Why so fussed

So they do it to Mary Beard, too. Mary Beard! A classics don! Makes me want to get my friend Euripides to give them a dam’ good scolding.

But why, you might say, am I so fussed by this. One tv programme of no moment, a bit of flak, and some great waves of support on twitter (thank you all…Tony Law even, bizarrely, got Sulla martialed in the fight last night…). Why not just “move on”?

One reason, it has introduced me to a side on internet trolling that I haven’t experienced before, and is worth thinking about. My appearance on Question Time prompted a web post that has in the last few days discussed my pubic hair (do I brush the floor with it), whether I need rogering (that comment was taken down, as was the speculation about the capaciousness of my vagina, and the plan to plant a d*** in my mouth).

It is headed with the picture above (that’s me….or in the words of one contributor:” A vile, spiteful excuse for a woman, who eats too much cabbage and has cheese straws for teeth.”)

There’s worse to come.

Of course there is. That’s barely noticeable.

The stuff about me is predictable enough, as a further sample will show:

“Undergrowth, like a mound, ladyshave free, a womble, a Cambridge Don, common ain’t she.”

“Hello Mary, we dont fear you and you’re not intelligent. All in all, a complete failure of a sentence/ Top tip: Try looking closer to home for the reason people dislike you, you arrogant twat”

” She’s an idiot who’s a disgrace to Cambridge Uni and Woman-kind. We let her get away with it by calling her a Lezzie which she obviously isn’t as she’s married.”

“Fucking hell, she’s only 57. She looks at least 70.”

“Mary, Mary quite Clunge-hairy, how does your Lady Garden grow?”

“Hairy Beard, Professor of Farts at Cunstsford University, living the dream.”

“An ignorant cunt.”

“Being a cunt transcends gender, Mary.”

Ths is interspersed with quotes from all kinds of things I’ve written, jibes at my kids (one of whomMoEmkZlintervened, independently, to my defence) and husband. The photo on the right (also now taken down) gives you the flavour (there’s an X certificate on clicking on the pop up — but I think it’s important for people to see what the bottom line is).Another one shows a pair of really hairy legs, as if they were mine.

All the same, you may say … why pay it any attention, still less give it publicity?

Several reasons. First, the misogyny here is truly gobsmacking. The whole site is pretty hateful (and what some of the comments say about Andrew Marr since he’s been ill are almost worse than anything).. but the whole “cunt” talk and the kind of stuff represented by the photo on right is more than a few steps into sadism.  It would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate, especially as all of this comes up on google..

Yes it god damn well would, and does, and is. Michael Shermer please note. Get this kind of shit every day for going on two years and it becomes very tempting to stop appearing in public and contributing to political debate – which is the goal.

Oh no, it’s all just a joke, isn’t it? Can’t you take one? Or a hundred, or ten thousand?

But reading through it (and yes you get tipped off about it whether you search or not.. and no you cant resist looking at it), it is absolutely plain as day that this is meant to hurt and wound (“If all else, we got to her” as one commenter says). It shows the classic signs of vile playground bullying — claiming to know about the victim, sneering at things they could not possibly know but claim they do, destabilising by using names in the thread that are those of your friends or even anagrams of your own, suggesting that they are watching you… that’s all part of the bullying repertoire.

Check check check check.

So how to stop it? I am sure that there is some clever way if we put our heads together.Could we flood the site with comments, or Latin poetry…so they went behind a wall (if they want to chat like this on their own, well fine.. or at least better). Or does anyone reading this post know anyone involved in this and can just say ‘no’?

Nobody’s been able to think of a clever way yet.



  1. says

    But… But… She’s a Brit and everybody noes “cunt” has no misogynistic meaning for us Brits! Its *just* a simple insult!

    Its hard to see the wood for the trees sometimes, so many parallels… From the comments ->

    … and, of course, as soon as you call them out on their bigotry and misogyny you’re immediately an anti-free-speech fascist. Sigh.

  2. says

    You know, even Paula Kirby doesn’t buy that “cunt is not misogynist in the UK!!” nonsense – or at least, she doesn’t buy that it’s acceptable; maybe she wouldn’t call it misogynist. I’ve seen her say she considers it deeply insulting.

    Lucky her that she never gets called it.

  3. Apxeo says

    I would love to know who these people are. Not to out them, not to punish them, but just to understand.

  4. says

    I can’t add too much on the trolling (is there more to say than that it is vile?) or the solution (except that I am coming round to the idea that we should consider rehabilitating the concept of “gentleman”. I see no reason why a gentleman need not treat a lady as feminists would wish, but every reason why he should not call her “cunt”).

    But I can recommend to all outside the UK (and any in the UK who haven’t tuned in) to watch any of Mary Beard’s historical programs? They’re good, very good. They concentrate on daily life (in a way not covered by others) and they’re very entertaining (I hope Mary won’t mind me saying that she’s as mad a box of frogs: every inch the nutty professor).

  5. raymoscow says

    I have no solution.

    However, I do take note whenever someone I know acts like this, and I cut him/her out of my life as I would a racist or other hater. Of course that doesn’t stop people from carrying on anonymously (or just with a different nym).

  6. says

    Oh no, it’s all just a joke, isn’t it? Can’t you take one? Or a hundred, or ten thousand?

    The “it’s just a joke” excuse gets to me, because it seems to imply that a joke can never be judged based on its content—as if a joke that’s promoting discrimination and a joke criticizing discrimination can’t be distinguished from one another.

    Jokes can have messages, too. (For example, when a comedian tells a joke about a politician, is someone really going to say that it doesn’t mean anything, that they weren’t trying to express their political views with their jokes?) Jokes can and should be criticized, just like with anything else a person might say or write, like an article, blog, book, etc.

  7. says

    The only idea I have is for the admins of various sites and blogs to have very strict commenting policies and enforce the rules. But that takes a lot of time, time most people don’t have because they often have other jobs, and emotional energy. It also cuts into the possibility of a large number of people having an open, free conversation. But, realistically, I don’t see a solution, other than screening commentors (not letting people post anonymously, putting people on probation so all of their comments are screened until they prove themselves) deleting offensive things, and banning people who harass and bully. And even that won’t be able to fully stop the problem, as people will always find ways to get around it, but it might help,

  8. Bjarni says

    “But we were only having fun…”

    Yeah, I’ve heard before somewhere. Highschool I think.

  9. hypatiasdaughter says

    I know I am treading a thin line, but it is obvious that some of these posters are mentally unstable. (And no, I am not mixing them up with people who have a mental illness, like schizophrenia, bi-polar or delusions who would never do stuff like.) This is a kind of obsessive, irrational hatred that is aimed at PoC and women, especially when they step above their place.
    How to stop it? I don’t think you can. But by making it a public issue, as Mary Beard (and you guys) have done, may be the best approach. I think the general public needs an education about what is happening.
    These (mostly) guys think they are clever. They think everyone else thinks they are clever. Shining the light of public disapproval might make most of them slink away – if only because they aren’t getting the high-fives they expect.

  10. Rodney Nelson says

    EEB #8

    There are other reasons why people post anonymously on blogs besides harassing other people. If I had to post here under my real name I’d be gone in a flash, never to be seen again. I would prefer if my boss, a fundamentalist Christian, did not know I am an atheist.

  11. theoreticalgrrrl says

    It’s like they’re using “comedy” the way people use religion: it’s off-limits to criticism. So just hide your hate under the banner of comedy and you can get away with bullying, bigoted and threatening behavior.

    There’s a pro-pedophilia site on Facebook that escaped being banned by changing it’s description into a “comedy” site. I kid you not. But the “comedy” is directed at people and societies who are against pedophilia.

  12. Carlos Cabanita says

    I belong much more to the lurkeriat than the commentariat here in FtB. I’m using the occasion to say that I read your posts almost every day and they are important for me. For everyone that comments here there are many times more that just read, as you surely know from the stats. So thanks for the very good work you are doing for me and many others, and sorry for the insult you have to sustain. Keep strong!

  13. says

    @ Rodney Nelson:

    There’s a difference between not allowing anonymous posting and not allowing people to use psudonyms. People should have to stand by what they write, with a history behind that name, instead of just adopting obviously new identities left and right (or not bothering to ID at all) and posting nasty things without consequence. Especially after having been involved in fandom for over a decade, I am very protective of the right to keep your private information private, and your offline life seperate from your online life. There are very, very few instances where I think doxxing is appropriate. But I do think that getting rid of purely anonymous commenting (or heavily screening those comments, as well as comments from any new user until that person builds up a level of trust under that name) is one of the only ways people can stop the constant stream of abuse.

    It’s unrealistic, though, because the only way this works is if pretty much everyone decides to ban bullying on their particular site, so all they have left is blogs and websites that they personally created to talk all their vile shit amongst themselves.

  14. Timon for Tea says

    “You know, even Paula Kirby doesn’t buy that “cunt is not misogynist in the UK!!” nonsense – or at least, she doesn’t buy that it’s acceptable; maybe she wouldn’t call it misogynist.”

    Even? It really isn’t a point worth disputing, there just is no misogynistic content in’cunt’ in the UK when it is used derogatorily. The word is an insult (like ‘dick’ etc) but has nothing to do with denigrating women. It would be very unusual to hear a woman described as a ‘cunt’, although that may be changing. The word sometimes has an insulting content: ‘he’s a stupid cunt’ and sometimes not: ‘he’s a clever cunt’, so sometimes acceptable and sometimes not, like just about any obscene word including ‘fucker’ and ‘nigger’. I do realise this is different in the States. I think the US altogether has a more sensorious attitude towards language though, probably something to do historically with its greater freedoms in speech (or I could be imagining it).

    The treatment of Mary Beard is vile, but despite her comments I do think the answer is just to ignore it. The internet is still new and it is hard not to take these things personally, especially for women and men of Beard’s generation, but really all the internet does it let you hear what was always being said anyway. Direct threats are one thing, but rude talk can be blocked and once we get used to the fact that there is always a lot of it directed at everyone with any public profile, it is easy enough to block ot. As Beard says, the stuff directed at Andrew Marr is every bit as bad (lurid descriptions of how they hope he will suffer after his stroke, how much uglier he will be, how nice it will be if he dies slowly and his kids get to watch etc), but I bet he never mentions it. Not because he is any harder than Beard but because the men have had longer to get used to it and know that trolls want feeding more than anything else in the world.

    And the other thing we have to do is get rid of all personal comment from comments including any speculation about motive. That will be a big cost to bloggers in hits and in fun, I know, but it makes a huge difference in keeping the tone civil. They do this on TPM for example, and it has an amazing effect.

  15. jefers says

    There’s a line of Stewart Lee’s about Jeremy Clarkson leaning on the ‘Just a joke’ defence which goes something like “It’s just a joke…although coincidentally it happens to conform precisely to my deeply held views.”

  16. Pteryxx says

    but rude talk can be blocked and once we get used to the fact that there is always a lot of it directed at everyone with any public profile,

    And just signing on with a female nym gets 25 times as much harassment as male/neutral nyms. Your nothing-to-see-here toughen-up narrative doesn’t fit reality.

  17. Timon for Tea says

    “And just signing on with a female nym gets 25 times as much harassment as male/neutral nyms. Your nothing-to-see-here toughen-up narrative doesn’t fit reality.”

    That might be true, but it might not be, we would need to look at some figures. But if you are ignoring something, it hardly matters if it is a little or a lot, does it? We can safely assume that people have always been saying these kinds of things, just pre-internet we couldn’t overhear them and could live with it. Well, by judicious blocking, strict rules on comments, and avoiding the cranky web spots we can recreate those conditions. I think a lot of this will happen naturally as we get used living with the internet. The way you stop noticing pornography on the street in Italy.

  18. Pteryxx says

    That might be true, but it might not be, we would need to look at some figures.

    Go on then, the citation’s easy to find. Post the link.

  19. dirigible, despite the admins says

    “there just is no misogynistic content in’cunt’ in the UK when it is used derogatorily”

    Possibly not against a man, no.

  20. Timon for Tea says

    “Possibly not against a man, no.”

    Certainly not against a man. I have noticed that women are more likely to be described as ‘cunt’ these days than they once were, but it always seems, from context, to be applied in the same way as it is applied to men. If it was being used in the US sense it would probably lead to a bit of confusion, like claiming that someone is ‘pissed’ when you mean ‘angry’.

  21. Timon for Tea says

    Go on then, the citation’s easy to find. Post the link.

    I don’t think there is any data, Pteryxx, that’s what I meant. But I suspect that the salient variable is public profile rather than gender.

  22. Pteryxx says

    Well then, you just made a claim: “I don’t think there is any data.” There is, and it’s easy to find the citation. If you were actually interested in evidence, you’d go look it up, wouldn’t you now?

  23. Timon for Tea says

    It wasn’t a claim Pteryxx, it was a statement of fact: I really don’t think this data exists. But I am interested and if it does exist I would be interested in reading it. (I am sceptical because I can’t imagine how reliable data on this would be gathered.)

  24. Timon for Tea says

    Don’t be coy, if you have it, tell me where, but if you don’t we needn’t linger on it. It’s a side issue after all, we can agree that misogynistic abuse is wrong whether it is little or lots.

  25. punchdrunk says

    What? Inquiry and investigation instead of posterior pontification?
    Will you pay me to do your homework?

    A 2006 University of Maryland study on chat rooms found that female participants received 25 times as many sexually explicit and malicious messages as males. A 2005 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the proportion of Internet users who took part in chats and discussion groups plunged from 28 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2005, entirely because of the exodus of women. The study attributed the trend to “sensitivity to worrisome behavior in chat rooms.”

    In gaming:
    women were harassed four times more than men…

    “Women were also much more likely to quit playing a game because of sex-based harassment than were men,” says the report. “35.8% of women reported having quit playing temporarily because of sexism, and 9.6% reported that they quit playing a certain game permanently because of harassment.

    “The numbers for men in the same areas were 11.7% and 2.6% respectively – about a third of the percentage for women in each case.”

    Google’s hard.

  26. Pteryxx says

    No, it’s really not a side issue. I don’t think you’re interested in engaging with the evidence at all. I think you only care about dismissing harassment and gendered harassment and pontificating about your doubtfulness without ever examining your beliefs. And I think you’re only pretending to be a skeptic so you can engage with other commenters who disagree with you, instead of the evidence and what it says.

    Google ‘female name 25 times’ and post a link back here.

  27. Pteryxx says

    lawl @ punchdrunk

    Watch Timon claim that the U of M study on chat names is flawed, even though xe “can’t imagine how reliable data could be gathered” and hasn’t read the study or the findings.

  28. Timon for Tea says

    Thanks for the links Punchdrunk, they are interesting but I see we have been talking across each other (Pteryxxx and I), I was talking about the amount of abuse public figures receive on the interwebs rather than the gender dynamics of chat rooms. Your links though seem to bear me out: if we keep out of the places this sort of thing is encouraged and forbid any personal comment or speculation in our own places it will be pretty much nullified.

  29. Timon for Tea says

    I don’t think you’re interested in engaging with the evidence at all. I think you only care about dismissing harassment

    You see, this is the sort of thing that is harmless enough on its own but it deals in what cannot be known or proven and is something that we are bound to disagree on, so raising it is an invitation to a school yard fight, not a discussion. That’s why all personal comment and speculation should be banned from comments. It doesn’t take long, if you are strict, to chase away all the people who only want to call names.

  30. says

    “there just is no misogynistic content in’cunt’ in the UK when it is used derogatorily”

    Possibly not against a man, no.

    Utterly daft, surely even juxtaposing women’s genitalia with the *worse* insult possible is in itself misogynistic? FFS we have legions of slimers telling FtBs that they shouldn’t use dick as its a gendered slur.

    Anyway who decides if a word is a slur? In a case like this where it has unambiguous gender connotations I think it is clear cut. But ultimately the group being oppressed gets to decide based on who is using it and in what context — i.e. to put them down due to their inherent group characteristics (gender/sexuality/race)… Faggot means a bundle of sticks and a fag would obviously be someone who collects sticks so its just an insult against poor people, right?

  31. punchdrunk says

    @Timon for Tea:
    So, then, women just leave the public online discourse.
    Shutting women up seems to be the goal, and you seem eager to help us get there.

    No, now the goalposts have moved, and that’s not what you were talking about.

  32. Pteryxx says

    So Timon, engage with the evidence then. Go read about the 25-times study and post what you think of it. I’d especially like to see what you think of their methods, since you claimed to be very interested in such and couldn’t think of any possible methods on your own.

  33. punchdrunk says

    * Sorry, submitted too soon

    First the numbers don’t exist, then they’re wrong or irrelevant.

  34. Timon for Tea says

    Utterly daft, surely even juxtaposing women’s genitalia with the *worse* insult possible is in itself misogynistic? FFS we have legions of slimers telling FtBs that they shouldn’t use dick as its a gendered slur.

    No, because some word has to be worse,so that is just as likely to be random. We have some evidence that this is the case because many languages use the ‘cunt’ equivalent as a relatively mild expletive (and do we really think that England has a more deeply sexist culture than Mexico?). ‘Goat’ is the strongest insult in Spanish, but I don’t think this reflects any deep cultural prejudice, it is more likely simply to be random,a cultural accident.

    You could just as easily claim that the fact that English has far more insulting words that refer to male anatomy than female demonstrates that our culture is deeply misandrist. The same logic would apply and the same problems arise: there is no way to test the hypothesis and it seems implausible when we look at how these things work in different cultures.

    But ultimately the group being oppressed gets to decide based on who is using it and in what context

    No, they don’t. The meanings of words are established by the whole community of users. And anyway, your point is question begging: if it isn’t a slur no-one is being oppressed by it

  35. Timon for Tea says

    First the numbers don’t exist, then they’re wrong or irrelevant.

    I didn’t claim these numbers didn’t exist, but they are not directly relevant to what I was trying to discuss,no. They are interesting in their own terms if they are correct.I don’t say they are wrong, but it will depend on the way the data was collected and analysed. You know as well as I do how hard it is to avoid bias in this sort of exercise. The study may well be a good one though, I don’t think the findings are implausible from what I have seen around about in chat rooms.

  36. Pteryxx says

    I don’t think Timon will stoop to sully theirself by engaging with actual evidence. Gotta keep those preconceptions pure.

  37. Timon for Tea says

    I’m happy to talk about evidence Pteryxx if you want to, but the evidence you pointed to was not really relevant to the discussion as I understood it. I don’t dispute that women are more likely to be abused in chat rooms although I would take the ’25 times’ figure from the Maryland study with a pinch of salt now that I have seen how the experiment was set up (this isn’t unusual, experimental methodology outside of the hard sciences (and even within them from time to time) is often pretty dodgy).

  38. Pteryxx says

    So to start out, will you now say that a) data does indeed exist and b) this experiment demonstrates women are more likely to receive abuse in IRC chatrooms?

    Then, will you explain what you think was wrong with the experimental setup and suggest an improvement? (Citing the article you’re reading would be good too – this experiment was written about all over the net and some of the writeups have errors.)

  39. Timon for Tea says

    Pteryxx, the data that I was referring to does not exist as far as I can tell. Some experimental data on women in chatrooms does exists, yes. I have said this a few times now.

    The experimental problems are the usual ones: small sample size, not blinded (the main problem) and post-hoc definitions applied. When researchers are strongly motivated to a particular conclusion, as here these problems are greatly exacerbated. To see why these , imagine that I were to say to you that I would replicate the experiment, taking male and female personae into a selection of chatrooms to test the levels of abuse. Would you think it a reliable experimental model?

    To improve: large randomly assigned sample (thousands) fully blinded and data analysed according to clearly stated prior definitions (this should be possible to automate so no human interaction necessary).

    Still not easy to do, which is why nobody has done it I suppose. How you can get the data we started off talking about? I cannot see how. Perhaps some computer genius could work it out though. The raw stuff is there, it just needs analysing.

  40. Pteryxx says

    …Yeah, Timon, you didn’t read the actual article or methods at all. The chatroom experiment used IRC bots, previously tested in the default (male) naming convention and then renamed. The bots themselves reported the messages received for scoring. And the definition of ‘malicious’ messages WAS established beforehand, even to including unsolicited links and file invites. Only then did the experimenters take the place of the bots in testing IRC channels where no bots were allowed, they rotated through the gendered usernames, and they were silent, making no conversation at all in the chatrooms. All they did was collect the messages sent to them.

    That’s why they concluded that presence in a chatroom with a female name by itself is sufficient to receive far more sexually explicit or threatening messages than presence under a male name.

    PDF link

    Can you provide any evidence that women and men receive equivalent amounts of online abuse or of sexualised online abuse, as you hint and suggest above? re: “everyone with any public profile”

  41. Timon for Tea says

    Pteryxx, I can’t produce any such evidence because, as I have said quite a few times now,I don’t think any exists and I don’t see how it could be gathered. That is my point, and, implicitly at least,you seem to agree with it, so I don’t understand why we are still arguing.

    Personally I think it is implausible that gender is a more salient variable in this than public profile (in other words I would expect Barack Obama to be the subject of more abuse than Mary Beard), you may think that unlikely, but neither of us has any data that can settle the point.

    Thanks for the Pdf, by the way, I wish you hadn’t been so shy about producing it earlier.

  42. Mary Cargill says

    Obviously these remarks are completely out of line, but the video of Mary Beard condescending to the hoi poloi who disagree with her assessment of the benefits of immigration is quite grating.

  43. Timon for Tea says

    Eventually , Pteryxx, eventually. But that study,interesting though it is, has nothing to say about thee subject in hand, does it? I am pretty sure that Mary Beard was not talking about women being scared away from the IRC chat rooms most frequented by teenage boys.

  44. says

    Timon, you’re a waste of space.

    It’s ludicrous to try to pretend that “cunt” has zero misogynist content given the picture that I included in the post. It’s also cheerfully callous, the way you always are about shit that happens to people who aren’t you.

  45. Bill Openthalt says


    But ultimately the group being oppressed gets to decide based on who is using it and in what context — i.e. to put them down due to their inherent group characteristics (gender/sexuality/race)…

    Who does the grouping?

    Who decides who is oppressed?

    If I, being a bearded wonder, group the world into the bearded and the unbearded, and decide the bearded are oppressed, am I trying to get victim status so that I can shame the unbearded into giving me stuff for free, or should the unbearded believe me?

    I mean, it might seem obvious to group humans into men and women, but first, gender is a spectrum and second, the grouping might be only weakly correlated with the trait (like a tendency to oppress others). For example, we know that there is no correlation between gender and mental ability in general, but there is a rather strong correlation between gender and, for example, autism.

    Finally, a group cannot be oppressed. Individuals are oppressed, and ultimately it all boils down to statistics. If statistically speaking less bearded people are present in the leading positions of society than in the overall population, we might conclude they are discriminated against because they have beards, but we do not know if the lack of bearded people is caused by discrimination or by other factors. How the data is interpreted depends on the beliefs of the interpreters. What happens all too often is that people who feel oppressed because of a trait get together and start to reinforce the belief that unites them, amplifying the us/them feeling and exacerbating the feelings of animosity towards the preceived opposing group.

    The MRAs are a good example. They got started because individual men felt they got a raw deal (some from nature, some from the courts, etc). When one has the impression one is unfairly treated (and it’s quite easy to get such an impression), the natural tendency is to look for a reason. The simplest of all explanations is that the perceived unfair treatment was caused by the most obvious difference between oneself and the opposing party. For many unsuccessful men, that obvious difference is gender: I wasn’t promoted because the company favours women; I lost my child because the courts favour mothers, etc. The reasons are always more complex, but humans tend to look for easy, obvious explanations. Once enough of them flocked together, they started to reinforce their beliefs, and defend their group from the perceived attacks from “the feminists”. People who see themselves as victims will be hard pressed to react empathically towards members of the opposing group – after all, assuming that the other party is right implies accepting that your party, and you, might be wrong.

    Once we have constructed the mental model we use to interpret the data from the world outside us, the information we receive will be massaged to fit the model.

  46. Timon for Tea says

    It’s ludicrous to try to pretend that “cunt” has zero misogynist content given the picture that I included in the post. It’s also cheerfully callous, the way you always are about shit that happens to people who aren’t you.

    Ophelia, it may strike you as ludicrous, but it is true. The picture and the word are different things. And I am only talking about the UK, it may be that that picture was posted by a spiteful American.,They exist you know.

    As to ‘callous’ about others suffering, you are plain wrong. I am fully sympathetic to Mary Beard and have said so and given you no reason to say the opposite. But I don’t try to own other people’s suffering,to pretend that their pain is my pain, that’s true. Nor do I attempt to co-opt the agony of others for my own political ends or to feed my inexhaustible vanity and self-pity. There are some on the interwebs who have a large and growing reputation for doing that, but not me.

  47. Timon for Tea says

    Really Ophelia, I know that you have decided to nix my comments so only you will see this, but I have to say that for all your faults I had never thought of you as a coward, happy to dish out the insults but hiding behind moderation out of fear of retaliation. Shame on you, you didn’t use to be so small.

  48. Stacy says

    Finally, a group cannot be oppressed. Individuals are oppressed, and ultimately it all boils down to statistics.

    If you’ve got the luxury–and the lack of empathy–to sit above the fray and wax objective, I suppose oppression boils down to statistics for you.

    For some of us it “boils down to” a bit more than that.

    Can we stop arguing about the word “cunt”? Really Not.The.Goddamned.Point.

  49. Timon for Tea says

    Now it turns out I am de-moderated so I ought to withdraw the accusation of cowardice, which, for what it’s worth, I do.

    Deep down I didn’t think you could really be such a ninny, Ophelia.

  50. says

    Timon. I put your comments into moderation for the time being so that I can make sure they have some substance before I let them through. The two you posted after I did that don’t have much substance, frankly, but I’ll err on the side of permissiveness for now.

    I apologize for the inexhaustible vanity and self-pity. Where shall I send your refund?

  51. Timon for Tea says

    Ophelia, you can think my comments wrong-headed, but I can’t see that you can fairly accuse them of having no substance. I make substantial points in all of them which is why Pteryxx and others keep arguing with them.

    And I apologise if I am wasting your space. If you find you are finally running out, there is a small lock up in Dagenham I have the use of that might help.

  52. Pteryxx says

    I’m thinking women should get to use 25 times stricter moderation than men before being accused of cowardice. ;>

  53. says

    No, Timon, your comments have content, but not substance. People argue with them because your dogmatism is irritating. It’s not because you have such good arguments or evidence.

    Your simply announcing that “cunt” is absolutely not misogynist at all in the UK is dogmatic and obtuse, to put it in polite terms. I wonder how much time you spend telling black people that “nigger” is absolutely not racist at all in some geographic location of your choice.

  54. Bill Openthalt says

    Saying groups are not oppressed, but individuals are oppressed doesn’t dimish your experiences. Only individuals matter, and it is my hope and wish we all look at and appreciate each other as individuals rather than members of a group.

    A group is not an organism, but a mental construction. Associating “oppression” and “group” is always a case of statistics, either implicit (in our mind) or explicit. Of course, once an individual feels part of a group, the mind’s social processes (such as empathy) will ensure that the pain of one member is shared by all the others. Humans naturally seek to belong to a group, and identify with it (cf nationality, sports fans etc.). Sometimes this is good, but oftentimes it leads to antagonism and strife.

  55. Timon for Tea says

    It’s no more dogmatic than your insisting that ‘cunt’ has misogynistic content in the US. It is simply the case, and it is hard to know how to impress this on to someone who won’t have it. It is not obtuse either, because, as I said, it is the case. I don’t say ‘cunt’ is not sexist at all, simply not in its UK derogatory usage.

    I would love to eavesdrop as you lecture Snoop Dogg on his use casual of ‘nigger’ explaining that it is simply obtuse and dogmatic of him to claim that it is not racist when the white middle classes of Seattle have agreed that it must be.

  56. says

    It is not “simply the case.” I’ve talked to a lot of UK women about this and many of them – and some men – say very vehemently that it’s not, and that they get very fucking sick of hearing that. This has been discussed here many times. Hence you are being dogmatic about it now.

    Also: the bit about the inexhaustible vanity and self-pity. If you dislike my blog because of the inexhaustible vanity and self-pity, then go away. Seriously.

  57. raymoscow says

    I’ve lived in the UK for quite a few years, and I consider ‘cunt’ a sexist insult. Yes, it’s used to insult men, too — by comparing them, in disgust or (more often jest), to women’s genitals.

    When insulting women, the ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ is often added for emphasis, just to be clear that the woman is stupid in a particularly feminine way.

    Men of course are expected to laugh it off as harmless banter, and women are expected to shut up and take it. What could possibly be sexist about that?

  58. says

    @raymoscow, I know, its bizarre. I’m a Brit, my friends are Brits, 90 odd percent of the people I know are Brits. Everyone I’ve asked so far has said yes calling a woman you disagree with a cunt is misogynistic. I even had this discussion at work with software developers FFS, supposedly brogrammers are misogynists par exellence, they agreed that it was misogynistic as well. If it had *no* misogynistic connotations in this country I’m not sure how they would come to that conclusion. Seems people intent on minimising the harm of referring to women in sexist ways are very keen on lying about how we Brits see the word or they take their own circle of friends (nice circle!) to be indicative of the whole country. I don’t doubt some shitweasels in the UK would think nothing of referring to women as dumb/stupid cunts… Big deal, atheists like Reap in the US don’t have a problem with it either.

    Actually that reminds me, talking to Reap I pointed out that in the UK you would be sacked for sexism in the workplace if you used the word bitch to refer to a female colleague (Or a sustained pattern like his anyway). Cunt is by far and away the worst insult in England, using that to put down a female co-worker would be even more likely to get you sacked. If the company didn’t sack you after behaving like him then they would be liable to a large fine in an employment tribunal specifically because gender discrimination is treated more harshly than just bullying / harassment… (My wife works in employment law and has been involved in sacking people for this behaviour, not worth the risk to the company to let it go)

    Quite Bill. ‘Fag’ was a pretty poorly chosen example.

    Sigh. Where is Josh when you need him? He always seems to be around when I’m being an idiot, unfair! We also have a proud tradition of fagging in the UK public school system where fags were routinely beaten and humiliated by their fag-master. So must make it totally ok to call gay people fags! No homophobia there! /sarcasm


  59. says

    @ Ms.Daisy Cutter

    Oh yes, I think we need to steer clear of “chivalry”, and the old undertones of snobbery in the concept of gentlemanly behaviour. (hence the reference to feminism)

    I’m thinking more along the lines of decent behaviour, towards everyone, that can be placed as an aspirational standard to replace the self-seeking aspirations to dominance, power and boastfulness that many seem to have.

    It might not be easy to define such a code of behaviour (whether to use the word “lady”, “woman” or “girl” is often just guesswork) But it is clearly possible to act in a way that is clearly gentlemanly and not at all sexist: http://bit.ly/WdPeVq (1:06 for the “payoff”)

  60. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Oh, Jesus Timon.

    This is from Irish journalist Jack Holland:

    “I grew up in Norther Ireland….It was a place where the word ‘cunt’ expressed the worst form of contempt one person could feel for another. If you loathed or despised a person, ‘cunt’ said it all.
    …Nothing was worse than being treated like a ‘cunt’ or nothing so stupid as a ‘stupid cunt’.
    Belfast, Northern Ireland, the city where I grew up, had its own peculiar hatreds. Its secretarian animosities over the years have made it a byword for violence and bloodshed. But there was one thing on which the warring communities of Catholics and Protestants could agree: the contemptible status of cunt.”
    “It took no training in philosophy to decipher the misogyny behind the use of the word ‘cunt.'”

    This is from his book “Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice.”
    “He began work on “Misogyny” in 2002″ according to his daughter Jenny Holland, “The topic was quite the conversation starter. A common response from other men, when my father told them what he was working on, was an assumption that he was writing some sort of defence of misogyny, a reaction he found startling.”

    Holland died after he finished the manuscript, but his surviving wife and daughter had trouble getting it published:

    In the U.S. men are called pussies by other men, and women are called pussies. The reason it’s such an insult is you are being compared to a woman. Faggot is often used as a put down to hetero men, not because it means a cigarette, but because being gay is just as bad as being a pussy. Faggot and pussy are the worse things you can call a straight male in the U.S.A.

  61. casus fortuitus says

    Speaking as a Brit, I can say with the absolute certainty and dogmatism of Timon for Tea that the word “cunt” is, in fact, mysognistic in meaning and intent in the UK. If you didn’t mean to denigrate a person by comparison with women’s genitals, why the hell would you choose that word?

    I can also say that although “fag” means “cigarette” in certain contexts, in others it’s unambiguously a homophobic slur. When someone is called “fag” in the UK, they’re not calling that person a cigarette (obviously, you fucking idiots). Context, eh? How the fuck does it work.

  62. says

    Jesus, you people overanalyse everything. She’s a cunt, simple as that. And you lot are a bunch of cunts for defending the cunt. She’s a liar and proved that on Question Time. The fact is, people are calling her a cunt because she’s a liar. Zero to do with gender. Nothing to see here, folks, well, except a bunch of cunts defending another cunt.

  63. casus fortuitus says

    Yeah, Lenny, whereas your incisive commentary is just the right level of analysis. Cheers for that.

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