in an agreed-upon way.

oh no you have exposed my secret plan to work with feminists to stifle all critical thought and creative thinking so that i can just take over the world by drawing boxes in chalk around everyone and watch as they stand there, utterly helpless to react or move

Anyway, I was going to write an actual response to that after the snark, but ChuraChura covered it all already on preview.
posted by Conspire at 5:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


>By devoting such a huge proportion of the conversation to these rare cases - things like universities overreacting to Title IX complaints as apparently happened at Nameless Oregon U, or false rape accusations - the conversation becomes dominated by rare cases. It gives the impression that THESE are the real problems, not the epidemic of rape and sexual assault on college campuses or the pervasiveness of rape culture and sexual assault writ large.

Do you get that "impression"? I don't. And I don't think many Mefites are credulous (and cut off enough from the rest of the world) to get that impression, either. I think you may be worried about something you think could happen but hasn't been shown to happen and--imo--isn't happening at all.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:45 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's worth talking about how there was a mild and tenuous recent mod consensus that talking about rape at all was "part of rape culture" and that posts concerning it might need to clear a higher bar, and yet, somehow, amazingly, a whole series of hand-wringing posts about supposed false accusations of rape went undeleted

I think we are probably riding a post-Rolling Stone wave here to a degree. I do think this was a good Meta to bring attention to maybe dialing that down back to normal levels even if I do think today's post in particular was okay.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2015


I think that back room at that restaurant is full of old and boring people. But I do like the buffet, it's full of things I don't have to chew much. Somebody get me a bran muffin and a geritol.
posted by disclaimer at 5:48 PM on February 20, 2015


I was going to write an actual response to that after the snark

Maybe next time do that instead of injecting unnecessary snark into the conversation? After all, you contributed nothing but aggressive dismissal and 'humorous' hyperbole into a thread you would, presumably, rather be about the issues you raised and proceed without getting all angry and shouting. Responding sarcastically with an interpretation of my words removed from all reality helps nothing.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:55 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think the young are cute but deluded when they insist that they're interesting.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:56 PM on February 20, 2015


(And buffets are gross. Old, tepid food. Yucko)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:57 PM on February 20, 2015


By devoting so much energy to these cases which are a really tiny proportion of the problem, we're burning out on the big challenge of fixing the way our culture deals with sex and rape and sexual assault.

this is not the place where you're going to fix the issues our culture has - this is not the place where anything's going to be changed except for a few minds

people expect too much to happen here - or act as if they do
posted by pyramid termite at 5:58 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


there was a mild and tenuous recent mod consensus that talking about rape at all was "part of rape culture"

No. I said that having to talk about rape all the time was part of rape culture. I explained exactly what I mean by that.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


I guess that was a comment about life in general as well as exactly the specifics of metafilter? I know that personally, I get burned out on these conversations on metafilter and that has implications for what conversations and advocacy I feel up to doing in The Real World. And I do think it's been the case that the egregious false rape accusations get an outsize amount of attention in the real world. The world at large doesn't hear about every rape that happens, or even a significant proportion of them. We do hear about a significant proportion of the false rapes, or those "edge cases."
posted by ChuraChura at 6:02 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, because the "edge cases" are the ones that provoke discussion and debate. And this is a discussion site. Clear-cut cases can't really bring out a lot of discussion other than "wow, that was horrible," which is more or less what the mods have termed "outragefilter."
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:06 PM on February 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Maybe next time do that instead of injecting unnecessary snark into the conversation? After all, you contributed nothing but aggressive dismissal and 'humorous' hyperbole into a thread you would, presumably, rather be about the issues you raised and proceed without getting all angry and shouting. Responding sarcastically with an interpretation of my words removed from all reality helps nothing.

I'm genuinely baffled by the entitlement in this response. You go out of your way to insult me, make a bad faith reading of my post, and directly accuse me of wanting to "police other users", after I've already addressed the very concerns that you brought up previously when they came up. There's nothing I can really say to that except to laugh it off. And then the response to that is to complain that I'm being too dismissive and not nice enough? Like, there's literally no way I can win here, is there?

So perhaps the undertone that you missed in my humor is that I'm not really going to engage with this distortion of reality, because there's nothing I can gain from arguing with you on this.
posted by Conspire at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess that was a comment about life in general as well as exactly the specifics of metafilter?

i can see that - myself, i can't spend a lot of energy fighting over anything on this site these days, as i have too many real world fights to deal with right now - i say my piece, if it isn't going to be the kind of thing that's going to start or continue a shitstorm and then i let it go
posted by pyramid termite at 6:13 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


"No. I said that having to talk about rape all the time was part of rape culture. I explained exactly what I mean by that."

And this was the last paragraph of your own comment you just linked:

"Judging where the limit is, is obviously a subjective judgment call and is based (as it must be) on the mods' own sense of the emotional temperature of the site as a whole. We can be wrong. It's totally fair for there to be debate about whether we've picked the right post/right time to draw a line and say 'let's take a breather.' But I do think being able to space out these really hard discussions can be an important thing for avoiding emotional burnout on a given topic, not only among mods but also among members."

"Not all the time" necessarily means "less" in the context where the trend that was being discussed in that thread wasn't, in fact, "all the time" and the consensus was "talk less about it than we have been". And yet we have these posts, which are basically the worst kinds of posts to let through the gate. And if there's actually been fewer rape posts in total during this period, then the fact that these are among them just makes it worse.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:13 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


That thread was in the middle of December. It's now two months later. We talked in that thread about how this kind of "we have too much of this kind of post" situation is highly time dependent. Do you really not get that?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:15 PM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


"That thread was in the middle of December. It's now two months later. We talked in that thread about how this kind of 'we have too much of this kind of post' situation is highly time dependent. Do you really not get that?"

I do get that. That December MetaTalk post was about four posts in a month, which you agreed in the thread was an example of a time-dependent saturation. This MetaTalk post was about five posts in three weeks.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:20 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure, and I agree that we've reached a point right now with these backlashy posts that the next one is probably going to get the "we've had a lot of this lately" treatment. In fact I think we had reached that point before, and this one seemed substantive enough that it stuck around even though it was a borderline situation.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:22 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Okay, but it seems really weird to me that the point of your comment in that thread and the concerns shared by the other mods was that all these posts about rape could be generally oppressive and uncomfortable for survivors even when the posts and conversation are from the perspective of survivors -- so I'd expect that the category of posts that are especially and well-known to be oppressive and uncomfortable to survivors would have a very high bar to clear before they are allowed to stand. But the actual result here is that this hostile subtopic ends up being on an equal or even more favorable footing than survivor-focused posts are. That is very far from an ideal outcome and I think it bears some examination how it could come to be given that there was this focused attention on the issues involved with rape posts just two months ago.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:31 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


We don't have a counter going on the admin page or anything. Flags on rape-related topics are far from consistent, so we're generally left with the expedient of a mod noticing a thread in enough time that a deletion is plausible as well as all of us keeping a running tally in our heads. There's not an easy mechanical solution here, and there isn't consensus amongst the userbase about how much is too much. Plus we get just as much pushback when we delete as when we keep threads, so it's a bit of a needle for us to thread.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:46 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


About that MeTa, I guess this is how I see it - at that time (early/mid December), we'd just recently had a bunch of posts on that topic. We felt it was time to take a break from it for a little while.

Two months pass. There are a bunch of these backlashy articles getting press/media/blogosphere exposure, and people pick up on that and want to bring them here. So they make posts. Enough time has passed that we're beyond the kind of time window we were talking about in that previous MeTa. Enough people want to talk about these backlashy things that we get complaints if we delete them. So, several of them stand, including some ones that turned out to be discredited - where if we had a time machine, we could go back and delete those.

Now we come to this post today, which is backlashy (a point against it, since we've had a spate of those recently) but seems to be substantive, a law review article, something to really talk about instead of being a horrible-thing-happened post or something else that would be readily deletable. So this one stands, even though it is sort of borderline.

I don't think there is an inconsistency in how this has played out with respect to that previous MeTa, is what I'm saying.

Stepping away from that issue specifically, I'm dismayed to hear several people in here saying they are discouraged/put off by the way these discussions go and that people feel like it's getting worse. I feel like discussions of rape here have always been pretty bumpy, with some good parts and a consistent level of less-good parts - so I haven't myself been noticing a big change in how these go, but it's very possible I'm wrong. It's certainly a discussion I wish we could do better at. I don't have an easy answer on this larger question of how to improve the tenor of these discussions, and I appreciate people talking about it in a constructive way.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:48 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Another woman mefite who is done with discussing rape here. But keep having your reasonable discussions about fascinating edge cases and how some women really are just liars but no men are, especially not men accused of rape because why would they lie.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:49 PM on February 20, 2015 [42 favorites]


Just an additional point of data here, not arguing anything in particular with it. The "Carry That Weight" link that BB posted and was one of the links noted in this Meta had been previously deleted the day before when a different user posted it because Mathowie did not think it had enough bulk in the content to be worth posting in that form. So, even if they did end up letting too much by anyway, this was not at all a topic they had lost sight of. They were still actively moderating on it and doing the best they could. I don't think it's fair to present it as if they forgot the previous comments on the subject.

(And err, some dummy contacted the mods to say the original link should have stayed up who now regrets it because yeah, there probably has been a bit too much on this subject.)
posted by Drinky Die at 6:50 PM on February 20, 2015


It's hard to understand why a focus on edge cases would be so interesting unless people wanted to delegitimize and undermine all discussion of rape.

There was a huge uptick in the discussion of edge cases on the Internet, in the US media and academia -- not just Metafilter -- in response to the promulgation of new rules for adjudicating rape accusations at many colleges. Many people felt that these rules -- pushed by the Federal government -- were deeply problematic; that they created a presumption of guilt that was at odds with our traditional view of justice.

(That traditional view of justice is captured by Blackstone's Formulation: It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.)

Those new rules created all sorts of discussion in all sorts of places. Some of that discussion --- for example the letter signed by a two or three dozen Harvard Law School professors --- was not framed by the discussion of edge cases. But it's natural to use edge cases to illustrate potential problems with these new rules, and many of the discussions have used them.

So there are certainly reasons for discussing these edge cases other than wanting to "delegitimize all discussion of rape." Maybe some people use them that way, but not everyone.

(To be super clear, I'm not saying here that Blackstone's Formulation is the right measure to use in the case of campus sexual assault. It ignores the harm done to too many victims. Maybe there are situations where a few innocent people being ruled guilty is the right thing on balance. The point, though, is that there is something to discuss and face and it gets one of the roots of our anglo-american sense of what is justice and what is right.)
posted by alms at 6:50 PM on February 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


Chiming in to say that I've also cut way back on participating in rape threads because I'm completely tired of providing education and citations and people seemingly forgetting that in the next thread. One of my jobs is providing therapy for rape survivors, I really like that work, I have a lot of knowledge about the issues, and I don't find it gratifying to participate on MeFi about it any more.
posted by jaguar at 6:54 PM on February 20, 2015 [32 favorites]


>But keep having your reasonable discussions about fascinating edge cases and how some women really are just liars but no men are

Wait what? That is not what has been happening here. Best to you, but that's a shitty way to go out.

(and just to be clear, I'll go ahead and say it: I think the number of rape accusations that are false is miniscule, and especially so compared to the number of rapists who claim innocence.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:57 PM on February 20, 2015 [7 favorites]


That's great that you don't feel that way about these threads. The OP asked how other mefites, especially women, felt about these threads and their effect on this site. That is how I feel about these threads and their effect on this site.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:00 PM on February 20, 2015 [29 favorites]


We've talked before about how the abstract discussion of edge cases that some people really enjoy (and I enjoy it too, often), can feel pretty callous to someone for whom these issues aren't abstract. It's a difficult situation that we face here on a few heated topics. I don't think there's an easy solution one way or the other, but certainly people on both sides can at least see where the people on the other side are coming from.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:04 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


Characterizing Metafilter threads as "some women really are just liars but no men are" isn't a "feeling," hydropsyche, it's a smear.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:06 PM on February 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


Sorry I haven't read the whole thread but I wanted to say that I spent about - I don't know, half and hour the other day trying to find another community I might join like MetaFilter. I was very surprised that when I googled a phrase (I forget what - something like "web communities like Metafilter") that it brought up many search results, some of which appeared to be link-baity stuff, some sincere.

I didn't get very far, was halfway interested in "Making Light" but grew turned-off by the unfamiliar and ugly formatting/design. But then I recalled how unfamiliar and MF was to me, at first..

All this is to say - yes, you do get fed up and you do want to look for other places, but I haven't found any web communities like Metafilter yet so best to stay and make it better rather than jump ship - at least for me. I think cortex best summarizes the conundrum of rape discussions in the above comment, and it's going to continue to be a difficult subject to negotiate (wow that sounds like weak tea but there you go).

The post in question seemed a tad of a trainwreck and I wonder if we cannot just do something earlier on to nip that in the bud (unproductive discussions/ill will within threads). I don't know, I'm guessing the peeps in charge know a lot more about this than I do. But you could see that train coming down the line, is all I'm saying.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:06 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd also very much like to hear if the mods are receiving any special training, or if plans are on the table for special training and support when working on rape (and related/similar difficult issues) threads. ISTR a comment jessamyn made on an earlier MetaTalk that was horrifying to read and really eye-opening. I can walk away from the rape threads thank Glob but the mods cannot - so! How are they being given training? How are they given support/ relief? Is there a backup mod to take over/emergency relief mod?

These are professional issues, but I wanted to plop my thoughts out here, what the hell.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:10 PM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Looking at the Halley piece again I think it has a lot of problems and I don't know if it even belongs. But I think it's common for people who consider themselves feminists and antiracists and civil libertarians to have trouble acknowledging that there are real world incidents about which two or more of those perspectives may legitimately be in conflict given the information available, and these conflicts are actually really interesting and important. Bringing them to light and talking about how to balance the concerns of each perspective isn't some sleight-of-hand with edge cases - it's the heart of intelligent policy discussion. I'm not interested in these "abstract" issues of legal philosophy because they're "fun" to talk about, I'm interested because they're important. There have been a few (good) comments on this site about how for some people rape is not a topic for detached intellectual discussion and I absolutely respect that but we all know the site as a whole does not try to be a safe space and there are plenty of ways to warn people away from topics they don't want to see.

It's just - I keep seeing these MeTas and comments alleging we've got some festering MRA underground or devious Overton-window-shifting trolls ruining the site;. Then I go and look through the referenced discussion and I see a handful of people saying gross things and getting stuck in the pillory and slinking off. Well, fine, kick those guys out, whatever. But there's less of this

how some women really are just liars but no men are, especially not men accused of rape because why would they lie.

than on any other forum I've seen of this size and diversity. I support efforts to minimize the indefensible without deleting the whole conversation, but if you cannot bear the possibility - or if you read mention of real issues like the historical use of rape accusations as a pretext for lynchings in the same light - you know which subjects to avoid.
posted by atoxyl at 7:16 PM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


(joseph conrad is fully awesome: Quick answers: No training at this time. Emergency relief, depends on who's around, plus we can vent to our families. And we can stop reading when we're off shift, which means in some cases one person may not read the entirety of a mega-thread.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:19 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


"There's not an easy mechanical solution here, and there isn't consensus amongst the userbase about how much is too much. Plus we get just as much pushback when we delete as when we keep threads, so it's a bit of a needle for us to thread."

I don't think there's an easy solution at all, certainly not a simply defined procedural one (such as counting and a limit). I believe you guys work hard at this and, as ever, it's a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don't situation.

But that December thread upset me greatly -- far more than I let on -- because that part of the discussion put all varieties of conversation about rape into one pot and then focused on what was "too much". I totally agree that rape culture means some aspects of rape and some speakers about rape get a huge amount of airplay and thoughtspace, and in that I completely agree with the argument presented in the thread. But discussions of other aspects of rape and by survivors is very much not in the interests of rape culture and, traditionally, rape culture has silenced those discussions and those voices. Lumping all rape discussion together as being part of rape culture when it's "all the time" ultimately inadvertenly ends up supporting rape culture because the dominant voices talking about rape and the dominant themes in discussion of rape are all the bad things that are in the interests of rape culture and so pushing down on all rape discussion indiscriminately will mean that at the end of the day you'll still have a lot of the bad stuff, but the few voices presenting the good stuff are likely to be entirely quashed.

Given that the December MetaTalk thread was within the context of rape discussions on MetaFilter where we actually have a recent history of supporting the kinds of discussions and voices that work against rape, and not for it, this was especially troubling. That thread had the implicit message that posts by and for survivors of rape had a particularly high bar to clear, and on the basis of concerns that lots of talk about rape in general hurts survivors.

Which, you know, I strongly disagree but because I agreed with part of the argument and goal, I ultimately decided, okay, maybe it really would be best if there were just fewer posts and threads where we discuss rape because, whatever the balance between good and bad varieties of discussion, a lot of rape survivors were feeling unhappy and uncomfortable with the sheer quantity.

But then we have these posts and this thread. The problem I have is not that I expect there to be some admin siren that goes off when a counter is exceeded, it's that the implication of that December thread necessarily is that this quantity of this particular variety of backlash posts about rape wouldn't really be possible -- if you're that sensitive to the overall level of all discussions of rape and wish to limit them, how can you not be especially sensitive to the levels of discussion about this particularly objectionable backlash-y discussion of rape?

And to be quite frank, I think the answer to that question is that the two things put together illustrate one aspect of how rape culture actually works. All of this ubiquitous shitty talk about rape, all of the ways in which women are made to feel unsafe every minute of every day, and to know that all their decisions will be questioned, end up making it very difficult to even have the good conversations about rape because the natural human response is "I don't want to have to think about this all the damn time". And so we'll walk away from or silence survivors when they want to talk about rape, even when the discussion about rape would actually be healthy and work against rape, while inevitably we'll still be left with the bad discussions about rape that reinforce rape culture and all the bad messages because such discussions are ubiquitous and the people who want to have those discussions have the greatest amount of influence. Which is exactly what has happened here.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:28 PM on February 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


But keep having your reasonable discussions about fascinating edge cases and how some women really are just liars but no men are, especially not men accused of rape because why would they lie.

If you want your feelings to be given any credibility, do not use a blatant lie to express them. What you stated is absolute bullshit. This site has literally never had anyone suggest that no man accused of rape is a liar, much less entertained a discussion of such nature.

All you have accomplished with this tack is to offend your fellow users and hosts, disqualify yourself as a contributor to this thread, and sully your own name.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:34 PM on February 20, 2015 [6 favorites]


fff, that is uncalled for. Escalating the rhetoric makes these discussions worse; that goes for everybody, but especially someone complaining about rhetorical excesses.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:37 PM on February 20, 2015 [14 favorites]


[One deleted per poster; I appreciate people being willing to cool off a bit in here.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Woman opinion: I mostly don't read rape threads because any possibility for nuance is lost when we go over the same exhausting territory of "how can we be sure she was raped" "men are raped too" "but a false accusation could ruin a man's life" "show me the evidence you were hurt or it's just outragefilter" - the topic is draining enough without the endless series of man-centred derails.
posted by gingerest at 7:59 PM on February 20, 2015 [42 favorites]


"men are raped too"

They are, in very underestimated numbers. It shouldn't ever be used as a derail from women's issues, but do tread carefully on the subject when you bring it up out in an example of bad excuses. Male rape is a pretty dire issue too.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


gingerest: The latest thread on the topic contains none of these things, it should be safe for you to wander into it if you wish (although the actual thread is somewhat awful for other reasons).
posted by el io at 8:28 PM on February 20, 2015


I haven't myself been noticing a big change in how these go, but it's very possible I'm wrong.

This is just my impression and not a scientific result of tabulating participation in threads, but it seems to me that over the 10 years I've been here, but more closely over the last 2-3 years in which this specific aspect of gender politics has gained more traction in the wider culture and here as well, the number of people participating in each is getting narrower and more homogeneous. It may just be me. I used to think these were good and groundbreaking and useful discussions to have amongst a mixed audience. I no longer really feel that way, at least as far as what happens here. The range of perspectives and participants seems to be constricting.
posted by Miko at 8:31 PM on February 20, 2015 [17 favorites]


I noticed that a lot of the threads cited as examples concern Title IX/higher ed sexual assaults--that's a prominent and important topic of substantially increased discussion recently. I don't know that it's necessarily a great idea for MetaFilter to mirror what's being discussed in lots of other places, but I'd suggest that a major reason for this uptick is a consequence of so much more discussion of Title IX.

I've been reflecting on the question of why it is that people seem to be so much more invested in concerns about being falsely accused of rape than of arson, or burglary, or murder, like a few people have pointed out in this thread. Isn't that because with rape, there's much more of a "but for the grace of God there go I" factor to it? People don't ordinarily find themselves in situations where it would be even remotely feasible to be falsely accused of, say, arson, but that's not true of sexual encounters. It's particularly true of the types of sexual encounters often featured in these threads--college hookups involving alcohol. I think there's got to be something that people feel sometimes when they read about these situations that provokes a reaction like "Whoa, there's a surprisingly thin line between a consensual drunken hookup and a rape allegation." (And, like, yeah, there is, which is why there is such a close correlation between the college drinking culture and sexual assaults). But people are just never going to have a reaction like this when it comes to burglary or arson or most other crimes because it's just not nearly as easy to reasonably imagine oneself in a situation where you could be falsely accused of burning down a house, but it's pretty easy to imagine oneself in a situation where a sexual partner says that the encounter wasn't consensual.

I think men should live with that kind of discomfort. I also think, though, that it's not a terrific argument to imply that people are disingenuous or hypocritical because they don't share the same level of concern for false arson (or whatever) accusations that they do about false rape accusations.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:34 PM on February 20, 2015 [16 favorites]


10 years? Small sample size!

(I keed, I keed)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:34 PM on February 20, 2015


you know which subjects to avoid.

yeah i'll just be over here missing the insight that folks like jaguar would bring to these continuing issues.

i was ok ish with the boyzone days because i was young and also i didn't know any better than to expect the internet to be the internet (and boys to be boys?). i won't go back to it. mefi has ruined my ability to accept sexism everywhere all the time.

This site has literally never had anyone suggest that no man accused of rape is a liar

it's unnecessary to do that to make women uncomfortable and unwelcome. just chip chip chip away at everything they say, on a topic that disproportionately affects them, that'll do. going way over the top, as you did, is even better of course.

i'm surprised at the relative lack of women in this thread, are you like me and typing and deleting comments for a few hours hoping others would speak up? it'd be nice if you did, if only to make me feel like the women in here who have cut back are outliers and not How Things Are from now on.

maybe there's a happy hour event that we were not invited to? any rate, thanks Conspire for bringing it up and everyone who contributed.

mods i think it's understandable that you might not make the absolute right calls all the time. i get what you're saying Ivan, it's a damn good point, but out of the whole equation i think the mods are the easiest ones to have a discussion with and hopefully this meta is enough of a sign that, going forward, this is something to look for. false rape accusation fpps for 2015, and so soon after gamergate? you shouldn't have. no, really.

I think men should live with that kind of discomfort.

that's not happening without a fight.
posted by twist my arm at 8:43 PM on February 20, 2015 [12 favorites]


Women have been reading and hearing descriptions of nonconsensual sex, in addition to being subjected to it, for, I'm guessing, millennia. If men have been reading and hearing those same descriptions and somehow not feeling empathy for the women in those cases, and somehow now can identify only with the men in possibly-ambiguous situations, that's a huge failure of empathy on their part, not some sort of inhuman burden.
posted by jaguar at 8:55 PM on February 20, 2015 [44 favorites]


I'm kind of watching this discussion, as a woman who's pretty newish to Metafilter. And I've gotta say--I saw that FPP, looked at the content and the first few posts, and just noped the fuck out. It felt really unwelcoming, and it's made me feel a little less excited about being part of the site.

And I'm not a survivor, I have less baggage with rape culture than most of the women I know. But I feel exhausted by the topic, and all these worries about how giving more credence to women who publicly say they've been assaulted is going to have HUGE TERRIBLE CONSEQUENCES for us all.
posted by sciatrix at 9:07 PM on February 20, 2015 [49 favorites]


a mod noticing a thread in enough time that a deletion is plausible

How much time has to pass before deletion of a thread becomes implausible / unreasonable? If the answer is dependent on [factors], then what factors?

Because I've been here long enough that in the past I've seen at least a few comments or threads deleted hours after they were made. We had a handful of times when there was less mod coverage (and noticeably, gaps in coverage at night) where posts remained live for between 6-10 hours or in rarer cases even longer before being deleted. If in the past a comment or post could remain live for several hours before being deleted, why can't that be done now?
posted by zarq at 10:12 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, I'm asking why posts can't be deleted hours after they were posted. Not comments.

I understand that the mods feel comments which have been responded to by many people are embedded and eventually become impossible to remove without making a thread unreadable.
posted by zarq at 10:18 PM on February 20, 2015


Stepping away from that issue specifically, I'm dismayed to hear several people in here saying they are discouraged/put off by the way these discussions go and that people feel like it's getting worse.

I'm a man, but I looked at the first pages of that thread and noped right on out of there. Discussions of rape can be interesting but are also draining, and discussions of campus sexual issues and Title IX cases have been following incredibly boring repetitious pathways, sadly. That FPP might be a fascinating edge case, but I was absolutely put off by the discussion and decided to not participate.

And I'm willing to be direct and say that yes, moderation on topics overlapping with feminism has noticeably deteriorated, beginning at the point of the financial concerns and consequent cut in both total moderator hours and in the ratio of female/male staffing. Jessamyn had taken a leadership role on this (as well as on other issues, of course) and that role has not been filled in her absence. The result is tangible but accrues across the site, rather than appearing in one big obvious change.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:22 PM on February 20, 2015 [19 favorites]


I was going to send this to a mod to post anonymously, because there are aspects of my personal life I'd prefer not to talk about, but... In high school, after an encounter where I was entirely too drunk to give consent and had to be told about the (public) situation afterward, I lost almost my entire social circle because I dared call it rape in confidence to my so-called best friend, as part of trying to understand why I was such a mess inside. It was awful. So, as a woman and a survivor, a trend of false rape FPPs just adds to the endless internal whispers of "No one believes you." I mean, that's just me, but my story is hardly unique.
posted by Ruki at 10:27 PM on February 20, 2015 [47 favorites]


yeah i'll just be over here missing the insight that folks like jaguar would bring to these continuing issues.

I think I concluded that in a sharper-sounding way than I meant and I apologize. I absolutely don't want anyone with insight to go away or be discouraged from contributing. I just think "abstract" discussion of policy and enforcement and even intersection with other kinds of injustice often gets a blanket dismissal as insensitive - or conflated with the occasional lurking rape apologist - and I genuinely think it's insight too. Sometimes I really don't know how to reconcile a feminist perspective with a civil rights perspective and I find it helpful to read other people talking about it. So I would hope those who can't stomach that side of the discussion - which I do empathize with - could give a little bit of credit for good faith on the part of most participants and let it play out. Maybe, if there isn't already, there should be some kind of safe space thread, as well as the (almost) anything goes kind, to provide a more comfortable place for people to share on fraught subjects.

I don't think many of us would be mad to just see fewer rape threads either. I just think this is one of the only places the subject does get discussed in (mostly) good faith.
posted by atoxyl at 10:32 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


About zarq's question, from my perspective -

In the past, there were fewer members, shorter threads in general, and different community expectations about modding (no overnight mods), so I think the past of 6+ years ago isn't a good comparison to how things work today. For the most part these days, we live with a thread once it's gotten going, and people are accustomed to that.

In a few cases the long-delayed delete is still the right answer, but these are rare.
It's a lot better if possible to delete at the outset, rather than to hope for the best and then delete after the fighting has started in earnest. If the fighting gets going, then people will be involved/invested in the fight and will be annoyed that their venue was closed... and they'll want to open a MeTa to have the fight over here instead.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:33 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't see NoxAeternum here. I had very similar reactions to the article as stated by NoxAeternum. And I noticed that there were several reactive comments stating that NoxAeternum was being disingenuous or unfair or willfully misinterpreting, or words to that effect. I didn't like that.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:37 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, NoxAeternum was attacked pretty viciously.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:06 PM on February 20, 2015


NoxAeturnum was not "attacked pretty viciously". They were called out on the crap they spouted that had no foundation in the article in question.

They have a history of projecting the worst possible motives & accusing people of things they've neither said nor done (you won't find the worst of it because it was deleted by the mods) and, surprise!, this thread was no exception.
posted by pharm at 12:03 AM on February 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


DrinkyDie, of course males can be and are raped, and male survivors of sexual assault during adulthood are seriously, tragically underserved. But it's an irrelevant derail in threads about rape of females, and particularly grating because it uses the trauma of a whole class of people already hard done by to score rhetorical points, which is some horrible bullshit.

El io, thank you.
posted by gingerest at 12:05 AM on February 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


I was unaware of NoxAeternum's history. All I saw in the thread was a difference of interpretation, but I'll take your word for it that there was worse.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:07 AM on February 21, 2015


I saw foundation in the article for the comments made. (Maybe there were other, deleted comments?) Anyway, repeating myself.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:13 AM on February 21, 2015


NoxAeturnum has had very few comments deleted, and most of those were in the context of several comments from different people deleted because it was a derail or belonged-in-Metatalk kind of thing. Nothing stands out to me as accusing other people of anything, etc. Maybe you are thinking of someone else, pharm.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:24 AM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I was thinking of the Scott Aaronson thread taz. Perhaps I misattributed the deleted comments in question?
posted by pharm at 12:58 AM on February 21, 2015


(In which case, my apologies to NoxA.)
posted by pharm at 1:02 AM on February 21, 2015


Yeah, I think so, pharm. I'm not sure what you're remembering, but NoxAeturnum had one (very mild) comment deleted there because it was a response to a deleted comment that was a "The Problem With Metafilter" kind of thing that we discourage in discussions on the blue (should go to Metatalk, in other words).
posted by taz (staff) at 1:06 AM on February 21, 2015


to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women

I'm just tired in general. I honestly don't expect much of MetaFilter in terms of anti-sexism stuff (or anti-racism stuff, or a lot of other stuff) so it's less that it makes me feel less welcome and more that I'm just tired and can only spin so many "women must be wrong/lying" plates at a time. I wish there were more "women in general are awesome" threads. I've been trying to focus on positive things in other venues like my blog, but I can't deny that I've had a general malaise recently.

And honestly, some of this may be leeching off from other places. I'm finding the continuing graphic violent attacks on women online to be really demoralizing in general, so it's entirely possible that sense-of-being-at-risk is affecting how I view MetaFilter, where the tendency is more for dismissive or snide responses than outright abuse. I attempt to deflect with humor, but I'm definitely noticing that my humor has an edge to it these days.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:20 AM on February 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


NoxAeternum posted a lot of angry stuff in the Scott Aaronson thread; I must have conflated their posting over and over with the worst of the deleted posts which took a similar line but pushed way beyond the reasonable. Apologies.

I stand by my other comments however.
posted by pharm at 1:24 AM on February 21, 2015


This is basically the sort of thing that we are trying to avoid in Metatalk discussions, for what it's worth. Just because there happens to be a Metatalk thread open about something doesn't mean it's a great idea to drag in* someone you've disagreed with in some thread in the past to attack or sideways attack them. I thought your mistake here was genuine, but following it up the way you have just makes it seem like you are grinding an axe against a particular user.

Please don't do that. If someone's behavior is specifically relevant to the Metatalk topic, that needs to be clear and contextualized, and they should be contacted so they can speak for themselves regarding the subject.

* or jump on a mention of their name
posted by taz (staff) at 1:47 AM on February 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sorry Taz - will try and avoid that in future. (If you want to delete the personal derail from the start, please do & I'll just reply to Claudia's post with something less axe grindy.)
posted by pharm at 2:12 AM on February 21, 2015


"I think, extending that to Metafilter, if there's any kind of editorial move towards "we've discussed this too much, better squelch it" as policy, to me that seems more like the collective version of actually changing your politics and beliefs because you're too tired to act for them."

Only if being too tired to act on them counts as actively changing your beliefs. If so, you deny burnout as legitimate. If not, there's no support for "because" and it becomes a sneering statement of your opinion of others' priorities.
posted by klangklangston at 2:32 AM on February 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow. How lovely to wake up to. One more try. The framing of this post (one of the posts under discussion) is "found innocent by the university, but branded guilty by the public". Mathowie tried to save it with the first comment linking to a complete rebuttal of the FPP. Several people in the thread point out that that's not how guilt and innocence work in a court of law, let alone in campus discipline policies, but the tone seems to have been set.

Then this exchange started about how sociopaths could just lie to get people thrown out of school. Then we moved on to this series of gems about bad things happen during bad breakups and I'm not calling her a liar, but maybe she's just misremembering.

That's just one thread. And maybe each of these comments was well-intentioned and would be fine in isolation, but that is in no way atypical of how these conversations happen and have always happened not just on MetaFilter but everywhere all the time. I work at a college, so I get to hear the same conversations at work, too. And it's really hard to take.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:49 AM on February 21, 2015 [39 favorites]


I'm not sure that I can articulate this properly, but as a woman, I find it more and more aggravating and exhausting to have arguments with men about things that do not seem to affect their daily life at all, but that affect me and my female friends very directly and personally.

Discussions about things like abortion rights, whether birth control should be covered, what women should do if they're raped, sexual harassment laws, and abuse of women in public spaces, etc., seem like a lot of fun for a lot of men who only have to think about these problems in the abstract: they can debate the finer points of the law and quote various philosophers (sometimes erroneously) about free speech, and when I--or another woman--gets upset about those things and we are maybe not perfectly articulate, and definitely not perfectly objective, those men can berate us for not looking at the problem objectively enough and gleefully pick holes in our arguments and demand proof in a form that they deem acceptable. Because it's a lot easier to debate something that doesn't hurt you personally, that hasn't happened to you personally.

I'm not saying that every man does that, or that every man on Metafilter does that. But some do, and I have noticed more people debating like that recently and it's exhausting.
posted by colfax at 4:17 AM on February 21, 2015 [104 favorites]


Then we moved on to this series of gems about bad things happen during bad breakups and I'm not calling her a liar, but maybe she's just misremembering.

I guess the way I tend to read these threads is that certain people - often the same people repeatedly - will try to drop off some rotten old chestnuts like that but immediately be torn to pieces by other users. Which I interpret not as Metafilter working poorly but as Metafilter as a whole working well in response to a skeezy comment. I do imagine it is wearying to be one of the people who always has to do the tearing - I think that's probably a key point I should keep in mind more. I should also note my perspective on this is related to - maybe distorted by - time spent on other online fora where the discussion is much worse, and on still others with a higher reliance on... self-policing through invective.

I also still feel bad about the way the tone of my first comment here turned out so let me say I came over having just read a particular series of comments that I thought fit the accusations of bad faith and rape culture poorly, since it was very consistently skeptical of the Janet Halley piece. If I had come from the Cathy Young thread I probably would have "gotten" the need for a MeTa better. I stand by what I said about the genuine value of the "abstract" discussion though - which was really a thought from a previous thread that I had to articulate having seen the same thing again - one hundred percent.
posted by atoxyl at 4:59 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we're still counting data points, count me as another female poster who has been feeling much more reticent about wading into rape culture or feminism threads because I am all too familiar with, and dread, the narrative paths the conversation frequently seems to take. I read a lot about rape culture online, and most of the time when I read a particularly strong piece I loved I think "I hope this doesn't get posted to MeFi". I feel bad about feeling this way, because I do still think these conversations are worth having and it's not fair for me to hope that someone with more fortitude than I will take up the mantle, but I am just super goddamned tired.
posted by Phire at 5:05 AM on February 21, 2015 [43 favorites]


If we're still counting data points, count me as another female poster who has been feeling much more reticent about wading into rape culture or feminism threads because I am all too familiar with, and dread, the narrative paths the conversation frequently seems to take. I read a lot about rape culture online, and most of the time when I read a particularly strong piece I loved...

Curious, how you prefer these conversations went on Metafilter? Do you enjoy these conversations more on other sites? If so, what's different about them compared to Metafilter?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:33 AM on February 21, 2015


Discussions about things like abortion rights, whether birth control should be covered, what women should do if they're raped, sexual harassment laws, and abuse of women in public spaces, etc., seem like a lot of fun for a lot of men who only have to think about these problems in the abstract:

There are plenty of posts here saying men should "have to live with that kind of discomfort". This is not an issue that men, and women, are discussing "in the abstract". And as noted in the thread in question, anyone with some recollection of how racism has worked in this country knows there is nothing abstract about the discussion at all.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:08 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Conspire, thanks for posting this meta; it's been very interesting to me to hear from women here about how this is affecting their experience of mefi, and I appreciate the array of responses in this thread.
posted by Greg Nog at 6:09 AM on February 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


I don't think many of us would be mad to just see fewer rape threads either. | I wish there were more "women in general are awesome" threads.

Yes, yes, yes to both. I think it's interesting that many (again, haven't tabulated) rape-related threads are posted by men. I believe that much of that comes from a progressive place of wanting to discuss something they've discovered - recently or maybe not so recently - is a very important issue in gender relations. At the same time, that doesn't make them automatically threads that women are interested in volunteering their opinions and experience for, especially if they've done so many times in the past and are starting to see them as obligatory rituals of abstract debate demanded from them by others.

I tend to enjoy a lot of discussions of gender and feminism here, it is about a B/B+ place to talk about gender in the grand scheme of the Internet, but rape in particular is not one I have eagerly participated in too often. If people are puzzled at the pushback, I think it's interesting to go back to #JulyByWomen and look at the kinds of things that were posted by women as topics interesting to them. How many were about rape? How many were even overtly about feminism as the subject matter? It's not as though a female-friendly place is one in which we talk about rape and feminism all the time. A female-friendly place is one where female perspectives are valued and given equal basic legitimacy and respect as the default expectation on every topic and in every conversation.

I understand that there may be many men who, as men, think that talking about rape is an important thing they can do with other men. I'm not sure but they might have an expectation that that conversation should always be welcomed and supported by women. That's not really always the case. While it's true that men need to talk to men about rape, sure, that doesn't mean we also want to talk about rape and gender politics all the time just by virtue of being women, and don't always see it as helpful and progressive even when that's the intent.

I'm not saying women (on the whole, forgive sweeping generalizations) don't want to discuss these topics at some level of frequency and do recognize they're important - of course we do, we can't help but. And I'm also not saying that men should never ever post and comment about rape. I'm just suggesting maybe to consider your intent and your hopes when introducing the topic and bring a sharper gauge to your estimation of its importance right now to this community - how much is it about you, how much is it a deep and interesting topic that offers the potential for enlightening discussion. Not every rape event in the culture has to be posted here. If it feels really important for you to discuss, there's one thing we can sadly be certain of: there will always be another precipitating incident that will bring rape into the news, so you'll have other opportunities.

In the past, there were fewer members, shorter threads in general, and different community expectations about modding (no overnight mods), so I think the past of 6+ years ago isn't a good comparison to how things work today.

I think zarq is talking about 1-3 years ago, not 6+ years ago which was essentially an entirely different Metafilter. I agree with his perceptions.
posted by Miko at 6:15 AM on February 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I think it is absolutely the case that some of the time, "women's issues" end up just being an interesting conversation and thought experiment for many of the men discussing them. This becomes most irritating and apparent for me when metafilter talks about politics. Every time someone (usually male) makes a comment like "Just let people experience 4 years of conservative legislation - they'll see how bad it gets!" For many upper-middle class white men with liberal ideals, their life and the way they live it wouldn't be hugely disrupted by conservative legislation. And then I remember that abortion, access to birth control, maternity leave, etc. are just nice theoretical perks of living in a liberal democracy for some of the people most emphatically participating in the conversation, not things that literally make my life the way I am living it possible.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:40 AM on February 21, 2015 [52 favorites]


Posts about rape and closely related topics are contentious and exhausting, and need to be held to a higher standard, the way I/P threads are. The mods, as well as most MeFites who've been participating in this MeTa, seem to agree about this.

We need to remember that there's usually one mod on duty at time, and it's physically impossible for one person, or even two, to simultaneously read everything that gets posted in all the three main subsites, all the more so when they're also reading everything coming in through the contact form and maybe dealing with a contentious thread or two. We need to do our part, too. If you see a thread about rape that looks thin and ax-grindy, flag it. That way, we can prompt the mods to take a look at it shortly after it goes up. If they agree, they'll delete it. If it looks substantial enough to be worth the grar, they'll leave it.
posted by nangar at 6:56 AM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


this one seemed substantive enough that it stuck around even though it was a borderline situation.

Which is fine, and maybe it was substantive -- I too read the beginning of the thread and said fuck that -- but the deleted post by divined by radio was absolutely just as substantive and was deleted anyhow.
posted by jeather at 7:07 AM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yes, and that was purely a matter of timing, and we agreed it was a very good post, and we hope she'll post it again if she wants to.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:11 AM on February 21, 2015


Sorry, that is too quick, I should say more. I appreciate why people feel like comparing how these two cases were handled. My feeling is, they were both sort of borderline - both good enough posts to stay normally, but coming at the end of a stretch of similar-topic posts. As always with borderline posts, we end up making a judgment call at the time, in response to all the specifics about the recent history and how the front page is looking and whether we've had complaints about similar decisions and so on... so in this case, the judgment call went the other way, but it wasn't a direct comparison or a deciding that this post was better or a more worthy subject than the post from December. They're just very close decisions, happening each in their own circumstances.

At any rate. I definitely understand why it's frustrating to hold these two facts together, and people are free to feel how they do about it. But I don't want people to think that we really judged one to be better than the other, or that in our judgment they were being compared against each other and that's why the second one stayed - that's not accurate to how these decisions really get made.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:23 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that divined by radio's post should have stayed up, and I wish she had reposted it. If we get better at getting thin and grarry posts deleted, the good ones can stay, without having to deal as often with 'we're maxed out on this topic right now' as a reason for deletion.
posted by nangar at 7:24 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


But, as was pointed out, the false rape report posts have been as common as the rape posts were then -- why was this one not purely a matter of timing as well? I understand that they were both borderline, I am sure it wasn't that the mods were deliberately saying that false rape is a more important subject that can do more posts.

I do think, however, that it shows the unconscious bias in our culture, which Mefi is not exempt from, and though in this case it's too late for both posts, it's something that probably should be taken into consideration in the future -- that the posts shouldn't be compared one-to-one, but that the way "we're tired of this topic" plays out for different but related topics.
posted by jeather at 7:27 AM on February 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


TFB, I think I was the one who introduced the phrase "I think men should have to live with this kind of discomfort," and the way you just co-opted into your comment up there makes me feel kind of weird. My comment didn't address in any way the idea that discussions about rape on MetaFilter are somehow exhausting and tiring for men in the way that they are for women, or even that these discussions here are "uncomfortable" for men. I happen to agree with posters who have pointed out that for many men--which I can say certainly includes me--these discussions can be safely in the abstract. I think this describes my participation in threads about rape very well, as I'm a vocal participant when it comes to Title IX threads, because I do have a personal interest in and pool of knowledge about Title IX; and I can honestly say that the discussion feels interesting to me, and I have the advantage of being able to engage in those threads without becoming exhausted. I recognize this as just one artifact of privilege, and don't feel the need to apologize for having this privilege or anything, but it's valuable to hear the perspectives of other people here who don't share that particular privilege, and learn that those threads often take an emotional toll.

When I said earlier that I think men should live with discomfort, I meant specifically to address the idea that it's possible, as a man, to be accused of rape. This idea really seems to make a lot of guys uncomfortable--it makes me a little uncomfortable; I mean, who wants to face such a serious accusation about something one hasn't done? But to do too much to prevent men in the position of avoiding these accusations has the consequence that too little is done to hold actual rapists accountable. Because the likelihood of being inaccurately adjudged as a rapist is still so incredibly low, fixating on the idea of "but what about false accusations" doesn't seem appropriate: men still have sufficient protection in this regard. Yet I can understand how moving from a reality where being accused of rape was virtually unimaginable to one where it is unlikely yet at least plausible will not be comfortable for men. This is the discomfort that I think men should tolerate.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2015 [26 favorites]


If you see a thread about rape that looks thin and ax-grindy, flag it.

Definitely helpful, yeah. And beyond that, if you feel like you're seeing the start of a conspicuous trend of posts on a given topic in a short period of time, drop us a line at the contact form to say as much—as noted earlier, we aren't literally sorting every post that comes in into quota buckets, and we're unlikely to catch every cluster of posts early on, so it can actually be really handy to get the occasional "hey, I've noticed a few posts in neighborhood x in the last couple weeks..." heads up so we can look more closely and be prepared to keep an eye out.

But, as was pointed out, the false rape report posts have been as common as the rape posts were then

See above. It's easy once you've noticed a clump to line 'em up and say "hey, look, one two three four five this month" but if that's not already specifically staring you in the face it's less so. We have different mods on at different times of day and days of the week, so none of these were staring one of us in particular in the face; at that point, it can easily end up being more of a subjective feeling like there's been maybe one or two, because one or two is all a given mod has specifically put a lot of attention into.

There's a lot of users on this site, with good attention to detail and wide collective awareness of what's going down; hearing from users about stuff they've noticed is definitely one of the strengths of how this place works when it works well. We depend on that, and I want people to feel welcome to let us know when they feel like they're seeing something, even well before it gets to a "I'm posting a Metatalk" breaking point when possible.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:31 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wait, so do most people just read comments to evaluate whether or not FPPs are worthy of reading? I can see the appeal of that, I suppose, but if that's the default for most people on this site, then of course there is an outsized incentivize to post as strong an opinion as quickly as possible. Also I think this conversation really highlights how important it is to frame these posts well. I have no insights into how or where anewnadir wanted yesterday's conversation to go, but I'm pretty sure the thread would've have been at least marginally better had the pull-quote centered not on the most inflammatory example in Halley's essay but instead on her attempts to open up a conversation about the challenge that institutionally powerful feminists will have as they move from a position of advocacy to a position of governance. I think that is an interesting conversation, or at least a valuable one, and it's one that I hope feminists continue to be a part of. Socially and culturally, campus response to sexual assault is a Big Deal right now, thanks in large part to the efforts of advocacy groups to highlight this issue and push for change. As more colleges and universities attempt to alter their policies for the better, this same conversation -- or one very similar to it -- will be happening in countless faculty and administrative meetings. I do think we are intelligent and thoughtful enough here to also have our own conversations.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:45 AM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


TFB, I think I was the one who introduced the phrase "I think men should have to live with this kind of discomfort," and the way you just co-opted into your comment up there makes me feel kind of weird.

It wasn't "co-opted", it was quoted. You are saying that a focus on aggressively prosecuting sexual assault, particularly when combined with a belief that false accusations will always be so rare as to be not worth discussing, will increase the discomfort of men. That rather effectively shows that your insistence that these discussions are safely abstract for men is wrong. I understand that having someone quote your words to show where they are contradictory may make you feel kind of weird, but that is, shall we say, a discomfort you should probably feel.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:56 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


and I want people to feel welcome to let us know when they feel like they're seeing something,

If you want to effect a change in how 'discussions' go on Metafilter, you're going to have to ban users.

I can make some suggestions.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:00 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I usually don't participate in the kind of thread that this Meta is about because as a cis white man I want to be extra sure that I have something valuable to contribute, and I also expect that someone is going to kind of be a dick to me and my tolerance for that has lessened in recent years. I really like reading those threads though and I completely understand why they are tiresome to participate in, especially for women. I thank anyone who posts in that kind of thread, especially those who make an extra effort to do so kindly.
posted by Kwine at 8:02 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


TFB, I think you have it wrong. MoonOrb was saying that men (generalizing here) can treat these discussions as abstract, and for that reason are free to give disproportionate weight to their own discomfort about potentially being falsely accused. But in fact the problem of under-reporting/ineffective prosecution of rape is a much, much larger problem than the problem of false accusations, and so it would be better for men to resist that temptation, and instead to just be willing to accept feelings of discomfort in the discussion, in order that the more serious problem can be given due attention.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:02 AM on February 21, 2015 [27 favorites]


You are saying that a focus on aggressively prosecuting sexual assault, particularly when combined with a belief that false accusations will always be so rare as to be not worth discussing, will increase the discomfort of men.

This is such a horrible twisting of MoonOrb's words that, combined with the snarky "gotcha" tone it was delivered in, I can't help but think this is meant to be inflammatory. Unsurprising, but still pretty despicable.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:04 AM on February 21, 2015 [29 favorites]


TFB, I think you have it wrong.

Huh? I don't see any difference between the two interpretations. MoonOrb said that men should live with the discomfort of a real chance of a false accusation of rape -- presumably because the problem of underreported rapes is a bigger issue (MoonOrb: "Yet I can understand how moving from a reality where being accused of rape was virtually unimaginable to one where it is unlikely yet at least plausible will not be comfortable for men. This is the discomfort that I think men should tolerate.").

TFB said that this makes the discussion hardly "safely abstract" for men then, since their lives would be directly affected by changes in policy.
posted by shivohum at 8:18 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the idea is, it's safely abstract for the very reason that false accusations are so rare. By comparison it's not safely abstract for many women, because sexual assaults on women are not rare.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


If we're talking about posts that have a focus on false charges it's the topic itself that is already zeroed in on the less important issue. Can't blame the users for going along with it.

The derail into that topic situation is different.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:20 AM on February 21, 2015


If the topic is how to set campus judicial proceedings up, then both issues (actual assaults, false accusations) are in play and it's a matter of how to weight them. I take it that the claim was, men in those discussions may be more tempted to give the two issues the wrong weighting (giving undue weight to their own feelings) and should resist that temptation.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:24 AM on February 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wait, so do most people just read comments to evaluate whether or not FPPs are worthy of reading? I can see the appeal of that, I suppose, but if that's the default for most people on this site, then of course there is an outsized incentivize to post as strong an opinion as quickly as possible.

Well, yeah--I'm frequently browsing Metafilter at work off and on while I focus on other things, and I have pretty limited time to read. It's very common for me to decide whether I want to invest in reading the full linked article(s) in order to comment on the discussion based on the posted FPP and maybe the first five to ten comments I see. The articles themselves are often considerably longer and take much more of an investment in time to get through. It's kind of how I read abstracts of papers before I read the full paper, to sort out whether I want to devote the additional time to that piece of information.

Also I think this conversation really highlights how important it is to frame these posts well. I have no insights into how or where anewnadir wanted yesterday's conversation to go, but I'm pretty sure the thread would've have been at least marginally better had the pull-quote centered not on the most inflammatory example in Halley's essay but instead on her attempts to open up a conversation about the challenge that institutionally powerful feminists will have as they move from a position of advocacy to a position of governance.

I'd like to second this. The way that it was framed and the way I saw the thread felt like a dog-whistle, like the discussion was set up to start going "here's why treating rape accusations with any more weight or presumption of an honest experience is actually a terrible idea, because the consequences of innocent people being accused of rape are SO TERRIBLE." I actually still haven't read either the full article or the full discussion, because the framing felt so dismissive of the real problems that women face when trying to seek justice for assault.

I'd have felt much less upset and unwelcome if I'd been glancing at an FPP that emphasized that the social pressure on women to not report a rape is a problem but that the way that campuses are handling rape and assault cases is also a problem. The baseline cultural status for me is so weighted towards "women who say they were raped are probably just faking it/looking for attention/trying to ruin this nice kid/malicious/deluded/consumed with last-minute regret/etc" that anyone who tries to set up a discussion of problems about prosecuting rape or how campuses are handling the situation really needs to start by spending some time signaling that they trust women to be generally honest and that the pushback women get actually is a problem for me to feel comfortable engaging. That was totally absent from every FPP linked.

Maybe I shouldn't be participating in these conversations, I don't know! I'm definitely interested in talking about these issues, but I need to know that the assumption is that women who say "I was assaulted" are, by and large, not making shit up. In the absence of that assumption, I'm going to be hanging out elsewhere.
posted by sciatrix at 8:25 AM on February 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


I think the idea is, it's safely abstract for the very reason that false accusations are so rare. By comparison it's not safely abstract for many women, because sexual assaults on women are not rare.

Well perhaps they're rare now, but MoonOrb said they should go from being "virtually unimaginable" to "unlikely yet at least plausible." That makes them not safely abstract -- and in fact is exactly what would give men the "discomfort" that they should supposedly live with.

This is all of course a matter of policy choice. It's exactly the kind of question Prof. Halley raised in the original article! Where along the line of too few legitimate convictions / too many false convictions do we want as a society to fall? It's a choice of values, and it's a tough one, and it's definitely not safely abstract for anyone involved.
posted by shivohum at 8:26 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I suppose I think that "tolerating increased discomfort in discussion" doesn't yet take us out of the abstract. I might feel some discomfort at some things that I can nevertheless safely discuss in the abstract, since the chances of their affecting me in the real world are still vanishingly slight.

I agree the question raised in Halley's article (of how to set up these proceedings to be fair and get the best result) is a serious one. I just don't think MoonOrb's comment was self-contradictory as TFB says.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:33 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Late to this MeTa, but I was another woman that read the Halley post and some of the comments and noped right on out. Maybe I should have flagged it, but I didn't see anything specific that I thought was flag-worthy. "This post is getting a shitty discussion" isn't really a deletable offense as far as I can tell. I'm less interested in talking about topics that touch on rape here and I also feel that the modding situation (fewer mods) has let more crap slip through, even with the best intentions on the part of the mod team.

Also I'm sad to see that this MeTa is getting off on that same old sidebar of worrying about the discomfort of men who think discussing rape in ways that make them uncomfortable is a big problem but don't seem to offer the same consideration to women who feel uncomfortable about woman-hostile approaches rape-related topics. I understand it's a mindfuck for the men that the things that our (American) culture tells us are okay for men to do to women to get sex are actually against the law, but it's also a mindfuck for the women to realize the implications of that from the side whose legal and social protections aren't protective.
posted by immlass at 8:38 AM on February 21, 2015 [44 favorites]


Late here as well, but building off of:

I understand it's a mindfuck for the men that the things that our (American) culture tells us are okay for men to do to women to get sex are actually against the law, but it's also a mindfuck for the women to realize the implications of that from the side whose legal and social protections aren't protective.

I think that many of these threads about sexual assault end up rehashing the idea of consent and what constitutes consent in a way that's frankly exhausting even for this feminist man. I don't think it's any users acting in bad faith, I think it's just an aspect of rape culture that means that many threads end up getting semi-derailed to hash out what consent is and isn't, both ethically and legally, in a way that I can't imagine ends up making women interested in participating in these threads, let alone anyone who has experienced sexual assault.
posted by thegears at 9:04 AM on February 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


"This post is getting a shitty discussion" isn't really a deletable offense as far as I can tell.

Remember that flagging isn't always a request to delete- I see it as making a suggestion that a mod should take a closer look at something. Flag early, often, and Other.
posted by zamboni at 9:14 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


i flagged it. i should have moved on instead of commenting. i thought it was a thin borderline post that was framed terribly.
posted by nadawi at 9:36 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


TFB, for what it's worth, I definitely read your comments on MeFi as marking you as a man made decidedly more uncomfortable by the idea that in this new age of Title IX enforcement, men are now more likely to be subjected to allegations of sexual assault. I think where we part ways is on the notion that this reasonably makes MetaFilter discussion of sexual assault less abstract in any way that could be meaningfully compared to the experience of women who participate in these discussions. I suppose that if someone were particularly at risk of allegations because they very frequently found themselves in ambiguous sexual encounters that presented a higher likelihood of an assault allegation, the discussion would indeed seem less abstract, though. But in the absence of those special circumstances, the idea that this discussion on MeFi is not, for all intents and purposes, an abstraction for its male participants is a little silly.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:37 AM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't see NoxAeternum here. I had very similar reactions to the article as stated by NoxAeternum. And I noticed that there were several reactive comments stating that NoxAeternum was being disingenuous or unfair or willfully misinterpreting, or words to that effect. I didn't like that.

NoxAeternum was being disingenuous, and that's pretty clearly born out but his successive accusations that the same passage was defending trans-panic, likening Title IX to lynch mobs and finally an attempt to pit minorities against each other. Every time they were textually refuted, they simply changed gears without blinking. And that wasn't even their last blatant lie in the thread. It was an absurd, embarrassing display and I did not like that.
posted by spaltavian at 9:41 AM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I feel bad because I think Nox started out just trying to answer my question in good faith, and honestly I still do find the passage confusing, but then kind of dug in a bit too much when challenged on the interpretation yeah.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:48 AM on February 21, 2015


i would have dug in too if i were met with the kind of rudeness that they encountered.
posted by nadawi at 10:00 AM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Looking back on it, it seems like Nox ruffled some feathers by misinterpreting the passage as a defense of trans panic. Then, when I asked my question Nox answered it in a more measured way. But I think because of ruffled feathers Nox got a mini pile-on as pushback instead of just one person explaining they disagreed with the read. Then, there is an unproductive back and forth with spaltavian which is definitely at least on the borderline of rude. Spaltavian thinks Nox is being disingenuous and so peppers comments with things like, "Could you possibly be more dishonest? You realize we can read the article too, right?"

I kind of agree with a lot of spaltavian's points in the back and forth, but it was unfortunate he could not dial back on that sort of thing because when you annoy, disrespect, or upset the person you are speaking with you are much less likely to get anywhere and it's plain not nice. Assuming good faith of the people you are speaking with can often really help.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:11 AM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to think these were good and groundbreaking and useful discussions to have amongst a mixed audience. I no longer really feel that way, at least as far as what happens here.

That's my feeling in a nutshell. Since I don't have to look at those threads for work, I never look at them anymore, not even out of curiosity. I definitely see the false accusation threads as part and parcel of an icky trend that does make the site less welcoming to women generally. I get that there have been a few high profile cases in the news but I think one of the reasons they've gotten so high profile is because people's fascination over how the US in particular deals with rape, consent, sexual harassment and violence and accusations of same. And I think there's part of an MRA-type backlash about it that keeps fanning the flames on these sorts of discussions to make wedge issues out of them. I don't think people are doing this on MeFi much, not on purpose anyhow, but all it takes is a few people who want to push back on something like this "Hey let's talk about false accusations whenever people stat to talk about rape" and the topic becomes one you can no longer have a reasonable discussion about. It's a thankless job to mod these types of things. I'd like to see fewer threads of this type but I'm not even looking at them enough to flag them lately. Apologies, I could be helping and am not.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:38 AM on February 21, 2015 [62 favorites]


Apologies, I could be helping and am not.

Retirement: DOING IT WRONG.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:47 AM on February 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


Rather, I wanted to start this MetaTalk to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women.

Yes. I quit MetaFilter a few months ago because I felt the general tone of conversation in issues relating to women was becoming more hostile -- not outright hostile, but a weird feeling like entering a room where people are mad at you. I just recently returned, and I still feel the same way. I'm not suggesting that anything be done about it, just adding my entry in the poll.

For me I suspect that this is partially from actual comments, but also partially because in a post-Elliot Rogers, post-gamergate culture I'm just tired and sometimes scared and really exhausted of talking about things at a 101 level in places (like here) where I know that discussion has already been had repeatedly for years.
posted by jess at 11:10 AM on February 21, 2015 [35 favorites]


There are many things in this world which I take a 'your own oxygen mask first' approach and discussion of false rape accusations is definitely among them. Those discussions, especially on MetaFilter, fill me with sorrow and frustration and anger. So my preference would be for far fewer of these discussions on MetaFilter and in the world in general (but of the two, I can only have an influence on the first).

My time on MetaFilter is limited and I choose to spend it reading and participating in discussions which are better for my own well-being. Your choice may vary and I respect that.
posted by librarylis at 11:17 AM on February 21, 2015 [13 favorites]


One kind-of empirical question exists which could be talked about, and that is the number of users involved in rape-related posts. This is a preliminary result. Pastebin of code here.

It doesn't mean much without normalization to the rest of mefi right now, so I'll work on that whenever I get finished with my actual homework. But already you can see a distinct spikiness which should be familiar.
posted by curuinor at 12:17 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


" It's easy once you've noticed a clump to line 'em up and say "hey, look, one two three four five this month" but if that's not already specifically staring you in the face it's less so."

Yeah, I hadn't noticed it in part because I just hadn't read a lot of the threads in question (just the most recent one), but then there were lots of women I respect saying it was a problem so I kinda feel the obligation to take it seriously, not least because I recently complained about the pea under my hundred mattresses and it'd be outright churlish to deny this one.
posted by klangklangston at 12:32 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


so I kinda feel the obligation to take it seriously

Maybe not your intention, but it sounds like you're saying we don't take this discussion seriously. Or is that your intention in putting it this way?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:36 PM on February 21, 2015


I feel like the title IX thread was somewhat hostile and simply didn't go into the other ones because life is too short. It does make me uncomfortable and unhappy to see newsfilter "woman lying about rape" stuff on the blue. The Title IX article is something I'm more interested in and so I felt fine wading into it, but there's a lot of WTF stuff in there.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:40 PM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Maybe not your intention, but it sounds like you're saying we don't take this discussion seriously. Or is that your intention in putting it this way?"

No, it was that I hadn't noticed any real trend and didn't think that the most recent FPP was focused on false allegations so much as what policy should look like to assure just outcomes, but then there were a lot of women I respect saying that they'd noticed the trend so I feel the obligation to take it seriously even though it wasn't something that had been apparent for me.

Just a statement from me as a member, not my position as a mod ;)
posted by klangklangston at 12:57 PM on February 21, 2015


Interesting MeTa.

My take is, if the consensus winds up being more or less "threads relating to this topic go very poorly and generally make a quorum of people unhappy", then why pretend otherwise? That is to say, if the Title IX post had been more or less destined to go poorly and to add to an uncomfortable gestalt, then why don't we all just admit that this site generally isn't the place to post that kind of stuff and to leave it at that. It wouldn't make any sense for us, mods and commoners alike, to come away from this thread with just sort of a generalized "oh, okay, let's all be more careful next time" and then to have the next thread of this type be a problem all over again.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:00 PM on February 21, 2015


My take is, if the consensus winds up being more or less "threads relating to this topic go very poorly and generally make a quorum of people unhappy", then why pretend otherwise

You can't draw that conclusion from the data, though. It may be true that they make a quorum of people unhappy but it's also true that people who are made unhappy by those threads are far more likely to post about it in Metatalk than people who are not made unhappy. It's a strong selection bias.

On the other hand we know without a doubt that they are very problematic for the mods both practically and emotionally so by itself that is probably reason to be careful.
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe not your intention, but it sounds like you're saying we don't take this discussion seriously. Or is that your intention in putting it this way?

I'm not Klang, but I'm seeing a lot of careful and thoughtful replies to specific posts and specific issues, and a notable lack of response to the much broader issue of how moderation and site climate has changed on issues related to women, feminism, etc. To quote Jessamyn above, "I definitely see the false accusation threads as part and parcel of an icky trend that does make the site less welcoming to women generally"; there are probably a dozen other users in this thread alone with similar statements. It has been said equally directly and at least as often in the last four or five MeTa discussions that have touched on this as well, and with equally limited response.

I'm not meaning to put you personally on the spot on this -- big issues and questions of site policy accrue to the owner, not to staff -- but at some point the lack of engagement and the clarity of feedback become kind of obvious. I guess really it should be its own MeTa topic, not buried as a side discussion at the bottom of a separate long MeTa discussion, though I have no interest in adding to the burden of the existing moderator staff. There is a deeper pattern here that isn't fully being explored in the last five or so discussions I have followed and I hope that the trend reverses.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:27 PM on February 21, 2015 [19 favorites]


Thanks for saying that in a clear way rather than as an elliptical impossible-to-respond-to dig.

About there being a trend, yes, I definitely have been hearing people on this. I am not happy about it, and it's a hard problem (or a set of hard problems) to solve. I'm sorry if my responses to specifics in this thread have been seeming like a smokescreen or something. I have a lot of my own thoughts on this but I'll keep them to myself and keep listening in here. Matt may have something to say later, I don't think he's around today.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:13 PM on February 21, 2015 [7 favorites]


LobsterMitten, I'm gladdened to hear you respond candidly and practically to the concerns here. (And I suspect other MeFiites do as well.) It's tough work, and on the whole I think y'all do a fine job moderating, much better than I'm accustomed to elsewhere online.

A question for you (or other mods), then: When I run across comments that I'm guessing are making me and others uncomfortable, even if I'm fairly sure they're not made in bad faith, what actions are helpful for me to take? Flag them? Write up a bit in the contact form? Just reply in the thread and hope people get the message?
posted by thegears at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


Should we really be flagging or contacting mods about comments that make us uncomfortable? That sounds like a very dangerous can of worms. A lot of MeFi, AskMe, and MeTa comments make me uncomfortable...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:37 PM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Depends on why they make someone uncomfortable. There are some standards on that here. I would say flag if the reason for the objection is obvious and contact if it might need some explanation.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:40 PM on February 21, 2015


if I'm fairly sure they're not made in bad faith, what actions are helpful for me to take? Flag them?

Flagging is the best approach, and hit the contact form if you think it's part of a larger problem or larger issue that isn't obvious on just flags. We evaluate every flag that comes in and check out the discussion in and around it to try and figure out what the context of it was.

Should we really be flagging or contacting mods about comments that make us uncomfortable? That sounds like a very dangerous can of worms.

This is also a good point. We probably end up acting on flags (deletion or contacting the author) maybe 1/3 of the time, but the flags help us get an overall picture of where problem areas are happening. That said, don't expect everything you flag will be instantly deleted, or that you should flag anything you disagree with anywhere on the site, since there are times it feels like one user will "flag bomb" threads and it isn't always helpful. Flag problematic comments you spot that could lead to a derail or cross some line you think deserves mod action or at least review.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:42 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay, thanks Matt.

Once again, this thread is more evidence of how circumspect, articulate, and patient our mods are. Thanks so much to all of you all the time.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:02 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


then: When I run across comments that I'm guessing are making me and others uncomfortable, even if I'm fairly sure they're not made in bad faith, what actions are helpful for me to take? Flag them? Write up a bit in the contact form? Just reply in the thread and hope people get the message?

I think what's most useful will depend on the situation. If you think something is not really actionable per se (like a comment that you think is problematic but not in an "I think the correct thing here is for this to be deleted" sort of way), flagging it to put it on our radar is fine but a note to the contact form may be more helpful.

In general, I think a heads up on the contact form about anything complicated is a good thing, and that stuff is totally welcome; a flag can only send so much information, so by itself it's better for highlighting obvious stuff than subtle stuff.

Responding in thread to something that you think is okay to have stay in the thread but also merits addressing is totally fine if you're up to it and feel like you can do so in a re-railing/non-escalating way. That's obviously going to be a big personal judgement call for every person and every case, but I think there's a lot of value in finding a diplomatic way to say "this bothers me because..." in a way that communicates why you're uncomfortable without wandering into more heated inter-user exchanges, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:13 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


And yeah, I want to say that I've heard as well the people saying they're concerned about an incremental sense of increased hostility or backsliding watchfulness on some of the commenting patterns on the site. I hear it, and I find it dismaying, and it's absolutely something we are trying to work on because that's not how I want anyone to feel about Metafilter. If I haven't really expressed that clearly, that's on me; I think sometimes I tend to treat problems as falling into two buckets, problems I have an idea of a solution for and problems I don't yet, and I'm probably too willing to let most of the weight of what I actually say in Metatalk fall to the former rather than the latter bucket.

But, so, as far as my still-muddy, I Don't Have A Good Answer thoughts on that, I feel like there's a couple things in particular that may be part of that challenge for us:

1. We've been trying to adjust to reduced mod resources, which includes adjusting our work and communication and note-taking styles and rebalancing work/life balance stuff a little bit. And some of that adjustment process is essentially experimental: we're trying stuff and seeing whether and how well it works and if it creates net improvements for us as individual mods and as a team. And I think that's been a mixed bag, and it's still very much a work in progress.

But I think the way we've reshuffled stuff and tried to make it easier to work more hours more independently (and thus make people's off-hours actually off instead of having de facto work weeks much longer than scheduled ones) has contributed to us having a bit less group panopticon awareness of everything on the site. Figuring out how to mitigate that erosion of group awareness while still keeping actual workweek time sane is a challenge, but one we're gonna keep working on and I think we can get some mileage there out of brainstorming as a team to nudge communication and problem-spotting back up a little closer to what it was at during peak moderation days.

2. It feels like it's just straight up been a really shitty year for visible rape- and misogyny-related bullshit in the world and on the Internet, as an external factor that's making this harder for mods and users alike. The Gamergate shit all over the net, campus rape stuff, etc. Stacked on top of a lot of other terribleness in the zeitgeist like Ferguson. It's hard not to feel just kind of raw all around. There's been a lot of tough stuff to mod, but more than that it's just plain tough stuff to deal with as a person and I think there's a lot of people on mefi who feel justifiably kind of tired out by all the terror and bullshit and ugliness. And that's a hard place to come away from with a sense of generosity and optimism. I could pick better years to try and throw on a site-wide adjustment to tighter moderation resources, for sure. Which isn't something anybody can do anything about; we just have to keep trying anyway and look forward to things in the outside world hopefully getting a little better as well.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:30 PM on February 21, 2015 [20 favorites]


Without naming any names: it feels to me like the "keep on giving them chances to improve" moderation here has in some cases simply trained users to skirt the acceptable/unacceptable boundary more skilfully. Used to be there was a small minority of users who predictably went overboard and got visibly deleted and "knock it off" mod comments; now there's a minority of users who predictably tread on just the right side of the line. And so their comments stand and so they succeed in hijacking the tone in all these endless feminism and rape threads: always demanding proof and explanation and education, always mansplaining, always making it about them and their hurt feelings, but always politely enough to fly just under the mod radar. It's tiresome and toxic.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:46 PM on February 21, 2015 [60 favorites]


I only really read the latest Title IX thread, so I understand that people are talking about a wider problem.
However. I didn't see that thread as being about 'women lying about rape', but instead about how the broad application of bureaucracy and governance as a catch-all to trying to solve the campus sexual assault problem can have unintended consequences, especially on those accused on wrongdoing. So seeing it constantly referred to as a 'women lie about rape' thread feels factually inaccurate, and therefore deserving of pushback. Especially considering the big example in the pull-quote that most users were having a problem with wasn't even about a rape accusation.

I also disliked how quickly there were comments claiming the pull-quote example must not be true, and therefore the article writer was a secret MRA troll or anti-feminist, even though it was specifically cited as a hard, or outlier, case. To me, though, that's also part of how I generally dislike the reflexive call of 'fake!' on something that doesn't fully comply with the way users see the world.

So considering the vast majority of the early comments were calling into question that pull-quote, it doesn't seem to match up with the number of users saying they read the first ten comments and then noped out of the thread as being another 'women lying about rape' thread, unless they saw a woman's detailing of her experience being called a liar and challenged but didn't realise that in this case, the challengers were doing it because they perceived her as saying the wrong things about campus rape.

It should have been possible to disagree with parts of the article without immediately going to MRA or transphobic, but I find quite often in these sorts of threads that people will add things that I fundamentally agree with, or at least can see their perspective on, but they frame them in hyperbolic or aggressively uncharitable ways that means I no longer agree with them, not because of tone but because they've chosen the most extreme terms that puts their argument beyond the scope I can agree with. Something can be sexist without being misogynist without being part of MRA thinking/a GamerGate scumbag/a rape denialist.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:47 PM on February 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


"When I run across comments that I'm guessing are making me and others uncomfortable, even if I'm fairly sure they're not made in bad faith, what actions are helpful for me to take? Flag them? Write up a bit in the contact form? Just reply in the thread and hope people get the message?"

I'm not a mod, but I think there are real benefits from members bringing stuff like that up in the thread as the first resort, and only contacting mods if it's something they're not comfortable engaging on or can't effectively grapple with. I think that in general hearing that someone is uncomfortable with something reduces the level of "thought experiment" rhetoric and increases mutual empathy, as well as avoids the model of mods as conversation police or external authority for members.
posted by klangklangston at 4:50 PM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


Without naming any names: it feels to me like the "keep on giving them chances to improve" moderation here has in some cases simply trained users to skirt the acceptable/unacceptable boundary more skilfully. Used to be there was a small minority of users who predictably went overboard and got visibly deleted and "knock it off" mod comments; now there's a minority of users who predictably tread on just the right side of the line. And so their comments stand and so they succeed in hijacking the tone in all these endless feminism and rape threads: always demanding proof and explanation and education, always mansplaining, always making it about them and their hurt feelings, but always politely enough to fly just under the mod radar. It's tiresome and toxic.

This is how I feel. There's several people who always pop up with 'well both sides do bad things - we should be nice to everyone' without fail in defense of anti-feminist arguments and it's very tiring.
posted by winna at 5:00 PM on February 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


Unfortunately every Title IX thread is de facto a "women lying about rape" thread since Title IX so squarely thrusts the issue of consent in somewhat ambiguous sexual situations front and center. (That's of course not all that Title IX is about, but those particular situations are a large driver of the Title IX discussion).
posted by MoonOrb at 5:01 PM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


(Following up on something from earlier - I was misinterpreting klangklangston's comments above, and I'm sorry for getting that wrong, klang. Thank you for writing.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:08 PM on February 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've recently been trying to respond in threads, but I think I might take a step back and flag/content form more because the lack of response to my responding in thread has become somewhat demoralizing; it's depressing to write out something long and involved in response to a tacit request and have the result be crickets or a nitpick or two.

Cortex's point that it's been a shitty year for women on the internet is an important one, though, and might (or might not) be outside of MetaFilter's purview. I'm not sure how many people care that some of us are scared, tired, and demoralized - and I'm not sure whether people should care. My ability to judge "right" and "wrong" and even figure out what those words mean in this context feels like it's been anesthetize.

And maybe at the end of the day this is one of the issues around Social Justice. A lot of us self-identified sj activists would like people in general to feel less shitty, and a lot of people either don't care about other people feeling shitty, or think we should feel shitty because were bad people/asking too much/social justice people/doing it to ourselves. And I don't know if there's an answer to this.

I'd like there to be. My naïve, idealistic self believes that if we just show each other enough love, and support each other enough, we can transform from a world filled with hate and war and violence and starvation and neglect into a place where all people have their basic needs met and most people feel they deserve love and get that love (agape, not eros) - but I can't deny that idealistic self has taken a lot of hits over the past six months, and a lot of the time now she thinks dressing up in pretty clothes, sticking her fingers in her ears, and lalalalalalalalaing her way through the suffering mightn't be the best route forward.
posted by Deoridhe at 5:10 PM on February 21, 2015 [12 favorites]


I also disliked how quickly there were comments claiming the pull-quote example must not be true, and therefore the article writer was a secret MRA troll or anti-feminist, even though it was specifically cited as a hard, or outlier, case.

I think the framing of the FPP was non-optimal in that regard; one of the largest problems with the current discourse on rape is that we always start by talking about men who didn't commit rape who are wronged by the system. We seldom talk about the (incredibly more numerous) women who are wronged by the system after being raped.

In the first 20 or so comments, there were also a large number of MeFiites railing against the expansion of university inquiries into sexual assault cases, complaining that it was senseless expansion of bureaucracy or actively violating students' rights. Aside from tending to lead into the "universities shouldn't investigate rape, police should investigate rape" derail that happens a lot, it's also a pretty fraught position to take:

I think it would do to remember there are (statistically speaking at the very least) probably a number of people reading your comments who were sexually assaulted whilst at university, and who weren't given any kind of institutional support. Saying that support shouldn't exist is likely to alienate them. This isn't likely to be good for the health of the discussion or of the community.
posted by thegears at 5:12 PM on February 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


I only really read the latest Title IX thread, so I understand that people are talking about a wider problem.
However. I didn't see that thread as being about 'women lying about rape', but instead about how the broad application of bureaucracy and governance as a catch-all to trying to solve the campus sexual assault problem can have unintended consequences, especially on those accused on wrongdoing. So seeing it constantly referred to as a 'women lie about rape' thread feels factually inaccurate, and therefore deserving of pushback. Especially considering the big example in the pull-quote that most users were having a problem with wasn't even about a rape accusation.


Well, the issue with that is that I (and others, I suspect) are using 'women lie about rape' to refer to a larger and more complicated issue with how people respond to rape accusations. It's not necessarily a phenomenon that is as cut and dried as "women are all liars who lie when talking about rape." Rather, it's a pattern of what gets talked about: the consequences of the accusation for the man, how his life is ruined because of this terrible accusation, the weight of such a thing. People speak up for his character, even if they're not commenting on the woman's character. If he's young, everyone grieves for his bright future. If he's wealthy and established, people murmur about the cost to his reputation.

Things that do not get talked about: the cost to the woman of coming forward. The potential trauma to her, not only of the assault but of the lack of privacy that comes with a public accusation of rape and trial. If she's presenting physical evidence, people pick at it--no one talks about how rape kits are often pretty traumatic in and of themselves to collect. If people discuss her actions, it is generally in the context of criticizing her decisions and choices. But mostly, people ignore the assaulted woman and her aftermath in favor of worrying about what will happen to the man.

Let me repost that summary and bold the bits that stood out to me, as a woman, and read to me like a dog-whistle. And I do mean that in the sense of the term that says "it's a message at a frequency that is clear to people who have been socialized to pay attention to that frequency/who are being targeted, but which may not stand out to people who are not automatically watching for it."

Janet Halley, Professor at the Harvard School of law, relates some interesting anecdotes as potentially recurring situations to which there is no straightforward solution. There is the "young man who was subjected by administrators at his small liberal arts university in Oregon to a month-long investigation into all his campus relationships, seeking information about his possible sexual misconduct in them (an immense invasion of his and his friends’ privacy), and who was ordered to stay away from a fellow student (cutting him off from his housing, his campus job, and educational opportunity) — all because he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before and thousands of miles away. He was found to be completely innocent of any sexual misconduct and was informed of the basis of the complaint against him only by accident and off-hand. But the stay-away order remained in place, and was so broadly drawn up that he was at constant risk of violating it and coming under discipline for that."

Do you see how that paragraph falls neatly into the pattern of rape culture I was discussing?
posted by sciatrix at 5:17 PM on February 21, 2015 [37 favorites]


in memail before this thread was posted i told a user that while i supported them posting a metatalk thread, i had personally lost faith in discussing gender/rape/sjw type issues in metatalk - thinking about how personal these threads had gotten, especially recently - thinking about the amazing users we've lost when things on the grey turn nasty...and i have to say that i'm pleasantly surprised by this thread. it hasn't been sunshine and roses, but i think it's overall been one of the better ones we've had in a while.

way up at the beginning of this thread i weighed in that i was uncomfortable sometimes and that i didn't know the answers - and i just want to say that again, but put the emphasis on the second part. these aren't easy issues with quick answers. i know that the mods here are good people trying their very best in the face of a lot of competing interests. beyond the mod team, i just trust mathowie, i know he's a good guy, a guy on the side of the angels. and that's why i stay - it might not be my perfect metafilter and it might have been a hard year for a bunch of reasons, but i really believe the hands that steer this community are trying. i won't promise to stay around forever, but i can't imagine i'll ever leave because i stopped trusting the mod team, mathowie, or the site in general.
posted by nadawi at 5:21 PM on February 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


"...now there's a minority of users who predictably tread on just the right side of the line..."

I very strongly believe this is the heart of the problem. Before there was just blatant stuff that was easier to identity and easier to squelch. Now...

It's very frustrating because I don't know what a realistic solution to the problem is. I mean, frankly, it actually makes me much angrier than the old blatant stuff. I feel like some folk are playing us for fools, even though I think that in most cases they don't actually recognize in themselves that they are playing this role. Putting it in the most fair terms possible, I'd wager that most or all of us have experienced in relationships that we and/or our partners do certain things in arguments that are in every respect identical to tactics, but very often it's not deliberate or self-aware. People stumble onto successful tactics and then use them successfully without ever recognizing that they are doing so.

In this context, social pressures and moderation mean that people who correlate with problematic threads will be nudged toward behaviors that achieve their goals but which avoid sanction, and not because they set out to do this or that they are even aware that they are doing this. And it seems to me that there's no direct response to this that wouldn't create as many problems as it solves.

But I sure wish there were.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:29 PM on February 21, 2015 [28 favorites]


always demanding proof and explanation and education, always mansplaining, always making it about them and their hurt feelings, but always politely enough to fly just under the mod radar.

these same users are the ones in here who are choosing to focus on the one thread instead of the parade of women who no longer feel comfortable commenting in threads regarding feminism generally or rape specifically. i don't think naming names is really necessary, it's no surprise to me the username breakdown or the gender breakdown of the sides here. (on preview, agreeing with Ivan F that it doesn't matter whether it's intentional or not.)

there's a tenor to this thread that is really getting me down. i don't know if it's because folks were around several years ago for that round of "we can make this site more comfortable for women if we try" and aren't willing to go through that again or what.

it hasn't been sunshine and roses, but i think it's overall been one of the better ones we've had in a while.

huh. but do you think it's because women aren't responding as much? there seems to be a lot of "dropping my 2 cents" but not a whole lot of back and forth because it seems like a done deal for a lot of those folks.
posted by twist my arm at 5:31 PM on February 21, 2015 [14 favorites]


I briefly, snarkily dropped my two cents responding to the OP's primary question, went to bed, and got pretty viciously attacked by at least two commenters (some comments were apparently deleted while I was asleep, so I don't know what else happened). I woke up this morning, provided links and a fully fleshed out non-snarky comment to support my brief two cents, and oddly, neither person has been back to respond to my carefully written comment (or, you know, apologize). So, no, I don't think this thread is that different from every other thread we've had on this subject over the past couple of years. It's better than 10 years ago, or 6 years ago, sure, but no, it's really not that great.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:41 PM on February 21, 2015 [11 favorites]


I don't know if I disagreed with the framing of the Halley FPP as much as I thought it was an FPP based on a really mediocre law review article. I wasn't seeing a thread where an potential discussion of an excellent article was pulled off the rails by predictable commenting, I was seeing a thread where the article was crappy enough that the discussion was bound to be crappy whether the predictable comments surfaced or not.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:43 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


but do you think it's because women aren't responding as much?

that certainly might be true. i've absolutely been following on my phone mostly so i can't respond like i would on my desktop. but, i also think the mods are doing a good job of indicating, "hey, we're here, we're listening, we don't have the answers, but we hear you" (and bc it's been an issue lately - that's obviously not a direct quote, but my impression of the response).

So, no, I don't think this thread is that different from every other thread we've had on this subject over the past couple of years. It's better than 10 years ago, or 6 years ago, sure, but no, it's really not that great.

i totally hear you. i guess i'm comparing it to threads where lists of awful sjws and their awful tactics were made, complete with arm chair psych diagnosis and threads laser focused to bully one specific user. i guess in this thread i've also been tuning my ear to listen specifically to the women and to the mods and i might be unconsciously skimming the comments of people i know i have issues reading charitably...

i'm totally frustrated too, for what it's worth. my comment was more an expression of faith in the mods and the process than saying i like where we are now (and i stand by my opinion that there has been some backsliding that i can't quite put my finger on but feel all the same). i mentioned leaving because it's been on my mind since my break (the only one i've ever officially taken in more than 10 years). i haven't found a better place (besides twitter, but sometimes i need more than 140 characters) and i recognize how hard this all is, but i do hope that in a year's time we've moved forward instead of further backwards.
posted by nadawi at 5:51 PM on February 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


Let me repost that summary and bold the bits that stood out to me, as a woman, and read to me like a dog-whistle. And I do mean that in the sense of the term that says "it's a message at a frequency that is clear to people who have been socialized to pay attention to that frequency/who are being targeted, but which may not stand out to people who are not automatically watching for it."

[snip]

Do you see how that paragraph falls neatly into the pattern of rape culture I was discussing?


I think the Title IX thread and that particular case is actually fundamentally separate and just plain about a different kind of thing than the "creeping rape denialism" of FPPs like that hideous hitpiece on Emma Sulkowicz or the Stanford student and her "mentor", which I personally didn't take into account when I was first responding to this MeTa and probably should have. In those cases, yeah, I definitely see the point about not really needing all that more "discussion" of those kind of pieces, and if the mods want to go ahead and have an itchy trigger finger on that sort of post, that I'm totally cool with.

With the Title IX thread, though, in as much it probably can't avoid being conflated with the others at this point, I don't think it should be, and I think that makes the dog whistle claims maybe not unfair, and I'm not at all unsympathetic as to why it feels that way, but it's ultimately inaccurate in the most important way it could be: the consequences for the female student who was assaulted. She made a complain, had her concerns actually listened to and taken seriously, and that led to the administration acting to protect her interests and not against them. Whether what happened to the male student in question was a legitimate example of justice for the female is a different question, but as far as anything described in the article goes, it's not actually a case of injustice for a rape victim. That's a pretty important distinction to make, especially since people are using the presumed fictiveness of the whole narrative to piss all over Janet Halley and assuming awful things about her in what I think is an incredibly anti-feminist way.

Maybe it's crappy, maybe it's not, but the attacks on Halley are just super insane to me. Not that I don't understand where it's coming from, because in a weird way it would be much more reassuring if she was some kind of RedPill sleeper agent, but it's that step between wanting something to be true and then deciding that it is true, and then acting on it in a way that to me is just totally inconsistent with feminism in a couple of different ways is just mind-boggling to me, to the point that speaking personally, that's way more hostile to me as a lady MeFite than just the endless parade of rape denialism FPPs, whether in good faith or not. I guess that's getting into the territory where that question is deserving of it's own MeTa, though.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:55 PM on February 21, 2015 [6 favorites]


I very strongly believe this is the heart of the problem. Before there was just blatant stuff that was easier to identity and easier to squelch. Now...

It's very frustrating because I don't know what a realistic solution to the problem is. I mean, frankly, it actually makes me much angrier than the old blatant stuff. I feel like some folk are playing us for fools, even though I think that in most cases they don't actually recognize in themselves that they are playing this role.


I think this is part of my frustration as well. I'd like to pull in a comment by umberto from the most recent thread here. Right up front, I want to say, I don't think this is a particularly bad comment. I don't think umberto was acting with any malice. I don't think the mods should have deleted it:

Insanity. Bad experiences are no one else's fault but those involved.

You actually have a hard time believing this? I confess I do not. It's trigger warnings taken to an insane, but sadly believable, extreme.

Maybe it isn't true. Doesn't mean it's not believable.


This comment bothers me because it's just unclear enough what umberto meant. The point that we shouldn't assume the story was untrue just because it was told in a weird way or that if could be used to support anti-feminist politics is a fine one, and one I'm glad was made.

But it really and truly frustrates me that trigger warnings got dragged into this. We should, by this point, all be aware that discussion of rape can be triggering, and that people with PTSD and similar disorders can benefit from trigger warnings. There's so, so much discourse online making fun of trigger warnings as being created by "weak" women that this comment is super likely to annoy people who actually have any experience with sexual assault.

Secondly, the line "Bad experiences are no one else's fault but those involved." was obviously likely to (and indeed did) derail the thread into whether umberto was suggesting rape victims were responsible for their own rapes. Again, this clearly got sussed out as not being the case, but it's a thing people say online all the time, and it's incredibly exhausting to have to fend it off over and over again.

Taking a deep breath.

None of this is to give umberto a hard time at all. But I'd like to ask that everyone please tread lightly when we're talking about rape, and be aware that an offhand comment can be a serious drain on others here. It may seem like easy shorthand for what you're saying, but it can be really alienating to many, and may in the end lead to them not feeling welcome.

Second, as klangklangston mentioned above, I plan on just pointing out my discomfort when other MeFiites are doing the "it's just a hypothetical exercise" thing. I've tended not to because I didn't feel that that contributed much. But if I can help change the tenor of our discussion even slightly, and that might help others feel more comfortable here when dealing with sexual assault and other topics, I now think it's probably worth it.
posted by thegears at 6:00 PM on February 21, 2015 [10 favorites]


By "maybe it's crappy", above, I meant the article. Should have specified.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:04 PM on February 21, 2015


Maybe it's crappy, maybe it's not, but the attacks on Halley are just super insane to me.

So I think this is a point that ultimately got lost in that thread. I honestly didn't read anyone as attacking Halley (at least on my first read). I saw lots of people suggesting she wasn't telling the whole story either because she wasn't able to (for privacy or legal reasons) or because she was using it as an example to advocate her particular position. Now, lots of those comments were made it super snarky ways that probably didn't help the thread, but, honestly, there seemed to be a huge gap in communication between those who felt the story didn't check out and those that felt that doubting the story was impugning Halley. I think this was compounded further by the orthogonal discussion of whether it was helpful to bring in a single story (which was, by all accounts, unusual) into the discussion of rape on college campuses.

Honestly, I don't know what I think of either of those issues, but the super heated debating over them struck me as missing the forest for the trees all around, and once again made me (personally) feel like dealing with the FPP wasn't going to be worth it.
posted by thegears at 6:09 PM on February 21, 2015


Again, this clearly got sussed out as not being the case

i admit i stopped reading the thread all together, but for what it's worth, i never saw that it got sussed out as not the case and i did read it as saying that drunk girls should just take some responsibility for their actions that lead to being raped. and, yes, i know i read it that way because of my history - i know that umberto wasn't saying, "hey nadawi, one of your closest and longest standing friends waited until you were too drunk to realize it, then drugged your drink, then tried to rape you - and i think that's your fault" - but, i'm not the only woman with my history, we're far more prevalent than men falsely accused of rape - and so i do get irked in conversations when it seems like the general tenor is saying "these things are equal - this isn't a safe space, answer my rare hypotheticals like there aren't stacks of people trying to wade through their survival in the room."

and i know that reaction makes me a bad message board participant sometimes -but, how are we supposed to get through these things if we tell survivors that their voices are too emotional and inconvenient in the tough edge cases?
posted by nadawi at 6:10 PM on February 21, 2015 [21 favorites]


With the Title IX thread, though, in as much it probably can't avoid being conflated with the others at this point, I don't think it should be, and I think that makes the dog whistle claims maybe not unfair, and I'm not at all unsympathetic as to why it feels that way, but it's ultimately inaccurate in the most important way it could be: the consequences for the female student who was assaulted.

This is maybe fair or with respect to the full article or not, I don't know--I don't know because I haven't read Halley's article in depth! I primarily wanted to make a comment on how the framing of the FPP contributed to at least one woman feeling discouraged from investigating further or getting involved with that discussion. Halley could be the patron saint of feminism or the Antichrist, I wouldn't know. When I made a decision about whether the thread was welcoming to me or not, I was working off that FPP.

You can't take a paragraph all about how a woman's concerns after her assault were followed up on with action by the authorities and it resulted in all these terrible consequences for an innocent man and say "but the woman was backed up, so this is feminist and should be welcoming to women!" It read to me as a criticism of attempts to make women feel more able to openly bring rape charges, especially given that that paragraph and a few comments after it were the sum total of my context. When I talk about things that are signaling to me that this is a space that is likely to handle women bringing rape charges poorly, I am actually not talking about injustice to a specific rape victim. I'm talking about how people are likely to be discussing women who say they were raped in general. I see that paragraph and I think "Ah, a discussion of why we really should doubt women who make rape accusations and be very careful about following them up. Fucking excellent, more arguments about how your average rape accusation is dodgy and has horrible consequences for men." That's not a welcoming feeling!
posted by sciatrix at 6:11 PM on February 21, 2015 [17 favorites]


Honestly though, I'm getting kind of dismayed at how the single most recent FPP in the whole chain of things is getting all of the attention. Ignoring for a second all of the women in this thread who say that the FPP in question was a major dog-whistle for them, and that even if the FPP article itself was valid it was framed in a way exactly to start the same old tired conversation on false rape - which is the reason why I brought it up, because the comments actually did fit exactly that mold - can we still acknowledge that there were four other false rape FPPs in the past three weeks? Perhaps I shouldn't have included that link - or if I give people that concession, will people then argue for the next link not fitting the pattern, and then the next link, until they can smugly conclude, "look, there wasn't a problem after all?" Can we listen to all of the women who have stepped up to say that they feel incredibly, incredibly worn down?
posted by Conspire at 6:24 PM on February 21, 2015 [16 favorites]


Conspire, I think we're now in a "time for a breather on this topic" period for these posts. Modwise we were nearly there when the Halley post came in, and it only stayed as a judgment call thing. So yeah, I think it's established that it's time for a break from these, at a minimum.

My sense of the discussion now is we're into thinking about whether and what other changes (etc) might make sense, beyond just the issue of posts on this one subject, to address some of what people are saying here about feeling that things are worse for women on the site.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:28 PM on February 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


It wasn't in the Title IX thread, but this comment was one that I found really breathtaking in its minimization and denialism of the experience of women who have been assaulted. Starting with "Well she SAYS she was raped, and I'm not saying she's lying, I'm just saying maybe she thinks she was when she wasn't" (that's a paraphrase, but it's a pretty tight one) and ending with "anyway he was cleared of all charges, that means he's innocent" when the whole point of the discussion is that many students feel that the process is gravely unjust to the victims of sexual assault.

I didn't flag it, because what am I going to flag that as? I didn't contact the mods about it either, because in the past when I've sent "hey this is the sort of thing that I find to be kind of shitty in that not really actionable but still totally shitty kind of way", what I've gotten back has been a sort of a "yeah, I can see that, maybe just try to ignore it" vibe, which hasn't really made me feel like these are concerns that are going to be aggressively pursued. So I responded in the thread as even handedly as I possibly could, so at least it wouldn't just stand unchallenged, and removed the thread from Recent Activity. And when the next thread popped up and people were being that same kind of tiresome, I thought about that comment, and about how reading that and responding to it made me feel. . . and yep, just noped out of the thread.

On preview, yeah, "worn down" is really just about the size of it.
posted by KathrynT at 6:29 PM on February 21, 2015 [32 favorites]


Yeah, that comment is awful. It wasn't flagged until later, and it had garnered some takedown responses and we ended up not deleting it, but I think we should have. It's very much the kind of thing people should flag, and it doesn't matter what you flag it as, because it's plainly a "what the shit" comment.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:33 PM on February 21, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'll say that even more strongly: I should have deleted that, even with the responses, and I don't know why I didn't.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:37 PM on February 21, 2015 [18 favorites]


So I think this is a point that ultimately got lost in that thread. I honestly didn't read anyone as attacking Halley (at least on my first read). I saw lots of people suggesting she wasn't telling the whole story either because she wasn't able to (for privacy or legal reasons) or because she was using it as an example to advocate her particular position. Now, lots of those comments were made it super snarky ways that probably didn't help the thread, but, honestly, there seemed to be a huge gap in communication between those who felt the story didn't check out and those that felt that doubting the story was impugning Halley. I think this was compounded further by the orthogonal discussion of whether it was helpful to bring in a single story (which was, by all accounts, unusual) into the discussion of rape on college campuses.

To me, this comment was absolutely an attack on Halley. Once the "claiming to be a feminist" accusations or even insinuations have been busted out, I think in the case of people who aren't already notoriously known as anti-feminist trolls, it's only fair to actually back that up in a well-reasoned, illustrated way. To provide a counter-example, the way the Jezebel article about the hitpiece on Sulkowicz did an excellent job of taking apart Cathy Young's history and showing that she's not a feminist because of all the things she's written from an anti-feminist perspective.

In the case of Halley, that's not at all what I saw. It was, essentially, "this is bad optics/politically unfavorable to feminism, therefore she has some kind of obligation to present it in a better light or suppress it altogether", not any kind of evidence that she was lying. Now, I very deeply feel that kind of "PR feminism" is actively anti-feminist and the kind of calls for "responsibility" in presenting the story that people were making in the thread are totally repugnant on their own, but even leaving that completely aside and just focusing on people's standards for making what's really obviously a claim of bad faith on Halley's part, I didn't see any sort of analysis of the article or her other writing or history. I might have missed some because it's a long thread, but to me, that was basically a thread full of people calling her a bad or fake feminist for talking about a situation bad optics.

In fact, commenters who I've seen around in feminist threads who have previously pulled the "haven't actually read the FPP, but I'm gonna comment on it anyway!" thing before were doing the usual. There's nothing in that article itself or really that I've been able to find in Halley's history in a cursory Googling, since this thread got me curious, that would actually lead to a reasonable conclusion or suspicion that she's a stealth rape denialist like Cathy Young. That, to me, was super messed up and un-Metafilterish, and in a weird way even more "unwelcoming" than stuff like that Autumn Leaf comment, just because I don't have much in the way of expectations for, to put it charitably, those kinds of users.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 6:39 PM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


One comment deleted. If people have names they want to talk to us about, please do that through the contact form. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:58 PM on February 21, 2015


Conspire, I think we're now in a "time for a breather on this topic" period for these posts. Modwise we were nearly there when the Halley post came in, and it only stayed as a judgment call thing. So yeah, I think it's established that it's time for a break from these, at a minimum.

My sense of the discussion now is we're into thinking about whether and what other changes (etc) might make sense, beyond just the issue of posts on this one subject, to address some of what people are saying here about feeling that things are worse for women on the site.


I absolutely get that sense and appreciate it. To clarify, I wasn't making my point because I thought that if people discredited the Halley FPP enough we'd suddenly be under the "quota" (in quotation marks because I don't think there's even a hard rule around that) and then a new false rape FPP could take its place, but because I wanted to point out that this type of rules-lawyering dynamic - whether intentional or well-meaning or not - is actually a good example of one of the things that is wearing people down. I agree the Halley piece is probably a bit more grey - as I agreed with cortex previously, it was definitely a straw-broke-the-camel's-back situation, at least for me - I was really relieved to hear that a number of people within this thread shared my viewpoint. So I mean, I'm talking about when I point to the FPP and go "hey, I feel really shitty about this," and the response from people is a pedantic explanation of how it actually doesn't fit into the category of "things I should feel shitty about." When you generalize that, I think it's an example of a really common dynamic we see here on this site that's applied to discussions of sexism (and other isms) more than anything else: someone will bring up an example of why they're bothered by a behavior or an issue, and then the response will be to latch onto the example and discredit it specifically as a way to avoid talking about the larger behavior/issue at hand. So I mean, that's what I'm seeing here even this late into the thread, and it disappoints me.
posted by Conspire at 6:58 PM on February 21, 2015 [9 favorites]


Of the five FPPs cited by the OP, three were posted by men and two were posted by people whose sex is not apparent from their profile. (I'm guessing those two are men from glancing at their comment history, but that guess could be wrong.)

Maybe we could save Metafilter some grief if we left it to women to create FPPs on these subjects, or not create them which is probably more likely.
posted by alms at 6:58 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


The Master and Margarita Mix, I honestly don't read the comment the same way, although I totally see how you are reading it and that makes sense.

I parsed it as "if you're going to be a feminist, you shouldn't do this because x" not as "Halley is claiming to be a feminist, but she's not, because x". In other words, I read it as critiqueing Halley's action in publishing this, not attacking Halley in general. I'll grant you that there's a super fine distinction between those two things, though.
posted by thegears at 7:02 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


I looked up some interviews with Janet Halley and she's definitely something of a heterodox feminist - actually I think she says she's more interested in queer theory - who has made this particular thing a pet issue. I don't mean to dismiss her as a serious scholar but her article makes several iffy - or icky - arguments in support of her point. Because of how I feel in re. legitimacy of discussing the legal issues - I won't reiterate my argument there - my kneejerk reaction to the thread was similar to yours - if MeFi is such a rape culture why is everybody accusing Janet Halley of lying? - which is why I got caught up in MeTa where I don't often venture. But I decided to reread the article before opening my mouth and I think it's really pretty weak and axe-grindy.
posted by atoxyl at 7:11 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I parsed it as "if you're going to be a feminist, you shouldn't do this because x" not as "Halley is claiming to be a feminist, but she's not, because x". In other words, I read it as critiqueing Halley's action in publishing this, not attacking Halley in general. I'll grant you that there's a super fine distinction between those two things, though.

Yeah, I can totally see that reading, too. Obviously, since I'm very strongly opposed to the "doing z in light of x is unfeminist" axis, that colors my reaction quite a bit. I think, regardless of how those comments are meant or get interpreted, if they're being connected to a person's authenticity as a feminism, unless it's someone where we're talking Ann Coulter levels of farce, I think it should be treated a lot more carefully than it was in that thread. Obviously FPP-linked article authors don't need to be treated with the same level of concern as MeFi users, and assuming an article was written in bad faith isn't the same thing as assuming a commenter is arguing in bad faith, but I think there is something hostile about the environment created by that kind of comment, especially by people who haven't even read the article in question.

That in and of itself is really something that grinds my gears. It honestly feels like a lot of recent MeTas about these kind of topics have been about posts that were grist for exactly that kind of comment pattern, which is going to cause problems even when it happens in posts about completely uncontentious subjects.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:18 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


And the point that the reaction is not just to this article but to a whole string is a very good one. The topic of rape/sexual assault at universities has been all over the news with the CA consent law and the Rolling Stone piece but that doesn't mean it has to be all over here.
posted by atoxyl at 7:21 PM on February 21, 2015


> I think, regardless of how those comments are meant or get interpreted, if they're being connected to a person's authenticity as a feminism, unless it's someone where we're talking Ann Coulter levels of farce, I think it should be treated a lot more carefully than it was in that thread.

It's weird to read this, because what I read people saying (ungracefully and snarkily, perhaps) was that Halley should have been more aware of how a detail-free "what the HELL!!" kind of story like the one she references might get used in other contexts and how it fits in to the broader discussion/treatment of sexual assault. You want mefites to do what many mefites wanted her to do wrt that particular anecdote. That's how I read this.
posted by rtha at 7:29 PM on February 21, 2015 [8 favorites]


"Obviously, since I'm very strongly opposed to the "doing z in light of x is unfeminist" axis, that colors my reaction quite a bit. I think, regardless of how those comments are meant or get interpreted, if they're being connected to a person's authenticity as a feminism, unless it's someone where we're talking Ann Coulter levels of farce, I think it should be treated a lot more carefully than it was in that thread."

No one -- literally no one -- has thrown around accusations of being anti-feminist more than you did in that thread or this one. That's the absurd irony underlying your response in that thread: someone said that Halley's piece functioned as anti-feminist and you replied that the accusation was ... anti-feminist. And "evil", in a later comment. You also accused the same people of being concern-trolls. Your first comment in this thread is that a MeFi editorial restriction on the number of posts about false accusations of rape would be ... "anti-feminist". And now you're stressing how important it is that such accusations be made responsibly and carefully supported.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:35 PM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's the absurd irony underlying your response in that thread: someone said that Halley's piece functioned as anti-feminist and you replied that the accusation was ... anti-feminist.

Yes, because I think it's anti-feminist, and I explained why I think that in pretty extensive detail, repeatedly, in the thread. Again and again and again, I could link you at least three or four seperate times where I explained my reasoning and at least a few times where I referenced the article to say "hey, not seeing any evidence Halley is doing what you're suggesting she is, rather I'm seeing she's doing this instead", which isn't actually something I saw from most of the people saying the article was, not to put too fine a point on it, some kind of MRA FUD. I'm not saying "don't ever call anything anti-feminist", I'm saying "if you call something or someone anti-feminist, back it up with evidence and explain why, if it's not Ann Coulter we're talking about, it's shitty to use it that way".

I'm not calling for a ban on "anti-feminist". Obviously there are going to be times when it needs to be called out. I'm saying the people in that thread who busted it out didn't have a case and also didn't particularly try to make one.

We're sort of getting to the point where we're re-arguing that FPP, which isn't the point of this MeTa. In that respect, I wish I hadn't brought up the point and I'm sorry for the derail, especially since if we're ignoring the Title IX post I'm basically onside with the mods exercising editorial control over false rape allegation FPPs as totally feminist and good and whatever; I disagree with that one but it's because I think it's a category error.

But basically, as far as I can tell, either you think I'm being hypocritical or holding a double standard, which obviously I'm going to disagree with, or you're misinterpreting my stance somehow.

(Just editing to throw in: I don't think it's relevant that I personally feel they didn't have a case and I don't want to re-argue the thread and obviously reasonable people can disagree; just, in a MeTa since, I think it matters that they weren't actually trying to make one.)
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 7:57 PM on February 21, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's weird to read this, because what I read people saying (ungracefully and snarkily, perhaps) was that Halley should have been more aware of how a detail-free "what the HELL!!" kind of story like the one she references might get used in other contexts and how it fits in to the broader discussion/treatment of sexual assault. You want mefites to do what many mefites wanted her to do wrt that particular anecdote. That's how I read this.

I don't see it that way at all, but I think the difference in perception probably has a lot to do with relative inclination of opinion wrt the factual accuracy of the situation Halley cited, and that's even more re-arguing, basically. To me, a factual account of events is just completely in a different category than "this person is lying about being a feminist".

In a weird sense this argument could practically come full circle, if you're inclined to the "Halley shouldn't have told that story / told it differently because of it's potential to be used by MRAs" take on things, just by arguing that, it plays into MRA hands even more because it could be used to support the MRA delusions that feminists are conspiratorial spin doctors who want to "repress the truth", and thus the snake eats it tail, which is one but certainly not the only reason my position is "fuck what a bunch of scumbags think about it anyway, they're fundamentally disenguous and unmoored from reality, they're insane, trying to mitigate what they do is a losing proposition, and frankly they're just not important". I think other feminists are important, though, so to me that's a category difference that has an impact.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:15 PM on February 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm going to wander off because we are just re-arguing the argument from the thread, which we can do there and not here. My bad for participating/furthering.

I really do mostly hate those threads. I am tired of them and things people say often gross me out. I guess I have very little discipline when it comes to actually staying out them, but I'm going to try to do better in the future because I am sick to death of reading about how victims should just go to the cops and why are universities handling sexual assault cases anyway and has anyone thought about how geez it might be hard to figure out what happened if both people are drunk? Gah.
posted by rtha at 8:51 PM on February 21, 2015 [31 favorites]


Yeah. I stay out of those threads most of the time. If I thought people making that kind of shitty argument had any real chance of persuading others, I might wade in more, but I just don't. Not on here at least.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:57 PM on February 21, 2015


This particular FPP is explicitly reactionary: "colleges have introduced procedures to address the problem of campus rape, but has the pendulum swung too far?" It challenges (what it alleges to be) the consensus that colleges do not do enough to protect women; it deprecates the Title IX provisions that are meant to ameliorate this; it asserts that accusations of rape are commonly vague, inchoate, or falsely based on later regrets rather than the events of the time.

I'm not disparaging reactionary articles per se; they're a necessary element of public debate. But such an article ought to engage with the arguments it would refute; this article didn't. Furthermore, many people here are personally affected by sexual violence, and "backlash" articles necessarily reflect on their own experiences. I think they have a right to expect that FPPs will neither treat their concerns trivially or deprecate them in favor of other issues, unless they are based on serious and substantial evidence.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:31 PM on February 21, 2015 [22 favorites]


Rtha wrote: I am sick to death of reading about how victims should just go to the cops

Well, if it makes you happier, that article pretty much convinced me of the opposite. I'm not entirely sure that this is what the author intended.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:34 PM on February 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


there's a tenor to this thread that is really getting me down. i don't know if it's because folks were around several years ago for that round of "we can make this site more comfortable for women if we try" and aren't willing to go through that again or what.

For me that's a large part of it, yes. I was glad to read cortex's latest update that mods will be looking into how to implement different approaches that could help. To that end, do please re-read that thread and take everything you can from it.

I too am tired and am generally pulling back from the site lately. After reading all the comments here I don't even have the energy/will to go looking for the MeTa in question to link it directly. Among other things, it's like, why is it always on we women to hand over everything on a silver platter? And then we hear (still metaphorically speaking), "OMG WOMAN THIS PLATTER HASN'T BEEN POLISHED YOU HAVE RUINED MY DAY."

Yes, my humor too has gotten an edge to it, because I am tired, which is also, again, why I am pulling back. Y'all have years of rich contributions to draw from. Please do.
posted by fraula at 6:11 AM on February 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


and just to specify, 'cause my fatigue made the context unclear: the platter metaphor is towards life in general. not the mods. going to meow and chirp with my cats now.
posted by fraula at 6:13 AM on February 22, 2015


In case we needed a reminder of how calibrating site climate and moderation of these issues matter, a comment in today's FPP about the writer Jenny Diski and her relationship to Doris Lessing noted that Diski had been a member here but left back in 2007 after a MeTa from her about a very similar issue. Glancing through the FPP posts she made, her AskMe answers, and her MeTa comments, MetaFillter clearly lost an interesting and engaged contributor, and needlessly so.

The list of people who have left or who have taken long breaks over this sort of thing is doubtless quite long, but even more clear to me is the very long list of people commenting that they dial down their participation (either in general or by avoiding specific discussions) as a result of the shift in climate over the last year or so. I mean, I'm a man and with no history of personal trauma, and even I am adjusting my engagement and participation in response to that. There is no way that as things currently stand I would say to the person who wrote this essay about Roman Polanski that she should return to MetaFilter or that the issues that helped her decide to leave have been decisively solved.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:10 AM on February 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


I'm inclined to agree with someone upthread who basically said this is a symptom of what progress looks like. That the overall (Western) society is moving closer towards gender equity, or more specifically, that popular culture and national discourse are increasingly siding against the MRA and Red Pill types. For example, a recent Parks and Recreation episode accurately depicts a group of MRA activists as a bunch of ignorant man-children. Even someone blind to all the Internet drama will know an ignorant man-child when they see one, and as long as that is the de facto personality of the MRA, they'll lose the culture war. Sometimes things cognizant they're nearing the end of their lifespan become desperate and frantic, lashing out at any opponent who's still within reach.

They'll probably take any victory they can get, which is why I think MetaFilter is definitely a target for this kind of behavior. Even though the site doesn't have a mission statement championing gender equity and being a safe haven, some members openly express they (wish to) engage the site in such a way. It would be a little naive to think these expressions aren't overheard by desperate trolls with nothing better to do than disguise their attacks as an attempt at dialogue in one of the few remaining places that neither rejects it outright nor immediately welcomes it into a circle-jerk.

I don't think the burnout is exclusive to these topics of sexual violence (see any of the multi-hundred page MeTas that get churned out like clockwork now), but I do think the specificity and sensitivity of the topic makes it easy to compromise a "safe haven" without explicit toxicity or openly introducing arguments in poor faith.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 8:18 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll say that even more strongly: I should have deleted that, even with the responses, and I don't know why I didn't.

Metafilter, for all the lipservice to 'interesting links' that gets tossed around, is really focused on the discussions. The staff has said over and over that they refuse to delete completely terrible shitpiles of comments for the sole reason that they garner responses. Posts about events in which no discussion is obvious are 'outragefilter' and deleted.

Posts about 'hard cases' re: rape generate comments, 'discussion,' and so they stay.

I don't think you're doing this on purpose. I don't think it's deliberate. But MetaFilter is structurally inclined to prioritize people talking at each other, which means you keep borderline posts like this one, and delete borderline posts like this one.

Finally, looking at that MeTa from eight years ago, maybe eight years is enough time for the staff to decided that no, some people really aren't going to amend their behavior, and need to have topic- or permanent bans.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:48 AM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I should be noted that many of the more obnoxious comments come from a predictable set of about half a dozen users. I don't know why they do it or why they are still allowed to do it but their shit is making this place stink.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:05 AM on February 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


Finally, looking at that MeTa from eight years ago...

Meh, it was started by Diski herself, based on a misunderstanding of how Metafilter works. It then proceeded into a shitshorm which birthed the offensive/sexism/racism flag, so there's a an upside.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:26 AM on February 22, 2015


The staff has said over and over that they refuse to delete completely terrible shitpiles of comments for the sole reason that they garner responses.

Um, citation needed? Seriously, I've never heard a mod say "this is a shitty comment but I'm going to let it stay because people like responding to it." Mainly I've seen trains of a dozen comments nuked because they're all responses to one bad one in the first place.

And that previous MeTa is just as tiring and frustrating as the threads we've been talking about here to this MeFiite. There's a large number of people in there considerably more concerned about the hypothetical chilling effects deleting one more FPP on sexual assault, and utterly ignoring those speaking up to point out that said FPPs are exhausting to many in the first place.

And yet, and yet. There's some extraordinary stuff in there, like pretentious illiterate's excellent comment on mod fatigue which is just as relevant here.

And, honestly, at this point I don't know what else to say. There's a lot of people here really, really invested in making this community a better place (quite a few who have invested orders of magnitude more than I have, not least of whom are the mods). And, as always, it takes ten times as much energy to point out when someone is being hurtful (intentional or not) than for that person to be hurtful in the first place.

So, to anyone considering making snarky comments on difficult issues: please realize that there's three ways this can go: First, your comment stands and probably doesn't help the discussion. Second, the mods have to police the thread and delete it (and possibly lots of others like it). Third, a MeFiite has to go and explain why you're wrong, investing a lot of time into explaining something emotionally challenging. So all I ask (and this is just asking for my own sake) is that you please take thirty seconds to reflect on whether you're helping or hurting the site culture and whether you're making others feel more or less welcome with your comment. Please, it would mean a lot to me if you could.
posted by thegears at 10:17 AM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Seven-years-ago-Metafilter, as linked above, was really depressing to visit again. No wonder so many women left.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:06 AM on February 22, 2015 [22 favorites]


You can put me down as another member who is depressed, distressed, and exhausted by how threads on rape and harassment tend to go, and also as another person who has noticed that it is a relatively small number of users who can be counted on to show up with the same approach in each and every one that makes up at least half the problem. As a man, these issues are less immediately visceral for me, but that doesn't mean that they don't grind away at my enjoyment of the site. I participate here because it's fun, and seeing women dismissed again and again is not fun at all.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on February 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


It's really interesting to me how I remembered the Jenny Diski Episode as "the time when Jenny Diski came here and flamed out," and then when I went back and read the thread, I was sort of taken aback at how awful it was. At the time, I blamed her for flaming out, but now I'm sort of wondering why I stuck around!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:29 AM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I also don't know what the justification for not naming names is.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:32 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I mean, I'm glad I stuck around, because things are much better now, but good lord, that was grim.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 11:34 AM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christ that jennydiski MeTa. That the site was a worse place for women that long ago doesn't surprise me, but it's still shocking to actually go back and read it.
posted by asterix at 11:39 AM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I also don't know what the justification for not naming names is.

Probably trying to avoid a shitstorm, considering the MeTa's that occurr over deleted comments or posts.

Plus, as members we have no real power to ban people, so what's the point of naming names?

Plus, how would the whole banning of lists the of members actually work?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:44 AM on February 22, 2015


Who needs to name names? Nearly all of the usual suspects have already dropped into this thread to argue with women about their experiences and act like dismissive nitpicky rules lawyers, as per usual.
posted by dialetheia at 11:47 AM on February 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


I don't know that comments aren't deleted because they "garner responses". I think they're left because deleting a comment chain can leave a thread disjointed and hard to interpret. Out-of-context remnants can cause a thread to derail and when things are fighty, that can escalate things.
posted by disclaimer at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Huh, I guess I did go into the Stanford thing. It was basically "look at this edge case crazy fake rape!! Or was it???" newsfilter and I think it should have been deleted. I profoundly regret commenting on it.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:52 AM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


And, quite frankly, sometimes it's important to leave shitty comments out there in the sunshine for the rest of us to see.
posted by disclaimer at 11:53 AM on February 22, 2015


I think they're left because deleting a comment chain can leave a thread disjointed and hard to interpret.

This is true, but sometimes it's best to cut out the infection, you know? I say this as someone who has lost precious, precious comments to a mod doing emergency surgery on an injured thread, and I survived. So did the thread. Although I remember one thread a while back where it had gotten so toxic and derailed that the only merciful thing to do was close the thread and try again. That's a tool the mods use very sparingly (and rightly so), but I wonder if it shouldn't be deployed a bit more often.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:57 AM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


What happened to Jenny Diski in that Meta was a kind of lynching, and as in a lot of other lynchings, authority which could have and should have put a stop to it at an early stage stood on the sidelines and cheered it on instead.

The only other Meta I can recall that seems comparable to me was the attack on Ori, and in that one I was a full-throated participant, to my great regret.
posted by jamjam at 11:58 AM on February 22, 2015


(Some folks are a little sensitive about using that word in the online discussion context, calling it "mob justice" might be a safer approach there.)
posted by Drinky Die at 12:02 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I don't want to derail the derail, but I really strongly object to using the word "lynching" about anything that doesn't actually involve killing someone.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:04 PM on February 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm personally excited to be turning into another reddit and look forward to downvoting.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:05 PM on February 22, 2015


I'm inclined to agree with someone upthread who basically said this is a symptom of what progress looks like.

I find this point of view potentially comforting, but at the same time, I'm not sure we have any reason to believe it. I was thinking about this in light of something in my Facebook feed this morning: Feminist writers are so beseiged by online abuse that some have begin to retire. Despite whether we think the culture is changing in any permanent way as a result of recent events and changed rhetoric around gender, there are forces that work in concert to push back progress and limit its spread, and they've actually been quite effective over the course of the history of the human rights movement (otherwise we would never have needed 'waves' of feminism). I think it's potentially pretty risky to shrug and say "of course there's pushback - it means we're winning!" Setting aside who "we" is and what "winning" looks like, we should face the reality that sometimes the pushback wins. That's why it's worth taking seriously and not assuming that we've actually come any farther than we have. All progress is temporary and it holds only as long as there is a collective will to defend it.
posted by Miko at 12:09 PM on February 22, 2015 [31 favorites]


FFS, internet fraud detective squad, this isn't reddit, fff isn't being downvoted, and if they have a problem with the thread, they should bring it up themselves.

If you have a complaint about site policy or moderation or culture, spit it out, but that one-liner doesn't help anything.
posted by thegears at 12:12 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


It was a reference to the last line of the comment, "Quit turning this place into another reddit."
posted by Drinky Die at 12:14 PM on February 22, 2015


What happened to Jenny Diski in that Meta was a kind of lynching...

Yeah no, not even close.

No one was not physically hunted down, pulled from loved ones by a gang men thinking they were doing justice, then hauled to a tree, had their head shoved into noose and then either lifted up by the rope until strangled or pushed off a chair so the neck was broken. Nor was any genitals cut off and then stuffed in the mouth, all to a party like atmosphere that was commemorated in postcards and photos.

Let's keep the hyperbole to a minimum.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:14 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course, Miko. By no means is the fact that one is "winning" any excuse to stop fighting or relax their defenses. That's basic tortoise-and-hare Aesop stuff.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 12:17 PM on February 22, 2015


That 2007 thread is just awful. Even from this short distance away in time, the general tenor is different enough that it's hard to believe so many people who were hanging around here then managed to stay long enough to make it to now. It's also interesting to read the words of the participants and notice the early advocates for change and also the individuals who underwent a major arc of changed behavior and perhaps growth and...not. Those years were some low, low moments, but the overall trajectory is somewhat hopeful (though not if we let it backslide).
posted by Miko at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


What happened to Jenny Diski in that Meta was a kind of lynching

Still trying to figure out if that comparison's wrongly gross or merely grossly wrong.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


"I mean, I'm glad I stuck around, because things are much better now, but good lord, that was grim."

I didn't stick around. While I was away, though, the site improved dramatically. And it struck me just now, re-reading some portions of that thread (I've read it a number of times over the years, but it's personally painful for me), that it's very notable how some things have changed and some things haven't. Most of the worst and most ubiquitous sexist comments are no longer written and you can see that a number of people have had a 180 degree change of position for the better. But the one thing that's the same is the expression of fatigue and pessimism from women and that they participate less or leave.

I've been back for three and a half years and my sense is that with regard to this stuff, the site was much better in that first twenty months than it's been in this last twenty months. Partly, I think, that's peculiar to my own expectations -- I was amazed and very happy about how much improvement there was while I was gone. But, still, something has changed over the last while. I do think it's partly some stuff happening outside MetaFilter, but I also think that it's what I wrote about earlier and others have said -- the blatant stuff has been mostly eliminated, but now there's a relatively small cadre of people who are just very successful at changing the focus to one that's hostile to women.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


FFS, internet fraud detective squad, this isn't reddit, fff isn't being downvoted, and if they have a problem with the thread, they should bring it up themselves.

If you have a complaint about site policy or moderation or culture, spit it out, but that one-liner doesn't help anything.


I wasn't trying to help anything. I was mocking a particular instance of hyperbolic concern trolling in a thread full of hyperbolic concern trolling. You missed the joke.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:24 PM on February 22, 2015


I also don't know what the justification for not naming names is.

It gets into really weird and hard-to-put-that-cat-back-in-the-bag territory as far as community expectations of how to deal with problems with other users in a sort of fast-and-loose "well I think we should ban/punish x" that can get really crappy really fast, is one of the main things for me.

It's fine to think someone's behavior is a problem, and it's fine (and in fact totally welcome) to contact us directly if you want to talk about that, and to an extent it's okay to talk about it explicitly in metatalk, but around the point where it becomes Here Is The List that's getting into more troublesome territory.

Metatalk's historically been a kind of ugly place at times; that's something that's gotten a little better over time with some collective effort, some pushing on the mod side, and maybe a little bit of overall growing up and chilling out a little, but it's still a part of the site that can be hard to keep from turning to some pretty bad community dynamics. Some things can help keep those bad dynamics spinning up, including trying to avoid escalating the personal stuff where possible.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


You missed the joke.

My apologies for misreading you, that's on me.

Nonetheless, would it be alright if I suggested you might want to be a touch clearer about mocking things when you're in a thread that's full of people doing precisely those things, and people are pretty clearly emotionally worn down.
posted by thegears at 12:33 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't stick around. While I was away, though, the site improved dramatically.

Maybe you were the problem!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:35 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Long insightful comments are almost certainly the source of all our woes.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:38 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


> That 2007 thread is just awful.

I briefly went down the rabbit hole of meTas from around then and jesus, I'd forgotten how terrible they were. When people wax nostalgic about how much better/more free/more open this site used to be Back In The Day, those meTas are a good reminder to ask for whom was it better, more free, and more open?
posted by rtha at 12:40 PM on February 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'll tell you one good thing about reading that old MeTa: it makes it really apparent that LobsterMitten was a really, really, REALLY good choice as a moderator.
posted by KathrynT at 12:43 PM on February 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


"Maybe you were the problem!"

I wasn't part of the problem we're discussing and which greatly improved, but I was part of another problem, and that was being pugilistic and adding to the overall aggression and hostility. I didn't like that aspect of the person I'd become here, really, and it was a relief to no longer be that person. The MeFi I returned to is not only much less sexist than when I left, it's much less characterized by what I use to call back then the "attack and ridicule culture". I've changed how I participate on my own terms, but it's also much easier to do so when there's much less grar.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is true, but sometimes it's best to cut out the infection, you know?

Totally, and that's something we've recalibrated our thinking around periodically and sort of have to keep looking at and trying to find a good balance on. In practice, we are actually more willing today than we were a lot of years ago to go ahead and pull something out after the fact if it's sufficiently crappy, even if the pulling-out is disruptive, but it's still a judgement call that needs to be made at the time unless we're going to move to an expectation of really profoundly lowering the bar on big chains of after-the-fact deletions. And figuring out how to weight the options in that judgement call is never going to stop being a challenge, but we'll keep taking into account feedback on it.

I think there's a couple things that get wrapped up in that. One is a degree of historical practice, that the older way of approaching this stuff was more toward a hands-off preference to let trouble stand and be seen. That's something we've nudged a bit away from over the years, which I think has been necessary as both the site and expectations about what's an impermissible Oh, Not This Shit Again sort of situation have grown. And we're not totally beholden to history, thankfully, but the fact that it was more the normalized site expectation makes changing it a little tricky, something many people may legitimately not want to see. There's tension there.

The other thing is that to some extent the fact that how this community functions is in part discussing the things its members see as problematic does make it more problematic to delete stuff that's been discussed a bunch than would be the case if everything here came down to independent mod fiat. That doesn't mean that it's never okay to delete something that's been discussed, but it's a major structural reason why it's not exactly trivial.

I'll tell you one good thing about reading that old MeTa: it makes it really apparent that LobsterMitten was a really, really, REALLY good choice as a moderator.

For sure. It also reminds me how green I was as a new mod that first year. If I could un-make about ten comments from one of those thread where I was just kind of talking abstract free-speech principle for the sake of principle I'd be cringing less whenever I revisit. I think the stuff I was saying was reasonable, as far as that goes, but there wasn't really any reason for me to be saying it then and there. Dude argues for argument's sake in thread where women are talking about stuff that has actual stakes for them: not my finest moment.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:50 PM on February 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


Where have people gotten this bizarre idea that MeFi should be discomfort-free? Metafilter was never meant to be a support group or safe space or limited to a particular political ideology. Significant disagreement is going to feel uncomfortable. The price of free discussion involves growing a thick skin and living with that. It's troubling that something so obvious even needs to be stated.

The Orwellian language of "discomfort" and "unwelcoming" and so on turns what is really a disagreement about facts or ideas into a question of atmosphere, and thus cuts off the possibility of reasoned rebuttal. It's gotten so extreme that an article published in the Harvard Law Review by a female and feminist law professor who's spent her entire career on sexual assault issues has been deemed uncomfortable because it dared to bring up an unfavorable anecdote and inescapable policy issues.

If the site wants to change its purpose from the sharing and discussion of ideas to something more like emotional support or political strategy sessions, that's fine, I guess. It wouldn't be my preference, but maybe it's inevitable -- maybe it's well on its way. I admit it might even have some advantages, trading the vastness of fresh open mountains for the cozy depths of a subterranean tunnel.

But let's be honest about the intention and honest about the change. Let's say: "I hate hearing opinions that disagree with mine" or "I want this site to be like a big support group for people who think like me." Let's not talk in this vague insinuating language of discomfort.
posted by shivohum at 1:04 PM on February 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Dude argues for argument's sake in thread where women are talking about stuff that has actual stakes for them: not my finest moment.

Pretty sure you aren't the only person cringing upon reading their comments from eight years ago on this topic. (Including me.) It's a sign of how fast and how far the conversation has moved, IMHO, and I'm really glad for it -- but it also makes me very very aware of how fast the conversation could move back the other way, which is one of the reasons why this issue is so high on my radar.
posted by KathrynT at 1:06 PM on February 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


I realize that throwing in two cents when the piggy bank is already full doesn't do much, but add my name to the Thoroughly Exhausted list.

It seems like there was this sweet spot somewhere post-boyzone and pre-rape-culture-fatigue, and I miss it. There are so many people here -- not all of them women -- who continually prompt me to look at things from new perspectives and from whom I learn. I like the learning bit, but what I especially like is this kind of quiet validation I get from them. I have experienced sexual assault, and it's not something I'll ever be done processing, questioning, trying to come to terms with. A lot of the voices here have helped with that, because many women here have opened up about their own experiences, and that has helped me remember that this isn't a burden that's unique to me. In a perverse way, knowing that so many other people here have had similar experiences really helps; it's one tiny little thing that provides a tiny little bit of healing.

Part of what I deal with from my own personal experience is that when it happened, I didn't feel like I could tell anyone. I thought then -- and think now, actually -- that no one would have believed me. The negative consequences of being seen as a slut and a liar were stronger than the impulse to reach out and seek help -- which I deserved. I deserved help and comfort. I denied myself that, because doing so was easier and less fraught.

This Metafilter era I'm talking about felt kind of like a safe place to me. It was okay to be a survivor, it was okay to admit it, and there were members whose experiences not only validated mine, but they also understood how incredibly fucked up our culture is in that rape victims' victimhood is often not about the rape at all, but about how victims are treated, and about how their assailants so often get away with it so easily.

I don't know, maybe that era is something I'm making up, or maybe I was just being myopic or something. But I think it existed at some point, and I think it's gone now, and that makes me sad and angry.

I don't read the sexual assault/rape/rape culture threads anymore, because the voices I describe above have been drowned out by this predictable chorus of predictable people who try to downplay and diminish women's experiences; who argue that these issues are getting blown out of proportion or are getting too much press; who come back to the idea that we're just too sensitive, or axe-grindy, or out to get men.

Instead of being a safe place where I could admit and examine my own experience and my feelings about it while reading about others' experiences and their feelings about them, those threads now remind me why I didn't speak up, and why I denied myself support, and why I just let the guy get away with it. They reinforce that decision. They are part of the problem.

I hate that those voices are winning. It's, like, just another defeat in the larger war. And what's really frustrating is the comeback argument that we just want an echo chamber or we won't consider dissenting opinions or we don't allow men to be part of the discussion.

I'm sick of it. There really isn't anywhere else on the internet where I can reliably feel as comfortable as I used to feel comfortable here, so there goes that. It was nice while it lasted.

So for those of you (and a lot of you are here in this thread! hi!) who saw the scale tipping, who saw women's voices becoming stronger, who saw that anti-woman shit wasn't going to be okay, who saw that we were getting comfortable -- congratulations. You did it. Go ahead and take back the threads about stuff that affects me, daily, more than it will ever affect you. You can have them.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:07 PM on February 22, 2015 [42 favorites]


Where have people gotten this bizarre idea that MeFi should be discomfort-free?

Ideally, and everybody fails at this from time to time (some more than others) I think we should be aiming to behave as if we were at a dinner party. Obviously some debates will pop up on areas where there are strongly held beliefs like religion and politics and that is part of the fun but we should keep in mind we are here for the company and community most of all and there is something more at stake than just getting your opinion out there. You don't have to treat it like a support group, but do keep in mind that it's rude to make someone too uncomfortable in that context. Right here and now may not be the time and place for that discussion or at the very least you should moderate the way you address the issue for the audience.

Free speech and debate is good, but this is the kind of place where you should make an effort to find the middle ground when it comes to balancing that with respecting the feelings of others. There are other very lively venues out there if you aren't interested in that compromise.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:12 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Dude argues for argument's sake in thread where women are talking about stuff that has actual stakes for them: not my finest moment.

I dunno. There Is something to be said, I think, for being able to look back who and how you used to be, and realize that you're not that person anymore. And that your growth has benefitted everyone.
posted by dotgirl at 1:13 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where have people gotten this bizarre idea that MeFi should be discomfort-free?

Discomfort based on something like one's sex, race, gender identity, and so on is worthy of different consideration, though, than just some general notion of "discomfort."

Maybe a different way to think about the issue would be to cast it less in terms of "comfort" and more in terms of "welcoming." Maybe there would be more consensus around the idea of MeFi being "welcoming" to all people, and if people said "I don't feel welcome here," it wouldn't ping that part of us that wants to say "Well hey now who says we all have a right to be comfortable 100% of the time."
posted by MoonOrb at 1:14 PM on February 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


But let's be honest about the intention and honest about the change. Let's say: "I hate hearing opinions that disagree with mine" or "I want this site to be like a big support group for people who think like me."

People who strongly defend their right to crowd others out by making crass but subclinical racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. comments are doing exactly this.
posted by KathrynT at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2015 [59 favorites]


"In case we needed a reminder of how calibrating site climate and moderation of these issues matter, a comment in today's FPP about the writer Jenny Diski and her relationship to Doris Lessing noted that Diski had been a member here but left back in 2007 after a MeTa from her about a very similar issue. Glancing through the FPP posts she made, her AskMe answers, and her MeTa comments, MetaFillter clearly lost an interesting and engaged contributor, and needlessly so."

Yeah, that's a weird case and something that's deeply embarrassing for me to go back to now. My comment to Diski really was a riff on another MeTa where the poster was actually throwing around accusations of "hysteria" unironically. And there was a lot more going on with why Diski was having a rough time of it — she was very much invested in the idea of MeFi discussion trumping the quality of links, and very much against the idea that there was any value to the entrenched MeFi/MeTa culture or norms. She came in swinging on the idea that it was sexist to delete her stunt post, but I made it worse with a bit of what I intended as anti-sexist ironic cross-MeTa snark that from the outside looked indistinguishable from a really vicious bit of misogyny. I think that's a lot more obvious to me now, not least because in order to figure out what some of my comments were referring to I have to go dig through something like five other MeFi/MeTa threads, and while I think that at the time it was more reasonable to assume that people in MeTa would be familiar with them, the distance of time gives me a better sense of how they read to other folks who weren't steeping in that — significantly more assholish than they were intended (not gonna lie, even without the pseudo-misogyny there's still more assholery than I would like). I'd also place it at a time when MeFi in general was going through really pronounced growing pains — around that time was when the idea of reading nearly all or even a majority of posts and comments became untenable for most members, and new folks were never brought up with that as a norm. So for both good and ill, it decreased the general value of persistent identity — there was less knowing who a person was in a way that helped defuse a lot of the otherwise ambiguous or offensive stuff.

I was also wrong about how much progress would come out of a thread that I thought was too bogged down with extraneous other bullshit, and I'm glad for that.
posted by klangklangston at 1:20 PM on February 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


The Orwellian language of "discomfort" and "unwelcoming" and so on turns what is really a disagreement about facts or ideas into a question of atmosphere, and thus cuts off the possibility of reasoned rebuttal.

Regardless of what you think about the HLR article, I don't think it's a reasonable reading that the thread in question was a bastion of reasoned rebuttal on the part of those defending the article. There's a considerably amount of ad hominem attacks against other MeFiites, and accusing their critiques of the article of being either "evil" or "fantasy". I also don't see honest attempts to engage with the arguments of the anti-article comments, which are in no way reducible to "I hate hearing opinions that disagree with mine".

I'm not saying that MetaFilter has to be a "safe space" in the traditional sense of the word, but if you're claiming that "let's not have so many rape threads because they are terrible for site morale and the community" is Orwellian, and if you think that trying to respect the lived experiences of women generally and sexual assault victims in particular is using "vague insinuating language of discomfort", then I think you're wildly missing the mark.
posted by thegears at 1:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


The price of free discussion involves growing a thick skin and living with that. It's troubling that something so obvious even needs to be stated.

When the price of free discussion is promoting a degree of casual hostility that makes whole swaths of the potential participants feel like they're just plain unwelcome or unwanted, that's a problem for a place that isn't specifically aiming to be the Thick Skin Club.

It's a price that's easy to imply one should be willing to pay if you've decided that you are comfortable paying it, but when there's a lot of folks saying "no, that's unreasonable and makes me feel like shit when I try to just be here" it should be obvious that the actual price varies a lot from person to person.

Dismissing that as some sort of mere whining discomfort in the face of unvarnished truth or opinion or whatever is mistaking a community for a debate club.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [57 favorites]


"But let's be honest about the intention and honest about the change. Let's say: "I hate hearing opinions that disagree with mine" or "I want this site to be like a big support group for people who think like me." Let's not talk in this vague insinuating language of discomfort."

Dude, you've been open about running a killfile. Offa the cross.

Plus, the "thick skin" brigade ends up actually being pretty pusillanimous about "civility" and decorum when opinions that disagree with their disagreeable opinions come back. Your rubric's too facile to be practical.
posted by klangklangston at 1:30 PM on February 22, 2015 [33 favorites]


The price of free discussion involves growing a thick skin and living with that.

One of the great benefits of privilege is that you never get attacked in a way where your skin has to be all that thick, and you can pat yourself on the back about how tough and world-wise you are. It would be worth remembering that, in this particular case, we are talking about rape, something way too many of our women members have had to deal with in their lives, and that's not even counting the omnipresent threat of rape that hangs over our societies like a choking fog. How thick a skin do you need to let that roll off every day?
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:31 PM on February 22, 2015 [35 favorites]


Where have people gotten this bizarre idea that MeFi should be discomfort-free?

No one thinks it can be discomfort-free; no place can be comfortable for all people. The question is, essentially, who is made to feel welcome: reactionary mostly straight white cis men, or most other people.

Because a place that is comfortable for people like Conspire or KathrynT etc is going to be uncomfortable for, say, MRA people. (Or it would be so restricted in topics it wouldn't be mefi.) So the community and the mods and Matt need to essentially make a choice somewhere along the line between "so unwelcoming the MRAs all leave" and "so unwelcoming the women all leave" (not only women). Mefi isn't going to either extreme, most likely, but people here are saying -- and I agree with this -- is that after the boyzone era, it moved away from the MRA end, and that it's been creeping back since, and that they don't like it.

(There are also more dimensions than just the feminism one -- there's homophobia, racism, transphobia, islamophobia, anti-semitism, though I think they've all been following a similar pattern.)
posted by jeather at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


"Ideally, and everybody fails at this from time to time (some more than others) I think we should be aiming to behave as if we were at a dinner party. Obviously some debates will pop up on areas where there are strongly held beliefs like religion and politics and that is part of the fun but we should keep in mind we are here for the company and community most of all and there is something more at stake than just getting your opinion out there. You don't have to treat it like a support group, but do keep in mind that it's rude to make someone too uncomfortable in that context. Right here and now may not be the time and place for that discussion or at the very least you should moderate the way you address the issue for the audience."

I really like that you wrote this, and I agree strongly with it.

In the bad old days the phrase "it's just words on a screen" were very common. One of the biggest changes I've seen culturally with regard to the internet is that society in general is much, much more willing to accept that socializing on the internet is, in fact, socializing. That we're being people hanging out with other people and, as is the case elsewhere when we hang out with other people, the shit we say to each other actually matters. This has changed because of social media and smartphones and some other more broad changes that have ever more tightly integrated our internet lives with the rest of our lives -- that distinction which once seemed to be so stark and therefore the online world so separate and artificial, is almost erased and now, you know, it's not "words on a screen" but words like words anywhere.

There's still some distance, though, in that we're stilling willing to say things in the moment in written words on the internet that we wouldn't say to people standing in front of us. To some degree that's reasonable when the virtual "room" we're speaking in is, I don't know, an enormous crowd of disorganized and shouting people. But there's lots of contexts where it's more a community, and even though MetaFilter is much bigger than it used to be, I think in many respects it's actually more a community now because there're fewer people here who think in terms of "just words on a screen" and more people who strongly think in terms of "community". The rise of IRL meetups is important in this, too, even though it involves only a tiny portion of the membership.

In that sense I think that MetaFilter really and truly is something closer to a dinner party and it's only common sense and common decency to weigh "not hurting people's feelings" and "not making them feel unwelcome" over "the integrity of open and reasoned debate". And -- to be blunt -- it's total bullshit that you can't be sensitive and inclusive and nevertheless talk rigorously and with an open-mind about difficult issues. Because you totally can. You just have to take seriously the sensitivities and humanity of the people with whom you're interacting and not just use "open and reasoned debate" as a facade for indulging in being a jerk.

I quote and respond to your comment, Drinky Die because in addition to agreeing with the preceding comments pointing to how privilege contextualizes this, you don't even need to think about or accept those arguments to see that what you wrote is true and that a lot of people are just failing with regard to basic decency, no fancy analysis about the politics involved is necessary.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


But let's be honest about the intention and honest about the change. Let's say: "I hate hearing opinions that disagree with mine" or "I want this site to be like a big support group for people who think like me." Let's not talk in this vague insinuating language of discomfort.

I hate hearing whiny bullshit like yours. Okay? This is honest. I think shit like this actively makes this place worse, and less welcoming for a broader variety of people and opinions. People now have less room than they did (like in the c. 2007 meTas linked above) to be casually sexist and assholish than they used to, and boo fucking hoo to those who would like those days back. Maybe you're the one who needs a thicker skin, if you can't take people calling what you say sexist/racist/bullshit.

also, what klang said about you running a killfile? Hilarious! Especially if maybe I'm on it and you don't see this!
posted by rtha at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [62 favorites]


(There are also more dimensions than just the feminism one -- there's homophobia, racism, transphobia, islamophobia, anti-semitism, though I think they've all been following a similar pattern.)

Aren't these things all part of the real world, though? The world we have to live in, the world our children will live in, the world we have to work to change? If Metafilter is to be a refuge from all the negative -isms and uncomfortable realities - a safe place where words that trigger unpleasant memories are verboten - then I think it should be defined that way. Otherwise, there should be room for discussion of varying opinions as to what constitutes sexism or racism or other -isms, because it seems to me that people's opinions on what is and what isn't an -ism vary and either those things can be discussed or they can't on Metafilter.

Just a sincere question here, folks - nothing more.
posted by aryma at 1:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aren't these things all part of the real world, though?

Lots of things are part of the real world. Metafilter doesn't allow doxxing, even though living in a location is part of the real world.

If Metafilter is to be a refuge from all the negative -isms and uncomfortable realities - a safe place where words that trigger unpleasant memories are verboten - then I think it should be defined that way.

Good thing no one is suggesting that.
posted by jeather at 1:51 PM on February 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


Aryma, we're not saying sexism (or indeed sexual assault) can't be discussed on MetaFilter. We're saying discussing it to death is painful to many people, particularly because some people on here make insensitive comments. More than anything else (and I think this thread bears this point out) we've been saying that--just like the real world--talking insensitively about sensitive subjects in certain contexts is rude, and we'd prefer people not be rude.
posted by thegears at 1:54 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Aryma, part of having a discussion about those topics is that one side doesn't sneer "shut up and gtfo if you're going to be so sensitive about this."
posted by KathrynT at 1:57 PM on February 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


> Plus, how would the whole banning of lists the of members actually work?

It can't work, obviously, until members become willing to name and shame. Which no one wants to do because of the fear that no two users' shitlists would be alike--which in turn would put paid to the notion that "just a handful" of disruptive Neanderthal users are the problem.

Barring open, un-manicured user input we might use 1) preliminary log-rolling on a site not formally metafilter-connected (metachat.org?) to arrive at a consensus WITCH! BURN! list; 2) a star-chamber proceeding amongst the mods, to which no one else is privy; or 3) generate the shitlist algorithmically/robotically. Pb?

Put up, people. Or, y'know...
posted by jfuller at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


(You know what I find most challenging when I'm trying to moderate my behavior for polite company? Not stooping down to their level when it's clear someone else is being a jackass, because it is my immediate strong first instinct to do so. But it's often just as important to the community as not being a jackass in the first place. More understandable when I fail, but still it's important to avoid repeating that mistake when possible.)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:01 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


It can't work, obviously

I would be surprised if anybody really thought it could as anything other than a thought experiment.
posted by Justinian at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2015


The dinner part metaphor and the words on the screen defense both suffer from huge pre-existing cultural bias (in the case of the former, watch some recent episodes of Downton Abbey to see how that is problematic, and for latter, I guess the entirety of usenet and internet forums), neither of which is particularly inclusive.

The tumblr/SJW model is predicated in part on the being able to speak rudely at dinner parties and exposing the hypocrisy free speech libertarian on the internet. It's one I've participated in the past and still support in large part. But having been deep in those communities, it's disingenuous to claim that internal policing never happens and that policing doesn't always line up with the stated ideological goals of the community -- it's where the phrase PC came from after all.
posted by 99_ at 2:04 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


The tumblr/SJW model is predicated in part on the being able to speak rudely at dinner parties

You have a point there about the limitations of that metaphor, no question. What is or is not rude depends heavily on context.

I have found that a small minority of people who care about social justice issues sometimes take being right on those issues as a carte blanche to be abusive, but overwhelmingly people being called rude for talking about that stuff face more of a, "I don't like this inconvenient truth, so please stop saying it," type situation. That isn't a valid reason to shut down a conversation on a site like this.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:10 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


They're just analogies meant to help explain why the answer isn't "everyone should free to say whatever the fuck they want and too bad for people who don't have a thick enough skin."
posted by MoonOrb at 2:12 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


But having been deep in those communities, it's disingenuous to claim that internal policing never happens and that policing doesn't always line up with the stated ideological goals of the community -- it's where the phrase PC came from after all.

It came from 1960s anti-communist Americans more or less correctly criticizing Stalinism and the political climate of USSR during the Cold War, then creepy right-wing proto-neo-liberal Republican shitheads busting it out to analogize what they percieved as the excesses of lefty college professors in the 90s to fucking Stalinism. The McCarthy types in the 60s were basically onside, the 90s blowhards were not, but it's always been a term that the right uses against the left. It has nothing to do with the internal policing of left or activist groups and it never has.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:19 PM on February 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


we might use 1) preliminary log-rolling on a site not formally metafilter-connected (metachat.org?)

I can't tell if this suggestion was serious or satirical, but I should say as a MetaChat admin that nope, that would not be tolerated there at least. In fact, MetaChat's standing policy is that "Offsite issues stay offsite...This applies also to MetaFilter issues: they belong on MetaFilter, not here. A good relationship with MetaFilter is important to MetaChat."

..the world we have to live in, the world our children will live in, the world we have to work to change?

Yep. And this is what "working to change" looks like.
posted by Miko at 2:20 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


TIL that Tumblr SJWs invented the concept of political correctness and time travel. No wonder so many people fear them.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:21 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


The price of free discussion involves growing a thick skin and living with that.

I'll bite. Stop actively working to make this place a worse place for women.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


The price of free discussion involves growing a thick skin and living with that. It's troubling that something so obvious even needs to be stated.

Easy enough to say when one is not likely to encounter things that are uncomfortable. "Hey, look at all these stories about false rape claims/rape cases that were dismissed at trial because of inconsistencies!" is pretty uncomfortable. Only 40% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported to police, of those, a fraction go to trial and a very small percentage result in conviction. There are reasons for that that are very much related to things like these (outlier) cases of "false rape claims", and to the tendency of police and prosecutors to put victims on trial ("what were you wearing? had you been drinking? why were you alone with this man? You went there of your own free will? But here you are being friendly to him on Facebook!" etc). Things like this very much serve to perpetuate a culture where people who've experienced sexual assault and rape are more likely to keep quiet about it. (For other examples of this see basically every fucking post about Julian Assange where some ignorant...and invariably male, quelle surprise...asshole will invariably turn up to say "but he's not actually accused of rape!")
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 2:22 PM on February 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


They're just analogies meant to help explain why the answer isn't "everyone should free to say whatever the fuck they want and too bad for people who don't have a thick enough skin."

I generally assume the average MeFi poster has at least a passing familiarity if with either the theory of someone like Bourdieu or the practical application of said theories. I intentionally spoke to both metaphors because one has proven historically to be excessively limiting to marginal voices via the artifice of manners and the other via a willing to be unrelentingly vitriolic.
posted by 99_ at 2:23 PM on February 22, 2015


everyone should free to say whatever the fuck they want and too bad for people who don't have a thick enough skin.

It is one answer. It's a possible answer. But it is not welcoming to everyone, and it's a deliberate choice about who to exclude. If you prefer that style of website, that's fine -- everyone has a preference -- but at least take responsibility for your choices and their effects.

MoonOrb, I know you didn't say this as a statement of what you believe mefi should be like, but I found it a concise summary and quoted it out of context.
posted by jeather at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2015


but it's always been a term that the right uses against the left.

Wrong. I'm not going to entertain a derail about the history of PC, especially one that swings that widely.
posted by 99_ at 2:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


That summary is basically historically accurate.
posted by Miko at 2:29 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"You're wrong, but it's beneath me to point out how. Also, here are my opinions on Tumblr."

Don't be That Guy. If there's a derail, it's yours.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 2:30 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


In her essay "Toward a feminist Revolution" (1992) Ellen Willis said: "In the early eighties, when feminists used the term political correctness, it was used to refer sarcastically to the anti-pornography movement’s efforts to define a “feminist sexuality”"[10]

In the early-to-mid 20th century, contemporary uses of the phrase "Politically Correct" were associated with the dogmatic application of Stalinist doctrine, debated between formal Communists (members of the Communist Party) and Socialists. The phrase was a colloquialism referring to the Communist "party line", which provided for "correct" positions on many matters of politics.

Where is the right in this?

And it's total bullshit to misrepresent my comment 'on Tumblr'
posted by 99_ at 2:32 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are you quoting something? Try this.
posted by Miko at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness
posted by 99_ at 2:35 PM on February 22, 2015


I first heard the phrase "politically correct" in the late 1940s and early 1950s in reference to the political debates between Socialists and members of the United States Communist Party (CP). These debates were an everyday occurrence in my neighborhood in the Bronx until the McCarthy committee and HUAC silenced political talk on the streets. Members of the CP talked about current party doctrine as the "correct" line for the moment. During World War II, the Hitler-Stalin pact caused many CP members considerable pain and often disgrace on my block, which was all Jewish and mostly Socialist. The "correct" position on Stalin's alliance with Hitler was considered to be ridiculous, a betrayal of European Jewry as well as Socialist ideas. The term "politically correct" was used disparagingly to refer to someone whose loyalty to the CP line overrode compassion and led to bad politics. (more)

So: origins in socialists criticising Communists toeing the Stalinist party line c. 1940, not in anti-Communists from the '60's. But also not in the feminist movement, importantly.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 2:38 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you're asking "Where is the right in this?" about the Wikipedia entry, then I would say that it is in the introductory paragraphs, the section on the 1990s , the History of the Phenomenon section, the Practical Application section, the right-wing PC section, and...well, you can read it yourself.

I can't believe I'm actually having this conversation, though. It's been awhile since anyone dangled the "PC" spectre in my vicinity without irony.
posted by Miko at 2:41 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


And continued from the previous post for relevance (emphasis added):

Given that history, it was surprising to hear right-wing intellectuals in the 1990s using the phrase "politically correct" to disparage students and professors who advocate multiculturalism and are willing to confront racism, sexism, or homophobia at the university. Yet it is not uncommon, for example, for right-wing critics to accuse students (or other professors) who insist that women's voices or the voices of people of color be included in the curriculum of making rigid, oppressive demands that infringe upon academic freedom. The implication of these accusations is that people calling for compliance with antisexist and antiracist education today are similar to the Communist party hard-liners who insisted on compliance with the "correct" line on the Hitler-Stalin pact. It is a clever ploy on the part of neoconservatives, a number of whom were former CP members and know how the phrase "politically correct" was used in the past, to insinuate that egalitarian democratic ideas are actually authoritarian, orthodox, and Communist-influenced when they oppose the right of people to be racist, sexist, and homophobic. The accusation of being "politically correct" is a weapon used by right-wing professors, and publicized by conservative media critics, to protect themselves against criticisms of their own biases by students or other, usually younger, professors. It is a way of diverting the issue of bias within the university to issues of freedom of speech without acknowledging that the right to question professorial authority is also a free speech matter.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 2:44 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I like it when people use "PC" because it means I can stop listening to anything they say.
posted by Justinian at 2:45 PM on February 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


Unless they mean "Player Character," which could be interesting, unless they are talking about D&D 3.5, because ugh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:47 PM on February 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


when people seriously use sjw as a pejorative, i just hear "feminazis and political correctness gone maaaaaaaaaaad" and then they turn into rush limbaugh right before my eyes.
posted by nadawi at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2015 [34 favorites]


Everybody knows Mac is vastly superior. Enjoy your viruses.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:48 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have found that a small minority of people who care about social justice issues sometimes take being right on those issues as a carte blanche to be abusive, but overwhelmingly people being called rude for talking about that stuff face more of a, "I don't like this inconvenient truth, so please stop saying it," type situation. That isn't a valid reason to shut down a conversation on a site like this.

These feels like you are coming at this as a disagreement with my point, so I'm fumbling at bit -- my point was if we go with 'it's a dinner party, don't be rude' it could be empowering people to feel more comfortable asserting an unwillingness to entertain inconvenient truths. I don't think this is the tone overall at MeFi, but it seems like now we're talking about the possibility of a corrective, and I just think that phrase is weirdly off putting to a lot of people.

(NB: I don't see this as mapping particularly to the FPP this sprung from, but the conversation just above about etiquette overall.)
posted by 99_ at 2:51 PM on February 22, 2015


Don't read too much into it. The point is that we aren't trying to have a site people flock to to be assholes, but to take note of interesting content and comment on it in ways that encourage one another's continued engagement and participation, for the most part. It's possible to talk about "inconvenient truths" [if they are in fact truths] without being an asshole.

If they're not actually "truths" that becomes less possible, perhaps impossible.
posted by Miko at 2:56 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


my point was if we go with 'it's a dinner party, don't be rude'

Isn't that predicated on the axiom that Metafilter is like a dinner party? That's certainly one metaphor but only one, and not everyone might accept it as the best metaphor.

Not that I'm defending unnecessary rudeness but the assertion that Metafilter is most like a dinner party deserves a tiny bit of pushback since it isn't necessarily something everyone believes.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on February 22, 2015


These feels like you are coming at this as a disagreement with my point

Nope, 100% agreement, sorry if I phrased it poorly.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:59 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I didn't introduce the dinner party metaphor, so sorry if seems like I'm somehow defending it (or giving it disproportionate weight as a measure). The idea of expecting a better quality of discourse is one we should always strive for, especially using a topic filter as a way of introducing it ('if you think it's fun to go HAM on a music FPP, maybe take a moment to review your tone and manner when commenting on a Michael Brown thread' etc).

(on edit -- looked up to see where it started and I'm not trying to take a poke at you DD in some underhanded way; will try to just step of the whole dinner party bit now)
posted by 99_ at 3:11 PM on February 22, 2015


So I'm gonna say one thing that's probably uncontroversial, another thing that's mildly controversial, and a third thing that is probably too controversial. The following is my attempt to provide a metaphor for this site.

1. I've said things on this site, and seen various subjects explored, that would never ever ever be appropriate even to approach at a dinner party. So I think that the dinner party metaphor doesn't do the job.

2. My own opinion is that the norms of this site are something like those of a college or grad school seminar. That helps explain why the mods delete comments that are derailers (it's like a professor keeping discussion on track) or posts that are inappropriate (it's like a school saying, sorry, that just isn't part of our curriculum).

3. A college or university is a community, but it is a certain kind of community -- one that encourages a certain toughness of mind and wide-ranging discussions (this is true of the really good colleges and universities that exist in my fantasies, anyway). There are limits, sure, but there's supposed to be a certain amount of freedom in the system to explore tough issues, as long as the exploration takes place in a disciplined, adult, and civil way. One implication of this is that if you see a discussion you have a highly negative reaction to, you are allowed to cut class. I promise it won't affect your grade.
posted by Mr. Justice at 3:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why the "dinner party" metaphor actually sucks: it sort of presupposes a conversation between people of largely the same background and social milieu (this is what most actual dinner parties are, after all, however assuming that an online conversation will be like that seems to be making really questionable assumptions), and it also presupposes that if someone does actually say something that's really sort of subtly racist/misogynistic/homophobic/transphobic/generally problematic, the people who have a problem with it will have the good grace to swallow their objections rather than make a fuss and spoil the evening for everyone rather than make a scene (which is also how those things tend to go IRL). The implication of "you have to put up with these things if you want a seat at the table" is kind of uncomfortable.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 3:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Metaphors don't need to map perfectly in order to provide helpful insight.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:26 PM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Every time the dinner party metaphor comes up I feel like everyone who uses that metaphor attends very different dinner parties than I do. Dinner parties with a lot less alcohol.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 3:29 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


What's a dinner party?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:32 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


. One implication of this is that if you see a discussion you have a highly negative reaction to, you are allowed to cut class. I promise it won't affect your grade.

However, it will affect the "class."

Here's a pattern that I see repeated over and over again, online and in real life:

The Crowd: Why aren't there more girls here?

A Girl: Well, to be honest, sometimes y'all aren't particularly welcoming to women.

The Crowd: What? How can you say that? You have to give specifics -- that's not an accusation that you can just make without backing it up.

A Girl: Well, there was this time you focused entirely on the attractiveness of a woman instead of her ideas, there was this time you used a bunch of sexually violent language when discussing a woman's contributions to her sphere, there was this time you responded to a report of sexual harassment by picking apart the woman's story, there was this time a woman contradicted someone and eighty-seven people made sandwich jokes. . .

The Crowd: Oh come on, that's a joke, we don't really mean it. That's just what men are like. You can't tell people what they can and can't say. Do you want this place to become completely humorless? Frankly, if you're so sensitive that you're really bothered by that sort of thing, maybe this isn't the place for you.

A Girl: . . . you know what? Maybe you're right. {Exits, pursued by a sense of sadness and disappointment}

. . .time passes. . .

The Crowd: Why aren't there more girls here?
posted by KathrynT at 3:35 PM on February 22, 2015 [104 favorites]


One implication of this is that if you see a discussion you have a highly negative reaction to, you are allowed to cut class.

At the risk of swinging us right back around to the original thread, this isn't true of colleges and shouldn't be true here.

If a class reliably made victims of sexual assault feel unwelcome, you can bet there'd be investigations of whether that class was being taught appropriately. It's not reasonable to expect rape victims to politely excuse themselves from the conversation because we can't manage to be at least a little bit kind to them and recognize where they're coming from.
posted by thegears at 3:38 PM on February 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


the norms of this site are something like those of a college or grad school seminar.

The one thing I like about this analogy is that it makes a weak FPP akin to an underprepared instructor, relying on 'wide-ranging'/'insightful' class discussion to make something out of the time. I taught plenty of anthropology classes like that, because it was easy and students liked them. But I wouldn't wish for it as a model for the site, and it's a good reason to delete FPPs that don't meet fairly high standards in contentious domains.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:44 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I guess I've always thought of it as a grad-school seminar - that fits well for me. I can't make the dinner party fit because, to me, dinner parties are mostly shallow small talk between people who know each other and each other's station and where each person fits in the hierarchy (I'm thinking of academia or business retirement/Christmas parties here, so my dinner parties and yours may vary considerably) and rarely are any subjects other than the very conventional ones discussed.

But a good class where thinking and working through issues and thrashing ideas around and defining and redefining and pulling in everyone's experiences and what's going on in the world and the news and such - yes, that's the way I think of Metafilter; not a debate class, but not necessarily a peaceful and pleasant harbor from the storm, either. I had a few classes like that many years ago and I'm still inspired by them ... maybe I'll check into what's available at Gonzaga.

I have another question about feminism - would someone answer it for me, please?

To me, feminism role models would be Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton, Barbara Walters, even (shudder) Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter - women who stand on being strong and damn proud of it. Women who are "out there" using the skills and education they have to make the world more equal in rights for women. Of course - of course - not everyone can be like that - but in the background stands a wall of women who quietly but fiercely hold the fort. We've recently had uproars with our City Council, once regarding protestors at Planned Parenthood and another packed council meeting over a trans woman who was beaten by a couple of thugs in downtown Spokane. There were hundreds of people at both meetings - loads of women AND men, standing up for the things that matter - like constitutional rights. I was seriously blown away by the absolute power of the people in that room - the everyday people who showed up to raise hell; they stood like icons and would not be talked down or dismissed. I was proud, so proud, to be witness to that - but it occurs to me that stuff like that goes on every single day somewhere in this country and it's just downright incredible how much courage and fortitude these people, whom I call feminists, have.

Yet here the heaviest criticism is that people are not as careful not to offend women as they should be. It seems - and heaven knows I could be wrong - to me that the image of women needing protection from the harshness of strong rhetoric and triggers, an emphasis on kindness to women being of utmost consideration, etc. - just seems inconsistent with the image of feminism I have in my head. Again - not that all feminists are on TV or running for office, but I think of feminists as the women who know who's running the world and intend to keep it that way.

I get that any woman, no matter how strong, can be damaged and traumatized through violence and she will need some sort of protective boundaries around her body and mind indefinitely - but is she primarily a "feminist" then - is that her banner? is that what she stands for and would fight for if she were able to? It would seem to me that her situation is more that of a PTSD survivor than a feminist - but this is where it gets ticky, isn't it? Is she a "feminist" in that she's been hurt terribly by men and wants nothing to do with them forever - she feels comfortable only around other women? Is that a different kind of feminist? It could very well be that MY "feminist" impressions and the "feminist" impressions of those whom I offend all the time are just plain drastically different.

How does this work? I feel like people have to dance carefully here to keep from offending a whole bunch of women, yet the comments tell me that a whole bunch of women are opting out from even commenting or reading the comments because they feel so put down and oppressed, and that's not right at all. What establishes the razor's edge and how do both sides of the blade conflate to "feminism"?

Thank you.
posted by aryma at 4:50 PM on February 22, 2015


I get that any woman, no matter how strong, can be damaged and traumatized through violence and she will need some sort of protective boundaries around her body and mind indefinitely - but is she primarily a "feminist" then - is that her banner? is that what she stands for and would fight for if she were able to? It would seem to me that her situation is more that of a PTSD survivor than a feminist - but this is where it gets ticky, isn't it? Is she a "feminist" in that she's been hurt terribly by men and wants nothing to do with them forever - she feels comfortable only around other women? Is that a different kind of feminist? It could very well be that MY "feminist" impressions and the "feminist" impressions of those whom I offend all the time are just plain drastically different.

I would answer (and this isn't the only answer) that being a survivor of PTSD doesn't disqualify you from being a feminist. It might mean that you're not well suited to high-risk positions where you're likely to be triggered. But you can totally still be a feminist and also say that rape is a trigger for you. I don't see the reason those two things aren't compatible.

Second, what's largely been called for here (at least as I see it) is more listening to women who are saying that their lives (which are routinely ignored) are more severely affected by these issues than those (often men) who speak loudest, and they'd appreciate making sure they get heard, too. That strikes me as a profoundly feminist request.
posted by thegears at 4:55 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, I have thought frequently, particularly over the last couple years that Mefi can be best characterized as "procrastinating grad students".
posted by telstar at 4:59 PM on February 22, 2015


Yet here the heaviest criticism is that people are not as careful not to offend women as they should be.

I don't think that's at all true. I think it's a weird and mistaken basis for a commentary on what people have actually been saying here, in this thread and over the last many years.

I think of feminists as the women who know who's running the world and intend to keep it that way.

My impression is that most people familiar with feminism as it exists today think of feminists as people who are conscious of and critical of systemic injustice stemming from gender bias and power asymmetry. Power suits and political influence aren't required; setting the bar that high for someone not to be dismissed as failing to be feminist enough to really be a feminist is a deeply idiosyncratic take on the idea.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2015 [27 favorites]


aryma, I think your question (what is feminism?) is a bit of a tangent. There is a lot of great stuff to read on the web about modern ideas of feminism (here's one starting place), there are a lot of different ideas about what it means, and it will take us pretty far afield to answer that question here. Suffice it to say, it's not just about being a "strong woman" in your personal or professional life; there are women who are strong but who are not feminists, and there are feminists who are not women. So the two are disjoint ideas.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:09 PM on February 22, 2015 [24 favorites]


We have mods. There are rules. If no-one is asking for this place to become a safe space, then no-one is asking for it to become a free-for-all free speech zone either.

If it's about not being a dick, then there are certainly some comments that should start getting pruned more thoroughly. A lot of the hyperbolic snark and pugilistic (thanks, Ivan Fyodorovich, for reminding me of that word!) sarcasm would go, which would probably delete a few of my comments as well, but I always need to work on not being snide anyway, so I would support that.

There's been a number of MeTas in the last few months where the post itself seems fine, but actually diving into the complaint has shown it to be based on an egregious misreading, or a misunderstanding of what was being said, so it's not actually relevant. It's why examples are asked for, because not all reactions to things are valid, and we as people generally understand that, though of course we have a blind spot when it comes to our own emotions.

And concerning that, I'm still coming from recently experiencing this site demonstrating that while it's all well and good to hear users tell you how to process their experiences as a learning experience, to listen when members of another group say how something is affecting them negatively - that this goes out the window if you try and ask them to do the same for your experience. It was certainly disheartening in how I look at how these issues are handled here.

I've long believed you should not be required to give as good as you get, at least here on MetaFilter. But I do believe you should be able to get as good as you give. And I wish that was more commonly true amongst the userbase than it seems to be. It's constantly suggested in MeTa that if you don't like something you can skip it. It's a perspective I'm conflicted on, but find it has a personal use for me, at least.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hey, just a second, cortex. This just does not line up with what I said at all:

setting the bar that high for someone not to be dismissed as failing to be feminist enough to really be a feminist is a deeply idiosyncratic take on the idea.

I emphasized the role of the women in the background, the quiet ones, as being just as strong and important as the power players - no way did I even vaguely suggest "dismissing" anyone as "failing to be feminist enough to really be a feminist".

That's just plain unfair. I only asked for information, and the first half of your comment was informative and helpful, for which I thank you.

Okay, LobsterMitten - I'll get my information off the web. Thanks. And BTW - I'm aware that men can be feminists; didn't mean to overlook anyone.
posted by aryma at 5:28 PM on February 22, 2015


because not all reactions to things are valid

Please be careful with that line of reasoning when we're talking about sexual assault. One of the major problems with our discourse around rape is how often its victims are told their reactions aren't valid.
posted by thegears at 5:29 PM on February 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Would you mind showing me any evidence of any negative thing any sea lion has ever done to you?
posted by maxsparber at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


aryma, often when you participate here your comments are dismissive of some people and some experiences, even if you are not saying those things explicitly and even if it's not your intention to do so. This is apparently a blind spot for you.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:32 PM on February 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


There were hundreds of people at both meetings - loads of women AND men, standing up for the things that matter - like constitutional rights. I was seriously blown away by the absolute power of the people in that room - the everyday people who showed up to raise hell; they stood like icons and would not be talked down or dismissed. I was proud, so proud, to be witness to that - but it occurs to me that stuff like that goes on every single day somewhere in this country and it's just downright incredible how much courage and fortitude these people, whom I call feminists, have.

That's what people have been doing in this thread, standing up for the things that matter to them — but I guess, not to you.
posted by catchingsignals at 5:33 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not really going to touch aryma's comment deeply (because I agree, that's her homework to do), but something to meditate on, something that would take in both the council-meeting example and also the discussion going on here, might be a conception of feminism as one in which women empower themselves to participate at least equally in authoring the terms of discussion.
posted by Miko at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


To quote the great Twisty Faster: "feminism is in fact a political movement the goal of which is the liberation of women from patriarchal oppression".

I have to say, aryma, that given that you're the author of what I think is basically the nastiest comment I've ever seen in MeTa by anyone even pretending to be in good faith, which was basically the "straw that broke the camel's back" in NoreReed leaving the site, you making one of these wide-eyed "aww shucks" comments about the straw feminism in your head while at the same literally listing Sarah Palin and Ann fucking Coulter as examples"feminists" is giving me the absolute hinks.

Seriously: I think of feminists as the women who know who's running the world and intend to keep it that way.

Have you never heard of the phrase "smash the patriarchy"? Maintaining the status quo, given that at the moment it is so shitty, is not the aim of feminism. If nothing else, I think everyone can agree that at least in principle, feminism is firmly on the reformist or radical side of the equation, not the conservative or regressive (I guess to be entirely fair I should say "restorative") side.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:34 PM on February 22, 2015 [40 favorites]


My example was previous MeTas. Text. I sincerely doubt there's a single person who has never seen a comment or a post even in that one subsite of this larger website where they have thought it was an overreaction, or based on not reading what was written correctly. This is in no way suggests anything about how victims of rape respond is incorrect, and was in no way something I was suggesting.

And maxsparber, I flagged your comment because, like an increasing number of your comments, it is a sarcastic dismissal that in no way contributes anything except you getting off a zinger. I don't expect it to get deleted from MeTa, but honestly, you do that a lot nowadays and it really adds little to what is meant to be a conversation, not a sideshow.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:38 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


which was basically the "straw that broke the camel's back" in NoraReed leaving the site

How do we know this, by the way? I don't know if it's true or not, but she was posting for days after that comment.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:39 PM on February 22, 2015


Maybe I'm overstating the case, but she specifically mentioned both that thread and aryma's comment in particular as playing a role. She said as much in that MeTa, even.

I don't think it really matters the exact percentage of attribution it deserves for NoraReed leaving. It was a completely disgusting comment, and totally consistent with what I think of as aryma's "MO" about these kind of issues.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 5:44 PM on February 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


. I don't expect it to get deleted from MeTa, but honestly, you do that a lot nowadays and it really adds little to what is meant to be a conversation, not a sideshow.

Take it to MeMail. I'm under no obligation to respond with anything other than zingers to a user who is, at best, accidentally unpleasant and disruptive in thread upon thread upon thread, and, at worst, is deliberately so.
posted by maxsparber at 5:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


I emphasized the role of the women in the background, the quiet ones, as being just as strong and important as the power players - no way did I even vaguely suggest "dismissing" anyone as "failing to be feminist enough to really be a feminist".

I feel icky even engaging with you on this, but here's the phrasing you used: "inconsistent with the image of feminism I have in my head," "is she primarily a "feminist" then - is that her banner?", "Is she a "feminist" in that she's been hurt terribly by men and wants nothing to do with them forever - she feels comfortable only around other women?" The fact that those last two were aimed at women who had survived abuse is absolutely uncalled for. I happen to believe that it's pretty obvious that your "I'm just stumbling along here, help me out" act is completely fabricated, given how quickly you turn on other MeFites, but even if I didn't it would still go beyond merely dismissive and into the realm of nasty.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:49 PM on February 22, 2015 [33 favorites]


Ever since her truly fascinating contributions in the antisemitism thread, I've decided just to pretend that aryma doesn't exist. Call it a mental kill-file if you'd like. I can't really see how any good could come out of engaging with her.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:56 PM on February 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Can we not have yet another MeTa become aryma-vs-the-world?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:57 PM on February 22, 2015


I don't think anyone is saying that women are weak and need to be protected from certain topics or rhetoric when we make it socially unacceptable to say certain things. Rather, we recognize that certain topics and rhetorical tools actively work to stifle women from having a voice by abusing social or cultural patterns that disproportionately impact women over men, raising barriers for women while not impacting the participation of men very much at all. Rape is one; but so is calling a woman hysterical, or asking her to get back into the kitchen, or implying that her body/autonomy doesn't belong to her. In other words, as feminism gains more traction in mainstream society, some rhetorical tropes necessarily become less acceptable to use because of the lopsided way they impact women in discussions. I view this as a good thing, because it takes a step towards putting men and women on an equal playing field not just in the boardroom, but also in everyday social life - such as in online discussions.

I roll my eyes when anyone accuses this trend of being equivalent to "thought-policing". First, barring explicitly safe spaces, no one is actively stopping anyone from launching sexist tropes against women that would have flown under the radar even just several years ago. All that's happened is that people are becoming more savvy to the systematic impact of these tropes, and socially, they don't pass muster anymore. So when someone screams "censorship" over not being able to throw the same shit that they did five years ago into a conversation and let it be ignored, all I can think is that they just want a free pass to be abusive towards women without being called out on it. We've let that happen for way too long already, so it's about time that isn't the case, for once in our lives.
posted by Conspire at 6:00 PM on February 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Can we not have yet another MeTa become aryma-vs-the-world?

Indeed; there's no rule saying people have to respond to them. Self-policing can also mean policing our own selves.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:00 PM on February 22, 2015


I wouldn't call it a zinger; by referencing the sea lion cartoon he's making an implicit criticism of Aryma's comment. As I understand the point of that cartoon, the sea lion's demands are
  • that other people engage with him (?)
  • the debate must be on his terms
  • and he must be satisfied by the outcome
The ridiculous bit is that the subject of the debate is something like "Why you are not justified in believing that sea lions are offensive and intrusive." It's a circular, self-reifying demand that someone either put up with unpleasant behaviour uncomplainingly or put up with that behaviour while futilely attempting to show the perpetrator that they are justified in finding it objectionable.

I don't know that Aryma's comment rises to that level, but we definitely see a similar dynamic here on Metafilter sometimes: "Well, show me why this offensive. Would this be offensive? Or that? Maybe you're too thin-skinned, did you consider that? Well if you're not going to respond then how do I know what you find offensive?" I think the mods generally crack down on it, and a good thing too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:05 PM on February 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


i'd almost rather see a proposed list of people to be "voted off the island", and have it debated, than to read "this person said this horrible awful thing" every time "horrible awful person" shows up to say something

things are going downhill fast
posted by pyramid termite at 6:07 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Based on what I saw her say after the fact, NoraReed did not leave this site over any one particular incident. She is still very active online if anybody is missing her perspective.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:22 PM on February 22, 2015


Can we maybe not speak for users (or ex-users, I guess) who are not able to correct or clarify for themselves?
posted by jaguar at 6:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


aryma's comment that the women here who talk about feminism aren't feminists but in fact damaged people with PTSD is precisely the kind of thing I was referring to earlier when I wrote about this place becoming more obliquely hostile. It's the exact same thing she did to NoraReed in a comment in a different MeTa thread that has already been referenced by others above.

Why is this public speculation on "is this member feminist or mentally unsound?" allowed here? Like, I honestly believe that the mods work in the best interests of the users and the site, but this seems totally over the line of common respect and decency to me.
posted by jess at 6:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [53 favorites]


ok so YOLO
posted by Drinky Die at 6:27 PM on February 22, 2015


Based on what I saw her say after the fact, NoraReed did not leave this site over any one particular incident.

Hm like for example it could have been a large number of small, shitty incidents by some users, or perhaps one certain user. Interesting, thanks for the info.
posted by nom de poop at 6:29 PM on February 22, 2015


I don't really think "user asks question, user gets several responses within a few minutes" fits neatly into the "user-versus-the-world" trope. We're not talking about a continual beatdown type situation. If you ask a provocative question, you're going to get some answers. That's kind of how things are supposed to work.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:30 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Well, I've screwed up pretty deeply here again, sorry. I'll step out now.
posted by Drinky Die at 6:31 PM on February 22, 2015


It would seem to me that her situation is more that of a PTSD survivor than a feminist

this is disgusting and i hope one day you learn why you should be ashamed.
posted by nadawi at 6:34 PM on February 22, 2015 [51 favorites]


I would genuinely appreciate it if we could (a) not speculate/argue about why someone not here isn't here and (b) avoid getting further into an arguing with-and-about aryma dynamic here.

aryma, you dropping "well this is just what I think/just asking questions" comment bombs into threads has become a really problematic trend at this point, to the point where it doesn't really matter whether you think they're going to be a problem or not; we need you to find some way to cut that out and avoid continuing to turn threads toward this pattern of holding forth and then taking exception when people actually respond to the content and implications of what you've written. If you're consistently getting a negative response that you didn't anticipate, it's time to start much more actively making an effort to do that anticipation and skip the whole thing before it starts.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:35 PM on February 22, 2015 [26 favorites]


aryma's comment that the women here who talk about feminism aren't feminists but in fact damaged people with PTSD is precisely the kind of thing I was referring to earlier when I wrote about this place becoming more obliquely hostile. It's the exact same thing she did to NoraReed in a comment in a different MeTa thread that has already been referenced by others above.

One hundred percent co-signed.
posted by KathrynT at 6:36 PM on February 22, 2015 [40 favorites]


Same here. How fucking vile.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:37 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


How fucking vile.

It's a super gross pattern. Dropping conversational turds and then being all "who, me?" isn't cool.

I think that the light-touch, "have a gazillion chances to get a clue," moderation approach is increasingly failing lately because of a combination of fewer moderators and a set of users who are finding ways to skirt just this side of the actionable line. Whether they are doing so with trollish intentions or because of mental health issues or some other reason is maybe not all that important; what matters is that it's a pattern on both the user and moderator sides and it is producing noticeably poor outcomes.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:54 PM on February 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


I think that the light-touch, "have a gazillion chances to get a clue," moderation approach is increasingly failing lately

Yes, I agree. I have always appreciated the immense amount of work and energy and patience displayed by the moderators in helping users get it, but I have felt, since Jessamyn left and mod hours were reduced, that that patience has not been working to make things better but merely to give users way more opportunity to create nastiness than in the past. I don't know if that's because of the moderation change, or because of some change in discourse among the users, or just a random correlation, but it's been noticeable to me, too.
posted by jaguar at 6:59 PM on February 22, 2015 [24 favorites]


Speculating on people's mental health is gross regardless of whether it's meant to be a charitable explanation of their behavior or whatever and I wish folks would cut it the hell out.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:00 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


[A couple comments removed; we are not going to randomly dig into yet another Just Curious angle here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:11 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just want to say thanks to the mods. I appreciate how you're listening and I know it's a tough job.
posted by Ruki at 7:14 PM on February 22, 2015


On non-preview, I'm also specifically thankful for that quick clean up.
posted by Ruki at 7:15 PM on February 22, 2015


Yeah, to clarify: I just think that the philosophies underlying moderation may need to be examined, now that the schedules and moderators have changed. I'm not trying to say that anyone's doing a bad job, just that what used to work seems not to be working any more.
posted by jaguar at 7:16 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


aryma: "I get that any woman, no matter how strong, can be damaged and traumatized through violence and she will need some sort of protective boundaries around her body and mind indefinitely - but is she primarily a "feminist" then - is that her banner?"

When I was pregnant, I looked at the state of the public schools in my rust-belt American midwestern city and ran for school board. I won. I served for five years. I am a feminist. I have, thank God, never been a victim of serious physical violence in any form, sexual or otherwise. I didn't run for office "because I'm a feminist" but because I care a lot about my community and I have a lot to contribute to it to help in improving it. The fact that I have the education, and the personal confidence, to run for office and to serve well is due to the feminist movement. But I ran because I'm a PERSON and a parent and a citizen who gives a lot of fucks, not because I'm trying to make a feminist point.

Last year, in the course of my normal duties as an elected official, we began investigating a popular employee who was accused of very serious wrongdoing. Because this individual was popular and had a long history in the community, some of his supporters flew off the handle. I was subjected to so many months of rape threats that it was easier to cancel my phone than to get the calls to stop. There were a variety of other forms of harassment, but rape threats were absolutely the most prominent. After I left my position, the threats and particularly the rape phone calls carried on for four more months. The police couldn't -- or wouldn't -- help me. When I filed a police report, the people making the threatening phone calls FOIAed my police report, had it released to them, and used the information in the report to target my home and my other, unlisted phone number, and to show up in public places to taunt me with information gleaned from the report, including the harassment of my two children under the age of 5. The assistant chief told me there "wasn't much they could do" if people used police reports to further harassment, and they couldn't really make rape calls stop. The mayor told me that was just the kind of thing women in public life have to expect, and if I couldn't handle it, maybe I should quit public office. I should, perhaps, note that TWO DAYS after he met with me about my rape phone calls and confirmed that the police wouldn't address them, he had a SWAT team sent to shut down a fake Twitter account making fun of him because it suggested he did coke and gave blow jobs to men. When it's directed against men, it's appalling and requires a SWAT team. When it's directed against women, nobody can do anything, THAT IS JUST THE WORLD.

You know why people use threats of sexual violence against women? Because it fucking works, and because nobody will do a fucking thing about it, because this level of violence against women is totally normalized, and it was used extremely successfully to drive me completely out of public life. And I'm fucking angry about it, but there's nothing I can do without inviting the same shit to start up again, and they have already targeted my children at school. I can't even make a police report without that being used to increase threats! And do you know what's most appalling? These people who called my house and screamed, "I HOPE SOMEONE RAPES YOU!" and "YOU DESERVE TO BE RAPED!" still go to community meetings and get treated as legitimate participants in the public discourse. Even with police reports naming them.

And yeah, I've got a little PTSD about it. WHICH IS A TOTALLY NORMAL RESPONSE TO BEING THREATENED WITH RAPE FOR EIGHT SOLID MONTHS FOR DOING YOUR JOB. I don't think it has anything to do with "feminism" -- I think it has to do with the fact that eight months of rape threats is considered a normal and non-actionable response to a woman doing her job when it happens to involve something you dislike. I am CLEARLY not the person in this scenario who is being unreasonable. The person who thinks, "Wow, I do not like these employment decisions, I better spend eight months making rape threats," is CLEARLY the person who has some serious boundary issues and needs to shut the fuck up.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [239 favorites]


Holy fuck, Eyebrows. That's appalling. I.... I hope things improve for you at some point in the future in your community? Christ almighty.
posted by sciatrix at 7:30 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows, that is extraordinarily awful and I'm so sorry you have had to live through that.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:31 PM on February 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm curious: I am a 51 year old woman who has experienced a lot of these micro-aggressions and I really appreciate Conspire posting this MeTa. I have been reading and afraid to post because someone will hate me for it. But it's hard. Living as a woman. It makes me cry even writing this. But I feel like I have to say something, because I have a daughter. And this stuff needs to be said. Matt, you have a daughter, so these things are for her, yes?

To see people talking about my life in the abstract. It's not the abstract, man, it's real. It's hard every day to go through this. I've been doing it forever. And it's still going on. It doesn't end. It only ends when men say, "this is enough." Because women have been screaming about this for years.

I feel the things that guys say, I mean, I understand. Yet, I feel like strong women in this thread have been taken down a notch. Which I don't like.

The truth is, I don't go into those threads because I know there will be some dickhead coming in there. I have had bad things in my past, and I'm a grown up woman, but I don't care to read some bonehead's opinion on things that I know to be false. So I skip over it. That's my poll answer, Conspire.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 7:35 PM on February 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


Thanks, guys. It has been shitty and hard, but I have therapy and good friends, and it is just a very small group of people -- less than a dozen -- they just have outsized effect because of their willingness to transgress boundaries, and society's refusal to take these threats against women seriously. I just told the story because aryma mentioned women who are "feminist" by stepping into public life and local politics, and divided them from women who are "only" feminist because they're victims of sexual violence and PTSD. But we're the same women, and those threats of violence (made realistic and frightening by acts of violence against other women) are used to drive women out of the public sphere and shut them up. "Women in public life" can't be separated from "women affected by the specter of sexual violence," at least not until threats of sexual violence aren't used to silence women's voices.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:39 PM on February 22, 2015 [76 favorites]


That's incredible and vile, Eyebrows, and I know it wasn't easy for you to write, but I thank you SO much for your story. You are an outstanding example of the kind of person we need more of in public office, and you're also, very sadly, an outstanding example of why we don't have those people in public office.

I'd be angry, too - I AM angry, too - because the cavalier, dismissive attitude of the police is getting worse instead of better. It strikes me that up until maybe five years ago or so, at least the police departments in small communities around the part of the country I live in anyway were pretty even-handed and harmless (note, however, that I'm only familiar with some small towns in some states in some situations, so as a blanket statement it's worthless) but then something went sour and every day we move closer to a nationwide police state, with even the smallest communities getting militarized and fighting mad - and dismissive toward 'isms in general. Their bold racism is all over the news, their anti-feminism and anti-semitism not so much, but your own experience shows how that works - all below the surface, but so effectively. More stories in the news every day - do we even notice how frequent they are anymore?

Thank you for all you've done to make your place a better place and thank you for sharing your story. You are the strength I was talking about.
posted by aryma at 7:50 PM on February 22, 2015


Why is this public speculation on "is this member feminist or mentally unsound?" allowed here?

So, I am legit sorry to be a pain in the side of mods but I would very much appreciate an answer to this question and I don't think we've gotten one yet unless I missed it. Is this kind of post ("psychoanalyzing" fellow members) acceptable, and if not then why is it still here?
posted by jess at 8:07 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


The problem is not aryma not reading the room or the aw shucks attitude. THE ISSUE IS HER NASTY AND INCREDIBLY INAPPROPRIATE USE OF MENTAL ILLNESS AND EXPERIENCES OF SEXUAL ASSAULT AS A RHETORICAL WEAPON AGAINST WOMEN WHO DISAGREE WITH HER.

Can a mod please specifically address this REPEATED behavior?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:08 PM on February 22, 2015 [37 favorites]


Public speculation on whether a member is mentally unsound is obviously not allowed.
posted by Justinian at 8:10 PM on February 22, 2015


Yes, being told that I have PSTD and am too delicate to be a feminist is exactly one of those things that feel unwelcoming. That's not even a microagression. That's agression on a vast level.
posted by Ruki at 8:11 PM on February 22, 2015 [23 favorites]


Aryma, I think it's a little disingenuous to dismiss women in Eyebrows McGee's position as being broken and pitiful in one comment, and then lionize her for her inspirational bravery in as second one, without walking back any of your loathsome generalizations in between. And when I say "a little disingenuous" what I mean is "jawdroppingly hostile and vile."
posted by KathrynT at 8:12 PM on February 22, 2015 [41 favorites]



Public speculation on whether a member is mentally unsound is obviously not allowed.


How condescending. It is clearly not obvious.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:14 PM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


In what way is it condescending? Do you actually think the mods are going to say its allowed?
posted by Justinian at 8:15 PM on February 22, 2015


It has been allowed. The comment still stands.
posted by Ruki at 8:17 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Which comment precisely?
posted by Justinian at 8:18 PM on February 22, 2015


I'm on my phone so I can't link to it, and I don't think I'd want to. But you can scroll up and read it.
posted by Ruki at 8:20 PM on February 22, 2015


Which comment precisely?

This one.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why is this public speculation on "is this member feminist or mentally unsound?" allowed here?

I had a couple more paragraphs circa this comment of mine saying I think aryma's comment was weird and off-base that responded in more detail on my take on how specifically I thought that was fucked up, but it frankly was not civil enough to pass muster so I cut it for the time being and let other people cover much of the same ground better.

I've told aryma she just plain needs to cut it out with this routine. I've said that I think speculating about other people's mental health is not okay. I'll say super unambiguously here that I think that comment upthread was crappy, and it's exactly why she needs to either cut this crap out or stop being a participant here.

She posted the comment, and it got appropriately and thoroughly rebuked. I don't know if the question is just "why wasn't it deleted"; the answer to that is "because it stayed up and got thoroughly rebuked instead". It was a judgement call, and I hear you if you feel like it was the incorrect one but Metatalk's the place where that's a lot more likely to be the direction the call goes in when what we're doing is talking about problematic behavior and that's where I was coming from.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [4 favorites]



In what way is it condescending? Do you actually think the mods are going to say its allowed?


Well, clearly it's condescending to strongly imply that someone is asking a stupid and/or pointless question. Does that help?
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thanks, cortex. For me, I wanted to be sure that it was addressed with the poster. I feel like the repeated use of that technique is time-out territory.
posted by Ruki at 8:32 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


To clarify, I know you and LM did address her, but it was for other problematic aspects of the post.
posted by Ruki at 8:38 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


too delicate to be a feminist

I'm still practicing the mental gymnastics required to square this point of view with the one espoused by the same user in that other recent go-round where several of us were asked to explain to her whether we were really this strident and tough in real life as well as on the internet - the implication being we should dial the toughness back. Damned if you're tough, damned if you're delicate, I guess. Why does that sound familiar?
posted by Miko at 8:41 PM on February 22, 2015 [43 favorites]


Thank you, cortex.

When something like that is not specifically addressed while other aspects of the same comment are addressed, it gives the impression that it's not a priority or not considered a problem. I may be wrong about this but I don't recall it being addressed specifically last time, either. Yes, people rebutted it, but we are not mods and we can't represent the site's values or rules. Something so seriously out of line requires a clear, direct moderator statement. Making it clear that something will not be tolerated by the mods is important, and regular users can't really do that. People objected directly to this behavior last time but it obviously didn't cause aryma to seriously consider it off-limits. She got her dig in without any actual consequences. The fact that she felt comfortable going back to that particular well and was relatively confident that it would be okay is the kind of thing that feels like backsliding, moderation-wise.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:45 PM on February 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


She posted the comment, and it got appropriately and thoroughly rebuked. I don't know if the question is just "why wasn't it deleted"; the answer to that is "because it stayed up and got thoroughly rebuked instead".

The comment was basically saying "why do so many self-described feminists have a problem engaging with these issues, why are they 'triggering' and so on, maybe these people are all traumatised people with PTSD or something, they take offence way too easily" which just reads as a more polite way of saying "bitches be crazy, yo". When the fact is that pretty much any lengthy discussion on certain topics is going to be incredibly tiring and there are going to be too many people expressing certain opinions that are kind of squicky and remaining calm and patient and explaining gently why it's squicky instead of getting angry and upset is fucking hard and, as I said, tiring. So it becomes easier to just not engage with those things. Which isn't necessarily "being triggered", it's "being tired of being ignored if you say something politely and called shrill if you speak up forcefully". The comment overall was pretty shockingly disrespectful and frankly insulting (and this poster has previous with the exact same thing; there's a definite pattern of behaviour).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:53 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Where have people gotten this bizarre idea that MeFi should be discomfort-free?

So when people say things like this, it feels like their interpretation of any iteration of "I am offended" is basically, "I am a whiny baby who can't handle reality," when a more charitable and accurate interpretation is, "This is hurtful and/or harmful, most likely for rational reasons to do with particulars in personal experience, systemic social attitude, trauma etc." Additionally, I have never seen anyone propose to limit the scope of discussion under the auspices of, "offense," but have seen many, many people attempt the same in the name of "free speech" and "no right not to be offended" rhetoric.

Context matters, and issues dealing with gender, race, class, identity and so forth are never as abstract as those unfamiliar with or opposed to discussing them present them to be. It is not unreasonable to expect a standard in discussions on rape, assault and abuse (or any other topic with personal/political weight) that is a little higher and more nuanced than, "Anything goes, love it or leave it." All that's really being asked is respect, nuance and delicacy, things that foster discussion, rather than poison it.
posted by byanyothername at 8:56 PM on February 22, 2015 [22 favorites]


(on the polling question...)

So... when Jessamyn retired, I swore I'd stand up more and say more when I saw stuff that I thought was not welcoming to women, really really cruddy, or misogynstic in tone or impact. And I have so not followed through. I close those threads quickly (when I even open them). I don't even write comments that I then delete and don't post. I don't share some of my stories because I have no desire or the energy to have them second guessed, analyzed, and explained back to me about how I just don't get what was really happening.

It turns out I am more tired of it all then I thought I was. I am worn down by it in the real world. I am worn down by it on-line in general, and I am worn down here. I am well aware I am letting down the side, and I feel terribly guilty, but even that hasn't spurred me to participate in threads that touch on a big swath of female experience in the modern world.

I only have so much time for MeFi, and I'd rather feel good about my participation here, and those threads do not make me feel good about myself, MeFi, and especially other people. I was getting to the point where I was seeing certain handles and bowing out of not only the female experience posts, but other posts about everything from music to funny dog videos, and that is a really toxic way to use the site. Letting go of that toxicity and engaging in these sort of posts are impossible for me to successfully marry right now. I do feel like the site is struggling right now with these issues and that I should be speaking up, but I do not.
posted by julen at 8:57 PM on February 22, 2015 [23 favorites]


It is not anyone's job to martyr themselves to make the site better. Please don't feel guilty about choosing to prioritize your own mental health.
posted by jaguar at 8:59 PM on February 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm still seething over the statement that my experience of gendered and sexual violence invalidates my identification as a feminist, to the extent that I'm having a hard time putting together a cogent comment. I would so much rather deal with MRA nonsense and "Women always lie" than that sort of poisonous and disingenuous rhetoric.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:02 PM on February 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


Something so seriously out of line requires a clear, direct moderator statement.

Yes to this, please. It's starting to feel a little weird that multiple times now the same person has used the same repugnant behavior with what feels like little to no mod response. It's great that other people have rebutted the statement and all, but the lack of clear, direct, unprompted moderator response seems really conspicuous in its absence. Waiting until other community members have repeatedly requested some moderator input seems inadequate and disproportional. I don't want to read anything into that but it's hard not to hear a tacit tolerance of such behavior on a mod-level - I'm not saying that I think you guys do approve of this behavior, but the repeated lack of direct response is getting really frustrating and hard to understand.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:02 PM on February 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


I suspect most of the women who are expressing dissatisfaction with how kinda unfriendly some of those threads get aren't rushing away from their computers, with tears in their eyes, they are BORED out of their brains of posters acting they just don't get why it isn't cool to be misogynistic, and demanding that the women in those threads should explain it to them as if they are teenagers, or be nicer or whatever their lame routine is. You guys who do that - you are not being clever, or challenging anything, you are ridiculous, and I have better things to do with my time than explain Being A Decent Human Being 101 to you, over and over, while you snigger, pretend not to get it, say nasty things about women, turn it into something about men. The tenor in those threads is absolutely a deterrant to me from participating in the site overall.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 9:03 PM on February 22, 2015 [31 favorites]


It's definitely not up to any one user and it would get exhausting for anyone to feel like you bear the whole thing on your shoulders. I think it's a real discussion for the site. Like, it's kind of inevitable that individual people will occasionally get fed up and take a break or leave permanently. The question really is about how the site responds. What kind of community does MeFi, collectively, want to have? What does MeFi see itself as?

they are BORED out of their brains of posters acting they just don't get why it isn't cool to be misogynistic

THIS. This a million times. It amuses me how people with reactionary opinions about gender issues (or whatever!) conceive of themselves as the daring ones speaking truth to power in the face of Orwellian opposition or something - when their bloviating is bog-standard, stuff we've been hearing for milennia, really. It is offensive, sure. It is discouraging to lots of people, sure. But above all, it is dull, Groundhog-Day, not-this-again, freshman- philosophy, mosquito-buzz like monotony. That behavior draws attention to a few loud individuals who (I guess) want to feel brave or something, but it doesn't do a damn thing to make this site more interesting or varied or surprising or groundbreaking or a place of learning and enlightenment and wider knowledge or any of that good stuff that, ostensibly, we come here for. It keeps us focused on these extreeeemely basic levels of discourse that circle around challenging/defending a few foundational points of human rights and mutual respct, rather than seeing what other interesting realms we could potentially explore in the absence of people trying so hard to rein the gender discourse in.
posted by Miko at 9:11 PM on February 22, 2015 [44 favorites]


I don't like to speak to what mods may/ may not do on serious subject like this, but you folks are doing a fine job.
posted by clavdivs at 9:16 PM on February 22, 2015


I have this urge (that I will absolutely not follow through on) to start responding to all men who argue for "free discourse" with comments about their inadequate penis size. Every time you comment, someone will mention that they don't think you're particularly living up to your gender dictates! After a few thousand years of that, you'll be allowed to say you maybe think it's unfair your genitalia gets brought up every time you have an opinion. We may not listen to you then, but you'll at least be allowed to register an objection.
posted by jaguar at 9:19 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I may be wrong about this but I don't recall it being addressed specifically last time, either.

Yeah, I said in a comment in a another metatalk thread the other day that I regret not more unambiguously addressing aryma's comment in that thread at the time. It was an omission because I was distracted, not because I didn't intend to address it, but if it's not there it's not there and I totally understand the frustration of not seeing it show up.

I'm not saying that I think you guys do approve of this behavior, but the repeated lack of direct response is getting really frustrating and hard to understand.

Yeah, I get you there. And it's one of the things we're gonna keep talking about as a team as far as trying to keep adjusting mod interactions on the site. It's something that's varied over the years and I think we've ended up lately swinging a little too much too the less communicative side in a few cases as a result of how we've been reworking mod scheduling and resources. Definitely a work in progress.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Eyebrows McGee, what you experienced is awful. I'm very sorry to hear it. Also, it really fucking sucks that aryma's commenting here is what led to you typing all of that out. It's troubling to see people sharing deeply personal and horrible shit because aryma can't be bothered to figure out what she does around here to hurt people and piss people off.

aryma has been following this pattern for a long time now that looks something like "I have this thing that I want to say and I'm pretty sure it's going to piss people off, but I haven't figured out why that is, and rather than figuring out why, I'm just going to say it anyway," and then when people, predictably, are frustrated and angry and hurt and respond as you'd expect, she doubles down and says shit that's even worse than the first crappy thing she sat down to type. This is within her ability to manage, right? If the answer is yes, then she should manage it or not be permitted to participate here; if she's unable to manage it, then she shouldn't be permitted to participate here.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:24 PM on February 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


I suspect most of the women who are expressing dissatisfaction with how kinda unfriendly some of those threads get aren't rushing away from their computers, with tears in their eyes, they are BORED out of their brains of posters acting they just don't get why it isn't cool to be misogynistic...

"Bored" is pretty far down on the list of adjectives I'd use. I mean, it's on the list, but it is far preceded by: Angry, disheartened, disillusioned, disgusted, frustrated, fed up, freaked out, pissed off, incredulous.

I don't rush away with tears in my eyes. I just wonder how the fuck other people can have blinders over theirs. (And that's being charitable. What's really maddening is when the blinders are pretend blinders, because then the faux-innocence and -ignorance just becomes sport, and that makes me want to do the bloodletting.)
posted by mudpuppie at 9:43 PM on February 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


Public speculation on whether a member is mentally unsound is obviously not allowed.

If only that were true.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:45 PM on February 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also want to say that I am very grateful not to be a moderator here, and I give the mods all due praise. The dividing line between okay and not seems very clear cut to me, but I can certainly see how that's a very personal line, and every single person here has their own personal line, and I am incredibly grateful that I'm not in the position of validating each and every one of them.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:46 PM on February 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Which comment precisely?

This one.


Huhn, I wasn't sure if it was aryma's or Dip Flash's.

Shitty either way, regardless of track records.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:47 PM on February 22, 2015


Huhn, I wasn't sure if it was aryma's or Dip Flash's.

Shitty either way, regardless of track records.


It's valid to say my comment is shitty for whatever reason, but I was very careful to not speculate about any specific poster's reasons for being problematic. I was very explicitly talking about a number of users ("a set of users who are finding ways to skirt just this side of the actionable line"), whose reasons for being problematic no doubt cover a wide range of factors, and honestly I don't give a rat's ass why they are being awful, I just want it to stop.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:00 PM on February 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


Yeah, aryma's and Dip Flash's comments were nowhere near similar.
posted by jaguar at 10:02 PM on February 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Aside from both containing speculation regarding people's mental health that neither party has any qualification or right to make. I'm not arguing they're peas in a pod, or Dip Flash is a Bad MeFite Who Must Be Punished, or even disagreeing with DF's larger point. Just that keyboard diagnosis is always a crappy practice, and it'd be nice if it happened less.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:21 PM on February 22, 2015


Right, but Dip Flash was diagnosing no one, his comment was like "whatever the cause," not "I think this is the cause," and that's a meaningful difference.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:23 PM on February 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


Where is there diagnosis or speculation? Dip Flash specifically says that mental-health issues should not be taken into account in evaluating someone's behavior; aryma specifically says that mental-health issues should be a reason to dismiss someone's opinion. They're like the polar opposites of comments.
posted by jaguar at 10:25 PM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


I agree they were not at all the same but that's getting pretty close to "hey, I was just asking the question".
posted by Justinian at 10:25 PM on February 22, 2015


Shitty either way, regardless of track records.

No, that's a terrible reading of Dip Flash's comment.

Blah, multiply pwned.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:26 PM on February 22, 2015


thegears: Um, citation needed? Seriously, I've never heard a mod say "this is a shitty comment but I'm going to let it stay because people like responding to it."

You were asking for an example of this earlier...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:28 PM on February 22, 2015


Dip Flash was diagnosing no one, his comment was like "whatever the cause," not "I think this is the cause," and that's a meaningful difference.

Fair enough. I get what you're saying, and there's probably some kneejerkiness in my reaction. And all this time I thought I just had to monitor my regular, run of the mill jerkiness.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:32 PM on February 22, 2015


Blah, multiply pwned.

And how!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:33 PM on February 22, 2015


I'm gonna go back to your original phrasing instead of thegears' paraphrasing since I don't want to end up at odds over shades of meaning and I'm not sure whether you and thegears were saying precisely the same thing or not, so:

The staff has said over and over that they refuse to delete completely terrible shitpiles of comments for the sole reason that they garner responses.

We have decided not to delete a given crappy comment on some occasions because it has already garnered a bunch of substantive responses and become part of the fabric of the larger discussion its in. Not because we think its great to have a crappy comment stick around, but because we think there's downsides to both approaches and sometimes the judgement call lands on that side.

We certainly don't leave a crappy comment up with goal of garnering further replies to it; my assumption is that your "that they garner responses" is not meant to suggest that, but since its semantically ambiguous and because thegears' paraphrase reads to me like it might be taking that reading, I'm just acknowledging that to try and be super clear about what I'm reading.

And like I said in the comment you just linked, it's something we definitely need to keep thinking about and tweaking. I don't think we'd ever swing the pendulum cleanly over to "bad comments will always be deleted even if it's a disruptive mess", because I just don't see that kind of hardline approach making sense, but it's certainly something where there's some room to move a little more toward the delete-the-crap side and away from the let-the-sunshine-blast-it side of things.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:40 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


We certainly don't leave a crappy comment up with goal of garnering further replies to it; my assumption is that your "that they garner responses" is not meant to suggest that, but since its semantically ambiguous and because thegears' paraphrase reads to me like it might be taking that reading, I'm just acknowledging that to try and be super clear about what I'm reading.

Yes, this is much more clear. Thank you.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:44 PM on February 22, 2015


Personally, I'd be OK with the compromise of "leave it, leave the responses, but also leave a smalltext mod note saying "That was seriously over the line of acceptable discourses. In addition to the community response/rejection above, please take this as your official warning to cut that shit out." Or, you know, whatever along those lines.
posted by KathrynT at 10:45 PM on February 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yeah, I think trying to up the frequency of visible or more explicit mod notes for some of those situations is one of the things we can work on.

It can be a little bit tricky sometimes if part of the problem is something getting out of hand fast or going unflagged initially and so any such mod note ends up down the page some from whatever happened; short of time travel (unlikely) or breaking the chronological nature of threads (a big can of worms in its own right) we can't just magically retroactively have-been-there right at the moment of whatever shitty thing happening, and so there can be that frustrating-for-everybody lack of a super prompt response even when we respond as soon as we're actually reasonable able. But that's sort of detail stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:51 PM on February 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have enormous sympathy for the problem of having the perfect response be an immediate one when that simply isn't practical given the size of the site and the level of resources available, btw. I don't have any solutions, mind you, but I definitely acknowledge it as a hard problem.
posted by KathrynT at 10:55 PM on February 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


short of time travel (unlikely)

I thought pb already had a proof-of-concept, or is that not yet going to will have been invented?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:01 PM on February 22, 2015


I am not ok with aryma setting up Eyebrows McGee as just what she was talking about as strength against the rest of us feminists who are not strong because we don't parade our history of activism and abuse out to see if it meets her standards of approval to not be weak, mentally ill people.

This is not ok - for either Eyebrows McGee or for the rest of us.

It's also part of a pattern - to dismiss abused women speaking up for cultural change as "too weak" until we write movingly about some of the horrific abuse we've received. Then the "wow you are strong" comment comes, and the tone is complementary but the context shows that our displaying ourselves as having suffered is more accepted than us actually taking a stand and arguing to change society. We are valuable as victims of abuse, not valuable as people arguing for abuse to end.

It's a way of undermining women's confidence, of trying to set the bar for "it's ok to speak" so high that we'll give up, another way of setting up abuse as something women should just expect to endure because reasons and it's BULLSHIT.

It's also a way of reinforcing ableism - of reinforcing the idea that if one has a mental illness, one should shut up because one is weak/bad/useless/broken. FUCK. THAT.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:43 PM on February 22, 2015 [73 favorites]


Personally, I'd be OK with the compromise of "leave it, leave the responses, but also leave a smalltext mod note saying "That was seriously over the line of acceptable discourses

I think this is often a good compromise. Makes it clear that mods are paying attention and sets normative assumptions but without memory-holing something so people can see how far is too far. That said, it's really hard to leave notes that sort of draw a line without calling someone out and callouts by mods are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as being their own issue on the site.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 3:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Comment deleted. Aryma, you absolutely need to step back and leave this alone now.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:08 AM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


To quote the amazing Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, "I'm not offended. I'm contemptuous." Nobody here has ever hurt my delicate feelings and sent me into a swoon of vapors through the power of their strong manly language. But many comments on this site are contemptible and should be called out. I do it when I have the energy to deal with the equally contemptible inevitable backlash. I am thankful that there are so many others here doing the same.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:46 AM on February 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


All that's really being asked is respect, nuance and delicacy, things that foster discussion, rather than poison it.

To loop all the way back to the original topic: That is not all that is being asked. This whole thread began with a discussion of why certain topics should be discussed a whole lot less, preferably not at all. In the case of this specific post, there are reasons I find that request problematic. But even setting aside those specifics, it's disingenuous to say that you want discussions to be more respectful when you're actually asking for less discussion.
It's similarly disingenuous to talk about how pugilistic commenting hurts the site when you really want certain comments to be met with pugilism, and others not to be, on the basis of whether you agree with them or not.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:39 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's similarly disingenuous to talk about how pugilistic commenting hurts the site when you really want certain comments to be met with pugilism, and others not to be, on the basis of whether you agree with them or not.

No one wants that. Discussing false rape accusation less (that is, closing threads that discuss it) isn't pugilism.

And frankly, I don't think "a discussion of why certain topics should be discussed a whole lot less, preferably not at all" is a fair or charitable summary of what was asked. Not so many threads relating to false rape accusations right at this moment, yes. Never discussing them at all, no.

(And, yes, I do realize that the latest thread was not specifically "about" false accusations of sexual assault, but they were in the article linked, if not in the pull-quote.)
posted by thegears at 6:01 AM on February 23, 2015


ThatFuzzyBastard, I'm not sure why you are quoting byanyothername to say that they are asking for less discussion, or they want certain comments to be met with pugilism. Byanyothername commented here once, in response to the question "Where have people gotten this bizarre idea that MeFi should be discomfort-free?" The comment you quoted from them was addressing that remark.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:05 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Certain topics are inherently disrespectful. If I said "Look, I want more respectful discussions, and could we ban the debate about whether Jews ACTUALLY control the world's money and also faked the Holocaust", there would be nothing disingenuous about that.

In any case, that isn't what people are asking for. "Could we keep 'but what about the men!' out of discussions about rape" and "you know, we've had a lot of discussion about false rape accusations and this looks bad especially when usually there's a limit about active posts on the same topic" are not saying "no one can ever discuss what happens to people who are accused of rape anywhere on mefi ever".
posted by jeather at 6:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


it's disingenuous to say that you want discussions to be more respectful when you're actually asking for less discussion.

You know what's really disingenuous? Cherry-picking one sentence from something 300-odd posts into a thread that's going on 500 posts, ignoring the entire context of the discussion up to that point, and projecting something the poster in question didn't actually say onto it.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 6:22 AM on February 23, 2015 [28 favorites]


Certain topics are inherently disrespectful.

I'm not sure that any topics are inherently disrespectful*, but I think there are an awful lot of topics that are theoretical thought exercises for some people and very real problems for others, and the former group often stomps all over the latter without thinking, and then gets defensive and hurt when they get pushback. And this is an especial problem on the internet, where the relative anonymity breeds disconnection and the lack of body language cues means that even fairly sensitive people sometimes fail to notice tension before it's too late. So, maybe thinking of all the ways that a topic might be doing real harm to others would be a great start -- do you really want to share that link if it's going to make a bunch of people miserable?

And, in regards to sexism, harassment, and rape, the internet we have is still very much a boyzone where women fight to be heard (and to not be harassed or navigate harassment), and, of course, there is still a huge social-conservative media machine churning out attacks on women daily, so it's pretty easy to find material to build FPPs on that are going to go badly. So more sensitivity and forethought would be great.

And that's all assuming good faith and intentions on the part of every member.

* Obviously, there are examples of almost every topic that horribly disrespectful -- there is a huge difference between an FPP that presents the changing rhetoric of racism, say, backed up with nuance and supporting links, as opposed to a single-link to a white power site without any sort of framing or context.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:53 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I actually think the dinner party metaphor is pretty good, but needs one extra bit of nuance:

Are we talking a Downton Abbey type of dinner party, or are we talking a dinner party like I'd be having? Because while both of those dinner parties call for a certain degree of civility and mutual respect, one of them is gonna be WAY more strict about decorum than the other.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:56 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having a whole series of posts saying "men's rights are being threatened by these new anti-rape initiatives" sure makes Metafilter feel like an MRA site, even if that's not the intention of any individual poster.
posted by alms at 6:57 AM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


This whole thread began with a discussion of why certain topics should be discussed a whole lot less, preferably not at all. In the case of this specific post, there are reasons I find that request problematic.

Right. We want to discuss false rape accusations a whole lot less, you want to discuss them a whole lot more. We have our agenda, you have yours. What I don't get is why we need to discuss false rape accusations a whole lot more on metafilter when there are a million other places to go to talk about false rape accusations.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I will tell you my own opinion on what has most recently transpired. A hundred posts ago, I suggested that we'd do well to think of the norms of this page as very similar to the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school. Since then, I have seen several posts which, as far as I can tell, do not really apprehend what the norms of such a discussion are.

One poster suggested that the academic model is a bad model because it would lead to extensive discussion of women's looks, the use of sexually violent metaphors, and lots of "go make me a sandwich" jokes. These are not the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school.

Another poster suggested that the academic model is a bad model because it would reliably make the victims of sexual assault feel unwelcome. Again, not consistent with the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school.

Then we had 40 or 50 posts getting progressively more inflamed at one user who (I think) is not especially malicious, but is also not especially analytical and who tends to perform the keyboard equivalent of thinking out loud. (Notably, this is a very bad set of traits to bring into any discussion that touches on sexual assault, or indeed into just about anything controversial.) Once again, repeated and painfully insensitive comments do not coexist with the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school, and neither do gigantic group pile-ons (that is what I take flagging to be for); I think such comments as well as such pileons should be discouraged on this site as well.

(I guess I need to add, in an attempt to be clear, that the previous paragraph is certainly not directed at those several posters who detected the climate of, and tried to forestall, a group pile-on. Nor is it directed at the mods, who it seems to me are doing an excellent job coping with the newly limited resources of their attention.)

More recently, another poster suggested that (if I understand correctly) certain broad topics are inherently disrespectful. But if those topics are of inherent intellectual or political interest, I think this prohibition is difficult to square with the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school. Several others have suggested that such a discussion is genuinely painful or exhausting for them. In such a case, I think cutting class for that day (or that post) may be an underappreciated remedy.

Other posters have described such controversial discussions as being driven by a desire to advance men's rights activism or a desire to discuss controversial issues "a whole lot more" as such. In a moderated discussion in high school or college, people are very careful about assigning motivations to other discussants; it's viewed as a violation of those norms.

Finally, we had a poster calling for "respect, nuance, and delicacy" in these discussions. These are excellent values that I think any kind of discussion should exemplify. Another value is the search for general truths which, despite our individual blind spots, we all might appreciate. As I suggested before, the academic norms I like are not always realized in colleges and universities except in my fantasies. Nonetheless, I tend to think that academic norms provide some guideposts that are helpful in pursuing worthwhile values we should all share, and that these norms are sometimes underappreciated on this page.
posted by Mr. Justice at 7:44 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm not familiar with moderated discussion in college or grad school. Is that a problem?

It didn't say anything about that when I signed up.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:55 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mr. Justice, are you talking about posts or comments in this thread?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


it's pretty easy to find material to build FPPs on that are going to go badly. So more sensitivity and forethought would be great.

One might think a post by an explicitly feminist law professor discussing how to craft Title IX policies in a sustainable way might be a better sort of material. But apparently it isn't.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:04 AM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


. As I suggested before, the academic norms I like are not always realized in colleges and universities except in my fantasies.

analogies that pull from imagined academic norms are probably not as broadly applicable as you are trying to make them here.
posted by nadawi at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


@ Empress Callipygos: why not both? I think that there's an appropriate set of norms for what people put up as a FPP, and another appropriate set of norms for the way people discuss it. I think the first is very similar to what constitutes a good topic for a class discussion, and that the second is very similar to contributions to that discussion.

@ nadawi: Maybe I was imprecise, but I meant to suggest that the academic norms I am appealing to, like all norms, are not always perfectly realized because they are administered by imperfect human beings. I do not think that makes them at all imaginary -- just a bit aspirational.

I'll shut up now.
posted by Mr. Justice at 8:20 AM on February 23, 2015


One might think a post by an explicitly feminist law professor discussing how to craft Title IX policies in a sustainable way might be a better sort of material. But apparently it isn't.

It would have gone better if there weren't users here who take any discussion of false rapes as a justification to say, hey, maybe feminism has gone too far and these women be lying?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:22 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


analogies that pull from imagined academic norms are probably not as broadly applicable as you are trying to make them here.

Yeah, I'm gonna have to second that, hard. My undergrad saw me witness to multiple very clearcut cases of university faculty and staff sexually harassing students. Said complaints were mostly dealt with well, I felt (though I don't claim to speak for those that actually were the victims of said harassment), but I think it's a metaphor that's not necessarily going to get read the same by everyone.

More recently, another poster suggested that (if I understand correctly) certain broad topics are inherently disrespectful. But if those topics are of inherent intellectual or political interest, I think this prohibition is difficult to square with the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school.

It's difficult for me to imagine a university where the majority of discussions surrounding sexual assault in classrooms in a given semester are specifically about the consequences of untrue allegations of sexual assault, and where the detrimental effects of sexual assault on its victims are more or less ignored. As a corollary, it's difficult for me to imagine a well-moderated collegiate discussion on any aspect of sexual assault where a good number of women participating in the discussion standing up and saying "Honestly, we're discussing this in a way that's hurtful to me, and I suspect to a lot of other women" wouldn't make everyone step back for a second and re-evaluate what they're saying.

But this is where we are on MeFi. It's probably not realisitic to believe the debates like those in graduate school classrooms can happen here, at least on some issues. There's not nearly the moderation staff, as a ratio, compared to in an academic setting. We all can't read each other's body/face language. And most importantly, we can't see women walking out of the room in disgust (or annoyance or boredom) and say to ourselves "Shit, I clearly just said something awful, I'm going to shut up now."
posted by thegears at 8:23 AM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


But if those topics are of inherent intellectual or political interest, I think this prohibition is difficult to square with the norms of a moderated discussion in college or grad school.

But I disagree that the norms of mefi should be exactly like the norms of a moderated discussion in university. There are useful similarities, but they are not identical.
posted by jeather at 8:26 AM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


To me, the crux of the matter is that a subset of users here believes MeFi is editorially duty-bound to openly air the concerns of men who believe anti-rape and harassment laws have already increased the likelihood that they, themselves, may one day be falsely accused of rape alongside (and sometimes above) the concerns of women who have already been raped. We're supposed to consider these "someday, hypothetically, this might happen to me or someone I know" imaginary scenarios as unquestionably valid (as opposed to just kind of paranoid) and precisely as worthy of concern as things that have already happened. To them, even a man's hypothetical experience with the fear of being falsely accused of rape or harassment must be considered comparable to a woman's direct, first-hand experience with actual, literal rape and sexual assault.

But the equating of these two experiences elides at least one deeply uncomfortable truth, which is that their imaginary imminent wave of false accusations will necessarily require a wave of false accusers. Ultimately, men who rush to raise the "but what about the falsely accused men?!" flag in discussions about rape are admitting to a belief that there is a not-insignificant number of women out there champing at the bit for more anti-rape laws to be passed because it will increase their chances of success when it comes to filing false rape accusations. And these dudes don't want to remind us that people lie, they want to remind us that women lie, and more specifically that women lie about rape. (IBTP.)

I want to be snarky or funny or light-hearted, but when it comes to dealing with a group of people given to behaving as though there's a bunch of bogeywomen hiding out under cover, just waiting until the time is right and they can start falsely accusing men of rape, and that these bogeywomen wield such great power that they must be invoked every time a real, live woman is speaking about her own experiences with rape, assault, or harassment... all I can do is feel sorry for them, I guess, because that's a hell of a thing for men to believe about women they share the world with.
posted by divined by radio at 8:28 AM on February 23, 2015 [63 favorites]


Lobstermitten: In the past, there were fewer members, shorter threads in general, and different community expectations about modding (no overnight mods), so I think the past of 6+ years ago isn't a good comparison to how things work today. For the most part these days, we live with a thread once it's gotten going, and people are accustomed to that.

In a few cases the long-delayed delete is still the right answer, but these are rare.
It's a lot better if possible to delete at the outset, rather than to hope for the best and then delete after the fighting has started in earnest. If the fighting gets going, then people will be involved/invested in the fight and will be annoyed that their venue was closed... and they'll want to open a MeTa to have the fight over here instead.


I haven't yet read the 300 comments that happened after you said this.

"People are accustomed to that."

Times change. The site changes. By necessity, people have gotten accustomed to various changes in the way the site has been managed over the years, and in the way they've interacted with it.

People were used to having a metatalk without a queue. They got used to one only on holidays, and now we have a permanent queue. And we got used to that.
We were comfortable not having an edit window. Then we got used to one.
We got used to titles.
And going even further back, we got used to favorites.
We got used to having less mod coverage. They we got used to more mod coverage. And then we got used to less again. Throughout the ups and downs, certain changes were made. Deletions became more common. The community got used to that. The mods were able to be more on top of stuff, and people got used to that -- and are now getting used to a new reality, where the mods are slightly less omniscient.

I'm referring to a time about 2-3 years ago, in 2012 and 2013, which isn't that far off. There has been a massive shift in community expectations regarding moderation standards (and practices) in the last year, out of necessity. In the last year, you have changed the way you're handing deletion of certain topics' comments and posts, etc. I think our community has come to expect that changes (for better or worse) are part and parcel with a shift in mod availability. And if not, we can talk about it. That's fine, too.

and they'll want to open a MeTa to have the fight over here instead.

Maybe. But if they don't, then it's one less thread to moderate. And if they do, then it's one less thread to moderate simultaneously because we all know that those threads are ripe for posts in MeTa even when they're not deleted. And to be perfectly frank, it might actually serve you all better to moderate such things in public where the rest of us can chime in with reality checks and explanations of how the site works to the OP, so you're not shouldering every interaction yourselves.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I sometimes get anxious about getting older and the world changing, then I see that picking apart the casually instructive metaphor is still a thing and just as pointless and cruddy as it always was. Then I get anxious about the world not changing enough.

Seriously, dinner party/academic/whatever and how accurate it really is? That's "well, actually..." territory AND a derail pretending to be on-topic.
posted by phearlez at 8:37 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Mr. Justice, are you talking about posts or comments in this thread?"

@ Empress Callipygos: why not both?


Sorry, I wasn't clear - I was referring to this:
Then we had 40 or 50 posts getting progressively more inflamed at one user
And I got confused, because 40 posts back on MeTa was something about a game of Diplomacy, and the intervening posts were about things like the podcast and poo emoji, so that's why was asking if perhaps you meant 40 or 50 comments back in this thread specifically.

That's all, I was just confused.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on February 23, 2015


I want to be snarky or funny or light-hearted, but when it comes to dealing with a group of people given to behaving as though there's a bunch of bogeywomen hiding out under cover, just waiting until the time is right and they can start falsely accusing men of rape, and that these bogeywomen wield such great power that they must be invoked every time a real, live woman is speaking about her own experiences with rape, assault, or harassment... all I can do is feel sorry for them, I guess, because that's a hell of a thing for men to believe about women they share the world with.

I am bogeywoman, hear me roar / in numbers too big to ignore....

(Can't favorite your comment enough, divined by radio.)
posted by mudpuppie at 8:48 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seriously, dinner party/academic/whatever and how accurate it really is? That's "well, actually..." territory AND a derail pretending to be on-topic.

Sorry I wasn't clear with this either - I had a point, I promise! Let me try to expound.

I was sensing that there was a disconnect, and was suspecting that the whole "dinner party metaphor" may have been part of the problem. Because for some people, a "dinner party" is a really prim-and-proper affair, where there are some certain topics you Just! Do! Not! Discuss! for the sake of civility. Meanwhile, for other people, "dinner parties" are more casual - you have to play fair and respectful, but so long as you are, no topic is off limits.

And that, I was thinking, maybe translates into how these issues are hashed out on the site here - where things break down into camps of "there are certain topics which need to be avoided" and "no topic is off limits, it is certain behavior which needs to be avoided". And that's why I brought up that question.

Me, I'm all for the casual kind of dinner party where everyone can get into a discussion about whatever they want so long as no one's a jerk about it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on February 23, 2015


It would have gone better if there weren't users here who take any discussion of false rapes as a justification to say, hey, maybe feminism has gone too far and these women be lying?

It is very difficult to discuss the possibility of false accusations without raising the possibility that someone may lie to the authorities.

. We're supposed to consider these "someday, hypothetically, this might happen to me or someone I know" imaginary scenarios as unquestionably valid (as opposed to just kind of paranoid) and precisely as worthy of concern as things that have already happened.

To anyone who knows the history of actual American lynching (as opposed to message board meanness), and as explicitly discussed in the article under discussion, a wave of false accusations with deadly consequences is something that very much has already happened.

To zoom out to a more Metatalk-worthy topic: Policies are crafted through discussion of hard cases, edge cases, and potential abuse of the system you are trying to build. If you cannot discuss those things, then you cannot seriously discuss policy. If Metafilter is a place where sexual assault policy can't be discussed, just like Israel/Palestine can't be discussed, well, okay. But to insist that policy can be discussed only if no one brings difficult scenarios is to demand only useless discussion.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:51 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


@ Empress Callipygos: I was referring to the "aryma" situation; I should have been more exact in my terminology. And I would add that "the casual kind of dinner party where everyone can get into a discussion about whatever they want so long as no one's a jerk about it" is a pretty darn good one-sentence summary of what discussion should be here. (Relies on a pretty extensive implicit definition of 'jerk', I suppose, but isn't that always the case?)

@ thegears: I very much appreciate what you're saying. I just hope that you wouldn't conclude that when you've pointed to some failures in the system, you've demonstrated that the system inherently or necessarily fails on a broad basis. I like to think that such a broad failure isn't the case.
posted by Mr. Justice at 9:01 AM on February 23, 2015


Israel / Palestine CAN be discussed, though. There's never been a blanket ban on that topic. What there is, rather, is an understanding that one can't make I/P posts as a fig leaf for discussing or promulgating anti-Semitism or Islamophobia, that comments that veer close to those territories will be aggressively deleted, that different backgrounds and experiences will lead some users to be deeply hurt by discussions that are considered to be completely benign academic thought experiments by others, and that unexamined institutional prejudice and bigotry may lead people to make unintentionally douchebaggy comments which, regardless of the lack of intention, deserve to be called out.

The rest of the analogy is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by KathrynT at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


> It is very difficult to discuss the possibility of false accusations without raising the possibility that someone may lie to the authorities.

The default status for women reporting sexual assault has, for pretty much ever, been either *crickets* or "A fifteen year veteran police officer commented, "So no I don't always believe them and yeah I let them know that. And then they say 'Nevermind. I don't want to do this.' Okay, then. Complainant refused to prosecute; case closed."" But yes, by all means, let's talk about false reports and maybe how there should be a minimum number of corroborating witnesses before there can even be an investigation. Let's do that for every thread that discusses any kind of crime: financial, homicide, all of it. The next thread about white collar crime and criminal punishment for it, I fully expect people to jump in and bring up the specter of false accusations before we can really discuss any kind of penalty for those convicted.
posted by rtha at 9:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [46 favorites]


TFB, the problem people are pointing to here, I think, is the there's an overfocus on the hypothetical risks of changes to the status quo, coupled with not taking seriously the badness of the status quo. I agree it's hard to get the policy/burden of proof stuff right, it's a really hard problem. It would be easier to discuss this policy stuff if the let's-talk-about-hard-cases-often-and-calmly crowd accepted that they need to be super clear that (a) they understand the background rtha links to about the history of women being treated as liars when they're not, and (b) they aren't just saying we should maintain the status quo. A pattern of "must vigorously challenge any possible changes to the status quo" that doesn't acknowledge the enormous problems with the status quo, is going to piss off the people hurt by the status quo.

The more needling and dogged that pattern is, the more it will piss people off and draw in other people to stand in solidarity with the original pissed off people. (So even people who otherwise would be fine discussing the edge cases and whatnot, now are like "fuck it, this discussion is so far on the side of denying there's a problem that I can't participate in the policy discussion, I need to just shout about how there really is a problem.") This is a problem with "being that guy"; this is how being that guy makes discussion suck.

Having a personal mission of being "loyal opposition", or trying to rein in PC excesses or whatever (as I think a few people in this thread do, without sexist intent)... it makes things worse. It makes for less policy discussion, because it creates a frame where policy discussion is seen as necessarily this needling insensitive thing that only jerks do. And it hurts people who you're not intending to hurt, people who you don't think are part of the "PC brigade" or whatever. My recommendation if you want better policy discussion on these topics is: don't be that guy.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:20 AM on February 23, 2015 [48 favorites]


This whole thread began with a discussion of why certain topics should be discussed a whole lot less, preferably not at all. In the case of this specific post, there are reasons I find that request problematic.

Well, considering that I explicitly state that I don't want to solicit any hard-line moderation changes, and that I don't really have the power to enforce these things, I'm wondering what's so problematic about asking for women to share their experiences in hoping it might make people more sensitive about the things they say? Like, this is why I don't get the accusations of policing other users. I can't force any of you to do anything. All I'm asking is "hey, it'd be great if you considered that people may be hurt if you say that". You're free not to listen, but that doesn't mean that whatever you say is exempt from social judgment from people who realize that you're saying hurtful things, and that doesn't exempt your remarks from rebuttals and criticisms from other people - even if a lot of people have things to say about what you said. That's not policing anyone. That's just how human society and relations work.
posted by Conspire at 9:21 AM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


One might think a post by an explicitly feminist law professor discussing how to craft Title IX policies in a sustainable way might be a better sort of material. But apparently it isn't.

Well, really a single-link FPP about a law review article by a Harvard law professor. Whether more context would have made the thread go better, I can't say, but since this MeTa is about the tedious beating of the false rape drum on MetaFilter as a general theme, the credentials of the writer of the linked article aren't all that germane.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:38 AM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


but since this MeTa is about the tedious beating of the false rape drum on MetaFilter as a general theme

This makes a lot of sense in the context of the Stanford mentor post. It's hard to untangle them, but I wonder if the Title IX FPP had happened in a vacuum if the conversation would have unspooled the same way.
posted by 99_ at 9:49 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having a personal mission of being "loyal opposition", or trying to rein in PC excesses or whatever (as I think a few people in this thread do, without sexist intent)... it makes things worse. It makes for less policy discussion, because it creates a frame where policy discussion is seen as necessarily this needling insensitive thing that only jerks do. And it hurts people who you're not intending to hurt, people who you don't think are part of the "PC brigade" or whatever. My recommendation if you want better policy discussion on these topics is: don't be that guy.

Part of what I think Conspire is saying, and what's being affirmed by many other members, is that "That Guy" has become an increasing presence on the site. In MeTa in particular, it can be pretty much the entirety of engagements between users or with the mods in contentious threads. I know that these aren't obvious violations of site policy, but I do think there has been way too much leeway being given towards repeat offenses and offenders. We've had a perfect example in this thread (several examples, really), and it's being mentioned over and over to the mod team, both via the contact form and many MeTa threads. If, as you say, "That Guy" posturing is harming the discussion of the site and adding to an already heavy mod load, perhaps it's time that the trend is addressed directly.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:54 AM on February 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


The bottom line is that people think we need to discuss edge cases because the non-edge cases are unimportant compared to the edge cases. In other words, they believe that a woman who is raped is treated with the same level of respect and seriousness by the culture at large and law enforcement as men who are robbed or assaulted or whathaveyou. They think the issue now is, how do we protect men from being falsely accused of rape, and the less important issue, is of course, how do we protect women from rape.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:01 AM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's hard to understand why a focus on edge cases would be so interesting unless people wanted to delegitimize and undermine all discussion of rape.

For me, at least, I do have interest in discussing "edge cases" - but I say that as a feminist who is interested in expanding definitions of rape to include those "edge cases" because I think those "edge cases" are too often ignored because they fit too closely into a lot of people's norms.

However, whenever I am in those conversations, I do recognize a strident cry of a lot of people who are trying to say "Well you wouldn't want to call THIS rape, would you? Would you?" And that certainly is a bit tiring, and if I answer honestly - yes, I totally would - it becomes a shitshow fight because they are mortally offended that something they may have done themselves once or twice is now to be Considered Rape.
posted by corb at 10:04 AM on February 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


but I wonder if the Title IX FPP had happened in a vacuum if the conversation would have unspooled the same way

I think what frustrates me, at least, is that the FPP in question (or any other) can't happen in a vacuum. It happens in a society that's been dealing with a shitton of crazy terrible stuff related to misogyny, racism, sexual assault, and lots of other things in this past year. Trying to make discussing Title IX in a vacuum won't happen, ever, and it definitely won't happen right now.

I believe the better approach is to try and frame FPPs on similar topics exceedingly carefully, making sure as far as you can that you're taking the broader questions here (like MP's super important observation above) into consideration. It doesn't guarantee it'll go a lot better, far from it, but you have to try to understand where people are coming from before you post, you know?
posted by thegears at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think that's fair, MisanthropicPainforest.
And I don't think it's fair to suggest that people only want to discuss edge cases if they themselves have raped somebody, corb.

Those kind of things are also part of the problem in these discussions.

I think part of what's happened to bring That Guy behavior more to the fore is that there was an uptick in people using very extreme angry rhetoric and pointedly-personal accusations on the feminist side, in discussions where they were pissed off (and even, pissed off for fair reasons). And that has led some people to just quit discussing these issues because the discussion can get so nasty, and it's led other people to the dogged, needling, "defender against PC brigades" position. In other words, I think making accusations like "someone who really wants to discuss edge cases ipso facto doesn't care about rape" is also part of making discussions suck here. That kind of hyperbole makes things worse, and makes That Guy people feel like they're doing something noble by digging in on the other side.

So. If a few very active participants would rein themselves in -- less hyperbole, less personal accusations, even when rightfully pissed off.... and on the other side, less hyper-reactive That Guyism..... it would go a long way to making these discussions better. When we have both of these trends (pissed off nasty personal/hyperbolic/sarcastic stuff, and defensive dogged That Guyism) it creates a spiral where each side feels justified in keeping shitty discussion going.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:10 AM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


Both sides do it. Got it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:14 AM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


And I don't think it's fair to suggest that people only want to discuss edge cases if they themselves have raped somebody, corb.

I don't think that's what corb said, I believe she said that the reason she in particular doesn't like participating in threads about edge cases on rape is that she gets shouted down for suggested that those edge cases were rape, when that might not be the conventional reading.
posted by thegears at 10:14 AM on February 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


If a few very active participants would rein themselves in -- less hyperbole, less personal accusations, even when rightfully pissed off

So, in other words: here is a tone argument?
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:16 AM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Smile more.
posted by Drastic at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


MisanthropicPainforest, that's not what I'm saying.

And let me amend my paraphrase of corb, I don't think it's fair to say that people only react in these discussions because they're worried about whether their own past behavior counts as rape.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2015


Yes, watch your tone. Tone matters. If you want to see why it matters, I can compose a blistering comment that everyone will object to because it has a shitty nasty tone that will make discussion go badly.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:17 AM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yes, watch your tone. Tone matters.

I'm not saying tone isn't important in making MetaFilter work, but I'm more than a little skeeved out by this comment: complaining about feminsts' tone is a pretty time-honored way to tell them to be quiet, particularly online. I know that's not what you're doing here, but I think a clearer separation between commenting on content and commenting on behavior would be better here.
posted by thegears at 10:22 AM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


About a year ago, we had an excellent FPP about how to implement a well-designed sexual harassment policy. The main link was a detailed presentation by a lawyer who's familiar with the relevant areas of law, and has worked with organizations trying to develop harassment policies. To the best of my recollection, the discussion on MetaFilter was short and went reasonably well.

I would welcome a similar post about college and university policies on sexual harassment and rape. None of the recent posts we're discussing are anything like that, though. They're mostly outrage-filter posts about false rape allegations. The discussion has mostly focused on the idea that, because some allegations may be false, no instance or allegation of rape or sexual harassment should ever be reported, investigated or dealt with in any way, and no student should ever be expelled from a university for raping or harassing other students. That's very different from discussing how to implement a sound, well-designed policy.

(And, yeah, a well-designed policy would take potential pitfalls into account, including dealing with possibly false allegations, like any other organizational conduct policy or any other area of law. But that's not what this discussion has been about, and the OP wasn't complaining about people talking about how to design good policies.)
posted by nangar at 10:23 AM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


The idea of the "tone argument" being fallacious is this: it's fallacious to say that someone having an angry tone makes their argument wrong. But that is not what I'm saying.

I'm saying tone matters because we are a community that has to discuss things as if we want to be in the same room together, and as if mostly we think other people around here are decent, and if we are nasty and angry and let it all hang out, and paraphrase each other in horrible ways.... it will make discussion suck. It makes people more polarized and less able to have a civil discussion, less willing to back down, less willing to accord each other charity or benefit of the doubt, etc.

Tone also matters when someone's being bigoted or saying nasty things about a group of people. Being bigoted is having a bad tone that makes discussion suck. Saying shit here that you wouldn't say to someone's face is rude and people shouldn't do it, because it is hurtful and bad for the community.

None of this is about what's true, it's not that having bad tone makes what you're saying untrue. Instead it's about how to have a discussion with a broad community of people who aren't all alike but who are willing to come to the table together and we need to work together to make a shared space.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:23 AM on February 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


This is a community conversation. You can't just use 'tone argument!' as a shutdown as if merely pointing out the tenor of a participant in a conversation is a completely invalid strategy.

Exaggerating through anger and/or sarcasm often leads people to say unsupportable things, but because their gist is there and they know they're right, it doesn't matter to them. But it does matter to the conversation and the ability for this place to function, and I'm very glad LobsterMitten said what they said, because I agree with it.

But then for me personally, a lot of the time I agree with so much of what's being said, but then someone will paraphrase so exaggeratedly as to distort all meaning out of something, or dismiss and belittle something for a reading of it that doesn't appear based on what it actually says, and I find myself disagreeing strongly, even when the basic underpinnings are all there.

It shouldn't be some appalling thing to suggest that trying to at least not actively make things worse is something 'both sides' can help do.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:24 AM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, okay, let me make sure I have this reasoning straight: feminists on MeFi need to watch our tone even when we are correct, because if we don't the screaming legions of That Guys will arise in righteous reaction to that tone and fail to be convinced of our arguments, which will be totally our fault. If we watch our tone, one or both of two things will happen: they will stop being so That Guy, and/or they will be convinced that their take on these issues, which I will sum up loosely as "but what about the men?", are wrong.

Unless there's something else underlying the argument that I'm totally missing out on, there's basically zero evidence that any of those chains of causation are remotely true. Even if you want to bust out the old "you need to watch your tone and smile more so the site will be nice happy rainbows and fluffy kittens and everyone will feel welcome and happy and love will abide kumbaya", well, if that's the operating assumption, there's a ton of counter-evidence in this very thread that's just a completely failed policy.

I'm saying this all personally as someone who has no negative reaction to blistering comments or whatever; framing very rarely bothers me, the actual arguments are mostly what I get het up about, but even with that in mind, what I'm seeing is that it's basically okay for one very broadly construed side of an ideological debate, ie Those Guys, to create a climate that is absolutely miserable for the other side, ie feminist women, and the solution is Mind Your Tone... to the feminist.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:26 AM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


No, that is not what I'm saying. Paraphrasing me in that way is the very thing I'm talking about.

I am a feminist woman, and I want the site to be a good place to be a feminist woman. I think the idea that any criticism of tone is off-limits is wrong and harmful.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:28 AM on February 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


It shouldn't be some appalling thing to suggest that trying to at least not actively make things worse is something 'both sides' can help do.

The thing is, as far as I can tell, the feminist "side" has been going with the Smile More strategy since before Jessamyn was a mod, and it hasn't worked for shit. Half the users I see That Guying around these days have started folding in "but I've learned SO MUCH from this site, how dare you challenge my newly acquired view of myself as a feminist dude or ally by crossing a line that makes me personally uncomfortable! I was sympathetic, but now I am not! The scales have fallen from my eyes, now I see why people use the term SJW and PC!"
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:29 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh, good lord. We have now reached the point where we have people criticizing a mod who said nothing more offensive than everyone should try to be more polite in these discussions.
posted by Mr. Justice at 10:32 AM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think part of what's happened to bring That Guy behavior more to the fore is that there was an uptick in people using very extreme angry rhetoric and pointedly-personal accusations on the feminist side, in discussions where they were pissed off (and even, pissed off for fair reasons). And that has led some people to just quit discussing these issues because the discussion can get so nasty, and it's led other people to the dogged, needling, "defender against PC brigades" position.

Those dogged needling people sprung up as the direct result of extreme rhetoric and personal accusations? When would you say this started? I'm fascinated that you seem to think that this is the obvious direction of causality, given the state of the site before angry feminist rhetoric became relatively commonplace.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:33 AM on February 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


I think what frustrates me, at least, is that the FPP in question (or any other) can't happen in a vacuum. It happens in a society that's been dealing with a shitton of crazy terrible stuff related to misogyny, racism, sexual assault, and lots of other things in this past year. Trying to make discussing Title IX in a vacuum won't happen, ever, and it definitely won't happen right now.

Sure, but this is both a proxy for society and not. I don't read all the FPP threads, and bailed on the Stanford thread pretty quickly, and my tracking of real world to MeFi discussion is really uneven. Using the awkward dinner party metaphor, how do you handle the guest who gets there late and hears the last comment of an contentious topic that is finally settled and says "Hey, I have lots of thoughts on this matter and they are very interesting!"

So this Title IX felt different to me because of the policy focus (I was at Antioch when we passed our SAPP, so the policy component has been something I've thought about a lot in the past) and I personally wouldn't have included it in a group with the others listed here - given my experiences are different that a number of people commenting here, I'm also happy to defer to the position my perception shouldn't bear similar weight. If a sizable portion of the community is exhausted by the conversation, I get that, but it is a discussion site. I don't get why, given this input, the FPP still open (I have read far less of MeTa over the years, otherwise I might ask the same about this thread).

I've tried formal and informal consensus building in community settings in the past. Since we don't have a formal voting process (or anything else that strikes me as structured), if we've reached a consensus point, then we should pull the plug. Because leaving the threads open implicitly communicates that we are in the process of trying to establish something, but if feels pretty calcified at this point -- that's not to say all particular points are equal, just that progress seems to be moving away from resolution, not towards. If you asked my impression of where the conversation stands now, it seems like we've moved away from the topic material, which, in principle should attenuate some of the concerns noted above, but I don't feel like that opinion is anywhere near consensus. And here we are 500 comments deep under the heading 'Too Much Rape.'

I'm not a veteran of MeTa (edit was MeFi, but I guess both apply), but I guess I'd be more comfortable talking about this under a heading about community norms, because that would somewhat directly address the original issue of this thread, but still hopefully give a framework for something productive.
posted by 99_ at 10:35 AM on February 23, 2015


ifdssn9, It's a fair question, and I might be wrong, it's just my sense of the dynamic. I think a bunch of more middle-of-the-road people have stopped participating in those discussions (both women and men), and a few people have taken up a mantle of That Guyism so their voices are now much more prominent than they were before.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:36 AM on February 23, 2015


You missed the part where LobsterMitten said that both groups could do with reining in their worst impulses?

Perhaps 'as far as you can tell' isn't allowing for the idea that people who you think of as on your side can comment in ways that would be considered insulting and inflammatory if done by someone you disagreed with.

I mean, the idea that there's even the hint of culpability for conversations going so off the rails, as if one side is completely and utterly the innocent victim and the other the slavering man-beasts, has instantly gotten commenters outraged at a mod for suggesting it. While to me, even the idea that there's only two sides, something which underpins so many of these threads, isn't even supportable, but then everyone gets forced into an 'us vs. them' dichotomy.

The idea that fiery arguments have, over time, reduced participants to only the more belligerent voices, on both sides, really shouldn't be that surprising, even if you think one side is completely right and justified.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:38 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


You know, my position on the moderator side of things with regards to this whole situation has evolved somewhat over the past couple of days. I'd been feeling like the-mods-as-a-unit were just. . . not being as reactive to sexism / misogyny stuff as I am used to, and as I would like them to be. That feeling has definitely been contributing to an experience of . . . disenfranchisement, I guess? Because I can put up, easily, with individual users being shitty as long as I know that the Institution Of Metafilter (tm) acknowledges that they are being shitty and that there's a level of shittiness up with which we will not put. And I kind of had been feeling like that backup, that safety net, was gone, or flimsier than it used to be, and that was making me pretty sad.

But what I'm starting to realize is that it's not that the mod team raised the bar for how much shittiness is OK, necessarily. It's that this particular style of community engagement, this "do a bunch of A/B testing to find out exactly where the line is and then press up against it CONSTANTLY" thing, is an incredibly resource-intensive behavior for the mods to manage silently and invisibly. And so when moderator resources get thinner on the ground, well, that's one of the first turds that's going to float to the surface, not because it's being given a pass, but just because it's less likely to be perfectly managed. It happens to be about sexism / misogyny / rape right now, whether that's for institutional reasons or current events reasons or coincidence I don't know.

So, what can we do about that, as a community? Is there some way we can respond to the whole "neener neener I'm not touching you" behavior beyond getting in a slapfight or hollering "MOMS, DADS, MAKE THIS GUY STOP NOT TOUCHING ME"? Is there some way we can say "hey there, toxic asshole, I see you over there being a toxic asshole, don't think you're getting away with that" ?
posted by KathrynT at 10:42 AM on February 23, 2015 [29 favorites]


Essentially, I think using "lol tone argument" the way I'm using it is valid, because none of this is happening in a vacuum. If there's been an increase in a harsh tone coming from the feminist side, it's because of exhaustion and the plain evidence that being nice doesn't do any good, and probably also the recent breakdown in modding that isn't really anyone's fault.

As a strategy for actually managing the site and making it more welcoming to feminist women and allies by making for less That Guyism, I think it's a total non-starter. You're basically denying that Those Guys have any agency, too. No matter how much someone's tone (of snotty That Guy buffoonery) pisses me off, I'm capable of engaging with their actual arguments and I do, and I see other members of the Shrill Brigade doing so also. At length. The people who are just flat out refusing to engage on any level are the creeping misogynists.

You missed the part where LobsterMitten said that both groups could do with reining in their worst impulses?

That would be a fair thing to say if the behavior was equivalent, but obviously I don't think it is. Not even remotely.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:43 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I don't get why, given this input, the FPP [is] still open

If you asked my impression of where the conversation stands now, it seems like we've moved away from the topic material

I don't want to speak for Conspire, but I don't think the idea of this thread* was to close any particular FPP, but rather to see if we could nudge site culture and moderation and posting in a direction that was less likely to make many women feel alienated. To that end, I think there's nothing wrong with leaving the FPP open for those who still want to talk about it, but also talking in here about what we need to do to make things better in the future.

*I'm also never big on people saying a thread, especially a MeTa is "about" any one thing, since it tends to dismiss a lot of relevant and interesting reactions as off-topic. Just as an offhand example, this thread wasn't really "about" the latest FPP, but I think a bunch of people chimed in with reasons why they did or didn't find it a good one, and that's interesting and useful for me to know.
posted by thegears at 10:45 AM on February 23, 2015


I think what happens in rape threads is especially pernicious, because we have a tiny handful of people who use really strong rhetoric on one side, then a tiny handful of people doing the dogged That Guy thing on the other side.... and then we have dozens or hundreds of people who are neither but who are horribly discouraged and "nope" away because of the That Guyism. That is what the That Guy people should be taking from this thread.

I think the people who do the That Guyism - or, many of them? - have good intent, and want this to be a better place for discussion. And the difficulty is, their pursuit of that goal comes across as the opposite of what they're intending... and it sparks the strong-rhetoric people to go even stronger with the rhetoric. The causation goes in a circle and it just gets worse.

So, this is what I mean by a spiral - both kinds of behaviors and reactions do play a role. (I'm not saying they're equal roles, but I do think the two things work together.) The only way out is for people who want to fix it - and I imagine there are some of these on both sides - to back down from their piece of it, by using less of the supercharged rhetoric or doing less of the can't-leave-it-alone That Guy thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:48 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think part of what's happened to bring That Guy behavior more to the fore is that there was an uptick in people using very extreme angry rhetoric and pointedly-personal accusations on the feminist side, in discussions where they were pissed off (and even, pissed off for fair reasons). And that has led some people to just quit discussing these issues because the discussion can get so nasty, and it's led other people to the dogged, needling, "defender against PC brigades" position.

To be perfectly honest, this framing of the situation here has done more to make me not want to spend time at MeFi than any of the That Guys have in this thread. Given how rarely I disagree with you, I'm inclined to think I didn't understand correctly or you aren't saying what it sounds like you're saying. The way this is written, you've ascribed blame for Those Guys' behavior to "very extreme angry rhetoric" on the feminist side. Is that how you meant to describe the situation?
posted by dialetheia at 10:49 AM on February 23, 2015 [41 favorites]


I'm not saying that reaction was a correct/justified one, or that the angry rhetoric was in the wrong or at fault or something. But several of the That Guy people have said explicitly that that's what they're reacting to. I'm just talking about the history of how some people have gotten themselves into the That Guy role, where even without their actually intending to push anti-feminist views, they end up doing this counterproductive thing.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:53 AM on February 23, 2015


I think the characterization of there being a feminist "side" is inaccurate as well - it's not as if everyone has a team huddle right before choosing to respond as much as it is individual feminists doing so. Consider the number of anecdotes here stating that moderation seems to have gotten less strict, or at least not kept up current trends as people figure out how to toe the line, and I think the escalation in rhetoric itself might be a sense of viligantism where moderation is no longer cutting it in the case of "That-Guyism". People are getting much more exasperated at their inability to have even basic discussions without a constant level of pecking microaggressions - it's not something you can resolve with by launching a plea for patience at the general crowd because it's more due to people individually reacting out of self-defense rather than out of a movement or anything.
posted by Conspire at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


*I'm also never big on people saying a thread, especially a MeTa is "about" any one thing, since it tends to dismiss a lot of relevant and interesting reactions as off-topic.

That's how I felt (from a relatively inexperienced POV, though I've read a number of the 'monster' MeTa threads) but I wanted to be mindful of the very point of this thread. I don't want to speak for anyone vis a vis closing the FPP, just thinking out loud that given how raw some of this has gotten, even if it's an exact resolution, it might be signalling something positive to do so.
posted by 99_ at 10:59 AM on February 23, 2015


But several of the That Guy people have said explicitly that that's what they're reacting to.

Would you feel comfortable pointing to some of the rhetoric you feel is at fault for this situation, then? Because I feel like this is not a very fair way to describe things at all; women have "extreme rhetoric" but Those Guys can't be blamed for their response, which is not likewise characterized as extreme. In my experience, the driving forces are going the other direction, where Those Guys are driving women to use more and more heated rhetoric to try to get through the increasing wall of dismissive nitpicking.
posted by dialetheia at 10:59 AM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


But several of the That Guy people have said explicitly that that's what they're reacting to. I'm just talking about the history of how some people have gotten themselves into the That Guy role, where even without their actually intending to push anti-feminist views, they end up doing this counterproductive thing.

I'm wondering if that's something that can be addressed more effectively by the mods than to ask everyone to calm down a bit (though in some of these cases that would help the dynamic, I think, regardless or its moral value).

Can we do more to head off redoing 101 topics at the pass every time we do these threads? The Title IX one wasn't too, too bad in that regard from what I saw, but even there some clearer, earlier intervention on some of the victim-blame-y stuff wouldn't have hurt, I don't think.
posted by thegears at 11:00 AM on February 23, 2015


I mean, to be fully honest, LM, your comments strike me as weird because it buys into or at least evokes the implicit myth that feminists are all a giant block of threatening solidarity while That Guys are all individual lone voices of dissent. That's why the rebuke feels disproportionate here.
posted by Conspire at 11:00 AM on February 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


Agree that there's no "feminist side', and sorry to oversimplify. Mainly just talking that way for simplicity of explaining the dynamic I see. I fully agree people aren't marching in lockstep and it's a lot of individuals acting for their own reasons and with their own convictions.

And I'm mainly trying to talk to That Guy folks, some of whom I think are trying to do good and improve discussion and who don't realize they are causing a more serious problem.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:01 AM on February 23, 2015


Okay, but this was a thread about how women feel less comfortable here now. Why are we centering Those Guys and worrying primarily about their feelings again instead of addressing the many comments from women saying they don't feel particularly welcome here anymore, and in fact telling many of those women that their "extreme rhetoric" is to blame for the situation? I honestly don't mean to be argumentative about this, but I'm extremely disturbed that this is where we end up in a thread that was supposed to be about women feeling less welcome on the site.
posted by dialetheia at 11:04 AM on February 23, 2015 [37 favorites]


I'm trying to suggest why they should stop doing the thing they're doing. I think they are making women feel less welcome, many more women than they realize, and if they could voluntarily stop doing that, it would be good.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:06 AM on February 23, 2015


To be honest - if all of these anecdotes and stories (especially from Eyebrows) about how women feel won't stop "Those Guys" from doing what they do, I don't see how anything else would have an impact.
posted by Conspire at 11:08 AM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


If they haven't stopped by now, what makes you think they'll do so voluntarily? Hell, some of the worst offenders that I can think of have received time-outs before and yet they still do it.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:13 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I don't think it's fair to say that people only react in these discussions because they're worried about whether their own past behavior counts as rape.

Sorry if I was unclear - what I was trying to say is that I think that one - not by any means the majority, but one - of the Usual Suspects in these types of threads are guys that tend to have a "I mean, if we counted having sex with ladies (who didn't enthusiastically consent/who weren't completely sober/who might have felt pressured) then we'd have to count lots of MY sex as rape, and that's just obviously bullshit!" And I think that probably, if we are counting the incidence of "men who have had sex with someone who was intoxicated as a first sexual encounter,ever in their life", I think it's a large portion of men who are currently in their thirties to fifties, because the cultural norms at that time were such that they could get away with it or feel that was okay.

I don't in any way think that people only react in those discussions because of that, but I think we can't ignore that as a reactive factor - that (going off, for example, VA statistics about sexual assault in the US military) at least 1/3 of men have probably sexually assaulted someone under more expansive definitions, and I would say a vast majority of those men would really prefer not to describe themselves as a "rapist" and would vehemently fight against the moniker.
posted by corb at 11:14 AM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't at all mean to be talking about "blame." I'm not saying anything remotely like "feminists are to blame" - I don't think that, and don't mean to be saying or implying it. But we have a bad problem, and I see a bunch of individuals who (mostly*) do want to be part of this community, all acting in good faith, but nevertheless ending up in this shitty spot, and I want to unwind it somehow if we can.

I think in our case, we have several non-sexist but nevertheless dogged "That Guy" people here (even in this thread) who might recognize themselves in what I'm saying. The kinds of threats Eyebrows McGee faced are horrible, and way outside the scope of the kind of unmoddable skirting-the-line behavior that people are mentioning as a problem here. I feel like some of that behavior* is from people who don't realize what a cumulative effect they're having.

*Some is from people who maybe truly don't care or are actively hostile to the community, and those people are going to find that their second chances are running out.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:16 AM on February 23, 2015


But several of the That Guy people have said explicitly that that's what they're reacting to.

Sure, but That Guy has always said that, because it's always been easier for him to blame angry feminist mobs for the vehemence of his reaction than it is for him to admit that he's patently unable to control his kneejerk #notall/#whataboutthe reactions whenever women are speaking. He wants to tell women that we'll catch more flies with honey, and he wants to remind us that our cause will only earn more allies if we remember to be nicer and more polite with our requests to be treated like actual human beings. Sounds fine on its face, right?

But the biggest problem with asking feminists to be nicer to misogynists is that it very plainly does not work, in large part because That Guy's ideal version of "niceness" and "civility" is "what we'll be able to have whenever all these women stop talking." We'll never be nice enough for That Guy, not until we're silent. So continually re-centering the conversation on how and why we need to worry more about That Guy's wounded feelings is just another brick in the wall built to support the status quo of elevating men above women at all times and in all cases, especially situations in which women are regularly (even institutionally) victimized and men are rarely, if ever, negatively affected in any way, shape, or form.
posted by divined by radio at 11:18 AM on February 23, 2015 [57 favorites]


(I'm going to step back from this for a while, having made a ton of comments. I mention this so it doesn't feel like I'm ignoring responses. It's fine if people feel like that was a derail and want to re-center on Conspire's question to women here; sorry if folks feel that was off track.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:23 AM on February 23, 2015


Some is from people who maybe truly don't care or are actively hostile to the community, and those people are going to find that their second chances are running out.

Let's be honest: Most if not all of these people are on, like, their twelfth second chance by now. If they feel like they're getting multiple "second chances," they don't really have an incentive to stop.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:24 AM on February 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


I find it troubling that discussing how any system of formal punishment can have unintended consequences, and that powerful authorities can abuse that power even without ill intent, is considered reflexive contrarianism, or "That Guyism". LobsterMitten is very right in noting that when criticizing proposed changes to the status quo, it's important to acknowledge just how bad the status quo is.

But what I see is not a lot of "demanding that feminists be nice to misogynists." What I see is a lot of demands that people not bring up abuses of systemic power when the victims of that abuse are people you don't like. And all of it couched in logic that would be laughed out of the room on any other topic.

Are false accusations a small percentage of all accusations? Yes, very. Police murders of unarmed people are a small percentage of all police/civilian encounters, but that's not a reason to not talk about them when discussing policy. I've had enough encounters with cop-talk to know that cops think of certain people as "that guy who's always bringing up brutality". And I tell them they're badly wrong at every opportunity.

The idea that such a concern is nothing but a cover for more sinister hidden motives is a whole other problem.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:28 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Police brutality is an act of the powerful on the less-powerful, and it's supported in the status quo, and rape is the same. So by your analogy, you are actually the guy defending the police in a brutality situation. Do you see why it pisses people off to insist on playing that "but think of the wrongly-accused officer" role, over and over?
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:31 AM on February 23, 2015 [35 favorites]


Lobstermitten: But we have a bad problem, and I see a bunch of individuals who (mostly*) do want to be part of this community, all acting in good faith, but nevertheless ending up in this shitty spot, and I want to unwind it somehow if we can.

I'm in favor of people being more polite to each other on MeFi. I think anger, vehemence and outrage aren't always the right tools in a given conversation. They probably prevent more people from finding common ground than helping.

That said, if you're looking for change, seek it from the people who aren't the oppressed, but the oppressors. The people who weren't driving to fury and despair by the injustices they and their group have endured for centuries.
posted by zarq at 11:32 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


What I see is a lot of demands that people not bring up abuses of systemic power when the victims of that abuse are people you don't like.

You yourself acknowledge that this is not a subject where there have been abuses of systemic power on the part of victims of sexual assault. Victims of sexual assault do not HAVE systemic power to abuse. The fact that a few colleges are trying to make their reporting experiences less horrifying is not going to give them systemic power to abuse.

The fantasy that victims of sexual assault have systemic power to abuse anyone, and the idea that they ever will, is MRA nonsense. The fact that it is brought up as some potential slippery slope dystopia right around the corner!!!!!!!!! in every discussion of sexual assault is deeply, painfully obtuse.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:35 AM on February 23, 2015 [33 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I'll put it to you direct. Your continual attempts to impose a discussion about abuses of systemic power wrt protecting men from false rape accusations on the rest of the people discussing the larger topic of sexual assault are pushing women to limit their engagement with both the topic and Metafilter overall, or in some cases abandon it entirely. Is that an acceptable consequence to you? If it is, can you explain why? If it isn't, can you talk about how you would be willing to modify your approach in order to avoid that consequence?
posted by KathrynT at 11:36 AM on February 23, 2015 [32 favorites]


Total tangent from the most recent discussion here, but the feminist brigade stuff and trying to figure out a way how to talk about this stuff without casting women as a monolith got me thinking and brought it up.

One reason I'm personally interested in talking about "edge cases" in sexual assault and how to handle them in the context of the new push to aggressively enforce Title IX is that I'm gay, in school I mostly hung out with other gay and queer people, including some people who eventually transitioned, and as awful as educational bureaucracies are at dealing with sexual assault in a heteronormative context (male aggressor, female victim, penis involved somehow), in my experience they are even worse at dealing with it outside of that context.

I do think MRAs tend to use "but men are raped too!" as a sort of reality-denying trump card, but in as much as rape of men does happen, by other men or even by women, I don't doubt it's horribly mishandled, and yet that's not at all evidence that the majority of rape on campus happens outside of the heteronormative context, or that the biggest source of rape culture are heterosexual males aiming at women, ie "No Means Yes, Yes Means Anal".

Queer rape, women raping men, heterosexual men raping each other in prison, all those are edge cases just by virtue of not being the vast majority of cases, they're a distinct minority and I think they probably always will be. To me there's a pretty clear distinction between using rape of men by women or gay rape as a conversation killer and trying to broaden the context. It's not difficult to spot, but it also doesn't follow that every single instance of someone wanting to talk about how queer rape or rape between heterosexual men in prison is handled are disenguous, or, to take this personally, because I've been sexually assaulted by both a male relative stranger and a female intimate partner, I should shut up about the later because if I bring it up, I'm denying the importance of rape culture or trying to do the same crap MRAs are doing.

In the same way, I think there's a difference between using "but women lie about rape sometimes!" as that kind of trump card, and pointing out that "in the past, white racists have used false accusations against black men as a pretext for murdering those black men, this is the kind of power dynamic that administrations and ultimately society needs to keep in mind as we change our attitudes towards rape, take it more seriously, beef up enforcement, and hopefully move closer to a place where rape accusations more often result in prosecution and conviction".

One of the reasons my bias is strongly in favor of procedural liberalism is that I'm hyper aware of the overall tendency for any kind of law or policy enforcement to wind up being used as a weapon against the disenfranchised. I don't see a lot of Those Guys making those arguments, though. I think corb is actually basically right about attributing motivation, probably more right than wrong. It's very noticeable when these dudes aren't talking about experiences they've had or seen that cut against the grain, or matters of the historical record like the horrible history of white people accusing black men of rape, or any of that, they're just pre-emptively recasting themselves as potential victims of "false accusations" of... behavior they apparently did engage in, or think it's okay to engage in.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:38 AM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't normally comment in these threads, but I wanted to say that I think that part of what contributes to the toxic situation we have here now on this and several other topics is the extremely high value placed on, for lack of a better term, the sanctity of comment threads which motivates a hesitancy to delete awful exchanges because there are a lot of comments involved. It reminds me of the situation with "free speech," where you have people who take a nearly universally agreed upon good and use it as a smokescreen to shield bad acts from scrutiny. Often, we have an awful comment and a series of excellent refutations, but the end result is that there's still an awful comment posted in the thread. It's like painting over smoke damage. I would like to see a lower threshold for "the tree and all its poisonous fruit must go" style deletions.

I also agree with the others who've observed that it frequently seems like the people involved in posting these awful comments know exactly what they're doing despite offering a dutiful student facade. I'm glad that the moderators are able to maintain the presumption of good faith because often I would be unable.
posted by feloniousmonk at 11:43 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Police brutality is an act of the powerful on the less-powerful, and it's supported in the status quo, and rape is the same. So by your analogy, you are actually the guy defending the police in a brutality situation. Do you see why it pisses people off to insist on playing that "but think of the wrongly-accused officer" role, over and over?

I understand the point you're making, but this gets to what the FPP was about.
"...as feminists issue a series of commands from within the federal government about what the problem of campus sexual violence is and how it must be handled, and as they build new institutions that give life to those commands, they become part of governmental power. "
Victims of sexual assault, clearly, cannot abuse people who've committed sexual assault. And victims are unlikely to abuse innocent people. But when institutions, legal and academic, take on the duty of punishing sexual assault, then abuse of institutional power becomes entirely possible. Which is what's being discussed.

And that is part of the frustration about these discussions, at least for me: the way people keep acting like there is no difference between the victim of an assault, and the power structure that is being enlisted to punish the assault. It seems like either messy thinking or real bad faith.

When we talk about institutional responses to sexual assault---not personal experiences, not media representations, but institutional responses---we are talking about policing and punishment. And these discussions need to be conducted with the same regard for edge cases and potential abuse of power that is needed in any discussion of policing and punishment. To pretend that the organs of power are the same thing as the victims they represent is dangerous.

(and on a side note: crafting restraints on police power that acknowledge the reality that officers are constantly falsely accused of abuse is pretty central to civilian control of the police. False accusations against officers are way, way, way more common than false accusations of other crimes. Which does not mean that true accusations aren't real)
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:43 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


> Me, I'm all for the casual kind of dinner party where everyone can get into a
> discussion about whatever they want so long as no one's a jerk about it.

I made a stiffer promise than that not so very long ago and have kept it pretty well (at least judging by the number of pile-ons directed at me since then, namely zero):

I'm going to avoid saying anything on metafilter that I wouldn't say at a cosplay 1870s tea party where everyone's sitting around in crinolines and frock coats like Victoria and Albert. No politics, no religion, certainly no sex. I'm almost there as it is, one more little push and I'll be the very model of a modern metafiltrian.


But for the rest of you I'm actually quite OK with the sort of dinner party where guests are of course allowed to become furious with each other, but then at least feel obliged to take their dispute out through the French doors into the night air and settle it at sword's point in the garden, rather than across the dining room table. That analogy modernizes to "take the rage to mail or twitter rather than having it out in-thread."


> so long as no one's a jerk about it.

Mild as cottage cheese! Who could fail to measure up to that one? The joker in thy deck is that merely having certain opinions (e.g. that the notorious one-in-five statistic is almost certainly bogus) will strike many of us as "being a jerk" unless one keeps deadly silent about them. Chilling! Won't somebody please shut them damn French doors?
posted by jfuller at 11:45 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let's be honest: Most if not all of these people are on, like, their twelfth second chance by now. If they feel like they're getting multiple "second chances," they don't really have an incentive to stop.

I hear you, and I do think that's an issue that we need to keep working on our approach to. Giving people the benefit of the doubt and trying to work with them is philosophically pretty important to us as a team in terms of trying to make this a place people can be part of if they want to rather than somewhere that we wash people out of hard if they don't hit the right notes, but there's real costs there and it's something we've basically never stopped talking about finding the right balance on over the years.

Figuring out how to navigate that "you say you're trying to improve but we're not seeing consistent improvement" thing is one of the trickier parts of the banning-is-a-last-resort approach we've always had around here for working with problem users. I think it's easy and understandable to look at someone you think is an established jerk and say, why is this person still here, I know they're a jerk and it's come up before. But it gets a hell of a lot more complicated as soon as we generalize that principle and look at the whole field of crossfire of people who think other people are site-harming jerks who should be banned, which is part of why we try to take a pretty cautious approach to that end of things and aim more for trying to work with problem behavior by talking to users about it and pushing for them to make an effort to change.

And that's not perfect. It has its upsides but it can also be frustrating, for the mods and the userbase both. And figuring out exactly where to draw the line on escalating from "please work on this" to "this needs to stop happening, period" to an outright ban is pretty fraught and something people disagree on the specifics of pretty passionately.

I don't think moving to a significantly more ban-happy rubric is workable, and to some extent I think that means there's gonna be folks here who will not be satisfied with our level of response to or harshness regarding this or that trouble user. I sympathize with that dissatisfaction, because I think it's at best a complicated and non-great compromise no matter where we come down on it.

But I do think we can, and should, keep working on where and how we draw the pre-ban lines with some of this problem behavior: be more attentive and aggressive about communicating and enforcing "this thing you do is a problem and needs to stop" stuff, setting boundaries on problem behavior, checking in on people's progress and being realistic about whether they're accomplishing actual results in changing their impact on the site regardless of whether they seem to be actively trying or wanting to do so.

That's all labor-intensive stuff and with very, very rare exceptions its stuff where even someone with problem behavior on the site is basically not chewing scenery and laughing about the whole thing—they're trying to be here, trying to be part of the conversation, and just doing a bad job with parts of it for any number of reasons that generally don't come down to malice. Which is I think what LM was trying to get at with some of her comments above: it's one thing to say That Guy is behaving in a crappy way—I don't think there's any disagreement on the mod side that such a thing absolutely does happen and is an ongoing frustration—but another to basically assume that it's an active, concerted effort to be That Guy rather than some sort of failure of cognizance or impulse control or empathetic acknowledgement on their part. Usually when people are fucking up it's because something's going wrong, not because they're literally dedicated to positively and affirmatively fucking things up. Doesn't make it not a problem, but it does make how we approach it matter.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:46 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I think some of the disconnect here is that you are responding almost exclusively about the Title IX thread, and I think others are talking more generally. I agree with you that particular FPP isn't part of the trend everyone else is discussing, but that's the minority viewpoint here. I think I can see the "huh?!?" in your posts, and I'm pretty sure that's it; you're defending that thread, but everyone else isn't focused on it.
posted by spaltavian at 11:47 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


TFB, at this point, I'm going to ask that you just stay out of rape threads. You are unable to participate in these threads in a way that's compatible with other people participating too.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2015 [42 favorites]


crafting restraints on police power that acknowledge the reality that officers are constantly falsely accused of abuse is pretty central to civilian control of the police. False accusations against officers are way, way, way more common than false accusations of other crimes.

False by whose definition of abuse?
posted by tonycpsu at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard, I'll put it to you direct. Your continual attempts to impose a discussion about abuses of systemic power wrt protecting men from false rape accusations on the rest of the people discussing the larger topic of sexual assault are pushing women to limit their engagement with both the topic and Metafilter overall, or in some cases abandon it entirely. Is that an acceptable consequence to you? If it is, can you explain why? If it isn't, can you talk about how you would be willing to modify your approach in order to avoid that consequence?

In answer to your question: I would certainly prefer more discussion, and more perspectives, rather than less. But I think the blurring of the distinction between victims of violence and the powerful entities which take on punishing that violence is very dangerous, particularly given America's ugly history of denying rights to minorities accused of sex crimes (any crimes, really, but sex crimes have been central).

I take LobersterMittens' point that it's important to have this conversation with an awareness of how bad the status quo is, the extent to which the security forces usually fail to act on behalf of victim, and therefore how important it is to focus on increasing punishment. But if someone says they will only participate in a discussion if the possibility of creating innocent victims of the security forces is not brought up, then I consider them part of the problem.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:52 AM on February 23, 2015


Sorry, posted that before seeing LobsterMittens' follow-up. Going silent now.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:53 AM on February 23, 2015


In answer to your question:

I asked two questions (one a two-parter), and you answered neither of them.
posted by KathrynT at 11:54 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


And that is part of the frustration about these discussions, at least for me: the way people keep acting like there is no difference between the victim of an assault, and the power structure that is being enlisted to punish the assault.

Wow. I'll just go ahead and say that there is a difference between the victim of assault and the power structure that is being enlisted to punish the assault. I'm not sure how you could even attempt to make an argument otherwise, but it doesn't surprise me that you're trying.

TFB, at this point, I'm going to ask that you just stay out of rape threads. You are unable to participate in these threads in a way that's compatible with other people participating too.

Thank you for that.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:54 AM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


that is part of the frustration about these discussions, at least for me: the way people keep acting like there is no difference between the victim of an assault, and the power structure that is being enlisted to punish the assault.

TheFuzzyBastard, I want to say that I do understand the generalized point that I think you're trying to make - that it appears that the power structures are being given a lot of generalized power to punish sexual assault in ways that you may not be comfortable with. I am someone who frequently has a lot of difficulty with state power being used to enact these kinds of responses, so I am sympathetic to how difficult that can feel.

But in order to separate the victims of sexual assault from the mechanics of state power, it is important to actually separate them, and that's not something that I see a lot of happening. If you want to talk in a generalized way about the dangers of power, then it's not actually a necessity to talk about "sometimes women lie" or how "men get raped too" or "what do you do when both people are drunk?" or "Why aren't the women punished?" When those things get conflated into the anti-authoritarian argument, then it begins to seem as though the point of the argument is to push back against women - to push back against a frustration with women seeming to be acquiring the upper hand. Because if the issue were only "Is it an abuse of power to punish individuals when they themselves are impaired?" then the women would not be under discussion - and somehow in these cases, the women always seem to be under discussion when the governmental power is being talked about.
posted by corb at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard's point that greater institutional responsiveness to reports of rape could have unintentionally racist (or otherwise bigoted) consequences is troubling, and it's worth a direct response.

At the same time, ThatFuzzyBastard has so often lived down to his handle that maybe someone else should make that argument. Sorry, dude.

On preview, I see that it would be someone else making that point in any case.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:57 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


> But I think the blurring of the distinction between victims of violence and the powerful entities which take on punishing that violence is very dangerous,

You have made this point repeatedly in threads about conventions that create policies to prevent and respond to issues of sexual harassment, and you have framed the creation and enforcement of those policies - by institutions that have no power to do anything except tell their attendees "These are the rules, follow them or get your badge pulled" as if a rule-breaking attendee were being sent to a gulag. It's appalling and infuriating.
posted by rtha at 12:00 PM on February 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


Mild as cottage cheese! Who could fail to measure up to that one? The joker in thy deck is that merely having certain opinions (e.g. that the notorious one-in-five statistic is almost certainly bogus) will strike many of us as "being a jerk" unless one keeps deadly silent about them. Chilling! Won't somebody please shut them damn French doors?

I can't find the comment of yours I'm 99% sure you're talking about, so please excuse me if this is a misfire.

That said, no, actually the problem is that you harbor some huge misconceptions about that figure itself and what it's supposed to represent, and also you presented your opinion in a very dismissive way that frankly read to me as "this figure is hugely exaggerated, therefore I can freely give in to the running misogynist narrative in my head and stop paying attention and go back to feeling aggrieved".

Also, if there's such a thing as MRA house style, that comment I just quoted is a masterwork of trope. I'm not fundamentally the type to dismiss anyone's arguments just because of how they're framed and I don't find styles themselves to ever be inherently grating or wearying or hostile, but I can certainly imagine that the kind of users who do would get a general air of sea lion fart from it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Sorry, for the 101 derail, but I checked the FAQ and it doesn't seem to have an entry on warnings: the 'That Guy' talk feels a little like subtweeting (only in that is seems like some people have a very clear sense of who is in that cohort) -- do mods email people privately if they think their behavior rise to the level of action/warning (seeing the second/12th chance comment, it seems like they do?), or is it just noted in thread, like it was with TFB?
posted by 99_ at 12:02 PM on February 23, 2015


Short answer, it depends on the circumstances.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:04 PM on February 23, 2015


As a queer POC, I would find the "but I'm standing up for minorities when I champion against false rape" argument a lot less disingenuous if it weren't for the fact that every false rape article always seems to center around a white star-quarterback college student.
posted by Conspire at 12:18 PM on February 23, 2015 [37 favorites]


Yeah, both of those can be involved depending on the case. We do a lot of conversation with users about behavior over email, well beyond notes on the site itself.

And one of the things that I understand can be frustrating for folks looking at recurring problem behavior is that because we try to do a lot of this work over private channels, it's not always clear at a glance that it's happening if you're not either a mod or the user in question.

But we do that because there's a flip-side to this: people often feel much more strongly attacked/accused/targeted by public moderation notes or rebukes than they do by a private email. It's one thing to drop someone a note on the side to say "hey, you need to cool it on this / do better at that / fix this recurring problem", and another to drop that into a public thread for everybody to read and google to index, etc.

And so often, if there's a recurring issue with someone's behavior, it's something we'll tackle over email first and then more publicly later only if it doesn't improve or they're non-responsive to private communication. Which means that sometimes the visible, user-specific (rather than sort of collective, policy/group-minded) mod response on some of this stuff only starts coming out when thing is getting to be an established ongoing problem that people are simmering about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:19 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


A few comments deleted. jfuller, please cut it out.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:26 PM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Branching off from an earlier part of the thread, about tone and overt aggression and snark... the thing is, the people whose contributions drive me out of these discussions most aren't necessarily the overtly snarky in-search-of-a-cheap-laugh ones. They're the overtly polite, very calm, very measured-sounding things--if they were spoken they'd be in a friendly, conversational tone--which nevertheless include utterly hurtful, poisonous sentiments in them. Aryma's comments upthread are a great example, but she's not the only poster who consistently does things like this--for my money, this is the most toxic comment I've seen in a long, long time. People who say terrible things in a polite, friendly tone are very difficult for many of us to handle in conversation, because when you go "wow, you just insulted me" they go "Really? Are you sure? I thought it was a reasonable thing to say, why aren't you being reasonable with me?" It's the reverse of the tone argument, really: where the tone argument usually centers around people who are being given less credit for their ideas than they are worth, this situation often has one person saying incredibly disrespectful things but because their tone is measured and friendly they don't get as many people going "Wow, that is not okay."

And it feels like contempt. It's the difference between someone slapping you in the face because they're angry and lost control of themselves and someone smiling, slapping you in the face, and walking off safe in the confident assumption that you can't do anything to them at all. It is so much more upsetting than loud aggressive snark that I can't even articulate it, because it rests on the assumption that the listener is powerless. And that is true even when the person who made the comment didn't mean to, because you still bear the burden of either taking it in silence or suddenly making there be a conflict when there wasn't one before, and being "blamed" for that conflict.
posted by sciatrix at 12:48 PM on February 23, 2015 [61 favorites]


I feel a deeper flip-side of private back-channel moderation is that it doesn't reset the public tone. The absence of a clear "this behavior is not okay here" statement from mods can be viewed as an implicit endorsement that it is okay: encouraging some to follow suit, discouraging others from participating.

I also feel somewhat frustrated that the most notable recent "OK THIS IS THE LAST STRAW" bannings -- Decani and sgt. serenity -- seemed to be basically because they had been shitty to the mods one too many times; whereas long-term mysogynists seem to perpetually bump along the bright line with only occasional mild sanctions. Again, maybe there's more course-correction going on behind the scenes: but that's not visible to the people that are being discouraged by this.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:49 PM on February 23, 2015 [51 favorites]


I think that the quieter, more-private mod approach is one that works for a lot of people who maybe just aren't realizing how they're coming off or get a little too hyped up about one particular topic, etc. Folks who are essentially good commenters, but have a blind spot about something. A lot of those people do improve over time. So the system does work when it's someone who is participating in good faith and are willing to put in the effort to tamp down problem behavior. But that's not really the issue here: the pattern people are calling out is that there is a contingent of users who repeatedly engage in the same pattern of problem posting, over a long period of time, leaving a trail of shitstorms in their wake, often while disregarding public (and presumably) private mod intervention, and the mod response remains "Yes, we're working on it with them."
posted by kagredon at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wait, decani was BANNED? When did that happen?

I wholly support that move, I just had no idea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


sciatrix - yeah, that is definitely the hardest problem we have, modwise.

We had a deal, Kyle - we banned 0 recently too, just to add to that tally. Your point about visible course correction is well-taken.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:09 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wait, decani was BANNED? When did that happen

Just go to the user's profile page, view their comment activity and find their last comment. That'll usually be around where they were banned. For Decani it's here: https://metatalk.metafilter.com/23479/Islamophobia-on-Metafilter#1176094
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:27 PM on February 23, 2015


I have some thoughts about the tone question that I think might be relevant to what LobsterMitten is talking about. This is complicated and I'm still working it out, so I'll try to be as clear as I can.

I think there is a subset of online activism that people often link with Tumblr and the pejorative "SJW" but that I actually associate much more with Shit Reddit Says. Like any community, it has something of a house style. A lot of lowercase letters, using the word "shit" in slightly unexpected ways (shitpost), lots of sarcasm & internet slang (lolz what even is sexism), etc. And a really, really big part of the activism style is the embrace of a kind of productive rudeness: a refusal to cater to the assumptions of people with racist, sexist, transphobic beliefs anymore, and instead to employ humor and mockery as a way to tear down and attack hurtful behavior.

On Reddit, I love this style (I was giddy when I first discovered SRS) because there's no presumption of good faith there, and the bad voices are SO LOUD that it feels like the only way to get heard is just to go in with all your rhetorical cannons firing. But I think this style is a more complicated fit on Metafilter, because the site supposed to be built on the assumption of good faith between members, and harsh mockery and calling other people's thoughts "shit" can be really tough to square with the idea that we're all part of a community. (Obviously, some people feel like they're not part of this community - that the site belongs to the sexists, racists, etc. - but I think probably more feel at least some ownership of the place.)

My guess is that the use this rhetoric has been tough for the mods to deal with, because the posters who tend to communicate this way share [most of] Metafilter's ideals - the mods also want to cut down on racism, sexism, etc. - but the rhetorical style is one that has not traditionally been acceptable here, and some of the reasons for that are good ones. And Metafilter also has a much worse ongoing problem of people who are problematically sexist, racist, etc. - so it's hard to justify focusing on one thing before you've solved for the other. But I don't think the answer is to say "Hey everybody on both sides, just tone it down," because these are actually two different issues that the community needs to figure out how to address.

I guess my feeling is that until a lot of the rampant sexism and racism is dealt with, I wouldn't feel great about the mods coming down very hard on members who engage with other members in this way. Mostly, for me it's been helpful just to label 'productive mockery' in my head as a rhetorical strategy that I don't particularly like, but that I can understand why people use, and to be careful not to mix that up with disagreeing with people in more substantive ways. Ultimately, I believe it's possible to create community guidelines that put some soft limits on this method of engagement, and I would support that. But I also think it needs to be done thoughtfully, slowly, with everybody's buy-in, and while being really careful not to suggest that it's in any way equivalent to being sexist, racist, etc., because it's absolutely not.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 1:29 PM on February 23, 2015 [43 favorites]


That's really well said and helpful; thank you.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have to say I think that looking at the SRS model as one for Metafilter is something I find extremely dubious and very unlikely to go anywhere.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


And crayz before 0, I believe.
posted by zarq at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2015


I also think that asking specific users to stay out of threads based on their topic is a good idea for everyone.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:38 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I also think that asking specific users to stay out of threads based on their topic is a good idea for everyone.

The mods have done this in the past and also asked certain users not to create posts about specific subjects or risk a ban. To varying degrees of success.
posted by zarq at 1:42 PM on February 23, 2015


I have to say I think that looking at the SRS model as one for Metafilter is something I find extremely dubious and very unlikely to go anywhere.

That isn't what pretentious illiterate is advocating. A comparison between the SRS model and the Metafilter model, such as we see in pretentious illiterate's comment, can illustrate each one's advantages and shortcomings.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:42 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe. PI does say "I guess my feeling is that until a lot of the rampant sexism and racism is dealt with, I wouldn't feel great about the mods coming down very hard on members who engage with other members in this way". Perhaps I'm misreading what "coming down very hard" means. To me that means that PI feels like people should be allowed to engage on Metafilter in the same way they engage on SRS until certain issues on Metafilter are addressed.

But if I'm wrong about that then, obviously, my comment isn't relevant.
posted by Justinian at 1:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just go to the user's profile page, view their comment activity and find their last comment. That'll usually be around where they were banned.

I thank you, but my "when was he banned" was kind of a rhetorical question.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


You know what else was a rhetorical question?
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:54 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


To me that means that PI feels like people should be allowed to engage on Metafilter in the same way they engage on SRS until certain issues on Metafilter are addressed.

pretentious illiterate can speak for themselves, but I don't think they intended as strong a meaning as that. The rest of the paragraph describes that style as one PI dislikes. PI then goes on to hope for a process by which SRS-style engagement is more or less democratically discouraged, if I'm reading right. I understand where you're getting your reading, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:55 PM on February 23, 2015




RE: Could be. Democratic discouragement clearly hasn't been working to many people's satisfaction recently (as evidenced by this Metatalk) though so I'm not sure why it would work differently in this case.
posted by Justinian at 1:59 PM on February 23, 2015


PI's comment, to me, read sort of in-line with a thought I had early this afternoon on this thread when I worked on a comment for a while and finally deleted it. The longer version tried to address this whole false-accusation/due-process question and how I feel like the problem is that we're only trying to address just a part of larger rape culture (even though it's a term I sometimes have a problem with given its ambiguous and imprecise definition) in this subject and if the people who are worried about being accused would just embrace enthusiastic affirmative consent then they wouldn't need to worry but this is all wrapped up in...

and I realized that what I really wanted to say was "Look, that's just disingenuous bullshit and if you don't know that you're the only one" but that doesn't fly on Metafilter. So I just deleted it.

And, I guess, my inclination to not mollycoddle those folks somehow incites them into more grarr so maybe that longer comment would have been counterproductive anyway?

I dunno. But as much as I value the intelligent and polite discourse on MF I do sometimes think it plays right into the hands of the sea lion sort of outlooks and approach and we'd have less crap if some of that just got a "that's BS."

Which is what I took from PI's comment.
posted by phearlez at 2:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Justinian: No, that's not what I meant but I can understand the confusion.

Basically, I don't like that style but I understand why people use it, especially when the levels of racism, sexism, etc. are as high as they have been over the past year. I think it's easier to say "hey, maybe there are better ways we as a community can respond to these hurtful things" if the community is not only making an active effort to get rid of those hurtful things, but having some success in doing so.

I'm definitely not advocating that we all start acting more like SRS'ers until the racism, etc. lets up.
posted by pretentious illiterate at 2:09 PM on February 23, 2015


I think addressing the idea of keeping rhetoric in check even when it's pretty righteously motivated is difficult territory to navigate, for both mods and users. And it's something that has come up before and been really difficult to resolve in a satisfying way when it comes to a head.

And I think a big part of the problem is that it really is separate issues colliding—whether a sense of righteous anger or tired-of-this-shit intolerance of bad behavior is justified (it very often is) vs. whether specific kinds of rhetorical escalation make discussion here better (often it totally does not)—and it being hard to cleanly separate those two, especially when the collision usually happens when the topic is already something charged and the discussion is heated.

Because saying "hey, that rhetorical escalation is a problem" is not saying "that righteous anger is invalid". They're two separate parts of what's going on. And sometimes righteous anger gets expressed by legitimately problematic rhetorical escalation. And it is a fact that discourse on Metafilter does not thrive when people start cranking up the heat or getting aggro in how they choose to engage each other; and we have got to, as mods, be able to talk to folks about that, even when the situation is difficult.

So there's the thing: sometimes a person can be right, and be understandably righteously angry/upset/done-standing-by about something, and still choose to engage in a way that kind of sucks. Part of our job is focusing on, along with everything else, trying to steer the situation away from that becoming a pattern, of that interfering with everybody's ability to keep having conversations here that are relatively cool-headed and non-combative. Asking folks who wander out to the farther extremes of the rhetorical spectrum to try and cool that specific aspect of their engagement down is not asking them not to feel what they feel or to engage on the subject of things they object to or have a problem with. It's not asking them not to feel strongly. It's not even asking them not to use those rhetorical approaches in other places where it's less of an issue.

It's just part of being here. It's part of helping this place not become rhetorically polarized. It's not about being sufficiently nice to the people you feel like are way out of line, being pleasant to the worst folks you encounter on the site; it's about helping keep stuff more tolerable and livable and not actively rhetorically unpleasant for everybody else, all the people who aren't the specific people you want to unload on but who are here anyway and shouldn't have to feel like they're watching a fight break out at a party.

None of that, none of it, is about trying to equate sides of a conflict or say that everybody's equally to blame in disagreements. None of it is about saying that being nice matters more than pursuing what you think is just or fair. It's just saying that righteousness and justice aren't carte blanche, that we don't have a Get Out Of Trying To Keep Stuff Manageable card that goes with being sufficiently right or sufficiently justifiably upset about something.

And mostly folks do a good job of this. It really is, as with most trouble things on mefi, more an outlier issue than something that comes up with most users or in most threads. And it's something that we are, as a mod team, I think sometimes too willing not to say something about because it is often a weird mess of someone being kind of a jerk for reasons that are understandable and otherwise defensible. But sometimes people are in fact unnecessarily rhetorically jerky, and that's not great for this place even if in the abstract sense it's one of a lot of valid modes of expression.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:15 PM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


Thanks, pi, that makes sense.
posted by Justinian at 2:22 PM on February 23, 2015


"So there's the thing: sometimes a person can be right, and be understandably righteously angry/upset/done-standing-by about something, and still choose to engage in a way that kind of sucks. Part of our job is focusing on, along with everything else, trying to steer the situation away from that becoming a pattern..."

This is absolutely true and necessary, but you should not be presenting or defending that particular argument here and now. It's a microcosm of what we're discussing -- whatever the merits of that argument, it's putting the focus on exactly the wrong issues and people. Doing so maintains the status quo and it doesn't improve the situation, though that's the intent. And, worse, it (inadvertently) sends a powerful signal to the community about what the mods are and are not most sensitive to.

Maybe certain members who are right-but-obnoxious should be talked to privately. (They should!) Talking about them as part of the problem publicly is precisely the wrong thing to do in this context and that this isn't intuitively obvious to the mods is discouraging.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Maybe certain members who are right-but-obnoxious should be talked to privately. (They should!) Talking about them as part of the problem publicly is precisely the wrong thing to do in this context and that this isn't intuitively obvious to the mods is discouraging.

Actually Ivan, I thoroughly disagree, even in the context of this discussion, even though I completely, completely understand the desire to "omfgwtfbbq" over what seems like unrelenting shit.

Because here's the thing. Metafilter advertises itself as a place for good and productive and civil and even friendly discourse. It doesn't say "Good discourse, unless you're someone we find politically intolerable." It doesn't say "We're civil, but if we think you're an ass, all bets are off." It has a standard and at least ostensibly, we all try to steer for it.

Allowing the mods to correct the "right but obnoxious" people privately, while correcting the "wrong and obnoxious" people publicly, does nothing but send wrong messages in all directions. It shows that in some cases, vitriol is tolerable and the standards won't be enforced - if you happen to guess which way the mods will jump on an issue. Which, aside from nebulous fairness issues, is just toxic for a site as everyone tries to ramp things up to just-this-side-of-the-line. It actively promotes people trying to figure out if the mods will agree with them enough to let them be asses. It also promotes a feeling of cliquishness, where the "in-group" doesn't appear to be getting punished (because it is happening privately) for things that the "out-group" appears to be getting punished for. And again, nebulous fairness issues aside, that promotes negative engagement. It promotes smugness and lack of self-examination on the part of in-group members who are sure they'll be lovably forgiven. And it promotes a feeling of alienation on the part of out-group members, who then start pulling away and being fightier because they feel less engaged.
posted by corb at 3:24 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is absolutely true and necessary, but you should not be presenting or defending that particular argument here and now.

I think if we're talking about conversational dynamics on Metafilter, it is something we've got to talk about. And at this point, as of this afternoon, it's something that's already part of the discussion, and so I wrote that comment to try and address it further since we're here already and some folks seemed concerned about the mod side of it already. You can say "now is not the time" and fall back on the idea that if there are other issues at play it's somehow incorrect to address another one, but one of the things folks have rightly noted a lot on the site over the years is that it's possible to care about and try and work on more than one thing at once. I think it's possible to address this small part of these issues in addition to everything else without having it being treated like an attempt to distract from or de-emphasize those other issues. I think especially so if it's a mod talking about it while also engaging that other stuff, rather than some yahoo bursting into the room and shouting "yeah but THE RHETORIC!!!" like they expect everyone to drop everything else.

It's something where it has kept not being the time on a bunch of occasions, and eventually instances of "it's not the time" stretched out in a long enough daisy-chain become "it's never the time". That's not workable. And we're hearing people say that having a clear mod reaction to something—an explicit acknowledgement of mod position rather than just an implication through quiet deletions and email chatter—is a valuable part of us making clear what we're working on, what we're trying to improve. This is one of those things that needs to improve. It's only one, and it's not the biggest one, and I tried pretty hard in that comment to acknowledge how much it's a wrinkle in a subset of the stuff going on rather than The Actual Problem. But it does exist as one of the many things that this stuff will be improved by addressing instead of just hoping it gets better and sending the private notes.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:27 PM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Allowing the mods to correct the "right but obnoxious" people privately, while correcting the "wrong and obnoxious" people publicly, does nothing but send wrong messages in all directions.

Well, but they correct the w&o crowd privately too. That was discussed upthread, that the private "knock it off" communications often leave the userbase feeling like not a lot is being done, but that it's a valuable tool because people respond better to private mod communications than public ones.
posted by KathrynT at 3:27 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is absolutely true and necessary, but you should not be presenting or defending that particular argument here and now.

no, he should be, because it's got a lot to do with why i've stepped back from a lot of threads - and i'm sure there's others that feel that way - even when i'm not participating, it can be a real drag watching people going out for blood over a real or perceived offense

if it's true and necessary, than the rest of that sentence contradicts that

perhaps you can make an argument about centering on the wrong issues - but the wrong people? - look, if this is really a community, then we're all responsible, aren't we?

there's too much pack mentality at this place these days - and when it gets to the point where someone goes real life on someone - well, that's when i really have to question how much i want to deal with that
posted by pyramid termite at 3:27 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Because here's the thing. Metafilter advertises itself as a place for good and productive and civil and even friendly discourse. It doesn't say "Good discourse, unless you're someone we find politically intolerable." It doesn't say "We're civil, but if we think you're an ass, all bets are off." It has a standard and at least ostensibly, we all try to steer for it.

The problem is that there are people who manage, for a very long time to destroy any hope for good and productive and friendly discourse here by poisonously maintaining a guise of "plausible civility." There is a tendency to give these people the benefit of many doubts while they drive away members who might actually bring good and productive and friendly discussion to the site. Much like in discussions of harassers at conventions, I find myself increasingly not caring whether a particular problem commenter is a problem from malice or social obliviousness or whatever -- they are still doing damage to the site in a very real way, even if they are being "nice" about it.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:32 PM on February 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


The thing is that the immediate positive mod response to "you're right! we must fix the people who are snarky or aggressive in response to assholis comments!" (something which I feel is in fact currently being called out in public more than the That Guy comments) compared to the foot-draggy response about the other stuff sends a signal. I know it isn't the intended signal, and I'm sure I'm going to get some explanation about why this is somehow different and doesn't mean what I think it means and etc etc just like the comments I got about why the Title IX post stayed while the rape one went, which feel like a lot of "yeah, but" responses, where the status continues to quo because it's easier to attack overt snark than microaggressions or plausible deniability.

I'm sure the mods mean well. I have a lot of trouble not being defensive also. But it just feels like the mods barely wanted to acknowledge the That Guy/Logic Uber Alles issue until there was another side to attack also, and that the response I will get is "but we didn't intend that" instead of "maybe we need to look at the way we respond". I don't care about intent nearly as much as action.
posted by jeather at 3:37 PM on February 23, 2015 [21 favorites]


And we're hearing people say that having a clear mod reaction to something—an explicit acknowledgement of mod position rather than just an implication through quiet deletions and email chatter—is a valuable part of us making clear what we're working on, what we're trying to improve.

And I think this may in fact help re: righteous anger. I'm sympathetic to the fact the mods can't be everywhere at once and I understand better now that there's a lot behind the scenes. However, the behind the scenes stuff isn't very helpful when people make hateful statements that are seemingly allowed to stand without a public mod response. See earlier in this thread when aryma was called out by mods for some problematic aspects of her comments but the mental health thing was not visibly addressed. That got my ire up, but I felt much better knowing that it HAD been addressed, just privately. So I appreciate that you're hearing this, because, speaking only for myself, it goes a long way in an unfriendly thread when a mod comes in and says, hey knock it off, rather than relying solely on quiet deletions and email chatter.
posted by Ruki at 3:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


there's too much pack mentality at this place these days

Eh, I don't think you are right here. The "pack," such as it is, is neither organized nor united in purpose. I mean, I find myself acting in agreement with a set of other members, and I agree with them on a lot of topics, but there is no organization (or, at least, I've never been invited to the planning brunches. I see it as less of a pack and more a bunch of people who are reasonably outraged at some pretty awful behavior.

Looking back on threads from the "boyzone" days, it seems like MetaFilter used to have much more of a pack mentality -- not organized, but sharing an investment in the internet-sexist status quo that (based on testimony) made this place extremely unpleasant for women and other non-privileged members.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:47 PM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


The "pack," such as it is, is neither organized nor united in purpose.

it doesn't have to be organized to exist - and the pack mentality has been around for a very long time - it used to be politics that really set it off

it's a danger in any community, i think
posted by pyramid termite at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


where the status continues to quo because it's easier to attack overt snark than microaggressions or plausible deniability.

To be fair to the mods, I think sometimes that's out of exhaustion and volume though, on the part of the userbase as well. I mean, I find myself flagging a lot, especially in those threads. I flag every time I think I see inappropriate behavior or dickbaggery. But the amount of times I've actually taken the time to drop something in the contact form? Not often. And without a freeform comment box on the flag, and without me putting something in the contact form, mods have to play the "I wonder what corb thought was wrong about this post" game. And I know it. And it still doesn't impact my behavior, because writing an email for every shit post is exhausting and I am burnt out and don't have the time or energy.
posted by corb at 4:02 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Allowing the mods to correct the "right but obnoxious" people privately, while correcting the "wrong and obnoxious" people publicly, does nothing but send wrong messages in all directions. It shows that in some cases, vitriol is tolerable and the standards won't be enforced - if you happen to guess which way the mods will jump on an issue.

I think this is not about protecting the "right" political arguments over wrong ones but rather about preventing misogyny (writ both large and small) from being used in arguments against women on Metafilter.

We have just been through this in the antisemitism thread. The mods currently very often treat everyone in large arguments on both the minority and majority sides, as if they were equal. It's a dynamic that I believe silences the minority by telling them they should listen to or kowtow to majority arguments, which in many cases have been used to silence them in other situations and fora. The problem becomes especially egregious when the majority's arguments are based on sexist or racist assumptions or are patently unfair: when they are based on lies, skew or ignore very basic facts to make their points. They mods also ignore most individual microaggressions out of necessity, which I suspect contributes to a low level background noise of misogyny that runs through many of those threads. It's impossible to address every microaggression, of course.

An easy example is the "not all men" argument which posits that false rape accusations are a Thing that Must Be Discussed, in any thread about a woman who has been threatened with rape or sexually assaulted, or about any woman who goes to an authority and says, "This is what happened to me." It's not just that one example. People have complained in the past without evidence that Metafilter is turning into a "girlzone," or that feminists are being too angry and aggressive in making their points. Because heaven forbid a woman get pissed off and use strong language when she points out that another woman is in fact being treated unfairly by people in power.

We have seen multiple members in this very thread say that the site's current moderation model helps discourage them from participating, in part because the mods have not been cracking down more, or because of the way they do crack down, when they do. This needs to be examined.

Which, aside from nebulous fairness issues, is just toxic for a site as everyone tries to ramp things up to just-this-side-of-the-line. It actively promotes people trying to figure out if the mods will agree with them enough to let them be asses.

This is happening now. People are gaming the system now. Treating everyone equally isn't going to solve that problem. I daresay it'll continue to get worse if nothing changes.

It also promotes a feeling of cliquishness

Forgive my bluntness, but if the choices are "Sexist Asshole" Clique vs. "Not Sexist Asshole" Clique, then I for one think it's okay if we form the latter.

Also, for whatever it's worth, I don't really think any of us should care if someone thinks being anti-misogyny is smug.
posted by zarq at 4:16 PM on February 23, 2015 [35 favorites]


it doesn't have to be organized to exist

It kind of does, though. The defining feature of a pack is organization and hierarchy; using it suggests that you think that topics and targets are chosen ahead of time. And this is just not the case (unless there is something going on of which I am unaware) -- even the most excessive pile-on is not the work of a keenly orchestrated series of actions but individual comments from a group of people who have a need to express disagreement with a particular sentiment.

And, yes, roving packs of commenters would be a danger, but that's not happening. What would be a better metaphor, at least in the majority of cases, is that people who are yelling about the armies of pitchfork-waving feminists threatening them are people who have always been able to count on the passive support of a sexist society who are finding themselves more exposed in places where that society has less hegemony. Don't shed too many tears; they can navigate back to almost any other site on the web (or the external world) and find themselves well swaddled again.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:20 PM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


And thinking more about it, the overfocus on intent is all part and parcel. We know that snarkers intend to snark. But we don't KNOW that That Guy intends to be That Guy. And the mods know that they intend well.

But the result is that we get a lot of talk about what people are thinking when they do things, and a lot less talk about what they are actually doing and what that is actually leading to.
posted by jeather at 4:30 PM on February 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I've never been invited to the planning brunches

I've been posting them in IRL for months. Check your cabal mai- oh wait, forget I said anything.
posted by zarq at 4:33 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The thing is that the immediate positive mod response to "you're right! we must fix the people who are snarky or aggressive in response to assholis comments!" (something which I feel is in fact currently being called out in public more than the That Guy comments) compared to the foot-draggy response about the other stuff sends a signal. ... But it just feels like the mods barely wanted to acknowledge the That Guy/Logic Uber Alles issue until there was another side to attack also, and that the response I will get is "but we didn't intend that" instead of "maybe we need to look at the way we respond". I don't care about intent nearly as much as action.

I completely agree, and I find this entire last part of this thread, which was supposed to be about asking women if they feel less comfortable here and has instead turned into some strange referendum on womens' rhetorical excesses and the extent to which those excesses contribute to people treating women poorly, completely disheartening. You can say it's only a small contribution all you want and try to argue you aren't comparing their relative importance here, but we're still talking about that instead of dealing with the elephant in the room, which is that a lot of women here are saying they don't feel as welcome here anymore.

I feel worse about MeFi than I did before I read this thread, that's for sure.
posted by dialetheia at 4:36 PM on February 23, 2015 [33 favorites]


Okay, given that I had a comment deleted for being (I assume) too aggro: can a mod please explain why "pack" metaphors are basically given free rein, given that particularly in the context of feminist arguments on MeFi, it's literally a way to call women bitches and get away with it? Seriously, if you want a good example of "background misogyny that plays just within the rules to evade mod action", look no further, there you go.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 4:41 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


can a mod please explain why "pack" metaphors are basically given free reign, given that particularly in the context of feminist arguments on MeFi, it's literally a way to call women bitches and get away with it?

I didn't get that read on it at all, especially if that literally is supposed to mean literally literally; if there is some user- or site-specific history with that usage that I'm not familiar with, I would be grateful to get filled in, but pack-as-in-group is not something that's at all on my radar as something specifically about women, or anything other than really loosely figurative references to dogs or other animals.

That's not an endorsement or a defense of the metaphor as productive or accurate in talking about group dynamics here; I just feel like this specific "why are you condoning calling women bitches" thing is pretty way out of the blue and needs a bunch of unpacking. There is zero, zilch condoning of that actual sentiment coming from us.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I completely agree, and I find this entire last part of this thread, which was supposed to be about asking women if they feel less comfortable here and has instead turned into some strange referendum on womens' rhetorical excesses and the extent to which those excesses contribute to people treating women poorly, completely disheartening.

it's only fair to point out that some of the targets happen to be women who don't go along with the ideas some have - and some of the attackers are men

it's not a straight up women vs men thing going on here


Okay, given that I had a comment deleted for being (I assume) too aggro: can a mod please explain why "pack" metaphors are basically given free rein, given that particularly in the context of feminist arguments on MeFi, it's literally a way to call women bitches and get away with it?


again, it's not a straight up women vs men thing, as i've just pointed out

and this is precisely the kind of comment that makes participating in these threads so obnoxious - you would rather willfully misread something into the worst possible interpretation you could think of, rather than discuss the ideas - you would rather score cheap points, than consider the plain meaning of what i'm saying

i'm done - i see no reason why anyone would have to take this crap
posted by pyramid termite at 4:50 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


T'hell with the problem users. I think the site would be a lot better if they get warned, they get warned a second time with a week off and the third step is banning them.

The amount of resources spent and the impact problem users have are far from insignificant and I think that outweighs the prospect of dimwits seeing the light.
posted by ambient2 at 4:55 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


But it just feels like the mods barely wanted to acknowledge the That Guy/Logic Uber Alles issue until there was another side to attack also, and that the response I will get is "but we didn't intend that" instead of "maybe we need to look at the way we respond". I don't care about intent nearly as much as action.

Hey, I hear you. I don't think the "barely wanted to acknowledge" characterization is really fair—as much as we have work to do on this stuff, this isn't something we've been cheerily declaring a non-issue or been declining to criticize or work with people on—but I understand the frustration with having what feels like not-the-focus become a larger topic of discussion in here. I commented on the rhetoric thing a bit earlier because I wanted to try and recap what seemed like a bumpy interaction on the topic with some further explanation of why it's even an issue at all, but my intent was basically to leave it at that and let the thread wander back to more core stuff. I'm sorry it's been a frustrating sidebar.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:57 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


[The Master and Margarita Mix got a day off for a f-bomb aimed at another user. Let's try and keep things civil.]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:59 PM on February 23, 2015


No, I'm sorry, that's not cool. I absolutely understand getting a day off for personal attacks, but part of the problem here is that other users, in this thread and others, have NOT gotten a day off for really vile personal attacks on others. I believe in time-outs, but they need to be consistent. What makes dropping an F-bomb worse than cruelly speculating on others' mental health?
posted by Ruki at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2015 [26 favorites]


It's been a long-standing bright-line sort of thing, where a day off to cool down is really likely to happen. We can and are talking about the problem with stuff that isn't a straight up "fuck you" or "fuck off" still being in a lot of folks' eyes shitty enough to require clearer and more visible mod responses, and I think that's a really important and valuable discussion to have, but we're not gonna just waive existing basic boundaries for interaction here in the mean time, and this has been one of them for a while.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:11 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]




It's been my position for years (as stated repeatedly on Metatalk) that a good ol' fashioned FU is no worse and often easier to deal with than some kind of snide passive aggressiveness but it's not exactly a secret that a straight up FU usually gets you a timeout.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


It has not been a clear existing boundary. You delete, but it's not a "time out every time" kind of thing.

Good to know you actually remember how to give people timeouts, though.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:15 PM on February 23, 2015


for my money, this is the most toxic comment I've seen in a long, long time.

I wasn't planning to write further on this thread, but since you've specifically called my comment out, I guess I should respond. First let me say that I honestly mean no personal offense by what I'm about to say. I obviously have no idea who you are. I'm not trying to be contemptuous or anything like it. However, I strongly object to your ideas. I think your comment embodies a stifling and humorless conformism that assumes that everyone here shares a certain narrow and extremist political project. That project assumes that any deviation from it is automatically not merely wrong but also insulting. I find all this distasteful and incorrect, yet I mean no offense to you or to anyone else in saying so. I hope we can agree to disagree like grown-ups on this point.

because it rests on the assumption that the listener is powerless.

The definition of "powerless" you seem to be using is: "I can't get the mods to silence this person. All I can do is ignore or rebut the comment. Therefore I am powerless." This is not in my book what powerlessness means.

(btw, rtha, I don't as of yet use my killfile on comments, only posts... since the tagging system is inconsistent, there's no other good way for me to filter out posts I'm not generally interested in)
posted by shivohum at 5:15 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Okay. So what would help, with respect to polite but deeply disrespectful comments? If this is a very difficult issue for the mods, is there anything that we as users can do to fix it? Because I strongly feel that these are a HUGE part of why women on the site are saying that they feel uncomfortable, and I'm also pretty amazed that this thread has turned into a referendum on how women react to sexism on this site. Can we maybe talk about how to minimize microaggressions, please? What would help here?

Because damn, this decision feels like a perfect illustration of what I was talking about. Aryma gets to make all the polite, vicious insinuations she wants without visible mod comment or intervention, but 'fuck you' is grounds for a day out? Because frankly I would rather have someone tell me to fuck myself than get the kind of shit aryma was tossing around. I can handle someone telling me to fuck myself. It's harder to figure out how to handle the rest.
posted by sciatrix at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2015 [38 favorites]


You're right ifds9, I should have said "often" not "usually".
posted by Justinian at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2015


shivoum, you are generally regarded as a person who is a problem user when it comes to threads discussing women and sexual assault. I think you should look long and hard about why that is and try and be better.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:19 PM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


my intent was

This response is why I said specifically that I didn't care about intent because the RESULT was entirely different and your intent didn't get posted, your words did. But now it feels like you're taking my words out of context and/or not even reading the comments.
posted by jeather at 5:19 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not saying a fuck you shouldn't get a time out. I'm saying that personal attacks should be treated equally.
posted by Ruki at 5:22 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


shivoum, you are generally regarded as a person who is a problem user when it comes to threads discussing women and sexual assaault. I think you should look long and hard about why that is and try and be better.

at least he's not "humorless" like feminists

this thread is a fucking parody at this point
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:23 PM on February 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


The definition of "powerless" you seem to be using is: "I can't get the mods to silence this person. All I can do is ignore or rebut the comment. Therefore I am powerless." This is not in my book what powerlessness means.

No, actually what I'm saying is that it has the effect of treating the listener as someone powerless. It is, inherently, a contemptuous thing to do.

I obviously have no idea who you are. I'm not trying to be contemptuous or anything like it. However, I strongly object to your ideas. I think your comment embodies a stifling and humorless conformism that assumes that everyone here shares a certain narrow and extremist political project. That project assumes that any deviation from it is automatically not merely wrong but also insulting. I find all this distasteful and incorrect, yet I mean no offense to you or to anyone else in saying so. I hope we can agree to disagree like grown-ups on this point.

Wow. That's pretty much all I got here. For the record, shivohum, this is about as contempuous as it gets. If you don't see how "I don't know who you are at all, and I hope we can agree to disagree like grownups, but all of your ideas are terrible, insulting, narrow, extremist, and humorless" is full of contempt, I have no idea how to communicate further with you.

PS: thinking your comment was vicious and completely out of line is already an adult opinion. Or do you think this entire discussion is inherently childish?
posted by sciatrix at 5:24 PM on February 23, 2015 [31 favorites]


this thread is a fucking parody at this point

All's well that wendells ASAP, I figure.
posted by uosuaq at 5:25 PM on February 23, 2015


It has not been a clear existing boundary. You delete, but it's not a "time out every time" kind of thing.

A timeout has in fact been a pretty common outcome for a while now. I think it's a sucky turn of events, but I am not Margarita and I don't write her comments for her, and that one was seriously escalating shit. Either people want us to do our jobs or they don't; it can't be a conditional thing where site guidelines don't apply if the situation is crappy or someone's got a understandable reason for being grumpy.

I'm not saying a fuck you shouldn't get a time out. I'm saying that personal attacks should be treated equally.

Yeah, and I completely agree that talking some of that out and us looking at how we can better deal with that broader group of problematic stuff is totally important, and feel like there's been some decent talk about it in here already and I'm looking forward to more.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:28 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'd say I'd rather have The Master and Margarita Mix's (or NoraReed's) occasional abrasive f-bombs than then venomous but deniably polite n(maybe "not obviously rude") comments that have been cropping up in this thread. But the former gets you a time out (or hounded off the site), while the latter might get you tossed from a thread. I get that this is a serious problem for the mods, but I'd prefer that they rethought this policy.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:29 PM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'm glad everyone seems to agree on that now but it's weird since I always got so much pushback for it before.
posted by Justinian at 5:31 PM on February 23, 2015


Just going to add to the chorus of women saying that if an f-bomb directed at a user gets a time-out, aryma's nicely dressed version of "bitches like you be crazy" ought to get one, too.
posted by immlass at 5:32 PM on February 23, 2015 [30 favorites]


Not everyone agrees on that. I figure everyone can spot an f-bomb but opinions differ on the hidden motives behind comments that aren't obviously rude.
posted by squinty at 5:35 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


So what would help, with respect to polite but deeply disrespectful comments? If this is a very difficult issue for the mods, is there anything that we as users can do to fix it?

Prompt frequent communication via the contact form and civil pushback on problematic stuff in threads are the two things that feel most useful. If part of the problem is us not really clearly seeing how strongly and how many people are bothered by a specific thing, making that stuff clearer to us right when it's going down will help and give us more to work with than just what we catch via flags and guessing at the context. People already do this some, which is great and very much appreciated. More would help, I think.

Aryma gets to make all the polite, vicious insinuations she wants without visible mod comment or intervention

aryma should have gotten more visible, more aggressive pushback sooner than she did, but we've been super clear in here that she is on notice and needs to cut that shit out immediately, something that we've already had to enforce in here after saying as much. We cannot travel back in time and change the fact that we didn't more visibly and explicitly address a couple of those older shitty comments, but we are being really clear about recognizing the issue at this point.

Again, none of that adds up to not giving people timeouts for the stuff that has already been established as a basically bright-line rule about saying specific stuff like "fuck you" to someone. It's shitty, tense timing for that to pop up but it has been long-standing site practice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm glad everyone seems to agree on that now but it's weird since I always got so much pushback for it before.

Same, I was pro-telling people to fuck off in MeTa before being pro-telling people to fuck off in MeTa was cool! But now that I have come to terms with the policy, I will vehemently resist any reversals of it; why should folks get to enjoy a privilege I was so frequently denied? Did that "Bless your heart" nonsense fall by the wayside?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:40 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree that it's important to ensure the fuck-you-in-so-many-words posts get as much mod attention as the verbatim fuck-yous, but in case people didn't see Margarita's deleted comment: it was over the line, in my opinion, and I did flag it. For the fuck-you, and also for the needless sniping at a user's lack of capitalization, for which there can be many good reasons aside from just laziness.
posted by gilrain at 5:41 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I saw Margarita's comment as well and to be honest it seemed pretty out of the blue. Have the people upset about the timeout seen the comment?
posted by Justinian at 5:44 PM on February 23, 2015


yeah i also flagged it. i didn't in any way think it would end in a timeout, but i did think the comment should be deleted. of course, i do think aryma should have gotten a time out after she was warned repeatedly here to cut it out on top of whatever discussion happened with her in the last thread she was so awful in.
posted by nadawi at 5:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Fine. If it helps to be clear, I am really very angry at shivohum and feeling that his comment adds up to "fuck you and everything you stand for, but I don't want to be ~*~rude~*~ about it." Is that kind of thing allowable or not? Since we're discussing polite poison versus outright aggression here and all, I'd like to point out that it is a perfect example of the kind of thing I am talking about.
posted by sciatrix at 5:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


You can say "now is not the time" and fall back on the idea that if there are other issues at play it's somehow incorrect to address another one, but one of the things folks have rightly noted a lot on the site over the years is that it's possible to care about and try and work on more than one thing at once.

The OP: Rather, I wanted to start this MetaTalk to poll the community - and particularly the women on this site - on if they also feel that the constant discussion of false rape is influencing site culture in a way that might be making the site less welcoming to women.

Respectfully, this is the part that chafes me the most. This is a thread that was nominally posted to ask women how they feel about the recent spate of false rape threads and how those threads, perhaps along with the recent dialing back of more survivor-centered rape threads, are affecting how welcome they feel on the site. A lot of people have come in and said that yes, they feel less comfortable here because of this dynamic, and some have even said they've left the site over it or participated less. Then a bunch of usual suspects argued with all those people about why their experiences weren't valid or important, as I guess I should have expected. The mod response has mostly been "we're working on it" but I don't think it's too unfair to say that many of the mod comments have been fairly vague or wishy-washy, or even a bit defensive at times. Honestly I can't say I blame anyone - I'm sure it's super tough to do that kind of thinking out loud when you have your mod hats on and know how people are going to jump on things. I get that.

But so here we are at the end of the thread, and we were finally getting some more meaty/discursive mod comments about the situation, and what we're talking about is how if feminists would just dial down their fiery rhetoric, maybe Those Guys would lay off. Can you see how that might hurt if you had been hoping for a more full-throated response to the original concerns? I mean, it is a zero-sum game to some extent; we're talking about the intricacies of how feminist rhetoric inflames certain Those Guys now as if that dynamic is the key to this problem, instead of hearing about anything else you all might be considering to address the presented concerns, which went beyond just having fewer false rape accusation threads.

I guess all I'm saying is that if you guys want to get discursive about how feminists contribute to the problem with their fiery rhetoric, that's great, but I'd love to hear the same sort of detail and real-talk about the other side of the coin, because the level of detail and consideration has felt pretty damn unbalanced in this thread.

Yeah, and I completely agree that talking some of that out and us looking at how we can better deal with that broader group of problematic stuff is totally important, and feel like there's been some decent talk about it in here already and I'm looking forward to more.

One nice thing that would help balance things out a bit for me is to hear what the mods think are the main takeaways from this thread, or what sorts of things they're considering to address the concerns people have raised. If we could just generally re-rail to how we might keep Metafilter a welcoming place for women, I'd really appreciate it.
posted by dialetheia at 5:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [35 favorites]


It's not that it got deleted, it's the timeout that seems pretty wtf to me.

A timeout has in fact been a pretty common outcome for a while now.

Common /= automatic. You guys constantly talk about how there are no hard and fast rules.

It's not like TM&MM and I never disagree or anything but this feels really shitty and unfair.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Aryma's fucking bullshit didn't even get ADDRESSED by mods until they were essentially bullied into it. And this is at least the second time she's done that same fucking bullshit. And now hemming and hawing about how the response to it is under great discussion.

What the actual fuck.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2015 [28 favorites]


sciatrix: Leaving out the bit about disagreeing "like adults" which definitely comes off kind of condescending, the rest of the comment just reads like strenuous disagreement to me. If you leave out the bit about disagreeing like adults do you still object as much?
posted by Justinian at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Again, I'm not upset about the timeout. I saw the comment. I agree with the mods' decision. It is a bright line in regard to community standards. That's fine. What I object to is that aryma was allowed to make personal attacks on a wide segment of users without a timeout. It's great, I mean that sincerely, that cortex stated that aryma should have been dealt with differently, but she wasn't. So emotionally, it feels shitty and unfair. Really, I appreciate the conversation with the mods, and it's been a learning experience, but, that said, it's not a great outcome for this thread.
posted by Ruki at 5:54 PM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


You know, one other really neat thing about a more academic model of discussion is that it's accepted and uncontroversial that it's really bad form to have extensive public debate about who's going to be thrown off the island next. I find public lobbying for equity/evenhandedness in banishment very distasteful.
posted by Mr. Justice at 5:58 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I sense that the reason why we're focusing on aryma now in contrast to TMMM's treatment is not because many of us want the mods to go back and revise what was done in response to aryma's remarks, but rather because it stands as a larger pattern of what happens on the site in general. Why are people allowed to blatantly attack others - but so long as they keep it politely worded, they can expect to get no sanctions? Is that something that's going to change any time soon?
posted by Conspire at 6:00 PM on February 23, 2015 [17 favorites]


I saw Margarita's comment as well and to be honest it seemed pretty out of the blue. Have the people upset about the timeout seen the comment?

I did. I even briefly thought it was directed at me. Even if it had been, I didn't think it was so egregious to call for a day-ban. I can't blame the mods for following the rules, but really.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:01 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aryma's fucking bullshit didn't even get ADDRESSED by mods until they were essentially bullied into it. And this is at least the second time she's done that same fucking bullshit. And now hemming and hawing about how the response to it is under great discussion.

Nope, it's at least the fifth time I've noticed and I've hardly been on the site lately so I'm going to assume that my count is too low as well.
posted by winna at 6:01 PM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Huh, really Mr. Justice? What's wrong with equity or evenhandedness is banishment (bearing in mind nobody has actually been banished)?
posted by gilrain at 6:03 PM on February 23, 2015


Why are people allowed to blatantly attack others - but so long as they keep it politely worded, they can expect to get no sanctions? Is that something that's going to change any time soon?

aryma's behavior is problematic, and other mods have linked earlier in the thread to their responses to it. Simply put, aryma is on a very thin ice at this point. Two of their comments in this specific thread were deleted, and future pontifications on the mental health of other users by them will result in time off from the site.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


future pontifications on the mental health of other users by them will result in time off from the site.

Thank you.
posted by immlass at 6:10 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


"if feminists would just dial down their fiery rhetoric, maybe Those Guys would lay off"

I apologize if this is how I sounded. It's not what I meant. If I could rewind this discussion I wouldn't get into that set of thoughts here. The situation for women on the site is important to me, and the ability to have a community is too, and I have a whoooole lot of thoughts about that, and this wasn't the place for them.

I'm sorry that the recent part of this thread has been discouraging for people who have described their frustrations in here.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:13 PM on February 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Now could be a good time to read the note under the live preview, and take a deep breath. We don't need to solve all our problems in real time, and it's a little unfair to expect the mods to do so.
posted by alms at 6:15 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


and what we're talking about is how if feminists would just dial down their fiery rhetoric, maybe Those Guys would lay off. Can you see how that might hurt if you had been hoping for a more full-throated response to the original concerns?

I can. And I think we'd have been better off not spending as much time on that, and LM basically acknowledged that she should step away from it a ways into the exchange. I don't agree that there was no substantial mod commentary before that and in fact think that in raw volume that represents a pretty small fraction of what we've talked about the last three days, but that doesn't mean it's not frustrating or hurtful, and I'm sorry about that; again I am super okay with not continuing to make it the topic of discussion.

One nice thing that would help balance things out a bit for me is to hear what the mods think are the main takeaways from this thread, or what sorts of things they're considering to address the concerns people have raised. If we could just generally re-rail to how we might keep Metafilter a welcoming place for women, I'd really appreciate it.

Absolutely. And just speaking for myself, I think my major takeaways so far are:

1. As a mod team we need to revisit some of the internal communication style and tools we use to try and restore some of the lost total-site-awareness stuff that I think has slid as a result of staffing down. Managing that with fewer people on the team is a challenge, but I think we can make some good progress there if we keep iterating our processes and site-tracking/information-sharing stuff, especially as we've had time to adjust to the change and recognize where the new stress points are.

2. There are problems with people pushing up to the edge of nominally-okay comment politesse in a way that, however calculated or not, means they land just on the permissible side of existing site guidelines for behavior but end up contributing pretty negatively to the site mood and culture as a result. Our current approach doesn't deal with that well in the cases where our attempts to work with someone to improve their behavior don't bear significant fruit. We need to look at more visibly addressing that kind of ongoing behavior, and to establish firmer boundaries about either actually improving that behavior (whether by behaving better or by just staying the hell out of threads where they can't manage to) or moving on to timeouts and bans.

3. Though we have a general expectation that people don't get into it with personal attacks on the site, enforcement of that can be pretty porous and what falls under the umbrella of actionably not-okay is something that probably needs to expand some. Clear communication about that too.

4. More signposting of what's happening on the site in terms of notes in threads and explicit responses to problematic stuff. This is again I think partly just a reflection of time-management challenges from the smaller staffing and team communication stuff, but it's something we can make a focused effort to do better on.

5. One of the hardest challenges is identifying and dealing with the stuff that is sort of the background-radiation low-level burble of hostile or unwelcoming stuff that people are saying creates a lot of the unpleasant feeling. It's a challenge specifically because it is that more subtle end of things—stuff people may think sucks but also don't flag so much because they don't expect anything to be done, stuff people are bothered by but don't write to us about, stuff that in a busy thread or on a busy day might pick up a flag but not stand out in the din. We can focus on being more clear and responsive about the real obvious standout stuff, but we need to try and tackle the background radiation as well. And that's gonna require some of the refocused mod process stuff to help with, but it's also gonna require more and prompter flagging, more contact form heads ups, more willingness to help us keep on top of odd or disconcerting behavior or trends before they get to the boiling-over point. So definitely more community input is welcome, and more to the point needed.

Not a definitive list, I'm sure I'm omitting some stuff that has been on my mind over the course of the last few days, but that's as many bullet points my brain can handle right this minute.

I am sorry this thread has been bumpy, and I am under no illusions that we have been or will ever be doing a flawless job, but we care a great deal about trying to make this place a good place to be, and I have been finding this discussion really helpful. I appreciate you all making the effort to stick with it and meet us halfway on the hard parts.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:15 PM on February 23, 2015 [43 favorites]


Thank you, mathowie. Future pontifications of that nature should result in a time out. Going forward, will personal attacks on other users result in a timeout, be it a direct F U or something couched in more polite but equally hurtful language?
posted by Ruki at 6:15 PM on February 23, 2015


Yes, but it's not just about aryma - this sort of thing happens all the time on the Blue and Grey with various users. I'm happy you guys are dealing with this on an individual-by-individual basis; but I think the problem is that on a systematic level, the mods here don't recognize that these "polite" attacks are happening fast enough and react to them in a proportionate enough way before people have had a chance to take at least a few slugs at other users. I feel like the mods don't take attacks of this nature seriously enough compared to say, f-bombs. This also ties into the trend people have been observing above - that people have figured out how to skirt the edge of moderation, allowing for subtle attacks and microaggressions on people to go undernoticed. I don't want to make this into a single-user thing when it's something a lot of users tend to take advantage of, and I hope the moderators can pay more attention to these styles of attack in the future.
posted by Conspire at 6:15 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


That was before seeing Cortex's lengthy update - that answers my question. Thank you!
posted by Conspire at 6:15 PM on February 23, 2015


To speak of structural issues on MetaFilter that contribute to negative outcomes, I will avoid my usual note via the contact form, and write in public, the reason for which will become apparent.

I think that you, the staff, consistently improperly weight information you receive, and this contributes to misunderstandings and misplaced priorities in your moderation.

Specifically, you overweight your private information, and this leads you to make mistakes.

We can divide the information the mods have to work with with into two areas: public, and private. Examples of public information are posts, comments and favorites. Examples of private information are flags and messages via the contact form.

The problem of private (or restricted) information is pretty well known in the intelligence services. Analysts over-weight restricted information, because it's hard to get, or it feels important. Secret things weight heavily in our minds, and knowing them focuses our attention on them, more than warranted.

I think that your private communications via the contact form with users that are consistently problems obscures the fact that they are actual problem users, and you over-prioritze the intentions, feelings and viewpoints of these problem users, becuase this information comes to you privately.

Many people have a mental model that prioritizes information acquired via personal interaction, like an e-mail, over information acquired in public forums, like MetaFilter. Private interactions are commonly understood to be more like a person's "true self," in what we might term a 'mask' or 'layer' model. Now, I think this model is inherently inaccurate, but it is very common way of thinking.

I think that you all should more heavily weigh public information, like the comments in this and other MeTa threads, and less heavily weigh private information, like conversation with problem users.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:16 PM on February 23, 2015 [36 favorites]


sciatrix: Leaving out the bit about disagreeing "like adults" which definitely comes off kind of condescending, the rest of the comment just reads like strenuous disagreement to me. If you leave out the bit about disagreeing like adults do you still object as much?

I'm not sciatrix, and the shivohum's comment wasn't directed at me, but I still object as much to it (that comment).

In a nutshell...
stifling and humorless conformism that assumes that everyone here shares a certain narrow and extremist political project. That project assumes that any deviation from it is automatically not merely wrong but also insulting. I find all this distasteful and incorrect, yet I mean no offense to you or to anyone else in saying so. I hope we can agree to disagree like grown-ups on this point.
...is kind of like a greatest hits of the "you feminists are shrill and uppity just shut up now" thing that has gone on for fucking ever. That it shows up in this thread -- a thread about gauging women's comfort level on the site lately, because of comments like that -- well, it's kind of ironically predictable, I guess? But that doesn't make it any less objectionable. That you're defending it, and insinuating that sciatrix should just get over it already and take disagreement like a grown-up, is also kind of ironically predictable.

Prompt frequent communication via the contact form and civil pushback on problematic stuff in threads are the two things that feel most useful. If part of the problem is us not really clearly seeing how strongly and how many people are bothered by a specific thing, making that stuff clearer to us right when it's going down will help and give us more to work with than just what we catch via flags and guessing at the context. People already do this some, which is great and very much appreciated. More would help, I think.

See, I'd feel kid of weird popping out a note via the contact form every time I came across a misogynistic comment. At some point, if that's the only recourse, I would actually begin to feel that I was possibly being as shrill as the other side would accuse me of being if I were to respond to every one of them in a thread. I get that the burden is on the userbase to indicate where the line is, but is repeated use of the contact form really the best way to do it? At work, I try not to cc people on emails that aren't absolutely relevant to them. Bombarding all of the mods with every instance of misogyny by employing the contact form would make me feel like a pain in the ass, rather than someone helping to solve the problem.
posted by mudpuppie at 6:17 PM on February 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


And thank you to cortex, too. I really do appreciate the dialogue.
posted by Ruki at 6:20 PM on February 23, 2015


The mods are specifically asking you to do so, mudpuppie, so yeah.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:22 PM on February 23, 2015


That you're defending it, and insinuating that sciatrix should just get over it already and take disagreement like a grown-up, is also kind of ironically predictable.

I simply asked if it was just the bit about "disagreeing like adults" which was objectionable or the thing as a whole. If even that is beyond the pale to you I doubt there is room for any sort of productive discussion because I don't see how you could possibly take offense to asking about it.
posted by Justinian at 6:23 PM on February 23, 2015


The mods are specifically asking you to do so, mudpuppie, so yeah.

We're welcoming it, but nobody's obliged to if they don't want.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:23 PM on February 23, 2015


I remember mathowie saying a while ago that there was an idea to add a text-entry box to the flag thingy (button?). It seems like that technical solution would actually be very helpful for communicating exactly this sort of information.

I realize it probably doesn't feel like a big deal for y'all to receive emails, but I have to overcome a great deal of reluctance to "bother" you with them (my baggage, nothing to do with your reactions), and I imagine there's as much if not more of a barrier for newer users or users who don't spend much time in MetaTalk.
posted by jaguar at 6:23 PM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


Look, there are users on the site who are open, or crypto, anti-feminists. Those people are not going to change their hatred of women who are able to speak for themselves just because of a MetaTalk thread. The position itself is a delusion. These guys may not be trolls in the classic sense, but they are not worth engaging. To be honest, I am less worried about the guys who are clearly assholes, than I am about the guys who have perfected the Richard Cohen approach of dressing their deep conservatism in liberal concern. Those folks are disingenuous pieces of shit.
posted by OmieWise at 6:24 PM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


I get that the burden is on the userbase to indicate where the line is, but is repeated use of the contact form really the best way to do it?

It's an option that exists right now that may help with some of the problems folks are identifying in here. It's not a perfect solution, but it's likely helpful, and to the extent that any given person is comfortable writing us a note more often I'm saying it's a totally okay thing to do. If we find that we need to tweak expectations in the face of some kind of problematic flood of contact form stuff, we'll deal with that when it happens, but until then I'm not worried. In the long run maybe there will turn out to be other good solutions that help, contact form is just the tool readily at hand.

I remember mathowie saying a while ago that there was an idea to add a text-entry box to the flag thingy (button?). It seems like that technical solution would actually be very helpful for communicating exactly this sort of information.

Yeah, that's something we've continued to talk about and it's entirely possible that'd end up being part of a flag system revamp and be a good middle-ground solution for some of this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:27 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Briefly: Mudpuppie nailed it, the crack about age is not at all the only problem with shivohum's comment. It is dog whistley and poisonous all the way through, and I'm not really able to argue about that right now. And I totally am not surprised someone popped up to ask me if it wasn't just that I was misreading it or argue that it was a polite expression of strong disagreement. I wasn't quite expecting it to be within five minutes, but that's life.

I'm currently contemplating whether I just need to take a break from this site altogether. It's worth noting that when crap like that goes uncommented on by mods, at least not anywhere I can see--that's information to me. I feel very new and very much like I am still adjusting to this community and figuring out how to be a good, contributing community member, and I am instinctively pretty reluctant to do things I perceive as causing waves. I would absolutely not be comfortable writing an email every time I see an upsetting comment--hell, I am still adjusting to remembering that flagging is a thing I can do that would be helpful, because that feels like imposition right now. A write-in comment box, for what it is worth, sounds vastly more doable than an email. Entering private spaces is intimidating for me and I suspect for others, particularly women who may be more likely to second-guess themselves and their value to a community than men. If there is a problem here with over-weighting private interactions, well, maybe consider how that intersects with gender and who is most likely to access private spaces.

It is worth noting that I currently feel worse about contacting mods about problematic posts like this, not better. I feel like it's not a thing mods have wanted to comment on in detail. I recognize that this is probably in large part me feeling attacked and having that personal attack not commented on, and that it is probably a symptom instead of mods wanting to sit back and think and try to figure out how to handle things better in the future. I really do believe that the mods here are doing their best to handle complicated dynamics and that their collective intentions are good.

But hey, I'm tired, I'm feeling pretty upset, and I think I'm taking a break from this thread now.
posted by sciatrix at 6:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [35 favorites]


I simply asked if it was just the bit about "disagreeing like adults" which was objectionable or the thing as a whole. If even that is beyond the pale to you I doubt there is room for any sort of productive discussion because I don't see how you could possibly take offense to asking about it.

By "simply ask[ing]" about what is (in my view) approximately the least offensive part of that comment, the implication is that you're (in a charitable reading) deeply unaware of how offensive the rest of the comment was or (in an uncharitable reading) intentionally trying to position all that other stuff as less important than the part you're asking about. Either case would be sufficient to make me take offense, personally.

And that's setting aside both the fact that we're in the middle of a thread about how tiring this sort of rhetorical hairsplitting is and the implication that mudpuppie's offense is incomprehensible and/or an impenetrable barrier to reasonable discourse. I am doing my best to assume a charitable reading of your comment, but my faith in humanity overall is pretty strained this week.
posted by dorque at 6:50 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I feel like it's not a thing mods have wanted to comment on in detail.

Heya, if you mean shivohum's shitty comment a bit earlier, it's not something I'm trying to avoid, I'm just treading water pretty hard just to keep up with the thread and spent a bunch of time writing that last big comment. I'm not saying that to whine, just trying to be clear that it's the practical limit on how fast I can read and type and switch gears getting in the way, not a disinclination to respond.

So: I think it's a shitty comment, and basically of a piece with his comment yesterday that I responded to at the time (as did thegears and probably others) in its dismissiveness of what women are saying about their discomfort here as just being some kind of failure to, I dunno, man up and handle Real Conversation or whatever. I'm not sure what he's trying to accomplish with his contributions in here but it sure isn't helping anything.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:59 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I dunno. Shivohum's comment basically described about how I feel about Shivohum.
posted by phearlez at 7:00 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll say that shivohum, you have been increasingly on my radar as saying nastily condescending or snide stuff in threads about feminism. I don't know if this is a change in your behavior or just something I'm noticing lately, but it would be good to stop it.

If you don't agree with the politics, fine, but just skip it or find a better way to engage, don't show up just to antagonize or put people down. That's the behavior I was talking about way upthread, where you may think you're standing for free-ranging consideration of all points of view but you're actually doing the opposite - contributing to people's feeling that they need to stand in solidarity, and even the feeling of 'screw it, this isn't worth even addressing, I'm out.' It makes discussion here worse.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:06 PM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


I've just taken to flagging comments here in MeTa. I don't feel like I can really say anything that would make a difference here, or would be really listened to. I know that deleting comments in MeTa is rare, although it's been useful to see a few deletions in this post. It feels like the only thing I can do to express my concern here, so I flag things. Feeling kind of hopeless about it all, to be honest.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:07 PM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


stifling and humorless conformism that assumes that everyone here shares a certain narrow and extremist political project. That project assumes that any deviation from it is automatically not merely wrong but also insulting. I find all this distasteful and incorrect, yet I mean no offense to you or to anyone else in saying so. I hope we can agree to disagree like grown-ups on this point.

Charitably, I'm going to assume you're parroting back knee-jerk phrases you have heard elsewhere, because, uncharitably, if you crafted this, if you carefully considered it, the paragraph amounts to nothing more than a series of put down in the service of silencing a viewpoint you don't like. Let's take a look at the suggestions to be found in your awful little hit list for a moment:

Stifling: Feminist discussion on this site makes it impossible to have real discussion
Humorless: Morbidly unable to see how little of this should be taken seriously
Conformist: Not motivated by intelligence or actual experience, but by a shallow need to fit in
Extremist: Outside the mainstream to such an extent that it should only be taken seriously as a threat

I mean, you can't start a civil, adult conversation when you characterize the people you disagree with in that way. If you didn't know this, and your comments were ill-considered, please think harder in the future. If this was deliberate, it was super-shitty -- I mean, really, just straight-up, textbook gaslighting. "You people are all wrong and crazy, hey WHAT I'm just trying to have a civil conversation here unlike you children."
posted by maxsparber at 7:11 PM on February 23, 2015 [42 favorites]


It's an option that exists right now that may help with some of the problems folks are identifying in here. It's not a perfect solution, but it's likely helpful, and to the extent that any given person is comfortable writing us a note more often I'm saying it's a totally okay thing to do.

Got it.

There's another weird irony here, though, in that there has been a handful of regular women users -- more like a couple of handfuls, actually -- who have said in this thread that they now sometimes (or all the time) avoid threads specifically about rape/rape culture because they've just become too frustrating and too uncomfortable. I too feel better staying away from them. If a lot of the people who feel pretty strongly about this stuff stay away from the threads where it's most likely to happen and therefore won't know to flag/contact, I guess my question is 'what then'?
posted by mudpuppie at 7:14 PM on February 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thanks to all the mods for their thoughtful comments, I appreciate it.
posted by dialetheia at 7:17 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


This has been productive. ThatFuzzyBastard is not allowed in rape threads, shivohum has been alerted that they are on the mod's radar, and aryma has also been sternly warned. No one has quit. Progress.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:18 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


If a lot of the people who feel pretty strongly about this stuff stay away from the threads where it's most likely to happen and therefore won't know to flag/contact, I guess my question is 'what then'?

I don't know, exactly. It's a hard problem because there is zero chance we're going to tell anyone to spend time in threads they don't want to be in, but if there's an issue that people aren't letting us know something's up then it's difficult to reliably and promptly catch it and respond to it. I think to the extent that anyone by happenstance ends up landing in a thread despite their usual preference and then comes across some radioactive shit, that might be one of the good times to dash off a quick "this is kinda shitty and I can't even right now, but heads up" note in the process of noping out.

Some of this I think just goes back to us trying to find a way to look a little bit harder at, and nudge the bar up some on, posts on the bad news/outragefilter spectrum, which doesn't represent everywhere that this stuff can be an issue but probably accounts for a big share of it and to a significant extent the share that's the "I don't even read those threads anymore" stuff you're referencing. That's a more general concern, and something we've been more and less aggressive about at times over the years, but it's something I'm certainly going to be thinking about and it ties to this discussion in part.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:21 PM on February 23, 2015


This has been productive. ThatFuzzyBastard is not allowed in rape threads, shivohum has been alerted that they are on the mod's radar, and aryma has also been sternly warned. No one has quit. Progress.

i make da bess MeTas

-profusive self-backpatting-
posted by Conspire at 7:24 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


"I don't know, exactly. It's a hard problem because there is zero chance we're going to tell anyone to spend time in threads they don't want to be in, but if there's an issue that people aren't letting us know something's up then it's difficult to reliably and promptly catch it and respond to it."

I know I'm repeating what others have already said, but my particular perspective is that I'm a man and not a survivor, so I'm not triggered by such discussions, and I worked in rape crisis and am a feminist and care very strongly about sexual violence against women, so you'd think I'd both want to participate and have something worthwhile (hopefully) to say, but, no, I don't even read those threads, much less participate in them. For the same reasons as everyone else has said -- they're exhausting and infuriating and dismaying. I have a lot invested in these issues in the ways that increase the positive motivation and decrease the negative, and yet those threads are still too much. I'm boggled that women and/or survivors particiapte in them. If you are relying upon the people who care the most to be there and to help you know that there are problems, that's a strategy that isn't going to work.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:29 PM on February 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


Thanks, cortex. I really appreciate how thoughtful you and LM are being.

This has been productive.

If nothing else, I have now seen the word "nope" used as a verb at least six times, and I am appropriating the hell out of that little colloquialism, I tell you what.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:34 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


No, but serious thanks for making this Meta, Conspire. I'm not the only one who has considered bringing up these issues. Many of us feel them, and many more than me are personally affected by them. I didn't feel it my place, or maybe was just too weak, but damn, seriously. It's a risk. Thanks.
posted by gilrain at 7:35 PM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm boggled that women and/or survivors particiapte in them. If you are relying upon the people who care the most to be there and to help you know that there are problems, that's a strategy that isn't going to work.

And I've got to say, if my bar for sending the mods a message is to be "people are gaslighting/ad-hom-ing/microaggressing in a thread on feminism/related issues", I can probably just send them a message every time one gets posted; it's a consistent problem. I'm not criticizing the mods, it's an overwhelming problem and one that requires carefully reading a ton of posts for subtle details, but I don't quite know how realistic that is as a solution.

(And, no I don't have a better idea either.)
posted by thegears at 7:37 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


"bitches like you be crazy"

This is way off topic for what this thread is about, but could you people maybe lay off using faux black speech when you want to characterize someone's comments as misogynist? That fake quote and some similar phrasings have been repeated a lot in this thread.

I'm not making a tone argument. A lot of people here have made valid points. But we could do without the added layer of racial stereotypes.
posted by nangar at 7:37 PM on February 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


If you are relying upon the people who care the most to be there and to help you know that there are problems, that's a strategy that isn't going to work.

Well, we have to rely on folks to a degree; having the mod staff do a close read every comment on every thread on the site scanning for trouble won't work, it'd be utterly unsustainable even if it was possible to do on the very short term.

Which, again, it's a hard problem because of that: we can't and won't ask people to read shit they don't want to read, but we can't be omniscient either. I think the answer is a combination of looking harder at what kinds of posts we're encouraging/discouraging and asking folks to try to contact us about crappy stuff in those situations where it does happen to cross their path.

For that matter, you can drop us a line when you see a post that at a glance you have that "I'm not even gonna look" instinct about, to say as much, and that'll at least put it more actively on our radar as something to go take a look at even if it's not e.g. picking up flags.

I don't want to ask any one person to do a bunch more, or to force themself to wade into something they know it's better for their mental health to say out of. What I hope is more workable is just a little more "hey, here's a thing I saw that's bothering me" communication when you're up to it. A little more help from a lot of individual people will make a big difference, it doesn't need to be, and should never have to be, a big hero effort by any one person.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:42 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


aryma should have gotten more visible, more aggressive pushback sooner than she did, but we've been super clear in here that she is on notice and needs to cut that shit out immediately
...
aryma has also been sternly warned. No one has quit.

Didn't she say she was "leaving metafilter" yesterday? I think she's gone.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:42 PM on February 23, 2015


"I'm leaving" apparently meant "breaking for a few hours before coming back in to say some more things that had to be deleted from MeTa."
posted by MoonOrb at 7:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Didn't she say she was "leaving metafilter" yesterday? I think she's gone.

And after she said that, she got a post deleted. So, no. But it's not just about her. She made herself a very visible "this is what we're talking about," but she's not the only one.
posted by Ruki at 7:47 PM on February 23, 2015


If a lot of the people who feel pretty strongly about this stuff stay away from the threads where it's most likely to happen and therefore won't know to flag/contact, I guess my question is 'what then'?

It's probably hard to distinguish a successful moderation policy from one that's failing in the way you describe. In each case there are fewer and fewer complaints, and the feedback that the moderators receive will tell them that they're doing a pretty good job.

It's probably a lot easier to arrest this sort of vicious circle than to welcome excluded people back to a forum. Vigorous comment-pruning doesn't necessarily help, especially once the process has started: as Zarq said above, it tends to silence the minority. This is why I think the notes sometimes left by moderators when they delete comments or otherwise intervene are really helpful. They reinforce community norms and they let people know their concerns are being addressed.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:53 PM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I used to use the contact form a lot, but cut back drastically when the mods said my use of it was a bit much. I started flagging a lot more in consequence. If it's helpful, I might go back to sending a contact mail if I see something really egregious. I still read the kind of thread we're talking about, even if they've been noticeably worse recently.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:55 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I totally get where the mods are coming from when they say the best way for us to help is to feed them data about things that are objectionable. I hear how that makes sense from a site governance point of view, and is basically required because of scaling issues. It's also in keeping with the longstanding traditions and best practices that make up both moderation and site culture.

At the same time, I share the reservations about how this asks the people most affected by this stuff to wade through the exact content that makes them them feel unwelcome or burnt, triage it, then escalate to the mods. That requires more interaction with nasty content, not less. And while people like me who aren't women can and should help, our ability to correctly identify sexist content is necessarily limited by our lack of lived experience.

I don't have an answer, but I can think of one thing that might help. Right now, the criteria for what exactly constitutes over-the-line sexism is contentious and unclear. Our norms about it don't have anywhere near the easy crispness of rules like 'don't fuck-you another member'.

All the anti-woman bigotry people are engaging in can't be articulated as precisely as the no-fuck-you rule, but some probably can, most likely through continued discussions like this one. I think we'd need to frame those conversations very carefully, though, so they stay focused on identifying and describing over-the-line sexism rather than endlessly relitigating feminism 101 from first principles.

Even if we just get to a point where over-the-line sexist comments are some nonzero percent easier for everyone to identify, that would help us make sure the operational work of fixing this problem doesn't fall as heavily on the people who are already paying for it the most.
posted by amery at 8:05 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


faux black speech

Sorry about that. I didn't think of it in that light because I hear that phrase so often from white bro-dudes. I'll try to do better in the future.
posted by immlass at 8:07 PM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


It makes discussion here worse.

So what you're saying is -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- if you don't agree with ultra-left-wing feminism, don't say anything at all ("skip it"). The very airing of an opposition point of view is the problem. That's what I hear you saying.

And that of course is exactly what such extremist political correctness (and to be fair, extremism of any persuasion) says: if you're not with us, you're against us. Posing a counterargument or alternative perspective is in itself the "shitty" or "snide" or "uncomfortable" or "unwelcoming" thing.

I think that's a pretty appalling way to think, but it seems to accord with the mods' personal political views and with the views of a very vocal contingent here on Metatalk, and mathowie must at least tacitly approve as well, so what am I going to do about it?

Don't worry, I understand the new norms, and I won't be a troublemaker.

It's just a pity that MeFi is going down the same political polarization spiral that every other major discussion site seems to have traveled.
posted by shivohum at 8:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


So what you're saying is -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- if you don't agree with ultra-left-wing feminism, don't say anything at all ("skip it"). The very airing of an opposition point of view is the problem. That's what I hear you saying.

You hear wrongly.
posted by Lexica at 8:09 PM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I understand the new norms, and I won't be a troublemaker.

You're so deep in your own frame that no one wants to engage with you. You have made yourself not worth talking to in your wrongness and defensiveness. You yourself are exactly what you blame others of being.
posted by nom de poop at 8:11 PM on February 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


ultra-left-wing feminism

Have only been reading instead of commenting, but piping up to say this is obvious trolling to me.
posted by agregoli at 8:12 PM on February 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


> So what you're saying is -- please correct me if I'm wrong -- if you don't agree with ultra-left-wing feminism,

/jaw-cracking yawn

It's like you're not even trying.
posted by rtha at 8:13 PM on February 23, 2015 [23 favorites]


shivohum, what I said is, if you don't agree with the politics, don't show up just to antagonize people in that thread (like your comment about the "pop feminist" from that other thread). That's a shitty way to interact in a community and your defense of it here is preposterous.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:14 PM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


if you don't agree with the politics, don't show up just to antagonize people in that thread (like your comment about the "pop feminist" from that other thread).

I didn't say that just to antagonize people. I said it because I believed it. The person who wrote the article in the FPP -- Greenhall -- seemed to me self-aggrandizing and wrong and worthy of mockery. When someone says something one strongly disagrees with, it's very easy to interpret that person as being either stupid or malicious. But it isn't true. Genuine disagreement exists.
posted by shivohum at 8:20 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


It's easier to take as genuine disagreement and a desire for good discussion if it's not couched in condescending snark.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:22 PM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


That's what I hear you saying.

Get yer ears checked.
posted by phearlez at 8:22 PM on February 23, 2015


ultra-left-wing feminism

pfffff ultra-left-wing

call me when metafilter rejects identity politics altogether lol
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:23 PM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


"- if you don't agree with ultra-left-wing feminism, don't say anything at all ("skip it")."

Dude, I'm a HOUSEWIFE in the MIDWEST who went to CATHOLIC COLLEGE and is a member in good standing of the JUNIOR LEAGUE. If you think I'm a representative of ultra-left-wing feminism, you have REALLY got to shift your Overton Window.

My views are so painfully mainstream there is Cheerios marketing aimed at them. Your definition of "radical" is wildly skewed, and if it is genuine and not just a rhetorical strategy, you need to do a serious reality check.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:25 PM on February 23, 2015 [103 favorites]


what am I going to do about it?

whinge obliquely, apparently
posted by Greg Nog at 8:25 PM on February 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


I don't have any history with Shivohum. I don't think I ever noticed a comment by him on the blue, so my perspective is coming from this thread.

I think he is trying. Not succeeding, but trying. His comments earlier in this thread were very clear. They weren't snide. They weren't ad hominem attacks. They did raise the same issue that he continues to raise: how does this community balance the exchange of diverse ideas against the discomfort --- the strong hurt negative reactions --- of some community members?

That hasn't been a popular question to ask in this thread. People who raise it get dismissed, or shouted down for asking it, people roll their eyes, people make snide comments about them (but apparently they are the right kind of snide comments). I may have missed it, but I haven't seen a response.

The mods are being asked to police something more carefully here, and I'm not sure I know what it is. It sounds lately like it's personal attacks --- not just blatant f-bomb attacks, but also more subtle ones. But it also sounds like it goes beyond that. That there are some things which people say that aren't personal attacks but are hurtful and so shouldn't be endured anymore. What are the guidelines for that?

Sure, Shivohum has gotten snide in his later comments, but it was only after being attacked with snide comments from other people. His earlier point still stands. I can't speak to how he acts in the blue, but I don't think his behavior in this thread warrants the antipathy people are showing.
posted by alms at 8:26 PM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


And that of course is exactly what such extremist political correctness (and to be fair, extremism of any persuasion) says: if you're not with us, you're against us. Posing a counterargument or alternative perspective is in itself the "shitty" or "snide" or "uncomfortable" or "unwelcoming" thing.

Well, yes, if you're saying Jews made up the Holocaust, or women are asking for it, or POC are uppity, then yes, yes, that's uncomfortable, because it's a super awful thing to say.
posted by Ruki at 8:26 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's easier to take as genuine disagreement and a desire for good discussion if it's not couched in condescending snark.

Then are you going ban snark across the entire site? Because that's what would be fair. I'm not sure why it is the case that only the minority must refrain from making fun of the majority's sacred cows and not vice-versa.

Well, yes, if you're saying Jews made up the Holocaust, or women are asking for it, or POC are uppity, then yes, yes, that's uncomfortable, because it's a super awful thing to say.

Right, and many people here are trying to equate these examples with actual counterarguments with real validity to them, questions like the ones Prof. Halley brought up about sexual assault in her law review article. These counterarguments, though perhaps valid, people say, are just minor distractions from the real big injustices that Ought to Be Emphasized, and so are just as bad or even worse than the obviously false and offensive claims.

And debating what Ought to Be Emphasized is itself a distraction from what Ought to Be Emphasized. There's no winning here, and no exit.
posted by shivohum at 8:35 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sure, Shivohum has gotten snide in his later comments,

very first comment:
As a bonus, get rid of all the controversial topics and you could probably cut moderation duty on the Blue by 80% and nearly obviate the need for Metatalk.
"Later" is not accurate.
posted by phearlez at 8:36 PM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I feel worse about MeFi than I did before I read this thread, that's for sure.

Me too. It's not an encouraging thread. This really, really shouldn't be so terribly hard.

only the minority must refrain from making fun of the majority's sacred cows

Come see the oppression of the masses!
posted by Miko at 8:39 PM on February 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's not exchange of diverse ideas vs some peoples precious feelings (my exaggeration), for me, and it's not about everyone toeing some kind of political line; what it is, I think, is about people engaging in shitty, second rate rhetoric as a means to shut down conversation, either by making threads so damn stupid you want to kill yourself, or constant derailing (or really, any of another half dozen or so ways some posters post that stifles conversation, these things are not veiled in mystery, they are snidely paraded through every single thread that touches on feminism, rape culture or issues affecting women as a group). Disagreement isn't the issue, posting like a jerk is the problem. And, I don't believe for a second that the people who do it - who do it every single time - are unaware of the effect of their posts. I believe absolutely that they think they are being super clever and God, I don't know, what? That they're 'showing it' to those stupid feminists? Where's your precious exchange of ideas now, eh? Maybe it's not the exchange you want, it's the freedom to be as horrible and wrong headed as you want.
posted by mythical anthropomorphic amphibian at 8:40 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


My views are so painfully mainstream there is Cheerios marketing aimed at them. Your definition of "radical" is wildly skewed, and if it is genuine and not just a rhetorical strategy, you need to do a serious reality check.

I'm not necessarily addressing your particular views about site moderation, Eyebrows, because I'm not sure what they are. I do think what happened to you in your anecdote above is awful.
posted by shivohum at 8:42 PM on February 23, 2015


In a previous MetaTalk meltdown thread, this comment by NoraReed (RIP) got 37 favorites. When I commented that it wasn't very civil I got a string of insults in response. So that comment is the measure of constructive dialog in MetaTalk, while Shivohum's comment (which would pass for irony in most circles) is somehow considered beyond the pale and an indication that he's not discussing things in good faith? Really?
posted by alms at 8:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then are you going ban snark across the entire site? Because that's what would be fair. I'm not sure why it is the case that only the minority must refrain from making fun of the majority's sacred cows and not vice-versa

The way I think of this is that people in the minority viewpoint have way more latitude in the way they raise their points than people in traditional positions of power. This is because they have so little power that their snark or bad manners or whatever you might think about it doesn't really threaten folks in power positions, but if the same standard applies, being dismissive and snarky to those in the minority from a position of power tends to continue the oppression.

Another way to think of it is that by insisting on controlling the rules of discussion, it's just another exercise of power over a group that doesn't have that much.

Another thing that helps me think about it is being a person in the majority affords you the privilege of not really having to deal with eating a bunch of shit from people all the time, so it's kind of like the least you can do sometimes to just suck it up and not pick up your ball and go home just because someone's rude to you when they're expressing a minority viewpoint.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:45 PM on February 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


questions like the ones Prof. Halley brought up about sexual assault in her law review article

I want to be extremely clear here that this is an example of how your rhetoric poisons a discussion.

Professor Halley did not question sexual assault. She was talking about Title IX's handling of sexual assault.

The two are not actually the same. Paraphrasing her that way makes it very clear, however, what you think she was questioning.
posted by E. Whitehall at 8:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


Right, and many people here are trying to equate these examples with actual counterarguments with real validity to them, questions like the ones Prof. Halley brought up about sexual assault in her law review article. These counterarguments, though perhaps valid, people say, are just minor distractions from the real big injustices that Ought to Be Emphasized, and so are just as bad or even worse than the obviously false and offensive claims.

Yuh-um, and there is a dearly loved man in my life who was falsely accused of rape, and the lasting effect on his life is, well, it doesn't affect his life at all. He's doing just fine. I'm still dealing with the effects of something that happened almost twenty years ago. Just about the same timeframe with him, but it's not something he has to think about, ever.
posted by Ruki at 8:48 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I want to second alms (first, on preview) point. I was halfway into a 'dude, I know where you are coming from but you don't get it' post but honestly, I don't know Shivohum, so it would be presumptuous and I bailed. I don't think they are coming from a point of entirely good faith, and I think it's incumbent to speak more plainly about one's biases -- there is nothing inherently wrong with bias. We all have it to a degree.

'Ultra-feminist' is not a helpful construction because it literally has no meaning (in that there hasn't been any framing prior). So I'm not saying your POV is invalid on its face, but when you frame things that way, well GIGA. Your engagement strikes me as needling, only in the sense that I think you have a better understanding of the political landscape that your text would presume.

So yeah, I think Shivohum was being a jerk, but based on my participation to date, I think don't it think maps to 'gg/8chan/etc' at all. But if their comments are viewed as such by members and mods, making that clear would be helpful for everyone.

I would hazard there are two schools of thought - the 'Antioch model' (which I crudely pick because I went there), which foregrounds ingroup POV (which in this conversation would not be 100% of active MeFi members), and the 'sharp elbows usenet' model (which is better than reddit, but still an awkward and poorly defined 'we think people are generally progressive but allow a pretty broad amount of jerky behavior in the interest of intellectual engagement'). Some of this feels generational (not age based, but more time on internet). I don't think Shivohum is sealioning per se, but I also think they should know better than to coast on that kind of cruft. I have issues with some of the rhetorical stances in this thread, but honestly they (Shivohum, sorry, on edit) are dialing it to eleven, and I think they need to own that.
posted by 99_ at 8:50 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think he is trying.

Me too. Very trying.

(And yes, the Greenhall comment was sexist condescending bullshit: "my my", "a very clever lady." I flagged it at the time; maybe it stood because it got pretty good pushback in the thread? But still.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:55 PM on February 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


For the record, I was referring to Shivohum's first comment in this thread, which was called out as a sign of his natal bad faith a few comments back. I hadn't read the Greenhall thread and agree that comment is gross.
posted by alms at 9:08 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


natal bad faith

Crikey!
posted by Wolof at 9:13 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: My views are so painfully mainstream there is Cheerios marketing aimed at them.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:14 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


>>I feel worse about MeFi than I did before I read this thread, that's for sure.

>Me too. It's not an encouraging thread. This really, really shouldn't be so terribly hard.


I agree.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:38 PM on February 23, 2015


I'm not sure why it is the case that only the minority must refrain from making fun of the majority's sacred cows and not vice-versa.

I can't even muster vitrol here. You just whinged and called yourself a minority, Mr. Man. You just whinged because you can't make fun of women in threads like these, Mr. Man.

[I am gleefully calling you Mr. Man because I am hearing Kathy Bates in my head. Hearing Kathy Bates is making me feel a whole lot better, actually.]

A couple of dozen comments up, LobsterMitten counseled ThatFuzzyBastard to stay out of rape threads. I am hoping that someone with authority will now counsel you to stay out of any thread about feminism, or, to be honest, women.

I don't know whether you participate in good faith or not, shivohum. What I do know is that you are very much a part of the problem that this thread is trying to address, and the fact that you continue to provide us with symptoms of that problem, here in this thread, doesn't really bolster your case.

I'm not saying this as a member of the majority or minority or whatever. I'm saying this as a woman who thinks that you should really just shut up about issues that mostly affect women.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:52 PM on February 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


A thread asking for women to chime in on whether they feel welcome here on Metafilter or whether there is (growing) hostile atmosphere....and we are, yet again, focusing on men, their views on it and how they feel.

What a goddamn shock.

I'd be more polite and more considered about this comment, but i'm so fucking tired and burnt out on this dynamic. Especially here on Metafilter where, for the longest time, I felt the dynamic and atmosphere toward women and feminism were the best on the internet.

I don't feel that way anymore and I feel that increasingly hostile atmosphere. I already skip posting as much as possible on feminism/rape threads because it's too exhausting to see and reply to the same old bullshit. Were it not for the contributions of a few outstanding posters (Deoridhe, feckless fecal fear mongering, the individual posters on each thread who tirelessly do the 101 work), I wouldn't even read them anymore.

The responses in the later part of this thread from the mods have been heartening and I do understand how besieged you guys must feel with all this extra workload and a problem that must seem nigh-insurmountable since so much of it is happening in the subtext and subtleties of comments, but...I still don't want to comment here on any feminism threads.

I don't know what to do about it but register my dismay and frustration. So I guess that's my answer to your original poll, Conspire. Thank you for asking the question.
posted by pseudonymph at 9:56 PM on February 23, 2015 [29 favorites]


My original list of exhausting bullshit had a crucial omission: "SILENCED ALL MY LIFE".
posted by gingerest at 10:02 PM on February 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Everyone has a different mental list of who the worst people are. Though there's certainly going to be significant overlap in a few cases.

As MeTa is the subsite for a community website for discussing the operation and issues with such, do the real world majority/minority/oppressed/oppressor rules apply, or the demographics of the website? It can't be both, at least not simultaneously, when talking about majorities and such, since they are significantly different groups. I would think the latter, considering going against the majority opinion here involves considerable differences than out in the world.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:41 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't know if this is a change in your behavior or just something I'm noticing lately,

I think I narrowed it down -- not just from shivohum but from the rest of the crowd. I think this nastiness started piling up after JulyByWomen. I've been kind of trying to avoid that conclusion, because I loved JulyByWomen and the diversity of topics and voices it brought to Metafilter and I didn't want to believe that some people would look at that and say "Well, THAT'S clearly something I need to pee all over," but it's becoming more and more inescapable to me that the two situations are probably related.

I don't have any history with Shivohum. {. . .} I think he is trying. Not succeeding, but trying.

I don't know if I have any personal history in terms of lively exchanges of ideas with him, but I'm certainly familiar with his rhetorical engagement style after years of membership here. I do not share your charitable opinion.
posted by KathrynT at 10:44 PM on February 23, 2015 [23 favorites]


It's the former, actually. Although MetaFilter is presumably in many ways a space where people don't have to face all of the oppression and -ism they face in day-to-day living, it's impossible to sufficiently divorce MetaFilter from "the world" in such a way that you could say the tables have turned here. If that were the case than we wouldn't have threads like these.
posted by MoonOrb at 10:46 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


But the reactions and commentary that gets the most traction here is representative of the wider site's values, or at least that of the users as lightly curated by the mods. So opinions that would cause little to no fuss in the greater world get an entirely different reaction here. And if they go against community norms enough, they can get deleted.

And I didn't say the tables were turned, I just think they're different demographics. Again, I would rather this wasn't treated as being about sides.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:09 PM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure it was after JulyByWomen, KathrynT, because part of the reason that viggorlijah proposed it was the way some women reported feeling silenced in divabat's "Revisiting misogyny on Metafilter" thread in June.
posted by gingerest at 11:47 PM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I share KathrynT's impression that things have gotten a lot worse since JBW, though I would believe any out of (a) it was fueled by JulyByWomen, (b) it's because JulyByWomen occured partly in response to an already growing trend, (c) coincidence, (d) JulyByWomen was a relative eye-of-the-storm and things seem worse in comparison to a relatively good month, etc.
posted by kagredon at 12:07 AM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I didn't say that just to antagonize people. I said it because I believed it. The person who wrote the article in the FPP -- Greenhall -- seemed to me self-aggrandizing and wrong and worthy of mockery. When someone says something one strongly disagrees with, it's very easy to interpret that person as being either stupid or malicious. But it isn't true. Genuine disagreement exists."

It's odd that someone so focused on formal logic as to still deny induction wouldn't recognize how incoherent a position that is.

You disagreed with what someone said so you treated her as if she was stupid and worthy of mockery. But you don't think it was stupid, malicious or (by inference — correct me if I'm wrong) rude of you to do so. So people shouldn't treat you with mockery because they think you're wrong, self-aggrandizing or worthy of mockery, unless of course they genuinely disagree with the position you're espousing. In which case, it's consistent with the standard of behavior you set.

Something else that you should probably realize is that when you write things like: I think your comment embodies a stifling and humorless conformism that assumes that everyone here shares a certain narrow and extremist political project," that you're actually making it harder to discuss with nuance and depth the ostensible disagreements that you, and others, have complained about here.

I do think that articles like Halley's are valuable — one thing that short circuits a lot of progressive discussions is not thinking through how institutions that would effectively address current harms would have to function in reality, and in order to actually achieve progressive policies, many of the questions that Halley raised would have to be considered and answered. Or, to run through the chain that your comment was ultimately from, I think that there were flaws in Greenhall's piece on Wadhwa and that we could have a discussion with substantive disagreements on the role of male boosterism of women in tech.

But in order to have those conversations, you have to start with the presumption that the broad complaints have some legitimacy to them, that Greenhall isn't just jerking herself off to build a "pop feminism" career and that despite her casual and caustic tone she is making some serious points.

You didn't do that. You sneered and are now justifying that on the basis that it was a sincere sneering. That makes the conversation worse and instead of being able to talk about actual substance in Greenhall's argument, it leads to a chorus of people angry about having to once again argue that concerns about e.g. women's underrepresentation in tech or women being sexually assaulted on campus are legitimate on their own. You might protest that you agree those are legitimate, or at the very least that you didn't argue they weren't, but that's not the comment you made. The comment you made was sneeringly dismissive of everything she said, just like the comment you made to RTHA was sneeringly (and ignorantly) dismissive of her concerns.

This happens again and again, and from that vantage point it makes a lot more sense that women (and other traditionally disadvantaged people) like Greenhall are willing to come out on blast. Continually having to defend the legitimacy of complaints about structural discrimination, especially to people who are generally dilettantes on the issue, is frustrating and exhausting. And it means that when people like you, with that history of snide, dismissive contempt, attempt to discuss legitimate complaints, you've already so poisoned the well that it's very difficult to not treat any given comment as an independent argument, as opposed to one more snide and dismissive comment from someone who doesn't even agree about the basic legitimacy of the broader issue.

I disagree with some of the contentions in this thread about moderation policy and what can legitimately be recognized as over the line, but that's much harder to discuss when you're floating bullshit like, "Then are you going ban snark across the entire site? Because that's what would be fair," out there. That encourages everyone to see any substantive complaints you might make as part of a conniving refusal to regard any criticism of your participation as legitimate at all.
posted by klangklangston at 1:21 AM on February 24, 2015 [56 favorites]


It's worth remembering that there are a lot of women who don't necessarily speak out all that loudly on these threads and the ones being referenced on the blue but who are reading and who will flag and contact the mods if they see things turning in an ugly direction, particularly now that the mods have said that they want that to happen more often.

These discussions are never going to be easy (because being human is not easy) but I'm so, so glad that we have them.
posted by h00py at 1:33 AM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think July by women may have been a catalyst in the sense that I (at least, as a guy), felt it really greatly increased the number of posts by women, and I think as a by-product increased the number of posts about things women are interested in and care about - including feminism. I feel like based on the comments at the time it also made some women here feel safe and more confident about posting in general and also perhaps posting about feminism stuff.

Sadly I think the... incidences we've seen since are indicating that the site or community is not wholly ready for what felt at the time to me was a terrific shift, a genuine blossoming.

A number of users were /are determined to fight this, I feel, they want to take the site backwards to a place they were more comfortable in, and I think a larger number of users don't see this struggle or are thinking "what's the fuss?", which enables the first group.

I think, I hope, this is a transition state and is a conflict based on a change, because the metafilter I want to see sure as hell looks more like how the community was functioning in July, than what it is today.

I'm not trying to speak for any of the women on this site, this is all coming from an inescapably male perspective, and it's limited as a result, but this is how I view it, and as I have the privilege to be able to fight for making that shift permanent, making every month like July, goddamnit I will. And if anyone asks me for assistance in that, I will help, and if anyone thinks I'm being a blocker to that vision, I will step back. It's a state worth fighting for, for me, as a man, a mefite, and even as someone always banging in about civility and how tone matters.

A good first step would be continuing to tell problematic users to stay the hell away from those pet derail topics, the right to argue is not worth the loss of community faith it is engendering and there are and always will be plenty of other threads. I appreciate the mods attention and thought in this thread: please don't run up a white flag on this one, I feel like the community is at a bit of a crossroads here, let's keep making sure we're on the right side of history.
posted by smoke at 2:21 AM on February 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


It's really disheartening to hear the number of women who have had it or are nearly there. It's also disheartening to realize just how few "that guys" (on some subjects we have "that guys" of both genders) it takes to derail or completely sink a thread, and make valuable people discouraged, or have them give up entirely.
posted by maxwelton at 2:34 AM on February 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


An experiment I would like to see would be a delay between the time a thread is posted and when the first comment can be left. It doesn't have to be a long delay, but it would give everyone time to actually investigate the links, for concerned parties to use the contact form to say "uh, this is all rape apologist BS" or "uh, this is all anti-men crap" (I assume that's the opposite, dunno) or "uh, the linked stuff is OK but this framing is going to have people flaming out."

It would also give the mods a chance to consult their cheat sheet and see "ah, great, another hot button thread" and maybe post a quick note at the head that everyone will be on a short leash if the thread is to stick around. Heck, in my dream world the mods even have the ability to consult their notes and see "maxwelton never does well in these threads", and have a flag light up if I post something, on the theory it probably deserves some scrutiny.

I of course would just assume they're in the 1% or are lackeys thereof, or perhaps have taken payments from the prison-industrial complex, or maybe they're just cops. I have my issues, to be sure.
posted by maxwelton at 2:47 AM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


So, there's been a lot going on, here, but I'd like to specifically address the "tone absolutely matters!" thing. This is a dynamic I've seen again and again in a variety of online fora and communities when certain subjects relating to feminist (and to a somewhat lesser extent LGBT and race) issues come up. There's a pretty consistent pattern in these things; it doesn't necessarily matter what the specific issue happens to be, because it happens with almost all of them. Talk about the problem of rape and sexual assault and it's "but what about false rape allegations? Look at this case and this case, I think you have to agree this is a Serious Problem!"; talk about the way women are objectified and it's "but men are objectified too! What about those Calvin Klein billboards with David Beckham?"; talk about women's health issues, and it's "but why aren't vasectomies covered under the ACA?"; talk about domestic violence, and it's "but men are victims too!"; talk about workplace inequality and the gender pay gap and the problem of female representation at all levels of society, and it's "but more men are in prison! More men die on the job! I have to register for the draft!"; if it's about the inherent misogyny of certain societal dynamics, it's "but the dictionary says 'misogyny' means 'hatred of women'!", et cetera ad infinitum ad nauseam. And in pretty much every single instance where this happens, the stalwart defenders of the status quo paint themselves as "logical" and "rational" and "interested in the facts", and if there's any pushback, then, why, you're being overly emotional about this issue. Why can't you be calm and dispassionate? Why so angry? Why can't you accept that these relatively rare counterexamples I've provided just totally discredit your entire argument? Which ends up making most discussions of such things degenerate into "but what about the men?" And seeing the same pattern repeating over and over and over, it gets hard to maintain one's equanimity and to remain civil.

As an aside I actually tried to think of basically any issue at all that would personally affect a white, heterosexual, cisgender American male to the degree that the "contentious" issues affect women, LGBT and people of colour, and...I couldn't come up with a single one. There's a definite social power dynamic in play that makes telling non-white/non-male/non-cis/non-hetero people "I'd like to listen to what you have to say, but you're really just too fighty" very problematic, honestly.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 3:11 AM on February 24, 2015 [37 favorites]


shivohum can you please stay out of threads relating to women?

If he doesn't, mods can you tell him to?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:41 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Then are you going ban snark across the entire site? Because that's what would be fair. I'm not sure why it is the case that only the minority must refrain from making fun of the majority's sacred cows and not vice-versa.

Stop equivocating.

Conspire opened this thread asking whether women on MetaFilter were feeling unwelcome based on the tenor in threads dealing with false allegations of sexual assault. Some indicated that the excess of snark there were part of a much larger problem where they felt certain users weren't willing to listen to the lived experiences of women, particularly those who had experienced sexual assault.

Being asked (not told!) not to snark when it might be pushing away the very people who Conspire wanted to ask isn't heavy-handed or uneven moderation, it's common courtesy.

Right, and many people here are trying to equate these examples with actual counterarguments with real validity to them, questions like the ones Prof. Halley brought up about sexual assault in her law review article.

That's a dramatic mischaracterization of what other posters have said. The closest thing I can find is jeather's comment early on, which I'm going to quote in its entirety:

Certain topics are inherently disrespectful. If I said "Look, I want more respectful discussions, and could we ban the debate about whether Jews ACTUALLY control the world's money and also faked the Holocaust", there would be nothing disingenuous about that.

In any case, that isn't what people are asking for. "Could we keep 'but what about the men!' out of discussions about rape" and "you know, we've had a lot of discussion about false rape accusations and this looks bad especially when usually there's a limit about active posts on the same topic" are not saying "no one can ever discuss what happens to people who are accused of rape anywhere on mefi ever".


jeather's first point was fairly clearly just saying that certain topics can be offensive, regardless of how well they're framed, but that this isn't one anyway. Instead, their main critique was that we've talked to death (in their opinion) false rape allegations, to the serious exclusion of the effects of rape on its victims, including in college environments.

These counterarguments, though perhaps valid, people say, are just minor distractions from the real big injustices that Ought to Be Emphasized, and so are just as bad or even worse than the obviously false and offensive claims.

I want to make sure I'm parsing this right. You're arguing that some posters think that one isolated case of a man suffering minor but highly unjust treatment after what appears to be a poorly handled allegation of rape is a smaller problem than as much as 20% of women in colleges suffering sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their college career? I think that's a fairly accurate characterization of several posters' positions, but I'm not sure why you're surprised that that's the case.

There's a much larger trend, historically and otherwise, as has been pointed out on this thread and the FPP innumerable times that many times false rape allegations have been used as a fig leaf to cover up outright misogyny and prevent taking any action to prevent common and widespread violent crimes for occurring. Finding the use of such claims offensive and objecting to prioritizing a small number of cases with what appear to be relatively minor consequences over victims of violent crimes is really not an unusual position, and I'm still unclear why you find this point of view so injurious.

And debating what Ought to Be Emphasized is itself a distraction from what Ought to Be Emphasized.

I don't believe you are debating what "Ought to Be Emphasized". I don't think anyone is. The original request was just a straw poll to see how people were feeling about these threads. Since then, posters have complained that women feel unwelcome because we talk about particular aspects of sexual assault and ignore others, so it would be nice if we could be careful about that, and about making women feel unwelcome here.

Coming in here dragging in arguments from the Blue is derail-ish to begin with (though that's been happening a ton in this thread, so I don't think it matters that much, personally), but your inability or unwillingness to read the plain sense of what other posters have written is tiring and requires tons of energy to respond to, and that's precisely what the littany of complaints about threads on sexual assault has indicated is a huge problem here.

There's no winning here, and no exit.

For the nth time, this isn't a fucking debate club. There aren't winners who rack up points for making bold statements. If anything, we all lose when we make women and victims of sexual assault feel unwelcome on this site. We lose valuable perspectives and insights.

And if you want to lave, the exit's over there, no one's making you stay. If you want to talk about the law review article, go back to the FPP, it's still open (and the discussion there really isn't that hostile as of the last time I looked). But if you're going to stay here, can you find some way of engaging that involves a more careful read of what people have said, their positions they're taking, and the places they're coming from? As it stands, your comments (and similar ones by others) are making MetaFilter a far less welcome and far less enjoyable place for me to be, and I suspect they're doing the same for others.
posted by thegears at 5:21 AM on February 24, 2015 [31 favorites]


As a side note, not really aimed at shivohum or anyone else, this illustrates a point with snark or snappy one-liners on sensitive threads in general, regardless of the point you're making. Responding to a 31-word comment* with a 718-word comment take time and effort and frankly isn't sustainable if there are a ton of people being snarky in a way that is irritating others

One of the features of MeFi's non-threaded comments is that snappy one-liners can get posted first (because they take less time to write) and can derail the discussion with minimal effort, when on Reddit they might get downvoted and somewhere else with threaded comments, they might just never get replies in the first place.

Again, I don't really have a solution here to make this work easier, but I dislike snark, prima facie, for just that reason, when it occurs on sensitive topics that others are trying to address thoughtfully.

*not counting quoted comments, on either comment
posted by thegears at 6:14 AM on February 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


I share KathrynT's impression that things have gotten a lot worse since JBW, though I would believe any out of (a) it was fueled by JulyByWomen, (b) it's because JulyByWomen occured partly in response to an already growing trend, (c) coincidence, (d) JulyByWomen was a relative eye-of-the-storm and things seem worse in comparison to a relatively good month, etc.

Probably it is all of those things, and part of why July By Women feels like an inflection point is that it represented a temporary but very noticeable uptick in participation by women and a strong assertion of belonging and community membership by women. After JBW that participation dipped back down at the same time as the pushback (or whatever we want to call the "skirting the boundaries of the rules" stuff) got more traction.

Personally, as a man, JulyByWomen had the best set of FPPs (and hence discussions) that I have encountered in my time here. That was what I would like MetaFilter to be all of the time, and instead we have been moving slowly but directly away from that since then.

But from a management perspective, there's no way to achieve that passively or without committing resources. Without having any insight into the management decision making process here, it does not appear that currently there is either the desire or the ability to do that, and that is unfortunate. Jessamyn's retirement meant more than just a loss of coverage hours -- there was a simultaneous change in the gender ratio of the moderator team and a palpable shift in focus. None of which makes anyone a bad person, but it's never likely to get different outcomes while doing the same things, so I very much doubt that there will be any significant shifts towards a more "JulyByWomen" tone without a commensurate shift in management approach and direction.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:20 AM on February 24, 2015 [20 favorites]


Count me among those that are extremely disappointed that this thread largely turned into an illustration of the problem at hand rather than a productive discussion of how to improve it. It's especially disheartening that it was derailed by about four or five users that have histories of this exact behavior. They should have been corralled much earlier.
posted by almostmanda at 7:26 AM on February 24, 2015 [33 favorites]


there's no way to achieve that passively

Just echoing this. Fostering good communication isn't just about "setting the bar" or adjusting the dial on what's delete-worthy. No structure is neutral, so there has to be a choosing as to what the structure will favor. At its heart, this isn't a conflict about choice of words or tone, or even women or feminism. At all. It's a conflict about how we, as individuals and as a community, define justice and fairness.

People who want to use Mefi as a venue to marginalize the views of traditionally oppressed group members are arguing for a standard of fairness in discourse that lets them publicly espouse whatever views they want (as long as it remains within bounds of civility that they author) and, presumably, lets other people respond to those as long as they stay within the bounds, too, and -- well, let the best man win, I suppose. This "level playing field" model seems neutral on its face, but in practice, it privileges the marginalizers. The logical outcome of this platform is that people who don't care to have their views marginalized will just stop participating, because it comes at too high a cost to encounter further marginalization in a place that ostensibly favors open conversation and exploration of experience. The result is a narrowing of the views and experiences shared, which is in opposition to the stated goals of even the marginalizers.

Meanwhile, a more justice-focused standard of discourse would recognize that MeFi exists in a social matrix of oppression and marginalization and has the opportunity to provide a space for the airing of a broader diversity of views and experiences than is tolerated in the wider society. It would set the parameters more sensitively on topics in which members of oppressed groups experience intolerance and harassment in the wider society, intentionally, as a means of broadening the range of views and ideas aired here, and would not apologize for doing so. The views of marginalizers would likely still be a part of this kind of a MeFi (since whatever motivates marginalizing also seems to mean they can't seem to stay away from these topics), but the tolerance for their employment of easily recognized* oppressive tropes during the discourse would be much lower.

It may be that MetaFilter, as a community, wants to visibly commit to the "level playing field" model of parameter-setting rather than the "adjusted to privilege the lesser-heard views in the interest of wider conversation" model. If that becomes the case, it seems certain that the participation of people oppressed in the wider society (this is not just about women, after all) will drop off. As long as the definition of "fairness" in discourse includes defending the right of people to marginalize already oppressed views, there will be people who see the messages they get about simply being here as unjust, and of course it should not be surprising to see people bail on a place they do not feel justly treated.

*The issue of training on how to recognize those tropes also seems to be an issue/need, but it's aside of my point just now.
posted by Miko at 7:55 AM on February 24, 2015 [37 favorites]


there was a simultaneous change in the gender ratio of the moderator team and a palpable shift in focus

I feel weird about this being brought out repeatedly when we have a staff of four full time and two part time moderators and women make up half of that, split basically evenly on hours. Like, I understand the concern, but there's a weird sort of "the women on staff who aren't Jessamyn don't count" implication that comes with it that feels enormously unfair to restless_nomad, taz, and LobsterMitten in the way it packs a more general concern about how women feel on the site down to some kind of condemnation of the half-female staff for not...I'm not even sure what, and I guess that's part of why I find it so uncomfortable even if I can appreciate the larger context.

Unless there's a specific perception that the women on the staff here (a) are being prevented by the men on staff from expressing their concerns or (b) just don't care in the first place about women's issues—both of which perceptions I vehemently disagree with as someone who finds it incredibly valuable to work with all three of them and have their perspectives be a huge aspect of everything we do—then it seems like, however inadvertently, throwing them under the bus in service of putting together a tighter narrative about site moderation.

I think there is a ton of valuable stuff being talked about in here, and I really appreciate folks being willing to talk at length about their concerns for the site historically and recently and going forward, but I am not comfortable having that include an implicit dismissal of the women who work here and contribute a tremendous amount to Metafilter's moderation and site culture. Please think carefully about framing this stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:01 AM on February 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


I think we will need to agree to disagree then, and I will take that as my cue to step away from this thread.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:12 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Cortex, that seems like a strawman. Someone can state that the ratio and focus seemed to shift without dismissing the women who work here. Unless you're saying that jessamyn had no influence on the site? It is clear that she did. Can we not acknowledge that?

It sounds like you're basically saying that someone seeing a difference is insulting to the female mods. Which I have to say is intensely frustrating. The female mods don't have to suck or be cowed or whatever in order for there to be a difference.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:26 AM on February 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think Jessamyn had a much higher level of understanding of dogwhistles and common silencing tropes and was much quicker about shutting down people using silencing tactics than the remaining moderators have shown.

I don't say that to make any comment about anyone's commitment or intelligence, but I do think the site lost an immense wealth of practical knowledge on these issues with her departure, and that lack of knowledge has meant less willingness to intervene early and to recognize patterns of behavior.
posted by jaguar at 8:28 AM on February 24, 2015 [38 favorites]


I feel weird about this being brought out repeatedly when we have a staff of four full time and two part time moderators and women make up half of that, split basically evenly on hours. Like, I understand the concern, but there's a weird sort of "the women on staff who aren't Jessamyn don't count" implication that comes with it that feels enormously unfair to restless_nomad, taz, and LobsterMitten in the way it packs a more general concern about how women feel on the site down to some kind of condemnation of the half-female staff for not...I'm not even sure what, and I guess that's part of why I find it so uncomfortable even if I can appreciate the larger context.

Jessamyn had a different moderation style, and repeatedly gave the impression that she had a specific 'vision' for an ideal Metafilter. Possibly in part because she had been a mod here for such a long time. So, she was both more visible and more outspoken than Lobstermitten, restless nomad or taz in responding to misogynistic (or borderline) comments, and also in voicing her dislike for FPPs on certain subjects.

She was also excellent at noting publicly (and on occasion privately,) when someone had a problematic history with regard to a topic -- adding context to mod interactions, and signalling to the user base that something they (we) may have noticed is on the mods' radar. That continuity is something you are particularly good at as well, cortex, and I think its importance shouldn't be discounted. We aren't supposed to publicly examine other users' histories to note troublesome patterns of behavior, so when you mods say you're aware of those patterns it helps us know you're clued in.

Taz, Lobstermitten and restless nomad are all fine mods with their own strengths. But between the current lack of overlapping coverage and Jessamyn's absence from the moderation team, the difference in how certain topics are handled has been noticeable.
posted by zarq at 8:31 AM on February 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


She was also excellent at noting publicly (and on occasion privately,) when someone had a problematic history with regard to a topic -- adding context to mod interactions, and signalling to the user base that something they (we) may have noticed is on the mods' radar. That continuity is something you are particularly good at as well, cortex, and I think its importance shouldn't be discounted.

Yeah, I agree it's not a gender issue among the moderators, because I do find cortex is pretty good at also paying more attention to systemic issues, both site-as-system and how systemic inequalities play out here. I just think the site has moved backward a bit in that users from oppressed/marginalized groups are now having to do a lot more education of the moderators on how those oppressions pop up here, just as a baseline education in order to start discussions on how moderation may need to shift a bit to address those issues, and it's added a layer of work that seemed much less necessary before.

I realize I could be misremembering or overromanticizing jessamyn's participation. But I generally felt that she "got it" very quickly when these issues were brought up, while I now feel like there's often much more initial reluctance to admit a problem even exists, which means that everyone's frustrated by the time actual policies get discussed.
posted by jaguar at 8:37 AM on February 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


I mean, if I thought about it I'd probably be occasionally bummed that I'm not jessamyn, but it's not actually insulting for people to acknowledge that I'm not actually jessamyn and that we are not completely interchangeable.

I gotta be honest, cortex, you and mathowie both have been super quick to mod/chasten/read subtle insults from people who are complaining about sexism. And then you're like molasses in winter when it comes to actual sexist stuff that is any more subtle than "I literally hate women". I'm generalizing, but it is a notable pattern. And it sends a message.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:41 AM on February 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


It's not just that moderation has suffered generally because there are now fewer moderation resources, it's that it has suffered specifically because one of the moderation resources that was lost was jessamyn, who had a number of unique qualities. I'd suggest that the issue in moderation isn't properly framed as "the remaining moderators implicitly suck" or "one fewer female moderator has put the site out of balance" as much as it is something like "jessamyn's deep experience with the site, her skill in striking the appropriate balance between candor and tact, and her visible feminist presence are hard to replace, and it's not surprising that moderation's not as good without her on the job."
posted by MoonOrb at 8:43 AM on February 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


Or to put it another way, if we were to find out that jessamyn was resuming a moderation role, I don't think it would be controversial to say "the moderation team just got better," and that would reflect in no way on its other members.
posted by MoonOrb at 8:48 AM on February 24, 2015


I gotta be honest, cortex, you and mathowie both have been super quick to mod/chasten/read subtle insults from people who are complaining about sexism. And then you're like molasses in winter when it comes to actual sexist stuff that is any more subtle than "I literally hate women". I'm generalizing, but it is a notable pattern.

I also eel I should point out how I honestly feel here, and you certainly can tell me you think I'm wrong, ifdssn9, but there's only a handful of times [in this thread at least] that cortex or mathowie have specifically made negative statements about those comments complaining about sexism. And at least the latest comment by cortex was very clearly written [to my eyes] to be clear that he wasn't accusing you of insulting the female mods, just that it made him feel uncomfortable and that he had misgivings about the implications of the way you worded it. I would agree it seemed a littly nitpicky to me as well, but I think there's a distinction there worth making.

And second, I suspect some of the "molasses in winter" is because mods are stepping back to write thoughtful, constructive responses, which they appear to have done fairly consistently in this thread (with the exception of a few times quickly telling people to stop doing a particular thing.

That all being said, there were an awful lot of derail-y comments that stood without mod comment for an awful long time in this thread, and I think those above me are correct to point out jessamyn had a knack for seeing microaggressions and dog whistles that would have improved this thread in particular.
posted by thegears at 8:52 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like we'd be better off focusing on an issue the existing mod team can actually do anything about. The ship has sailed with Jessamyn on it and it ain't coming back. If the problem is that people are Not Jessamyn - and perhaps it is - the solution is going to have to involve them continuing to be Not Jessamyn.
posted by phearlez at 8:56 AM on February 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


Unless you're saying that jessamyn had no influence on the site? It is clear that she did. Can we not acknowledge that?

Jessamyn has had a great deal of influence on the site, and I loved working with her and really miss having her on the team. She also had a great deal of influence on moderation philosophy, and on how the rest of us on the team think about a lot of stuff, and her not being an active mod hasn't erased that stuff; as much as losing some of her specific active strengths in her mod presence is a loss for the site, I don't think it's fair to look at changes from her being gone in terms of the mod staff not being female enough vs. just straight up adjusting to a big rework of fewer mod resources and a changed team dynamic.

And it's only that a few times people have specifically addressed it in terms of comparative lack of women on staff that makes that seems like an uncomfortable direction to go with that. That specific thing is I think problematic because it ends up reading in part as an (I think totally unintended!) swipe at the women who do work here. I think it should be reasonable to say that; I think that "hey, this thing you're saying kinda sucks even if you didn't intend it to" is a big part of what people feel like it's important to be able to communicate around here.

The female mods don't have to suck or be cowed or whatever in order for there to be a difference.

Sure, but I also think it's unfair to put the narrative of moderation changing in a period of scaling back and stretched resources on the proportionally insufficient femaleness of a mod staff that's still half women rather than on the core issues of that scaling back and stretching of resources. I think it's important to make that distinction and, again however inadvertently, unkind to LM and taz and r_n to drop the "changing ratio" thing in as part of a decline narrative. And it's just come up enough times that I want to acknowledge that.

I think we will get a lot more done by looking at the specific mechanics of moderation on the site—talking about what can be done differently, what sort of stuff that people feel like has scaled back we can manage to scale back up some, etc.—without going in that specific direction.

I gotta be honest, cortex, you and mathowie both have been super quick to mod/chasten/read subtle insults from people who are complaining about sexism.

I have all kinds of things I need to work on as a moderator and a tendency to sort of dig in on something when it gets up my shirt is one of 'em. In that spirit, I felt like I needed to say something this morning because it's been actively bothering me, but I don't want to drag it out beyond this and do precisely that digging-in thing because this isn't something I feel like the thread is particularly about. But the thing I'm being defensive about here is not a complaint about sexism, it's a trend of being however unintentionally unkind in implication to the women on staff here in the service of otherwise understandable arguments about moderation practice.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:56 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


This conversation about what Jessamyn did has to do with my note above: "*The issue of training on how to recognize those tropes also seems to be an issue/need, but it's aside of my point just now." I have a lot of respect and personal liking and appreciation for our current mod team, and I think they do a good job in almost all respects. But I, too, notice that the awareness of and sensitivity to microaggressions and attack tropes is not as sharply honed as it is in many of the users. That disconnect results in a lot of what ends up looking like "HOW could you not mod this OBVIOUS sexist incident." It's only obvious if you've gone through the process of problematizing it and noticing it as part of a much larger rhetorical pattern in society. Not everyone has done that on every issue and trope, not even all feminists (or whatever category is being marginalized at the moment). It's not gender-dependent. It's an awareness thing that can develop through training, conversation, etc, but needs to be developed - people aren't born with it, we learn and teach these codes in discourse.

It reminds me about that whole social-science thesis about girls being so much less aggressive/bullying than boys and getting in trouble so much less at school: the real story is just that forms of aggression girls were socialized into were successful at being subtle enough not to push the "obvious to outsiders" button, whereas boys' forms of aggression were much more visible. This is the same thing in reverse: the site is rife with forms of aggression that are subtle enough not to push the buttons of people who are not sensitive to it. They fall below a standard we can easily see as "attack" or [my now most hated internet word] "vitriol." They are, nevertheless, real attacks, and perceivable by both the intended target and the originator of the message (in cases where it's not just a fumble by someone in good faith or new to the idea).
posted by Miko at 9:03 AM on February 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


I'd just like to add a quick comment that I also feel that the site has backpedaled on sensitive/nuanced topics and that I feel like participation isn't really worth it right now. This may be due to mod scaleback, but is more likely a result of a veritable stew of factors including bigger things outside the scope of the site. Online misogyny and racism in the US are both things that have gotten huge amounts of attention over the past year, to such a degree that many communities I am a part of have been forced to come down on a particular side. Most of these have chosen to support women and people of color, but the attention and "contentiousness" of these topics have meant that a lot of people who have gross opinions are suddenly very vocal about them. I think MetaFilter might be going through a similar thing, and it's been difficult for me to engage in topics that interest me without becoming angry or drained. While anger doesn't invalidate points and perspectives, feeling like I need to preemptively defend myself puts me in a bad place and I end up expressing myself poorly, lashing out at people I like and generally not feeling rewarded by discussion on a topic I care about.
posted by byanyothername at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


That specific thing is I think problematic because it ends up reading in part as an (I think totally unintended!) swipe at the women who do work here.

No, I am taking a totally intentional swipe at the male owner (and less so, but still to some degree, at yourself) for a combination of poor outcomes and poor communication. Your decision to interpet it as a swipe against the female mod staff is odd but not particularly surprising, honestly. There are a lot of quite direct criticisms of moderation policy coming in here and it can't be fun to read.

And with that I'm going to take an actual break because getting cranky about Internet stuff on a beautiful sunny day is not how I want to live my life.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:12 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I didn't read the comments on the mod ratio as a swipe at any of the current mods, and that seems like a weird message to pull out of Dip Flash's comment, which came across to me as more like "These things are all correlated and we shouldn't ignore that." It's sort of a tone deaf response to DF pointing out, entirely correctly, that this started getting worse around the time Jessamyn left.
posted by almostmanda at 9:17 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Jessamyn is a unique and amazing person whose presence is sorely missed, I absolutely agree, and her leaving coincides with a lot of changes that cumulatively are the stuff people are noticing in here.

I also appreciate cortex trying to stand up for us as co-workers, it's a good and kind impulse.

And I appreciate the folks who are trying to help us work through this stuff even though it's draining for them to do so.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:25 AM on February 24, 2015 [17 favorites]


byanyothername's comment that this is not just a Mefi problem is entirely correct. It's in the zeitgeist. Although I think that should/could prompt MeFi to think about where the site stands, or wants to stand, in that general cultural mix.
posted by Miko at 9:29 AM on February 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yeah, no disrespect meant to the current mod team (and in particular I'll give a shout-out to restless_nomad, who has been unfailingly responsive, patient and open in my interactions with her as a mod, including some times when I was probs not the most fun person to be dealing with), but the site and moderation approach does feel like it's changed in jessamyn's absence. Part of that is down to reduced resources (i.e. there's more of a lag in situations where a mod note would help things from going off the rails in contentious Metas/FPPs, and intervention seems to more often take the form of deletion rather than mod notes), part of that also has to do with jessamyn's skill at nipping shit in the bud and walking the sometimes precarious line of "This is not an official sanction but as someone who has to keep this place from turning into a howling lava pit I wish you would stop."

There is also the issue that when the New Wave of British heavy metal mods got hired on, they got (IMO) a disproportionate amount of static (and often weirdly personal static) basically for doing their jobs, which I think kind of contributed to the mod team as a whole going for a less direct approach. I have to agree with the take in this comment: it seemed like a lot of people, consciously or not, thought of them as being easier marks or less authoritative than mathowie/cortex/jessamyn, and basically ramped up the shittiness. I'm not totally sure how to square the circle on this.
posted by kagredon at 9:33 AM on February 24, 2015 [20 favorites]


byanyothername's comment that this is not just a Mefi problem is entirely correct. It's in the zeitgeist.

I think this is true, and I'm glad there's a larger conversation going on about this stuff. That said, Metafilter is my go-to for reading more learning more and hearing others' perspectives, because people here are reliably thoughtful and articulate, and I respect most of the users here, and I don't know where else to find that. I imagine that's why a lot of people frequent the place. And that's an added reason, I think, to examine "where the site stands, or wants to stand, in that general cultural mix," as Miko says.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:34 AM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Cortex, LobsterMitten--thanks for the support there. I can certainly see where keeping up with this thread and processing it must have been really hard to do in real time, and I do really appreciate the detailed, long comment cortex made upthread about where he is in his processing.

Re: the commentary about the Jessamyn discussion having unfortunate implications for the other female mods, I can actually see where cortex is coming from here. There's a lot of discussion that does sort of elide LM, taz and restless_nomad's role in the mod team and sort of places Jessamyn as a stand-in for "women on the moderation team." I mean, I don't recall much about the pre-Jessamyn-leaving era, but I certainly am getting some of the same vibe that cortex mentions with respect to eliding the existence of the three female mods we do have. It's hard to try to step in and fill vacancies left by much-beloved personalities, especially as part of a community where trust in the moderation is such a huge part of the site dynamics. Thinking about the female mods we do have is maybe a good thing to keep in mind when discussing the decline in how women are treated on MeFi.

Regarding July By Women--is that going to be an annual thing, or was it a one-off? Because I think that making it a repeating thing might actually help. It certainly sounds like the site could use a similar event again. I know July is a long ways off, but I'm really interested in knowing the answer to that.
posted by sciatrix at 9:40 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


being a person in the majority affords you the privilege of not really having to deal with eating a bunch of shit from people all the time

This is categorically not true when you consider cascading scales of oppression. And that's actually why I really object to cortex's statements being taken specifically about how internet feminists interact. I don't think that's what he was trying to say at all - I think he was making a broader, general point about site interactions, and I think that spills over into less clearcut stuff than "misogynist vs nonmisogynist." If someone is being snarky in a religion thread, and justifies it as "Well, religious people are the majority in the world and never catch shit" they are ignoring the other facets of someone's being. Maybe that person that you just gave shit-snark is also a lady, a person of color, LGBT, disabled, or whatever. They may well have some segment of underprivilege such that they constantly catch shit, and your giving them shit to eat is not speaking some brave truth and it's not making the world better. It's actively being poisonous to someone who already probably bears a heavy load.
posted by corb at 9:45 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


> And in pretty much every single instance where this happens, the stalwart defenders of the status quo paint themselves as "logical" and "rational" and "interested in the facts", and if there's any pushback, then, why, you're being overly emotional about this issue.

The thing is, this line of argument is based on the stereotype that women are emotional, irrational and incapable of logical reasoning. It's very common with men who have traditionalist views about gender, so it gets trotted out a lot in threads about gender issues. It's usually not based on anything in the comments they're responding to. It can happen that someone they're responding to is actually being angry or emotional, but it's pretty much coincidental if it does. No amount of trying to be calm and rational will help with this. In the minds of men who view women this way, women are inherently emotional and irrational. Nothing about any comment a woman makes, or how she's says it, will change their view. They'll always see any comment made by a woman as emotional and irrational because it was made by a woman. That's it. The content doesn't matter.

I think comments asserting that women are irrational, emotional and incapable of reasoning should be put on a list things that we should flag whenever we see them and pretty much instantly deleted when flagged, along with variants of 'I'd hit that' and racial and ethnic slurs. I don't think you should have to be a feminist to be on MetaFilter (and we don't need more arguments about who's a real feminist), but brandishing and throwing around hateful and vicious stereotypes about women like this in attacks on other MeFites (or women in general) should be prohibited here. I think banning this sort of BS would go a long ways to making gender-related threads less toxic.
posted by nangar at 9:51 AM on February 24, 2015 [27 favorites]


There is also the issue that when the New Wave of British heavy metal mods got hired on, they got (IMO) a disproportionate amount of static (and often weirdly personal static) basically for doing their jobs, which I think kind of contributed to the mod team as a whole going for a less direct approach.

With one exception, I don't think it was disproportionate. (I don't remember the details, but the freakout and pushback against taz when (in a panic,) she deleted dozens of comments from a single thread was probably understandable.)

People have been loudly complaining about post and comment deletions since forever. Cortex and Jessamyn got similar pushback. The one difference that I know of is lady mods receive shitty gendered insults from users, and the men don't. Which sucks. But that's not limited to the new mods.
posted by zarq at 9:55 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Regarding July By Women--is that going to be an annual thing, or was it a one-off?

It was sort of conceived on the fly as a community initiative at the time, so as far as that goes I don't think it's formally one or the other, but I'd certainly like to see it come around again. I thought it was a really positive thing in general and as I recall a lot of users got their first posts in or got more comfortable with the idea of posting as a result, which was a great outcome.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:02 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Some of missing Jessamyn is just missing Jessamyn, and that ship has sailed, for sure - the current mod team is great if different and my inability to deal with change is my own issue. But a specific thing that it feels to me that we lost when Jessamyn left, is a public face to Metafilter's handling of gender issues. I absolutely believe that a lot of the core values and ideas that Jessamyn brought to the moderating team are still there and affect the conversations and actions happening behind the scenes. But it feels like we lost the main voice saying out loud and in visible spaces what is and is not accepted at Metafilter, and without that, the boundaries seem a lot fuzzier and perpetually under attack.

As another person who has been quietly retreating from Metafilter because of the direction we seem to be going in regard to gender issues, it would make a big difference to my experience of Metafilter if we had one or more mods more publicly addressing these issues in-thread as they arise. I can try to do my part by more energetic flagging of where I think those actions are needed - but as others have said, I can only do that when I can bear to read those threads. More and more often, I just can't burn my limited emotional energy in conversations with people who I believe are not discussing in good faith, in a place where it no longer feels like the mods have my back as an equally valued member of the community. And that sucks. I hate it. I hope it's a dynamic we can all somehow figure out how to turn around.
posted by Stacey at 10:10 AM on February 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


With one exception, I don't think it was disproportionate. (I don't remember the details, but the freakout and pushback against taz when (in a panic,) she deleted dozens of comments from a single thread was probably understandable.)

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree? I wasn't talking about the multi-comment incident either, which is why I didn't link it in my earlier comment; that was definitely a case where taz dropped the ball (which she acknowledged) and the pushback seemed to be the expected level for that kind of mistake. I haven't gone back and done a count, but my impression is that there were a lot of Metas opened and snarking in-comments that was more "my comment got deleted, why does taz|restless_nomad|LobsterMitten hate freedom" rather than "my comment got deleted, why does the mod team hate freedom".

Though yeah, there is most definitely a gendered component, and "why does jessamyn hate freedom" probably occured at a much higher rate than "why does cortex hate freedom". But with a few axe-grindy exceptions or people who were on the verge of flameout, most post/comment deletion complaints in the tri-mod era seemed to direct their beef at the mod team in general, rather than directing their vitriol at one particular mod.
posted by kagredon at 10:20 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


JulyByWomen was cool - let's do it more than once a year.
posted by agregoli at 10:20 AM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


But it feels like we lost the main voice saying out loud and in visible spaces what is and is not accepted at Metafilter, and without that, the boundaries seem a lot fuzzier and perpetually under attack.

I hear that, yeah. That's part of what's been on my mind during this discussion, and is why I think one of the things we are gonna focus on going forward here is trying to get that level of visibility back toward the higher level it was at before. Which won't be the same thing as having Jessamyn's specific voice doing that, but it's clear at this point that having moderator voices in general presenting that higher level of visibility is an important thing independent of how much might be going on in the background.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:29 AM on February 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


I can try to do my part by more energetic flagging of where I think those actions are needed - but as others have said, I can only do that when I can bear to read those threads.

A couple of times since this MeTa went up, I've gone to nope out of a thread -- and then gone back in just long enough to flag the comment that caused me to decide maybe this isn't worth it for me. And when I've gone back and looked, you know what? a lot of the time those comments have been gone and the tenor of the thread had gotten much less burdensome. so I would encourage people to do that thing! It's like flagging it as "Flames, flames on the side of my face."

I realize this doesn't help when you just look at the title of the thread and the 112 comments (112 new) notification and check your internal "dealing with bullshit" capacity meter and sigh and turn away, but a solution doesn't have to be perfect to be helpful.
posted by KathrynT at 10:34 AM on February 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


I feel like, when Jessamyn was here to hold the line - which seemed like she did under her own steam and not as some sort of Moderation Directive - it gave the site a de facto but unwritten pro-feminist stance without having to put it in writing.

(I also feel like her departure accidentally coincided with this current state where misogynists are feeling culturally threatened and have started swelling up in a very obvious misogyny that wasn't necessary in the past. There's no telling what things would look like today here if she hadn't left, but I don't think it would look like 12 or 18 months ago no matter what. That can't be helped.)

It might be time to take an actual stance. It would at least cut off the "your pro-feminist agenda is stopping me from being a misogynist wah" complaints. Yep, it is.

I think it's probably also time to crank down the snark across the board, both as a rhetorical device that allows people to get nasty and pretend it was a joke (and also facilitates huge explosive responses to sometimes really mild hyperbole), and also as some sort of competition to get the best joke in every thread. (There's posts where that works fine, but maybe not on more tense topics where people's feelings are going to run high?) Ultimately it's threadshitty, and should be handled as such. Being more straightforward is not going to hurt anything. I see stuff get deleted, but again I don't see any accompanying commentary specifically saying "this is unhelpful threadshittery" and I think it's those notes that change the culture more than quiet deletions.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:34 AM on February 24, 2015 [22 favorites]


Is this a good time and place to remind everyone that the inimitable Lyn Never set up a little forum for us folks to chat[ter] about feminist stuff?

It would be pretty rad to be able to connect with like-minded MeFites in a setting that's a bit more discerning when it comes to airing the viewpoints of That Guy and his cohorts, who can't help but share their deeply rational and not at all emotional opinion that feminists are stifling discussion by virtue of being humorless, narrow-minded, extremist conformists.

Just think of it: Without those dudes' helpful reminders, we might even be able to elevate our collective first principles slightly above the "but have you contemplated the possibility that men are innocent and women are liars?" pre-remedial level to which we've long since grown accustomed around these parts. So hey, come on by!
posted by divined by radio at 10:35 AM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I cannot describe how demoralizing I find it to consider that this uptick in misogynist assholishness might be a response to July by Women. I haven't paid enough focused attention to have an opinion of my own about that, but holy fuck, I can't even.
posted by OmieWise at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


That Guy and his cohorts, who can't help but share their deeply rational and not at all emotional opinion that feminists are stifling discussion by virtue of being humorless, narrow-minded, extremist conformists.

I don't think that's quite accurate. In any given thread about gender, y'all are allegedly simultaneously humorless and snarky, like some sort of Schrödinger's Feminist.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm with Miko- I think it's just the zeitgeist and July by Women was an attempt to push back at that. I don't think any of this is because of July by Women.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:46 AM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


The rest of the internet didn't get abruptly worse because of July By Women. I really feel like last summer was when a lot of things started coming to a head.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:48 AM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's more my personal impression too. July By Women was a neat thing on the site but it wasn't very visible off-site, certainly not in a way that seemed a likely prompt for an "oh yeah, well we'll show them!" response and for all my tendency to skim the rest of the web and social media for mefi-related stuff I didn't see any hint of that.

The larger zeitgeist has just sucked. MRA shit, Gamergate, online harassment, there's a lot of bad toxic shit in the air online the last year or so in particular, and I think part of the difficulty is that, as noted by someone above, even if we were at the same mod staffing level we had this time last year it'd still have been a shitpile of a year to wade through. Throwing staffing cuts on top of that hasn't helped, for us or for the userbase.

Everything else aside I'm hoping that the balance of 2015 will just be less toxic and gross on the internet in general. For mefi's sake but also just for everybody's emotional health, because, ugh.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


My feeling has been that a lot of men were willing to give lip service to feminism because they thought it was a fad, and now that it's here to stay and not going away and they're starting to feel real impact, we're starting to see a real backlash. This is in the outside world, but bleeding into here.
posted by corb at 11:07 AM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Focusing on what the mods can do:

1. Be more proactive about dealing with "problem users." Maybe have a more streamlined process with fewer "second chances." This will require users being more proactive about identifying problem behavior, flagging, etc.

2. Sometimes deleting larger pieces of threads -- disruptive comments and the responses to them.

Focusing on what users can do:

1. Less "joining the pile-on" and more flagging and alerting the mods.

2. Trying to cut back on the snark and singers in general (although I think this will have limited effect -- people seem to like their snark and zingers).

3. I'd say "don't be That Guy," but the very nature of being That Guy means that you don't realize or don't care that you are.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:42 AM on February 24, 2015 [17 favorites]


Obviously, that should be "snark and zingers." I don't think we need to cut back on singers, because this is pretty much an all-text sort of community. Although a "musical mods vs melodic members" sing-off might be a good April 1 kind of event.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:49 AM on February 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


The Snark and Singers is the name of my new shape note singing group.
posted by OmieWise at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Support act: The Tone Arguments.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:58 AM on February 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


When you're a mod, you're a mod all the way, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:59 AM on February 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


i want you to know cortex that it is literally costing me physical effort not to write that whole parody right now
posted by KathrynT at 12:04 PM on February 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'm zingin' in the rain...
posted by rtha at 12:05 PM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm gonna wash that snark right outta my hair
posted by rtha at 12:06 PM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


From your first comment flag,
To your last Brand New Day.

posted by cjelli at 12:09 PM on February 24, 2015 [12 favorites]


Dear kindly mod mathowie / you gotta understand / it's just our patriarchy / that gets us out of hand
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:10 PM on February 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


I like to post on AskMeFi
Answer the most on AskMeFi
Should I eat toast on AskMeFi
It's ancient and gross on AskMeFi
posted by maxsparber at 12:17 PM on February 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


Do you want to have snark (snark snark)? How about a few mods (mods mods)? I can show you a good post. Let me show you a good post.


(So hard not to quote Cell Block Tango here. It doesn't even need lyrics changes!)
posted by jeather at 12:21 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Would that be the Zingy Snarkdust tour?

Zingy played for time, jiving us that we were boohoo
The mods were aghast
He was the sass
and annoyed the Taz
He took it on to far
but boy what a snark star

posted by barchan at 12:30 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've enjoyed this musical interlude, and hope it continues after my serious note here:

I think it'd be helpful to remind folks that if they are putting together a post that touches on this area and are concerned they might not be putting it together in the best way (they want to avoid grar and discuss issues) the mods have said in the past they're happy to work with people to make sure posts have the best chance (timing, phrasing, framing, etc.) to be successful. I think this is still true, and I hope people will take advantage of that offer.

People will still be people, but for posts in this area, careful post construction can only be helpful.
posted by julen at 12:31 PM on February 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Against misogynist trolls we need every mod we can get!"

"Jessamyn don't belong any more!"

"Cut it, Action Boy! Jessamyn and I started off modding this site!"

"Well, she acts like she just wants to library and not belong!"

"Who wouldn't wanna belong to the mods?"

"Jessamyn ain't been with us for over six months."

"What about the day we clobbered the sockpuppet attacks?"

"Which we couldn't have done without Jessamyn."

"She saved my ever-lovin' sanity!"

"Right! She's always come through for us and she will now."
posted by corb at 12:38 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Absolutely, julen. Running a draft or post framing question by us is always welcome and one of the things the contact form can be great for if you're having any doubts about a post in progress.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:39 PM on February 24, 2015


Would it be worth adding something to the new post workflow so that potential posters can easily run a draft of their post in progress past the mods in advance? Just a "Mod alert" button with "If you think this post might be controversial or covers issues that sometimes go badly on Metafilter, click here to ask the mods for advice." next to it might make a difference. Sometimes a nudge helps people to dtrt. (My choice of wording probably sucks, but hopefully you get the idea.)
posted by pharm at 1:00 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm a little wary of seeming to explicitly encourage the idea of difficult/inflammatory/etc topics as post material by mentioning it specifically on the posting page—as much as that stuff is part of the mix of what gets posted, it's not really the core of the posting philosophy of the site—but we can think about the possibility of adding a more general little "hey, if you want help or advice you can check with the mods" as part of the text people see there, to complement the existing pointer to the guidelines.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:11 PM on February 24, 2015


This sounds churlish but I tend to dislike running drafts through mods (however nice they are - and they are!); I like minimal input, and want to frame the post as I best see fit.

However, the few times I've asked mods for help or to run their eyes over a draft they have had good feedback, and also been very patient in at least one instance where I re-wrote the damn thing several times.

What I'm sayin' is, if you'd rather roll the dice and risk deletion, that's cool too and certainly has been my approach.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, totally. We're available if you want the advice but nobody's required to check in with us first on anything; the flip side of that is that we expect people to try and take it in stride if a post gets deleted, since deletions aren't rebukes and we're always available to talk about it afterward if you want to get a better idea of what the issue was or how to approach a do-over.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:18 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also: on using the contact form, which was discussed up thread as a way to deal with more cloaked aggression/dogwhistles and the like: the mods may not be totally aware of what it's like to use it as someone on the 'other side' (a regular user).

I have used it quite a bit in the past, but am usually reluctant to do so, as when you use the contact form too frequently, you end up feeling like a total crank after a while. So, for me at least, I don't like using the contact form. Others may be okay with it but you do feel like you're that pesky fly bothering people.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:21 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


A more generic text might work better; I'm certainly not wedded to anything I suggested. My hope would be that, worded correctly, it would nudge people towards thinking about post quality a bit more rather than encourage more crappy posts, but it was just a passing thought.

(And yes, with the contact form being on a completely different page and not part of the "new post" flow it feels much more heavyweight somehow.)
posted by pharm at 1:25 PM on February 24, 2015


Dear kindly mod mathowie / you gotta understand / it's just our patriarchy / that gets us out of hand

WOMAN:
We read comments that aren't civil,
call us "hysterical" or "sad."
Golly Moses, natcherly we're mad!

WOMEN:
Gee, Mister Mathowie, we're very upset;
We get all the vitriol no person should get.
We ain't monolithic,
We're no "shrill" cliché,
Just want respect for what we say!

WOMAN:
What we say!

WOMEN:
What we say, what we say,
About our lives each day!
There's experience in what we say!

MEFITE: (Spoken) That's a touchin' good story.

WOMAN: (Spoken) Lemme tell it to the world!

MEFITE: Just tell it to the men.

WOMAN:
Dear kindly men who're mefites,
Please listen when we speak.
If a thread is about women,
Please think before you peep.
To you it's a fun topic,
To us it's our real lives.
Leapin' lizards! Sometimes it gives me hives!

MAN: (spoken) Right!
Mister Mathowie, you're a man, too;
Together there's some work that men on this site should do!
We oughta listen, and be more aware!
That's how we'll show women we care!

WOMAN:
Yes, show you care!

WOMEN:
Show you care, show you care,
That's the first step there,
Supporting women's speech will show you care.

MAN: (Spoken) In the opinion of this man, this woman's experience is--

WOMAN: (Spoken) Hey, nice try but that's not how to do it!

MAN: (Spoken) So whaddya gotta do?

WOMAN: (Sings)
When a woman's talking,
About her own damn life,
Hold on to your opinions
About what she's doing right.
She don't need your validation,
She needs you to hear.
Goodness gracious, let your ego disappear!

WOMEN: Yes!
Mister Mathowie, you really do try,
But things around here have been getting tense on the sly.
Please pay attention, that's all we've desired,
Because, man, we're getting awful tired!

WOMAN:
I'm so tired!

WOMEN:
We are tired, we are tired,
We are awful tired,
It's wearing on us and we're tired!

MAN: In my opinion... um, I mean, yeah, listen to what she said!

WOMEN:
That is good, that is good!
You are doing good,
Supporting women's speech is good!

WOMAN:
Men imply I'm crazy.

WOMEN:
Men imply we're fringe.

WOMAN:
But they do in terms so hazy,
To speak up looks like a whinge.

WOMEN:
The trouble isn't growing.

WOMAN:
The trouble's already grown.

TOGETHER:
Mathowie, we got more trouble than you've known!

Gee, Mister Mathowie,
We're down on our knees,
'Cause no one wants to see all these great women leave.
Gee, Mister Mathowie,
What are we to do?
Tell us Mathowie!
Please do!
posted by ocherdraco at 1:34 PM on February 24, 2015 [82 favorites]


Well now, THAT was a work of art.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:38 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ha!
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:38 PM on February 24, 2015


it makes sense to me that with a user base this large that we'll have different experiences with the contact form and how we feel about it. speaking only for myself, i've always found the mods to be quick to respond and deal with the issues when appropriate, and when we disagree being forthcoming about their position while still acknowledging my concerns. a++++ would contact form again
posted by nadawi at 1:41 PM on February 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


I propose that all future difficult MeTa threads be conducted in song. The mods can reply with choreographed musical numbers.

ocherdraco, that was the highlight of my day.
posted by Ruki at 1:48 PM on February 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is the corollary to my STILL UNFULFILLED PONY that all personal arguments be conducted through rap battle.
posted by corb at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Just to give you a bit of frisson, there's always Blasdelb's epic battle rap to look back on.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:57 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


i want you to know cortex that it is literally costing me physical effort not to write that whole parody right now

As you can see, I failed to resist. Solidarity, fellow feminists!

Now back to packing for my move on Thursday.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:57 PM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


ocherdraco, that was seriously so fantastic it made me sing along!
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


it gave the site a de facto but unwritten pro-feminist stance without having to put it in writing.
...
It might be time to take an actual stance.


I agree, it's time the place was labeled as a Progressive site.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 2:01 PM on February 24, 2015


it's time the place was labeled as a Progressive site.

Oh, PPPPPPPTTHTHTHTHTTHTHTHTTHTHBBBBBFFFF.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:10 PM on February 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


I agree, it's time the place was labeled as a Progressive site.

I'm super lefty liberal, but I don't want to live in an echo chamber. Just because I don't agree with someone's politics doesn't mean I don't think they have interesting things to say. I'd rather have a site that's respectful. Sexism isn't respect. Racism isn't respect. Transphobia is not respect. (Etc, etc.) Dismissing perfectly good comments because of someone's background is not respect.
posted by Ruki at 2:10 PM on February 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


I think that would be a mistake but I also don't think it's going to happen. You can say that the site doesn't tolerate various things without labeling yourself a progressive site.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I agree, it's time the place was labeled as a Progressive site.

I...what does this even mean though? I think you're trying to beat a drum of some sort, but there's not some Registry of Progressive Sites. Mathowie is not cackling in his secret Progressive Lair at having hoodwinked the world into thinking that Metafilter is...whatever the opposite of "Progressive site" would be.
posted by kagredon at 2:14 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, was santb being sarcastic? I can't tell.
posted by Justinian at 2:15 PM on February 24, 2015


I agree, it's time the place was labeled as a Progressive site.

I don't think you actually mean this. That said, I don't think the site should be labeled as a progressive/leftist/liberal/whatever site. I would be happy with moderation that clamped down on sidelong bigotry.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:15 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Obviously it's supposed to be a warning:

CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION

THERE MAY BE DISCUSSION OF TOPICS THAT MAY BE OF INTEREST TO WOMEN

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR GANGS OF SHRILL, HUMORLESS FEMINISTS

WEAR YOUR ARMOR OF THICK SKIN AND REMAIN ARMED WITH REASONED REBUTTALS AT ALL TIMES

posted by zombieflanders at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2015 [28 favorites]


Sudden tangential question -

Is that, in fact, how you spell the sound of a "raspberry"?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:20 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


It is now.
posted by dg at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


there is this site that you can ask questions and it spits out answers
posted by twist my arm at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2015


Yeah, we've been pretty clear over the years that Metafilter by design does not and will not have some kind of official ideological mission statement. That's bothered a few people for varying and often strongly contrasting reasons, but I think the userbase as a whole has pretty decent understanding of that.

We can work hard to keep crappy stuff off the site without having to announce that Metafilter is now specifically ideological in mission rather than just aspiring to be a non-shitty place to post cool stuff, discuss interesting web content, ask questions, etc. Anyone who feels like it's some sort of violation of truth in advertising to not hang out an Official Secret Liberal Clubhouse banner on the front page or whatever is gonna have to live with disappointment.

Is that, in fact, how you spell the sound of a "raspberry"?

We should check with iamkimiam or one of our other site linguists to see if there's an IPA character for a like labiolingual fricative or whatever the hell you'd call that.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2015 [9 favorites]


lets not forget the rap battle that popped up at the bottom of a kendrick lamar post.
posted by nadawi at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


THERE IS AN ENTIRE WEB SITE DEVOTED TO THIS QUESTION.

This is the happiest I've been all day.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, labiolingual trill! So it's spelled r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊r̼̊, apparently.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:29 PM on February 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's fine to have community standards (I'm not presuming the standards are a blazing success at this moment, because, well, this thread exists), but a self-identifying label might be read as signifying that we wouldn't engage people who disagree with us but respected our standards.

I consider myself a stalwart progressive (inasmuch as I might find that label too centrist depending on the topic matter), but I also don't necessarily want to be part of a progressive community that feels the need to put that on the door.

Having been part of intentional communities that supported exclusive spaces, I'm not saying the concept is invalid or doesn't have its purpose -- I was even to to ask if anyone thought the idea of whitelisting some topics would be a healthy idea. But hanging that label over the entirety of the site feels like a litmus test -- and that might be the intent. I'd just like to be clear about it if that's the case so people can check themselves/decide accordingly. I feel like I know plenty of places on the web where I can engage in garden variety progressive-issue education/discussion.
posted by 99_ at 2:29 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


We can work hard to keep crappy stuff off the site without having to announce that Metafilter is now specifically ideological in mission rather than just aspiring to be a non-shitty place to post cool stuff, discuss interesting web content, ask questions, etc.

This is a really important distinction, and I thank you for making it! It's not synonymous to say a site is "liberal" or "progressive" because it doesn't tolerate hateful or harassing or silencing speech. I think conflating the two is sort of an attempt to dismiss the concern on political grounds and it has the effect of ideologically polarizing people . I don't hate sexism because I'm a liberal. I hate sexism because it is a misuse of power that unfairly limits people's potential.
posted by Miko at 2:30 PM on February 24, 2015 [27 favorites]


Or what 99_ said. I'd like to preserve MeFi's wider scope.
posted by Miko at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2015


One of the things I find hard to personally remember when dealing with MetaFilter is to treat individual users as individual users, so what can seem like contradictory stances or hypocrisy is, in fact, different people with different commentary.

Doesn't stop individuals from having contradictory stances or being massive hypocrites, of course. But I've found it happens much less often than you'd think if you go back and check who actually said what.
posted by gadge emeritus at 2:32 PM on February 24, 2015


Doesn't stop individuals from having contradictory stances

At some level I would think we'd want this to be relatively okay, too - like, if you're a person who's thinking and growing and evolving your opinion, there are times when you're going to contradict yourself or your posting history, or be wishy washy about an opinion that's in motion. Even people who being massive hypocrites can learn once they are aware of their apparent contradictions.
posted by Miko at 2:38 PM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


t's not synonymous to say a site is "liberal" or "progressive" because it doesn't tolerate hateful or harassing or silencing speech.
This. I would hate to see (not only because it would be wildly inaccurate) such a diverse group of people being labelled as anything. Specifically, neither 'liberal' nor 'progressive' as labels for people or groups of people have any correlation with a lack of hate speech - plenty of people who describe themselves as liberal are not strangers to hate speech. The only label we need is 'people'.
posted by dg at 2:39 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


we've been pretty clear over the years that Metafilter by design does not and will not have some kind of official ideological mission statement

This has always seemed like sort of an affectation. Not because the site won't tolerate hate speech, but I think it's vanishingly unlikely that Metafilter will host a lot of discussion about the virtues of laissez-faire economics, or a more aggressive military policy, or public displays of Christianity. As the Thatcher thread made clear, the community as a whole has a pretty clearly-identified political ideology, and does not care for those on the other side of it even if they refrain from hate speech of any kind. It's a signof total ideological commitment that one starts insisting that there's no ideological bias on display.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 3:07 PM on February 24, 2015


It's a signof total ideological commitment that one starts insisting that there's no ideological bias on display.

There's certainly a bias, as we've said repeatedly over the years. What there isn't is a mission statement, and that's not something we're interested in adding.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can you find me anyone who is saying that there is no ideological bias on display on metafilter or is this another one of your fact-free assertions?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:10 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Shrug. I'm comfortable with this site not giving equal airtime to hatefulness and disrespect towards other members.
posted by agregoli at 3:11 PM on February 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


Or, just as likely, another fact-free assertion that you're the only clear-headed one and all feminists are totalitarian ideologes, dropped in a thread and left alone.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:16 PM on February 24, 2015 [16 favorites]


Specifically, neither 'liberal' nor 'progressive' as labels for people or groups of people have any correlation with a lack of hate speech -

While I completely agree here - and think that most people of most political stripes could join in condemning hate speech, I do think that liberals and progressives do tend to define hate speech differently than conservatives, and that's maybe what people are getting at here. And often, when Metafilter makes a choice as to which speech counts as hate speech, it thus often does wind up taking a political side, even if not by intent.

Aside from the individual differences of which slurs get hurled around or which groups are "really oppressed", the big difference seems to be that liberals often don't count something as hate speech if it doesn't come with institutional backing - a majority view talking to a minority view - whereas conservatives do not consider whether or not something has institutional backing when deciding whether or not it's hate speech.
posted by corb at 3:28 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


but I think it's vanishingly unlikely that Metafilter will host a lot of discussion about the virtues of laissez-faire economics, or a more aggressive military policy, or public displays of Christianity

Well, yeah, that's what Metafilter's like, it has its particular ideological/philosophical flavor chiefly based on its userbase. But you do realize you framed at least two of those in dog-whistle-ish and/or questionably-phrased ways, right?

"The virtues of laissez-faire economics" strikes me as at best a vague term. Economics itself being a relatively unideological study of value preferences and the results of their systematic application, you likely mean "the virtues of laissez-faire economic policy", obscuring the fact free-market policies are a thing supported by political systems that do not emerge fully formed out of nothingness, a point that often gets lost in the discussion.

Also, I'm assuming my "public displays of Christianity" you mean "public displays of Christianity by government officials/using tax dollars/on public property" not "displays of Christianity in public" since that latter one is pretty uncontroversial. Again, you're obscuring the fact that the objection people have isn't to the public performance of Christianity, it's to the state endorsement of a religion.

The long and short of it is that here, as elsewhere in the thread, you've dropped in tons of incredibly loaded language and complained about objections to it unless others spend paragraphs explaining their precise point when discussing it. Indeed your very first comment here included this gem:

The idea that no one would want to talk about powerful people punishing innocents unless it was part of some sinister agenda

which was an utter misrepresentation of the entire thread thus far.
posted by thegears at 3:39 PM on February 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: I think it's vanishingly unlikely that Metafilter will host a lot of discussion about the virtues of laissez-faire economics, or a more aggressive military policy, or public displays of Christianity.

As it happens, my most recent FPP was about that last subject. It was utterly uncontroversial (except for one derail, which was not about Christianity, and it was quickly modmagicked away).
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:46 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


> I think it's vanishingly unlikely that Metafilter will host a lot of discussion about the virtues of laissez-faire economics, or a more aggressive military policy, or public displays of Christianity

You just mean it's unlikely to host particular kinds of discussions about those topics, I guess? Because all of those have been talked about here over the years, with more or less heat depending on the framing and who was around.
posted by rtha at 3:50 PM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


I really dont know what more ThatFuzzyBastard could do to resemble a troll. I don't know why we are engaging him. I don't know why it is allowed to continue.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:56 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, one of my favorite posts from the last few days was about popular conceptions of the Christian Devil and is about a hundred super interesting and thoughtful comments about both lay and scholarly Christianity and related ideas.

There are problems with how religion is discussed on Metafilter sometimes—less than there used to be, but certainly not none—but that's not constrained to Christianity, and unsurprisingly ends up showing up mostly in combination with subjects that are also highly politically or ideologically charged or otherwise hot as hell from the word go. At which point we wrap back around to the more general issue of looking a little harder at where the bar is set for bad news and outragefilter type stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'll be charitable and assume there was no dog-whistle intent. But all of those topics have their own 101 component that I don't think most people here want to re-litigate -- not because of ideological purity but because it would be boring (though honestly I like to re-litigate the public nativity issue somewhat regularly). I'm even curious to see what you might come up with; I really like conversations about communal spaces.
posted by 99_ at 3:58 PM on February 24, 2015


liberals often don't count something as hate speech if it doesn't come with institutional backing - a majority view talking to a minority view - whereas conservatives do not consider whether or not something has institutional backing when deciding whether or not it's hate speech.

I have problems with your definitions of this, corb - I think this reveals why you often feel like you're being attacked as a member of an oppressed group when in fact your views and arguments are being critiqued, because apparently you don't see a distinction between the two - but it's interesting to compare these differing constructions of "hate speech" and make note of who they seek to protect, and in whose favor they would most often end up working.

I think by "institutional backing" you might mean "concentrations of power," and yes, if a policy on speech doesn't prevent the misuse of concentrated power, then it isn't doing what it needs to do to support good discourse, because it will only look at individual cases and not aggregate systems - and that ends up favoring the already very empowered. Somebody being an asshole is being an asshole. Somebody being an asshole by trying to silence you based on an oppressed identity is trying to leverage social power to delegitimize your standing.

That said, not everything has to rise to the level of "hate speech" to be unacceptable. Harassment and silencing tactics can be perfectly friendly-looking on the surface to those who can't, or wilfully won't, hear them. Hence the term dogwhistle.

public displays of Christianity

Cince we knocked down the other two straw men in the trifecta, I've been publicly Christian on the site for ages and have had almost no pushback, fight-picking, or direct challenging even when commenting directly on my faith practice, in several years, since we figured out that atheists vs. Christians was a fairly boring thing to do on the site. We had a good talk about it at some point way back and we've had loads and loads of good posts on Christian-themed material since that time, and other religious too.
posted by Miko at 4:21 PM on February 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


... often, when Metafilter makes a choice as to which speech counts as hate speech, it thus often does wind up taking a political side, even if not by intent
Which often puzzles people not from the US, where issues appear to fall very consistently on one side or the other of a liberal vs conservative scale, where people very consistently hold as an important part of their personal identity a position as a liberal or a conservative and where it seems that everything is tied to politics. I know that I struggle to parse such a binary view of the world and the multitudes it contains and to comprehend the idea that everyone fits into one of two boxes.
posted by dg at 4:23 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it is not a "political side" to aim to incorporate more voices. There are other ways to view this.
posted by Miko at 4:24 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think it's vanishingly unlikely that Metafilter will host a lot of discussion about the virtues of laissez-faire economics, or a more aggressive military policy, or public displays of Christianity.

Well, that assumption was shot down pretty quickly.

Should we make it harder? Has anyone posted about aggressive, militant Christian economists and their public displays of laissez-faire?
posted by zarq at 4:33 PM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Of course Metafilter will host discussions about those things. Most users will simply take the position, for example, that a more aggressive military policy is a bad idea. That's still holding the discussion.

And, hey, even that's not true if you've been paying attention to Libya or Syria.
posted by Justinian at 4:34 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


the big difference seems to be that liberals often don't count something as hate speech if it doesn't come with institutional backing - a majority view talking to a minority view - whereas conservatives do not consider whether or not something has institutional backing when deciding whether or not it's hate speech.

I think this is an interesting observation and relevant on a macro level that goes beyond politics. I think there is a disconnect between action on the overt and action on the subtle. Obvious -isms are not okay. Obvious personal attacks are not okay. Microaggressions are less obvious to the majority. Politely worded personal attacks slip by. ALL of this is exhausting. And we do it over and over again.

On preview, Miko said this: That said, not everything has to rise to the level of "hate speech" to be unacceptable. Harassment and silencing tactics can be perfectly friendly-looking on the surface to those who can't, or wilfully won't, hear them. Hence the term dogwhistle.


And that's the point I'm trying to get to here. I think the anti-semitism MeTa was helpful in showing that majority all the little "invisible" things that are exhausting to that minority, and I think, I hope, we're coming to that place here. The little things ALSO need to be dealt with, out loud and not behind the scenes, to make this place better for everyone.
posted by Ruki at 4:36 PM on February 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


"Not because the site won't tolerate hate speech, but I think it's vanishingly unlikely that Metafilter will host a lot of discussion about the virtues of laissez-faire economics, or a more aggressive military policy, or public displays of Christianity."

What thegears and others wrote. But I find this especially annoying because I'm tempted to play a game with you where I ask you to characterize what you think my positions on these topics are, without cheating. Because the assumptions you're bringing to that quote are just wrong. I've been heterodox with other leftist communities on each of those topics, as well as being strongly in consensus with other leftist communities on them. The distinction between when the former or the latter is the case has a great deal to do with how ideologically oversimplified a particularly community is with regard to one of these issues -- which is exactly why you're confused about this and about the character of MetaFilter in reality (as opposed to your head) because you're in that group of people who makes strong, unqualified universal statements that tendentiously oversimplify everything for rhetorical effect and in support of partisan goals. You see a version of MetaFilter that doesn't actually exist because for some fucked-up reason, you need to see it this way.

More specifically, the three topics you selected are notable in that for you and in the greater American context, and especially amongst conservatives, they tend to be litmus tests for social identity. I've defended free-trade here on MetaFilter on numerous occasions, but I've also always pointed out that trade brings labor disruption and is often exploitative, and a just society accounts for this via wealth distribution and social programs and the like. I've defended interventionist military policy on MetaFilter on numerous occasions, such as in Kosovo, but am extremely critical of the imperialistic tendency in American foreign policy and that, in practice, even ostensibly justified interventions -- ones I support -- often don't work and are counterproductive. I've a long history of defending theists on MetaFilter, even though I'm an atheist, and I dislike how France's culture of laïcité typically manifests, but I'm highly critical of public school prayer. In each case, I've substantively defended the views that you claim are unacceptable on MetaFilter and, presumably, among progressives, but this doesn't count for you and you will no doubt invalidate them because what I've not done is to stand up and wave these things as flags of political identity: Free Trade is American, Yay! US Military, Yay! The US is a Christian Nation, Yay! and so you assume that I, and everyone else on the left here, must necessarily oppose these things in the simplistic terms you describe.

What we have here is projection: you see every interaction on this site as being a declaration of partisan affiliation because that's the only thing you understand any of this discussion to be. You're not alone in this, and there are other people who participate this way (of varied opinions), but the universalizing of this type and behavior to all of MetaFilter is false. It's just not true.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:37 PM on February 24, 2015 [32 favorites]


but it's interesting to compare these differing constructions of "hate speech" and make note of who they seek to protect, and in whose favor they would most often end up working.

The thing is, Miko, I truly and sincerely believe that by eliminating overall hate speech or slurs or attacks, in all directions, we will be working in everyone's favor - even oppressed or minority groups. Because constant low to mid grade conflict and anger tend to have a cumulative traumatizing effect, especially for people who already have some level of trauma. And that affects people's physical and mental health.

How to define an attack on someone tends to be somewhat subjective, as our disagreement on where the lines get drawn demonstrates. But in a sense, "perception is reality" on that score. If people feel they are being attacked, their physiological response tends to replicate a real response to a physical attack. And that, in many, prompts a fight-or-flight response - either to get the hell out of the conversation (as evidenced by the people leaving Metafilter because it's starting to feel icky towards women for them) or to fight back against the person doing the attacking. And that response - that "fighting back" response - can in turn, trigger those same physiological responses in their opponent, until we're at pitched word battle point and the entire discussion and comfortable space has been lost.

I don't have a good answer for that - obviously some people will feel attacked regardless of whether the statement is meant as an attack, obviously other people will use protestations of good intent as a camouflage for attacks, obviously not all things that are perceived as attacks could or should be limited on Metafilter. But I do think it's important to acknowledge that it's not a clear cut situation.
posted by corb at 4:38 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Has anyone posted about aggressive, militant Christian economists and their public displays of laissez-faire?

Don't you ever get tired of being wrong, zarq?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:39 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Don't you ever get tired of being wrong, zarq?

It's my default position! :)
posted by zarq at 4:48 PM on February 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm highly critical of public school prayer.

Me too! And I'm a Christian! It's mindbending.

constant low to mid grade conflict and anger tend to have a cumulative traumatizing effect

And yet, without some conflict, we can't have a free society nor one that improves itself. It's not conflict and anger and disagreement we should seek to avoid. It's abuses of power that delegitimize and demean people's expression based on something other than the content of their ideas.

Everybody gets their anger triggered from time to time; individually, we just have to develop ways of dealing with that. We can't make others responsible for our own internal reactions. But we can take action to make others accountable for things they are intentionally doing to undermine our right to speak by enlisting histories of oppression.
posted by Miko at 4:50 PM on February 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


A single user has successfully reframed the discussion and now we are all talking about the things he demanded we talk about.

Rather than the issue the thread was made to talk about - women's participation on the site, and whether there is an overt or passive hostility to it, particular in threads that're primarily about women's issues. And if we determine that there is, what we can do about it.

I'd like to request that we refuse to engage that topic-change demand* (and those mentioned topics were, noticeably, not women-focused), and go back to talking about the thread topic.

*This is also a textbook and predictable derail tactic in feminism threads. It's a variant on the traditional 'But what about the men!' and 'But there are starving children in Africa, we should talk about that instead!' shticks. I am so irritated to see it get traction in this thread.
posted by pseudonymph at 5:08 PM on February 24, 2015 [46 favorites]


we can take action to make others accountable for things they are intentionally doing to undermine our right to speak
Also to make them both aware and then accountable for things they unintentionally do (of course I say 'they' in the knowledge that 'they' sometimes means 'me'). Unfortunately, not only is it often hard to tell the difference, it still puts the onus on those whose rights are being undermined to do something about it. How do we turn that around and establish that awareness and accountability up front? We have already heard that many people here have had enough and are no longer prepared to explain the issues over and over again.
posted by dg at 5:17 PM on February 24, 2015


Thanks, pseudonymph! (great name by the way!) I often wish we collectively ignored more bad behavior than addressed it. Back on the rails!
posted by agregoli at 5:23 PM on February 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Unfortunately, not only is it often hard to tell the difference, it still puts the onus on those whose rights are being undermined to do something about it.

As I said quite a ways above, I am pretty much at the point where I don't care whether it's unintentional or not. There are users who can't be trusted not to shit all over any thread they are in (or any thread on certain subjects in some cases), and it is damaging the site. As I said less a ways above, I think the only way to combat this is a) flagging, and b) for the mods to take action much sooner. c) not engaging with them at all is a good general policy, but I'm not sure it's possible to get everyone on board with that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:28 PM on February 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


A single user has successfully reframed the discussion and now we are all talking about the things he demanded we talk about.


Eh, it's a five minute derail that was shot down repeatedly, from a user that's usually on a particular side of the debate.

Either ignore this sort of thing or address it on a case by case basis. Or just decide, as a community, certain people should be banned from certain topics.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:30 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


How do we turn that around and establish that awareness and accountability up front?

I hope that the endless rehashing of these issues have made other people more aware of the little things. I don't expect that every little thing will be noticed, but it would be awesome, really, truly awesome, if a woman isn't the first one to call out something gross. And these things can be hard to pick up, but if you get a little feeling in your gut that maybe this particular comment isn't cool, say something. Sometimes you'll be wrong, (I flagged a comment in this thread that was a joke that I didn't pick up on. My bad.) but sometimes you'll be right, maybe even most times, and for those times, I, for one, will be so glad you did.
posted by Ruki at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2015


Or just decide, as a community, certain people should be banned from certain topics.

we did. TFB was told to stay out of rape threads.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:33 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hope that the endless rehashing of these issues have made other people more aware of the little things.
One challenge with this is that so many of the users do not read MetaTalk threads. The endless rehashing is mostly here, but the problem comes up mostly on the blue.
posted by Miko at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: Eh, it's a five minute derail that was shot down repeatedly, from a user that's usually on a particular side of the debate.

It was 2 and a half hours though, and I nearly just sighed and shut the thread because fuck it, when I read it this morning. I suspect I probably wasn't alone in that.

But this is part of this stuff - that it was really effective until called out, and then when it was called out with the intention of putting a big 'ol spotlight on it so that it couldn't be done again hopefully, it was brushed off as unimportant.

I disagree. I think spotlighting this stuff - especially in this thread - is not just important, but exactly what we should be aiming for.

We're trying to build guidelines for this stuff, right? So we need to be able to point to things and say 'This. This is what's happening there, let's all look at it so we can identify it quickly and (all things going ideally) clearly next time'.
posted by pseudonymph at 5:44 PM on February 24, 2015 [30 favorites]


One challenge with this is that so many of the users do not read MetaTalk threads. The endless rehashing is mostly here, but the problem comes up mostly on the blue.

That's a good point, but although it's a universal wish of mine, it was also a direct answer to dg's question. So then what? How do we translate this conversation to the blue? That's not a rhetorical question, because there were two different things today that I considered making FPPs about, but they were women-centric and I just didn't have the energy. On one hand, it would be a good thing to make a post, again, about microaggressions and how easy it is for men to be feminists, but on the other, the people that need to read that wouldn't go into that thread, or would go into it with the worst possible faith. There's asking the mods to be more visible about this shit, but it's also a community problem. How do we get this conversation onto the blue?
posted by Ruki at 5:53 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I actually tried to set up an FPP on the theory that okay, put my money where my mouth is and try to engage more, but it got deleted on the basis of being not, hm, meaty enough. Which is honestly completely fair--it was just a few links to the recent gaffe by that Idaho lawmaker and a half-raised question about settling legislators up as arbiters of health who can't even be bothered to present a facade of knowing basic anatomy. I'm not sure I have the energy to try again right now; like I said, I'm still learning what makes a good FPP.

One comment about energy--would it be worth maybe having a system of collaborative FPPs, such that two people who are really pretty tired and out of energy have a conversation about something they're interested in starting an FPP about? I know that I have a way easier time motivating myself to hunt down links and devise a historical background and a framing, etc. when I'm talking to someone else who I know is also interested in the topic and thinks there's a good conversation there. That chatter forum linked upthread might be a good place to organize something like that, possibly.
posted by sciatrix at 6:01 PM on February 24, 2015


I don't know if we can or should--the blue isn't great for activism and threads like that don't go well.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:03 PM on February 24, 2015


Sorry, that was hasty and inelegant. I mean that an FPP like that would need to be based on something cool on the web rather than a socio-political goal. Mods have said many times that the Blue isn't for "causes" but for highlighting cool or interesting web content.

Now just to be clear, I believe discussions on FPPs can get to that topic, for sure, and they should.

(on preview: I was responding to Ruki, a post up)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:05 PM on February 24, 2015


Sorry, where I meant system for collaborative FPPs, I mostly meant a place to have informal conversations among women that might lead to FPPs rather than FPPs on the--ah, yeah, you've clarified.

I don't know, though. I think a conversation about microaggressions, if the source material is interesting, could be a good thing to have. I definitely would like to see more feminism-based discussions that are neither rape-related nor career related--I feel like I've been kind of overdosed on those. If it was approached via finding well done, thought provoking material--why not?
posted by sciatrix at 6:09 PM on February 24, 2015


It's a sign of total ideological commitment that one starts insisting that there's no ideological bias on display.

"Ideological bias"? That's...really kind of silly! Considering that whatever "ideological bias" there is is a function of the userbase. Who are the userbase, by and large? Intelligent, literate, educated and intellectually curious. Part of having a "liberal" worldview is about exposing yourself to ideas and experiences that differ from your own and hopefully learning from them in order to broaden your understanding of the world. This idea of positive engagement with sometimes difficult ideas to improve first oneself and, more broadly, society in general, is pretty much a cornerstone of "liberal" thought...and it seems to be more or less the sort of thing this whole thread is generally aiming at.

Also you have a really weird and fucked-up and sort of specifically American idea of what constitutes "conservatism". The biggest advocates of laissez-faire economics in the US political sphere tend to be Libertarians who are also isolationist and non-interventionist and are also First Amendment rules-lawyers who would probably keep displays of Christianity off of government property. So those are kind of three different and not-necessarily-overlapping spheres of "Republican by convenience". Which don't tend to map onto any of the world outside the USA, since laissez-faire economics is a dead letter everywhere else, and the public display of Christian symbolism on public property at Christmas or whatever is a non-issue in Europe where there tends to not be a separation between church and state and where most people may be culturally Christian but tend to be at best agnostic in practise.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 6:12 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it was approached via finding well done, thought provoking material--why not?

I guess "finding" and "looking for" are different to me, but that's not really the important thing here, so I won't belabor the point.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:13 PM on February 24, 2015


I find the main reason I don't make more FPPs is that I like term-paper ones and they take too much time. But I'm happy to encourage other people's FPPs and preview them and make suggestions, if it's at all helpful.

It's not that I'm afraid to make FPPs, either. I think that lack of FPPs by women is just part of the problem. It's more the atmosphere created by comments and the repetitive FPPs like the one that spawned this thread. And in wanting more FPPs by women, I'm not even necessarily advocating for more FPPs about feminism - I think just having FPPs on more topics, by a broader range of people who read and experience some stuff other than the same widely frequented sites all the time, would be great, and encouraging more women's participation is one way to get that.
posted by Miko at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


TFB, you're clearly having difficulty engaging with people without making backhanded or snide remarks. This isn't working for anyone else, and the benefit of the doubt has been exhausted.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2015 [26 favorites]


(on preview: I was responding to Ruki, a post up)

Oh, cool, I thought you were responding to sciatrix. Thanks for clarifying. I agree that threads like that don't go well, so I'm genuinely at a loss here. I have zero desire to post a stunt post just to get these issues onto the blue, but at the same time, it really is a conversation that could be beneficial to the community as a whole. Like I said earlier, it's about respect.

As to the collaborative FPPs, I'm for it. The posts I wanted to make weren't inherently controversial, but they did relate to women, and I'm just not up to being discouraged right now. Maybe now's a good time for #marchbywomen. Like cortex said way upthread, it's been really shitty on the internet for women lately. I don't think #julybywomen should be limited to July as an annual event. Maybe it should just be when we need it.
posted by Ruki at 6:16 PM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]