February 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
Mary Beard opens her recent London Review of Books essay on the public voice of women –or lack thereof– by beginning at the beginning, or very close to the beginning, specifically the Odyssey. She describes an incident in which Telemachus, Odysseus and Penelope’s son, tells his mother to shut up and go upstairs to make crafts or sing or something because “speech will be the business of men, all men, and of me most of all; for mine is the power in this household.” As Beard explains:
There is something faintly ridiculous about this wet-behind-the-ears lad shutting up the savvy, middle-aged Penelope. But it’s a nice demonstration that right where written evidence for Western culture starts, women’s voices are not being heard in the public sphere; more than that, as Homer has it, an integral part of growing up, as a man, is learning to take control of public utterance and to silence the female of the species. The actual words Telemachus uses are significant too. When he says ‘speech’ is ‘men’s business’, the word is muthos – not in the sense that it has come down to us of ‘myth’. In Homeric Greek it signals authoritative public speech (not the kind of chatting, prattling or gossip that anyone – women included, or especially women – could do).
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
Earlier this evening, Humboldt State University’s Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs sent a bulk email to all staff, faculty, and students regarding the University’s Response to Reports of Sexual Harassment and Violence on campus. Unlike the patronizing, regressive emails I had grown accustomed to at the University of Oregon, this email avoided the use of victim blaming language or advice. You know the kind, like “ladies, don’t walk anywhere alone” or “ladies, use the buddy system” or “ladies, don’t take drinks from strangers” or “ladies, don’t get drunk” or “ladies, try not to drink at all,” all of which are just a half-step from the imperative to avoid wearing short skirts, or leaving the house.
In contrast, the HSU email provided rape crisis contact information with notes on mandated reporting requirements, a bulleted list explaining what these policies meant for students, and links to other campus resources. “HSU’s goals in implementing these CSU policies are to link survivors of sexual violence with support,” it explained, “and to hold accountable those who choose to harm others.”
The most amazing thing about this email was its link to HSU’s Stop Rape initiative, which was even more surprising than the email itself. And I mean this in the best possible way. Quote:
This website is the product of HSU’s Sexual Assault Prevention Committee (SAPC), which is comprised of faculty, staff, students, law enforcement, and community partners, including advocates from the North Coast Rape Crisis Team. The SAPC is working toward eliminating rape and all forms of sexualized violence. This website works within a survivor-centered framework in order to prioritize the healing and safety of the survivor.
Sexual violence is any physically or emotionally coercive sexual contact, including, but not limited to rape, sexual battery, unwanted touching, verbal harassment, and stalking. Such violence can happen to anyone. Most violence is perpetrated by someone the survivor knows. Perpetrators, not survivors, are responsible for sexual assaults, and only a potential perpetrator can prevent a sexual assault.
We use the word survivor, rather than victim, in order to recognize the agency and strength of all people who experience sexual violence. We support the right of survivors to define their own needs; there is no one right way to heal from sexual trauma.
Sexualized violence works in conjunction with sexism, racism, classism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia and xenophobia: efforts to end sexualized violence must be grounded in an anti-oppression framework.
This is the only way to talk about sexual violence. I immediately forwarded the message and links to my former PhD advisor Carol Stabile, who –with uncanny timing– responded with an emphatic “Wow” and link to an article she just published with Ms. Magazine on this precise subject.
As is always the case with these sorts of conversations, it is so important that they are happening, and so disheartening that they are necessary. It’s hard to know what else to say, really, other than…good. It’s a start.
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
I’ve been contemplating how best to respond –if I should respond at all– to the recent University of Manitoba study conducted by Erin Buckels, Paul Trapnell, and Delroy Paulhus suggesting that trolls, or people who are said to engage in trolling behaviors (I would argue that there is a difference, or at least that how we define our terms significantly impacts whatever resulting findings), are marked by the so-called Dark Tetrad of personality traits: Machiavellianism, narcissism, and sadism. Not because I’m not invested in the conversation, obviously I am, but because my methodological approach is so far removed from those presented in the aforementioned study that it almost seems odd to compare these apples to those oranges.
Specifically, I chose not to ask psychological motives-based questions. One could, of course; it’s easy to see why this question –what exactly is WRONG with people who troll, anyway?– would be appealing to researchers and general audiences. But for the purposes of my own work, these were the wrong questions to ask. First, while I don’t doubt that many trolls/people who engage in behaviors described as trolling are indeed Machiavellian, narcissistic, and sadistic, perhaps at a higher incidence than within a random population sample (but perhaps not, depending on the population and sample therein), these conclusions are often difficult (if not impossible) to verify, particularly when you’re dealing with anonymous or pseudonymous subjects. Put simply, even when taken straight from the horse’s mouth, the fact that you are asking a troll ANYTHING immediately presents the possibility, if not high likelihood, that you are wading through a ten foot high puddle of bullshit. Because, again, troll.
So there’s that, but for me, the question of why individual trolls do what they do and what their particular damage might be is less interesting than why our culture is so amenable to trolls. That’s a completely different, and from my perspective, more dangerous line of inquiry, since it calls into question the seemingly clear-cut distinction between those who troll and those who are engaged in ostensibly “normal” behaviors — behaviors that are actually every bit as problematic (I’m looking at you, Fox News). Which happens to be the underlying thesis of my book and also everything I’ve ever written about trolls. I would make a joke about fruit salad or something, but I’m tired. Anyway it’s Friday, go home!
February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment
February 13, 2014 § 3 Comments
It is with great…..good lord, I don’t know, excitement? Gratitude? Relief? ALL OF THE EMOTIONS? that I announce that my book on trolls (which for those of you who are new to the scene, is a millionth-degree revision of my dissertation) will be published by The MIT Press (yes that MIT Press) in early 2015. This has been a long, weird road; let’s take a look back, shall we?
Here I am comparing my dissertation to The Human Centipede; here I am fretting about losing the ability to speak English during my dissertation defense; here I am smashing my head against the table post-deposit; here I am likening the process of writing a dissertation to The Shining; here I am dancing around the complex psycho-sexual relationship I have with my manuscript; here I am discussing my overall writing process and offering some SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK OR DISSERTATION tips. Good times!
The day the contracts were signed, my husband and I decided that there could be no more appropriate response than to rewatch our favorite art film Troll 2, which is actually about goblins and not a sequel. So that was great, but then Chris did one better by making and sending me this video, which serves as a reminder that I could not have done this on my own. I also had television.
So without further ado, I’m publishing a book! Here is the new, finessed abstract:
This book chronicles the emergence and evolution of online trolling, a wildly popular behavioral practice predicated on meme creation, forum raiding, and general disruption. It focuses specifically on behaviors born of and associated with 4chan’s /b/ board, one of the Internet’s most infamous and active trolling hotspots.
Pulling from thousands of hours of participant observation, dozens of formal interviews with participating trolls, and a careful reconstruction of the history of online trolling, the book argues that the so-called troll problem is actually a culture problem. Not only do trolls fit comfortably within the contemporary American media landscape, they effortlessly replicate the most pervasive—and in many cases outright venerated—tropes in the Western tradition. Trolls may take these tropes to their furthest and most grotesque extremes, but at a very basic level, trolls’ actions are born of and fueled by culturally sanctioned impulses, immediately complicating the impulse to condemn trolls for their obscene and seemingly deviant behavior. These behaviors may well be obscene, but as this book illustrates, the most surprising thing about trolling is that it isn’t all that deviant. In fact, in ostensibly non-trolling contexts, similar behaviors are regarded as perfectly acceptable, if not desirable. Ultimately then, the book isn’t just about trolls. It’s about a culture in which trolls thrive.
February 5, 2014 § Leave a comment
There’s nothing I can add to this. From The Metro:
A woman is thought to have become the first person in Britain to be jailed for trolling herself.
Michelle Chapman was given 20 months in prison after setting up fake Facebook profiles supposedly of her father and his wife to send hundreds of abusive messages to herself, before complaining to police.
The 24-year-old, of Robins Close, Par, in Cornwall, was described as ‘wicked’ by Judge Christopher Harvey Clark QC at Truro crown court.
The court heard how her actions resulted in innocent people being arrested or receiving police cautions, as well as the breakdown of her father’s marriage.
Chapman’s year-long campaign of abusive messages only came to an end when forensic internet inquiries revealed the Facebook profiles had been created at her own address, This Is Cornwall reported.
January 31, 2014 § Leave a comment
Nathan really doesn’t like the IT Crowd (playing in the background), which is too bad because of two little words called Matt Berry, my new television boyfriend. Need proof? Skip to :24 for some hot Faaaathhhaaa! action.
And here he is in Snuff Box, one of the weirdest shows ever produced by man.
Berry also stars in what we’ll be watching again during our Sunday TV party. Looks like it’s going to be an OK weekend after all!