Editing Wikipedia 101 session from AdaCamp

After the Welcome and introduction and first session of AdaCamp in Portland I joined Netha Hussain and Rosie Stevenson to facilitate a session on editing Wikipedia. Everyon in the room introduced themselves and talked about their connection to open knowledge, information, and wikis. There were several people who had never edited Wikipedia.

We started by briefly describing what a wiki is. It is a collection of documents that are editable by multiple people; usually each page has a revision history and some transparency around who made specific edits. So, you can see who wrote which bits in a document with multiple authors. Often, a wiki page has words that are linked to other pages in the wiki. We accepted that we were mostly talking about Wikipedia here and acknowledged that “what wikis are” and their philosophy has a rich, interesting history.

Netha talked a bit about her work adding useful information from medical textbooks and journals which she started doing as a medical student.

Rosie jumped right in to an example of the kind of work she does; taking a biography of a notable woman who has a Wikipedia article in a language other than English, and creating an English language Wikipedia article about that woman. She had an example prepared. “I like that there’s a photo of her and she’s dead,” Rosie said enthusiastically. I chimed in with, “I *love* dead people!” We tried to explain why we love dead people. It is because editing the biographies of living persons is often a lot more contentious than writing about people who are not around to mind that you’re writing an encyclopedia article about them.

We paused to discuss what “notable” meant. There was not time to get into it, but Notability as defined by Wikipedia policies is an often contentious point, and often applied with gender and other biases. It is therefore important to try to establish the notablity of your subject, whether that’s a person or some other topic, by including good references that show they are important or significant.

Rosie’s example was Ángela Figuera Aymerich. She created an English language page for Figuera Aymerich. We all helped go over a brief tour of the page editing view. Rosie knows a little Spanish and uses Google Translate to read the source page. She made a very basic page with one sentence. We pointed out edit summary box where you can describe what you’ve just done.

Then we added a reference. Rosie did a search to find a book that talked about Figuera Aymerich and found one in Google Books. She used an online tool to format a nice looking Google Books citation for Wikipedia, then copied and pasted it into the edit page.

A new editor asked if it was ok or if it is considered rude to edit someone else’s sentences. Someone else explained it is not rude, but can take some tact. Often, men don’t pause to ask themselves that question, they just jump in and change things around. This is a good example of gender differences in the ways we begin engaging and the assumptions we make about interaction and collaboration.

This led us to do a quick tour of the article’s Talk page. Every article in Wikipedia has a “meta” page called hte Talk page, where people can discuss what might or should go into the article.

We then touched on adding images. Rosie advised always using images from Wikimedia Commons, because they will be licensed correctly for use in Wikipedia(s). If you have a properly licensed photo or image you want to use that isn’t there, you can go through the image upload wizard which will walk you through adding it to Wikimedia Commons. Then, use that version in your Wikipedia article. We did this all a bit too fast to follow.

There was some discussion of Categories, what they mean, how to search Wikipedia for articles similar to the one you are about to add, to see what categories it includes.

Categories that identify gender or other identity based information, such as “Women writers” or “Women writers from Bilbao” and so on, can be contentious topics. I talked a bit about how this is often exactly the sort of information I’m looking for that I consider valuable and important. But other editors or admins sometimes label this information as “sexist” or irrelevant, undoing important work.

Some of the new editors in the room wondered why anyone would be “a deletionist” so we discussed that a little bit.

It can be a good starting point to edit existing articles, either from a category like Articles needing cleanup or from some area of your own expertise, a book you’re reading, or something you’re learning about for which you have good sources that you can cite.

It was a good session! Several of us had lunch together and talked more about Rosie’s passion for translating articles from one language into another! She spoke very movingly about the politics of translation, especially as it is relevant to women’s history. If we don’t put this information online, it can more or less disappear from public awareness.

Related posts:

Dealing with Internet Drama in Feminist Discourse – SXSWi panel report

The Internet Drama in Feminist Discourse panel was led by Rachel (RMJ) from Deeply Problematic and Garland Grey from Tiger Beatdown.

woman with fist raised in woman's symbol

My notes are fairly sketchy. Many people in the room spoke up but I didn’t record everything and wasn’t sure of people’s names. The hashtag on Twitter was #femdrama, and from that tag I can see Natalia, caitlinrain, kaisersake, queenie_nyc, lzbellz. We went back and forth lot between talking about trolling or moderating obvious crap, vs. engaging in discourse between blogs as well as among commenters.

I talked a bunch in the middle of this panel, but forgot to mention that there is quite a lot about this topic and the idea of feminist “safe space” vs. Anonymous free speech in a book in 2009, The WisCon Chronicles: Carnival of Feminist SF. Section 3 of the book is all about Internet Drama, with contributions from Micole Sudberg, Cynthia Gonsalves, JJ Pionke, Hanne Blank, Vito Excalibur, my transcript of a panel called Can Internet Drama Change the World? with panelists Alexis Lothian, K. Tempest Bradford, Woodrow Hill, Julia Starkey, and K. Joyce Tsai. Debbie Notkin and I wrote a long essay about feminist culture class here, “Safe Space vs. LOLspace in the WisCon Trolling”. I think the participants push hard on the boundaries of what we expect from public discourse.

To start off the discussion, Rachel and Garland introduced themselves and mentioned their blogs and their experiences being suddenly embroiled in very intense and sometimes personal discussions online.

Rachel says drama can be useful and it can be possible to create drama for good or at least use it for good. Why would you start drama? What do we mean by it? How do you deal with people starting drama with you, in a responsible and ethical manner? How do you internally deal with the stress of it and take care of yourself while continuing on with your feminist activism?

Garland mentioned hashtag activism, like Tiger Beatdown’s #mooreandme campaign. He hopes we don’t start any new drama in this room today. If we mention recent feminist discourse online, great, but let’s not take sides on particular incidents. Rachel asks for our personal backgrounds or experience in this area.

A guy with big glasses talks a bit about a rock and roll bulletin board or mailing list he’s involved with and says drama arises over people deciding other people should be banned. Drama is splitting, divisive, and means people have to go off and make new forums.

Rachel responds that that’s how new communities formed. In answer to Rachel’s question about what drama means, I talked a bit about how the personal is political, we try to put feminisms into practice in daily life, we examine that in public discourse and it gets very intense.

Rachel talked about how criticism can be very personal and come in a barrage. It can carry the overwhelming message that we already get from society that our voices are worthless, it’s not worth continuing to put it out there. We have to separate the criticism we get that’s valid from that overwhelming societal message that we’re supposed to shut up.

Natalia talked about female leadership and the leaky pipeline. She was at a talk where Ruth Simmons was speaking; she was drained from being the token person speaking up, and Ruth said something about it being important for us to keep speaking up, because people who see us staying silent then think they’re not part of things either.

Garland talked about hostile actors, people who want to shut a conversation down or aren’t acting in good faith. Some people come in and are obvious name callers but it can also be stealthy, injecting ideas into a conversation that disintegrate it, undermine discourse, for example, the idea that “it’s just the the internet” and isn’t important. For instance Penny Arcade… (a bunch of people in the room laugh in response and talk about the dickwolves thing).

People talked about trolls and moderation and getting overwhelmed with comments. I mentioned geekfeminism.org and our comment policy. We also have filters for sensitive topics that bump comments right into moderation, like “too sensitive”.

The guy with glasses talked more about the women in Phish fandom board he’s part of. It was something like 90% women and 10% men. They started a women only forum. So excluding men was one option for improving the drama.

Teresa Van Deusen said it’s really bad when things immediately devolve into name calling. Someone talked about drama at SXSWi this year and how people in one context don’t think you might have other identities in the room. There is some poster about liking boobies and people don’t think about what that says. You can be a woman who likes women, and likes boobs, but still hates the ad and thinks it’s sexist.

Rachel talked about how drama is a really good way for some people to talk about intersectionality. People learn what language to use, how to quote people, how not to appropriate people’s words. At best it’s not a destructive cycle of anxiety where there’s drama. Someone else then talked about Amanda Marcotte whose work they admire, but she had given a speech that was appropriating things women of color had said, and then her response wasn’t good. We then talked about women of color and feminists of color being marginalized. Rachel mentioned that has plagued feminism since at least the 1800s, racism in feminism isn’t new with the Internet. Garland adds that we can screw up a lot faster now. There was some mention of intersectionality and privilege, cisgender, class, race, US-centrism, and other oppressions we fight as women.

Garland asked us to consider what we want from this discussion. What would make our day? Teresa responds that she already thinks the last 7 years or so of feminist discourse online has been amazing and beautiful.

Someone from Bitch Magazine says that when you’re feminist and blogging and unpaid and then get embroiled in drama it’s just difficult. There was more discussion of trolling, moderation, and swift banning. Rachel said that disallowing anonymous comments has been helpful for her to manage time. On her main blog she doesn’t get a ton of comments but when she writes for a bigger site the responses can be really bad. Emily May from Hollaback says at first they didn’t allow comments at all. Now they do. Michael from a small women’s college in Minnesota then talked about their online communities and I think Facebook, but my notes are incomplete.

Natalia talked about hashable and how mainstreaming feminist discourse can be important. She loves hashable and wanted to give constructive criticism of it.Their automated greeting is “Hi guys” which she criticised with the #languagematters tag. They responded fairly well, and then said “Well, it’s mostly not sexist”. Then they listened and changed the greeting to “hi there”. Rachel talked about discouraging and disallowing ablist language. Teresa said we need an app for that. The room buzzed a little about editing filters that would help alert us not to make common mistakes. It might be nice to have a WordPress plugin.

I talked some about how public discourse is documenting our consciousness raising. The riot grrrl movement isn’t well documented on the web. Maybe the web is going to make our history more obvious and accessible. Criticising other feminists is especially fraught because we are all vulnerable to the tools of misogyny, which can take us all down. Once the criticisms go mainstream, we all look bad, we’re catfighting, etc, but we have to do it and treat it as an important part of history. Very young girls are reading this stuff now, they get our history early, they are prepared. When I saw Style Rookie commenting around the feminist blogosphere it was great.

The band fan guy talked more but I did not get what he was trying to say. I totally wondered what his drama was though because he clearly had had at least one.

Someone else said please learn from feminism from past dramas. If criticized then think about it, think critically, don’t keep making the same mistake over and over, learn how to apologize, edit your posts.

Natalia: Women of color’s voices are silenced, people don’t htink about that by generalizing about this to be about white women, they’re not thinking of women of color. When we say how can we call people out in a constructive way, actually, what we need is not so much that as we need white people not to freak out when called out on their wording or on not including women of color.

There was a general “hear hear” throughout the room and a bunch of different women spoke up to say they agree.

I said some things about the tone argument and that anger isn’t a reason not to listen to someone and their point.

Someone else talked about giving way more validation and consideration to a harsh criticism when it came from a particular identity. Skye talked about that too but I missed the particular example. Garland says he can be rude and confrontational and that’s his personal style; if he feels like someone made a mistake and didn’t do it maliciously, he can be nicer, but intentions don’t matter in some ways.

An organizer from Girls Rock talked about watching teenage girls get harassed by boys, like on Facebook boys just going “girls suck” and the girls having to deal with that. How to help them in public spaces?

Rachel says, Think on how you will want to respond. What kinds of spaces are you creating? What do they have room for? What volume will there be?

People talk about when to stop engaging. What to do when people are asking over and over to be educated and you have to do feminism and racism 101 constantly. Dealing with derailing.

I said that we keep talking about intersectionality as our hotspot of feminist discourse rather than there being drama about any particular political position like abortion. As feminists talking in public we have to have a deflector shield of not listening to people telling us not to do it. Then it is all too easy misapply that shield to other feminists and allies and their critiques. We need not to dismiss criticism because it’s angry and there is a place for anger in public discourse between women and resolving it and working through it and anger doesn’t have to mean failure.

Someone talked about some Susan Faludi articles but I couldn’t hear…

Skye from Heroine Content talked about a post and comments from women of color about them being racist in their coverage of this action movie with jodie foster with a gun. She has a double standard of letting those comment through because she wants to hear those criticisms and also make them clear that they’re happening and what her response will be. (Rather than deleting a comment for being angry.) Rachel agrees and thinks it says it very well.

Someone else said we are not doing the oppression olympics with comparisons but feminism can lead people into anti racism.

Rachel says she feels it’s important to take criticism seriously when someone marginalized criticizes her privilege she looks at it straight away.

People talk about self care and it being stressful to be the person giving the criticisms . And it is important to take breaks, short or long, and look away, helpful to get away from situations for a while. Be with your friends.

Natalia talked about being uncomfortable with the analogy of stains on your record. We are human, it’s not a stain, it makes us more us, we all make mistakes and are growing.

Rachel: It’s still a mark, just because I messed up and now have grown, it doesn’t mean people have to start liking me again.

Natalia talks about the movie Switch and how she liked it a lot, then realized from online discussions that it was about violation and rape, and she felt like a bad feminist for liking the movie. She then held that self anger and disappointment, thought, let’s be with that, and how am I going to change and are we going to change? How can we become better? And not be reductive?

There was more discussion, but I don’t have the notes. The discussion successfully raised a lot of important points for people to think about, and I think established that many people in the room felt that drama, or at least heated discussion between feminists online, is important. There was some dwelling on how to react internally and in public as a person with privilege who is going to get criticized in public but also some good mention of the personal and political impact it takes on marginalized people to have to do the criticism so it was not all “tra la la learning experience”. I do think this discussion was harder to have in the environment of SXSWi than in a smaller and more feminism-focused conference, or at least harder to dive into the conversation intensely, in part because we didn’t know each other or who we were talking with other than the panelists. I would have wished for a brief introductions round for everyone in the room, but it was only a 1 hour panel so perhaps too short for that. I also would have gone for a bigger panel with more diversity among panelists. It made me really happy to get to hang out with Other Feminists on the Internet but in person!! I’m so glad we had this complicated conversation at SXSW and think it needs to keep happening. Thanks to Rachel, Garland, and all the other people in the room for showing up and kicking ass and taking inspiration from each other.

I feel I should point to existing discussions about feminism and online discourse but will need to do that in another post or later in a comment below. If anyone has suggestions or would like to point to a post round-up that already exists, please comment and link-drop!

Related posts:

Digital Sisterhood radio – Online Feminism episode

Thursday, Dec. 16th, I’m going to be on a radio show on Feminism Online, hosted by Ananda Leeke as part of her month long Digital Sisterhood project. The show will air on Dec. 16, Digital Sisterhood Radio, from 9:00 pm EST to 10:00 pm EST on Talkshoe.com: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/42015.

Eight amazing fierce feminist panelists have confirmed their participation. They include:

1) Shireen Mitchell “the original Digital Sista”, Speaker, trainer, and thought igniter in media, tech, and politics – www.shireenmitchell.com and
http://twitter.com/digitalsista.

Shireen

2) Stacey Milbern, Disability justice organizer, poet, and radical woman of color feminist blogger – http://blog.cripchick.com and http://twitter.com/cripchick.

Stacey Milbern and Alexis Pauline Gumbs photo

3) Veronica Arreola, Professional feminist, mom, writer, speaker, PhD student, and blogger – http://www.vivalafeminista.com and http://twitter.com/veronicaeye.

Veronica Arreola photo

4) Liz Henry, BlogHer web developer, geek feminist/sci-fi blogger, speaker, poet, and literary translator – http://twitter.com/lizhenry, http://bookmaniac.org, http://geekfeminism.org, and http://feministsf.org.

Yerba Buena

5) Mimi Schippers, Tulane University professor, blogger, and author of Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock – http://tulane.edu/liberal-arts/sociology/schipper-profile.cfm and
http://www.marxindrag.com.

Mimi Schippers photo

6) Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri-Columbia professor and blogger, – http://twitter.com/divafeminist and http://www.thedivafeminist.blogspot.com.

Treva Lindsey photo

7) Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Feminist blogger – www.blackfeministmind.wordpress.com, www.blackfeminismlives.tumblr.com, and www.twitter.com/alexispauline.

Alexis Gumbs

and,

8) Brandann Ouyang Dan, Native American blogger, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist, and contributing writer for FWD, Feminist with Disabilities – http://disabledfeminists.com.

Related posts:

Feminism, Assange rape charges, free speech, and Wikileaks

Today’s arrest of Julian Assange on rape charges is being framed by many people as a conflict between feminism and free speech. I won’t link to them all, but here is a sample: Kirk Murphy from Firedoglake apparently thinks anyone gets to rape Known Feminists with impunity. That article made me especially angry.

I support Wikileaks and ALL the people who worked to create and maintain it, because it’s important political work. I’m very concerned that once Assange enters the court system he will not be treated fairly.

At the same time, I think it’s extremely important for anyone who’s been raped or sexually assaulted to report that crime and for perpetrators to be called to account for it. I would never advise someone to hold back from charging their rapist with a crime just because the rapist is in a position of importance.

I think we can see, though, that Assange is not being treated in proportion with the crime.

I agree with Lindsay Beyerstein and Jill Filipovic that the media story of the charges against Assange and much of the public discussion of them have been shoddy and sensationalist. I actually find myself agreeing with Jezebel bloggers . This excellent post by Leigh Honeywell sums up my feelings on sex and consent very well..

I’m fine with Assange going to trial. I just want him to be treated with justice and to face only what other people accused with rape would face.

Does that seem likely to you?

We need to be watchdogs on this case – yes, for what happens to Assange. Not because he faces rape charges. I don’t care what charges he is facing, actually. It could be murder, or a lot of parking tickets. He is in an especially vulnerable position as a free speech advocate that many governments including my government in the U.S. have openly said they want to destroy. They don’t want to destroy him because of rape charges, they want to destroy him because he is riding point as the PR contact of a collective effort to make secret government information public. The Wikileaks crew worked intelligently to publish information in as robust a way as they could imagine.

We need to call bullshit very strongly for what has already happened in the media to his accusers, who have had their identities outed and who are being attacked by shamers and rape apologists.

But as feminists we also need to defend, not rapists or men’s right to rape with impunity, but free speech and the laws and political climate that help it flourish. That is also an important part of feminism. It’s crucial. It’s THE MOST IMPORTANT part of feminism. We need free speech, the laws that protect it, and the tools that make public free speech possible, as women who have fought hard to have a public voice.

About Wikileaks itself, I understand why it hasn’t been more transparent. But I disagree with that decision.

As a feminist, I believe strongly in collective action. As a riot grrrl I got behind the idea that we should “Kill Rock Stars”. Not literally kill a rock star, duh. We need to kill the idea that we need rock stars, or Great Men, or figureheads, because important political action doesn’t happen because of a lone hero. It really doesn’t. Political solidarity and collective action, and collective statements, have always been a key part of feminist and womanist politics. Wikileaks and Assange have this to learn, I think. They should stand together. And we should stand behind them at the same time as we stand behind Assange’s accusers.

I need to be able to report rape to the “justice” system with some amount of trust. Can any of us say that that’s true? I haven’t found it to be true. Instead, reporting rape or sexual assault becomes simultaneously political fuel if the people in power want to use it that way, and a path to attack and discredit the rape survivor, which will happen no matter what.

Extradite all the rapists you can find, Interpol. Do it right now. Go for it. Great. Enforce the laws against rape. Please! Extradite some war criminals from the U.S. while you’re at it.

Meanwhile, here is an article by Assange: Don’t Shoot the Messenger

He was refused bail.

Continuing coverage is at The Guardian.

Sen. Joe Lieberman is agitating to push a bill through that will make what Wikileaks did illegal so that Assange can be extradited for THAT: the Espionage Act amendments.

Here’s a petition against that from DemandProgress.

Do you think the U.S. will succeed in extraditing Assange from the UK or from Sweden? What do you think will happen to him then? I think we can care about *that* whether he is a douchey rapist or not. Frankly, as a feminist, I would fight to the death to defend the basic human rights of my own rapists. As we all should.

Related posts:

Changing ableist, racist, and sexist language habits

I really appreciate efforts in the blogosphere to change people’s habits of speech. Language is important and changes all the time for various reasons. Discouraging casual and thoughtless ableist, racist, misogynist habits of thought seems like a good reason to work to change the way people use language.

Meloukhia’s Open Letter to Feministing asking for them to watch, moderate, and eliminate ableist language, posts, and comments.

I’m rubber and you’re glue and Open Letter to Mark Shuttleworth feelings run high on referring to women as girls, and girls/women as a class of people who don’t understand technology and software (in this case, Linux).

Why Inclusionary Language Matters is especially great. Read it please!

My own personal bad habits are in saying “lame” and “crazy” to mean bad, boring, annoying, nonsensical, etc. I managed to stop saying “gay” as a pejorative around 1983 or so despite everyone around me using it that way. I think most people I know realize that calling something girly isn’t or shouldn’t be used to devalue a concept or a person. I became aware at some point in the last 10 years that calling things “ghetto” was racist and didn’t reflect what I really thought. “Retarded” stuck in my speech till a couple of years ago. I guess I’d just like to say in public somewhere that it’s something I’m not great at, but that I believe in and work on. Around my sister in private I can say “lame” all I want becuase we both know it’s meant to be ironic. But where else can I say that, and even more, what harm, alienation, and even violence am I wreaking against myself when I say it?

Related posts:

Rebel Girl! Riot Grrl nostalgia show

This is coming up tomorrow and you’re all welcome to come! I’ll be reading some fun, fiery rants and giving away a few zines and vintage “riot grrl outer space” buttons.

I believe there will be accordion-playing as well!

riot grrl nostalgia reading

The National Queer Arts Festival & San Francisco in Exile Present:
REBEL GIRL: a riot grrl nostalgia show
Thursday, June 11th
The Garage
975 Howard, San Francisco
Show at 7:30; Doors at 7pm
Tickets: $10-20

Buy Tickets on-line!!: www.brownpapertickets.com

More details about the performance and the performers are at:

http://www.queerculturalcenter.org/Pages/QFest09/Rebel.html

All Star, All Grrrl Cast!:

Gina de Vries
Chan Dynasty
Melissa Gira Grant
Liz Henry
Nomy Lamm
Zuleikha Mahmood
Melodie Younce

Join the National Queer Arts Festival and San Francisco in Exile for a
Riot Grrrl Revival — where you can once again dress in your leopard
print thrift store finery, scrawl SLUT across your midriff, toss that
Huggy Bear 7″ on the turntable, and make a fanzine extolling the
virtues of veganism + vibrators. It’s Revolution Grrrl-Style, Now! —
with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Past and present zinestars and
grrrl revolutionaries will tell wax nostalgic about the old days, and
let you know what they’ve been up to recently. Zines and cupcakes will
be available for purchase.

Related posts:

SXSWi: Fighting online misogyny panel

Thank you!!! times a hundred to Nalo Hopkinson who just now took my rough live transcript and cleaned it up and emailed it back to me so I could post it. Thank you Nalo! You rock so hard.

***

That’s Not My Name: Beating Down Misogyny Online

Panelists: Cecily Walker (Cecily.info), Ann Friedman (Feministing), Amanda Marcotte (Pandagon.net), Samhita Mukhopadhyay (Feministing)

Cecily Walker: How do you think that new media and Internet technology, new tools, feminists can use these new media tools? Boosting feminist activism?

Samhita Mukhopadhyay: All of us have a tremendous amount of expertise using online tech. women’s community, grass root organizing community, new tools, support work happening on the ground. Strategic media campaigns, budding networks, social media to support our justice-minded goals. We use tools, though, that tend to represent the same stuff we’re fighting; tools produced in environments highly volatile for feminist voices. 50/50 good, problematic. Opportunity, brought up new issues.

Amanda Marcotte: Promise of blogging world many years ago, we could divorce ourselves from identity and just be pure voices, as the online and offline world merged into one. But you can’t communicate about your ideas without bringing your identity along. Pluses and minuses.

Ann Friedman: Divorcing identity is not a useful way to do activism. we don’t actually want to live out whatever early Internet ideal enables us to not have an identity, that hampers our activist goals.

Cecily: I wasn’t finding many black female queer voices online, it was important to me to blog under my own identity. given our circumstances today, how important is it to you to blog under you own identity.?

Amanda: I started blogging under my own id without really thinking of it, it didn’t seem to be a big deal. in retrospect it was good and it sets a good example if you can. a lot of women who are afraid to , the more of us who can do it, the less threatening it is for others.

Samhita: when i started we were excited if we got comments on a post. then 2 years into it we started getting threats. you then realize the threats mostly don’t translate to real live experiences. I also think for women online it’s an important statement to make. you’ll notice a lot of men have a blog under their own name. women tend to be in group blogs or under a different sort of brand name. So it’s important for your future to use your real name.

Friedman: women in the political blog world as pseudonymous and I’m thinking of Digby. But it’s not always a great idea to blog under your own name. It’s fraught. There’s a certain amount of privilege and risk you assume. Not all of us even thought about it. we didn’t consider the implications. Concrete advantages, consider Digby, they didn’t know she was a woman, so they didn’t pigeonhole her. ‘This is just a women’s issue’, etc. We can try to keep a voice but transcend some of those boxes.

Cecily: What are some of the key repercussions of online threats that moved into offline space? Paint us a picture of what that looks like.

Amanda: Not the John Edwards campaign. *laughter* I started off on a smaller blogspot blog. Was invited to join Pandagon by Jesse Taylor. there weren’t many high traffic liberal blogs that had any women at all. I honestly think my entrance on to the a list was a profound thing for many of the male commenter, mind you right wing male commenters who felt this was a boys’ club. It turned ugly really fast. Publishing my address, telling people to show up at my house and do violent sexual things to me. Calling my work and trying to get me fired. Nobody in the liberal blogosphere that i turned to had any experience whatsoever with this kind of thing and they didn’t believe it at first. he’d experienced viciousness and racism from commenters but he’d never seen anything cruel and violent as was directed at me. We had free comments, we had to turn that off and turn on registration for comments. I don’t know how serious the threats are but i have to assume they’re pretty serious if they’ve found out where i worked and called my boss.

Ann – Feministing has an appointed FBI agent where we send our threats. It’s that bad. Political blogging … I’d say that, we don’t control the space for (tapped?) as much as we do on Feministing. so it’s a more sexist space and a less feminist space. undoubtedly in terms of the private mail we get, via Feministing, that’s way worse. we can control the comments but not the private email.

Samhita: some of the worst misogyny I’ve experienced is on other blogs. this isn’t about how we feel threatened but about how it affects the community. we’ve been chastised a lot for not moderating every comment and not providing a safe enough space online for our readers. it’s not about protecting our own identity and feeling threatened but about how it makes our community feel. if you’re someone who’s experienced violent misogyny in your life there’s a moment of violence and violation that happens that makes you feel unsafe. we have to be clear about creating boundaries so our community can feel safe.

Ann: there’s a chilling effect when one woman, one person of color or queer person , is a target, then others are deterred from speaking in quite so open a manner. so the power structure online, that mirrors the real world…

Amanda: listening to auto admit case, on NPR, it’s a case law blog targeted very randomly two law students, two women. one man posted something about one of the women who had turned him down to go on a date. another woman got looped in. it got to the point of stds, slept with everyone, posted photos of them in their daily life with lurid rape fantasies, I’m sitting behind her in class, she’s at the gym right now, The defenders of the auto admit blog were going on about free speech. Can’t you understand that women also have the right to free speech and if you’re using yours to silence her then you’re not for free speech?

Cecily – at the library. heavily gendered space, 90% female environment. if we contribute to the web sites, we have to use our full names, our names on badges, one unsafe thing about a library you are in a female controlled space, you are in a culture that is heavily invested in keeping your individual name safe, but now that’s not true. i have to get people to feel more comfortable posting on the Internet, but it’s not going well, people don’t feel safe doing that, we get crank calls, complaints, we try to showcase all political viewpoints. spaces you might not define as feminist, we’re feeling some heavy pushback from the staff. how are we going to roll this process out?

Cecily: why is it important to look at gender and how it plays out online?

*laughter*

Samhita: we want to keep this panel to what it means to be feminist online. But because of these highly volatile experiences we’ve had it…. we’ve had different experiences online, male blogers don’t have that same thing. there’s never been a question, when i say something a little controversial, it’s not about the issues, it’s about whether i should have said something in the first place, you internalize that belief you constantly have to prove yourself.
A lot of our readers have experienced sexual violence and want to share those stories but don’t feel that they can. You have to make a lot of different negotiations to feel comfortable in it

Ann – women’s writing, the dynamics. One thing i do for myself is go through everything i write and strip out all the i thinks and i believes. because I’m writing it duh it’s what i think. writing more authoritatively. if you’re going to pick me apart for this i might as well say it right out. Or, you can add 50 million caveats and end up not saying anything and not offending anyone. the Internet constantly needs to be fed. the evolution of women’s writing online, if i look at things i wrote in 2004, that’s largely in response to being hardened by this sort of stuff.

Amanda: i tend to say things very authoritatively and that’s always been a very hard things for me and many men who have multi year grudges against me. I’ve got into the habit of qualifying and adding the i think in.

Ann: but that doesn’t stop it. that’s not going to stop you from getting slammed on some blog full of dudes who hate you already!

Amanda: when i taught writing i would circle them in girls’ writing and tell them to take it out. it was always girls.

Cecily: lessons you’ve learned?

Samhita: Uh, that I’m a masochist

Cecily: I think you might have to unbox that one for us? lol

Samhita: yeah I’ll “unpack” that. ha. The content of what I’m writing and who i am writing it, it’s twofold . at least once a month i want to throw in the towel

Cecily: what keeps you from doing it?

Samhita: masochism? ha ha. It’s telling me that the level of importance of what we’re doing, for every piece of hate mail i get i get something else from Idaho saying they’ve never read something about sexism and racism and it’s changed their life in some . It’s not just for my own voice but it’s part of a movement of online feminism that we’re a movement and moving forward. Online solutions and best practices and you have to not care any more. you have to divorce yourself from caring about what people say about you, you have to go “well, you have 1/4 the readership lol” not the most humble way to think about it, but hey it helps me feel better. plus if I’m pissing off people who i wouldn’t like in real life,

Ann: 6 of us who write on Feministing and we can all each other up and go “i know people say mean shit all the time but this one really got to me!” and we all know how it feels. sometimes you have to decide what is a good public fight to have, vs. “you just want to call me ugly and tell me to make you a sandwich” i know it sounds ridiculous but it is hard to tell the difference sometimes! we need help in figuring that out, when to engage and when not to. you can engage with people who just don’t get it. But Feministing is on our terms. we don’t like it, we can delete your comment. we can respond to just part of what you’re saying and ignore the rest. or we can have a full blown back and forth, having a community to help decide and talk about how to engage has been crucial

Amanda: the purpose is to shut you up and if they don’t get what they want, they stop trying to shut you up, the more I don’t go away, and don’t shut up, the less harassment i get. just go out there and write every day and eventually they will give up. it’s not working, it’s straight up behavioral science.

Cecily: these tools that help us to get our voices out there, also hurt us. social networking tools.

Samhita: Twitter is a very useful tool. Communities, we have different community that comments on our youtube videos, twitter is another micro group environment and you get to know people a different way. That’s very powerful. I’ve had friends on my twitter feed who in the blogging worlds we have knock down “your mama” fights but on twitter I’m like “Oh you do yoga? i do yoga toooo!” lol. It’s less serious, less formal, commenting on Feministing can feel very formal.

Cecily: using these tools to get people to organize around a specific activist event?

Ann: When someone is getting attacked elsewhere, get into comments and post in support. Supportive conversation in public. Positive, or smackdown.

Cecily: Basic survival tips: solutions. if you’ve felt threatened, what do you do?

Samhita: Do not feel bad about banning people.

Amanda: Don’t feel guilty about it, some people are not there to engage. they shouldn’t be there.

Ann: You determine the levels of your own engagement, that’s self preservation. Free speech, free speech, my rights! whatever! go start your own blog! you do have free speech. Shockingly, no one has registered the url, getyourowneffingblog.com.

Cecily: libraries are public spaces, oh wait we can’t suppress these voices. what kinds of tools, for someone in that situation where the people in charge don’t understand it’s a safety issue an a respect my own house issue.

Amanda: Some men are allies. make alliances with men who will back you up can be very powerful. atrios alone has been useful in getting people to shut up being nasty about me. he’ll write a post saying they’re morons and he’s a man so people respect him and they shut up. that helps a lot. who has power in your community that you don’t have? exploit it a little. exploit other people’s privilege.

Ann: comments on huff po are useless, they’re a free for all. when you’re writing for bigger spaces it’s not that meaningful or helpful, it’s not my community responding to me it’s just like, crazytown. just ignore it. At feministing, people who read us regularly and have been for a long time, Samhita has a word for people who are super engaged

Samhita: minions

Ann: No! not that one! *laughter* Our regular readers are quicker than we are and say no that’s bull or email us and say please moderate this crazy comment. that is unbelievably helpful.

Samhita: creating a community people are bought into, invested into keeping a certain way. that is one of the best practices which has kept us afloat. it is crucial

Cecily: being a librarian i can’t do anything without reading about it in some academic journal. Germany researchers, algorithm to measure level of sexism in a comment. they had men tell jokes to a computer set up to “think” like a woman. the level of harassment the computer notices, correlated with the level of harassment real women experience online. women who identify as feminists get more harassment. if a woman mentioned herself or posted a photo her level of attractiveness had nothing to do with it. automated sexism detector!

Amanda: what we need a machine to back us up now!

Amanda: registration is the most useful way to control your space. disemvoweller is useful, button for it. Also, give some of your attack dogs moderation power. delete a comment and replace it with videos of bunnies hopping around. it makes people happy to see bunnies. *everyone laughs*

Cecily: what’s crazy bait?

Samhita: writing about any part of popular culture people feel invested in, fraternities, video games, if you want to get a lot of traffic then piss off the gamers, just kidding Latoya! *laughter* Race and gender, intersection. people feel very personally offended. Gentrification.

Amanda: Biggies are rape and domestic violence. if you write about rape or domestic violence in any form that’s crazy bait. Abortion, gotten better than it used to be. But if anyone tells a personal experience, that gets nutbars who will make personal threats directly against the person who got the abortion if anything has a racial aspect watch out it’s going to get really ugly.

Ann: if you’re writing about The Presidential Race or The Economy in the abstract without a personal level, people aren’t pissed off. Gentrification, when you get at where people live, it gets to them . Lipstick. what you wear. what people have personal experience with. they feel authoritative about it.

Cecily: Takeaway?

Samhita: Don’t feel threatened. it’s not about you. there’s some crazy people out there, it’s about them. keep going. young women reading, young women’s voices. the potential is very great right now. don’t give up.

Amanda: You’re not alone, you have friends. When under attack you can feel very alone. Feels hard, you don’t want to “play the victim” but reach out and ask for support. Own what’s happening and ask for other people to care. they will often step up more than you would think initially.

Ann: Yeah. community. public, on blog, private space to process, that’s what it all comes down to for me. And, vast quantities of self esteem. A reservoir to draw on. Especially if you’re doing video blogging

Amanda: If you can learn to feed off the hate like … like trolls…

Ann: Youtube comments about how ugly, or how attractive. they have the same tone! stepping back and realizing they’re crazy!

Audience questions:

Kimberly: kimberlyblessing.com Feminist web dev : twitter is where i get problems. i speak to my community via twitter including feminist issues and that’s where i get attacked and it carries over to the real world because i work with the guys who followed m on twitter. i get angry and it affects me at work. i i start to internalize all of it. when there is something that important, what would be your other tips, i don’t have community, i work with almost all men. who do i go to? I don’t have any support or anyone more powerful to turn to. I just shut down and then go away for a while.

Ann: there must be other feminist web developers. Reach out to them.

Kimberly: Someone pulls you aside and says, hey that post you made this morning on twitter linking to that feminist thing online, you’re about to go into a big meeting with some vice president…

Amanda: what’s wrong with men who need to see women fail like this? pity them.

I’m Elisa from Blogher. (*applause, cheers*) There is disdain for business women and moms and women of color, dismissed, conservative women bloggers treated badly in other space, the misogyny itself is the problem, we need to see it everywhere, we can’t allow it, wherever we allow it to fester, it will continue to grow.

Q: Misogyny mommy bloggers, they have a more accepted space. women are more accepted in the blogosphere in “women’s blogs” networks, food, moms, travel. when we try to venture into economy, science, web dev, that’s where we are told to sit down and shut up. how can we continue to cross over?

Samhita: There is something different about “women” and “feminist” you are in a space you’re not supposed to be in , a political space. to be a woman in one of those fields, you have to fight with some best practices.

Amanda: any women who feel confident to feel about politics please do so more. write about the economy and politics. other women need to see that behavior modelled. know you’ll get a lot of blowback. eventually it helps.

Q: tendency to email privately? or privately and hateful? how do you draw the line?

Ann: sometimes our commenters have already talked back, engaged, other times it has a derailing effect.

Amanda: 90% of it is public, they are performing for other people

Monday night: Feministing party at Beerland on Red River & 7th- 8th!

Related posts:

In Celebration of Bitchitude

Hat tip to Jo Freeman, aka Joreen, who in the 70s wrote The Bitch Manifesto. I love this manifesto, and reprinted it in the 90s as a xerox booklet which I sent out over the riot grrl zine network. Later I read Jo Freeman’s more academic writing and found her to be an academic writer I could admire wholeheartedly; she’s right up there with Joanna Russ and Dale Spender. Her books on politics and the history of feminism are incredibly great. I recommend her newest book, We Will Be Heard: Women’s Struggles for Political Power in the United States if you are feeling politically inspired by the elections and want to keep your momentum going. On her website, you can read the full text of many of Jo Freeman’s articles on women, feminism, law, and politics. I talk about this sort of thing a lot: The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior; it is so nice to read it written up formally and coherently. Take a look!

I greatly respect that Freeman acknowledges her pseudonymous younger self, and her fierce & harsh manifesto, and doesn’t keep that side of her life in the closet.

Jo Freeman

The Bitch Manifesto still inspires me. Here’s part of its beginning:

Bitches have some or all of the following characteristics.

1) Personality. Bitches are aggressive, assertive, domineering, overbearing, strong-minded, spiteful, hostile, direct, blunt, candid, obnoxious, thick-skinned, hard-headed, vicious, dogmatic, competent, competitive, pushy, loud-mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, manipulative, egoistic, driven, achieving, overwhelming, threatening, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, masculine, boisterous, and turbulent. Among other things. A Bitch occupies a lot of psychological space. You always know she is around. A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her.

2) Physical. Bitches are big, tall, strong, large, loud, brash, harsh, awkward, clumsy, sprawling, strident, ugly. Bitches move their bodies freely rather than restrain, refine and confine their motions in the proper feminine manner. They clomp up stairs, stride when they walk and don’t worry about where they put their legs when they sit. They have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty.

3) Orientation. Bitches seek their identity strictly thru themselves and what they do. They are subjects, not objects. They may have a relationship with a person or organization, but they never marry anyone or anything; man, mansion, or movement. Thus Bitches prefer to plan their own lives rather than live from day to day, action to action, or person to person. They are independent cusses and believe they are capable of doing anything they damn well want to. If something gets in their way; well, that’s why they become Bitches. If they are professionally inclined, they will seek careers and have no fear of competing with anyone. If not professionally inclined, they still seek self-expression and self-actualization. Whatever they do, they want an active role and are frequently perceived as domineering. Often they do dominate other people when roles are not available to them which more creatively sublimate their energies and utilize their capabilities. More often they are accused of domineering when doing what would be considered natural by a man.

It’s nice to read this, to remember & honor my own bitchy moments for what they often are: strength. I think it’s good for all of us to honor our bitchiest sisters. Go ahead and think of the most annoying bitch you know. Measure her up to Freeman’s manifesto and consider what in her is admirable and powerful. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when you might be tempted to tear someone down. There’s nothing wrong with being a nice person; I strive for it myself — and still, for me, Bitchy is Beautiful and Bitchy is Powerful.

Related posts:

Feminist research and anthologizing

Here’s the introduction to my anthology of some poems by women from Latin America, translated from Spanish to English. It explains my research methodology and the theories I developed while reading and translating.

* Introduction to Towards an Anthology of Spanish American Women Poets, 1880-1930 – HTML

* Introduction to Towards an Anthology of Spanish American Women Poets, 1880-1930 – PDF (154K, 42 pages)

Here are a few of my main points.

I considered poems by several different criteria; any one of them were sufficient.
* work of high literary quality by my own judgment
* work that was important in its time
* work is by a woman who was part of a known community of women writers
* work has a strong feminist message
* work is representative of a well-known category or type of poetry of its time and place
* work that was intertextual with other poems

I chose to use chronological juxtaposition, not by author’s birth date or publication of first book, but by when they were active in literary communities.

Some of the point of the anthology is to provide a backdrop for the more well known poets of that time and place. So, for instance, I believe that readings of Gabriela Mistral or Delmira Agustini may change when seen in context with the poems by their contemporary female authors writing in Spanish.

And,

Last but not least, I would like to shift the balance of gender in the practice of defining literary movements and other groupings of poetic styles. By re-presenting a broad range of women’s work from a particular time period, I hope to make it possible to refocus current definitions of literary quality. For example, modernismo as a movement was defined from men’s work, and then, in many cases, quality was determined from whether a poem and a poet’s life fit that definition of modernismo. Therefore, I feel it is a useful experiment to begin to define literary categories from a body of women’s work, from which it is possible to form other parameters of literary quality. To begin that task, it was first necessary to find the women’s poetry.
I began this project with the assumption and belief that there were women poets in Latin America 100 years ago who are worth reading today. My initial questions were: Which women were writing? What were their names? Where and how can I find their work to judge it for myself?

María Monvel
One more bit where I quote myself. (I am SO cheating.)

I noticed a common theme in many anthologies, including those which were promoting a feminist view: they hailed women’s recent work as if women’s poetry were a new phenomenon. As Adrienne Rich said in 1980: “Each feminist work has tended to be received as if it emerged from nowhere; as if each one of us had lived, thought, and worked without any historical past or contextual present. This is one of the ways in which women’s work and thinking has been made to seem sporadic, errant, orphaned of any tradition of its own” (11). Joanna Russ also pointed out this problem in How To Suppress Women’s Writing (1983); she calls it “the myth of the isolated achievement” (62). This isolation was especially apparent in short biographical notes in poetry anthologies, in which male poets were discussed in a context of other men, while women poets were presented as lone examples of excellence.

This bit about the “myth of the isolated achievement” is a pattern I see over and over again when women’s work is discussed — in literature, in poetry, in technology, in politics, or anywhere.

Look for it yourself in articles with a supposedly positive spin. Once you start to see it, and if you start looking at history, and women’s history, you will see the poison for what it is — the perpetual erasure of our history, and a tool that keeps us isolated from each other and from generations past and upcoming.

The time changes, but the pattern remains the same; not just in Latin American poetry, but poetry in general. And not just in poetry, but any genre of writing. Not just in writing, but in many, many fields. In poetry, a distant foremother is invoked, perhaps Sappho or Sor Juana. The lack of (significant) women is pointed out. Then a comparatively recent “appearance” of women is celebrated. The women appear, as if by magic or spontaneous generation. The crest of that wave of women’s achievement is always right now, or just about to happen.

You think you have achieved something in life? Made the situation better? Broke ground? Our daughters will be pointed at as if they were the first… over and over again. Unless we break through the wall, somehow, as I hope that the Net and blogging will help to achieve. Women have been achieving great things for as far back as I have ever tried to look.

Joanna RussDale Spender

Related posts:

Argentinian feminists in the early 1900s

To give a little extra context for the poem “Feminismo” by Alfredo Arteaga, here’s some of what women were doing in Argentina at the time.

“On May 10, 1910, the date of the centennial celebration of Argentine independence, the first Congreso Feminino Internacional convened in Buenos Aires, with more than two hundred women from Argentina, Uruguay, Peru, Paraguay, and Chile in attendance. Dr. Cecilia Grierson presided. Grierson had attendend the Second International Council of Women (I.C.W.) meeting in London in 1899 and had returned to Argentina intending to found an Argentine branch of the I.C.W…. organized by the University Women of Argentina (Universitarias Argentinas) included among its sponsoring groups the National Argentine Association against the White Slave Trade, the Socialist Women’s Center, the Association of Normal School teachers, the Women’s Union and Labor Group, and the National League of Women Freethinkers.”

– from Latin American Women and the Search for Social Justice, by Francesca Miller, 1991.

Here’s a link to a brief overview in English, by Marilyn Mercer, of feminism in Argentina in the 1800s and early 1900s.

In contrast to essentialist sexists like Arteaga, some of the great politicians of Argentina like Domingo Sarmiento fought for women to have access to education. Sarmiento thought women needed education to become involved in local politics. Through experience in local politics they would gradually acquire the skills to participate in national politics, voting, running for office, and being part of public life.

But high schools meant for college prep didn’t open in Argentina until 1905.

Here are some of the women Arteaga was likely complaining about:

* Juana Manuela Gorriti, a best selling author. Feminist, teacher, and battlefield nurse.
* Dr. Cecilia Grierson. Graduated from University of Buenos Aires medical school in 1889.
* Dr. Alicia Moreau de Justo. A founder of the Socialist Feminist Center. Social worker, writer, human rights activist, and doctor. Graduated from University of Buenos Aires.
* Carolina Muzzili. Reported on factory working conditions for women in the early 1900s.
* Elvira Rawson de Dellepiane, another doctor and feminist activist
* Ernestina Lopez de Nelson. Socialist feminist activist, teacher.
* Sara Justo. Another socialist feminist teacher.
* Julieta Lanteri de Renshaw A psychiatrist who graduated in 1906 from University of Buenos Aires.

Related posts: