The revenge

Laurie Penny says we’re winning. Who? Who’s we? Social Justice Warriors.

She’s been thinking about the reaction – the revenge – from the anti-Social Justice Warriors, and what it means.

The routine, the arguments, have become far too familiar. A woman or a handful of women are selected for destruction; our ‘credibility’ and ‘professionalism’ are attacked in the same breath as we are called ugly, slut-shamed for dismissed either as stupid little girls or bitter old women or, in some cases, both.

The medium is modern, but the logic is Victorian, and make no mistake, the problem is not what we do and say and build and create.

The problem is that women are doing it. That’s why the naked selfies, the slut-shaming, is not just incidental to the argument—it is the argument. Underneath it all, you’re just a woman, just a body. You can be reduced to flesh. You are less. You are an object. You are other. LOL, boobs.

It’s sort of as if we were dogs. Imagine if dogs suddenly started trying to participate in human affairs as equals. What would we do? We would exclaim that dogs smell bad, and they crap right out in public where everyone can see, and then they just walk away and leave it. Underneath it all, they’re just dogs – they’re here to be our buddies and companions, to play and cuddle and bark at raccoons. They’re not like us; they can’t run things and write books and create games and talk at conferences and be critical of bad ideas. LOL, farts.

This is a culture war. The right side is winning, at great cost. At great personal costs to people like Anita Sarkeesian, Leigh Alexander, Zoe Quinn and even Jennifer Lawrence, and countless others who are on the frontlines of creating new worlds for women, for girls, for everyone who believes that stories matter and there are too many still untold. We are winning. We are winning because we are more resourceful, more compassionate, more culturally aware. We’re winning because we know what it’s like to fight through adversity, through shame and pain and constant reminders of our own worthlessness, and come up punching. We know we’re winning because the terrified rage of a million mouthbreathing manchild misogynists is thick as nerve gas in the air right now.

And we are winning because we’re not dogs, or comparable to dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs (and cats – don’t ask me to choose one), but I don’t want to read books by dogs or get on planes flown by dogs. If we were comparable to dogs, the misogynists would have a point. But we’re not, so they don’t.


  1. Matt Olenik says

    The comparison to dogs reminded me of something I saw st the beach a few weeks ago. There were two dogs playing and roughhousing with each other, fighting over a large tree branch, etc, as dogs do. A third dog approached them, one from a different family. It was very excited to find other dogs to play with. But it wouldn’t directly engage the other two…it would run beside them, bark with them, playing-but-not-playing. The other dogs weren’t rejecting it, nor was this third dog smaller than the others. They all looked very friendly. It occurred to me that I’ve seen this behavior many times, and although dog psychology is not human psychology, it really fucking says something when dogs show more appreciation for their peers’ personal space than human men often do.

  2. Fortesque says

    I can only hope this is all true. Though I would definitely read a book written by a dog at least once.

  3. Phillip Hallam-Baker says

    Of course social justice is winning, that is the reason the misogynists are bleating in the first place.

    In the old days we used to call conservatives reactionaries because they whole world view was based on reacting to change by trying to stop it.

    Al Qaeda and ISIS are just more violent examples of the same type of thinking. The move to impose a caliphate and sharia law isn’t being driven by a reaction to the West or Western ideas. What scares the pants off those people is the fact they are losing the culture war against their own people.

  4. leni says

    No no Phillip Hallam-Baeker, you have it all wrong!

    They’re ok with change, so long as it isn’t them being asked to change.

    Long, boring story warning…

    One of the Slymepit fans (I presume) recently unfriended me on Facebook after asking this face-meltingly stupid series of straw questions (paraphrase):

    “Do you absolutely love FTBs? Do you think Richard Dawkins is the scum of the earth? Do you think it’s acceptable to hate someone who raises reasonable objections?”

    I answered something like “I’ve read Ed Brayton for years, long before FTBs, and I like a lot of the other bloggers too. I don’t think Richard Dawkins is the scum of the earth, but he has been saying a lot of stupid shit on Twitter lately. Mild pedophilia really didn’t make you want to puke in your mouth? Scum of the earth? Not really. Disappointing and irritating, yes. ” Super unreasonable, right?

    Anyway, she answered her own question in the affirmative and promptly deleted me. Which made me laugh, but also made me understand something.

    This is a very liberal, science-loving gay or bi (not sure) woman. Who still thinks it was “Twitter” that gave Melody Hensley PTSD and not the abuse (including death threats she received at her home). She still thinks she’s like the only person in the world totally unaffected by the culture of racism and sexism that we all bathe in daily. I tried to tell her once that there are studies, we know people do shitty things even when they don’t want to and are trying not to. They reject resumes unconsciously, for example. No one means to be a racist or a sexist. Well, most of us don’t. She insisted she would never do that. I don’t doubt she was sincere about that, but I also know that everyone who failed the resume test probably believed the same thing about themselves. They aren’t evil racists or sexists (necessarily), they’re people. Who live in our culture. And who fuck up.

    So rather than admit that there might be a bigger problem than people trying really hard not be racist or sexist, which most of us think we do, she seemed to think the problem was with everyone else. Which struck as me as eye-rollingly naive, but also incredibly arrogant. Really? You think the magic of humanism makes you impervious to the same shit that affects everyone else?

    No need to question yourself ever?

    Yeah, it was like talking to a wall. She’s a nice person, if a bit obnoxious on social media, don’t get me wrong. We agree about far more than we disagree and I certainly wouldn’t consider her the “scum of the earth”. But this bullshit attitude that calling yourself a humanist and assuring yourself that you’re not a bad person is enough is, well, bullshit.

    The whole thing boiled down to the rank arrogance of the assumption that there is no room or need for improvement, except in other people. Apparently, armchair PTSD diagnoses of strangers on facebook are the best we can do. Recognizing that we are human and subject to the same problems everyone else has is “toxic”. It’s childish and petty avoidance and not much else.

    (Long, boring story over.)

    So I was kidding, Phillip, you weren’t wrong at all. Change will happen whether they like it or not. It pretty much already did. Ten years from now when Ed Brayton and Ophelia Benson and PZ Myers are the biggest names in atheist circles and are getting accused of rape even though “everyone” knew they were big rapey creeps all along, we can discuss whether or not those conference harassment policies were really such a bad idea after all. Until then, maybe it wouldn’t be the end of the world to talk about how we can do better now.

  5. maddog1129 says

    I saw something on TV the other night that I’ve not seen before: one of those celebrity PSA announcements saying “no more” “no more she shouldn’t have worn that short skirt” “no more boys will be boys”

    Both men and women were featured in the spot, well known people.

    So, yeah, it could be that we’re winning.

  6. maddog1129 says

    And then yesterday on the radio, I heard another spot, that I’d also not heard anything like before.

    It was something on the order of: “too bad that dress looks ugly on you,” “you’re such a slut” if you wouldn’t say these things in public to someone’s face, don’t say them online.

    It was better than my example, of course, but I’d never heard a general announcement before about not bullying people online.

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