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text 2017-10-21 13:53
OT: The #metoo campaign

This past week I've read about the #metoo campaign. It's depressing reading. Today I found out that one of our most famous singers is in fact a rapist and also a person who takes advantage of his position to silence his victims. I don't know who it is, and that's really unsettling. It might be one of my favorites. The victim said (anonymously) that every time a friend sings along to one of his songs or even just plays it, she gets a flashback to that night and she can't say anything about it.

What I really wanted to mention was the fact that my mom, sister and I have never (or at least almost never) been targeted. My mom has lived a relatively fun and varied life. She's travelled a bit, worked in different professions and had lots of friends. Back in those days people were clearly better brought up. Or she's been lucky and met only decent people.

My sister and I didn't grow up in such a time. Girls we went to school with were probably targeted like these women that I've read about in the media over this past week. But not my sister and I. And - it may not come as much of a surprise to my readers - we've lived very sheltered lives. Most of the time we just sat at home and read our beloved books. We're simply not very outgoing.

After reading all this depressing stuff, it hit me. Does it really have to be this way? Do you have to stay inside the safety of your own home to be respected as a human being?

Source: crimsoncorundum.dreamwidth.org/182145.html
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text 2017-10-14 13:54
My Friend Ordered a Can of Pepper Spray and It Made Me Mad.

 

 

Worried that her daughter braved dangers unseen, her mom asked her to order it online. While there isn’t a dearth of unspecified horrors that await us women the moment we leave our home — and within — her mom was probably thinking about the latest threat. A guy on a bike has been slashing at women passersby. It makes me mad how easy it is for that guy to not just hurt those women physically but also leave slash marks on their psyches!

 

Every day, I am greeted with a new story about this guy being salaciously discussed with the other women who travel in the same van I do. It makes me mad that they spend so much time talking about that piece of shit. To me, it feels like glorifying his “escapades”.

When the van halts at stop signs, the slasher is foremost in our thoughts. It makes me mad when the women sitting by the window look out suspiciously at any guy on a bike approaching our vehicle. It makes me even madder when they slide the windows closed out of fear. The windows don’t stay closed for long — this being one of the hottest summers in Karachi — but the fact is they are closed out of fear!

 

A week or two before, I was on the phone talking to my mother. Amidst our daily “how are yous” and “how is work treating yous” was a new element this time. She was passing along a message from one of my uncles. Worried about his nieces who went to work every day, he had asked us to not leave our house until we saw our transport arrive. I know he said that out of love and I love him for it but the fact that he had to…it makes me mad!

 

What gets my goat even more is how all the fear has made me suspicious of others. Several months ago, I remember getting off work late. Waiting for a rickshaw while standing in the rain, all I could think of was: why is that car not moving? Someone had parked a car some distance away from where I stood. I felt the beginnings of fear while they waited silently but it turned into panic when the car was put into reverse gear. Luckily, before anything untoward could happen, I was able to get a rickshaw and leave.

 

To this day, I don’t even know who was in the car and why they waited seemingly without a reason. Yet, it makes me mad when I think back on how scared I had been!

The only silver lining in my dark, boiling cloud of grey is that I won’t let the fear stop me. I will be careful while going out. I will watch out for other women who I see outside. I will try to avoid working late. I will even wait on the front stoop until my ride arrives. But you know what else I’m going to do? I will keep getting mad because right now, my anger is the only weapon that I have.

 

If you have stuck around until now, I would love to know what gets you mad.

 

First published on Medium.com on 14th October, 2017.

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review 2017-04-06 11:55
A great example of the genre and the characters and the setting complement the mystery perfectly
11:05 Murders (The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries) (Volume 2) - Brian O'Hare

I write this review as a member of the Online Book Club org.

This police procedural novel, the second in The Inspector Sheehan Mysteries series, is set in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and it has it all: mysterious murders, a complex set of suspects that will keep fans of the genre spinning the wheels of their brains, a fascinating backdrop that includes political and religious issues, secondary themes that are in everybody’s minds (police corruption, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, stalking, financial crisis…), a team of policemen made up of distinct and realistic individuals, great dialogue, detailed crime scene investigation, touches of humour and even a dab of romance.

The story is told in the third person and it is narrated from the point of view of a variety of characters (mostly members of the police team, although also some chapters by some of the suspects), but there are no sudden changes in viewpoint and it does not cause any confusion. Instead, the style of the storytelling helps create a puzzle where the reader has more clues than any of the given characters, but there are also delayed discoveries and many red herrings, so things aren’t quite as easy as one might initially think. Being able to share in the different characters’ opinions and motivations gives the reader a multifaceted view that increases the intrigue.

At the beginning of the story we have a female Sergeant Detective, Denise Stewart, join Sheehan’s team. She has been through a harrowing experience at her previous post that has made her defensive and suspicious. Despite that, it doesn’t take long for her to realise Sheehan’s team is different and she starts to relax. Unfortunately, other things start going on in her life that seem, initially, completely unrelated to the murder they are investigating, a rather gross and well-planned crime that took place on a Tuesday at, exactly, 11:05 pm. There are several lines of enquiry, a fragment of a cufflink that keeps popping up, suspects galore, assaults on one of the detectives (young and handsome Tom Allen, who has taken an interest in Stewart), and Sheehan has the feeling that he’s missing something. His famous intuition seems to be letting him down but…

This is the second book in the series and although I have not read the previous one, I had no difficulty getting into the story. This is a standalone book that can be enjoyed without having read the first one but after having read this one I hope to read more in the series.

This novel could serve as an illustration on how to write mystery and police procedural books. The writing is precise, with enough descriptions and fleshing out of the characters to make the readers recognise them and care for them, with clues masterfully shared throughout the book, with no extraneous details or anything that does not move the story forward included. Even seemingly innocuous or passing comments have a reason and the twists and turns of the story will have readers choosing and discarding numerous suspects, keeping them always on their toes. The pacing and timing of the reveals work very well. When I was getting close to the end, I kept stopping and trying to run all the clues in my head to see who the perpetrator was. I had my suspicions from the beginning but kept changing my mind as the story went.  Ah, and the ending did not disappoint.

Both the murder being investigated and the detectives are interesting in their own right and readers will end up feeling a part of Sheehan’s team. The light and humorous moments alternate with tense and scary moments enhancing both. The local touches and references to locations and historical events (the troubles) make it particularly memorable and distinct. I recommend it to any readers who love police procedural mysteries with great characters and complex plots. A word of warning, due to the nature of the crime and to some of the other scenes, this is not a book for the faint-hearted and is definitely not a cozy mystery.

 

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review 2016-11-22 22:07
Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online
Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online - Bailey Poland

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

I don't read non-fiction that often, so when I do, I always want those books to be good, to teach me something, and/or to make me think. I guess this one was all three? I pretty much "enjoyed" reading it—from an academic point of view, because let's be honest, the problems it describes aren't so savoury, and it's such a shame they're still here in 2016. Interesting, too, was how I could discuss it with a couple of friends, and they hadn't necessarily realised either all that online harrassment involves: not just the insulting posts/tweets/interactions, but how all those get dismissed so easily, and by basically everybody and their dog, under the umbrella of "don't feed the trolls" and "if you don't like it, just turn off your computer".

Because not feeding offenders doesn't mean they'll stop: what they want is not always attention, but the feeling that they've "won" by driving you away.

Because "just turn the computer off" is not a solution, especially not in our age where every potential recruiter and employer looks you up on the web, and if you don't maintain some kind of online presence, you're not good enough, but if what they find are blogs and profiles defaced by abusers, it's even worse.

Because, sadly but unsurprisingly, it still all ties into the "blame the victim" culture; into victims being the ones who must waste time and make efforts to get rid of the abuse; into (yes, once again) the fact that women and minorities get a lot more abuse than ye olde middle-class white guy—and that it's about abusers demanding that their victims waste their time on them, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

I've been lucky so far in terms of abuse, but I've lived in bad places offline and I know what it is to get cat-called by shady guys in the street, who then proceed to insult you when you don't drop everything you're doing to turn all your attention to them. So, yeah, when we have to contend with that shite online as well? Not good.

Sadly here as well, people who'd benefit most from reading such a book (in order to realise why it's not okay—or that we've called their BS long ago and the only ones they're fooling is themselves) won't read it, won't care, will probably abuse the author, whatever. Nevertheless, I think this would be food for thought for many, many other people: it's amazing (and worrying) how easy it is to internalise that culture of abuse, to react ourselves with mild aphorisms like "just block them", as if ignoring what's happening will make it vanish by magic. Tiny little details that we continuously feed into our own daily narratives, poisoning ourselves, even when we're obviously against abuse and behave in civil ways otherwise.

The author provides quite a few examples of abuse situations or larger events like the Gamergate, showing how abusers behave, and what kind of dangers this can all lead to, ranging from personal and professional issues to physical wounds and worse (revealing information like Social Security numbers and addresses, for the targets to be abused offline as well).

The one thing I found a little difficult at times was the academic style, which was dry in places, and sometimes seemed to repeat itself (possibly in attempts to keep it to a more generic kind of language, I'd say, and prevent it from immediately being labelled as "see you're writing about abusers but you do that in an offending way"—also note the irony of, once again, having to keep ourselves in check so that the real abusers won't be able to bounce on it). On the other hand, the book as a whole is accessible and not "hard" to read and understand.

Conclusion: Important matter, dealt with in understandable ways, and deserving of being read by a wide range of people.

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review 2016-05-16 17:11
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.

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