Recently I wrote about the way men respond to women who speak using some personal and Australian political examples of dismissal and misogyny. You can read it here. But let me be clear, this is not a phenomenon that recognises cultural or geographic borders. Misogyny and violence against women, particularly in a political or activist sphere, is a global problem of pandemic proportions recognised as such by the United Nations.
Full disclosure — I’m a feminist. I follow other feminists on social media. I’m passionate about female representation in politics, about female activism, and issues relating specifically to womxn… notice the “x” in there? Yes, I reject the way all things feminine are viewed through a male lens and male language. Female, human, history, The x also indicates I am an intersectional and gender binary inclusive feminist.
In my earlier piece I wrote;
“…my words, no matter how plain or succinct, are often received by men as, and I quote, ‘the hysterical word salad of a man-hating feminazi’, or something to that effect — though most times such men are quite lazy and just call me a ‘lesbo’.”
But, research tells us that you don’t even have to identify as a feminist to receive a barrage of tears and outrage from men. You just have to be a woman… who speaks.
A recent survey from the International Center for Journalists showed that 73% of female journalists have experienced online abuse, harassment, threats, and attacks. And it’s no longer just an issue of online trolling, the violence is spilling offline and the verbal abusers are getting physical. Women who speak publically ARE being raped and murdered as punishment. As a mother to a young Aspie woman, every time I see a comment from a man stating that raping Greta Thunberg would shut her up my stomach literally turns.
Another groundbreaking survey, across a whopping 32 countries, showed that on average, 52% of girls and young women have experienced online abuse. And that’s just between the ages of 15 and 25. Another study in Australia showed a staggering 76% of women between the ages of 18 and 30 had experienced online abuse. And it needs to be said, we’re not talking about being mean here; the insults about your face, how many cats you own, or your level of intelligence. I’m talking about this sort of thing;
Yes, Carol, as you so rightly pointed out (and I thank you), not all men, but definitely Jay, Daniel, Jason, and oh so many others. It’s the sort of assault that leads women to close their social media accounts. Particularly younger women who are often targeted for their vulnerability and lack of confidence, and who are yet to hone the defence mechanisms (a very thick skin) that allow us old feminists a relative degree of calm and composure in the face of extreme misogyny. This level of verbal violence is the sort of thing that often achieves the objective of silencing women who speak. And this serves to disempower us and deny us the many benefits social media affords.
As with life in general, the response from men when being called out on their behaviour is to tell women to get thicker skins, to not take misogyny (aka ‘jokes’) so seriously, and, if we can’t ‘grow some balls’ or ‘stand the heat’, just get out of the virtual kitchen… and into the real one to make them a ‘sammich’.
According to the famously fragile petal, Milo Yiannoschmuck, “Men have had enough of third-wave feminism’s incessant and pathetic whinging“ he goes on to suggest “the solution to online ‘harassment’ is simple: women should log off.”
It’s the same in parliaments and board rooms, where women are expected to perform like men — grow balls and take it on the chin — in order to be one of the boys and hopefully advance their careers. It’s the same in the home where women are expected to take the greater burden of caring for home and children, and even the same in our bodies where we’re told if we don’t want a baby, keep our legs together; too tight and we’re a tease, not tight enough and we’re a slut. Also, consent to touch our bodies is irrelevant, or at least up to male interpretation.
It’s a familiar response to female experiences of male violence; that we should modify our behaviours; keep our drinks covered, our keys between our fingers, our clothing modest, our words polite… oh so polite, for misogyny is a fragile beast, easily offended, and incapable of managing its own behaviour.
One of my favourite Australian journalists, Julia Baird, just wrote a piece in which she opened with this:
“When I started hosting a TV show, I didn’t expect that every day when I signed off and returned to my computer, there’d be a message from a bloke telling me which particular implement or technique he’d employ to anally rape me, but there it was. I have now grown so used to threats of violence I often forget to report them.”
She goes on to say that calls to simply get off of social media are not the solution. But nor is the thicker skin so many of us have grown in response to this relentless onslaught of violence that we “forget to report them”. It is, I am sad to say, all in a days work for women who speak (or write), and indeed all in a days work for women and girls who are just going about the business of existing.
In 2020, almost 180 years since the feminist movement started to take shape, you’d like to think women really had reached true equality. But if anything, there is a common feeling being expressed that we are going backwards. Women are undoubtedly making head roads into politics and business. We’re getting highly educated and, as a result, we’re making our own choices, — choices that increasingly involve opting for careers over children, independence over marriage, travel over domesticity. But as women embrace these steps towards autonomy and self-determination men are less impressed; and they’re pushing back, hard.
It’s like a low-intense, constant warfare
Getting off social media, out of politics, and off of the streets that we’ve marched on for so long would certainly make for a more peaceful existence. The fear men have of losing their privileged position at the top of, well, everything really, would be assuaged. And the manosphere, that seeks to bully women off of the internet and back into the kitchen so men can manspread all over the world wide web with their gaming, porn, and manly posturing, would suddenly fall quiet, mission accomplished.
But, it is 2020, and women will not be silenced. We will not be squashed into small spaces. We won’t log off of social media (though 12% of us do), even though we know it is sexist AF!
As part of this years campaign for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (which runs for 16 days from November 25th through to World Human Rights Day on December 10th), I am using social media instead. Misogyny trolls, as I like to call them, seek to silence us. So I offer them silence.
As our physical movements are restricted during the global pandemic we can still be actively engaged in campaigns to address gendered violence. Engage with allies in positive ways and completely and utterly ignore the outraged tears of angry men. Don’t debate the issue of violence against women. There is no debate. Don’t provide platform for “the other side of the argument” as one fragile male just tried to tell me he had to do. There is no argument.
I know you’re tired. I’m tired. As Swedish journalist, Alexandra Pascalidou says, “It’s like a low-intense, constant warfare.” And it is. It’s a relentless, often co-ordinated attack, in which misogyny trolls suddenly appear en masse in any online discussion centred on women — calls for pile-ons sent out into the manosphere where angry men lurk waiting for a signal on where to launch the attack. Knowing that it’s coming often causes us to start censoring ourselves as we buckle under the weighty oppressiveness of gendered, often sexualised hate.
But as often as we buckle, the patriarchy buckles more. The fervour with which it assaults us is evidence of that.
Womxn, know this. We. are. smashing the patriarchy, and it knows it. Keep smashing.
© Sarah J. Baker 2020. All Rights Reserved.