Friday, March 30, 2007

When Life Throws You Manolos, Walk the Talk


I'm taking off my heels and showing my calloused feet. It aint easy walkin' or bloggin' in stilletos, trust me. And as my regular readers know, occasionally I kick back and write as Maria, the author of this blog, and not as Manola.

Surely, something far more serious other than the bank heist in my neighborhood must've happened this week for me to remove the mask of fiction and simply state: it's not funny anymore.

Bear with this narrative maze -- it's all connected in a Mrs. Dalloway kind of way.

To wit: I've been pondering the whole Kathy Sierra issue for days on end, but that story is stuck in my other hard drive, which I can't even access via firewire G4-to-Powerbook cable, because my monitor decided to pull an Anna Nicole on me ... oh, so bad. Anna, I know you'd laugh with me.

So the post I've been writing for days might as well be a used tampon at this point. My Mac dealer is going to hook me up with a bail of Twitter and a new 19" wide screen flat, drop off point somewhere between the beach and the Bahamas, wink wink.

So in the meantime, working from my lapdance, I'm just going to tell you what's on my mind, straight up no chaser -- via a different IP address.


This week, against all desire and compulsion, I've got to cover Exxxotica, the "adult entertainment business" convention (it's not PC to call it porn, don't ya know). I'm going to be up to my ass in ass (as if that were possible) -- objectively. The last thing I want to do is interview a bunch of porn stars, but work beckons.

What does this have to do with Kathy Sierra? Well go read about it at Hugh's and then come back for an extra serving of truly fried vice.

Listen: where do we draw the line with pornography that is healthy and pornography that's used to criminally threaten, undermine and humiliate human beings? Pornography that is unwarranted, unsolicited, uninvited and simply out of the question?

I write about sex. Kathy doesn't. It's not fair. Yet, I'm mortified. Yes, simply mortified that a completely innocuous blog such as Kathy's would be subject to such a response not only from strangers, but from peers.

Let's not beat around the proverbial bush, shall we? Is the internet really safe for women? Is cyberspace some kind of hallowed burqua in a world of macho men who can't take women with brains?

At the core of this question: can women really trust the safety net of the so-called net? Must we pander to clowns who seek to suffocate our voices via a medium that is all at once too friendly and too dangerous? Should we reconsider the position of anonimity, when the the social media is gaining ground?

Kathy's story hit hard. It's simply unnerving to any woman writer -- regardless of her medium -- and let alone to one who uses the internet as her source of expression and income. Suddenly, thanks to some death threats that involved sexual violence, she's kaput.

And yes -- my SoFla girl bloggers -- pay attention!


It all makes sense to me now, thanks to a conversation I had with wonderful Stephanie last night on the horn: she gave me the skinny on what it's like to be a female in the tech world, let alone a blogger. And seriously, could it be true? Hasn't the glass ceiling been shattered?

Apparently not.

Not in Silicon Valley or beyond.

And it doesn't matter: it's simply unconscionable that any woman who puts herself out there for professional reasons should be subject to such harrasment.

This isn't just about Kathy: this is about the Charlotte Brontes, the Virginia Woolfs, the Jean Rhyses, the Gertrude Steins, the Frida Kahlos and of course a thousand and then some amazing women who've spoken their minds suddenly not being able to speak their minds for fear of their lives.

And it has me thinking: you know, at least there's a certain honesty in porn. You know what you're getting behind the beaded curtain. But in the professional world of blogging and technology, we should all be equals, no matter what the size of our boobs ... or dicks.

SHAME, SHAME, SHAME to the so-called technology world that cannot honor its participants in a compassionate, enlightened manner. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME that ego is a sex organ and not a personality trait. SHAME, SHAME, SHAME that the industry that claims to bring people together treats women like chattle.

What's wrong in a world where porn stars respect each other and bloggers don't?


And that's all I have to say about that ... for now.

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Dan said...

Excellent, though-provoking post!

What's wrong in a world where porn stars respect each other and bloggers don't?

Probably because porn stars are professionals in their area (yes, such a thing is possible) and they have to play by rules or lose their lucrative career.

Blogs, on the other hand, are written not only by anyone but folks who hide behind avatars with names like Flag894. They have nothing to lose by letting their innate cruelty out. It's like when you're behind the wheel of a car and have no compunction to flip off and curse at drivers. We'd be more hesitant to do so face to face with them.

ADW said...

I absolutely agree with you. I have been on both sides of the fence (somewhat - never a porn star). I too work in the technical world and am subject to a harassment that most people would never recognize. I am constantly being called sweetheart or cutie or hon by my clients and then they act like they have been shown the secrets of the universe when I can actually help them with their problems.
I also have a coworker who tells me that he wishes he were a "hot girl" so he could get more sales. I know for a fact that this is not said out of meanness, just ignorance.
I love what I do and the industry that I am in, but the fact of the matter is that I am an anomaly. The "guys" aren't sure how to take me and I am still trying to find a happy way of coexisting after four years.
It's all good though - most of the competition underestimates my abilities. That is until I start beating them out of jobs....

James Burnett said...

This was pretty deep, MB. We all get goofy people commenting on our blogs. But that nonsense that Kathy had to deal with? Bananas. I hope the cops in her area trace who left those comments and beat 'em with a rubber hose.

Balou said...

I hadn't heard of Kathy Sierra until now but I followed your links. That is absolutely shameful and disgusting. I know there are always warnings about meeting people online when it comes to dating, but you would never think to be scared of other bloggers! Honestly, using a pseudonym and no photos on my blog was a conscious decision I made because of this very fear (and it's not based on any personal experience). And although I respect and enjoy reading blogs where people post family photos and such, I sometimes think "is it smart to post pictures of your kids and personal info for all the world to see?" I don't know... maybe it comes from living in Miami too long. Scary stuff, M. Thanx for sharing.

Mighty Dyckerson said...

That's some fucked up shit right there. People like that are the reason my blog is anonymous.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to lick your avatar...

Tere said...

M, I found out about this issue today through another blog and spent the better part of my day getting a crash course in blog culture - except for Hugh, I had NO clue who ANY of these people were.

I've read both bloggers supporting Kathy and others calling her on some shit (for example, this discussion at BlogHer: BlogHer's very involved in this because Kathy has made some comments about one of their people who was also involved in Mean Kids)

I haven't formed an opinion on her personal matter, but as to the larger questions, which I'm also still pondering, I have to say that it's sick and sad. People who do shit like that to others are small, insecure individuals. Yes, the Internet offers anonymity, I myself have benefited from that in the past, but there are boundaries, just like there are in the real world, that cannot and should not be crossed.

Kathy has accused the person(s) of posting her social security number, address, etc, and if that's true, that's beyond sick. I would feel threatened too. I would call the police and probably freak the hell out.

I echo Hugh: identity matters, and if people don't feel they should be held accountable, I don't want to talk to them. Furthermore, people who would threaten another's life, who are misogynistic, who *joke* in a manner that is sexually violent should have no place in the blog world. Period.

I've tried not to get worked up about this, but the truth is that the more women accomplish, the farther they get, the more they have to deal with this kind of shit. Right now it's something *big* like this. But it exists in subtle ways in all aspects of our lives, and it's all due to men (and sometimes other women) who are SO insecure, SO small and sad and empty that they handle THEIR shortcomings and bullshit by pushing us down; by sexually intimidating us; by degrading and humiliating us.

Like you said: FUCKED UP!

Maria de los Angeles said...

Thanks to everyone for your thoughtul comments.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post, manola...check out the issue on

Dayngr said...

Manola, thanks for speaking out on this. I have been a victim of similar internet attacks in the past. Not only can you report this type of harassment to local authorities but you can do so as well to the FBI since it crosses state and @ times international lines. I hope Kathy takes it all the way to the FBI.

It is important for everyone using the net to protect their identity at all times. Women especially it seems. It drives me insane when I see people use their first AND last names as a part of their email address or website address etc.

As a former consultant in the technology field, I always instructed my clients to create an alternate name and use that all the time (ie: John Doe).

I hope more people will take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and to speak out when injustices are revealed.

Additionally, to my fellow SoFla Bloggers. I hope you'll cancel your BogHer memberships!