[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.
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.
The Collars and Cuffs series:
Christmas is a time for goodwill to all, but Collars and Cuffs co-owner Thomas Williams receives an unexpected gift that chills him to the bone. A Dom from another Manchester club asks Thomas for his help rescuing an abused submissive, Peter Nicholson. Thomas takes in the young man as a favor to a friend, offering space and time to heal, but he makes it clear he’s never had a sub and doesn't want one. Peter finds Thomas’s home calm and peaceful, but his past has left him unwilling to trust another Dom. When Thomas doesn't behave as Peter expects, Peter’s nightmares begin to fade, and he decides he’d like to learn more about D/s life.
A well-known trainer of submissives, Thomas begins to teach Peter, but as the new submissive opens up to him, Thomas finds he cares more for Peter than he should. Just as he decides it’s time to find a permanent Dom for Peter, they discover Peter’s tormentor is still very much a threat. With their lives in danger, Thomas can’t deny his feelings for Peter any longer. The question now becomes, can Peter make it out of the lions’ den alive, so that Thomas can tell his boy that he loves him?
So what did I think?
"One day you will see things differently. One day you'll awaken to sunshine, not just in your room but in your heart, and you'll be able to step out of the shadows, to become the person you were meant to be."
The character of Peter was beautifully written,so broken and sad. It was wonderful to watch his blossoming under the tender care of Thomas and the friendship provided by Alex. Peter's view of submission was warped by his experience with a cruel and uncaring man. Peter knew where his natural inclinations lay but his trust was abused until he lived a life in fear.
The story is very focused on Peter's emotional healing, his learning to trust and ultimately learning to love while giving himself to a man who loves him in return. Thomas is the man to meet all of Peter's needs but it takes Thomas a while to come to that realisation. He is fearful of the significant age gap between Peter and himself and has been alone for so long that the club had become his focus. Thank goodness for good friends to help him see the light!
Abuse, emotion, submission, sex, love, friendship, drama...this book was a wonderful continuation of the series!
Another thing I did like was the small cross-over with the Learning to Love series characters. Detective Inspector Mark Saunders appears in this book and there is reference to his son Josh and his housemate Daniel - Daniel helpfully lent DI Saunders a cock-ring to fit out as a listening device! :) Make sure you check out my review of that series. Josh's story can be found here.
To find out more about K.C. Wells and her books visit her website.