Politeness and status in short digital communications: my BSc dissertation

While looking through an old hard drive, I found something pretty cool: my BSc dissertation. It was on something which was relevant to my interests way back in 2007, and continues to be very relevant to my interests today: communication through the internet.

My main research question was are people being as polite as they think they are? What I found was interesting and kind of complicated: outside observers found it difficult to tell whether a message was intended for a recipient who was higher-status or on the same level of social power. In other words, the internet is a sort of social leveller. Or at least it is in terms of people sending messages, who don’t even think that they’re using the same mode of communication they would for a friend when addressing someone with more power.

Regular readers will know I’ve had a bit of a bee in my bonnet about the liberatory potential of digital communications for quite some time, and that I rather like that we can communicate with everyone on a level. I suppose this is why I want to share this project with you, to show I’ve been thinking about power and communication since before I’d even heard of Twitter.

You can read the whole thing here [pdf].

I will say, it’s very of its time. This was written in a time before social networking went mainstream, in a time when people still sent faxes to each other. It was written in a time when the word “flaming” was used–a word I desperately want to bring back as it is qualitatively different from “trolling” and it really pisses me off that the media cannot grasp the distinction. And one more caveat–I was very different at the time it was written: I was one of those people who believed science held all the answers, that science was right and objective, and as such there’s a few pretty cringey bits in my writing style. I was reasonably good at science: I got a first in that degree.

Nonetheless, I thought I’d share it, as I feel like some of you might find it quite interesting. The world has changed since I wrote that dissertation and I’d love to know how much of it still applies in a world where we can now talk to anybody.


Is stalking feminist praxis these days?

Content note: this post discusses stalking, harassment and transmisogyny

Last night, I went to the pub with my friends Roz and Sarah. Roz and Sarah are trans women, so piss TERfs off by just existing and being really awesome with it. Meanwhile, you all know about me–to TERfs, I’m the traitor for sororitising with the enemy.

We were followed to the pub. Our whereabouts was spread about TERf circles by text message, and they were rumbled when one of their lot tweeted, bragging about this information exchange. It was fortunate that our whereabouts were only made public after we’d already left and started our journey home, because otherwise, this could have become very dangerous indeed. As a woman, a vocal, outspoken woman, I have pissed a lot of men off in my time, too. These men literally want me dead. I know this, they’ve said it often enough. I don’t really want these men knowing where I am when I’m in a small group and vulnerable, because there is a genuine sense of danger here. I don’t doubt the same is true for my friends.

I also don’t doubt the TERfs know that this is true. We know for a fact that these people want trans women dead. They doxx and stalk and harass, trying to be the ones who give the order rather than the ones who pull the trigger. They try to block access to vital medical care, knowing this might kill people.

Now, I know that I’m not necessarily a safe person for trans women to be around. I have a high profile and a shitload of enemies. I sometimes worry that by talking to me, these women could be put in danger, draw unnecessary and unwanted attention. I thought I was being careful enough, but maybe I wasn’t. Me and my friends discussed meeting up that day via Twitter, and this is probably how our stalkers ended up tracking us down and tweeting out our location. I noticed that one of the stalkers followed me on Twitter–I can’t tell who’s following me there, and who isn’t. I cannot believe that this is something I even need to think about, but this is the climate in which we work, and I don’t blame any marginalised woman for staying the fuck away from me because of something like this.

But ultimately, the fault here isn’t mine. There’s things I can do to tighten security, and I’ll do those things. The real problem here is TERfs. This is not feminism, it’s being a fucking creep. These people are a danger. This is why I have a hair trigger on my block button for them and anyone who pals around with them: it’s proved it to me. You never know when one could be passing on information.

I write this post as a reminder: a reminder that this isn’t some sort of intellectual parlour game. The safety of women is at stake here. I’m fine and I’m alive, but what I want to come from this is an increased level of awareness. I want this post to be read. I want people to know that the TERfs literally stalk women. And I know that me being cis means more people are likely to care.

Isn’t that just the most fucked-up thing?

Edit, about 2 hours after posting: It looks like TERfs are trying to distance themselves from this because they realised how bad it looks. They have decided to throw the woman who tweeted our details under the bus and claim she is a man. However, they are continuing to laugh at the idea, and crack jokes with the woman. Unsurprisingly, they’re also continuing to harass me online. TERfs are perpetrating. TERfs are complicit. TERfs are loving this. TERfs are responsible. And, to boot, they’re failing on basic principles of #ibelieveher. I don’t have the energy to document it. If anyone wants to, they’re welcome to, but I don’t expect this. I know my readers tend to believe survivors.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

I read things, and I find the interesting. Here are some of them from this week.

But WHAT CAN BE DONE: Dos and Don’ts To Combat Online Sexism (Leigh Alexander)- Some constructive advice for men to meet minimal standards of basic human decency.

White feminism (via @renireni)- This comic explains the issues pretty well, in just two panels.

Coming forward (Squeamish Bikini)- On the horrid public response to Vanessa Feltz’s revelation about abuse she experienced.

Suarez got a longer ban for biting than racism (Jude Wanga)- Excellent analysis of the issues surrounding Suarez.

‘Feminist knickers’ show off everything that’s wrong with Twitter feminism (Brooke Magnanti)- Brooke explores symbolic action and a certain breed of Twitter activism.

Free supplement on epilepsy (Nature)- Nature have an open-access supplement all about epilepsy and there’s some really interesting articles in there, and I couldn’t pick just one because they were all really cool and interesting!

Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture (Sierra Mannie)- This article pissed off white gay men somewhat, to nobody’s surprise.

Things Other People Taught me about Liking Girls (radandangry)- This is beautifully written.

On hearing the news this morning about NICE and WLS (Obesity Timebomb)- Analysis of the news that there will be a lot more gastric band operations in the near future.

And finally, what if Disney princesses were in an OitNB-style prison? Fuck it, also have some cats falling over.


ACAB is a feminist issue

Content note: this post discusses violence against women and police violence

There is a gang of mostly men who have a monopoly on perpetrating and enabling violence against women. They recruit just enough women to do their dirty work for them, to hide the fact that they are the biggest perpetrators of male violence. We can see them for what they are.

Just today, we have two stories of gross abuse of women coming from the police. It has taken almost thirty years for the police to finally be blamed for shooting Cherry Groce, causing her to live out the rest of her life paralysed from the waist down and eventually die from the injury. Almost thirty years, a woman’s life destroyed, from a senseless act of violence for which she didn’t get to see justice in her lifetime. Meanwhile, in the realm of inciting violence and abuse of women, we see a story where the Met encouraged their Twitter followers to pile on a woman for complaining about the noise their helicopters make.

I suppose for me, this is somewhat personal. Once again, I’ll give a tiny sample of stories, limited to within the last month, of the police acting as perpetrators and enablers of violence against women as there’s just too fucking many, even limited to people I know personally. There’s my friend Ellen, who was assaulted, wrongly arrested, held without her medication and then put through a malicious court case and left with PTSD from the experience. There’s my friend Sam, who believed the white liberal lies, called the police and was blamed for the abuse she was receiving, perhaps because she isn’t the nice white girl the police like.

It’s a fact that the police have the power to hit women. It’s a fact they have the power to lock women up. And it’s a fact that they and their apologists will blame their victims for what happened to them.

It’s a fact that police are positioned as the gatekeepers for getting justice for violence against women. It’s a fact that they fail survivors over and over again. And it’s a fact that due to the choices they make, they enable abuse of countless women.

If you’re a nice white middle class girl, it can be hard to see the police for what they are. To you, they’ll be that nice jolly bobby who helped you get the people who tweeted rude things to you sent to prison. It’ll be the organisation who you can work with because they’ll definitely improve at helping out all the abstract women who had trouble.

They are not. Ask sex workers. Ask Black women. Ask women of colour. Ask trans women. Ask any woman who is not a good girl. They are the aggressors, the perpetrators, the ones who attack already-marginalised women while the privileged cheer from the sidelines.

A coherent, inclusive and effective feminism can and must be deeply critical of the police, and begin from a position of utter abolition of this structural perpetrator of male violence. I don’t doubt such a proposal will be met with harrumphing, cries of NOT ALL PIGGIES and eventually tending towards the hope I get raped and then let’s see how anti-police I am (pre-empting that by saying already happened, didn’t report).

If you think the police are on your side, that is the utmost manifestation of privilege. For most women, they’re just abusers in a silly hat.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hello people. I read things with my eyes and brain. Perhaps you will find them interesting too.

6 Women on Their Terrifying,Infuriating Encounters WithAbortion Clinic Protesters (Liz Welch)- Experiences from the States.

Gender, Sex, Biology & Transwomen (TGirlInterruptd)- Critique of biologically essentialist positions and gendering biology.

Gender, Orphan Black & The Meta Of Meta (foz meadows)- On misogyny in fandom’s reaction to some female characters.

Coming Out Simulator (Nick Case)- A touching way of telling a personal coming-out story.

Salome (Clementine von Radics)- Quite a beautiful piece about Kim Kardashian. Really.

Hair does not make the woman, Sarah Ditum (M. A. Melby)- Important takedown of some transmisogynistic, femmephobic bollocks that’s been floating around recently.

And finally, some good news. My very best friend in the whole wide world has suffered for more than two years from malicious behaviour from the police. It’s finally all over for her! Yay!

 


Does Rolf Harris’s conviction mean anything?

Content note: this post discusses rape and sexual violence

The news has just broken that entertainer Rolf Harris has been found guilty of all of the charges of indecent assault he was tried for. My thoughts go out to the survivors; I hope that they feel a sense of closure and justice after they bravely came forward.

Harris’s conviction follows hot on the heels of Max Clifford, who was convicted and imprisoned for similar offences early this year. Does this mean that the tide is finally turning on the rapists and the abusers, the men who use their power to violate?

Sadly, the answer is, probably not. Rolf Harris sexually assaulted these women more than three decades ago. It has taken this long for the climate to be right for his survivors to seek justice. This timespan is completely unacceptable, allowing Harris to live out his life before the state even started to care.

The picture is still gloomy for survivors. While the CPS may brag that rape convictions are at an all time high, it still translates into a measly 1070 convictions in a year, despite over 15,000 reports. And even when convicted, what does that mean? If you get raped by a powerful man, the negatives can easily outweigh the benefits of reporting: take, for example, the woman who had the misfortune of being raped by footballer Ched Evans. Her name was leaked to the internet by keyboard warriors, and her rapist will be playing football for Sheffield United again before long.

Perhaps at some point in the future, the state will consider the perpetrators of today finally worthy of their attention. I fear a kind of delayed-reaction mechanism, a focus on the historic rather than the current. By looking at it like that, it’s easy to view structural conditions favouring rapists as a thing of the past, as though rape culture stopped at some point in the Seventies. It absolves responsibility of the present, despite the fact that things are still objectively terrible where we’re standing.

In a way, this blog stands as a sort of “IN B4 THE INEVITABLE COMMENT PIECES ABOUT HOW THE SEVENTIES WERE A HIVE OF RAPE AND NOW WE’RE ALL RIGHT JACK”.

But more than anything, I want to reiterate my admiration for the courage of the women who came forward in a system which still tends against believing survivors, in a system where powerful men are worshipped and women degraded, in a system which seldom doles out any justice for survivors. I couldn’t do what they did, and neither can millions of others. I hope they feel peace at last.


Things I read recently that I found interesting

Well. It’s been rather a while since I’ve written one of these round-ups, because I’ve been doing work (if you hate our media, you should sign this petition to piss the rich white fuckers off) (also, if you love me, please sign up to this Thunderclap. It will help me times a billion.) I’ve also been busy getting trolled to ribbons by the sort of person who likes picketing lesbian pride parades, which hasn’t been much fun, but they’re spitting feathers I’m still going.

Anyway, there’s a corresponding huge fuckoff stack of things I read in the last few weeks that I found interesting. Maybe you will, too.

Will gay rights and feminist movements please return to your assumptions (Rewriting The Rules)- On binary assumptions which just won’t go away.

9 Visions of Utopia from Broadmarsh Shopping Centre (Judy Thorne)- All people want is communism and robots and I can get behind that 100%

Losing Pride (Huw Lemmey)- On how Pride in London has evolved to be miles away from its roots.

Gatekeepers get written about: how the media shuts out trans voices (J Mase III)- Excellent and useful piece, proved right again and again, sadly.

IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Went On A Date With An MRA (xoJane)- This is, sadly, the sort of thing I’d expected dating these men to be like. Trigger warning for misogyny and violence.

I Was Sexually Assaulted By Someone I Thought Was A Feminist And An Ally (Black Girl Dangerous)- …but don’t trust those nice, safe-seeming men any more. Same trigger warnings apply as above.

Cis Privilege (Cis Is Not A Dirty Word)- Some may find this privilege checklist a useful resource.

PurrVerse: The Mean Girls Of Lesbian Porn (Kitty Stryker)- On body policing in lesbian porn.

How sexist video game animators keep failing women (Aja Romano)- Take-down of the whine “women are too hard to animate” refrain.

“Game of Thrones” fails the female gaze: Why does prestige TV refuse to cater erotically to women? (Lili Loofbourow)- Why doesn’t Game of Thrones give women something to look at?

For The Billionth Time, Magneto Is Not Malcolm X (Muslim Reverie)- Brilliant post on the politics of X Men and appropriation and the handling of mutants of colour.

Jane Doe, Trans Women, and the Myth of the Perfect Victim (Katherine Cross)- On the demand for perfect victims in order for cis people to care.

Five Reasons why “If Modern Anarchists fought in Spain” isn’t Funny or Clever.  (Self Certified)- Taking down some manarcho-douchebag wankery.

Luis Suarez, the perfect mascot for this World Cup; or, “Aliens are Watching the World Cup”. (Musa Okwonga)- Lovely post about synecdoche.

And finally, I love Uzo Aduba, who plays Suzanne in Orange Is The New Black. Here she is doing all of the other characters. Her Alex is particularly good.

 


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