New piece on CiF – ‘Population control is not what makes climate change a feminist issue’

// 2 November 2009

Just a quick note to say I’ve got a new piece up on Comment is Free, Population control is not what makes climate change a feminist issue.

(Edit: Vikki Chowney has posted a nice follow-up about an Oxfam event which involved four women talking about how climate change was changing their lives).

Comments From You

Elmo // Posted 2 November 2009 at 1:38 pm

eurgh, im appalled by all the comments, (women?? writing?? making statements about men possibly being more to blame for global warming, in a world where they run the industries and governements? oh noes! pc gone made!!!) but well done anyway

Jess McCabe // Posted 2 November 2009 at 1:40 pm

Thanks Elmo! The comments are something else. Particularly amused by the ones about how the commenter’s girlfriend/wife/partner/housemate never turns off the lights so of course years of research on gendered impacts and causes of climate change are totally disproven ;)

Elmo // Posted 2 November 2009 at 1:48 pm

lol, but not as bad as the bloke who said “MY wife contributes WAY more to climate change than I do, because of all the hoovering, washing up and ironing she does” is this guy for real? Did he genuinely fail to note the hilarious irony of that comment?

Honestly, its so depressing how many people STILL don’t understand feminism- and STILL don’t understand that global warming is a bit more than flatulence and eating meat.

Anna // Posted 2 November 2009 at 2:03 pm

A great piece, Jess.

The briefest of trawls through CiF comments on practically any issue really do silence any doubts that feminism is necessary in today’s UK.

D // Posted 2 November 2009 at 10:08 pm

Hi Jess. I’ve been checking the comments on that article throughout the day, hoping you’d respond to some of the points raised about the stats that you quote in the article. I’m disappointed that, as yet, you don’t appear to have done so.

Most of the comments on that CiF article are appalling, but do you think you might respond to the rather more serious criticisms from a few of the other commenters, notably AllyF?

He would appear to have a point when he says that the stas you use to support your argument are nonsense. Or perhaps you think he’s wrong. In which case I’d like to know why.

Jess McCabe // Posted 2 November 2009 at 10:56 pm

@D I’m not going to get into a mugs game of debating whether or not a particular statistic from research I didn’t carry out is well compiled or not; it was only an example anyway (hence I said “a study” not “the definitive study”). I’ve been at work today so haven’t had a chance to look back at the research WEN got that particular statistic from. The wider point is, there’s years and years of research on this issue, some of which I’ve linked. If you look at the list of just the UN research I linked up you’ll get a flavour of how really non-controversial the conclusion is that climate change is likely to have gendered impacts.

This also draws on wider research on the gendered impacts of natural disasters in general, including a study by LSE from 2007, which looked at 4,605 natural disasters from 1981 to 2002 around the world and found more women than men died – especially where socio-economic gender inequality was more pronounced (of course climate change is expected to cause an increase in extreme weather events, a big category in natural disasters, this is why that’s relevant).

The point of contributing the article wasn’t to get into a proverbial boxing match.

maggie // Posted 2 November 2009 at 11:29 pm

I enjoyed your article but the comments were so aggressive. One wrote that basically women were fatter than men and so contributed more to global warming! Very scientific – no? Methinks these men doth protest too much!

AllyF // Posted 2 November 2009 at 11:34 pm

Hiya Jess

Here’s where I’m coming from. I can quite believe that climate change will have some gendered impacts. As it happens, I’d be less concerned about the relative death rates of men and women in climactic catastrophes – frankly I don’t stop to worry about whether disaster victims are male or female – and more worried about the impacts of the global economic policies that will eventually be required to reduce carbon consumption, which could disproportionately affect women. Won’t bore you with that, but suffice to say I have no problem with discussing the role of gender in climate change.

I actually agreed with your conclusion:

So, yes, climate change is a feminist issue; women are on the front lines of climate change impact and need to be part of creating solutions. And women all over the world are in dire need of access to full and real reproductive justice. But linking the two by advocating population control as a solution to climate change isn’t the way to achieve either of these aims.

But when you get there on the basis of dodgy stats rather than rational argument, it detracts from the strength of the message. It’s rather like the fiasco over trafficking figures the other week. No sane person denies that trafficking happens, or that it is a vile crime. However when you have academic estimates ranging from 142 to 1420 cases nationally being inflated to 4,000 then 5,000 then 25,000 by a whispering gallery of journalists, campaigners, activists and politicians, the end result is the boy who cried wolf. It becomes far too easy for people to dismiss it altogether.

My guiding principle is that statistics and research are the only guide we have to society. They need to be respected and used well, otherwise the whole of social science is devalued and damaged. And while social science isn’t perfect, it is the only kind of map we have to the complexities of the modern world. So when I see them being twisted and abused, I do tend to peck like a pigeon in a skinnerbox.

I was trying not to personalise it earlier. I could see exactly where you got your figures from and I quite understand how you came to use them. And I do often enjoy and appreciate your writing.

No boxing gloves required ;-)

Jennifer Drew // Posted 2 November 2009 at 11:57 pm

Jess you gave some very excellent links in your piece and this alone should have enabled the male sceptics to take a look and see for themselves that climate change has far more reaching negative consequences for women than for men.

I clicked on the link to Gender CC and looked at the article entitled ‘Women In Pakistan hit hardest by climate change. This extract demonstrates how and why women are affected worse than men.

‘There is a common perception that ‘it is men who are the farmers’. Contrary to this perception, women in Pakistan produce 60-80 percent of food consumed in the house (IUCN, 2007). In Pakistan, especially in the mountainous regions, men out-migrate for livelihood opportunities (from 50% to 63% of the households) (WB, 2005) and it is the women who looks after the family’s agriculture piece of land along with many other responsibilities. It is interesting to note how much work female household members contribute outside their homes, but their work is generally less visible and attracts less public recognition. ‘

So when as has happened in Pakistan flooding occured guess which group was worst affected? Why women of course because alongside their family committments these women were also farmers and their crops had been destroyed. But of course as always any help that is given is always with the assumption that men are the ones who ‘work’ whilst women spend their time within the home.

All that was required was for readers to click on the links but did they no of course not, instead these misogynists engaged in a determined attempt to silence yet another woman who dared to have her work published.

Re: research and reports – yes Jess you could have given innumerable quotes and extracts from reports and guess what would have happened? Why the male detractors would immediately have claimed you were making them up. It is a no-win situation with regards to CIF because it has been hijacked by the MRAS and they are determined to ridicule and silence female writers and even go to ludicrous lengths by referring to female partners as wasting energy!

Take the example of the appalling Guardian article on ‘myth of trafficking.’ This article was written for political reasons and whilst it is accepted no one can say specifically how many women are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of male sexual exploitation and sexual slavery – trafficking of women into/within the UK exists.

The government is primarily focused on this issue from an immigration perspective and this means innumerable women are ‘labelled illegal immigrants’ when in fact they have been coerced/exploited or manipulated into prostitution. Trafficking has been stereotyped by the male-dominant media as a naked woman shackled to a bed – the reality is quite different because the methods used by male traffickers are not physical slavery but mental coercion and threats. Defining slavery has changed but the media still thinks of slavery as women being handcuffed or shackled.

zohra // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:31 am

Hi AllyF

I think the bulk of what you just said (and also on cif) would have had more weight if it had been less patronizing.

There were non-dodgy stats in the piece, and the argument was plenty rational.

Your issue seems to be that you would like to be convinced in a way that fits with your existing way of thinking and have picked on a couple of stats that were misquoted elsewhere as if this was the sum total of Jess’ contribution. I get that you care a lot about the robustness of stats. I think in this case, it’s gotten a little ‘forest for the trees’.

Janis // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:43 am

I am continually appalled at the aggressive and puerile nature of many of the comments on CiF. I sometimes feel quite violated by them, and I’m just a reader. I totally understand your not wanting to validate these inanities by engaging in any kind of debate with them.

Thank-you for the article, food for thought there.

gadgetgal // Posted 3 November 2009 at 9:02 am

“So, yes, climate change is a feminist issue; women are on the front lines of climate change impact and need to be part of creating solutions. And women all over the world are in dire need of access to full and real reproductive justice. But linking the two by advocating population control as a solution to climate change isn’t the way to achieve either of these aims.”

Good points – they are both worthy aims, and I agree that population control advocacy isn’t the way to achieve either one. However I am hoping that by working towards reproductive justice in particular that one of the results is a decrease in the world population – whether you agree with population control measures or not it doesn’t change the fact that there are too many of us here now, and if the population carries on increasing at the rate it is at the moment it will inevitably effect the availability of resources on the planet.

Not a feminist point, but one I wanted to make anyway.

sianmarie // Posted 3 November 2009 at 10:24 am

don’t want to derail by talking about CIF but i can’t go on there anymore because i can’t cope with the nastiness and the aggression.

whenever a feminist article comes up stats fans, the commenters complain that the stats are serving a feminist agenda. if a feminist article uses stories and personal accounts rather than stats, the commenters complain that there are no stats to back up the evidence. you can’t win!

it seems to me so obvious, so clear that climate change is a feminist issue. women tend to be badly affected by poverty due to family structures and patriarchal beliefs. i don’t have hard stats i’m afriad allyF, but anecdotal evidence and reporting.

the problem i have with CIF is that a lot of the commenters seem to think they are more of an expert on everything than the article writer or the writers of the research. yet somehow i think the people who are dedicating their lives to discovering how climate change is going to affect the lives of those living in the 3rd world, and how it will have different affects on men and women, have more of a clue than someone who sits on web forums all day (acknowledging the irony of that comment in that i am sitting on a web forum at the mo). and this is what pisses me off. instead of denying the problem, instead of saying “i know better than the research i haven’t read” we should be reading the research and working out what we can do, as a rich nation, to reduce the problems that our actions towards climate change will cause. we have a responsibility here.

Clarissa // Posted 3 November 2009 at 10:30 am

Oh dear AllyF, patronising much?

Jess McCabe // Posted 3 November 2009 at 11:36 am

@gadgetgal I’m just really skeptical that reproductive justice can be achieved if services are funded on the basis of achieving a specific end, such as women having less children. Here’s a good 10 point guide to some of the issues with conventional assumptions about population control. I’ve not read it fully, but this also looks at some of the issues.

AllyF // Posted 3 November 2009 at 11:51 am

sianmarie

the problem i have with CIF is that a lot of the commenters seem to think they are more of an expert on everything than the article writer or the writers of the research.

The problem is, they often are. Of course there is a hefty proportion of shit-flingers and trolls, but there are also plenty of academics and professionals in any given field, or people who have taken a real and serious interest in the topic, and who do actually know what they are talking about.

“yet somehow i think the people who are dedicating their lives to discovering how climate change is going to affect the lives of those living in the 3rd world, and how it will have different affects on men and women, have more of a clue than someone who sits on web forums all day (acknowledging the irony of that comment in that i am sitting on a web forum at the mo). and this is what pisses me off. instead of denying the problem, instead of saying “i know better than the research i haven’t read” we should be reading the research and working out what we can do, as a rich nation, to reduce the problems that our actions towards climate change will cause. we have a responsibility here.”

We do. I quite agree. And those of us with the privilege of a media platform have a responsibility to read and report the research accurately and honestly. Otherwise we risk sending ourselves off on wild goose chases, chasing solutions to phantom or exaggerated problems.

gadgetgal // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:09 pm

@Jess

I agree that specific aims on reproductive services would be problematic, don’t get me wrong – we already have too many issues of governments having their own agenda when placing any kind of restrictions on fertility (see China for an example), and with people’s own prejudices then coming into play (usually involving poverty, race and gender). As you say actually having population control as the main aim in mind might not turn out to be such a great idea.

But even after reading your links I would still have to say that overpopulation is a serious issue – most of what I read (from the Hampshire College program especially) were dealing with problems of social issues and how trying to cut back on the population would exacerbate them. When I talked about population sustainability I was talking numbers and economic/environmental impact. I read the same UN report that the authors did, but then followed it up with their later report on the population by 2300:

http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/longrange2.htm

It changed the whole story. And also all these reports seem to focus on how population affects HUMAN populations rather than anything else – the Audubon Society have done their own research on how the increasing population is affecting habitats (don’t worry, I’m not going all Peta or anything, I’m just saying the problem is bigger than these reports were giving credit for).

As I said, though, controls over peoples’ reproduction isn’t the answer – if most people were aware of what’s available out there and the consequences of how we live I think they would set limits and controls themselves. Increased education and getting people out of poverty seem to me to be the best way to do it, it definitely lowered the birth rate in Europe. Oh, and also migration – I think some European nations policies of encouraging people to have more children rather than allowing more people to emigrate here is detrimental too.

Again, I say all this but I still agree with you that it’s not a feminist issue, nor is it the main reason that climate change IS a feminist issue – your article was spot on, the population control argument in this case is just a way sidestepping the real issues, which are women having a bigger voice in what happens to counter climate change and availability of reproductive services.

And as for AllyF… just as we’ve shown here stats and reports DO NOT cover it – they can be interpreted, misinterpreted, taken out of context by anyone and they don’t all come to the same conclusion (or even have the same figures along the way). If you base all your judgments solely on them rather than other factors like your own personal experience or what other people have said then you must be very confused…

Kristel // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:19 pm

Hi Jess,

I thought your article was very good. It made me cringe to read the awful comments though (not least because they demonstrated such appalling stupidity and ignorance, as well as being insulting), so I hope you as the author are able to rise above it all! You seem to be doing that, so good on you.

As Sianmarie says, why do these people think they’re so much more expert than the author of an article, who will have a lot more knowledge and have done the research?! What are they doing all day, apart from being a complete waste of energy? We don’t need more methane.

AllyF // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:41 pm

gadgetgal

“And as for AllyF… just as we’ve shown here stats and reports DO NOT cover it – they can be interpreted, misinterpreted, taken out of context by anyone and they don’t all come to the same conclusion (or even have the same figures along the way).”

Stats and reports can be interpreted, misinterpreted and taken out of context. For example, reading a report that says ‘85% of victims of climate disasters are women and children’ and repeating that as ‘85%… are women.’ Just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should, or that it should be allowed to stand when it is.

“If you base all your judgments solely on them rather than other factors like your own personal experience or what other people have said then you must be very confused…”

if you are basing an argument on your own experiences, then explain what those experiences are and how they prove your point. If you are basing your argument on what other people have said, it is your responsibility to check what they say is true.

That way you won’t only avoid becoming confused yourself, but more importantly avoid confusing others, which is my main concern.

Jess McCabe // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:43 pm

@gadgetgal I think we’re basically in agreement; I don’t mean to say that a large human population doesn’t have any impacts, of course this is the case… Although in general the impact of most people on the planet is practically zero, as George Monbiot pointed out, so I do think the urgent issue is basically about levels of consumption in rich countries. But the flipside is that is it actually possible to even come up with a population policy that isn’t sexist or racist?

It’s not just the situation in China – I was originally going to go into this in much more depth in the CiF piece, but there was just too much ground to cover in the end. But for example, there’s the cases in Peru where there was evidence USAID donations were supporting forced sterilisations. The whole history of forced sterilisations across the world, in fact, is something really to look at before putting population control on the agenda.

So, if there was a policy of population control, it would be absolutely a feminist issue unfortunately, we’d have to be looking very critically at what it entailed. Before even thinking about population control, the priority has got to be redistribution and better use of resources, “converge and contract” and so on.

HarpyMarx // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:47 pm

Hi Jess,

I found your piece thought provoking and very interesting.

It is obviously too much to ask for a serious debate/exchange of ideas in the comments…. It seems if the word ‘feminist’ appears in an article then the misogynists crawl out from under the stones. I gave up reading the comments after a bit ‘cos of their troll-style offensive nonsense (‘let’s have a go at the woman/feminist’ mentality…). Absolutely foul.

sianushka // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:50 pm

shameless self promotion i know but this debate inspired me to write about the problems with places like CIF et al when you have a feminist point of view…

http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com/2009/11/sick-of-bloke-osphere.html

sianmarie // Posted 3 November 2009 at 1:56 pm

ally f says:

And those of us with the privilege of a media platform have a responsibility to read and report the research accurately and honestly.

which i think jess clearly did. she cited mutiple sources that point in the same direction. she was clear and balanced in her argument and didn’t stick to one piece of evidence to back it up.

Jess McCabe // Posted 3 November 2009 at 2:02 pm

Thanks @HarpyMarx much appreciated :-)

Ally – zohra has summed things up perfectly already, so I’m just not going to get into this. The statistics were by way of example not the hinge of the whole post, you’d be correct in thinking I didn’t go back and exhaustively check whether WEN had correctly reported them. That’s journalism I’m afraid, perhaps you should spend some of this energy emailing WEN asking for them to correct or clarify their report, which I was simply quoting from. Statistics are usually a bit problematic so are only illustrative in this case not to be interpreted as proof absolute.

However, the basic point that women are more likely to die in natural disasters has been demonstrated in study after study, the weight of evidence in this case is not just about one statistic.

Lar // Posted 3 November 2009 at 2:24 pm

Hmmm did find it a veri confusing piece and found it hard to follow your argument. Not the best thing you’ve every written Jess got to be honest.

gadgetgal // Posted 3 November 2009 at 2:31 pm

@Jess

Cool – I think we are in agreement, especially about consumption levels in the richer countries. Whenever I’ve thought “population issues” I’ve always remembered an old teacher of mine who pointed out that the impact of one child in a richer nation was much more detrimental to the planet than someone in a poorer nation because of our economic and environmental impact – basically we expect (and receive) more, so even if levels of population go down in other places it would still be us doing the most harm!

@AllyF

I realise nothing can be said to you to get you off your hobby horse, even if I point out that getting any kind of stats from sources on the internet is simply going to be unreliable as you have no proof of the validity of their sources, as is relying upon figures you have no actual evidence of because you didn’t do the research yourself (hence trusting a certain amount of your own life experience to help you reach any kind of conclusion that you can relate to others), so I’ll just end with a quote from the great Vic Reeves – “88.2% of statistics are made up on the spot”.

AllyF // Posted 3 November 2009 at 6:11 pm

One more from me, and then I’ll leave you in peace, as I don’t doubt I’m being a right royal pain in the arse.

Jess

“This also draws on wider research on the gendered impacts of natural disasters in general, including a study by LSE from 2007, which looked at 4,605 natural disasters from 1981 to 2002 around the world and found more women than men died”

OK, I’ve just read that paper. It is difficult reading, but very well sourced and although I’m not a geo-economist, it looks pretty robust to me. It recognises that it is impossible to accurately count deaths from natural disasters – not least because people might die months or years later from injuries and illness, and so it is also impossible to calculate a gender difference.

So what the researchers did instead was to look at the total life expectancy in countries where natural disasters had taken place, and looked at the gender gap between the life expectancy of men and women, and how it changed after a disaster.

They found that the gender gap in life expectancy narrowed on average by a grand total of 0.028 percent after a major disaster. That means the gender gap narrowed from 4.69 years to 4.55 years, suggesting that yes, there are slightly more women dying as a result of natural disasters.

But that statistic puts rather a different complexion on the nature and scale of the problem to the estimate you quoted – “85% of the victims of climate disasters are women” don’t you think?

zohra // Posted 3 November 2009 at 7:29 pm

Hi again AllyF

I really wanted to post this on cif in response to your comments there yesterday, but still having trouble accessing my account there so posting here:

@AllyF and everyone else who believes we should measure poverty at the household level, e.g. “However any rational researcher would base poverty upon household income, not individual income, as in most families in the world, the man’s higher income is used to feed, house and clothe his wife and children.”

Actually, there is nothing rational about this assumption; it is in fact a bias based on simplistic ideas about male bread winners, ‘benevolent dictators’ within the household model, and non-female headed householdness that simply do not apply in many parts of the world. Moreover, it is a bias that is used in mainstream economics that has been shown, repeatedly, to be dodgy by feminist economics (a primer is here (pdf)).

The tendency to measure poverty at the household level completely effaces the fact that women are more likely to be living in poverty because of unequal intrahousehold resource allocations – men tend not to pool their incomes for family requirements, and women tend to have less access to ‘communal’ resources within households due to lack of power and status, including violence against women. See here for some research on this by Fawcett.

Jess McCabe // Posted 3 November 2009 at 8:02 pm

AllyF, I’ve not read the entire report. But my reading of it was that they found both short term differences (immediately after or during the disaster) and longer term differences. They also, as I understand it, did not come up with a single figure of what the difference is across natural disasters, but found quite a divergance depending on level of gender equality in the country where the disaster happened.

However, the report author concluded:

Professor Neumayer said: ‘The feminists got it right. Natural disasters are a tragedy in their own right but in countries with existing gender discrimination women are the worst hit. While most disasters cannot be prevented, policy makers, international and humanitarian organizations must develop better policies to address the special needs of women in the wake of large-scale natural disasters.’

In terms of whether the 85% figure – I’ve still not had time to follow up, however it’s not totally outrageous in scale as you can see from some well documented disasters, such as the Bangladesh cyclone of 1991 – no definitive percentage but this World Health Organization report is worth reading.

Anyway, that’s all from me on this statistics issue.

jforbes // Posted 3 November 2009 at 8:58 pm

Jess

I wouldn’t expect to be posting here but it seems CiFers are not worthy of a response from you.

Yes Cif like most public forums has its share of idiots, Trolls and even a few misogynists. But its a cop out to use those posts to avoid responding to more serious points.

You don’t seem to get AllyFs key point that quoting obviously inaccurate stats undermines the case you are trying to make. One I’m not unsympathetic to.

Shame you weren’t able to come back and accept that some of the figures you quoted were wrong.

Astonishing that you suggest AllyF complain to WEN when it was you who was made to look foolish by their misrepresentations.

polly // Posted 3 November 2009 at 9:20 pm

“”Of course there is a hefty proportion of shit-flingers and trolls, but there are also plenty of academics and professionals in any given field,””

Really? Commenting on CiF? Where?

Mary // Posted 3 November 2009 at 9:33 pm

CiF would be a lot more pleasant to read if posters like AllyF and jforbes would tell the troll and misogynists that they were trolls and misogynists on that forum, rather than coming across here and admitting that there are “some” trolls and misogynists over there, but completely ignoring them whenever they post. I’ve almost never seen a male poster on CiF call out any of the other men, no matter how frequently they post and how dilligent they are about picking up female/feminist posters.

I’m sure you all justify it as focussing on the substantive issues rather than getting distracted by the trolls, but basically, it is very hard for me as a female poster who has been subjected to some pretty vile abuse to shrug it off so easily. And when you then have exchanges with AllyF in which he very kindly and not-at-all condescendingly told me that he didn’t disagree with my point, I don’t feel particularly inclined to distinguish between him and his less polite brethren. (I’m flaneuse on CiF, fwiw.)

Would it ruin your reputations over there if you spent a bit of time telling some of the wankers to shut up?

Lucy // Posted 3 November 2009 at 10:14 pm

Why are misinterpreted stats a matter of public outcry where feminism or women are concerned?

And Jess is hardly going to voluntarily get flamed by the misogynists who crawl from the woodwork on cif. It’s hardly like you listen if everything said was spot on. AllyF et al would merely find another straw.

Elmo // Posted 3 November 2009 at 10:15 pm

I’ve never seen any one claiming to be a professor on CiF. Why would they waste time debating with the idiots who comment on these pages-how would that be productive, its not like these arseholes ever listen . CiF seems mostly to be for people who comment because “hey i’m behind a computer screen which makes me feel brave and i’m going to make a really controversial point and look all clever-bloody immigrants blah blah blah”. Although some like AllyF do of course debate rationally and sensibly, most of the people on it are the kind who feel all their horrible opinions are misunderstood, and they want somewhere to feel right and smart. I doubt any of them would ever have said their comments to Jess’ face. I suggest we get rid of CiF and instead have weekly video debates/real life meetings, and we could teach these *!!$**%@ that Freedom of Speech isn’t just saying all the rude and nasty thoughts in your head.

Mo // Posted 4 November 2009 at 11:35 am

jforbes, the vast majority of CiFers are not worthy of a response from anyone.

It doesn’t just have its “share” of idiots, trolls and misogynists – it is completely dominated by them. That’s why I no longer read the comments, except for yesterday because Jess wrote the article. It was a very good article.

The trolls and misogynists have taken over that space (and plenty of others) for themselves. Now, the least they can do is let other people have theirs.

jforbes // Posted 4 November 2009 at 10:40 pm

@Mary & Mo

I think the best way to deal with Trolls and the like is to ignore them – basically they are just attention seekers looking for a fight, ‘Don’t Feed the Trolls’ has long been good advice since the days the the newsgroups.

Cif varies a lot, I don’t agree that it is completely dominated by trolls & flamers. But I accept that any apparently feminist blog attracts what someone described as pack dogs. They probably won’t all go away completely if they are ignored, but trying to engage with them only encourages them and gives their ‘opinions’ legitimacy they don’t deserve.

Not engaging with those who have thought out but perhaps challenging opinions, just leave the floor to the trolls.

I think it depend whether you are willing to put up with rubbish to engage in sometimes challenging and enlightening debate.

gadgetgal // Posted 5 November 2009 at 3:56 pm

@jforbes

Hi – never been on Cif before until I read this posting here, so I not only read the article above, I also checked through for other articles – mostly feminist or feminist-related, but I also looked at some other controversial topics too. I was appalled. It seems like it’s not even just the trolls – the usual nice contributors suddenly seem to turn into patronising arses when there’s a woman involved. No wonder most of the women on this site think that’s what Cif entirely consists of!

I understand your usual tactic is to ignore them, it’s usually mine too, but (if you check out one of the previous posts I made here on street harassment) it’s not always something you can do. You’ve already accepted that certain “pack dogs” seem to follow any kind of feminist posting, meaning they tend to receive more abuse than normal. So how much abuse should a person have to sift through before they can answer a question? And how much of a challenging and enlightening debate can it really be for the people on the receiving end of it (and I’m not just talking about the authors, I’m talking about me and any other woman who has to sit there sifting through that guff!)?

Maybe some of the responsibility should be taken by the other more moderate posters – there’s an old African adage that says “if you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem”. It’s a little dramatic for my tastes but it’s pretty damn accurate at times – by ignoring the number of abusive posts and the level of abuse received by women and minority groups without even one comment on how that’s not on, or even fanning their flames by being patronisingly critical (and I’ve seen them both on every feminist article I read on Cif, haven’t read ’em all, but the abuse was starting to make me feel stupid and rather less than human) then perhaps you need to accept that it IS your issue too.

I can only let you know what people do on this site – if someone is being abused, or talked down to, or ganged up on, there is ALWAYS someone who will go to their aid, especially the moderators. Since Cif seems to be mostly self-moderated (or just badly moderated, couldn’t tell which) maybe some of the good guys should try and see it from our perspective and give us a helping hand – it’s a sexist, sexist world, many men don’t take women seriously (unfair, but true, as Cif proves beyond a shadow of a doubt), but they might take more notice if it came from one of you.

Think about it.

sianmarie // Posted 5 November 2009 at 4:51 pm

as gadgetgal says, it isn’t as easy as just ignoring the trolls, they shout so loudly. and not all pf the abusive people on CIF are trolls, they can be perfectly reasonable on non feminist cif pages. (not naming any names)

i do ignore the trolls now as i refuse to go on cif. surely it’s really awful that me and other readers like me feel excluded from the site because of the nasty, uninformed attitude towards feminism of many CIF commenters or trolls?

Denise // Posted 5 November 2009 at 4:52 pm

If someone is privileged enough to be engaging in “challenging, enlightening debate” then clearly they’re not having to put up with rubbish at that time, are they? Because the debate is challenging and enlightening! Haw.

Everyone finds their own level, and the blinkered little misogynist trolls have tumbled all the way down into theirs – CiF. They can have their ‘floor’ (covered in troll droppings) and enjoy trying to outdo one another with their troll wit and wisdom and trollspert knowledge and opinions on absolutely every subject, and troll on about life in trollworld, where the sky is always low and grey and the sunshine of informed, considered, rational opinion will never break through the low, suffocating toxic cloud layer.

Thank goodness for the blue blue sky, fresh breeze and bright sunshine of TFW! Ahhh. I’m lovin’ it.

Daniel // Posted 5 November 2009 at 5:52 pm

@jforbes – Hi there. I also think it doesn’t necessarily do to ignore trolls outright. Not only for the reasons gadgetgal mentioned but also because they can then accuse you of refusing to debate with them. Other anti-feminist types will see it and go “there you are! They can’t answer back so they’re just ignoring him!”. Of course, there comes a point when ignoring them is all you can do and I do take your point about fanning the flames but I do believe CiF should have some kind of moderating system.

Elmo // Posted 19 November 2009 at 12:57 pm

Well AllyF et al, if you would care to look at the Google news headlines today, you will see that this issue is a big topic-and guess what? It seems Jess was right.

http://news.google.co.uk/news/more?pz=1&cf=all&ned=uk&ncl=dNSQpW-sXwUo2oMv3F7Haby-kuYVM&topic=w

Jess McCabe // Posted 19 November 2009 at 1:25 pm

@Elmo Thanks! I’ve seen some coverage of this, but haven’t had a chance to read the report – based on the Times story, though, sadly this is another study arguing that ‘population control’ is the answer :/

Elmo // Posted 19 November 2009 at 2:08 pm

The times story was sadly also filled with comments such as “But MY girlfriend uses a hairdryer! so she MUST contribute more!” grrrrr

ur welcome :)

Shea // Posted 3 February 2010 at 4:25 pm

I’ve just re-read this post in light of what happened in Haiti and the more recent post regarding Haiti medical facilities and pregnant women and thought “why were we ever debating that more women die in natural disasters?”. Its clear that pregnant women will be at much graver risk of death or disease post- a natural disaster than men. (I’m not sure how the earthquake in Haiti fits in with climate change). It seems absurd to even debate this.

Unfortunately it seems that the worst natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis occur in poorer developing countries anyway (those lacking infrastructure and recovering from civil war) –thereby exacerbating the effect.

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