tim: text: "I'm not offended, I'm defiant" (defiant)
[personal profile] tim
"Men are afraid women will laugh at them, while women are afraid men will kill them." -- Margaret Atwood

"Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

There's a company called Gittip that helps people make small, regularly scheduled donations to people whose work they like. In principle, this is a great idea, since the free market doesn't magically ensure that artists, writers, and social activists can get paid for their work.

As it turned out, a lot of the top fundraisers on Gittip ended up being women who work for equality in tech: people like Shanley Kane, Ashe Dryden, Lynn Cyrin, Noirin Plunkett, and others. This wasn't necessarily something that the creator of Gittip (a white dude named Chad Whitacre) foresaw or intended; it just happened that way.

White guys in tech love talking about "meritocracy", so you would think they would applaud this outcome as a meritocratic one. The people doing work that was most worthy of support received the most donations, right?

...well, no, that's not quite what happened. Instead, numerous commenters on Hacker News (I'm not linking to these comment threads, since Hacker News is NSFL) excoriated Gittip's top users for being "professional victims" (read: women who resist male domination) and Gittip itself for helping women make money. Incredibly, Chad Whitacre replied to one of these comments with agreement -- showing that, as Sky Croeser pointed out, Gittip supports the harassment that many of its top users in particular.

Shanley Kane and Ashe Dryden, in particular, have written about the massive amount of daily harassment they receive just for being women in tech who speak out about wanting to be treated equally. In particular, Kane recently made her Twitter account private in the hopes of reducing the number of death threats and rape threats she receives.

Whitacre, in the meantime, made a bold move: he wrote a blog post attacking Kane for bullying him. No word yet on whether any of the bros on Hacker News think Whitacre is a "professional victim" as a result. (Also no word on how many death threats and rape threats Whitacre has received for expressing his views.)

I've closed my gittip account and donated the balance remaining in it to Noirin Plunkett. I do want to support people who are doing work that I value, but supporting a company that incites abuse of the same people I want to support isn't a way for me to do that.

In "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" -- required reading for anyone who has ever noticed someone be wrong on the Internet -- Martin Luther King, Jr. distinguishes between "a negative peace which is the absence of tension" and "a positive peace which is the presence of justice". People like Whitacre prefer negative peace -- where abusers abuse in private, and in public, abusers are polite and victims are silent -- to positive peace, where everyone can be heard. The preference for negative peace can be heard in every call for "civility" online that is mysteriously only directed at people in marginalized groups who are criticizing upwards in the power structure, and seen in every finger pointed at Black feminists online for making Twitter "toxic". Negative peace favors abusers and reconstructs oppression. The world that supporters of negative peace want is one where people (like themselves) who have power can hurt people as much as they want as long as they do it with a smile on their face, without using any cuss words.

In short:
  • Meritocracy: still a joke.
  • We need a payment system that's run by and for activists who act in solidarity with intersectional feminism. Otherwise, this will keep happening again and again: literally any service that feminist activists are able to make good use of will become a service that increases the amount of harassment and abuse aimed at the same activists.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-20 04:28 am (UTC)
sonia: Quilted wall-hanging (Default)
From: [personal profile] sonia

I had a bodywork client who paid me with money she made by dancing at a strip club. That's when I realized that whether we're at the margins or at the center, money comes from and is controlled by those in power. :-( :-(

(no subject)

Date: 2014-06-21 04:33 pm (UTC)
sonia: Quilted wall-hanging (Default)
From: [personal profile] sonia
In complete agreement that this is worth discussing. Interesting point about claiming to do good and doing more harm.

Maybe I'll repost my comment on my journal for a separate discussion - I think it ends up being a derail here.


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

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