Navigating outrage

DSC_0739-685x453I’m sitting in Flat Planet, a cafe on Great Marlborough Street, a place “where good people can come together to eat well, be inspired and energised, share good ideas, and hatch plans”. The wifi is free, but seems to have just stopped working, which isn’t a problem right now, but may be if it carries on.

One group that came in and sat on the larger table near me were holding a staff appraisal – four people discussing one young woman’s work – quite daunting, but she seemed to do well.

After they left, two men and a woman arrived together and were joined a few minutes later by an enigmatic woman who strode to the table and, after a quick hello and discussion about her wrap/scarf, thanked them for coming and set about addressing some problems that have come up in the team – something she says concerns her because it’s a small, family set up, where few people leave.

She is going through a list of grievances that one of the team appears to have compiled about a member of staff – some she has taken on board, some she has explained as being a result of the woman’s character and way of approaching things and one or two she’s dismissed as either petty or completely wrong.

It’s interesting seeing the two men who seem the most fired up being steered through their grievances. The other woman who came in with them seems to be taking a much more “in between” position, weighing things up, saying once or twice that she could understand the other team member’s perspective,that she can see she has to do her job etc.

It’s getting louder in the cafe now, so I can’t hear very clearly, and without knowing more about the situation it’s difficult to make judgements anyway, but the process is interesting – partly because I wonder how they feel about being guided in this way by a woman boss and also if there is anything to learn here or draw upon in dealing with the kind of online abuse Kathy Sierra describes in a piece called Why the Trolls Will Always Win.

It’s interesting seeing someone confront the two men’s grievances against a woman colleague, make calls on them and challenge the premise of the things that they might absolutely have agreed upon when discussing it together before now. She is respectful of their point of view, has told them it’s important to discuss things and not let them fester – and they seem to be listening to her and accepting what she says.

The grievances of the “hater trolls” appear to be aimed at silencing women, writes Sierra who after a sustained campaign by Weev AKA Andrew Alan Escher Auernheimer concluded:

I now believe the most dangerous time for a woman with online visibility is the point at which others are seen to be listening, “following”, “liking”, “favoriting”, retweeting. In other words, the point at which her readers have (in the troll’s mind) “drunk the Koolaid”. Apparently, that just can’t be allowed.

I’m not suggesting that the men in Flat Planet are misogynists because they have criticism of their colleagues, but the process of challenging their judgements and calling them to account is an interesting one to see. I can’t for the life of me imagine the context in which it might happen, but is there any way this approach could be used in what Sierra describes as the “fixed game” of the hater trolls?

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