Friday, October 26, 2012

My life as a troll

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday about Twitter and he told me that he sometimes hides my tweets. I asked him what governs it, and he said he hides me when I start "trolling" and then he'll start to miss me so he'll unhide me again. I was like, "What?! I don't troll!" and he said something like "Oh you know, when you make really provocative statements just to get a reaction." Huh. I wasn't offended, but I was surprised. I don't feel like I MPSJTGAR (Make Provocative Statements Just to Get a Reaction), but maybe trolls don't feel like trolls either?

Does everyone go through periods when they hate themselves? I don't hate myself, but I have sudden insight into why some people hate me. In Houston, I had a flash of memory about my brother telling me something a mutual "friend" of ours had said (looking back, I guess we weren't really friends); he said, to my brother, "Your sister has all your worst qualities, only more so." I think he meant self-righteousness. I thought it was funny at the time, and I still think it's funny, but it also makes me ... not sad exactly, but wistful. Thank god I had the obliviousness of youth on my side, so I didn't walk around with the crushing knowledge that a lot of people had, shall we say, reservations about me. Another mutual friend once said that my Indian name would be "She who gets too much attention."

I've become obsessed with the fallout (ha ha, ugh) from the "Yellow Rain" segment of Radiolab. I haven't even listened to it yet, the original or the edited version, but I'm experiencing some extreme form of self-righteous (natch) indignation and schadenfreude just reading the angry comments on the Radiolab site, as well as Matt Salesses's essay on the segment, its failure as storytelling and as good science (good scientists don't begin with a foregone conclusion). This is the second time that NPR has taken a highly charged topic (the other being factory conditions in China) and totally botched it with a format that is just quintessentially not built to handle such serious and controversial material. I know it's not fair, but I'm just utterly convinced that the segment was racist and sexist. I asked a younger coworker, who is Taiwanese, what he thought, and he seemed very placid and neutral. I told him "You need to work up some more world rage!" Some rules of thumb for adult life: When in doubt, assume the guy is hitting on you, and assume almost everything is racist and sexist.


In less depressing news, I loved this interview with Dita von Teese in which she talks about her beauty routines and beauty in general:
I loved selling makeup, I hated doing makeovers…but I had a theory: when I was doing people’s makeup I would always—and this always worked for selling—look at them, study how their makeup was done, and I’d do it the exact same way. [Laughs] Hopefully a little better, or change a little something. I discovered early on that people have their ‘drag’… and very few people really, truly want to stray from it. Generally, and I include myself in this, I have my drag and I don’t want to anyone messing with it. I remember when I was little, I was watching the Phil Donahue show or something—that shows how old I am—and they were doing makeovers and they took all these ladies that had been wearing the same makeup for 20 years—you know, the green eye shadow, red lips, bouffant red hairdo, that type of lady. These were ladies who had never had their hair and makeup done any other way. I remember seeing the final makeovers and I was so devastated by how boring they made these women look…and how they looked kind of deflated, kind of disappointed, like they didn’t want to be made-over. Don’t take a lady’s green eye shadow away. 
I pencil my mole in a little, but it’s tattooed now; I had it tattooed when I was 21. I went to a famous rockabilly tattoo parlor down in Orange County, and I actually wanted to have him do it in a heart or a star, and the guy was like, ‘There’s no way I’m putting a heart or a star on your face.’ Thank God he said that. [Laughs] He said he would only do a dot, thankfully.

Confidence is the important thing with beauty, mostly. It’s really about doing what you believe is beautiful. I feel most beautiful when I have my red lips on and when I have my cat eyeliner on and my hair curled—that’s what I feel good in, even though lots of people will see me with straight hair and no makeup on, and they’ll say I look so much younger. I don’t really care, though. I don’t care if they think I look prettier without the makeup and hair—it’s about what makes you feel good about yourself. I like having makeup on; I like the discipline it requires.
The confidence thing is a platitude I suppose, but it's the "I don't care" angle that I love. People always think you are doing things to please them, and that's why they try to get you to change. I mean, if you want to make people happy, there are probably better ways to do it than with your haircolor. 

21 comments:

  1. I have some kneejerk reactionary thoughts on this for you. I don't think you're trolling. I don't think I'm trolling either. But I grew up in Houston and still have online contact with people back home and a lot of them, if asked, would probably say that I trolled occasionally. I've been called self-righteous. I've been accused of creating drama. I think most of those accusations come primarily from having a point of view so different from the reader that, even when it is legit (not endorsing all opinions or positions, I'm talking about genuine difference between reasonable, thoughtful people) those differences can seem shocking when the are encountered unexpectedly.


    But good for you for injecting perspective into their lives. As long as you actually believe what you're saying, that isn't trolling. That is public discourse.

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    1. Good perspective. I sometimes don't believe the stuff that I am saying, in the sense that I might say something just to try it out, to see if maybe I believe it, fully or partially -- I have long had a theory that this is part of how we get smarter and form new ideas. But probably those attempts aren't the things that others classify as "trolling" -- probably it's the things I say with 100% conviction.

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  2. My problem with the Radiolab guys is that they basically embody the science studies caricature of scientists (or in this case science journalists). It's this pose of, "Well, you're entitled to your opinion, lady, but the scientific fact of the matter is..." Radiolab is also kind of troll-y itself. I'll write a blog post about it, it is a seriously annoying practice.

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    1. Please do! I actually despise this tendency toward absolute trust of science, as if science weren't subject to the same biases and compromise and human error as ... well, almost anything. There seems to be a personality type that assumes anything "science-y" is better than anything not "science-y," when in fact so much of science is such bad science that it might as well not be science.

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    2. Yes, this is an old pet peeve of mine. I hate science journalists and am embarrassed to self-identify as a scientist because people assume you're on Team Science ("academic" is a happier label). I'm also filled with rage when I see the word "quantitative" which is almost always an implicit argument-from-authority based on a model that has a thick shell of math around the ideological/dodgy assumptions at its heart...

      The demographics of Team Science merits some study... I think of it as disproportionately male/libertarian but I think it also has pockets of women who (often self-servingly) wield Studies against feminism.

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    3. A lot of the same dudes who rule Wikipedia no doubt.

      Last night John and I were listening to a very interesting radio program with a conversation between Germaine Greer and Helena Cronin about science and feminism -- like how much can science inform feminism. Cronin staunchly believes that there are unbridgeable biological/evolutionary differences between men and women and the only way for feminism to move forward is to acknowledge those differences and then set up society in such a way that it doesn't always favor the inherent traits of men. I think this is true to an extent but at some point our ability to determine whether a trait is biological or cultural breaks down.

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    4. Presumably such biological differences do exist, Out There, but I am skeptical that there is empirical evidence for any.

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    5. Right -- like she claims that there are more men at the extremes and more women in the middle, and there will always be more male geniuses than female geniuses so we shouldn't be telling women they're ever going to get half the Nobel prizes. But the only evidence that men are inherently more prone to genius is because we've historically had more male geniuses. How do we know that isn't because women have always been undereducated and oppressed??

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    6. PS I have always felt that the nature/nurture point is a bit of a distraction here. Certainly there are differences between the men and women that are currently adults and an effective feminism has to start somewhere (i.e., with women-as-they-are in power) so presumably a lot of the political steps that must be taken are the same no matter what the actual cause of extant diffs. is.

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    7. As I get it, science involves (among other things) critical thought and critical questioning, and it seems to me that true science is always open to question, at least initially. I mean in the sense that asking questions is always in one way or another a part of real scientific practice.

      Years ago I knew a man who was a professor of genetics and cell biology, and who worked energetically to dispell misunderstandings about what human characteristics are or aren't genetically or biologically determined. He commented a couple of times in conversation that all human beings have at least 70% of the same genetic material in our bodies. So, any genetic differences between us involve at most roughly 30% of the genetic matter in us.

      And (for example) even the fairly basic differences in male and female anatomy in human beings isn't as dramatic as it might appear on the surface. For instance, female genital organs and male genital organs are essentially the same thing, but female organs tend to be a little more inside the body, and mail organs tend to be a little more outside the body. (I'm not knowledgeable enough about this to talk about it in detail -- I'm basing this on information many years ago from a man I knew who worked in the Human Sexuality program at the U. of Minnesota. He showed anatomical diagrams, and illustrated, for instance, how little difference there actually is between a clitoris and a penis.)

      In general I tend to trust real scientific thought and inquiry. Clearly, scientists (to say nothing of science journalists) can be narrow-thinking duds as much as anyone else.

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    8. Just 70%? I thought we were like 98% the same as a rat.

      I certainly trust Nature or Sci Am more than like, a lit journal or a religious magazine but I also think an enormous majority of "studies" are complete bunk.

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    9. I'm remembering the 70% figure, though that was upwards of 30 years ago, and a lot of additional research has been done in genetics since then. Knowledge may have changed.

      A lot of the "scientific" studies that find their way into the news merely report possible statistical correlations, which may or may not prove anything at all.

      For instance, just picking something at random here, there might be a study that "finds" that women between the age of 18 and 24 have 30 percent less interest in math and science than men of similar age and education level. At the very most, that * might * be a statistical correlation (though depending on the size of the sampling group, and all sorts of other variables, it may or may not be really significant). But even if the statistical correlation is valid, that doesn't suggest -- and certainly doesn't prove -- anything about the possible reasons for the finding. (The problem with a lot of "scientific" "journalism," if you'll pardon the hyperactive scare quotes, is that just reports the alleged finding, and doesn't attemptt any analysis of what the finding might or might not mean.)

      That's assuming that the scientific study is a legitimate one to begin with, rather than (as is often the case) a pre-loaded "result" commissioned by some industry or lobbying group and disguised as research.

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    10. Yeah we hadn't typed out the genome at that point, now it's like good luck finding differences between you and a goldfish.

      And yes to all that.

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    11. "The Differences Between You and a Goldfish" would be a great name for a blog.

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  3. Elisa, I think we knew each other in another life because the stuff you say is like, 'I so get that.' People routinely find me annoying - and tell me so - because I refuse to talk about meaningless bullshit. I also play devil's advocate as a sport because 1)it's fun, and 2) it exercises my mind. No need to take everything so damn serious. And I troll like hell, because digging up what makes people come to life is what it's all about if you ask me. It creates tension, which prompts movement and new thinking.

    As for feminism, and I certainly consider myself a feminist, I've let go of some of my militance around that. Instead of spending my time trying to change the world and start a discourse and reverse thousands of years of social patterns, I choose instead to act as if it doesn't exist. And in my world it doesn't. I expect the same privileges as a man, get more than most, and ignore any attempt to thwart my progress. When faced with potential sexism (and it's always out there), I don't react because it wastes my time. Instead, I think, 'fuck you, just get out of the way because you're embarrassing yourself.' My energy is spent simply moving ahead and passing by those who presume they can control my path.

    You're extraordinary...embrace that.

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  4. the Mike Daisy thing was This American Life, by Public Radio International, not Radiolab, by NPR.

    And I just listened to the episode in question. I thought it was really interesting and didn't feel it was racist or sexist, but it did feel like they entrapped the interviewees a little. I mean, they had all these scientific facts and were just kind of bullying them with it until the daughter translating kind of exploded. Robert Krulwich was kind of dickish with his definition and opinion of what a fact is. I get a huge sense of entitlement coming out of him, like he is entitled to the truth.

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    1. Weird -- people have always told me it's on NPR. I don't know because I don't listen to it. I guess hip public radio all smears together in the mind!

      Did you listen to the version that is currently on the site? Because apparently they have edited it a couple of times -- for example to remove laughter.

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  5. You've probably already read this by now, but there's a great post on Hyphen Magazine from the perspective of the family that definitely seems to have been bullied, and I'm convinced that all the problematic racist and sexist elements are in play, even though, like you, I became convinced even before hearing the episode. I don't think I want to listen to the edited episode just yet -- it makes me sad because I like Radiolab.

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    1. I did see the letter on Hyphen Magazine. Very troubling. I also saw Radiolab's response, which seemed (again?) to miss the point.

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