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Feminism Friday: What can I do, right now today, to help stop sexual violence

by Guest Poster Damsel Indetech

It is frustrating to live in a society where sexual violence is commonplace, and feel helpless to stop it. Many people are so disgusted and frightened for themselves and those they care about, that they do not have the patience to wait for our culture to right itself. It is from this frustration, impatience, and usually from a sincere worry for women’s safety, that people often will try to pass along rape prevention measures that may or may not be useful.

For example, most people seem to express relief and concern when passing along the chain letter “Through A Rapists’ Eyes”, for they finally have something that seems concrete and relatively easy to follow. Unfortunately, it’s largely comprised of rape myths (eg. – there’s no proven correlation between clothing or hairstyles and who rapists tend to target), and self-defense tips based on stranger-in-the-alley tropes that may or may not serve any use should someone be targeted.

Much of the safety advice that is given out is aimed at potential victims (quite often young women), that seems solid and constructive, but that largely ignores the social and societal context in which the violence happens, and also fails to take into consideration the practical realities of women’s lives.

Fortunately, there are steps that we can start working on right now, today, to help reduce the instances of sexual violence.

We can make sure that we always get enthusiastic consent from our partner(s), that we respect their boundaries, and that we take full responsibility for our actions with/ against others. Rape is not just an act committed by strange, mentally-ill men against women. We all need to ensure we ourselves do not commit any form of sexual violence, regardless of our gender expression, of how long we’ve been with our partner, whether we’ve had sexual relations with them before, whether we mean it “as a joke”, whether we’ve had a bad day and are looking for a pick-me-up, regardless of how turned on or sexy we’re feeling. It is all of our responsibility to ensure we do not commit acts of sexual violence.

We can join in public protests and events that give support and solidarity to survivors and let perpetrators know the community is ready to have them held accountable:

We can learn how to intervene as bystanders:

We can do our part not to give rapists a social license to operate:

We can do our part not make rape jokes so that we make our culture safer for survivors and less amenable to rapists:

We can talk about and teach people about enthusiastic consent:

We can believe people when they report, and prioritize them above their abusers:

We can understand the many different forms rape takes:

We can challenge victim-blaming:

We can hold abusers accountable for the crimes they’ve committed, rather than let them off because their rapes weren’t “rapey” enough:

We can also support women in asserting and maintaining their boundaries:

We can be more picky about the rape prevention measures we pass on:

We can learn about rape myths to make sure we’re not perpetuating them:

A big part of stopping rape is ensuring that rapists are held accountable for their actions and not allowed to rape again. This can be accomplished through different ways. It can happen through the legal system if the victim chooses to report and is believed by police and the case is successfully tried and the judge enforces a sentence that reflects the seriousness of the crime. It can happen by removing the supports in place for perpetrators to revictimize survivors or attack new victims (silence and rallying around the perpetrator and alienating the victim can have this effect). It can happen by empowering the survivor by letting them know they’re not at fault and the crimes committed against them, whether by a stranger, a partner, a trusted authority figure, or a family member, etc, won’t be disregarded, at the very least not by their support circle.

These might not have the same emotional impact of telling women to always carry handguns or mace, and some of them deal with rape after-the-fact. Sexual violence is an insidious crime that can be committed a million different ways by a million different sorts of perpetrators, which is why there’s no neat and tidy cure-all for it. However, these are all very important steps I hope everyone will try to endeavour to take part in, because they can make a real, tangible, and immediate difference in people’s lives.

If there are any other tips you’d like to pass on, please leave them in the comments and I’ll add them.


Damsel in de Tech is a thirtysomething feminist blogger from Toronto, working the male-dominated field of IT. In her spare time, she is an organizer for SlutWalk Toronto, and volunteers on the local rape crisis support line. That work, and finding herself continually combatting the same old rape myths, stereotypes, and lies informed by sexism, racism, ableism, and Hollywood-inspired detachment from reality, led her to begin blogging. Why retype the same arguments ad nauseum to people who do not put a fraction of the thought or energy into their own responses when she could just flush out her arguments online and then copy & paste the results? When not working, volunteering, writing, or waging battles against online trolls, she likes to watch MST3K, host vegetarian pot lucks, and sing karaoke very badly and enthusiastically.

This post was originally published at Damsel Indetech’s blog.

Slutwalk Toronto links: the website is a good place to get background info and context, but it doesn’t get updated much.. The Facebook pages & Twitter feeds are where the action happens.

10 Comments

Call for Feminism 101 Links III

These posts ask readers to drop relevant links that they tend to share widely because they do a great job explaining/clarifying basic feminist concepts or debunking anti-feminist myths/factoids  (please check that it hasn’t already been linked in an FAQ by searching on the post title).  Obviously this is mainly looking for recent posts/articles, but older material should also be linked if it’s stuff that you just keep on referencing in recent discussions.

If a relevant link happens to be one of your own writings, then by all means shamelessly self-promote it! And if a post of yours, or a friend’s post, gets linked by somebody else, by all means squee delightedly here in response.

In general, if somebody else posts a link that you were going to post, please respond with a note to that effect in comments.  Treat it as an upvote, and by all means leave your other links in your response.

In particular, if you know of a post that would fit into the Further Reading section on any of the FAQs, please please please drop a link with that recommendation – a lot of those posts referenced in the FAQs date back half a decade or more, and I’d like to expand the related links sections with more recent references as well.  Also if you think that a post already linked in one FAQ is also relevant to another FAQ, please say so.

4 Comments

Feminism Friday: Sexism, Misogyny and Dictionaries

Since Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s speech a few weeks ago, there’s been a lot of debate about what ‘misogyny’ means, usually instigated by those who accuse Gillard of using the term incorrectly (which is a bit rich considering that nobody appears to be holding Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and his shadow cabinet to the same standard regarding their haranguing criticisms of Peter Slipper’s text messages as indefensibly misogynistic, which is the background which prompted the opening sentiment of “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man”).

The intellectual shallowness of those who rely on unabridged dictionaries which offer a simple etymological translation as a definition has been pointed out many times (and it’s the reasoning behind Macquarie Dictionary announcing that the definition will be expanded to better reflect the nuances of current usage in their next edition). The New York Times language maven William Safire did a particularly good job of explaining some of the subtleties in 2008 when Hillary Clinton was also accused of misusing the term (as noted by Mike Seccombe in the Global Mail).

Here’s what Safire wrote:

“Senator Hillary Clinton used a word recently that has been changing its meaning. In charging that she has been treated more harshly in the media because of her gender than Senator Barack Obama has been treated because of his race, she said, ‘It does seem as though the press at least is not as bothered by the incredible vitriol that has been engendered by comments and reactions of people who are nothing but misogynists.’

Safire continued: “The word misogyny has since its earliest recording in 1656 meant “hate or contempt for women.” The etymology of misogyny is straightforward: In Greek, miso means “hatred,” and gune means “woman.” A misogynist is a woman-hater. I thought Clinton’s choice of the word was in error, and that the word she meant was sexist, meaning “one who discriminates based on sex” — that she had been treated unfairly because she was a woman. When I looked up the word she chose in the Oxford English Dictionary online, however, I noted that the meaning of misogynist had changed, slightly but significantly. In 1989, the definition was “hatred of women”; in the 2002 revision, the definition was broadened to “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women.”

Thus, sexist and misogynist are now in some respects synonymous. Because sexist has been so widely used, apparently misogynist — in the same sense of “prejudice” rather than “hatred” — now carries more force with those who are familiar with the word,” wrote Safire.

Even Safire over-simplifies the OED for his readers there – I can tell you now that there is no way that the definition of any term in the OED in the past century was ever only 3 words long – that would have just been the first meaning offered, even back in 1989. Let us also hope that nobody huffing about other people’s purported lack of language precision/purity has happened to teach their children or grandchildren to call road-rolling machines steamrollers at any time within the last many decades since they’ve all been diesel-fuelled, because that would display a blatant double standard, wouldn’t it?

Now I’m going to offer a few more nuances to the distinctions between sexism and misogyny, adapted (to enhance clarity) from a comment I left on the Butterflies and Wheels blog this week.

* * * * *

Sexism is an impersonal bias against the competence and influence of women, and impersonal is easily and far too often confused with being rational/logical/scientific/common-sense. Thus impersonal sexism has been reflexively institutionalised in society so that it has a huge impact on large numbers of women and girls as a class e.g. ideas such as girls don’t need an education because they’re only going to get married, or girls aren’t good at maths/science, or women are happier running a home than competing in the workforce etc etc

Misogyny is a far more personal and emotional prejudice, resulting in contempt, scorn and dismissiveness towards women who step outside the bounds sexism lays down as appropriate. Misogynistic anger openly displayed against women who challenge their sexist preconceptions is part of an intimidatory silencing tactics arsenal, and of course the perpetrators don’t display those tactics against women who stay within the notional boundaries – approval is the reward for behaving appropriately. Watching misogynistic outrage, contempt and public shaming from fathers, uncles, brothers, husbands, teachers, preachers etc against other women – the unacceptable women – shows daughters, sisters, nieces and wives what awaits those who step out of line. The threat of male anger and potential violence is the whip misogynists use to ensure women’s compliance with sexist stereotypes.

Misogyny also often wears a mask until there aren’t any witnesses – because that makes women look like liars, which makes dismissing and shaming them even easier. Once seen in action these misogynists are easier for individual women to avoid, but establishing plausible deniability is part of the gaslighting side of the silencing tactics, so it is difficult to convince others that the angry contemptuous threat was really there.

Because misogynists are also sexist (although one can be sexist without being misogynist) they ride the coat-tails of the broader societal sexism and punctuate it with extremes, particularly whenever they have institutional power.

Another commentor at B&W noted that for them the distinction between sexism and misogyny is that misogyny is dehumanising, whereas sexism is not necessarily so.  This post is already long enough, so I won’t explore that further, but it’s another layer of nuance which appears to have merit.

* * * * *

To close, I offer this opinion from another language maven: David Crystal writing in 2006 about the general principles of words like ‘massive’ or ‘incredible’ being used in ways beyond their original meanings (and the frequent misconceptions about how recent those usage changes may or may not be):

The [journalist correspondent] is against people loading words ‘with powers beyond their meaning in the dictionary’. If that was a valid principle – you must only use words with the meaning recorded in the dictionary – English vocabulary would hardly have developed at all, and we would have cut ourselves off from the kind of expressive richness we see in, say, Shakespeare, who was one of the best meaning-extenders the world has ever seen. It is also a misconception of how dictionaries come to be written: lexicographers record meanings as they change, and if there is a widely used meaning currently missing from a dictionary’s pages then it is a weakness of the dictionary rather than of the language.

Words change their meaning.  That’s what they do.  New words, too, arise to describe changes in how we live our daily lives. Without such flexibility in language changing over time to meaningfully describe social/political/technological change then communities, cultures, philosophies, nations and peoples stagnate, and I don’t think even the most virulent misoneists want that.

18 Comments

Call for Feminism 101 Links II

This is the second post in a new series whereby interested readers can drop links they tend to share widely because they do a great job explaining/clarifying basic feminist concepts or debunking anti-feminist myths/factoids.  If a relevant link happens to be one of your own writings, then by all means shamelessly self-promote it! And if a post of yours, or a friend’s post, gets linked by somebody else, by all means squee delightedly here in response.

In general, if somebody else posts a link that you were going to post, please respond with a note to that effect in comments.  Treat it as an upvote, and by all means leave your other links in your response.

In particular, if you know of a post that would fit into the Further Reading section on any of the FAQs, please please please drop a link with that recommendation – a lot of those posts referenced in the FAQs date back half a decade or more, and I’d like to expand the related links sections with more recent references as well.

Guest Post – Privacy 101: privacy, anonymity and you

This is a double guest post, incorporating two separate presentations from the recent Melbourne Crytoparty event.  Cryptoparties are grass-roots data security education activism – CryptoParties are free to attend, public, and are commercially non-aligned.  Some of the information provided below is specific to Australian law; find a Cryptoparty MeetUp local to you if you want to check your specific legalities (follow the proceedings online if you can’t get to the MeetUp itself).

Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world. ~Cypherpunk Manifesto

GeorgieBC first explains why privacy is necessary for all of us, then Sarah Stokely expands on privacy matters and outlines the basics of using Tor as one of the tools for online privacy.

* * * * *

First posted on September 22, 2012 at GeorgieBC’s Blog. You can listen to the speech on SoundCloud

SPEECH TRANSCRIPT

Cryptoparty Melbourne

Hello CryptoParty. My name is Georgie online, Heather Marsh to some people and other things to other people. I would like to talk to you all a bit about privacy and anonymity. We all know privacy is essential in high risk activism, but it is so much more than keeping bloggers from being killed. Privacy is for us all, it is a right we used to have and most people do not realize we have lost it, or that we ever had it.

Most people in democracies feel that freedom of the press is essential in a democracy; this is because we need information about our government in order to participate in a democracy. This freedom has been turned on its head so that people now feel they have the right to see Kate Middleton’s breasts but not foreign policy documents. It’s the other way around. Foreign policy documents are subject to censorship that is not compatible with democracy. Kate Middleton has been subjected to surveillance in violation of her right to privacy. The news obsession with celebrities and their private matters is there to distract you from the real news which they are not showing you. They tell you what US president Obama’s daughters wore to school when we really need to know if he is going to bomb Iran.

In our grandparents day they had a wonderful thing called mind your own business. They did not give their first names to people they had just met. There were layers of trust you went through to get to know someone and you owned the truth about yourself. This expectation of privacy for individuals is gone and we need to bring it back; transparency is for public organizations and actions which affect the public, not for our private lives. Perfect strangers will now demand any detail of your life and feel they have a right to it. We know the surveillance culture has won when snooping is a virtue, equated with being open, honest, and having nothing to hide while a request for privacy is met with shock and hurt and group shunning. We need to start refusing to provide personal data as much as we can, privacy is a basic right and if we do not use it we will lose it. We have lost it.

It has been proven enough times, famously by Julian Assange and Bradley Manning but in many other cases as well, that authorities do not need to see any transactions or have evidence of any criminal activity to destroy your life; it is enough that you pull attention, that they are aware of your existence. The fact that you are doing nothing wrong or illegal is no protection if you have attracted the attention of someone with power or mental instability. Governments are not the only people on the internet; if you start expressing opinions you will find far more interesting opposition as well. Anonymity, once lost, can never be regained; even if you have no intention of ever expressing a controversial opinion, privacy should become a habit, like brushing your teeth.

Besides the safety aspect, online anonymity is cherished by internet dwellers as the only means to pure thought exchange, where ideas can be judged on their own merits, unclouded by preconceived judgements based on unrelated data.

I started out as a programmer, and there was a time where even just my voice would have made anything I said instantly discredited, people only listened to opinions on programming or politics from baritones and tenors. That is still the case in some circles, there is a reason my online names are usually sexually ambiguous or male. Alan Turing, one of the fathers of computer science faced the same obstacle when it became widely known that he was homosexual; there is a very sad quote from him, “Turing believes machines think. Turing lies with men. Therefore machines cannot think.” We have lost far too many brilliant ideas because of bigotry against the place they came from. Many women in history would never have been published if they did not publish as men; many brilliant thinkers have been attacked based on irrelevant personal data such as race, age, or opinions on unrelated topics and their ideas have been lost. Until we live in a world with no bigotry, anonymity is the only way for these voices to be heard.

In order to move to an idea driven system, away from a personality based one, we need to all stand up for privacy for us all. Crypto parties are an amazing initiative; Privacy is fun; Tor and PGP and OTR are very fun to use, and when you are comfortable with them, maybe you will also tell the next person who demands personal data from you to mind their own business which is also fun. I hope you all have a great evening!

* * * * *

First published as a slide presentation on 22nd September by @stokely: you can view the slides on GoogleDocs.

#Cryptoparty Workshop: Tor

Saturday, 22 September 2011, by @stokely

This is NOT copyright. It’s in the public domain. Use as you wish. :)

Why are we here?

  • we’re in an era of strong government action against internet users
  • 250,000 Australians under surveillance (excl ASIO)
  • there are two main areas under attack – piracy, and free speech
  • International legal(?) action against Wikileaks, Megaupload
  • Strong Government interest in the use of online social networks by political activists (Arab Spring, Occupy)

Global problems for cyberactivists & cyberdissidents, bloggers & journalists

*Reporters without Borders- Press Freedom roundup 2008:
– “Predatory activity is increasingly focused on the internet.”

  • 1 blogger killed
  • 59 bloggers arrested
  • 1,740 websites bocked, shut down or suspended
  • more online journalists incarcerated than other journalists for the first time
  • Internet censorship in China, Cuba, parts of the Middle East
  • western companies including Google and Yahoo selling or modifying their products and services to enable censorship regimes

LESS security, MORE surveillance

It’s never been particularly safe to communicate by email or on social networks due to insecurities in the tech, and it’s about to get worse. WHY?

  • Increased surveillance of activists. There have already been subpoenas on Australians’ Twitter accounts & Twitter last week said they’d comply MORE with requests from the Australian police.
  • The US government is strengthening laws to control the internet (See the proposed SOPA/PIPA laws)
  • As signees of the Free Trade Agreement with the US, Australia is legally obliged to enforce laws like the DMCA in Australia. So their law can touch us.
  • Social networks are voluntarily censoring (Twitter announced geo-censorship of tweets yesterday).

Legal disclaimer

  • I am not a lawyer, and this workshop is not about your legal rights or responsibilities.
  • Seek legal advice. Use your common sense.
  • This workshop will give you some simple tools to stay safer
  • The key word is SAFER, not 100% safe.
  • Today we’ll show you one or two layers in the security ‘onion’ – we’re not promising to protect you from the world’s best hackers or the FBI. If you are Wikileaks and people could die based on the information you’re sharing, basic security is not enough. You need to learn more about how to keep yourself, your communications and your community safe.

Part 1: Secure your email

Your email is not safe

  • Vulnerabilities are human and technical.
  • Human vulnerability: choosing easy to guess passwords, sending email to someone untrustworthy who forwards it to the authorities or a newspaper, sharing your password with someone who loses it.
  • Tech vulnerabilities: Spyware like keyloggers, your password could be cracked, your login might be insecure (http), transmission of your email over the internet might be insecure.
  • At least two ISPS will handle your email – the sending & receiving ISP. Do you trust your ISP? (Don’t). They are subject to Australian law and are routinely asked to provide information from/about their customers.

3 steps to safer email

  • Keep your computer free of viruses/malware
  • Keep your password secure
  • Encrypt your email

Viruses/malware

  • Malware exists to steal passwords, and to get exact copies of everything you type – it’s called keystroke logging.
  • Players of online games like World of Warcraft get targetted by keystroke loggers, who capture their game login password so they can steal their accounts. It doesn’t just happen in the movies. It happened to me.
  • Keep your software & operating system up to date, and install some anti-malware/anti-virus software – here are some step by step tips: https://security.ngoinabox.org/en/chapter-1

Protect your password

  • Change your password. Today.
  • This should be common to anyone with an ATM card, but it’s not
  • Change it regularly, make it not personal to you (ie birthdays), mix in numbers, letters & capitalisation
  • As a memory aid, use a mnemonic like:
  • ‘To be or not to be? That is the question’ which becomes ‘2Born2b?TitQ’
  • One password to rule them all: Password manager software like KeePass
  • http://keepass.info/
  • Uses one master password to access & manage all your passwords.

Login securely

  • You need your email to be secure at the point of login (if you’re using webmail) and when it’s travelling the internet to reach the recipient of your mail.
  • Webmail is less secure because you are trusting the content of all your emails to the company that’s sending it. (ie Google).
  • Consider switching to an email client (email software like Thunderbird or Mail for Mac instead of using a web-based email like Gmail or Yahoo)
  • Riseup is an email service run by and for activists that can be securely accessed by webmail or using an email client like Thunderbird (https://riseup.net/en)
  • Choose a webmail provider that uses https to login.

Using https for your logins

  • https uses SSL (Secure Socket Layer) to add a security layer to normal web pages (http), you’ll already use it for online banking.
  • Gmail uses https by default. To check if it’s turned on:
  • Sign in to Gmail.
  • Click the gear icon in the upper-right corner, and select Mail settings.
  • In the General tab, set ‘Browser Connection’ to ‘Always use https’.
    If you’ve never changed the setting before, no radio buttons will be selected, even though the default is indeed ‘Always use https’.
  • Click Save Changes.

Encrypt your mail

  • Unencrypted email travels as-is online, meaning anyone snooping can read it.
  • Encrypting mail means encoding it so snoopers can’t read it.
  • Later we’ll break into groups to show you how to use Tails to encrypt mail and files and use keys to ensure that the sender (you) and the receipient are who they say they are.

Activity: Secure your webmail

  • Break into groups
  • With your group leader, work out if it’s possible to turn on https for your webmail and make sure it’s turned on.
  • Change your password! Choose something more secure.

Secure your browsing

Use https everywhere that you can

  • If you use the Firefox browser, you can install the “HTTPS Everywhere addon” so it happens all the time.
  • Download it here: https://www.eff.org/files/https-everywhere-button.png
  • There will be an HTTPS Everywhere button at the top right of your Firefox toolbar which lets you see & disable a ruleset if it’s causing problems with a site. eg if you try to get on a hotel wifi connection.
  • There is no excuse for not using HTTPS-everywhere

Set Facebook & Twitter to https

The Tor browser

  • Tor is an online security project.
  • Tor has been described as “a second Internet running inside the existing Internet”. It allows people from countries with strict regimes to bypass blocking and monitoring software.
  • There’s a video of the Tor project creators talking about how governments and corporations have tried to block Tor.
  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=DX46Qv_b7F4#!
  • Tor bounces your online communication around a network of relays run by volunteers, instead of going straight from your IP address to your destination. This means it prevents people who might be spying on your internet connection from learning what sites you visit or learning your physical location and it lets you access blocked sites.

How Tor Works

A diagram showing an encrypted communication between 2 computers.  There is a grid of other computers in the picture, but no connections between them right now.

Step 1: Alice’s Tor client obtains a list of Tor nodes from a directory server

Alice and Dave's computers are shown on the left, then a grid of computers, then Jane and Bob's computers are shown on the right. A path of connections is shown from Alice's computer through the grid of Tor serving computers to reach Bob's computer as the destination.

Step 2: Alice’s Tor client picks a random path to the destination server. All the intermediate links are encrypted (green) only the final link to the destination is unencrypted (red).

The Tor browser

  • You can install & use Tor software, or use the Tor browser to make your web browsing (more) secure.
  • BE AWARE of Tor’s limits. It focuses only on protecting the transport of data. You need to use protocol-specific support software if you don’t want the sites you visit to see your identifying information. For example, you can use Torbutton while browsing the web to withhold some information about your computer’s configuration.
  • What does this mean? External applications are not Tor-safe by default, and can unmask you.
  • Tor is TCP only, and then apps can send your IP address, so it’s good to use vetted apps.
  • One way around this is to use a transparent Tor proxy like Tails (https://tails.boum.org/)

The Tor browser bundle

  • An easy way to use the Tor software is to download and use the Tor browser bundle.
  • This means just by using the Tor browser, you’re protected by Tor software.
  • It’s available for Windows, Mac or Linux.
  • It can also run off a USB flash drive (AKA USB key). This means you can safely browse from any computer, by using your USB key.
  • Download the Tor browser bundle here:
  • https://www.torproject.org/projects/torbrowser.html.en

Tor check

  • Make sure you’ve actually got it working right.
  • Once you’ve got the Tor browser installed, visit the Tor Check page: https://check.torproject.org/
  • It will detect whether you’re using Tor or not, and tell you.

Need help?

Suggested Activity: Set up a secure browser

  • Install Firefox & HPPTS Everywhere and/or the Tor Browser
  • Make sure you use the Tor Check tool as well!

Tools for Activists & Bloggers

Highly recommended:

Resources for safe publishing online

Highly recommended:

Tails – the amnesiac incognito live system

Suggested Activity

  • Set up a USB key with Tails for secure computing
  • Use Tails to encrypt files, email, and instant messaging

Thanks!

  • Thank you for coming to #Cryptopart to learn and share what you know
  • Remember ‘each one teach one’ – please find someone who needs to learn this stuff, and teach them!

I can email out this presentation with handy links to information and downloads, if you email me (sarah.stokely@gmail.com) or tweet me (@stokely).

Cheers!

4 Comments

Reader request: Feminism 101 book recommendations for teens?

From my mailbox:

Hi! My step-sister’s 14th birthday is coming up and I’d really like to get her a feminism 101-ish book. She’s experiencing trouble at school (girl-hating, slut-shaming, sexism and pressure from boys, etc.) and I’d love for her to have feminism to turn to.

The only two feminist 101 books I know of are bell hook’s Feminism is for Everybody and Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism. While the former is a little too advanced for my step-sister (she’s quite sheltered), even though it’s quite short and simplified for bell hooks, the latter is not very intersectional at all. Do you have any other recommendations?

It’d be great to find a book written with intersectionality in mind which contains info on slut-shaming, body positivity, abortion rights, internalised misogyny, etc., which is easy to understand and digest for young girls who aren’t educated about things like privilege and oppression and class, etc.

Something written by a woman of colour is preferred and, while this is not a necessity, it would be great if the author were British or Australian (to help with the context and language). Failing this, do you think it would be a good idea to get her both Valenti’s and hook’s books, and have her read FFF first and FifE after? Sorry for the long question…thanks a lot for your time! Take care.

We have an existing thread on Top 5 Introductory Texts, but I feel most books on that list don’t quite fit the bill for a 14 year old girl’s first book on feminism, especially with the requested combination of intersectionality and simplicity. Thoughts, dear readers?

Cyberbullies 101: Part 1 – muffling their megaphones

Cyberbullying is getting a lot more press than ever before.  There are celebrities now who have been reduced to bewildered cringing after becoming the target of cadres of keyboard jockeys sending them reams of hateful abuse via Twitter especially (and other celebrities who delight in directing their fans to cyberbully anyone who criticises them), which means the media pays more attention than when cyberbullying was “just” happening to schoolkids or “naive” internet users. Often there’s no obvious reason why the cadres of bullies descend on one person rather than another, although presenting as a woman online appears to increase the chances of it happening rather significantly.


CONTENTS: How the Internet Enables BulliesHow the Internet Can Block BulliesManaging EmailConfiguring Blogs and Social Media Accounts (Email Redux / Facebook / Twitter)


How the Internet Enables Bullies

The internet as a uniquely pervasive communication and broadcast medium gives abusive bullies a virtual megaphone to yell at you through, and unlike “meatspace”, their harassing behaviours are not restricted by laws requiring them to stand outside your property line or obey local noise regulations or abide by restraining orders.  They can figuratively yell at you from your computer all day, yell at you through your smartphone all day, flood your in-tray with hate-mail every day, flood your lunch-table with hate-mail every day, yell at you on the buses or trains you ride every day.  The most wearying thing about these hate campaigns is that they can very effectively dominate the space around the work you are trying to do and the people with whom you really want to associate: they aim to surround you with hateful abuse.

The whole point of these campaigns is to make targets feel that they are powerless; that the bullies are in control.

This absolutely does not have to be true.  I founded this blog in 2006, and FF101 has been widely denounced as feminazi propaganda ever since (and for the last few years, since it’s become the fashionable disparagement, as misandrist to the core).  The FAQs are regularly mocked on other blogs, and yes, I do get email.  But since I made it very clear years ago that I know how to deflect hate-spam to a holding-pen for viewing  only when I choose to do so, the attacks dropped right down, even though coordinated cyberbullying campaigns have since increased in frequency and relentlessness generally.

How the Internet Can Block Bullies

The Internet may provide the virtual megaphones for the cyberbullies, but it also provides anybody who wants them with megaphone-mufflers:  there are virtual equivalents of answering machines, mail-sorters, personal assistants, roving security guards, butlers, valets, maids, bottlewashers and most importantly, garbage trucks.  You can use these to set up layered buffers against the intrusions of cyberbullies, to keep your corner of cyberspace well organised/dusted/polished so that you know exactly where to find everything you need, where to store everything you might just possibly need sometime in the future, and where to dispose of everything you don’t want stinking up the joint.  The security-bots will block anything you tell them to block, the sorter-bots will follow your rules for keeping your inbox uncluttered, the garbage-bots are available 24/7 to haul the wastes-of-space away, and there’s apps for many other methods of keeping the crud at a distance.

The Internet even gives you a virtual Cone of Silence, so long as you’re better at pressing the buttons than Maxwell Smart ever was. Imagine a fully portable Cone of Silence redesigned by a grown-up Lisa Simpson on one of her best days and regularly fine-tuned by Daria at her most cynical.  We get to flip the switches inside the Cone of Silence so that we can block things out entirely or monitor things selectively, according to our schedules and our inclinations.  There are easy buttons to push for programming bots to examine incoming mail remotely and redirect the stuff that dings a warning bell into our “Read Later” file.

The whole point of these tools is that they allow us to control what we see and when we see it.

n.b. the techniques I list below are all examples that I have seen various people use – I don’t use all of them myself, because I only use what I have found that I need. Different readers will find different recommendations most pertinent for their own interactions online, so please don’t feel that only implementing absolutely everything listed below will shut out the megaphones. I’m sure that I’ve missed some useful tips and tricks as well, so if you have something to add, please do so in the comments.

Managing Email

It’s long been considered useful advice to separate your personal email from your work email, so that (a) work doesn’t intrude on your personal time (b) your personal life doesn’t intrude on your working day, and (c) you present a more professional image.  I recommend also creating separate email accounts for one’s blogging and/or social media accounts, so that (a) it’s easier to filter blog/social-media stuff into ‘Read Later’ folders, and (b) you present a less newbie-like image.  Cyberbullies love targeting internet naifs – if they see that you already separate your email accounts they’ll expect you to have also organised filters/folders/labels/tags etc for your email, and realise that your inbox is thus less likely to be overwhelmed.

e.g.  you might end up with something like the following (bear with me, it’s really not as daunting as it might first appear):

    • username_at_ISP@your_ISP.com
    • firstname.lastname@your_school.edu
    • nickname@webmail_service.com
    • firstname.lastname@your_employer.com
    • firstname.lastname@webmail_service.com
    • blogname.contact@webmail_service.com or pseudonym.contact@webmail_service.com
    • [seekrit_name]@[URL].com (can be important for your own blog user addy to be different from both your contact addy and your default blog addy, especially if you have gravatars for comments, so that people cannot easily impersonate you in the comments section of your own blog).

or

  • if you have your own website domain, you might choose to create as many accounts there as are convenient for the different online activities you pursue – eg firstname.lastname@, nickname@, pseudonym@, blog-contact@, etsy-sales@ etc

That list above may, as I noted earlier, look rather daunting, but it’s super-easy to manage once you have the different accounts configured. You won’t have to necessarily manage lots of different account log-ins every day – by all means consolidate your inbox by forwarding mail from the other accounts to your primary account – just use the different accounts to aid more effective filtering and project a technically adept persona as you direct people on how to contact you and respond to communications from your different accounts. You can also now conveniently recruit others to help you handle your blog/twitter/facebook/etc accounts if you need to without needing to also give them access to your personal/work emails.

Configuring Blogs and Social Media Accounts

EMAIL REDUX

It’s most unwise to use your primary personal or work email account for blogging, twitter, facebook, tumblr etc.  It makes it too easy for cyberstalkers (the creepiest subset of cyberbullies) to insinuate their tentacles into your life offline.  It also makes it too easy for current and potential employers to track what you’re saying on the internet, which is often a really bad idea. Maybe you don’t want all your relatives tracking down your online opinionating, either. If your online spaces currently use your primary email account, edit your settings so that they use your separate online-networking email accounts instead.

In particular, it’s not enough to just have a dedicated contact email address advertised in your sidebar or on your contact form.  If your blog has your primary email address configured as the blog’s default email address where the blog itself sends you notifications, then that’s the address that various plugins and add-ons will also use when they send notifications to subscribers on the blog’s behalf, thus revealing your primary email address to anybody who clicks a Subscribe By Email or Send Me Updates button.  This reveals a Lack Of Sufficient Clue to the cyberbullies, and tends to encourage them if you manage to draw their attention, and again opens you up to inadvertently letting employers or family learn stuff about you that you might not want them to see.

FACEBOOK

Personally not a great fan of FB, although I do use it for networking professionally – I tend to do very little there otherwise except keep up with family photos.  However, some people do a lot more there.  If that’s you, then show off your social media nous by separating your personal FB profile from your other online endeavours.  If you have a blog or you use Twitter for activism/commentary rather than just mucking around, then create an FB “brand”-page and connect it with your blog and twitter so that all your updates appear there rather than on your personal profile.  Even if you’re not hiding what you do from family or employers, it just looks more adept/professional to keep them separate.

TWITTER

Recommended: have a dedicated networking account and keep your personal life out of it.  If your social circle is full of personal tweeters, create a second account to follow them with, and use twitter-client software like Tweetdeck or Seesmic to manage multiple accounts.

Now, how to get rid of the clutter from your tweet-stream?  Don’t want to play along with the latest trending hashtags?  Don’t want to see spoilers for your favourite TV series’ latest episode that you haven’t seen yet?  Don’t want to see tweets from a particular person right now but maybe later?

Finally, for the toxic tweeters you really never want to hear from at all?  Block them without a moment’s remorse.   We all conserve our time and energy and minimise our stress levels by avoiding people we find annoying, or refusing to read certain MSM trollumnists whom we hold in contempt – there is absolutely no obligation for you to read tweets sent to you by people who are abusively antagonistic, it’s as pointless as pig-wrestling. Should you ever decide to track down what they’re saying about you for the purposes of documentation etc, it’s very simply done: log out of your Twitter accounts (or temporarily disable your mutes) and do an open search on the users/hashtags that are relevant, take your screenshots and file them away. Then log back in to take advantage of your blocking/filters/mutes again and get on with the useful/fun/substantive interactions that are the whole point.


There will be a sequel to this post where I deal with principles and methods of managing the haters who leave comments on your own blog. Spoiler: I believe in banhammering hard and often. Others differ on the utility of my particularly hardline stance on moderation, but surely we can all agree that it’s absurd that some people think they have the right to coerce you into not just reading their bile but also publishing it so that it also ruins the day for your readers? Pffft, says I.

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Call for Feminism 101 Links I

Hello there, it’s been a while since I blogged here, and longer since I’ve systematically been searching for exemplary 101-level posts out there.  But I know that there are strong writers out there producing excellent material, I just don’t know who you all are. So I’m crowdsourcing.

I’ve decided to begin a new feature whereby interested readers can drop links they tend to share widely because they do a great job explaining/clarifying basic feminist concepts or debunking anti-feminist myths/factoids.  If a relevant link happens to be one of your own writings, then by all means shamelessly self-promote it! And if a post of yours, or a friend’s post, gets linked by somebody else, by all means squee delightedly here in response.

In general, if somebody else posts a link that you were going to post, please respond with a note to that effect in comments.  Treat it as an upvote, and by all means leave your other links in your response.

Comments will be open for 7 days.  That is now the default setting for all posts, since the number of the clueless who insist on leaving comments on old posts without reading the previous comments and thus just repeat an earlier argument is disheartening to say the least, and I’ve decided that I just don’t want to see them any more. Depending on how this works out, I may adjust that setting either up or down in future.

1 Comment

Signal Boosting: spruik your social justice events in July-August

Events posted so far:

SlutWalks continue around the globe – check out the SlutWalk Toronto website which is keeping tabs on the Satellite Slutwalks.


This post is open to any social justice activist to spruik any upcoming event/activism outreach: protests, vigils, petitions, fundraisers, film nights, book launches, festivals etc.

Guidelines:
1. Please include links to websites with full details (Facebook pages are fine).
2. Keep your plug brief! Date/place/time name of event and 100-200 word summary, please.
(2a. if your event is already being well plugged elsewhere, please be extra-brief!)
3. Please confine the plugs on this post to events occurring in July and August 2011 only. I’ll do another post next month.
(3a. Exception made for books/films launched any time and still available for purchase. Keep on plugging them so that people still hear about them if they missed out on the launch.)
4. “Nothing About Us Without Us”. If an event is challenged by others for lacking inclusion/actively marginalising groups being discussed at the event, the event will be reviewed and subsequently the promotional comment may be deleted. e.g. events centering transphobic opinions without balance from trans voices, or centering whorephobic opinions without balance from sex worker voices, will not stand.
5. The place to complain about these guidelines is on the Complaints page, NOT on this signal-boost post.


 

Signal Boosting: spruik your social justice events in June-July

A bit late this month – apologies.

Events posted so far:

SlutWalks continue around the globe – check out the SlutWalk Toronto website which is keeping tabs on the Satellite Slutwalks.


This post is open to any social justice activist to spruik any upcoming event/activism outreach: protests, vigils, petitions, fundraisers, film nights, book launches, festivals etc.

Guidelines:
1. Please include links to websites with full details (Facebook pages are fine).
2. Keep your plug brief! Date/place/time name of event and 100-200 word summary, please.
(2a. if your event is already being well plugged elsewhere, please be extra-brief!)
3. Please confine the plugs on this post to events occurring in June and Julyl 2011 only. I’ll do another post next month.
(3a. Exception made for books/films launched any time and still available for purchase. Keep on plugging them so that people still hear about them if they missed out on the launch.)
4. “Nothing About Us Without Us”. If an event is challenged by others for lacking inclusion/actively marginalising groups being discussed at the event, the event will be reviewed and subsequently the promotional comment may be deleted. e.g. events centering transphobic opinions without balance from trans voices, or centering whorephobic opinions without balance from sex worker voices, will not stand.
5. The place to complain about these guidelines is on the Complaints page, NOT on this signal-boost post.


picture of the book coverThis June spruiking post is brought to you by the recently published novel Last Chance Cafe by Liz Byrski:

The novel centres on a group of older women asking themselves questions about the personal and political lives – past, present and future – negotiating their own feminist journeys while both mentoring and learning from younger women undergoing their own.

With aching empathy, Liz Byrski assembles a fallible cast of characters who are asking the questions we ask ourselves. What does it mean to grow older? Are we brave enough to free ourselves from the pressure to stay young? And is there ever a stage in life when we can just be ourselves?

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