My ladder doesn’t go that high

From Tigerbeatdown, less than a month ago.

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people, especially women, but not always, as I can attest, and particularly feminists, though again, not always, as I can attest, online. The readers, the consumers, the fans, may not always notice it because people are silent about it. Because this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it.  To open your email, take note of the morning’s contents, and then quickly shuttle them to the appropriate files for future reference or forwarding to the authorities. To check on the server, fix what needs fixing, and move on with your day. To skim the comments to see what needs to be deleted, to know that when you write a post like this one, you will have to delete a lot of heinous and ugly comments, because you want to protect your readers from the sheer, naked, hate that people carry for you. To weigh, carefully, the decision to approve a comment not because there’s a problem with the content, but because you worry that the reader may be stalked by someone who will tell her that she should die for having an opinion. And when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

I really despise this idea that you’re supposed to “rise above it.” I fucking hate it. It makes it our problem, while the shit-throwers don’t have to do anything – they just get to go right on throwing shit. I despise the idea (that I’ve seen touted approximately seven trillion times in the last few months) that saying this is misogyny and it sucks is “playing the victim.” I beg your pardon? If you’re mugged is it “playing the victim” to say you were mugged? Sure, it’s childish to make too much of a fuss about one cross remark; it’s spoiled and whiny to talk about your own thin skin while ignoring tanks running over other people; but that doesn’t mean anyone should “rise above” deliberate calculated sustained campaigns of vituperation. If people are trying to bully you into shutting the fuck up, you really do get to resist. Not “rise above”; not ignore; resist.


  1. says

    If people are trying to bully you into shutting the fuck up, you really do get to resist. Not “rise above”; not ignore; resist.


    Both online and in meat space, I will resist.

  2. madderthanhatters says

    Telling you to “rise above it” is merely another way of telling you to shut the fuck up. I’m sure everyone already knows by now that ignoring the bullies is not something that will work – in fact it will likely exacerbate the problem – and that silence from others is taken as approval and silence from the target is taken as an invitation for more abuse. It’s 2011; we’ve already seen this scenario play out over and over and people who say “rise above it” are either full of shit or have been living underground in a bunker all their lives.

    Though with that being said I’m glad to see women bloggers and writers speak up about the misogyny – a form of hate that is very much “in” right now. It always astounds me how people are always worried about being racist, but don’t give a damn about the sexist vitriol pouring from their mouths.

  3. josefjohann says

    People sometimes believe dissolving tension in the short term is the same as resolving a problem. In this case it’s easier to ask concerned people to shut up than to confront the assholes. The former are more likely to comply, provided the request is clothed in superficially dignified language.

  4. JennieL says


    Expecting women to ‘rise above it’ is yet another way in which women are expected to adapt their lives to the bad behaviour of some men, rather than those men being expected to change their bad behaviour.

    It’s also a way of reinforcing the notion that this kind of behaviour is just some kind of given in the world, like cyclones, or wasps. Can’t do anything about ’em, so just learn ways to live with ’em and mop up the damage as best you can if they get you.

    But this isn’t a random unfortunate feature of reality; it’s unnecessary, and it’s directed towards a particular group of people. It means that it is systematically made more difficult for that group to do the same thing as everyone else – they have to do extra work, especially including the emotional work of dealing with the unacceptable behaviour of other people, and even more especially the work of trying to make it seem that they’re not doing any extra work.

    It’s just another way of trying to sweep the problem under the rug – deal with it silently and heroically, so noone has to confront the nasty reality.

    …there’s a good girl.

  5. says

    Uh… yeah. I should live a lie so a few whiny Menz don’t have to deal with bruised egos.

    Not. Gonna. Happen.

    Partly because Teh Menz need to grow up and get some serious therapy.

    Mostly because if I’m gonna change, I’m gonna do it because it provides a substantial benefit to me.

    I have no desire to “be rude” or to offend. I have no desire to “emasculate” or “tear down” or otherwise subjugate men. My desire is to be heard, loud and clear, without an assortment of asshats and jackasses trying to silence or humiliate me. I haven’t experienced this… phenomenon… on a large scale, but I have been shut down and silenced for daring to be vocally, visibly different.

    Heh, one that still irks me to this day. I occasionally spend time at a “recovery center” for the mentally ill. I was sitting by myself, eating my lunch, when two other members came and sat down next to me. They began to LOUDLY discuss Jesus Christ and how Satan is in control and the world is going to end and blah blah blah. All I said was, “Hey, would you please take your conversation elsewhere — I’m trying to eat.” Cue the persecution polka! “THIS IS ALL TRUE, CHRIST THIS, GHAWD THAT, YOU’RE EVIL,” the usual assortment of bile and brimstone that pours out of these types.


    I felt like my only choice at the time was to either stay and listen (thus condoning the behavior), or get up and move (thus validating their behavior, and quite likely giving them exactly what they want). I did end up moving, but… still… it was highly unpleasant, and I shouldn’t have been made to feel ostracized in such a manner.

  6. says

    The misogynists, the bullies pushing LGBT kids to suicide, the bullies who pick the kids that like to read (that was my experience), and anyone else who wants to spread their bile: resist them all.

    Don’t ignore. I ignored as a kid, because that was the only advice I got. Tell mom about it, and I was told “ignore it, they’ll stop.” Bullshit. They didn’t stop.

    I wish I had been told “Resist. And I’m going to help you.”

  7. julian says

    I wish I had been told “Resist. And I’m going to help you.”

    Me too.

    Fuck peace keepers. They don’t give a damn what happens to you. They just want everything to look nice so that strangers don’t stare.

    Make them stare. Make them uncomfortable. If they want the discomfort to go away they’ll have to deal with the problem, not just try and shut you up about it.

  8. says

    I wish I had been told “Resist. And I’m going to help you.”


    The only way to get rid of bullying is to confront it and shut it down. Being quiet about it tacitly condones the abuse, which encourages the abuser to keep it up. That person knows there won’t be any consequences, so why not keep getting the thrill off hurting others?

  9. says

    I actually had to laugh a little at being called “so darned plainspoken.” I don’t think I’ve *ever* been called anything close to that.

  10. Chris Lawson says

    Great piece. The only thing I would disagree with is throwing “don’t feed the trolls” in with “rise above it.” They’re different strategies for different varieties of human bubo. Other than that, I think it’s spot on.

  11. Paul Havlak says

    The shit needs to be filtered, so that no target has to read it, and no susceptible readers get the idea that misogyny is OK. Surely anti-spam technology can be extended to this? Can we get Google and other blog- and mail-providers on board?

    The worst of it deserves more aggressive treatment, such as violent threats being forwarded to police. Occasional incidents won’t get their attention, but a database of posts, linked to the internet addresses of their authors, should ultimately get action, if we raise enough of a stink, a la “David Mabus.”

    We need a combined solution of automation and (literal) policing because the current system, of every target coping individually, is both failing and incurring excessive costs. That’s what harassment does, and it won’t change unless we silence-by-filtering the would-be silencers-by-threatening.

    As for who argue that they have it worse, or that there’s no problem, train your own filters or don’t filter at all. A key feature for internet-abuse filters will be tuning towards the particular blog or even conversation level, possibly cued on the original post or whitelisted commenters. (E.g., a thread on domestic violence should be slower to red-flag on the word “rape.”)

  12. raymoscow says

    The ‘rise above it’ or ‘just ignore it’ is bad advice.

    ‘Expose’, ‘retaliate’, ‘report’ ‘undermine’, ‘hit back’, etc. is much better advice.

  13. says

    It’s gaslighting (love the term)
    You’re supposed to “rise above it”, and if you don’t, if you get angry, or even sad, then you are the problem.
    You get told that “it’s just the internet”.
    You are asked if you are stressed (you can’t possibly freak out because of that, you must have another reason) or worse, it you suffer from PMS.
    I’m wondering, do black men, when they get outrage over an internetpost that says “the N… should be lynched” also told to calm down?*

    *It don’t want to downplay racism or set one discriminated against group against the other, I’m trying to figure out why misogyny is so much more acceptable. People of colour who rage against racist remarks should be supported, not silenced, but so should women be who rage against misogyny

  14. says

    “I’m trying to figure out why misogyny is so much more acceptable.”

    I think it is because misogyny is still so much a part of our dominant social narrative. We’ve gotten to the point where open and obvious racism, such as in your example, is not socially acceptable. However, demeaning women openly, usually disguised as a “joke,” but many times not, is still ok. So when something is pointed out as being misogynist, it becomes a huge issue for people who have internalized the narrative. Mostly, I think, because it disturbs their sense of what the social order is supposed to be. The silencing tactics are a reflection of their attempts to stuff the loudmouths back into their proper places in the hierarchy.

  15. Marta says

    I don’t know what to do about it.

    But the writers who, like you–Ophelia, continue to fight back against it everyday? I am frequently silenced by my respect for their persistence and courage.

    Most of the time, it’s all I can do to read about it. I can’t imagine posting, and then being subjected to a tsunami of hatred aimed at me because of what I’ve said, and because I was a woman who said it.

  16. Blueaussi says

    So, what is a good strategy for dealing with the shit-throwers? Beating a braying jackass generally makes it bray louder, and the resulting din can drown out productive interactions.

    They comes in a variety of forms. There are trolls, and shit-stirrers, and shit-throwers, and plain old haters, and the mentally unbalanced, to name a few. I don’t see a one-size-fits-all strategy as workable; but I would find a discussion of specific strategies helpful.

    It’s not that I’m afraid of confrontation or the abuse, Back In The Day on Usenet, I loved a good flamefest as much as the next girl. I can be a total Snarkasaurus Rex! These days though, the investment of time and energy it takes to deal with some of the shit-throwers is a bit off putting. I don’t rise above it all so much as can’t be arsed to bother with ’em. I am guilty of being silenced in some forums because I don’t have a productive strategy for dealing with the problem. Reasoning with them rarely works. Bullies can be made to look mean and stupid, and I can snark and bully right back at ’em until they urinate in submission; but I’m not seeing that as very productive, either.

    So, I would really love to see a discussion of strategies for dealing with it all. I know there is no magic scheme, but I would still like to see some better ideas than just shouting them down or ignoring them.

  17. says

    We not only have a problem with the egregious haters and male supremacists, we also have a problem with tolerance of the milder forms of sexist language used by people who are supposed to be allies. I feel like the gaslighting that happens in those situations only serves to give comfort and aid to the really nasty people. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten abuse for pointing out sexist behaviour on atheist and liberal forums.

    What I’d really like to see is support. If I call out someone for saying something sexist or using a sexist slur, even unintentionally, I want to see a mass of people stand up to agree with me and concur that that kind of crap is unacceptable. I want people who are calling us “hypersensitive” to change their minds and become embarrassed for their former opinion.

  18. says

    Yeh. I’m always putting out these little fires – talking about “having balls” is a very frequent one – always in the full knowledge that it’s just cementing my reputation as a tedious nagging control freak feminist arglebarglesproinnnnnnnng.

  19. says

    Just as a handy example of what I’m talking about, these two exchanges at Friendly Atheist:

    Stev84: [about a woman convicted of manslaughter along with her husband for faith healing her child to death] “If you look at the pictures in the article, you’ll see that she wore glasses again. What a hypocritical cow.” (8 likes)

    Me: “Can we do without the sexist slurs? You can call this person all sorts of names without referring to her gender.” (3 likes)

    Stev84: “Oh not this crap again. It would be sexist if it were somehow disparaging of all women. Or if I were even thinking about her gender when I wrote that. Neither is even remotely true.” (1 like)

    JenL: “So you’d have called a guy a ‘cow’? You may not have thought about it, but you used a slur that the vast majority of people direct only at women…” (2 likes)

    Stev84: “I may call a guy a “dick” maybe. Do women who call men that automatically hate all men? Some words are gender specific. That doesn’t mean that they are targeted at the whole gender instead of the person.

    It really depends on the word. Calling someone a ‘pussy’ for example can easily be seen as misogynistic as it makes a generalization about women being weak.” (2 likes)

    Even worse was this one. Hemant Mehta thinks it’s just dandy to downplay the problem (even as he’s supposedly telling us to speak up) and call us hypersensitive. It’s kind of long to reproduce, but you’ll see what I mean.

    Also, I was hurt and disappointed by Greg Laden’s brush off here, even here on FtB:

  20. julian says

    blockquote>Hemant Mehta thinks it’s just dandy to downplay the problem (even as he’s supposedly telling us to speak up) and call us hypersensitive.

    He’s to busy being friendly to not be above such silly nonsense.

    Seriously, I’m starting to get the impression he’s so above ‘pettiness’ that he’s crossed over into dismissive. He’s turning into Chris Stedman.

  21. Blueaussi says

    Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto@23

    “What I’d really like to see is support. If I call out someone for saying something sexist or using a sexist slur, even unintentionally, I want to see a mass of people stand up to agree with me and concur that that kind of crap is unacceptable. I want people who are calling us “hypersensitive” to change their minds and become embarrassed for their former opinion.”

    I think that’s a good start.


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