Jinan Younis, for instance, who started a feminist society at her school.
I am 17 years old and I am a feminist. I believe in genderequality, and am under no illusion about how far we are from achieving it. Identifying as a feminist has become particularly important to me since a school trip I took to Cambridge last year.
A group of men in a car started wolf-whistling and shouting sexual remarks at my friends and me. I asked the men if they thought it was appropriate for them to be abusing a group of 17-year-old girls. The response was furious. The men started swearing at me, called me a bitch and threw a cup coffee over me.
The only two possibilities – hey baby or bitch.
I decided to set up a feminist society at my school, which has previously been named one of “the best schools in the country”, to try to tackle these issues. However, this was more difficult than I imagined as my all-girls school was hesitant to allow the society. After a year-long struggle, the feminist society was finally ratified.
What I hadn’t anticipated on setting up the feminist society was a massive backlash from the boys in my wider peer circle. They took to Twitter and started a campaign of abuse against me. I was called a “feminist bitch”, accused of “feeding [girls] bullshit”, and in a particularly racist comment was told “all this feminism bull won’t stop uncle Sanjit from marrying you when you leave school”.
Our feminist society was derided with retorts such as, “FemSoc, is that for real? #DPMO” [don’t piss me off] and every attempt we made to start a serious debate was met with responses such as “feminism and rape are both ridiculously tiring”.
The more girls started to voice their opinions about gender issues, the more vitriolic the boys’ abuse became. One boy declared that “bitches should keep their bitchiness to their bitch-selves #BITCH” and another smugly quipped, “feminism doesn’t mean they don’t like the D, they just haven’t found one to satisfy them yet.” Any attempt we made to stick up for each other was aggressively shot down with “get in your lane before I par [ridicule] you too”, or belittled with remarks like “cute, they got offended”.
It’s seen as hip and funny and freedom-loving.
The situation recently reached a crescendo when our feminist society decided to take part in a national project called Who Needs Feminism. We took photos of girls standing with a whiteboard on which they completed the sentence “I need feminism because…”, often delving into painful personal experiences to articulate why feminism was important to them.
When we posted these pictures online we were subject to a torrent of degrading and explicitly sexual comments.
We were told that our “militant vaginas” were “as dry as the Sahara desert”, girls who complained of sexual objectification in their photos were given ratings out of 10, details of the sex lives of some of the girls were posted beside their photos, and others were sent threatening messages warning them that things would soon “get personal”.
Surely that kind of thing does far more to poison relations between women and men than feminism has ever done. Surely it does more to silence women, too, than a feminist talking about privilege has ever done to silence men.
We, a group of 16-, 17- and 18-year-old girls, have made ourselves vulnerable by talking about our experiences of sexual and gender oppression only to elicit the wrath of our male peer group. Instead of our school taking action against such intimidating behaviour, it insisted that we remove the pictures. Without the support from our school, girls who had participated in the campaign were isolated, facing a great deal of verbal abuse with the full knowledge that there would be no repercussions for the perpetrators.
That is appalling.
The board of the CFI wishes to express its unhappiness with this controversy.
Kausik Datta says
Can we do something to show these courageous young women our explicit support? Their school is baulking, and it is a shame if they feel all alone in face of the vicious, brutal attacks they face.
Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says
Wouldn’t want to get too specific there.
Appalling, yes. Can the girls get in contact with the boys’ mothers at all?
Shame she believes in gender equality instead of gender abolition. Seriously screw gender.
Anthony K says
#braveheroes are clearly a dime-a-dozen.
Pity she believes in gender equality instead of gender (i.e, sex-based stereotypes) abolition.
Oops something weird happened there with my comment, sorry.
Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says
Gender abolition is a terrible idea, Jose. Also, that’s not what gender means.
Typical school behavior: If someone is being bullied, they don’t tell the bullies to stop bullying, they tell the victims to stop being different, to stop being visible. This siding with the bullies makes me at least as angry as the actual bullying. It is a sort of passive-aggressive bullying and, while not as immediately hurtful as the aggressive bullying, is harder to fight and is just as damaging since it tells the victims that they deserve the bullying.
The very model of a modern armchair general says
Not that this is harassment or anything. Oh, no, this is just satire and criticism, or at worst backlash.
Yup, seems she is right. Amazed how prevalent and just acceptable misogyny is online… What are the odds that my daughter will have a better experience in 10 or so years? Not looking promising at the moment and that’s depressing.
Marcus Ranum says
“I need feminism because…”
Brilliant! Mine would read:
“,,,every woman I know has been raped.”
Hmmm… perhaps we should start using the term more widely. It suits the mindset perfectly.
It’s interesting to see the ‘few and fringe’ repeat the same tactics in social arena after social arena, in country after country. You’d think misogyny was intelligently designed instead of just evolving ‘natural law’.
@9, not the place for that dialogue. Feel free to write at unstable.warp at gmail if you feel like explaining that one to me.
Jafafa Hots says
may the gods curse whoever brought it up.
oolon @ 12:
It seems like things are actually regressing at this point. Better? I’m starting to think that “just as bad” is the most that we can hope for.
I don’t want my niece to grow up around this kind of thing. Those of us who have been bystanders need to get into activism, this kind of behavior is simply not acceptable.
#braveheroes – Standing up for the Nice Guys™ who are too Nice™ to do it themselves.
For what it’s worth, I came across some evidence that the backlash against reporting actually IS getting worse. These are stats from Australia’s latest sexual harassment national survey: (source)
Depressing news, but at least it isn’t all in your head. I just hope we’re entering into stage 3 of the Gandhi process w/r/t sexual harassment: (“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”)
a simple caption for the photos could be ‘just read the comments below”. It is maddening, but not unexpected.
I think part of the regression is due to social media ripping away the scabs, and revealing the pus oozing underneath. It’s always been like this, but now its happening in public rather than in private.
Hyperdeath: I agree. I don’t think it’s worse.
I think all of this awfulness is actually a sign, paradoxically enough, that things are getting better.
I saw and got that kind of harassment as a 17-year-old, but it was hidden, and so was my response to it. The internet existed and everyone had a connection, but fewer people got their news online. The internet gives easy voice to people’s ids, so we know finally know exactly who we are dealing with, and how many of them there are.
Young Ms. Younis is of course a horrible bully, though, wanting consent forms signed in triplicate and getting offended about coffee (just like Rebecca Watson!) and stifling men’s freedom of speech and playing the victim. She should stop harassing the boys are her school. It’s a war on men, really, who are obviously the oppressed class. Boys can’t be boys any more–Christina Hoff Sommers says so! Not without being shut down by whiny princesses like this girl. Doesn’t she know that Muslim women have it worse? She should shut up and be grateful she’s not being clitoridectomized.