Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Feminist Blog Trolls and Their Impact on Feminist Bloggers

This past week a lovely person interviewed me (and I imagine several other women bloggers) about how blogging affects political participation. During the interview, I started to reflect quite a bit on the role of trolls and how women might be disinclined to continue blogging once they emerge. Lately I have had a troll (maybe two) emerge from No. Virginia (according to the I.P. address), but I have a couple of others that only show up if I talk about abortion, the Pope, or evangelicals. In general, I get far fewer trolls than the rock star feminist bloggers like Feministe, Pandagon, feministing, etc.

What I started thinking about during the interview, however, was the way in which trolls seem to concentrate on feminist blogger (or, women blogger) sites. I know at times that some right wing blogs have sent troll traffic my way if they didn't like the message. I imagine this happens far more regularly to the rockstars. Dealing with trolls is annoying. They are manipulative. They want to piss you off, get you to respond to them, so they can benefit from your attention, even if it is negative.

Trolls are easy to spot. They have zero interest in the dialogue. They aren't going to be persuaded, nor even indulge the viewpoint of the blogger. They have one purpose: heckle, insult or degrade.

Now, what I am wondering is if trolls are more likely to hang out at women's sites than men's sites. (No study here). But, if I compare the sort of traffic that SteveG gets at Philosophers' Playground to mine, I don't see many--if any- trolls. And, Steve is far more blunt and incisive in his criticisms of Republicans, religion, conservative politics (etc.) than I am. I asked Za what he made of this phenomena, and his usual straightforward response was: many of these trolls (who are men, but not always) automatically assume that the women writing are their inferiors. They will pick on any woman blogger--even if her intelligence is manifest--because they think, by virtue of being men (and sexist at that!), they are right, smarter, better and damn them a woman won't be spouting off.

I also think that women bloggers who don't focus primarily on feminist issues are less likely to attract trolls. Or, if women bloggers adopt gender neutral names and don't talk specifically about feminist issues they get less trolls. But, I wonder what you think? Moreover, what impact do you think these feminist blog trolls have on feminist bloggers? Do they wear many of us down? Do they detract from the message of the blog and civility of discussion? Have these trolls made some feminist bloggers more raging than they might ordinarily be? And, if the latter is true, does that then serve the purpose of reinforcing the myth that feminists are man-hating, intolerant bitches?

This feminista wants to know.

UPDATE: I just found these genius posts on "The Species of Troll" over at Laurelin in the Rain: "Know Thy Enemy" "Species of Troll II" and "The Nature of the Troll." And, check out her latest troll smack, "The Terrorism of Words" (dealing with the hate emails that Biting Beaver and Stopmyabortion has gotten). I linked to Biting Beaver's post on the obstacles in her way to acquiring EC. Well, it turns out that the EC she got didn't work and she is now pregnant and in need of an abortion. And, true to form, trolls and hateful types are doing their best to terrorize her.