DARVO in India and Cyberspace

edit: In this post I utterly trivialize the horrible condition of being a woman in India. I am but a fool and I write in part to learn.

In this post I’m (eventually) going to talk about the Women’s liberation movement growing in India, and the sexism entrenched in hacker culture.

Egalitarians, who confer power temporarily and based on merit, and Authoritarians, who feel they deserve it intrinsically, are always fighting. Americans might recognize this as the ‘culture wars’. Recently the Egalitarian side has been becoming stronger in many places, including the one where I live. At times the fight has come to blows, but more often it is a slow process of vigorous argument in the media and condemnation on the streets. One of the interesting things about this fight is that both sides make arguments that superficially appear similar. Why is this?

We all know that abusers, who are obsessed with power and control over their victim’s lives, react furiously to the possibility that their victims might escape them. A common tactic they use to deflect unwanted attention from the authorities is called DARVO. This stands for ‘Deny, Attack, Reverse victim and offender’. The abuser first denies that their crimes ever happened or were severe enough to warrant investigation, then attacks the integrity and intentions of the person or people trying to escape them or bring them to justice, and finally plays the part of the innocent victim while alleging that they are being persecuted by an abusive enemy.

This tactic can be successful primarily because it allows the abuser (both in their own mind and to a public that doesn’t look at the evidence too closely) to sound like the victim. When it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other, grievances are frequently not settled.

The theory of DARVO can also scale upward to interpret the narrative spun through an entire culture. For example, the people who decide to fight against women playing a truly equal part in government and industry frequently claim that they are being punished unfairly, that they are the ones who are truly looking out for womens’ best interests, that they are the victims of (haha) Feminazis. And they say this continually, all the while trying desperately to retighten their grip and reassert their privileged position in society.

Yesterday, a hacker wrote about a recent experience she had. For several months she had been trying to organize a free cryptography conference. She had experienced increasing levels of abuse, harassment (and on one occasion, fraud) and had resigned from the project. And yesterday she published a long document of what happened. You can read it here.

Both the article and the comments beneath it are illuminating, particularly in the above context. By some strange coincidence, she is also withstanding a DDOS (distributed denial-of-service) attack – a common trick of skript kiddies who do not have the capacity to organize anything more sophisticated. Sexism has long been a problem in the field of technology for a variety of reasons, but the biggest is that even if you work in a basement and decide not to bother developing your social skills, you will still want a mate and the only way that will happen is if your potential target feels obliged to be with you no matter how disgusting you are. This is why some techheads are willing to fight very hard for a world with a subservient gender.

Indians should take note – even if their society retreats from open oppression of women on the street, the people who loved exercising unjustified power will pull back to other areas and take root; they will in turn need to be sponged, and purged, and if necessary blasted from their fortifications.

I wonder, is the DARVO tactic also being deployed in India? I’m sure that conservative figures are trying to divert attention from themselves and pretend that the values they have always defended is nothing to do with the terrible assault that became a murder two days ago. Maybe you could let me know.

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