In recent days, I was asked by editors at Motherboard to review a science documentary. The PR pitch for the film seemed interesting enough, however, upon watching the whole documentary, I found myself caught up in a moral dilemma of the feminist type. Why? Because the documentary, female-centric in story and production, was terrible.
The email, more or less, that I sent my editor about the documentary:
The documentary didn’t focus enough on the science which was by itself quite interesting (this genetic disorder disproportionately affects Puerto Ricans, for ex) with the film opting instead for a human interest angle that was barely relatable. There were few emotional moments that connected with the viewer. The interview subjects themselves were a bit derp (overweight, unattractive, elderly, lacking eloquence or all of the above), and the awkward hokey music that played over their camera time didn’t help at all. They said their life sucked, but I as a viewer was never shown any substantial example of how their life sucked. I was bored and disinterested throughout. The animated story in the very beginning of the doc was the best part.
In addition, the documentary did a poor job of explaining the science. I was confused over whether or not the drug on clinical trial was approved by the FDA, and then later, why it was not approved. The film mentions at the end the same drug was approved in India, Europe and Japan but never explains the politics or why this is the case. I realize this was because they were trying to focus on the people, but the people were not as interesting as the science or the politics behind the science.
I generally rate Motherboard documentaries as a 8 or higher (out of 10)….I would put ______ at a 4.
I opted to not complete the assignment. I could have written something positive about the film despite not enjoying it or finding it sharable, but I found this option just as morally wrong as publishing the negative review. True, the negative review would have led to more publicity for the film, and this team of film-makers, but I don’t believe all press is good press when you are dealing with sexist environments like those found in filmmaking in general as well as documentary-filmmaking.
The documentary filmmaker, a lady scientist, had received awards for her work on PBS and such a decade-plus ago, so I was surprised by how not enjoyable her latest project was. It’s almost like she can’t compete now, in this age of everyone-is-a-filmmaker-on-YouTube. It might have been good enough for PBS in the 1990’s, but not now.
This whole personal dilemma of mine reminds me of Buzzfeed getting press last fall for their decision to not write negative reviews. The rebuttal to their “no negative reviews” position came from Gawker, of course, who argued news outlets are not supposed to be extension of publicists and PR firms, (a laughable position when you look at sites like TechCrunch and PandoDaily). This argument is fundamentally true, news outlets are not supposed to be beholden to publicists by any means, but I don’t see the merit in smacking down an older woman in a tough field for delivering a shitty product.
Is my thinking wrong here?
The Trollocaust and Feminazi Twitter Drama Explained in Context
Twitter is this unique social space that brings vastly different (and sometimes insular) Internet cultures together, and when this happens, the culture clash creates crazy Internet drama like yesterday’s “trollocaust,” dubbed so by the trolls, hackers and Anonymous-affiliates who felt they were under attack by “feminazis” hellbent on muffling their freedom of expression. Neither group has any business with the other, but here they are, operating on the same platform and pissing each other off. Maybe it’s time they went their separate ways. They don’t understand each other anyway. One’s harassment is another member’s way of showing love.
On Monday, dark web counter culture folk who follow rules and etiquette birthed from places like 4chan, Something Awful and Usenet found themselves at the mercy of older women who did not grow up with the Internet and viewed their obnoxious 4chan ways as if they were a foreign language. More than 45 accounts of people associated with Anonymous and activists were suspended as a result of this clash. The feminists lost only one, the twitter account for a blocking app used by feminists and atheists. The suspensions began after four women reported harassment, sadly still a common occurrence across most of the Internet, to Twitter.
If a woman (or a man) was being harassed, including with death and rape threats, on 4chan or a place operating under similar rules, the way to get the abuse to stop would be to come up with a witty retort preferably from the weird Internet society handbook of inside jokes and circle-jerkery. This witty retort can also be an offensive remark meant to disgust and upset the abuser, like making light of the Holocaust, questioning the abusers sexual orientation, gender, religion, whatever will upset the abuser to admit defeat. Besting the abuser in argument intellectually works as well, but a weak comeback can and will result in more abuse. One does not make controversial or unpopular statements in a 4chan-like place without the power of their convictions, and the last thing one wants to do is to lose their cool, get mad and contact the moderators or Internet police. Saying you will do so is taken as a sign you want and or need more harassment. New users in these web communities are generally hazed with abuse to ensure they can handle the madness that is the community, and are expected to speak in this coded way if they want to stay a part of the community. This code includes racist, misogynistic, antisemitic, homophobic and over the top offensive language and jokes despite many in the community being black, homosexual, feminist and Jewish.
Twitter is different. Twitter is not 4chan or the deep web, and will never be 4chan and the deep web– Twitter even has rules and tools in place to prevent it from being so, like the block button that eliminates the need for the person being harassed to best the harasser in any sort of argumentative exchange. A woman, especially an older woman, is not on Twitter to get into a face-off of “who is more offensive” or to find out who has a more logically sound argument, nor does she have time for such juvenile games. She uses Twitter for a completely different reason than the young male that frequents 4chan. To her, the slur “feminazi” is offensive, misogynistic and reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh, and a term she does not use ironically or in an attempt to “take it back” like younger feminists on the micro-blogging network. She does not get that she is being tested, because no one gave her the memo. Death threats and words like “trollocaust” are offensive to the woman, nay, most users on Twitter of both genders, because they don’t know they’re supposed to be offended by the term. They did not get this memo either. People on Twitter are not on the platform to condition themselves to bombastic and offensive statements or take a crash course in how to withstand cyber-bullying. Many of them are genuinely incapable of handling offensive language on a screen and when they see it, they will report it whether or not they understand the context. In the rules dictated in the Twitter space, it is not normal to receive death and rape threats, and people who make such threats are reported to the authorities or in this case, the Twitter police. The Twitter police actually do their jobs in Twitterland, and if they find someone violating their rules, they will suspend said user. These are the rules of Twitter, and by Twitter’s own inclusive nature, are very different from 4chan-like etiquette. 4chan’s 10 year old codex is rebellious, alienating, cultish and strange while Twitter’s is more akin to civil and mainstream society by design. Twitter is its own web place and can do what they want.
Which brings us to the “trollocaust:” the 4chan game cannot be played on Twitter because not everyone knows the rules. Even if all users do know these crazy Internet society rules, they may not want want to play by them, and it is unfair to subject them to the game because outside of the 4chan context the game appears quite rude with players mostly bigots. The game only works if everyone knows they are playing, and since not everyone is playing, everyone loses.
So what’s a troll, Anonymous affiliate or follower of deep web etiquette and humor to do? Go elsewhere, maybe even back to 4chan and Something Awful. Anywhere but Twitter, because Twitter doesn’t want you, and you just lost the game. No one likes a loser.
Or, you know, make your accounts private and communicate however you see fit with your peers.
Ask me to describe Paris to you, and I’ll balk and try to change the subject.
Despite spending a week there, all I can muster about the city when pressed is … well, there is a river in the middle of it, and the surrounding banks and hills are dotted with pretty buildings. Information you can gather from Wikipedia, or your imagination. Oh, and there’s art in museums and good food in restaurants but you should probably check out Trip Advisor because I don’t remember the name of that fancier hostel I stayed in or the bar I drank at every night. No recommendations from me, buddy, no specifics to give, now move along now please before this gets more awkward.
I try not to bring up I’ve been to Paris in conversation, because my inability to talk intelligently about the city is embarrassing. I want to remedy this situation by going back there and actually paying attention to Paris, the city proper, the second time. The funny thing is, months before my trip I planned to take detailed notes and photos for my mother. The Hungarian nationalists inside us wanted to compare. Budapest, my birth city, is considered the Paris of Eastern Europe and we were curious about its French counterpart. Could Paris in fact be the lesser, the imitator, the Budapest of Western Europe? I accepted my mission to do research for the Motherland wholeheartedly.
My time in Paris was, more or less, hopelessly distracted. Sure, the wine was great, attractions great, cafes and hostels great, all great great great blur. My original goal of studying the city (even its public transportation system!) was scrapped almost immediately and instead, I spent the entire time observing one thing and one thing only: a human male called “M.” Out of the corner of my eye.
I was constantly alert to his presence, my brain obsessed with tracking him. I watched where he walked, analyzed what he wore and who he was talked to and what he took a photo of. When he laughed, all my senses left my body and hovered steps near him like a ghost. Looking at him with both eyes was out of the question.
I had gone to Paris with M and his best friend who very importantly was my just-days-ex, as well as all our friends in college who were very intent (this they made clear) on the ex and I making up on this overseas break. M and I were madly, secretly in love, (I had been for a year), but we feigned disinterest in public; the trip would be more pleasant this way, we agreed while we packed the night before. On top of covertly spying on M, I had to diplomatically refuse and sidestep reconciliation schemes hatched by ex-and-friends. It was an excruciating week. Read the rest of this entry »
“I want to both have sex with her AND strangle her to death. But in which order…?”
The response? A few joking replies and little else. Not a single person objects or scolds the users. No one even clicks the “dislike” button on menace8012’s comment.
The incident is evident of a larger trend on YouTube, where sexist attitudes towards women run unchecked. It’s not just the trolls or haters in the comments section of videos; YouTubers have cyberbullied women based off their appearance since the site’s inception.
Menace8012’s comment, and the community’s response (or lack thereof), may seem extreme to the casual YouTube community safarian, but it also perfectly portrays why so few women have found success on YouTube. Many women on YouTube try to avoid this negative sexist environment by cloistering themselves in the beauty section of YouTube, but that does little to combat the anti-women sentiments running rampant throughout the rest of the site.
Like rape apologist ideology, YouTubers who silently upvote, or in this case “like,” menace8012’s comment are implying iJustine deserves the threats and derogatory comments she gets, daily, because of the way she looks and dresses. Sometimes in her videos, the blonde, blue-eyed and pretty iJustine wears a tank top and lip gloss, and that little bit of sexuality occasionally sends both genders into a sexist frenzy. Read the rest of this entry »
People tell jokes about violence against women all the time, either because they don’t realize violence against women is a cultural norm, or because they think laughing at said cultural norm will somehow make it less horrible. This is the only way that I rationalize the astronomical rise of the tumblr “Exploding Actresses” and the lack of any adequate critique of it as a form of Internet art.
As the title of the viral tumblr suggests, actresses explode. Not any random actress in any random movie either, these are actresses in movies very much beloved by women. There are GIFS, YouTube videos and stills.
“Have you ever imagined your favorite actresses and Disney princesses without heads?” opened one gleeful blog post about the subject. Huffington Post labeled their “hilarious” post about it “satire” but was unclear as to what was actually being culturally commented on: that women iconography was being destroyed rather violently, or that a male was behind it?
Them exploding is no big deal, it’s a joke, it’s supposed to be funny, all the write-ups imply. This is problematic for a variety of reasons but Lindy West can explain those best somewhere else.
Perhaps the tumblr creator Simone Rovellini — who lives in a country the UN flagged for having particularly bad domestic abuse problem – didn’t mean to be sexist with his movie choices or in picking the “greatest actresses in film history,” and merely chose the movies he did because the depictions of love in those movies make men’s heads explode. Or maybe he was implying that while watching these movies might make women happy, it will really leave them braindead. Oh wait. Both of those reasons are still sexist.
It’s interesting to note that as Rovellini’s mini-art project picked up press all over the world, he began exploding men’s heads in his work. Still only in movies beloved by women though. Hmm.
Possible alternative title: My vagina gives me much trouble in 2013. (Oh no, that’s so victim-blaming. Maybe try, how the current health care system failed my crotch! Or make it something about the lack of bike lanes! Or the dangers of a sedentary life style! The modern condition! I have many ways I can take this… )
Stadtmiller, recently profiled in the Observer as being a “gross over-sharer” and a “crazy woman” is dare-I-say it, fast becoming an inspiration to me. (Not linking to piece because it was rude and reeked of internalized misogyny.) I’ve always found Mandy’s writing fearless, and her transparent but self-deprecating style — she makes herself the butt of her jokes many times — has made me an admirer. I wish she talked about mental health more though, so I would feel less a fool.
So yeah, if my mother and my mate want to harass me about all these posts about my crotch, well, I am going to direct them to Mandy. I’m already getting slack from gamer males, whispering in my head-setted ear late at night while I try to take a control point or shoot a sniper, about me liking to slice my pussy — a reference to my Thought Catalog piece about my vagina. It’s unsettling, which was probably why they were doing it — to mess up my game — and I took the verbal abuse and shrugged it off without comment.
Anyway, see that photo above, of my favorite flats that I have been wearing since last summer? It is the perfect visual metaphor of how unstable my life has been, both mentally and physically.
Of all the things the grey-haired veteran journalist-types taught me before they were laid off, one was ringing true now: I must first take care of myself. Which explains all these posts about my crotch, see. I must take care of myself before I can take care of anyone else.
As you can probably guess by this post, the pain in my crotch woes continue because nothing is ever that quick-fix easy. (A lot of my other woes continue too like some same old Sam, including me failing at various work plans like leaving the house or sorting my freelancer issues, of which I now have 6. Ugh, help. Co-working spaces in Chicago, anyone?)
Once again, the pain is partially my doing too: I was too delighted this Sunday with having full hip rotation that I pulled a muscle – the psoas – in my crotch, right side. I was feeling sexy at the time, and still only partially regret it — having full movement made me so very confident. But then it came, like a punch from the universe. In my goddamn crotch. I floundered in bed for at least an hour sobbing from the pain, a long hot shower did nothing to soothe it, and I thought very seriously about going to the ER. I didn’t go, because what can they do besides fondle my crotch and give me painkillers I’d refuse to take?
It was quite possibly the worst pain I have felt since the accident, and I was limping well into the night. When the pain and the muscle spasms finally subsided around 3am, I masturbated furiously and to my satisfaction everything down there was still working. Thank the gods. Yeah, I am so male in that way, of wanting to make sure my junk is still fine. This way of thinking, as a woman, is a luxury in many parts of the world I realize.
(Is no one going to hire me full-time now that I mentioned masturbation in multiple posts? Am I a disgrace? These are interesting branding questions… questions Mandy probably knows the answer to.)
Speaking of Mandy, Stadtmiller gave me an interesting idea yesterday, about crowd-sourcing my medical bills. I don’t know if I am cool enough to pull it off, but I really do want some x-rays down there and actually go to a physical therapist instead of doing shit from home. I also think my last doctor missed some things. My essayist friend Rachel Rabbit White suggested I clean up my last post and submit it to xoJane, but I am unsure of what to focus on in the re-edit. If I do though, I would ask for some medical bill help.
I am officially getting tired of all this pain shit. I want to be running, dancing and biking already goddammit, but I know that is out of the question right now given walking normally is still a motherfucking problem. I feel like my crotch pain — what I’ve currently self-diagnosed as a grade 2 psoas strain — has been slowing me down for years. I am getting incredibly impatient with the limits of my body right now, if you can’t tell, and it is not helping my mental health or work issues. Ugh.
Not to end on a completely negative note; all this pain and self-reflection has forced me to slow down and re-evaluate things in my life. (Like, not freelancing for so many places, learning how to say no, figuring out better time management and what not, etc.) So, there’s that.
Because what is this personal blog for, right? I hardly use this damn thing but here goes:
I took a really long vacation – well, more like an adventure – in India. For all of February. I learned quite a few things about myself (more remembering and reflecting than anything – yeah, depression’s a bitch like that) so I know I will be processing the experience for months to come. It was a kick in the gut. No, really. One night, after 48 hours of being sick and unable to hold down water or food, I had a fever dream of such crisp details.
So I returned to the States determined to be a master of my fate, in a way that I couldn’t be if say, I was born in India.
- I started blogging for VICE’s tech blog Motherboard (a place I like much better than Slate for many reasons) after a piece I wrote about this group of online “trolls and hackers” known as the Rustle League. I think VICE is a good home for my contrarian and weird Internet stuff, and we’ll see what happens there.
- A piece I wrote about labiaplasty was published on Thought Catalog, and it made both my mate and my mother mad. They didn’t understand the value of the piece at first, objecting to its personal nature. I ended up telling my mom I don’t want to live in a world where you can’t talk freely about your body as a woman (aka, an abstinence only education nightmare where women all get plastic surgery) and that convinced her. I had originally written it for VICE which was why there is all those curse words in it. (Ha! ) I need more non-tech venues for my writing. I’ve been tech-exclusive for about 2 and a half years now (half of my writing career!), and the stay-at-home lifestyle sometimes exacerbates my mental health issues.
- My third piece for the Guardian’s op-ed section Comment Is Free should be up any time today. Yes, also very exciting. My first piece went up in January. I want to be an Evgeny Morozov/Nick Carr type (I think my blog subhead of multiple years communicates that desire, but maybe not), but we will see what happens there too.
- I am still at ReadWrite despite it being a constant sea of changes. Now an old boss was recently hired there, so, I am feeling more comfortable there now than when I first returned from my trip.
- Last week I started writing for a content start-up focused on the business aspects of web video, Video Ink. I am excited about this for a few reasons, even if it is a pretty boring job and feels like a job more than any of the other places I am writing for, because 1) it takes the digital space seriously and understands just how disruptive it is 2) out of a core team of 4 people, only one is male.
Now for some (potentially) bad news!
I am 28 now and I have yet to finish any of my books. AHHHHHHH. The one I wanted to finish first was a bit memoir-like: former Soviet Satellite refugee version of Amy Tan mixed with Obama’s Dreams of my Father done in the Collected Works of Billy the Kid style. It touches on having a single teen for a mom, among other darker themes. It’s heavy, but I know I can make it funny. My mother, however, broke down while we were preparing Easter dinner: if I publish what I want to about being a child of domestic violence, it would bring shame to her and her name. She is embarrassed. I should have known, as her and I only began having open discussions of what kind of man my birth father really was, just a few years ago. After he died, actually. But … I think that is also part of the problem – the lack of conversation. She didn’t even tell her second husband, or her last boyfriend.
I don’t know what to do here, as I feel like writing about my experiences is within my right as it was also my trauma – it is part of my coping process – and I actually think my book would make the world a better place. On the other hand, it is very much her life too. Maybe I can suck it up and finish my science fiction novel, but I am very inspired to work on this particular project. RIGHT NOW. But I can’t finish it if she won’t talk to me any more about it, can I?