Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Some Of Your Future Lawyers In Action

Jill on feministe writes an important post having to do with this article about a new way for sexists to have fun with women's bodies and reputations:

She graduated Phi Beta Kappa, has published in top legal journals and completed internships at leading institutions in her field. So when the Yale law student interviewed with 16 firms for a job this summer, she was concerned that she had only four call-backs. She was stunned when she had zero offers.

Though it is difficult to prove a direct link, the woman thinks she is a victim of a new form of reputation-maligning: online postings with offensive content and personal attacks that can be stored forever and are easily accessible through a Google search.

The woman and two others interviewed by The Washington Post learned from friends that they were the subject of derogatory chats on a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The women spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution online.

The law-school board, one of several message boards on AutoAdmit, bills itself as "the most prestigious law school admissions discussion board in the world." It contains many useful insights on schools and firms. But there are also hundreds of chats posted by anonymous users that feature derisive statements about women, gays, blacks, Asians and Jews. In scores of messages, the users disparage individuals by name or other personally identifying information. Some of the messages included false claims about sexual activity and diseases. To the targets' dismay, the comments bubble up through the Internet into the public domain via Google's powerful search engine.


The chats sometimes include photos taken from women's Facebook pages, and in the Yale student's case, one person threatened to sexually violate her. Another participant claimed to be the student, making it appear that she was taking part in the discussion.

"I didn't understand what I'd done to deserve it," said the student. "I also felt kind of scared because it was someone in my community who was threatening physical and sexual violence and I didn't know who."

The woman e-mailed the site's administrators and asked them to remove the material. She said she received no response. Then she tried contacting Google, which simply cited its policy that the Web site's administrator must remove the material to clear out the search results.

I cannot say anything as useful as Jill's post so you should go and read it now. Then come back for the rest of my thoughts.

They are not many, but I see this perhaps the first new form of sexism that has been created or at least a much extended and more visible form of sexism. It is now possible to take an actual named but private person and to give her a misogynistic mental rape session, and there will be a record of that, too! Yah! Or at least she and her reputation can be dissected and cooked for an all-misogynist dinner. - Note how all this is about what rights a woman has over how her likeness is used, and the answer of this website is that she has no rights at all if she ever has published any pictures of herself on the net for any reason whatsoever.

This is like "The Ivy League Women of Playboy", but with one important difference: The women are FORCED to participate. And the assumption is that if there are any pictures of you anywhere on the net these guys own you.

Now, there are worse sites than the one described in this post. Much worse. But they operate on the same premise: That anonymous men have the right to view and comment on physical representations of named women whether those women are willing participants in this game or not.

My final thought has to do with Ann Althouse's comment on the Washington Post article I linked above. Althouse (a conservative blogger who also regards herself as a feminist as long as feminism can be outsourced to the little people to perform) says:

Too beautiful to appear in public? Too hot to be hired? Come on! What rational employer would deny you a job because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good?

(I am sympathetic to the woman who had someone impersonate her by name in a chat. There is a popular blog where that is done to me in the comments and openly encouraged. As I noted here, the blogger in question flatly refused to do anything about it.)

The mind boggles. "...because idiots chatted about you on line in a way that made if obvious that the only thing you did was look good?" Ann, this is HOW they chat about your beauty online:

What is exploitative is to use someone else’s pictures in a contest that they haven’t consented to, which can have negative consequences on their careers. I emailed the contest site owners (who are anonymous, naturally) and asked to be taken out of the contest. They didn’t even bother to respond — except by posting a clarification on the contest site that they would not be taking down any pictures until after the contest was over. I emailed them again, reiterating my request, and letting them know that I have rights to the pictures they posted, and would be taking further action if they didn’t take me out of the running. Again, no response — except that they copied my email onto their message board, where commenters roundly attacked me for being a bitch and a whore, and began speculating as to how many abortions I’ve had. At that point I started browsing their other threads, and found similar comments about all the women who had asked to have their pictures removed. Another NYU contest nominee, who is a very sweet and smart woman and whom I know fairly well, took the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” tactic, and emailed the contest creators offering to send on better pictures of herself (they took some of the pictures of her from my Flickr account, and posted one of the two of us). They posted her email on the message board as well, and a long debate ensued over whether she was cool and laid-back, or a stupid slut who employers shouldn’t hire since she is immature and insecure enough to voluntarily participate in this contest.

You can’t win.

Several other women requested to be taken out of the contest, and they were all attacked on the message board. Commenters regularly used the term “bitches” in place of “women” (i.e., not as an individual insult like “she’s a bitch,” but as a collective term, as in “post more pictures of hot law school bitches”). They speculated as to how promiscuous the contestants are, called us whores, talked about masturbating to our pictures, and discussed the sexual acts they would perform on us. At least one commenter made it clear that he goes to NYU Law, and that he had seen the other NYU contestant in person. So not only were random internet creeps posting this stuff, but my own classmates were.

My bolds.

Althouse needs to get out more.