The Dream Café

Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

A Brief Comment Inspired by SFWA Stuff

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that almost no one would say, “I am on this side of the issue, and therefore it is all right to harass, bully, and abuse anyone on the other side.”  We wouldn’t say that, but sometimes we act like it. It seems to me, right now, that Mary Robinette Kowal is being bullied, and that pisses me off. I think Malzberg and Resnick were victims of bullying, and I don’t care for that, either.  And I don’t believe there is anything to do about it.  When a certain person made an idiotic (and insulting and degrading) comment about Mary, how can those who are either her friends or supporters of her position not object?  But then, at some point, the person who made the offensive comment finds the entire fucking internet coming down on his head until one wants to say, “Enough, already.”

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Cause and effect and actions and have consequences and blah blah.  I get that.  If you’re going to be an asshole in public, you should wear your flack-jacket.   And it seems to me that part of being a decent human being requires objecting, loudly, when women are shouted down, bullied, abused, and threatened for daring to suggest they ought to be treated as people.  BUT.

Isn’t there a point where we should say, “People on my side of this issue are getting abusive”?  I don’t know.   It’s hard to do.  I mean, it isn’t like there is some central organization that can put out a memo saying, “Okay, we’re done now.”  I know that when someone pisses me off (such as the recent attack on Mary, or certain offensive comments a while ago on “women sf writers”) I want to say something.

It is easy to decry bullying and abuse when the bullies are on the other side of the issue from you.  But I wish that, earlier, I had said, “I disagree with a great deal of what Malzberg and Resnick said in the Bulletin, but I think we’ve piled on them enough, and we ought to stop now.”

 

skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

147 Comments

  1. Concur in all respects. I hate to be ashamed of “my” side in an argument or dispute.

  2. It’s impossible to have a sense of proportionate response when you’ve turned a human being into a symbol of a lifetime’s worth of bullshit. So maybe we should stop doing that.

    But then again, I worry that maybe disproportionate rage gets results and the idea that we should rein it in and behave reasonably only serves to hamstring people who are susceptible to listening to ideas and behaving reasonably, to the tactical benefit of those who aren’t.

    (Kind of like how, in the long term, rational messages about having fewer kids because of environmental impact serve only to breed out caring about environmental impact and listening to rational messages from the gene pool.)

  3. I’m mostly an outsider…I just like to read good books. But this entirely encapsulates how I’ve been feeling about this over the last couple days.

  4. “…almost no one would say, “I am on this side of the issue, and therefore it is all right to harass, bully, and abuse anyone on the other side.” We wouldn’t say that, but sometimes we act like it.”

    When the issue is important, people *usually* do that. They don’t say it, but they do it.

    I finally found a way to say something I’ve had trouble with. This way to say it isn’t exactly *right*, but it’s clear and the wrong details can work out.

    It goes like this: Imagine somebody who’s really bought into the old attitudes about gender relations. Like, he suffers from the old madonna/whore complex. And he doesn’t really understand new ideas.

    If you tell him he has to stop treating women like whores, what he hears is that he always has to treat all women as madonnas no matter how they behave. Because that’s the false dichotomy he’s suffering from.

    And he hears you say he can never get another date.

    That’s *personal*. Is it any wonder he gets upset?

    Maybe he starts ranting about lesbians. Because lesbians can pick each other up for casual sex, they can call each other bitches and whores, they can describe what they like about each other’s bodies in thought-provoking detail — they can do anything they want up until one partner calls the police on another — and nobody calls them sexist. But if he says a woman has a nice figure people might berate him over it for months.

    If you look at it from the old POV, the anti-sexist approach simply does not make any sense. It looks arbitrary and capricious. Like some sort of mind virus that turns people into insane robots who agree about everything and try to enforce their arbitrary will on the whole world.

    But of course they’re wrong. If they could only be shown that the new ways are more fun for everybody, that they work better, that it’s if anything more likely than before for potential lovers to meet and enjoy each other’s company, then they would calm down and get with the program.

    Only they aren’t getting welcomed into the new culture. They’re getting yelled at for not already being in it.

    That’s par for the course. Doesn’t it usually go that way?

  5. You’re touching on a general point I think is very important, namely how the facelessness of the internet elevates emotion over reason.

    People are willing to say things through the internet that they will not say face-to-face. They don’t care about anonymity, they just want to express themselves without having to listen to other people’s responses. It’s like a Dear John letter. I get to tell you to go to hell while you can’t ever know if I’m even aware of your feelings.

    The members of an online dog pile only know they’re angry about something they generally haven’t learned first hand. They’ve seen A write that B said that C expressed an opinion denigrating X, and they’re just too angry to ask C if that’s what she really meant. They’ll tell C she’s wrong, or she can’t possibly be serious, or she’s a scum sucking worthless piece of filth, but generally speaking that won’t induce C to explain how she was misunderstood or convince her to reconsider her opinion. I doubt those in the dog pile feel better when they’ve finished trashing someone, and I know the target doesn’t feel better, so it seems the only result is an increase of anger and even hatred in people’s lives, and I honestly don’t understand why people do it.

    ” I get that. If you’re going to be an asshole in public, you should wear your flack-jacket.”

    When it comes to the internet, it’s important to define what, exactly, is “in public”. I feel angry responses should remain in the original venue, which is the “public” area, while elsewhere people should stick to a calmer analysis of the underlying problem. Unfortunately, the idea of appropriate behavior in the appropriate place is being thrown out the window as emotions take over and people believe they’re so important that everywhere is the appropriate place to express themselves.

    “Isn’t there a point where we should say, ‘People on my side of this issue are getting abusive’? I don’t know.”

    Yes, there is, although determining the proper time to intervene is a lost art and doing it effectively is virtually impossible online, and not very easy offline. The nature of internet exchanges reduces conversations to a matter of lucky timing – if you’re online and in the right forum the second something needs to be addressed, you might be able to calm people down, except, of course, other people are likely posting at the same time and will read and react to the earlier message before they get to your response.

    “It’s hard to do. I mean, it isn’t like there is some central organization that can put out a memo saying, ‘Okay, we’re done now.'”

    Perhaps if we were to approach Judith Martin, she’d be willing to establish The Department of Miss Manners. That’s really what it comes down to. There are no generally accepted rules of online behavior.

  6. Come home, and we’ll talk about bullying. I can’t do it on the Internet. Because bullying.

  7. Hey, I’ll do it on the internet, because bullies are bullies, and I’ve gotten shit from them all my life.

    A few questions before we get into it:

    1. Is talking behind someone’s back bullying?

    2. Is there any evidence that Fodera, Feist, and company thought they were not on an obscure site where they could gripe without being noticed, just as one might gripe in the neighborhood bar that normally no one else goes to?

    3. Though it’s naive to assume anyone has privacy anywhere in the modern age, does the expectation of privacy include expecting privacy in places where it turns out to be naive to expect it? Note that they did not make blog posts along the lines of “Mary Kowal is awful because girls have cooties”. Also note that they did not slag Kowal and her clique on the sfwa forums, where sfwans who were not their friends might notice. Nor did they do this on Facebook or their own blogs where people who followed them might notice. They did it in their clubhouse without realizing someone from a rival club might eavesdrop and run to tell everyone what they said, and put the worst possible spin on what was said.

  8. I’ve seen people write blog posts saying things like, “I’m so terribly disappointed that writers I’ve looked up to my whole life have said horrible things,” but I have yet to see anyone say, “I had a hard time believing that someone I looked up to my whole life would say such horrible things, so I asked them about it.”

    I just think that’s interesting.

  9. I do seem to recall, in the earlier round referred to, that as people kept piling on Resnick et. al., Resnick et. al. continued saying new, impressively dumb, things. Getting people to stop responding to those *new* things is *much* harder than deciding we’ve said enough about the original things, I think. Not to say there isn’t blame for all sides in some of the bad behavior there, I think there is.

    I don’t think bullying is very well defined, at least in the general public mind. And behavior that isn’t itself bullying (talking about people behind their back; but it could be in a way to reinforce the view of them that causes them to get bullied) can be part of the pattern of actions that leads to and supports bullying.

    “Expectation of privacy” is interesting. Seems to me it’s rarely absolute; if a friend and I have a talk in strict confidence in my home, I have only a rather *strong* expectation of privacy, not any kind of absolute one. If you talk about it in in a small conversational group at a party, even less. At a bar, less yet, maybe (depends on topic; you’re more likely to be overheard *by people who know the people you’re discussing* at a party than in a random bar, I’d think). If you publish publicly on the Internet, damned little expectation of privacy :-).

  10. Regarding R&M, some people are claiming that kerfuffle didn’t start until they responded to their critics, which kind of ignores the fact they were responding to critics. (I’m thinking in particular of SL Huang’s attempt to rewrite history in “Can We Please Not Rewrite History, Folks? (More on the SFWA Petition, and Links.)”)

    So when characterizing how R&M responded, I would recommend first being mobbed or reading up on the psychological consequences of being mobbed. My posts go into moderation whenever I put a link here, but I did a post recently at my main blog titled “Mobbing drives people a little—or a lot—mad”.

  11. “So when characterizing how R&M responded, I would recommend first being mobbed or reading up on the psychological consequences of being mobbed.”

    Sure, but if we’re going to try an insanity defense we ought to extend it to everybody.

    The trouble is, everybody resents it when you claim they aren’t responsible for their sins because they’re crazy.

  12. For the record, I do think everyone in a mobbing deserves the insanity defense. It’s why I forgave everyone in Racefail. The hardest to forgive was myself. Here’s a quote I love about one of the US’s two most famous mobbings. Five years after the Salem witch hunts, jurors signed an apology saying, “…we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature.”

    Someday, most of the people involved in fandom’s witch hunts will realize that they were “under the power of a strong and general delusion”

  13. Thanks for saying much of what I have been thinking about the whole mess.

  14. 2. Is there any evidence that Fodera, Feist, and company thought they were not on an obscure site where they could gripe without being noticed, just as one might gripe in the neighborhood bar that normally no one else goes to?

    Weren’t they gripping in a place that MRK had access to as well (as vice-president of the organization that ran the board?)

    They might have thought that the public was unable to see them, but perhaps they should have been more circumspect about someone that might have been reading what was said about her.

  15. I just read most of the thread, and the answer is they knew they were in public, but they also knew they were on a site that got little attention. So I think it’s impossible to argue that they intended to bully her, unless you think bullying includes talking behind someone’s back where you don’t think anyone will hear you. The site has “no robots” enabled, so it’s not like anything they say will turn up in a google search.

  16. skzb

    L. Raymond: I am so there with the Miss Manners idea!

    DDB: Entirely valid points, and additional reasons why this entire post falls into the category of “bitching” rather than “suggestions we do something.” There are too many gray areas and thin lines for there to be the real possibility of fixing anything. For example, yes, if the victims would simply shut up and take it, it would stop faster, but that is no more reasonable to expect of human beings than that, once they answer (generally digging themselves in deeper because human) to expect there to be no reply.

    I think, whatever bullying is, it reaches the point where it is wrong and unfair, and I think it is impossible to say where that point is, or how to stop it. I’m hoping, for my part, to be a little more aware of it, and say something when I think it’s appropriate, at least if it’s being done by people I agree with.

  17. “There are too many gray areas and thin lines for there to be the real possibility of fixing anything.”

    You look forward to changing the economy of the world, and you don’t accept “human nature” as an excuse not to try, but you see no point in trying to stop bullying? I admit to being surprised.

    “whatever bullying is…”

    I think all definitions by in the world would have this one point in common: bullying is meant to show that someone – the bully and his gang – is stronger than someone else. Granted it’s easier to handle the problem in person, but I’m sure someone who spends a lot of time using social media, which I admittedly don’t, must be able to imagine the online equivalent of asking someone what, exactly, he’s trying to do. At least, that’s how I handle it in person when I intervene.

    “whatever bullying is, it reaches the point where it is wrong and unfair, and I think it is impossible to say where that point is…”

    By definition I’d say bullying *starts* at being wrong and unfair. Although it can be a coldly calculated move meant to push someone in a particular direction, I’d say it’s mostly an emotional reaction, so perhaps the last chance someone has of stopping online bullying is when emotions begin to outweigh reason.

  18. I’ll propose that bullying begins when someone with greater social or physical power treats someone who has less with mockery or violence instead of reason or courtesy. Who punches down is more relevant than who punches first, and the motive is entirely irrelevant: people have been bullied in the name of causes I adore and causes I abhor, and the bullying is equally wrong.

  19. Bullying happens whenever

    1. Someone with more power intimidates someone with less power, and
    2. I think they should not.

    When some deluded person thinks he can get away with something he shouldn’t, and he gets put in his place, that’s fine. But when somebody is doing things he has a right to, and somebody else intimidates him when they’re in the wrong, that’s bullying and it’s bad.

  20. Intimidation with lack of ethical reason would seem to be the basis of bullying. The disagreements come over how to define the “ethical reason.”
    The intimidation can take either physical or mental forms.

  21. “And it seems to me that part of being a decent human being requires objecting, loudly, when women are shouted down, bullied, abused, and threatened for daring to suggest they ought to be treated as people”

    Yeah, but this doesn’t actually happen, does it? Internet Feminists say it does because to them every criticism is a physical attack. I think you’ve let their ideology seep under your skin.

  22. Chris: Yes it does actually happen. Frequently.

  23. skzb

    Chris: It seems clear that enough people felt that way that it would wrong not to discuss the issue, at the very least.

    Will: I think what happens with WordPress is that it pulls anything with two or more links into moderation for fear it might be spam. I believe if there’s just one link in a comment it lets it go.

  24. Steve Halter, perhaps the most useful thing I found when researching mobbing was the idea called altruistic punishment. It doesn’t matter if you’re going after witches, commies, pacifists, or civil rights workers. What drives bullies and mobs is the certainty they’re defending the status quo—as they understand it, of course.

  25. A “bookseller” has made a public threat that she will discourage people from buying books written by sexist authors. I don’t think this is a big personal threat, it’s probably somebody who does displays and sometimes manages the information desk in a bookstore.

    http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/useful-representative-example/comment-page-2/#comment-100358

    The person after that points out that bullies are bad and deserve multiple serious applications of Scalzi’s “Mallet of Loving Correction”.

  26. “Yeah, but this doesn’t actually happen, does it?”

    Yes, I’m sure it does.

    Also, imagine this situation. You go to a physics blog where prestigious physicists are discussing a problem they’re having making sense of z-bosons. You butt in. “I read in Science News that the Higgs Boson changed everything around, maybe you could apply that? And one of my friends told me that nuclear physics works just exactly like astrology, so maybe you could use astrology to get your answer?” If they respond at all they are likely to patronize you. And if you are a feminist you might think the reason they are patronizing you is because you are a woman and they are sexists.

    If there is a woman among them who also patronizes you, maybe she’s been co-opted by the patriarchy and accepted as an honorary man.

    People get condescended to *a whole lot*. Maybe sometimes it’s justified. But women can attribute it to sexism whenever it’s men doing it to women — if they choose to explain it that way. To decide whether they’re right would take some sort of careful investigation of each individual example.

    Meanwhile if I go onto one of their blogs and present a point of view that isn’t what they want and expect, probably the beset I can hope for is to be ignored. Is it wrong for them to condescend to me when the discussion is sexism, and they’re experts in it while I am not? Maybe that’s a lot like the nuclear physics example.

  27. If anyone seriously doubts the prevalence of harassment of women in public spaces, I would be delighted to provide you with many, many, places to find out more. I recommend starting with the work of Mary Beard, since last week she published this extraordinary essay on the silencing of women’s voices in the public square, from Telemachus to Twitter: http://www.lrb.co.uk/2014/02/14/mary-beard/the-public-voice-of-women

    Sorry for derailing, but this idea that women who are harassed, abused, threatened, mocked, or otherwise pushed out of public spaces is all in their heads, or are making a big deal out of nothing, is just one of those things that shouldn’t let go unchallenged.

  28. I see in this particular case an apology has been extended and accepted.

  29. David, what made you infer that? Of course women have been harassed. Pointing out that a solution is bad is not the same as denying the problem. I am getting rather tired of people suggesting that supporting free speech is the same as supporting sexism and racism: it’s like suggesting opposing the death penalty is the same as supporting rape and murder.

  30. It was Chris’ comment, Will, the one in which he said “but that doesn’t really happen.”

  31. Yes, I thought that was outrageous myself, not your comments, Will.

  32. Hmm. I think I skimmed over that because I thought Chris was questioning Steve’s rhetoric rather than denying there are some sexist shitheads in fandom.

  33. “Sorry for derailing, but this idea that women who are harassed, abused, threatened, mocked, or otherwise pushed out of public spaces is all in their heads, or are making a big deal out of nothing, is just one of those things that shouldn’t let go unchallenged.”

    Lots of times people tell women to shut up. For that matter lots of times people tell other people to shut up whether they’re women or not.

    Shouldn’t everybody get to say whatever they want and not be told to shut up? No. Some people are incompetent to participate in some discussions and should be persuaded not to. Some people are evil and should not be allowed to speak.

    What if a particular woman is incompetent to discuss a particular topic, but she does anyway? We should encourage her because women have been oppressed for so long that they need all the encouragement they can get to speak out, regardless what they say. And anyway if you say that any particular woman is incompetent at any particular area, you are being sexist.

    Sexists are evil and should not be allowed to speak, ever. This is just obvious.

    And men are clueless about feminism and should not interfere in discussions about women, sexism, etc. A man who disagrees with a woman about something that involves women, is wrong. He should know better.

    Well, but women disagree with each other about lots of things, and they tell each other to shut up. Shouldn’t men disagree with the women who are wrong? No. Men aren’t competent to decide which women are right or wrong. Agree with every woman until it’s clear who’s winning.

    Well, but this approach is cynical. It assumes that women are dishonest. Aren’t there honest women who oppose the worst excesses while also opposing sexist practices? No, mostly not. It’s Somebody Else’s Problem. Just like I don’t go onto Stormfront or LIttle Green Apples or misogynistic sites and argue with the people there until I get banned — I feel like I have better things to do with my time. What good would it do, anyway?

    If I oppose those people they feel strengthened in their identity. They say that they are being oppressed. If I argue with them then I am trying to oppress them, trying to shut them up, and that proves to them that they’re right.

    It does no good to say they are being unjust. They know they are fighting a greater injustice. After all, sexists sometimes rape women. Anything we do to destroy rape culture is justified. Whatever it takes, the status quo is worse.

    It isn’t so much different from anticommunism, except in detail. Maybe if we look at how previous anti-isms got softened…. Oh. Wait.

  34. As far as bullying and fighting back goes, you can’t effectively fight back against an online lynch mob. The mob either finds a way to use whatever you say against you, or simply ignores anything you say. Once the process starts whatever the victim said or did, or says or does, doesn’t matter anymore; all anyone is paying attention to is what other people say about it, which may or may not have much to do with the source material. Everyone either scrambles to get a safe distance away from the target, to show everyone else how zealous about the cause they are, or both. It turns into a contest to see who can be most outraged.

    Remember not too many years back when some small pub editor was pilloried for using the word “sheetheads”? (Steve, I’m sure you remember; you put the boot in too.) Perfect example of something taken out of context. He had publicly defined his usage of the word sheetheads: Muslims who act like shitheads in the name of their religion. He used the word in a private email to someone who knew that, referring to some Muslim terrorists in the story under discussion. The writer (unwisely) posted that email in a forum, to show everyone the nice rejection letter he’d gotten. Unfortunately for the editor, all everyone saw was “sheetheads” and they didn’t care what it meant in context. The word spread and it was time to light the torches and get out the pitchforks.

    One word from a private email, taken out of context, and the hatred of the whole online SF community fell on the editor, the magazine, and everyone and everything associated with it. There’s still at least one website out there dedicated to telling the world what a terrible person he is. And so a dying old man had a pleasant memory of something he’d been proud of turned into bitterness and betrayal. But everyone now knows that you can’t say “sheethead” in email, so there’s that.

    A mob is a terrible thing that can’t be reasoned with. Once it gets going it doesn’t matter anymore what cause got it started. All the mob cares about is the taste of blood, and it’ll get it one way or another.

  35. This Chris person has made two previous comments on Dreamcafe:
    http://dreamcafe.com/2013/03/28/striking-a-prose-women-in-fantasy-plots/#comment-18173
    http://dreamcafe.com/2013/03/28/thoughts-on-striking-a-prose/#comment-18172

    They could be engaging in some sort of sarcasm that I’m not parsing, and I’d be willing to entertain that notion if they want to explain. But I’m leaning towards “misogynist troll”.

  36. @will shetterly: “What drives bullies and mobs is the certainty they’re defending the status quo—as they understand it, of course.”

    I have to disagree with this blanket statement. Bullies come in two flavors, those you’re describing, and those who just like to feel strong, such as a high schooler who pushes around a smaller kid. The schoolyard bully, who can actually be found in any environment, isn’t trying to protect the status quo, he’s trying to change it, to prove he’s now the best, however the bully sees it.

    I think the distinction matters because it helps to understand motivation, which in turn points the way to effectively dealing with any ensuing problems.

  37. @David Perry: “If anyone seriously doubts the prevalence of harassment of women in public spaces…”

    Thanks very much for posting this; I’m finding the article to be fascinating, and depressingly familiar.

  38. “Bullies come in two flavors, those you’re describing, and those who just like to feel strong….”

    So that’s the established bully who’s proving he’s still strong, and the rising bully who’s making a place for himself.

    Probably it’s kind of a side issue whether it’s the status quo or not. But I’m sure they do all feel justified.

  39. L. Raymond, it may be that my schoolyard bullying tended to be about the status quo. First I was bullied for supporting integration, then I was bullied for being fat, then I was bullied for being a long-haired freak. Bullies tend to have gangs, and they don’t like people who aren’t much like them. I dunno. Maybe the problem is with “status quo”. But I can’t think of a bully whose target wasn’t to some degree an outsider: wrong gender, wrong religion, wrong weight, wrong class, wrong height, wrong clothes, wrong attitude toward school, etc. But I may need to think about this some more before I say anything more certain.

  40. Well, I have to say that I am profoundly disappointed by the way you have chosen not to respond to Mary.

    I really did think that as a fellow writer you would understand just how horrendous it is to have a ton of shit dropped on your head when you are in the home straight of your novel; I was really happy to see that, notwithstanding the aforementioned ton of shit, she is releasing chapters and the novel is flying to the end.

    But I am the only person who has, so far, commented on her site saying that I am really glad that her novel is flying.

    I appreciate that you may have gone through back channels, but when some one is publicly attacked then it seems to me that a public response is in order. It is hard to reconcile your post here, which is a sophisticated version of ‘why can’t we all be nice’, and your failure to be nice by expressing at least some sort of pleasure that she’s managed to survive the shit storm to carry on writing.

    So, I’m profoundly disappointed…

  41. Stevie, so you think talking behind someone’s back is a public attack? Or do you think Fodera expected Mary to be aware of his comments? Quick reality check:

    1. He was angry when he discovered his words shared with friends on an obscure, non-SFWA bbs with “no robots” enabled had been hunted down and taken out of context.
    2. He then apologized.
    3. Mary accepted his apology.

  42. Will

    You haven’t bothered to read my post. It most certainly was not addressed to you, and the comments you make have nothing to do with what I was talking about.

    Should it still be in doubt, I was writing about Steve’s post.

    And I am still profoundly disappointed.

  43. Stevie, make a comment in a public comment section and you’re like to get comments from the public. Humans are just like that. Sort of the way gawkers have been watching the business with Mary and critiquing everyone’s response. Self-righteous people like me will impose our opinions wherever we can. I sometimes wish people would tell us to mind our own business, but of course, if they did that, they would be obliged to mind their own, and who’d have any fun on the internet then?

  44. WShetterly : So when characterizing how R&M responded, I would recommend first being mobbed or reading up on the psychological consequences of being mobbed. My posts go into moderation whenever I put a link here, but I did a post recently at my main blog titled “Mobbing drives people a little—or a lot—mad”.

    i, Find target
    ii, Attack target
    iii, Goad target into retaliating heatedly
    iv, Use retaliation as future justification for first attack…

  45. Phlebas, +1. I don’t think anyone does it deliberately, but that’s sure how it works. Hmm. No, I take that back, because someone had to go hunting through the posts at sff.net in order to find something they could use like the explosion of the Maine.

  46. @Will Shetterly: “…it may be that my schoolyard bullying tended to be about the status quo….But I can’t think of a bully whose target wasn’t to some degree an outsider…. But I may need to think about this some more before I say anything more certain”

    I think the point to consider is who else was affected by the same bullies. If you’re only thinking about yourself and you saw yourself as an outsider, that’s only gives one perspective. My experience in high school was that jocks (usually) would bully everyone – boy, girl, white, black, fellow jock or not – in order to prove they were best, however they each defined that. But my perspective is totally different from yours, never having been bullied myself, at least not that I’ve noticed. People have tried, but being the sort to respond very directly (e.g. I body slammed a football player who felt free to cut in front of me in the lunch line during my first week in high school), I tend to dismiss as tedious idiocy a lot of what others would count as bullying.

    And that in turn colors what I think when I read about internet bullying. I agree with Mr. Brust about cutting off online abuse, especially when it comes from those you agree with, but I see it as an etiquette problem rather than bullying.

  47. @L. Raymond:

    Sometimes people feel like herd animals. A lot of people usually feel that way, and most people do sometimes.

    They try to get into the middle of the herd where it’s safest. Translated to ideology, they try to follow the party line as perfectly as they can.

    They panic when they face multiple enemies alone. Like a man with his back to the wall, they retreat to the fundamentals of their group’s ideology and defend it tenaciously.

    On average this hits women harder — they are trained to think they will be safe, that society will protect them, that the group will protect them from outsiders. On average more than men, their instinct is to attack socially. Persuade people that her enemy is the group’s enemy, and he will be trampled by the herd. Rather than openly fight each other they tend — on average more than men — to look for ways to make the enemy look bad, and perhaps eventually get him driven out of the group.

    It probably feels all metaphorical to you, but to a lot of people getting a direct verbal attack feels a whole lot like a physical attack. They have the idea that members of their group don’t do that to each other, ever. Only vicious outsiders do that, and the obvious response is to scream for help from the group. Vicious outsider groups may try to pick off lone sheep, and the response must be to band together and fight off the outsiders and if possible defeat them. Of course there is no thought at all to finding common ground and making friends with the vicious outsider group….

    It’s deeply emotional but it’s also symbolic. So for example Mary had a ton of shit dropped on her head while she was writing, entirely because her friends dropped it on her — they told her about what the awful enemies were secretly saying about her. Her friends did that do her so they could protect her from the awful enemies who had such mean thoughts.

    If this all seems profoundly weird to you, possibly you can use it to write about some fictional alien species….

  48. L. Raymond, my dad taught me that it’s better to fight and lose than not fight at all, so I was never bullied badly or for very long because, yes, bullies like easy targets. But I would argue the point of jock bullying is to keep jocks as close to the top of the social pyramid as they can be. Jocks and rich kids both have feudal arrogance—the rich kids are the nobles, and the jocks are the knights, and they really don’t want the commoners to forget that.

  49. I have to admit, I’d never think of it that way – the idea of social pyramids is just so alien to me. I’ll always think of those particular guys as individual jerks, but perhaps there was some sort of group mentality behind them.

    So to being this back to the original topic, maybe people who are keyed into group dynamics might be able to stop online bullying in one of their own groups as soon as they see one side assert its own superiority.

  50. I see a death spiral: People are bullying bullies to stop bullying. And sadly, their definition of bully keeps expanding so they’ll have more people to bully. People who say things like “I’m intolerant of intolerance” should be shot before they hurt anyone.

    ………..Joking!

    ………..Maybe.

  51. skzb

    Yeah, yeah. I was bullied too, up until about the beginning of high school. How much of my feelings come from that, I have no idea.

    Here’s a summary:

    I do not like being bullied.
    I do not like seeing others bullied.
    I particularly do not like seeing friends bullied.
    I do not like feeling that I may be participating in bullying.
    BUT
    I do not like the feeling that I could have stopped the bullying, but didn’t.
    AND
    I do rather like seeing a bully get a bloody nose.
    I even more like GIVING the bully a bloody nose.

    There are times when these feelings contradict each other, and that’s hard.

  52. I wrote this little essay on bullying bullies last fall – http://goodmenproject.com/families/bullying-a-bully-to-teach-him-not-to-bully/. It’s not entirely relevant to /this/ conversation as a whole, but has been on my mind throughout the thread, so I share. If you punch a bully in the nose what actually gets learned? Perhaps a question more appropriate to kids than to misogynist SFF authors.

    As always, the question is what you really want to accomplish. Is the goal to rally around Mary? To punish the offenders? To silence them and their supporters? To create teachable moments? Teachable moments are few and far between in online conversations, alas.

  53. David, good piece. When we lived by an Ojibwa reservation, one of the things we noticed was the kids were great, and parents never punished them, so far as we could tell. They also didn’t indulge them especially. What would happen with a kid who bullied, I honestly do not know, but my guess–which is purely a guess–is someone would talk with the kid about what happened, and that would be all. The older I get, the more convinced I become that punishment for instruction never makes a situation better.

  54. skzb

    Good essay, David. There’s too much about this subject I don’t know to be able to comment intelligently, but what popped into my head was an article by a psychologist pointing out that it was important to let kids roughhouse, because sometimes they went too far and it hurt, and that’s how they learn empathy. The thing is, if true, that could be an argument on either side. Fuck, I don’t know. I know making bullies suffer feels good. That doesn’t mean I ought to do it.

  55. Steve, forgive me for putting you on the spot, but you handle spots well, so: Do you think Fodera was bullying Mary? And if so, do you think everyone who badmouths someone on an obscure, no-robots site is bullying?

  56. I know you asked Steve, but hell, it’s an online comment thread, I’m chiming in.

    Fodera was not bullying Mary, I believe. What Fodera was trying to do was delegitimize her criticisms in a semi-private space, not to shame her, as he had no expectation of her reading him, but to make sure that no one in his circle felt that her comments were legit.

    So he revealed his inner misogynist in an embarrassing way. I feel no pity though – the solution is to try not to be a misogynist in private or public.

  57. David, did you read everything he said in that thread, or only the bits that were quoted?

  58. skzb

    Will: I think the cumulative effect of Fodera’s comments plus those that followed were bullying; at least it felt that way to me. But that’s the trouble with this sort of thing; you can’t fix the blame on a particular individual

  59. I think the problem with these sorts of things is people do. They decide who will be the scapegoat, then celebrate when the goat is driven into the desert.

  60. On the one hand, people bully each other when they shouldn’t.

    On the other hand, people do evil things and we don’t want to just accept that.

    If we were the sort of people who did nothing when other people do evil, what would that say about us? Of course we fight evil!

    So the trick is, only bully people when you’re right and they’re wrong.

    People have a lot of diverse opinions about right and wrong.

    In general, diversity is good. But in this specific case it would be a lot better if everybody agreed with me. Because when it comes to right and wrong, I’m right and everybody who disagrees with me is wrong.

  61. I tend to have much higher standards for people on *my* side of an argument. After all, they should know better.

    Kind of irrational though, at least with political positions. Different sides still have all sorts of personalities on them. And Righteous people can be found on all sides (I often tend to treat “Righteous” as an obscenity (Some people say I should replace it with “Self-Righteous”, but isn’t that all of them?)).

  62. The distinction may be lost, but I think “righteous” is a fine word when you use it to describe someone else. Act as if you think you’re righteous, though, and you’ll act like too many people on the web. But “self-righteous” is like “asshole”: it just means you’re annoyed with someone who won’t agree with you.

  63. Will, I have not read the entire context surrounding Fodara’s remarks. I’ve been mostly staying out of these threads as it isn’t my turf really, but I thought Steve’s comments about bullying and online discourse were interesting.

    But here are two thoughts.

    1. There is no context which makes his remarks not sexist. There is no context in which it isn’t, in fact, a perfect example of a significant way that men and women delegitimize female discourse and have done so for a long time.

    2. This is a thread about bullying, mostly, and I agree with you that Fodara was not bullying.

  64. skzb

    I’d prefer, as much as possible, that we avoid the substance of Mr. Fodera’s remarks, and, in fact, those of anyone else we disagree with, for this discussion. If this turned into another post where a pile-on was happening, I’d appreciate the irony, but would still be unhappy.

  65. Fair enough. I’ll say context always matters and leave it at that.

  66. skzb: “I was bullied too, up until about the beginning of high school. How much of my feelings come from that, I have no idea.”

    For most of us, experience is everything, although I don’t agree it leads to empathy. One reason I don’t see bullying as a problem is I never felt bullied in my life, even though I’ve run afoul numerous bullies. The idiot jocks at school, or the gang of kids that tried to control “their” bridge were just annoying things to me, and I felt no more personally threatened by them than I did by a rock I once hit with my bike which resulted in a back flip into a parking lot. But that attitude stemmed from events that occurred when I was very little – I hurt myself a lot growing up. When it’s a question of whether or not this person can hurt you worse than a bowie knife embedded in your upper palate (which wasn’t my fault), shrugging them off is easy.

    None of that is important at all in a conversation about bullying in general, but I think it illustrates why knowing yourself is a good thing, because I don’t have any ambivalent feelings about people who push others around, and I know why I don’t. That saves all sorts of wear and tear on my angst center.

    “I know making bullies suffer feels good. That doesn’t mean I ought to do it.”

    I disagree. I don’t think bullies need to *suffer*, but they do need to be shown they’re not as powerful as they think they are. I’m a firm believer in facing them down whenever possible, and of organizing resistance to them if a group response would be more effective.

  67. Not Mr. Fodera exactly, but I’ve repeatedly seen a conversation that I’d like to express more clearly than I usually see it. Between a feminist and a man:

    F: Don’t objectify women. It’s nasty.

    MCP: Yes, but how do I pick up women? If I see an attractive woman can’t I tell her she’s attractive?

    F: No. That’s objectifying women. Don’t ever do it.

    MCP: But if I want to have sex, and I meet a woman who wants to have sex with me, what should I tell her?

    F: Just don’t. It’s harrassment. Just don’t even think about it. I never think about it, and I never ask anybody for sex, but whenever I’m ready it just happens. That’s the way it’s supposed to be.

    MCP: But if I did that I’d never get any sex.

    F: You’re a pig. You don’t deserve it. You try to harrass women into having sex with you, you try to trick them, I bet at work you look for women whose careers you can wreck so you can blackmail them. Are you a rapist too? Why would any woman in her right mind want to have sex with you?

    MCP: Hey wait a minute, I’m good at it, women like me. It’s the man’s job to start things. I’ve only once in my life had a woman invite me for sex who wasn’t a prostitute.

    F: You’re disgusting. You’re a patriarchal sexist. No decent woman will ever want you.

    MCP: Hell, if you don’t want male attention why do you dress sexy and act sexy?

    F: So, you want to make women wear burqas so they won’t arouse your evil lust?

    MCP: Of course not, I like it when sexy women like me.

    F: You keep objectifying women and it’s horrible. You don’t even know when you’re doing it. You treat women as sex objects.

    MCP: But when they don’t mind and I don’t mind, why not?

    F: Because they DO mind, they hate it, except some who’ve been brainwashed by rape culture to think they’re nothing more than toys for other people to use.

    MCP: But what am I supposed to do?

    F: Maybe you could just die? I’m going to dine out on this.

    MCP: Come out to dinner with me. We can continue the discussion over drinks….

    F: Go to hell.

    Some ways it seems like a big miscommunication. Other ways they might be communicating all too well….

  68. Since the thread is about bullying, my next question: Was Fodera bullied?

  69. skzb

    Will: Seems like it to me.

  70. To me bullying requires an innate power dynamic in which the bullier > bully by a significant degree. Older child – younger child, neurotypical child to special needs child, bigger child to smaller child. These are easy to mark as bullying.

    The bullying of the crowd vs the individual singled out as wrong is a new phenomenon, and yes, I suspect he is experiencing what it’s like when an even bigger kid gives a bully a bloody nose. Which leads us back to Steve’s initial points in the thread. It feels good, I’m pretty sure it’s wrong, it doesn’t change the nature of the initial offense that sparked the result, it doesn’t make Fodera the victim here, but it’s still wrong.

    And yet, in the scale of wrongs, it’s not so much that it especially bothers me. It’s pushing back against the grain of endemic sexism. But I’ve been thinking about it.

    Our friend Bruce wrote an essay on some of these things, and how they play out in our new technologically enabled social space (although I think he gets the medieval bits not quite right, for which I blame myself, as his consultant). http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/02/court-of-public-opinion/

  71. Group bullying in the sense of mobbing is ancient–it’s just calling it bullying that’s new, because bullies are usually thought of as individuals or a small group.

    So, David, if I’m following you, you don’t think Fodora bullief because he didn’t intend for Kowal to hear him gripe, and you do think what happened to him could be called bullying, but it doesn’t bother you because you think being mobbed for griping is okay? Are there race and gender issues there?

    As for power dynamics, online, I would say Kowal has had greater social power since she started getting awards. And online, there ain’t no otherr kind of power. Well, except for the power to buy ads and PR people, anyway.

  72. Will – I am not going to engage you about gender power dynamics, online or otherwise. It isn’t worth my time.

    Stripped of specifics, though, here’s this – I think the process of someone saying something offensive being outed for it and subjected to widespread online social pressure resembles bullying in many instances. And yet, widespread online social pressure may be the only available means to effect change. Hence the complexity.

  73. “And yet, widespread online social pressure may be the only available means to effect change.”

    I think social change comes when people change their minds about what’s right. It mostly doesn’t come when people learn how they have to behave so bullies won’t attack them.

    Which is kind of sad.

    I have the idea (without a solid background in the history) that after the Bolsheviks took over in Russia, they wound up fighting a war in which a whole lot of the most dedicated people died. And so when they actually tried to reform society, lots of the people who were doing it didn’t really understand the ideology but only tried to follow the slogans that would keep them out of trouble. They didn’t know how to do it right. They didn’t know to oppose Stalin. A large fraction of the people who should have taught them were already dead, and the most outspoken of the remainder soon followed.

    I don’t know whether their communism would have worked if it had a fair chance, but done mostly by people who were trying not to be punished, it didn’t have nearly the chance it should have.

    You get better results by actually persuading people than by getting them scared of you. That is, if you want society to actually change. If you just want to dominate people then I guess it’s better to go ahead and try to dominate them.and when they cringe at you then you know you’re on top.

  74. It’s true that in terms of the issues about which I care, I always seek persuasion. But persuasion often fails. So then what? We shrug? Or we seek other means to change behavior if not minds. I think that’s the crux of the issue raised by Steve’s post for me.

    Your communism example seems a total nonsequitor and perhaps just an attempt to rile up a different argument, so I will otherwise ignore it.

  75. “I always seek persuasion. But persuasion often fails. So then what? We shrug? Or we seek other means to change behavior if not minds.”

    I think tolerance is vitally important. If persuasion fails, then keep persuading. If you can’t live in the same world with somebody you can’t persuade, then kill them — do it quickly, efficiently, with no discussion and no quarter — but only when you’re sure that you can’t be tolerant.

    “Your communism example seems a total nonsequitor”

    They didn’t have enough of the people on their side. They needed to do a whole lot of persuasion fast. Then they lost a big chunk of the people who most believed, and the apparatchiks who replaced them were not very persuasive but knew how to make people obey. When Stalinism took over. most of the public couldn’t tell the difference.

    I see it as an example. For whatever reason they mostly failed to persuade. And so the USSR became just another authoritarian empire that ruled their people and their bordering states, with a state religion that most of the public didn’t much care about. If some historical accidents had gone differently, they might have become much more.

  76. If we’re discussing who has more social power to enact bullying, consider that the Internet can confer social power in ways we’re not used to. Someone can, speaking to other persons in one space, throw their weight around and exert power… and then the less powerful person may have their response or defense seen by others, as it is added to, growing in an exponential curve as more eyes see it, and gaining power belatedly. I think that ties into the mobbing phenomenon – individually, on one forum, in one place, these actions may not constitute bullying. In aggregate, several days later, they may have acquired that clout, collectively. And yet, no single individual involved in the response ever perceived themself as having the power to bully someone – nor were they exactly incorrect. I’m not saying that excuses them for failing to see the bigger picture… but I’m not saying it doesn’t. The outraged, vitriolic person who responds on day one is so angry and so attention-getting because they’re punching up – they see an abuse of power and object to it. But without them, the word never spreads, the multitude never gathers – they are less guilty of bullying than those who come after, but more responsible for *anything* that comes after.

    So, how does that work? I don’t have a good answer. It seems to be a sort of phenomenon that deserves further study – the emergent properties of the internet, for good or ill, as a tool to empower large masses of individually unpowerful people. I’ve certainly seen it do as much or more good than harm – slamming back at hateful corporate behavior, for example, has caused many a hasty retraction.

  77. I’m skipping a few comments just to point out one thing on bullying. There is some evidence (no energy to seek out citations tonight but will add a link to peer reviewed study within a week) that bullies almost always think of themselves as enforcing social norms. The jock punching the nerd thinks of himself as teaching the nerd not to be such a “pussy”. Though the jock bully does not put it in these terms he is enforcing gender norms. (A hell of a lot of bullying is about enforcing gender norms, making people act like a “real man” or a “real woman”. The mean girl always thinks of herself as punishing misbehavior – lack of deference or attention to superiors or whatever. Even when from the outside it appears obvious that bullying is just about cruelty or social status for the bully, when they are interviewed they almost have a justification that amounts to the person being bullied has stepped out of line and needed to be taught a lesson.

    BTW, I do think going behind someones back to damage their reputation is a form of harm and can be a form of bullying. In an extreme case, if someones reputation is so harmed they are socially isolated that is a pretty extreme harm, and not knowing the exact statements does not keep it from being harmful. In less extreme cases, the harm is lesser. Whether “harm” equals bullying depends on context. And I’m not going to wade into the specifics of this case. Just pointing out that the general argument that saying shit behind someone’s back is not bullying is not valid. Depends on what the consequences of talking behind someone’s back is.

  78. Matt, the internet is only an amplifier. What is a lynch mob but a bunch of individually weak people who think that justice will not be done unless they do it themselves? Together they may be willing to bust somebody out of jail to kill him. They don’t necessarily have any leaders, although often somebody does take the lead.

    There’s an art to starting that sort of thing. I’m not very good at it. In “Primary education of the Camiroi” by RA Lafferty, one of the formal topics taught in grade school was “Simple defamation. (Spirited attacks on the character of one fellow student, with elementary falsification and simple hatchet-job programming.)” leading up to “Setting intellectual climates, defamation in three dimensions.” It would be a different world if everybody got systematically taught how that stuff works.

  79. “….bullies almost always think of themselves as enforcing social norms.”

    I guess the main alternative would be to do it and feel guilty about it.

    “Just pointing out that the general argument that saying shit behind someone’s back is not bullying is not valid.”

    It isn’t bullying. It’s bad, and it isn’t the same thing. When you bully someone you try to intimidate them by showing you can hurt them.

    If you say things behind their back to damage their reputation, that’s something else. Particularly if you don’t want them to find out. I guess it could be bullying if you talk to third parties intending that your victim find out so he will be intimidated by your ability to damage his reputation. Or if you say things intended to get back to your victim so his feelings will be hurt and he will be intimidated by your ability to hurt his feelings without any direct interaction.

  80. Rush Limbaugh, on why Janet Brewer is likely to veto the Arizona “it’s ok to discriminate if you’re religious” bill:

    “She’s being bullied by the homosexual lobby in Arizona and elsewhere,” he said. “She’s being bullied by the nationwide drive-by media, she’s being bullied by certain elements of corporate America in order to advance the gay agenda. I guess in that circumstance bullying is admirable. In fact, this kind of bullying is honorable.”

    It seems relevant. Stridently, loudly, even threateningly (in this case the threat of commercial boycotts), making one’s case can be interpreted as bullying.

  81. I agree it’s relevent. I’d even say that’s what most online activity that’s called bullying is – loud, strident people trying to make their point.

  82. Which doesn’t mean the person isn’t bullied by it.

  83. Loud, strident people trying to make their point…by bullying individuals. Which is especially ironic when they claim their complaint is about systemic injustice. But witchhunters wanted to end witchery one witch at a time, so I s’pose that’s inevitable.

    Still, any time you notice you’re using the enemy’s tactics, you should think again.

  84. “Loud, strident people trying to make their point…by bullying individuals.”

    Wait a minute. Say I have a way of thinking that makes sense, and nobody can present reasonable arguments against it, and they keep saying I’m wrong and I should just shut up because they don’t want to hear it.

    So I stridently point out the logic, and point out that they in fact have no logic. I repeat that I’m right and they’re wrong. They still have no answer but to tell me to go away because they don’t want to think about it.

    And this means that I’m bullying them? For being right and saying so?

    What kind of value system is that?

  85. Bullying is like pornography. Everyone thinks they know it when they see it.

    Disagreement is not necessarily abuse, but abusive people think disagreement by their idea of bad people justifies abusing them.

  86. The interesting phenomenon is the mis-identification of the power dynamics by Limbaugh and, I believe, quite a few people in this thread. When the weaker parties form in a group to pressure the stronger into changing behavior, I do not see that as bullying. I see it as organizing.

  87. Organizing is another thing that everyone knows when they see it. I love organizing, but I have to note that lynching parties also think they’re organizing. By definition, vigilantes organize. It’s a difficult subject for ethical people.

    “Weaker party” is also tricky. Ignoring what Wossname said about Mary, I don’t think I could be convinced that she was the weaker party, and no way could I think many people who leapt to the attack, like Scalzi, were the weaker parties.

  88. I know you can’t be convinced, Will. I see a different picture than you re: gender and power dynamics.

  89. skzb

    Interesting points, David. Interesting enough to drag me back into this conversation when I’d thought I was done with it. Let’s see if we can get anywhere.

    When I say bullying, I do not mean walking up to someone and punching him in the nose, even if it happens that I’m bigger and stronger than he is. It becomes bullying when you’ve knocked him down and won’t let him up, and keep kicking him. Or if you punch him repeatedly on a number of occasions until the fear of what the bully will do next becomes a dominant force in his life.

    One can argue, of course, that punching someone if you’re stronger is being a bully; but that isn’t how I use the term here. The big guy who decks the little guy who was being rude to his date and wouldn’t stop is being many things–some or all of them bad, perhaps–but he is not being a bully as I define the term. At least, until he goes looking for the little guy the next day to continue the conversation.

    Two cases to mark out the extremes:

    I do not think it is bullying when weak people unite for tangible gain against an individual or small group that has power over them. But “weakness” and “power” and “tangible” require objective analysis. “I feel powerless” or doesn’t cut it, unless you follow it with something like, “because he pays my wages,” or “because she has control of my academic career.”

    I DO think it is bullying when one is receiving dozens of emails expressing personal hatred, and is the target of personal vitriol to the tune of thousands or tens of thousands of blog posts and comments, because one expressed a position or belief that people (perhaps reasonably) found offensive.

    I think that somewhere between those two extremes there’s a line, but I’m damned if I can find it.

  90. Steve, I agree with that division, and I think the line has to be fuzzy. People who want hard lines scare me.

    David, I know you favor race and gender in your analysis of power, so this is more for me than you:

    1. Mary had more power in SFWA.

    2. Mary is better known as a writer.

    3. Mary has more followers online.

    4. Mary has more influential friends online.

    Now, if you think her being female negates that somehow, you’re very right that we’re not going to agree. But if I’m mistaken about any of those points, I’ll happily reconsider.

  91. “require objective analysis”

    I think this is the problem. Bullying is by nature emotional and not objective. I would not feel bullied by email or blog posts no matter the content, not until they crossed the line into terroristic threats. I don’t feel bullied by face-to-face confrontations, even with people at work who are unquestionably in a position to harm me if they want.

    To summarize what I tried to say above, I think bullying depends on both the actor and the target. If the actor is trying to intimidate the target into behaving in a certain manner and the target’s behavior changes accordingly, that’s bullying. If the target shrugs it off, or the actor is simply being a jerk without trying to force someone to do something, it’s not.

  92. “If the target shrugs it off, or the actor is simply being a jerk without trying to force someone to do something, it’s not.”

    L. Raymond, that sounds reasonable to me. If a person attempts to bully and fails, then it isn’t really bullying. It’s an unsuccessful attempt. Or if he isn’t trying to bully and he still fails, then it wasn’t even an attempt.

    On the other hand if somebody *does* get successfully bullied then bullying has been done whether or not the person doing the bullying wanted to do that?

    I think we’re getting close to a definition.

    “I am bullied whenever somebody tries to get me to do something I don’t want to do (or stop doing something I want to do), and they don’t stop immediately when I want them to stop. Provided I am bothered by their attempt.”

    That’s “when I want them to stop” and not “when I tell them to stop”. Any repeated attempt to persuade could be bullying, if the recipient does not like it.

  93. skzb

    L. Raymond: “I think this is the problem. Bullying is by nature emotional and not objective.”

    I do not believe you read my comment carefully enough. I said, ‘ “weakness” and “power” and “tangible” require objective analysis.’ I did not say bullying does. If you are going to justify mass action against an individual, it requires determining those things.. In other words, “He pays my wages,” or, “she has the ability to destroy my academic career,” or, “he’s holding a gun and it is pointing at me.” Those are objective factors. “She made me feel bad,” is not. That is the difference.

  94. “1. Mary had more power in SFWA.

    2. Mary is better known as a writer.

    3. Mary has more followers online.

    4. Mary has more influential friends online.”

    Well, but it could be a valid interpretation that her detractor was a representative of the sexist power structure. So it wasn’t Mary against John, it was Mary against the entire power structure. So every woman is a victim if any sexist person says anything less-than-perfectly-nice about her. She is always the weaker party, and always will be until there is no sexist conspiracy that includes powerful men.

    I don’t know how to test that.

    It sounds crazy to me, but I’m not an abused woman.

  95. “I said, ‘ “weakness” and “power” and “tangible” require objective analysis.’ I did not say bullying does. If you are going to justify mass action against an individual, it requires determining those things..”

    Yes, but we can define “bullying” without that. We would then have “justified bullying” and “unjustified bullying”. A particular mass action against an individual would be bullying, and we would need to determine those things to decide whether it was appropriate bullying or not.

  96. skzb

    J. Thomas: See the rest of the comment I quoted, beginning with the paragraph, “When I say bullying.” It may not fit a formal definition of “definition” but it let’s us know what we’re talking about, and allows edge cases that are not entirely clear.

  97. @skzb: I do not believe you read my comment carefully enough. I said, weakness and power and tangible require objective analysis.’ I did not say bullying does.

    You’re right; I was conflating your definitions (bullying + those three) because it seems those three terms are inherent parts of your definition of bullying.

    I know I would not be able to agree on any definition of bullying, even one taking particular care to specify the balance of those factors, if it did not also take into account the actor’s intention and the target’s reaction. Not the “why”, because I don’t think the reason matters. That I’m willing to intimidate you into not criticizing X is pertinent, but not why I think force is the proper reason.

  98. “It becomes bullying when you’ve knocked him down and won’t let him up, and keep kicking him. Or if you punch him repeatedly on a number of occasions until the fear of what the bully will do next becomes a dominant force in his life.”

    Skzb, it sounds to me like you’re saying it’s bullying when somebody actually gets intimidated, or when it’s reasonable that they would be intimidated.

    “The big guy who decks the little guy who was being rude to his date and wouldn’t stop is being many things–some or all of them bad, perhaps–but he is not being a bully as I define the term. At least, until he goes looking for the little guy the next day to continue the conversation.”

    I’m not sure of your meaning about this part. Perhaps one justified act of violence is not intimidating enough? Or a good justification for one act makes it not bullying, but it’s bullying when he overdoes it?

    “I do not think it is bullying when weak people unite for tangible gain against an individual or small group that has power over them.”

    I don’t get this one either. Is it that united they are strong enough for mutual defense but not yet strong enough to intimidate? They have a right to intimidate the people who’re usually stronger? Their goal is tangible gain and not intimidation?

  99. skzb

    “Perhaps one justified act of violence is not intimidating enough? ”

    Doesn’t matter if it’s justified. Repeated violence and intimidation against a weaker person that creates ongoing fear is bullying. Unjustified violence against a weaker person that does not create ongoing fear is wrong, but it is not bullying. There are many bad and wrong things in the world that are not bullying.

    As for the rest, a judicious application of common sense might shed some light on this . When miners strike for a decent living wage and a few safety improvements, they are not being bullies, and anyone who thinks they are is not worth talking to. When gangs of toughs hired by the mining company beat and intimidate anyone who dares to suggest forming a union, they are bullying, and anyone who thinks they are not is not worth talking to.

  100. “When gangs of toughs hired by the mining company beat and intimidate anyone who dares to suggest forming a union, they are bullying, and anyone who thinks they are not is not worth talking to.”

    Do you meant to suggest the Ludlow massacre was an example of bullies at work? I think when you’re talking about armed thugs attacking a crowd, cracking skulls and possibly even firing guns, you’ve moved well beyond bullying and into a battlefield situation.

    I can aim my car at a pedestrian or my brakes might fail at a stop light and I hit someone. In both cases the pedestrian will die but they’re not both murder. It’s important to consider questions of degree. I think stretching the meaning of bullying to include armed thugs as well as people bad mouthing someone online is a bad idea. It belittles the victims in the first instance and contributes to increased emotionalism in the seond.

  101. skzb

    “Do you meant to suggest the Ludlow massacre was an example of bullies at work?”

    No. Incidents in the summer of 1913, before the strike, when Union organizers were beaten, threatened, and intimidated were acts of bullying. Once the thugs are armed and attack crowds, as you say, we’re well beyond bullying.

  102. I believe I see where you’re drawing the line. I don’t agree that constitutes bullying, because it still seems much more serious to me than what is typically considered bullying. To produce any workable defintion of the term, I think it would be necessary to draw a clear line between actions that are bullying and what we now call terroristic threats. I’d say hiring armed goons to threaten people is definitely a step beyond bullying.

  103. skzb

    You’re probably right.

  104. Well, one of the definitions of bully is “a man hired to do violence”, but the dictionary I just checked said that’s archaic. Which sent me to the OED. I hadn’t known—but it makes perfect sense—that the oldest sense was friend or mate. Shelley in Queen Mab has a nice example of what that became: “These are the hired bravos who defend The tyrant’s throne—the bullies of his fear.”

  105. Man: I see an attactive woman. How can I can pick her up?

    Feminist: introduce yourself in a friendly way in an appropriate setting where she would reasonably feel safe and comfortable about interacting with a stranger.

    Man: How can I let her know she has a great rack and killer thighs?

    Feminist: she already knows she is physically attactive because men have been ogling her her entire life. Act like a nice person, make interesting conversation, see if you guys click. Both of you will be giving off all kinds of nonverbal cues about whether you’re attacted to each other; so you don’t need to give her a dialog about her various physical attributes.

    Man: but I am too drunk and nervous to do any of that.

    Feminist: come back later when you aren’t or go easier on your expectations. If it is meant to be, it will work out in the long run.

    Man: but the convention is only this weekend and I need it now.

    Feminist: consult your physician about whether you are mentally healthy enough for normal sex. If I was a certain kind of feminist, I would recommend a sex worker, but I cannot in good conscience do that until that industry is restructured in a way that is not fundamentally exploitative of its workers.

    Man: you bitches are taking all the fun out of normal sexuality.

    Feminist: ah, I am taking all the fun out of it for people like you, but I am still getting as much as I want. You thinks that’s wrong because what you call normal I call a constant fear of unwanted attention or worse. When I want sex, I signal that I am looking for that. I don’t need a world where everyone expects me to be open for offers 90% of the time. The idea that a gay man might proposition them once or check out their junk in the shower makes men melt down in righteous indignation and fearful tantrums, but I am a bitch if I am not doing exactly what everyone expects every day, every minute. Even though every person making that judgement has different values for what constitutes a “good girl;” so I can’t follow the “rules” safely even if I was spineless enough to want to.

    Man: whatever. TLDR; you hate men, I get it. Good thing most women aren’t as angry and illogical as you. I know lots of women who aren’t too stuck up to have fun.

    Feminist: than why the fuck are you bothering me!

  106. “Repeated violence and intimidation against a weaker person that creates ongoing fear is bullying. Unjustified violence against a weaker person that does not create ongoing fear is wrong, but it is not bullying.”

    OK. So it’s creating ongoing fear that’s the issue, and for you it’s reasonable that it should take more than one incident to create the ongoing fear.

    And anyway you aren’t trying to create an exact definition with no gray areas. So that’s fine.

  107. Yes, “the bully pulpit”, “bully for you!” and other older figures use “bully” with a positive connotation. Of course bully pulpit is relatively recent compared to Shakespeare.

  108. “Man: I see an attactive woman. How can I can pick her up?

    Feminist: introduce yourself in a friendly way in an appropriate setting where she would reasonably feel safe and comfortable about interacting with a stranger.”

    PrivateIron, very well done!

    There were various spots where it was hostile enough to lose the point, but on the whole, good job!

    I think if a whole lot of sexist men heard it explained this plainly, a lot of them might start to get with the program.

  109. And here we go again.

    i, Jonathan Ross, a Brit TV personality and sf fan, volunteers and is selected to host the Hugo Awards at Loncon.

    ii, The Usual Suspects rake over his comedy and declare that he doesn’t kowtow enough to their brand of ideology for their liking.

    iii, Seanan McGuire in particular goes on a tweeting rampage culminating in expressing her fear that Ross might look out from his stage at the Hugos, point at her personally, and call her fat. ‘Cos, you know, it’s all about her.

    iv, Ross starts reacting to the shitstorm and heatedly tweets back about people being stupid.

    v, The Usual Suspects point at his heated tweets as proof that he’s dangerously unstable. McGuire, I assume, is lying on a fainting couch somewhere while her fans try to reassure her how brave she is.

    vi, Ross pulls out.

    vii, The Social Justice Warriors notch up another glorious victory.

  110. Phlebas – Your post is sexist. The tendency to accuse women who are angry of “rampages,” implying irrationality in their anger, goes back to Classical misogyny, but has continued in a mostly unbroken stream to this day. The move to “Fainting couch” in the later part cements the sexism.

    There is nothing wrong with calling out sexism. There is nothing wrong in marshaling public opinion to change a situation that you cannot change as an individual.

    The notion that Ross was “bullied” reveals the fallacy lying in much of this thread. A person with known history of insulting statements is asked to host the Hugos. McGuire wants to change that. Her choices include marshaling public support or not effecting change. She goes the public support route. Ross’ defenders claim “bullying.”

  111. As I heard it, Neil Gaiman offered to approach the guy to host the award. It didn’t seem controversial at first.

    Then it turned into Us versus Them. Like everybody who wasn’t outraged was the enemy. People talked about how they just didn’t feel safe with this guy hosting one ceremony.

    This is not working. I figure, if you’ve had a hard life and you’re can’t handle a science fiction convention, get therapy instead of going to the convention. Or get your friends to watch out for you. People in general will cater to you some. But they don’t owe you a whole lot.

    Don’t tell them you’re good and they’re bad, that you’re sane and they’re crazy. You’re the one who’s emotionally crippled, and it isn’t your fault, and people go to conventions with other purposes than just to obey you.

    Sexists have just as many rights as you do. You have the right to not be touched by them without your permission. They have the right to not be touched by you without their permission.

    If you have a right not to be berated for being a feminist (I’m not sure there’s such a right but let’s say there is) then they have a right not to be berated for being sexist.

    If you have a right not to be sneered at, so do they.

    If you have a right to marshal public support and accuse the people who were actually working on the con a bunch of sexists and make a big uproar so that you can get your own way about everything you want … no. Wait. There can’t be any such right.

    It works because you’re willing to make a big stink and other people put up with it and cater to you. It works because bullying does work for you.

    We need an attitude of tolerance. Why can’t we just get along? Multiple cultures side by side, interacting the minimum they must to get by, not continually trying to pick fights.

    Alternatively, you could start setting up your own cons where nobody who disagrees with you about anything is allowed. That might really be the better approach.

  112. Here is some of Ross’ history – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/3286480/Jonathan-Ross-rude-lewd-and-crude.html – not including the time he and Russell Brand called up an 80 year old actor, while on TV, and left messages about having sex with his granddaughter or his more recent fat shaming.

    Notice how he treats each woman as sexual object as part of his brand of witty British humor.

    So your response to this is that the people offended by Ross should just take it and let this man host the major awards in the industry without comment? That to comment, to get angry at this man who has embraced public sexism as a means of profit (he had a 6 million pound a year salary before he got fired for the aforesaid prank calling of the 80 year old), is to deny HIS rights? That to be angry at the intolerant is to be intolerant? That to try and change the situation is to bully?

    “Why can’t we just get along?”

    Depends who you ask. For me, in this case, it’s because of the entrenched nature of certain kinds of cultural power.

  113. @DPerry: “Phlebas – Your post is sexist.”

    Except, of course, that I’d say exactly the same thing about an author called Sean McGuire. Fainting couch and all.

    What exactly gives you the right to think you can dictate to ME how the inside of my own head works? Out of respect for Brust, I’ll refrain from commenting on what I think of your attempt to act as a self-appointed constable dictating your ideological assumptions on others.

    “The notion that Ross was “bullied” reveals the fallacy lying in much of this thread.”

    Really? Let’s see…

    “Aside from him being a wanker, *what* does he have to do with sci-fi/fantasy?”

    “I observe with dismay that this year’s Hugo awards are to be hosted by noted gratingly fatuous bell end”

    “Wait. WAIT. They’re letting JONATHAN ROSS present the Hugos? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK.” (McGuire herself)

    But, you know, I guess it’s not bullying if it’s the SJWs slinging the insults.

  114. I didn’t say that “you” were sexist. I said your post was sexist. I stand by that assessment of your post. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of the last 8 weeks teaching about sexist discourse in Western Civilization, and I have to tell you, your post plays into 2000 years of this attempt to de-legitimize public female expression.

    I think when you say “Sean McGuire” would get the fainting couch language that you are lying, possibly to yourself. Now it’s possible that in the future you will be careful to use gendered language when referring to men, but that’s the future, shaped inexorably by this conversation. Anyway, I don’t believe you.

    But if you did, so what? The meaning of “fainting couch” is different when referring to the man, laden with irony perhaps, or perhaps trying to queer the subject. The meaning when talking about Seanan, especially given her role as a queer writer engaged in these matters, is to dismiss her as a hysterical woman.

    Insults are insults. And those are insults. But insults are not necessarily bullying. Much as I thought Fodara’s comments were not intended to bully up thread. They were intended to de-legitimize Mary’s complaints by talking about her revealing her body, thus stripping her (word chosen on purpose) of her ability to complain about the representation of women in SFWA pub.

    I’m sorry if you don’t like being called out for writing in a sexist way. But you reacted to Seanan with textbook sexist language. And if you don’t believe me, well, the textbook is in my office and I’m on Spring Break, but I’ll be happy to provide you with citations later.

  115. Y’know, I think every faith has textbooks.

  116. Hey look, snark in lieu of content. Will must be back everybody! I hope I can play that game too. Maybe if I practice really hard.

  117. Oops, that’s my self-queue to take a break. Letting Shetterly’s trolling get to me is always a mistake. Have a great night.

  118. David, the problem with identitarianism is it is remarkably free of content—people fill textbooks with untested beliefs, or with beliefs that have been contradicted by tests. When you’re back from your break, I will have a serious question for you about content on the PC post.

  119. Just because I promised, here is a link to a review of lit on bullying. http://faculty.neuroscience.ucla.edu/institution/publication-download?publication_id=1898322 . The review itself is not peer reviewed, but most of the lit cited is. Incidentally, I’m curious if those who think Ross was bullied out of the award ceremony think there are any criteria by which a choice of host/hostess is inappropriate, and if so whether mockery is allowable in criticizing such an inappropriate choice?

  120. Why is it that “feminism” is so often portrayed—and possibly seen—as if it were nothing but a gigantic plot devised simply to keep some poor guy from getting laid?

  121. “I’m curious if those who think Ross was bullied out of the award ceremony think there are any criteria by which a choice of host/hostess is inappropriate, and if so whether mockery is allowable in criticizing such an inappropriate choice?”

    I’m not at all clear that Ross was bullied out of the award ceremony. To be bullied he would have to feel threatened, and I’ve seen no evidence about that one way or another. To lots of fans the Hugo is a big deal, and it would be crushing to be invited to present it and then be publicly declared unworthy. But maybe for this guy it’s a story he can dine out on for a week or two. Similarly it’s been a headache for the Con committee for a few days or a week, but no doubt pretty quick they’ll have bigger crises that leave them little time to reminisce about this one.

    Anyway, here’s a similar story.

    ———-
    Worldcon is going to have a banquet, and I intend to attend. But I hear that they intend to serve *meat*. I check with the Con committee and find out that in fact they will be serving steaks. I point out to them that I and many other fans are vegetarians, as every moral or good person is. It’s eeevil to touch meat, and if it’s served to anybody at the banquet the smell will make a lot of paid banquet customers feel sick and unsafe. How could they be so insensitive that they would consider doing such a thing! They are wrong, wrong, wrong! I make a big public scandal about it and discuss getting fans who are PETA members to have demonstrations before the con and at the con unless they promise that there will be no meat served in the hotel during the convention.

    There’s nothing wrong with calling out carnivorism. People who tolerate meat-eaters deserve all the public ridicule that’s coming to them. And if we don’t make a big public spectacle of it, they won’t give in. They’ll serve *beef* at the banquet. And cattle aren’t really vegetarians, each cow eats thousands of grasshoppers in a lifetime, so it’s extra yucky, carnivores eating other carnivores. How could the Con committee possibly be so insensitive!
    ————–

    I think the big difference between these is that vegetarians are a somewhat smaller minority and they get no media support. Give it 10 years and this scenario could possibly happen just the way I said it. And they’re just as much in the right as “feminists” are.

    (I put “feminists” in quotes because the feminism I support is about equality, and these people appear to have no concept of that.)

  122. “Why is it that “feminism” is so often portrayed—and possibly seen—as if it were nothing but a gigantic plot devised simply to keep some poor guy from getting laid?”

    Fredcritter, I don’t think it’s primarily the media. I think it’s that a lot of guys get their first direct experience with feminism in the context of being told that they are disgusting for complimenting a woman on her appearance etc. And a lot of them after getting an earful, decide they would rather spend their time with friendly women and so they never find out more.

    It winds up being an unnecessary cultural divide. I expect 90% of those guys would be all for feminism if they got a better perspective on it, but being who they are, they don’t get that opportunity.

  123. First you understand I hope that argument by analogy is useful for clarifying an argument but not for advancing it. IN this case I think your analogy is not valid and therefore not clarifying. I don’t even think you have to be a feminist to think someone whose specialty is insulting women (but not men) is not a good choice for host. So do you think Ross is a cromlent choice for host? Or do you think that he is a poor choice, but once the choice is made it is eeevil to pressure the org that chose him to change their mind?

  124. “Anyway, here’s a similar story.” I’m no expert in the art of rhetoric, but I believe that is what is referred to as a “false equivalent.”

  125. J Thomas: What makes you think I was talking about “the media”?

  126. Oh. Sorry, J Thomas, my comment/question about “the media” was more-or-less irrelevant. Basically, I =don’t= think “…a lot of guys get their first direct experience with feminism in the context of being told that they are disgusting for complimenting a woman on her appearance etc.” So we have a difference in fundamental assumptions, which makes it harder to discuss.

  127. I googled Jonathan Ross to see who he had insulted, and one of the first hits was Gordon Ramsey, so it doesn’t sound to me like he insults women, but not men.

    For me, it boils down to trusting Neil Gaiman, who invited Ross. I can’t imagine Neil would’ve invited Ross if he thought Ross would do something like call a writer fat.

  128. @DPerry: “I think when you say “Sean McGuire” would get the fainting couch language that you are lying, possibly to yourself.”

    I think when you say that, you actually mean that you’re confessing you have a morbid sexual attraction towards small children. You know, while we’re in the business of making up sh*t about what other people mean when they say things.

    FYI, I *have* used the “fainting couch” meme in reference to both males and females in the past. Nor am I the only one

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/06/14/1216311/-Scandals-and-the-Republican-Fainting-Couch

    Once again, what exactly gives you the right to think you can dictate to ME how the inside of MY OWN HEAD works? Is there some magical SJW authority you get to invoke in order to tell other people what they themselves are thinking? Do they give out badges to anyone who gets off feeling self-righteous at somebody else’s expense, while not actually achieving anything worthwhile?

    ” In fact, I’ve spent a lot of the last 8 weeks teaching about sexist discourse in Western Civilization,”

    Yes, I’m sure you have. Me, I’ve just been wasting my time actually representing a largely female organization for several years as a workplace union delegate – including getting an equal pay parity programme in place. You know, actually helping actual women.

    You just keep teaching naive undergrads how to mouth your shibboleths correctly in order to pass your course. I’m sure that’s useful.

  129. “IN this case I think your analogy is not valid and therefore not clarifying.”

    You could perhaps describe what makes it invalid.

    To me the big difference is that there aren’t enough militant vegetarians to carry it off.

    But perhaps you have another important difference? Perhaps the militant “feminists” are right and the militant vegetarians are wrong? Is that what makes the analogy not valid?

  130. skzb

    Phlebas: I understand that you’re pissed off, and I even understand why, but let’s try to keep things civil, all right? You’re pushing the edge.

  131. I don’t know that wanting not be insulted at a public event is that militant. Not that there is anything wrong with militancy per se, but this does not strike me as an example. In terms of why the analogy is wrong, maybe you should make an argument for why it is right. Explain how a preference (even a principled preference) for vegan food is comparable to not wanting to be insulted at a public event. As to Neil Gaiman’s rec – hey Gaiman is great, but that does not mean he never makes mistakes. (From what I’ve read of Gaiman, I suspect he would be the last person to claim to be incapable of error. He has no false humility, but strikes me as far from arrogant.)

  132. Of course not wanting to be insulted is not militant. The simple solution would’ve been to ask Ross if he was planning to treat WorldCon as if it was an episode of his television show. If he’d then said no, no problem. If he’d said yes, then he could’ve been asked if he wanted to reconsider or withdraw.

    I’m wondering if the same thing would’ve happened at a US worldcon if Jay Leno had agreed to host.

  133. “Explain how a preference (even a principled preference) for vegan food is comparable to not wanting to be insulted at a public event.”

    Not wanting to be subjected to the smell of cooked meat and the sight of carnivores devouring their prey while you eat at the public event you paid for?

    It isn’t exactly the same thing but I don’t see that the difference is all that important. The fundamental similarity is that we have people who are *right* who don’t want to be subjected to other people doing *wrong*.

  134. http://fozmeadows.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/jonathan-ross-vs-the-hugos/ is a good post on the Ross issue, fwiw. Among a number of good points:

    “After everything the community has been through in recent years – after all the fails over sexual harassment, both on stage and within cons, and the lack (or failure) of cogent policies for dealing with it; all the problems of panel parity, diversity and representation; the never-ending parade of scandal and sexism within the SFWA; and, just as importantly, all of Loncon 3′s early hard work to assure congoers that they were aware of these issues – it should have been blindingly obvious, no matter how sincere his love of SFF or how well-established his credentials as an emcee, that asking a man with a history of behaving badly towards women in professional contexts – whether by dry-humping, sexually propositioning or objectifying them through transphobic dismissals – was going to go down like a lead balloon.”

    This takes us away from the bullying conversation in some ways, but continues to suggest to me that claiming Ross was “bullied,” when the organizers created the conditions for this backlash (and had warning from within the concom before the announcement), is mistaken.

    P.S. Phlebas – I continue to maintain that your post contained gendered language intended to render Seanan’s speech, in particular, a product of hysteria rather than a fair critique. You can get mad at me, and clearly you have, but it’s an accusation that’s been leveled at angry women for over two millenia. I want to say again that I am not claiming anything about what’s going on inside your head – only the context of the words on the screen.

    FWIW, a few years ago in a public internet space, I, without meaning to, wrote something that came off as highly sexist. It was in fact sexist and fat-shaming. I decided to apologize and to try to do better in the future and to find other ways to argue for my perspective.

  135. David, shall we discuss your classist language now?

  136. Has any identitarian ever called anyone out for classism before? I’d be right chuffed if I was the first. Identitarians will mention it, but usually in the most token way.

    Hmm. Since Phlebas is working class and you’re a privileged academic, and since the working class is disproportionately black, Hispanic, and female, by using classist language, you are sounding—but not being, of course—both sexist and racist. So I’ll call you out on those counts, too.

    I do have a serious question. Do you get a little rush of superiority when you call out people? Or does it just feel like a duty?

  137. skzb

    Will: If you’re going to continue the conversation with David, try to find ways to do so that don’t sound (to me) so much like personal attacks. If I was a decent moderator, of course, I’d have closed this conversation down a long time ago, but I hate having anyone feel like, “I didn’t get a chance to answer!” So let’s keep it civil. If you want suggestions as to how you could have made that same comment without it seeming so much like a personal attack, I can make some.

  138. Steve, fair enough, but I’m curious. Why do you keep giving David a pass on his classist language when he accuses Phlebas of sexist language? Because I totally get why it pissed off Phlebas, and I thought you got it too.

  139. skzb

    I get why it pisses you off; but the object here from my point of view is not to prevent people from getting pissed off, but to make sure they remain polite while pissed off. So far, David has remained polite. For purposes of how a conversation goes,, I am more interested in form than content, up until the content pisses *me* off enough for me to take action.

  140. Hmm. So I could discuss his classist language if I do it politely? Based on his response to Phlebas, the goal is to be condescending rather than cutting, I take it?

  141. skzb

    Either cutting or condescending is acceptable, if kept within limits. I set the limits. You know when you’ve exceeded the limits when I tell you so, like I did above. Generalizing from there to determine those limits ahead of time may be hard, but that’s why we get the big bucks (and why I offered to give an example).

  142. Will. I am a classist snob. I concede the point. I mean, I have a PhD in medieval history. I spent 5 years writing I book I expect no more than a few hundred people to read, at most (and most of them will just skim). I’m a snob.

    However, I continue to believe that my reading of the gendered language is correct and that my invocation of the historical context is also correct.

    I continue to believe (getting back to the thread) that rendering public anger about sexism as “bullying” is a de-legitimizing tactic. And sometimes, it may indeed be bullying and it may be that de-legitimizing is appropriate. I do not believe that the Ross affair is one of those cases. I am torn about the Resnik affair and think each of the parts of how it played out merits its own analysis.

    Did you read the Mary Beard piece by any chance? It’s quite something.

  143. Steve, here goes.

    My dear Mr. Perry, regarding your address to Mr. Phlebas,

    “I didn’t say that “you” were sexist. I said your post was sexist.”

    I shall not say you are classist. I shall say your post is classist.

    “I’ve spent a lot of the last 8 weeks teaching about sexist discourse in Western Civilization”

    Yes, you have academic privilege. Not everyone is so fortunate. Assuming your academic privilege means you are correct is at the heart of academic privilege. But the problem with arguing from hierarchy is there’s usually someone higher who can trump you. Adolph Reed Jr. teaches at an Ivy League school. If the game is appeal-to-authority, I win when I cite him.

    But the real question is whether teaching something is meaningful. Just as anti-racism has been taught, scientific racism has been taught. The only thing we can assume about academics is that they’ve studied something—and in too many cases, we can assume they’ve studied it without any significant experience of working in the world with people who are not like them.

    “and I have to tell you, your post plays into 2000 years of this attempt to de-legitimize public female expression.”

    No, you do not have to tell him anything. You chose to, apparently because you think challenging him will “legitimize female expression” and because you enjoy flaunting your academic credentials. Had you chosen to address Phlebas as an equal, you would address his argument rather than his expression of his argument, but much of the point of identitarianism seems to be to blame working-class people for racism and sexism, as though those things arose from mere prejudice rather than the desire to exploit others.

    “I think when you say “Sean McGuire” would get the fainting couch language that you are lying, possibly to yourself.”

    I think when you say that, you are lying, possibly to yourself, because it would have been very easy to google to see whether terms like “fainting couch” are applied to men. A related term might help you see this: William Sanders was accused of sexism for talking about “panties in a wad” when speaking of women who were from a higher social class than his. The same people who screamed sexism said nothing about Sarah Palin saying Chris Christie got his panties in a wad. Though perhaps they saw Palin as part of the lower classes, and therefore did not need to say anything.

    “Now it’s possible that in the future you will be careful to use gendered language when referring to men, but that’s the future, shaped inexorably by this conversation. Anyway, I don’t believe you.”

    Now, given that he had used gendered language when referring to men, if you considered a working-class person an equal, you would apologize for your error. But you did not, because people of your social class do not feel honor-bound to apologize to their social inferiors.

    As to whether you will continue to use classist language, I haven’t a clue. But I feel no need to add an insulting “I don’t believe you”. The notion that truth is exclusively yours to grant or reject is another piece of class privilege. You have the privilege of living in a world where people who might contradict you can only come as students or servants. That is the greatest class privilege.

    “But if you did, so what? The meaning of “fainting couch” is different when referring to the man, laden with irony perhaps, or perhaps trying to queer the subject.”

    Queer the subject? Shall we assume this reveals your homophobia? Or were you playing a double-game, dangling a term before him that you thought he would not play against you? If connotations of words matter, as you seem to think, surely you would avoid that one. You are clearly aware of it, because you use the word in your very next sentence, linking the notion of a queered subject, a subject made wrong, with a queer writer:

    “The meaning when talking about Seanan, especially given her role as a queer writer engaged in these matters, is to dismiss her as a hysterical woman.”

    And now we see you doubling down, because “hysterical woman” is your term, not Phlebas’s. You’re happily putting words into his mouth—which may not be classist, I grant, but is certainly insulting, I trust you would grant.

    “Insults are insults. And those are insults.”

    The insult you are objecting to is the insult you created. That the reference to a fainting couch was mocking, I trust Phlebas will agree, but why are you “white knighting” Seanan? Do you think women are not capable of defending themselves? Or do you dislike seeing a woman insulted by someone you see as an inferior?

    “But insults are not necessarily bullying. Much as I thought Fodara’s comments were not intended to bully up thread. They were intended to de-legitimize Mary’s complaints by talking about her revealing her body, thus stripping her (word chosen on purpose) of her ability to complain about the representation of women in SFWA pub.”

    Yes, you choose words on purpose. It is much easier to argue with what you say someone has said than with what someone has actually said. But that, I will also grant, is not necessarily classist. I would have to see whether you do it more with people you see as working class.

    “I’m sorry if you don’t like being called out for writing in a sexist way. But you reacted to Seanan with textbook sexist language. And if you don’t believe me, well, the textbook is in my office and I’m on Spring Break, but I’ll be happy to provide you with citations later.”

    And now we end on a note of condescension. I am also sorry if you don’t like being called out for writing in a classist way. But you reacted to Phlebas with textbook classist language—as citing a textbook proves. The heart of classism is the belief that what matters most are what authorities say.

    I remain most humbly yr. servant,

    Wm. Shetterly

  144. David, we cross-posted. A point I didn’t make: in this thread, you’ve been the main person talking about the treatment of Ross as bullying. I also wouldn’t call it bullying.

    Now I’ll do what I failed to do earlier and read the Beard piece.

  145. @DPerry: “P.S. Phlebas – I continue to maintain that your post contained gendered language intended to render Seanan’s speech, in particular, a product of hysteria rather than a fair critique. ”

    And, has been demonstrated, the “fainting couch” trope is a common piece of political rhetoric applied to both genders.

    “You can get mad at me, and clearly you have, but it’s an accusation that’s been leveled at angry women for over two millenia. ”

    Cite please – produce a text which refers to women retiring to their fainting couch from over 2000 years ago.

  146. @DPerry : “I continue to believe (getting back to the thread) that rendering public anger about sexism as “bullying” is a de-legitimizing tactic.”

    Those Twitter quotes again, which you seem to have elided as merely “public anger about sexism”:

    “Aside from him being a wanker, *what* does he have to do with sci-fi/fantasy?”

    “I observe with dismay that this year’s Hugo awards are to be hosted by noted gratingly fatuous bell end”

    “Wait. WAIT. They’re letting JONATHAN ROSS present the Hugos? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK.” (McGuire herself)

    Mmm – I note that “wanker” is a sexual slur usually applied towards males. And yet we don’t seem to have seen any comment from you deploring its use against Ross…

  147. skzb

    All right, that’s enough. Comments closed. Sorry, David, for not letting you reply, but someone has to get the shit end, and I can’t take this any more.