By David Futrelle
Reddit is in the midst of a peculiar three-sided civil war. On one side there are tens of thousands of Reddit users who want the site to cleanse itself of racism and hate speech; opposing them are seemingly similar numbers of Redditors who want the site’s shittiest users to be allowed to spew their hatreds unmolested. Hovering over these two armies of users are the site’s administrators, who claim to be on the side of the angels but who have a long history of doing fuck-all about the hatred that permeates their site.
The current battle in this long-running war was triggered by a tone-deaf statement in early June from Reddit CEO Steve Huffman offering symbolic support for Black Lives Matter and declaring that Reddit staff “do not tolerate hate, racism, and violence.”
Bullshit, a chorus of Reddit users declared in unison: Reddit “tolerates” and has tolerated various forms of bigotry and hate speech with no trouble since the site’s very inception.
Huffman’s statement inspired an open letter from one of the moderators of r/AgainstHateSubreddits demanding that Hoffman put his policy where his mouth is and actually do something about the hatred he claims to be against. So far the letter has gotten more then 25,000 upvotes and support from the moderators of some 800 subreddits. The document puts forth a list of eminently reasonable demands, from banning hate subreddits and hateful users to diversifying Reddit’s staff. There’s no good reason for Reddit not to do all of the things the open letter suggests.
The Open Letter is a tremendously positive step — as is the media coverage it has gotten. (Reddit only seems to act to fix its problems when the media starts to pay attention to them.) But there’s one important word missing from the Open Letter: misogyny.
As I’ve documented on this blog over many years, Reddit is home to some of the vilest misogyny this side of Incels.co; there are misogynistic screeds in the Men Going Their Own Way subreddit that are as hateful and vicious as any racist screed in the long-ago-banned r/Coontown.
Of course r/MGTOW is also suffused with racism and antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, as I have also tried to show in numerous posts. These things tend to go together, as someone who is a bigot about one thing will also tend to be a bigot about other things.(See my various quizzes here for innumerable examples of this.)
You can’t fight bigotry without fighting all of its forms — racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, ableism and all the other hatreds that have found such a hospitable home on Reddit over the years. But too often, misogyny is treated as a lesser form of hatred than, say, straight-up race hate or antisemitism; it’s somehow seen as more innocent or excusable.
It’s not, and can’t be left out of any broad campaign for progressive change, on Reddit or elsewhere. Certainly it makes sense for more focused activist movements like Black Lives Matter to center their activism around a single form of bigotry (just as this blog does with misogyny). But movements directed against hate speech online have to take into consideration all the different kinds of hate speech out there. Misogyny counts.
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