Learning Fail

by Shaker knitmeapony

[Trigger warning for stalking, misogyny, racism, dehumanization, and general assholery.]

So, there's this fella named Joel Johnson. He's an editor and author on high-profile, popular techy blogs like Gizmodo and BoingBoing. Recently, he decided he wanted to broaden his horizons, after he read that Twitter was popular with black people, but "realized most of my Twitter friends are like me: white dorks."

On Wednesday, Johnson wrote a post about the horizon-broadening experience he'd undertaken. An article called, I shit you not, "Why I Stalk a Sexy Black Woman on Twitter (And Why You Should, Too)."

In it, he imparts his wisdom to the masses: he has decided the best way to open his mind is to just stare at someone from a distance. He breathlessly describes his descent into exoticism: how exciting of him to have followed, unsolicited, a black woman on Twitter. Great Maude in the morning! She's Christian! She likes sex! She's fiscally responsible!

He helpfully diagnoses her psychological issues ("She seems to have some problems trusting men, but she's not afraid of them, either.") in the same paragraph that he is ogling her "faux modeling shots" and "mall fashion".

He publicizes her life, her 'childish' and 'charming' faith; aspects of her sexuality she might never have expected to be public beyond the followers who she knows well.

There's so much that has been said about this article, I think I can leave the description alone in its sleezy glory and give you the quick blogaround:

Salon: Gizmodo stalks a black woman
Deanna Zandt: Privileged Voyeurism
Postbourgie: The Odd Habits and Foibles of Sexy Black Women on the Internet
Channing Kennedy: Shut up, dude.
Ann at Feministing: How to win "black" friends and influence people on the internet

Suffice it to say, he's being called out on his racism, sexism, colonialism, marginalization of sexual violence (stalking: not a happy fun time activity, dude), and privilege.

After this all blew up, he went to his Twitter feed, where he tried to understand why people are pissed about the article. To his credit, he has attempted to engage the criticism there, at least, in a cool-headed if very shallow way. Unfortunately, he had to write about that, too: It gets even worse in his follow up: So This Hipster Tech Douche Stalks a Sexy Black Woman On Twitter... Let's let him speak for himself:
If I have any regret about the piece, it's that I didn't title it "Why I Stalk A Sexy Black Christian Woman from Detroit (etc.)"…

…There's been a lot of talk about me "othering" this woman. Frankly? Duh.…

…Which leads to another denunciation levied: that if I really wanted to get to know this woman, I should have interacted with her instead of just voyeuristically following her Twitter stream. That's fair—but only if you presume that I actually wanted to befriend her. I didn't….

…Sorry to disappoint, but I copped to nothing of the sort. It may be a cliched, horndog thing to say, but if I have a fetish, it's a woman fetish. There's nothing the least bit "privileged" about looking at a picture that someone's put online and saying, "Yup. She's hot."…

…[On Stalking] While I believe that absolutely nothing on earth is off limits for a joke, I can understand how, if you only read the title of the post, you might not get the irony.

My psychic prediction: Next week, Gizmodo once again laments that tech & programming culture have a dearth of women and people of color. I will definitely get that irony. Sigh.

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