Monday, March 26, 2012

Reddit and misogyny

The was originally posted back in 2010, but I missed it when i was restoring posts to the blog.  Since it was one of the more popular posts, I'm letting it go up to the front, now, rather than posting it as its original date.  In that time, I've come to intensely dislike what Jezebel has become and have stopped using Reddit, but I'm still frustrated by people on the internet on a regular basis.

I spend a lot of time on the internet. More time than I should, really. And I visit a pretty wide range of sites-- feminism, sci-fi, cooking, design, fashion, and health are some of the categories I hit up the most. But one of the things I really love are sites where I can see a lot of user participation, where people talk back and forth in comments in a productive way and have conversations, rather than just posting a one-liner and leaving. It's one of the things I've found really awesome about Jezebel, and it's one of the things that's been getting me more and more into Reddit.

Except... the more time I spend in the comments on Reddit, the less I like what I see. There is a lot of reasonable, mature conversation. But there's also a ton of sexism and misogyny. Some of it is blatantly intended, but much more of it is casual-- a joke or an offhand comment that the poster probably thinks shouldn't be offensive because, gee, it doesn't offend him and he doesn't really think all women should go make him a sammich*, or that we're all sluts, that you can't trust some"thing" that bleeds for a week** and doesn't die. And like, we should all just get a sense of humor and get over it.

I'm fairly certain I have a sense of humor, even though I've been accused of not having one before. I'm just also fairly certain that repeating a bunch of misogynistic drivel is not actually funny.

But the main point is-- there is a lot of misogyny in the Reddit comments. And it begins to be tiring, after awhile. At first, I figured, well, whatever, it's just a few users, I can ignore it. And proportionally, it likely is a minority of the user base-- but it's a vocal minority that creates a fairly hostile environment. Part of it is the sexist, sexual insults that get used on women, but a lot of it just comes from the attitudes of users, showing up in their jokes or even in serious comments. Reddit is mostly known for its aggregator use, but there are also a ton of self posts, which tend to lead to lengthier comments sections-- and those often show the dichotomy between guys who think of women as sluts or cockteases, guys who think they are somehow entitled to sex by pretending to be a girl's friend, guys who feel their girl friends have used them by "stringing them along"-- which, after reading a description, often seems to read like any normal friendship-- except that the girl has either been oblivious to the guy lusting after her, or has turned down his advances in the past.

There're a whole lot of Nice Guys who aren't nice out there, basically.

So one of the things I've been wondering is how to deal with this. The other is why this happens.

Why it happens is a little easier. Reddit is a mostly male community. It is a mostly nerd/geek community. And it is a mostly young (late high school-college aged) community. Or at least-- those are the ones who are the most vocal. The age means a lot of them just may not get sexism yet, and my not understand why what they're doing is jerky. A lot of them are at the age where everything seems OMG SO IMPORTANT and where emotional wounds seem like they'll last forever. And a lot of them are the sort of awkward dude who doesn't have good luck with girls-- but who also ends up lusting after girls who are not dorky or nerdy or geeky and who won't really be interested in them. These guys want women to be perfect and get pissed when they aren't. That's just youthful stupidity and lack of experience.

But still, it's a problem. Especially since some of the dudes are in my age range, and should know better. So, how do we fix this? Both to get the attitude online more respectful, and to make them really internally realize that women are human and equal too, and yet still given a suckier place in American society than men? And how do we make them realize when they're being inappropriate?

I tend to be one of those annoying people who calls others out for stupid generalizations. I mainly see generalizations about men ore women-- I don't mind as much when people say "most" or "many"-- but I hate when that most becomes something like "Most women are dumb sluts" and I get even more irked when it's an all-- like "all guys want to sleep with their female friends". I sometimes comment that a joke is misogynistic and not funny, if I'm willing to deal with the anonymous online insult I'll get in return. But I don't know if this is actually doing any good, or if it just makes people who see it more resentful of some chick coming in and trying to ruin their fun.

It surprises me, because I see so little actual sexism from the people I spend most of my time with. So movies, tv, advertising-- they don't surprise me any more. But individuals? Even on the internet? I know that a lot of them only say the things they do because of the anonymity, but it still surprises me, and wears at me. And after awhile, makes me wonder just how many people out there really do think I'm less of a person, all because of what's underneath my clothes.

*I have a special hate in my heart again the "sammich" jokes because I endured an ex who seemed to think they were the most hilarious thing ever to say to me. Needless to say, I cook for my fiance-- who does not make stupid, sexist, lazy jokes at me-- a whole lot more than I cooked for the ex that did.
**Also, dudes? For most*** women I know, it's less than a week.
***This is the proper way to use most, since this is something that is an empirical fact and I am referring to the subset of women I know, rather than women as a whole.

18 comments:

Nefarious Newt said...

It makes sense you see little sexism & misogyny from those you associate with -- that's a group you self-select. As to the Internet, it is a breeding ground for such things, because of its relative anonymity. It is best to try and speak up, point out these things where you see them, but ultimately be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of outraged "dudes." The only thing that can bring about true change, is an avalanche of people drowning these ignorant blabbermouths in reproach. Until a large portion of society, any society (general or Internet-related) stands up and says "this is unacceptable," this kind of thing will continue unabated.

Colleen said...

The sammich jokes also piss me off to no end, for much the same reason.

Anonymous said...

So... How about that sandwich?

Lynn said...

I must say I'm unfamiliar with the "sammich" joke, but I am assuming that this is a familiarity I can do without.

I think it is important to point out sexism to men who may not realize their comments are indeed sexist, however if you tell men who know the meaning of misogyny that they are misogynists, that will likely breed contempt. Sometimes tact is the best weapon.

Anonymous said...

2 comments:

1) some of the idiots that say inappropriate comments might be trolling. they are looking for self-respecting women to piss off (unfortunately). I'm sure these guys know better than to say such things in front of a family member or spouse/girlfriend


2) I grew up with a father who is incredibly sexist. I also grew up in a small village. The nearest "large" town was ~20 minutes away. Due to the limited culture base (aka mostly white) and views of women (farm wives) women are seen as domestic beasts of burden.

When I would speak out against the stereotype and refuse to do dishes n(for example) because dad would never help, I was called fat, ugly, lazy, stupid by my father...the list goes on and on. My mother would gossip to my aunts and cousins about my laziness, too. It never came up in those conversations that I was protesting the men who leave the table after a meal and promptly go watch TV and assume the women know their place to 'rid the table' and do the dishes.

I also grew up with a family who felt it was completely OK to tell misogynistic jokes at family parties or in front of company--or even MY company! Just like the sammich joke, or any sort of belittling comment, it was seen as acceptable with my parents, my brother, and even in front of teachers at school. Now that I live in a suburb, I see women put men in their place when he has said the same comment(s). When I expressed my dissatisfaction, I was the one promptly put in my place as being a feminist or overly-sensitive.

I'm sorry, but my place is just as much in the kitchen as anyone else. I also work in the yard and one the car. Unfortunately, it might be dysfunction or a cultural norm for men, as well as women, to think that such comments and behavior is perfectly acceptable and women should take such comments with a smile and zero talk-back.

Shagata said...

Perhaps when women stop playing head games with men, the men won't find these expressions as funny.

Example: When a woman uses an ex-boyfriend for sex when her current relationship is hitting a bumpy patch "it's complicated".
When a guy uses his ex for sex when relationship is going rough, the cry is "HE USED ME!"

Anonymous said...

@Shagata

Bitter?

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of jokes that people make at others expense. However, are all jokes, which have women or group x as its target, unacceptable?

For example, I am willing to make jokes regarding nerds with my nerdy friends, but I get aggravated when people who aren't nerds make fun of nerds as I'm not sure what their intentions are. Additionally, I'm worried that someone else might pigeonhole me because of these stereotypes However, at the same time I want to be able to express my solidarity with other nerds.

magdelyn said...

Don't you guys ever get sick of having someone telling you what is "appropriate?" It's a form of censorship that should not be allowed on reddit. If she wants "appropriate" commentary she should stick to /r/women, /r/feminisms, and /r/twoXchromosomes. Or maybe spend more of her time on Jezebel. Otherwise, limiting one's speech so that she can feel comfortable brings down the level of discourse.

PBH said...

Reddit is where angry, white-male libertarians go to feel angry about the world without having to actually do anything about it.

TinTin said...

@Anonymous - The difference is right there in your post. Being around people you know, who are part of the same minority group, gives you understanding of what people intend to say when they make jokes. Posting anonymous jokes about that minority group is not the same at all, because you're not just speaking to people who share a common experience and understanding.

@magdelyn
1) This isn't 'censorship', any more than your comment censors the OP. If someone is a fuckbag, I have just as much right to talk about their fuckbaggery as they have to continue being one.
2) How does disapproving of lazy, immature 'lol women are bitches' jokes "bring down the level of discourse" on reddit? You obviously have quite a different idea of what a high level of discourse is than I do. Lame karma-seeking misogy-trolls don't make that criteria, in my mind.

Anonymous said...

I am a woman who spends way too much time on the internet also and agree with you about Reddit. I think it is just the userbase and there isn't anything much to be done about it.

Like all things internet, you just have to take what you like and ignore the rest. For example, I go elsewhere for self posts and relationship advice. But I like the reddit links and inside jokes/memes best of everywhere on the Internet.

It is pretty easy to avoid any misogyny if you want to, just don't go to posts titled or phrased in certain ways, such as my personal favorite, "Why do women ignore nice guys like me and love to date assholes!?!?"

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the brutal mob mentality internet stalking that occurs. A photo of a cute girl is posted and within a day or two, her contact information and many additional photos follow. I find that creates a vibe of hostility and lack of safety even greater than the comments about sammich making, etc.

Anonymous said...

Misogyny is predictable and will never ever disappear.
Here is why:

Begin with Batmans's Principle, yep, sorry you do have to go and read it.

So, men ask for sex, want sex more, women chose to accept sex / are the limiting factor in it's availability.

If your going to go all left wing liberal gender studies ballistic on the idea and try to refute that men want sex, novel sex, with more partners more than women do then go grab yourself a biscuit and a cuppa and have a think for a moment on why there are thousands / hundreds of thousands of prostitutes out there: supply and demand. The marked does not lie. The kind of sex that men want, the kind that we are internally driven to want by our nature is exactly what is missing out there for men.
When women make the call on when and how often to have sex and with whom - well, that's just normal.
When men make that call it's rape.

For the most part men often don't even bother to ask because they know the woman would say no. Even when they do they have to wine and dine the girl - they have to be romantic. Romance basically equates to him giving her time, money, resources. He gave me flowers, isn't that romantic. Mr tall dark and handsome picked me up in a car/plane/carriage and took me to dinner/Paris/a lovely little (i.e exclusive and expensive) restaurant.

I've read a bit of your blog, your no dummy, surly you can see that men resent the sexual power of women, that women usually say no, that unless they are a jock/rich/lead guitarist no girl is ever going to come up to them and ask for sex / offer a total out of the blue blow job etc.


Go have a search for "Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers" RD Clark, E Hatfield - Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 1989.

It's not just unrequited love, it's unrequited lust, unrequited perving and everything else. Guys would love to be checked out buy girls, Would love to feel attractive, validated, wanted buy girls. But girls are not, on the whole ever going to behave that way. Being receptive to an offer is about as far as most girls ever go.

Every time a guy sees a girl bend down to pick up her bag and gets a glimpse down her blouse and shwing - thinks Jesus she's hot, and fantasize about things that will never happen he's going to be just that increment more misogynistic.

Anonymous said...

Misogyny is predictable and will never ever disappear.
Here is why:

Begin with Batmans's Principle, yep, sorry you do have to go and read it.

So, men ask for sex, want sex more, women chose to accept sex / are the limiting factor in it's availability.

If your going to go all left wing liberal gender studies ballistic on the idea and try to refute that men want sex, novel sex, with more partners more than women do then go grab yourself a biscuit and a cuppa and have a think for a moment on why there are thousands / hundreds of thousands of prostitutes out there: supply and demand. The marked does not lie. The kind of sex that men want, the kind that we are internally driven to want by our nature is exactly what is missing out there for men.
When women make the call on when and how often to have sex and with whom - well, that's just normal.
When men make that call it's rape.

For the most part men often don't even bother to ask because they know the woman would say no. Even when they do they have to wine and dine the girl - they have to be romantic. Romance basically equates to him giving her time, money, resources. He gave me flowers, isn't that romantic. Mr tall dark and handsome picked me up in a car/plane/carriage and took me to dinner/Paris/a lovely little (i.e exclusive and expensive) restaurant.

I've read a bit of your blog, your no dummy, surly you can see that men resent the sexual power of women, that women usually say no, that unless they are a jock/rich/lead guitarist no girl is ever going to come up to them and ask for sex / offer a total out of the blue blow job etc.


Go have a search for "Gender differences in receptivity to sexual offers" RD Clark, E Hatfield - Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 1989.

It's not just unrequited love, it's unrequited lust, unrequited perving and everything else. Guys would love to be checked out buy girls, Would love to feel attractive, validated, wanted buy girls. But girls are not, on the whole ever going to behave that way. Being receptive to an offer is about as far as most girls ever go.

Every time a guy sees a girl bend down to pick up her bag and gets a glimpse down her blouse and shwing - thinks Jesus she's hot, and fantasize about things that will never happen he's going to be just that increment more misogynistic.

Anonymous said...

opps - sorry blogger gave me a weird uri error and resubmitted my post automatically.

Jane said...

I came across this blog post after trying to search for what percentage of Reddit was male vs. female -- I am also getting really fed up with these "harmless" comments and then being insulted when I try to call people out on it. Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

How's that sandwich coming? It's been like two years now.