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The put bitches in their place movement

Amanda Marcotte points out that sexual harassment is a grassroots political movement. That’s right, it is.

A guy harassed a woman, she told him to stop, he didn’t stop, she told his mother what he was doing. Oh noes! Violation of the rules!

This interaction doesn’t demonstrate that the man sending the unsolicited cock shot is profoundly stupid or socially inept, but the opposite: He’s extremely well-versed in the unspoken “rules” of social interaction. He’s particularly aware of the profound pressure that women are under to play along and pretend that harassment is “flirting” for fear of being accused of hypersensitivity. Indeed, he demonstrates this awareness by promptly reminding her of her “obligation” to play along to “prove” she’s not hypersensitive. He also knows that women are supposed to be ashamed of being harassed and to try not to draw attention to it, and when she rejects that “rule” by sharing his tests with his mother, he is genuinely freaked out because she’s not playing by the script that his probably countless other targets have. He doesn’t ask her to stop for his mother’s sake. He says, “That’s not right.” He knows that the unspoken rules state that women are to turn inward with shame when sexually harassed, and when someone said to hell with those rules, he—a guy who sends unsolicited cock shots!—becomes All About The Rules.

That’s because the rules are for his benefit, not hers. Obviously.

What’s interesting to me is that sexual harassers subconsciously (or hell, consciously, I don’t know) understand themselves as a grassroots political movement to put bitches in their place. I know this, because they show the kind of unity and determination for their ideological goals that liberal organizers wish we could get for ours. Tracy Clark-Flory wrote about this story at Salon, and she notes the reaction the woman who fought back got:

She has, however, received responses of a different sort. Yes, there are lots of women pumping their fists in the air and cheering her on, but her blog has also reportedly been inundated with messages like the following, “If you had/get some good dick (which you obviously haven’t/don’t) you wouldn’t be such a grammar nazi and prude.” He really showed her! Once again, Internet jerks respond to a woman calling out jerks by being even bigger jerks.

That is what the Internet is for.

That’s because they are a political movement, and when one of their own—a sexual harasser—gets shut down, they rush forward to his defense. A political movement can be defined as a group of people, organized formally or not, who have a belief, some goals to establish that belief in the world, and a set of tactics they use to achieve those goals. For instance, feminists believe in women’s equality and the dismantling of gender roles. They want to establish that belief by fighting for reproductive rights, an end to sexual and domestic violence, and a more equitable share of the workload in both the public and private sphere. They use tactics like lobbying, lawsuits, awareness campaigns, and running for office.

If I were to chart out what pro-harassment as a political movement looks like, therefore, it’s this:

  • Belief: Bitches ain’t shit.
  • Goals: To feel free to put any random woman in her place both for the immediate pleasure of doing so and for the long-term gain of women feeling stuck in second class status.
  • Tactics: Inundate any woman who pushes back against harassment with even more harassment, hoping to make the  price of speaking out so high that women give up.

Thus, like clockwork, every time a woman or even a man speaks up against sexual harassment, the bat signal goes up and they get absolutely flooded with harassment. What makes it so frightening as a political tactic is that for the pro-harassment forces, harassment is fun and an end in and of itself. So they have endless bounds of energy for it, which is why they’re so damn confident that they can harass women into silence. Clearly, the only thing that can be done is for anti-harassment people to hang in there and  remind themselves that while our opponents may have tons of energy, we have the numbers. The positive response this woman got is heartening. If we keep it up, we can get a handle on this thing.

That’s something I find myself explaining a lot. People ask me why they do it; I explain that it’s fun for them. It is. It’s fun and it costs them absolutely nothing, because they do it pseudonymously. So why would they stop?

Comments

  1. says

    I shared this on facebook with permission, and I think it’s worth wider spread – the pattern is incredibly obvious and predictable. It needs a bingo card. This is a report from a friend:

    So this evening I had the experience that many women talk about when they say “that post is misogynistic, could you not?” And the following happened like it was a checklist – the young men of this group:
    1. Told me it was funny cos other people liked it
    2. Told me I just don’t get it
    3. Told me I’m not supposed to take offence because it’s just about people interrupting other people practicing, the bit where a man is saying to a woman “Bitch, GTFO” is just, you know, HUMOUR
    4. Told me I should have just PRIVATELY and DISCREETLY PMed the guy who posted it. Why was I making a public fuss about something posted in a public group? It just wasn’t on.
    5. Told me it’s a generational thing, posting memes, and I “just don’t get it”
    6. started putting up other misogynistic memes, including one with BDSM content and telling me that I should “try it” and “show them how it’s done”
    7. Were starting to get intimidating/threatening.
    8. Told me my opinion was of no consequence, and I just didn’t get “their” humour.

    I have now left the [REDACTED UNIVERSITY GROUP NAME REDACTED] facebook group.

    I note, that the group is relevant to her professional interests, and a profession in which networking & contats are very important. It’s not a purely social penalty that she faces here.

  2. Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters says

    My beloved SonSpawn told me this afternoon that he asked some online gamers not to use the term “rape” to describe losing in the game. Their response was to inform him that (s)he was a slut who’d been raped and deserved it for being a slut.

    He said the worst thing was that after reading stuff since e-gate, he had pretty much expected that to happen.

  3. machintelligence says

    This interaction doesn’t demonstrate that the man sending the unsolicited cock shot is profoundly stupid or socially inept, but the opposite: He’s extremely well-versed in the unspoken “rules” of social interaction.

    Perhaps even more rule changes are in order. How about posting the aforementioned picture in a public forum dedicated to such postings, for the purpose of public shaming. I don’t see where there would be any expectation of privacy when sending unsolicited pics of this sort. Plus, the comments would be entertaining. Turnabout is fair play.

  4. says

    I quoted the other day from Sartre’s “Portrait of the Antisemite” Here are a couple more, which seem applicable*:

    As for the antisemite, he has no illusions about what he is. He considers himself an average man, modestly average, and in the last analysis a mediocre person…. But do not believe for a second that this mediocrity is a cause for shame. On the contrary, he is well satisfied with it, I might even say he has chosen it. This man is afraid of any kind of solitude, that of the genius as well as that of the murderer: he is the man of the mob… If he has become an antisemite, it is because one cannot be antisemitic alone. The sentence: “I hate the Jews,” is a sentence which is said in a chorus: by saying it one connects oneself with a tradition and a community: that of the mediocre man.

    He has also chosen to be terrifying. One is afraid to irritate him. No one but he knows to what extremes his wayward passions will lead him: for this passion has not been provoked from the outside….

    Also related is Corey Robin’s argument in The Reactionary Mind.

    *Sartre was profoundly sexist, but that shouldn’t impede the broader use of his thoughts.

  5. says

    Belief: Bitches ain’t shit.

    Goals: To feel free to put any random woman in her place both for the immediate pleasure of doing so and for the long-term gain of women feeling stuck in second class status.

    Tactics: Inundate any woman who pushes back against harassment with even more harassment, hoping to make the price of speaking out so high that women give up.

    All this and keep the status quo at any cost, enable others to continue in sexist ways, and above all, deny, deny, deny their privilege, while having dramatic reactions at the slightest sign of losing even a smidge of said privilege.

  6. says

    machintelligence:

    Plus, the comments would be entertaining.

    I seriously doubt that. Why give the asshats one more forum to scream about the horrible, uppity bitches on? Public shaming would be a good thing, however, for that to work, you need most of the public to agree that such things deserve public shaming.

  7. strata says

    This is one reason why you see me popping in to say I agree with you. When you are inundated with such negativity, I think it’s important to know that you are helping others by expressing what we are feeling.

  8. leftwingfox says

    Excellent article, and dead on. I’m a little embarrassed that I never made that connection before.

  9. says

    Machintelligence:
    I suspect the comments would look similar to those Adria Richards received. Yeah, she received some supportive ones, but there was a never ending stream of sexism defenders who made their status quo loving voices heard.

  10. bad Jim says

    Don’t miss Marcotte’s article at The Daily Beast. It’s as hilarious as something could be about something so nasty. Conservatives complain both that uptight feminists make dating impossible and that hookup culture devalues femininity in the space of the same article.

    Sometimes I look at such a contradictory snarl and suppose there might be a profound, revealing insight to be discovered there, then I think a little harder and conclude that they’re just assholes, a seething soup of resentments.

  11. says

    Caine #6:

    All this and keep the status quo at any cost, enable others to continue in sexist ways, and above all, deny, deny, deny their privilege, while having dramatic reactions at the slightest sign of losing even a smidge of said privilege.

    And it’s worse to point out their regressive stance, than it is for them to support it like they do. It’s also a capital crime to note that this sort of behaviour, from the fact-mangling debate-club tactics meant to erase reality (what I call “intellectual violence”), to the harassment, threats, and even outright violence, is a definite pattern amongst the right.

    In fact, if we are to listen to certain totally-not-right-wing psychologists, the right should be lauded for being so devoted to their ideology that they will defend it with violence =/

  12. Pen says

    have now left the [REDACTED UNIVERSITY GROUP NAME REDACTED] facebook group.

    Maybe take a leaf out of that woman’s book and not redact the university name?

  13. carlie says

    Alethea – I suggest telling your friend that she might think about writing about that experience to her university’s development and alumni offices, along with the president/chancellor’ s office, letting them know that whether or not they agree with such things going on in the university’s name or think it’s a big deal, they’ve lost a potential loyal lifelong donor and will keep losing people like you as long as this continues.

  14. rrede says

    Althea: seconding Carlie’s suggestion above. I work at a university–there is a huge huge huge push to make sure alums donate, er, maintain their ties to the good old alma mater. This sort of letter can get results.

  15. Francisco Bacopa says

    I have followed Amanda from day one back when she was in Austin and long before she flubbed so badly with her first book. As an Houstonian, I have my native prejudice against West Texas people. But she rocked that nonsense. Amanda Marcotte calls it right more than anyone I have ever read.

    I used to never believe in this super mega-sexism as a social movement until Elevatorgate. I used to be an active reader of ERV and I tried to say things like, “Well, he could have tried the next morning” and ” given the context and the enclosed space, this was pretty clueless”. And “that was just a little part of the video anyway”. I got dogpiled.

    I used to think it was cluelessness, or just not understanding one’s own interests. I have learned there is a “Putting Bitches in their Place” social movement.

  16. says

    My friend is deciding on what to do in the way of reporting, and I didn’t want to co-opt her decision. It’s her call, not mine: she’s the one who will face the music. I won’t expose her to further harassment without her explicit consent.

    I live in another city, and have no personal or professional connections with the group. I think that one of her fellow-members in the group has done some screen-shots & reporting, and we are encouraging her to keep pushing.

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