[NOTE: This article is about — and hence contains copious examples of — violent, highly triggering, and bigoted language. When the slur isn’t something connected to my own identity, I have tried to bleep it with asterisks.]
[EDITED TO ADD: Since its publication, this article has been cited by many reporters and bloggers. Thanks, everybody! I appreciate it! Huge compliment, love you, etc. However, there is one major clarification I’d like to make. Several outlets are reporting that all of the slurs quoted in this post were aimed at me, personally. This is not the case. The insults I’ve listed with bullet points and introduced with “see, from my own life” were directed at me. The insults I’ve alphabetized, and introduced with “see, cited in the hashtag” were cited by other people participating in the hashtag. I have not named or linked to their targets, simply to stress the overwhelmingly impersonal, repetitive, stereotyped quality of the abuse. In my view, it doesn’t matter so much who said what to which person, but that all of us are being called the same things, in the same tone; I’ve removed names, not because I don’t want to give those people credit, but because I think reading this as “oh, somebody said that to Jill Filipovic,” or “oh, somebody said that to Kate Harding,” or even “oh, somebody said that to Sady Doyle” is fundamentally misleading — the real point is, “oh, somebody said that to women and anti-sexist people.”]
Right as I sat down to write this post, my phone beeped.
It does this! For some reason, it is broken so that its “ring” settings are reduced to either “silent” or “beep every time you get any sort of message whatsoever including Twitter @s.” It’s been beeping a lot these past few days. But since all of these, including the Twitter @s, are often work-related, I check it every time. This one was from Twitter.
“I will fuck your ass to death you filthy fucking whore, ” it read. “Your only worth on this planet is as a warm hole to stick my cock in.”
Ahhhh. I love the smell of a good hashtag.
#MenCallMeThings has taken off, in these past few days. I didn’t expect it — if I had, I would have put more work into it than a simple Rebecca Solnit rip-off and a few top-of-my-head quotes — but then, I shouldn’t have been surprised. And, since it’s taken off, there’s been lots of coverage: requests for interviews (which I’ve turned down, as I’m on too many of my own deadlines at the moment, and also don’t want to be Face-Of-The-Movementing again any time soon or, you know, ever), op-ed pieces, meditations on Men Call Me Things As Phenomenon. And, of course, plenty of those op-eds have been about precisely what we set out to protest: The idea that the Internet is “equally mean to everyone,” that putting up with name-calling was something “everyone” had to do in the same way and at the same intensity and volume, the idea that “Internet cruelty” (whatever that means) isn’t gendered.
How do you know it’s gendered? These op-eds tend to ask. How do you know you’re getting it just because you’re a girl, or just because you’re feminine, or just because you oppose sexism? It’s not like there are any recurring themes, or anything. It’s not this stuff is intrinsically tied to stereotypes, to structures, to your oppression. It’s not like “everyone” doesn’t get this, or like ladies can’t be mean to men sometimes. Maybe you’re just overreacting! Maybe you just need to calm down! In other words, maybe you are just
THEME #1: THE WEAKER SEX
Lists of feminine stereotypes often include descriptors such as “sensitive” and “emotional.” Lists of masculine stereotypes often include descriptors like “stoic” and “rational.” Those feminine-stereotype lists, not coincidentally, also include the term “weak.” Women are emotional, hence not rational, hence not like men, hence bad. See “hysterical,” which currently means “exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement,” and which used to mean a disease exclusively diagnosed amongst women or those mistaken for them, thought to be caused by a dysfunctional or “wandering” uterus. See also “shrill” and “shriek,” two words for “overemotional” and irrational speech which also mean “high-pitched,” which women’s voices are more likely to be. To discredit a woman — or anyone perceived to be woman-like, such as genderqueer people, “effeminate” men, and male allies — you must determine that they’re acting from feminine emotion, which is always wrongheaded and bad. See, from my own life:
- More Assange-related feminist meltdown
- Sady Doyle is a stupid fucking whiny bitch
- Sady Doyle always takes the rape bait
- Allow me to recommend a treatment for her hysteria
- Sady Doyle, that living, breathing argument for the restoration of “
hysteria” as a legitimate medical diagnosis
- Shrieky hysterical moron
- All this “we need to be screechy in order to have more influence” thing
See, cited in the hashtag: “Agreeing ‘just to calm me down’,” crybaby, cry more, do you need to file a hurt feelings report? Hysterical, hypersensitive, oversensitive, oversensitive, too sensitive, “upset at my pathetic life,” whiny.
And after all, what do women have to get upset about? Everyone gets made fun of sometimes. If this were gendered, then the overwhelmingly most common variety of insult cited wouldn’t be
THEME #2: UNFUCKABLE WHORES
The most obvious and pernicious form of sexism is reducing women to sexualized objects. This divorces them from other forms of human worth, such as work, intelligence, or general character — it effectively makes them inhuman. Under this framework, the worst thing you can say about a woman is that she is not worth fucking. This invalidates the entire reason for her existence (in the eyes of a sexist commentator) and thus renders her worthless. Again, this form of insult often extends to people mistaken for female, or perceived to be feminine, including genderqueer people and trans men. And since a woman’s sole value is sexual, her virtue is entirely sexual too: Thus, if a woman is not unfuckable, she fucks too often, and is a slut. See, from my own experience:
- Prematurely haggish
- You’re an ugly fucking cunt
- This bespectacled smirking cunt is most certainly NOT cute
- That sort of smirk is why God invented anal sex.
- Bitch glasses.
- fatassskank Sady Doyle
- Sex with Sady Doyle would be the most perfunctory, acceptable sex imaginable
- no woman, you do not get to define how a man views your sexuality, that’s the entire purpose of your sexuality is to attract a man
THEME #2(a): Queer
If a woman’s only worth consists of being fucked by men, one way to damn her is to assert that she doesn’t want to: That she is a lesbian. This is often paired with accusations of “man-hating,” because not to fuck men is to hate them, and vice versa. Similarly, if a man is perceived as being too much “like” women — if he identifies as feminist, or speaks out against sexism — he is said to fuck men, because that is a woman’s only function. This is a popular “accusation” to aim at allies, and people who are presumed to have some kind of stake in being seen as straight, as well as at people who are, you know, gay, lesbian or bisexual. See, from my own life:
- What misandrist rock did you crawl out from under? This sort of bigoted drivel may find comfort in some remote outposts of radical feminism, but most women do not see another woman in their future — they still see a man
- Yawn. More anti-male clap-trap from a radical lesbian writer.
- We don’t have to consider her a primary stakeholder in heterosexual values.
See, cited in hashtag: Boring d*ke, cumm guzzling closet lesbian, “dude, you’re a feminist? Well, then you must be a (another word for homosexual),” f*ggot, lesbian, lesbian, lezbo, you sure you’re straight? Your just a gay cunt who deserves to be punished.
THEME #2(b): If You Won’t Fuck Me, I’ll Make You
Rape is a highly gendered crime — primarily done to women, and primarily done by men, according to all of the statistics we currently have. So is domestic violence. Murder, of course, is less gendered. But when a woman is talking, and calling her hysterical, unfuckable, a whore, or a non-primary stakeholder in heterosexual values hasn’t worked, there is one threat that is guaranteed to work: Violence. And that violence is typically, and unsurprisingly, gendered. See, from my own life:
- got a deserved assraping by progressive Mike Moore ROFL
- When this is all over, I think Julian Assange and Keith Olbermann will have earned every right to publicly rape Sady Doyle
- A firm backhand to her whore face would provide her with a much needed attitude adjustment
- I’ll give YOU a beatdown, cunt
- I will fuck your ass to death you filthy fucking whore. Your only worth on this planet is as a warm hole to stick my cock in.
See, cited in the hashtag: Asking for it, get raped to death, get beaten by your keeper, “Fuck you bitch….ya need to get beat like ur pops use to do to u,” “I hope you never have children, your daughters would be such sluts and end up murdered in a gutter by someone like me,” “if you stopped being such a stupid bitch & accepted the raping, you wouldn’t have gotten beaten,” not worth the effort to murder, “only tragedy is that a bullet didn’t rip through ur brainstem after u were used 4 ur 1 & only purpose in this world,” “what a long winded bitch. You certainly do need to be gagged,” “whenever I see a woman openly identify herself as feminist, I reach for my proverbial gun,” “You’re an annoying bitch with no friends.I’d love to run you over with my truck,” ‘you stupid bitch, I should fuck the crazy right out of you.’
Bonus Round: “My boss said in front of me ‘if women didn’t have a cunt you’d shoot ’em’. Doesn’t bother with online anonymity.”
Of course, with all these rape threats and “whores” flying around, it’s starting to look like this is pretty gendered. And pretty serious. It’s hard to conclude that women are just being hypersensitive, hysterical, shrill whiners about this when you know that some of them are responding to the fact that they’re getting threats to rape them to death, or hearing about how some men have the “right to publicly rape” them for speaking. So it’s time to question their motives. Their abilities. Their reasons for speaking up, and the credibility of their voices. For example, by telling them that
THEME #3: YOU’RE CRAZY
The stigma of mental illness is profound. It has also, historically, been used to delegitimize the voices we least want to have legitimacy: “Hysteria” for women, trans* and queer identities being included in the DSM, or drapetomania, the “disease” that supposedly caused black slaves to run away from their masters. One way to delegitimize a woman, or a voice perceived to be “feminine,” is to call her mentally ill — to assert that none of what she says can be trusted, since she is not reacting “normally,” or may be making it all up. This can include formal medical pseudo-diagnoses, allegations that the person in question is prone to fabrication, and diagnoses for mental disabilities (like autism, or developmental disabilities) other than mental illness per se. See, from my own life (which is the life of a blogger who’s admitted to having depression and social anxiety, which affects the extent to which I get this):
- We used to confine people to sanitariums for these kinds of outbursts.
- She’s off her meds.
- Sounds like an escaped mental patient
- Wild ravings
- Unhinged bitch
- Narcissist delusions
- Delusions of grandeur
- Delusional Naricissist Sady
See, cited in hashtag: “All in my head,” autistic bitch child, crazy, crazy, crazy, delusional, liar, “a liar, by my ex and his friends, after saying that he raped me,” obsessive, neurotic, r*tard, “you most obviously have a partial mental defect.”
THEME #4: YOU HAVE BAD POLITICS. ALL OF THE BAD POLITICS.
Another step to delegitimizing a voice is to assert that someone is acting out of a shady agenda, or is allied with (or simply using tactics which resemble) a recognizably harmful political group. Since feminism is not recognized to be an essentially political movement — since it is still seen to be a “personal” concern — feminists get this from both sides, being called right-wingers by liberal men who want to maintain male privilege, and being called far-left extremists by right-wing men who see feminism as progressive (even when liberal men do not). For example, during the #MooreandMe hashtag, a left-leaning blogger wrote about how I was probably an upper-middle-class elitist who had only ever attended private schools (which is factually untrue), whereas a right-wing blogger wrote about how I was probably uneducated, and hence deprived of the implicitly middle-class benefits of higher education. Which was also factually untrue. In this step, a woman is delegitimized by being placed in a political category she doesn’t belong to, because that political category is believed to be illegitimate in and of itself. Sometimes “feminist” is the political category objected to, or compared to (say) Nazism. See, from my own life:
- Dworkinite extremist
- #MooreandMe is a totalitarian movement
- #MooreandMe ayatollah
- Will you be wearing a swastika armband?
- Sady’s (your? not sure how we’re addressing each other now) small-tent position is note-for-note exactly the same as the song the Tea Party’s singing right now
- It has been my experience that men-haters like Sady Doyle usually work for the US government. For some reason, it doesn’t occur to people that the FBI infiltrated the feminist movement
See, cited in hashtag: “‘Communist’ for writing a newspaper column about how I planned to keep using my maiden name,” “feminism is no longer political,” feminazi, feminazism, “humorless, Stalinist hag,” “i surely hope that one day you get raped by one of these people that you have gentrified,” “tree hugging f*ggot embracing douche fag.”
THEME#5: YOU’RE A STUPID LITTLE GIRL
Due to centuries of male privilege, and corresponding male achievement, men are presumed to be smarter, harder-working, and more suited to accomplishment than women. Women are perceived as non-intellectual, unsuited for work in “men’s” intellectual fields, and also ditzy, shallow, and childish; because they are considered less intellectual, they can be spoken down to, or spoken of as literal children. This is a difficult theme to call out; anyone can be called stupid on the Internet, and many people on the Internet are actually stupid. But in this context, women are called intellectually unfit specifically for being feminist, and are usually infantilized (or called another gendered name, such as bimbo, ditz, hysteric or airhead) on top of that. See, in my own life:
- Intellectual lightweight (from the “give you a beat down, cunt” man, who was also sending a friend rape threats)
- Sady Doyle is still a stupid little girl
- Shrieky hysterical moron with limited writing ability (repeat, on account of double-qualification)
- Women like Sady, are little girls in the bodies of adult women
See, cited in hashtag: Airhead, blogger poodle, “can’t be a female scientist, that phrase is an oxymoron,” childish, “dumb bimbos like you? im sorry you exist,that sucks,” fanatically childish, flighty, “Incoherent Silly Ranting Nonsense-spouting Pseudo-intellectual Insane Oversensitive Humourless Female supremacist,” naive, “not grown up (as in: ‘when you…’ I’m 42, btw),” spoiled little princess, “step into your big girl panties,” stupid bitch, stupid fucking cunt, stupid feminazi cunt, “your IQ has got to be below average. I’m dismissing you because you are irrational to the point of incompetence… it’s painfully obvious you’re a woman, get off the internet.”
THEME #6: YOU’RE NOT A WOMAN
Of course, the best way to invalidate a woman’s voice, especially on sexism, is to deny that she’s a woman at all. This is particularly pernicious and harmful for trans women, who are called “tr*nny whore, bitch, slut, it, shemale, thing, deluded, loud, a liar” (note similarities to other themes) as per the Questioning Transphobia Twitter, but are also subject to vicious sexualising, shaming, and de-gendering attacks by transphobic women. @Kiri_public notes that she’s called “divisive. Shrill. Someone who looks for (trans)misogyny where it doesn’t exist.” Women of color, too, are both characterized as hypersexual and sexually available and degendered; @Racialicious notes that most of their attacks are racial, not gendered. And women and feminists level racial attacks and racism too, thus rendering them unsafe on both fronts.
So, thus far, it seems like all of this is gendered! Women are hysterical, emotional, soft and weak: That’s a pretty standard exercise of sexism, right there. Women are targets of unwanted sexual attention and sexualized violence: Also gendered. Women’s concerns are apolitical or badly political, women are incompetent and childish, queer women are called monstrous (and men who are like women are queer), trans women are called men or “it,” genderqueer people and trans men are misgendered and subjected to misogyny, women of color are degendered in racist attacks: All of this is fairly effing political, and much in line with what we know about how sexism operates, it would seem. It also seems fairly sexist! But watch out before you say that, because here comes
THEME #7: YOU’RE JUST NO FUN AT ALL, YOU BIG SCARY BITCH
As we noted up top, feminine stereotypes list “emotional,” “sensitive,” and “weak.” They also list things like “caring” and “self-critical.” All of this can be used against women — to call them weak, hysterical, shrill, childish, etc. But what happens when a woman doesn’t fit the stereotype? When she’s “strong,” or “stoic,” or “competitive,” or “assertive,” or any of those things that we list on the “masculine” side of column? Well, watch out. Because if you step onto time-honored Man Ground, you’re not “strong;” you’re aggressive, even violent. You’re not “competitive;” you’re threatening and mean. You’re not “assertive” about your boundaries; you’re a no-fun, humorless, bitter, out-to-get-men kind of bitch. See, from my own life:
- Bitter hag of a young woman.
- Sady is simply an ugly, bitter, little woman
- Maybe with a smile on that face I might get a boner.
- Sady was being a confrontational bitch
- Was it in Dealey Plaza or outside the Dakota buildings that you sealed your name in lights and infamy forever pet?
- Sady Doyle is forcing herself on Olbermann, raping him repeatedly with her words and accusations.
- Feminist blogger Sady Doyle went nuclear after Moore’s appearance on the Olbermann show, and created a Twitter hashtag, #MooreandMe, to batter him
See, cited in the hashtag: Aggressive, angry, angry, angry, anti-fun, ballbuster, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitchy, bitter, beast, Beast from hell, “cold, calculating bitch,” cranky, cunt, humorless, humorless, heartless whore, joyless, joyless, killjoy, Lady Bathory, man hater, manipulative, misandrist, negative, rude, “ruins the great social atmosphere,” vicious, vindictive, uncollegial.
This, to me, is the crux of the whole problem. The underlying theme that makes all the rest of the #MenCallMeThings harassment happen. It’s why we get it from so many corners, and why we’re not supposed to name our harassers or speak out against them; it’s the underlying assumption, why we’re getting harassed in the first place for writing online or speaking about sexism in our day-to-day lives.
To find #Things for #MenCallMeThings, I had to look back through anonymous hate mail, hate blogs about me, conservative-blog and MRA-blog posts about me, random Twitter trolls, and at comment threads that were particularly nasty, sure. But in with the rest of this, I’ve also quoted a popular male liberal blogger, a pop-music writer who publishes at some of the same places I have, a friend-of-a-friend whose “urban biking club” my boyfriend was once thinking of joining, and a published YA fantasy novelist with lefty politics. What matters is not which guys said it: What matters is that, when you put their statements side-by-side, they all sound like the exact same guy. And when you look at what they’re saying, how similar these slurs and insults and threats we get actually are, they always sound like they’re speaking to the exact same woman. When men are using the same insults and sentiments to shut down women and “feminine” people, across the board, then we know what’s going on. And we know that it’s not about us; it’s about gender.
And they’re not doing it because we’re “weak” or “hypersensitive.” They hope to Christ that we’re weak and sensitive, because then harassment would shut us up, but they know that we’re really not. They go so incredibly hard against us — send the death threats, the rape threats, the over-the-top “you’re just a cum receptacle” — in the hopes that something, anything, will be enough to stop us. They know they have to push that hard. Because they know that we’re strong. They know that we’ve got thick skins. And they know that we won’t put up with bullshit. Which makes us scary, which makes us threatening, which makes us “aggressive” and “vicious” and “vindictive” bitches who might shut them down.
They don’t do this because women, and people who speak out against sexism online, are delicate, fragile flowers. They do this because we’re tougher than they can imagine, tougher than they’ll ever have to be, and tougher than they can personally handle. They need to shut us down, to scare us, because if we keep going we just might win. We just might end sexism. They’ll do anything to stop us from getting that done.
And that’s how I know it’s sexist when #MenCallMeThings. Just in case you wondered.