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my bubble and several other semi-related thoughts

July 8, 2010

I really was going to get stuff done tonight. I was going to get a whole bunch of work done planning TA training for the new grad students. But I figured I’d just pop online a moment to see if there were any good updates to peruse. Geek Feminism has a new linkspam up, and I’ve gotten buried in links. Oi. Seriously, I just keep clicking on links as I read, even though I know it’ll just take longer, and I hate myself every time I click on one, but here I go again. Oh good, that one turned out to be a dud link. Alright I’ve got it down to four tabs…two…alright well one is staying open because I want to peruse that blog more, and one ’cause it’s about evo-psych and to keep an open mind I need to read that with free time. So now I’ll blog. Yes, this post was written while I read, can you tell?

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut there’s some great reading. And one post in particular has gotten me thinking, even though I’m only halfway through it. The post discusses how geek culture and feminism collide. This quote really made me think:

But I didn’t, because being silenced like that is so…horrible. I felt powerless. I surround myself by supportive and non-asshole people, so I’d almost forgotten what being silenced because I’m a woman felt like. I’d almost forgotten what it’s like to talk to people who will, as soon as it’s convenient, completely invalidate my speech and my experiences. And my attempts to elicit sympathy were read as crazy-talk, hysteria, not-important. So I left.

Because I don’t see it any more. I don’t watch tv. I hang out with very liberal progressive amazing people. I live in a world full of academics who are usually too busy to bother being asshats. Heck, I’ve gotten to where I enjoy my safe bubble so much that I consciously avoid conversational topics around certain people. I like not getting pissed at the world. I like being able to be happy and feel safe that I won’t be insulted randomly while trying to enjoy myself or do my job. It’s great. But it really is a bubble. I don’t watch tv in part because commercials drive me up a wall; sometimes because they’re boring, but other times because the advertising makes me angry/nauseous/sad. I hang out with liberal progressive people in part because I know that they’re safe to talk to, and usually won’t attack me for disagreeing. Straying outside of this bubble will make the world much more frustrating, and scary sometimes. I know this, but I tend to forget it because I’m so protected right now. Then again, all I have to do to remember it is read the comment section of any blog without strong moderation. Extra points if it’s a woman writing about feminism. (Check out just about any obviously feminist post on Thus Spake Zuska for an example of what I mean, and I’m pretty sure she moderates reasonably well.)

On a semi-related topic. I tend to assume that the real asshats, the ones who say the worst violently misogynist shit, that they are young men. The stereotype is a fourteen year old who’s just discovered that he can swear online and no one will know. I tend to assume that they’re young men (at least under thirty) and that real grown up men aren’t like that. Except, that shit happens on NYTimes and These are not websites that bored young people peruse for mischief, are they? Who are these trolls?

There is this idea that anonymity will benefit women who are victims of online harassment. First because it will stop people from being quite so mean. I give you Ctrl-Alt-Del’s comment on that: “A Troll By Any Other Name…”. Secondly, real names are, well, real world names. They mean that the harasser can find you. I’ve heard that people are being panicky when they say that…here’s the results of some quick googling. I’ll omit full names because that would be ironically irresponsible of me.
Me: the real me shows up on the first page of results
Erik: first hit
Ned: first hit
Alejandro: doesn’t show up for his full name, but he’s the first hit if you add the city
Julia: first hit is her old lab, as well as two others that associate her with UCI
Shawn: first hit
Mayukh: first hit
Joonhee: doesn’t show up for his full name, but he’s the first hit if you add the city
Tatyana: first hit
Nick: doesn’t show up for his full name, but he’s the fourth hit if you add the city
Fawn: first hit
Megan: took more than thirty seconds to find
Tivoli: first hit
Now, granted, not all of these hits are that useful, though many link us to our current school and department. Also, we’re grad students so maybe we have higher than average web presence. But my comment by Megan’s name was serious: this was thirty seconds or a minute on each name. I’m sure if you tried, using just the info on this blog, Google, and the willingness to call or email people to try to find me. (Please don’t; that’d be creepy. Also, I’m pretty sure everyone reading this already knows me.) When people say they don’t want their names out online, they really mean it. When they say they don’t want cities out online, they really mean it. Yes, a truly determined troll could probably somehow get the information illegally using just a forum username, no matter how good you cover your tracks, but why should we hand it to them? Why should we make it take a thirty second Google search to figure out the address of the building we work in? (Btw, basically this whole paragraph is motivated by those idiots at Blizzard that have decided that effective moderation is too much work and are instead forcing users to post real names in an ill-conceived attempt to reduce trolling.)

Finally, the I linked above recently did an interview, and had this quote that made me laugh a lot: (laugh in a sad “it’s either laugh or be angry” sort of way)

If I complain about the complete lack of plot in Avatar, for example, I’ll hear murmurs of consent in a room full of geeks. If I say Avatar is inexcusably racist, however, that same room will suddenly get defensive.

So that was an interesting post. Also, I thought I should tell you, I acquired two new tabs to read while writing the rest of this. But I’m gonna post now. Wish me luck in finishing the reading before bed.

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