from the world's big
Cybersexism is still sexism
Cybersexism: Sex, gender and power on the Internet
Bloomsbury, 2013 (available from Amazon)
Sexism – whether existing in meat- or cyberspace – is the noise people make who dislike seeing characteristics of those they believe are “normal” (male, intelligent, passionate, articulate) coming out the minds and mouths of those who are not.
Those who make sexist claims – some worse than others, from rape jokes to rape threats – do, however, appear to be a minority. But minority percentage doesn’t mean minority impact on us as individuals.
We only need one person to break our leg, even if most people never do. Those dedicated to voicing their fear of women having opinions (and, basically, existing) might be tiny in number but they are great in their relentlessness, their unforgiving nature, their vitriol.
But it wasn’t the Internet that invented the fear of women abandoning the chains to kitchen, the fear of women who severed the predetermined umbilical cord that hung like a potential noose for their aspirations. The Internet became merely another tool to convey that hate, that fear, that vitriol.
As Laurie Penny reminds us:
Although the technology is new, the language of shame and sin around women’s use of the Internet is very, very old. The answer seems to be the same as it always has been whenever there’s a moral panic about women in public space: just stay away.
Of course, whatever one’s view of “progress”, there’s little doubt most civil, Western societies have rapidly improved their treatment of women in the last century. But just because women aren’t excluded from voting, can marry each other, become CEO’s of powerful companies doesn’t mean we’ve reached equality. What is the case isn’t what should be.
However, those who dismiss concerns of sexism usually backtrack and point to legal and policy equality – ignoring that law doesn’t lead to action. Ask any modern day murderer, rapist or thief. No one thinks that law alone will solve these problems.
Similarly, pointing out that society has legal precedents and so on, which is meant to be sex-blind doesn’t magically make instances of sexism vanish.
There are many problems
Often, when discussing the issue of sexism and misogyny online, many – of all sexes – are quick to draw and stab their swords of banality into every open thread. Dismissal, jeering, mockery, snark: as someone who doesn’t experience sexism directly, it is primarily these reactions to sexism I do experience.
My identity is not important and I’ve tried to always distance myself from it, in my writings. Who I am matters less than whether my arguments are sound.
Or at least it should.
As I’ve slowly and painfully learnt, what should be the case doesn’t align to what is. Laurie Penny, who is around my age and also grew up with the Internet becoming increasingly part of daily life, identifies this hallmark of anonymity and erosion of identity as a central feature of the Internet.
As she writes: “Why would it matter, in this brave new networked world, what sort of body you had? And if your body didn’t matter, why would it matter if you were a man or a woman, a boy or a girl, or something else entirely?”
Instead, as Penny and others discovered, it wasn’t the erosion of identity to a default that vaguely resembled a sexless, non-racial humanoid. The default wasn’t a chalk outline lying on roads well-trodden.
The default wasn’t mere “person”: it was male.
Deviations from this, “opened up” avenues for dismissal, hatred and threats: the hallmarks of fear.
Penny writes, “It turned out the Internet wasn’t for everyone. Not really. Not yet. It was for boys, and if you weren’t one you had to pretend to be, or you’d be dismissed.” She points out that media theorist, Clay Shirky, refers to this as “the gender closet”.
Witness and action
Those who are the targets of sexism don’t need to be told sexism exists; those who do the targeting don’t care it does.
For those of us who are not (direct) targets, what we can do is convey the problem sexism presents; that it exists, that it may affect women directly* but it, to greater and lesser degrees, affects us all.
At the very least, we all have women we love and care for. Whether sexism arises online, in her workplace or school is irrelevant: We don’t want her demeaned or ignored or treated as less of a person because of her sex.
When it comes to online sexism – or cybersexism – the horrific messages women receive are visible to us all, usually in the comment sections of articles women have written, YouTube comments demanding women who appear in clips reveal themselves, Twitter messages and threats. Again: the point isn’t that this sexism is unique or special, only that it’s more visible and it’s not just famous women receiving this abuse (as the links make clear).
Penny confirms this: “It’s not every woman who writes online or runs a blog or plays videogames, but it’s many of us, and it could be any of us.”
People who have faced such abuse are often told to “toughen up”. This is a mindset that has so poisoned the discourse of response to victims that victims themselves often adopt it: A close friend considered herself weak and feeble for not taking “better” action against a much larger, more powerful fellow tenant who essentially stalked her. Women so often wonder what they did to encourage a rape. Victim-blaming arises from the idea that women should be tougher, as if men are some mindless penis force that must be managed** (of course we often do ourselves little favours in overturning this perspective).
We’re not all Samuel L. Jackson or Mahlala Yousafzai: We each have different levels of tolerance and pain. Telling people to toughen up when they’re the victims of wrong is not only unhelpful, it’s also aiding unjustified assumptions about how these actions arise: It’s not because women are weak, it’s because sexists are wrong.
That’s just how it is
The Internet is not some god who makes demands of us, as we cower beneath its sexist, manly might. It’s us. It’s our words, our thoughts, our cat gifs, our idiot jpegs and memes. We create the games, the content, the environment in which we participate. So when people claim “Welcome to the Internet, honey!”, that’s not something we should accept.
Just as I don’t want to live in a country or world where homosexuals deserve execution, I don’t want to use one of our most powerful tools knowing that women will have it tougher. We don’t keep quiet about immorality; we do something to right it.
To give a fairly innocuous example of this mindset, consider how four great comic book creators performed mental gymnastics when talking about sexism in their industry. They spoke about how there simply wasn’t any readership interest in seeing female-focused stories; how superheroes have always been men; how it’s difficult and so on. These are excuses not justifications. As the wonderful Alyssa Rosenberg points out: “The decision to stay within the narrow lanes of your own fantasies is a choice, not biological determinism.”
Penny, in her essay, is exactly encouraging this choice. We should change the Internet. “The idea that this sort of [sexist] hate speech is at all normal needs to end now.”
It’s important this happens because “The Internet is a public space, real space; it’s increasingly where we interact socially, do our work, organise our lives and engage in politics, and violence online is real violence.”
The Internet shouldn’t be the domain of one kind of people.
Considering how the Internet just is a part of life, we should never accept that marginalised groups feel threatened for their mere existence on it - just as most of us wouldn’t accept people of a different race be forced to use different bathrooms.
No real distinction between online and offline
The important thing to note is that there isn’t anything that significant, morally, between online and offline spaces. Indeed, I’m persuaded by the idea of getting rid of prefixes like “cyber” altogether, when there is really is no difference. Cybersexism is just sexism with a digital flourish, but it’s sexism nonetheless. Combatting cybersexism, then, is combatting sexism.
Censorship is frequently yelled when sexism is raised. Penny correctly views censorship as almost essentially conservative. “Censorship of the Internet is surely not the answer, because the Internet is not the reason for the supposed tide of filth and commercial sexuality we’re drowning in.” And she says this as someone who proudly does “fly the flag for sex” and “for love online.”
Penny then is not calling for censorship, but intolerance. An intolerance directed at non-thinking; at ideas that view women as things that shouldn’t be occupying spaces men want. She also later deals with this bizarre thing known as “fake geeks”, which is a slur often thrown mostly at women who partake of traditionally geeky things, like games or comics. Again, we should not tolerate or allow such attitudes to pass by as if it’s part of a culture – or rather as if it should be.
It should not. And those of us who care about the Internet, about various industries that we love – like comics, TV, or film – should continue to speak out where we can against this acceptance, this blind toleration, this dismissal and snark. We should speak out to clear spaces for women to enter and feel safe. Yes, you may never have experienced it – whether you’re a man or woman – but that’s irrelevant: there are others who use the Internet, who want to be part of this culture.
But of course there’s great reluctance since it could mean reflecting on the way you think, on the sites or magazines you read, on the films you tout, on the things you’ve written. No one likes to poke the open wound of their fallibility. Knee-jerk reactions claim the feminists want to control everything, that the feminists are trying to silence or stifle men or things or stories. And thereby they miss the point entirely.
Penny beautifully says of those who have been the targets of feminists and claim to be censored: “They speak of censorship but say nothing of silencing.” Women become silenced through the unchallenged belief that, in whatever sphere, women should just expect mistreatment, harassment, dismissal. That their concerns won’t be treat seriously.
With books like Laurie Penny’s, hopefully we will increasingly become aware and more able to respond; better equipped and more thoughtful in our reactions to one of the last remaining – but one of the oldest – prejudices.
* In this review, I’m focused primarily on women-targeted sexism, without demeaning other kinds of sexism or denying other kinds of sexism exists.
**It’s a bizarre conversation: men are supposed to control everything, yet when they do something horrific to a woman, she is somehow in control because of her dress and "slutty" (assuming this is used pejoratively) actions. But again: this isn’t about reason, logic or consistency.
Image Credit: Studio Araminta / Shutterstock
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.