Monday, April 1, 2013

Spambots: the horsemen of the binary patriarchy apocalypse

I have now something like 10 half-written blogposts just waiting to be finished and I do so wonder if they will just end up sitting there waiting to be finished for all eternity. The truth of the matter is that some of them have been sitting there for 9 months and my writing style is such that if I don't finish writing something in one sitting, it doesn't usually get done. The only exception to this rule were my uni essays and even then, more often than not they got churned out in one sitting, proof-read and then submitted. Amongst the saved half-written pieces are posts about the fallacy and limitations of "agency", why I quite loathe PETA, Bettina Arndt (enough said) and misogynistic statements used culturally in a way that allegedly is respectful. Just some light reading, really. We'll get to all those one day...

But today, I wish to whine about spambots. One of the downsides of allowing "Anonymous" posting on my blog (and by the way, if you use that can you PLEASE type a name or a handle as requested on the sidebar? It would be really appreciated) is that I do get some doozies. Initially, I removed unmoderated comment posting because I received some utterly disgusting trolling when my post on Miss NAIDOC went national. Also, I have been very clear that I do not want this blog to be YET ANOTHER space that is dominated by conservative white heterosexual male opinion and despite this, conservative white heterosexual males tried to dominate it. Unfortunately this means everyone has to enter those captcha thingies to post anything and then wait for me to add it. Whilst this means that a good portion of people probably just cannot be bothered, I also wish to thank those who do post for their patience and their wonderful contributions, even if I am slack in responding. On the plus side though, I also get to delete the comments written by spambots and sexist service floggers.

Here's the thing: I am currently thinking that the patriarchy is so deeply embedded that all you need to do is type a phrase whilst sitting on your couch in your pyjamas and suddenly shiny patriarchy will appear. Like dial-a-patriarchy or something. It's really so convenient. I, for example, typed "fake tanning" on my blog and managed to receive three posts from alleged fake tan providers discussing the virtues of their products. My post examining labiaplasty got a further two posts from cosmetic surgery companies (apparently) talking about the wonderful procedures they had on special should I wish to craft myself into the ultimate socially-acceptable woman. My comments on surrogacy earned me a post from an international surrogacy provider talking about the wonderful genetic material incubators they had available (in other words, women) just raring to produce a little Celeste clone so my life would be complete. Elsewhere, I questioned the Lingerie Football League and ended up with a free-ticket offer to one of their games (sadly, the tickets were available in North America not Northern Burbs Melbs). A literal cornucopia of patriarchal advertising just eager to get to my inbox. It is really quite insane.

It's like a step up from the old email junk mail boxes really. I personally have never gotten tired of knowing that I can buy some cheap herbal Viagra that will change my life (free postage!) and that one click will get me into a secret webcam session where I can watch "Sarah" have some sexy time. Chucking out junk mail is something we are all used to, whether it is the paper variety or the email variety. The difference here though is that EVERYONE who has ever had an email inbox receives these sorts of ads. They don't appear to be triggered by something you type like the spambots above. We are moving to a whole new level of patriarchal invasion here and whilst it would be folly to assume that we are ever safe on the internet, the spammy products that are being flogged by these means are quite telling.

I could be wrong here, so in an attempt to see if I can trigger some feminist spambot comments I'm going to write a few phrases that are more feminist-compliant:

1. Egalitarianism
2. Riot Grrls
3. Menstrual cups 
4. The patriarchy is bad for all
5. Body pride
6. Black feminist theory

I will keep you posted how this little experiment goes.

My real point in all this though is quite simple: If the patriarchy is so pervasive that one little word or phrase can trigger the infiltration of information via binary coding, imagine how pervasive this much broader source of structural power must be in all other every day interactions. Is there ever any way to escape this and will people ever be aware of just how incredibly embedded it is in culture/society/etc? Also, how do we fight a power that is so prepared to assert itself in the most insidious ways all of the time? I'll leave you with that...


  1. Right on. I have a friend who got 'angry lesbian' and 'angry dyke' (I might have the tags a bit wrong) redirecting to her website, by some of her own spambot work - she got to about position #3 on google in days and before that it was conservative folks who had used these terms, and any search would result in those appearing. Loved it.

    I think the sad part about this kind of trolling is that it, interestingly, stifles energetic near-position debate. It forces me to feel that I need to support and defend, instead of work around an idea and not always completely agree with the blog-author. But mostly it's just boring, and I worry that it will stop people from writing what they feel. Nobody reads my blog, so I can pretty much say what I want and it stands as a reminder of how I felt at a particular moment in time. If people were reading it, I'd play it very differently, I suspect. And I know it's why I've done no work to make it appealing to others... bit naughty I know.

    1. Haha, I've read your blog, Sandy! But yeah, I can definitely see the appeal of being "under the radar" so to speak. I wonder if I hadn't had MSM coverage whether I would have to spend time deleting comments from these bots. And I couldn't agree more re: how they can stifle debate. Most people who do opinion writing want energetic discussion yet this rarely, if ever happens and I think spam plays a part. I was looking at a rather oppositional Indigenous blog only today and saw only comments that agreed with the writer. There is no way everyone would agree with him yet you have to wonder where the opposing comments are. I actually doubt he would have deleted opposing comments as well as he's not shy of an argument. Anyway...

  2. Whilst it seems to be so pervasive we must continue to fight it in every manner possible. I did think a feminist revolution was possible but these days I think that it is a 'work in progress' that requires us to keep agitating!

    1. Virginia, couldn't agree more! Educate Organise Agitate :D

  3. Allow me to add fuel to your fire!

    Miranda :)

    1. Miranda, don't even start me on the portable urinals! That's a rant in itself ;)

    2. Oh, the ranting must start! I mean, seriously - money spent on urinals to stop men weeing on shopfronts?! Lordy. Public urination is an offence attracting, I believe, a $200 fine. So instead of fining the urinating men their public urination is *legitimised* by providing them with somewhere to... publicly urinate. The logic of this decision entirely escapes me. Meanwhile, the ANU - arguably one of Australia's best universities attracting the brightest from around the world - funds a research exercise allowing men to compare penis size. Male ego one, public benefit zero. Meanwhile, in the context of crushed funding toward the ANU's school of music, one wonders how such a research project even got off the ground. The ABC received a cranky letter for publishing this story, and the ANU will receive one forthwith! Let the ranting begin!