Fashion, Feminism, Media, Other Blogs Kate Contributes To, Trolls

Elsewhere on the internet

I wrote about anonymous cyberbullying for The Guardian’s Comment Is Free:

Yet all over the web, people operating under the illusion that their identities are thoroughly hidden continue to prove John Gabriel’s famous theory of internet behaviour: Normal person + anonymity + audience = total prat.* And too often, particularly when it comes to misogynistic attacks that not only harm women’s public reputations but drive them away from participating in online communities, citizens of the internet side with the prats. People become obsessed with hypothetical legal arguments about freedom of speech – even the kind of speech that’s never been protected – to the exclusion of looking at a larger, more important question: What kind of internet culture do we want?

And then I wrote about the fake controversy over Michelle Obama wearing shorts over at Broadsheet:

That’s right: Michelle Obama wore shorts. In August. To The Grand Canyon. Which is in Arizona. Which is really, really, really hot. And which is also in the United States, where it’s been common for women to wear shorts in public for decades. Not seeing the news angle? Neither is any other thinking person, but that didn’t stop outlets from the L.A. Times to “The Today Show” from discussing the American people’s ostensibly conflicted reaction (unfortunately, most journalists haven’t been able to locate an American person willing to express an opinion other than, “Seriously?”) or the Huffington Post from asking readers: “Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?” … My favorite part of that poll is that the pro-shorts answer is, “Absolutely! It’s so modern!” Shorts. In August. “Modern.” Did Peggy Olson sneak in and write that copy? Or Laura Ingalls Wilder, maybe?

Talk about those posts, or anything else your heart desires, in the thread below. ‘Cause I am way too lazy to write something new here today as well.

*Gabriel’s phrase is, of course, “total fuckwad,” but the editor cleaned it up in a delightfully British way for me.

101 thoughts on “Elsewhere on the internet”

  1. I read a funny thing about Michelle Obama wearing shorts. The writer was defending her right to wear shorts (duh), but their argument was that it was OK for her to wear shorts because she’s tall and has nice legs. So I guess the not too thinly veiled argument there would be, it would NOT be ok if she didn’t have what the writer considered to be great legs.


  2. Per your piece at The Guardian.

    *shifts uncomfortably in seat*

    The behavior you cite in the post is, to me, an example of liberalism’s chief malady. Now, I’m liberal, and I tend to hang in liberal spaces and with liberal people. I want to make it clear that liberalism is my cultural/political orientation.

    For the last decade, my work in progressive nonprofits and time spent with my liberal friends has shown me this malady.

    I’ll call it AccepticitisTM.

    I’ve been working in one liberal nonprofit for the last five years, and I’ve run up against this notion that accepting all people (inclusivity) means accepting all behavior. Even crazy, dangerous, disruptive and toxic behavior. In this organization, everyone is permitted to diplomatically (using “I” statements) speak up about behavior that is toxic from a personal locus. (“What you did/said hurt me.”)

    But we’re not allowed to establish boundaries, because that means someone acting in a toxic way wouldn’t feel included.

    Well, you know what? Not all behavior is acceptable. It’s all right for groups to say “sorry, we don’t do that here. You can stay if you knock it off. If not, let me show you to the door.”

    Shapely Prose has been under light fire in the past few days, with some people claiming that boundaries around communication amount to censorship. (In light of the fracas at We Are The Real Deal).

    I say “bullshit.” If you don’t like the boundaries here, you can get a free blog and define your own boundaries.

    But to assume freedom of speech means that the internet is this magical land where you can defame or libel people — or commit terroristic threat — is either a display of ingorance or a demonstration of a certain You-Aren’t-The-Boss of me reflex.

    I wish liberal circles would work on boundaries. I think we’d gain some credibility if we would.

  3. OH!! Thank you for addressing the Michelle Obama thing!!! It was driving me completely insane. I mean really, the woman wore fucking shorts, I wasn’t aware that was illegal for first ladies.

    Seriously, I occasionally wear shorts, sometimes with hairy legs, as does my mother and most of the women I know. Give me a break.

  4. I think the fact that Michelle Obama got into the news for wearing shorts is, well, thought-provoking. Because wearing shorts is so normal – but not for the First Lady, not in public. I think it shows how entirely un-normal the perception of that role is, to expect a woman to wear… what, exactly, when visiting the Grand Canyon? One of those ghastly little pantsuits with the short sleeves? A formal gown? A nice little pencil skirt and some heels?

    Another reminder that we just get so used to these disordered norms – that no First Lady has ever worn shorts in public, ever, and we didn’t even notice it was a ‘rule’ until Michelle Obama broke it.

  5. You know… I don’t understand the whole fuss over Michelle Obama wearing shorts. To the Grand Canyon. While ON VACATION.

    She wasn’t wearing hot-pants or short-shorts… They were normal every day shorts that people wear all the time.

    Heck, we’ve seen then-First Lady/now-SecState Hilliary Rodham-Clinton in a bathing suit (yes, 1 piece, but still!)…. why not Michelle Obama in shorts?

    What’s the big deal? Personally, I think I have yet to see something she’s worn that she HASN’T looked good in (which makes me wonder whether Mr. President goes to her for ‘fashion advice’…)

  6. But to assume freedom of speech means that the internet is this magical land where you can defame or libel people — or commit terroristic threat — is either a display of ingorance or a demonstration of a certain You-Aren’t-The-Boss of me reflex.

    Cindy, I’m totally with you there. But you probably guessed that. :)

  7. Splendid piece of writing on the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

    Am a allowed a quiet squee because you are posting on the website of my daily newspaper


  8. What my heart desires to talk about today is this: “The CDC report found that the number of deaths and the overall death rate dropped from 2006 — to about 760 deaths per 100,000 people from about 776. The death rate has been falling for eight straight years, and is half of what it was 60 years ago.”

    I read all the way to the bottom of the article, looking for the standard disclaimer that this doesn’t mean you can ignore the OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA but nary a word.

    The rest of the article is good too because it talks about how our life expectancy is worse than countries with universal health care. Here’s the link to it:

  9. The Michelle Obama fracas reminds me of a news headline I saw many years ago, when Princess Diana was still alive (and still a princess). It reported the shocking fact that Princess Diana wore SLACKS when hanging around the house with her family. Can you believe it? SLACKS!

    This media obsession with the clothing and overall physical appearance of women in politics is so, so, so tired. Men never ever get the same scrutiny. Kudos, Kate, for pointing out that most people couldn’t care less that Michelle Obama dared to wear her “so modern” shorts.

  10. Kate – I just want to say thank you for saving my Sanity Watchers points by keeping trolls/douchehounds away from this site. In my opinion, they are the ones limiting free speech by shaming fatties like me who are not quite as self-assured as we would like to be. Even on my own facebook, I don’t talk a lot about FA or HAES out of fear of the trolls and well-intentioned friends who say, “Don’t you realize that fat is unhealthy?” I wouldn’t really call my speech free.

  11. As a side note, I realized yesterday that my OB/GYN is a keeper. My husband asked him when and if we would be able to tell if our baby’s hand or foot is moving from the outside. The doctor explained to him that, “people are built differently. If your wife were 110 pounds, you might be able to see that now. Because she is larger, you may never be able to see that.” And that was it. No lectures. No shame.

  12. I’d like to start a band and call it The Ghastly Pansuits.

    I actually had a dream once where I was in an all-woman band called Nancy Drew and the Girl Detectives. We sang rock-doo-wop with song titles taken from chapter titles of Nancy Drew books. We wore Nancy Drew clothing circa 1945. In my dream, we were performing this awesome, rocking song called “Ned! Look Out!”

    Ever since, I’ve wanted to start this band and make it happen. Too bad I suck at music.

    Threadjack over.

  13. I love Cindy (above) and Barney Frank for setting liberal boundaries on speech today, as well as all the fine writers on SP. Thank you.

  14. Also, I loved your Guardian piece, Kate! I wish to god the Graun would moderate its threads properly though. If anything interesting’s posted there, you have to hide out somewhere else to talk about it.

  15. olderthandirt – I saw the same news being reported on ABC news last night and just about fell out of my chair – Journalists reporting good news about health in america?

    Sadly after 10 minutes of explaining that americans are pretty darn healthy and why, they did decide to close with something along the lines of ‘the growing obesity epidemic of course is looming to take away all that we’ve gained in the past 10 years’


  16. What would our shtick be? Diamanda Galas-like covers of The Supremes? En Vogue-esque stylings with a cranky attitude?

  17. Cindy, I can’t grab it right now but there’s a great piece on geek social fallacies that falls right in with what your saying. I posted the link here before but I can’t remember what thread it was in. I run into those fallacies all the time in social groups I’m involved with, it’s interesting to be the one who says “You know what? We don’t have to include you” and watch jaws drop.
    And yeah, I’m totally behind the Ghastly Pansuits idea. I’m a good singer too and love close harmony.

  18. I kind of have mixed feelings about the internet law. In a way, I think it’s great, but I can already see so many loopholes and flaws with that.

    As someone who is starting to dabble in modeling myself, I would find it a little silly if I were denied a job because of some slanderous comment made by someone somewhere on the internet. Now if it were excessive and there was evidence of the slanderous remarks being true, I can see how they might want to pay attention.

    The right to freedom of speech only goes so far before you inflict upon the rights of your target, but I’m wondering that if laws are going to be put on it now…who determines what remarks are illegal or not. There would be a huge grey area, and exactly how far can it go?

  19. Michelle Obama wearing shorts would never have seemed odd to me without the media pointing out how no other First Lady has worn them in public. And all that knowledge does is make me happier that Michelle Obama is just being herself.

    I also strongly agree with Cindy, and I know many other liberals who do as well. Declaring “Freedom of speech!” means squat when one citizen uses it against another citizen as a defense for offensive language. The right to freedom of speech we all (probably, depending on your country) have? That’s something established between the *government* and citizenry.
    Of course, it’s illegal for any one person to try to physically prevent another person from speaking, because we have the right to bodily autonomy, and all violent behavior is wrong.
    But just as we all have the right to tell guests to get out of our homes, for any reason, we also have the right to ban them from our personal websites.

    Perhaps that’s not acting within the “spirit” of our Constitutional right to freedom of speech, but does anyone really want to go through life forcing themselves to listen to every piece of garbage that enrages or depresses them out of some twisted adherence to a principle?
    Not me.

  20. I want to talk about standing up for myself – and the fat women around me – to my neighbor last weekend.

    A little background: I had a 2-day yard sale at which I was selling a lot of plus-sized clothes. My elderly, widowed neighbor “piggybacked” on to my yard sale as he always does. (He hauls his own stuff out to his driveway without ever chipping on for my signs or ad.) But anyway…

    This year, he decided to try to sell some of his late wife’s clothing. He set up a clothesline in the back yard, and put a sign in his driveway about it. I mentioned that we wouldn’t be in competition because my clothes were all plus-sized or little girl’s, and his wife had been a very petite woman. All her clothing was small or even extra-small.

    He complained about the lack of sales all damn night. But it wasn’t because they were old lady clothes or overpriced (both of which were true), but the lack of “small people”. If I heard it once, I heard it 15 times – “Where’s all the small people? I need some small people. Nobody’s small enough to wear H’s clothes. When you gonna send some small people over my way? There ain’t no small people left anymore,” and so on and so forth until I had just HAD IT. He was saying these things loudly and without regard for who was listening. Well, I was, and so were many of the big ladies browsing my clothing racks. It was rude, it was thoughtless, it was offensive, and I called him on it.

    I finally said to him, “Mr. N, that is ENOUGH!” He looked at me, shocked. I continued, “I have heard enough about small people this and small people that. You are being offensive and rude to me and everyone buying my clothes. I don’t want to hear any more about it.”

    He didn’t say a word. He shut up. He made an occasional passing comment to me over the course of the 2-day sale, but he mostly kept out of my way. (And again, didn’t offer to chip in a dime on the cost of my ad or signs.)

    But dammit, I’m proud of myself.

  21. possibly off-topic and if so i apologize in advance. . .

    ive been reading this blog for the last few months or so, hesitant to comment, still struggling on my journey through FA and IE, and i still am to a degree, certainly, but i love reading the writing here and it has impacted me in such a positive way, and i just want to thank all the contributors and the commentariat for helping to teach me and to eloquently articulate things i have thought about for years but could never put words to

    what prompted this comment is a post on WATRD, not trying to drag up any drama or anything, but the commentary on one of the threads was something i would’ve agreed with or even said myself in the past, but since i’ve discovered FA i have realized how damaging (to myself and to others) that kind of thinking and attitude is, so i commented and for me it kind of cemented another step on my journey through FA and so i got excited and figured the perfect place to share this excitement was SP, so thanks again you all, for being so awesome and inspiring

    /novella over

  22. it seems odd that there is bad talk of the shorts when the pro arms comments went on forever. guessing that her shorts did not fit in
    with the fashion police version of what they think she should wear.
    and, for a while, a few women in the White House got into the
    fashion thing too much for my mind so the fashion police are now
    confused. seems like Michelle came back down to earth when it
    comes to fashion and that ‘s good for her and for all of us. she looks
    just fine, and happy.

  23. I had a small non-profit group basically implode once, because the membership felt that in order to be “inclusive” and “open minded”, we also had to accept trolls, troublemakers, drama magnets, etc. When half the volunteers walked away because they didn’t want to put up with one particular sexist and racist ass-hat, I pointed out to the board that they might want to weigh their policy of accepting everyone into the group no matter what against the well-being of their other volunteers who weren’t going to put up with a hostile environment for the sake of the cause. One friend (who also quit) said something, and I don’t know if she was quoting, along the lines of “You can be so open minded that your brain falls out.” That pretty much summed it up for me. It’s also why I have a lot of respect for blog and message board moderators willing to stick to their guns when it comes to trolls.

  24. Gah! SO many things to comment on.

    @Claire, I, too, am wearing shorts. And they’re tight. Where’s my news crew?

    @Cindy, I’m with you on that one. Like I’ve said in the past, freedom of speech doesn’t mean “I can say whatever the fuck I want to say about you and you can’t do anything, nya, nya, nya.” It means the government can’t censor citizens because of their beliefs (though there are exceptions…).

    @Ashley, the potential damage to the emotional well being of people who are harassed, defamed, and libeled online is immense, I know this from personal experience. While I believe in discourse and people’s right to their own opinions, I don’t believe that anyone has the right to intentionally inflict pain on another person.

    @Vitty10, what also irritates me is that people are saying on WATRD that she’s not thin. Um, she’s not skinny, but she looks pretty thin to me. Regardless of who one might choose to categorize her, she’s gorgeous!

  25. So I guess the not too thinly veiled argument there would be, it would NOT be ok if she didn’t have what the writer considered to be great legs.

    “thinly veiled” fat hatred.


  26. On the first lady,

    It’s no wonder people are turning to the internet for their news. With the ‘mainstream’ media and journalist communities following these talking points–who cares to bother?


    As for anonymity online, I am of the mind that if you won’t say it offline, don’t say it at all. People should think about that before spouting off over the internet.

  27. I really think it’s wonderful that this forum is so tightly moderated. And not in a ridiculous way a la television without pity. It’s sad to say, but when a comments thread is not moderated well, it really makes the blog look less than stellar. use to have a pretty good “letters to the editor” search function, which more or less let the reader filter through the ranting and raving comments, to the well-thought out more nuanced ones. I don’t know what happend, but they are not really keeping up witht that feature anymore and the comments are just a zoo, and there is no way for anyone to really sift through to the good stuff like there use to be.

    I visit Ta-Nehisi Coates’ blog on the Atlantic Monthly sitenot just because he is a great blogger, because he is, but because he has an extremely strict comment policy. He monitors that thing very closely and bans people when he sees fit. What is left is a very enjoyable comments thread with a lot of thoughful, intelligent debate.

    Unfortunately I’ve been banging my head against the wall with Megan McArdle’s blog on the same site. Over the last month or so, she’s been writing quite a bit on fatness and she interveiwed Paul Campos (this was mentioned before on SP) and she mostly has a empathetic view that is not quite FA but is getting there. Of course, the comments on her “obesity” threads are a horror and I keep trying to fight it, but my gosh it’s depressing. She will jump in once in a while to correct the expecially offensive trolls, but she seems to have stopped doing that. It’s too bad she lets that kind of hateful speech go on, on her blog….

  28. Oops – in my last paragraph above, “who” should be “how”

    And of course I forgot to say what I originally intended to say: Kate, like I posted on Twitter, I loved this article. It’s so refreshing to see people who have a solid grasp on the real meaning of free speech write about online harassment in a logical way.

  29. I’m so glad you brought up the Michelle Obama piece, because had an excellent piece about how this is a non-issue. It also pointed out that the media had created this faux controversy of inappropriate dress as way to mask treating yet another woman’s body as public property.

  30. Ok, so I’ll manage the Ghastly Pantsuits. The shtick will be Patty Smith-style covers of beach blanket anthems. The Uniform will be horrible pantsuits, white gloves, and brooches that would make a jersey style queen cry.

    Let’s start our playlist!

    And I want to clarify that I woudn’t presume to exclude people from liberal groups I’m in because of their identity. It’s the behaviors that we need to put boundaries on. The organizations I’ve worked with have been dogged by people who aren’t healthy, who can’t manage their emotions and need to be a permanent part of The Wronged. People like this highjack a mission faster than anything I’ve ever seen.

  31. I had an awesome moment today during lunch with a coworker (with whom I have very shared experience other than working together and being roughly the same age demographic, so it’s not like we hang out or she knows who I know or reads the same internets that I read or anything) when she referenced your Salon piece, Kate, in an enthusiastically complimentary way and I got to say, “Oh, my friend Kate wrote that!” It was pretty cool.

  32. I’m wearing a tank top today! Where’s CNN? I want an interview with Anderson Cooper, hehe.

    Way to hit it out of the park, Kate. Bravo

    Oh, Can Piggy Moo and Ghastly Pantsuits go on tour together? It would be epic.

  33. I’m so glad you brought up the Michelle Obama piece, because had an excellent piece about how this is a non-issue.

    Yeah, that actually inspired my Broadsheet post, and there’s a link to it there — awesome reading, for anyone who’s interested.

  34. While playing TF2 the other day, I saw somebody make a joke about battered women over the text communications. I must say that I flipped out. I asked the guys playing on the server, “Why is that funny?” They responded with, “We so wish we could tell you why that is funny.” I told them I thought they were sick for laughing at that joke, and I quit the server because I felt as though my entire sex was not only maligned, but unwelcome and viciously hated within that environment. I vow and swear (Restoration England phrase!), I am one precarious step away from misandry.

    Within the realm of that particular TF2 server, was I out of line for flipping out – given that the other players almost universally were of the same mindset as the miscreant who told the joke? Or were they out of line for their blatant misogyny? Should their speech be censored – or should mine?

    I grew up in a household where the women were fair game for dad’s fists, so perhaps I was reacting with too much sensitivity to what they said?

  35. I grew up in a household where the women were fair game for dad’s fists, so perhaps I was reacting with too much sensitivity to what they said?

    Not at all.

    You were reacting to them mocking, making light of, a very painful reality that you yourself have lived. Making you feel as though you are being “too sensitive” is them putting their right to act like insensitive douchebag’s above your right not to have people make jokes about your abuse.

    I am glad you left that horrible environment; I hope you find many others which are more supportive!

  36. @Cheddar, legally they have the right to say horrible, misogynistic things, but I don’t think you were out of line for voicing your opinion that their comments were extremely inappropriate. Your past experience makes you understandably sensitive (as I am with gun violence), but it doesn’t make you wrong.

  37. @Cheddar:
    You were absolutely not out of line for flipping out. Contrary to what observation might indicate Misogynist Fuckwaddery is not actually necessary to make internet gaming an enjoyable experience.

    The only reason they get continue to engage in it is that most people who are offended by the foulness of gamers either quit without much notice or are too afraid that people will be mean to them to say something.

  38. seems like Michelle came back down to earth when it
    comes to fashion and that ’s good for her and for all of us. she looks
    just fine, and happy.

    I totally agree that she looks normal and fine and should wear shorts to the Grand Canyon in the summer, FFS. Though I’m not sure what it means that she came back down to earth. I’m sure she’ll still [have to] wear (and will probably enjoy wearing) formal clothes to White House events.

  39. I’ve been pondering the TF2 thing for days. It’s sort of a real-life application of John Gabriel’s theory. I, a female, have been scared away from an online community because of blatant (and repeated) anti-female banter. I’m sure that each and every jerk on that server felt that it was fine to say things like that. The thing is, even if I were inclined to go back there and make horrible jokes about men in order to get even, what material is there – ED? It highlights the fact that misogyny is ingrained in our culture. Jane Caputi wrote a wonderful (if saddening) book on that topic called “The Age of Sex Crime.” (I mentioned this very book in my first comment on Shapely Prose!)

    I really appreciate the supportive comments. And to the blog writers – you’re all stunningly analytical, smart, talented, and funny.

    Gotta throw this one in on the shorts thing – I live in the South, and my first thought was, “You mean she FINALLY put on some freaking shorts?” :)

  40. In today’s Chi Tribue the results of a non-scientific poll were published regarding MO’s wearing of shorts. I’m paraphrasing, but there were two questions: Should she wear shorts?; and, Do you wear shorts? The results were exactly the same. 80/20 split (yes/no) for both questions. I thought that was hilarious.

  41. I nominate Donna Loren’s cover of ‘Shakin’ All Over’ for the Ghastly Pantsuit playlist:

    I think we should use the staging, too. Heck, the costumes!

  42. I think the anonymity issue is such a big reason why moderation on the internet is so important. In normal social interactions, most people will naturally moderate themselves, because there are serious social penalities if they don’t. Without those penalities existing on the internet (at least most places on it), and with anonymity making the penalties pretty meaningless when they do occur, it becomes an arena that is very NOT like the rest of life. I’m not one of those people who’s like, “If somebody is mean and hateful, I’d rather have them say it than hide it.” Personally? I’d rather they hide it and put on a show of decent people, for the good of society, because a world where everybody is spouting off every hateful, bigoted, and vile thing they think is not a world where many people are going to feel welcomed or safe. If an environment where people do feel welcome and safe requires people being compelled by social norms to hold in what they are thinking sometimes, so be it. And, if online creating a space like that requires moderation, so be it, as well. If people won’t moderate themselves, the only option if you want anything approaching not even some utopian safe space, but a space even remotely resembling a regular social interaction, is to moderate for them.

    And not to get back onto WATRD, but that’s why I find the whole “we don’t moderate because life isn’t moderated” a crock of bull. No, life IS moderated, much of the time, because normal social interaction requires it. So by letting any comment any anonymous internet jackass wants to post in response to a blog entry stand, no matter how hateful or vile, you aren’t somehow simulating real life, but allowing damaging and anti-social behavior to run rampant in a way that it thankfully usually doesn’t in most aspects of life.

  43. “the fundamental issue: cowards who use a veil of anonymity, however flimsy and easily shredded, to launch attacks on their enemies, really ought to be silenced. Perhaps not by law, but by an online society that unequivocally rejects such behaviour as inappropriate, immature, and unwelcome.

    So far, we’ve failed to create that society, prioritising overblown fears of future oppressive regulation above properly ostracising people who cause real harm and contribute nothing of value. ”

    Made. Entirely. of WIN.

    Thank you for writing this, Kate – and Cindy, I totes am in agreement also about the boundaries issues, holy hell. Not everything is acceptable, people! The way you *are* and *were made*? YES, without question. The way you *behave*? NO. Not unless it is generally acceptable social discourse, jesus god. Treating people like your personal punching bags is NOT OKAY ANYWHERE, internet included! ‘Cause you know, the internets! It is populated by actual people, right?

    It isn’t – it was NEVER – okay to defame and libel people as a sport, you asshat. Does it really require a lawsuit to get you to see your *behavior* belongs nowhere, not even in a preschool?? I seriously do not allow/excuse such behavior from anyone older/more cognitively capable than a four-year-old. Mercy. What low standards are in place now.


  44. @Cindy – Hell yes on boundaries. I grew up without many boundaries that civilized people take for granted and trying to establish them as an adult threw my family into a tailspin.

    Guess what — I now have a family I built for myself.

  45. KH, loved your incisive analysis on the Guardian piece. (u r a promntn kolumnisst nao and i am skurred.)

    However, the commentors that somehow don’t have a grip on censorship=government action? Scare me. They’re the same types that show up here howling about the comment policy. I mean, not to go all Narnia but what are they learning at these schools?

    Plz to not let La Dowd loose on the naming.

    Also, plz to not let Salon run Ekonomisst ads on ur articles that i cannot clowse. I alredy haz subskripshun, but cannot reed becawse I am ladypants. Exkyooz me, ladyshortz.

  46. I just want to talk about what the heck is going on in Australia at the moment – seems we have some stealth FAers at a high level! I’m going to post about it on my blog eventually but I haven’t found time yet, but I can’t contain myself!

    First, our government is thinking about forcing diet programs/products to prove they work long term before they’re allowed to be sold here.

    And second, the day after that first bit, the Sydney Fashion Festival featured plus-sized models!! They were modelling for City Chic who I never heard of before but who do apparently ship internationally, and have some nice (though expensive) clothes.

  47. I love that the article refers to what Michelle Obama wore as “short shorts”. I know women’s shorts have gotten very small in recent years, but these are not “short shorts”. These are casual shorts of a modest length inseam that are perfectly appropriate for any woman to wear in public. OMG The First Lady has LEGS!?!?! Whatever will we do?!

  48. newbie reader, first time poster here – followed the linkage from the dickhead on Cif – no name check or publicity for him – and mygawd, I feel like I’ve stumbled into a parallel universe of wonderfuls!

    I’m a tad pressed for time, but I really wanted to give you all a virtual ‘net hug for the general awesomeness of opinion and community here. . .

    Kate, I couldn’t agree with you more – AND cheer! your right to moderate comments – as Cindy’s great story proves – if you let trolls shit in your nest, it ends up smelly. . . Cif allowing its more abusive “opinion” dudes airspace makes a lot of the threads no-go areas. . . (and yeah, virtually ANY thread with a female author brings ’em all out of the woods – I’ve seen them “advertising” cross thread to bring the abusers over for support in their attacks of female writers. . . *shakes head*. . .

    (and Lori, your post @ 11:18 was spot on!)

    oh hell, every post here made me smile, so much brilliance is actually leaving me a bit speechless – special mention for shinobi42 @ “misogynist fuckwaddery” in support of cheddar.

    gah! I hate that I have to run just now – I’ll be back after I’ve read up a bit to get yer flavour(s) & I decide on a permanent “name” –

    I really just wanted to add my voice to your hella chorus!!

  49. I really liked your mention of the distinction between speech and PROTECTED free speech.

    Because, as you pointed out, libel and/or slander have never been protected.

    It reminds me of the Fred Phelps/WBC debacle where they announced they were coming up to Canada to protest the funeral of a young man killed in a terrible homicide. The fact that Canadian authorities made some noise about not letting them over the border had people UP IN ARMS over our “free speech rights.”

    The fact is, hate speech is not PROTECTED free speech. Harassment is not PROTECTED free speech.

    In fact, harassment has a chilling effect on EVERYONE ELSE’S protected speech. So if you want to get all utilitarianist about it, it is of greater value to society as a whole to protect the speech of the many (those who would be silenced by harassment and libel and slander) at the expense of the few who are attempting to do the silencing.

  50. In the “anything your heart desires” category, I just want to say that I love many of the new blogs on the fatosphere feed, but I’m also slightly sad that when I have insomnia and blog in the wee hours, my post doesn’t show in the “Notes from the Fatosphere” feed on this page and elsewhere because it’s bumped down to the very bottom. Ordinarily, this isn’t anything I would even mention, but I think I wrote a far-better-than-average blog post at about 2:30 a.m. this morning. It’s called “I don’t exist to save you money” and it was inspired by Meowser.
    I’ve been waiting all day until I got home from work to do that!
    /end blog wh… promoting

  51. 1) I think the ‘news’ about Mrs. Obama wearing shorts while on vacation is about as riveting as something like NEWSFLASH: WATER IS WET!! No really? I had no idea! People who are on vacation in warm climates prefer to wear less clothing so that they don’t sweat to death? You don’t say! Amazing!

    Or maybe it’s just amazing because we have a first family that acts like regular human beings. I think it’s refreshing.

    2) Unmoderated internet: not a fan. I tend to stick to places on the internet that I know are moderated, either through actual mods or a tightly-knit group of regulars (just like real life where you can’t pretend to be someone else if you make yourself look like a jackass!). Anywhere else I go, I tend to get angry pretty quickly at the infuriating, insulting, or just downright stupid and misleading comments that some people leave, and I get doubly angry because I know it’s useless to try to fight back. I don’t even read the comments on places like because they’re usually just drivel. I like reading comments here, though I’m more of a lurker, because I know they’ll be thoughtful and trolls aren’t allowed. I feel safe here, which is very important for mature discussion.

    3) The plus sized model in Glamour.. I think should be another NEWSFLASH: WATER IS WET thing. Plus size people are not only human, but they can also be beautiful? Well that’s just crazy talk! …seriously? I’m glad people are responding positively though – I would wager that the vast majority of adult American women have a body shape that’s more like that model’s than any of the other models featured in the magazine, and seeing that body validated as beautiful and desirable probably made some people’s day. And I agree with a question posed by one of the posters over on that link, that model is considered fat? Have our standards gotten so ridiculous that anything larger than a toothpick is chubby? No wonder so many people are classified as having the deathfats, when the standards are so tight.

  52. Re: “free speech.” You know what the best punch line to all that is? Posters that harass women and feminist sites are usually the biggest cowards in the world. They will troll and insult anybody who posts–but especially women–for hours and hours, but if you give them back a teaspoonful of what they dish out–or especially if you contradict them with factual/statistical evidence–they thow out some witty comback, like “lesbofascist,” then disappear entirely. Often the men’s rights activists are the biggest babies on a thread. They have no ounce of sympathy for anybody but themselves, but they have all the resilience of a ripe peach. Sometimes, I like to run them down to the earth for the hell of it.

  53. “Have our standards gotten so ridiculous that anything larger than a toothpick is chubby? “

    Well, yes. Size 00, or LOL ur fat.
    As a culture, we have been “educated” such that we cannot think beyond the binary.
    Did you not get your memo?

  54. @The Fat Nutritionist, I found this quotation a while ago in a CNN article about Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings:

    [T]he best way to discourage the expression of original thoughts […] is to punish [individuals] for saying provocative things.

    Sure, it could be interpreted to mean that we shouldn’t censor trolls, but I think the more positive and reasonable reading is that we should create an atmosphere in which people should not have to fear personal, slanderous, hurtful attacks for (respectfully/impersonally) expressing opinions that may differ from the majority or may seem outside the norm.

  55. Linda, you are correct! Over at the blog “Two Zatfig Chicks,” the trolls are tearing apart Kate (who’s too “militant to be likable”) and her “lemmings” with the same type of cowardly trolling you have discussed here.

    Minions, LOL. How do I become a Kate Harding lemming?

    Some jerk said he trolls because he is “disgusted by fat people.” Probably more under the category of a man who hates women because they have opinions he doesn’t like.

  56. Sure, it could be interpreted to mean that we shouldn’t censor trolls, …

    Only by trolls and troll apologists, I would think. Thing is, the general run of asshats on the Webz aren’t provocative; rather, they seek to restrict and, at their worst, shut down any but the most conformist of communications. As people, I think most of them must have about as much intellectual curiosity as turnips, but then again, that might be harsh on turnips.

  57. My take on harassment comes from a standpoint of sticking to the issue…so to speak. As is often seen, when one side disagrees with another, what often happens is THEY MAKE IT PERSONAL.

    This is just stupid.

    How many times have you seen two (or more) commenters be on opposite sides of the fence in regards to whatever issue is at hand, escalate that discussion into a heated personal attack? This really pisses me off. It is so childish and immature that it completely detracts from the points raised in the discussion and ruins the credibility of the poster completely.

    Furthermore, it hurts. It hurts BECAUSE it’s personal. Without knowing ANYTHING about the other ( and what does it matter anyway?) one or both sides inevitably throw in insults like “You are so ugly that when you were born the doctor slapped your face instead of your butt” ( i know…stupid and lame and old, but you get the point….and for what it’s worth….I think ugly is cool!) How in the world does this further the discussion and create change or depth or understanding or anything?

    The other aspect of the personal attacks, as many have posted before me, is that it prevents others from joining in the discussion for fear of receiving the same negative treatment. Like we need MORE suppression in this world.

    The internet has the ablility to be a treasure trove for the exchanging of ideas, gaining knowledge and understanding about others, and building alliances. For that to actually happen, there needs to be proper boundary setting and moderation in place….EVERY TIME some troll takes it to the personal attack level.

  58. *headdesk* I wish the ardent defenders of free speech on the internet would READ THE GODDAMN CONSTITUTION FIRST.

    The First Amendment begins with what important phrase?

    Congress shall make no law

    You are connecting to the Internet through a Service Provider, probably a private company, that has extensive rules about what you can and can’t do/say using their service.

    Every site you go to is housed on a server, which is owned by someone and possibly maintained and run by another person or company than the one that owns the server.

    All of those people can set rules about their corner of the Internet. Any rules they want, for any reason, at any time. Because they are not Congress, nor subject to Congressional oversight (outside certain business regulations, none of which have to do with how any company controls its Web content). There is no “free speech” law about the Internet. You have no protection and no rights while you are commenting or posting or using a site hosted by someone other than you, or connecting to the Internet using a Service Provider.

    Rar. Every year I give my students this lecture and get startled looks as they realize the Internet isn’t some big American public space where anything goes, no matter how much they wish it was.


  59. Erm, that rant was not directed and any of you all, just for the record, but for the people who insist you can’t kick trolls out because that would violate their rights OMG!!!111

  60. Hmm, I just posted the urls for those broken links, but I think it got caught in the spam-trap.

  61. I think part of getting people to take cyber bullying seriously is getting them to realize the “sticks and stones” cliche is wrong. I also think this ties in with feminism because generally words aren’t as effective against the dominant group in society, whereas against oppressed groups they are silencing, hurtful, etc.

    A couple things drive me nuts about the freedom of speech stuff (some of which Kate and DRST already mentioned). One thing is that how is being allowed to remain anonymous related to your freedom of speech unless you wouldn’t say certain thing if you weren’t anonymous. The fact that if you allegedly commit slander and libel you can’t stay anonymous doesn’t mean that you’ve actually committed those things. It means that the plaintiff has a right to take you before court to determine if you did. If you didn’t commit slander and libel, why are you so worried about being anonymous (note: I think its completely different story when saying things that aren’t popular but aren’t even prima facie slanderous, there I see great value in being anonymous)? (This explanation is a little sloppy but I can’t think how to word it better at the moment)

    The other thing is how Americanized all the debate around this is and how little people understand a) how freedom of speech/expression works in other countries and b) how it actually works in their own darn countries. In Canada, Sec 1 of the Charter actually allows us to infringe on charter rights based on passing a certain test (basically the restriction has to be justifiable in a free and democratic society). We have freedom of expression not speech (cuz it get’s really messy trying to cover things like flag burning if you use the word “speech”). Last I looke, in the US, speech is broken up in to multiple categories, political and commercial being two of them and both have different standards for what makes it justifiable to create a law which censors them. (Interestingly, as far as I understand it, this is why hate speech is actually legal in the US because it falls under political speech which is very hard to censor. In Canada, hate speech is illegal because of the Sec 1 clause). Very few people are for free speech carte blance because a) it conflicts with other rights and occasionally those rights should trump it and b)we intuitively think people shouldn’t be able to say whatever the hell they want (for example, companies shouldn’t be able to lie about what their product does or what ingredients are in them).

    Sorry, this turned into a bit of rant. It just bothers me when people contradict their own believes because they don’t bother to take a nuanced view of the issue at hand. Free speech isn’t all or nothing so the arguments shouldn’t be happening at that level.

  62. @Heather#2, I agree with you that laws addressing hate speech in the United States are far too lenient.

  63. I should mention that someone pointed out to me on Big Fat Blog (I think) that my characterisation of the different levels of speech in the US is a bit off. There are different types of speech but beyond that I may have muddied the waters a bit (and I don’t have my textbook here to try and clear it up)

  64. generally words aren’t as effective against the dominant group in society, whereas against oppressed groups they are silencing, hurtful, etc.

    YES. Thank you. I never saw it put this clearly.

  65. A couple things drive me nuts about the freedom of speech stuff (some of which Kate and DRST already mentioned). One thing is that how is being allowed to remain anonymous related to your freedom of speech unless you wouldn’t say certain thing if you weren’t anonymous. The fact that if you allegedly commit slander and libel you can’t stay anonymous doesn’t mean that you’ve actually committed those things. It means that the plaintiff has a right to take you before court to determine if you did. If you didn’t commit slander and libel, why are you so worried about being anonymous (note: I think its completely different story when saying things that aren’t popular but aren’t even prima facie slanderous, there I see great value in being anonymous)?

    I absolutely agree anonymity should be stripped from trolls who are harassing people on-line. At the same time, it is also worth noting that anonymous speech – and the right to remain anonymous – are constitutionally protected (against government action, not private webmasters, natch), and that courts have been very, very quick to allow litigants to subpoena the identity of people whose speech they find offensive without an initial showing that it is, in fact, libelous or slanderous. Since it’s the powerful who generally have the resources to sue in the United States today, often this comes into play when people are criticizing corporations and the like. Just bringing this up, because when we consider frameworks to deal with hate speech on-line we also have to consider how to allow people who should have anonymity to keep it.

  66. (All of which becomes tricky because we have to apply the same legal mechanisms to both parties.)

  67. Lilah Morgan, I do agree with what you’re saying. I just couldn’t and still can’t phrase correctly what my thoughts are. I do think there is something about why a person chooses to remain anonymous and how they use that anonymity that’s important in terms of how seriously we should take that anonymity being removed and of course, we can’t know what someone’s reasons are until we know who that person is.

    I don’t know how it would work better though. You can’t have the case tried before you have a defendant because that defendant has rights that they would be unable to exercise. If you could do it this way, you would only be outing people who had been found guilty but with a significant issue involving the legal system.

    At the same time, going the other way, you’re outing people who may have good reasons for being anonymous and they end up not being guilty.

    And all the above totally puts aside the power imbalances that you’ve mentioned.

    In the end, I don’t know. I do believe it’s not an all or nothing matter though so at the very least, discussiong that focus on that I find unconvincing.

  68. I’ve been arguing the value of the SP comments policy over on Kate’s article at Comment is Free (and there are a few people who think the comments policy cyberbullying, which is so wrong-headed it’s funny). Thread’s gone a bit quiet now, though – shame.

  69. Whoa – I was just over on the Zaftig Chicks website – creeeeepy trolls over there, creepy co-dependent dynamic of the bloggers sheltering the trolls. It’s like the girls who hang out with the dead-eyed creepy-comment guys because they think they’re safe from the vicious commentary as long as they’re pretending to laugh along.

    You know, I think that blog isn’t going to last long – trolls on the rampage tend to bring the dialogue down to their level – and it’s hard to recover from that kind of spew-fest.

  70. My take on the whole idea of comments moderation is that free speech is already censored when trolls come in and harass or ridicule people to a point where people are afraid to comment for fear of personal attacks. Period.


    Hee. Hee hee. Hee hee hee.

    I would totally join Nancy Drew and the Girl Detectives.

    And the nontroversy over Michelle Obama’s shorts makes my head hurt. Aaaaagh.

  72. Rar. Every year I give my students this lecture and get startled looks as they realize the Internet isn’t some big American public space where anything goes, no matter how much they wish it was.

    I think that is another big point – people often don’t realize that there are different laws in different countries, and the Internet is an international space which means the laws they are used to might or might not apply in a specific instance. I did my undergraduate studies at an international university in Germany. There was a specific incident when a student propagated hat speech against gay people over the all-students email list (calling them an abomination and speaking up against the community accepting them), and a gay student successfully complained to the student goverment. A huge discussion followed with many people falsly citing “freedom of speech”. Apart from not differentiating between the government and the university/ student goverment what many students did not realize was that in Germany there are different (and stricter) laws when it comes to hate speech than for example in the US – and theoretically the student using hate speech could have been punished by law. Of course, no one went so far to actually contact the authorities, and I doubt anything would have come of it if anyone would have done so. But what I found surprising (and frustrating) was the general lack of understanding that laws differ in different countries, and that there might be good reasons for that. In fact, even when everyone was eventually on one page concerning the laws concerning free speech/ hate speech in Germany there were STILL plenty of students arguing that the law was wrong and should therefore be ignored.

  73. The other thing is how Americanized all the debate around this is and how little people understand a) how freedom of speech/expression works in other countries […]

    …that’s basically what I wanted to say.

  74. I have what might be regarded as Views about online reputation-building – I believe people should be able to build a good or poor reputation online, and have that follow them, just as it would in off-line circumstances. As part of this, I tend to stick with one (or at most two) definite nicknames at the one time, and where possible I’ll post under my birth name (aka “real name”). But then, I also have Views about the nature of privacy on the Internet – the most basic of which being “you don’t got none”.

    Posting to the internet is like putting a classified ad in a newspaper which has worldwide distribution. Yes, you know it’s there, and yes, if you tell your friends who read the newspaper, they’ll be able to find it too. But so can anyone else who reads that newspaper, and you don’t have a choice about who they are. People you don’t know will read your posts, and read your comments, and come to conclusions about you, and they may well tell you about those conclusions. Or they might tell their friends. Or they might mock you. You don’t get a choice of who reads your writing on the internet.

    This ties in with my Views on online reputation building in the following way: I may not get a choice about which people read my stuff, but I do get the choice of what writing of mine they read. So I do my best to make sure my posts (and comments on others blogs and similar such things) are written to a decent standard of spelling and grammar. I do my best to ensure my facts are accurate. I do my best to ensure I’m not making unsupported allegations. I try to adhere most of the time to the adage that it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. If my nieces (or their children, grandchildren etc) should look up my name in Google, I’d want them to be proud to be related to me, rather than ashamed to own to it.

    Oh, and for the record, the majority of Australians don’t have freedom of speech. The only ones who do are living in the Australian Capital Territory – and even there the freedom is limited to public discussions of political matters related to the local government of the ACT. We also have some of the roughest and toughest libel and slander laws in the world – and consider this: the Australian media environment is where Rupert Murdoch cut his teeth.

  75. Hi Kate,

    Glad/embarrassed you saw our HuffPost poll on whether Michelle Obama has the right to bare her legs. Here’s the sad truth: our readers want to know more about the “real” Michelle Obama, but we got nuthin’. Michelle doesn’t consult astrologers, never had a secret affair with Marlon Brando, doesn’t want to be President….we’re at our wits end trying to out this woman. Pray for us.


  76. I haven’t found many people saying that Michelle Obama shouldn’t be able to wear shorts in August in Arizona due to *propriety* – the debate, if you can call it one, is whether she has the right to wear shorts if doing so does not appeal to the sexual desire and pleasure of men (and women as an afterthought).

    If Obama’s legs are not as beautiful as her arms, argues Belinda Luscombe, she has the right to do whatever she pleases, even if it is – um…irresponsible? objectionable? risible? Maybe all three, the clarity of Luscombe’s writing fades at this point.

    As a feminist, I assert that women do not exist for the pleasure of any random, randy stranger’s gaze but for their own pleasure, purpose and desire.

    And THAT is the point of all this talk. Is Michele Obama committing a faux pas by wearing crumpled shorts if she doesn’t look lust-inspiring in them? Do most of us here, called by James Tiptree so brilliantly in her story title “The Women Men Don’t See,” have the right to wear shorts or tanks or any desired garment, but a social RESPONSIBILITY to look fuckable or cover ourselves?

    Do women exist for the pleasure of men, or for their own? Sadly, the consensus among about a fifth of us is misogynist, going by polls.

  77. Do women exist for the pleasure of men, or for their own?

    I think it is time to attack the hairlessness to which women in this country are expected to adhere.

    I don’t shave my legs anymore!

    *goes running off into the evening, cackling wildly*

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