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.