Gosh, Reddit. You had me. You had me convinced that there were redeemable parts of you, that your leadership was making you less of a cesspool, that, like literally any other group of people, you contained both decent humans and horrid man-babies who throw tantrums when anyone tries to tell them how to behave like a person. Reddit, I thought you were largely interested in getting to know me, in treating people better than you have in the past. But dammit, Reddit, I may have been wrong.
Let’s start by talking about your treatment of Ellen Pao, the CEO who resigned this week after you asked her to. First off, when she tried to inoculate you against being diaper-wearing-man-zombies, you threw a tantrum. Then, when SOMEONE ELSE fired one of your favorite employees (Victoria Taylor, who ran the extremely popular Ask Me Anything forum), you whipped that tantrum into a frenzy and began verbally attacking Pao using gendered epithets and racial slurs. Literally, Alexis Ohanian (co-founder, man) even kinda said he did that firing and you STILL crucified Ellen Pao and put together a two-hundred-thousand-person petition calling for her resignation. This is kinda like when you said you were attacking Zoe Quinn over ethics in gaming journalism, yet the journalist in question wasn’t ever attacked.
I need to explain something to you, here. All Pao wanted to do with grow Reddit and ensure you remained an internet-influencer, ensure that you actually got profitable and continue to exist. Pao was working for your benefit. Imagine that we’re in the middle of the zombie apocalypse and you’ve been infected. Ellen Pao had the cure and was trying to inject you with it when you bit her hand off at the wrist. That’s what you just did. NO CURE FOR YOU.
Besides, are you aware of what a badass Ellen Pao is? She turned down a bunch of money and is likely appealing her loss in the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Venture Capital decision because she just plain thinks Kleiner is wrong, that they did discriminate against her. Her suit, though it did not succeed, exposed a METRIC TON OF BULLSHIT heaped upon the way the Silicon Valley dos business (with which the women who have worked there were already deeply familiar).
But I digress. Back to you, because you’re a self-centered shit-tornado. You like to pretend that “free speech” is the be all and end all of your argument, and that’s all you’re doing. But you know what? If you did some of the things you do virtually in real life, it wouldn’t be labeled as “free speech.” It would be labeled as harassment, which is not legally protected but might as well be. Do you know why your harassment would probably also be just fine in real life? Because you aren’t neutral, Reddit. You are men. You are white men. According to this awesome piece by Samantha Allen on The Daily Beast, you aren’t the front page of the internet; you are the front page of a very specific internet:
But Reddit is not an unmodified “popular online message board” so much as it is an online message board that is intensely popular among young men. It has 160 million monthly users, sure, but nearly 120 million of them are men and only about 3 million of them were alive when the Beatles played Shea stadium.
That means you are, like the young white men who make up most of your being, largely blind to anything outside your own experience and they, even though many make fun of the requests for safer spaces on college campuses, are the biggest stick-your-fingers-in-their-own-ears-when-confronted-with-anyting-outside-their-worldview-bunch out there. Unfortunately, that you are made up almost entirely of men is probably why you are the foremost community shaping the internet today. It makes me want to lick a moving fan blade.
You don’t get to point out that you were peeved that a female employee got fired and so that means the rest of your actions weren’t misogynistic—that’s not a thing. Because you are made up of more than your cro-magnon constituents; you are also made up of your board, your co-founders and your employees. So you might claim that your peeved-off-ness wasn’t misogynistic (though your response certainly was), but you also fired Victoria Taylor. And by the way, we can’t even talk about THAT divorced from all this drama, which is a damn shame because, as Feministing pointed out:
Redditors were not wrong to identify Taylor as a keystone to the site’s success. The work she did in coordinating the AMAs, keeping the uglier parts of the site at bay, and becoming part of the community herself, were all essential. Indeed, one could suggest that part of why she was so well liked was that she was one of the most visible and accessible members of Reddit’s otherwise aloof staff. This is not unusual for community moderators; swimming in the community is part of their job. What is also not unusual is that their work is dramatically undervalued and seen as expendable; they’re often the first to go when cuts are made.
The Redditors who use Taylor’s gender as a shield for their own misogyny will not acknowledge that one of the structural forces that made even a phenom like Taylor expendable was the institutional sexism that undervalues emotional labour as a professional skill.
GAH! And we can barely have this conversation because of all the man-baby DRAMA and swastika-themed protests you’ve mucked about in. All we’re going to do is talk about that, and about the total turd way you treated Ellen Pao. And now you are short TWO BADASS FEMALE EMPLOYEES. The Silicon Valley is less two very important women. All because your hypocritical, split-personality manness fired one and caused another to resign. By the way, I’m not the first one to have noticed your stupidity in this matter: your former CEO, Yishan Wong, has been pretty vocal about all this. He pointed out that Alexis Ohanian totally used Pao as a scapegoat:
I’m glad redditors have started to piece together all of this. Here’s the only thing you’re missing:
It travels upstream, except when it comes from the CEO’s boss.
Alexis wasn’t some employee reporting to Pao, he was the Executive Chairman of the Board, i.e. Pao’s boss. He had different ideas for AMAs, he didn’t like Victoria’s role, and decided to fire her. Pao wasn’t able to do anything about it. In this case it shouldn’t have traveled upstream to her, it came from above her.
Then when the hate-train started up against Pao, Alexis should have been out front and center saying very clearly “Ellen Pao did not make this decision, I did.” Instead, he just sat back and let her take the heat. That’s a stunning lack of leadership and an incredibly shitty thing to do.
I actually asked that he be on the board when I joined; I used to respect Alexis Ohanian. After this, not quite so much.
Which is, by the way, a thing that happens. Companies appoint female CEOs as a strategy during times of crisis so they can fire and berate them later. It’s called the glass cliff. Don’t you feel silly for falling for it, most of Reddit? You played right into your overlords’ hands.
He also penned a letter letting you know you were totally and completely wrong to call for Pao’s resignation, especially the people who liked the free speech policy. AND GUESS WHAT? He was…well…at least partially right. New CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman did outline a new content policy on July 16th at 1pm PST, but it’s not the purge some were hoping for and others were fearing. According to The Verge:
In practice, it looks like Reddit will alternate between shutting down the worst subreddits and trying to quarantine them. In addition to existing warnings for NSFW content, there’s a new section for “content that violates a common sense of decency,” apparently a catch-all term for all the worst parts of Reddit. This will be allowed to stay up, but users will have to log in to see it, won’t appear in search results, and “will generate no revenue for Reddit.”
Huffman gave one example of the difference between incitement and violating common decency. “/r/rapingwomen will be banned. They are encouraging people to rape,” he said, of one of Reddit’s more controversial boards. But a white supremacist subreddit that doesn’t actively incite violence could stay up. That’s apparently the case with one of the site’s most infamous racist communities. “/r/coontown will be reclassified. The content there is offensive to many, but does not violate our current rules for banning.”
Doxxing, the practice of posting someone’s personal details like their address, is against the new content policy. I’m looking through Huffman’s AMA and I can’t find much on swatting, the super fucking dangerous practice of sending a SWAT team to someone’s house because you don’t like them.
So what to do, what to do? Some are saying that you are so rotten that you cannot be saved; that no matter what, the ugliest parts of your humanity will drag down the good. I know it sounds like I’m just straight up anti-you right now, Reddit, but I’m not. Every situation has nuance. But I’m oscillating wildly between two things —leaving you alone to rot and trying to flood you with the best of the best people on the internet. There are pros and cons to each. Better people on Reddit means a better you, Reddit, it does. Should we allow spaces to exist that are made up entirely of young white men without doing our best to place ourselves in those spaces? I can tell you one thing, I’m not deleting the Reddit account I made earlier this year. Imma use you, Reddit. Imma use you over and over and over again. I personally think leaving people in their echo chamber to cook up toxic fumes and blow them at each other isn’t the way to go—but I am a person who’s been known to loudly proclaim that I crave environments without safer spaces because I feel like that’s where I can make a larger impact. I am privileged enough that resilience doesn’t take a whole lot out of me, and in the end I understand that these people who make you up are sad neckbeards who can’t process the reason they’re alone in the world is all their fault, and that they might not be static-terrible forever. Socialization with actual women-people might actually be key to their rehabilitation; at least if I put myself into their space, they might be able to look beyond their own greasy nose-tip and lint-lined navel for a hot sec. But that’s so much to expect of the best of the best people—it’s certainly not their job and in the end such a tactic might not be successful. In fact, angry mobs of internet strangers can do a whole lot of damage, so occupying Reddit isn’t without risk.
And there’s the management to consider—I don’t exactly want to support any company that uses a glass cliff tactic, though it’s common enough that I’m sure I’d have a hard time sticking to that principle if I did my research. The reason you are so powerful is your users—giving you more free content after pulling some bullshit like this is antithetical to my belief system, and would definitely be a way of supporting your leadership. In fact, I’d much rather interact with the best of the best people where they already exist: right here on Autostraddle. I’d rather support our community, support our leadership. So what does this all mean for my personal future with you, Reddit? I don’t know, to be honest. And I don’t know what to tell the best of the best people to do about it either. So I’m just going to take it one day at a time with you, Reddit. I’ll be treating you like the frenemy in a 90’s sleepover movie. I’m watching you.
So tell me, queermos. How do you feel about Reddit right now?
This has been the one-hundred-thirty-seventh installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to websites you have to bookmark to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Header by Rory Midhani.