It seems to be inevitable: Once you decide to start some sort of blog (e.g., because Facebook rants and/or making people uncomfortable by reporting the newest fail on a daily basis does not seem to be the best strategy anymore to vent a bit) that concerns itself with social justice issues and tries to critique/mock/counter the various forms of societal discrimination and hatred of particular (groups of) people, they lurk around the corner. They = people – disproportionately male, white and heterosexual – who troll the internet, looking for blog posts that are critical towards their privileges, to then leave the average “zero argument, full-fledged you’re wrong/weird/stupid/fat/ugly/manhating/’reverse racist'” comments (cf. the delightful Derailing for Dummies).
The majority of such comments, from my experience, are simply aimed at annoying the affected blogger, inciting irritation and trying to shift all the attention from the actual topic to the troll and the BS s/he says. Yet, feminist blogs in particular attract a certain “troll deluxe”: explicitly or implicitly self-proclaimed “Men’s Rights Activists” (MRAs; or men who curiously behave like they were), virtually invading your space. In germany, MRAs are also known as self-proclaimed “masculists” (Maskulisten, see also their ideology being picked apart in a great article here), who proclaim that it’s “payoff” time for the “feminist manipulation of the media, culture and society” (and encourage to submit game plans to the extreme vicarious embarrassment inducing e-mail address “femiNot”@…). MRAs not only seek to derail, but are actually quite serious and consistent with their mansplaining why teh womenz get it all wrong, their usually rapid progressive decline from pseudo argument-engaging to the throwing of “You Whores!“-fits when one refuses to derail the conversation in favour of what the troll deluxe wants to talk about RIGHT NOW, and their ever-present baseline of “But what about teh menz?!”
I can proudly report that I have had my first influx of trolling during the past week; and as so often, trolls come out of the woods when you’re writing about rape culture and the newest example as to how pervasive is it (this time: DSK). As it happens, my first troll, “LG,” starts by mansplaining to me that, “just to be fair,” I had gotten the numbers of false rape accusations wrong (which I quoted from studies), and that there is “of course” (of course!) a higher number of false rape accusations behind it. Unsure whether this was a troll or a bit of a dimwit in good faith, I tried to answer these claims. Alas, “LG” showed that I should have known better, by then telling me to “relax” (my hysterical feminist self) and that he’s not saying that all women are “harpies,” but that women “create a rape story out of thin air” most frequently to get out of “responsibilities” (for example: a cheating wife lying about being raped to “explain away a sex affair” – didn’t you know?!). Obviously, statistics, arguments, examples, explanations just won’t get through to very concerned men who are convinced that their personal “experience” and “common knowledge”/”I once knew a guy who knew a guy”-truth trumps everything else.
Speaking of “common knowledge”: the second troll, “Double Dagger” (…not sure whether he has a thing for punk rock, alliterations or just really bad metaphors…) informs me that “tribal thinking” was “exactly” the reason why “you guys self-identify with false accusers” (i.e., the potential victim in the DSK rape case). Again, one-liners of alleged “general knowledge” or “personal experience” or just mere generalising and oversimplifying claims seem to be the answer to rather differentiated arguments on many feminist blogs. Men’s rights activists and/or menz concern trolls certainly make good rape apologists. None of the evidence that men (at least in the US) are more likely to become victims of sexual assaults themselves than being convicted for one, or that there are in fact cases where women are not only not believed, but are charged with “false accusations” of rape (and some are even put in jail for five days and/or are fined) although their allegations eventually turned out to be true, ever gets through their MRA skulls. And none of them cares about wrongful accusations regarding any other crimes, ever. For people who are so deeply steeped in misogyny, it’s all about their determination to frame society and the justice system in particular as “misandrist.”
My first personal thoughts on that? Stop whining, asshole! Male, White, heterosexual, cis-gendered, “able”-bodied people living in affluent societies stealing from the term “misogyny” and appropriating criticisms of privileges and oppression to claim that they have been the “real victims” for thousands of years? Ah, Hell No. Even if only one or two of the afore-mentioned identities actually matches yours: get the fuck in line. What Noah Sow has called a “privilege-caused effeminacy” (“privilegienbedingte Verweichlichung;” and seriously, English language, that’s your word for it? Wow…) of White people whining about all the evils befalling them in daily life (like missing the bus, I guess), the idea of “misandry” seems to be its gender-epitome.
As William, on “Feministe,” has put it so much better than I can: “Please. Misandry is an oppression desperately looking for an oppressor. […] In the absence of power you can’t say that men suffer just the same as women […]. Men aren’t generally discriminated against, and certainly not for their maleness, because men are generally in positions of power and authority in the very places where you imagine the agents of misandry lurk. The accusation of misandry ultimately boils down to a lack of insight. People who employ it have experienced a loss of power and authority, they feel that the system has treated them poorly because they feel that the system has taken something from them. Unfortunately, they don’t recognize that what they have lost is privilege. Sorry, can’t beat your kids, or your wife, and if you do you’re going to have to leave the home and still fulfill your support obligations. You can’t just act like a king and, if that fails, take your ball and go home. Fuck, how terribly oppressive!”
As Manboobz and others who mock MRAs (or, in their own special 2.0 version, “Men Going Their Own Way,” which is a pseudo-movement stuck somewhere between terrifying, hilarious and “thank goodness that asshat has sworn off women forever”) show, these guys usually start of slowly by whining about how much more horribly men have been treated throughout history than women, that they “hunted the mammoth to feed you,” and that they broke their backs in coal mines to help you women stuff socks with the steam engine or something (this is when it’s always fun to point to women coal workers in the UK, for example). The irony that there have in fact been many men who have been treated horribly in history by people in power who happened to be, uh, well, yeah, overwhelmingly other men – namely white, heterosexual, “abled”-bodied ones – is somehow lost on them. Furthermore, their complaints are always put in relation to women who had it “so much better.”
Rather than acknowledging that different forms of privilege were and are at work; that rather few feminists, I think, would argue that a lower middle-class African-American man, for example, is always better off than the White and relatively wealthy german chancellor Angela Merkel; and that it might be the best option to aim for gender equality, MRAs’ solution always seems to be to make situations worse for women, if only as a matter of principle. Moreover, the typical MRA-“oppression direct comparison”-complaint that male circumcision is just as bad as female genital mutilation is a good tactic to make people vomit (or throw a punch).
Another MRAs’ classic is the whining about family courts that discriminate against men in terms of custody for children in divorce cases, for example. Actually, the impression of a certain bias seems to be quite accurate (and has begun to be altered in germany due to a ruling of the Federal Constitutional Court last year). However, the persistent and pervasive ideology of women’s inherent domesticity and mothers’ “proper role” to do the bulk (if not all) of the (child) care work is part of a patriarchal system and something most men profit from. The refusal to pay child support and, more importantly, domestic violence still make up the majority of such domestic disputes, no matter how some pseudo martyr MRAs try to re-frame it.
The line from slightly amusing to thoroughly annoying gets crossed to disgusting and dangerous, however, when certain MRAs (whose blog I won’t link, but “A Voice For Men” it is) come back to what the trolling on this blog has started with: Rape Apologies. “A Voice For Men” urges its readers to follow them in their pledge: “Should I be called to sit on a jury for a rape trial, I vow publicly to vote not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true. And I look forward to the opportunity to do so for very good reason. Since the judicial system is patently untrustworthy when it comes to the offense of rape, any guilty vote is simply an enabling capitulation to systemic legal corruption. In this, the age of misandry, not one aspect of a rape case can be trusted.”
Hence, the MRAs’ trolling on blogs like this one and oh so many others isn’t just about rhetoric, it isn’t just about pissing people off and feeling superior (read: bigger-dicked) because of it. These rape apologies have real life consequences, not only in framing a public discourse that serves the maintenance of rape culture, but also in concrete situations where misogyny has very physical implications and effects. Thus I do take the “what about teh menz”-trolling seriously. I still think it’s really funny at times, and that mocking a concerned MRA is a good way to go and it does preserve some nerves. My personal rule: One round, honey, then a sweet and clean-cut (pun intended) blog ban. At the same time, I find MRAs’ complete and proudly presented ignorance simultaneously irritating and exasperating. In any case, it’s not something that should go un-countered or should be solely belittled, in my view. As it is always so exemplary shown, MRAs go very quickly from “Relax, you’re taking this whole thing too seriously,” to “Whatever, but what about teh menz?” to “You oppress us poor guys and are an emasculating feminazi!” to “Worthless whores!!!” to “Acquit all rapists, women deserve it!!1!” And that is actually not funny in the slightest (no matter how awesome this cat’s picture is ;)).