Online Sexual Harassment Is a Public Fight

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119 Responses

  1. EB says:

    Congratulations, you have pulled me out of my lurking! No matter how many disclaimers you put in front of it, “This notion is a gross generalization of women and encourages sexual harassment to continue.” is precisely victim-blaming. LeBlanc’s argument, of course, is that avoiding frank confrontation is a learned strategy to avoid escalating harassment and sexual violence. As ‘Mercier’ (her pseudonym from the Kotaku article) makes clear, for a woman in her position to use the strategy you suggest would be to throw away her career. Unless you think that the gaming industry tends to react positively to women accusing prominent journalists of sexual harassment, in which case I’m not sure what to tell you.Report

    • Jake in reply to EB says:

      EB is exactly right and I too am being pulled out of lurking for this. I see nothing in this post other than bending over backwards to blame both parties. She did nothing to warrant his advances. There is no required protocol to how she should respond on behalf of all women because it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Every one of these backwards arguments that ends up somewhere between “she brought up her divorce so obviously” and “her lack or outrage really encourages this kind of crap to continue” only showcases how the gaming industry and its patrons are patriarchal systems in which women are unwelcome (which explains her responses adequately, if you ask me). They say absolutely nothing about whether or not sexual harassment should or should not continue. It shouldn’t. It has no place anywhere. There is no argument or analysis that can even pretend to exist in the same stratosphere as that.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to EB says:

      As much as I hate to join a pile on (heh), this article is complete rubbish, simply awful, a barrel full of male privilege, sexist tripe, and garden variety dudebro victim blaming, even while it claims to not do that.

      This has all the charm of those conversations that begin, “I don’t mean to be racist, but…”


      • EB in reply to veronica dire says:

        To rejoin the pile-on, what do you have to believe about men to write this article? As near as I can tell, he is asking us to take absolutely repulsive behavior as a given that women need to adapt to, like taking the weather into account when getting dressed in the morning. If you wind up cold in the afternoon, you should have made better decisions.

        I am a man. I have many flaws, but the behavior described in the OP is not one of them. Feminists believe that men are not, by default, abusive pigs. Apparently that is not a universal opinion.Report

      • Johanna in reply to veronica dire says:

        A little un-piling – I didn’t see him condoning repulsive behavior by men being the norm or that women need to adapt. I just found that any blaming of the victim here was erroneous and misplaced. In attempting to garner support for victims, it isn’t wise to attack them for not responding in a particular manner. This is why I think this post failed to garner positive support from those most apt to be victimized or have been victimized.Report

      • EB in reply to veronica dire says:

        @johanna Fair enough, and maybe Jed has written extensively elsewhere about men’s responsibility to prevent harassment, etc. The OP talks briefly about how harassment is bad and extensively about all the self-sacrificing things that women need to do to make it go away, while minimizing the cost of those things. As others have said below, women do not have a responsibility to prevent men from harassing them.Report

  2. zic says:

    Right. Just fucking right.

    I have some serious trouble reading this here.

    Why does this remind me of crap like, “it’s not rape if she doesn’t fight him off?”Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to zic says:

      Because you’re misreading it?

      While I do not agree with Jed’s argument, he’s pretty clearly saying that it IS sexual harassment, and that it needs to stop. His strategy, though not correct IMHO, is clearly not an attempt to perpetuate harassment.Report

      • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        No, I didn’t misread it.

        Nothing women do will stop men from saying things like this; it isn’t a woman problem, though it’s a problem for women. How women should respond is, first and foremost, going to vary by women. When things like that happen, it’s shocking and disturbing. It may be dangerous — either physically or to one’s work, it never just happens as an innocent pass, it’s always rooted in the power differential. So anybody who focuses on how women should react, what women should do, is just blowing more of that power differential smoke.

        The real question is and should be: what should men do? What should his employer do? What should he do? When you focus on what women should do, it shifts the problem to women. And it’s not their problem, they don’t create it, they just have to put up with it as best they can; pointing out it’s wrong.

        We all know what happens to women who speak out. I’m sure you read Connor’s piece on The Atlantic, if you didn’t, I’ll find a link for you. But speaking out is really fucking frightening.

        So I don’t want to be mansplained about how to frame my response when some dude who thinks he’s got some power over me brings his dick into the conversation. I want men to grow the fuck up and stop thinking with their dicks.

        Please excuse my language, I’m pretty sure that you get this upset me a lot. Like I said, it’s the same logic as forcible rape; how the woman’s supposed to respond becomes the conversation, not the sex-driven power trip of the man involved.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        This is going to be a little tough, because I don’t agree with Jed. (My reasons are different than yours.)

        But if I may play devil’s advocate…

        The problem with putting everything on the woman is — i hope — obvious. But the problem with putting everything on the man is that it doesn’t ever stop.

        I’m going to go out on what I think is not a particularly long limb here, but I’m willing to bet this isn’t the first time this guy has done something like this. In this case it wasn’t the software developer, but a woman friend who essentially publicly shamed the guy. And now he has a track record anyone can look up, plus he’s been removed from his own site.

        I still don’t agree with Jed’s specific point, but I think that the impulse to pick one sex and lay it all on them to fix the problem just allows the Mattingly’s of the world to get away with it. I know little about rape cases, but I can tell you that when corporations rid themselves of male sexual harassers, it is almost always because of actions taken by the women harassed.Report

      • zic in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        @tod-kelly, yes, it’s because a woman spoke up and pointed it out.

        They also speak out about the things the suffer. I do that, I’ve done so repeatedly in comment sections on this blog over the years I’ve joined in discussions. It is not easy, every time I do, it’s a dive back into the terror. I’ve made a deliberate decision to inflict that on myself because I know the importance of helping others understand what happens, and how it hangs on you for the rest of your life. And I’ve got lots of other voices keeping me company, else we would not even be having this conversation.

        But the choice to speak out is a choice, and it needs to be handled with respect, because it is difficult and damaging to put yourself back in that space. It opens you up to re-victimization; particularly on the internet, it draws out others who think it okay to threaten you with rape and murder and name calling. I’m very grateful that this space is relatively safe from that. Grateful beyond saying.

        It’s just silly to suggest women don’t speak out. It’s equally silly to suggest that how women behave, once they’ve been victimized, is the answer to the problem; placing the burden of men’s behavior on how women respond.The burden of what this man did is his problem, and turning it into mine to make him stop is egregious beyond belief. Had this woman not been able to protect her identity, what do you think would have happened to her? What do you think her inbox and twitter feed would look like? The one thing, above all others, that is obvious is that speaking out about on-line harassment today opens you up to worse harassment.

        That is not someplace anyone should step into lightly. And I don’t see any evidence that it’s women participating in that pile on; which leads back to the gender issue again.

        So the double standard here is that if a man does something wrong, the woman has an obligation to speak up, which often causes more wrong from other men. But men don’t have to do a damned thing, because most of them know better?

        That double standard only exists because of power differentials, because of make privilege. I don’t want to blame you for what someone else did; but I refuse to let you or anybody else put the blame on me for allowing it to continue because I acted out of self preservation.

        If most men don’t want to be lumped in with the creeps, most men need to put some more effort into calling the creeps out.Report

  3. Chris says:

    EB is right. The developer’s behavior wasn’t a result of her being weak, but of her being put in a position where she had little choice but to play along in the moment. This is precisely why it’s sexual harassment, and not merely creepish behavior. Matthingly was, by virtue of the professional relationship, in a position of power with respect to the woman, and because of this he was able to make unwanted advances with little risk of being rebuffed, because rebuffing him could have done harm to her career, or her company, or her work.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to Chris says:

      Yes, but they are in different organizations.Report

      • Chris in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        So what?

        The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

        I’m pretty sure “journalist upon whose work my job and work depend” counts.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        Can I have a citation for the part you italicized?Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        While I concede that they are in different organizations, neither one of them are a “client or customer”. Therefore, the sexual harassment laws do not apply here.Report

      • Chris in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Scarlet, do you know what “such as” means? In case you don’t, it doesn’t mean, “these and only these.”

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at here: this is a case of sexual harassment as the term is generally used. Whether she has a legal claim may be in dispute, but the broader meaning of the phrase (outside of the narrow legal definition) is pretty clear.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        @chris 11:31pm

        I’m not sure what you’re getting at here: this is a case of sexual harassment as the term is generally used

        I don’t think this is a case of sexual harassment as the term is generally used. I think it is someone making a crude pass at someone else.Report

      • Chris in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Scarlet, since you’re clearly in the minority here and pretty much everywhere this has been discussed, it would appear that your view of the general use is not actually in line with the general use.

        But I realize now that you’re not actually making a point, just derailing the conversation, and I’ve played into that. So if you want to continue to contest the definition, feel free. I’ll continue to call it sexual harassment.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Scarlet, since you’re clearly in the minority here and pretty much everywhere this has been discussed, it would appear that your view of the general use is not actually in line with the general use.

        The fact that you hang around echo chambers is beyond my control.

        Words mean things.

        Just because your echo chamber thinks that this is sexual harassment doesn’t make it so. And if I’m the only one on here who feels that way, that is fine with me. This isn’t a popularity contest.Report

  4. ScarletNumbers says:

    I disagree with the premise of this article.

    Sexual Harassment has a specific meaning.

    Mattingly’s behavior, while it was perhaps crude, has nothing to do with sexual harassment.Report

    • Patrick in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

      Pretty sure you’re wrong on that one, old bean.

      Disclaimer: I am not a professional attorney.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick says:

        I have more than a smattering of professional knowledge, and I can say pretty definitively that Pat is correct on this.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Patrick says:


        Does your “more than a smattering of professional knowledge” consist mostly of wishful thinking?

        Chris was kind enough to post the a cite from the EEOC. From what it says, this behavior does not qualify.

        Being crude, in and of itself, is not a criminal offense.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick says:

        “Does your “more than a smattering of professional knowledge” consist mostly of wishful thinking?”

        No, my personal knowledge comes from over fifteen years of being a paid consultant to corporations, and expert witnesses for sexual harassment trials. As well as someone who does sexual trainings trainings to groups, entire companies and individuals; creates sexual harassment polices for companies of different sizes; and mediation for companies with that have specific complaints lodged by specific employees.

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to Patrick says:


        And yet with all of this “professional knowledge”, you can’t show that this is sexual harassment…Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to Patrick says:

        What do you mean, I can’t show you?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Patrick says:

        As well as someone who does sexual trainings trainings to groups, entire companies and individuals;

        Now that’s an interesting career path.Report

      • Kim in reply to Patrick says:

        yes, the market for training women in how to use sex toys is actually pretty fascinating.Report

  5. Mike Schilling says:

    “[It] is how women are socialized to behave. It is extremely difficult to tell a creep he’s being a creep.”

    That’s a descriptive statement, not a normative one; disliking it doesn’t make it false. And it has application beyond harassment and even beyond how women react to unpleasant men. That’s how you get perfectly nice people who are in no way anti-Semites singing “Throw the Jew Down the Well”; they know it’s wrong, but they go along because they don’t want to be the one to make a fuss.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Sacha Baron Co-
      hen uses our politeness
      to ridicule us.

      • zic in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Can someone moderate this, please?

        Because I’m going to get really, really in this person’s face in a very unladylike and unkind way otherwise, and I really, really do not want to do that.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        What’s to moderate?

        This. – Ed.

      • greginak in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Don’t feed the trolls.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        Ah, yes. A troll is someone who disagrees with greginak on the internet. Gotcha.Report

      • zic in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        I know something about catchy songs.

        And I know something about insensitive jerks who think just because something is entertaining (to them) that it’s okay. It’s not, it’s creepy and crude. It may be sexual harassment. It may be racism. It may be antisemitism. It may be sociopathy.

        Are you a sociopath? Do you not care about making others feel uncomfortable or unhappy or unwelcome?Report

      • Patrick in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        I’ll set the over/under for “crosses the commenting policy line pretty clearly” at 25 comments.Report

      • The jokes about throwing anyone down wells stop right here, right now.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        Please quote where anyone made a joke about throwing anyone down a well.Report

      • Fine, let me be more specific: stop being a dick. And when people are pointing out that you’re being a dick, don’t double down just to piss them off.

        Is that better?Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        stop being a dick…Is that better?

        No it isn’t better. You are the one engaging in name calling. I am not.

        Also, generally speaking Cohen is pronounced as “cone”, not “co-hen”.Report

      • You left out the part in the middle, which is when people let you know you’re offending them on this site, refrain from doubling down just to piss them off. Also: stop being purposefully anti-social and then pretending you have no idea what moderators are talking about when they ask you to curb your behavior.

        It’s not like this is the first time we’ve had to ask something like this of you.

        Feel free to insert your own descriptor there

        And have no idea what the whole Cohen thing is about.Report

      • Patrick in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        No it isn’t better. You are the one engaging in name calling. I am not.

        This would be a far more credible counterargument if you weren’t rhetorically setting the table in such a way as to nearly guarantee that your interlocutors would be highly predisposed to take offense and respond accordingly.

        For one thing, is blatantly obvious that you neither know or care what the legal definition of sexual harassment is… and when this was pointed out to you, your response was to put your fingers in your ears and accuse those who pointed it out to you of being unable to understand what “sexual harassment” is, in spite of their actual understanding of the issue.

        You know, Burt is an actual lawyer. Tod actually worked in risk management.

        But even supposing that you don’t take their credentials on face value, the reflexive dismissal of people saying, “you’re wrong” when you have no actual expertise to assert that you’re right… well, at the very least represents a towering ego and an unwillingness to accept criticisms at face value.

        Yes, that makes you a dick.Report

      • Kim in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        Also, Scarlet,
        The fact that you’re pissing Patrick and Tod off — something
        that I manage to do extremely rarely, despite being an abrasive
        That’s going to weigh against you in public opinion.Report

      • Patrick in reply to ScarletNumbers says:

        For what it’s worth, ScarletNumbers isn’t pissing me off, directly. I’m amazingly tolerant of bullshit, which is why I wouldn’t make a great member of the banhammer crew.

        But I can readily see why Scarlet pisses other people off, and that distracts from an otherwise very interesting and important conversation, and that indirectly pisses me off… and thus I would very much like it for him/her to shut the hell up and think about how he/she communicates.Report

      • ScarletNumbers in reply to ScarletNumbers says:


        And have no idea what the whole Cohen thing is about.

        One of my posts was replaced by a haiku. In order to make the haiku work, Cohen has to be pronounced as “Co-hen”, when in reality the name is generally pronounced as “Cone”.


        Yes, that makes you a dick.

        Now, you have engaged in name calling, while I still haven’t.

        You know, Burt is an actual lawyer. Tod actually worked in risk management.

        You are committing a logical fallacy known as Appeal to Authority.

        Even “experts” can engage in wishful thinking, and that is what is going on with this topic. The emperor wears no clothes.Report

    • Jed Pressgrove in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Not all women are “socialized” to behave like the female developer. It’s a careless generalization appealing to sociology, a field I’ve been in for the last seven years. I would recommend studying the idea of probability before agreeing with LeBlanc’s unscientific nonsense. Moreover, people who buy into “all women are socialized to be weaklings” garbage are, intentionally or unintentionally, making it harder for online harassment to become a Civil Rights issue.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        This ain’t my story. But I’ll tell it to you, in honor of the brave woman who lived it.

        You ever been raped?
        You ever sat in a room with fifteen other rape victims — and the rapists sister,
        and had them ask what happened?
        When you stayed silent and wouldn’t speak — because to speak would be to accuse the sister’s family???

        Someone else spoke up that day. Said “he raped me too” — the whole room was raped by that one son of a bitch.

        That girl? The one you might say was “socialized” to be NICE? She went to fucking court. She stood up for her principles, and for every other woman in that room.

        It is really, really fucking easy to not speak up. You’re a sociologist, I dig ya.
        How many people spoke up in that famous shock-test experiment?Report

  6. zic says:

    Just to be clear on my offense with this post:

    I was shocked by the female developer’s lack of moral remonstration and outrage. My shock was due to the fact that I know many strong, self-respecting women, including my wife, mother, sister, aunts, and grandmothers. If you know strong, self-respecting women, you know they don’t take immorality lying down: they speak up and tell people what they’re doing wrong. So seeing the female developer pretend that nothing happened was a bad joke. Her weak responses also gave victim blamers (in their minds) more ammunition to acquit Mattingly. (Why do you think some lawyers advise potential victims of harassment in the workplace to tell their harassers, in person and/or in writing, that their advances are unwanted?)

    Total mansplaining victim blaming. Shame on you. I am a strong, moral woman. And You should know better, and if those women you claim are so strong in your family are actually strong and moral they would tell you so. (This whole passage reminds of of the homophobe saying they’ve got gay friends, the racist saying they’ve got black friends. It’s just a way to deflect the awfulness of what you’re actually saying because, hey, I’ve got a mother.)Report

    • Jed Pressgrove in reply to zic says:

      Much of what I believe in terms of calling out and fighting sexual immorality on the spot was passed down to me from my mother. When I was a kid, she used to warn me about strangers trying to touch me inappropriately. She told me to, no matter what, scream, kick, bite, and generally act like a hell demon if someone ever tried to do something bad to me. She told my sister the same thing. My mother empowered her children, male and female. So she is a pretty relevant person to cite, not merely a smokescreen. I’m pretty sure my mother could teach you a thing or two about respect.

      Of course, a sexual harassment case between professional adults is different, but like Todd points out above, men are less likely to be punished if women don’t take a chance and stand up for themselves. This is even more true with online sexual harassment: as Amanda Hess indicates, authorities don’t care as much about Internet harassment toward women (among others). Enough fighting can change that and make this a Civil Rights issue.Report

      • zic in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        Maybe she is. But so am I, having been a victim of child-hood sexual abuse.

        So you really need to understand what you’re suggesting. Because stuff like the original action — that inappropriate come on in the professional setting when it’s not expected, can (for instance) trigger a PTSD flashback, no different from the horrors of PTSD from a war zone.

        You just need to understand; there are a lot of people out there who were damaged by this same kind of jerk, and who cannot, for reasons you can’t probably understand, control what they do because the panic of flight or fight takes over. And each of those panics have a different contour.

        And if the event itself doesn’t cause that, if the woman is able to push back and speak out, there’s a pretty good chance the harassment and rape threats that follow will push her over the line.

        So no, you still don’t get to tell women what to do because you’ve got a mother. And no, what she prescribes is not a fix-it for all. And no, you do not get to blame me or her or any other woman for a man forcing his dick in some unwanted way into a conversation that was, presumably, a professional one. He did that. He, and he alone, bears that responsibility. And all the little come alongs following, all the little rape-threat artists and would-be-death-wishers and she-should-a-done artists (like you) should shut the fuck up until you learn some manners and that you do not have the privilege to tell us how to behave because you’ve fucked up again.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        Do not moderate this comment by Zic.

        If you do, you’re part of the problem.

        Bravo Zic.

        I wish I were your friend out there in the real world.Report

      • I’m not debating PTSD. If someone is struggling with that, I hope they are getting professional guidance because I can’t help them.

        “He, and he alone, bears that responsibility.”

        Yes, but is everyone like him punished? Amanda Hess clearly shows the answer to that question is “Not nearly enough.” What can be done other than building the best legal case to make online harassment a Civil Rights issue?

        “And all the little come alongs following, all the little rape-threat artists and would-be-death-wishers and she-should-a-done artists (like you) should shut the fuck up until you learn some manners and that you do not have the privilege to tell us how to behave because you’ve fucked up again.”

        No, but I do have the privilege to express what I think is necessary to punish online harassment. You can pretend that I’m harassing women online and that I want women to bend to my will, but that’s a baseless assumption.Report

      • zic in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        Jed, I realize you’re trying to help.

        I’m doing my best to point out that helping does not mean telling women what to do to stop this in what are difficult situations; that women already do that when they feel able, and that many women bear even worse abuse when they do what you’re recommending.

        But have you written a primer about what to do for boys? Have you told them how to behave? Have you suggested they not invite a woman to admire their private parts? Have you suggested that when a man gets caught out (because a woman spoke out), they not threaten her with rape and murder or assume she’s fibbing for attention?

        There are numerous instances of men treating women like this on the internet; do you step in each and every time you encounter it and tell the idiot to stop?

        One of the very refreshing things about Ordinary Times is that, yes, in fact the men here do that very thing. They have put time and effort into making women feel welcome here. That’s a rare thing. If you want to offer up examples of how to stop on-line sexual harassment, this very blog is one of the best examples you could write about.Report

      • “But have you written a primer about what to do for boys? Have you told them how to behave? Have you suggested they not invite a woman to admire their private parts? Have you suggested that when a man gets caught out (because a woman spoke out), they not threaten her with rape and murder or assume she’s fibbing for attention?

        There are numerous instances of men treating women like this on the internet; do you step in each and every time you encounter it and tell the idiot to stop?”

        I really do like your suggestion of writing about the importance of male morality. One thing I do worry about is that a lot of people believe that real-life morality doesn’t apply to online settings. I’ve been talking to some men on Twitter who had a very different problem with my article than you: they think that I’m going too far in trying to make online harassment a more pressing legal issue. So I’ve been explaining to them why real-life morality and law should apply to the Internet. Death threats are wrong in real life, so they’re wrong on the Internet, and so on. It worries me that even these men who do not harass people are having trouble understanding the importance of my legal premise. Perhaps if I wrote an article, I could persuade them. Thank you for the suggestion.

        To answer your second question, I rarely encounter situations where men are harassing women online. Despite the fact that I don’t personally see a lot of this, I do know, by the testimonies of many women that I have read, that it is a significant issue that needs legal attention.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        maybe you ought to frequent some places.
        Judge whether your attitude of “gals ought to speak up, at once”
        is commonly held. And among whom. (I think shaz is on the money–
        the abusers think that if a woman don’t slap him, that she’s a
        “boyfriend-free” girl)Report

      • zic in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        @jed-pressgrove, if you want to write that primer, I’d invite you to hash it out here. I’d certainly be willing to help with what constructive criticism I have to offer, and I emphasize constructive. I promise to behave myself in a ladylike fashion, and to deal with what you say in good faith.

        I do think you understand why I was offended; and I’m profoundly grateful that you’ve demonstrated willingness to take on the cause of women getting to act freely in the world.

        It is tremendously difficult. I, despite being well into my middle years, still struggle with the fact that as a woman, if I simply treat a man as a friend, it will be interpreted as permission to invite some sort of invitation, and not as simply treating him as another human. I know this isn’t the case for all men; but far too often for my comfort, my friendliness is interpreted as an invitation to a come on.

        The biggest favor men could do other men is talk about this. That in fact, a smile, a friendly conversation do not mean more. Silence in the face of an offer of sexual congress should not be interpreted as some sort of permission to continue; and if you get silence, you probably already overstepped the bounds.

        I agree that there are ways women can better handle many of these situations, too. Talking about that is useful; but it’s also fraught with risk. It becomes like the conversations about how to protect yourself from being raped; yes, you want to minimize the chances. But if you’re raped, it’s still not your fault, you did not cause someone to rape you. But all too often, the guidelines on how to keep yourself safe often are used to say you didn’t keep yourself safe, you’re dress was too short, you’d had too much to drink, whatever.

        When you go public, this is amplified. You attract the come-a-long harassers, like flies to the smell of rotting meat. Your actions get scrutinized and become the topic, his get written off as, ‘he’s a creep,’ and there’s so many creeps out there that we don’t need to talk about creeptitude.

        What she did or didn’t do has no bearing on what happened. He, in a professional setting, turned the topic to his penis. He had no interest in what she had to say as a professional game developer. No matter what she did from that point on, he, with the power of his platform, had this power over her, and just by saying what he was thinking, he showed her that he knew that, and he did not care how his actions affected her. Professionally, she had no value, no worth, deserved no respect; she was her ladyparts first and foremost, that’s her highest value in his mind.

        What is helpful for women is to have a clear idea about what to expect if you go public, where you can find help, etc. The stuff that the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement did before they put people in harms way. But that’s got to include maintaining the right not to go to war if you’re not prepared for it.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        It is tremendously difficult. I, despite being well into my middle years, still struggle with the fact that as a woman, if I simply treat a man as a friend, it will be interpreted as permission to invite some sort of invitation, and not as simply treating him as another human.

        Small nitpick, here, zic.

        If I simply treat a man as a friend, it will be can be (often!) interpreted as permission to invite some sort of invitation.

        It’s tough to hash this stuff out. Small words, little connotations, they can provoke all sorts of audience reaction problems. In particular, the words “should” and “will” really ought to come with qualifications (which is, in its condensed form, my objection to the OP, after all).Report

      • zic in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        @patrick, thank you. You are 100% correct. I adore good editing, and your nitpick is really good editing. And in the spirit of what I meant, I know you know that is not an invitation. Thank you for that, too.

        I’ve indicated this on this thread, I’ll say it outright now: what you did on this blog, back when it was the Ordinary Gentlemen, talking about how to be welcoming to women? That’s the thing that needs to happen. When I suggest men need to deal with the problem of men harassing, that’s exactly the example of what I mean. And in all honesty, I’m honored I got some voice in that discussion when it happened; I felt like people wanted to hear what I had to say as a way to improve themselves.Report

      • zic, I really do appreciate the gesture. I would like to have your opinion on such a piece. (And don’t worry about being “ladylike.” That’s at the bottom of my concerns.)Report

    • Shazbot3 in reply to zic says:

      I agree with Zic.

      I think Jed’s heart is in the right place, but he is not careful enough in his writing to show that he is not blaming the victim. A long and real history of blaming rape victims is why many of these victims don’t come forward.

      This sentence needs to be revised or apologized for or both:

      “If you know strong, self-respecting women, you know they don’t take immorality lying down: they speak up and tell people what they’re doing wrong.”

      This implies that women who don’t report their harrasment, their assault, are not self-respecting. That is false. Harrassment victims know that we live in a sexist culture that doesn’t take them as seriously as it should, where rapists don’t get convicted, and women don’t get believed. And in many cases, these women cannot afford the risk of losing the job and not being believed. If men in society cut out the sexism, women would be empowered.

      You don’t empower women by writing that they ought to get tough. You empower them by trying to dismantle the system of sexist oppression that they live under. Men are the reason women don’t report more, not women.Report

  7. Burt Likko says:

    Why do you think some lawyers advise potential victims of harassment in the workplace to tell their harassers, in person and/or in writing, that their advances are unwanted?

    The reasons @jedpressfate describes in the OP are certainly among these reasons. Others to include on the list, varying by degrees from state to state, the necessity of putting the the harasser on notice that the conduct is unwanted, putting the employer on notice that the conduct is unwanted, making out an element of other torts (like stalking) to get eligibility for restraining orders, and documenting the victim’s recollection of the conduct in as close to a contemporaneous fashion as is feasible.

    Deliberate ignorance of the offending conduct is a frequent defensive mechanism. So too do I disagree with @jedpressfate that not all “strong women” will confront someone like that in the heat of the moment — when you are put on the spot by something very unexpected and very alarming, a frequent response is to freeze. The source interviewed in the article responded to the harassing conduct exactly as I would expect a sexual harassment victim to: do not respond to the baiting and invitations and instead focus exclusively on the work, only respond to that portion of what is going on that is professional. Try and pretend the rest of it doesn’t exist. And die a little bit inside each time it happens again.

    And if you’re looking for a definition of sexual harassment, I’ve got one for you. Unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the complainant’s employment and create an abusive working environment.* Isolated, stray comments or reasonable teasing and joking are not sexual harassment. A single incident which is sufficiently severe can constitute sexual harassment.

    It’s not that we can’t define “sexual harassment.” It’s that it is sometimes difficult to know when the line has been crossed, and with marginal cases, people often disagree. This, however, doesn’t seem like a particularly close case. Repeated offers to perform cunnilingus and other sexual acts with no indication whatsoever that such comments were either welcome flirtations or reasonably expected jokes and banter seem to me such that a reasonable woman in the source’s position would have considered that conduct unreasonable, unwelcome, abusive, and severe. Ergo, calling it sexual harassment is entirely accurate.

    * Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson (1986) 477 U.S. 57, 67. I’m not just putting together words that sound right to me. I’m citing to the Supreme Court of the United States, interpreting Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took not only an Act of Congress but also someone to literally make a Federal case out of it in order that we might have this definition.Report

  8. Creon Critic says:

    I’m not sure how constructive it is to talk about the decisions of the harassed party in terms of fear or weak behavior. I have to accord a significant degree of deference to her in assessing whether she wants to speak out and precisely how to speak out. The larger social/political goal you outline, stopping online sexual harassment, is tremendously significant. But I’d suggest leaving more room for individuals assessing their circumstances, their careers, their finances, their vulnerabilities, and so forth. Lofty goals like a more gender equitable workplace are all well and good, but they won’t pay her mortgage. As outlined in the Kotaku interview, the world she works in is small and the prospect of getting blackballed is real; in sum, making waves could be career ending. That’s an awfully serous prospect that I have to leave for her to judge.

    So alternatively, I think it might be more constructive to think about what structures corporations could set up to proactively prevent their employees from harassing. Mechanisms for training, for reporting, of peer assessment, of internal audit or review for instance. I think this approach, critical self reflection with concrete corrective steps, gets nearer to achieving the ends you outlined without straying into victim-blaming, mansplaining territory.Report

  9. James K says:

    This post seems to hold to a romantic ideal that it is always better to fight than surrender. It is bad strategy to fight a battle you can’t win and it’s far from clear that Mercier would have won had she resisted. There is a common belief that bullies are really cowards who fold the moment that you resist them. This belief has little basis in fact – life is not fair and the universe is not limited to providing level-appropriate encounters. Bullies harass people who are less powerful then they are; they have a reasonable expectation that any conflict would result in worse outcomes for their target than for them.

    It makes no sense to spend much time analysing the choice set of the person in the scenario who has the fewest options – there is almost definitionally less that the target can do than the perpetrator.Report

  10. DRS says:

    All power to the Zic. +1,000,0000Report

  11. DRS says:

    I suppose we should be impressed that for all his focus on the “victim’s weakness”, he still says that it’s clearly sexual harassment. Progress of a sort, I’m sure. But if a woman responds in a manner that is seen as too aggressive, she’s being hysterical, can’t handle the real world, doesn’t know what it means to be a professional colleague, is a ball-breaking bitch or probably a closet lesbian, thinks this is how you get a promotion over a more well-deserving peer, or is probably just on the rag this week. Or all of the above.

    The best male boss I ever had handled this kind of thing perfectly. He had a wife who was a professional woman and I’m sure it gave him an insight into what women face. When one of the guys in our organization had acted in a way that generated complaints, the boss called him into the office and told him upfront that this stuff was part of his official file and would be part of the equation when the guy was considered for upcoming projects or even promotion. The boss told him the complaints indicated a lack of professionalism on his part that the organization could not possibly tolerate in someone working on important projects who would be interacting with people outside the sector, many of whom would be women. When the guy protested that it was being taken out of context, just kidding around, blah blah blah, the boss wasn’t taking it. The problem is not their response, it’s your attitude, the boss said, and all of this is just reinforcing my concern about your behaviour.

    That boss made the guy wear it and wouldn’t let him get out from under it by throwing blame at the women. Sexual harassment will decline sharply when guys realize that they are going to wear this sh*t for life and it will cost them professionally.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to DRS says:

      But notice that in your example here, the (male) boss only acted in response to the women’s complaints. Indeed there’s no way he could have acted absent their complaints. I read the post as just encouraging women who are harassed to make their complaints, because that is the only way action will ever be taken.

      Perhaps the tone of the post came off wrong, but I don’t see it as victim blaming. Oppression doesn’t stop until the oppressed react en masse. It’s not victim blaming to say that Jim Crow didn’t end until African-Americans stopped acquiescing to it and fought back.* It’s not victim blaming to say that treating homosexuality as a crime didn’t stop until homosexuals started fighting back.

      Obviously, complaining is not the best course for every harassed woman in every single case. And obviously every oppressed group needs allies when they fight back (and it’s especially important to have allies within that broadly construed group of oppressors–whites in the case of civil rights, straights in the case of gay rights, and men in this case; people who can say, from more-or-less the inside, what we are doing is not right). But I think Jed has a point that ultimately it is the oppressed group that–unfair as it may be–bears the burden of leading the charge against their oppressors. So, even granted that not every harassed woman needs to, or ought to, speak up in every single case, we need to degrade the norm that encourages their silence and promote a norm that encourages their vocal objections. I think that rather than blaming the victims, that’s empowering the victims.
      * I struggle to imagine a scenario in the 1950s where someone says, “We shouldn’t say the Negro** needs to organize himself** and fight back against segregation. That’s blaming the victim.”

      ** Sorry, that’s how folks talked back then, right?Report

      • Fnord in reply to James Hanley says:

        Obviously, someone has to fight it. If no one knows about it, no one’s going to fight it, so unfortunately the victim is frequently required to take that very first step. That’s the only thing that has to be done by the victim; after that, anyone can fight it. In this case, we already know about it, so mission accomplished.Report

      • Don Zeko in reply to James Hanley says:

        If that’s the argument here, isn’t there a disconnect between the broader point and the cited case? After all, this particular victim of harassment, if I’m understanding the facts correctly, did fight it: she put this guy’s offending messages up on the internet, which is how we are able to talk about it at all.Report

      • EB in reply to James Hanley says:

        Your hypothetical isn’t really analogous to this situation. A more appropriate example would be a black person suffering racist abuse, choosing not to confront the perpetrator because of a widely-held and justified belief that doing so could result in more abuse and even physical violence, and then a white person coming along and saying “See? That weakling won’t even stand up for himself. This sort of behavior just encourages racism.” If you struggle to envision that scenario in the 1950s, allow me to refer you to the OP, where it happened 14 hours ago.Report

      • Fnord and Don Zeko, the developer did a great thing by granting the interview to Kotaku, but I still think it’s important to consider the potential legal ramifications in online cases like these when the victim doesn’t tell the harasser that his advances are unwanted. Moreover, I think people who fit women into a “helpless victim” category is harming the cause against online harassment. Everyone should be more aware that while individual cases may vary, women should speak up about harassment more. Amanda Hess has provided a foundation for this approach. Written online proof of victims telling the harassers that their advances were unwanted makes the legal case stronger and more compelling.

        EB, your comparison is wrong. A true analogy would be if someone criticized a black victim of physical violence for not speaking out about the violence in some way so as to build a case.Report

      • EB in reply to James Hanley says:

        @jed-pressgrove re analogy: I confess I don’t quite understand. If someone acted the way you describe, given a context in which they might suffer tremendously for speaking out, I certainly would not criticize them. If they spoke out despite the costs, I would praise them for their bravery. I can’t imagine thinking it appropriate to call someone weak, as you have done, for not wanting to bring extra pain on themselves. Now, of course, if I didn’t believe that they would suffer for speaking out, their behavior bight be blameworthy. It seems pretty clear that you don’t believe the various women who have described the ways in which they have suffered for speaking out, and would expect to suffer for speaking out again. Or is the absence of bravery now the same thing as weakness?Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        plenty of folks will boast about what they’ve done to the secretaries.
        Knew a guy who gave one of those fools a “taste of their own medicine”
        (no, that was most certainly not what professional managers do.)Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        people ought to speak out about harassment.

        Every single company ought to monitor their e-mail (as is their right)
        for sexual content. Not to bludgeon folks talking about porn (so long
        as everyone’s okay with talking about porn…), but because it’s their
        system, and their office, and their supplies.Report

  12. Johanna says:

    But the female developer shouldn’t come out of this incident without a lesson. After cringing through Mattingly’s harassment, I was shocked by the female developer’s lack of moral remonstration and outrage
    When it comes to sexual harassment there is no playbook on how to react. When I worked in the grocery store over 20 years ago, l dealt with comments from male co-workers like this regularly when I first began working the stockroom (I was one of only two women stockers). My response was to make sure that I had a good insulting comeback in earshot of others and to take any opportunity to mock their manliness. It quickly proved to be an effective deterrent of unsolicited attention. I dealt with it without outrage and at the time it worked quite well as it fit the culture I worked in. Reporting the behavior would have guaranteed an unbearable work environment for me. Not everyone is equipped to do that.
    I don’t see any reason to fault her reaction and attempt at remaining professional. We deal with unprofessional behavior in our fields and it influences how we react. By completely blowing off his comments and ignoring them, I contend she sent a message of disapproval that he was too much of an idiot to understand. That is not an indicator of a lack of strength on her or absence of moral character because she didn’t immediately challenge him or report it. The victim is being blamed here and it isn’t just a matter of tone and I find it offensive.Report

  13. veronica dire says:

    Well, I’ll say that the responses to this shitty article are (mostly) heartening. Folks here do seem to get the double bind that women find themselves in, which is good. Ten years ago this conversation would have been very different.

    Here is a short version for folks who cannot keep up: there is no “right”/“correct”/“healthy” response to systematic oppression. The victims of this stuff are simply fucked, as it is relentless, and all responses lead to traps, both externally (how oppressors respond to victims who complain) and internally (how it grinds on your soul).

    Those of us who find themselves in these situations can (sometimes) help each other. We share our experiences, our strategies, our pain.

    What we do not need are presumptuous outsiders who barge in with dumb, clumsy advice. That only adds to our troubles.

    In other words, dear Jed, please stop trying to help.Report

    • “The victims of this stuff are simply fucked … ”

      It’s language like this that will keep the downtrodden in their place.

      “Those of us who find themselves in these situations can (sometimes) help each other.”

      False. Amanda Hess has set up a system where cases can be collected to make online harassment a Civil Rights issue.Report

      • EB in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        Good lord. No, it is systematic harassment at the hands of the powerful that will keep the downtrodden in their place. They are probably not assisted by being blamed for their own fates by individuals such as yourself who ignore the considered opinions of those who have actually experienced this harassment, and instead have decided that something their mother (who I’m sure was lovely) told them on the playground in childhood is more relevant than the lived experience of the victims.

        I know we’re not allowed to use the word privilege, because it makes the privileged feel bad, but this is as good an example as I’ve ever seen.

        Woman: “I am the victim of harassment. Here’s the actions I took, based on my experience and the experience of countless others.”

        Man: “No, you’re wrong. You should have done this other thing, because my mother said so and she is totes a woman.”

        Woman: “That wouldn’t have worked, and would besides have made my life hell and likely caused me to lose my job.”

        Man: “Sexism is your fault, you are too weak.”Report

      • veronica dire in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        @eb — You’re totally allowed to use the word “privilege,” and the response to the word is a great bellwether that reveals those not worth hearing.

        Social justice work is complicated, and it is a different animal for those of us on the wrong end of privilege. But having solid language to name our experiences is priceless, even if a mansplainy jerk will never admit his has mansplained — but will double down and mansplain even more (witness!) — and those who bask in privilege cannot and will not see it.

        Of course they won’t. But we know them. And among ourselves we have a strength these people cannot see.Report

      • You’re misreading what I said by ignoring the legal and political dimensions to my argument.

        Indeed, men are 100 percent responsible if they harass women. And the world would be a better place if men never harassed women. But for whatever reason, some men completely ignore morality. Thus, they should be punished. In order to punish the online variety, you need the strongest legal case possible. Victims are not responsible for the harassment of men, but if we want things to change from a legal perspective, victims must overcome their fear (hopefully through our support and encouragement) and help people like Amanda Hess build the Civil Rights case.Report

      • EB in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        @veronica-dire stupid lack of punctuation for sarcasm. . someone should work on that 🙂 . My only concern is that, as I know you’ve seen both on this site and I’m sure in the real world, is that talk of privilege tends to take on a life of its own for the reasons you just described. Not that that’s a reason not to name it, of course.Report

      • Shazbot11 in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        for whatever reason, some men completely ignore morality.

        I think that you don’t see the reason is a big deal.

        The reason is not that these are bad men who are more likely to be violent or criminal in general. The reason is that they live in a sexist society that has habituated them to act this way and has sent the message to them that if a woman doesn’t want to be treated this way, she will fight back aggressively. When the harassed women looks shocked or is too scared or polite to conversationally, legally, or physically fight back as much as the sexist men thinks she is supposed to if she doesn’t like it, he concludes that she does secretly like it and he keeps going. And if he finally learns later that she didn’t want him to act this way, he sees her as to blame for not acting the way he expected.

        Sure, every case is complicated. Every harasser is motivated by a different cluster of things. But sexism is a factor in almost every case.

        Sadly, Jed, you are contributing -unintentionally to be sure- in a small way to this sexism and are being caused by it to say what you are saying. The woman shouldn’t have to risk a legal battle or a physical fight for her life or even a harsh conversation that could get her fired. Maybe your mom would fight like this. (Maybe you don’t know your mom half as well as you think, too. We idealize our parents some times.) But she shouldn’t have to. It isn’t her responsibility to. To expect that to be her responsibility maintains the very sexist system that is the primary cause of the harassing by maintaining the idea that if a woman doesn’t fight back strongly enough there is something wrong with her.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        Why such rampant anti-men bias?
        You are acting like men are never
        sexually harassed online…

        *granted, such is probably more common on /b/.Report

      • Patrick in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:


        You’re not being constructive today, Kimmie. It’s not just this thread.

        Your occasional drifts into non-sequitur, amusing tho it can be at times, often distracts from the conversation at hand.

        Please, today, either step away from the keyboard, or hold off hitting the “Post Comment” button until you ask yourself this question: “Is this contributing meaningfully to the combox?”Report

      • Shazbot, you are 100 percent wrong to say that sexism influenced my article. I also think your understanding of sociology and psychology is unimpressive and unconvincing.

        I agree that sexism is a problem in society and a significant factor related to sexual harassment; however, your argument is sloppy from a sociological standpoint.

        To imply that every social institution in our society reinforces sexism is poor sociology. To qualify your claim, you’d have to show how every family and community within the larger society has mechanisms that support your model of sexism. There are probably a lot of families and communities who don’t support the sexist model you’re describing (i.e., don’t sexually advance on women if they get visibly upset). Every year, sociologists reveal more and more complexity regarding how institutions can positively or negatively influence human behavior, so it’s a mistake to suggest that society as a whole is sexist. I think the more accurate suggestion is that our society has a significant amount of social problems that are related to sexism and gender stereotypes.

        Psychology is not my field, but I do know there are multiple theories about why men sexually harass women. As you admit, there are several factors involved. But I’m not sure there is any study that shows that sexism is almost always a factor.

        In any case, let’s assume sexism is always a factor. I don’t think my article contributes to sexism because my article doesn’t downplay sexual harassment as something that should be punished (regardless of whether the victim speaks out), and sexists don’t support the idea of women “complaining” to gain power in the legal/political realm (as I mentioned before, there are people on Twitter who disagree with my article for being “too hard” on online harassment).

        I agree with you that no woman should have to go through a battle, but do you expect sexism and all other factors related to sexual harassment to disappear soon? I don’t. I especially don’t think sexism can be properly controlled without legal reinforcement. Think about the battle against racism. As a country, we’ve made great strides in the last 150 years from a legal and philosophical standpoint, but racism still exists. Do you believe we can end online harassment solely through philosophy? We should continue to point out sexism and discourage it, but there’s an opportunity for the Internet to be a better place through legal means as well.

        The way authorities respond to online harassment must change. Specifically, their responses to sexual harassment, death threats, rape threats, etc. lack urgency. The only way that’s going to happen in the near future, as far as I can tell, is if we collect the cases of abuse as part of an ongoing Civil Rights battle. And I think victims should be encouraged to become a part of this larger case.

        Lastly, I don’t idealize my mother. I have my issues with her, and I know how she responds to things she believes are wrong: loudly. I don’t want to get too detailed about my family’s business, but over the years my mother has lost a job for having integrity and my family has gotten a lifelong rapist thrown in prison for life. It would be silly of anyone to call these things “ideal,” but I don’t believe in backing down when someone tries or threatens to hurt you or your family.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jed Pressgrove says:

        Pat — noted. thanks.
        Some things are nearly always related to sexism. Take sibling/sibling incest,
        of the nonconsensual variety (which, as it tends to be long term, parents know
        about and could choose to intervene).
        This is an active choice on the parents part to allow one of their kids to
        take advantage of another of their children.

        Now, I can point to many sociological structures (not all of them, luckily)
        that create this dynamic. But a good deal of them would probably surprise
        you — they’re only tangentially related to the “heart of the problem” which
        is sexism.

        I know someone who has received death threats online. I’m not certain you
        understand the magnitude of the change you’re asking for. Where did the
        death threat come from? What if it’s a place where we don’t extradite
        people to/from? (Iranian upset at women showing our elbows!)Report

      • Kim, I definitely agree with you that there are little and not-obvious things that contribute to sexism (as well as racism, classism, etc.). The challenge for sociologists (and other social scientists) is testing all of these factors in a variety of social contexts and settings. I just think it’s unscientific and unfair to imply “Sexism is everywhere in society.” It’s one thing to believe that statement (people are entitled to believe it), but the evidence isn’t necessarily supportive of that in every institution, and there’s a lot of studying that needs to be done.Report

  14. Chris says:

    You keep talking about the developer’s lack of “moral remonstration and outrage,” but how the hell do you think you heard of this story? It wasn’t because she took the sexual harassment lying down, it’s because she spoke out. What else do you want from her?

    As everyone here has pointed out to you, if you wanted her to speak out in the course of her conversation with Mattingly, then you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how sexual harassment works. If you wanted her to speak out ever, then she has, and if you don’t think that’s a sign that she’s a pretty damn strong woman, then I don’t know what to say to you.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Chris says:

      He has a misunderstanding of how people handle conflict in general.

      People have different reactions to any form of conflict — whether it’s physical or verbal, whether it’s harassment or insults or even rudeness. And even individual people react differently depending on conflict.

      Faced with rudeness on the internet? I tend to react bluntly and with outrage. In person? I seek to disengage.

      Some people escalate, matching offense with offense. Some try to deescalate. Some try to change the subject, some ignore it. People react differently.

      It’s the height of stupidity to highlight one possible response and claim that response is the optimal, one-size-fits all, perfect response and she should do that every time and it’s a personal failing when she doesn’t.

      People don’t work that way. It’s not ‘strong’ or ‘weak’ or ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ — people handle conflict differently.

      As for her: She ignored the offense, focused on her job, and informed HR — which is exactly what every company I’ve ever worked for has trained people to do.Report

  15. Patrick says:

    I’m going to have to agree with zic, from here:

    So no, you still don’t get to tell women what to do because you’ve got a mother. And no, what she prescribes is not a fix-it for all. And no, you do not get to blame me or her or any other woman for a man forcing his dick in some unwanted way into a conversation that was, presumably, a professional one. He did that. He, and he alone, bears that responsibility.

    I understand, conceptually, the point that Jed is trying to make, though. It’s a call to action. It’s just the wrong one.

    There are lots of civil rights leaders who are venerated for calling people to action. We, as a society, venerate these folks; Gandhi, MLK, Malcom X, Harvey Milk. We don’t typically venerate Jim Neighbors, who got married in 2013 but has been gay and a public figure who hadn’t told anybody that for quite some time prior. Indeed, when he got married, some people had the gumption to bitch about the fact that he hadn’t tried to change the world thirty or more years ago.

    For people on the outside of sexual harassment, on the outside of the experience, who have been taught all their lives that bringing conflict out in the open is the only way to get rid of it, it’s hard not to feel like Jed does, and it’s hard not to be bewildered that people get angry at you when you write posts like this because you feel like you’re throwing your hat in the ring behind a call for action to get rid of a societal problem.

    What everyone outside of the civil rights movement forgets, of course, is that leaders in those social movements got shot, had their personal lives disrupted or destroyed, lost family and friends, and… yes… encouraged folks to get up and go out and get their personal lives disrupted or destroyed, lose their family and friends, etc.

    Jed writes:

    I was shocked by the female developer’s lack of moral remonstration and outrage. My shock was due to the fact that I know many strong, self-respecting women, including my wife, mother, sister, aunts, and grandmothers.

    My son Jack is in fourth grade. He’s been at a predominantly minority school since kindergarten. People are starting to talk about MLK and the civil rights movement, and he’s having a hard time understanding it, because it’s completely alien to his experience. There’s always been more black kids and hispanic kids in his class than white kids (14% of his school is white). The idea that people used to care a whole lot about skin color doesn’t make any goddamn sense to him. On the one hand, I’m glad of that.

    But this has its own drawbacks, and this is probably the root of the problem with this piece. Jed, if you’re shocked at something because your personal experience leads you to expect something else, then there is a continuum of possibilities: your experience is near universal, and the something you’re shocked at is the exception, and down at the other end, your experience is near unique, and the something you’re shocked at is the norm.

    I expect, in reality, that the point on the continuum that represents reality is well over the halfway mark towards the far end.

    Rather than talk about how your shock leads you to suggest something, probably the best course of action would be to understand this thing that you’re shocked at, a whole lot more. Because without understanding how most people actually are, and how most people’s experiences actually are, you’re arguing missing a whole lot of context.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Patrick says:

      A step on that road is expressing what you think the appropriate response and the appropriate remedy ought to be. From there, you get feedback and criticism, often from people with perspectives different than your own. And inherent in confronting a problem like this is the fact that solutions are non-obvious and the nature of effective solutions varies on a case by case basis.

      @jed-pressgrove’s heart is very much in the right place: he is outraged by online sexual harassment and wants to see it end. He’s thinking about how to move towards making that happening. This is a good attitude to have. I think he just hasn’t learned enough, explored the issue, and wargamed through his own ideas far enough. Yet.

      So while I agree with the majority of commenters here that the OP presents a misapprehended vision of a remedy, I’d encourage people to keep their criticism constructive. (FTR, @patrick ‘s comment is of exactly this flavor.)Report

      • Burt, you are correct. I feel anything written should be criticized, including anything I write.Report

      • Maribou in reply to Burt Likko says:

        “Can we keep it constructive, please?” would be a very reasonable request if the only problem with this post was a mistaken vision. But the post itself is not constructively presented.

        Phrasings like “But the female developer shouldn’t come out of this incident without a lesson”, “If you know strong, self-respecting women, you know they don’t take immorality lying down: they speak up and tell people what they’re doing wrong. So seeing the female developer pretend that nothing happened was a bad joke. Her weak responses also gave victim blamers (in their minds) more ammunition to acquit Mattingly. “, and “Yet some believe the female developer behaved like a normal woman.” are hostile, victim-shaming ways to put the case.

        I expect better writing from this site (our usual posters are far too fluent to be that careless – and I am being generous when I assume carelessness). I expect better writing from people who want to be treated as allies rather than as part of the problem. Being blunt and honest about their level of offense upon reading this post (as zic, veronica, and others have done) is constructive – is, in fact, the very type of behavior this poster was advocating. Tone-policing those responses is a tiny microaggressive drop in a broad ocean of why women don’t expect positive reinforcement for speaking up.Report

      • Chris in reply to Burt Likko says:

        +1 Maribou.

        If your putative “allies” think things that you find patently offensive, you have two choices:

        1.) Find new allies.
        2.) Convince the allies who think offensive things to think otherwise.

        The level of victim-blaming here is enough that I wouldn’t blame someone for selecting (1.) (to be honest, I find the talk of “morality” in the post rather off putting, period), but everyone, it seems, has taken approach (2.), even if they’ve done so rather pointedly, because it was pretty damned offensive.Report

  16. Shazbot11 says:

    This is a little like blaming (or laying partial blame on) closeted gay men for homophobia, or at least calling them weak for being in the closet.

    I suppose it is true that if all gay men came out of the closet immediately, it might lessen homophobia and oppression. There is some kernel of truth there, that it would be more ideal if all gay men came out of the closer. But stated this crude way, by a straight person no less, fails to recognize the power of oppression and understates the difficulty that oppressed individuals faced. This in turn, ironically, would make the problem of homophobia worse, by sending a message that gay men are morally weak and partially to blame for their own oppression.Report

  17. zic says:

    I want to point out something about the civil rights movement that often gets lost in all these conversations. MLK led a movement that opted for non-violence, where the people who were victims chose to give up their right to self defense to make a greater point. This has become the gold standard of how to protest civil wrongs.

    But lost in that is what happened before the non-violent protests began. They trained. They talked about what it meant. They put massive amounts of effort into preparing protesters on how to act, what to expect. I suspect that thousands upon thousands of people who might have joined protests were discouraged to because they were at risk or unwilling to shoulder the risk of giving up the right to protect themselves and their families.

    This is not something to step into lightly, this calling out the privileged by the victims of privilege. And each and every time we reach to the Civil Rights Movement without remembering this, we do that noble cause injustice.

    Calling women to speak out without recognition of what women risk when the speak out is a similar injustice. Do you think that Hess’s life has been easy since she spoke out publicly? I’d guess it’s been worse, that she knew it would be worse, and that she spent a lot of time preparing for that outpouring of hatred; and that she’ll probably spend a good amount of time the rest of her life in dealing with that outpouring.Report

  18. veronica dire says:

    Story time, the last few times I’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted.

    Okay, the first scene: I’m at a queer dance club. Now, one would think this is a great environment for me, total acceptance. How I wish! The queer scene can be its own special minefield. ’Specially for a trans woman who likes women.

    Anyway, so on this particular night I’m feeling pretty isolated and lonely. I’m dancing, ’cause I love to dance and it makes me feel good. And it hides the fact that no one wants to talk to me.

    So this pretty butch-ish girl comes and starts dancing with me. Which is great. I get close, but not too close — if I touch her, like everyone else on the dance floor is touching, I might set off the “She’s not really a girl and OMG this DUDE touched me” thing —

    Which has never happened to me. But it’s a thing.

    So I dance close but not too close. And then out of nowhere she grabs my breasts. I mean, she totally cops a feel.

    I’m not sure if this is meant to be sexy or if she is just curious.

    (They’re real, by the way.)

    I let her. I say nothing, keep dancing.

    I mean, had she asked to come home with me, I’d’ve said yes. Maybe. At least I’d suggest coffee and see where things go.

    But she gropes. I dance for a while, get close. I’m kinda maybe halfway glad; I’m getting attention. She gropes more. I dance more. Soon it starts weighing on me, what is happening, so I flee to the bathroom.

    When I’m alone in the bathroom the tears begin to come. I cry for a while. Then I sneak out and go home.

    The next time was verbal. I’m walking along the subway platform (Boston, Downtown Crossing, Orange Line) on a Saturday night. It’s reasonably crowded, but not packed. Near the end I pass a group of men who are sitting on the bench. They cat call me after I pass.

    I don’t hear their exact words — turns out cat callers are seldom articulate — but it was clearly about my bottom. They laugh. I give them a glance. They are watching me, expectantly, a group of young, strong men. I am alone in heels. So I fake-smile, strut, and shake my butt. They laugh more. One whistles.

    I feel gross and humiliated, but not particularly afraid, since my butt shaking seems to have sufficiently entertained them. (This is happening only a few days after I was assaulted on the subway. So not feeling fear is at the moment priceless.) My train arrives. I get on a different car from them.

    These are small things, but they happen a lot, and they are draining. I talk to my friends about them, other women, in particular other trans women. We share among ourselves.

    I really, really, really don’t need some dudebro’s opinion on what I should do. I really don’t. Just please shut up.Report

    • Boegiboe in reply to veronica dire says:

      Don’t want to threadjack here but…Thank you for telling your stories here, Veronica, in this comment and in others on the site. One difficulty I run into in advocating for ways to make my organization more welcoming to trans people is straight and gay folks’ lack of experience with real trans people, and putting stories like yours out there probably helps in that area. It certainly helps me. Cheers!Report

    • zic in reply to veronica dire says:

      I’ll second this, and add:

      One of those cute women you see on the red line is a dear friend, and what you have to say is of great value to me because of that. I hope the two of you meet. Though I could, I won’t do anything to arrange it, but actually I suspect it may happen. (I’ve been watching lost, and probably see causal connection as fate too readily right now. Stories are like that.)

      That said, if I ask questions, this is why. I’m grateful to have your experience as a way to better understand, grateful beyond saying. I also have to give consideration privacy on the internet, I love her, and wait on her permission.Report

    • veronica dire in reply to veronica dire says:

      Thanks @boegiboe and @zic.Report

  19. DRS says:

    I haven’t been able to post today for some reason but assuming I can now – I want to nominate Zic and Maribou for something really great. +1 million to you bothReport

  20. KatherineMW says:

    I don’t think she responded in that way for no reason. In an environment like the gaming industry, confronting someone about such comments could be a good way to lose your job. If you want women to respond more strongly to such things, we need to address all the the factors that make it very professionally and personally risky to do so.Report

  21. zic says:

    so the great web just washed this bit of flotsam up on my screen:

    I don’t really have much to say about the content of the OP, it strikes me as shallow; a good-hearted attempt to say something meaningful, but the elements don’t strike me as having been carefully examined by the writer; resulting in a piece that can be read with whatever biases you bring to the encounter.

    The comments are why I’m sharing; they’re a small bit of the misery frequently heaped on women on line. Is this kind of response a common thing for men?Report

    • Stillwater in reply to zic says:

      I like the way the author introduces his topic: there are five things men were born to do – it’s in the genes baby! – that they choose not to. I couldn’t take it seriously after that. I did read the first ten or so comments, and they were universally ripping on the author’s incoherence (amongst other things).

      I don’t really understand the question, tho. Are you asking if men shred each other on line for saying silly things?Report

      • zic in reply to Stillwater says:

        Well, I know men shred each other on line; but the shredding with the addition of “you don’t deserve a penis” commentary struck me as more representative of the kind of ‘you deserve to be raped’ stuff women get.

        Which is why I asked on this particular post.

        Is it an example of trying to feminize, and so diminish, his reach for manliness?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Maybe. I’d interpret a little differently I guess: that identifying being a man with the Rugged-Egotistical-Tough-Guy-ism is actually very unmanly. Very ungentlemanly.Report

      • zic in reply to Stillwater says:

        Stilllwater, I do agree with that, 100%.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Stillwater says:

        During a relatively recent discussion my masculinity was challenged by virtue of the fact that I take care of our daughter. I can’t remember the precise wording, something to the effect that the world would be a lot better with fewer quote-men-unquote like me. Being accused of being less than a man is something I see, but not all that frequent in the places that I hang out (not a random group, to be sure) and probably not in line with what I am assuming took place in the comment section of that post.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Stilllwater, I do agree with that, 100%.

        Heh. I just talked myself into thinking your view was right. The guy who wrote the line struck me as a pretty standard issue MRA-type, which makes me wonder why he was attacking the author like he was. In fact, I think I might have misunderstood the entire dynamic on that thread. It’s hard tellin not knowin.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to zic says:

      I’m confused. First, I don’t see a comment section to the post. Second, the post appears to be written by a man about men.

      To answer the question, the amount of misery heaped on men for making ill-received comments does not come close to matching ill-received comments by women.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to zic says:

      I read the whole comment you’re referring to and frankly, I don’t know what they guy is talking about. It was pretty incoherent, it seems to me. Just an expression of resentment. So maybe you’re right.Report

      • zic in reply to Stillwater says:

        So this outburst, the kind of thing women commonly experience, is relatively uncommon for men to experience on-line?

        And @will-truman, I’ve actually heard fathers who are care givers be on the receiving end; it doesn’t surprise me, and I’m very sorry it happened.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        So this outburst, the kind of thing women commonly experience, is relatively uncommon for men to experience on-line?

        It’s uncommon at the websites I frequent. But I’m sure it’s pretty common on sites where men are discussing related topics. The reach of the MRA knows no bounds.

        I’ll second Will’s comment too. I know a couple of guys who used to work together. One became a stay at home dad, the other is a liberal-new-age-spiritual type who thinks being a stay at home dad is something men don’t do. Men, as he says “go to work.” He doesn’t aggressively run the guy down, but he’s not shy about expressing himself either. And behaviorally he’s a really mild mannered dude.Report