misogyny

All posts in the misogyny category

Her: The Movie

Published January 25, 2014 by sleepydumpling

I just got home from a day out at the movies (with a little brunch with a friend and shopping interspersed amongst it).  I saw The Book Thief, which is wonderful, I can highly recommend it, and then I saw Her.

I want to talk a little bit about the latter, because I came away with many thoughts buzzing around my head.  Luckily I had a bit of a wait for my bus and then a good half hour bus trip, so that I could begin to gather my thoughts on the movie into some coherence to write about here.

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Let me start by saying that Her is beautifully written, shot and acted.  Visually it is gorgeous, the language of the film is quite poetic and the cast are excellent, they all give nuanced performances that felt very human and real.

But the concept of a man falling in love with an artificially intelligent operating system-woman really stuck in my craw.  At first I couldn’t work out why, humans falling in love with robots/computers/artificial intelligent beings isn’t new, but when I sat with it for awhile, I realised what bothered me.  This perfect woman that Theodore (Joachin Phoenix) has found, Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johanssen), has no body.  She has a brain, she has emotions, she has humour, she has intellect, she even has sexuality, but no physical form.

The perfect woman in this film is a woman whose body has been effectively photoshopped out of existence.

We’re all used to the concept of a woman’s body being photoshopped/edited to be something it isn’t.  We’re even used to seeing the results of that editing rendering women’s bodies smaller and thinner and more unrealistic.  All the “messy” bits of women’s actual bodies have been edited away for a long time.  Cellulite, wrinkles, stretchmarks, body hair, fat… even women’s genitals are edited to the point of “perfection”, which is completely unattainable by any living human being even after extensive cosmetic procedures.  Human beings are animals and we’re innately messy.  Our bodily functions are like that of any other animal – messy.  In this case she has been edited completely out of having a body at all.  All her physical “flaws” have been removed until there is no physical form left.

It reminds me somewhat of Alexandria’s Genesis, a fictional “condition” prevalent in science fiction where female characters have purple eyes, pale white skin, dark hair, slow ageing, no body hair or periods (yet they can still conceive) and they don’t get diseases.  This condition is a lazy writer’s way of making the “perfect” woman, who doesn’t have any of the messiness of things like illness, body hair or a menstrual cycle.  Because actual women are seen as dirty, messy, leaky things.

It’s inherently a misogynistic view of women, that suggest we are somehow unacceptable for being living creatures, as human beings.  It’s acceptable for men to be hairy, flawed, smelly, sweaty and physical bodies.  But somehow it is considered far worse a crime for a woman to be any of the above.

I also take exception to the idea that the “perfect woman” is entirely there to please her man.  She is created entirely by and for him, and while she sometimes has emotions that he cannot understand or takes exception to, she never argues with him, never disagrees with him and spends much of the movie apologising to him for her questions, assumptions and actions.  In fact he gets angry when Samantha starts speaking with her peers – other operating systems, and befriends a male operating system.

If this behaviour were replicated in a human relationship, it would be an abusive relationship.  However this makes Samantha the “perfect woman” that Theodore has found.  There are other moments that are deeply problematic, but I don’t want to get spoilery on you all.  Ultimately when Samantha has very human reactions and feelings, things begin to turn sour for the relationship.

Ultimately while I could see the beauty and talent behind the film (both the cast and the director/cinematography) I came away feeling like the film was a very harsh criticism of actual women, that suggested the only way to make a woman meet the standard men are seeking was to erase her physical form and make her sole purpose to please her man.  Take away a woman’s personhood and she becomes “the perfect woman”.

A deeply misogynistic premise… and misogyny in films is so dull, we’ve seen it all before.

Permission to Geek Out – Granted.

Published October 19, 2013 by sleepydumpling

It’s no secret to anyone who follows my Tumblr that I am a massive fan of Tom Hiddleston.  It all started with his role as Loki in the Avengers films and grew from there.  This is because I’ve always been a complete geek, when I get into something, I get really into it.  I love to dissect every nuance and really get into the minutiae of a topic that I’m into.  So I’m one of those people who gets on Tumblr with a bunch of other geeks of the same flavour, and we talk about all the details of that thing we love.  Right now for me, that’s the world of Marvel’s Avengers with particular focus on Loki.

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It has always been like this for me.  I can remember being obsessed with everything Roald Dahl wrote when I was about 7 years old.  At 11 it was US Civil War history, after reading Janet Lunn’s “The Root Cellar”.  At 15, it was everything Titanic, after reading Walter Lord’s “A Night to Remember” for a school assignment.  That particular obsession came back when James Cameron’s film came out in 1996.  At 16 it was the world of the Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman.  At 18 it was Dublin Soul music, thanks to The Commitments.  All through my life, I’ve been the kind of person who really likes to delve into stuff at a detailed level when the bug bites me.  When I discovered the internet in my early 20’s, I joined so many forums and chat groups (and remember IRC?) just so I could talk about stuff I love.  I still have friends now that I met online in Titanic, SeaChange, Mythbusters, and Tank Girl forums (among others) many, many years ago.

Science fiction, fantasy and superheroes are awesome.  I used to have an extensive collection of indie comics until my stepfather dumped them all (my favourite was one called Greener Pastures, followed closely by Tank Girl).  I have played some form of computer game almost every day of my life since I was 10 years old.   I work with technology for a living.  Every working day has me designing integrated AV systems and implementing IT solutions for everything from training customers in social media to 3D printing.  I squee over shiny new gadgets.   I’m a shameless Apple fan.  I’m a librarian for God’s sake.

Yet I’ve noticed something.  I don’t qualify as a “geek” in general geek culture.  People roll their eyes at my TARDIS lock-screen on my iPhone.  They scoff at the little Thor figurine that lives on my office desk.  People make snide little comments about “fangirls” in reference to our online discussions about Doctor Who and Marvel Avengers.  When I wear my PacMan earrings guys call me a “fake geek girl”.  Dudes often explain things to me at work (and outside of work) as if I’m stupid.  A particular bugbear is some guy who has never worked with AV in his life lecturing me about what kind of TV I should buy, five minutes after he’s watched me explain to my AV vendor what integration I want in a three room combinable meeting room system.  Or the friend who asked the teenage boy working in JB HiFi which DVD/Bluray to buy even though she had already asked me and I had given her some recommendations.  Because a bored looking teenage boy in retail clearly knows more than a 40 year old woman who works with AV integration for 35 large public sites.

In general, a woman’s interest in anything geeky is dismissed and patronised.  Women are treated like “silly fangirls” and “fake geek girls” while the dude sitting beside them is wearing a wookie hoodie or has only seen the JJ Abrahms Star Trek films.  Of course, there are always a million reasons given.  Let’s look at a few shall we?

You’re only wearing that because you like the look of it!
So no dude has ever worn some form of geek culture because he liked the look of it?  How many dudes have bought an Iron Man t-shirt because it looked cool?  So what if it looks cool and a woman wants to wear it.  How is that hurting anyone?

You’re only into [insert geek culture] because [insert attractive celebrity] is in it!
Oh and dudes don’t buy comic books because the female characters are drawn hot?  Like they don’t drool over Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia or a whole bunch of other actresses who have been in sci-fi/fantasy/super-hero roles.  It’s a good thing if a popular actor is a gateway drug into a fandom.  How different is it having Matt Smith or David Tennant draw a woman into Doctor Who than an actress in a skimpy costume do the same thing for another fandom?

You’re only getting into it because “geek culture” is trendy right now!
I’m sorry?  I played my first computer game when I was 10.  That was 31 years ago.  I read science fiction and fantasy, watched anime and bought comic books from the same age.  For chunks of my teens I was ridiculed for it, so I hid it away a lot, but I’ve been into geeky stuff longer than many of the loud anti-fangirl crew have been alive.

You only play girly games, not real ones!
Firstly, lots of women play games that are traditionally aimed at men.  I work with a 40 year old woman who has played WoW ever since I’ve known her and that’s over a decade.  A girlfriend of mine loves Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Mass Effect, Call of Duty and such.

Secondly, how welcoming are these traditionally male oriented games to women?  Are there any decent female characters for them to choose from, or are women just treated as tits and arse for the male players to ogle?  If they’re multi-player games, how are women treated when they join in to play?  One only has to follow Anita Sarkeesian’s work to see why many women shy away from these games and environments.

But finally, why are male oriented games considered more “real” or valid than other types of game?  Why is Grand Theft Auto  more “real” than The Sims, Tetris, Animal Crossing, The Simpsons Tapped Out or even Cookie Mama and Farmville?  Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are as valid as games as any shooting or driving game marketed to the dudes.  Why is spending your time playing a game that shoots people more “valid” than spending your time playing a game that slices fruit?

You don’t know anything about the history of [insert geek culture]!
How many male Lord of the Rings fans don’t know diddly squat about Tolkien?  Or male Star Trek fans know nothing about Roddenberry?  Or male Doctor Who fans who have never watched an episode prior to the Eccleston reboot?  How many male gamers out there never played PacMan, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong or have even heard of Pong?  How many male science fiction readers have never read Orwell, Wyndham or Wells?  How many comic book readers have never seen a vintage copy of The Phantom (or never even heard of The Phantom!) or collected indie comic books?  I could go on.  Why is it perfectly acceptable for men to pick and choose what geek culture they engage in, but women are quizzed and tested to prove their worth?  Besides, how often does something that is new and popular draw people into the history?  So, maybe they are only getting into Avengers because of Joss Whedon’s film, that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to get totally into the whole Marvel universe and start collecting comic books.

Silly fangirls are ruining everything!
Ruining everything for who?  For men who like the status quo of no female characters of substance, of never having to feel inadequate next to a handsome male character, of not having their fragile masculinity threatened by a dude shown in a sexually attractive light.  They’re not the only people on the planet, and they’re not the only ones who are willing to fork out their hard earned cash on fandom.  So something needs to appeal to women as well as men now to make money and stick around.  Good!  Not only is there more money to be devoted to keeping something alive if both men and women can dig it, but women have as much right to stuff they can dig as men do.  We have as much right to be treated with respect, given diverse and detailed characters and to be considered when developing, writing, casting and marketing content.  Besides, if we have to sit through a movie with some woman in a gold bikini, the fellas can sit through one with a dude with his shirt off and tight pants.

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The reality is, women are not considered valid human beings, so our interests, knowledge and skills are not considered valid either.  Our wants and needs are considered “add ons”, not the default.  Our fandom is considered an irritant rather than the integral part of the machine of geek culture that it is.  Don’t let people treat your interests and hobbies as silly or unworthy.  You have every right to the geeky that any man does.  Embrace your fangirl nature if you have one.  Squee over the things you love.  Learn about technology and gadgets if you are interested in them.  Wear, create, use whatever geek culture you want, and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not worthy, or you’re silly for filling your life with geekdom.  You keep these geek culture items alive as much, if not more, than any snarky dude in a Yoda t-shirt!

And don’t get me started on other systems of privilege in geek culture either!

Part of a Solution, Or Part of the Problem?

Published July 28, 2013 by sleepydumpling

I don’t know if you saw this article from the Herald Sun over the past few days.  It is a piece by the Victorian Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay, calling for men to both listen to women when they speak about domestic and gendered violence, and for men to speak up against all instances of violence towards women, not just the big horrifying stuff.  It asks men to take a look at their own attitudes and behaviour, and whether or not they are contributing to a culture that excuses violence towards women.

It’s an excellent piece and I am happy to see such an influential man standing up and calling out the dismissive attitudes that many men have towards domestic and gendered violence.

I of course, shared it on my Facebook and asked the men in my life, who I believe are good men, otherwise I wouldn’t have them in my life, to take some action themselves.  I saw the article shared by many, many women but had not once seen a man share it.  So I asked the men in my life to ask themselves if perhaps this was an indication that they were not listening to the women in their lives, and could take a little more action to speak up against violence against women.

Two awesome dudes in my life took the time to post the article themselves and openly condemn violence towards women, no matter how big or small.  I’m so proud to know those two guys are listening, and are not afraid to step up and say that violence towards women is unacceptable.  That’s the kind of man I want in my life.

But I’m not so pleased about is the responses to the article that I saw.  They were the same response in every place I looked regardless of the gender of the commenter, or their age, or whether they were commenting on it posted by a man or by a woman.  Now while the actual wording of the responses were different, they all said basically the same thing:

Men are violent towards women because of [television/pop music/the economy/culture/parents/insert other excuse here].

Over and over and over again, something was to blame for men being violent towards women.  The shit kiddies watch on telly today.  Those awful rappers.  The economy, men don’t feel respected when they can’t be breadwinners.  Young people today.  Because women are sometimes violent too.  Porn, porn makes men violent.  Religion, religion makes men violent.

All these excuses.

I’m sick of the excuses.  Can we not just stand up and say that when men are violent towards women, it’s because those men believe they have the right to be?  And by making excuses and pointing the blame at external factors all the time, we’re GIVING them an out.  We’re telling men that we “understand” that things “make” them violent towards women, instead of placing the blame exactly where it lies, with the men who are violent towards women.

The one that bugs me the most is the whole “young people today with their television and pop music” argument.  I’m 41 this year, so I’m in my 5th decade.  I’ve been around since the 70’s, and guess what, the past isn’t some rosy place where no woman was ever subjected to violence.  Popular culture is no  more to blame for men being violent towards women today as it was in the 70’s when my father was kicking the shit out of me.  I’ve survived violence from men through every decade of my life, be it overt or subtle, it has always been there.  From the domestic abuse of my childhood, the sexual abuse of my teens and twenties, through abusive partners in my 30’s and I still have men groping or grabbing me in public, spitting at me, calling me a cunt in the street or sending me death threats online.  Music and telly didn’t cause that at any point in my life, the cultural excuses for violence against women did.

The same goes for the economy/breadwinner argument.  If violence towards women were based on economy or employment, then no wealthy man would have ever murdered, raped or assaulted a woman in history, which we know is not true.  We would never have had violence towards women in boom times, like after the second world war or through the early 2000’s.  Men in jobs they love that provide them with excellent incomes are still violent towards women, this is not about whether or not a man is “respected” as a breadwinner.  It’s pretty disgusting that anyone would demand that men should be “shown respect” through the struggling economy when women can’t even be respected as human beings whether the economy is good or not.

When we constantly try to find something to blame for violence towards women, we are contributing to the problem.  We’re building the culture that tells men it’s not their fault that they are violent towards women, instead of telling them that violence towards women is inexcusable.  We have to tell the perpetrators of violence that they are responsible for their actions, not find something else to blame.  Until we do, this culture is never going to be broken.  And women are still going to be living their lives in fear of “triggering” violence from men.

If you’re making excuses as to why men are being violent towards women, I want you to listen to yourself.  Whatever your gender, I want you to ask why there has to be an excuse, why you have to find something to blame?  Ask yourself, is this part of the solution, or am I part of the problem?

*And before you start in on the “But what about violence against men?!” crap, read this, and then read this.

No Excuses – No Victim Blaming

Published November 22, 2012 by sleepydumpling

This Sunday is White Ribbon Day.  I blog about White Ribbon Day every year, because it is a cause close to my heart.

This year, White Ribbon Day is particularly important to me.

What is White Ribbon Day?  It is the one day per year that is devoted to the cause of ending violence against women.  It generally has a domestic violence focus, but it is in fact a campaign to end ALL violence against women.  I’ll give you a few Australian statistics:

  • Every week, a woman is killed by a current or former partner.
  • One in three women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
  • Domestic violence is the major cause of homelessness of women and children.
  • 33% of women have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life.
  • 25% have experienced unwanted sexual contact.
  • 1 in 5 women have been stalked.

Be aware these statistics are of reported cases.  This does not cover the hundreds of incidents every day that go unreported.  Violence against women is not just physical or sexual.  It is also mental, emotional, financial and institutional.  Every act of dehumanising a woman is violence against women.

This week just past has been hellish for me.  In the week since I attempted to launch a project for marginalised women and was forced to shut it down due to the amount of harassment, bullying and threats aimed at me and anyone who expressed interest in participating, I have been subjected to a constant barrage of abuse from complete strangers.  Everything from anonymous hate on Tumblr, days and days of harassment on Twitter, someone creating fake Facebook accounts in my name (with stolen photographs of me) and attempting to spam all of my friends and colleagues to actual death threats.

This abuse does not exist in a vacuum.  This abuse happens because culturally in Australia, and the rest of the world, violence and abuse against women is considered culturally  acceptable.  Not just the kind of abuse I’ve experienced this week either – rape, physical assault and murder are excused repeatedly.  Victims are blamed for their abuse – either they are told they actually did the wrong thing, ie were in the wrong place, wearing the wrong thing, behaving the wrong way etc, or if they do speak up, they are accused of “playing the victim” or “drawing negative attention to themselves”.

The most horrifying fact is that many women internalise these dehumanising messages and then turn them on their fellow women.  Just this week in my own experience, many women actively recruited men to help them abuse me online when I refused to apologise for telling them to fuck off out of my space.  This is disgusting behaviour, and a prime example of internalised misogyny.  “Women aren’t allowed to say that!” or “What a bitch, she’s going DOWN!”  Not once did I initiate contact with any of these people, nor did I go to their online spaces to leave abuse or even respond to them, the only time I responded was when they approached me, and mostly it was simply to tell them to fuck off out of my space.

There is NO excuse for violence against women.  There is NO reason that a woman is to blame for being abused.  No matter how she dresses, where she goes, what she does with her own body, what she drinks or consumes, what she says or how she behaves.

Women do not have to be nice, polite or submissive.  Women are allowed to say NO.  Women have every right to tell someone who comes into her space, be it physical or online to fuck off.  Women don’t have to give someone “the benefit of the doubt”.  If she does, and that person then abuses her, she is then blamed for not protecting herself.  “What was she thinking!?” people cry.  She was clearly thinking that she should give someone “the benefit of the doubt” like she was told to do.  Women are allowed to be loud, to swear, to dress themselves however they like, to have consensual sex with whoever they wish to, to be angry, to inhabit any public space without it drawing violence to her.  Women are even allowed to be rude, cranky, impolite, abrasive, abrupt, nasty, bitchy… and all those other words that are shame code for “women being assertive” without it drawing violence to her.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

If you do not like a woman, walk away.  Don’t pursue her into her space either online or physically.  Do not force her to pay attention to you when she does not want to.  Do not bully her anonymously to try to shame or silence her.  Don’t try to passive aggressively shame her by claiming you are offering “constructive criticism” when she does not want it and you are in her space.  You are not “offering” anything, you are forcing her, and that is violence against her.  Don’t recruit your friends or men to bully her if she doesn’t respond to your demands.  Do not abuse her for being rude if she walks away from you or tells you to leave her alone, even if she says “fuck off” in doing so.   She has every right to do so and owes you nothing.

If you really believe you are superior to someone, then you will walk away from them secure in that knowledge.  A better human being always will.

We live in a horrifically victim blaming culture.  We harass women online and off, threaten and bully them into submission, shame them when we deem that they are unworthy or inferior.  We get angry at women who stay in abusive relationships, but also deny them support and protection if they leave those relationships.  We shame them for not standing by their man, not standing on their own two feet, not caring enough about their children, not trying hard enough to make things better.  All the while we absolve the perpetrators of any responsibility.  We deny women support financially and emotionally when they leave abusive relationships, shame them for being “single mothers” or “sluts” or “a drain on society” for needing financial assistance when a partner has financially abused them and their children.  In the same breath that we tell women to give men “the benefit of the doubt”, we then blame her if she does and it turns bad.

But most importantly, we must speak up.  We must speak up as a culture and say “This is not ok.”  It is scary to speak up, as I’ve seen particularly painfully this week, and I am sure this very post will draw it as well*.  I am not “special” or “brave” for doing so – I’m just a woman who has had enough of being treated like shit by society and then blamed for it and treated even more like shit.  I have just reached a point where I can’t survive any more being pushed down for being a woman who is deemed unacceptable or inferior.  You too can speak up whether it’s loudly and publicly like I do, or amongst your own family or friends.  Big or small, every statement made against the violence women suffer gathers, accumulates and gets louder and louder.  Every voice, wherever it is, makes the world a bit safer for women and gives women courage to stand up to abuse and expect better for herself.

Tomorrow and through to Sunday there are many events happening around the country to raise funds and awareness for women who have or are suffering violence.  Every small donation for a white ribbon, every raffle ticket, every cocktail party or rally makes a difference.  If nothing else, donate a couple of bucks, buy a white ribbon and wear it to work, around your friends and family, on the street.  It is a tiny symbol of hope for women who have suffered everywhere that someone cares, that someone will stand with them, that someone believes that campaigning to end violence against women matters.

If I had seen that tiny symbol when I was suffering domestic abuse, I know I would have been empowered a whole lot earlier in life than I was.  I know I feel a whole lot more empowered now seeing it on men and women everywhere.

And if you are a woman suffering or have suffered abuse or violence of any kind, know that I care, as do many others.  I do this for you as much as I do this for me.

*I will be reporting any abuse I receive to the police,  including IP addresses and all other details.  I will also be publishing this information online.

Let’s Not Toss the Baby with the Bath Water

Published October 10, 2012 by sleepydumpling

There has been a lot of talk today about how it’s all well and good for Prime Minister Gillard to stand up in parliament and call out the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, for his hypocrisy about misogyny*, but many claim her own conduct/policies on other matters render her speech redundant.

While I agree, that Prime Minister Gillard (who I am no great fan of generally speaking) has a lot of work to do on issues like equal marriage rights, refugees, indigenous affairs, social support for single parents, and other issues, I think dismissing her speech yesterday undermines just how important the topic of misogyny from our political leaders is to the women of Australia.  Indeed, the women of the world.

We as a nation have watched our first woman Prime Minister treated in a manner that no male politician would ever be be subjected to, both in parliament and in the media.  We as a nation have heard the man who wants to lead our country, suggest that half of the population, women, are less adapted to exercise authority or to issue command.  We have heard this man suggest time and time again that women are somehow inferior to men.  Again, he is referring to half of the population of the country, whom he expects to vote for him to lead them.  On a regular basis, this man and the politicians he leads have referred to any woman in the Labor party as “the handbag hit squad”.  This is the man that said in an interview (therefore on the public record) “What the housewives of Australia need to understand as they do the ironing…”

Misogyny and sexism are rife in daily life in Australia, and when the man holding the highest position in the political opposition in this country AND who expects the Australian people to vote for him to lead the country, makes statements like those Prime Minister Gillard quoted, and I have shared here, is it any wonder?

Prime Minister Gillard has a responsibility in her role, not only as the Prime Minister but as a woman in such a position of high rank, to represent the women of Australia.  Yes, she represents all Australians, but being a woman herself, and being the example of a woman in public life and power, how she allows herself to be treated, reflects on how she allows all Australian women to be treated.

Yesterday, she stood up and said “Enough.”  She stood up and spoke out against an issue that affects half of the population of her country directly, and the rest indirectly, whether they wish to admit it or not.  This is not some trifling matter to be thrown away because other policies and positions she holds do not come up to standard.  If you are a woman in this country, and you expect to be treated with basic respect as a human being, then the speech Prime Minister Gillard made yesterday should matter to you.  It should be significant to you and to this country, regardless of whether or not you align yourself with the Labor party or Prime Minister Gillard herself.

Yes, we need to keep pressuring Prime Minister Gillard on other issues.  We need to make it clear that there is still much work for her and the Labor party and indeed parliament to do to earn our votes and to successfully lead this country.

But we also must remember that in one regard at least, she has taken a significant stand for the women of Australia.  In her words:

the Leader of the Opposition should think seriously about the role of women in public life and in Australian society because we are entitled to a better standard than this.

We are entitled to a better standard than this.  All women, everywhere are entitled to a better standard than they are currently receiving, all over the world.  And to that, I say thank you Prime Minister Gillard, for finally standing up on one of the most important issues facing Australian women, all women of the world, today.

* a transcript of the entire speech can be found here.

Online Abuse – It’s Not Just “Words on the Internet”

Published August 31, 2012 by sleepydumpling

I want to talk about trolling.  Mostly because it is a hot topic at the moment, what with the Charlotte Dawson case (please note, this whole case is very disturbing, be warned that it is highly likely you will find it very triggering if you delve too deep into it) happening over the past few days.  A potted version for those who don’t feel up to delving further, Ms Dawson (television personality) was involved in an online argument, which blew into a massive Twitter hate campaign with hundreds of violent, hateful messages aimed at her, and then Ms Dawson ended up in hospital.  I don’t know if she attempted suicide, or self harm, or if she was suffering extreme emotional/mental distress, it really doesn’t matter.  The point is that the bullying did her harm.

At this point, I’m going to stop using the term “trolling”.  I’m going to call it exactly what it is – abuse.  It is not just someone “saying something nasty” online, it is psychological, emotional and sometimes even physical abuse, and it is calculated.  I think that the term “trolling” has a connotation of some silly, juvenile teenager leaving comments on the internet to stir up trouble or be annoying.  It minimises the very real, very damaging abuse that many people, particularly women, suffer from complete strangers.  I am also going to focus on this abuse as something predominantly suffered by women.  And I want to get away from the expectation that we “don’t feed the trolls” and not pay them any attention, because this is about more than annoying attention seeking.  This is about the systemic, institutionalised abuse of women online simply because they are women, and they are visible online.  So from here on in I shall be referring to these behaviours as online abuse.

What I have seen over the past couple of days are a whole lot of privileged people – white, heterosexual, able-bodied, cis-gender, not-fat, educated men (and a few privileged women) thumping on about how we should just:

  • be polite
  • ignore it
  • learn to tolerate criticism
  • get more resilient
  • don’t argue back
  • just block them
  • don’t retweet or quote it
  • don’t let them know they’re hurting you
  • don’t be so sensitive
  • harden up

Funny thing is, those who seem to be dishing out the most of this oh-so-helpful advice are those who have never experienced the kind of organised abuse and hate-spew that we have seen aimed at Charlotte Dawson, and that many other women, including myself, have experienced in their time as internet users.  It must be so easy to come up with solutions to problems you’ve never experienced yourself!

What isn’t being acknowledged by these people is just how privileged they are, in that for many of them, what they are experiencing (and calling trolling) is criticism.  Just that, criticism of their work, their statements and so on.  In fact, in responding to several privileged people last night criticising their dismissal of online abuse and victim blaming, I myself was called a troll, blocked by several and told to “just shut the hell up”.  Because they are so privileged that this is what they consider online abuse, me coming along and saying “I disagree with you because telling online abuse victims to harden up/ignore it/be polite is blaming the victim, and doesn’t solve the problem.”, to them, that constitutes online abuse!

The reason they think it’s so easy to prevent online abuse is because they’ve never actually experienced it in the way that those of us without their privileges do.  They’ve never been sent rape threats, death threats or other violent threats.  They’ve never had webpages made about them stirring up other abusers into trying to frighten them offline.  They’ve never had phone calls at their house, they’ve never had emails claiming they know where they live, they’ve never had their private/personal information published online.  They’ve never had someone sign them up to pornography sites, weight loss clinics, mailing lists sending pictures of maimed and mutilated bodies and so on.

No, what these privileged people think constitutes “online abuse” is merely criticism.  Personally, I would LOVE to be in their position, where the worst behaviour I have ever been subjected to online was criticism.  Not all of the aforementioned abuse, which I have personally been subjected to.  And I know others have been subjected to far worse.

The other problem I have, is the attitude that the victims of such online abuse are not allowed to feel hurt, angry or traumatised by the abuse that they suffer.  These constant calls to “harden up”, or ” don’t be so sensitive” are actually deeply rooted in misogyny.  They imply that women, by being negatively affected by or showing emotion about the abuse are somehow responsible for it.  It’s that implication that women are “too emotional” and “too sensitive” and should somehow change their behaviours and feelings to prevent being abused.  It puts the onus on the victims, instead of the perpetrators, and is classic victim blaming.  Not to mention that our feelings, and our reactions to abuse are perfectly valid and we are allowed to feel them.  The implication that we should stop “acting like a girl” is really offensive because there is nothing at all wrong with being or acting like a girl or a woman.  Particularly as we ARE women and girls.

Another response I’ve seen is to claim that the victims “bring it on themselves” somehow because they are either rude, angry, emotional, impolite, opinionated, they swear or exhibit any other behaviour that people don’t agree with.  Now yes, while the Charlotte Dawson case has had some questions raised about her own behaviour, which I am not condoning at all as I don’t know the full facts, two wrongs don’t make a right.  Not to mention that the absolute violent hate-fest aimed at Ms Dawson was borne of misogyny, and not a direct response to her behaviour.  Ms Dawson’s biggest crime to the abusers was to be a woman who didn’t behave in a demure, submissive manner, and who didn’t bow to early abuse.  The more she fought back, even if she did so in a manner deemed inappropriate, the more this abuse was ramped up on her.

The thing is, no matter how women behave, online abuse isn’t going to go away based on making women less visible, more polite, more submissive, more demure, more “ladylike” and so on.  Mostly because it sets up the standard that any time a woman does something that men don’t like, they can be abused and then blamed for it.  Which means any time a woman has an opinion of her own, that differs from that of a man, it invites those who feel she should be silenced to abuse her.  Besides, not “feeding the trolls” doesn’t work.  There are those abusers who are not just in this for attention.  They’re here to bully women, silence them and inflict pain and trauma on them.  They will continue no matter how much you try to ignore them, because they enjoy the act of shutting women down and they enjoy hurting them.

It is 2012, soon it will be 2013.  We should be beyond telling women that they should be quiet and not hold opinions, not advocate for themselves, that they deserve abuse simply because they are women.  Which is what telling us not to be so sensitive/emotional is in fact tacitly implying.  It’s the attitude of “stop behaving like women, and you won’t get abused.”

Let’s just state it clearly – THIS IS ABUSE.  We should be horrified by this abuse, and we should be horrified that most, if not all, women who are visible online suffer it at some point or another.  If men were subjected to this kind of abuse on the same scale that women are, there would be outrage.  But instead, it is directly targeted at women and then is dismissed, predominantly by men, as insignificant.

We should be horrified at any kind of abuse, towards men, women or children.  Abuse of any kind, be it domestic, sexual, racial, gender-based OR online abuse, is abhorrent and needs to be acted on to eradicate quickly.  Online abuse can cause just as much trauma to it’s victims as any other form – as we have seen by the Charlotte Dawson case.

It is also time that the platforms this kind of abuse happens on take some responsibility for hosting this abuse.  Online platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr and any other service need to take a zero tolerance stand on abuse using their services.  For too long they have closed rank and claimed they’re not responsible for the individual behaviours of their users.  They ARE responsible for what they allow to be published on their platforms.  We need to demand they act swiftly and realise that they have a duty of care to their users.  After all, they are public venue hosts.  If we were in a physical public venue, we would expect that the owners of those venues would have a zero tolerance on other users of that venue behaving in an abusive manner.  We need to start seeing these platforms as the online public venues that they are.

As I was writing the last of this post earlier this evening, this post by Helen Razer was shared around Twitter.  I think Helen hits quite a few nails on the head with it, and I want to leave you all with a quote from the piece:

…there is no correct way to respond to ugly, unsolicited threats. In fact,  if this had happened to you, you could very well find yourself in a corner throwing your own poo at passersby while singing the hits of Nicki Minaj.

Terror has its own logic.  I hope, in or out of the spotlight, you never have to learn its terms.

And I hope that somewhere the daughters that Charlotte and I never got around to having are preparing to enter a world where loudmouth ladies are just loudmouth ladies and not women who asked to be beaten down.

Dear My Size… NO.

Published August 2, 2012 by sleepydumpling

**Update** My Size have blocked me from commenting on their Facebook page.  It seems that instead of addressing criticism about their marketing, they just shut any of their target audience that dares speak up out.  They will never get another penny of my money, and I will continue to  monitor their marketing and publicly criticise it if it continues to be as bad as it has been of late.

I just opened my Facebook to see this post from Australian plus-size clothing retailer My Size*:

[image description: cartoon of two children, a girl and a boy, and the boy is whispering in the girl's ear "Dear Girls, Dressing immodestly is like rolling around in manure. Yes you'll get attention, but mostly from pigs. Sincerely, Real Men."]

And I’m gobsmacked.  I mean, who is writing their social media PR, Tony Abbott?  Rush Limbaugh?  This is beyond a joke.  Not only is the cartoon really douchey, but look at the comment from My Size under it:

Styles come and go but class stays forever!  Wen you’re putting your outfit together, make sure that you feel comfortable, not too much is on show and that everything fits well.

I mean seriously!  Let’s break this down and have a look at exactly why this whole post is just disgusting  We’ll start with the cartoon itself.

  1. My Size sells plus-size women’s clothing.  “Dear Girls” is incredibly infantilising.  Your customers are not girls who need instruction on how to behave.  We are women.
  2. Dressing immodestly?  Who chooses what is modest and what is immodest?  I work with people who consider pants “immodest”.  Some people consider women exposing their hair “immodest”.  “Modesty” is a completely arbitrary measure.
  3. This is slut shaming.  It basically says that girls should be “modest” if they want to be treated with respect.  That the only attention “immodest” girls (which suggests women who are sexual, or show any of their flesh) is from “pigs”.
  4. So dressing “immodestly” is like rolling around in manure.  Are you suggesting that women who don’t dress to some standard of “modesty” look like shit My Size?
  5. And the signature – “Sincerely, Real Men”.  Who gets to decide which men are “real”?  What if men like women who dress sexy?  Does that mean they are by default pigs?
  6. I don’t know about most of you, but I don’t get up in the morning and decide what to wear based on how “Real Men” (whatever that is) will judge my outfit.  I dress for ME and how men, real or otherwise, feel about my outfit is irrelevant.

But the caption written by the My Size staffer is a whole new level of judgemental bullshit.

  1. The whole style vs class thing.   Again, who decides what is stylish and what is classy?  Does classy mean expensive?  Or “modest”?  Yet another arbitrary judgement of what is acceptable and what isn’t.
  2. “Make sure you feel comfortable and that everything fits well” – yep, I’m with you there.  Comfort and clothes that fit you so that you are comfortable and not pulling, tugging and adjusting is a great idea.
  3. But “not too much is on show”.  Excuse me, are you selling me clothes My Size or are you caring for my immortal soul?  Who gets to decide what is “too much”.  Is my cleavage, or my legs, or my arms, or whatever other flesh I choose to show “too offensive” because I’m fat or just because I’m a woman?    What happens if I show “too much”?  Oh that’s right, I look like shit and only get attention from pigs.

Look, I don’t care how people choose to dress.  Covered from neck to ankle, or with their flesh exposed all over the place, that’s their choice, their bodies and their lives.  But I do care when a business that is supposed to be selling me fashionable plus-sized clothing for my fat body starts preaching about modesty, “real men” and class.  It’s not your job My Size to tell women how to dress, it’s your job to provide options to your customers,  so that they may choose for themselves how they wish to dress.  But if you as a business are not a fan of revealing clothes, then simply don’t offer them in your product lines – those who want something more sexy or revealing will go elsewhere, or they’ll doctor your products (wear a top as a dress anyone?)  After all, what products you wish to offer are yours to decide, and in turn any customers/potential customers will make their own choice as to whether or not they wish to spend their money with you.

I also care when a business engages in misogyny, fat shaming and slut shaming.  I care when a business suggests that my role is to dress to please “real men”, or to earn respect from people other than “pigs”.  I care when a business suggests that somehow if a woman is “immodest” that she isn’t “classy”.  I care when a business suggests that my body should be covered as if it is something to be ashamed of.

This kind of post is not acceptable on social media (or anywhere else) from a business, especially not one aimed at plus-sized women.  Bad form My Size, very bad form.  You won’t be getting any of my money in the near future.

*not linking to them, you can use your Google Fu to find them, right now I don’t want to promote them positively in any way.  And as of publication, the image I took a screen shot of and posted above is still live, with several people echoing my sentiments at how douchey the post is.
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