THE 21st CENTURY BACKLASH AGAINST FEMINISTS IN PUBLIC SPACES

In landmark UK cases, successful criminal prosecutions have taken place against those who menacingly threatened feminists on the internet for daring to have an opinion and expressing it in the public domain. Today, a man was jailed for 18 weeks for making violent threats: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-29411031

 

Social media has become male supremacy’s modern way of finding witches; the women who won’t conform, the women who speak out and try and help other women. The feminists of today. It’s absolutely no coincidence that today’s convicted abuser referred to  ‘witches’ and used the violent imagery of drowning.

 

Both women involved powerfully describe how they feel on the day the sentence is known:

 

http://weekwoman.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/a-brief-comment-on-peter-nunn/

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/11127782/Stella-Creasy-Twitter-

 

Their success in getting as far as prosecutions, let alone convictions, is incredible in a world where attacks on women are trivialised, dismissed and deliberately ignored. The success means that ALL feminists are a step closer to being able to express our opinions in public spaces without being subsequently personally threatened with violence and harassment.

 

As is made horrifically clear from Caroline’s account, this man didn’t ‘just’ send menacing tweets (that’s enough by itself), he systematically terrorized her. “I felt he was a clear and present threat to me. He made me scared to go outside, to appear in public. He seemed obsessed enough to carry out his threats.” (quote from first link)

 

Just as I was feeling proud of these brave sisters and their strong words, I glanced down at the comments section of the Telegraph (second link containing an article by Stella Creasy). There, was a cesspit of misogyny and stereotypes about women and our motives for daring to speak in the public domain alongside men and daring to say we have a right to do this without harassment.

 

Even in the face of successful convictions, men cluster around the individual women. The male commentators reinforce, over and over, that feminists expressing their right to be unintimidated in public spaces, will be punished. Punished by character assassinations and punished by anonymous male supremacists dismantling the seriousness of their lived experiences.

 

Feminism has long recognised the importance of the public/private split in the way women, as a caste, are controlled. In days gone by, it was more obvious that men viewed women speaking in the public domain as a direct threat to patriarchy. The domestic/private domain has been set aside for us so we can carry out unpaid labour and serve men. Only until relatively recently have we been allowed to be politicians at all. There aren’t many of us and what we wear, say and do, are scrutinized according to socially constructed standards of ‘femininity’ in a way male counterparts are absolutely not. This undermines any positions of power women hold, even if, by some miracle, we get there in the first place.

 

These comments running alongside the article are a continuum of men’s past historical attempts to silence us in public spaces. Attempts which began centuries ago. Attempts which morph into new shapes as quickly as changes to popular forms of cultural communication manifest themselves.  By targeting feminists, like witches before us, all women are taught a lesson. “STFU and you will be rewarded with scraps from our table. If you don’t,  we will come for you next. Be compliant and support men’s position of superiority or the anger and the tyranny will be directed at YOU.” This is an overtly deliberate silencing tactic of individual ‘uppity’ women.

 

The absolute anger and hatred male posters have for these women is plain for all feminists to read in the comments section of the article.  The women’s temerity for daring to say they have the right not to be abused outrages patriarchs. They mill together, using male supremacist tactics, to get us out of public spaces and back into the private domain. Many feminists have been driven off the internet by being doxxed, harassed and abused. It’s OK if we’re in public spaces and support men. That’s fine. To be expected. Plenty of women around willing to do that for the scraps off the table. It’s the women who are in public spaces talking about women’s rights who are real threats. However mildly, however ‘respectfully’, we frame our resistance, men will lash out (Emma Watson, taunted with anonymous men revealing her naked photos – public humiliation and shame, for example). We are a threat to patriarchy’s social order.  The witches of the 21st century. In the internet world where anyone can say anything, women can name our truths under patriarchy in a way we could never have done before. We have the potential to reach out to millions of other women. We have to be silenced and discredited any time any of us gains any ground. We are dangerous.

 

No wonder the comments on the Telegraph story are coming quick and fast like someone rushing to put a cork back on a bottle before all the wine spills out. The overwhelming message underpinning the comments, said boringly in hundreds of different ways, is: ‘if you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen’ an ironic reversal by which men mean ‘get out of public discourse’. One even stated that he thought Stella Creasy is ‘in the wrong career’ if she couldn’t just brush off a physically violent threat or two. Popular forms of the argument among the comments were: it’s just the internet, don’t take it seriously, you’ve brought it on yourself by being on the same social media as the abusers (oh where have we heard THAT one before?), feminists are getting special treatment and no one ever says anything about the well-known violence from radical feminists towards…well, anyone they can think of really. They don’t let facts get in their way.

 

As I was reading these comments, I was reminded of my own experience on the internet when I spent a few years on a male-dominated gay site, soaking up the same levels of misogyny and having it all pouring out at me constantly. I wrote about it a couple of years ago:

https://sisterhoodispowerful.wordpress.com/2012/04/30/internet-misogyny-how-online-patriarchy-operates/

 

The personal attacks just flow and flow. For not acting as men act, for not having the same understandings about threats which men have because we have different lived experiences in relation to male violence, we are constantly found to have numerous character flaws. Uncoincidentally, those ‘character flaws” all happen to be criticisms men typically make of women. We’re ‘attention seeking’, drama queens’, have ‘no self awareness’, are ‘passive-aggressive’ when we refuse to laugh off abuse as silly ‘boys being boys’, playing the ‘victim card’ and so on. Most of this was said about me on the misogynistic site and most of this is said about Stella and Caroline. The abusive behaviour is trivialised and dismissed – leaving only criticisms of the individual feminists in its place. And that’s how patriarchy survives on the internet.

 

Here is a direct quote from one of the misogynists in the comments section on Stella’s article, saying what I say here, in his own, woman-hating, delusional way:

 

“The difference now is that the internet is being stalked by a cohort of self-regarding fussy matrons with a malicious Feminist agenda who demand the right to speak and not be spoken back to, who want to promote their endless class hatred without getting any kind of reaction from the people they are attacking. It would be a whole lot better if these women had never decided to colonise the internet, and stuck to writing impenetrable post-Marxist screeds in journals”

 

In other words, feminists are ‘demanding’ to have a voice in public spaces and, when men don’t like what we say, we demand ‘not to be spoken back to’ (be abused, stalked and receive death/rape threats). If only we’d go away, out of public spaces, and into obscurity, life would be peaceful for these woman-haters. He’s said outright what some of the others parroted more conspiciously.

 

We see you. We see your attempts to stop feminists taking up public space and naming our truths and we say ‘no’. No. No, we won’t stop, no matter what you do or say.

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