Patriarchy exists and we're kicking its ass

My blood is BOILING WITH RAGE from reading about the threats and extreme harassment that people made against Kathy Sierra.

And I wish I could ride in on my warhorse and help fix it, but I can’t. I’m not even surprised at the threats and harassment. That stuff and real life acting out of it happens every minute of the day. The surprising thing is someone speaking up *in public* in her own voice, unmediated.

Kathy rocks for speaking up. She rocks for calling this out and exposing it on her blog. She rocks for calling the cops and the FBI, and for saying so. She wasn’t shamed into silence or afraid of being called “too sensitive” or “humorless”, two things which often stop women from speaking up. I admire Kathy’s strength. I imagine the moment after she wrote that post, when she was looking at the “Publish” button and wondering whether to push it. I’m glad she did. I’m inspired, and I take her public response as a good example.

My immediate, visceral reaction is this:

You know what, jerks, bring it on. I’m not afraid and none of that shit will ever, ever, shut me up.

I really like what Dannie Jost said in Kathy’s comments:

On the grand scale of things, this is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable, it is however necessary to continue the fight which is nothing more than a fight for human rights and dignity. Learn to deal with your fear, do not let them win…

Molly Holzschlag added in the same vein:

I’ve always believed this is a self-correcting community. Well folks, we need to correct this absolutely unacceptable, abusive, illegal and heinous behavior.

Kathy, your community is with you. Your abusers will not win this one, oh no, unless they are ready to take on the rest of us, who greatly outnumber these sick and twisted people who are obviously jealous of your success.

Keep being yourself, don’t stop and let the bastards EVER win.

Thanks for those thoughts, Molly, I knew I liked you!

I’d like to link out further to reclusive leftist, who describes the exhaustion we experience as women bloggers:

Every time I read somebody saying that patriarchy doesn’t exist anymore, feminism’s won, etc., etc., I think, try being a feminist blogger for a while. Or if you already are a feminist blogger, wait a bit until the shit finds you. Or try doing online research on anything connected to feminism and find yourself shoulder-deep in a slime pit of woman-hating so toxic it makes you want to weep with fear and despair.

I do feel that fairly often — but in this case, am more angry than despairing.

Some commenters mentioned a book called “The Gift of Fear” which sounds interesting but also maddening. I get the idea it’s to tell women that if they start feeling afraid they should pay attention to that and get the hell out of dodge. SCREW THAT. Like we need any more “chilling effect”? How about a book called “The Gift of Total Rage” or “The Gift of Collective Action To Overthrow Patriarchy,” suckers. To hell with fear.

Now let’s kick some ass.

I’d like to make a call to action. When this kind of shit happens, we’ll call it out and document it in public. Call it in the moment. Call it in front of your coworkers. Call it if it’s major or if it’s minor, it’s all part of the same spectrum of misogynist behavior. How about just saying, once in a while, right in the moment if you can, “That’s not funny,” when it’s really not. Say it crosses your boundaries. Say it’s not acceptable to you. This takes practice, but with time, we can all do it and find strength in numbers.

Update: Really good post from Min Jung Kim, It’s awful, yes. I’m happy to see people like Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington speaking up in support of Kathy, and considering the times they didn’t speak up. So I hope they hear Min Jung’s points about the pressures on women to be anonymous online, and in particular, Asian American women:

it is also important to be quite clear that this is not the first time this has happened.

It’s just the first time it’s happened to someone that you know.

You see, I’ve known several other women (specifically Asian American women bloggers – Comabound, BadGrrl, C., A., J.,N, etc) who have had to pull down their blogs, shuttle from one domain to another, remain utterly anonymous, password protect their sites, or give up their online communities altogether. The list is longer than I’d like.

Why? Oh yes, stalkers. Rape fantasies. Obsessed emails. Comment trolling.

Threatening notices. IM harassments. Flowers sent to your work office. Etc.

I’ve gotten them all too.

This is NOT NEW.

We could also do well to think about the reaction to this situation and what was the blogosphere-wide reaction to that dude who was harassing Lynne D. Johnson so bad a couple of years ago? (Here’s some links on that incident: Hip Hop Hates Me; krispexgate; That damn lesbo; xxl mag online.

My own reaction at the time? Did I say anything? I can’t remember. Makes you think doesn’t it?

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15 thoughts on “Patriarchy exists and we're kicking its ass

  1. Me too Lloyd, point taken about the “kicking ass” language — but right this minute I’m just too mad and freaked out to use nicer language.

    At least I’m not actually offering to go beat anyone up. Instead, I’m asking people to blog their public objection when people harass them.

  2. If Patriarchy has been reduced to anonymous adolescent trolling, I would say that it’s butt has been pretty well kicked into vestige.

    It’s tempting to see this as a gender issue, but it’s clear to me that they would have used any symbolism they could find, whether based on gender, race, handicap, or religion, to deliver their viciousness.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that we, the silent majority, need to actively call out disgraceful behavior, and enforce a public norm of civility and detachment.

  3. it’s Liz from I Speak of Dreams. This situation makes me sick — I like Frank & I like Chris. Frank is a kind and gentle man–how could he have allowed himself to be associated with such behavior?

    It’s the Niemoller syndrome.

    As an aside, I’ll loan you The Gift of Fear. The book’s message is not “to tell women that if they start feeling afraid they should pay attention to that and get the hell out of dodge.” The message is for both men and women: how to pay attention to people who are manipulating you, and how to conduct yourself with people who lack boundaries or conscience.

    Remember I told you about a situation in my past where I was involved with someone who was NOT as presented? The book helped me conduct myself so I protected myself and my child.

  4. Woman-hating has been around forever, so even the blogosphere is not safe. Activism is necessary to stem the tide of all this trash.

  5. I really do hope that by shining a bright light on these types of things, the next person will thing before deciding that they have to do such things. One can hope, right?

  6. Death threats are a serious problem.

    So are false juxtapositions merging criticism of books and writings, childish as they were, with nasty comments from another blog — especially when they, in return, generate the same.

    The MeanKids picked on many people, mostly men and men who are clowns: Dick Cheney, Bush, More Dick Cheney, Haggard, Dave Winer, and even Frank Paynter 😉 It’s not accurate to label what was done there “misogynous” because we criticized the work of someone who happened to be female. The marketing material for Kathy’s books made incredible claims and it didn’t take much reading to realize all that was “invented” was a sort of shock-and-awe comic relief. I could care less about the gender of anyone whose book publisher preaches such an approach should replace formal reference books. Such claims are “out there,” IMO. My line drawing comments were also out there.

    There’s more history here than meets the eye as well. My now infamous comment, taken out of context and not even aimed at the same Kathy (rather, the fictional Kat), were written as a comment 10 days earlier. Kathy saw them then.

    I understand the bigger point: many women are trying to fight for equality. And if you don’t think someone as liberal as me isn’t right there, right behind you, well, I’m sorry. I am. At the same time, I have always criticized or even poked fun at “magical thinker” authors; especially anti-science pushers, mystics, religious cults (scientology), mainstream religious rhetoric, and other forms of non-rational thinking. Though, at MeanKids I did allow myself to degenerate to childishness.

    Nonetheless, it is my honest opinion that Kathy intentionally confused her own incredibly horrible death threat on her own board with MeanKids criticism and satire.

    We never made any death threats to her or anyone.

    Please keep up the fight for equality for all free thinking, diverse, and independent peoples.

    Though, I think it works better to pick honestly presented cases of abuse. Recall the horrible story of the Kuwaiti Incubator Baby story which played a role leading us into the first war on Iraq…

    Best Regards,


  7. I would have supported Kathy to the hilt if she’d only have been honest about the whole thing.

    Firstly, she has claimed that she has suffered an increase in ‘nastiness’ after every seminar she gives.

    Secondly, she has unfairly named those behind meankids and unclebobism thus besmirching those individuals and she didn’t even check with them first to try to find out who was responsible.

    Thirdly, emails which have been sent by her raise serious doubts about her claims to be seeking the apprehension of those responsible for the threats.

    But what really takes the cake is how someone can claim to be a blog afficionado and not be accustomed to the sorts of rambunctious behaviour that occur a thousand times a day in blogland – and yes, even threats of death. Even MySpace advises not to give that sort of clown a second glance, that if one ignores that sort of person, they usually go away. What Kathy did has drawn attention to herself in the best way possible to attract genuine psycho nutbags. NICE GOING.

    I’m all for equal rights for women but not at the expense of the truth or indeed of men. I think it’s high time the better bloggers started picking out the sorts of posts that generate this sort of sentiment and see if they can’t discern a common theme.

    I think you’ll find the usual provocation is dishonesty of some sort or another. Kathy was no exception. She should stick to java programming and leave the sociology to real people.

  8. Charles Hope: I agree with you about calling out bad behavior, but I don’t think we agree at all about “enforce a public norm of civility and detachment”. Requiring civility can enforce all sorts of other things I don’t want to enforce.

    Rat: I think we’re all, or most of us, good with being criticized or even “rambunctiousness”, but the Kathy gagged by underwear was more than that and the post about Maryam, what do you call that? “Rambunctious”? Huh, I call it hateful racism and misogyny. I can’t ignore that and wait for it to go away.

  9. Karen and Liz: Thanks for further pointing out that book, I guess I’ll have to read it before judging it 😎

    Joey: I’m still thinking about your response, thanks for it!

  10. Has anyone considered using the new IMBRA law as a precedent to regulated men’s communication on the Internet. That is exactly what IMBRA does and it has been uphled by a federal judge. IMBRA does not permit men to communicate by email or any other means with women living in other countries (can’t even say “hello”) unless he completes a lengthy form and submits very personal background information. Then she must (even if she does not want to) read it and sign that she read it and send it back before he can send her an email.

    So if IMBRA can set conditions for speech just to say “hi” to someone in a friendly way, why can’t there be a law that somehow restricts men from making unfriendly and threating communication on blogs?

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