Popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter has been all over the news this week because of their seemingly tacit endorsement of a particularly loathsome seduction book by pick-up artist Ken Hoinsky, AKA a sexual harrassment how-to.
Hoinsky’s known on Reddit – an infamous Internet community that raises eyebrows online for its consistent promotion of misogyny and violence – as user TofuTofu. His tips for seduction first gained prevalence on the website, which is unsurprising, as Reddit is known for its vehement protection of free speech, even if it’s really offensive (note: it usually is).
Last fall, after his identity was outed by Gawker, notorious Reddit user Violentacrez (or, Texas programmer Michael Brutsch) faced unprecedented real-world consequences for his online “trolling,” which included activities like posting risqué under-age photos of women and just generally endorsing racism, porn, gore, and misogyny. Short story? He was fired.
So, what are the long-term consequences of Kickstarter allowing similarly creepy Hoinsky to raise $16,329 on their website for his book Above The Game: A Guide To Getting Awesome With Women?
To their credit, it seems that Kickstarter was unaware of exactly what kind of dreck would end up in Hoinsky’s guide. It was mere hours before the project’s deadline reached completion that comedian Casey Malone blogged about it, raising awareness to the issue. The blog post contained quotes found on Reddit for a draft of Hoinsky’s book, and here are some of the hair-raising passages:
"Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”
“Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.”
Kickstarter had only a few hours to make a decision considering the guide…and, to the disappointment of many, opted not to recall Hoinsky’s funding. “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.”
It seemed hypocritical of the website to publicly acknowledge the grossness of the project, and still allow it to reach fruition – and, to our pleasant surprise, Kickstarter agrees.
This morning, the website released an apology, its message ringing clear and true: “We were wrong.”
The apology is thorough and meticulous; they explain their intentions, both past and present. “Where does this leave us? There is no taking back money from the project or canceling funding after the fact…the backers’ money went directly from them to the creator,” they elucidate. Kickstarter then lists all of the actions they plan to take: they will remove the project from their website, but leave a record of the page up, for transparency’s sake, a responsible move. They pledge to prohibit seduction guides or any other similar projects from now on. And finally, they will give $25,000 to RAINN, an anti-sexual violence organization, “an excellent organization that combats exactly the sort of problems our inaction may have encouraged.”
We’re no stranger to public figures, celebs and companies alike, making missteps like this and apologizing for it afterwards. Tennis star Serena Williams recently got into hot water for her comment about the Steubenville rape case, in which she implied that the victim was to blame for her assault because of her inebriation, and issued a lengthy statement apologizing for what she “supposedly said.” Facebook reached out to its community a couple weeks ago, telling us that they were going to take down content filled with misogynistic hate speech, that they would do better from now on.
I was happy about these statements: the fact that they were made – that, perhaps, they had to be made in the face of societal pressure – meant that we were making progress. And it still does!
But there’s something special about Kickstarter’s apology, something that jumps out at me as sincere in a crowd of disenchanted public statements made simply because they had to be – they actually said that they were wrong. Take note, everyone else, that’s how you say sorry – by actually admitting the wrongs of your past and then moving on from there.
Photos via Huffington Post, Kickstarter, Dosomething, The Daily Beast, Rawstory, SportsTalkFlorida