from: Emma Carmichael
to: Tommy Craggs, Lacey Donohue, Tom Scocca, John Cook, Alex Pareene, Heather Dietrick, Adam Pash
date: Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 3:14 PM
subject: Writer safety & perspective
I hope it's clear by now why the seating chart leak registered with much of the Jezebel staff as a thoughtless potential threat to our safety instead of as a harmless media in-joke, but if not, I'd like to explain here so that something like this doesn't happen again.
Being a woman who writes professionally on the internet is quite different from being a man who writes professionally on the internet. It's an onslaught, and much of it happens in private inboxes. The complaining or critical emails Jezebel writers receive are, I'd wager, of a considerably different tone than at other sites. If they're not explicit threats—and often enough they are—then they're at least coated in explicitly violent sexual or abusive language. When you receive those kinds of emails on a regular basis, you learn a certain guard, you learn certain precautions. Sure, much of it is unavoidable. But built in to that guard should be the presumption that your workplace will protect you as much as it can.
And it's not just emails and comments. In December, Anna was targeted by 4chan. They sent deliveries to an older, doxxed address, threatened to trigger a SWAT raid, and made violent threats. (This wasn't long after the site was linked to a woman's murder in Washington State.) Kavi accompanied her to the police station, where she filed a report and was met with a lot of incredulity. (You can read her reported feature about this experience on the site next week.) There's little legal recourse for people who get harassed and threatened on the internet (there's a reason Amanda Hess went so far as to call it "the next civil rights issue"); what we do have is a company that should take our writers' safety and concerns seriously.
I think this is a problem of perspective—more accurately, a problem of men of a certain rank not having any. I assume "Here you go Gamergate" wasn't our leak's joke, but it may as well have been. That joke is only funny if you don't get threatening emails from people who participate in Gamergate on a regular basis; that joke is only funny if you're privileged enough to not receive emails that detail the ways in which the writer would rape you if he had the opportunity to do so. Not everyone gets those emails. This leak, along with its publication, presents a fairly clear picture of who here is lucky enough to feel safe on the internet.
One more note about that point: "feeling threatened" by sites like 4chan and 8chan isn't a concession to their perceived power. This isn't about ad sales this time; it's about the next Elliot Rodger. It's about making our writers (and potential hires) feel safe and protected while they do the fearless work we ask of them. I hope Gawker Media learns to take that tradeoff as seriously as we should.
Tommy suggested I post something along these lines on Jezebel, but in the interest of my writers, I don't want to bring more attention to the seating chart than it already has. I also don't think it should always be Jezebel's responsibility to publicly hold Gawker Media accountable for its blunders. Here, though, is a thought for one way to move forward from this: back in December, Annalee hosted a meeting about writer harassment, and we spoke with Heather about putting together something like a database so that we can at least understand the abundance of threats our writers receive here. It might also help us think proactively about giving our writers viable legal options for when they do receive legitimate threats. This is a real problem, and we should treat it as such.