Monday, December 18, 2006

I got caught up arguing about women, porn and IT over at Ian Bicking's.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Systematic problems need collective action to resolve. Education may not be sufficient, but it's hard to see how to get started other than by talking and suggesting that it's everyone's "job" or responsibility to try to teach others how to be decent human beings."

Porn and the Internet is such a fascinating issue. In some ways the Internet is a mirror with a memory. So I'm always fascinated by the pictures people put up of themselves meant to be sexy. Oh, I know that's different from pornographic pictures "found" on the Web, but it's an example of how people's relationships with porno are changed by the Web.

When I first got online a friend told me: "there's something to offend everyone." It didn't take long for me to be offended. Encountering ugly racism made me sick at first. I don't think that it's a matter of simply becoming inured to it now, or that racism on the Internet has diminished, but my stomach dosen't ache so much, just my heart.

The great thing about many-to-many is that one can respond, but I just don't have it in me to "fight, fight, fight."

What is indecent, that is, offensive to public morals, isn't as obvious as we might think. Porn is widely popular. Certainly you are not alone in thinking it bad, as in sulfur-dioxide in the atmosphere, but the widespread popularity of porno would suggest not everyone is smelling rotten eggs.

I certainly treasure women in my life. I tend to seek out women on the Web about computer issues because they are much better at giving instructions about how to solve problems to do what I want to do. It's easy for me to find collective action to promote diversity in my interests.

"Trying to teach others to be decent human beings" is a difficult responsibility. Like most other very difficult tasks, it pays to be not so certain about being right as to be blind to the faults in our technique.

I'm more sympathetic to Phillip Eby's positions than you. You say, "he doesn't believe that problems due to "society in general" can be actioned on an individual level." I think Eby is right when he says, hiring more women is a more appropriate way of addressing the problem of too few women in IT than fulminating about porno. But I'm not so sure his prescription about what to do about hostile work environments once women are hired--don't hire a**holes--is really enough. Given enough time on the job, we're all a**holes sooner or later.

I agree that your suggestions about what to do to about porno: "a) choosing not to promote, even with sympathetic humour, this kind of stereotyping publication, b) reminding everyone that this kind of publication is problematic and hoping that they agree with you and do the same." are not authoritarian. But that your approach isn't authoritarian doesn't negate the fact there are authoritarian measures afoot to protect the public from porno.

Senator McCain recently introduced legislation to cure child pornography on the Internet. I think this legislation is flawed and will substantially constrain speech. A legal scholar, Eric Janus, wrote a book"Failure to Protect: America's Sexual Predator Laws and the rise of the Preventative State."

In answer to a question by a reviewer of the book which noted that most sexual violence is perpetrated by acquaintances or family Janus observes:

"This suggests that sexual violence flourishes because of widespread societal attitudes and practices [involving] gender relations. This is, in large part, the message of some feminist reformers, and it has not been welcome news in many politically conservative circles. The creation of the "sexual predator" as a bogeyman counteracts the feminist message. It suggests that we don't have to make any fundamental changes as a society to prevent sexual violence all we have to do is find the bogeyman and exile him. It's not us; it's "them."

Porno as a "bogeyman" creates a similar hazard of creating an impression we're effectively dealing with social problems when the reality is something quite different. Pornography is but a small reason for too few women in IT. Saying it's "small" I don't mean to suggest the issue of porno shouldn't be addressed, however how large the issue of porno looms suggest to me it's covering more deep seated problems we're content to ignore. I think we ignore them at our own peril.