Out Nov

Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online - Bailey Poland

Disclaimer: Arc via Netgalley


                Taylor Swift tells us that since “haters gonna hate, hate” we should just “shake it off”.   Considering how much shit, Ms Swift has taken because of her love life, she might be on to something.   (And no, I am not a Swift fan.  I just do not understand why a woman who dates is considered a slut, but a man who does it considered just human.  Actually, I do understand, and it makes me want to strangle people).               


Bailey Poland would disagree.


                And I think she’s right.


                Here’s the thing.  There is some truth to the argument that a public figure must learn to take criticism and that criticism of a person’s work (say a song, a book) is different than criticism of a person.  Too often many people blur that line (and for the record, it is fine if an author is cursing their computer screen while reading a review, but it can be a problem if the author goes public).  Yet, in today’s modern world where many people have some type of online presence, everyone is criticizing for everything.


                Well, almost everyone. 


                For instance, if a male gamer had talked about tropes in video games, would other gamers have created an app that allows a person digitally punch his face?  Donald Trump has said some hateful things, but he really hasn’t called off speaking engagements because of safety concerns?   What is it about women speaking their mind that drives some people insane?


                You mean, it’s the women, speaking, minds part.            


                Poland’s book is really about cyber vixen, why it should not simply be shaken off (actually, why it can’t be) as well as suggests about how to deal with it.  This means that she covers Gamergate as well as the various attacks upon Anita Sarkeesian.  However, these are not the only examples that she uses.  Even if you are a woman who has not been subjected to some type of cyber sexism.  Whether it is a sexual comment while gaming, to being told you should be shot out of a canon for mentioning sexism to online mansplaining, most women have experienced some type of behavior that Poland is addressing. Usually women are told to shake it off. 


                Sometimes this doesn’t do anything.


                Don’t believe me?  Well, this is being posted on an online book community (more than one, actually), so you dear reader know about all those authors who target reviewers.  How many of those reviewer targets were men and how many were women?  While the reviewer issue isn’t something that Poland addresses directly (she does mention the whole puppy issue with the Hugos), you can quite easily apply many of her points.  You can see many of her points simply watching how Trump and his supporters deal with many of their female critics.


                In many aspects while Poland builds on the work of Laurie Penny, her work is more encompassing and somewhat less defined by gaming and geekdom  -though gaming does prove a chapter or two.  This is not surprising considering that Poland’s book is longer than Penny’s cyber seism essay.  She also draws on the work of other feminists both in terms of strict feminist theory as well as cybersexism theory (if that is the correct term).  In many ways, her books is timely because some of the issues and ideas that she mentions are the same ways that get used to explain the success of Trump’s political run.


                The closing section of the book covers methods to deal with cybersexism , and perhaps this is the most important because it can be difficult to deal with speech issues online, where tone can be largely absent. (And where is that line between speech and harassment in some cases).


                This book is a timely and important read.