The Toxic Manosphere of Fedi
This will be a long post. I'm going to discuss recent fedi 'drama', particularly around Stux/mstdn.social and Byron/Universeodon, to call out the problematic behaviours by white guys that I'm repeatedly exposed to as a demifemme admin (experiencing this behaviour probably applies to anyone who is perceived as 'not male', though), and by the people who perpetuate the behaviour by either agreeing with it, or not calling it out: misogyny, DARVO, gaslighting, and abuser tactics. Content Warning: this post will discuss those tactics, and tangentially mention abusive relationships.
Part 1: Misogyny
To Stux, to Byron, to the privileged white guys who respond to my fediblock posts with threats of litigation, who try to bully and threaten me when I speak up about you, and to everyone who enables you: you're misogynists.
I want you to look at that word, hard, and I want you to feel its weight on you. I know you're probably scoffing, rolling your eyes, maybe tutting about me under your breath. You're already dismissing me. You? Misogynists? Nah.
For the readers: I'm going to present a definition of misogyny. It will include a description of behaviours that you're either familiar with from having personal experience, or familiar with from having heard people talking about their personal experiences. I trust that this definition and the provided examples are all things you're familiar with, and that won't be a surprise to you, given how common they come up when discussing misogyny; that is, you'll read the definition, and go 'Ok, yeah, those are clearly misogynistic'.
Hostile misogyny presents as beliefs and behaviours that are openly hostile towards women, viewing women as manipulative, deceitful, and needing to be kept in their place.
Examples can include using sexist language or insults, treating women people as subordinates, and punishing them when they step out of line.
Think of people like Trump and the kind of words and language they use to discredit their female critics; the things they accuse them of, the way they try to paint them as 'less than' and themselves as 'more than'. Things like questioning their mental state, their health, their ability, their credibility. Language that shames the woman and paints the woman as small, feeble, inept, and the man as big, powerful, competent. Words like 'shame', 'disappointed', 'nasty', 'irrational'.
Think about all of that and keep it in mind.
Okay, back to directly addressing my abusers.
Whenever I 'step out of line' you shame me, insult me, accuse me of beign manipulative, of lying, and you punish me to keep me in my place.
When I block your instance directly citing your behaviour and you respond by DMing or emailing me legal threats, that's you trying to punish me and to keep me in my place.
When I call you out on behaviour that I find problematic, you respond by threatening me, calling me names, treating me as your inferior, questioning my ability, calling me a liar, questioning my rationality, questioning my credibility, saying I abuse my power, questioning my health, my 'normality', disgracing me, calling me toxic, blaming me for your actions, claiming I'm manipulative, deceitful, and stepping out of line.
Still don't believe me?
Insulting me/calling me names
Shaming me / treating me as your inferior 'shame on you mastodon.art', 'it's shameful how they're treating the community' https://mastodon.art/@welshpixie/110576560037257542
'I am disappointed in mastodon.art' https://archive.ph/pMiRN
Calling me a liar/deceitful/manipulative https://archive.ph/uWgtQ#selection-2151.0-2151.93 In the same thread as 'i'm punished for being open and honest', saying 'and they blocked the entire admin community'
And ending with claiming you're speaking the truth again: 'I can't do anything but clarify my position and speak the truth'
Questioning my rationality https://universeodon.com/@supernovae/110792017979976143, https://web.archive.org/web/20230723005724/https://universeodon.com/@supernovae/110752423959362422, 'I still chose to be a rational person' https://archive.ph/1O2zI
Questioning my credibility 'bad admin', 'defederated me on lies', spread lies' https://archive.ph/1O2zI
Saying I abuse my power https://archive.ph/w34Av
Questioning my health and 'normality' “this beef that mastodon.art wages is not normal. It's not healthy” https://ghostarchive.org/archive/nN92o?wr=false
Disgracing me https://mastodon.art/@welshpixie/110612692782940469
Blaming me for your actions Accusing ME of the mstdn.social defed: https://mastodon.art/@welshpixie/110618244376288511 (the OP is gone but the preview is there) https://mastodon.art/@welshpixie/110622507795240380
Calling me toxic and saying I'm happily inciting violence, holding me responsible for other people sending death threats and threatening to dox: https://mastodon.art/@welshpixie/110624074405406421
Most (all, maybe, considering Byron has deleted everything from his account older than a week or so ago and there aren't archives of much of it) of those posts are all from the first week that .art announced defederating Universeodon, and that behaviour continued from then until this week.
Whenever Byron spoke about .art, it would be with that misogynistic framing, calling for 'rationality' as if I had been irrational to that point, calling for punishment for .art (me). A month of misogyny whenever Byron brought it up, and he brought it up a lot, finding anyone talking about the situation and inserting himself into the discussions to keep driving the point home that he's just a rational, responsible, big smart man and I'm an irrational, irresponsible, small silly woman that needed putting in her place so that he could get back to doing all this Important Man Business without silly little me getting in his way.
Part 2: DARVO, gaslighting, and abuser tactics
The fedi-admin Discord I'm in is a big group of mods and admins from servers whose principles align with .art, and we use the space for discussing blocks, getting feedback on community things, moderation issues, tech issues, keeping an eye on potentially problematic behaviour, and just generally communicating and supporting each other. It's a room full of predominantly marginalised voices, and as such communities go, many of us have faced some form of abuse and/or persecution to varying degrees because of who we are.
Seeing the situation with Stux and Byron unfolding, we moved discussion of it into its own thread, to keep our main channels easier to navigate. Over the past month, that thread pretty literally turned into a support group as many of us started identifying behaviour that made us feel uncomfortable, and triggered, and we'd have to check in with the other people there for validation.
It became clear to us pretty quickly that Byron was displaying abuser tactics in his conversations with people, and a bunch of us watching it were reminded of previous abusive relationships or scenarios we'd been in, recognising patterns of behaviour that were used to manipulate us and control the narrative while turning others against us.
This includes me. I've been stalked, and I've been in (non-physically) abusive relationships. I am unfortunately familiar with these techniques, as I have had them used against me.
DARVO is an acronym for “deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARVO). It's a common tactic used by abusers, that includes gaslighting (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting , 'an individual's perception of reality is repeatedly undermined or questioned by another person) .
DARVO can take the form of calling into question the other victim's credibility while asserting your own credibility over theirs, accusing the victim of lying while stating that you're telling the truth, denying the things you were accused of while blaming the victim for things, calling the victim the offender while taking on the role of victim, and attacking the victim.
This thread is rife with DARVO and gaslighting;
Accusing me of lying: “I'm disappointed / I'm extremely disappointed”, “used in a [...] intentionally deceitful context”
Lies/abusing power: “Their style of moderation is control”
Lies: “People on .art have 0 agency and it creates an environment of fear”
Playing the victim while gaslighting (.art is the one creating safe spaces while many see Byron's actions as creating unsafe spaces): “What kind of people do that to other admins who are openly trying to make things better and talking with admins in a “Safe space” to do so?”
Accusing .art of perpetuating fear: “and why would artists flock to a site that perpetuates such fear? “
RVO: “Can you not see how shitty their behavior is?”
Accusing me of lying: “not writing some bs blog of half truths they cherry picked to fit their own agenda”
Lying about me: “they blocked the entire admin community”
RVO, gaslighting: “ i felt it was about time to call abuse when i see it”
Lying about me: “They took advantage of the mastodon branding, got listed on joinmastodon during twitter waves – then took offense and mocked everything about mastodon and the developers and have gone on a defederation tirade built on lies “
Putting me in my place: “and not let them get away with their shenanigans “
Saying he's telling the truth: “I can't do anything but clarify my position and speak the truth. I spoke it.”
Attack: “this beef that mastodon.art wages is not normal. It's not healthy and it existed long before universeodon did”
RVO: “It was .art that made a blog and broke the connections of consenting folks for no reasons other than personal attacks against me based on heresy.”
Lies, RVO: “the entire instance is moderated to control what is on local and that means every post you make when you think you're talking to your audience is limited/controlled and has to follow the rules of their iron fist moderation of local.”
RVO: 'People are afraid. I just won’t speak for them. Admins are “afraid” – it’s why i’m speaking up.”
RVO: “I’d never open an account there knowing how untrustworthy and disrespectful they are.”
RVO, putting me in my place: “For too long people let them scream and abuse other admins for fear of rocking the boat – they have been able to frustrate and shame people and mock admins for lies for too long.”
Putting me in my place: “i’m just done beating around the bush and calling bullshit when i see it.”
RVO (also double standards, doesn't apply this to Stux) “what would you do if some asshole admin decided to sever all your relationships?”
“It’s probably why they want to ban me because i see all their bullshit”
Double standard, he's allowed to do this but not me: “I have enough dignity for myself and respect for others that I let people have their own opinions or defend them themselves.”
Superior to me: “I find it all absurd and childish”
Credibility: “They have no clue what they're talking about.”
Holding a man to a different standard: “i'm just respecting that we have different views and outlooks and that you can hold yours and i can hold mine and we'll both still be who we are.”
This all happened in Byron's first response thread to the .art defed. It continued from there. Byron would insert himself into conversations that didn't tag him, presumably by using Universeodon's full text search feature to find people talking about him, and use it as an opportunity to DARVO and gaslight.
This was still going on weeks later. While expressing sentiments like wishing it would all be over, he'd bring it up again himself, blame me for harassment he was receiving while (despite being asked many times by many people) never showing evidence of his continued harassment. Often, the moment someone asked for receipts so that they could do their due diligence as admins, he would either stop responding to the conversation, or block them.
Many, many admins tried to engage with him from a position of good faith and open-ness to either figure out what he wanted so that he'd back down, or to see receipts so that I could properly be held accountable for any harm I was doing or so that I could moderate any harm coming from the .art community. This was always, without fail, met with Byron skirting the subject, DARVO-ing, gaslighting, more lying, shifting the focus, reframing the questions, and never answering anything directly, eventually either stopping responding, or blocking.
See https://archive.ph/y1446 for a perfect example of this, where he is asked with an abundance of kindness and compassion to please share the receipts, and he constantly tries shifting the subject and changing the focus of the discussion, until he just stops responding at all.
I also recommend reading the footnote #9 at https://privacy.thenexus.today/should-the-fediverse-welcome-surveillance-capitalism/#fn9 which has loads of receipts.
Eventually, one of the white guys in our admin group tried to reason with Byron in DM, meet him on his privilege level. What he wanted (and he had brought this up before) was for .art to remove 'the blog post' (the dotART defederation announcement, that listed a few direct links to Byron's posts and explained that their content made us feel unsafe federating with Universeodon; it was very simple, straightforward, 'we're defederating, here's a list of reasons' post) because it was 'responsible for his continued harassment' and 'all his problems started with that blog post'.
Byron's problems actually started many days before that blog post, when he posted asking for contacts at Meta, then posted about reaching out to Meta, and then posted that he was attending a meeting with Meta (see https://writer.oliphant.social/oliphant/defederating-universeodon, Article 4, Gaslighting).
Asking me to take the blog post down – a blog post that does not, in any way, incite violence and is simply an announcement for our users and for Universeodon users to be aware of our actions – is 'the woman needs to know her place' and is tantamount to abusers holding power.
The fediverse – a network of social media platforms without one big tech company or a board room of white guys in suits or a dickhead egotistical billionaire controlling everything – by its very nature challenges the status quo. White guys who are used to being in control, who are used to waving their privilege dicks around and everyone else getting the fuck out of the way while they indulge in their incessant and continuous mutual ego-stroking, are running into people who don't give a shit about them or their supposed Place In Society, but now instead of having to 'like it or lump it', we're able to do something; we're able to opt out and continue our lives without them in the conversation.
That must sting something fierce. Imagine having gotten your way, having everything laid out for you, having a free pass to coast friction-free along whichever path you chose, for your whole life and suddenly that grinds to a halt and you're told 'No.' by some dinky 5'1 girl from a tiny village nobody's heard of in whatever-the-fuck that little sticky out bit of land next to England is, and she's standing there in front of you with her hands on her hips emanating 'You Shall Not Pass' vibes, and you realise in a moment of abject confusion that you're the Balrog?
This has been a month rife with your shitty misogyny and your shitty gaslighting and your shitty DARVO not just to me but to all the people, my friends, who tried to call you out on it, tried to get you to stop, tried to get you to stop behaving so damned petulantly, to stop victim blaming , to stop sealioning, who put themselves in harms way to try to show you what you were doing, how you were being, how you were abusing, to stop triggering all of us with your gross slimy abuser tactics, and it never happened.
Your narrative, your approach, through all of it, was to stand on your soapbox going 'Look at her! Look at the woman, the nasty woman! Look at how shameful she's being! How irrational! Look at how she manipulates, how she deceives! Woe is me! Woe is me, for she tries to dishonour me with her sinful ways! Do you not see? The nasty woman!'.
While the people who recognised your abuse were trying to call you out and make you stop, far too many of the other white guys in the house were standing up, applauding, jeering at me from the sidelines, buying into and feeding your narrative, coddling your poor hurt cashmere-wrapped feelings instead of growing backbones and calling you out for your blatant misogyny and harassment.
It was a shit time, full of migraines and anxiety, of breaking out in a heart-pounding sweat whenever someone linked me to one of your posts, of being reminded of past things I wanted to forget, of fucking Men being Men being Men being Men wanting to subjugate and dominate and being despicable in their means of dismissing me, of lying, of twisting the narrative like a knife in my ribs at every fucking opportunity, for four long-ass weeks, all because you couldn't deal with a woman telling you, No.