Feminist Trolls

Behind the scenes, there’s been a lot of lamenting about the state of Post Politics’ comment section and how the rhetorical strategies employed by commenters over there leads to women not being willing to participate.

So, I was bemoaning this with a guy friend and he said, “You need to get some feminist trolls.”

Consider me gobsmacked.

I have certainly been on sites where feminists were trolled. And I have been on sites where feminists troll each other. But I don’t believe I’ve ever been on a site where feminists troll other jackasses. I’m not even sure what that would look like.

But I’m kind of tickled to try to imagine it.

22 thoughts on “Feminist Trolls

  1. I guess it could be something like, “Hey, did you hear that “Harrison” raped and killed a five-year old girl back in the early 1990s? I’m not saying that’s true, just what I’ve heard.”

    I don’t know how it works anymore though. I’ve stopped reading Post Politics altogether. As far as I’m concerned, if SouthComm wants to tacitly encourage this mud pit, then they can do so without my page views.

  2. Okay, so here’s my question. And let me say up front that I don’t read the comments at Post Politics either, unless for some reason someone has said “Oh, go see what’s going on there.” Anyone who participates over there is going to get abused and I don’t care to be abused by anonymous cowards.

    Fine.

    But there are regularly really important political discussions that go on over there and there are almost no women participating in them.

    We’ve been effectively silenced.

    Removed from the discussion.

    And that seems like a really bad position for us to be in.

    But what, if anything, can be done?

  3. Well … in what way are those discussions important? Do you get the impression that opinion-makers hang out there and take the public pulse? Is there networking taking place? Or is it just that there are guys hanging out there beating their chests about what important discussions they’re having? (I’m phrasing these all as questions because I not only don’t read the comments there; I don’t read the posts, either, unless specifically directed at one, so I don’t know.) Because if it’s just the usual wankers deluding themselves of their own prominence (which I have to admit has been my impression, but I could be wrong about that), that’s one thing. If it’s really a case of important discussions with women being shut out, that’s another. And in that case, a further question is whether it’s the people who matter engaging in the woman-hostile behavior, or others. Because those don’t call for the same strategy.

    I do want to point out that there can’t be an exact feminist counterpart to anti-female trolling. Because thanks to the patriarchy, calling guys by their body parts and pointing out that they’re male doesn’t have the same effect as the reverse.

  4. Well, isn’t that the $500,000 question? I do think opinion-makers hang out there and take the public pulse, absolutely. Yes. I also think there’s a lot of guys just hanging out there pontificating like they’re having important discussions.

    But it would be kind of funny to be all “Heh, you’re a dude.” Not that they would get it.

  5. Opinion-makers? Like they write editorials? Or are they people who can actually affect actions and possibly policy or who can persuade others to consider ideas and strategies?
    If it is the latter, are they the ones who are shutting the women down, or others? Because if the important people are really important and not just self-important, and other people are shutting half the potential opinion-givers out of the conversation, it’s probably possible to get them to cooperate in shutting the trolling down.

  6. “there are regularly really important political discussions that go on over there” – I’m just not convinced that this is true, given how unproductive and repetitive the commenters seem to be. Could there be? Yeah. Should there be? Possibly. But most of what I have seen when I’ve checked the discussions over the past year+ plus has been some variation on “you’re stupid! no you are!” It hasn’t seemed to me like the post-ACK PP folks have had any interest whatsoever in actually fostering important political discussions.

  7. That place is a free-for-all consisting of little but vaguely informed tribal warfare and stock fisticuffs being initiated by people with more than a conflict of interest at stake.

    I do think that occasionally people check in on the comments, though. I just don’t know how much that it moves the needle when you engage in the frivolity.

    Don’t get me wrong – I’m as guilty as anyone of throwing jabs and letting my snark impulses run riot, esp. with people as translucent as The Usual Suspects.

    Still, I recall a lot of the vitriol thrown at Brittney Gilbert over some things that she emphatically didn’t say about the late Steve Gilliard, and I can’t help but acknowledge that a lot of the discussion in the political realm is very much intended to marginalize the voices of women.

  8. I’m not ready to say that there are important political discussions—as in, that the content of the discussions is worth my time to read—actually happening in those comments, but I know for a fact our elected officials are reading them and taking them as the pulse of the political class. So, yes, when we shy away because we don’t want to take a verbal beating, we are shut out of being heard.

  9. I know for a fact our elected officials are reading them and taking them as the pulse of the political class.

    I don’t know if that’s funny or tragic.

    But it would certainly explain the vehemence of certain elements with fairly unambiguous skin in the game attempting to steer (read: derail) the conversation.

  10. It would be funnier if disability, anti-racism and body acceptance posts and sites weren’t already frequently trolled by feminists.

  11. > Do you get the impression that opinion-makers hang out there and take the public pulse?

    This is one of the effects of The Internet, along with “the long tail” and “the mass customization of everything”, the diffusion of influence that many of us celebrate also means that every little nasty viper-nest is full of opinion makers. They might only be shaping the opinions of a dozen voters, but twelve such sites can stimulate gross change (sry :-).

    > You need to get some feminist trolls.

    Here’s the good news for anyone interested in such a project: most trolls are far more invested in being trolls than they are in any particular flavor of trolldom. If you can convince them that feminist-trolling would be more obnoxious than their current style, and provide them with some feminist talking points, *boom!*: instant feminist trolls. :-)

  12. Lilacsigil, yeah, for sure. I think you’re getting at the same problem nm is getting at. Feminists can’t troll other trolls in the same way those other trolls troll the world a.) because the dynamic doesn’t work in reverse. Doing to them what they do doesn’t actually cause them the same consternation it causes us and b.) playing out a fucked up dynamic reinforces it and hurts people. And we do enough of that already.

    So, yes, the problem is what folks have gotten at here–there’s a nasty viper-nest (I really love that, indifferent children and I’m going to think of it often) that has taken on importance because people believe, rightly or not I don’t know, that the vipers are also prominent politicos who think it’s funny and fun to put all the little people who don’t fall in line in their places.

    And they are treated as such, whether that’s the truth.

    I have to say, the more I think about it, the more I think it’s just best to not participate.

    It’s not as if the Tennessee Democrats don’t have a larger, systemic problem with women, so maybe we focus our energies on that and not on worrying about three or four people whose political strategy seems to be alienating everyone who is not them.

  13. I kind of agree with nm here. Does anyone pay any attention to the comments? The Memphis Commercial Appeal comments sections are overwhelmed by vicious racist trolls, and it’s appalling, but fortunately I think the reason they say such horrible things anonymously is because they won’t say them in the public forum. Same with misogyny. Who cares what trolls say in an anonymous web forum?

  14. I’m not saying “who cares?” exactly. I find the bile in places like that disenheartening, not just on a personal level but on a political one. People who can write things like that are a real problem. But I do think, based not on the invective but on the illiteracy and lack of imagination, as well as the ALL CAPS!!! NOT DISCUSSING BUT SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER!!!1111!!, that the commenters keeping the feminists (and women generally) away aren’t the movers and shakers, or even the people the movers and shakers want to persuade.

  15. Pingback: Sexism and the Single Blog : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  16. The Memphis Commercial Appeal comments sections are overwhelmed by vicious racist trolls, and it’s appalling, but fortunately I think the reason they say such horrible things anonymously is because they won’t say them in the public forum. Same with misogyny. Who cares what trolls say in an anonymous web forum?

    Advertisers.

    The Commercial-Appeal lets that open sewer flow free because it drives eyeballs and “unique visitors” peg counts thereby.

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