tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
[Content warnings: Discussion of domestic violence, suicide, and verbal abuse, including specific misogynist slurs and more general sexist gaslighting strategies.]

In 1989, Marc Lépine murdered fourteen women in Montreal for being women and being engineering students. He proceeded to kill himself, having written in his suicide note:

"Would you note that if I commit suicide today 89-12-06 it is not for economic reasons (for I have waited until I exhausted all my financial means, even refusing jobs) but for political reasons. Because I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.... Being rather backward-looking by nature (except for science), the feminists have always enraged me. They want to keep the advantages of women (e.g. cheaper insurance, extended maternity leave preceded by a preventative leave, etc.) while seizing for themselves those of men." (quoted by Wikipedia)

More recently, in 2014, Elliot Rodger murdered six people near the UC Santa Barbara campus. Rodger also killed himself, citing his feelings of social rejection by women as the reason for his crime:

"I'm 22 years old and I'm still a virgin. I've never even kissed a girl. I've been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I'm still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I've had to rot in loneliness. It's not fair. You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime.... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman.... How could an inferior, ugly black boy be able to get a white girl and not me?" -- (Rodger's manifesto, quoted by Wikipedia)

Did Lépine and Rodger have some good points? Did they have valid grievances regardless of the regrettable way in which they both chose to express those grievances (mass murder)? I hope you won't have to think too hard before saying "no". Neither Lépine's sense of entitlement to social privileges, nor Rodger's sense of entitlement to sex and racial status, are reasonable.

In Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, Lundy Bancroft (a counselor who co-founded the first program for abusive men in the US and has worked with abusive men for many years) shows that domestic abusers don't abuse because of their feelings, because they're out-of-control or angry, or because they are mentally ill or influenced by substances. They abuse because of their thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes, which create a coherent justification for abuse -- largely through beliefs that they are entitled to something from a woman, and are morally justified in punishing her if she doesn't provide it.

"...an abuser's core problem is that he has a distorted sense of right and wrong." (Bancroft, p. 35)

Likewise, Lépine believed that he had a right to a job and that women were oppressing him by being better job candidates than him. Rodger believed that he had a right to sex and that women were oppressing him by not sleeping with him. By killing women, they hoped to send a message to all women that interfering with men's wishes was dangerous. They killed in cold blood, uninfluenced by mental illness or uncontrollable rage. Both crimes were premeditated; both killers had moral theories that justified their actions. We know about those moral theories because both men wrote about them. The positions that men have a right to jobs and women do not, and that men have a right to sex and women have a moral obligation to provide it to men who want it, are political opinions. I hope it's obvious to you that these political opinions are wrong.

Last week, a manifesto written by a Google engineer surfaced; the manifesto resembles those of Rodger's and Lépine's, and you can [CW: explicit sexism, racism, and various other *isms, as well as gaslighting and manipulation] read it for yourself. The manifesto tells a subset of people who work at Google, "Your presence here is illegitimate and you don't belong." I know that's the message because I'm one of those people: I'm a trans man and thus, according to the document, am biologically worse at engineering than cis men like its author (although it's not exactly clear whether the author thinks that cis women's uteruses make them worse at coding -- in which case my skills would come into question -- or whether their hormones do -- in which case I'd be in the clear, phew!)

The manifesto expresses thoughts, beliefs and attitudes that are common to its author, Lépine, Rodger, and the domestic abusers Bancroft describes. It is written from a place of entitlement: like Lépine and Rodger but unlike some of the domestic abusers, the entitlement is not to just one specific woman's attention and service, but rather, to special privileges as white men and to submission and deference from all women, and all people of color, and everybody else occupying a lower position in the social hierarchy. Like Lépine, he's concerned that they're taking our jobs.

In response, Google's VP of Diversity, Integrity, and Governance -- in an email to all Google employees with the subject line "Affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion—and healthy debate" -- said, "Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws." Other executives expressed disagreement with the message in the manifesto while agreeing that the author had a good point about the "psychologically unsafe environment" for people with political beliefs like his. Some managers reiterated that it was important to be able to share different points of view at Google. In other words: he was wrong to say these things, but you can't help but sympathize with the poor guy -- he felt persecuted for his political views.

When you say that the manifesto writer had a point, you are saying that Rodger and Lépine had a point.

"...the abuser's problem lies above all in his belief that controlling or abusing his female partner is justifiable." (Bancroft, p. 35)
In the rest of this essay, I'm addressing you if you think the views in the manifesto are wrong but that the author has some valid points, or that the manifesto is a valuable contribution to healthy debate. I want to show you that these views need to be shut down, not debated with or sympathized with. I am not addressing people who substantially agree with the content of the manifesto. If that's you, then you might as well stop reading right here.

Read more... )

tim: Solid black square (black)
[CW: discussion of the École Polytechnique massacre and violence against women.]

25 years ago today, a man murdered fourteen women because they were women and because they were engineering students. That man, Marc Lépine, said (before he killed himself), "I am fighting feminism".

It's a popular thing to scold people to leave their politics out of "tragedies". A tragedy is a disaster that could not have been prevented. But the École Polytechnique massacre was not a tragedy. It was a consequence of structural misogyny, which is not an inevitable part of social organization.

We would also be doing the victims a gross disservice if we dodged our discomfort with the misogyny that almost all of us have internalized by shifting blame onto the abstraction of "mental illness". Marc Lépine was not sick. He was not crazy. Rather, he was taking his society's teachings seriously, namely

  1. It is honorable to die for what you believe in.
  2. Being a man is special, and isn't inevitable from innate identity but must be performed through a variety of activities. When women try to do these activities too, they are threatening men's birthright.

When boys and men are taught that the most impressive thing a man can do is to die in a blaze of glory, they take that lesson seriously. The same teachings whose primary purpose is to encourage lower-income men to join the military and fight wars for the economic benefit of rich men have another, perhaps unintended consequence. What's the difference between going to war and killing those you're told to hate and kill, while potentially giving up your own life, and giving up your own life by suicide while taking as many people you hate with you as you possibly can? The first is respected by most nice people and the second is condemned by those who point their fingers in all the wrong directions. But really, what's the difference?

When you call Lépine, and other men like him, "sick" or "crazy", you engage in a form of othering -- a form that excuses yourself from your own responsibility to examine your own misogyny and call out that of your peers. To be clear, very few of us commit mass shootings, and the things that we do do to sustain patriarchy and kyriarchy (from addressing groups with "Hey, guys" to declining to hire women) are not comparable with murder. But we all make assumptions and say and do things that create circumstances that are favorable for more killings by more men like Lépine, men who are just doing what they've been told to do.

Dismissing Lépine and his ilk as "sick" or "crazy" is an act that declares your own blamelessness, which is counterproductive to dismantling structural misogyny. If he was sick, then we are all sick. But I don't think that's a useful word, because people who are sick need resources outside themselves in order to get better. We have everything it takes to make women's lives matter, already, within ourselves.

tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
Since writing "It's All Connected" almost a month ago, I haven't had much to say about GamerGate; it seems like everything's been said and the people who should be listening are refusing to.

Tonight, though, I do want to add something. On Twitter, [twitter.com profile] whump linked to this pro-GamerGate article by Georgina Young. The article is entirely unremarkable except for one thing: it appears on Mozilla's Open Standard blog. Unlike Planet Mozilla, Open Standard's messaging is that it is a blog curated by Mozilla, and Mozilla is responsible for any editorial choices.

By choosing to present the issue of whether women should be purged from the video game industry as if it has two sides, Mozilla is legitimizing the abuse of women and actively participating in the creation of a hostile environment for women in software.

Moreover, as [twitter.com profile] solarbirdy pointed out, Open Standard almost gave Eron Gjoni -- the abusive stalker who launched the GamerGate harassment campaign back in August as revenge against his ex Zoe Quinn -- a platform to continue perpetrating his abuse. Gjoni has admitted that he started GamerGate in order to defame and abuse Quinn.

This might be more surprising to me if not for what happened back in September when I filed a Bugzilla bug report about GamerGaters' use of Mozilla's Etherpad installation -- basically, a public pastebin -- to coordinate their attacks. Mozilla runs an open, unauthenticated Etherpad server at etherpad.mozilla.org (e.m.o.) -- the e.m.o. home page contains the following disclaimer: "Mozilla systems and collaborative tools are intended for use by the Mozilla community for Mozilla related work and subject to web site terms and conditions at Legal Notices." I expected that -- since coordinating Gamergate was obviously not Mozilla-related, and the people using it for that were not members of the Mozilla community -- the content would be swiftly deleted., in the same way that Github swiftly deleted a repository used by Gamergaters. [Edit: see comments.]

The contents of Bugzilla issue 1063892 are private, visible only to me (as the bug reporter) and Mozilla staff. But here's the gist of it: several Mozilla staff concurred that it was not an option to remove the content from their Etherpad server without consulting their legal team. This is puzzling, since most other companies I'm familiar with would not need to consult their legal teams to remove consent that constituted an abuse of company resources. When a member of the Mozilla legal team asked, "does the existence of these mopads have any negative consequences to the company?", multiple Mozilla employees answered this question "no" -- that is, they don't believe that it hurts Mozilla's reputation to provide free Web hosting for a harassment campaign. Jake Maul, a member of the Mozilla ops team who the bug was assigned to, elaborated:

If Mozilla removes this content (without any legal requirement to do so), without a policing system in place to remove other non-Mozilla content, we open ourselves up to the claim of being biased. This is not a Mozilla issue. By removing content (without law or policy protecting us), we potentially make it one.

If someone can point to specific lines of pads that infringe specific parts of the Mozilla CoC (or other suitable document), then IMO that drastically lowers the bar to removing these pads because we can easily point to why the pad was removed. For instance, we could remove the pad and then create a new one with the same name containing a link to the relevant document to explain why it was removed.

I'd personally be much more at ease about removing content if someone can show me where in the pads the harassment is happening. They're large, and much of what I've skimmed seems like links to other places and (without following every link) I'm not sure the stuff hosted on our servers constitutes harassment. If it doesn't, then what reason do we have to remove it?

In case it seems like I'm supporting harassment, let me be clear: all I want is a good solid leg to stand on before we employ the banhammer. Mozilla has had plenty of bad PR this year, and I don't want to add to it with a claim about censorship, "hating gamers", or "supporting misguided Social Justice Warriors". If we get our ducks in a row first, we can (hopefully) avoid any negative fallout.

Jake seemed to be under the misapprehension that Mozilla -- a private company -- requires some sort of law that specifically justifies them using their property in the way that they choose. In fact, Mozilla is free to delete any content from their servers, for any reason that they choose, just like every other private company (an exception is common carriers like your ISP or the phone company; Mozilla is not a common carrier).

In response to Jake's comment, I wrote:

I'm afraid I don't see how Mozilla will be hurt by criticism from people who self-identify as opponents to social justice.

No one addressed this comment. In any case, the legal team's final response was:

Jake: please take down only the specific etherpads that were reported in this bug. The basis for removal is that these reported pads: (1) do not relate to the Mozilla community and (2) contain objectionable content. The combination of both us why we're requesting a takedown.

Moving forward, we're recommending against active searching of public pads using keywords. Instead, our position is that we'll consider any specific reported pads and decide on a case by case basis if there is a basis for removal. We feel this is the best way to retain and encourage the positive uses of public pads that can be used by Mozillians and non-Mozillians (e.g. teachers, other nonprofits, community groups, etc.). This approach also means that, when pads are being used for questionable purposes and this is reported to us, we'll examine and remove public pads based on the specific situation. There are many interpretations and perspectives of what is objectionable content. The legal team assists in making this call.

Please file a legal bug if there are more reports of objectionable mopads. You can file here: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/enter_bug.cgi?product=Legal

In this gamer situation, if more reports come in regarding objectionable pads, we can evaluate and discuss if further action is needed and what that might look like.

It's unclear to me how removing harassing content interferes with use of Mozilla resources by "teachers, other nonprofits, community groups, etc." I am also genuinely unsure what kind of backlash Maul and several other Mozilla staff members feared from people who don't like "social justice warriors", but in any case, it seems to me like if Mozilla is going to get out of the business of standing up for social justice on the Web, they should probably let their donors and volunteers know that.

You could, of course, argue that all of this is evidence of Mozilla's collective cowardice in the face of a genuine threat to the open Web, but I would argue that organizational cowardice in the face of coordinated bullying is indistinguishable from support for those bullies. Unlike the many women who Gamergate attacked -- with the help of free Web hosting from Mozilla, at least temporarily -- Mozilla is a wealthy organization with the resources to resist harassment and attacks. Instead, Mozilla has chosen to walk a path paved with false equivalences and bogus free speech concerns -- a path that ultimately leads to a Web where only people with the resources and social standing to resist or evade harassment and doxxing can make their voices heard.

If you support Mozilla but can't feel safe supporting an organization that presents attacks on women as just another side in a debate, I encourage you to let them know.

Edit: Since at least one person has complained that the quotes are out of context, here's the entire PDF of the Bugzilla thread, with innocent parties' names redacted.
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)

Content warning: Discussion of violence against women, gun violence, death and rape threats, workplace harassment, suicide (and threats thereof as an emotional manipulation tactic), online harassment, abuse of the legal system to further sexual harassment and domestic violence, and neo-Nazis.

Italicized quotes are from Stephen Fearing's song "The Bells of Morning", which he wrote in 1989 about the École Polytechnique massacre in Montreal.

It's All Connected


"Tonight I am speechless
My head is filled with pouring rain
As the darkness falls on Montreal
When violence is shrieking
The city streets will run with pain
Until the moon can shed no light at all"

"Gamergate": the word we dare not write on Twitter, for fear of a torrent of harassment. It started with a spurned ex-boyfriend doing his best to try to drag his ex's reputation through the mud. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams, because she makes video games, and he -- as well as an army of supporters initially rallied using the 4chan hate site -- weaponized male video game enthusiasts' terror of women encroaching on their turf.

Why this fear of women? The term "witch hunt" is overused, but Gamergate is one of the closest modern-day analogues to a witch hunt. Teenage boys, frustrated in a culture that doesn't have much use for teenagers at all, were so dedicated in their zeal to spread lies and hyperbole that a major corporation, Intel, acted on the fear they spread. (I use "teenage boys" here to refer to a state of mind.) Like a toddler who has figured out something that annoys their parents and keeps doing it, and like the teenage girls of New England in the 17th century who figured out that they could set a deadly chain of events into motion, these boys are drunk on the power they have stumbled into. Their goal? Stopping a woman they believe to have strange powers: the power to pass off what they see as a non-game as a game, through bewitchment of influential men ("bewitchment of" here means "sex with"). I am being literal here. Read more... )

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I haven't seen "The Hurt Locker", but I did happen to read this post earlier today, and it makes me wonder: apparently, the only way a woman can win Best Director is by glorifying militarism?


tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

August 2017

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