Sexism policy

Discussion in 'Communications' started by Ender Sai, Nov 3, 2014.

  1. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10
    Hi all

    Recent discussion in a Community thread has highlighted that we don't really have much in the way of rules or guidance around sexism and sexist behavior. Specifically, that what we have is a bit inadequate for sexism given the recent attention actions of misogynists in, for example, GamerGateand the NYC Catcall video.

    Firstly, for the avoidance of any doubt, the purpose of this thread is not to call anyone out. There are examples of bad behavior, but I think you have to give the benefit of the doubt to people and assume despite their sexist behavior they neither intend to be sexist or are aware of their sexism. The goal is to include people in a discussion, not get bogged down with a slogging match against someone's defences.

    So, really, establishing a zero tolerance for the ego in this thread from the get go.

    Secondly - as it stands, there's only two ways mods can deal with sexism, chauvinism or misogyny.

    a) Under the sexual harassment policy, which only covers unwarranted PM contact (and was clearly a reaction to the Sapient revelations), or
    b) If the sexism/misogyny in question is a clear bait or flame.

    However, if we contrast sexism with racism it is clear to me that we have uneven standards for equally wrong behavior.

    For example - compare and contrast the two:

    "You're quite wrong there, sweetheart" to a woman.
    "You're quite wrong there, boy" to a black man.

    Generations of social conditioning has made us less comfortable around the latter, but objectively they are the same. Why? Because what they are doing is belittling and invalidating a person's viewpoint on arbitrary grounds, be it gender or race. There's no rational justification for it, nor is there really a rational response.

    Gamergate affects a part of geek culture and as a part of geek culture ourselves I think it would be fitting if we could develop a stance on sexism and, broadly speaking, a set of rules or guidelines to empower mods to act on sexist behavior. The idea being that, if it's understood and agreed that misogyny is just as bad as racism (because it's an unfair, arbitrary act of "othering" designed to disempower a part of society) then mods are able to issue warnings for sexist behavior.

    To that end - is there agreement that for practical purposes, sexism is as bad as racism (or homophobia)?
  2. VadersLaMent Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Apr 3, 2002
    star 10
    The current administration has seen the need to spring into action very swiftly on this topic and produce a new initiative sooner rather than later. A policy that invites users to come to the administration through whatever means they feel comfortable with. A policy that better emphasizes the steps users can take. We want to make ourselves open to everyone. Every single moderator was elected because they are believed to be trustworthy. When Mod Squad is united behind an objective, it's quite a force. Every moderator is part of Mod Squad and is available to you. Harassment (sexual or otherwise) that occurs in posts should be dealt with immediately by forum moderators.

    That is part of this that already exists
  3. anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 9
    I'm actually disturbed that sexual harassment is only considered sexual harassment if it's done by PM.

    If I had a dollar for the amount of blatant chauvinism I have seen on these forums, I'd certainly be able to add to my Blu-Ray collection. To be fair, most users around here are pretty good about policing it without moderator intervention, however, it is a fair point that "You're wrong, boy" would be edited out much more quickly than "You're wrong, sweetheart."

    I have learned to ignore certain posters, either using Ender's favorite board function or the scroll-down option, who have shown themselves to be blatantly sexist and whom I know will only respond to me in that mindset. Maybe people of color have had to react that way towards demonstrably racist posters; I don't know one way or another.

    As far as homophobia, I know that certain hate-terms are not allowed but I don't know if it is treated the same as racism.
    Ewok Poet, Loupgarou, TrakNar and 5 others like this.
  4. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10
    Well I think I outlined above how the currently policy framework is in fact, inadequate and this was supported by one of the mods who said that they wouldn't consider a sexist remark on par with a racist remark, but not in the sense that they're not the same. More in a "huh. Well..." epiphany moment that at the moment there is a disconnect that needs addressing.

    The integrity of mods isn't the question, though, VLM. Mods are in a sense constrained simply by what's called out as acceptable v unacceptable behavior in the rules. There's an element of judgement call, sure, but the thing with any set of rules there's both the understanding that they run the risk of being incomplete when they are set up (because people can't forsee future challenges or changing trends), and will need to evolve over time to address those new challenges.

    Therefore, nothing is suggesting fault or a failure to discharge duties here - rather, than there's a gap that could be addressed.
  5. JoinTheSchwarz JC Head Admin & Community Manager

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2002
    star 8
    My point of view on the topic: I personally would be on favor of having a zero tolerance policy on sexism, racism, transphobia, xenophobia, et al. I consider it way more wrong than cursing or posting a nipple.

    That said, I'd love to see some specific ideas on how to do something like this. What would fall under the umbrella of this policy?
  6. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10
    I think that depends on two points;

    1) Just how comprehensive we want to be, and
    2) What do women feel is abhorrent behavior that, regardless, gets a pass?

    Personally, I think any point at which a woman is made to feel devalued is the point at which the rules say it's unacceptable. So, including but not limited to:

    a) Patronising language
    b) Pictures objectifying women
    c) Victim shaming in instances of sexual harassment or rape

    I'm conscious we are mostly all very progressive on this topic but we don't want to be a bunch of dudes white knighting women, so I'll defer to what people like @anakinfansince1983, @Zapdos, @harpua, @lexu, SLG, etc put forward in the first instance.
  7. Zapdos Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 7, 2013
    star 5
    these without a doubt. and i'll probably have a lot more to say in this thread once i get access to a computer.
    Ewok Poet and anakinfansince1983 like this.
  8. Point Given Mod of Literature and Community

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Dec 12, 2006
    star 6
    Yeah, I've been coming around on the "hot women" thread in the JCC as time has gone by. I think it perpetuates objectification and certainly would be for a rule that would ban such a thing.

    As for C, I've noticed it happening a lot more on the internet in general as a result of the GamerGate issue.
  9. harpua Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 12, 2005
    star 9
    Okay... chiming in here, briefly.

    1) I agree that the hot women (celebs, whatever) thread is offensive, sexist and objectifying.

    2) I don't appreciate being called 'darling, sweetheart, babe, girl' by random people when I'm involved in a discussion.

    3) When a handful of people chime in and tell a user that his/her behavior is offensive, one should take a moment (or five) to honestly examine his/her behavior, like an adult, and own it. Threads should not be derailed by one person arguing with several people about his/her behavior.

    4) Any form of racism, homophobia, transphobia (I think the word 'tranny' should be on the disallowed words list), xenophobia, etc should not be tolerated, and I agree that it's much worse that posting a 'bad word'. One thing that I enjoy about this site is, for the most part, it's one of the safer and inclusive places on the internet, and there is always room for improvement. We can make it even better.

    As for how this should be moderated, I have no idea, right now, but I'm definitely open to this discussion, and will participate as much as I can.
    Last edited by harpua, Nov 3, 2014
  10. anakinfansince1983 Nightsister of Four Realms

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 9
    Patronizing language: If you've shown yourself to be a condescending sexist ass on the boards, using "darling" or "sweetheart" just adds to it, and it isn't funny or cute. And yeah, if I've never talked to you before, using that term as soon as you find out I'm a woman, probably will get you labelled as a condescending sexist ass.

    I don't know how other people feel about this or how it would/could be moderated by I'm also offended by racist/sexist/homophobic stereotypes. "She's butch, she must be a lesbian," etc. And "Women are more nurturing" definitely brings out my un-nurturing side. But I dunno, maybe we need to let stupid police itself instead of moderating it. I'm mainly bringing it up because there is almost always an underlying or outright -ism in the stereotype-laden posts.

    Victim-shaming in instances of sexual harassment or rape should not be tolerated in any decent society and we do try to be decent society around here, right?

    I agree with @harpua that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia--any form of bigotry--is much worse than posting a swear word.
  11. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10

    Gamergate has certainly highlighted this activity in many people's mind, but it has been a feature of a number of arguments in the JC in the past including in the Misogyny thread. I wouldn't say a ban for such sentiment is necessary straight up, but it should be unequivocally seen as baiting commentary. Anyone who thinks this is either misguided and so the warning/community feedback will bring them around; or simply taking a controversial and unpleasant view to provoke a reaction.

    As for the hot women thread, it's not just that and I'm cautious that we don't cite examples which will cause the users involved to become defensive. I think we all know in our minds what examples are relevant to the discussion but I think it is better if we agree by consensus on the types of offensive posts rather than specific examples - keeps it free from people feeling compelled to rationalise or defend specific instances of behavior.

    And it's not just confined to that thread. Can anyone argue that posting, say, a gif of Michelle Jenneke doing her warmup dance on track is a jovial celebration of a quirky pre-event routine?
  12. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Don't we need to start with the establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with the past decade and a half of sexism on the board? Otherwise it's just sweeping history under the rug.
    Coruscant likes this.
  13. GrandAdmiralJello Comms Admin + Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    Since the genesis of this discussion was Ender's comparison of sexism v. racism and the disparate way both are handled, I think that it might be helpful to treat them under a similar umbrella. Namely that both policies would have their root in the fact that other uses need to be treated with respect and dignity, so a comment disparaging a person on the basis of their race (or a race in general) should have its relevant gender/orientation analog.

    Most of us agree that this would be a good policy move, but the question is how to moderate it: and I would say moderate it the same way everything else would be moderated. Don't treat it as something that's tolerated by being left alone by the mods (this being the old policy: yes it's bad, but not edit-worthy).

    That said, I think that whatever we decide we're all going to be pretty new at this and it might be rocky at first. Specific to Community, I'm particularly mindful that we don't have a single female mod there at the moment. Not only do I think that should be changed for this policy to be better enforced and discussed in MS, but I also think we have a good opportunity to expand the community mod team and making sure there's a female presence on the team is going to be helpful.

    It's not -- and definitely hasn't been in terms of how I've enforced the policy. The Sapient incident is what caused the policy to be put in place in the first place, but sexual harassment definitely happens in threads too and it's been dealt with in threads too. But Ender was correct in pointing out that the harassment policy is inadequate to deal with more day-to-day sexism.
    Last edited by GrandAdmiralJello, Nov 3, 2014
  14. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10
    I think that's a really good point Iello, and I actually contemplated putting something in about kid steps at first because there is a period of adjustment inherent in any policy change. But you're right -it's new territory so most of it will be you guys more or less guiding users away from that behavior with warnings and PMs rather than being like Oprah and treating bans like new cars. (Sorry, I didn't prepare a better analogy up front).
    hudzu likes this.
  15. EmpireForever Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 15, 2004
    star 8
    I think instead of moderators we should just give every user "karma" points. other members can give you good or bad karma, and if you or one of your posts reaches a certain lower threshold, you will no longer have the privilege of being seen or heard on the forums. Or, alternatively, we could build a pit full of hungry wolves and throw those users into it.
  16. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Are the "principles of behavior" themselves enforceable as rules of the JC? If so 2) Users are expected to conduct themselves in a manner which is respectful to themselves and fellow users at all times should cover sexism, racism, etc. without the need for any additional spelled out policy. The principle of respect should incorporate emerging social norms of online behavior without need to spell them all out.
  17. Boba_Fett_2001 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 11, 2000
    star 8
    Ctrl+F'd "I think instead of moderators we should just give every user "karma" points. other members can give you good or bad karma, and if you or one of your posts reaches a certain lower threshold, you will no longer have the privilege of being seen or heard on the forums. Or, alternatively, we could build a pit full of hungry wolves and throw those users into it," was not disappointed.
  18. tom Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2004
    star 7
    honestly, i would be all for a zero tolerance policy for any blatant sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, or bigotry of any kind. maybe people could get one warning and a 24 hour ban before they are banned for good, but that's it. i mean who wants any of that in our community? is someone going to come in here and take a stand for hate and intolerance? it shouldn't be the mods' job to hold the hands of bigots and misogynists and somehow make them into better people. just kick them to the curb.

    but i understand that the issue is more nuanced than that, and that most examples won't be so blatant or automatically ban-worthy. and we don't want such strict moderation that people are constantly afraid of saying the wrong thing. i just think all users should know that prejudice, more than anything else is the one thing that will absolutely not be tolerated. we don't need to always respect one another's opinions and arguments can get heated at times, but i feel we do need this to be a space where we can feel that everyone at least respects each other as people, as equals.
  19. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 9
    I don't know that Ender's opening example is quite correct. I think it's true that people would edit out "boy" more quickly. But the reality is, that situation isn't really what arises. Nor, really, do I think the instances of being patronizing or condescending to female posters really confine themselves to use of terms like "sweetheart." It's a more dynamic, complex process that is about intention and interpretation. That's what makes it difficult to enforce. For instance, consider some of the exchanges in the recent "Black Men & Society" thread. There was broad agreement at several points that one of our few posters from the African diaspora, Souderwan received replies that treated him in a condescending, belittling fashion. Not a single one of those posts employed a known slur against African-Americans. It did, though, lean broadly on destructive, unjustified stereotypes that made especially little sense in the context of that thread.

    How do we develop a policy that can effectively stop things like that from happening on any of these issues, be they race, gender, or some other form of group identification?
  20. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Zero tolerance doesn't take into account that so many people have race and gender blind spots in their self awareness and can't be depended on to know when they're being sexist or racist, etc.

    Edit, sorry - basically what Wocky posted
    Last edited by Jabbadabbado, Nov 3, 2014
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  21. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10
    I think this is, typically of a tom post, awesome.

    Good point, and at the risk of Wockying the thread up, let me respond:

    I think in that instance, part of what we need to be aware of, and acting against, is perceptions that a person is being belittled on arbitrary grounds. If a poster elects, willfully, to ignore facts that are merely inconvenient to them - then we'll all belittle them for it and rightly so too. It could be as diverse as thinking race isn't an issue to rejecting heliocentricity. That's part of the JC's DNA and structure.

    But if the purpose is to belittle on arbitrary grounds - to the effect of "isn't it cute that a black man/woman has an opinion" - then it's clearly an insidious problem that stops just short of actually flaming or baiting but should be rejected nonetheless.

    The situation I see as most problematic here, though, Wocky is what do you do when it's this kind of discrimination and the person claims they weren't intended to be patronising? Either someone's prejudiced but acting vilified to relieve public pressure on them; or they're unaware of the flaws in their behavior. tom's suggesting no kid gloves, and warnings/bans will help those people determine where the line is more effectively than others.

    What do you think?

    That's what we're here to discuss. Part of it is by enforceable guidelines that influence behavior. If you know that calling a woman "darling", "sweetheart", or "sugar***s" will get you warned or banned, you stop doing it. If you know that patronising Soundwave or any other black person because they're black is going to get you warned or banned, you stop doing it.

    The other part is having clear and unambiguous stance that the entire community can get behind.
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  22. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10

    Wouldn't an enforceable boundary help with that?

    I mean, sure, they have to be willing to take feedback on, be humbled from time to time, and be wrong. I don't mind saying this since Harps and a few others called me out on a post or two in the Connemara/JediWarrior threat for white knighting. I acknowledged it then and acknowledge it now. But without something to keep me accountable I'd not have realised it.
  23. Jabba-wocky Chosen One

    Member Since:
    May 4, 2003
    star 9
    I think it will be easy enough to ban threads dedicated to blatant objectification. It won't be difficult to expand our list of banned words to include gendered terms (sweetheart, "C-word" for female genitalia, etc), either. However, if you're really talking about stopping the phenomenon, rather than just specific manifestations, then I'm not sure how it would work. As you note, you'd get deep into questions of intention and interpretation that would be hard to navigate consistently.
    Last edited by Jabba-wocky, Nov 3, 2014
  24. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    If it were me then I'd expand the second principle of behavior to define respect as a gender/race/ sexual orientation etc aware respect.
    anakinfansince1983 likes this.
  25. Ender Sai Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 18, 2001
    star 10

    But do you think behavior can be modified in part by knowing there's real risk of moderator action for certain content?