I'm in and out of commission, so I hadn't heard of this so-called "death threat" thing. So I looked it up.Prominent blogger Kathy Sierra has called on the blogosphere to combat the culture of abuse online.Look, if you blog, and blog about controversial shit, you'll get idiotic emails. Most of the time, said "death threats" don't even exist -- evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said "death threats".
It follows a series of death threats which have forced her to cancel a public appearance and suspend her blog.
Ms Sierra described on her blog how she had been subject to a campaign of threats, including a post that featured a picture of her next to a noose.
I don't know what's worse. Markos's ignorance about women's issues, his laziness, or his pseudo-British punctuation. He goes on to compare the campaign of hate waged against Sierra with an ambi-directional rant against liberals he received... and strangely what sounds like some threats he kinda shoulda reported because they were leveled at his children.
So according to Markos, the answer for women like Sierra who receive death and rape threats is, hey, toughen up. Don't be so thin-skinned.
Believe it or not, I agree with Markos's broader point. I think the Code of Conduct for bloggers is a poor if well-intended idea. I honestly think it trivializes what happened to Sierra to cast it as a case of bad manners. No one thinks writing death threats along the lines of "fuck off you boring slut... i hope someone slits your throat and cums down your gob," publishing her home address, and photoshopping pictures of her with a noose around her neck, are protected speech. They're actually a form of assault and that's why the authorities are involved.
The conversation that needs to happen on the web is not about how we can be more civil and restrained in our verbiage. I've met some very subtle, articulate misogynists in my life. As in most cases where free speech is involved, I think the answer is more dialog, rather than restricting the parameters of debate. The discussion we need to have is about why it is that there is no corner of the world where women can go and not be reduced to our body parts, our sexual exploitability, and our physical vulnerability.
It's too bad Markos drove off so much of the "sanctimonious women's studies set" from his site. Because it looks like it's going to be up to those of us who have read Steinem, Atwood, Bunch, et al., to explain why the terror campaign endured by Kathy Sierra strikes such a delicate nerve. It comes down to fear. Not irrational fear. Fear of the kind Gavin DeBecker endorses women to heed in his book "The Gift of Fear." It's the ever present fear of predators. It is exactly that fear that Sierra's verbal attackers were counting on. Whether or not there is any chance of this escalating to a physical confrontation -- and that is a legitimate concern -- they know full well that a good way to silence a woman is to make her afraid to leave her house. And that is exactly what happened. Not because she's too thin-skinned, but because she came face to face with every woman's worst nightmare.
A woman's worst nightmare? That's pretty easy. Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, "They are afraid women will laugh at them." When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, "We're afraid of being killed."
I you think, gentle reader, that this famous anecdote is not indicative a greater social phenomenon, read the article I quoted. That would be a good start. Then read Chris Clarke's fantastic response to Kos. Says Clarke:
If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.
In closing, I think The Fat Lady Sings put it best on My Left Wing:
Every man walking down the street towards you is a possible attacker - and you size him up as such. What is he capable of? How can I escape? Can I use my purse as a weapon? It's automatic - something you just do if you're female. Why do you think every woman goes out to her car carrying her keys wrapped through her fingers as a weapon? To put some mans eye out should he attack. And before some of you pooh-pooh this as unnecessary or extreme - try asking the women in your life what they think. You will find they walk through life in permanent paramilitary mode. We always have to be prepared; and those of us who are survivors of rape look upon men with a more jaundiced eye than most. So Markos should shut the fuck up about Kathy Sierra. He has no idea what she's going through - none at all.