Tuesday, October 11, 2011

S.E. Smith is brave as hell - but to be a womyn on the internet, you kind of have to be

"But I’m still not going to shut up, and not just because I am bullheaded and don’t take kindly to being told to be silent or die. I don’t shut up for all the people who were forced to shut up, for the ghosts who drift through the Internet, for the people too terrified to leave their homes at all, let alone try to coordinate safety concerns to attend events, for the people who ask friends to open and sort their email because they can’t handle the daily vitriol. I don’t shut up for all the people who have been silenced, who did throw in the towel because they just couldn’t take it anymore. Not because they were weak or not committed to the cause, but because they, and their families, were in danger."
Being a womyn or womyn-identified or female person at all, you are familiar to some degree with violence, or threats of it, that are gender or sex-based. I've yet to meet a womyn or trans* guy or female queer who has not been cat-called, groped/sexually assaulted, or discriminated against based on hir gender or sex identity. And just because the internet isn't "IRL" obviously doesn't mean that kind of shit doesn't happen here, either.

The kind of misogyny and rape apologia you find online is something I had mostly become inured to until my feminist birth via Slut Machine, Jezebel, and Feministing of a few years ago. It made me change how I went about the internet almost entirely; it certainly turned me off to a lot of forums and sites that are dude-oriented and dude-populated, and which are, by definition, very lady-hostile places to be.

As a person working in an industry that is just beginning use the internet for surveillance purposes, I now understand just how easy it is to get someone's vital info. You don't have to be a cop (not that cops, of all people, should be privy to this information, but according to the current cultural narrative, you would probably expect them to whether or not they have a search warrant) to find out someone's SSN, address, past addresses, relatives and affiliates, financial and criminal history, vehicle records, etc. It's easy. Even going about it legally through services that compile this stuff for you, it's generally not super expensive to get someone's background information sent to you in a nice .pdf.

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I regularly worry, with the (slow) growth of this blog, about what it will mean for me to have all this personal information, much of it regarding my health, my sexual "deviancy," my activities, and my relationships, just out there. Regardless of why I put it on my blog in the first place - because of my own nearsighted foolishness or as conscious decisions to "out" myself in solidarity with other womyn/queers/mentally ill people/ED survivors - it's out there, and as the old saying goes, nothing on the internet ever goes away. It can be used against me by employers, insurance companies, and family members, as well as trolls and enemies of our movement seeking to intimidate me, or worse, with emailed threats and comments calling me names.

Although Smith is much more high-profile than I am as an individual and in conjunction with Tiger Beatdown, I'm surprised that, thus far, internet backlash to Fembot has been minimal. People rarely comment on this here blog, which could be part of it, but the comments I have gotten that aren't spam are usually deleted because the person's comment was not worth the finger energy it took to type or the poster, though well-meaning, clearly needed to be referred to Feminism 101. In fact, I think I got more threatening emails as a college newspaper columnist than with this much more personal and, I think, "radical" blog.

As long as I'm a little fish, I don't have more to worry about than the average female-bodied or womyn-identified person. The problem is, the average female-bodied or womyn-identified person has a lot to worry about in terms of bodily autonomy and personal safety.  Dare to say something about it, and publicly, no less? You are in even more danger, and may be forced to take the kinds of precautions that famous lady bloggers (Smith, Kathy Sierra, et al) take every day. I don't flatter myself that what I'm doing is particularly important or different enough to attract particular negative attention, but I also know that all they need is an excuse.

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 Smith ended her piece with her solution to internet intimidation: speaking truth to power.
"This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it."
But then again, if ever institutionalized misogyny "goes away," what will we need feminist blogs for?

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