The Moderation Policy

There’s an interesting discussion of “Alas” comments and moderation in an older post; the current round of discussion begins with comment number 297 by Mandolin. Here’s the complete text of Mandolin’s first comment in that discussion:

I know this has been said before, but I guess I feel the need to add my voice to the din. For whatever reason, Alas, which theoretically has an emphasis on civil discourse, seems to host more vile sentiments than any other blog I read regularly (note: I dropped Hugo from my reading list for similar reasons*).

I like being here, and I like reading the posts, but the way Ann and Pheeno have just been attacked — really, dramatically attacked — is kind of galling.

Why does the emphasis on civil discourse create this feedback loop? Is it because the posters on Pandagon, for instance, are more comfortable mocking the creeps before they get so creepy? Is it just a different bannination policy? Is it an illusion caused by the way comments thread here? Do the comments get as vile in other places, but the reaction of the population is just different, so the scary stuff isn’t as clearly delineated?

If no one else is interested in opening up this can of worms, it’s cool. And I appreciate that Chris has been asked to leave. But, it still happened.

(*Leading me to be curious about why it is that the feminist blogs hosted by men have such an infestation, but with a group of 2, it’s hardly a real pattern.)

There’s a lot more discussion there, which I’m not going to attempt to summarize. However, since loading over 300 comments is a pain for some folks, I’m starting this new post for continuing that discussion. (Admittedly, people will have to reload that page initially to read the discussion, but eventually we’ll be able to move the conversation over to this thread).

UPDATED TO ADD:

I do have several ideas of what we can do, some of which contradict each other.

1) Stop having comments on “Alas” at all.

This is actually pretty appealing to me, in some ways; I’d miss some of the discussion, but having comments is also a major pain in the neck. But I don’t think other people would love it. I certainly wouldn’t do this (or any of the other ideas, actually) if Rachel and Maia disagree.

2) Get more folks to moderate.

But they’d have to be folks who “get” the idea of the site, who don’t hate the idea of the site, and they’d have to be willing to volunteer. (Feminists only, natch.)

3) Put a “email the moderators about this comment” link with every comment that appears.

One thing pointed out in the discussion is that people tend to hesitate to report comments they’re concerned with — but in fact, I’d find it very, very useful if people emailed me right away when things go over-the-top. (Maia, Rachel, would you mind receiving such emails?) The problem, of course, is that I’m not online 24/7, and neither is Rachel, or Maia. This is an area in which having more moderators might help some.

4) Add a “progressive anti-racists only” condition to some posts, similar to the “feminists only” rule condition some posts have.

This will definitely happen — we just need to work out the wording. (Just saying “anti-racist posters only” won’t cut it, because everyone considers themselves to be anti-racist.)

5) More “progressive anti-racists only” posts. More “feminists only” posts.

6) Create an “Alas annex,” meant for polite debate between different idealogical views, and outsource most of the non-feminist, non-progressive comments to the annex.

That’s some of what I’ve been thinking. A number of folks suggested various technological solutions, but I’m not sure those solutions are things I’m technically capable of implementing.

I’ll post more later, but right now I’ve got to go get my teeth drilled. :-(

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196 Responses to The Moderation Policy

  1. 101
    Robert says:

    aren’t you giving preferential treatment to YOUR subset, forcing the discussion in a direction you want to go?

    Well, contributing, rather than forcing, but sure. So? When you talk emotions, you’re taking it in the direction you want to go. When I talk rationality, I’m doing the same. Neither is objectionable.

    Scenario A:

    Frank: “God, it tears me up to see what happened at VT this week. I can’t stop thinking about those kids, and how it’d be if our son had been there.”
    Mary: “Yeah, it’s powerful stuff. It really speaks to how gun bans can have unintended consequences. I read an interesting paper that said…”

    Scenario B:
    Frank: “God, it tears me up to see what happened at VT this week. I can’t stop thinking about those kids, and how it’d be if our son had been there.”
    Mary: “Well, he doesn’t go there so your emotional reaction is irrelevant and stupid. Now, let’s get back to talking about the policy implications of…”

    Scenario A is two people talking about it in two different ways. Scenario B is one person trying to control the type of conversation that’s being held. In Scenario A, Frank’s next line could be “wow, those statistics are a surprise to me” or a continuation of his discussion of his feelings. In Scenario B, Frank is shut down and wouldn’t dream of sharing anything further.

    If I’ve been Scenario B Mary, then I suck and I’m sorry about that. If I’ve been Scenario A Mary, then I haven’t done anything out of bounds.

  2. 102
    Brandon Berg says:

    Kate:

    I can only assume it is your relatively highly privileged status that allows you to be able to ignore it. And quite frankly your dismissive attitude toward the emotional aspects of the issues we discuss here at alas is precisely what I am talking about with regard to subtle rudeness.

    But the problem with this—and this is something I’ve noticed before—is that the effect (not the intention) is to render certain claims unassailable, because disputing them is inherently offensive. This takes issues that aren’t settled in the broader world (i.e., outside feminist circles) and settles them simply by unilaterally redefining the boundaries of acceptable discourse so as to exclude one side of the argument. I suspect that this is what Robert was talking about when he alluded to the use of emotion as argument. Or not. Anyway, it’s what it made me think of.

  3. 103
    Ampersand says:

    And with that disclaimer, I thought it was legitimate for Bean to call BB on being misogynistic about his attitude toward dating women in the nice guy thread. I felt as though censoring that particular word plays into a construction that misogynist is a personal insult like “asshat,” when I viewed it in context as descriptive.

    I would argue that disallowing the use of the word misogynist is like disallowing use of the word sexism — it takes a valuable tool from the feminist arsenal. Saying “that’s misogynist,” or even “you’re misogynist” — when in a justified context, for instance when speaking to a man has been representing anti-feminist positions on a blog over a long period of time — is like saying “check your privelege,” IMO. The other party may view it as fighting words, but that doesn’t make it inaccurate.

    In the case of Bean’s post, what I objected to wasn’t the use of the word “misogynist”; it’s that the post was purely a personal attack, with no argumentative content. It wasn’t even addressed to Brandon; it was telling other people to ignore Brandon. Calling Brandon out for misogyny in his arguments, rather than talking about him in the third person (as, ironically, we are now talking about Bean in the third person), would have been much better.

    In other words, if Bean (or someone else) responded to a post by saying “this is a really misogynistic view, and here’s why: A is misogynist, B is misogynist, C is misogynist,” I wouldn’t object. The word “misogynist” is not a personal attack, and many essential arguments that I believe in and agree with cannot be said without using the concept.

    But a post that says “Ignore everything Denzel says, because he’s a misogynist,” but basically has no other content, is in my view unsubstantive and tends to bring the conversation in bad directions.

    That said, if I could do it over, I either would let it pass without a comment, or I would comment on it but make it clear that I have absolutely no objection to the word “misogynist.”

    I should add, however, that I really appreciated Bean’s response to being moderated on that thread. She didn’t respond by posting multiple attacks on me on her own blog, or by sending me a half-dozen nasty emails (as a handful of other folks, both feminist and anti-feminist, have done). She wrote a follow-up comment letting everyone know in strong terms that she thought I was wrong, and then she let it drop. Maybe it’s because she’s been a moderator herself, but I really think she handled that well.

    UPDATE: That last paragraph may sound like I’m saying “shut up if you disagree with me.” I didn’t mean it that way at all; I’m glad that Bean registered her disagreement with me, and if the same situation comes up again maybe now I’ll know to either let it pass or to do a better job explaining what I’m objecting to.

    I guess I feel like it’s a bit of a catch-22, for me. People want me to moderate more. But sometimes it feels like every moderation decision I make has to be followed with a dozen emails and posts defending my decision. I don’t have that kind of time or energy.

  4. 104
    Radfem says:

    Thanks, bean for your post. That’s pretty damn close. Oh, and what crys t, q grrl, Jake Squid and what some other feminists said….hmm.

    Thank you Amp, for your posts and your concerns about my feelings here. I guess we just disagree on certain issues but my intent was never to attack you. But I do think the other feminists here have raised good points. I read their posts and I see things that I recognize and I find myself nodding as I often do. Why that is, is maybe another discussion, maybe not. Maybe it’s the world that we all live in that men don’t experience.

    Robert? I usually ignore him, if I’ve had a long day. Some days you’re up to reading what anti-feminists write here and some days you’re not. I’m not advocating the banning of anyone, certainly not on this thread. The topic was raised by Mandolin because of concerns from another thread and I responded.

    My intent is really not to “attack” anyone here. I was just trying to offer my insights. But I’ve seen elements of what I described on this thread and I’m not the only one. Yeah, the concerns by feminists here are obviously a joke to some of the anti-feminist men here. Their privilege in society as White men allows them to make these jokes. It’s kind of disappointing that they are making them here, but that’s life and jokes like that are made and made again in environments conducive to them. I’ve had this discussion many, many times including last night with the police department in my city. Eh, some day they’ll get it. But I think that people do tailor their humor to the environment that they are in and it’s through jokes, be they racist, sexist, sexual, homophobic and so forth or none of these things, that reveal a lot about a culture that’s present in a group of people.

    On the racism 101 vs the racism in a progressive way discussions.

    I’m not sure most of us here who are White are above the racism 101 level of discussion no matter how much we think we are. I’m saying this because one of the biggest issues on blogs, not just this one, but many feminist blogs is White feminists believing they are “progressive” on race exerting their racial privilege(whether consciously or not) and then when checked on that by women of color, they go off the handle, before burying themselves deeper and deeper in that hole with their defensive and often offensive responses. And a lot of the time, it’s White feminists who believe they are “progressive” on racial issues(and thus would qualify for a race thread for progressives only. I’m actually wondering if that’s most of the time.

    So I’m not sure how this tag on a thread would work out. I think what will happen is that “racism 101″ as it’s called will work its way into those threads as well.

  5. 105
    crys t says:

    Susan, re my “personal issues” with Robert: my problem with him has always been how he treats the feminists here. That’s what’s caused our clashes. And while I know how much people on his side want to paint that I just don’t like the guy for some unkown, entirely capricious reason (you know how us women are so irrational–and especially how us feminists can’t handle jokes), I know the real problem is that he has no respect for us, he knows he has no respect for him, and his pals here all know it, too.

    Yet whenever I–or any other feminist woman here–point this out, we have to go through the comedy situation of Robert protesting, “I just come here to hang out and talk to folks!” and we feminists get accused of personal vendettas and/or “uncivil” behaviour.

    I don’t necessarily want him banned, but I do want him called out by the moderators here when he uses his trademark hostile-snark-or-ridicule-disguised as “charm” (as Bean point out–though not necessarily in reference to Robert). And I would also like some recognition that “civility” isn’t measured strictly by how many swear words you say, or whatever yardstick is currently being used. The anti-feminist men who’ve made Alas their home are as good as any romance novel Southern Belle at constructing the nastiest insults while superficially observing the rules of good manners. And I’m sick to death of all the bullshit denials that they don’t do it.

    Amp said: “I really feel that you and other posters are attacking me for hypothetical moderation decisions that I haven’t actually made.”

    Fair enough, I can understand why you feel that way. But I wish you would try to understand why Jake Squid and I feel the way we do? Okay, I agree that we don’t *have* to say “fuck you” to those guys, but I do feel like any fuck you coming from us is seen as somehow worse than the fundamental lack of respect coming from them in the first place.

    This reminds me of an episode I had in junior high school where a girl who regularly bullied me was harrassing me nonstop in class one day. Finally, she made some comment that made me snap, “You’re nothing” to her. She promptly put up her hand and informed the teacher who then proceeded to give ME hell about it all. THAT is the Alas Anti-Feminist Man Technique.

    Robert said: “My approach and tone are generally cerebral, abstract, and analytical. ”

    You know, there’s been enough said about the value of removing ones emotions from these issues already–and probably said much better than I could say it. I’ll just reiterate that the reason you can be so “cerebral, etc” about all this is becuase of the massive privilege you have in society that allows you to treat it all as an intellectual exercise. But you have been told that many, many times before, I’m sure. So if you know this is how we feel, try to take it on board and stop using your “detachment” as a weapon to beat us over the head with.

    “But when men with the same approach and beliefs get into it with me, my treatment of them is the same as if they were women.”

    You may sincerely believe that, but I (and apparently at least one other woman) equally sincerely believe that you don’t.

  6. 106
    crys t says:

    Damn: yet another error slipped past my lengthy examination in “Preview Comment”: in the last sentence of my first paragraph, “…he knows he has no respect for US”

  7. 107
    Robert says:

    I’ll just reiterate that the reason you can be so “cerebral, etc” about all this is becuase of the massive privilege you have in society that allows you to treat it all as an intellectual exercise.

    I certainly have a great deal of privilege in society; no argument there. Yet I see people who do not have this privilege who are nonetheless capable of being cerebral and detached about these questions. That tells me that the privilege narrative is incomplete, at best.

    What I have noticed in life is that there are people who can, with relative ease, “turn off” or at least defer their emotional reaction to something, in order to do something else. (Whether deal with a crisis, have a conversation, or whatever.) Other people are much more heart-on-the-sleeve, and either can’t or can only with great difficulty, put their emotional reaction to something aside temporarily. Privilege, or other forms of power/security, make it easier for people to defer/discount emotional state, but doesn’t change the person’s underlying emotional handling technique.

    (It seems like a tradeoff: people in the former group have advantages in dealing with life; people in the latter group seem to be more emotionally healthy.)

    You may sincerely believe that, but I (and apparently at least one other woman) equally sincerely believe that you don’t.

    I am open to any evidence of that. Is there, in your view, a man whose belief set and discursive style are similar to yours, with whom my interactions have been grossly different than they have been with you?

  8. 108
    Myca says:

    I think it’s also worth looking at issues on which there has been a lot of intra-feminist disagreement (issues surrounding porn, sex work, and transgender issues spring to mind) and how they’re discussed.

    Do non-trans folk try to push the discussion into a more academic, theoretical direction? Are they wrong to do so?

    I bring it up not to argue one way or another, but to try to look at the general style-of-discussion framework as divorced from pro- or anti- feminist feelings. That is, if pushing the discussion into a logical, divorced-from-emotion place seems to be something that happens only (or overwhelmingly) in an anti-feminist framework, I think that’s worth talking about.

    —Myca

  9. 109
    Robert says:

    I know the real problem is that he has no respect for us, he knows he has no respect for [us], and his pals here all know it, too.

    I think you’re wrong about a lot of things. (“You” = feminists as a class, not Crys T in specific.) I think a lot of your rhetorical, political, and ideological behavior is objectionable, on a variety of grounds. And I think that most of the leftist worldview which has gotten snarled around feminism is intellectually ludicrous, morally bankrupt, or both. And I have no shyness about expressing any of these disagreements.

    If that is lack of respect, then I suppose it’s lack of respect. I tend to think the converse; if I didn’t respect you, I wouldn’t engage and talk with you. I don’t hang out at white supremacist forums, Holocaust denial forums, Marxist forums, etc. – although I disagree with those people more than I would disagree with feminists.

    Your ideas have something to them; you’ve hosed the analysis and missed half the facts, but the underlying idea is something with merit and meat. This is a patriarchal society. This causes problems. Women and men ought to be peers and partners, not property or lust objects. And so forth.

    Respect, to me, means to take someone seriously and to assume their basic humanity, agency, and responsibility. If I didn’t take you seriously, I wouldn’t bother to be here even to make fun; if I didn’t assume you had humanity, agency and responsibility, I wouldn’t address you as an adult.

  10. 110
    Robert says:

    …and I’ve pretty much said everything I have to say about moderation and my own participation, so unless directly questioned again, I’ll bow out for a while to avoid monopolizing the discussion.

  11. 111
    Q Grrl says:

    Ah yes, the “worthy opponent” excuse.

    Robert, if you respected us, you’d take your cerebral exercises elsewhere. Your analytical, rational, cerebral, whatever don’t give you an excuse to continually derail conversations after it has been pointed out to you that this is what you’re doing. You might live in your head, but you post with your ego.

  12. 112
    Robert says:

    Robert, if you respected us, you’d take your cerebral exercises elsewhere.

    Respect is not the same thing as doing what you want me to do. If the person who owns this forum asks me to take myself elsewhere, I’ll do so. That person isn’t you. You and I are peers here. You are attempting to use “respect” as a tool to make a claim of power-over, power which you are not entitled to. That won’t work.

    NOW I’m bowing out. ;)

  13. 113
    Q Grrl says:

    Reversal anyone? You, Robert, are enamored with the power-over that Amp has (all nicely coined as “private property” by you).

    I have no power here, as you exhibit. I ask you, in all civility, to respect our requests.

    Your reply: nah! don’t have to if I don’t want to.

    And then you try to make me look like I’m on a power trip.

    And *that* Amp is how civility plays out around here.

  14. 114
    Mandolin says:

    Myca asked whether non-trans people try to be academic in trans discussions.

    I do. I’m really bad about it, even though I know I do it. I resolve to be better about that.

  15. 115
    JAB says:

    Hi, I’m a lurker. I usually am too afraid of Google to post, but I’d like to enjoy the comment sections again. I still like the posts, but a year or two ago I mostly stopped reading the comments. Have you seen Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s guidelines for moderation? She also wrote another post on the subject recently.

    From the first post:

    1. There can be no ongoing discourse without some degree of moderation, if only to kill off the hardcore trolls. It takes rather more moderation than that to create a complex, nuanced, civil discourse. If you want that to happen, you have to give of yourself. Providing the space but not tending the conversation is like expecting that your front yard will automatically turn itself into a garden.

    10. Another important rule: You can let one jeering, unpleasant jerk hang around for a while, but the minute you get two or more of them egging each other on, they both have to go, and all their recent messages with them. There are others like them prowling the net, looking for just that kind of situation. More of them will turn up, and they’ll encourage each other to behave more and more outrageously. Kill them quickly and have no regrets.

    I think that this, from the second post, is also relevant:

    Bloggers can ban anonymous comments or not, as they please. The problem isn’t commenter anonymity; it’s abusive behavior by anonymous or semi-anonymous commenters. Furthermore, the kind of jerks who post comments that need to be deleted will infallibly cry “censorship!” when it happens, no matter what O’Reilly and Wales say.

    She also makes a point about why it is the blogger’s responsibility to monitor their comments.

    I think what (rightly) disturbed Kathy Sierra was that none of the participants at meankids.org, or its successor site, unclebobism.wordpress.com, identified the author of that extremely upsetting material. Real people, not nithing online trolls, were implicitly condoning and enabling the behavior that had Sierra too frightened to go to a conference. She was right to hold all of the site owners responsible. They’re all complicit in protecting whoever it was that posted that filth.

    Anyway, I hope this helps you think through your moderation policies. Many of the commentators I looked forward to hearing from have left because they didn’t like how lax the comment moderation had gotten. I know that part of the purpose of the blog is outreach, but giving the non-feminist commentators so much space in the threads has just resulted in the trolls’ reinforcing each other’s beliefs, not in their changing into pro-feminists. A freer hand with disemvowelling and banning would improve the atmosphere immensely, so that everyone else would have more energy to spend on the civil and the convincible.

    Incidentally, if you’re having some trouble bringing yourself to moderate, you can get your own official “Certificate of Moderation”.

  16. 116
    defenestrated says:

    Theriomorph said:

    Is anyone else getting frustrated with the fact that in this thread, every time a commenter addresses the apparent topic at hand of how to moderate threads effectively and create a more civil discourse on Alas, the discussion veers instantly into highly personalized, detailed, insider processes or attacks or defenses which effectively derail the topic? Is anyone else feeling like this is perhaps part of the problem?

    Sure, it’s a natural function of a community to have to work through/clarify things in discussion, but this seems to happen more here than on any other blog I’ve ever read, and with more uncontrolled vitriol. (Which is why the discussion at hand began.)

    y’know what I’m reminded of here? (not by any person in particular, just the discussion)

    when my last emo-abusivefuckwit boyfriend and i got to the point in our arguments over what was-and-was-not mean where even my sarcasm was considered “mean” and a personal attack.
    [Once it got to where there was just no way to point out wtf was up without resorting to 'ironically' pointing out the latent absurdity, that was also my last-straw clue to leave, since w/out my sarcasm, who the fuck am i?]

    I think to some extent that’s what might be going on here. from the angry feminist pov, there’s just no logical argument to a lot of mra/niceguy™ non-logic statements. “That’s founded in hatred and misunderstanding” is, after a while, all that’s left to say. To me, at least, that’s how bean’s original comment read.

    Of course, “You’re hateful and lacking understanding” sounds terribly insulting to the MRA in question, since nobody likes to get called on their own absurdity.

    [now, return to your regularly scheduled in-fighting] :D

  17. 117
    defenestrated says:

    oh yeah:

    “That’s founded in hatred and misunderstanding” = ‘misogyny’

  18. 118
    defenestrated says:

    oh one more clarification: I’m not calling Amp an MRA for moderating. I’m just pointing out that the “person”al in the insult was an MRA, a group whom Amp has taken great pains to open the discussion up to in a peaceful and productive way.

    So, I see his reasoning, just, not the reasoning behind the feelings that might’ve been provoked by bean’s “misogyny” comment.

  19. 119
    Mandolin says:

    Defenestrated, I’m very sorry, but I didn’t follow that. Can you try to restate?

  20. 120
    Ampersand says:

    Bean wrote:

    She didn’t respond by posting multiple attacks on me on her own blog

    You just think that because you don’t know about my super secret blog where I post all my complaints about you. :P

    That works for me! Ignorance is bliss.

  21. 121
    crys t says:

    And this is exactly how it always plays out. When anti-feminist men get called out on their underhanded behaviour, they try to dress it up as mere “disagreement” which we are unreasonably not allowing. It’s that “you all want to be in an echo chamber” bullshit again. As if our arguments just can’t hold up to the massive male intellect.

    Please, get a clue: I know NO ONE in real life who has the same feminist beliefs as me, yet I do manage to relate very well in most disagreements that may come up. And that’s because to my face most people don’t usually engage in the sort of silly-ass mindgames that some of the men on this board do. Plus, in real life there is no moderator for them to hide behind if they do pull shit with me.

    And I have to repeat: hanging around for extended periods of time at blogs where you know that all your presence really does is annoy the hell of those who actually believe in the ideals the blog is discussing, especially when it’s been repeatedly pointed out to you that your behaviour is considered insulting to a substantial number of people there, is just plain weird. Part of it is that women-hating men have been made very comfortable at Alas. They know that if they fuck with us and we snap at them, all they have to is smile angelically and proclaim they just rilly rilly wanna, like, communicate with folks and stuff, and the women will be the ones to get our wrists slapped. Then they can all high-five each other and do the internet version of “nyah, nyah, na-nyah, nyah” as they watch us fume, much as they were doing earlier in this thread–including, of course, wide-eyed protestations of “but we were just trying to lighten the mood” (with the subtext of “crazy bitches, just got no sense of humour,” of course).

    But part of it is a disturbing sadistic streak of enjoying needling women and watching us jump.

  22. 122
    Joe says:

    Bradnon / Amp, Amp said previously that flagging/rating comments is more work than he wants to take on, but something like that might work. Brandon has said that
    1. He’s a libertarian (and thus believes in paying for things)
    2. He’s really likes reading what you write.
    3. He wants more leftist commentors on his blog.
    4. He’s a computer programmer.

    Think you could work out a swap? He sets up the flag/whatever tech solution you/bean/racheal/whoever agree to comment on his blog for some defined timeframe?

    I’ll admit that it’s odd.

    fwiw, I think your blog is good, I have learned a lot, and hope it keeps going.

  23. 123
    Julie, Herder of Cats says:

    Mandolin writes:

    Myca asked whether non-trans people try to be academic in trans discussions.

    I do. I’m really bad about it, even though I know I do it. I resolve to be better about that.

    It’s not so much the being academic that drives me crazy in trans discussions, it’s the truly out to sea emotional appeals. The “ZOMG! She used to be a man! Men rape women! She’s going to rape me!” appeals.

    Academic, rational, emotionless, I can deal with. It’s when I start getting around the “ZOMG! She used to be a man! Men rape women! She’s going to rape me!” (or “He raped me by having a sex change!” — that’s my fave) that I think feminism of that line of reasoning is about as valid as the “Tin Foil Hat! I need my tin foil hat!” crowd of paranoiacs.

  24. 124
    Mandolin says:

    “Academic, rational, emotionless, I can deal with. It’s when I start getting around the “ZOMG! She used to be a man! Men rape women! She’s going to rape me!” (or “He raped me by having a sex change!” — that’s my fave) that I think feminism of that line of reasoning is about as valid as the “Tin Foil Hat! I need my tin foil hat!” crowd of paranoiacs. ”

    Oh, totally, that’s just unacceptable.

    I like to think I’m merely annoying. :)

  25. 125
    Brandon Berg says:

    Joe:
    I haven’t really done much web programming, though I guess I could give it a try. It never hurts to learn new things.

    That said, blog comments are kind of like sex, in that they’re not as much fun when they’re paid for (well, I assume sex has that property). Also, I was never too keen on the flagging system to begin with, and this thread has pretty much sealed the deal.

  26. 126
    Susan says:

    Part of it is that women-hating men have been made very comfortable at Alas.

    Talk about innuendo. I’m hoping (and expecting) that our host Ampersand has a thick skin.

  27. 127
    Ampersand says:

    Reversal anyone? You, Robert, are enamored with the power-over that Amp has (all nicely coined as “private property” by you).

    I have no power here, as you exhibit. I ask you, in all civility, to respect our requests.

    Your reply: nah! don’t have to if I don’t want to.

    And then you try to make me look like I’m on a power trip.

    And *that* Amp is how civility plays out around here.

    The “request” in question is your request that Robert go away (“take it elsewhere”).

    And because Robert doesn’t obey your request, that proves that the moderation policies here suck.

    Uh-huh.

    Please tell me that you’re kidding.

  28. 128
    Paul1552 says:

    In my opinion, FWIW, the recent discussions on the Imus and Duke rape controversies and the deplorable treatment of two participants (asking a rape survivor to describe in graphic detail what the rapist did was especially loathsome) were the result of a situation where two highly publicized controversies with both racist and sexist implications occured within a very short time period of time. This blogger’s equivalent of a perfect storm doesn’t happen every day.

    While the system obviously didn’t work perfectly (if it had either the comments would never have been published or the offenders would have been banished immediately) , I think it worked relatively well. So, while minor adjustments may be desireable, I personally don’t think a major change is required. But that’s just my opinion, and I would be surprised (and even a little disappointed) if nobody disagreed with it.

  29. 129
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks for the discussion so far. I’d like to try and bring some focus to it, however.

    From now on, I’d like people to direct their comments to practical suggestions about how the moderation here could be improved while maintaining enough of a polite tone so I can stand reading the comments.

  30. 130
    Paul1552 says:

    Thanks for the discussion so far. I’d like to try and bring some focus to it, however.

    From now on, I’d like people to direct their comments to practical suggestions about how the moderation here could be improved while maintaining enough of a polite tone so I can stand reading the comments.

    Ideally, more interventions like this would help keep the comments on topic. As you have said, though, you and the other moderators have lives outside this blog, so you’re not able to monitor it 24/7. The best idea I can see (which has already been suggested in one form or another) would be a “report abuse” option that would let you (as well as Rachel, Maia, Charles and whomever else you choose) know that there’s a problem so that one of you can intervene to correct it.

    The only thing is that everyone would have to realize that your all’s schedules and other commitments would probably prevent you from intervening immediately.

    Something else that might help (and that I’ve seen Maia do from time to time) would be for the “topic-starter” to set some ground rules at the beginning about what will and will not be tolerated.

  31. 131
    Maia says:

    I’ve been meaning to post on this thread. But I’m unsure what to say. Mostly because I’m not that committed to comment threads. While I really enjoy good comment threads with an interesting discussion, I don’t have much interest in comment threads that repeat discussions I’ve already had (this isn’t supposed to in anyway be a dismissal of people who do – obviously I think comment threads, like most things can serve heaps of different functions). The problem is that I don’t know how to create a comment thread that I’m interested in, or even if it can be done.

    As Charles noted in the previous thread, unlike Rachel and Amp, I don’t have a strong belief that people’s minds can be changed through rational argument. So I do have a problem with the effect people like Robert can have on a thread. One problem is how easy it is for the person who is furthest from the concensus can drive the direction of the discussion. One person who says “But what about the baby” can make every discussion about abortion the same.

    For myself, I’ve found the solution to that is to be really specific about the limits of the discussion. So as well as labelling threads ‘feminist only’, I also sometimes say what ways I don’t want the discussion to go. I’m fine with having a discussion about the morality of abortion occasionally, but there are many other things I want to talk about as well.

    Obviously people who aren’t a moderator don’t have that option. But I do think the idea of ignoring the squeaky wheel has a lot to be said for it. If you’re in the middle of an interesting discussion about access to abortion and someone comes along and say ‘but what about the baby’ then just ignore that comment. Or direct them to another thread which is already knee deep in the morality of abortion (I don’t know if Amp and Rachel would find this sort of back-seat moderating OK, but I certainly would).

    The other problem, and I do think it’s a big problem, is the tone of some of some of the comments. Personally I think the problem isn’t necessarily the civility rules themselves, but how easy it to write something that sounds civil but is in fact denying other people’s personhood. I think it’s possible to rely on form too much, and not see that some content is uncivil/hateful, not matter how it is expressed (the example I feel most passionately about is that there is no way that you could say that Louise Nicholas was lying that I would be prepared to host). I have a pretty low tolerance for those sorts of comments by about comment ten because I couldn’t handle the hate I saw radiating from every comment.

    One solution is more moderation, but that’s not something I can commit to myself. I’m almost always sleeping during the American work day. But I will moderate my threads more to reflect the sort of comment threads I find interesting (which is basically discussion among allies). I’m also going to be more free with moderating/banning from my threads posters who I think deny the personhood of people I write about, because I don’t think that’s civil or acceptable.

  32. 132
    Sailorman says:

    A lot of my job involves applying extremely logical solutions (as required by the court system) to extremely emotional problems. It’s one of the most difficult, and most interesting, parts of my work.

    I have found that my clients are vastly helped by explaining this inherent contradiction up front instead of realizing it as we go along. I think it would be much easier for the mods if they got specific initially–this would reduce the necessity to moderate later on..

    Ask the authors of EACH POST to be specific about what they want to discuss, and the framework in which they want to discuss it.

    because there are a gazillion valid frameworks, right? There’s a validity to discussing rape law from a practical (legal) perspective, which pretty much requires being emotionally detached and logical. AND there’s a validity in discussing rape from a purely emotional perspective, which might well require putting aside the strictures of what is/isn’t practical, legal, etc etc.

    The whole set of arguments with Robert, ad IMO the main disagreement with the “anti feminist men” really revolves around frameworks. Is logical relevant? Of course; I tend towards that perspective myself though I generally disagree with Robert. But I certainly accept that it’s not EVERYTHING.

    So:

    1) Want to post and talk logically about, say, rape? Go ahead. But first, put on the “emotional hat”. Acknowledge that there are probably going to be some bad emotional components to what you are typing, and that you are deliberately not talking about them. In your statement of what is/isn’t allowed on that thread, be up front about it. Then stick to your guns in moderation: if the thread starts getting into “women are lying sluts” or “men are all raping idiots” or “your discussion of the law makes me feel violated” cut the posters out: it’s not part of the thread.

    2) Want to post and talk emotionally about, say, rape? Go ahead. But first, put on the logic hat. Acknowledge that there are probably going to be some illogical components to what you are typing, and that you are deliberately not talking about them. In your statement of what is/isn’t allowed on that thread, be up front about it. Then stick to your guns in moderation. If someone starts arguing that a victim perspective is unconstitutional if enforced, cut them out: logical consistency isn’t part of the thread.

    3) Want to have an open thread on, say, rape? Go ahead. But make it clear that it’s an open thread. Make it clear that folks aren’t entitled to assume every person who takes a victim-centered perspective is trying to convict every male on the planet of rape. Make it clear that folks aren’t entitled to assume everyone who tries to talk about practical enforcement isn’t a rapist. And so on.

    And oh yeah: Have a great earth day tomorrow!

  33. 133
    Lu says:

    I’ve already said that I like Maia’s very direct setting of ground rules, and also the way she will come onto a thread and say “[name], you are off topic; I won’t allow any more discussion of xyz, please discuss abc instead.” (In fairness I have to admit that she hasn’t addressed me this way, and if she did I probably wouldn’t like it so much, but I’d sure know where I stood.)

    A very common theme on the topic of moderation seems to be “Amp, can’t you see that so-and-so’s posting of this or joking about that is offensive/why don’t you ban so-and-so for blatant disrespect cloaked in civility?” followed (sometimes) by Amp’s explaining why not, followed (sometimes) by speculation that Amp is a guy/a white guy and that’s why he’s so clueless. (JFTR I don’t agree, to put it mildly, that Amp is clueless.) So I think the “report abuse” option is a really good idea, with the caveats that 1) there’s a space to explain why the conduct complained of is abuse 2) anyone complaining of abuse has to use that space 3) the moderators decide if the conduct is in fact abuse 4) we all understand that Amp, Rachel, Maia and Charles (and any additional moderators Amp may designate) can’t moderate 24/7 5) we all understand that it’s Amp’s blog and he’s free to yata yata 5a) Amp reserves the right to rescind the “report abuse” option if people abuse it or bombard him with emails second-guessing moderation decisions or it otherwise becomes more trouble than it’s worth.

  34. 134
    Julie, Herder of Cats says:

    I think that a lot of the problems that are considered “abuse” are the result of more kind of people joining the discussion, which I don’t think is a bad thing.

    There are subjects where I think there is room for dispassionate discussion, as well as emotionally charged discussion. Some of the topics overlap, and some of the topics have conflicting interests from different sides, and some of the topics have conflicting approaches based on perspective and personal experience.

    As an observation, my experience of feminist discussion spaces on the ‘net over the last 21 years is that there has always been a tension between “analytical” and “emotional” discussions. And while there is definitely some amount of gender difference, it’s not uniquely a men-are-analytical / women-are-emotional thing.

    That said, even if men really are analytical and women really are emotional (not saying it’s not the result of socialization, and FTR, I believe it’s far more socialization and anything else), feminist discussion needs to be able to deal with both kinds of discourse. There are topics where I really do want to be able to make emotional arguments (rape and sexual abuse and its affects on people, being a good example) that I also want to be able to make very analytical arguments. I don’t think I’m alone in this desire, nor do I think either approach has all the answers.

  35. 135
    Mandolin says:

    I don’t think it has anything to do with analytical versus emotional. I think Sailorman’s dead wrong, for instance.

    I’m going to try to say this with respect, Sailorman, but what it seems to me that you saw as a bunch of women saying “no, no, let’s talk emotionally about rape” and you saying “ah, but logic” is not how I saw it.

    Whether or not this is a fair characterization, this is what I saw:

    Maia: OK, let’s talk about what rape is. I think it’s this.
    Sailorman: That’s not a legally workable definition.
    Feminists: We don’t think we should define the concept of rape by law.
    Sailorman: What about lots more stuff about the law?
    Feminists: Law is not relavent here. We are discussing morality. Law later. Law elsewhere.
    Sailorman: Law, law, law?
    Feminists: ARGH! and various expletives.

    Again, I don’t know if that’s a fair characterization. It was what I saw. It may be very wrong. But I want to bring it up to make my point, because it was an example of how I think you (Sailorman, Julie, possibly others) are perceiving problems centered around a dichotomy (analytical v. emotional) which is unrelated to the dichotomy I (and possibly other posters) wanted to bring up (implicated v. intellectualized).

    The difference in the points of view presented in the scenario above (fair or not) are not emotional vs. analytical. It’s … I dunno… legalistic versus holistic, or something. But both sides were able to make emotional arguments, and both sides were able to make emotional arguments.

    I have no problem with anyone making analytical arguments. Yay analytical arguments. Woohoo.

    It’s not about emotion v. analytical; it’s about inherent investment. We can all discuss – say – the definition of a planet, and no one’s life is on the line. We can all make analytical arguments. Maybe someone can make an emotional argument (Pluto was a planet when I was a kid!), but we can all be analytical. Too, we are all _distanced_ and _intellectualized_.

    Now let’s talk about rape. I can make analytical arguments up and down about rape. I can make emotional arguments up and down about rape. So can everyone else. As a woman, I am personally implicated in discussions of rape. The discussion has a greater effect on me than it will on someone who is unlikely to be raped; I do not have the privelege of vieweing it from a “disconnected” angle. However, having a personal investment does not make me incapable of logic, or creating analytical theories!

    This has nothing to do with gender. To take this into a slightly different context, in an argument about transsexuality:

    Transperson = implicated, but has potential to be analytical or emotional

    Cisgendered person = probably not implicated, thus able to intellectualize; has potential to be analytical or emotional

  36. 136
    Mandolin says:

    “But both sides were able to make emotional arguments, and both sides were able to make emotional arguments.”

    Yeah, that should read “But both sides were able to make emotional arguments, and both sides were able to make *analytical* arguments.”

  37. 137
    Julie, Herder of Cats says:

    Mandolin,

    I get “invested” and I think that’s why a lot of men don’t get “rape” — the average man has never been raped and never will be raped. For that matter, I think that’s the same reason a lot of men don’t get a lot of feminist topics. Not to say that “privilege”, as opposed to “investment” isn’t also an issue (being affluent and living in a gated community offers privilege against rape, but being a woman, even in a gated community, makes a woman invested.)

    My personal, raw, emotional response to rape is that I’d like to take rapists out, sever their genitals, then shoot them. There, I got it out.

    Maybe it’s 3 decades of male socialization, I dunno, but it’s definitely not being uninvested, because I’ve been raped, and I live in fear of it today, same as I lived in fear of it at some times during those 3 decades of male socialization. For me, it’s wanting to DO something about it, and if I have to be all analytical and legalistic and “degrees of rape”, I’m fine with that. Two decades of being “emotional” haven’t accomplished anything for me, and by all indications, for any other women. So perhaps, pleading guilty as charged, it the other 2 1/2 decades of male socialization taking over.

    Emotional versus analytical doesn’t have to be either-or, and that’s what I was trying to say in my earlier post.

  38. 138
    Sailorman says:

    mandolin,

    I have a polite response that’s not really relevant to the thread; email me, willya? I don’t know how to send you one from here.

  39. 139
    defenestrated says:

    I’m not actually going off-the-new-topic by clarifying my previous, mandolin-certified unclear comment: I think part of the problem (from my pov, and using the nice guy thread as an example) is that after a while teh MRA arguments are just straight out insulting to women, no matter how delicately they’re stated. When bean cut through the bullshit and called “misogyny,” I really didn’t get why that would’ve been where the line is, rather than really long lawyerly defenses of the notion that men treating women badly and like objects is somehow women’s fault. Yeah, that was sort of the topic of the thread a little, but it wasn’t the topic of the post or the conversation it came out of – but what I saw as calling bullshit and trying to get back on track read to you, Amp, as a personal insult. Personal to whom? to the whole idea the dudes from Fem.Critics were defending? ’cause it didn’t seem like anyone was particularly singled out as misogynistic so much as their “team’s” idea. – which also might have a little to do with why I didn’t feel ok asking that same question on that thread, since this blog is, uh, your “court.”

  40. 140
    Q Grrl says:

    And because Robert doesn’t obey your request, that proves that the moderation policies here suck.

    Uh-huh.

    Please tell me that you’re kidding.

    I didn’t say that Amp.

    I said that I, and others, have at various times civily asked Robert to back off with his comments because they are derailing (including right here in this thread). Instead of respecting our requests, Robert escalates his posting and continually turns threads into Robert-fests.

    This doesn’t mean the moderation policy “sucks” – something that I have *never* claimed, despite your histrionics. It means that an adult man (read: Robert) is incapable of respecting those people, usually women, usually feminists, that he disagrees with. He is incapable of policing himself. And because of that, our civility means shit around here.

  41. 141
    Daran says:

    Mandolin:

    What I know about Daran and BB — I actually feel like I know slightly more about Robert — is that they take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant; that they seem to enjoy poking feminists with sticks;…

    Feminists take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant. I don’t “poke” feminists for the fun of it. I criticise what to me is objectionable.

    …and that they seem to put a higher premium on creating a system that addresses abstractions, even when that system hurts people.

    That’s a pretty abstract criticism. The system we have hurts people. I’m just not prepared to disregard half the world’s population when it comes to advocating a new one.

    Maybe Daran is really fun when he’s talking about puppies. Obviously, I’m being silly, and obviously I’d disagree with him.

    About puppies?

    But it would be more fun to disagree with him (again, on a regular basis) if I had a sense I wasn’t talking to an antifeminist robot.

    I don’t recall you talking to me at all. Why don’t you try it, see what happens.

  42. 142
    Mandolin says:

    Daran,

    Did you read anything about the context of the post? I was suggesting an open thread for social interaction.

    Seems to me much of that post was attempting to poke me with a stick, since it appears to involve deliberate misreading.

  43. 143
    defenestrated says:

    It means that an adult man (read: Robert) is incapable of respecting those people, usually women, usually feminists, that he disagrees with. He is incapable of policing himself. And because of that, our civility means shit around here.

    What I know about Daran and BB — I actually feel like I know slightly more about Robert — is that they take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant; that they seem to enjoy poking feminists with sticks;…

    Feminists take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant. I don’t “poke” feminists for the fun of it. I criticise what to me is objectionable.

    …and that they seem to put a higher premium on creating a system that addresses abstractions, even when that system hurts people.

    That’s a pretty abstract criticism. The system we have hurts people. I’m just not prepared to disregard half the world’s population when it comes to advocating a new one.

    Maybe Daran is really fun when he’s talking about puppies. Obviously, I’m being silly, and obviously I’d disagree with him.

    About puppies?

    But it would be more fun to disagree with him (again, on a regular basis) if I had a sense I wasn’t talking to an antifeminist robot.

    I don’t recall you talking to me at all. Why don’t you try it, see what happens.

    Amp, I think the problem might have something to do with you knowing “where Robert’s coming from” since you’ve known him personally and know he’s not A Bad Guy, whereas all of us stating (at various levels of anger) the opinions you agree with (y’know, that women are people too and stuff) get a little, well, closer policing.

    That you know bean also might have something to do with why it was her use of the word misogynistic that stuck out to you against the whole sea of defenses of woman-bashing/hating-on that that (not-so)NiceGuy thread became. To go back to my “blog as (let’s say basketball) court” analogy, assuming that we’re all on the same team here and that you’re the coach – it’s kinda like you picking on your favorite player bc she’s tall and should be able to shoot better than that, but ignoring the 5’2″ player who can literally run laps around the team all-practice-long but who doesn’t always make the lay-up due to, y’know, being 5’2″.

    God I hope that made sense. Post-surgery/fogginess me seems to be a little “manic,” apparently.

  44. 144
    defenestrated says:

    a little clarification: run laps around = express in a lawyerly, delicate fashion until comment five million and five if need be

    make the layup = make a halfway decent point about Why womenandstuff should be treated like people-as-such.

    bean = really tall; Men who feel the need to start a blog called “Feminist Critics”….uh….very short indeed.

  45. 145
    defenestrated says:

    Oh, and on the idea of not having commenters at all: Obviously it’s your blog and you should do whatcha want, but I do think that there’s a lot of value in having a forum where feminists and anti-feminists can discuss stuff and yet have the conversation as a whole directed by a “benevolent coach.” Just, maybe, put equal time into watching how “personal” the feminists get and how ‘frankly just really mean and dehumanizing after a while’ the MRAs (or, “anti-Womenz” commenters) can be.

    It’s your blog, it’s your conversation, and we’re kinda all in your living room. Would you throw bean out of the house for yelling “SCOOOOOORE” at the tv, or would you let Daran rip bean a new one just ’cause he showed up to the door with a bouquet of flowers?

    [my guess is neither; but bean and the feminists are welcome any ol time and Daran (and his MRA buddies) are allowed in until one of them crosses an arbitrary line of offensiveness that the particular anti-fem hasn't yet learned how not to cross while in this particular living room.]

  46. Pingback: Silencing with “attack”, the misuses of logic, and reclaiming emotion at Hoyden About Town

  47. 146
    Daran says:

    Mandolin:

    Daran,

    Did you read anything about the context of the post? I was suggesting an open thread for social interaction.

    Yes, I saw that. I’m not sure how that would work. In any case, I don’t think you need to wait for one to be started before talking to me.

    Seems to me much of that post was attempting to poke me with a stick, since it appears to involve deliberate misreading.

    I’m sorry you feel poked. Remember it was you who referred to me by name. Did it ever occur to you that I might feel poked?

    The only “deliberate misreading” was my “About puppies” remark, which was intended as a joke, albeit a risky one, given the history of this thread.

    I don’t see how I’m misreading you. You said that I “take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant”, but you didn’t say what those positions were. I’m used to having all kinds of opinions attributed to me that I do not hold and have never expressed, so it’s very difficult for me to respond to that.

    I replied with “Feminists take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant”. I offered that as an alternative explanation of my behaviour than “poking with sticks”.

    You then said “they seem to put a higher premium on creating a system that addresses abstractions, even when that system hurts people.” – “They” meaning RonF and me. Again, that’s hard to respond to without knowing what kind of systems your talking about. So again I responded with a generality.

  48. 147
    Mandolin says:

    “They” meaning RonF and me.

    Meaning recurring anti-feminist guest stars more generally. I thought there was an implied e.g.; perhaps there wasn’t.

  49. 148
    Brandon Berg says:

    Amp, I think the problem might have something to do with you knowing “where Robert’s coming from” since you’ve known him personally and know he’s not A Bad Guy, whereas all of us stating (at various levels of anger) the opinions you agree with (y’know, that women are people too and stuff) get a little, well, closer policing.

    This “feminism = women are people” stuff is something that’s been bothering me for a while. If you want to define feminism as the belief that women are people, that’s fine. But then you can’t call people like us antifeminists, because I know I agree with the proposition that women are people, and I’ve seen no indication that Robert, Ron, or Daran believe otherwise.

    If you want to define feminism more narrowly, such that it includes stuff like blaming the Patriarchy, endorsing shiny new government programs, and other things that don’t follow incontrovertibly from the premise that women are people, then I can live with that, too, and you can call me an antifeminist all you want. I certainly do oppose that particular brand of “feminism.”

    I’m okay with either of these options. But I do object to equivocation. You can’t call us antifeminists because we oppose feminism defined narrowly, and then switch to the broad definition and say that since we’re antifeminists we must not believe that women are people. So I’d appreciate it if you’d pick a definition and stick with it.

  50. 149
    Daran says:

    Mandolin:

    Meaning recurring anti-feminist guest stars more generally. I thought there was an implied e.g.; perhaps there wasn’t.

    I’m not a member of any such “they”. If you want to criticise me, then do so, but do so because of what I say and do, not because of what other people say and do, who you’ve chosen to lump me together with.

  51. 150
    Daran says:

    [my guess is neither; but bean and the feminists are welcome any ol time and Daran (and his MRA buddies) are allowed in until one of them crosses an arbitrary line of offensiveness that the particular anti-fem hasn’t yet learned how not to cross while in this particular living room.]

    Here we go again. Who exactly are you talking about, and in what way are they my “buddies”?

  52. 151
    Brandon Berg says:

    Mandolin:

    What I know about Daran and BB — I actually feel like I know slightly more about Robert — is that they take a variety of positions I find morally repugnant; that they seem to enjoy poking feminists with sticks; and that they seem to put a higher premium on creating a system that addresses abstractions, even when that system hurts people.

    Actually, I enjoy poking all kinds of people with sticks. In this post I poke other libertarians with a stick. As a non-libertarian, you might have no idea what I’m talking about, but I assure you that you’d be feeling the poke right about now if you were a libertarian.

    As I said earlier, I think disagreement is more interesting than agreement. It’s also more intellectually stimulating—most of what I see as my best insights on politics and economics have come from debate, here and elsewhere. Basically, I read and comment on Alas for more or less the same reasons Ampersand tolerates me (comment 43 above).

    Also, I think your system hurts people more than mine. Reasonable people can disagree.

  53. 152
    Ampersand says:

    defenestrated wrote:

    When bean cut through the bullshit and called “misogyny,” I really didn’t get why that would’ve been where the line is, rather than really long lawyerly defenses of the notion that men treating women badly and like objects is somehow women’s fault. Yeah, that was sort of the topic of the thread a little, but it wasn’t the topic of the post or the conversation it came out of – but what I saw as calling bullshit and trying to get back on track read to you, Amp, as a personal insult. Personal to whom? to the whole idea the dudes from Fem.Critics were defending? ’cause it didn’t seem like anyone was particularly singled out as misogynistic so much as their “team’s” idea.

    Here’s what Bean wrote in the “nice guys” thread, and my response to Bean on that thread:

    As for any sort of dating, I wouldn’t take the advice of someone like Brandon — unless you, too, are one of the self-proclaimed Nice Guys ™ who actually hate women.

    Bean, with all due respect, it’s enough to say that Brandon’s advice was bad, or doesn’t reflect the experience of the people you know. Please avoid making personal attacks on other posters on “Alas.”

    Do you really find it surprising that I viewed this as a personal attack on Brandon? If this isn’t a personal attack on Brandon, in your view, then what would be?

    (Despite what some folks have incorrectly claimed on this thread, by the way, I never objected to anyone using the word “misogynist.” I was wrong to trust people’s memories for that, rather than checking the source myself.)

  54. 153
    Individ-ewe-al says:

    Regarding Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s much linked post about moderation, I think the central message is that good moderation requires two things: 1. A moderator (or team) whose word is law, who can delete comments and ban persistent offenders and not feel embarrassed about it. Endless debates about moderation decisions are almost worse than the trolling and flaming that moderation is supposed to deal with. This leads me on to 2. Cooperation between the commenting community and the moderator. Making Light has a community of regulars who have all the opinions under the sun, but are in broad agreement about what sort of behaviour is acceptable at ML. They do such a good job of freezing out unwanted elements that the direct moderation tools are little needed, it’s just not an attractive place for trolls to be. Alas doesn’t have that.

    Amp himself wants civil discourse and the ability to debate people with opposing views, as long as it doesn’t get personally nasty. Most of the regular commenters here are either feminists, who want to improve the situation of women and promote feminism, and very much don’t want to have endless academic debates about matters they consider settled; or they are explicit anti-feminists who want to stop feminists from doing their thing. Neither group really supports Amp’s moderation goals, I think.

  55. 154
    Individ-ewe-al says:

    Following on from that, my advice to Amp is: under no circumstances defend your individual moderation decisions. Don’t do it here on the blog, and don’t get into it by email. If someone emails you to complain about being banned, or to complain that some creepy troll wasn’t banned fast enough, you are not obliged to reply. That way you can make your own decisions about what sort of atmosphere you want here. It will be much harder to derail good discussion into boring meta-discussion about whether so-and-so should be banned. And you will establish a clear consensus about the sort of blog that Alas is; people who aren’t interested in that will eventually drift away.

    To feminists, my advice is: ignore the trolls. Suppress the instinct that says if you leave them unopposed people may believe their odious nonsense. Of course, the more you feed them, the more successful they are in derailing productive discussions. If you want to have high-level feminist discussion here, go ahead and have it. Reply only to the people you think have a clue. Easier said than done, I know, but I think it would be more productive than complaining to Amp that he’s a bad moderator.

  56. 155
    crys t says:

    I’d like to second what Bean said above.

    I’d also like to add that I’d be a lot less angry about getting called out for being “personally nasty” if the anti-feminist men here were also getting called out for their personal nastiness. Why is it so “irrational” to expect some consistency?

    I really don’t expect Amp, or any of the other moderators, to live at this blog 24/7. Frankly, I’d worry about them if they did. So it’s not that I get pissed off if one of the men makes an outrageous comment without immediate response. And I can understand that sometimes things don’t get caught due to high volumes of comments to wade through.

    But there is a longtime pattern of letting the men get off scot-free and slapping feminists’ wrists and that’s just bullshit.

  57. 156
    Lu says:

    Following up on Individ-ewe-al’s comments 160 and 161, what if we (I mean the regular and semi-regular commenters who are at least sympathetic to feminism) tried a cooperative approach? It could be similar to what Maia does: “I don’t think xyz is relevant (or, I think reasonable people agree that xyz is a settled question); here is my take on abc.” The difference of course would be that we wouldn’t have the power of the ban to back it up; but if enough of us persisted it might work. Any off-topic jokes could just be ignored.

    A possible objection to this idea is that it puts the burden on feminists and pro-feminists to deal with the problem. It might be the best option at this point, though.

    From my own experience on this blog and others, it’s very hard to keep harping on a subject if I’m the only one interested in it and everyone else is onto other things. (I don’t think of myself as harping — but if I throw something out there and no one picks it up, I really don’t have much choice but to move on.)

    As for Amp’s not participating in discussions, without trying to speak for Amp I’m going to a hazard a guess, again going on my own experience, that if the discussion stays civil (sorry, can’t think of another word) and focused and covers the ground well, Amp may not see any need to rehash points that have already been dealt with.

  58. 157
    joe says:

    Why would amp mind if you told Robert/Brandon/whoever that you’d like to discuss X and not Y? Or tell some random person that a specific thread is to discuss access to abortion and not when the fetus becomes a person? I thought his main requirement was that the conversation remains civil, free from personal attacks, profanity and vitriol. There’s no way to force anyone to honor that request without mod privileges but it might improve things.

  59. 158
    defenestrated says:

    Amp, I see your point re: my comment. I think, though (again, the young lil feminazi in the room waves her hand wildly), that where I missed seeing that as a personal insult is exactly where the “feminist critics” dudes call their ‘criticism’ “Taking issue with the ‘narrowly-defined term’ Feminism.”

    If you and I and every shade of gender in between can by now be considered Feminists just because we consider Women to be equal to Men and don’t consider FEMinism as a whole to have been bad for huMANkind (that would be my issue with all the terminology, by the way, as a secular pan/non-theist er whatever “humanitarian”)
    - and a bunch of MRAs can call their blog “(not-anti)-Feminist Critics”…then, yeah, that kinda does leave lil ol me as the Nazi in the room. That’s not necessarily actually a bad thing, by the way, seeing as I’ve learned a hell of a lot from watching the arguments and discussions on here. In any event, it’s not meant to be educational for me and my team so much, is it now?

    All that said, I like the new commenting dealio. I imagine that since all of the apparently most-interested parties have had a part in this thread, it’s pretty much gonna serve its purpose of giving you freedom to have, y’know, a non-Alas life.
    (but who’d want that?)

  60. 159
    Mandolin says:

    Julie,

    I meant to respond to you earlier. I don’t remember ever thinking you were intellectualized about things like rape, but if you feel you are, then that’s fair. I don’t know exactly how to comment on it, or how male socialization comes in, but I thought your post was very interesting.

    As to the other discussion here, in re: Daran and BrandonBerg — but not *to* Daran and BrandonBerg:

    They’re doing. It. Again.

    As the feminists discuss what to do about their cooption of the discussion, these two antifeminist men are ignoring the context of that discussion and attempting coopt *it* into a discussion about the very basic level of feminist principles. Whether they see it or not, they’re trying to convert this disucssioninto a defense of basic feminist principles. I call bullshit.

  61. 160
    crys t says:

    Mandolin: thank goodness someone said it. It is bullshit. Isn’t pretty much everyone here sick of watching every damn thread here turn into more beating of the Strawfeminist by our very own resident He-Man Woman Haters’ Club?

  62. 161
    Ampersand says:

    Crys T:

    But there is a longtime pattern of letting the men get off scot-free and slapping feminists’ wrists and that’s just bullshit.

    Bean:

    …however, when I see Amp’s name posted as having commented, I’ll usually check out the comment, and 99.9% of the time, it turns out to be a moderation comment…

    Both of these claims are so far from the truth that I don’t even know what blog you’re reading, but it’s not this one.

    Crys T, I think you may not realize that you’re not seeing most of the moderation that goes on, which consists of not letting posters have permission to post on “Alas” at all. 19 times out of 20, people who are banned based on their first posts are anti-feminists and/or racists and/or pro-life. Even after people are allowed to post, the vast majority of banned posters are not feminists.

    Even if you look at nothing but warnings I give, it’s simply not true that I give warnings exclusively to feminists. In this thread, for instance, the only person I’ve moderated is Robert. (Plus, in comment #135, I guess I moderated everyone – but everyone ignored that, feminists and non-feminists both).

    Bean, it’s true I don’t debate as much as I should — but it’s not at all true that the majority of my comments are moderating comments, let alone anywhere close to 99%.

  63. 162
    Ampersand says:

    Mandolin, I disagree with comment #167. First of all, what you see as an on-topic discussion by feminists, I see as a co-option of a thread that I had intended to be used for practical discussion of what can be done, into a discussion involving very little discussion of practical approaches to moderation.

    (Which isn’t a big deal to me, because I figure that most threads drift. I wouldn’t even want them not to drift, after the first 20 or 40 comments; some degree of thread drift is a normal part of conversation, in my view, and it’s not productive to try and stop it after a thread is old enough. I’m really not interested in being so controlling that I forbid all thread drift on comment threads over 100 comments long.)

    So to agree with you, I’d have to embrace a double-standard; that it’s okay for feminists to digress into something tangential to the topic, but if non-feminists digress from the digression that’s objectionable. There are a bunch of double-standards I embrace (virtually all of them in favor of feminists) in my approach to moderation, but that’s not one of them.

    Also, I don’t think that Brandon and Daran’s contributions were all off-topic, if we ignore the actual topic and instead assume the topic is “what is going wrong here?” This is a board in which both feminists and non-feminists participate; in any discussion of what’s going wrong in which feminists say “Daran does X,” or whatever, it’s relevant to have Daran (or whomever) give their own perspective on what’s happening.

  64. 163
    Mandolin says:

    Point taken, although I think I may have been unclear. What I’d meant to express was:

    It seems to me that Daran & BrandonBerg’s comments are turning to questions about what feminism is about, at base.

    I also didn’t mean to call for moderation of their comments, for what it’s worth.

  65. 164
    Brandon Berg says:

    Mandolin:

    As the feminists discuss what to do about their cooption of the discussion, these two antifeminist men are ignoring the context of that discussion and attempting coopt *it* into a discussion about the very basic level of feminist principles.

    This simply isn’t true. We’re both objecting to what we perceive as gross mischaracterizations of our views and/or motives. I specifically said that I don’t care how you define feminism, as long as you stick to a consistent definition rather than equivocating.

  66. 165
    RonF says:

    Amp, I do like the addition of the “Report this comment to the moderators” button. I’ll be interested if you care to share how it works.

    They’re enjoying the fact that they’ve managed to stir up such bad feeling amongst us.

    Actually, crys t, no, we weren’t. Robert and I were having a bit of a joke about the mutual revelation that we seem to share a bit of history as far as our political pasts – the kind of joke that frequent posters on here have often shared. It wasn’t about you or anyone else at all.

    I certainly do not take pleasure out of ever having caused bad feelings among any group of people.

    I would say that I’ve learned a few things on this blog that I would not have been exposed to otherwise. The main thing would be the idea of “privilege” – which I understand as being the idea that people who are in a favorable position in a society can live without any consciousness of how living without such favor affects those without it. It’s not something I thought about before.

    The civil discourse on here that some people seem to decry enables me to hear and consider ideas such as the above seriously, which I cannot do if I encounter them wrapped in scatological rhetoric. If some form of moderation is necessary to maintain this, I’m all for it. But does that mean that any challenge or even question about the basis for feminist ideas will be subject to removal because it might offend a feminist?

  67. 166
    RonF says:

    Oh, and I am under no illusion that the primary purpose of this blog either is or should be to give me a forum. If Amp decides to moderate me off of this blog because it will suit his purposes or satisfy the majority of the other posters here, I’d regret it but I do believe that life would go on for us all.

  68. 167
    Paul1552 says:

    I tried the report this comment feature. It wouldn’t accept my screen name, so I tried my real name. Still no dice.

    And FWIW, I personally think that except in egregious situations like those that were seen a few days ago in the Imus and Duke lacrosse threads, banning someone from a particular thread (or even a particular topic) is better than banning them from the blog altogether.

  69. 168
    crys t says:

    “Crys T, I think you may not realize that you’re not seeing most of the moderation that goes on, which consists of not letting posters have permission to post on “Alas” at all. 19 times out of 20, people who are banned based on their first posts are anti-feminists and/or racists and/or pro-life. Even after people are allowed to post, the vast majority of banned posters are not feminists.”

    OK, then I can qualify what I said before by saying that of the comments/commenters that are allowed here, it’s a lot easier to get by with jabs/insults/etc. if you’re an anti-feminist man than it is if you’re a feminist woman. More anti-feminists may ultimately get banned, because it’s more likely going to be one of them who says something so outrageously beyond the pale that there’s no way it could be tolerated. But when you’re talking about low-level hostility, baiting other commenters, intentionally derailing topics, etc., women–especially if they’re feminist–are much more likely to get called on it by you than the permanent gang of anti-feminist men who’ve settled here.

    ” In this thread, for instance, the only person I’ve moderated is Robert.”

    Yeah, because he’d been named specifically as someone a lot of feminist and pro-feminist commenters see as a huge obstacle to real debate here. You were very conscious of him at that moment and aware that we were all watching your responses very closely. On a day-to-day basis, the guys get away with pulling nasty shit regularly. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s that you somehow miss those particular comments of theirs, or if you do see them but what they’re doing just isn’t registering, or what. But it’s not like it’s only me who’s seeing it: this argument flares up every few months and there are always a number of women AND men who tell you the same thing: that these guys are getting away with murder on a regular basis.

    Plus, didn’t you jump on a reply Qgrrl made t0 Robert on this thread? And the hilarious thing was, she was 100% right: Robert WAS lording it over her that she was such a powerless piece of shit here that he didn’t have to give a damn about her (or any of us, really)–which you then proved by smacking her down and giving him a pat on the head. No wonder he treats us all with such open contempt: you not only let him get away with it, you reprimand the person who points it out.

    I know you think I’m harsh with you. And you’re right, but it’s borne out of frustration. I meant what I said in the other thread: I DO feel a lot of affection towards you, but when it comes to this particular issue it’s like all your ability to reason, or even really listen, flies out the window.

    RonF: I’m sorry, but I can only repeat my feeling that having people camp out for months or years on a blog that exists explicitly to propound views radically contrary to their own is an indication that something is wrong. It’s wrong because normally such places are not comfortable because having to deal with voices saying what you don’t like tends to be upsetting. Evidently, there are a number of anti-feminist men who feel very, very comfortable at Alas. More comfortable, in fact, than most (if not all) of the feminist women.

    And why is that? Why are so many discussions here dominated by conservative voices while feminists have been diminishing steadily for some time? Because conservatives are made to feel more welcome. It’s as simple as that. Daran, Brandon, Robert and yourself would never voluntarily last for months on end at a feminist blog (even assuming you didn’t get banned) simply because the moderators wouldn’t be so accomodating in restraining other commenters. You (a general “you” to the MRA types here, since I don’t recall RonF specifically ever engaging in the baiting/insults-disguised-as-civility games) wouldn’t be able to get away with the games-playing and pissing contests, and therefore wouldn’t have the pleasure of hiding behind Teacher sticking out your tongues and laughing while the victims of your bullying were unable to touch you.

    In short, you’d have to deal with us pretty much the way you would if this were real life and when you said something, I had the freedom to answer not just what you’re saying, but also what you’re doing. And that just wouldn’t be fun.

  70. 169
    Kate L. says:

    Two quick things though I don’t know if it matters.

    As much as I agree with a lot of the sentiments that crys t is articulating I’m not comfortable with the harshness being directed solely at Amp. I HAVE seen him moderate Robert, Daran and Brandon etc quite a lot. And I think the sheer fact that he’s willing to take so much criticism and heat and open this thread up to find solutions says a lot. I’ve not seen a single other blog where the author allows people to bash him so openly and frequently. If I were Amp I’d have put the squash on a lot of this a long time ago – he takes a lot of heat from a lot of people and I often don’t think it’s deserved. While I agree there is a general problem with uncivil things said in civil terms and that it usually flys under the radar until someone is so ticked off that they are uncivil in response, I can’t honestly see that there is any way around that other than the report comment button. There are comment threads that get to 100s of comments – if you take a break for ONE DAY from reading comments it could take HOURS to read through them all – that’s probably not a terribly fun thing to do and if you have to read through a ton of comments you might be more likely to skim and less likely to catch the subtle crap that some people are so talented at. I say we give the report comment button a chance to work and see what happens.

    And I have to tell you that for the most part the best thing to do is ignore the baiting. It’s hard, I find myself getting sucked in, but if I take a step back I realize I’m not getting anywhere but giving people pleasure in getting me riled up so I just roll my eyes and move on. Which does contribute to me stopping commenting on threads or not commenting at all, which I suppose is the problem, but maybe with the report comment button I’d be less likely to do this… we shall see.

    Second, I have to say I have never seen RonF be a jackass. He may not always agree with everything on here, but I get the sense he is here to learn and he is here with an open mind and I thoroughly appreciate his perspective and ability to have a discussion in order to truly further civil discourse. He is an excellent example to follow I think. I think this blog is a fairly good mix of having the mainstream conservative/liberal arguments as well as furthering left/liberal/feminist discourse – while I’d like to see a greater empahsis on the latter (and I get the feeling Amp does too) I see the value in the former and wouldn’t want to get rid of it entirely. I think the thing to do is those of us who are “feminist” commenters need to step up our game, ignore the baiting and continue to have the conversations we want – it requires extra energy from us, but most things worth doing are usually hard work.

    My problem is I don’t have as much free time as some people appear too. I’m slacking off at my job as we speak and I can only do that so much. I have a small child at home so when I’m not working I’m not interested in being in front of a computer. How do you all find so much time to be here reading and responding all the time????

  71. 170
    Robert says:

    We do ignore it.

  72. 171
    Kate L. says:

    “I’m wondering…since it’s so easy to toss off the advice to “just ignore it,” why don’t the same advice givers give that advice to those who are so offended by the “offensive and hostile” posts that the feminists so often make? Why is it always a one-way street?”

    Bean, I’m not certain exactly who you are responding to, but I don’t think it’s easy to just ignore it – I have a great deal of trouble with it myself, but I also think it’s possibly the best strategy of being able to get what I want out of the discussion. I’m not thrilled with how many comment threads go, but if I actively ignored the crap rather than engaging with it then I could potentially have a discussion with the people I’m INTERESTED in talking with instead. I don’t know if I’m capable, but I’m willing to try.

  73. 172
    pheeno says:

    I wonder if the “just ignore it” people get that feminists arent just merely dicsussing ideas or theories, we’re discussing our actual lives. We’re not defending ideas, we’re defending things that keep us unraped, able to pay bills and breathing (just to name a few). So maybe, just maybe, that “hositility” is a result of having our lives at stake in these “discussions” and not just ideas or beliefs.

    For instance

    I believe actions A and B will put my life in danger. Immediate, potentially lethal danger. Someone else wants to argue that actions A and B wont really put my life in danger and seems mean or unfair . Im not going to nicely brush that off, when I feel Im actually having to save my own life. I dont know *anyone* who wouldnt become increasingly hostile in defense of their own lives. Nor do I know of anyone who would sit and calmly discuss real dangers to their lives as if it was merely a discussion or hypothetical situation.

  74. 173
    Radfem says:

    I’m wondering…since it’s so easy to toss off the advice to “just ignore it,” why don’t the same advice givers give that advice to those who are so offended by the “offensive and hostile” posts that the feminists so often make? Why is it always a one-way street?

    Thank you bean!

    And I do try hard to ignore it, and I think I’m getting better at it, but unfortunately by doing that I feel like I’m ignoring more and more posts on some of the threads. But bean does raise a question I had when that advice was first given.

    I was thinking, well why don’t these MRAs or anti-feminists ignore feminists. And the reality is, they can’t. We live in a world and a country that favors men(and SCOTUS just reminded us of that!) and consequently men have a sense of entitlement to space and discussions that take place in space including discussions of issues that largely impact women in space where women are discussing these issues and it’s always a battle to keep it from descending to a, “what about men?” or they derail, ridicule, tell their brand of jokes and so forth. It’s funny because in a sense the same men who decry feminism and claims that sexism and the patriarchy exist are the same ones who then proceed to show us that these things do still exist.

    Also, I do find it interesting how the feminist women seem to be on a similar page and agree with each other and have expressed many of the same concerns but the men say, it’s not happening. Which is why I’ve been reading because life gives feminists and women plenty of opportunities whether we like it or not to address or be faced with the same dynamic and it gets a bit tiring at the end of the day when you’re on the internet.

    The same thing happens on issues dealing with racism, usually written by Rachel S. and she handles it pretty well. But watching how Ann was treated and others on these threads, it’s discouraging. There are some great discussions here but some well, certain dynamics repeat themselves.

    If you’re looking for quick solutions to implement, there really aren’t any. It’s a societal issue that is coming onto an internet space. Some of us see parallels because it’s our experiences. Some of us don’t because it’s harder to see privilege than oppression let alone confront it in yourself, whether you have racial and/or gender privilege or other privileges.

  75. 174
    Ampersand says:

    Kate, thanks very much for post #178.

    It’s interesting that almost no one here who is calling for heavier moderation of non-feminists ever bothers to participate in the feminist-only threads.

    I’m going to post later today (or maybe tomorrow) describing the changes to the moderation policies. I’d appreciate it if people could dial back on the criticisms for awhile while we set up and try out the new approach and work the kinks out.

  76. 175
    Lu says:

    Thanks, Amp! I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of appreciation for your willingness to hear us all and try to make changes.

  77. 176
    Myca says:

    I wonder if the “just ignore it” people get that feminists arent just merely dicsussing ideas or theories, we’re discussing our actual lives. We’re not defending ideas, we’re defending things that keep us unraped, able to pay bills and breathing (just to name a few). So maybe, just maybe, that “hositility” is a result of having our lives at stake in these “discussions” and not just ideas or beliefs.

    My question (and please, I’m asking not telling) is how far this applies across the board?

    I ask because there have been a lot of intellectual, theoretical discussions of BDSM and polyamory in my time here, and these are things that are part of my actual life, that I have an actual investment in, and that decisions about affect my life in important ways. I’ve been called an abuser, my wife has been called crazy, and I’ve tried to be ‘civil’ through it.

    I’m not saying that applying theoretical analysis to things like BDSM and polyamory is wrong or anything, but . . . it really is treating an important emotional component of many people’s lives as an intellectual exercise. When someone does that, is it then okay for me to call them names?

    Please realize I’m not trying to either dominate the conversation with this or make it ‘all about me’ or start a fight or anything. I’m asking how folks envision this working.

    —Myca

  78. 177
    defenestrated says:

    Myca,

    I’m not saying that applying theoretical analysis to things like BDSM and polyamory is wrong or anything, but . . . it really is treating an important emotional component of many people’s lives as an intellectual exercise. When someone does that, is it then okay for me to call them names?

    You didn’t ask me, but I’m gonna hop in with my two cents anyway. One, flat out not ok in my book to ‘call someone names’ when what they’re discussing is a culture that keeps women’s fear of rape alive and very, very justified (when a chick feels bad for making her boyfriend a little guiltyish over anally raping her while she was tied up, bdsm is I think undeniably a part of the excuses that go into making it so ok to rape women in America. Bruises or no, she probably could’ve asked for it, right (see: rape apologists on Pandagon making cracks like “uh, safeword?” re that woman’s rape).

    There are plenty of people who are frankly mature enough to handle the power-playing-with that bdsm entails. There are also a whole lot of ‘em who use the scene (and now especially with the internet and all its porniferous glory, its fiction-creation) as an instruction manual for how to rape and get away with it. Not cool.

    I think feminists are well within their bounds to criticise the fact that our culture has so eroticised power that hurting each other for pleasure has become a “game.” I think that bdsm-ers are well within their rights to defend their pastime and the mindset that allows them to get something out of it [for example, Myca, after having read so many of your comments I'd be hard pressed to jump to the he's-a-wannabe-rapist conclusion in your case; that's not necessarily so with everybody i for one have met irl or online]. At the same time, it seems only respectful to bear in mind that the idea of so many much-bigger-than-us men out there getting off on fantasies of abduction and force is an incredibly frightening knowledge to walk around with (even to a generally unfrightened goes-out-wandering-at-night chick like me).

    And to be totally honest, if I ever found myself getting called names for having that fear, then I wouldn’t be able to help but switch my mental idea of the speaker’s ‘category’ as far as safe/sane and pro-non-consent. Making fun of the fear of rape? Not cool.

    Two, I started out with “One,” and never really moved onto another point per se. Here’s Two. :)

  79. 178
    plunky says:

    Amp, I think your moderation is fine as-is, and I like that there is not the pile-on mentality (that would result in Robert/RonF etc not posting) that exists on many of the other feminist blogs.

    An ignore feature might help things though. Maybe someone could cobble together a greasemonkey ignore script if the blog software wouldn’t easily support it.

  80. 179
    Radfem says:

    Well, sometimes the topics that interest people are not listed as feminist-only because to designate a thread that, is a decision made by the writer/moderator not the reader. I read them and sometimes participate, but tend to participate more on the topics that I find more interesting which a) might not be considered “feminist” topics by whomever starts them and thus defines them as such(and we’re all different in how we look at it) or 2) may not be given the “feminist only” designation.

    Just a thought as to one way of looking at an observation made.

    I do appreciate this thread.

    So maybe, just maybe, that “hositility” is a result of having our lives at stake in these “discussions” and not just ideas or beliefs.

    Yes, I agree. For men, even feminist ones it’s about theory and its statistics and it’s all the type of evidence that is empirical and coincedently or not, this is the type of evidence and discussion which is upheld by men as being the most important thing and they place a higher value on what they bring including methods to the table. They can’t have these experiences and either want to participate in a meaningful way, or they are hostile to feminists and just want to derail. Or they see discussions about feminism as a contest, a comparison of caliber size so to speak.

    For women, these things matter, but most often it’s about experiences and ancedotes(which are the genesis of most studies that are done and most statistics that are gathered) and about how these issus impact our lives and those lives of other women. But men tend to poo-pooh these things and uphold their methods of accessing feminism, whether they are pro or con, as being superior to what those who do live with experiences as women in a society that favors men most especially White men have to contribute.

    This dynamic is frustrating as is the constant demand to prove tenets to men who aren’t interested in anything we have to say just in saying, “see, I’m right. Nanner nanner,” when feminists have already had those discussions and want to move on to something else, which most often is the actual topic of a thread addressing women’s issues.

  81. 180
    Myca says:

    Making fun of the fear of rape? Not cool.

    Oh, I’m certainly not talking about making fun of the fear of rape, I’m talking about people who say oh so civilly that there must be something wrong with me and the people I love because of what we like to do in bed.

    That’s false civility, and that’s intellectualizing from outside a situation.

    —Myca

  82. 181
    nobody.really says:

    For what it’s worth, here’s one person’s thoughts on passion and dispassion.

    I believe actions A and B will put my life in danger. Immediate, potentially lethal danger. Someone else wants to argue that actions A and B wont really put my life in danger and seems mean or unfair . Im not going to nicely brush that off, when I feel Im actually having to save my own life. I dont know *anyone* who wouldnt become increasingly hostile in defense of their own lives. Nor do I know of anyone who would sit and calmly discuss real dangers to their lives as if it was merely a discussion or hypothetical situation.

    This is a bona fide problem. I wrestle with this problem in various forms myself – usually from the other side, and usually unsuccessfully.

    I neither profess nor deny the existence of a supreme being. This fact can provoke both theists and atheists into near fits. The director of our church choir who clings to her faiths for solace demand to know “How can you reject Christ’s sacrifice?” An ex-Catholic friend who finds satisfaction in condemning his religious upbringing incredulously ask “How can you believe that crap?” Neither really wants my thoughts; rather, they want my solidarity. Their views are passionate, an integral part of their identities; mine are academic. Lacking a way to express love for the person while speaking candidly to the subject, I’ve become adept at changing the topic.

    I’m concerned about many practices of the US government. The idea that we would incarcerate people, hold them incommunicado indefinitely, subject them to “coercive interrogation methods” emulating pain just short of organ failure, and not even acknowledge that we’re holding them, strikes me as barbaric if not illegal. But, as others have suggested, people do not seem to be receptive to dispassionate discussions on the topic. “They might be al Queida! They might be trying to KILL US!” That’s generally as far as the discussion gets. I try to reassure people of my concern for everyone’s safety, but once I expand the discussion to address the safety of people in US custody the discussion falls apart.

    The same impulses that led me to feel concerned for those imprisoned at Abu Grabe and Gitmo also led me to feel concern for – at the risk of raising hackles – the Duke lacrosse players. I did not see the need to rush to making a personal judgment, content that people closer to the scene could do that adequately without my assistance. But when I expressed this thought to friends, I heard a familiar refrain. “They could be RAPISTS!” I must acknowledge that people on this web site were able to thoughtfully distinguish between supporting the accuser and condemning the accused. The discussion I found here was by far the exception; concern for due process – or humble acknowledgment that we did not know all the facts – was often equated with indifference to rape victims.

    “A very popular error — having the courage of your convictions. Rather, it is a matter of having the courage for an attack upon one’s convictions.” Nietzsche said that; of course, he was a white male. As am I. I’ve led a privileged life – at least in the sense that I’m not aware of having been traumatized. Perhaps that makes my perspective a minority experience. Nevertheless, it’s the only perspective I’ve got.

    I do what I can to avoid attacking people’s identities while expressing differences of opinions about their convictions. Where identities and convictions are closely entwined, it’s a delicate project and I’d be astonished if I’d never struck a nerve. For what it’s worth, I try to consider what I know of each poster’s personal story before I respond – but, admittedly, I evaluate them from my own, privileged perspective. For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for the nerves I’ve struck. And, for what it’s worth, I’m likely to continue striking nerves in the future … at least until I can expand my perspective, or I get banned.

    If you have the courage for an attack upon your convictions, I look forward to the discussion. Otherwise, moderators should feel free to ban me. I defer to their perspectives; my identity is not at stake here.

  83. 182
    pheeno says:

    “My question (and please, I’m asking not telling) is how far this applies across the board?

    I ask because there have been a lot of intellectual, theoretical discussions of BDSM and polyamory in my time here, and these are things that are part of my actual life, that I have an actual investment in, and that decisions about affect my life in important ways. I’ve been called an abuser, my wife has been called crazy, and I’ve tried to be ‘civil’ through it.”

    Basically, since we live in a world that caters to men, is mostly run by men and everything is geared towards men and male fantasy ect, someone disagreeing with your personal sexual choices isnt posing a real threat to your life or ability to lead that life as you see fit. It’s not like fundies trying to outlaw homosexuality, which impacts the lives of homosexuals in ways that get them killed.

    Disagreeing with women who are trying to change social beliefs and treatment is essentially aiding a society that *kills* women.

    Personally, I *like* BDSM and me and the spouse thingy engage in it quite often. Its not a 24/7 thing by any stretch of the imagination, but someone disagreeing or even being hostile about it doesnt have the potencial to get me killed.

  84. 183
    pheeno says:

    “But, as others have suggested, people do not seem to be receptive to dispassionate discussions on the topic. “They might be al Queida! They might be trying to KILL US!” That’s generally as far as the discussion gets. I try to reassure people of my concern for everyone’s safety, but once I expand the discussion to address the safety of people in US custody the discussion falls apart.”

    The difference (and its rather important) is this

    We arent discussing things that *might* kill women. We’re discussing things that do kill women on a daily basis. There is no might about it. One is a fanatical exception, the other is the rule. People who use the al queda scare are trying to spin the exception into the rule to justify illegal activity. Feminists are not.

  85. 184
    Myca says:

    It’s not like fundies trying to outlaw homosexuality, which impacts the lives of homosexuals in ways that get them killed.

    No, obviously, that’s absolutely true, and it’s part of why (though I’m straight) issues around homophobia are a real hot-button issue for me.

    On the other hand, people* (some people I know, actually) really do lose their children and jobs because of this, so it’s not like it’s just a harmless opinion either.

    —Myca

    * And, since we live in a patriarchal society that’s terrified of female sexuality, of course women bear the brunt of this. So when someone says ‘only the mentally ill enjoy BDSM’, what they’re really doing is attacking women and enabling attacks on women.

  86. 185
    RonF says:

    crys t:

    RonF: I’m sorry, but I can only repeat my feeling that having people camp out for months or years on a blog that exists explicitly to propound views radically contrary to their own is an indication that something is wrong. It’s wrong because normally such places are not comfortable because having to deal with voices saying what you don’t like tends to be upsetting.

    You don’t seem to consider an alternative to comfort. I’m not looking for comfort here – I’m looking to see if I can learn (and maybe even teach a bit, if anyone’s listening). Learning is useful. It’s often not comfortable. In fact, it’s worth considering that it shouldn’t be comfortable. If it is, perhaps you’re being told what you want to hear, vs. the truth.

    bean

    I’m wondering…since it’s so easy to toss off the advice to “just ignore it,” why don’t the same advice givers give that advice to those who are so offended by the “offensive and hostile” posts that the feminists so often make?

    Actually, I have. Repeatedly. “Offensive” and “hostile” are to a certain extent subjective; what one person finds so, others don’t. I have said things that I have not meant to be offensive or hostile that other people have taken as such. Other people have said things to me that I have found offensive and hostile. I figure eating the latter pays for the former. And where I figure that it’s deliberate, I try not to raise to the bait.

  87. 186
    Ampersand says:

    Crys T wrote (quoting me):

    “In this thread, for instance, the only person I’ve moderated is Robert.”

    Yeah, because he’d been named specifically as someone a lot of feminist and pro-feminist commenters see as a huge obstacle to real debate here. You were very conscious of him at that moment and aware that we were all watching your responses very closely.

    Wow, are you quick to accuse me of dishonest behavior. And you’re wrong. I moderated him because I thought the comment deserved moderation – period.

    You claim that “there is a longtime pattern of letting the men get off scot-free and slapping feminists’ wrists.” I think you’re mistaken, both to implicitly assume that “men” and “feminists” are mutually exclusive categories, and in your accusation.

    Starting from just before this discussion of moderation began, and going backwards in time to March first, here are all the moderating comments I’ve made that I could find with a search of the comments database:

    1) One on a Schiavo thread, telling someone to please not attack the Schindlers.

    2) One on Duke Lacrosse, banning Steven.

    3) One on Nappy Headed Hos, banning Michael.

    4) One on Duke Lacrosse, telling Jo not to attack Amanda.

    5) One on Baby Blogging, attempting to put the “misquote” issue to rest by editing Myca’s comment to change the word “misquote” to “paraphrase.”

    5) One on Baby Blogging, asking Q Grrl and Bean to stop more-feminist-than-thou-ing Myca.

    6) One on Baby Blogging, telling both Q Grrl and Myca to avoid attacking other posters.

    7) One on nappy headed hoes, banning David, Stop The Foolishness, GETOVERIT, and Pickedaname.

    8) One on baby blogging, asking that people watch their tones and avoid piling on Q Grrl.

    9) One on nappy headed hoes, deleting a super-long plagerized comment.

    10) One on “nice guys,” telling Bean not to make a personal attack on Brandon. (I quoted this one earlier in our discussion).

    11) One on “oppression is a system of domination and control,” telling Mandrea not to make personal insults, and editing a post in which she had called someone a stupid asshole or something along those lines (it’s been edited, and I don’t remember what her exact words were).

    12) One on “oppression is a system of domination and control,” giving Daran a once-more-and-you’re-banned-from-this-thread warning.

    12) One on “oppression is a system of domination and control,” telling everyone to drop the Paris Hilton versus nameless homeless man discussion. (This particular attempt at moderation sunk like a stone.)

    14) One on “oppression is a system of domination and control,” asking Q Grrl not to say “Damn but ya’ll are dense,” which I thought was a personal attack.

    15) One on “oppression is a system of domination and control,” asking people not to digress the thread.

    16) One on “are men oppressed as men,” banning Lee.

    17) One on “empty spaces waiting for white people” telling Julie that she should stop behaving like a jerk.

    18) One on “workplace deaths,” telling Nemo to tone down his snarky tone and anti-feminism.

    19) One on “Court Issues Unbelievably Stupid…,” telling off Chris for “sneering at feminists.”

    20) One on Link Farm #46, banning CJ for a week and telling him that he can only return if he apologizes for his behavior.

    21) One on “Court Issues Unbelievably Stupid…,” telling Chris to stop being obnoxious.

    Of 21 moderating comments I made, ten were directed at anti-feminsts and racist-apologists of one sort or another.

    Seven of my moderating comments were directed at feminists (the plurality at Q Grrl).

    Seven people were banned, and all seven were anti-feminist and/or racist-apologist. (Probably this total would be twenty or more if you counted the people who were banned before their first post appeared in public.)

    Three anti-feminists were given extra-strong warnings that fell short of bannings; no feminists were given such warnings.

    And several of the warnings at anti-feminists were directed at people who were being polite on the surface, but in my view were still acting in an unacceptable manner. (For instance, I gave Daran a “stop or you’re banned from this thread” warning based not on him making any personal attacks, but on him using a hypothetical question to imply that feminists are man-haters.)

    So I think you’re mistaken, Crys. I moderate the “antis” more often than I do the feminists, and I moderate them more harshly.

  88. 187
    Brandon Berg says:

    Bean:

    I’m wondering…since it’s so easy to toss off the advice to “just ignore it,” why don’t the same advice givers give that advice to those who are so offended by the “offensive and hostile” posts that the feminists so often make? Why is it always a one-way street?

    Where are you getting the idea that we don’t?

    Crys T:

    On a day-to-day basis, the guys get away with pulling nasty shit regularly.

    Maybe if you compile a collection of the most egregious examples of that nasty shit we regularly get away with pulling, the management will see what jerks we really are and ban us. Heck, if you show me something I’ve said here that could legitimately be classified as “nasty shit,” I’ll apologize for it.

  89. 188
    Brandon Berg says:

    Bean:
    Sorry. Stupid question. Somehow I read that as asking why we don’t ignore “offensive and hostile” comments from feminist commenters.

  90. 189
    Individ-ewe-al says:

    As one of the people who advised ignoring the trolls, I was careful not to say “just ignore them”. I know it isn’t a matter of just, I know that ignoring people who are attacking beliefs you hold very strongly is extremely hard to do.

    Since I mostly lurk anyway, the fact that I don’t reply to offensive comments isn’t a big deal. But when I conclude that someone is a troll I skim over their comments and the threads they dominate. That means I didn’t see the really appalling racist and sexist comments from people like Michael and Chris, because I had long since concluded that they weren’t worth reading. So it took me a while to realize why people were so upset.

    Absolutely, Bean, it does go both ways. On the rare occasions where feminist commenters are being gratuitously offensive, I skim over their posts too, without reading. I cut feminists a lot more slack because I have much more sympathy for someone who is incoherently angry about rape than someone who is incoherently angry about affirmative action! And generally, I find the feminists at Alas to be a highly reasonable bunch, even if sometimes people resort to strong language. The sites where the brand of feminism is nastier than I can stomach I just don’t read, agreeing with crys’ view about not continuing hang out somewhere expressing views massively in conflict with mine.

    When I do get into arguments with feminists, it’s because I start from the assumption that feminists are basically the good guys. Most feminists I have met want to know if their views are potentially damaging to other minority groups. Whereas someone who is sexist is quite likely not to care if you complain that they are also racist! A long time ago I got involved in some of the civility debates, but I have given up on that. I certainly don’t go around criticizing individual feminists on their manners; if they are too rude for me then it’s up to me to ignore them, I don’t have the right to try to pressure people to conform to my ideas of civility, when I know many feminists are against that in principle.

  91. 190
    crys t says:

    Amp, I was NOT accusing you of being dishonest, only of being aware to a level you normally are not of exactly what was going on and what reactions your responses would elicit.

    And re your list: I’m sorry, but you’re not actually responding to what I (and btw, most of the other feminist women here) are saying. This is what my problem is: a number of men who comment here, for example, Robert or Daran or Brandon, are experts in using the male-invented, male-defined rules of “civil,” “logical” argument. Those rules allow them to be incredibly hostile and hateful towards women, particularly feminists, without crossing any lines. Yet we know they are rubbing our faces in it and so do they. They sit here and bait and bait and bait, and if one of us snaps and finally cuts through the bullshit of “polite” discourse and tells them to fuck off, you can and have told us off while ignoring the events that led up to the “offense”. Just like you did to Q.

    Most of us learned not to even bother long, long before March 1. If you had come up with a list of examples where feminists said things such as “quit wasting time with your misogynist drivel, fuckhead” and got away with it, you’d have had a point–NOT, I must stress, that I want or expect you to waste your time making lists to prove things to me. I leave that sort of manipulative, controlling behaviour to others. For example:

    Just look at Brandon’s comment in 198–it’s a classic. Brandon is here because he hates feminist women and he gets great pleasure in slapping us bitches down when we get uppity. We all know that, he knows that we know it, it’s no secret to anyone. He is not interested in interacting with us or listening to us or even debating us, because even when faced with evidence, he merely brushes it aside as irrelevant. To engage in debate with him as if he were acting in good faith is not only a collossal waste of time, it’s plain stupid.

    I have called him out on this. So what’s his response? “Prove it.” And why? Because my sitting around, scrabbling through posts, wasting my time & energy compiling old quotes just so he can glance at them and say, “That proves nothing,” is exactly where he wants me: jumping to do his bidding. He’s rubbing my face in the fact that he can get away with treating me like a subhuman piece of shit and there’s nothing I can do about it, because if I say, “Fuck off, you misogynist prick,” who’s going to be reprimanded or even banned here? Sure as fuck not Brandon.

    You are not looking at the crux of the issue: Sexist men at Alas? Numbers increasing (if slowly) and they’re staying put. Feminists women and pro-feminist men at Alas? Numbers dwindling, and even those of us who do come back are commenting less and less. If I’m so wrong in my impression of why that’s happening, what explanation do you have?

  92. 191
    Robert says:

    Brandon is here because he hates feminist women and he gets great pleasure in slapping us bitches down when we get uppity. We all know that, he knows that we know it, it’s no secret to anyone.

    Similarly, it’s no secret that you’re only here because you hate Jews and derive joy from slapping a kike online.

    Hey, this “impute the evil motive of my choice to my adversary” game is FUN! I especially like the part where I get to invent insults, and put them in the mouth of the targeted adversary!

    Next time there’s a thread relating to kids, I’ll be sure to impute a motive of wanting sexual access to children to whatever you write on the topic. Sure, that will make having a real discussion absolutely impossible, and will permanently poison the well for 5 or 10 percent of “Alas” readers who wander in that day and, lacking all context, see only my unsupported allegations and not knowing either of us, assume there must be something to such a heinous charge.

    But hey, I can’t be bothered with those concerns. Those are the kinds of things that men would use to justify a policy of civil discourse. And that’s just an excuse for THE MAN and his PENIS LOGIC.

  93. 192
    pheeno says:

    “Those are the kinds of things that men would use to justify a policy of civil discourse. And that’s just an excuse for THE MAN and his PENIS LOGIC.”

    Translation

    You just hate me because I have a penis.

    (as if its that important.)

  94. 193
    Ampersand says:

    And re your list: I’m sorry, but you’re not actually responding to what I (and btw, most of the other feminist women here) are saying.

    I was responding to part of what you’re saying; specifically, your false claim that “there is a longtime pattern of letting the men get off scot-free and slapping feminists’ wrists.” There is no such pattern. That you’re now pretending you didn’t say it, doesn’t mean you never said it. (I guess saying “I’m sorry, I was mistaken to claim that about you, but I still stand by my larger point” would be too hard a thing for you to say?)

    It’s true that I haven’t responded to everything you’ve said, because what’s the point? The bottom line is, you want me to make changes in the moderation of “Alas” which will make me feel unwelcome and unable to post. I’m not going to do that. Some changes are being made, but they won’t go as far as you want, because if I went that far I’d have to quit.

    So what are you going to do about it? I hope you’ll stay and contribute comments to the threads, because I enjoy reading your comments. But if you don’t like it, then you should go. There are plenty of other feminist blogs in which people like Robert and Brandon (let alone Daran) aren’t tolerated. There’s no lack of the kind of space you want.

  95. 194
    Kate L. says:

    Just for the record, the last 15 comments or so in this thread are the point where I roll my eyes throw my hands up and say – “So not worth my time” and then stop posting.

    This is getting ridiculous.

  96. 195
    Ampersand says:

    I agree with Kate.

    Comments are now closed.

    (And by the way, it’s a bit moot now that comments are closed, but Crys T, your attack on Brandon was completely against the rules of this blog. And Robert, your response to Crys T’s attack on Brandon was also completely against the rules of this blog.)