It’s been a bit since we’ve had a thread discussing the issue of sexism on the Avocado, and we felt it was time to tackle this again as a community.
For reference, here is the previous sexism thread: https://the-avocado.org/2018/06/21/sexism-on-the-avocado-part-2/. We’ll also include some related links and discussions at the end of this post.
We’re a good and extremely well-meaning community here at The Avocado, but we can’t pretend we don’t have our faults. We live in a patriarchal society and everyone has some level of ingrained sexism: Unfortunately, sometimes that means sexism shows up here. We want to create this thread as an area to discuss where we can improve. Before we get started, we’d like to address some ground rules and already noted areas of concern:
- Do not argue with Avocados who identify as women about what is and isn’t sexism. If someone tells you they experience something as sexism, take them at their word. Posts arguing against women+’s lived experience will be deleted.
- This is not a space for Avocados who identify as men to self-flagellate about past behavior or backpat about how much progress they feel they’ve made. We’re happy when allies have personal growth, but we don’t want to sideline into comforting those who feel bad or giving cookies out.
- Allies should leave their defensiveness entirely at the door here. If you want yourself wanting to argue back with someone’s experiences of sexism, take a step back and listen.
- Remember that this will probably be a space where people feel very vulnerable. Use trigger/content warnings liberally. If you’re discussing the use of a slur, do not use that slur, say “the b-word” or equivalent.
ALREADY NOTED AREAS OF CONCERN
- Playing Devil’s Advocate about sensitive subjects: the devil has enough advocates, and upsetting people for your intellectual exercise is unkind.
- Similarly, things like “I just want discuss [issue]” Certain topics simply do not need to be debated, and doing so only comes across as a bad-faith argument at best, or trolling at worst.
- “Please explain to me how [basic thing which is obviously sexist] is sexist.” Burdening women with the emotional labour of explaining things which can very easily be googled is a common pattern, and it is exhausting. It is appreciated if you can do some basic research yourself. If there’s a specific situation where you need help with seeing some nuance after that, it’s okay to ask. But the basics should be clear enough by now.
- Sarcastic/ironic sexism. For example: “Well, actually … ” as a reply to a post complaining about mansplaining. It’s still sexism.
- As mentioned above, men telling women when something is and isn’t sexist. Also, pushback against female posters calling out sexism.
- Jokes about sexual assault and abuse.
- Continued pushback about the b-word being on the automod list: Many Avocados have made it clear that the word is upsetting and even triggering for them. Listen to them. To quote: “[The b-word] is just one more tiny way that people of all genders denote that being a woman is an insult. Please stop.”
- The use of images containing slurs to avoid the automod filter: You’re still causing people who will be upset by that slur to see it. Don’t do this.
- Defensiveness about posts containing words in the automod list getting filtered or deleted: We’ve been very transparent about what words are on the automod list. No one should be surprised when we enforce that list.
- People showing more pushback towards female mods than male mods, or outright ignoring female mods while listening to male mods.
- Continued looks-shaming, especially directed at women. Conversely, objectification and “no one cares about your boner” posts.
- Use of male-gendered words like “dude” or “guys” to address a mixed group. Y’all is right there, y’all! Or “everybody”.
- Related to that: Defaulting to male pronouns when talking about unspecified people. Gendered language constructs have a long history of excluding and “othering” women, so instead of using “he/him” for a generic person, it would be nice to see a more frequent usage of “they/them”. Or of course, occasionally maybe even “she/her”, to even the scales a bit.
- Generally aggressive behavior by male posters. Even if you are not calling anyone names, being belligerent in making your point can and does make other people uncomfortable and drive them to leave a discussion. Or even the site. It is okay to disagree with people. But when you do, it is appreciated if you can still make them feel heard, taken seriously, and most of all, safe.
Please feel free to share other concerns you have in the comments. Remember to be kind to each other, but also remember that people who identify as women face sexism that can and does make them angry and frustrated, and allow them space to express that frustration.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
As a general remark: We are here to help, and to make this a safe place for you. We just need to know that something is happening because we can’t be everywhere at once. Don’t feel bad about bringing something to our attention; that’s literally what we’re here for!
As a Poster
Obviously, keep in mind and observe the above-noted areas of concern.
As a Reader
We have repeatedly seen members say that they were uncomfortable with a certain post, but were afraid to push back, nor did they think it explicitly violated any rules, and so did not report it.
Therefore, to be absolutely clear on this: It is totally okay to report a post which makes you uncomfortable even if you don’t think it violates any rules!
- Even if it doesn’t rise to the level of full moderator intervention/warning/deletion, we can still say something to the poster and push back if you are not comfortable doing that.
- It is useful for us to spot problematic behavior from a poster if they get flagged repeatedly.
- Sometimes, something might be actionable even if you don’t think it is.
Also, don’t feel unsafe if you report somebody: They will not know it was you, nor will they get a notification or anything of that sort. And it does not matter what reason you use for the flag, as long as it is not “I disagree with this user”, because that doesn’t actually do anything.
Mod Email Account
If you think it is urgent, you can also send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll get that notification very quickly and can then act accordingly. Just a quick note will do, maybe even in combination with a flag (that is the most effective way for us to then act, actually).
The email is also useful for things which might be hard to detect for us if you just flag posts. If a certain poster makes you uncomfortable, but there isn’t really any specific thing in any specific post where you can point us, you can also shoot us a message and we’ll see what we can do. If you feel unsafe around a certain person, please let us know, because it’s easily possible that others do too without you knowing it.
We have had several situations where a community member was harassed off-site by another community member. While we obviously cannot moderate off-site behavior, this is very much something we want to know. We have taken action about this in the past, and will again.
Today’s W+ thread is here (cis men: lurk mode only, please!): https://the-avocado.org/2019/10/10/the-women-thread-talks-sexism-on-the-avocado/
And here are some helpful links to previous discussions about sexism:
- W+ thread which went up at the same time the sexism thread: https://the-avocado.org/2018/06/21/the-women-thread-cross-promotes/
- W+ thread: Women in Politics (July 2019). https:/the-avocado.org/2019/07/11/the-women-thread-gets-political/
- W+ thread: microaggressions. https://the-avocado.org/2019/04/04/the-women-post-looks-at-the-little-things/
- Discussion on objectification: https://the-avocado.org/2018/04/27/lets-talk-objectification/
- Discussion on the Red Handle Rule: https://the-avocado.org/2018/05/03/state-of-the-avocado-special-edition-the-red-handle-rule/
- Assault and Harassment, November 2017. A lot of very personal stories there: https://the-avocado.org/2017/11/16/assault-and-harassment-our-pasts-and-our-futures/
- Follow-up: The Avocado and Harassment/Assault Discussions, December 2017: https://the-avocado.org/2017/12/08/the-avocado-and-harrassment-assault-discussions/
- When is a Rape Joke not a Rape Joke? https://the-avocado.org/2017/12/06/when-is-a-rape-joke-not-a-rape-joke/
- A good and succinct summary on the b-word by wafflicious, and why it is hurtful (quote above is from this post): http://disq.us/p/1temxnr
According to the last census (2018), we have about three male posters for every female poster. In most discussions on the site, a woman will be outnumbered by men. So, for the men, try to make sure that a woman feels heard and safe here. Society conditions men to make themselves be heard, to “win” at debating. Less so to just listen. That can result in very unfortunate group dynamics in discussions about sensitive topics.
Lastly: For anyone who takes the time to look through those old threads, it might be worth noting which voices have left and what many of them have in common.