Thursday, January 22, 2015

Please Don't Give A Damn About My Bad Reputation

Once upon a time, a man wrote a story primarily about his ex-girlfriend - let's call her "Zoe Flynn". The story was filled of allegations against several parties. The story was one of betrayal, hypocrisy and even some insinuation that some sex-for-favors happened within the indie game industry.

It was a tale to be read many different ways, and one with several aspects disputed by Flynn. The details of this particular story are not relevant to repeat, as the crucial point is that the story was one of the catalysts of the drama that is "#GamerGate".

For many "feminist" activists, #GamerGate was not at all confusing. It was obvious - a sordid online misogynist pile-on trying to tear down women that loves to pretend to be anything else. #GamerGate was just all the people that hated Anita Sarkeesian deciding to also find the time to hate Flynn, gaming blogs, and feminism generally. Simple.

Long before any #GamerGate nonsense, social media had its tribes. Despite it being quite a source of controversy, we don't need to believe that #GamerGate is an event that fractured many communities. Chances are that all one's social media connections moved lock-step into a pro-#GamerGate, anti-#GamerGate, or ambivalent camp.

Two people that had little to do with gaming and each other are Milo Yiannopoulos and Shanley Kane. It's likely both of them spend more time in a word processor than a first-person shooter. That their relationship has anything at all to do with gaming drama is interesting.

To make a long story somewhat shorter, Shanley is an outspoken critic of the technology industry, is an advocate for women in tech and publishes a quarterly journal on the subject. Milo is a columnist. To be entirely reductionist, they have the same job - write something moderately interesting about the topic of the day.

Milo, from disagreement or dislike, decided his topic was Shanley. In December, Milo published a profile of Shanley - which everyone that knows Shanley knows she does not particularly enjoy. In January, Milo followed up with a more revealing story, in which it was alleged that Shanley dated a well known internet troll with which she shared racist humor and some sexually submissive inclinations.

Shanley later confirmed the relationship and problematic past opinions, but held that the troll in question was a manipulative liar that she broke up with - a claim that no reasonable person doubts as the poor character of her ex-boyfriend has been confirmed by many witnesses. Further, Shanley labelled the interest in this aspect of her life "kink shaming".

Shortly afterwards, Shanley blamed the Linux community for a doxxing that happened about the same time:

Last Thursday, I criticized the Linux community for continuing to support and center a leader with a years-long, documented history of unrepentant abusive behavior, someone who has actively and systematically nurtured a hostile, homogeneous technical community, and someone who has long actively chased people from marginalized groups out of open source. 
The retaliation has been terrifying.

Apparently the doxxer was not Milo writing the story, not the ex-boyfriend filling in the details, but people retaliating on behalf of "the Linux community". The Linux community is to be the part of the triune Godhead of harassment that was ultimately the source of the dox.

The timeline of events is Shanley apparently trash talked Linux on Thursday, posted Milo's phone number on Twitter on Friday, and Milo posted the account of her ex-boyfriend on Saturday.

It sounds like a game of Clue, except Shanley is here to tell us it was definitely Linus Torvalds with a candlestick in the conservatory. To dial up the weirdness, the same day Shanley fingered the Linux community, her former business partner and co-founder of Model View Culture posted an account of her own fallout with Shanley:

I left Model View Culture because working with Shanley felt like I was in an abusive relationship.
But as the business grew, my relationship with Shanley deteriorated. Each day I dreaded having to interact with her. I had trouble squaring that dread with how much I loved the work I was doing and the company’s vision, and for several months I tried everything to make it work. But eventually I was able to see many of the things I was experiencing - such as yelling, excuses that the yelling was just because she needed me so much, her demands that I isolate myself from my friends - as classic abuser tactics. I woke up one morning with the bone-deep realization that I could no longer work with her. 
Shanley has since erased me from Model View Culture’s history. Fighting erasure of work is a feminist issue, and also one that Shanley is aware of and has specifically addressed in the past. Yet the publication did not announce that I had left, and quietly took me off the about page, though it has continued to refer to itself as “we.” Shanley credits herself as “Founder” not “co-founder.” In telling the story of founding the company in press, she does not mention that I was there unless specifically asked about it.
I decided to write this disclosing my own experiences with Shanley because the feminist conversation about tech right now feels like “You’re either with Shanley or you’re with [Shanley's ex-boyfriend].” And I think there should be room for a third option: You support diversity in tech and the work Model View Culture has done, but you are allowed to have doubts about Shanley's sincerity or track record of abusive behavior.

Indeed, if the Model View Culture publication is good at anything, it is erasure. Not only did MVC erase a founder, but it unceremoniously erased the writings of a one Dana McCallum, once a feminist and transgender activist that is now most famous for pleading guilty to domestic violence charges. McCallum was once a listed Model View Culture author, but now no trace of McCallum exists on the site.

As bizarre and outrageous as all this nonsense is, it might not be the best drama of late.

For it turns out that another semi-famous social media personality, Holly Fisher, is facing her own critics. Fisher is famous for doing her very best to be the embodiment of everything American "progressives" are said to despise. Vocally pro-gun, pro-Bible, pro-abortion restrictions and anti-Obama, Fisher is perhaps what Sarah Palin would be if Palin had a lower profile and was more ready to engage random people on Twitter.

The source of drama in the Fisher story is her admission that she had an affair. The admission may have come after some relatively unknown idiot appeared to want to publish the details. The incident is particularly problematic in conservative circles, as her husband is a doubly sympathetic figure due to his service in the military - seems he was at one point deployed overseas. The other man in the picture is a Tea Party activist.

The steamy setting romance this pro-life advocate had, according to her traitorous conservative pals, was apparently a “Restoring the Dream” event, a "Faith & Freedom" conference, and on election night 2014. (No word yet on whether or not "Faith & Freedom" conferences have acceptable and inclusive harassment policies.)

Shanley Kane and Holly Fisher are two very different women, yet their response to their similar predicament can be summarized in the same phrase - "this is basically none of your business". One does not need to subscribe to any particular brand of feminist ideals to imagine that there may be a double standard in play - all the people revealing the embarrassing details are men, and the individuals embarrassed and scandalized are women. Just another example of misogynistic slut shaming.

Yet it isn't quite so simple. The men in these stories are not embarrassed as they were either invisible or already considered creepy. To speak of the men these two women chose to hook up with would be to first learn their names or give them an ounce of respect which they could forfeit. The men are nobodies.

In what version of reality does a feminist critic of a male-dominated tech industry think it's not the least bit relevant that she dated a particularly wicked internet troll? It is somewhat difficult to hold men accountable for "microaggressions" while dating a man that is a macro-asshole.

Similarly, what kind of booze is in the punchbowl at an adulterous "Faith & Freedom" conference? One may as well do lines of cocaine at a rehab clinic. Did the red hot rendezvous happen in a hotel room, or in the 15 minute break between the family values and abstinence-only education seminars?

Relationships matter. We know this as nobody is quite in the mood to discuss hiking the Appalachian trail or the meaning of "is". It turns out women are also capable of having a relationship built on secrets that when revealed undermines trust their followers held for them.

Luckily for some, the subject of women's preferences is a third rail for feminism. Speaking of any affinity a gender may have to even the most innocent of behaviors is quite taboo. Any realistic discussion about women's sexuality might lead to gender essentialism or "victim blaming" - both of which are tragedies to be avoided at all costs. We live in a world where Jian Ghomeshi can still find a date and Charles Manson can still find a wife but it remains not one's place to question the logic.

Consider the possibility that every woman activist that would like to see empowerment in the workplace may currently be dating a man that the very image of what it is to be a toxic, misogynist colleague. Also possible is that every self-identified fan of "personal responsibility" and our brave men in uniform may actually spend their free time being fed Plan B by buttoned-up political desk jockeys.

It's taken for granted that some number of the "men's rights" activists ranting and raving about child custody made at least a few relationship mistakes. Having a crazy ex-wife does not put one in a position to speak objectively about the merits of feminism.

It's simply time to take the same calculus that we apply to these "activist" men and apply them to our "activist" women. A safe assumption is that every popular social media personality is hypocritical, depressed and manipulative until proven otherwise. Taking their soap box seriously is a bad idea.

Human beings can be transparent, honest and consistent. The world's in trouble, there's no communication.

On the other hand, a girl can do what she wants to do and that's what I'm gonna do.

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