Sunday reads

A few pieces that caught my eye this week.

Bec Shaw: Fat of the Furious

I couldn’t write about what happened at the time because I felt so despairing when Roxane Gay discussed how humiliated the incident made her feel. I despaired for her, but also for myself. Because selfishly, it made me realise it maybe actually doesn’t get better, like I thought it might. Sure, I am treated awfully, but surely once you are Roxane fucking Gay, it gets better. But no, just despair. Because it evidently doesn’t matter if you are a universally respected writer, someone being flown around the world to speak to adoring audiences. It doesn’t matter how beloved, how successful, how amazing you are — if you are a fat woman, you are first and foremost still just a fat woman.

Laura McGann: I believe Bill Cosby

This trend is deeply troubling. Even in the face of clear statements and corroborating evidence, we so often just don’t believe men when they say sexual assault is funny or when they say they’ve done it.

It’s time for us to start believing men.

And because at least three separate people sent this link to me for no apparent reason: This is what happens when you teach an AI to name guinea pigs

Earlier this week, research scientist Janelle Shane got a fantastically unusual request from the Portland Guinea Pig Rescue, asking if she could build a neural network for guinea pig names. The rescue facility needs to generate a large number of names quickly, as they frequently take in animals from hoarding situations. Portland Guinea Pig Rescue gave Shane a list of classic names, like “Snickers” or “Pumpkin,” in addition to just about every other name they could find on the internet. The rest is history.

Tweeting for The Nation

I was well stoked to be a member of The Nation’s Twitter panel this morning with Jenée Tibshraeny.

Naturally the big story of the day was the Budget, along with Michael Morrah reporting from South Sudan and Kenya. Here’s the official Storify recap, and you can catch a replay on TV3 tomorrow morning at 10am or check out the interviews on their website. A few highlights:

I’m pretty sure Child Poverty Action Group understand Working for Families.

Don’t drink at 9:30am on a Saturday, kids.

Werewolf on leftwing misogyny

Two stonkingly good posts over at Werewolf this week – both superficially about the ongoing tantrums of Martyn Bradbury, but more fundamentally about the direction for the left and the role of women within a leftwing movement.

Anne Russell writes on the misogyny at The Daily Blog:

Meanwhile, we need a Left to take care of the sick and wounded; women, people of colour, disabled people, sex workers, the queer and trans community, all those who know that their battles are at the centre of the fight rather than a distraction on the margins. A brilliant article on weareplanc.org about the emotional conditions of capitalism argued that contemporary leftist resistance needs to correspond to capitalism’s current emotional stage: that of making everyone very anxious and overwhelmed. The article argues that the Left, at least internally, has to be kind to its members, offering a haven from the angry and overstimulating world of neo-liberalism-cum-fascism. As I wrote last year, this approach is not incompatible with outward anger against the state, cops, the prison system, corporations or any other oppressive institutions and forces. Rather, it will help replenish our energy to do that work.

And Gordon Campbell the day before said on Labour’s candidacy troubles:

Bomber’s message is the one that women on the left have been hearing since time eternal ie, that they should keep quiet, remain patient until victory is assured, and – in the meantime – make sure their concerns and modes of expression don’t antagonise the heroes of the proletariat. Besides everything else, this looks like a failure of imagination. Is the Winston Wing of Labour’s support base – those heroic, hand-calloused members of the white working class that Bomber Bradbury and Chris Trotter always bang on about – really so immune to policy arguments pitched any higher than Greg O’Connor’s face on a campaign billboard, or Willie Jackson on the mike?

Martyn, who among his many well-nourished enmities has a strange grudge against Werewolf’s antecedent Scoop, will see these two posts (and this one) as proof of some grand conspiracy against him by the BlueGreenSocialMediaMillennialHipsterIdentityPolitics Stormtroopers. Doesn’t stop them being bang on the money, and doesn’t mean the broader problems they describe aren’t very real obstacles to real progressive change in New Zealand.

[edit: called it. It’s apt that Martyn describes Gordon Campbell as a “purveyor of violent sexual abuse revenge fantasies” even though it was Anne Russell who mentioned the case of Mervyn Thompson. Obviously women can’t have their own opinions in the absence of a man.]

Untroll the internet: Pantsuit Nation

Normally this would be an Untroll Thursday but I think we all need something to sooth our hearts before US election result anxiety explodes all over us.

Vox reports on Pantsuit Nation, a secret Facebook group of 1.3 million Clinton fans:

Now that its membership has ballooned, the community has evolved from a place to coordinate Election Day attire into a place where members (of all genders and political parties, according to founder Libby Chamberlain) not only rave about their chosen candidate, but also provide moral support each to other in the face of what many feel is a hugely stressful run-up to voting day.

“We share stories about our grandparents, our children, and our families,” Chamberlain said. “We support each other during this highly contentious election season and have created a refuge from the vitriol that is sweeping the nation.” Administrators encourage members to adhere to the “go high” mantra made famous by first lady Michelle Obama, and so far, she says, “the response has been astounding.”

Beyond the election, things like this really do give me hope. Internet forums don’t have to be hives of shitposting and misogyny. Moderators can build positive discussion and lay down the law about the kinds of environments they want to oversee, and it doesn’t have to end just because a bunch of agitating douchebags scream about free speech. They have the rest of the internet, you know?

I see so many people – predominantly women – who have just stopped posting about the US election on social media, because even on their own pages they’re not safe from other people – predominantly men – being negative, disingenuous and outright abusive. Who feel they have to let those comments stand, or go unchallenged, because it’s not worth the grief and whinging and social stigma of rebutting even the most obvious bullshit.

We can have online spaces where people just squee about the things they love. We can set the limits for what behaviour is acceptable in those spaces, exactly the same way we set limits for what’s acceptable in our homes and communities. We don’t have to subscribe to the idea that sharing our platforms with people whose sole purpose is literally to antagonise and derail discussion is somehow noble or desirable.

Let’s make a better internet.