Way to Fail, Kickstarter

If you took an internet vacation the last day and a half, you might have missed this atrocity happening. Follow the link and read his follow-up, but the short version is this: a man named Ken Hoinsky has been posting his pick-up-artist guide on Reddit’s forum dedicated to “seduction.” This guide is filled with tips such as getting into a woman’s personal space, and even after she says “no, go away,” coming back and trying again later. Or picking a woman up and sitting her on your lap — even better if you’ve got wood you can rub up against her. And the best (that’s sarcasm right there) is the one where he tells guys to take out their dicks and put them in the woman’s hand. Because the dude’s in charge. Or something.

Hoinsky decided to turn his creeper, rapey posts into a book and put the project up on Kickstarter. In the last few hours of the drive, comedian Casey Malone noticed the gross, rapey nature of the whole thing, and called Kickstarter out on it.

For a whole day — A! Whole! Day! — Kickstarter said NOTHING. Not even, “We hear you, internet, and we’re working on it.”

Not a word.

And the project got funded.

And sometime after hours, Kickstarter issued this mealy-mouthed statement to Betabeat:

Kickstarter reviews projects based on our guidelines and the information creators share on their project pages. It’s a process we’ve refined over four years and continue to refine daily. We strive for fair and thoughtful policies that maintain the health of the Kickstarter ecosystem.

This morning, material that a project creator posted on Reddit earlier this year was brought to our and the public’s attention just hours before the project’s deadline. Some of this material is abhorrent and inconsistent with our values as people and as an organization. Based on our current guidelines, however, the material on Reddit did not warrant the irreversible action of canceling the project.

As stewards of Kickstarter we sometimes have to make difficult decisions. We followed the discussion around the web today very closely. It led to a lot of internal discussion and will lead to a further review of our policies.

Which means, really, “Oh well, too late, Sorry if anyone was offended.”

I can hope that their line about further reviewing their policies actually means something, but it’s hard to have faith in that right now.

Austrailia’s Lieutenant General David Morrison said the following regarding sexual harassment in their armed forces, and it’s been on my mind a lot these last couple of weeks: The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

I grok that the internet fell on Kickstarter’s head late in the game. The first posts I saw about it on ye olde Facebook were when I was asleep, which means there probably wasn’t anyone in the Kickstarter offices either since they’re New York-based. But their inboxes had to be pinging like mad when they shuffled in at 9AM, and they certainly had a mountain of @ mentions on Twitter by that point.

So they had, effectively, three hours to at the very least say “We are aware of the issue with one of our projects and are looking into it.” That’s just good PR, right there.

But they didn’t. And as of this posting, they will be releasing the money to Hoinsky. They still have two weeks NOT to do that, by the by, at least according to their guidelines for creators. But that ray of hope I was holding out yesterday is growing dimmer by the hour.

The standard you walk past is the standard you accept.

I’ve helped fund some really amazing projects on Kickstarter, from books to games to props for some high school theater’s Shakespeare play that I wouldn’t ever get to see. I couldn’t get my wallet out fast enough when Rob Thomas posted the Veronica Mars movie project. A flash story I wrote is forthcoming in a magazine funded through Kickstarter. There are other wonderful projects up on the site that I have starred to remind me about.

But as of right now, I can’t give any more of my money to them, because a cut will go to Kickstarter. Just as I won’t attend any flavor of PAX, neither will I give money to Kickstarter unless they fix this.

I can’t walk past this one.

Let’s talk freedom of speech for a moment, shall we?

Hoinsky is perfectly free to post his creeper guide to sexual assault anywhere he’d like, if that place will allow him to. Reddit, with its MRA boards and fucking gross forums dedicated to pictures of women taken and posted without their knowledge (and therefore without their consent), doesn’t seem to mind this sort of thing at all. And if Reddit ever decides “Wow, we’re pretty awful,” and cleans that shit up, another website will, I’m sure, welcome Hoinsky with open arms.

Freedom of speech does not mean anyone has an obligation to help you spread what you want to say. Had Kickstarter pulled the project, that’s not censorship. That’s a corporation declining to be a platform for sexual harassment.

Seven hundred people backed that project. Seven hundred. I don’t know how likely any of them are to follow through on what they “learn” from it, but my guess is it will be a non-zero number of people — mostly men — who do. Probably including and especially any of them who backed the project at the “I’ll Skype you and coach you personally” level. One-on-one lessons in being a skeevy harasser! Woo!

Seven hundred men, not even counting the ones who can still see the posts for free on Reddit, who might now go out into the world — to bars or parties or, oh god, cons — thinking they’ve found the sekrit key to getting laid. That is a non-zero number of women who will be approached and, yes, assaulted, due to this book. Apparently Hoinsky’s taken out the chapter about unwanted penis-palming (which, if it was in there in the first place, means this book was DEFINITELY against Kickstarter’s TOS when it first went up, and not only should have been pulled, should never have been greenlit), but there’s enough in there already about being “forceful” with women to be ringing all sorts of alarm bells.

Kickstarter handled this poorly, and continues to handle it poorly. A petition has gone up at DoSomething.org, trying once more to get the company to change their mind. If you have a second to sign it, please do: http://www.dosomething.org/petition/kickstarter

The one encouraging thing I can take out of the day is this: I saw people from many of my various and sundry social circles getting the word out and taking a stand. People shared it on facebook or twitter, and it wasn’t just the women in my life doing so. In fact, the first mentions I saw of it came from two of my gentlemen friends (<3 Michael and Reuben). I came home from work last night and said to Greg, “Did you hear about…?” — I don’t remember what I was about to actually say, but he thought I was referring to this. And told me he’d already written to Kickstarter directly.

So, there are good people out there, and there are men listening and boosting the signal.

I wish Kickstarter was listening.

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3 Responses to Way to Fail, Kickstarter

  1. Tam says:

    Agreed, wholeheartedly.
    And I agree about your positive take-away. Remember when The Game came out and people just chuckled and said, ‘Oh, boys will be boys’? Now people are saying ‘holy shit, that’s not ok’. I’m glad those good old days are gone.

  2. falconesse says:

    So much. I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many men who get it, and it feels like more and more people are stepping up and calling shit out. We have a long way to go, I know, but it’s heartening to actually be able to SEE awareness spreading.

  3. marianne says:

    want to hear the worst part? His awful book will probably be a best-seller.

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