Don’t be the Fifth Monkey

As we’re on the subject of things run by group mentality, it reminds me of this story, which I know you’ll have heard before if you followed me on Twitter. Apologies for that. You don’t have to read this though; you’ve got the whole internet available to you, to be fair.

So, now we’ve got that out the way, the story of the five monkeys…

Before we get into it, a quick credit to David Thorne, which is where I first ever heard this story. His website has been around a while, but if you haven’t come across him before you can do worse than spend some time reading his blog. It’s got nothing to do with politics or gender or science. It’s just funny. (See how I said you had a whole internet available to you?) Just a quick disclaimer though, David tells this story as though it really happened. It’s actually a fable, possibly based on a different experiment which is equally fascinating.

Anyway, the story goes like this…Once there was a scientist who put five monkeys in a room. Within the room was a set of stairs, with a banana placed on the top of the stairs. One of the monkeys goes to climb the stairs to get the banana and the entire group is sprayed with jets of cold water. A second monkey makes the same attempt and, again, the whole group is sprayed with the jets of cold water. No more monkeys try to climb the stairs.

One of the monkeys is replaced with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and tries to climb the stairs. It’s attacked by the other monkeys. This monkey does not know why the attack happened, but it does not try to climb the stairs again. Another of the original monkeys is replaced with a new monkey. This monkey too sees the banana and goes to climb the stairs. It is, of course, attacked by the group, including the previous newbie. A third original monkey is replaced, and the same thing happens.

So, now over half of the group have no idea why they’re attacking monkeys for climbing the stairs, but all take part in the attacks, nonetheless. The fourth and fifth original monkeys are eventually replaced too. The behaviour is repeated until, even though none of the monkeys now in the room have ever experienced the water jets, they all stay away from the stairs.

Doing something because “that’s how the group does it” does not make you necessarily on the right side or well-informed, nor does existing in an echo chamber. It makes you the fifth monkey. Don’t be the fifth monkey.

This brings me onto the social network Spinster, which I’ve had a few people asking me if I’ll join. Here’s the thing…I’ve seen people talking about trans women and men not being welcome on the site. People have shown me screengrabs of tweets etc discussing this. What’s the point? I understand people’s frustrations with Twitter. They have a clear political bias and an agenda. Believe me, I get that. The answer is not to create a similar echo chamber for the other side. What do we want? To end up with Twitter for males and Spinster for females because “that’s how it’s always been”?

Twitter, for me, was about outreach. If I want to talk to people who just agree with me, that’s what WhatsApp groups are for. I’m not interested in sitting in a darkened room, talking about how badly one demographic is treated and no one else understands us. That’s collective narcissism at work, and I think I’ve been clear about how I feel about that. Create a better social network, where everyone is welcome and constructive discourse is promoted, and I’ll be all for it. Until then, I’ll reserve my judgement and I won’t be joining an echo chamber of spinster monkeys. Sorry.

Oh, by the way, I realise some people won’t like my comments here. That’s fine. I’ve spent a lot of time upsetting both sides in this debate. That’s probably never going to change, hence I don’t want or need the echo chamber. And you don’t have to read my blog, as I say, the whole internet is out there.

Join the conversation


  1. I admit to being the curious kat so I joined & will reserve judgement for now.

    To be honest I think you have to work hard on twitter to avoid ending up in an echo chamber so it will be interesting to find out if the confirmation bias is too much to handle on Spinster.

    So far it looks like a relief valve has been opened & folks are letting off steam. However it is a public platform so others have joined to create mischief already.

    Only time will tell if it will succeed.

  2. The only value I can see is for people who get suspended from Twitter and/or Facebook and need somewhere to meet up online and keep in touch. There are already other alternative platforms but they are all serving as somewhere for “Social Media exiles” to hang out with others who are willing to join in order to help keep them in touch.

    The restrictions and mobbing by the TRAs on Twitter are infuriating but where else do you get to have public conversations with MPs, Charities, Journalists, Scientists, Lawyers, etc. and can lobby them?

    It is bad enough that GC voices are being driven away from those conversations by being banned without voluntarily going into exile. Totally self-defeating.

    I will join to see how it goes there but there is no way I would abandon Twitter unless pushed! I would also be surprised if proved more popular than Mumsnet 🙂

    1. I feel like there is a lot of disinformation out there. You can cross post. Like you can link twitter to your spinster and everything you type on spinster will be posted on your twitter within five minutes. I like to think of Spinster as a place where women can share their ideas and concerns without being disrupted and attacked by TRAs/MRAs and other trolls.

      1. I think we are maybe talking at cross-purposes, Pat,

        I was not commenting on technical features of the platform, eg. whether it is possible to cross-post from Spinster to Twitter, or the reverse, but rather on how I have seen some people talk about how they are thinking of using it, ie. as an *alternative* to Twitter.

        In terms of “cross-posting”, am I right in thinking that this works in a similar way to other automated methods, eg. IFTTT, Zapier? These are useful as ways of cross-posting “status updates” but conversations are still, necessarily, platform-specific. I am struggling to imagine any way in which cross-posting could possibly enable a conversation to be cross-platform involving both Spinster and Twitter.

        That is, I am not suggesting that Spinster is without value, only that it cannot serve the same purpose as Twitter in terms of interacting in public conversations with legislative bodies, NGOs, etc.

        1. Spinster and Twitter have different purposes. I wouldn’t judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree and Spinster is not meant to be a platform to talk to government legislators. It is literally just a place where women won’t be punished for speaking the truth. It’s a women first platform, one of the few places on the internet not catered to men.

          That is not to say that it could not elevate to the heights of Twitter. It is only within the last few years that you could contact legislators and the rest on Twitter. We don’t know if Spinster could grow that large or influential.

  3. As always you have explained yourself eleoquently. I’ve joined Spinster but I am not looking for a mob of trans haters. I’m hoping it will become a space where women can share and talk without all the focus on the one topic. If it does develop into an echo chamber I’ll leave as it won’t be a place that helps me grow.
    I miss your voice but I can read your blog and continue to learn from you here.

    Take care

    1. Ah, it’s really just an instant messaging app, like texting but in app form. You need someone’s phone number to have them as a contact on there. I don’t know. Maybe I could set up an FB page and people could follow that? Tbh, everything I’ve got to say is on the blog right now. If people are subsrcibed here, they get updates anyway.

      1. Thanks, I guess its horses for courses, I’m quite isolated and live in a rural area, non of the people I know are at all political in any sense – so maybe spinster would work for me, to be my peer group. I need to find women to connect to without getting on the nerves of my non political friends.
        i miss you on twitter, you were so clear and logical. It was through your writings and others like you that I learned how to use twitter. thank you.

        1. Thank you for the lovely message. I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s good to be able to network and kick ideas around. If it helps, my email address is I know it’s not the same as a group, but I’m always happy to be in touch with people and chat.

  4. The teething problems about who should join etc aren’t coming from Spinster themselves as far as I can tell. There was some animosity due to limited sign up numbers and males filling some of that quota. But once it’s all opened up, I don’t think it will be excluding anybody. But framing as women centered will naturally cause echo. But since Twitter is banning our voices, it’s nice to have an alternative.

    1. I totally understand that people like the idea of having a place to stay in touch, due to all the Twitter bans. I know we tried that with MeWe too though, and I never use that either. I’m happy to be proved wrong about Spinster, don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t sound right for me at the moment.

  5. Men are allowed to join:
    “I’m getting lots of questions about if men are allowed. Here is the answer!

    👇 👇 👇 👇 👇 👇 👇 👇 👇

    Yes – men are allowed. @spinster is women-centric in that everything we do here is geared towards women, and we put their needs first.”

    I’m not sure about trans ppl, but I saw nothing saying they are not allowed to join.

    1. I have a trans friend who was made to feel a bit unwelcome. I’m sure it’s not their policy, I just worry about the territorial nature of it and what that means it’ll be as a platform.

      1. Look, you argue against “biases” that are unreasonable when you yourself have one. I’m not saying you have to be like me or do what I say but condoning the notion that one can identify into sex is harmful and ultimately not wanting to acknowledge this because you’re biased towards your friend isn’t gonna do either one of you any good. Radical feminism isn’t a cult, and trans-identified people are encouraged to explore the ideology as long as they don’t weaponize it or misinterpret it in order to justify their misogynistic verbal abuses and attempts at invalidating our crit. Which they do en masse.

        Transing is an individual solution to a wider reaching problem. And gay, autistic and other vulnerable women and girls are most susceptible to their propaganda according to data from clinics.

        Idk about you but I would feel extremely uncomfortable about enabling someone who continues to perpetuate the notion that one can identify into sex, even after being informed of the implications and having been familiar with feminist theory on the subject.

        1. I’m not sure where you’re getting any of this from. You’re making a lot of assumptions about what I think. You should probs read the rest of my blog.

          1. Talking of trans friends . . . although the article says it is authored by “Claire Graham” (which I am sure that it is) the email notifications of new comments say that they are replies to “Miranda Yardley” 🙂

            I remember you said that Miranda helped you to set up the site, so I am guessing that the “Ownership” or “Admin” settings need a tweak.

  6. Twitter at the moment is anti women so what do women do to change it. Government and most men are not doing anything soon to force twitter to change.

    Are women uniting to change twitter by physical or political force? Sadly the answer is no. So the only avenue is commercial pressure, this is where Spinster and High Profile women like you come in.

    Also regarding echo chamber – you think women are united on any subject !!! If you know of any example of a free to join group of women (not religion / cult) being united on any subject please say which – it would be a first to my knowledge.

    When I asked on FWR for a plan to overthrow patriarchy, common thought was that, this was a patriarchal concept.

    Spinster has not said they will ban any particular view point, only thing they want is that women are not abused on Spinster and they need support for that.

    Please reconsider.

  7. Hi Claire! I’m the co-founder of Spinster – I hope you don’t mind me chiming in, since I think there is a misunderstanding of what Spinster is on a technical level.

    We firmly agree that echo-chambers are not productive for moving dialogue forward, and there are already plenty of places where rad fem women may join together in private conversation. Spinster, rather, is more similar to Twitter – it is an open platform where anyone is welcome as long as they follow our rules. Some of our users disagree with this decision, but it the final decision.

    From a technical perspective, Spinster is part of the Fediverse, a de-centralized way to do social media which allows different servers to federate with each other through a protocol called “activity pub”. There are currently 4,529 servers in the Fediverse – each with their own rules, themes, political alignment, etc, which contain 4,443,706 total users at the time of writing this. On Spinster, we already federate with 761 of these servers, including the biggest server –, which contains over a million users itself. This means that users on those servers will be able to see and interact with our conversations. The number of servers with which we federate grows every day as our reach increases. We chose this technology as our platform specifically to avoid everything you mention in your post, so I hope this helps provide some context!

    You can view the Fediverse stats I mentioned here:

    And view our FAQs and rules here:

    1. Hi, glad to hear this. I joined but I’m not sure how much I’ll use it. Like Claire, I’m not interested in echo chambers, I just wanted a Twitter where there was rigorous support for freedom of speech.

  8. l agree with the pressure valve point. I did also wonder if some might see it as a place to train the troops.

  9. You’ve articulated my misgivings and general attitude to discourse in a way I couldn’t, thank you.

  10. I love women who walk to the beat of their own drum, but you’re not even likeable, really disappointing.

    1. I’m not sure what’s disappointing about me not being likeable. You seemed to have missed the three times I suggested you go and read something else, choosing instead to post a random insult. This must be a proud and busy day for you.

  11. I’ve joined Spinster because of the technology and the early development, because I want to watch it, tweak it, see how it goes. I’ve been on Twitter for 13 years, since the beginning of it. There were no feminists there up to 2009 at least, worldwide.

    I’ve read because I wanted to know is this going to be about getting UK and US Twitter feminists and gender criticals on Spinster, but I think it’s not just about that.

    About survival on Twitter for 13 years… I had @gendercritical account on Twitter only to engage with the broader conversation and I’ve posted many blogs and vlogs on that channel.
    I turned it off in the beginning of 2019, because of all the animosity and fighting among women.
    After Washington, I wanted to get out of the Flying Monkeys Circus.

    But! On 13 years old @cyberwanderlust on Twitter these are my stats:

    I block 55.659 accounts for 13 years on @cyberwanderlust! I’m mutually blocked by ONLY 57 people. That’s nothing when you think it’s 13 years and that I block 55000+ people!

    No wonder I wasn’t shut down during the TRA debates. They didn’t see me. Was this detrimental to my communication and outreach? Nope. It is all about who and how and WHY do you approach people who you talk to. I was never in the fight of being heard myself, I’ve been there to help OTHER PEOPLE getting heard.

    But I’m very curious about the 649 people who block me on Twitter… these are mostly people who used and similar tools. So this number tells you that on Twitter there aren’t even 1000 TRA accounts who are TECH SAVVY… but it’s enough to make a mess of all our lives.

    The main guy in UK is @oolon and his band of international 12 Monkeys.

    Because of this, I haven’t been able to have a talk to some people who get this tech part of the network. Twitter without BLOCK tools (which Spinster is RIGHT NOW) and without PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LISTS (not groups!) is not Twitter of today. Nobody looks at the fact that you cannot prevent people to MASS BLOCK on Twitter, and to TARGET people by putting them on lists.

    I’m writing things in UPPERCASE just because I don’t have bold option. 🙂 Sorry about that.

    1. Yeah, I’m familiar with @oolon. My account caught the attention of that crowd really early on because of the intersex stuff. I have a whole story about what happened with that. It was quite the introduction to the Twitter debate. It’s a game to them. Congratulations on having your account for so long. That is an achievement!

  12. So you know nothing about it but have decided you do and all the thousands (we’re already at 3000) of voices and independent individual minds you could have reachedbaren’t an echo chamber of misogynistic hate speech, so what’s the point? Got it.

    You’re pretty full of self importance aren’t you? People stopped asking about you days ago btw. In the first rush of happiness generous souls wanted to share with others, but they’ve moved on. I just happened upon a solitary link to this self congratulatory too cool for school back patting waffle, it was the first mention I’d seen of you in days, but don’t fret I’ve got the whole internet to choose from, won’t bother returning, Google has the same info you offer minus the smugness.

    It’s an incredible feeling to be in on the ground level of something so fresh and new, people were decent enough to think of you and invite you in, but you thought you’d make a rash decision based on a couple of comments, so enjoy the corner you’ve painted yourself into. You’re missing out, but as the site grows and evolves and the excitement and momentum keep flowing you won’t be missed.

    Shrug. Ciao.

    1. It’s funny, isn’t it? Because I can see the stats for people who read my blog so know whether people are interested in what I say or not. It’s probably your echo chamber that makes you think no one is interested in intersex issues anymore. You want to step out of that every once in a while. Thanks for proving my point. Oh, and thanks for not proving your own, by showing that people, such as yourself, do care what I say, so much so they have to write angry screeds, like yours, when I don’t comply with their demands for groupthink.

      1. Good grief, this Amd character really has got some problems!! As I am quite certain you know, many of us follow your blog, find it fantastically useful, and are always happy when something new is posted. As for this ludicrous fury that you chose not to join Spinster, I wonder that s/he hasn’t realised that you are (a) capable of changing your mind, (b) possibly choosing not to get involved in yet another thing that demands attention and (c) not really bothered what s/he thinks of you.

        1. Squeals the enraged stranger infuriated by a comment 😁. Take a chill pill sweetheart. I won’t be back, so keep on raging on.

          1. How extremely odd. Don’t know how you managed to read my comment as ‘enraged’, nor quite what you’re implying by ‘stranger’. And your idiotic patronising ‘advice’ is rather unnecessary. As is your statement you won’t be back as you seem unable to keep away. I responded merely to make clear to readers – the many – that Claire is appreciated and understood whatever you may say.

    2. Nah love, no anger here, classic projection. And you’re replying to a comment nobody made, nowhere did I say people weren’t interested, but that we can Google info minus the smugness. Also nobody demanded anything, they were just foolishly nice enough to invite you. But you do you. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I won’t check back. Buh bye.

      1. I dunno, you seem pretty angry. As I say, angry enough to not even realise how irrational it looks to reply to my blog and claim no one is reading or sharing it. Have a word with yourself. It’s amazing you read this and thought this nontribution would be in some way effective.

  13. Thanks for saying that Claire, I agree. What is the point of creating an echo chamber?
    More importantly, I love your TWIT chats with Miranda.
    I will try to send you some funds when I am able to keep you both in Monster Munch.

    1. It is not an echo chamber though. There are capitalist women and socialist women, democrats and republicans, vegans and omnivores. I think it is kind of ridiculous to think that a crowd of women would automatically have the same thoughts and beliefs. Even in radical feminists circles there is discourse on separatism, Paul Blanchard etc. It is not a political platform, although people can use it for politics. Some women are posting recipes or are just talking about their lives, some are posting pictures of their animals. It is literally just a place where women are not policed and where porn is not posted. I think you should try reading the Spinster FAQ before making such declarations as “What is the point of creating an echo chamber?”. I think the reason why people wanted Claire there is because we value her perspective and would like to have an open dialogue in a not hostile environment to women. I hope she reconsiders but obviously she has every right not to. I hope you can reconsider too.

  14. I just wanted to say I’m sorry for all women facing MRKH. Be this type 1 or type 2 – every condition is extremelly demanding! It turns one’s life upside down, seems before and after being diagnosed on MRKH..At least a friend of mine says like this. Poor thing and her husband had to turn to surrogacy as their final resourt to get a baby into the family..They flew abroad though their families haven’t been much supportive..Unfortunately surrogacy is also money matter, so they had to look somewhere ouside the country for lower costs primarily..

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