Brendan O’Neill wins the sneering prize »« A highly gendered phenomenon

Not as easy as you might think

You may think it’s a cinch getting rid of misogyny. Turns out it’s not. Sady at Tigerbeatdown started out thinking it was (or more like assuming it was without noticing she was assuming it – we all know how that goes), and then she realized it’s not.

In 2009, I genuinely believed people were going to change their minds about being sexist, because they read my blog.

I know, right? If only someone had come up with this plan before! All I had to do was register a WordPress domain, compose some charmingly ironic yet pointed analyses of Ye Aulde Patriarchy, cite some academics so they knew I wasn’t stupid, throw a lot of jokes and references to oral sex in there to prove feminists weren’t “humorless” or “frigid,” and the sexists, they would be delighted. So delighted they decided to stop being sexists! “Hmmmm,” they’d say. “Sady sure doesn’t appreciate it when I do the sexism. Since she’s my new Internet Best Friend, I had better cut that shit out pronto! Then we can all join a bowling league!” BLAM. REVOLUTION ACCOMPLISHED. No more problems, for anyone, ever, because I blogged.

I hate to tell you this, friends. But I think my plan, it had a minor flaw. Which is: Misogynists don’t like women. It doesn’t matter how uniquely charming and witty and acquainted with various fine bourbons you are. Are you a woman? Then they don’t like you. And they especially don’t like you telling them what to do. By, for example, asking them to cut it out with the misogyny.

There may be one exception to that rule. It may be that if you are a woman who likes misogynists then they do like you – for now. But apart from that, no.

What I got, friends, were comments. Comments about myself. And blogs about myself. And message-board discussions, also about myself. And e-mails. What I got was what every woman (feminist or not) and openly anti-sexist person (woman or not) on this our Internet gets: I got targeted. With threats, with insults, with smear campaigns, with attempts to threaten my employment or credibility or just general ability to get through the day with a healthy attitude and a minimal amount of insult.

This is a recurring problem! Not a Special Sady Problem, but an Everyone Problem. And, increasingly, folks are identifying it as such.

Which means we can count on the threats and insults and smear campaigns to expand hugely, but it also means we can do a better job of resisting.

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    I’d say I’ve been a feminist (in a self-conscious, aware-of-the-issues sense) for close on 30 years now. And it seems so bloody obvious to me, too: everyone, women or men, exists for themselves; not for the convenience or use of someone else. And every child, girl or boy, should grow up to do what they’re good at and enjoy (subject to external economic realities, of course — but at any rate, not conditional on their anatomy). And we raised our kids (both boys, as it happened) on that basis, and I think we were successful.

    So how come we’re still having this conversation? How come there’s still all these assholes — many of them my sons’ contemporaries or even younger — still out there? I must lead a sheltered life, but I don’t get it.

  2. Eric says

    I would like to thank you – and many others at FTBlogs, and Kate from Cruella-blog for doing a *great* job with this subject. I would also like to point out that, while many people’s minds may not be changed, I can point to at least one whose mind has changed as a direct result of reading about Elevatorgate and the responses to Rebecca and everyone who has brought up the opinion that persistently hitting on a stranger in the elevator is not a good thing to do.

    My mind was changed by being made aware – not only of my privilege, but also of my sexist predisposition – and the fact that I did not believe I really had either. I was originally angry at the accusation, however impersonal, that *I* could be sexist, that I could *unconsciously* enjoy privilege – didn’t I make an effort? Well – yes, I did. But that doesn’t mean my privilege disappears, or that my effort, however laudable, falls short of what it could and should be.

    So – yes, blogging *does* help. Your blogging (and that of others) has helped me, and no doubt will help other people as well. If in no other way, by eliminating the, “I didn’t know that was offensive” defense. Fine – perhaps I didn’t, but now I *do*.

  3. says

    I think information will always reach those who have just formed an uninformed opinion and not invested their “honour” into it (seems to be why it’s so hard for some to accept they were wrong?).

    That is why it is so important to encourage those who keep this up despite the abuse.

  4. Zugswang says

    So how come we’re still having this conversation? How come there’s still all these assholes — many of them my sons’ contemporaries or even younger — still out there? I must lead a sheltered life, but I don’t get it.

    Changing cultural paradigms will always meet with strong resistance, but especially so when it comes to telling a group of individuals that they have to give up some of the privilege they’re used to. We can find examples of that even outside of the civil rights movement; look at how long it took for unions to achieve prominence. On a smaller scale, look at how the wealthy with careers in finance have responded to attempts to rein in their overinflated profits, or how senior citizens have reacted to plans to reduce social security and medicare benefits.

    Various civil rights movements that still go on today have made progress over hundreds of years, but even though the first feminist movements sprung up in the 18th century, women probably still have a long uphill struggle to achieve full equality. Today’s feminists are metaphorically planting trees whose shade will likely only be enjoyed by future generations.

  5. Bruce Gorton says

    I can point to at least one mind that was changed when people were blogging about gendered insults. I was awakened to the full extent and seriousness of sexism in games more recently by feminists highlighting the issue.

    I doubtless have other issues which it will take people who are not in the privileged group to highlight because of how hard it is to see one’s own privilege. It is often only through getting complaints that those who do not share them see that there is something to complain about.

    The blogs in other words may not be working instantly, but they are working.

    For all the male supremacist blowback, and for all the stubborn nature of prejudice slows the process, the feminist movement is winning.

  6. Diane G. says

    When I was in my early 20′s and embracing the resurgent feminism of the early 70′s I was sure all it would take would be getting the word out about how unfair things were. (Exactly how I felt about eliminating creationism, etc.) At 61, all I see is backsliding. I’d like to see what Sady sees when she’s 61, but I’ll probably not be around.

    The same Internet that spreads feminist ideas spreads misogyny; I wonder which is more popular? <–sarcasm

    While it is beyond wonderful to hear from men who say that education did work, I suspect they only represent the small proportion of men open to change in any generation.

  7. says

    While it is beyond wonderful to hear from men who say that education did work, I suspect they only represent the small proportion of men open to change in any generation.

    I hope you’re wrong. But if it’s beyond wonderful to hear from us, I’ll say that I’m one of those who’s been improved by the past several months of discussion. I can’t even yell “dumb bitch!” at my computer screen when reading some idiot that happens to be a woman anymore without feeling immediate guilt, and saying “sorry” when my wife says, “what the hell?” despite knowing full well she’s reacting more to me yelling at the computer screen than my language. This time last year, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind there was anything wrong with that. Now, I get to remind myself to watch the language, and the attitude.

    Woe is me. <— yup, sarcasm

  8. Dave says

    Misogyny is, alas, not the only growth area in recent years. Every species of vile hate, from neo-nazism to jihadism, has fastened onto the freedom of the internet to liberate itself from the shackles of a relatively well-policed conception of the ‘public sphere’, in which such expressions were not easily tolerated.

    The absolute liberty to have vile opinions, which people used to nurture in photocopied pamphlets, late-night drinking sessions, and scrawled private notes, has burst upon the world through the Web, ironically at the same time as much of that Web has been captured by vast commercial enterprises.

    It’s one of the many things that makes me wonder what humanity thinks it’s doing; but then I remember [and have to repeat to myself increasingly often], we’re only monkeys, and not very wise monkeys at that. It turns out that flinging poo really is all that some of us know how to do.

  9. Godless Heathen says

    @NathanDST – Awesome! I’m so happy to hear that. I’ve never liked the word bitch. Even in high school when lots of girls would call each other bitches as a joke and wouldn’t be offended by it. I always was offended.

    @Diane G:

    When I was in my early 20′s and embracing the resurgent feminism of the early 70′s I was sure all it would take would be getting the word out about how unfair things were.

    Ha! That’s what I thought about all injustice when I graduated from college…5 years ago. If only people knew, then they’d want to change. Obviously, that’s not how it works. I’m finally considering getting back into social justice work, even though I’m much more cynical than I was 5-10 years ago.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>