In 2009, I was a far more cheerful person.
It’s true! You can see it, in the posts and such! I was exclamation-point-y, and elaborate-DFW-sentence-ripoff-y, and oh, oh so very droll about all this wacky sexism. I got mad, a few times. Who doesn’t? But for the most part, I was just darn chirpy. “Hey, bros! Maybe you don’t want to oppress women any more, amiright? Ha ha, you sure don’t. L8RZ!” Is my general summary, of Tiger Beatdown Tone, circa 2009.
If you haven’t guessed yet, I find Former Me very, very annoying.
And yet, a sadness comes upon me. Now that I have regenerated, Whovianly, into my current form — all serious-faced and irritable and SAD TIMES ABOUT SEXISM — I find myself missing her carefree ways. Moreover, I find myself wondering how she pulled it off. How the Hell did she stay in such a good mood all the time? And I think I’ve found my answer: In 2009, I genuinely believed people were going to change their minds about being sexist, because they read my blog.
I know, right? If only someone had come up with this plan before! All I had to do was register a WordPress domain, compose some charmingly ironic yet pointed analyses of Ye Aulde Patriarchy, cite some academics so they knew I wasn’t stupid, throw a lot of jokes and references to oral sex in there to prove feminists weren’t “humorless” or “frigid,” and the sexists, they would be delighted. So delighted they decided to stop being sexists! “Hmmmm,” they’d say. “Sady sure doesn’t appreciate it when I do the sexism. Since she’s my new Internet Best Friend, I had better cut that shit out pronto! Then we can all join a bowling league!” BLAM. REVOLUTION ACCOMPLISHED. No more problems, for anyone, ever, because I blogged.
I hate to tell you this, friends. But I think my plan, it had a minor flaw. Which is: Misogynists don’t like women. It doesn’t matter how uniquely charming and witty and acquainted with various fine bourbons you are. Are you a woman? Then they don’t like you. And they especially don’t like you telling them what to do. By, for example, asking them to cut it out with the misogyny.
What I got, friends, were comments. Comments about myself. And blogs about myself. And message-board discussions, also about myself. And e-mails. What I got was what every woman (feminist or not) and openly anti-sexist person (woman or not) on this our Internet gets: I got targeted. With threats, with insults, with smear campaigns, with attempts to threaten my employment or credibility or just general ability to get through the day with a healthy attitude and a minimal amount of insult.
This is a recurring problem! Not a Special Sady Problem, but an Everyone Problem. And, increasingly, folks are identifying it as such. In articles, in blog posts, in day-to-day life. (Here is the part where I point out that S.E. Smith, ouself neither a lady nor a feminist, wrote one of the best pieces on the subject, FOR TIGER BEATDOWN, ahem ahem.) You would think there would not be much of a backlash to this! We tend to agree, as a society, that getting threatened, subjected to blacklisting, and/or having hateful slurs screamed at you is unpleasant, and that people who do those things should be discouraged. You would think, friends, that saying such a thing, and adding “plus it’s often motivated by sexism, which I don’t like” would not get you blowback.
Ah, but no! Veteran point-misser Brendan O’Neill is here to tell you that the only reason you could POSSIBLY object to harassment is that you are an ALL-POWERFUL TOTALITARIAN OF THE SORT DESCRIBED BY GEORGE ORWELL:
[The] most striking thing about these fragile feminists’ campaign is the way it elides very different forms of speech. So the Guardian report lumps together “threats of rape”, which are of course serious, with “crude insults” and “unstinting ridicule”, which are not that serious. If I had a penny for every time I was crudely insulted on the internet, labelled a prick, a toad, a shit, a moron, a wide-eyed member of a crazy communist cult, I’d be relatively well-off. For better or worse, crudeness is part of the internet experience, and if you don’t like it you can always read The Lady instead.
The crashing together of threats of violence with ridicule is striking, because it exposes a fairly Orwellian streak to modern feminist campaigns to “stamp out” bad things.
Ladies! A man has come, to tell you what you can take seriously! Aren’t you relieved?
Anyway. Aside from the blatant self-contradiction — feminists are fragile and delicate and weak, so weak they are going to TAKE OVER THE WORLD and RULE IT WITH AN IRON FIST — this is actually just, um, stupid. The threats and the name-calling aren’t all that terrifically different. Sure, one kind of speech is actionable, and the other isn’t. One kind of speech can require action — if it’s credible — and the other just requires a use of the “delete” or “block” button. But it’s all meant to accomplish the same thing: Making you shut up.
Sometimes, there isn’t actually that much difference between someone saying “I want to rape you with a chainsaw” and someone saying “I hope you get raped with a chainsaw.” If the first comment contains information that leads you to believe the person can find you, you report it. But often, it doesn’t. It’s just someone sending you some words, in the hopes that the next time you sit down to write, you’ll remember that yikesy chainsaw-rape thing and think, “you know? Maybe this isn’t such a great idea. Maybe I don’t need to say this. Maybe I’ll piss someone off, and maybe it will be more than I can handle, and you know, maybe my thoughts on this topic just ARE NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH for me to risk the headache/fear/irritation/distress/panic attack I know I will get.”
And then, when you say that aloud, they call you a whiny little girl who can’t handle the Internet. Because, of COURSE multiple chainsaw-rape comments aren’t a big deal! They’re just words! Sticks and stones! Suck it up, you big Orwellian diaper baby!
To you, my friends, I say: Fuck that noise. All of this matters. A hostile work environment matters. Being afraid of your own in-box matters. Deleting your blog because that’s the only way for you to have a normal, non-hate-filled life matters. “Accepting” that continual, virulent, hateful misogynist abuse is a pre-condition for being a lady who talks about thing, or for challenging sexism in any way, no matter who you are: That matters. And if you think we’re fragile, well. LET US COUNT THE WAYS we have hacked it, under conditions your pampered manly self just cannot imagine. LET US DEMONSTRATE FOR YOU the shit we wade through, every day, in order to talk about whether or not we liked that one “Community” episode or Lady GaGa album. LET US JUST TELL YOU what we put up with, what we’ve been strong enough to endure, and even knowingly court; the given consequences we face for being anti-sexist and/or ladies on the Internet, which we’ve all put up with, without crumbling. And then you can decide whether we’re wimps or not.
Hence, #MenCallMeThings. (Cf. “Men Explain Things To Me,” a Top Ten Lady Essay of All Time.) A Twitter hashtag, because you know I love the hashtags, dedicated to listing the names we’ve all been called. Featuring such Top 10 Hits as!
- YOU HAVE CAUGHT THE HYSTERIA, MY GOODNESS! “Shrill,” “shrieky,” “screechy,” “oversensitive,” “hypersensitive,” “hysterical,” and much, much more! Since you are just a lady shrieking about feelingsy bullshit — you know, how the ladies do, on account of their colder temperaments and delicate wits and so forth and so on — you cannot possibly be identifying a legitimate problem. Therefore, shut up.
- YOU’RE A MONSTER! A MONSTERRRRRR! “Vindictive,” “on a rampage,” “castrating,” “man-hating,” “misandrist,” “cunt” and “bitch!” Since you are a big meanie who just wants to hurt people and ruin men’s lives and oppress men forever and ever in a dystopian Hell-world of no rape jokes, you cannot possibly have any motivation for your statement other than sheer cruelty, and we cannot trust you. Therefore, shut up.
- HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I WANT TO FUCK YOU YET? “She’d be cute if,” “if she smiled I might get a boner but,” “a cock in her mouth would shut her up,” “anal sex would wipe that smirk off her face,” “oh hey I wrote a blog post about what sort of lay you’d be,” and so forth, and so on! I’m sorry, were you talking? We were all thinking about your boobs! Which are your only real value, by the way. Therefore, shut up.
- COINCIDENTALLY, HAVE I MENTIONED THAT I DON’T WANT TO FUCK YOU? “Ugly,” “fat,” “hambeast,” “lardass,” “prude,” “skank,” “slut,” “whore,” and “hag!” I’m sorry, were you talking? I don’t presently want to fuck you, which means you have quite literally ceased to exist. I mean, you can talk all you want. But, since you won’t be given the eternal pleasure of making sweet, sweet, sensual love with ME, “EntourageRocks94332,” your blithering woman-speech will accomplish nothing. Therefore, shut up.
- I WOULD LIKE IT IF YOU WERE DEAD RIGHT NOW. Or beaten, or raped, or whatever! Any incredibly violent act aimed at your person is fine by me! Seriously, you should be dead, though. Because you know what’s great about dead people? They can’t disagree with me on the Internet. Therefore, shut up.
- STOP TAKING IT SO SERIOUSLY. “Extremist,” “humorless,” “PC,” “whining,” “bitching,” “complaining,” “divisive,” “single-issue,” “feminazi,” &co. You have simply GOT TO STOP IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS! Men can do all that for you! Also, should you accidentally identify a problem, stop acting as if that problem bothers you, or is bad! If you get all riled up about this, you might end up, like, solving something. And we don’t want that, now do we? Therefore, I beg of you, ALL of you: Shut up.