Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

May 29, 2014

A weekly chat about the best ways to kill time online. Our Web Hostess, Monica Hesse, sifts the Internet so you don't have to, searching for meaning, manners and the next great meme.

Afternoon, everyone, and thanks for stopping by.

It's been a week of sobering seriousness online, with the YouTube-released video footage of California shooter Elliot Rodger, the dissection of his worldview and motives, and the resulting #YesAllWomen hashtag, as people used Twitter to talk about real-world examples of misogyny.

For those of you who didn't see it, I thought one of the more thought-provoking essays to be published this week was written by Arthur Chu, the Jeopardy champion, on nerd culture and sexism.

Today we can talk about some or all of those things, or much lighter subjects of your choosing. We'll get started at 2.

Hi, there, I'm an Anglophile who'd like to know what my ancestors across the pond are doing when they are on the internet. Other than crossover sites like Buzzfeed (and, let's be realistic, porn), what type of culture, entertainment, new sites do they frequent?

What type of entertainment sites? The same type of sites we have here, I'd imagine. But with an extra added dose of the Duchess of Cambridge's bum.

Important questions of our time: Should it be considered any more distasteful to show a duchess's bum than any other famous person's bum?

Hi Monica, I got a new job (yay!) but now I can't participate in these discussions live (boo!), and have a question for you and the chatters -- how long to wait before connecting with them on LinkedIn and Facebook? I'm of course going to be more selective about the Facebook invites, but would like to connect to some of these people through both services. (If it matters, I've been here about five months and the place is rather cliquish.) Thanks!

Five months seems like more than enough time. Is there anything in particular that leads you to believe your invites would be unwelcome? I hope when you say "cliquish," you mean that groups are tightknit and a little hard to infiltrate, and not that people are overtly rude.

Chatters? Do you have rules for when you'll extend someone an invitation on a social networking site?

The whining "but we're not all like that" reminds me of my favorite ever Letter to the Editor in the freebie City Paper years ago: "Guys like that embarrass me so much I want to resign from my own gender and start a third party."

Good letter. Sad sentiment.

Is it effective? Will it do anything?

Hmm. "Effective" and "Do anything" are pretty subjective terms. It's certainly been effective at getting people to talk about issues, which might be the most you can expect from a Twitter hashtag. Is it going to create new policy? Probably not.

I sorta feel like the photo was unfortunate, spreading it across the Internet is not a nice thing to do, but considering her position she probably wants to be more careful about her underwear.

One British site I read said something along the lines of, "What does she expect -- she wasn't even wearing dress weights."

Dress weights = something the Queen apparently wears -- quarter-pound weights attached to the bottom of her skirts to keep them from flying up.

Who knew.

i never heard men or women complain about women getting into lifeboats at the titanic first. or the fact that women usually get custody of the kids in a divorce.

Oh come now. Let's not base our gender equality arguments on what happened on a ship that sank back when women weren't even allowed to vote.

I was on a GS camping trip over the weekend and talked to a teen about Facebook. She said that nobody, nobody at her school uses Facebook. While that was probably an exaggeration, has Facebook evolved to an "adult thing" now?

Yes. I think so. Most teenagers I know have Facebook accounts, but never use them -- they'll occasionally post pictures or something, but they're not communicating that way. Unscientific survey: I used to be able to use Facebook all the time as a reporting tool -- everyone I needed to find had an account. Now they often don't.

I would be equally distressed to see the Statue of Liberty's bum.

The Statue of Liberty doesn't have a bum. Everyone knows that. She's a modest block of granite underneath all those robes.

I won't friend anyone on facebook from work until I don't work with them anymore, and they also have to be kinda actual friends. As a result, I don't have that many facebook friends, but the ones I do have I can say anything to (like a picture of a pretty cocktail posted the night before I'm 15 minutes late for work the next day), and I'm just fine with that.

A sound strategy. A lot of people also make sure to have across-the-board policies, i.e. "No friending bosses or superiors" or "Only friending people I've hung out with socially."

I actually do not generally connect with current coworkers on LinkedIn, and, if I did, I would make sure I'd turned off ALL activity feeds. You don't need any evidence that you're job hunting. YMMV on how you use social media, of course, and you may not do the same things I do with LinkedIn. I do tend to connect with former coworkers pretty promptly after they become former.

Posting. Which is what I was going to say about LinkedIn. Sure, people use it for all sorts of different reasons, but it's still primarily thought of as a job-hunting tool. I don't know that I'd connect with anyone I currently worked with, thinking of it more as a way to keep in touch with former work contacts.

For the Britophile: You can't go wrong with any of the London tabloids and broadsheets -- the Sun, the Star, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, etc. etc.

Yes. Varying levels of credibility, varying levels of entertainment value.

Any woman who's ever sewed a lightweight dress or skirt. sheer curtains have them, too. I'm kinda surprised that the Duchess's designers don't include them routinely.

Well, now that we know they exist, I, too, am surprised that the Royal Tailors don't sew them into every piece of fabric that touches her skin.

I was captivated by this discussion. It was eye-opening to see how many men just don't get it. I think it was a really powerful way to help them understand what it's like to feel constantly on guard and under threat!

I'm curious to hear from men on this chat whether it has, in fact, been eye opening for them as well.

I guess you have a point. Women will put up with being second-class citizens to keep the privilege of being the first to evacuate if they are ever on board a sinking ship.

Second in life, First off the ship. It's a state motto gone wrong.

I do feel that read (can't remember where) several women reported that their s.o.'s didn't fully grasp how pervasive it is until they started reading all the stories. If it really did help create that awareness, then that's a big step forward.

And to that point, here's Amanda Hess's essay on how it is that women can experience something daily that even smart, well-intentioned men can remain unaware of.

Is there something new that all the kids these days are using? And on another note, when did I get so old that I could use "kids these days" unironically?

Snapchat and good old-fashioned texting are what I see most often. Soon they'll be sending telegrams.

Uh, ALL types of men are raised to want the pretty girls. If you just work hard enough, make enough money, say the right things, drive the right car, you can get the pretty girl. If you don't, well, you'll just have to settle for the not-so-pretty girl. Sigh. I've heard it from a LOT of men, when they're really being honest, and I've also experienced it as a pretty and as a not-so-pretty girl. And to be fair, lots and lots of women think that if they can just be pretty and skinny enough and have big enough boobs, they can get the jock/rich dude/dreamboat. Of course none of this makes any of it OK, and thank God, there are many good, real people of both genders.

It's true, maybe, that all types of men are raised to want pretty girls. I think Chu directed his essay specifically toward nerds for a couple of reasons:

1)  That's what his column is about, and that's his community, and that's what he feels comfortable writing about.

2)  Broad generalization, but I think it's more often the "nerdy" guys who fall victim to the "nice guy" syndrome. As in, "But I'm such a Nice Guy, unlike those glass bowl jocks. Why doesn't she see that I'm a Nice Guy and date me like she's supposed to?"

I was really taken aback by the "not all men" things that has cropped up. I've commonly had that reaction when reading pieces that talk about misogyny, but I don't think I've ever brought it up in a conversation. I never thought about how doing that would completely change the dynamic and point of the dialog. That and the #yesallwomen movement have been a bit of a head trip for me in examining how my actions can negatively affect women, even if I have innocent motives. So, to answer the previous question, it do do something. For and to me.

This is really interesting. Thanks.

For the past few decades, many well-educated young women have been defensively denying that they are feminists -- horrors! -- other than chifely with respect to equal pay for equal work. Do you think the UCSB shootings will now prompt these young women to decide that embracing feminism and declaring themselves feminists is a good thing?

I don't think that any one event, horrific and meaningful as it might be, is likely to change a person's entire worldview. I think it's a data point, a moment in conversation, a consciousness raising -- but probably not enough to turn the tide on a word that many people are apparently uncomfortable with.

OP, this is incredibly smug, and misleading. This phrase is a misconception in the popular imagination. Yes, the Titanic, but the Titanic was the exception, not the rule, and we should stop using this as "proof" that women get special treatment. Since time is too short to go looking for the original sources (just type in "Women and children first," I'll quote Wikipedia's summary: "There is no legal basis for the protocol of women and children first in international maritime law — according to International Maritime Organization regulations, ships have 30 minutes to load all passengers into lifeboats and maneuver the boats away. In 2012 Uppsala University published a study analyzing records from maritime disasters occurring between 1852 and 2011. It found that in five of the eighteen disasters studied was the "women and children first" order given. The Uppsala study also found that general survival rates have been in favor of adult males rather than women or children. Cultural, social and physiological factors may have played their parts in this discrepancy. During the 1859 sinking of the Royal Charter, the women were still dressing below decks when they should have been mustering with the men on the deck to abandon ship. Also, the restrictive, multi-layered clothing prescribed by Victorian fashion limited women's ability to swim in the heavy surf." Makes me glad to be a 21st-century American woman with a lightweight wardrobe and a childhood spent at the local pool.

Posting.

And as an additional comment: "Women" most often referred to upper class wealthy women. The below-deck working class people, of any gender, weren't getting anywhere near those lifeboats.

reminds me of the great Duffel Blog (mlitary version of The Onion) article about female officers complaining about how underrepresented they are among sexual assaulters.

Cringe.

What's she doing going commando (or close to it) with all those cameras around? She should know better by now.

Oh dear, no. Whatever other sacrifices one must make in order to be a member of the royal family, at the very least, people should be allowed to choose the underwear that makes them comfortable and happy. It's the definition of "nobody's business but mine" (except when there's a huge gust of wind, apparently).

I'm the poster who contributed the glorious Christopher Walken anecdote to last week's chat. I did NOT expect that anyone else would have heard of it, let alone the poster who noted that there were references to it on YouTube right before the chat shut down for the afternoon. I first heard it pre-YouTube, in around 2004, when it was just an anecdote circulating among a few groups of friends with ties to the movie industry. It made me wonder - IS it possible for there to be a truly oral narrative in the internet age? How long can a story last these days without somebody like me immediately thinking to put it into print?

I love this. It's a fable of our modern times.

The problem is that they are uncomfortable with the term, though. Refusing to acknowledge the strides women have made is the first step to going back to the "she asked for it" mentality.

You know, I consider myself a feminist, and I don't understand why any woman wouldn't. That being said, if the word has become poisoned, do we say, "No. You must love this word. You must identify with this word. Choose this word." Or do we say, "Hmm. This word, for whatever reason, doesn't seem to be working for people. How can we talk about these important issues in a constructive way, but not necessarily use this laden word?"

 

I don't know the answer. Just asking.

Mostly they joked and kicked ice around the deck. Then the ship started tipping ...

Was this before or after Rose was below deck doing the thing where she stood on her tippytoes?

...would be a great name for a pub. I'm pretty sure I remember the exact same thing happening to Fergie years ago. I don't think anyone would care except for her position. If she weren't famous, it would be too minor to even rate a facebook post from a bored onlooker. The bar is much higher for us plebes. There was that guy whose pants got caught on the ski lift a couple of years ago, but I can't think of a single other un-famous person whose nudity would be even share-worthy, let alone newsworthy.

Oh, I know a regular plebe wouldn't merit any attention. I was more curious about whether somehow we found ogling Kate's tush as less dignified than ogling Kim Kardashian's tush. My guess is that Tush-ogling hierarchy looks something like this, on a scale of acceptable to unaccaptable:

 

Kim Kardashian < Jennifer Lawrence < Kate Middleton < Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

 

Until the Duchess becomes Queen. When that happens, it will be more inappropriate to look at the Queen's bum than it would be to look at a Supreme Court Justice's bum.

Because whatever term comes into common use "gets poisoned." Remember when "feminist" replaced "women's libber"? Why not embrace the term feminism, like the term liberal? Why pretend it's a bad thing?

Except, I think you've just proven my point without meaning to. Much like "retarded" used to be an appropriate term to describe intellectual disabilities. When people began to have problems with it, we didn't say, "No, the word is fine, just embrace it." We let the language progress, as language is constantly progressing.

 

Again: I like "feminist." I use it for myself. I have one of those t-shirts that says, "This is what a feminist looks like," and everything.

Oh, Monica, don't you remember? It was after she stood on her toes. Rose and Jack were on deck for the impact, and saw the whole thing.

How dare you imply that I, a child of the 90s, would not be intimately aware of where Jack and Rose were during every moment of the Titanic sinkage? I was testing all of you. (You passed).

Thank you for that image of Scalia's rear end in my head...

Next, try Clarence Thomas.

This is a stupid click-through slide show, but some of these are just truly bizzare: http://iaohgalleries.com/insanely-inappropriate-public-art-human-centipede-wtf

I haven't had time to click on this. I hope it's SFW. Please don't report me if it's not.

I'm a little surprised everyone has accepted that the photo is real, without wondering how it's possible that this one civilian photographer is the only person out of the hundreds of photographers following them around Australia who happened to get this shot at just the right moment. Why is there no follow-up shot of her reacting reflexively to pull down her dress?

Isn't there? (Maybe she didn't even notice. If it was billowing from behind, the way it looked like it was, that's possible).

Really? Do all women feel this? I don't think my wife does. Serious question.

I bet she does. She might not think someone is going to kill her every moment of the day, but I bet that it infiltrates her life in ways she's not even aware of any more.

Example: This morning on the bus, a guy told me he "liked my jeans." I could tell that "jeans" was a synonym for something else. I wanted to ignore him; he was gross. But the last time I ignored someone who said something like that, they followed me for a block, calling me four-letter words. So today I said, "thank you." Even though I didn't feel thankful. Because I was weighing whether, if I ignored him, he was going to punch me.

 

These things happen a lot, in various guises, to lots of women.

I absolutely loathe that movie. Is it because I'm a child of the 80's? Seriously, we had John Hughes, you poor dear.

Oh, it doesn't mean I like Titanic. Just that I've seen pieces of it on TNT about 40 times and it's taken up residence in my brain.

One of the most exasperating rebuttals I've seen to this - or any other forum where women vent about having to stay on guard around men - is from men who equate this caution with racism to show how offensive it is to them. "Oh, so you cross the street when you see a man at night? Put BLACK in there and see how it sounds." A few months ago, I thought, "Oh, I've become too paranoid these days, I should be polite and friendly to this stranger asking me for directions," and ended up being followed off the train - AFTER he had already mentioned his stop was farther uptown - and cornered against the wall at night. I love what #yesallwomen is doing because it makes it clear that there's a real gendered dynamic operating here that men see as the difficult and frustrating world of dating, but women see as a struggle for survival.

Posting.

I sent in teh link. IT'S NSFW.

NOBODY BLAME ME.

...there was an Internet rumor a few months ago that the Queen took her daughter-in-law to a new designer to make her look more royal or something like that. Maybe that designer recommended dress weights and the Duchess rebelled.

I never saw this rumor. It's surprising, frankly. A few bum-flashing instances aside, the Duchess has spent the past five to seven years cultivating impeccable royal taste: safe without stuff, expensive but not garish, and a few street-level purchases thrown in from time to time to keep her from looking too snooty.

I am laughing. A bitter, hollow, sneering laugh, but a laugh nonetheless.

Signed, This Guy's Wife.

The word "feminism" is like the word "liberal". It has been demonized so much that nobody wants to be called either. But when you look at the dictionary definitions, you can see what the real meanings are. You are thinking of the dictionary definition when you call yourself a feminist. But like "liberal" it has become a pejorative, even though the real meaning is something everyone should be ok with.

Posting.

Really? You think we are taught that? I don't remember the lessons. I do remember finding attractive girls attractive as soon as I was old enough to start taking an interest. And I still do, even though I am advanced in years. Maybe this is one area when men and women are in fact different, cultural indoctrination aside.

A different way of stating the OP's point might have been, "Society is raised to have a very narrow definition of what 'attractive' means, and also to consider physical attractiveness paramount in choosing a partner."

So where are the teens on social media? I have a tween becoming a full-fledged teenager two weeks from tomorrow (EEEEK!). She wants a Facebook page, and Instagram is very important to her, but what other sites do I need to know about and monitor?

Carolyn Hax had a really good question a few days ago that I recommend going and reading, written in from a woman who wanted to know whether it was okay that she was reading her children's text messages (the option was included in her plan). I recommend it -- especially where Carolyn gets into whether and why to do it: not because you don't trust your kids, but because you want to train them to realize that anything they post, on Facebook, on Instagram, etc, should be considered public at all times.

Yes, she does. She may not articulate it, or even think about it much, but every time she walks to a parking garage at night, or makes nice to a random guy instead of ignoring it, she's dealing with the reality of it. I had a (minor) one on Tuesday, and came home and said to my hubs, "hey, I had a #Yesallwomen moment today." So it's making me articulate what's always there. Read some stories, and ask your wife.

Posting.

How many strange men have punched you?

Punch? No. But I've had strange men roughly grab my arm, rub against me on the bus, stroke my hair, follow me off public transportation, and send me emails saying they looked up my address and know where I live. I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that you're a man. How many times have these things happened to you.

I lived much more on guard when I lived in the city and took public transportation. Now that I am a rural girl again I am much more relaxed. I mean, I know who the crazies in town are and it is relatively easy to avoid them. There is "bucket guy," who walks around with a large metal bucket all the time, but everyone avoids him. I wonder how much of the problem relates to anonymity in more urban environments. I mean if someone harasses me on the street I can easily bring down the wrath of their mothers on them.

This is a good point, and one I was going to bring up. I do think this feel more prevalent in urban environments, if for no other reason than the density of people in general is directly proportional to the density of crazies.

1. I am a 23 yo self-aware female and I feel pretty strongly that #yesallwomen doesn't apply to me. Which isn't to say it doesn't resonate me. My sister was harassed throughout high school and college by two young men and my mom has some weird stories of her own. But still. I really can't think of an instance in my life that would apply to the hashtag. 2. Don't think it is a rumor. I read a couple different places a few months ago that the queen put her through a "royal makeover" that would involve longer hemlines. 2.

Thanks for writing in with a different perspective.

Woman here. One, actually, in the crotch. I fought him off and slowly backed away, fists raised, while he was spitting out obscenities about what an "ugly whore" I was, and worse.

Posting.

OK, laugh. But she travels internationally to third world countries. We've talked about this. I am more worried about her safety than she is.

Thanks for writing back in. FWIW, I've also traveled internationally, probably more than the average person, and I'm never nearly as worried for my safety as I am in the U.S. Dunno why, or whether it's related.

Husband, how often do you accompany your wife around town? Serious question. Most creeps would see that as her being "somebody else's property" and back off. The first thing the guys who've come after me generally want to know is, "Do you have a boyfriend?" Not, "Would you be interested?", because, well, that's irrelevant. There's a whole world you're missing that only women traveling by themselves or in same-gendered groups ever see, and it's not very nice.

I'm posting this even though we've already heard back from the OP, because it gets at one of the points in Amanda Hess's piece. It's harder for good men to fully grasp that these things happen, because bad men won't do them when other guys are around.

If a stranger (ok, a woman) is wearing a shirt that says The Beatles or something else I like, I will say "I like your shirt" and keep walking, without stopping or waiting for a reaction. Usually I get a Thank You or a Me Too kind of response. Take my word for it, I am not trying to pick them up or start a conversation. Is this threatening? I never considered this until after reading Amanda Hess's article.

Most women I know -- and I won't speak for all -- never mind a clothing compliment if its delivered in the manner you describe. Especially you use the word "cool." As in "Cool shoes, cool jacket, etc."

"Cool" clearly signifies, "I think you have good taste and I appreciate that clothing as an artform" rather than "I'm being sleazy because I'm really not talking about the shirt, I'm talking about your chest."

 

There are a couple different ways a compliment can be delivered, and the difference is usually pretty apparent to the person on the receiving end.

which is really ridiculous. I don'[t understand why the Queen thinks a knockout of her granddaughter-in-law's age should dress like the queen, who is famous for her monochromatic dowdiness.

Oh, I don't know. I think the Queen does pretty well for a 90 year old woman. If I was that age and still expected to make as many public appearances as she does, I would be doing them all in sweat pants.

I do this. I put on my brave face and travel to Nigeria regularly. Yes, my husband is really worried for me. I'm sort of worried too, but I am a smart and capable person and I have to go. So I know what I need to do to be safe, but it doesn't mean I feel safe.

Lots of good and interesting comments still coming in, but I just looked at the clock and it's almost 3:30. How did you all let this go on so long?

See you again, next week, same time and place.

GSKate's Bum.

In This Chat
Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

Read the The Web Hostess Archive .
Recent Chats
  • Next: