These men abuse women online because they want to stop women from having a voice


4:48 pm - July 27th 2013

by Sian Norris    


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This week, feminist activism saw a real success with the announcement that, after Elizabeth Fry departs from the £5 note, Jane Austen will soon grace the noble tenner. This was after a concerted, high profile campaign run by Caroline Criado-Perez highlighting the cultural femicide of women across our society – the invisibility of inspirational women in the public eye and the impact that has on wider inequality.

Whatever your thoughts on the bank notes campaign, and even within feminist circles there is a divergence of views, what we can surely all agree on is that the scale of abuse Caroline has received in the wake of the announcement is absolutely horrifying and appalling.

Rape threats and other violent threats have abounded, along with grotesquely sexually violent language. These message from men – and they are all men – are another sad and horrific example of what happens when a woman speaks out about sexism and misogyny, and brings these issues into the public eye.

Last February I was in a similar situation. I had been involved in a campaign to try and prevent a Hooters restaurant opening in Bristol. The campaign did not prevent the opening, but not long afterwards the self-styled ‘breastuarant’ closed due to poor management, debts and a lack of custom. I don’t know if the lack of custom had anything to do with our highlighting how bloody sexist the establishment was. But I had no direct responsibility for the closure of Hooters.

Throughout the Hooters campaign I had been subject to some pretty vile abuse. A lot of the insults were mocking my perceived appearance and sexuality, general wishing of violence upon me and people finding ways to insult my family. But when Hooters closed, the abuse stepped up. On Facebook a man wrote that I was a cunt, that he was going to find out where I lived, post my address details online and ‘make me pay’. Other men ‘joked’ about how they hoped I got kicked in the vagina.

I probably wouldn’t have gone to the police but my mum gave me no choice. Like women everywhere, when I am harassed or assaulted offline, or abused online, it doesn’t even register as a crime. It is just something that happens, to you, as a woman, in public space. That space might be a pub or a club, a bus, or Twitter and Facebook. We are so used to the language that degrades us; we are so accustomed to having our aired opinions met with deeply sexist and misogynistic insults that to label it as a crime seems absurd. It’s too common, surely, to be a crime?

The police were fantastic. They took it seriously – more seriously than I had in my ‘this is just what happens to women’ mode. They listened, and they reassured me that no one deserved to be threatened. They asked me if I wanted to go to court and they respected my decision not to do so. And they went to the guy’s house, gave him a caution which is now on his record and he is not allowed to contact me or the Bristol Feminist Network ever again.

When the police officer visited me after the man had accepted his caution, he told me how my online abuser had said he had never considered the fact that I was a real person. He had never thought that his words could or would hurt me.

I don’t believe this. I think this is what men who write vile abuse online tell themselves to excuse their behaviour. But he knew I was a real person. I exist. The men abusing Caroline know she is real. They just believe they can get away with it, because it’s online and because calling women bitches and slags and cunts and sluts is shrugged off. After all, it happens all the time, so it’s ok.

I believe misogynistic online abuse exists for one reason. And that is that some men are so threatened by women having a voice – by women having a role in the public sphere – that they will stop at nothing to shut her up. They will stop at nothing to deny her of her freedom of speech.

The men abusing Caroline Criado-Perez over the last few days don’t care about Austen, or bank notes. They care that a woman has spoken out about sexism and they want to stop her from doing it again. The men who abused me didn’t care about job losses in Bristol. They were furious that I had spoken up about sexism and they wanted to stop me ever doing it again.

Every woman who speaks out receives threats and abuse designed to silence her. Last February it was me, this weekend it’s Caroline Criado-Perez. It’s Bidisha, Laurie Penny, Cath Elliott, Nimko Ali. It doesn’t matter what we talk about – that’s not the concern. It’s the daring to talk in the first place.


A longer version of this post is on Sian Norris’s blog

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About the author
Sian Norris is an occasional contributor. She is a Bristol based writer who likes to write short stories and muse on feminist debates.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Equality ,Feminism ,Media

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Reader comments


[deleted]

[deleted]

@Ob

Possibly the fact that they exist to titillate through the objectification and demeaning of waitresses who are obligated to wear revealing clothes.

[deleted]

[deleted]

Lucky you. I also receive dozens of rape and death threats all the time and the police do nothing. They suggested I get a different phone number when a guy kept ringing, giving my correct address, and saying he was on his way to rape me.

And really? Some people have to ask what is sexist about Hooters? **bangs head on computer screen repeatedly**

[deleted]

I’ve deleted some of the comments to stop the thread being derailed.
I’ll keep deleting if necessary. Please stick to the topic.

[deleted]

[deleted]

OP:

“I believe misogynistic online abuse exists for one reason. And that is that some men are so threatened by women having a voice – by women having a role in the public sphere – that they will stop at nothing to shut her up. They will stop at nothing to deny her of her freedom of speech.”

You’re over-complicating it. There’s no need to reach for ideological explanations; some people (of all genders) are just under-socialised d!ckheads, and that’s all there is to it.

None of these tweets in the image seem to fit the description being bandied about as “rape threats”. They’re rude, but that’s it. Where are the threats we’re hearing about?

If these are those “threats”, they are merely crude vernacular (proletarian) language. Which kind of reinforces the suspicion that the problem with Feminism is that it’s always been a bourgeois movement that can’t really handle the heat in the kitchen of the real world.

Feminists routinely bandy about the most appalling insinuations about men, in general, but do it in a more polite bourgeois language (at least, these days; overt death threats by feminists were the reason Erin Pizzey moved abroad, back in the days when some persons who will remain nameless were “associated with” terrorist groups like the Angry Brigade). If they really can’t, in return, handle some bad language on Twitter, that rather suggests this whole narrative of them being “strong women” is rather false.

Honestly, as an opinionated bloke I’ve been called far worse than that on the internet. In particular, the “worst” one I can see there is that old standby, “she needs a good seeing to”, and I’ve heard plenty of women say that too. It’s not a rape threat. It insinuates that somebody is too uptight and needs to loosen up (generally, in sexual attitudes), and it has always meant that.

Please, feminists. REmember that currently you are socially hegemonic and as such likely to get angry responses from socially marginalised groups. Either deal with that, or get out of the Being Publicly Stroppy business.

I don’t understand why the fact that Hooters is sexist means it shouldn’t be allowed to exist.

I also think “they want to stop women from having a voice” is a bit of a sweeping statement and not based on real evidence, but obviously they are tossers, yeah.

The campaign did not prevent the opening, but not long afterwards the self-styled ‘breastuarant’ closed due to poor management, debts and a lack of custom. I don’t know if the lack of custom had anything to do with our highlighting how bloody sexist the establishment was. But I had no direct responsibility for the closure of Hooters.

Well lets look at the potential clientele shall we?

Families? Not likely.

Straight couples on a date? Not likely.

Gay couples on a date? Not likely.

A works function? Depends, but for the majority – not likely.

A group of mixed sex friends? Not likely.

A group of male friends? Yes, but how often do male friends eat at restaurants rather than going straight down the pub after getting pissed at home or hanging out playing computer games? Not so much these days, that’s how often. Tesco booze be much cheaper than restaurant booze for sure.

A stag do? Oh yes!

Single men left on the scrapheap? Likely.

So, in short, the reason why it shut down was because they built it in Bristol rather than Blackpool. Schoolboy error that.

Chris @15

It’s not about evidence. Hence-

“I believe misogynistic online abuse exists for one reason. ”

Feminism rejects evidence-based reasoning as a male ploy to silence female voices, in favour of Consciousness Raising, which is an epistemology based on personal perceptions. That is, what a Feminist feels to be true is true.

Basically, the absence of rational justification for a belief is proof that that belief should be derived from a gynocentric source, that is the woman’s feelings about the issue.

Ian B – apologies, I could have picked a ‘better’ screen grab to illustrate the threats. It’s always difficult to show as some of the threats are so vicious and unpleasant as to trigger and upset people. If you take a look at her twitter feed you can see the threats she has retweeted but they do come with a big trigger warning. The threats were constant over 48 hours if not longer.

Take a look at all the evidence as it might change your mind about your ‘cant take the heat, get out of the kitchen’ comment.

I’m with 12 – The Judge, on this one. I’d be surprised if any of the abuse came from genuine campaigners with an agenda of shutting down female emancipation or debate but rather what Andy Marr (erroneously – as the cheeky lad was talking about Bloggers – the weasel!) described as sad man sat in the pants (in between beating another one off).

I think the knee err.. jerk about boycotting Twitter or imposing new regs is a slippery slope – if a crime has been committed; threats to kill, rape, to do violence then that’s what the Rozzers are for – if they fail to act – go to the new Police Commissioners who’ll be glad of the work.

I don’t twitter myself but I do blog a lot and some of the abuse is left field vitriol shoe-horned into threads of little relevance but if people can;t self police themselves then block, name & shame and report – free speech is free speech even if it’s abusive.

Sorry for your abuse, hope all’s well now.

18. @ Sianushka

Ian B perfectly fits the description of kind of man who is “so threatened by women having a voice – by women having a role in the public sphere – that they will stop at nothing to shut her up. They will stop at nothing to deny her of her freedom of speech.”

In my view, the only reason he cannot see that any of the tweets in the screen grab constitutes a rape threat is because he is in fact a rapist or “wannabe rapist” himself. What is “smashing up the arse” if not a threat of anal rape?

I have suggested that the high profile women journalists who are supporting this campaign that they insist that the legal teams on the journals / newspapers they write for track down the men like Ian B who are making these threats and bring them to court. That will deal with them effectively.

What is “smashing up the arse” if not a threat of anal rape?

Well you could look at it in the context of the whole quote: “this Perez one just needs a good smashing up the arse and she will be fine” – so it’s not a threat at all, it is however implying that she’s motivated by a lack of sexual activity and that having an energetic orgasmic bum fuck would satiate her desires. Which you would think is a misogynistic enough statement on it’s own, and could be strongly condemned on those terms, without also trying to imply that he was making a threat to rape her as well.

[deleted]

[deleted]

24. Churm Rincewind

Hmm. As far as I can establish (and I stand to be corrected) the Bank of England initially trailed the idea that, given both the five and ten pound notes are due for re-design, Winston Churchill would replace Elizabeth Fry on the five pound note in 2015,and Jane Austen would replace Charles Darwin in 2016 on the ten pound note. This announcement is met with indifference.

Earlier this year the BofE confirms that, subject to review, Churchill will replace Fry on the five pound note, this being the more imminent decision. Controversy immediately breaks out, and a petition to ensure that Jane Austen rather than Churchill is featured on the five pound note gains traction.

The Bank of England then announces that Jane Austen will indeed be featured on the ten pound note, which is basically what they’d been saying for years (two years as per statements by the Governor of the BofE, though the final decision was delayed by a change of Governor).

The campaigners then claim victory, even though their specific request that Austen be featured on the five pound note as opposed to the ten pound note has in fact not been met.

In short, misreprentation has been a characteristic of this whole debate. None of which excuses the level of abuse directed at Caroline Criado-Perez which is another subject entirely, but I do object to the OP’s basic assumptions about the facts of the case.

I have suggested that the high profile women journalists who are supporting this campaign that they insist that the legal teams on the journals / newspapers they write for track down the men like Ian B who are making these threats and bring them to court. That will deal with them effectively.

Is that a threat?

Real feminism: a campaign to redress the economic inequalities between men and women.

Fake feminism: a campaign to censor culture.

Why should a man like me be allowed to define feminism? Because we live in a world of universal reason where the truth is accessible to all of us.

[deleted]

Strong secure independent women are very attractive to the average male, they can stand on their own two feet and coexist even in a situation of differing opinions. The average man is weary of the exact opposite, when a person is insecure to the point that having a different opinion to them must mean you are scared of their strength and are against their gender.

There is no doubting there are men online who say vile things, and there is no doubt within feminism there are a high amount of whats described above, take this topic for example, questions set forth to investigate an opinion, never mind counter it, have been deleted, and one male has been accused of being a rapist because he has a different opinion..

29. Mediastinum

I’m just annoyed they removed Charles Darwin, in my opinion Origin of Species is far more interesting that Pride and Prejudice. However as of yet, I have not needed to resort to rape threats to express my disappointment. Probably because I’m not a sexually frustrated 21 year old wanker.

30. PottyTraining

[deleted]

” … my online abuser had said he had never considered the fact that I was a real person. He had never thought that his words could or would hurt me.
“I don’t believe this. I think this is what men …”

I sympathise, Sian. But this is a rant.

The trolls used to target people who couldn’t spell properly, but things got a lot better over time when other people would respond with polite disapproval. I’m afraid you were right and your mother was wrong. Giving people a police record will feed into the cycle of abuse. Gentle persuasion is the best way.

Giving people a police record will feed into the cycle of abuse. Gentle persuasion is the best way.

Err no it’s not. They should be locked up for abuse that is clearly malicious. Maybe that will make them (and others) think twice. Have you tried ‘gentle persuasion’ with someone threatening you?

Ian B
Where are the threats we’re hearing about?

If you need to ask that question you really haven’t been paying attention. Here’s an example – there are plenty more.

https://twitter.com/EverydaySexism/status/361053114951950336

I have to say, though, their case isn’t helped by the attitude of some women. When I posted a message of support, I came across a tweet on the page asserting that “all men are the same”.

No, we are not, and I, for one resent that.

NB: Just looked, and that tweet has been taken down.

I agree, Ron, though I suspect my normal equilibrium would be a tad upset if I regularly received abuse.

How does anonymity foster such behaviour? Many, like me, benefit from it allowing us to say what we might otherwise be unable to. In my case Its useful as I’m an elected councillor. I can use blogs and newsletters in my own name but then MacPherson Rules and the party line apply. I manage not to feel the need to threaten rape.

Perhaps it’s useful to see the level of hatred some people feel? There’s certainly a lot of it, as well as a general inchoate anger.

35. Man on Clapham Omnibus

These people need to be jailed,pure and simple.

17. Ian B
Feminism rejects evidence-based reasoning as a male ploy to silence female voices, in favour of Consciousness Raising, which is an epistemology based on personal perceptions. That is, what a Feminist feels to be true is true.

A lot of words but not a lot of meaning. Consciousness raising and personal perceptions are common to many types of thinking including phenomenology and existentialism and espousd by many philosphers that focus on the agency of the individual. One of the most prominent depatures from this tradition is Marxism (some of it anyway).

It equally true to say that what you feel is true is true but where that gets you I dont really know.

It isnt true that all Femenist literature rejects evidence. I’ve read loads that is entirely evidence based.Conjectural elements necessarily creep in but the notion that, given half a chance, some men will abuse women given half the chance is pretty much a fact as evidenced by the subject matter in this post. Why that is can surely be explained by the individuals perceptions of women, perceptions that they didnt make up themselves but were rather instilled into them by ideological structures both parochial and universal.

@32 Sunny: I’m shocked. This is the “three strikes and you’re out” mentality. Of course I subscribe to “gentle persuasion”. I live in a high crime area. A neighbour was shot at five doors from mine. Another literally riddled with bullets outside the local pub. Another house had its windows shot out. I could go on and on.
None of that means I don’t sympathise with the author, or yourself. But locking up trolls? I suggest you reconsider your sense of perspective and proportion.
Are you open to gentle persuasion and respect for the opinion of others?

@36 Robin

This is something I’m constantly trying to explain to other rightwingextremists; it’s entirely a myth that the progressive Left are soft on crime. It’s just a different value system regarding what crimes ares serious. When it’s a crime against progressive values, the said PL turn into remorseless hang’em and flog’ems. I mean, David Blunkett and all that.

What I’m finding interesting reading this discussion dropping into my box is that while there’s a lot of talk about “anger”, there seems to be a common mental block regarding discussing why people are angry. If somebody is angry, there is usually a reason. You might see that reason as valid, or not. But in general, anger is a response to something.

What people are calling “threats” are not threats at all. This is angry humour. Not funny humour, but weaponised humour; vitriolic humour, a mirror image of ranting against Thatch, turned up to 11.

So I’m beginning to think the problem here is that people can’t seem to grasp that perhaps some men might be angry at feminism for some particular reason, and thus can only see a sort of essentialist, free floating “anger” or “hate”.

So, as an example of the anger against Sian over Hooters. Swap it around. Suppose Sian wanted to open, say, a feminist bookshop and cafe for women. And there’s this bunch of “masculists” doing everything they can to stop her doing it; saying it’s an attack on men, that men won’t feel safe in such an environment, it’ll cause the vapours in the kiddies, stuff like that.

And suppose things are the inverse of reality, and we lived in a society where men are socially dominant, “masculists” get on the telly and in the papers, male social values are seen as preferable, the papers have “mens sections” but no “womens sections”, there’s no Daily Mail, no Fawcett Society and Claire Perry is ignored instead of apprently being the prime minister’s puppet mistress, and women can’t get heard anywhere. Except on twitter.

How angry would you feel in that situation, as a marginalised, voiceless woman, in a male dominated society, who can’t even open a bookshop without men demanding it not be allowed. Wouldn’t you be angry? Might you not be at least tempted to spew empty vitriol from your powerless state? Might you not perhaps say, “crikey, I’d like to kick those chaps in the balls”?

It’s always worth mirroring a situation, because it reveals the biases inherent in society. Anglospheric society is, currently, dominated by the social values of middle class women, of whom the Feminist movement is the vanguard, or voice, or whatever. The weakest demographic in our society is the marginalised male; the much ridiculed “man in his underpants in his mom’s basement[1]”. It perhaps isn’t entirely surprising that he’s prone to anger.

[1]Does annoy me this basement thing, it’s an American stereotype. Nobody can afford a house here, let alone one with a basement.

What people are calling “threats” are not threats at all.

“SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH….. OR ILL SHUT IT FOR YOU AND CHOKE YOU WITH MY DICK. OK?” and “I will rape you when I get the chance” are prima facie threats.

Another example: “hi slut… I will rape you tomorrow at 9pm. Shall I come straight to your house where we can fuck?”

I wouldn’t fault the recipient for believing it less a joke and more a threat.

Well, the first one isn’t, the second one is debatable, the third one crosses the line. Hadn’t seen those ones anyway.

Anyone actually got a full transcript, including whatever led up to this, so we can see this thing in context? This thing just looks like a standard flame war to me. I’ve had “death threats” in that context, back in the good old days of Usenet.

Anyway, I’m still interested in whether any Feminists, female or female, ever wonder whether hostile reactions are due to their being a gender hate movement, or just never consider that.

Look at it this way, UKL; I’m a bloke with a porn collection. Given the chance, this movement would like to throw me in jail and do other terrible things to me. One nice Feminist on the Graun a while ago was suggesting chemical castration, in a conversation there.

Now you know, I’m an urbane and pleasant chap who can express myself rather well and has learned to count to ten and all that. But the fact that these people exist in our society and have ever more growing power terrifies me. A century and a bit ago, they launched a horrific persecution of gays that we only just got rid of; men were arrested, stalked by the police, chemically experimented on, forced into quack psychiatric treatment, and so on. So the fact that they are back and following much the same programme (albeit this time heterosexual focussed) is genuinely frightening. I think a lot of men feel similarly scared.

Now, it’s counterproductive to use this negative language. But it’s ultimately symptomatic of fear, not power. That needs to be considered.

40

And I suppose that fear has no foundation in reality!

42. the a&e charge nurse

[38] we still have to be careful where we set the bar.

If a parent says to their child – ‘I’m gonna kill you when you get home’ is this a threat in any meaningful sense of the word, I mean should it entail a police investigation in all cases?

It would take a particularly dim sort of rapist to advertise an intended crime on twatter.

Mind you the precedents are already in place – internet loudmouths are being locked up for straying over a line.

Thanks, Ian B.
This reminds me of a comment I heard back in the mods and rockers days – “we don’t want an apology, we want blood”.
It is a shame to see the internet slowly evolving into a cyber police state. We had such high hopes.
I have made my appeal for calm and reason.
Breaking up fights is a thankless task on the whole. I’m not really into spats between meta-mysogynists and meta-misandrists anyway, so I’ll probably delete my LC bookmark fairly soon.

@37
You say:

‘And suppose things are the inverse of reality, and we lived in a society where men are socially dominant, “masculists” get on the telly and in the papers, male social values are seen as preferable, the papers have “mens sections” but no “womens sections”, there’s no Daily Mail, no Fawcett Society and Claire Perry is ignored instead of apprently being the prime minister’s puppet mistress, and women can’t get heard anywhere. Except on twitter.’

I’m really confused by your comment. Are you saying that the ‘inverse of reality’ would be men being dominant? I.e. Today’s reality is one where women are dominant? And the reason women are dominant is because we have women’s sections in papers and the Daily Mail? So a country where most of the government is men and where women’s voices tend to exist in one section of the newspaper labelled ‘women read here – men talking in rest of paper’ is dominated by women?

Apologies if I misunderstood, because it would be very odd to accuse today’s society as being dominated by women when it so clearly isn’t.

@40 In your comment here:

‘A century and a bit ago, they launched a horrific persecution of gays that we only just got rid of; men were arrested, stalked by the police, chemically experimented on, forced into quack psychiatric treatment, and so on.’

When you say they, do you mean feminists? Just because I’m a bit confused again. Or do you mean the patriarchal system in place during the late 19th Century and Lord Queensberry?

a&e @42,

[38] we still have to be careful where we set the bar.

If a parent says to their child – ‘I’m gonna kill you when you get home’ is this a threat in any meaningful sense of the word, I mean should it entail a police investigation in all cases?

Sigh.

@45
Ambiguous.

Sian,

You haven’t misunderstood me. Anglosphere countries are socially dominated by women, more specifically morally dominated by women, or even more specifically by alpha females who manifest as feminism (and if you want to distinguish the right wing, bluestockings like La Perry or Cristina Odone).

Hence, for instance, at the moment we have Mr Cameron falling over himself to defeat an imaginary child pornography plague, simply because the alpha female coalition has told him to. To put it a bit cartoonishly, the subjugated ruling class male will quite happily ship any number of his own gender off to jail under vague and draconian laws, because otherwise Samcam will make him sleep on the sofa.

The gay panic, along with the rest of the Victorian sex panic (e.g. imaginary white slavery, now back with us as “sex trafficking”) was orchestrated by the Social Purity movement which was dominated by women, the first wave feminists. The actual MP who shoved it through Parliament was Henry Labouchere, a radical, feminist-aligned liberal, not some crusty conservative.

It’s a long history, but the furious religious revival of the late eighteenth century, adopted as a system by the new ruling class (many of whom were methodists, quakers, etc) developed the idea of two spheres; males did the dirty work in business and politics, while the (upper class) female (the wives) became moral guardians doing good works, which led them to a highly elevated social status and moral and social dominance which continues to this day; feminism has acted primarily to maintain the separation of the spheres, so that while women have (rightly) entered into formerly male sphere activities, the female moral and social dominance has remained. That is, the destruction of the male sphere while maintaining the female sphere, virgo intacta, so’s to speak.

So then we see that the sudden upsurge of second wave feminism in the later 1960s was a reaction against female sexual liberation (the pill and sexual revolution) which was seen as a challenge to the status of women as morally pure and (thus) deserving of social superiority. And the gut level dislike of Hooters :)

So in this context the Feminist movement acts as an enforcement system for the class interest of dominant females, as a mechanism to control (a) their menfolk and (b) other females who are potential (sexual) competition. Thus, the long history of “saving fallen women” (e.g. from prostitution, then porn, then being busty waitresses). The settlement houses were the classic mechanism for this, in which fallen women were “saved” and retrained to be servants… to the type of upper class women who ran the houses. Rosa Luxembourg described Feminists as parasites of parasites, seeing the class element intrinsic to a woman living off capitalism (her husband or philanthropy) and dressed, cooked for, etc, by girls from the proletariat, filling her days with her “good works”).

You no doubt think me a terrible person, but this is the conclusion I have come to after much personal research. None of it is secret history, but there is a kind of conspiracy of silence especially around the Social Purity movement. Modern Progressives prefer not to discuss the many negative aspects of the Progressive Era, and that (in this context) the First Wave Feminists we’re all supposed to admire were, as a class, bible bashing homophobic maniacs, many of them appalling racists (even American abolitionists like Susan B Anthony), eugenics supporters, and the like. It’s interesting to watch how the further we move from the liberalism of the 1960s, the more Feminism is drifting back to overt Victorianism. There’s even a new moral panic about sodomy, though now it’s girls who are the victims of the terrible male poo-chute lust, rather than boys.

Sorry for the long comment, waffled a bit as is my wont. I will just clarify that i consider myself a “gender equalist” and thus desire a society with gender equality, but I concluded some time ago that Feminism, the movement, is actively working against that, which is why I am now bitterly opposed to it. I support the “breaking of the male sphere”; but now we must turn to the female sphere and break that too, because failure to do that leads to a very unequal situation, in my view.

Despite having just written a short novel, I just want to add (more on-topic perhaps) that part of the problem we have here is the Feminist Narrative. If the hegemonic discourse states that either a man is a feminist or a misogynist, then if at some point he decides he isn’t a feminist, he concludes that he must be a misogynist, and then it’s rapey rapey mcrape, because that’s all he’s been offered as a reactionary position.

I don’t support anything these men tweeted, but ultimately you have to stand back and observe that they’re effectively playing the hegemonically assigned role. They are offered no other language with which to respond.

It’s like saying “anyone who disapproves of immigration is a racist”. It means people have no choice but to say, “oh then I’m a racist” and go and join the BNP. It’s not helpful.

49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

36. Robin

Threatening people is a crime and in the way that this is being done is tantamount to conspiracy. So it should be treated seriously.

Crimes in Mancester and other places where there is a lot of lead in the air may take a different forms but threats are threats whether you carry them out or not. They can leave the respondent completely devestated. Thats why gentle persuasion is totally misplaced.

50. Man on Clapham Omnibus

37. Ian B

I think its a lot simpler than you suggest. I think women would generally like to get on with their lives without having their sexuality treated as either an impediment or a source of lascivious amusement. I think they would also like not to be written out of history or their current role in modern society marginalised. At the end of the day I dont think that’s a lot to ask.

MoCO@37

The problem you have there is that (a) nobody treated female sexuality as an impediment until the rise of the proto-feminists who implemented the Victorian system (think, Hannah More et al). Go back to England in the 18th and earlier, and everyone was at it like rabbits and female sexuality was just part of life.

(b) “or a source of lascivious amusement.” The problem here is that nobody is forcing women to be “lascivious amusement”. Rather, the Feminists are trying to prevent women who do want to be “lascivious amusement” from being so. Nobody is trying to force Sian to work at Hooters. It’s Sian trying to stop other women working at Hooters.

You seem to be implying that “women” are an homogenous class with a unified set of values, preferences, etc.

52. Man on Clapham Omnibus

51. Ian B

women are not a class they are a gender.

If you want a stroll back in time you could at least have thrown in Women’s sufferidge . After all there wasnt a problem until women demanded the vote.

‘The problem here is that nobody is forcing women to be “lascivious amusement’

The problem is yes they are,mainly through stereotyping,
such that you get world class athletes sized up in terms of their looks in the middle of a sports comentary.

Maybe some women could jump in with their experiences but my understanding is its a jungle out there.

53. the a&e charge nurse

[45] OK, so you don’t want to answer the actual question.

Personally I think there is something very wrong about locking up deconstructed loud mouths for making what are essentially ‘off-the-cuff’ comments, no matter neanderthal these comments may be.

Some of the comments are indeed vile but are unlikely to carry any meaningful physical threat in 99.999999% of cases – why do I say that?

Comments are made with little forethought, may be part of a herd mentality and are disinhibited because of the false perception of being semi-anonymous +/- the effects of alcohol or other substances that often go hand in hand with late night computer ranters.

They may show the commenter up in a rather unappetising light, but failing to attain ‘Mr Metropolitan’ standards should not equate to a custodial sentence and this is the pattern we are now seeing.

We can learn more from the discourse on the web than we ever did from Sigmund Freud.

Robin @46,

@45
Ambiguous.

I thought my meaning was obvious. To spell it out:

Sigh – because it should go without saying that “we still have to be careful where we set the bar” and that language that could be read as a threat need not “entail a police investigation in all cases”; that the circumstances of the specific case are important; that a parent saying to their child “I’m going to kill you when we get home” is not a bit like a stranger saying to a person “I’m going to rape you”. HTH.

55. the a&e charge nurse

[54] a parent saying to their child “I’m going to kill you when we get home” is not a bit like a stranger saying to a person “I’m going to rape you” – that’s plain wrong, I’m afraid.
The home can be a very dangerous place, and actual violence often escalates from verbal threats.

As a matter of interest has their ever been any cases of physical sexual violence that followed on from a twatter loud mouth making verbal threats first?

@54 Thanks UKL. Sorry I had to ask. Glad to hear it.

@55 Fair question A&E, but we need to restrict ourselves to *complete stranger* trolls.
There have been physical assaults following electronic communications between, for example, school bullies and their victims.

a&e,

[45] OK, so you don’t want to answer the actual question.

Because frankly I thought it was fucking stupid. Of course “we still have to be careful where we set the bar” – did I suggest otherwise? Of course a tweet need not “entail a police investigation in all cases” – did I suggest otherwise? No I didn’t.

Personally I think there is something very wrong about locking up deconstructed loud mouths for making what are essentially ‘off-the-cuff’ comments, no matter neanderthal these comments may be.

I’m inclined to agree that people should not be locked up for making an ‘off-the-cuff’ comment and I have never suggested anything to the contrary.

But the fact is a recipient of something like “SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH….. OR ILL SHUT IT FOR YOU AND CHOKE YOU WITH MY DICK. OK?” or “I will rape you when I get the chance” or “hi slut… I will rape you tomorrow at 9pm. Shall I come straight to your house where we can fuck?” does not know the sender’s intent. The recipient cannot know if it was a ‘joke’ or mere ‘bravado’ or an actual threat. It could be particularly worrying or less easy to dismiss if they have received a number of abusive tweets from that sender, if the sender has posted an address purported to be the recipient’s or if the recipient has actually suffered sexual assault or rape. Also it is undoubtedly horrible if there is coordinated abuse or harrassment or doxing (that is seeking and sharing information about the recipient such as their phone number, email address and home or work address).

It happens that the only people who can investigate are the police – which again does not entail anything more than an investigation, it could just be a phone call to the sender or knocking on their door. Therefore if your suggestion is that the police should not investigate then you essentially suggest nothing should be done.

An interesting thing about all this – and I’m not directing this point at you or suggesting you made it, it’s just incidental to this comment – is that some people are saying such abuse goes with the territory and if the women don’t like receiving tweets that appear to threaten rape maybe they should leave the internet. It doesn’t seem to occur that if the sender doesn’t want to be interviewed under caution by the police that perhaps he shouldn’t have sent something that looks like a threat of rape.

In my lay opinion, the most credible explanation for these men abusing women online is because the perpetrators have undiagnosed mental health issues or have not been taking their prescribed medication.

Making this into a “feminist” cause celebre is just pretentious. A sure sign of the enduring popular esteem for Jane Austen is the spate of movies and TV adaptations based on her novels produced during the last decade when she wrote only six novels and died at the young age of 41 in 1817.
http://www.janeausten.org/jane-austen-movies.asp

Looking at one tweet or comment in isolation and then saying ‘It’s not much of a threat really’ is turning a blind eye to the issue.

You need also to be looking at the number of tweets/comments sent, the length of time over which they are sent and remembering, as pointed out in comment 58, that the recipient does not know who the sender is, what the sender’s intent is and what if anything the sender knows about them.

@49. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Well I’m going to crash the moon into the Pacific Ocean and solve this problem once and for all.

So, do I get arrested?

62. Man on Clapham Omnibus

61. Robin

No ,but you might be entitled to a free class the Newtonian Physics.

63. Man on Clapham Omnibus

59. Bob B

I think there is a legitimate question as to why these ‘men’ who you clearly think are a very small minority articulate their ‘madness’ in this particular way.

Maybe its the same ‘madness’ that stops women driving in certain countries or the madness that causes women to be shot when they articulate a desire for education.

I find your notion that ‘Making this into a “feminist” cause celebre is just pretentious’ is fraught with its own assumptions and preconceptions. Maybe you should make these explicit!

64. Man on Clapham Omnibus

61. Robin

should have read ‘in newtonian physics’

@MOCO: :)

66. the a&e charge nurse

[58] I agree with most of that, UKL – but you may not have fully understood the intention behind my question @42?

A parent says to their child ‘I’m going to fucking brain you when you get in’ (because this is a slightly more aggressive family than the first lot) – the anxious guardian reader next door hears the words but is unsure what to do.

The words alone, stripped of context, sound pretty shocking but when I was growing up they were no more than grist to the mill and I doubt if many jailings ensued despite the fact most children were beaten back then, and some killed (against a backdrop of verbal intimidation).

The sentiments behind the abuse on twitter is common currency in certain male circles no doubt related to the fact a debased view of women is hardly a rare phenomena in our culture – any budding psychologist out there may have their own theories as to why.

But in my opinion late night internet bravado is far less likely to result in actual sexual harm to women compared to parents who utter chilling verbal threats to their children.

At the same time police behaviour is likely to be influenced by at least 2 factors – the collection of evidence becomes far easier when there is easily obtained evidence to pursue complaints – the other is the fact that we would at least have to triple the size of the existing police force to monitor other spheres (such as the family, or school) where threatening utterances are an every day fact of life.

It might even mean calling a few back from their cushty rota at the equadorain embassay!

59

Of course, it’s those mad people again, sane men like us wouldn’t do such a thing.

68. Charlieman

@59. Bob B: “In my lay opinion, the most credible explanation for these men abusing women online is because the perpetrators have undiagnosed mental health issues or have not been taking their prescribed medication.”

Quacks believe that during life, (say) 30% of individuals will suffer from mental ill health during adulthood. I’m not interested in the percentage, just the fact that it is normal.

The third of blokes who suffer from mental ill health do not suffer from it concurrently; at any time, it is more like 5% and most of them are cuddling up in a duvet rather than shouting at other people. Harmless-ish and in need of care.

If 33% or 99% of comments made to women bloggers come from men who appear to be bigots, it is more probable that the commenters are mentally healthy. That is scary. In my lay opinion, I cannot defend the bigots’ words.

“Making this into a “feminist” cause celebre is just pretentious.”

I don’t think it is affectation. It was a case of “Hold on, boys. Our UK history is not just about blokes.”

History determines that there can be fewer women than men who earn a spot on a ten quid note; they are all dead, men and women, already. And Stephenson, my hero, only managed to get onto a fiver.

Sunny should conduct a thread about the women and forgotten men who deserve a spot on a bank note

a&e, I have no idea what I’d do if my neighbour shouted at their child “I’m going to fucking brain you”. But if I thought it necessary to call the police I’d like to think they would investigate just in case. I would rather be embarrassed than the child be found murdered.

Online abuse, harassment etc is ‘acceptable’ only because next to nothing has been done about it; there is a degree of anonymity and a lack of consequence. If more internet bravos were warned by police not to send such messages again ‘or else’, perhaps fewer such messages would be sent. If I were to say the same thing to you face-to-face that could constitute a criminal offence.

It’s hard to reconcile the romantic vision of the internet as a force for good, some kind of utopia for the free exchange of ideas, information, hopes, feelings and thoughts, with a place where people are subjected to sustained abuse, harassment and threats (particularly of the coordinated kind). People ‘taking the piss’ (i.e. abusing the privilege) give excuse after excuse to TPTB to deploy restrictions, who hardly need an excuse.

This weekend (and it appears to be continuing today) we also had game developers being abused for changing the stats of an imaginary weapon, e.g. “im going to tie you up and rape your family if you dont fix the dsr”.

Now personally I don’t think that threat is genuine but then I haven’t been on the receiving end of the hundreds or thousands of abusive and/or threatening messages.

I don’t know whether it’s just an extension of bullying given the degree of anonymity and lack of consequence or whether it’s a genuine pathology that brings people to post comments like that, but either way it’s not good.

And what some people don’t seem to understand or care is that this exercise of their freedom of speech is chilling their targets’ exercise of their freedoms. Some targets decide they have had enough and leave Twitter or their webspace or turn off comments from strangers or even stop producing the things they used to enjoy producing. On balance I would rather the police have a word with abusers than reasonably nice people be bullied off the internet. And no they don’t need to investigate every single occurrence or every single abuser, just enough to deter other people from being abusers.

Getting back to MOCO’s “air filled with lead” territory, in a pub near mine, an old guy said the wrong thing to the wrong person. They took him down an alley and slit his throat up against the back wall of my friend’s kitchen. She heard a gurgling sound but didn’t realise what it meant until the following day. It is common knowledge who the perpetrator was, but he was never punished for lack of evidence.

How often do *complete stranger* twitter threats translate into real actions?

I’ve got no time for people making empty threats and hurting people’s feelings. Hell, I’d ban inappropriate use of the word misogynist for a start as it’s degenerated into a form of abuse itself. But before we go banging up people for verbal abuse, let’s remember there is still such a thing as actual assault and police time is best spent on the more important stuff.

@69 UKLIB
I agree with much of what you and A&E say.
The lock ‘em up and throw away the key brigade might be surprised to know that there are people who would say to that parent “Hiya, is everything all right?”

72. Charlieman

@69. ukliberty: “This weekend (and it appears to be continuing today) we also had game developers being abused for changing the stats of an imaginary weapon, e.g. “im going to tie you up and rape your family if you dont fix the dsr”.”

That is a cracking good example of how people do not get this new fangled internet thing. Whilst it is the case that the World Wide Web has become a consumer item for 20 years (with other internet forums and bulletin boards preceding it), human evolution has not kept up. I was born four years before packet switching became a practical concept, a few years before the first email message.

My genes have not changed. Culture surrounding me has changed and I have changed in response; in 1990, I foolishly disregarded hip hop as a form of music and poetry.

The genes of my neighbours’ kids haven’t changed a lot; in a few cases, the genes contribute to a coffee coloured skin. But not a lot of mind changing — nowt that can be determined by looking at them or by casual conversation. I’ve lived in my house long enough to walk kids to school and to share a beer with them today.

Does culture cure bigotry? Misogyny? Misandry? After 20 years of the WWW? I dunno.

Why should I believe that the WWW, in 20 years of delivering liberal and counter liberal thought, is a winner?

@69 ukliberty: “On balance I would rather the police have a word with abusers than reasonably nice people be bullied off the internet.”

I like that sentiment.

And now, LC bookmark, you are deleted.

Bye y’all.

74. 12 Hungry Men

68.
"Sunny should conduct a thread about the women and forgotten men who deserve a spot on a bank note"
The note of the unknown do-gooder.

There is bound to be a lot of deleting activity on twitter today.

Pavlov vs Zimbardo
You decide.

75. Charlieman

@69. ukliberty: “On balance I would rather the police have a word with abusers than reasonably nice people be bullied off the internet. And no they don’t need to investigate every single occurrence or every single abuser, just enough to deter other people from being abusers.”

No. Every single reported incident must be investigated proportionately. That is the defined job of a police officer.

There should be no exemptions for influential people. No exemptions for eloquent people like you.

UK citizens assume when they are a crime victim that the kerfuffle will be investigated. Citizens assume that we are all equal.

Yeah, coppers are required to investigate every complaint. Equally and proportionately and respectfully.

What is a crime? What are coppers supposed to investigate? Legally, it is about a vague threat to personal property or about physical violence. What?

76. Matt Wardman

>68.
“Sunny should conduct a thread about the women and forgotten men who deserve a spot on a bank note”

The Bank of England have been doing that for some time in their existing process :-).

Here is the list.

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/documents/about/banknote_names.pdf

It contains dozens of women.

I have come questions, Sian, which I’ll ask over at your longer post after I’ve read it.

@70 “But before we go banging up people for verbal abuse, let’s remember there is still such a thing as actual assault”

Threats and intimidation may well amount to an actual assault, either as a simple assault under common law, or under one of the sections of the Offences Against the Person Act.

I just think that it’s a shame that she didn’t press charges. We need a few heads on sticks to warn people that this sort of thing isn’t just nasty, it’s illegal.

78. Charlieman

@76. Matt WardmanL “Here is the list.

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/documents/about/banknote_names.pdf

That’s brilliant! Some people have suggested Richard Branson, presumably to drive us towards a cashless society by rendering banknotes untouchable. Or maybe they just like the idea of sitting on Branson’s face.

I dunno, seems like feminism over the last 20 years has done nothing but suppress the voice of men, and male victims of domestic violence, rape and so on.

It’s not nice, but it’s been happening for years. I’ve never thought it was because ‘I was a woman’ and, ta-da! no psychological problems as a result. To an extent, if they stopped thinking it’s always because they’re women, they might be able to get over it.

Really, as someone else has said, some people are under socialised, they don’t pick on people because they actually have a problem with that person, but they know it’ll wind them up. It’s not great, but then, vegans have to put up with constant jibes and even threats for their own lifestyle, gay people (especially transgendered) have to put up with a lot of abuse online.

We’ve made a new civilisation, called the net – it’s thoroughly pernicious invention, but all we can do is raise our kids better so they’ll be able to change that landscape.

p.s. I’m not defending the guys who attacked these women, they are thoroughly dickheads. I just don’t like this whole ‘ah, I’m a woman, I’m being attacked for what’s between my legs’ as I could point out many examples where men are also discriminated against, and that can be detrimental to individuals.


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