ETA: Evidently this post has been nominated in “Just Posts for a Just World: Best of 2009.” Voting is open through 22 March, and please check out the other excellent nominees as well.
There’s a spam comment which keeps coming up again and again. abby jean wrote about it recently, and how infuriated it made her, and it only seemed to increase in volume after she wrote about it; from showing up every few days, it’s popping up several times a day. Mainly in the FWD spam trap, but it’s also showed up here.
Not that I am blaming abby for this, of course! Spam runs in cycles, and this seems to be the current spam of choice, which is why it keeps showing up. You know, they pick a block of text, insert a few links, and then go paper (or whatever) the Internet with it. It never actually sees the pending queue, because Askimet dumps it right into the spam trap, which is exactly where it belongs. (Really, I’d be curious to know what percentage of comment spam actually gets through, since it seems like most sites use at least minimal filtering which catches this kind of stuff.)
Now, I get how spam works. I understand it, on an intellectual level. But antifeminist spam irritates the hell out of me. It irritates me on so many levels that I cannot even begin to articulate it. It’s just as annoying as regular spam, but with an added frustrating aspect which makes me want to hurl rotten fruit at something.
The particular spam of the week goes like this:
So I just got a voice mail from my girl friend that she has been having sex with another guy!!! So like any upset boy friend I have decided to broadcast every naughty picture I have of her to the internet. I have downloaded the pics here: [link] Just search for [username], enjoy!
So I just got a call from my girl friend that she has been sleeping with my best friend!!! So like any fucked up boy friend I have decided to post every naughty pic I have of her to the internet. I have uploaded the pics…
Or something along those lines.
Spam, of course, is inherently annoying. It’s just one more thing in a pile of things I have to deal with. Another source of irritation on days which are often irritating to begin with. Yes, there are spam filters, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have to check and make sure that no real comments are caught in spam, and periodically I have to empty the spam trap, and…I just have so many things I would rather do with my time, you know? Like writing posts, or mustering the energy to comment on other websites. I really would like all of the spam in the world to just stop.
But, this spam. It goes to an entirely new level. Instead of being a random string of gibberish or a clot of keywords or a list of links, it’s an assault.
You know, it cuts to the core of so many things that are wrong in our society. The fact is that men do release “naughty pictures” of their girlfriends and exgirlfriends, against their will. Every day. Recently, a 13 year old girl killed herself after having such images released.
This spam strikes at very real fears which many women have. I know a fair number of women who have taken private pictures for their partners, and very much intended that those pictures remain private. For one thing, because they were composed with one person’s consumption in mind. For another, because the release of such images is damaging. When those images have been released, it has been devastating for them.
It shouldn’t be, but it is. Having nude photos, sexually explicit photos, etc of yourself circulated against your will, when you are a woman, is incredibly damaging. It ruins reputations, careers, relationships, lives. Thanks to the Internet, it lives on forever; once those images get out, there is no bringing them back. It shouldn’t have to be this way, but it is.
I know that people do things like this. I know that they readily publicize it, too, to increase the humiliation and shaming. I suspect that this spam is just garden variety porn spam, targeted at people who are titillated by the idea of looking at amateur images taken for private consumption, and that the images linked in the spam are probably not actual private images released by a vengeant ex. I certainly hope that is the case.
The fact that people continue to think that it is acceptable to release such images to “get even” is disgusting. As is the fact that spammers choose to manipulate this to try and get traffic. It amazes me to see people who claim that they were once deeply in love with their partners doing things like this. Even if you have fallen out of love with your partner, surely some shred of that relationship still exists, and you can recognize that what you are doing is awful. Harmful. Damaging.
And it horrifies me when I see, say, images of Carrie Prejean circulated against her will, often among supposedly progressive types who chortle and laugh among themselves. Who slut shame and humiliate her. Oh, but it’s ok in this case, they say, because she’s a bigot. We’re just laughing at the irony of having such a self-righteous person turn out to be simply human. It’s ok!
No. No it is not ok. It is never ok to circulate personal and private things about other people. There is no justification for that. I don’t care what they did. I am not a fan of Carrie Prejean, I think that she is bigoted and cruel and probably a bit of a tool, but that does not mean that I am celebrating her downfall and relishing her humiliation as she is publicly pilloried. If I had control over personal materials of hers, I would never release them. Whether you are a public figure or a high school girl, you have the right to privacy.
“Oh, but people shouldn’t take images like that if they don’t want them to be seen,” people say. That’s the blame the victim argument, just like “women shouldn’t wear skirts/dress their hair nicely/go in that neighborhood/etc (for which read “exist”) if they don’t want to be raped.” It’s funny how so many discussions about situations like this turn back to the victim’s role, and leave the perpetrator out altogether.
The victim took some pictures. Someone else chose to circulate those pictures against her will. Someone else made the decision to shame, humiliate, and vilify her. Why isn’t that someone else part of the public discussion? Why is the victim being shamed for being a human being, while the perpetrator is allowed to scot free or even congratulated on his big tough manliness? And why is this meme suddenly being referenced by spammers?
All of this comes up for me every time I see this little spam missive smoldering on my server.
The fact that spam like this turns up on an explicitly feminist website is not lost on me. This is actually one of the tamer examples of antifeminist spam I get, illustrating, I guess, that even spammers hate feminists.