dreamer_easy: (Default)
Who's a LiveJournal CSS genius, then? How can I make the icons in my entries appear on black instead of white - outside the rounded box, to its right, rather than inside it?
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
"Anyone in the world could read this stuff. Anyone in the school could say, 'Wow, look, that's Molly Reddington. Look at what kind of person she is.' They could judge me by what other people wrote about me."
- Boston Globe, Internet bullying hits home for teen, 30 June 2005

As I've mentioned in the past, my own experience of cyberbullying has been comparatively minor, and I don't think of it as "bullying" when I have a heated exchange with another person online. A news item from 2007 discussing the differing results of US studies into cyberbullying touches on this point - that "brief encounters", as one researcher put it, should be distinguished from "recurring harassment". (There's an obvious comparison here between a one-off fight between a couple and the ongoing terror of domestic violence, or a single after-hours proposition and a campaign of sexual harassment.)

My school experience was of continual, unpredictable, unavoidable verbal aggression. But online, it's all too easy to shut harassers out. (I've just tweaked my email filter so that it eats notifications of anonymous lj comments without my knowing anything about it.) Unable to directly reach their targets, cyberbullies turn to the more indirect methods of social exclusion and malicious gossip, with the excuse that their target deserves the bullying and is a "drama llama" if they don't meekly accept it. Far from being normal and harmless, though, bullying damages lives. In some cases, it helps end them.

ETA: Teenage girl is first to be jailed for bullying on Facebook (Guardian, 21 August 2009). It's an extreme case, the culmination of years of threats and actual violence, so it isn't necessarily a turning point. That said, read the bit where the bully lies about how and when she posted the threat - only to be confronted with the Internet records. Mmm, schadenfreude.
dreamer_easy: (computers)
On Community, and the difference between Usenet (and mailing lists) and Livejournal.


Mar. 9th, 2009 12:25 pm
dreamer_easy: (Default)
Questioning Transphobia links to a post at Problem Chylde called The Top Five Ways That White Feminists Continue To Discredit Women of Color. For both bloggers, I think, the problem boils down to exclusion: "...it attempts to define what feminism is, what counts as feminism, and tells us that we aren't really part of it" (PC); "as being outside the movement, as being, at best allies to feminism, and not truly able to be a part of feminism" (QT).

This plugged in to some thoughts I've had about the difficult discussions of race and racism online, particularly in fandom (and therefore particularly amongst women). What I'm wondering is to what extent the fannish obsession with boundaries, and the schoolgirl thing about forming cliques, tends to whittle the debate down to simplistic binaries - who's on our side of the line, and who isn't.

Fandom spends a great deal of time trying to define boundaries - the most obvious debate being what counts as "canon" and what isn't. Is it An Unearthly Child or 100,000 BC? Which is more valid, tie-ins or fanfic? There's a parallel between this fanboyish behaviour and the bad habit in fangirldom of forming cliques - not by including mates in private conversation, but by publicly excluding individuals through indirect aggression (anonymous bitching, malicious gossip, "open letters", etc).

I've never really understood the thing about rigidly defining the edges of feminism. Or femaleness, for that matter. For example: who gives a toss whether progressive men are allowed to be feminists or merely "pro-feminist"? What's important is what they're actually doing about inequality. Similarly, the exclusion of transwomen from women-only spaces often seems not to be about how transwomen behave, but about trying to sharply define "female". Literally: who's allowed in the clubhouse and who isn't?

None of which is to say that I don't have exactly the same impulses as everyone else. Not only do I have my own gut feelings about what counts as canon, but I'm aware that sometimes my brain will cough up remarks like "But he's really a boy" or "Hmmf, he doesn't look very Aboriginal to me". Yeah, thanks for that, brain. Plus there's that dreadful thing where you see a name (or a username) and your grey cells do that internal scan for which category they belong to (sweetie / asshole / lol-bringer / complete cunt etc etc). Particularly dangerous when you're bad at names and tend to mix them up, as I do.

Anyway. So I'm talking about a powerful impulse to exclude, an impulse I think we've got to recognise and overcome. Audios aren't canon. New skool fans aren't real fans. She's a bad feminist. And she's not really a feminist at all. We're not talking to her. She is beyond the pale.

Now I must clean me lute.
dreamer_easy: (computers)
Do you consider your LJ to be your private space, or a public arena, or somewhere between the two? I think of mine as very public, and flock anything I don't want to share with the universe, but I often bump up against people who consider their LJs to be much more of a personal space, and don't want the likes of me friending them, disagreeing with them, etc. I think that attitude is understandable and try to respect it; but it's not always obvious that this is someone's attitude, and suddenly I'm right where they don't want me, ie, in their face. [livejournal.com profile] who_daily has caused a bit of trouble now and again by linking to folks who didn't expect the whole of fandom to suddenly turn up in their journal, and who weren't actually looking for a debate, thank you very much. So tell me: how public do you consider your LJ to be?
dreamer_easy: (INTERESTING)
Description of a panel planned for the Gallifrey con next February:

When Did the Shippers Take Over Online Who Fandom?: It was only a few years ago that hardcore Doctor Who fandom online was ruled by the ubergeeks, the techno-savvy nerds debating continuity and canon... you know, us guys. No longer. Thanks to LiveJournal and the new networks of fans, Doctor Who fandom is more female, more ‘shipper’ (relationship-oriented) and raving about David Tennant. When did the shippers finally take over? We’ll take a look.
[livejournal.com profile] drho's indignation at the above, shared by numerous commenters, has me fascinated. Some of the pique is just sloppy reading and Internet Maths, but there's a more telling thing going on. It'd be ridiculous to say that online Doctor Who fandom isn't more female, waaaay more female than it used to be; it'd be ridiculous to say that shipping is not overwhelmingly a female pasttime; and ridiculous to say that the influx of female fans into online Doctor Who fandom has not meant an unprecedented amount of shipping. RTD set out to get women to watch the show. Caitlin Moran ships and squees all over the Guardian. Existing fandom, predominantly female on- and off-line, simply colonised the mostly-gay-male little corner that was Who fandom. (1996 saw a similar, if much smaller, influx of women into Who fandom, with the TVM, Paul McGann, and the romantic subplot.) Besides, the panel description is not intended to insult fangirls, but in fact is conspicuously self-deprecatory. Far from denying female involvement with Who fandom, the con has a panel with two women who were involved with LA-based fandom in the 70s.

So why such defensiveness about the association between fangirls and shipping and squeeing?

Searching for an old posting of mine to stick into the argument, I came across an academic discussion of gender in Who fandom which I found extremely illuminating. Rather than try to summarise, I'm just gonna quote a big chunk of it:
[A bad experience with male sports fans makes DK] wonder if I looked around the much more female space of livejournal fandom if I would find people attacking practices that they think are particularly male. I don't think so, actually. Far more of the practices that get attacked based on unwarranted assumptions of the "bad fans" backgrounds assume that the bad fans in question are 16-year-old girls.

AM: So sports and academic cultures both attack feminised fan practices - I think that's true. Again, the Doctor Who comparison is interesting. I think there are gendered practices here too. I've never heard a female Doctor Who fan recite the production story codes for every episode of the program, but I know boys who can do it. [...] So there are differences there. But I don't see the same kinds of attacks on gendered cultures in the DW community. Because of the revamp, we now have a huge number of female fans coming in to the Doctor Who community who weren't there before - and I haven't seen much evidence of resistance to that from the men. Indeed, I'd say there's almost a gratitude. For a long time we've been seen as sad, geeky nerds, in this exclusively male hobby whose very maleness seems to show how sad and geeky it is (it's very different from Star Trek fandom). And so the fact that women are joining the fan community - many of them focussing on the emotional relationships in the program - is seen as something of a relief - we are becoming like normal people rather than geeks.

But what caught my eye about your final comment wasn't the gender - but the age. 16 year old. Because although I haven't seen any resistance in the Doctor Who community to women joining, I have seen resistance to young people joining. There was recently a poll for 'the best Doctor', which was won by the current incarnation (David Tennant. Also a favourite with female fans for his 'floppy fringe'). This led to some venomous outbursts from older fans against the (presumed) young fans who had voted for him from a position of (presumed) ignorance. The young fans have become an enemy, without the proper historical knowledge of the program, who haven't been here for 40 years like we have, watching every story and learning the nuances of the program. (as I'm writing this, I can see that as many of the new fans are female, there could be an overlap between the hatred of young fans, and the hatred of female fans - but I can honestly say I haven't picked up any of this in the discussions that I've seen. The attacks haven't drawn on language that is gendered either in the imagined bad fan, or in their supposed interests in the series).

DK: I'm fascinated to see you say that. Mostly I've avoided online Doctor Who fandom since the new series began. I know the quirks of the female fan community which has adopted the show wholeheartedly, and I remember the craziness of rec.arts.drwho, and I was looking forward to watching those two communities meet like matter and antimatter. I know that there have been enough conflicts in my own off-line life between those who are fans of the old show and new show both, and those who discovered the show with the new series. Primarily we argue about 'shipping, about relationships and whether or not the Doctor can be romantically involved with a human Companion (the Eighth Doctor movie never happened I've got my fingers in my ears I can't hear you la la la la). And I know from tidbits I've picked up that our conflicts mirror many of the conflicts between old-school fans and new-school fans of the show in general.

But I have to admit I would have assumed the conflict would be more gendered in tone. After all, you've got a fandom that (me notwithstanding) is primarily male, heavily gay. And suddenly it's interacting with a new group of fans who are primarily female, many of whom eroticize male homosexuality. I guess I would just expect that to turn into a gendered conflict.
Buried in there is, I think, the explanation.

Something I have noticed over and over in online girlfandom is a squeamish contempt, a positive horror of adolescent behaviour - I guess it's the young adult equivalent of a teenager's contempt for childish behaviour. If one sees shipping and squeeing as immature behaviours, then it becomes an insult to describe women as participating in them, to characterise them as a primarily female activity - even though this is in fact true.

If I'm right, then fangirls need to stand up for our own culture instead of cringing from it or apologising for it. Have we internalised a gendered version of mundane culture's contempt for fandom - because we're grownups, but we still get to play?

(NB. Anyone who comments that I am saying all fangirls ship and squee and do nothing else, and that fanboys never ship or squee, or indeed remarks that they don't exist, will be referred to the Internet Math posting.)
dreamer_easy: (medical all too much)
As I mentioned earlier, Chicago TARDIS proved to be the cure for Internet fandom: the sound of laughter beats the silence of snark hands down. Unfortunately it also triggers a painful recollection of one's own online behaviour. For example: I can't quite believe that, on more than one occasion, I have bet online fans money they were wrong. Fandom's negligent, nay, cavalier attitude to fact is infuriating, of course, but can you imagine doing that to someone's face?! (Hell, even if you did, it would be defused by the exchange of visible signals - "what the shit", "I am not entirely serious", etc.) Egad. Jon had the good sense to apologise at the con for everything he has ever said on the Intersplat, and I more or less followed suit. As a forum for discussion, the net is worse than useless: I shall henceforth dedicate myself to essays (and, on contentious convention panels, shall fall silent and observe).

In related news, I have somehow managed to order two copies of the S4 boxed set, neither of which contains the promised outtakes. Blat. :P
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
I had hoped to space this stuff out so as not to look COMPLETELY obsessed, but now someone's gone and reserved the other books I borrowed as well - they must be writing their thesis on it or something. Anyway, I have to take a bunch of notes from them pretty much now.

Cyber bullying: bullying in the digital age by Robin M. Kowalski. )

For those who may have come in late, here's a quick rundown of what I'm saying:

There's a lot of bullying in online fandom. Because it's difficult to get away with direct bullying, such as harassment, most of it is the indirect kind of bullying: malicious gossip, spreading rumours, attacking reputations, backstabbing. Bullies avoid consequences from their behaviour by posting where people can't defend themselves (eg fandom_wank), or by misusing anonymity (eg the Who anon meme). (Anonymity has many positive uses online, but it can also encourage and protect bullies.)

My own experience of fanbullying has been pretty minor. It's infuriating to have people telling lies about you behind your back, but it's nothing like the nightmare that was high school. So why am I so concerned? Because fandom is full of kids who are far more vulnerable than an old boiler like me. I see this stuff causing a huge amount of hurt and upset, and yet, fandom just takes it for granted. Instead, we should be questioning it.
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats goes back tomorrow, so here's my last few notes from the book.

Read more... )
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
Someone reserved Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats by Nancy E. Willard, which means I have to take it back next week, so I'm going to take some brief notes from it. It doesn't add a whole lot to what I've already said, just reinforces and clarifies some of it.

Some more on cyberbullying )
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
Well, whaddya know. Turns out I'm not the only person who's had harsh words for the Who anon meme, judging by a fandom secret posted in its defense. On that subject, then, some relevant secrets wot I pinched:

Yikes kind of huge )
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
I started these postings with these questions: "Right - my experience of fanbullying. How is it like, and how is it unlike, my experience of bullying in school? How is it like, and how is it unlike, cyberbullying and bullying in general?" I think I can now answer them.

The most important factor in comparing these four things is the level of control the victim has. At school, I had no control. With cyberbullying, I have a lot of control over harassment - in fact, I am seldom harassed - but feel completely powerless in the face of malicious gossip.

At school, I was largely unaware of the infrastructure that supported the constant harassment. Only occasionally would some remark make me realise that the bullying was going on out of my hearing as well. My tormentors were sharing malicious gossip about me (and, I'm sure, plenty of others). For them, the rumours and lies acted as social glue. When two people bitch about a third, it brings those two people closer together.

Malicious gossip is also a crucial component of cyberbullying. It not only supports harassment, but it can directly be bullying itself: Web sites set up so that everyone can share their hate of an individual who cannot stop them or defend themselves; anonymous gossip sites where anything goes, however vicious.

Ring any bells?

In school, I would have been perfectly happy for the gossip and rumours to go on in the background without my ever knowing about them. Online, perhaps because I can avoid or stop direct harassment, it's the more indirect bullying that concerns me.

If you get into fights, the way I tend to, you have to take your lumps. If I piss someone off and they grouch about me a bit, that's one thing. But fanbullying is not fighting. In a fight, you can see your opponent, and you can land blows too. Robbed of the ability to directly harass, this is how fanbullies operate: through indirect, repeated attacks on those who are powerless to resist, with the intention of causing distress.

You can prevent people grouching about you by avoiding fights. But you cannot prevent bullying through your own behaviour. If you haven't done or said something outrageous, something you have done or said can easily be distorted. At a pinch, hey, we'll just make something up. This was true in high school, and it's true online. You could, of course, constantly search for these attacks (I used to) and counter them with the facts. This misses the point that the facts are irrelevant. Trust me - even in a face to face fight, you'll end up spending all your time defending yourself against personal abuse, instead of actually discussing the subject. Besides, people sometimes believe gossip even when it contradicts the evidence of their own eyes. (In any case, you can't respond in fandom_wank unless you already have a JournalFen account... and those are "temporarily" unavailable.)

Bullying, of any kind, is not about the victim. We are not responsible for stopping it, and we cannot stop it. That's not to say that there aren't things we can do to protect ourselves - nor that nothing can be done about fanbullying. The first step, IMHO, is to call it what it is. Like all bullying, fanbullying is harmful and wrong. It is the bully's fault, not the victim's. Fandom should not accept it. Fans who engage in it should be ashamed of it and stop doing it.

All this has made me examine some of my own behaviour, of course. I'm satisfied that I don't engage in behaviours which meet the definition of bullying I've given here. Which is not to say that I can't improve my interactions online through more skilful speech. Not that this will make any difference to the bullies... but it may mean less grouching. :-)

Knackered now. I'll try not to post anything further on the subject for, say, a week. Thanks for listening.
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
In our latest exciting installment: cyberbullying.

It's basically the same crap - only now with the added power of technology:

"Traditional bullies always had to let their victims see them and could only gain the support of friends who were around. Cyber bullies can humiliate, threaten, and belittle their victims without their identity being known, or they can have an audience of thousands. Cyber bullies are becoming more and more common as children use these communication methods more and more in their daily lives. Cyber bullies can say things that they can not in front of other people in chat rooms, IM's and on websites. This allows children to be much meaner than they traditionally could. Things that they could not say in front of adults and even other children are now easily said online... Traditional bullies could only reach an audience of the other children around, with the internet hundreds of children can gang up on a single child."
- Bullying Advice Web site (emphases mine)

You're probably aware of some high-profile victims of cyberbullying: my hero Ghyslain Raza, who severely kicked bully ass; Megan Meier and Ryan Patrick Halligan, children who took their own lives. It's soul-destroying, life-destroying shit. It's often illegal (increasingly so).

Turning to my personal experience: for me, a profound difference between school bullying and online bullying has been is that harassment online has been easy to avoid. I've had a few harassers over the years, easily avoided, or easily stopped by reporting them or outing them. Similarly, one can simply avoid hateful comms like fandom_wank and the Who anon meme. And that does help. But it doesn't mean those comms aren't havens for cyberbullying, and it isn't the solution.

I'll return to this tomorrow night. In the meantime, have a squiz at these:

Gossip websites cross the line to cyber bullying

When cyberbullying hits teens
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
Continuing to explore how my experience of fanbullying is like, and is not like, my experience of bullying in school, and how it is like and not like cyberbullying and bullying in general. To follow up from last night's cheerful account of my experience of bullying at school, here's some more general stuff about school bullying.

I don't think I need to dwell on the effects of bullying, which continue into adulthood: damaged self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-harm, even suicide. If you want more details, just read the comments to my last posting.
"Bullying is a behaviour that can be defined as the repeated attack - physical, psychological, social or verbal - by those in a position of power, formally or situationally defined, on those who are powerless to resist, with the intention of causing distress for their own gain or gratification."
- Valerie E. Besag, Victims and Bullies in Schools
In my case, I was "powerless to resist" for three reasons: firstly, no support from the school or from teachers. Secondly, no way to avoid the harassment. And lastly, terrific feelings of guilt about my own anger and aggression. The two or three times I lost it and thumped someone, I spent an hour afterwards crying in the counsellor's office.
According to Gary R. Plaford in Bullying and the Brain, as well as physical violence and threats, bullying at school includes "relational aggression, verbal abuse, verbal put-downs, harassment, jokes... pranks... intentionally embarrassing another, social ridicule, rumour starting... social exclusion... any behaviour that uses threat, fear, intimidation, harassment, coercion, humiliation, or isolation to influence another person in a negative manner".

"... traditional forms of bullying include direct behaviours, such as hitting, kicking, taunting, malicious teasing or name-calling, but they also include indirect (and often less obvious) behaviour, such as rumour-spreading, social exclusion or shunning, and manipulation of friendships ('If you're her friend, none of us will talk to you.')
- Robin M. Kowalski et al. Cyberbullying
You should be starting to see some obvious parallels here in fandom, including but certainly not limited to fandom_wank and the Who anon meme. More about cyberbullying specifically in my next exciting posting.

A crucial point I want to make is that merely butting heads with someone else is not bullying. I have a long and alternately glorious and embarrassing history of getting into fights online, and I have encountered some prize assholes, both in and out of fandom. I do not equate those bullies with people who are merely pissed off with me. Not until they start in on the ad hominem shit, bitchy gossip, and grudgewank, anyway.
dreamer_easy: (SHE STANDS UP AGAIN)
Right - my experience of fanbullying. How is it like, and how is it unlike, my experience of bullying in school? How is it like, and how is it unlike, cyberbullying and bullying in general?

First, let me talk about high school.

The bullying I experienced at school was mostly harassment. It was unpredictable and continual. There was no moment of the school day, nor between school and home, when I could be sure I would not be bullied. Every aspect of my life was under constant surveillance - everything I wore, said, or did was subject to attack.

It took the form of verbal abuse. Physical violence or threats were rare. The bullies were almost always girls. I responded by trying to ignore it. In six years, this never, never worked.

I was socially excluded, of course, but in my case, this wasn't damaging. I preferred to be left alone. (Last year, someone actually flaunted their sekrit LJ comm in front of me, like little boys putting up a NO GURLS sign on their treehouse. I wasn't hurt - just gobsmacked.)

I am, as you can tell, deeply scarred by these experiences. My parents did their best to support me (my brothers, too, who were facing their own bullies); no blame attaches to them. Instead, it's the teachers, schools, and the bullies' parents, as well as the bullies themselves, who are to blame.

To me, the most obvious legacy of the school bullying is rage. When my shrink asked me how I felt about it, I was barely able to articulate the amount of anger I'm still carrying. That anger is based on a profound sense of injustice. The bullying was unfair on every level, from the unfair things said to me or about me, to the fact that the bullies were never punished.

btw, you may have heard Helen Razer talk about her terrible experiences of bullying in high school... my high school. From her accounts, she had it ten times worse than I ever did.

(Thanks for listening, peeps. As you can tell, it helps me enormously to articulate this stuff.)
dreamer_easy: (torchwood thumbs up!)
... in not entirely unrelated news, look what I found, in the userinfo of [livejournal.com profile] capslock_house, of all places:

(The response from many quarters will of course be "CRY MOAR", or in English, "If my assholery makes you feel like shit, that's somehow your fault." ETA: Plus "Don't be such a drama llama", or in English, "Stop making me uncomfortable about my shitty behaviour." >:-)


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