Nov 09 2011

The General Pushback against Misogynist Trolls Begins

A few quick links that show that being a woman on the internet is inherently dangerous to your sanity and your sense of security. So many needed voices have been drummed out of public view by misogynistic trolling that said trolling has become a tried and proven silencing technique. I am tired of seeing articles or videos authored by women getting ignored, with real debate getting supplanted by rape threats and objectification. Thankfully, we’re finally starting to see a pushback not only in the skeptic-atheist blogosphere, but by women who try to make their voices heard in other venues. I only hope enough momentum has built that we might see the end of the slut-shamers and cunt-criers once and for all.

Sady Doyle started a Twitter hashtag that has taken on a life of its own where women relate the various bullying episodes they’ve endured.

Marieke Hardy learned the name of one long-term misogynist troll and outed him (link busted hopefully temporarily), defanging him, which provides an object lesson on what might happen (assuming no psychotic break on his part) if we tell people who Franc Hoggle actually is.

Alissa Rosenberg of ThinkProgress has instituted a recurring feature “Threat of the Day” to highlight the misogyny she faces daily for daring to be a public figure while owning a vagina.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville pointed out her contributions to the #mencallmethings Twitter hash tag, and a discussion on why anonymity is necessary on the internet broke out. Interestingly, despite my not seeing any good reason to keep Franc Hoggle’s identity a secret, I consider most of the points on anonymity to be absolutely correct. Anonymity protects people from abuse and should be protected for that reason. Anonymity should not be protected, in my view, in the case of abuse, harassment, or other psychological warfare.

Michelle Griffin of Stuff.co.nz picked up the viral nature of the anti-misogynist pushback, marking the first (albeit minor) general news site to pick the story up.

And more generally, here’s an excellent resource on cyber bullying, which is what you get when you take an otherwise drive-by troll and give him some longevity. And by longevity, I mean obsessive fixations on specific members of society.

If you haven’t already, read the tweets on the #mencallmethings Twitter hashtag for an idea of what kinds of bullying women experience just for being women. Objectification, being reduced to their genitals, rape threats, you name it. Hell, even those of you who really love hurting women could get something out of this thread by finding new and novel ways to call women names — admit it, you must be getting tired of just calling them “twats” and “cunts” all the time. It must be getting old even for you. Crowdsource a little novelty back into your trolling with this handy resource!

Meanwhile, the rest of humanity, those of us with some shred of empathy, will read that stream and weep.


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  1. 1
    Michael Swanson

    Marieke Hardy’s link is dead.

  2. 2
    Jason Thibeault

    Oh hell. It kind of looks like it’s gone now. And the first post on her blog is about a “blog meltdown.”

  3. 3
    Philip L

    Posted by Marieke
    Thursday 10 November 2011
    Enough oxygen. It’s a sign from the baby Jebus.

    I think it’s reasonable – the guy’s name was picked up on by bloggers and twitterers everywhere, so it’s not as if retracting the post will somehow exculpate his bad behaviour. It must have been a big traffic spike, though!

  4. 4

    I agree that there’s a lot of mounting support for the battle against misogyny. A few weeks ago I suggested an Elevatorgate-inspired event on alternative networks (Diaspora and Status.Net, rather than Facebook and Twitter) to raise awareness of the problem. Although it never spread beyond those smaller networks, I was surprised by the largest response for anything I’ve done – the posts about it are the highest viewed non-C++ posts on my blog, by at least a factor of 2 – and all of it was positive.

    The women speaking out about the abuse is really helping. It certainly made me aware of the problem, and forced me to do some hard thinking.

  5. 5

    Heh I must be picking up on this subconsciously, I just chewed out a dickhead on an xbox news site for describing a troll as a ‘fat lesbian’. Shame it probably won’t make a difference

  6. 6
    The Ys

    Great post, Jason. Thanks for all of the links.

    I made the horrific error of posting a mocking statement about Jon Stewart’s use of ‘pussies’ to denote weakness. I had a few guys who claimed to be feminists tell me I couldn’t call out someone who was an ally, that it was just a subconscious thing because that’s a popular insult where Jon’s from, that attacking Jon wasn’t going to help my cause…

    One of them was really terrific and gaslighted me, claiming that I’d said a bunch of things that I did not say…like claiming that I’d said I was going to boycott Jon over it. Then he got pissy and pulled the victim card because I kept telling him he couldn’t speak for me or make up stuff that I’d said…and then told me I’d been playing the victim card in the entire discussion.

    I admit, I nearly PMSL after that post. The point. He missed it.

    With allies like this…

  7. 7
    Aratina Cage

    @The Ys

    If you are interested, we had a heated debate about the word pussy one time on Pharyngula: http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/11/deep_rift_in_chicago.php from where we get this gem:

    The PC killjoy cult has got its work cut out for it if it wants to sterilize human language, and accusing a great majority of their fellow earthlings of misogyny and racism, etc. is not a very convincing argument.

    Poor guy. It’s so much worse to call out misogynistic language than it is to condone it. </snark> There are more threads like that, too; one of them is linked to from that thread.

  8. 8
    The Ys

    @ Aratina:

    Thanks for the link. I’ve only been following Pharyngula for a little over a year so I missed that one. The comments got off to a great start, eh? “Drama queen.”


  9. 9
    Aratina Cage

    @The Ys,

    Yes, and going back over it, I see that it was deliberate. It’s the, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”, being used once again to get away with sexist language.

    (It also angers me how “Newfie” (apologies, Jason), wears a regional racist term as his nym and then berates me in #636 for typing his nym out! It’s the same script over and over with these people:
    It’s OK to be a sexist/racist/homophobic pig–Free Speech and all that baloney–but don’t you DARE call them some horrid name that is deeply offensive to people living in Nova Scotia, like “Newfie”, or to world-famous female pop music singers, like “pop tart”, or to men’s rights activists, like “dick”!)

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    To Aratina’s point, I’m still waiting for Welch to get called a misandrist for his use of the term ‘flaccid little weiner’, with all the genital-shaming it does.

  11. 11
  1. 12
    Moderation, censorship, and The New Stasi at FtB | Lousy Canuck

    [...] about certain other members, but if we can’t police ourselves and consider the greater good when outing the douchebags (a thankfully very small class of society) who are intent on hurting entire (much larger) classes [...]

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    Mallorie Nasrallah’s misguided defense of serial harassers and misogyny in the skeptical community » Lousy Canuck

    [...] hashtag #mencallmethings is effective because women on the internet have been systemically attacked for being women for a very long time, and the offenders are primarily men. Some men have joined the field to say [...]

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