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Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:16 PM

Proposal to Amend DU TOS Language

This discussion thread is pinned.
The hosts of four groups on DU, Feminists Group, History of Feminism, Feminism and Diversity and Women's Rights have come together to ask for your input on the topic of sexist and misogynistic posts on DU and whether the language of the Terms of Service provide sufficient guidance on whether such posts are acceptable.

The Terms of Service on Democratic Underground are absent of any mention of sexism or misogyny directly. There is a prohibition of bigotry based on gender but we have seen that not all DUers interpret this language to include sexism and misogyny. We are advocating for these bigotries to be explicitly added to the Terms of Service on DU, to aid in our struggles to eliminate these bigotries from DU. We request your input and your support is critical. Spread the news and show your support here:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/12565203

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Arrow 21 replies Author Time Post
Reply Proposal to Amend DU TOS Language (Original post)
Gormy Cuss Dec 2012 OP
Deep13 Dec 2012 #1
TheBlackAdder Dec 2012 #4
Gormy Cuss Dec 2012 #5
greatauntoftriplets Dec 2012 #2
TheBlackAdder Dec 2012 #3
mike_c Dec 2012 #6
TheBlackAdder Dec 2012 #7
Deep13 Dec 2012 #9
leveymg Dec 2012 #8
TheBlackAdder Dec 2012 #11
Gormy Cuss Dec 2012 #12
leveymg Dec 2012 #13
Gormy Cuss Dec 2012 #14
Deep13 Dec 2012 #10
libodem Mar 2013 #15
Gormy Cuss May 2013 #17
jaclynisradical May 2013 #16
dballance May 2013 #18
Gormy Cuss May 2013 #19
openinclusivity Sep 28 #20
awoke_in_2003 Sep 28 #21

Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:23 PM

1. I agree...

and I am a bit surprised it is not already there. Still, I don't know how much practical difference it will make.

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Response to Deep13 (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:31 PM

4. True. Most sites already have that. nt

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Response to Deep13 (Reply #1)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:18 PM

5. Based on some recent Meta discussion, it will make at least a small difference

because there are members who think that the TOS doesn't prohibit it.
I agree though that it won't be a magic solution.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:26 PM

2. Please do.

Given how often the ToS are violated in this respect, it needs to be clarified. Maybe with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 08:28 PM

3. Perhaps you need to ask the 3 Male Admins to: "Make Me A Sandwich While You're At It"?

Then, they might get your point.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:28 PM

6. eliminating bigotries also removes opportunities for organizing and education....

I'm always of mixed minds about eliminating anything from discourse on DU. I know that the terms of service already do so, to create an envelope of comfort here. Still, I'm leery of seeking an echo chamber of like minded folks. We NEED to keep these difficult dialogs alive for as long as they are a part of the broader debate in the U.S. and elsewhere. Challenge misogyny! But not in ways that prohibit discourse that can educate.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #6)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:41 PM

7. Perhaps by restricting misogynistic comments, it forces Introspection.

If you allow a misogynistic post, not only does it insult others but it makes the site low-brow.

By restricting such posts, the writer is forced to control themselves and reflect on whether they are posting objectionable material. If they are going to post such content, they then need to rephrase it. It would help in altering the internal dialogs the writer has when formulating a post or reply. After a while, that reflection would become second nature, not only here but elsewhere.

I'm all for checking misogynistic comments. As a father of three daughters and someone with two sisters, I know they don't need to see that type of dialog online. It's bad enough when the middle school and high school kids tell them not to run for office but instead make them sandwiches.

Now, the schools they go to have mostly young women as their class presidents. One of my daughters was one of them.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #6)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:13 PM

9. We can have discourse without being mysoginistic.

We are not going to allow racist language or stereotypes to explore issues of racism. Why do we have to allow sexist assumptions to have a discourse on sexism.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 09:48 PM

8. Absolutely not. Words, alone, devoid of meaning should not be banned. Messages of hatred may be.

You can do whatever you want within your own discussion groups, but I will not support use of a word, with no other offense, as a TOS violation on DU.

You can not eliminate bigotry by banning words.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:36 PM

11. Sure you can.

If others don't see the bigotry, they won't feel the waters are safe to jump in as it is not encouraged or acceptable to participants on this site. Besides, other people don't want to see what type of dysfunctional family you might have been raised in.

Do you curse in church? Do you curse or act like a bigot in your children's school?

If you feel it's safe to do it here, then you don't fully respect the site or half of its members.

If you want to act a bigot at home, beat your family members or do whatever floats your boat - keep it in YOUR house. If I see you act a bigot in front of my kid or friends or I see your family members with unexplainable injuries.. then there is a problem.

PS. This is coming from a staunch financial supporter of the EFF.

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Response to leveymg (Reply #8)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 11:20 PM

12. The OP does not request banning specific words.

Last edited Mon Dec 3, 2012, 03:52 PM - Edit history (1)

Rather, the intent is to provide a better framework for understanding when the usage is sexist or misogynistic.

One can't eliminate bigotry by banning words but one can effect a change in perceptions by condemning certain usages. Calling an adult male of color "boy," for example. You'd be hard pressed to find DUers who support the right to call A/A men boys, but you don't have to search too long before you'll find DUers who think it's A-okay to call women bitches (gender-specific) even when they'd call men with the same behaviors assholes (gender-neutral.) I could go on, but you probably catch my drift.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Reply #12)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 03:00 AM

13. So, what you seek to ban are gender-based or referencing insults?

All those choice words of invective that involve physical body parts and secondary sexual characteristics would be off-limits at DU? Are you trying to ban insults at DU, or just to neuter them?

Either way, this seems to be another exercise in trying to impose standards on a broader community that are better understood and accepted within your particular forums and groups.

An insult is an insult, no matter how it's expressed. To insult another DU Member on account of race, sexual preference, gender, etc. is already a violation of the rules. It's a violation to simply insult someone in any way that's "rude, over the top, etc." Why is there any need for all of us to go further than that in defining rules that apply to sexism or mysogyny?

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Response to leveymg (Reply #13)

Mon Dec 3, 2012, 04:08 PM

14. I'm seeking to have more clarity in the TOS on bigoted speech here.

The TOS specifically mentions bigotry based on gender yet I've seen far too many examples of people claiming there's no ban on sexism. Based on which word is used, the term may be 1)nearly always sexist, 2) sometimes sexist, or 3) sexist rarely or never.

This isn't a word war. Word usage is only a part of sexist behavior. Using frames that play off stereotypes, particularly crude ones, are IMHO a bigger problem on DU.

As for imposing standards on the broader community that are better accepted within certain groups, that's not the issue. It's clarifying what constitutes the existing standards for the broader community which is why it's a TOS issue. The TOS on bigotry has examples to amplify some of the prohibitions but there's no example for gender bigotry. On top of that, I've been quite surprised to read many DUers claiming that bigotry based on gender is somehow unrelated to sexism. Adding that word as part of an example would help clear up that misconception.

As for insults always being insults, that only holds true when all of the readers are using similar references to assess the insult. For example when a New England grandmother says "Bless his heart" it is absolutely, positively not an insult. When a Southerner uses the phrase, it may be indeed be an insult.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Dec 2, 2012, 10:22 PM

10. These are expressions I do not like seeing here...

except as criticism of them...

bitch/bitchy/bee-atch

whore except in the media sense

slut or anything that implies the same thing

likewise anything that presumes chastity as an affirmative duty of women

anything that suggests negative views or emotions (complaints, anger etc.) are caused by a regular biological occurrence

harpie

hysteria (literally a movement of the uterus--a catch all term for female mental disorders)

suggestions that domestic service or reproduction is the natural role of women

All I can think of off the top of my head.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Wed Mar 20, 2013, 05:54 PM

15. I wonder how many examples

Are related to things I may have said. I've been vocal about not being that shocked over hearing bitch used in a sentence. Maybe I watch too much daytime tv. I hope anyone who can't stand seeing it in print here, does not watch television.

I've been in life threatening abusive relationship and let words sink in and crush my heart, especially when it was not true or accurate. It hurt more. I was in college and taking assertiveness training, and keeping a journal for class. We had to basically wear out the sting of those words and phrases, by saying yes I may be a bitch and so is my mother, and so what's your point?
At a certain point the person hearing abusive language has to buy in to the speaker's intent and accept their pronouncements before it is destructive. It is up to the reader, or the listener to take the language to heart and suffer over it. I don't think it is necessary to buy in and start suffering, and blame others for your sadness and despair. A strong woman gets over it and moves on.
I don't want to be contrary. I just don't like the 'word' policing that goes on. It seems like an excuse to try and get people kicked off, DU, for mistakes in phrasing.

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Response to libodem (Reply #15)

Tue May 21, 2013, 12:48 PM

17. Either one believes that words have power or one does not.

Exercises in taking ownership of words works for some but not for all. If I'm called a bitch it doesn't do anything to my self-esteem but I don't like the word's use as a way of denigrating women. Bitch is just reduced calorie c**t.

But back to why the above proposal was made. In most public arenas we use language filters. For example, most people don't swear in church or in an elementary school. Most people won't use deeply charged racist terms in public even when they believe that other races are inferior. Why? Because we have social conventions on language usage. Such conventions do change over time, but we always have words and phrases that we self-censor based on the social situation. Yes, we do in fact police words by social agreement.

The above proposal was an attempt to reach some common understanding on DU that sexist language is as welcome as racist or homophobic language. The point is moot though since admin thinks there's no reason to do this.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Tue May 21, 2013, 11:38 AM

16. Policing Language and the Necessity of Policing Sexism and Misogyny

I agree with this proposal. Policing of bigotry based on gender is of necessity because we live in a patriarchal society. The same goes for policing of racist comments, because we live in a society that is not race neutral and white is the standard (i.e. white privilege). Out of this same train of thought it is a must that we police language that is sexist and misogynist. I do not feel bad for anyone who cannot recognize how far and wide patriarchy is spread and how ingrained it is into our daily lives. Making sexist and misogynistic comments out of this should be policed and they should be challenged. Only then can we begin to dismantle the patriarchal system.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Tue May 21, 2013, 04:34 PM

18. I Think This is a Great Discussion to Have

I can't believe I'm wading into this. But I'm a glutton sometimes. First, I've served on many juries and I've served on MIRT. It would be great to have clearer guidelines in both cases about what's inappropriate. This is a sticky wicket though I will admit to the evil of our patriarchal society that has, in my opinion, created many, many more misogynistic terms than misandristic terms. This is apparent in the fact I had to look up the term misandry/misandrist and while they're in the dictionary neither were in my computer's default dictionary and I had to add them to type this post.

When serving on MIRT there were lots of post hides that came to us and many the team found on their own that sparked the sort of discussions about: "Was the intent of that person to be misogynistic and demeaning or were they using a word in a manner that is common now so they shouldn't be penalized with a ban?" The word "bitch" and its variants are a perfect example brought up here. It is a word that has evolved and will, like others, continue to evolve in its implied meaning and usage. There is a term, "Standard American English" which by definition says our speech is not static and it will evolve as to rules of grammar, definitions and usage. Think of the words we've added since the 80's and the Internet revolution. My browser highlighted misandry as a misspelling but not tweet or twitter, nor did my browser's speller highlight e-mail as a misspelling. I mention this just to begin to let you know what a difficult task you have before you - though I think you already knew that.

At the risk of being pilloried, I'll return to the word "bitch." In contrast let's compare that with the word "text." Both, I believe, most likely only had noun forms defined in the dictionary probably as late as the 50's and 60's and the word "text" probably up through the 90's at least. I wish I had my dad's college dictionary to verify that but I'll use this example because I think it shows one of the issues.

I'd be more than willing to bet that common usage of the word "bitch" until after WWII and later didn't include using it as a verb as in "to bitch at some one or about something." Nor did the word "text" common usage include a verb form for sending messages over a cell phone and then social media. Both of them now do include the verb form.

Words also lose their original meaning or have it changed. "Aspirin" used to be a brand name. But now it's used as the generic name for almost any generic pain killer. Kleenex has pretty much achieved the same thing with representing almost all facial tissue. "Windows" used to only be those things through which we see either physically or metaphorically. "Quarantine" originates with the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert after his baptism and originally meant a 40 day period. Not what is does today. "Decimate" used to mean "kill one in ten." Even the word "Christ" has lost it's original meaning as messiah and has come to, in Judeo-Christian societies, refer to Jesus of Nazareth. If you ask 10 Christian kids and many adults they'll probably tell you it's Jesus' last name (family name weren't used in ancient times).

Usage of a word changes its meaning as we saw above. So at what point, if it hasn't already happened, does the word "bitch" and its variants fall prey to the evolution of Standard American English? When does it's usage change it's normative meaning from something inherently female to something that's just considered an irritant or "bad" so to speak. I personally, at the risk of all the flaming I'll get, would say it already has. I know I never would have used the phrase "life's a bitch" when I was a kid and even up into high school. Certainly not in front of my mother or sisters. Now it's just so much common usage.

As for words like the c-word they have not changed and they still offend my sensibilities. But I've seen posts here that even call out "hysteria" and "hysterical." We can't prohibit use of those words. We can prohibit the use of the word "dick." I've been a software developer. Tell me the fool-proof algorithm for deciding when "dick" is used pejoratively and not as a noun or slang. Tell me how to program the system easily to decide that "bitch" is being used to refer to a woman rather than a female dog. Sounds easy when you first think of it. Sure, any time bitch is used as a modifier of a proper noun then it must be an insult. Easy for humans, but now I have to teach the computer what a proper noun is because I can't possible program every possible name and nickname of people in the just the US into a database and keep it current. Not to mention a good number of humans and dogs share names. Then add how to deal with pronouns. I'm sure there are computers and programs that can do that now with great effectiveness. But I don't think they're still very cost-effective for small organizations like DU.

I mention all this not as an exercise to bore you, but to hopefully get you to think about how difficult the task of deciding what is sexist or misogynistic really is. It depends on so many factors.

As an LGBT person I more than sympathize with the issues of words to demean. Take the words "fag" and "fagot/faggot." Neither of those was originally a disparaging remark toward homosexual men to begin with. "Gay" used to just mean cheerful or happy.

I look forward to output from this discussion as to how we can provide better guidelines in the TOS. I hope I have not insulted anyone as that is not my intention. I'm also not saying: "Well, the task is impossible so why try?" I think it's possible to better clarify the TOS. I think it's also necessary to realize you'll never be able to write a TOS without some vagaries in it. That's why we'll, in my opinion, always need something like the jury system and MIRT.

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Response to dballance (Reply #18)

Tue May 21, 2013, 05:20 PM

19. Your last paragraph here is key IMHO.

The task isn't impossible, it just takes some work. The request put forth by the three feminists groups and WR&I wasn't asking for a neat solution, merely more clarity in the TOS so that DUers who care about civil discussions have some benchmarks on where to draw the line in their own posts and when they're serving as jurors or on MIRT.

There will always be room for ambiguity. All that we were asking for was a bit less of it. I think with a little effort that better guidance could have been incorporated in the TOS but it's a moot discussion. Admin is not interested in addressing it at this time.




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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Sep 28, 2014, 06:44 PM

20. This is good and I hope it happens.

I just saw that Fark recently added this to their TOS and I thought "maybe I should spend more time there". Sites that allow for sexism and misogyny are just horrible, generally.

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Response to Gormy Cuss (Original post)

Sun Sep 28, 2014, 07:27 PM

21. I support this proposal...

the world is full of mysogynistic assholes, women should not have to tolerate it here. Juries usually do the right thing, but not always.

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