The last couple of weeks, feminist bloggers have publicly collected the most hateful comments thrown at them on their own blogs and/or when they spoke up publicly, and those all too familiar insults can be seen on Twitter: #mencallmethings. Sady Doyle summarised them in a great post here, and in The Independent, Laurie Penny wrote about her experiences as female journalist and the gender specific reactions she faces, not only but particularly online.
[Since this is such a horrid and personal topic, I think some random pics are in order, so that's why they will be popping up in this thread... ;)]
Despite the fact that this blog is very tiny and unpopular :), especially compared to major feminist and other blogs concerned with social justice issues, I have already received and deleted my fair share of the kind of comments Sady and Laurie mention in their articles. Most of them, no surprises here, actually popped up in the wake of the post on so-called Men’s Rights Activists and the ones specifically dealing with rape culture.
It has been argued by feminism’s Second Wave (TM) over and over again that the attack on women’s looks, sexuality and specific skills, the belittlement, the condescension, the mocking, the rage, the threats, etc. is merely a way of keeping them from talking, from questioning, from recognising oppressive social structures and, subsequently, challenging those, and from feeling confident and safe in public space; additionally to actual physical violence.
And although this seems to sound dramatic to people (…one might just look at the reactions of many men who’d consider themselves somewhat progressive and are very baffled when reading #mencallmethings and other articles about this topic) and many advocate the theory that people are particularly mean-spirited when they feel anonymous and outspoken on the internet, this actually does not take anything away from the problem. Actually, the mere fact that people are completely uninhibited in certain frames is not only a very bad excuse, but makes matters even worse, since they apparently suppress their rage “in the real world” (more or less successfully), but still hold the very same ideas they then express in writing.
Furthermore, the supposed anonymity (which obviously is more of a myth than actual reality nowadays) does not seem to be the main reason for being all liberal with rape and death threats: many people show very little concern with posting violent threats or disgusting insults under their actual names, and the ability to track IPs is either unknown or uncared about by the commenters who could possibly be living in the apartment next to mine, if I can believe their internet providers.
So: why the seemingly reckless dumbassery? Why the need to take the time out of your day to specifically show up at someone else’s blog and virtually yell at them, call them names and leave with a threat? Although boring insults are definitely far from being a male speciality (Kerstin_P and all, and that was really harmless…) and are most certainly not limited to publicised opinions by women and/or opinions on feminist matters, the average raging, white, anti-feminist male troll seems to have a peculiar quality about him that his female version is missing – and things come down to structural issues, again.
It is not only about the “obvious” insults and threats, the ‘c*nt’ and ‘fat ugly b*tch’-calling, the apparently inevitable rape threats (in delightfully graphic detail for some bloggers) and even death threats – the most annoying thing for me is the completely unquestioned invasion of personal space, real-life and virtual space, and not trying to discuss anything, but silence the particular blogger; using every possible means and insult to make him/her stop talking.
And yes, there is still a comment function. No, I have not turned that off. Yes, it is now moderated and your comment won’t go through automatically anymore because I do not wish to read every misogynistic insult you can think of on my own pages. Coming to someone’s blog to tell them you disagree and here’s why = the internets. Losing it while you’re typing and foaming from your mouth, describing graphic details as to how to violate a person, then going back to your space or that of your buddies to continue the mocking, the insults and the brainstorming about said violation = commentators on feminist, anti-racist, anti-heterosexist, anti-ableist blogs which sseem to be so extremely threatening to a structure of certain privileges that some people can’t help but drop all pretense. Also, some people are just assholes… And if you dare comment on their assholery, mock them, selectively publish or even delete them, you’re a totalitarian nazib*tch who practices the censorship of free speech and individual liberties.
Actually, I am even worse: there are shitty comments from women I will publish, but if that comment was worded exactly the same way by a man, I would not. If a person of colour would call me a reverse-racist, I will publish that and talk to him/her. If you’re white and say that, I will judge you six ways to sunday, and then simply click “delete.”
I have, back then, let some comments through on the “Meet: The Phallic Cry Babies” thread on MRAs to aptly visualise and exemplify what I was talking about. Reading through these comments again, they show a good variety of the average feminist-blogger insults: you’re a dumb c*nt/meat hole/fat/ugly/should be raped/would not even be raped/deserve to die (those were not published…), you don’t know what you’re talking about/are oversensitive/use straw men/are too stupid to understand/are esoteric and incapable of an objective argument, you’re incapable of writing a coherent text/should revise that, you’re a man-hater, you’re a censoring nazi.
And this is where I realised that I am still very much in favour of my knee-jerk rule: One round of trolling if you amuse me, then I will ban you from my blog. As fellow bloggers have pointed out as well, the comment policy of many others blogs strikes me as quite lenient (obviously, particularly in comparison ;)) and I am at times rather unsure why that is. As the above mentioned examples show, these reproaches are not aimed at the actual topic discussed in the post or of any substantial argumentative nature, but solely to either insult, shame, derail or outright silence a blogger one disagrees with – and, from my experience, the vast majority of people who have “critical” comments on feminist or anti-racist blogs are actually the ones who are implicitly or explicitly anti-feminist and racist and will eventually throw a fit if you dare to be all uppity against them.
So why talk to these people? This is what this blog’s title actually boils down to, and where a troll was right for a change: I do not want to talk. Not even a little bit. Not to you. If you think that people of colour are inherently more/less “[put in random adjective]” than whites, if you think that there is no such thing as rape culture, if you think that women are just too sensitive and hysterical and can’t even take a joke, then there is no base for a conversation between us and I will, quite literally, tell you to Stop Talking and get the fuck out.
It’s great when people are patient. I am not one of them, obviously. Patience, in my view, gets stretched into mere (ab)use on some blogs, however, when it is quite clear that people are not arguing against you in good faith, but just want your attention and play jump rope with your nerves. This is why I usually don’t comment on other blogs (despite being an avid reader ;)) when there’s a troll present, except for mocking him/her for one round. The latest example, for me, of getting involved to the point of exhaustion (and yes, maybe my tolerance for assholery is just lower than that of others) were varied threads on Noah Sow’s racist experiences at the University of Fulda. I understand that the commenting rules on blogs should be varied and applaud everyone whose stomach is strong enough to try to educate people, but I really wonder why the line isn’t drawn any sooner at some feminist spaces. And this is not only a concern for the blogger hirself, but, in my view, a vital one when it comes to hir readers. There are things I do not wish others to experience here because they have to deal with that shit in “real” and virtual places all the time already.
And, most important to me, there are some boundaries set up against discriminatory behaviour in supposedly anti-discriminatory spaces that must be drawn closer than people are used to in “real life”, if only to give some people a virtual heads-up about what hopefully is going to follow in real life at some point. …In the meantime: waiting and having a cuppa…