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Te Balancing

Act I WAS ASKED by a

letters to the editor have discovered that online postings give them a whole new outlet for their morbid fascination with being not only right, but being in the right. Potty of Penparc has evolved into Furious of Facebook. Of course, there is ample scope for

unwitting comedy, readers. If you are in need of a chuckle and are a voter for any party other than Labour, Draenog strongly recommends you take a gander at some of the ‘Comment is Free’ content on The Guardian’s website about the Labour leadership election. My goodness, readers; it turns out that when it comes to competition for the winner of the Prix des Idiots Blithering, there is nothing to beat an enraged Guardian-reading Jeremy Corbyn supporter. It turns out that Labour is the party whose main trait is a talent for self-abuse on an industrial scale. And that abuse is part of the brakes off, no limits culture of online discourse.

You cannot argue rationally with an irrationally held belief, or an irrationally formed view. It is a waste of breath to even try. So it was that, when this newspaper’s

Deputy Editor was targeted for some untrue and vile abuse online, Draenog told him to reconsider his initial instincts and to make sense of - and decide how to respond to - a frustrating and distressing situation. “Ignore it,” Draenog said. “Speak

to someone and then decide what to do. Responding just isn’t worth the energy.” Well, the Deputy Editor is not such an

entirely forgiving character. But Draenog thinks he managed to talk him down to at least cutting off contact. That’s a reactive approach, rather

than a proactive one, but in the absence of deeper social change, possibly encouraged by more active enforcement of current laws and probably by education, that is

what is left in order to preserve one’s own sanity. Reacting to individual trolls, cretins,

and bullies may well be an essential part of this larger process, but fighting harassment in a lasting way will take a much larger and more coordinated effort - one that’s rooted in a shared belief of what the web should be like, which is a reflection of what the world should be like, too. Addressing the problem of harassment

online means, for example, thinking about how the design of various platforms might encourage such attacks, interrogating the usefulness of reporting and blocking features, and building communities where people can find and offer support. It is only when that happens that

we will be able to stop the obsessed and obsessive vomiting their bile onto the web and importuning people for attention they would otherwise not merit.

with Abi Jenkins

friend of mine this week how a man can be a feminist and a gentleman, because he felt that modern feminist messages give the impression that it’s not possible. This is an interesting one and

it’s not the first time I have been asked. I think the idea of strong independent women is perhaps the confusing bit and I will hold my hands up and admit that I am one of those women that doesn’t help the situation. I am fiercely independent and would rather struggle than accept help; particularly when it comes to jobs that, as a woman, I am not supposed to be able to do… DIY, lifting heavy objects, etc. That said, this probably has more to do with my stubbornness than my feminist values and I would refuse help from anyone, regardless of their gender. I asked my friend what sort

of gentlemanly acts he was referring to and the examples that he gave were holding doors open, helping with carrying things and paying for dinner. I’ve thought about this a lot

since and I think the solution lies in the motivation behind the action. It’s okay to hold the door open because that’s a nice thing to do. I would hold a door open for anyone, regardless of their gender, because I am a decent person. Likewise, if someone is struggling to carry something then the right thing to do would be to help. I have no problem in someone offering to help because they are a nice person; the attitude changes when I feel that they are offering because I

am a woman. So, to make things simple,

as in most cases with these topics, let’s just take the gender away. If you want to hold the door

open for someone then do it because it is rude to let it close in their face, regardless of what they have in their pants. If you want to buy someone dinner then buy it because it is a nice thing to do, not because you want to assert any authority over someone based on their gender. In essence, just be a good person to everybody. Obviously there will be

women like me who refuse to accept the help and insist on going halves on the dinner. That is okay; they don’t need to be made to feel like they are some revolutionary ‘feminazi’. They just need you to say ‘okay’, to respect their decision and to absolutely not say ‘I told you so’ when they end up pulling a muscle because actually they did need a hand in the first place. But, they needed a hand because the item they were carrying was heavy, not because their gender makes them weak. You can be a feminist, you

can be a gentleman, you can be whatever you want, but the bottom line is: if you treat everyone the same, with the same level of respect, then you’ll be winning no matter what label you decide to use.

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