According to an article by helen Lewis in New Statesman today, ‘female bloggers’ are the victims of regular abuse from ‘misogynists’. She writes:
‘The sheer volume of sexist abuse thrown at female bloggers is the internet’s festering sore: if you talk to any woman who writes online, the chances are she will instantly be able to reel off a Greatest Hits of insults. But it’s very rarely spoken about, for both sound and unsound reasons. No one likes to look like a whiner — particularly a woman writing in male-dominated fields such as politics, economics or computer games. Others are reluctant to give trolls the “satisfaction” of knowing they’re emotionally affected by the abuse, or are afraid of incurring more by speaking out.’
Apart from her use of the term ‘female’ to describe women who write online, which I will come back to, I have a problem with Helen’s analysis. Basically she is pitting women, and mainly feminist women, as innocent victims of nasty abuse from men, or ‘trolls’ as she refers to them. She does not provide any evidence to back up her statement she just says ‘if you talk to any woman who writes online’… Well I am a woman who writes online and the main abuse I have received has been from feminist women. So that probably means it doesn’t count, right? She doesn’t mention men who write online, or suggest anyone talks to them about their experiences. And she certainly doesn’t mention that other ‘m’ word – ‘misandry’. Because when it comes to ‘sexism’ and sexist language, it can only be aimed at women, according to most feminists.
She goes on to say:
‘Both are understandable reasons, but there’s another, less convincing one: doesn’t everyone get abuse on the internet? After all, the incivility of the medium has prompted a rash of op-eds and books about the degradation of discourse.
While I won’t deny that almost all bloggers attract some extremely inflammatory comments — and LGBT or non-white ones have their own special fan clubs too — there is something distinct, identifiable and near-universal about the misogynist hate directed at women online. As New Statesman blogger David Allen Green told me: “In three years of blogging and tweeting about highly controversial political topics I have never once has any of the gender-based abuse that, say, Cath Elliott, Penny Red, or Ellie Gellard routinely receive.” ‘
So according to Helen ‘there is something distinct, identifiable and near-universal about the misogynist hate directed at women online’ – what? I don’t see anything specific about ‘hate’ directed at women any more than hate directed at men. And, as I said, since most of the ‘hate’ that has been directed at me online has been from feminist women, her point falls on stony ground here.
Also she quotes David Allen Green, lawyer and ex Tory (supposedly), who seems to love cosying up to feminists these days. This is the same David Allen Green that encouraged, joined in and then tried to justify the ‘misogynist hate’ directed at me by his NS colleague and feminist ally, Steven Baxter. So I don’t really trust anything he has to say on the subject.
(My hyperlinks aren’t working: The Baxter debacle is documented here) :
But the real problem I have with this article is the accounts it includes from ‘female bloggers’, those paragons of virtue and honesty and decency.
They include: Kate Smurthwaite
Kate is a particularly vindictive feminist blogger and ‘comedian’ who cheered when the late great Sebastian Horseley died, even though she knew him personally:
‘His deliberate refusal to acknowledge and attack the human rights abuses he was well aware of being conducted by the sex trade is inexcusable. His death is excellent news for all those who support human rights but I personally am still a little saddened by it.’
She attended Horsley’s funeral standing outside the church with a placard that read ‘what about the victims of prostitution?’ Nice. Of course I am blocked from commenting on her blog.
Also included in this piece is Cath Elliott. She also blocks me from commenting on her blog, and she also celebrated when Seb died:
So when I hear of her tales of woe about receiving admittedly pretty nasty treatment from people online, I don’t feel that sympathetic.
‘Hate’ is expressed in many different ways. As Mark Simpson has explained, hatred aimed at men as treated as ‘acceptable’. Referring to a book on the subject he writes:
‘Men, say the authors, have become society’s official scapegoats and held responsible for all wickedness, including that done by women they have deluded or intimidated. Women are society’s official victims and held responsible for all good, including that done by men they have influenced or converted.’
So for me, regardless of the details of any nastiness aimed at the women who have contributed to this article, sorry the ‘female bloggers’, I think it is reinforcing this idea that women are ‘society’s official victims’ (and men the oppressors).
And the term ‘female bloggers’ relates to this in my view. It is falling back on the language of biological determinism, of the innate differences between the ‘male’ and ‘female’ examples of the species. It evokes the spirit of that old nursery rhyme which states that ‘little boys’ are made of ‘snips and snails and puppy dogs’ tails’ and ‘little girls’ are made of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’.
Well I have news for the ‘female bloggers ‘ of the world: they’re not. Women can be and are just as nasty as men, and can use misandry just as effectively as any misogynist uses misogyny. But they get away with it because misandry is acceptable in our society. It is so acceptable that people such as Sharon Osbourne can appear on national TV and laugh about a man having his penis cut off by his own wife:
Sorry ladies, I sympathise with any unfair treatment you receive as writers and bloggers, but I don’t accept the rhetoric you dress it up in.