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What the Fark?

Last week, Jezebel reported that the website Fark.com would be adding a new policy to their comments moderation.  Jezebel wrote: 

“Fark announced it would add misogyny to its moderator guidelines. For those who aren’t familiar with the site, Fark (founded in 1999) was one of the first major link aggregators. They also just became one of the first sites of its kind to outright ban misogyny in comments.”

What Fark’s main goal here seems to be is the creation of a safer comment space for women.  Is their system of moderation flawed?  Probably.  Is it a step in the right direction? In my opinion, it is.  At least, it is for Fark, a website that is supposed to be open to anyone willing to pay the subscription fee.  Fark is not reddit.  Fark is not a government-run website.  In the basest sense, Fark has complete authority to ban whatever type of comments they so chose.  One might realize that there are several websites where misogynistic comments are not banned, say, most online communities.  Fark is taking away these very specific things:

– Rape jokes

– Calling women as a group “whores” or “sluts” or similar demeaning terminology

– Jokes suggesting that a woman who suffered a crime was somehow asking for it

These changes do not in any way, shape, or form take away the overall rights of an internet user.  Those are just the basic facts.  Now, on the other hand, I’d like to pose a question to my readers.  If, upon hearing about Fark’s new policy, did you feel like your rights as a site-user were going to be threatened?  Follow-up: Were you more worried about the harm it would potentially cause you than the good it could potentially do to make the comments area a safer space?

I’m not saying you’re wrong for feeling the way you feel.  After all, this in an op-ed piece.  It’s built on opinion.  But I do think that thoughts like these, as a whole, need to be looked at in a grander scheme.  I think we need to take what Fark is doing, and then think about women on the internet.

Here’s something I noticed in this Fark discussion: There is a common worry that women will use this new rule to get people banned for ‘inoffensive’ comments.  That it will be easy for a woman to point a finger at someone and for that someone to lose their account.  Now, there’s a similar phenomenon that I think applies to this concern.  If you’ve ever been involved in an online discussion about feminism, and a generalization is made about men, you will notice that many of the comments read “not all men!”  This concern about finger pointing and false accusations very much seems like a case of “not all men!” 

When a woman hears “not all men,” as a counter argument, she is expected to back-track.  To apologize for making generalizations.  This is what some allies expect: a reward for being not as big a jerk as you could have been.  And as a side note, this applies to allies in any category.  If you are a man that considers himself a feminist, but then also feels the need to point out that not all men rape, guess what?  We know that.  Everyone knows that.  You are not contributing anything helpful to the discussion, save for telling the original commenter to retract her opinion.  I’m sorry, friend, but that’s not helpful.

That’s the main thing, here: when someone says “not all men,” they are immediately putting more blame on the accuser than the accused.  Instead of listening to the complaint, saying “not all men” invalidates it.  So if when someone says “not all men,” the correct response, in many instances, is to ask “then what are you doing about the men that are?”  This falls under the principal of “a few bad apples.”  When making the observation that you are a member of a group that has “a few bad apples” but then immediately dismisses this sentiment because not everyone in your group is bad, you are being complacent to the ones that are.

Does that seem accusatory?  Overdramatic?  If it does, take a moment to think about why.  Take a moment to think about why you’re more concerned about your rights to make rape threats than you are about the safety and comfort of other users.  Does that seem like a generalization to you?  Ironically, calling women liars and abusers of power, the small, small power of having the ability to say “this commenter is harassing me” also qualifies as a generalization.  We’re getting to a point, here, friends.  Bear with me.

Here’s a legitimate complaint: Women are also perpetuators of misogyny.  Will women who perpetuate misogyny also be banned from commenting?  Here’s another: Does this policy discriminate, as a whole, between men and women?  I’m certain that Fark has female users that actually identify as male in real life, and vise-versa.  So is this a blanket policy of protection, or is this only targeting men?  It would seem unwise for Fark to chose the latter.

There are ways to over-complicate this issue.  There are ways to over-simplify it.  But before either happens, it needs to be considered that there’s a large percentage of women that don’t feel safe on the internet.  We have to keep in mind that the internet itself is far too large and appeals to a much broader audience than say, the members of a specific forum.  No one is taking forum rights away.  This is general commenting.  This is trying to create an environment where everyone can participate, and I really don’t think that’s something anyone should be threatened by. 

About the author

Rachel Greeman

is the Editor this city needs, but maybe not the one it deserves. She is a graduate of New York University, and spends her free time at Starbucks. She believes herself to be a combination of Selina Kyle and Kate Bishop, which is why she cosplays them all the time. Actually, her cosplay page is facebook.com/bishopkatherinecosplays. Check it out if you're cool or feel like looking at cosplays or whatever. Once, she met Chris Evans and accidentally flirted with him.