Lots of fantastic people are coming to Women in Secularism. One woman is coming from Melbourne, another from Norway.
Jane Fae has a post at the New Statesman on “Misogyny, intimidation, silencing – the realities of online bullying.” The subhead is
The aggregated effect of floods of negative comments online can be enough to put opinionated women off appearing in public.
And thus we get a feeback loop. Opinionated women get floods of cunting and bitching and why the fuck are you so uglying, so they’re put off appearing in public, so dudebros look around and don’t see many opinionated women mouthing off and they conclude that opinionated mouthing off is more of a guy thing. And they say that, and opinionated women say no that’s not it, that’s a stupid sexist stereotype, think harder – and they get floods of cunting and bitching and why the fuck are you so uglying, so they’re put off appearing in public, so loop loop loop loop.
Last night I was chatting online, offering support to a friend who had just been bullied off Twitter. Nobody famous. Just an ordinary, everyday sort of woman who has taken the nastiness that life has dealt her over the last few years and come through it. Smiling? Mostly. But also vulnerable.
As an active feminist, she deals with anonymous abuse – she gets a fair bit of that, from the EDL and their hangers-on – and though it’s not nice, she copes. What got to her this time, though, was the viciousness of “friends” when called out on their refusal to condemn violence against women and joke polls about “people you’d most like to kill”.
The viciousness of “friends” can be quite staggering.
Beard makes the point well, in a blog responding to her own online treatment. It is clear that she is no stranger to tired old jokes about her appearance – but even she has been shocked about the response she evoked, describing the level of misogyny as “truly gobsmacking”. The focus of much of the abuse is sexual, sadistic even and, she adds: “it would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate”.
In other words, it is silencing, something I get very well from personal experience. I’ve opted out of contributing online for periods ranging from hours to a couple of weeks after being subjected to this sort of online nastiness. Not just me. Many far braver women with serious contributions to make to public discourse on violence and abuse have suffered similar: been silenced simply for having an opinion.
And there’s another turn of the screw which Fae doesn’t mention: they get called “Professional Victims” for publicly objecting to the abuse. They, I mean we, cannot win.
yet another “parody” website and Twitter account mocking the aims and methods (and ripping off copyrighted images) of prominent women secularists.
Plus his eight year old daughter may have had something to do with it.
Was I opposed to attending in the first place? Well, no, actually I very much wanted to, having missed the first one last year. And the roster is once again a stellar one: Lauren Becker, Ophelia Benson, Jamila Bey, Soraya Chemaly, Greta
Christina, R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Vyckie Garrison, Debbie Goddard, Jennifer Michael Hecht, Adriana Heguy, Melody Hensley, Teresa MacBain, Amanda Marcotte, Maryam Namazie, Katha Pollitt, Carrie Poppy, Edwina Rogers, Amy Davis Roth,
Desiree Schell, Shelley Segal, Rebecca Watson, Stephanie Zvan. It’s a startling collection of speakers.
So why wasn’t he going?
Well, that’s my business, frankly, and I’m starting to find your rhetorical questions a bit impertinent. But a combination of personal, financial, and health issues had led me to the decision to sit this one out as well. The women have got this, I thought. It’s covered.
Tonight I tucked my eight-year-old daughter in bed and settled down to scan Twitter and see what I’ve been missing.
A lot has happened in the last year, some of it wonderfully inspiring and much of it dismayingly ugly. One of the things about privilege is that an ally can choose to withdraw from the struggle when burnout or shocked sensibilities request it. Not everyone has this option. It’s an option I was too easily prepared to exercise.
So thank you, guy with the sophomoric, nearly clever parody account. Thanks for a gentle reminder just when I needed it. I’ll make it work. I’m going.
I feel a little abashed. I don’t give the guys with the sophomoric senses of humor enough credit. I’m not appreciative enough of all the free publicity. I’m too focused on the aesthetics and not enough on the consequences, however unintended.