Saturday, April 28, 2007

Feminism Friday: Roundup

Unapologetic Female: Feminisms. Plural.

Thinking Girl: The Weaker Sex

RebelGrrl has had a few Feminism Friday posts she didn't let us know about the last few weeks:
Fairy Tale Endings
Vilifying Yoko Ono

Bluemilk hasn't tagged this as Friday Feminism, but I'm going to add it to the roundup anyway: Yummy Mummy, Are You Happy?
(This led me to two of bluemilk's I missed last month - Work and Family - A Very Unequal Marriage and Sorry, is our struggle stifling your productivity?)

Please add other recent Feminism Friday posts, or posts which could have been Feminism Friday posts, in comments.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A New Feminist Festival

Way down on the sidebar are links to current blog-festivals that feature feminist issues. There's a new one going on the list:

Carnival of Radical Feminists - May 2, 2007 edition

Host blog
¤ Women's Space/The Margins
Scheduled for
¤ May 2, 2007
Submission deadline
¤ Apr 29, 2007 23:59:02 -1200
¤ Carnivals of Radical Feminists will consistently include the best of the previous month's blog posts on topics of interest to radical feminists.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Open Thread: Top 5 Introductory Texts

Reader A suggested:
I was also interested in book suggestions, but I think that the LibraryThing might be a little too involved (the interface looked a little confusing to me). I think what would be nice would be either a simple, concise list of the five to ten most influential books or essays, or a multi-part series of lists that sort of define the three waves. I don't know, though, since there are so many different kinds of feminism, can most people agree on what those writings are? If not, perhaps there could be an open thread for people to comment with their top five recommended (introductory!) books or essays.
There's a lot of good ideas there, but time demands that here and now FF101 goes with an open thread of top 5 recommended books/essays. A short line or two as to why the recommendation would be good, and would allow later commentors to still recommend the same book but for a different reason/emphasis.

If anyone wants to write up some more detailed book lists as per A's comment, or knows where such a thing might already exist, please leave a link to that in comments too.

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Weekly Online Reader

I'm going to aim to do this every week, anyway. A roundup of other people's roundups.

Pen-Elayne has a great roundup.

Carnival of the Feminists #36 has been put together by Belledame, and it's a monster:

[ Part One ] [ Part Two ] [ Part Three ]

Please do add other roundups or notable posts from the last few weeks in the comments thread.

Updated to add: May's edition of JANE has put together a comprehensive feature promoting physical and emotional breast health, in response to a reader survey indicating that 75% of their readers were unhappy with their breasts.
Online: “The JANE Guide to Breast Health”

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Feminism Friday: Safety vs. Patriarchal Overprotection

Reader Justin wrote and asked me for advice on an ethical balance problem, and with his permission I quote his email:

I have a question which has been bothering me for some time, and which may/may not be worth addressing on the site. In any case, its something I don't feel precisely comfortable asking my close friends, but it does bother me. Not that you have any obligation to spend time assuaging my liberal guilt, but worth a try.
. .
I'm a male college student from the Midwest and I've been self-identifying as feminist (or feminist ally) for quite awhile. Through activism and academia, I'm pretty familiar and comfortable with feminist thought. About a year ago, my best friend--who attends another Midwestern college--was raped at knifepoint by two strangers who attacked her as she walked to her dorm one night. As I've attempted to help her work through the fallout of that experience, I've grown very protective (read paranoid) of my female friends. Particularly, I feel like I should refuse to let them walk home by themselves at night, and do my best to convince them to let me
accompany them after parties, etc., which usually isn't a problem.

Still, sometimes I feel a bit patriarchal and condescending, and I recognize that discouraging women from walking at night is a sort of variation on the whole "asking for it" theme, shifting the blame from the victim to the victimizer. My question is, how do I find an ethical balance between protecting my friends from often underestimated dangers, and avoiding stereotype reinforcing paternalism. Obviously, in a sense my personal stake in this issue is minor compared to the actual threat of sexual violence, but I would still like to know how best to handle these situations. . .

Thanks for listening to my ramblings; any thoughts you have would be appreciated, though certainly not demanded. . .

Now, as I mailed back to Justin, I had two immediate responses come to mind.

1. although your protectiveness is noble, as I'm sure you're aware most sexual assaults are date/acquaintance/partner rape, and you can't be there for that. So the utility of your protectiveness is, through no fault of your own, limited.

2. the greater work to be done is challenging sexist attitudes in men around you when women aren't there. It's a long term effort, with no short term fanfares of triumph, but as more and more profeminist men undertake to challenge misogyny it's more likely to make a difference in the end.

Now, while I was waiting for Friday to roll around, Kate Harding posted her terrific essay that I quoted in the FAQ: What Can I Do For Feminism?, which addressed my #2 above.

As to #1, I certainly wouldn't want to minimise the fear, pain and distress of stranger rape, and I don't have the personal experience to back it up, but I'm sure from what I've read of others' experiences that the fear, pain and distress can only be multiplied when the rapist is someone known and trusted, and there's sadly little the Justins of our world can do about untrustworthy deceitful men.

EXCEPT: as said above, don't reinforce their casual misogyny about crazy bitches who are asking for it.

You might not know which of the men around you are untrustworthy deceitful misogynists, but guaranteed that some of them are, and if blokes who would never bully or harm a woman play along with the crazy-bitch jokes just for a laugh, some of those men laughing are getting their misogynistic violence fantasies reinforced by what they perceive as acceptance from other men.

Justin, thanks so much for writing.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

FAQ: What can I do for feminism?

Object to any speech or action which demeans, constrains and/or harms women, whether you know the women concerned personally or not.

Do not accept that there is a "war between the sexes" and challenge anyone who assumes that there is and that it is natural.

Do not accept that "men just can't help being X" wherever X is something that women are complaining about as demeaning or harmful to women (or gender roles that are constraining, demeaning and harmful to men).

If you are a pro-feminist man, this is especially important, because when you don't object:

"You are missing an opportunity to help stop the bad guys.

You’re missing an opportunity to stop the real misogynists, the fucking sickos, the ones who really, truly hate women just for being women. The ones whose ranks you do not belong to and never would. The ones who might hurt women you love in the future, or might have already.

‘Cause the thing is, you and the guys you hang out with may not really mean anything by it when you talk about crazy bitches and dumb sluts and heh-heh-I’d-hit-that and you just can’t reason with them and you can’t live with ‘em can’t shoot ‘em and she’s obviously only dressed like that because she wants to get laid and if they can’t stand the heat they should get out of the kitchen and if they can’t play by the rules they don’t belong here and if they can’t take a little teasing they should quit and heh heh they’re only good for fucking and cleaning and they’re not fit to be leaders and they’re too emotional to run a business and they just want to get their hands on our money and if they’d just stop overreacting and telling themselves they’re victims they’d realize they actually have all the power in this society and white men aren’t even allowed to do anything anymore and and and…

I get that you don’t really mean that shit. I get that you’re just talking out your ass.

But please listen, and please trust me on this one: you have probably, at some point in your life, engaged in that kind of talk with a man who really, truly hates womento the extent of having beaten and/or raped at least one. And you probably didn’t know which one he was.

And that guy? Thought you were on his side.

As long as we live in a culture where the good guys sometimes sound just like the misogynists, the misogynists are never going to get the message that they are not normal and that most people–strong, successful men included–do not hate women.

Kate Harding: On being a no-name blogger using her real name

What else can we do for feminism?

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

FAQ: what do you mean by "Not my Nigel"? (feminist abbreviations/jargon)

Updated 03May07

Like any other field of debate and controversy, a lot of issues and positions in feminism end up being discussed so often that they are abbreviated for convenience into acronyms, initialisms and shorthand phrases that make up a jargon.

"Not my Nigel" is shorthand for the common reaction of many women to feminist observations and explanations of sexist activity and sexist motivations i.e. "Not my Nigel! He'd never do anything like that" or more invidiously "well sure, my Nigel says/does that but he doesn't mean any harm by it".
(The feminist response is that truly one has no idea what sexist activities one's Nigel engages in when performing manliness to impress other men (you think all those gropers and harassers tell their wives/mothers/sisters what they do?) and that not meaning any harm because "boys will be boys" is exactly the root of the problem.)

Below are a few common abbreviations/jargon terms. There's a more formal academic list of terms at Feminist Lexicon, and you may find some of the differences/distinctions between their entries and this list instructive (for more on differences/distinctions see the Feminisms FAQ).


- different periods of feminist activism with different priorities. An Anglo-Americocentric description of feminist history, although largely generalisable.
First wave feminism : the advocacy of basic legal (de jure) equality: suffragists, property inheritance and contractual agency rights. Historically a movement for wives of the propertied classes, but a broader movement today in those countries where women are still denied de jure equality.
Second wave feminism : working for the implementation/enforcement of de jure equalities but also concerned with de facto (unofficial) inequalities: finding the political in the personal and fighting for changes in long-standing sexist prejudices and traditions - socioeconomic equality not just legal equality, and for more than just the propertied classes.
Third wave feminism: a challenge to essentialist views of femininity (as biologically reductive) and feminisms (as homogenously directed) combined with an emphasis on the intersectionality of oppressions.
MRA - male rights activist (an extreme masculinist example)
patriarchy - one of the most misunderstood critical-theory concepts ever, often wilfully misunderstood. Patriarchy is an ancient and ongoing social system based on traditions of elitism (a hierarchy of inferiorities), privilege and the subjugation of women via strict gender expectations which constrain individualist expressions. Some societies are more patriarchal than others, but patriarchal social traditions are universal in human societies. [more in the Patriarchy FAQ]
"the personal is political" - a radical 1960's concept that there is a politics of sex/gender based on power relationships in families, and that describing family power imbalances as "personal" was simply dismissive and condescending. First cited in an essay by Carol Hahnisch in 1970 defending consciousness-raising from charges that it was merely "therapy": Hanisch states "One of the first things we discover in these groups is that personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time."(the term has since been adopted by other protest movements).
PHMT - Patriarchy Hurts Men Too. Men are also constrained from full individualist expression by strict gender expectations. (Corollary: FBMT - Feminism benefits men too - thanks Helen)
privilege - advantages that some groups have over others in the social hierarchy. Some privileges are situational and temporary (parent over child, employer over employee) and serve a pragmatic social purpose but other privileges are societal and traditional and serve to perpetuate elitism. Some elitist privileges are de jure (e.g. South African racial apartheid, rules against the ordination of women as priests) but most are de facto (informal discrimination against "others" in the workplace, education, financial transactions (e.g. exclusionary "mates' rates") and social recognition/reward). [more in the Male Privilege FAQ]
radfem - radical feminist
rape culture - a constellation of behaviours and attitudes embedded into patriarchal society. These attitudes, socialised from birth and often wielded unconsciously, enable and encourage the subordination of women by maintaining a environment that is pervasively hostile and threatening to women. The behaviours include a spectrum of acts which function to keep women in an object role and perpetuate their fear. They include (but are not limited to) certain aspects of "chivalry", victim-blaming, leering, intimidation, sexual harrassment and coercion, domestic violence, assault and rape. (defn from lauredhel) [more: Biting Beaver]
sex-pos - sex-positive feminist
strawfeminist - a false construction, created to scare people away from the juicy crops of equality, equity and the end of female subjugation (See "strawman fallacy" and our "spot the strawfeminist" category)


empowerful: used to reveal how sexist marketing appropriates "empowerment" in order to persuade women into yet more sexual displays for male titillation [Twisty's post coining the term]
godbag - religious authoritarian, theocrat (not used to describe tolerant believers who respect the rights of others to make their own choices)
"I'm not a feminist, but" - a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists. (i.e. folks who have been intimidated by the strawfeminists(see above)). Often women who disdain feminism while describing the benefits of feminist-earned rights to work, child care, education, vote etc as "basic rights".
“Nice Guys™” - There are two types, which often overlap in one individual:
1.a guy who believes that the simple act of being decent means that the universe owes him a girlfriend.[defn from Mickle]
2. men who are looking to date a woman with the appearance of a supermodel, and yet they continually whine about how "women don't like nice guys - they only want good-looking assholes" [source] [more at the NiceGuy archive at Heartless Bitches International]
pornulated/-acious - extremely sexualised women's fashions, usually uncomfortable and impractical as well as emphasising the vulnerable flesh of female secondary sexual characteristics.
PUA - Pick Up Artist. Sexual predator as serial scorekeeping seducer. [link from theriomorph] The goal of PUA as a sport is to defeat the minds so inconveniently attached to ladybits rather than treat women as people who could enjoy sexual fun together with egalitarian men. A growing movement designed to persuade both men and women that this reduction of gender relations to a hunt for sex is a reasonable and sane model for human interaction.

The list could go on and on, and that's where you, dear readers, come in. Please add more abbreviations/jargon in the comments of terms you've had to explain most often, or requests for explanations of abbreviations/jargonisms that have been puzzling you. (Update: thanks for all the suggestions so far!)

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Feminism Friday

I haven't managed to come up with a particular Feminism Friday post myself this week. Luckily I came across a couple to recommend:

A specific Feminism Friday post from Erimentha on melding Western feminist theory with Indian feminist action: Here and Now

A serendipitous find - a thoughtful post and thread from an Anabaptist blog on "The Problem with Feminism"

Updated to Add: Feminism and Rape - two posts from Feministe that discuss why rape victims are subject to so much more scrutiny and skepticism than victims of other crimes, and why so many people are comfortable with failing to distinguish between accusations that cannot be proven in court and false accusations from lying women.

The first is a 2003 post from Lauren, written in response to the press about the Kobe Bryant case, relating how she was raped as a teenager and why she didn't tell anyone at the time, much less report it to police.

The second is a post from Jill, in response to the dropping of charges against the three charged men in the Duke rape case. Warning - the thread is already 200+ comments long, and the anti-feminists are out in force.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

FAQ: Why are you concentrating on X when Y is so much more important?

I/we often address Y, but right now we're addressing X. We can and do work on both X and Y, but persuading others and planning productively means concentrating selectively. Besides, working on X and Y seperately but in parallel is more productive for both matters, as they both counter Z (which we both detest, right?) from different directions.

Derailing a discussion of X with demands that others address Y because "it's so much more important" is a very common trolling tactic, and long acknowledged as a cheap rhetorical trick: just another red herring.

If you don't mean to troll, if you are genuinely and adamantly of the opinion that discussing X is a waste of time in light of the importance of Y, then simply disrupting the discussion of others is unlikely to make them sympathetic to your arguments.

Even if you are a fellow-feminist with a different area of emphasis, demanding that your special concern is discussed Right! Now! is disruptive nonetheless, and actively works against feminist solidarity. Are you sure that's what you want to do?

How about you, whether feminist or anti-feminist, instead try this? Write about how much Y matters on your own chunk of cyberspace, and then make a short comment in the discussion-about-X saying "By the way, I'm also hugely concerned with the problem of Y, and I've written about it [here] if you would like to discuss it".

Point made, discussion of X still on track, and very possibly a productive discussion of Y taking place in parallel. Everybody wins, except the trolls.

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FAQ: Why "feminism" and not just "humanism"? Or "equalism"? Isn't saying you're a feminist exclusionary?

This question implies that one must be either one or the other. People and philosophies are far more complicated than that. A feminist may also be both a humanist and an equalist.

There's no law that says only one box can be ticked here, and it's hugely important not to get sucked into thinking that one choice excludes the others. A major reason that most populist debate in the corporate media (and in online forums too) is a pitiful sham is that way too many questions are argued on an either/or basis, instead of acknowledging the probability of a both/and stance. The either/or method of framing a debate is technically referred to as a "false dilemma" [more], and is one example of a logical fallacy.

As to why feminism requires a distinct agenda within the equalist movements? The special and distinct problem of misogyny both oppressing and directly harming women, pure and simple. Unless misogyny is directly addressed and acted against, general equalist activism will not be enough. [FAQs: Does feminism matter? and Isn't feminism just "victim politics"?]

P.S. It's also a good idea when throwing around the term "humanist" to make sure that one's audience is on the same page about exactly what you mean.



Andrea Rubenstein (Official Blog): Why “feminism”?

Colleen Wainwright (Communicatrix): ¡Feminista!

Clarifying Concepts:

More on Either/Or and Feminisms
We’re not either/or thinkers here, but both/and thinkers. I am neither a liberal feminist who supports only attacking power by going after its underpinning through the courts and through legislation nor a radical feminist who wants to address how oppression is lived out in the day-to-day. I’m both. Without focusing on how sexism and heterosexism permeates our very existence, attacks our very way of thinking and our daily existence, it’s far, far easier for people to not care because it’s someone else’s problem. But, as I state firmly in this post, it everyone’s problem.
[Amanda Marcotte, in comments to a Blog Against Heteronormativity post at Pandagon]

Lauren (Faux Real Tho): On Feminism and Attractiveness

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Blog Against Sexual Violence Day

was April 5, and I missed announcing it here. Hopefully lots of you already found links to it elsewhere, and I'm sure that if there's a post just hanging around inside you waiting to be written that it won't matter if it's a week late.

Click on the image below to go to abyss2hope's blog where she rounds up the posts.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Some art for the holidays

Artkrush features Feminist Art

The latest issue of Artkrush, which is available online now, explores contemporary feminist art from around the globe. Artkrush #55 features a survey of the Global Feminisms exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum and an in-depth interview with Cornelia Butler, curator or WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. We also profile multimedia artist A.L. Steiner and review a new monograph of provocateur Tracey Emin. The issue includes reviews of exhibitions by Monica Bonvicini and Cerith Wyn Evans as well as a mix of news and other international exhibition reviews.

Check it out at

Thanks to Artkrush Editor Paul Laster for sending me the announcement.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Feminism Friday: a roundup

A few other bloggers are picking up on this Feminism Friday idea (originally Thinking Girl's idea), which I'm glad to see.

Last week Ilyka (Pandagon) had a cracker on Saying No to Passivity, while there was some good discussion here on Young Feminists and how they find feminist fellowship.

This week Amanda (Pandagon) and I both came up with different looks at compulsory femininity: Amanda took on the common points between headscarves, pushup bras and pantyhose while over at Hoyden About Town I look at how It Starts So Young.

If you decide to join in with a Feminism Friday piece, or if you already have done so in the last few weeks and I missed it, please leave a link in comments.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

To mailing list, or not to mailing list?

On a previous post, it was suggested that some people might find discussions on blogs more difficult to join in than discussions in a Vbulletin or a mailing list format. It made me realise that some folks these days might easily come to blogs as discussion forums without ever having been introduced to good old fashioned mailing lists ever (I've never been into V-bulletins, but I know mailing lists).

One of the advantages of mailing lists is that they are text-only, so that if you are in a region without broadband access you can download the discussions quickly to your email folder. Or for those who'd rather not have the emails on their own computers, if you use a yahoo or gmail address for the mailing list subscription then you can read the mails on the web without having to clutter up your inbox at all. The lists are subscriber only, and moderated, so with little effort they can be kept troll-free.

I'm very happy to set up a FF101 mailing list associated with my personal domain, to which any regular blogger or commentor with a feminist outlook is welcome to subscribe. It could be a useful backup for bloggers in discussing certain thoughts and concerns about interacting and communicating effectively in the more public forums of blogs.

So, I'd like to gauge the level of interest. Anybody?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

FAQ: I've got nothing against equal rights for women, but we've got that, so isn't feminism nowadays just going too far ?

aka "Why do we still need feminism?" (see "Does feminism matter?")

This question is based on several misconceptions.
1. Even if women in your part of the world do have legal equality, what about women elsewhere? Feminists who fight for the rights of other women to have what they already have are justified in doing so.
2. Simple, basic legal equality regarding the right to own property, sign contracts or vote does not always translate into social equality in work, the community or the home. Feminists who point out residual cultural traditions and reactionary business practises that disproportionately disadvantage women are not making it up (see FAQs on Patriarchy, Gender Gap and Objectification).

This FAQ is mostly clarifying-concepts rather than introductory. If you haven't read any of the basic level FAQ posts (See FAQ roundup here) then I suggest you start with some of those before reading these posts.

I've been seeing a lot of "Why we still need feminism" posts around lately. Here's a few I've found powerful. Please add links to other posts on the same theme that I've overlooked in comments.

Natasha Walter (orig. in The Guardian): We Still Need Feminism

The suggestion is constantly put out that women must be "free" to choose their own way of life, even if it is clear that many women whose choices are shaped by discriminatory workplaces and poor childcare provision do not feel very free at all. Indeed, even if few people choose to identify themselves as feminists, it is hard to find a young woman who would not sign up to the feminist goals that are meant to be so outdated, such as being treated equally at work and being able to share family responsibilities with their husbands. But even if the desire for equality remains, it is still unmet.

Rad Geek (Rad Geek People's Daily): Atrocious Dating Violence Against Young Women: We Still Need Feminism
If anyone asks you why we still need an organized, agitating feminist movement, tell them to think of five women they know. Ask them whether they want one of those five women to be tortured by someone she should be able [to] trust. If the answer is no, we still need feminism.

Mr Shakes (Shakesville): Feminism benefits us all

Men need to get it through their heads that they, too, are under the heel of power structures that have no interest in promoting their welfare. They must understand that the rights and privileges that they have hitherto been enjoying fall far short of the privileges they could enjoy were they to try and achieve them. The internecine warfare that occurs between women and men, people of color and white people, straights and gays, as they all squabble like schoolchildren in an attempt to gain or deny rights, is exactly what those in power want.

Aunt B.(Tiny Cat Pants): Remedial Feminism
Does Ivy hate men and want to mock and belittle them at every turn? No.

Ivy wants to be able to walk into McDonald’s and get for her daughter a toy without it turning into a lesson in how either 1. Boys get all the cool toys and girls have to learn how to put up with shit. Or 2. Because you’re a girl, you usually only deserve the girl toy, which sucks, but because someone has pointed out that you are “exceptional,” you might be able to get the boy toy.

See how nothing about this has to do directly with boys? This isn’t an anecdote about boys. No one is suggesting that any boy should have to suffer or put up with a shit toy. There’s nothing in this story directly about boys.

(nb a lot of the attitude of the questioner for this FAQ overlaps with "I'm not a feminist, but...", which is a common utterance by those who notice and are disturbed by instances of sexism, and totally agree that something should be done to combat such sexism, if only they could argue against such sexism without perhaps being mistaken for one of those humourless, hairylegged, manhating feminists)

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Women online: coping with abuse, threats and cyberstalking

There's been a lot of discussion of the threats made against Kathy Sierra online over the last week.

Many other women online know how it feels to be objectified and have your arguments trivialised or mocked because of your gender, and a substantial number also know about graphic threats of sexualised violence and brutal death. So what to do about it? There is no one answer that is right for every woman who feels threatened, but there are some general guidelines.

BlogHer have a couple of excellent posts: Today is Stop Cyberbullying Day and a post from last year: What do you do when you're cyberstalked, taunted or abused online?.

The Kathy Sierra threat situation is one of the top stories on Technorati, so chances that your favourite blogger has written something about it are fairly high. I myself have written a long piece about Sierra's experience in the light of other cyberharassment incidents, and what it means for enforcing commenting standards in online forums, that I've posted at both my own blog Hoyden About Town and Aussie political group blog Larvatus Prodeo.

In general I agree with the advice from BlogHer that the best response is to ignore them online, deleting their comments from discussions, while saving all their comments and emails in case they are needed for demonstrating a pattern of escalating harassment to law enforcement at a later date. Ensuring that your own site has a clearly laid out comments policy that is strictly adhered to ensures that anarchic escalations at least don't dominate your own online space. What advice do others have?

Latest posts from the new FF101 site