My Fathers 4 Justice post got picked up on Lib Con last week. The comments were the usual fare, some agreeing, some disagreeing, some informed, some less so (yes, you can get a print ad out in less than nine days. I’ve done it in four days, I know). Then, on Saturday, I read the following:
‘You are a complete fucking fascist idiot and I hope some cunt rapes you. Fucking thick bitch’.
I’m not telling you this to make you feel sorry or bad for me, or to paint myself as a ‘victim’ of online abuse. In fact, when I saw it I laughed out loud, read it out to my friends and rolled my eyes.
No, the reason I’m telling you this because the more we speak out and name what happens to women online, the more we can do to expose it, and tackle it.
The day before the comment appeared, Helen Lewis, who has done amazing work in keeping the issue of online abuse on the public consciousness, published a piece regarding the frightening levels of hate directed at women gamer, Anita Sarkeesian. Sarkeesian had put a call out for voluntary donations to fund research into ‘tropes vs women in videogames’. The response she got included men putting together pictures of her being raped by Mario. Her address and contact details were published on the Internet, along with exhortations to use this information to commit violent crime against her. Perhaps most shockingly of all, guys created a game which involved the player beating up her face.
I felt sick seeing this.
You would hope that most people would feel sick when presented with such a blatant example of gender-based hate. And yet, so many of the comments under Helen’s piece persisted with the idea that this was just banter, this was just a joke, a game. It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t horrible. And anyway, what about freedom of speech? After all, if women can’t cope with a little name calling, if women need to be protected from bad language, then clearly women aren’t tough enough to be on the Internet anyway. If you can’t take the heat, get back in the fucking kitchen.
I’m pretty sure that none of the men that left those comments have ever woken up on the weekend to read that someone hopes they get raped. I’m pretty sure that none of those commenters have had to go to the police after someone threatens to post their contact details all over the Internet whilst encouraging other men to find them and ‘make them pay’ (which is what happened to me).
If you think a game where you beat up a real, live, named woman is funny, if you think that game is ‘banter’, then you need to take a long hard look at yourselves. This is hate language. Pure and simple, this is about (some) men hating women for speaking out, for having a voice. It’s about trying to silence us.
When I tell people that I’ve been threatened with rape, again, on a blog post, those who don’t blog ask why it doesn’t make me quit. And my answer is always the same. If I stopped writing as a result of these threats, then they have won.
Now, the level of threats I get is pretty minor compared to a lot of women I know. And some women have been forced to stop writing because the threats they received were too awful, were too dangerous. It is a disgrace that some men have forced women to give up their voices, their spaces, due to the violent hate directed against them.
I believe that when someone responds to something I’ve written with threats (or, more commonly with ‘you’re ugly anyway and I wouldn’t have sexytimes with you’), then it means they’re frightened. They’re frightened that their patriarchal power is being threatened. Our feminist voices are powerful, increasingly powerful, and they can’t cope with it. Threats of violence are the Internet coward’s last hurrah. Feminism is scary. The idea that we need to liberate women and men from patriarchal capitalism is scary. It means some people will have to give up power. And it terrifies them. So they respond violently. They hit out, cry out and attempt to use violence to stop us talking.
But it isn’t going to work.
One final thing. Hate language is not the same as freedom of speech. If a woman writes something, and a man tells her that he hopes some cunt rapes her in order to frighten her into silence, it isn’t his freedom of speech that is being threatened. It’s hers.
This post is quite garbled and doesn’t have much of a thread. But I just wanted to speak out against this episode of online harassment. By talking about what happens to us, by exposing it, refusing to be silenced by it, we will continue to have a voice. And we will win.