How women’s voices are silenced online through trolling


2:45 pm - November 4th 2011

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contribution by Ray Filar

It’s difficult for women to speak in public, particularly political women. Yesterday, Helen Hasteley-Lewis blogged at the New Statesman about the torrential online abuse feminist writers get.

This follows Cath Elliott’s blog earlier this year on the shocking invective she personally regularly receives. 

At the moment, the internet is a society where being (perceived as) female and writing about feminism invariably leads to responses on the theme of: ‘shut up or I will rape you/you’re ugly and deserve to be raped/you’re too ugly to be raped’. 

Abuse is more explicitly misogynist online, where trolls can hide behind anonymised usernames, but it isn’t a phenomenon isolated to the internet. The watered-down version plays out offline all the time.

How does silencing work? Partially, it works by ad feminam response. Suppose that Fictional-but-also-factual-John and I are having a discussion.

I say that I think silencing is something that is usually directed against women by men in order to shut them up. John replies with, ‘okay, but you don’t have to be so angry about it all the time/you’re cute when you’re political! / did someone get out of bed on the wrong side this morning? / you don’t have to make it about gender all the time/you’re just saying that because you’re a woman / ok…come here and kiss me / yeah but you’re fat and ugly and therefore irrelevant’, and so on.

My opinion is sidestepped; irony abounds. Next time, it is harder to speak.

Silencing works by trivialisation of what women say, through mockery of what women say, through reducing-women-to-sexual-appearance.

After being silenced once, twice, a thousand times, I find it surprising that anybody has the labia to say anything at all. 

This is not to say that there aren’t loud, opinionated, dominating women, or shy, retiring men, or that people biologically conform to a gender binary. It not to say that ALL WOMEN are one way and ALL MEN are another way. It’s not to say that silencing doesn’t happen along other axes of oppression, race and class being two of the rather pertinent ones.

If you, of any gender, find yourself instinctively disregarding what a woman is saying, if you find yourself not listening, or wanting to interrupt, or looking at the clock, you are enacting a form of silencing. If find yourself thinking, ‘what a cow/bitch/hag’ when a woman is saying something in an outspoken fashion, you are taking part in the mentality of silencing.

Take a step back, have a look at your own privilege, and then, please, stop doing it.


Ray Filar blogs here and tweets from here.

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Reader comments


It is something I have noticed that labour and its supporters do to Conservative women all the time. Look at the spleen directed at Margaret Thatcher, does anyone seriously think it would have had that same personal viciousness had she been a he

Otherwise I tend to agree with that

Interesting and well argued point. I have noticed that Guardian readers are really vile to women columnists like Zoe Williams, whilst fawning on the blokish Charlie Brooker. Why is this? Something to do with football? A generation thang?

3. Luis Enrique

There are millions of people out there, and, say, 1% of them are utter morons, and no doubt feminist bloggers are magnets to a particular strain of moron. I don’t think we should make too much of the idiocy of the few. And nobody should be silenced by it either. (I wish I could silence some people by making disparaging comments).

If you, of any gender, find yourself instinctively disregarding what a woman is saying, if you find yourself not listening, or wanting to interrupt, or looking at the clock, you are enacting a form of silencing.

And the point is? Sometimes when people of either gender speak to me I get bored. So does everyone else.

5. Irony Overload

Cath Elliot has been silenced ??? She is regularly published by a national newspaper, for Chris sales. Perhaps she ought to look at her own privilege?

I agree with everything you’ve written here, and I’m not trying to minimise the problem or distract from it: but… *some* women, *some* of the time do reach for this card a little too readily.

Sometimes your arguments are dismissed because they’re stupid. Sometimes you’re not being “outspoken”, you’re being unpleasant. Sometimes people will watch the clock because you’re tedious. Sometimes people will be nasty to you because they’re nasty, not because they’re misogynistic.

Again; you’re absolutely right that people should take a step back and consider whether they might be “silencing”. People should *also* take a step back and consider whether they really are being “silenced”.

7. Man on Clapham Omnibus

I am sure there is merit in what you say but I’d hesitate in being prescriptive about the conduct of one person toward another particularly when one thinks the other is extremely boring. That goes for all genders.

I’m unsure about this. It has to be, in large part, a confidence issue. Which of course raises the question: why are women traditionally conceived as ‘less confident’.

Most of the silencing mentioned is passive and at the same time infuriating: Not listening, interrupting, looking at the clock should not silence anyone.

The fact is that the only person who can silence you is you. We have all been in situations where people didn’t listen to us, interrupted, or had our ideas discarded. What matters is how to respond, I responded by not backing down, and not choosing to be silent.

A key factor is embarrassment, many people are chronically embarrassed by the entire process of public speaking, I would argue that the ‘silencing’ methods used above raise the embarrassment level of the speaker to the point where they stop speaking. – (the way I dealt with my own fears of speaking in public was by ignoring as much as possible any shame or fear of looking stupid)
.

9. Leon Wolfson

That’s why there are distributed comment anti-spam systems, and press the ban button on content-less gender trolling while using them. It’s a problem no worse than general spamming – if you’re seeing more than one or two a week, your filtering system is sub-par.

10. Alabaster Codify for 10nn

Possibly because you are so easy to wind up?

Although I agree with pretty much all of what left-leaning people say, but sometimes their holiness and patronising attitude makes me very keen to have a pop at them just because I know I will get an incensed reaction from behind their keyboard. This stems from having met many people like this who treated me as an idiot that needed re-educating before they bothered to find out what I thought.

I’d say instead, that it’s difficult for poor people to speak in public, particularly poor women. Well-off women don’t seem to have a problem getting on. In fact, I’ve had several female bosses. Useless. All of em.

It’s a manifestation of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory isn’t it?
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad

It’s not as if we don’t see enough evidence of that on here.

“That’s why there are distributed comment anti-spam systems, and press the ban button on content-less gender trolling while using them. It’s a problem no worse than general spamming – if you’re seeing more than one or two a week, your filtering system is sub-par.”

Why should female bloggers ignore the abuse? There are laws stating that we don’t have to put up with it after all?

It doesn’t really help that along side this article there’s a photo of Teresa May looking like a blow up doll – those lips! But aside from that I’ve listened to some interviewers on BBC radio 4 discussing some issue or another with three invited guests – the line up always being one token women to two men, and finding that the woman is left with little or no time to put her point across and then often interrupted by the interviewer if he doesn’t like her viewpoint. I’ve stopped listening to the BBC news as over the past eighteen months its given over to predominantly ‘financial’ or ‘military’ issues which are often not news but propaganda. It would be useful to know if there is some sort of pitch register they use for women on BBC radio, as most female presenters seem to have a lower register compared to most of the female population (more like a man would have) or husky vocals.

14. Leon Wolfson

@14 – What laws? Common abuse isn’t actionable unless you can prove a sustained campaign of abuse by a single individual. You’d rather try to fight a flood than use the technological tools avaliable to deal with it? Well, great, but don’t complain when I don’t have time for your complaints.

@13 – The correct term is disinhibition.
(Also, the PA authors are themselves…)

Irony Overload

Cath Elliot has been silenced ??? She is regularly published by a national newspaper, for Chris sales. Perhaps she ought to look at her own privilege?

I’ve yet to see evidence that women are being silenced – though, of course, it might be true – but that’s clearly the intention of the people who abuse them. And, unless you’d be cool with being threatened and abuse, that’s bound to make their lives more unpleasant.

Jo; which laws are you thinking of, exactly? I can’t think of any that would apply to anything except some very unusual circumstances.

Well said ray.

As per on the NS, some people are confusing disagreeing with something a woman wrote on the internet, and expressing that disagreement by threatening to rape that woman, using highly sexualised insults and sexually threatening insults.

Women bloggers can cope with men disagreeing with them! We can even argue back and engage in debate. The problem is and the silencing comes in when that disagreement is expressed via highly gendered language and insults. This can range from calling a woman hysterical, to shouting insults based on perceived physical appearance, to speculating about that woman’s sexuality in a derogatory way, to describing what you would like to see done to that woman, to describing what you would like to do to that woman, to threats of physical and sexual violence.

There is a big difference between disagreeing with an argument to using hateful misogynistic language to shut that woman up.

This is what we’re complaining about. It happens to women bloggers all the time.

This all goes round and round in circles though, doesn’t it? Here’s another woman, in the Guardian today, calling herself a feminist, but trying to “silence” another woman, claiming the latter shouldn’t call herself a feminist because she has used the word “mumsy” which is a “word that no feminist should utter”:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/nov/04/mumsy-feminist-liz-jones?

And so on ad infinitum …….

It all too often seems to be a case of – I defend your right as a woman to say whatever you want, so long as I agree with what you say, but if not, then you’re not a “real woman” or a “real feminist and I don’t want to hear you!

Thanks Sianushka, that’s exactly it.

”Take a step back, have a look at your own privilege, and then, please, stop doing it.”

That line is terribly prejudiced against men. People can be discriminated against for all sorts of reasons. Being old, short, fat, ugly, poor …. as well as because of their race and gender.
There are millions of women more ”privilaged” than I am in the UK.
Guardian writers like Polly Toynbee for example.
Or all the women I see in posh resturants and hotels who obviously have far more money than I have.

Reading the comments of some (really most) of the readers below is so deliciously revealing. They make a half-hearted statement of agreement that silencing of women’s voices does occur, but in the next breath trivialize the silencing by claiming that it doesn’t happen often, or that the author is just complaining. This is the same trivialization of a person’s experience that one can easily see when discussions of race and racial oppression are brought up. Notice also, that most of those seeking to trivialize the author’s PERSONAL EXPERIENCE are male, just as most of those who pretend white privilege doesn’t exist (or is exaggerated by minorities) are white. How would you know if you are not a part of the targeted group?

Actually it’s WOMEN who make the most online threats: http://goo.gl/f4pXo

23. Leon Wolfson

@21 – It’s in the same category as not using a spam filter.

Amanda

How would you know if you are not a part of the targeted group?

Well, you can know. You can’t judge someone’s personal experiences, naturally, but if they’re making a broad claim about societal trends you ask what evidence they’ve based it on. For example, if I claimed that men face terrible discrimination you’d know I was bullshitting.

AmandaJ; I’ve just gone back and checked the comments above, and I don’t think *any* of them claim it “doesn’t happen often”. I certainly didn’t.

If my comment is one of the ones you’re obliquely criticising: do you think women *never* wrongly assume that dislike, abuse or criticism are based on misogyny? Or do you think it’s true but in some way wrong to mention it?

Leon/9: Comment spam filters are not the miracle solution you believe them to be.

1) Threats of violence and general internet spam are so qualitatively different. Spam filters are designed to block bulk untargeted messages, sent by automation to thousands of different sites. They are not designed to block one-off targeted messages sent to a single person: indeed, they’re designed specifically not to block them.

A death/rape threat, a discussion of a death/rape threat, and a discussion of death/rape in general will use much the same words, though not necessarily in the same order. The ability to distinguish on context is not a strength of computers. This isn’t the sort of unwanted comment that a spam filter can easily deal with.

2) It’s not just comment spam. Any other public (or non-public, for the sufficiently determined) method of contact can also get used. Not all of them even have easily-installable filters.

if you’re seeing more than one or two a week, your filtering system is sub-par.

If you’re seeing one or two threats of personal violence a week, then something is seriously wrong. And it’s not the filtering system, it’s the people making those threats – to which there is no straightforward technical solution.

27. Leon Wolfson

@26 – Distributed systems are remarkably efficient, when people are not afraid to deploy them properly.

21 – Personal experience isn’t always the best of guides. I’d place a small bet that I’m the only regular on here that has been threatened with imminent death solely on the grounds of race (and not by email – by a machete against the neck), but I wouldn’t hold myself out as an expert on race relations.

I remember Cath Elliot saying something to the effect that all men had some unconscious desire to rape women. It was in an article demanding that websites that make light of the subject of rape should be banned, since this was offensive. The irony was lost on her and I make no apology for pointing out her blatant misandry.

Sorry if that seems like a red herring, but it’s very simplistic to say Cath Elliott’s articles are unpopular just because she is a woman or a butch lesbian. Yes she might be the subject of vile comments by equally vile people, but so are Peter Tatchell and Mehdi Hasan (although, to be fair, they’re both minorities, if not exactly female, so that might be part of what makes them targets).

As for Zoe Williams who Flowerpower mentions and who I consider to be one of CiF’s better pundits. Well Zoe Williams defends immigrants and God help you if you do any such thing on CiF. I used to think a lot of it had to do with astroturfing and sockpuppets (and it goes without saying the vast majority of radically reactionary or Zionist opinions on the site come from people with multiple accounts), but I suppose a sneering contempt for ‘inferior’ cultures and sitting to the right of the non-debate on ‘multiculturalism’ is not entirely incompatible with the attitude of the modern orthodox liberal.

This reminded me of something, which five seconds of googling failed to reveal, but @Tim J succeeded:

It’s a manifestation of John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory isn’t it?
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Total Fuckwad

# 29

I remember Cath Elliot saying something to the effect that all men had some unconscious desire to rape women.

No, she didn’t. I know precisely what you’re referring to and what she actually said was:

“rapists don’t rape because they’re somehow evil or perverted or in any way particularly different from than the average man in the street: rapists rape because they can.”

When this was queried she made it very clear, in the CIF comments thread, that what she was referring to was the fact that rapists are not some alien breed, but instead are just ‘ordinary guys’. The obvious difference being that rapists rape.

I wanted to make sure I’d remembered this right, so I checked. It took me all of 30 seconds of Googling to do so. Perhaps you should have done the same.

The irony was lost on her and I make no apology for pointing out her blatant misandry.

How about an apology for the fact you’ve claimed Cath Elliot said stuff that she didn’t?

There are lots of issues where I disagree, sometimes quite strongly, with Cath Elliot. But when I see the behaviour of some of her opponents online, I’m a lot more prone to sympathising with her.

32. the a&e charge nurse

[29] “I remember Cath Elliot saying something to the effect that all men had some unconscious desire to rape women” – the all men are rapists meme has been bandied about for a while (even if CE did, or did not say such a thing).

Didn’t Marilyn French claim, “All men are rapists and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes”.

ALL men? ………. does that include gay men as well?

RF says “It’s difficult for women to speak in public” – there are some parts of the world were it is difficult for women to speak in public but such a claim is a bit over the top for places like the UK, surely?

@21 To be fair, complete self-awareness failure is what a fair few LibCon commenters specialise in.

Amanda J

”This is the same trivialization of a person’s experience that one can easily see when discussions of race and racial oppression are brought up.”

That’s a really weak argument IMO. I’m a white guy. I don’t rate Jessie Jackson highly as a spokesman for back America, I think he’s a quack and a bit of a charlatan.
A lot of black politics in the US and Britain comes from his kind of viewpoint though.
I think I should be able to point out where I disagree without my whiteness being brought into the conversation too quickly.
The same if I disagree with some feminist thinking. I was never a fan of the ”Reclaim the Night” anti-violence marches. There’s a lot wrong with them I think, and know of several women who think so too, but some people would be reaching for the ”sexist” card pretty quickly. It happened to me before on another website.

Btw, who has more power in the John Terry race row? Him or Anton Ferdinand?
Anton Ferdinand of course. Terry is kind of guilty until proven innocent, as he was accused by a black guy of calling him a black ‘so-and-so’. Terry has said he didn’t mean it that way, but it’s still a big deal for some reason. If he says he didn’t mean it, or that he’s sorry it just slipped out that way in the heat of a football match, then that should be the end of it.
But not with the way we are today in post Macpherson Britain.

35. Evil Pundit

Actually men’s voices are silenced through online trolling by feminists. Try to raise any men’s rights issue like discrimination in family law in a public forum, and you’ll be flooded with feminist shaming tactics.

36. Chaise Guevara

@ 35

Agreed, but this isn’t a competition or a zero-sum game. There are dickheads both male and female. The problem (which we’re in danger of here) is when decent men and women end up at each other’s throats playing “whose gender is the nastiest”.

I see more anti-male silencing tactics online than anti-female ones, but there’s two obvious reasons not to draw big conclusions from that. First, I might be biased, and second, I spend most of my time on LibCon, which doesn’t attract trolls of the type described in the OP (or, if it does, I reckon Sunny bans them quite quickly).

One way to treat death threats would be the Richard Dawkins approach: read them out, exposing the writers for the evil idiots they are, and laugh at them.

@1 Mrs thatcher was not attacked more vicously because she was a woman. Sexism and mysogeny were not used to “Shut Down” her opinion. She got her reputation fairly and squarely because of her policies. (and she paid no mind or credit whatsoever to feminists or women’s issue’s in general.)

It’s the “shuting down” of someone’s opinion that’s the problem here, if someone recognises they may be loosing the argument, and resorting then to irrelevent attack’s. The upside is these are public forum’s were talking about. Just as these people have an audience when they make their abuses they have one when they are brought down to size.

Just confirms my view of your typical troll. Most are brown shirt by nature. Deeply insecure, very angry, and very stupid. They have a hatred of woman, and hatred of difference. They seek out the very people that drive them nuts only to insult them. They are like drug users, they need their hit of daily ranting. They need an enemy, they need a dragon to slay. I never venture on to Conservative sites because I have no interest in their opinions and no need to insult them. I guess unlike the typical knuckle dragging tory troll I am neither male nor insecure. I only insult the cretins who come here to a left wing site and then feign fake outrage of the opinions expressed.

The insecurity and the anger is fascinating. They have giant chips on their shoulders. And I repeat a deep fear and loathing about female sexual power. Most of these morons are behind the pro life movement because they hate woman having control of their bodies. Female power frightens the shit out of them.

But the right have always gone after the spouses of Labour Prime Ministers. The right wing press have always seen the wife of a Labour PM as a way to get at her husband. The Republicans use the same tactics in the US. Hillary Clinton, Obama’s wife is treated like shit by the right wing giant Wurlitzer. (Quite funny from people who piously lecture on the wonders of the family) The Right likes to hold up the example of Dennis Thatcher as the way spouses should behave. Eg say nothing. Yet of course no one but an idiot believed that he did not have huge sway over her policies. He was a far right buffoon, with fascist leanings. Thatcher seemed to run her South African policy purely for the benefit of her husbands business interests.

It is one area that I disagree with Sunny. Personally I would ban and delete a lot of the trolls on here. Simply because there is a multitude of outlets for the budding brown shirt these days. Right wing newspapers, numerous right wing sites, and various astro turf groups like the tax payers alliance give the voice for the same drivel. But hey, it is not my site and so not my problem.

If women are being silenced online why am I reading so many articles at the moment by women about women being silenced?

Ultra Ultra P.S

I am by no means supporting Traditionalism(Right wing Matriarchy). I believe in humanism(that men=human beings and women= human beings, human beings = good or evil or somewhere in-between).

People have to remember that “anti-feminism” is more a war time coalition then it is a movement or ideology. Kind of like how the USA and the USSR united to fight Nazism(making both “anti-Nazi”), Humanist’s and Traditionalist’s and everyone else with a gripe against Feminism can fall under the “anti-feminist” banner.

And the MRM is actually more of a pirate democracy then a social movement. Meaning once feminism is recognized as a hate movement, and people are held to one universally human standard, it will cease to exist.

The problem is with Traditionalist’s trying to steal the MRM voices. In the UK it is far more pronounced then in the US, as the libertarian wing is starting to usurp the conservative wing of the Republican Party(and social conservatives aka traditionalist’s are being marginalized).

Either way, drop the Rome, Greece, and ancient Sumeria B.S. Our Ancestors merely robbed their graves. The Celtic’s, Germanic’s and Slavic peoples that make up “white people” always where more or less egalitarian. Heck even ancient Rome wasn’t as bad as people claim.

Every cycle(hundred years) society fall’s under the sway of a hate movement. In the 1900’s it was White Supremacy, now it is Female Supremacy. I suggest people look up the garbage that White Supremacist’s in Academia, the KKK and the WKKK(Women’s Klu Klux Klan) were saying.

It is all the same tune, just different lyrics. And since I know how the lyrics end, I know that I can’t afford to ignore this song anymore.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ 39 Kris W

Um, you’re defining “privilege” from the etymology, not based on how English speakers actually use the word, and you appear to be defining “feminism” as “lunatic misandry”, which covers a few self-defined feminists but not most.

This isn’t a good idea. The OP isn’t arguing in favour of psychotic misandry or using “privilege” to mean private law. So you’re arguing with thin air.

It’s a bit like you writing an article about why seal-culling is bad, and me saying “but seals are just things people used on letters in the olden days!”

My response to Helen Lewis’ NS Piece:

http://quietgirlriot.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/the-female-of-the-species/

I would say to sianushka that some of the worst ‘gendered bullying’ I encountered came from some of her feminist and pro-feminist friends/allies, including NS journalists Steven Baxter (and David Allen Green). So turning this into a ‘women’s issue’ or a ‘feminist issue’ is complicated and misleading.

@1; “Look at the spleen directed at Margaret Thatcher, does anyone seriously think it would have had that same personal viciousness had she been a he ”

As Conservative leader, Mrs T won elections in 1979, 1983 and 1987. Unlike the Blair elections 1997 through 2005, the Conservative vote increased. On the evidence, Mrs T thrived on the spleen.

I quite agree Ray.

I’m not sure the extent to which it is orchestrated and planned (although there is definitely some of that) but the purpose of this abuse is to terrorise and intimidate women into silence. In that sense it is very, very similar to the behaviour of religious fundamentalists who try to silence satirical magazines, cartoonists or playwrights through intimidation and fear.

Thankfully, many female/feminist writers choose to ignore it, but there is no doubt that it has the effect of silencing others. Even Charlotte Gore (hardly a radfem) said on Twitter that she stopped blogging in part because of the misogynist abuse. I’ve heard so many other female bloggers and commenters saying the same.

This is a freedom of speech issue. But not in the way that is normally claimed.

@32

‘Didn’t Marilyn French claim, “All men are rapists and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes”.’

No, Marilyn French did not claim this at all. A character in one of her books – The Women’s Room – said this. As I expect you already know as you have quoted it accurately. Very poor effort.

Britain has a long historic tradition of powerful female leaders.

Try this about Queen Boudica of the Iceni tribe who revolted against Roman rule of Britannia and sacked Londinium c. 60AD
http://www.oldcity.org.uk/norwich/names/boudicca.php

Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) is widely (and rightly IMO) regarded as one of our most illustrious monarchs

Sorry for spamming the thread I don’t know what happened there!

@AllyF said:

‘I’m not sure the extent to which it is orchestrated and planned (although there is definitely some of that) but the purpose of this abuse is to terrorise and intimidate women into silence. In that sense it is very, very similar to the behaviour of religious fundamentalists who try to silence satirical magazines, cartoonists or playwrights through intimidation and fear.

Thankfully, many female/feminist writers choose to ignore it, but there is no doubt that it has the effect of silencing others. Even Charlotte Gore (hardly a radfem) said on Twitter that she stopped blogging in part because of the misogynist abuse. I’ve heard so many other female bloggers and commenters saying the same.

This is a freedom of speech issue. But not in the way that is normally claimed.’

I *totally* disagree. I am a ‘female blogger’ though I hate that phrase and as I have said before most of the ‘abuse’ I have received has been from feminist women.

Feminism is always one step away from censorship – e.g. in relation to porn, the sex industry, and ‘comments moderation’ on feminist blogs.

Feminists cannot handle freedom of speech because they cannot handle robust argument.

I was sympathetic when Laurie tweeted some of the nasty tweets she receives, but now the whining blogs/articles by ‘female bloggers’ has turned me off.

Then again ,I wonder if women are treated any worse than men. I don`t mind observing ordinary rules of reasonable civility but this great moan is a bit much. I do get a wee bit tired of seeing very dull and ordinary women in the papers for no good reason other than being women. Can there be any other possible reason for Laurie Penny ? She is doing the same story

For criticising neo-liberal economic policymaking, it was suggested I should be made to fellate a row of bankers.

Are women asking for special treatment ?

Im aware that feminists are challenged when they publish ideological bigotry and/or misinformation relating to abuse rates and so on and that they will often allege that this is “abuse” or “harassment”. Feminists that don’t publish ideological bigotry and misinformation relating to abuse rates and so on don’t attract the same challenges.

52. Chaise Guevara

@ 52 Quiet Riot Girl

Good to see you again! (For all I know you’ve been around lots, but I haven’t seen you on here for awhile.)

The person you’re replying to seems to be enjoying a certain amount of dramatic paranoia. In other words: “we’re so awesome, the whole world is out to stop our awesomeness!” I’m not sure this warrants close analysis. One of the problems with the OP is that it mixes reasonable responses, such as “you don’t have to make it about gender all the time” with genuinely sexist, abusive and evil comments like rape threats. Thus blurring the boundary between sexism and arguing with someone who happens to be female. This is the sort of crap that gives decent feminists an undeserved bad name.

(By the way, LibCon has been suffering from severe upload delays for a few weeks, which is why your posts don’t seem to be appearing. All posts turn up, it just takes an hour or so.)

53. The_Antarctic_Fox

The article is very clear on what silencing through trolling is, but the comments left by many (most) men here are so full of the same ideology and hate, you can easily spot how they drown in fear and insecurity with their psychological “it’s you, not them” babble. And this quietriotgirl has her head up so high in a solipsistic cloud, she can’t even dissimulate her eagerness posting a paranoid discourse against feminism.
I endorse this simple but profound article and I hope awareness grows because this is not just a problem in the western world, it is global. Women have the right to express what they think, period and if you want to debate, do it with ideas and not with a “my dick is hard” attitude.

The trouble with the credibility of the line about poor, feeble women bloggers intimidated by bullying men is that Queen Anne was the last monarch to refuse to sign an Act of Parliament. Her immediate male successors all caved in and signed on the dotted line thereby creating the tradition of the constitutional monarchy: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/bbc_parliament/2327561.stm

Besides, we esteem a long line of distinguished women novelists and writers – Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Virginia Wolf, Agatha Christie, Iris Murdoch, Margaret Drabble, AS Byatt, Beryl Bainbridge, Claire Tomalin . . .

As well as journalists and broadcasters: Joan Bakewell, the thinking man’s crumpet, Sue MacGregor, Kate Adie, Sarah Montague, Polly Toynbee . .

55. Leon Wolfson

@30 – The correct name for it is disinhibition

@42. Chaise Guevara

The OP is arguing in defense of a hate movement. I don’t care if someone is white,black; man or woman(or inbetween). I am sure there are some misogynist’s trolls(in a world of infinite probability it would be arrogant to say there isn’t). But the thing is, most of the time people attack the message more so then the messenger. If you took anything that is written by feminist gal’s and post it under a male name it would still get royally bashed.

I wasn’t raised to bow to women, or rather to “worship women” like the OP would have everyone do. I was raised to view women as other human beings. Not as “other men” or some type of BS(besides, creating a human standard would ask the question:”why is male on male violence even acceptable in our society? Shouldn’t all wanton acts of violence against others be viewed the same and punished accordingly?”)

Privilege means private law. If you want to talk about advantages, use the word “advantage”. Words have meaning, and trying to manipulate words for dramatic effect is bigotry. But that is the problem with hate movements, it is always about manipulating words and trying to use words outside of their correct context for maximum effect.

And the only reason I brought up the correct meaning of the word “privilege” is because of the OP’s snide, bigoted remark:

“Take a step back, have a look at your own privilege, and then, please, stop doing it.””

My Privilege? The privilege to be treated like garbage for being born the wrong gender? The privilege to deal with rampant hatred and bigotry in my day to day life? My Privilege to be denied access to equal educational resources because of my gender? To be discriminated against by Public Educational employees because of my gender? You call that privilege?

If the OP and feminist’s here want my “male privilege” you can have it, as I am so sick of it, that it makes me want to vomit just thinking about it. I doubt any of you ever experienced the sting of gendered discrimination or bigotry in your day to day life. And it is funny how my first post got deleted, guess it contained too much truth for the OP to handle. Because you see, guy’s like the OP will be used by White Knights, and Traditionalist’s to “turn back the clock”.

Because what the op is doing, is treating women like perpetually helpless children in need of rescueing. And from a historical perspective(I had one unique advantage growing up; I had access to books almost two hundred years old. The oldest ones being from the early 1800’s) that is the worst thing men in Western Civilization have ever socially done.

Showing deference to women because the individual human in question is female, is showing you don’t think of that person as an equal sentient being. Granted I am not, and never will defend death threats or rape threats or threats of violence(that is illegal, immoral and just plain rude), but that doesn’t mean I am going to pull any punches. There is a difference between helping to defend an equal, and white knighting, treating women like perpetual children.

If the OP was serious about viewing female Homo Sapiens Sapiens as his equal, he would of merely attacked the violent rhetoric and demanded civility from critics. Instead we got the above woman pedestaliling(placing women in a place he feels comfortable placing them as he can never view women as his true equal’s).

Like I said, I know what it is like and wouldn’t wish gendered discrimination on anyone. I know sometimes it is tempting to fall back on hateful rhetoric, but from most guy’s it is just that, rhetoric. Garbage that isn’t meant or even thought upon(knee-jerk reaction). Sometimes you just get so frustrated, that frustration turns into anger.

From a young guy’s perspective it is like getting jumped by three people: Older males out to score with younger gal’s so they let them get away with murder; feminist’s who take advantage of the older guy’s chauvinism to “score one for the female gender” because of something that happened 50-100 + years ago+ other perceived slights; and traitor “manginas” that are also just as chauvinistic as the old guy’s but in a sneaky, pathetic kind of way.

57. So Much For Subtlety

53. The_Antarctic_Fox

The article is very clear on what silencing through trolling is

Although it shows an utter lack of awareness of what trolling is. The OP uses the wrong verb. Abuse is not trolling. However it assumes that silencing through sexist abuse exists. I wonder.

but the comments left by many (most) men here are so full of the same ideology and hate, you can easily spot how they drown in fear and insecurity with their psychological “it’s you, not them” babble.

And this is what the “manosphere” calls shaming language. Quite rightly. This is an attempt to silence debate. If it showed a little bit more awareness I would call it trolling too. There is no evidence of this hate, or even this ideology, much less any fear or insecurity. But this author has no rational argument to make and so opts for the exact equivalent of the abuse that female bloggers get. Crass and missing the point. It does not make any sensible point or forward the debate. It is simply a gender-based attempt at silencing anyone who disagrees. Stupid.

And this quietriotgirl has her head up so high in a solipsistic cloud, she can’t even dissimulate her eagerness posting a paranoid discourse against feminism.

God forbid a female blogger should disagree with you!

I endorse this simple but profound article and I hope awareness grows because this is not just a problem in the western world, it is global.

How do you know? How many women writing in Chinese have this problem?

Women have the right to express what they think, period and if you want to debate, do it with ideas and not with a “my dick is hard” attitude.

No one is disputing their right to express what they think. Surely you would agree that everyone else has a right to express what they think too wouldn’t you? How then do you explain your insistence that men who disagree with female bloggers, or even female bloggers who disagree with other female bloggers, do not have the right to express what they want? With or without a hard dick. How can you claim with a straight face that people have the right to express whatever they think unless you don’t like their views? But I will agree telling someone to blow a line of bankers does not advance debate. Nor does your pathetic shaming tactics. Play the ball, not the man. Argue the case. Don’t assert that some men do not have the right to express themselves, even if their way is vile.

7:56 am, November 5, 201154. Bob B

Besides, we esteem a long line of distinguished women novelists and writers – Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot, Virginia Wolf, Agatha Christie, Iris Murdoch, Margaret Drabble, AS Byatt, Beryl Bainbridge, Claire Tomalin . . .

Yes. Which of those can you seriously imagine being told to blow a line of bankers? Jane Austen? Nope. The Brontes? Nope. George Elliot? You know, just perhaps.

This sort of language does not help and should not be tolerated on moderated lists. It is a pity it happens at all. But then people like Jane Austen stuck to a middle class milieu. If she came out and debated with the proles, they no doubt would have used language she did not like. It is hard to protect special little snow flakes on the internet. Male or female.

58. Simon (but not the one above)

Re: 53. The_Antarctic_Fox

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe%27s_law

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 56 Kris W

“The OP is arguing in defense of a hate movement.”

How so? Feminism is a VERY broadly defined term. A lot of people use it to refer to a belief in gender equality (I know that makes the name kinda ironic, but it’s due to historical reasons, i.e. the term was coined when things were strongly biased against women). There are types of feminism that qualify as a hate movement, but what’s your basis for saying that this is what the OP is defending?

“I wasn’t raised to bow to women, or rather to “worship women” like the OP would have everyone do.”

Ditto – some people who call themselves feminists have this attitude, but where does the OP say it.

“Privilege means private law.”

No it doesn’t. Seriously, open a dictionary and look it up. Many won’t mention private law except under the etymology section; even if they do, they’ll record many other usages, most of which are used far more commonly.

You don’t get to outlaw common usages of words. That’s simply not how language works. And there isn’t some rule of seniority that says older usages trump newer ones, either. “Silly” used to mean “holy”, but that’s not how people use it. Most importantly, if someone uses a word and you deliberately misinterpret their meaning, you’re a) being quite childish and b) not actually engaging them in conversation, but instead straw-manning them. How on earth do you think deliberately misinterpreting someone helps anyone, yourself included?

“Words have meaning, and trying to manipulate words for dramatic effect is bigotry. But that is the problem with hate movements, it is always about manipulating words and trying to use words outside of their correct context for maximum effect.”

You’re the one doing this on this thread (although I wouldn’t call it bigoted).

“My Privilege?”

Yeah, that annoyed me too. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with a lot that you say here. There are places where the OP subtly demonises men (other posters, like the slightly hilarious Antartic Fox above, are doing so much more openly) and it does tend to happen in online conversations that discuss feminism or an issue related to it. I just think you’re going way too far, on zero evidence, to accuse the OP of being in a hate movement – and if you think everything called “feminism” is a hate movement, you’re just flat-out wrong.

“Because what the op is doing, is treating women like perpetually helpless children in need of rescueing.”

The opening line of the OP is so “sympathetic” that it comes out as patronising, I agree.

60. Chaise Guevara

@ 57 SMFS

Yeah, bang on.

Sadly, left wing sites are just as bad as right wing ones. See the bullying and belittling comments in this thread, as well as the perpetual whine that it is men who are really suffering.

@ChaiseGuevara – thanks!

@BobB – I agree. my main problem is women saying they are being ‘silenced’ when they are patently not.

A journalist, Sarah Ditum said the same and she gets regular commissions to write for cif. I don’t! Laurie Penny had her piece on this published in the Independent, Helen Lewis in New Statesman. So who is being ‘silenced’ here?

I think ‘censorship’ in the form of comments moderation and banning from blogs is the most common in feminist blogosphere – and that is a deliberate attempt to silence people.

QRG

I *totally* disagree. I am a ‘female blogger’ though I hate that phrase and as I have said before most of the ‘abuse’ I have received has been from feminist women.

Feminism is always one step away from censorship – e.g. in relation to porn, the sex industry, and ‘comments moderation’ on feminist blogs.

Feminists cannot handle freedom of speech because they cannot handle robust argument.

I’ve received some pretty vile abuse from feminist women too. I’ve been accused of abusing my children more than once, told that I only write about rape & VAW because I ‘get a kick out of it’ and countless other more snide and subtle digs. I know that feminists can be utter arseholes too, you don’t get a free halo with every copy of the Second Sex. And of course people are abusing and insulting each other across the internet in all contexts and in all ways.

But you are utterly kidding yourself if you think that the abuse and threats received by Cath, Laurie and others are in any way symmetrical or of a pattern with the rest of the web. The extremity, intensity and sheer quantity of abuse and hate mail is unlike anything directed at anyone else. You’re a fairly high-profile blogger and social networker, with fairly strong and controversial opinions, and I simply do not believe you could produce an article equivalent to the one Cath wrote a few months ago, with screeds and screeds of the most grotesque and violent hatred. I very much doubt there’s a single male blogger who could either.

This is not just internet rough and tumble. It is a widespread and (occasionally) orchestrated attempt to intimidate and terrorise feminist bloggers into silence, and it is not ‘whingeing’ to object to it and look for ways to stop it.

And why couldn’t I produce that kind of hate against me Ally? I am a ‘female blogger’ after all.

I won’t put words in your mouth I’d like you to answer that before I say anything else.

QRG

And why couldn’t I produce that kind of hate against me Ally? I am a ‘female blogger’ after all.

Because my whole point is that it is feminist bloggers, those who speak out against (alleged etc) male privilege who receive the bulk and the extremes of abuse.

It’s no disrespect to your opinions or your stances (many of which I agree with) but it is no coincidence that your views are seldom threatening to the mens’ rights crowd, and you don’t receive the types of threats sent to Cath et al.

That’s why this is not just an internet thing, and not just a gender thing, but an issue of freedom of speech and politics.

AllyF; objecting to it, fair enough. Is trying to stop it realistic though?

People making anonymous threats of violence on internet forums aren’t going to be shown the error of their ways through rational argument, peer pressure or any other means.

67. Paul Newman

Is it something about freedom and women? I was thinking of Huckleberry Finn and Tom, American icons of no small import.They are always trying to escape civilisation which is enforced by women.That idea of women following behind and taming things is quite potent.
Civilisation`s omnipresence is all to the advantage of women. As East Germany depopulates it is the women who flow Westward to bed fat capitalists whilst men stay in rotting old Communist towns where the wolves have literately moved back, drinking sitting around fires. They cannot replace what they have lost as easily.
The imposition of state sponsored progressivism is always to the advantage of women and the disadvantage of men. In fact women are used as a Trojan horse to dissipate the coherence of communitarian values . When West Indian immigrants came here their patriarchal habits were under mined by secularism welfare and feminism leading to a lost generation of children. The contrast with the experience in America is instructive where the same people have been notably law abiding and successful retaining a conservative family structure. Certain religious groups , as we know defend those communal boundaries ferociously
Blue Labour has picked up on this widespread feeling that only men ever seem to suffer. Surveys recently came out acknowledging the widely known truth that men work far harder than women, shouldering the responsibility of being the main stable income, but also taking on increased child rearing duties and still being regarded post children, as having no value.

Divorce laws in this country are famously weighted against men and post-children there is a power imbalance in marriage as a result. Education does little for working class boys and masculine qualities of risk taking courage and independence have no value in our feminised world of compliant economic units. Boys brought up fatherless have appalling outcomes but fathers are not valued .

So is there a feeling of women having their cake and eating it ? Is there some dim sense of “Ok you think you can cut it on the open veldt ? Lets see how you like it with no rules…” a sort of historic revenge for the end of men other than as slightly hairier women?

Obviously death/rape theats are unforgivable.

Equally obviously, comments along the lines of “you’re cute when you’re political!” or “yeah but you’re fat and ugly and therefore irrelevant” are sexist and appalling.

I don’t think many LibCon commenters would disagree with either of these. But the OP tries to push things much further.

I don’t see that saying “you don’t have to make it about gender all the time” is remotely comparable to either of the above. It’s a point of view. It might be right or wrong, depending on the context. Some issues really are about gender. Some aren’t. People are entitled to disagree about where the line is drawn without being accused of ‘silencing’.

Similarly “if you find yourself not listening, or wanting to interrupt, or looking at the clock, you are enacting a form of silencing”.

Well, not really. At least not necessarily. If someone is an interminable dullard, I insist on my right to feel bored to tears, without being accused of sexist silencing.

JasonW

We’ll never stop it, but I think we can chip away at the acceptability of it. I’m all in favour of Cath, Laurie et al retweeting and publishing this stuff, complete with user names and any other identifiers. Hold them up to mockery and ridicule (I think the ManBoobz blog points the way on this, google it)

I think the two worst things that can happen are:

1. We ignore it and pretend it doesn’t happen, and
2. Pretend that it is no big deal, par for the course, or in any way acceptable.

@AllyF – right thanks. You are saying it is feminist bloggers and they receive abuse because of their *opinions* about gender politics.

This is not what the women have been saying. They have said they have received abuse because they are ‘female’.

I agree I don’t upset the MRA crowd as much as Cath Elliott. but then I don’t go round cheering when the ‘misogynist’ Seb Horsley dies, and saying ‘one down, so many more to go’. Nor do I cheer when Steve Jobs dies, who Stavvers (another feminist blogger) said was a ‘rich cunt’ she was glad to see the back of.

I think all people online, especially outspoken ones, get abuse. But feminists sometimes get abuse as a result of the hatred they themselves spout.

If they *really* were against ‘abuse’ and ‘hate’ they’d think more carefully before saying some of the vile things they do.

QRG

I don’t think it is just about gender, but it undoubtedly plays a part. Having said that, even feminists who actively support mens rights get the treatment too. Read Wendy McElroy’s account of why she no longer involves herself in Mens Rights Movements. http://www.wendymcelroy.com/print.php?news.1666

The blog No Seriously, What about the Menz? also gets vicious misogynist trolling, not because they are abusive to men (quite the opposite) but because they are women who identify as feminists.

I think it is the interaction between gender and gender politics that really ignites it.

72. Chaise Guevara

@ 61 Briar

“See the bullying and belittling comments in this thread, as well as the perpetual whine that it is men who are really suffering.”

Which comments, exactly? It’s important to be specific, because some people DO abuse feminists, but some feminists will claim any form of criticism is abuse (or “silencing”, as if person X expressing their opinion somehow erases the opinion expressed by person Y).

Similarly, what exactly do you mean when you talk about this “perpetual whine”? There are people who want to believe that men face far more prejudice than women, regardless of the evidence. There’s certainly a very annoying mode of thought that claims only white, straight, Christian men suffer from bigotry.

On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of cases where a feminist has been talking about an issue that affects both genders (e.g. domestic violence), but insists on presenting it solely as something men to women. If anyone attempts to point out this inaccuracy, they’re accused of misogyny (if male) or gender treason (if female) and probably get “What about the menz!!!” shouted at them several times.

It doesn’t make sense to claim that either men or women are the people who are *really* suffering, because members of both genders suffer. It’s not a competition, my suffering doesn’t cancel out yours. And accusing those who try to highlight suffering of “whining” is a very dangerous road, it reminds me of people whose response to seeing people in dire straits is to sneer and say “oh boo hoo, my heart bleeds”.

@32

No, a character in a novel by Marilyn French said that. i don’t know if you’ve actually read that novel, but it is said by a character who’s daughter was violently raped and then ignored, abused and silenced by the system designed to help her. But her assessment of men is roundly rejected by the main character in the novel because she doesn’t believe all men are rapists.

There’s a lot of comments trying to deny the problem in the OP by misquoting feminists or misrepresenting what they said.

Even if Cath and Marilyn French had said those things then that doesn’ t make it ok that male commenters regularly threaten women online, does it.

No sianushka it doesn’t. But making this into a problem for women, and feminist women at that is just as misleading.

Yes ally I know about what about the menz – I am banned from that blog for standing up for men against the vile misandry of sady doyle. it’s just another crap feminist outpost.

I’m going to leave you all to it and to enjoy your sense of feminists’ victimhood.

I call bullshit.

75. Chaise Guevara

@ 74 QRG

“Yes ally I know about what about the menz – I am banned from that blog for standing up for men against the vile misandry of sady doyle. it’s just another crap feminist outpost.”

I have to say that I looked that blog up after Ally mentioned it and was pretty impressed by it. The only thing I’ve taken issue with so far was actually a case of it exaggerating discrimination faced by men, by listing the male/female circumcision issue and gendered depression/suicide rates as examples of prejudice.

I must be an extremist then! But I am banned from there just as I am from other feminist blogs – they all seem the same to me.

There is a real problem about using a one-fits-all stance, in reality women (and feminists) are not an homogenous group and neither are men. There are also issues with regard to race, disability and class.
So when a thread is based on a particular experience of one group, it is unlikely to be helpful to compare the experience with another group, – discrimination and bullying can be prevelant with both, but for different reasons.

78. Frances_coppola

67 Paul Newman

Crikey, Paul, where are these men who work far harder than women? I’ve never met any. In my family it has always been me who has worked full-time and carried most of the responsibility for child and home care. And I know many, many women who would say the same.

79. Frances_coppola

It has been my experience as a writer that people who resort to insults and silencing do so because they don’t have an answer to the argument that I am putting forward, and they feel threatened by that. People who feel threatened use all manner of underhand methods to defend themselves, including racial and sexual abuse.

It has also been my experience that some men like to feel mentally superior to women, so when they encounter a woman who is their intellectual equal or superior they do everything they can to cut her down to size, including belittling her, insulting her, laughing at her and denying her the opportunity to speak. The violent sexual innuendo that a few men use is a way of re-establishing what they consider to be their lost dominance over her. Reduce a woman to a sexual object and you have removed her power.

I would like to make it clear that I believe it is only a minority of men who feel this way, and an even smaller number who then act out their feelings. But it is enough to make it difficult for intelligent women to write and speak without fear of abuse.

Well posted, I could not agree more. if you consider the ratio of male to female bloggers on line it speaks for itself. Perhaps generally men cope better with trolling and find it easier to ignore. This is’nt just confined to on-line either. I have found it applies in public meetings where some men will try to their strong, loud voices to drown out any well formed arguments from women. Of course this does not apply to all men, but I wonder whether manymen are unaware of the effect that this has on the democratic process?
This very much what I had in my mind when I wrote this post particluarly:
http://think-left.org/2011/07/26/263/ for Think Left, but others besides.

It can be very intimidating behaviour, and I am sure some men feel intimidated by it also. When we consider the number of women in the house of commons compared with men, this attitude is not only outdated and rude, but scandalous.

Many conservative bloggers behave like this so I do not accept Paul Ew,an’s comment that it applies specifically to Labour men.

Thanks very much for writing his post and bringing attention to this issue.

Well posted, I could not agree more. if you consider the ratio of male to female bloggers on line it speaks for itself. Perhaps generally men cope better with trolling and find it easier to ignore. This isn’t just confined to on-line either. I have found it applies in public meetings where some men will try to their strong, loud voices to drown out any well formed arguments from women. Of course this does not apply to all men, but I wonder whether many men are unaware of the effect that this has on the democratic process?
This very much what I had in my mind when I wrote this post particluarly:
http://think-left.org/2011/07/26/263/ for Think Left, but others besides.

It can be very intimidating behaviour, and I am sure some men feel intimidated by it also. When we consider the number of women in the house of commons compared with men, this attitude is not only outdated and rude, but scandalous.

Many conservative bloggers behave like this so I do not accept Paul Newman’s comment that it applies specifically to Labour men.

Thanks very much for writing his post and bringing attentio
n to this issue.

There is a justified reason for concerns here that some women are presenting themselves as perpetual and unique victims when they are not.

To recap, in online debates at around the time of the launch of the Euro in 2000 and after, I and others who argued that it was not in Britain’s interests to join were dubbed “insane” by Europhiles, which says much about their understanding of the issues at stake as well as their capacity for rational discussion.

There are some topics which create intemperate followers who debate abusively regardless of gender, perhaps because they hold their views with religious intensity.

As suggested above, Britain has a long tradition of powerful women leaders and we have a precious and recognised legacy of esteemed women novelists, writers, journalists and broadcasters.

83. Leon Wolfson

@66 – Nope, because of disinhibition, people are going to do it. If you don’t like that, I’d suggest sticking to strictly moderated parts of the internet. People will make threats over anything, including (in my direct experience) computer games.

I’ve been /involved/ in a messy fallout which ended up with someone arrested, but not charged, by the FBI for their actions. (He lost custody of the kid he’d spent two years getting, which was plenty enough punishment as far as I’m concerned).

It hasn’t put me off for a second. (I guest-blog under my real name in my own field)

I find it interesting that some commenters here seem to think that women speaking out honestly and openly about online hate, verbal abuse and sexist threats means that we are somehow painting ourselves (and ergo all women) as victims. We are just talking about our experiences and the things that happen to us. We are not victimising ourselves, we are speaking out.

85. Chaise Guevara

@ 84 sianushka

Well, the OP appears to be painting women as victims to some extent. Not for calling attention to the abuse, but because it implies that a high level of abuse is something that only women need to deal with. And the opening line (“It’s difficult for women to speak in public”) qualifies too – it’s a patronising, sweeping and untrue statement.

The OP also makes it sound as if women are so delicate that it’s unacceptable to disagree with them even when doing so is reasonable and non-abusive (tell a woman that you think she’s inaccurately making gender into an issue and you’re guilty of “silencing” her) – in fact, you can apparently oppress women by just THINKING unfriendly thoughts about them!

Then we have multiple posts in the thread claiming that people are posting “abusive” or “belittling” comments without providing any examples or explaining the reasoning behind them – which creates the impression that this is a stock response that these posters copy and paste into any feminism-based thread in an attempt to shut down debate. To be fair, at least one poster is doing the same thing, but from the other side – Kris W, who seems to think that the OP constitutes “hate speech” for some unexplained reason.

Despite all this, the OP makes a good and important point overall and most of the posts, whether supporting the OP or disagreeing, are reasonable and good contributions to the discussion. But I can see where the arguments are coming from.

86. Chaise Guevara

@ 80 PamF

“When we consider the number of women in the house of commons compared with men, this attitude is not only outdated and rude, but scandalous.”

Is this caused by bullying tactics, though? There are many other possible explantions, some of them problems unto themselves. Possibilities include:

1) Women are less interested in politics, at least at the level of dedicating their careers to it.
2) Women are less likely to enjoy being involved in public debate than men, for personal reasons rather than due to facing higher levels of bullying.
3) Some couples are both geniunely happy with the man-as-breadwinner, woman-as-homekeeper roles, meaning there’s a smaller pool of women to draw from in the first place.
4) Voters are either directly biased against women or value qualities that they are more likely to see in men than women.

I’m not claiming that 1 and 2 are true, just suggesting them as possibilities. 3 is definitely true and I’d be very surprised if 4 is false. There may be other reasons that didn’t occur to me off the top of my head. I imagine the under-representation of women in politics is in face due to multiple causes, quite possibly including a higher level of bullying – but I’d certainly say that attributing the issue to a single cause is probably a mistake.

Chaise; I’d argue slightly with your #4.

What proportion of MPs are elected on their perceived individual virtues, would you say? I’d guess pretty low – it’s certainly never been a large factor in *my* decision on how to vote.

So to the extent that direct or indirect bias against women in elections *is* a factor, it must mainly be in the party activists involved in selection.

88. Frances_coppola

@85 Chaise Guevara

I never close down debate if people engage with the point I am making. But if they are simply being rude to me then there is nothing to debate, is there?

I’m quite happy to provide chapter and verse on some of the insulting and belittling comments that I have received. It is of course always debateable whether the originator of those comments would have said the same if I were a man. But “dumb bitch” would be ever so slightly odd if applied to a man, don’t you think?

89. Chaise Guevara

@ 87 Jason

Well, I guess it mainly depends on whether people are voting mainly on national or local issues. And a popular/charismatic MP can swing a majority in a close seat, especially if they’re seen as lacking some of the traditional downsides of their party (think Ken Clarke).

In general you’re right, though, and I hadn’t really taken that into account in my last post. Party membership generally counts for a lot more than individual worthiness, so maybe the selection committees are the problem (assuming the trend isn’t accounted for by other things).

90. Chaise Guevara

88 Frances Coppola

“I never close down debate if people engage with the point I am making. But if they are simply being rude to me then there is nothing to debate, is there?”

Sure – if they’re just trolling and/or mudslinging you’re well within your rights to shout back at them. I know I do.

“I’m quite happy to provide chapter and verse on some of the insulting and belittling comments that I have received.”

Let me clarify two things: first, I meant people who are complaining about comments on this thread. I’m happy to take it on trust that people face abuse elsewhere, I’m not demanding that you go and find a link to a comment that might well have been deleted by now anyway!

Second, I wasn’t thinking about you personally when I said it. I don’t think you made any comments of the type I was talking about (although, while I’ve got you, I do take issue with your post @78, where you appear incredulous that a man could work harder than a woman – sounds kinda prejudiced to me).

“It is of course always debateable whether the originator of those comments would have said the same if I were a man. But “dumb bitch” would be ever so slightly odd if applied to a man, don’t you think?”

Hard to say – if it was a man then the insult might have been “dumb prick”. It’s easier to tell if people make directly sexist comments (“get back in the kitchen” or whatever), and obviously you can spot the trend if female posters get considerably more abuse than male posters, assuming your female posters aren’t more offensive in general than your male posters, or you don’t have an issue that skews gender (e.g. if a abortion thread had 75% pro-life commenters, but the vast majority of the pro-choice group were female, you might see females getting more abuse just from weight of numbers).

Have bogged about online abuse and the reactions women get when we talk about it on my blog, hope you don’t mind me linking!

http://sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com/2011/11/my-guide-to-online-abuse-and-excuses.html?m=1

92. Frances_coppola

@90 Chaise Guevara

My comment @78 was in response to this in @67:

“Surveys recently came out acknowledging the widely known truth that men work far harder than women, shouldering the responsibility of being the main stable income, but also taking on increased child rearing duties….”

I haven’t seen those surveys, and @67 didn’t provide a link. But it has not been my experience that men work far harder than women. On the contrary, my experience is that women work as hard if not harder than men and I know many women – and men – who would agree with me. I’m quite prepared to change my views if @67 shows me the evidence that my experience is unusual.

93. Chaise Guevara

@ Frances

Well, @67 is ridiculous. I really doubt a survey could prove something like that, even if it exists, and it certainly isn’t a widely known truth.

As for the issue itself, it depends upon the individual, doesn’t it? Women are more likely than men to be working single parents, which obviously involves more work than just doing a job; on the other hand, women are also more likely to be stay-at-home partners, which involves less work unless you’re looking after young children, and even then is still probably less work assuming that the other partner pitches in when they’re at home.

To be honest, your experience (along with mine, Paul’s and everyone else’s) is entirely anecdotal. Even assuming a lack of bias, your assessment of the comparative amount of work done by each gender will vary massively depending on whether you live in a poor estate (more single mothers) or a rich country village (more housewives). Also depending on whether most of your close friends are male or female, as people tend to judge themselves in a good light and in general will probably claim that they do most of the work in the household, at least when their partner is out of earshot. And so on.

94. the a&e charge nurse

[73] “Even if Cath and Marilyn French had said those things then that doesn’ t make it ok that male commenters regularly threaten women online, does it” – well, if you really want my opinion I think you might have to learn to accept that one consequence of public blogs is that they attract the public, and not all of the public are very nice.

The sort of people described in the OP (who resort to abuse and threatening tactics) are unlikely to be persuaded to stop because their provocative behaviour is achieving its intended effect – presumably that’s the point of adopting such tactics in the first place?

The sort of gentle conditions that some would prefer on the web will never be attained because one important aspect of the net function is it’s function as a medium to discharge anger, frustration as well as the many other anxieties that so many people carry around.

I don’t know how commonplace such abuse is, or if anybody has ever attempted to quantify the extent of abusive comments, or who is most likely to be subjected to them – I must admit it’s nothing I have come across very much – the blogs I visit (such as LC) tend to simply delete them.

95. Chaise Guevara

@ 94 a&e

“The sort of gentle conditions that some would prefer on the web will never be attained because one important aspect of the net function is it’s function as a medium to discharge anger, frustration as well as the many other anxieties that so many people carry around.”

Well, you can find it if you want, but the price is high. Plenty of sites have strong house rules and enforce them, but it tends to ruin the conversation. Moderating comments ahead of time is the only way to be sure that everyone’s nice and civil, but that slows things down to a crawl. With reactive modding, it’s all too easy to end up with a situation where nobody feels they can speak freely in case an over-zealous mod (or one who just doesn’t like them) finds an excuse to ban them. People tend to get fed up and leave.

96. So Much For Subtlety

81. PamF

if you consider the ratio of male to female bloggers on line it speaks for itself.

Sorry but why does the ratio of male to female bloggers speak for itself? Why do you start from the default position that the numbers should be the same?

Perhaps generally men cope better with trolling and find it easier to ignore.

It is still not trolling. There is no doubt that men get a different sort of abuse. Most people on line are heterosexual and so threats of rape is unlikely to be common directed at men. But it is almost certain that they are better at coping with it than women.

This isn’t just confined to on-line either. I have found it applies in public meetings where some men will try to their strong, loud voices to drown out any well formed arguments from women. Of course this does not apply to all men, but I wonder whether many men are unaware of the effect that this has on the democratic process?

And I find that in public meetings women who have nothing to say but insist on inflicting their meanderings at length on everyone else often get asked to keep quiet and when they are, they often denounce this as sexism. Of course this does not apply to all women. But it applies to enough. It is wrong to assume that everything is part of some vast conspiracy.

I think this reflects something that is commonly seen on line: female bloggers insist they are equals and should be treated as such – until the going gets tough and then they assert they are Special Snowflakes and they need to be protected. I have no problem with the idea that they are. It was the way I was raised. As sexist and demeaning as it is. But it amuses me to see women switch between the two codes. I get abused more than most. It is an inevitable result of having opinions that are not popular and not keeping quiet. But if I were to go to the Mods and complain, they would laugh at me. At best they would tell me to suck it up. Although more likely they would blame me for being “victimised”. But if I were a woman, old fashioned chivalry would kick in and they would leap to protect the poor defenceless woman.

Now no one should put up with threats of rape, or threats of murder for that matter. But they are common on line. Murder especially. I see no evidence there is any special degree of vitriol aimed at women. If anything female posters still get treated better than men treat other men. As with violence, the real threat to women is that they will be treated the same.

When we consider the number of women in the house of commons compared with men, this attitude is not only outdated and rude, but scandalous.

Why? Again why do you assume the numbers ought to be equal?

Frances_coppola

But it has not been my experience that men work far harder than women. On the contrary, my experience is that women work as hard if not harder than men and I know many women – and men – who would agree with me.

And yet women are more likely to take days off sick, they are more likely to move on to part time positions, they are less likely to put in the hours needed in many jobs. I have no idea why anyone would think men do not work harder than women on average.

There are two issues here that mustn’t get confused. One is the issue of threats, especially of sexual violence, that need to be condemned. However, from reading the original article in the guardian, I fear there is another agenda here.

There have been complaints before about CIF being hostile to women, generally from feminists. Now if a CIF commentator is caught making a threat, their comment will be removed, and hopefully, the Guardian would ban the commentator, and take any other appropriate action. No these complaints were about the amount of attacks on the ideas of these columnists. You could argue that male commentators don’t get the same level of comment, but feminists commentators in particular are writing about controversial topics.

Too many feminist writers live in heavily censored parts of the web. They call them safe spaces, in reality they are echo chambers in which any posters who disagrees with them are censored. Moving on to a relatively free forum is a culture shock for them.

My fear is this article is merely a way of linking the unacceptable violence threats, to legitimate criticism. To try and extend the echo chamber to mainstream websites.

98. Frances_coppola

@96

Your definition of “work” seems to be limited to paid work. But much of women’s work is unpaid. Women work fewer paid hours, take days off, move to part-time positions not because they are not working as hard as men but because they have unpaid caring responsibilities. The reality is that in most families the care of young children falls primarily on women, and in older households women may also be responsible for caring for elderly or disabled relatives. This curtails women’s ability to take on paid work – but it doesn’t mean they aren’t working as hard as men.

99. the a&e charge nurse

[95] yeah, agree with that, chaise – there are clearly pros & cons about the way public debates are conducted.
I guess those responsible for initiating debates or setting up forums need to set the tone, and determine the boundaries – as I say I cannot recall a single instance on LC were contributors from the feminist genre have been verbally threatened with murder or rape (although I might be wrong).

I think of this as the ‘clockwork orange’ principle – we are not fully human unless we are free to chose, even if we chose badly (as young Alex and his droogs did).

That said I imagine it would be possible to make it a police matter if the law is broken, not least because evidence is so readily available (in the form of threatening comments)

100. Chaise Guevara

@ 99 a&e

“I guess those responsible for initiating debates or setting up forums need to set the tone, and determine the boundaries – as I say I cannot recall a single instance on LC were contributors from the feminist genre have been verbally threatened with murder or rape (although I might be wrong).”

Well, it’s hard to say, as presumably said comments would be deleted in pretty short order. When I’ve seen commenters accused of “abusing” or “silencing” feminists on LC, more that 90% of the time it’s been the person making the accusation who’s been in the wrong, trying to make someone they disagree with back down by baselessly accusing them of misogyny (there are a few posters who seem to visit LC purely to do this on feminism-related topics, although none of them are on this thread as yet). But that’s LC, not the internet or the world in general; I imagine places like 4chan see the exact opposite trend.

“I think of this as the ‘clockwork orange’ principle – we are not fully human unless we are free to chose, even if we chose badly (as young Alex and his droogs did).”

Yeah, agreed. While anyone facing serious threats like those described above has every right to go to the police, in general I prefer site moderation to be over-lenient rather than over-reactive (threats and spamming still need to be addressed, but insulting beahviour and swearing are less of a problem to me). If you ban or block one poster in three you end up with a very artificial conversation, even with the best of intentions.

101. Peter-Andrew: Nolan(c)

I thought you women claimed “equality”. In which case men can talk to you however they like. You do not get to have the “womans privilege” of being “treated like child and talked to like a child” as men are want to do to women who claim the privilege of being treated like “ladies”.

But when spoken to how you do not like you are suddenly again “victims”.

Women claiming equality is a LIE. And a blatant one at that. About time you women confessed that you have been telling us men nothing but LIES for many decades now.

102. James from Durham

101 – You are a misogynist and your comment is absurd. You obviously have certain “issues” – this is not the place to get therapy.

@Peter-Andrew: Nolan(c)

Troll. Narcissistic Borderline Personality Disorder. See peternolanpsychopath.wordpress

Don’t get upset now, Peter. I assume you claim “equality” so you can’t boo hoo like a child about my talking to you or about you however I please.

104. Vicki Wharton

Speaking as a women who has had a couple of ex partners who were violent, this just looks like domestic violence but on the internet. I would actually say that we should stop calling domestic violence that and start calling it sexist violence and then people would stop focusing on the location of the violence and start focusing on the perpetrator and the victim. The reason we take racist violence seriously is that people get kicked to death for their race, or religion or sexuality – and 2 women a week get killed whilst undergoing this type of abuse on a daily basis face to face rather than down a phone line. Threatening behaviour is against the law and that’s what these guys are doing, trying to scare women in whatever context into shutting up and being under their control.

Vicki; you say “threatening behaviour is illegal” and a few people have said similar things. Do you mean assault? Because as I understand it that would require you to reasonably believe there was a genuine and *immediate* threat of physical violence, which seems a bit unlikely here.

Did you have a different law in mind?

Robert in Toronto; well, you certainly *sound* remarkably rational! I’ve always found randomly capitalised words an excellent sign of clear and logical thought.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Chandler Marrs

    How women’s voices are silenced online through trolling | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/WROj0d8D via @libcon

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    How women’s voices are silenced online through trolling | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/WROj0d8D via @libcon

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  11. Emma Ritch

    Interesting piece by @rayfilar on @libcon about women and blogging. http://t.co/cvNLdf0e Comments are full of usual nonsense, though.

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