e_moon60 (e_moon60) wrote,

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Verbal Abuse: The Internet and Feminism

Books have been written about verbal abuse, and this isn't one.  This is specific to verbal abuse of women on the internet who speak out on issues affecting women.

The first response to a woman addressing an issue affecting women on the internet is direct, puerile, verbal abuse---without addressing the issue that she was discussing.   "You're fat."  "You're ugly."  "You're aging badly."  "You're stupid."  Sometimes addressed at all women, or all feminists, along with "You [Feminists] hate men."  "You're a liar."  "Feminists are all liars."  Then there are the threats of rape, dismemberment, death, threats that include the family in some cases.

What's immediately obvious is that the persons making these attacks assume that what their targets care most about is being thought to be physically attractive to boys and men at every age (including old age) so that "fat, ugly, aging badly" are insults that will have an effect on the target.  That all women, including those they despise, are actually basing their entire self-image on the way men--including hostile men--perceive them.   That the world of women revolves around their opinion; that their opinion counts most.   In other words, the attackers are revealing a level of narcissism usually associated not with healthy adults, but with very small children--something parents try to help children grow out of.   (As a happily married woman, the only male opinion of my appearance I really care about is my husband's.)

What's also obvious is the elementary-school level of insult going on.  In the early grades, we were free with our insults--"You're fat!"  "Well, you're UGLY!"  "Well, you're fat AND ugly and you're stupid, too!"  We lacked the intellectual skill to engage with ideas, issues, facts, opinions...everything was at the level of simple insults and occasionally (though strongly discouraged by parents) threats.  "Say that again and I'll hit you!"  "Nyah-nyah you wouldn't dare!"   Without adult supervision, ganging up on a disliked kid was inevitable;  small children are savages when left to their own devices, as the kids in my neighborhood and school proved repeatedly.

It is, of course, easier to say "You're fat and stupid and ugly" than to address an issue and do the research necessary to engage it...and, on occasion, find out that your opinion does not fit the facts.  But it's childish.  The internet has made it possible for people who are supposedly adults, supposedly educated, to act like bratty children in public and feel smug about it.  "Nyah-nyah, I can do whatever I want, NYAH!"   And this causes several interconnected problems.

One is mistaking your target.  If a woman doesn't care that you think she's ugly, or old, or fat, or aging badly--if in fact she has no interest in attracting you because you're being so hostile that the last thing she wants is your esteem--then your insults are wasted keystrokes.  And threats are the very last thing that will convince her your position on the issue at hand is valid--she knows that threats are a tactic used when you have nothing valid to say for your position, and you may just spur her to buy a firearm and become expert with it.  You have lost any chance to convince her that your position has any validity by your failure to engage the issue: you will be seen as childish, petulant, arrogant, ignorant.  When you attack feminists on grounds that are clearly untrue (whether you know it or not) you rouse the same response.  Feminists know not all feminists hate men, not all feminists are fat, not all feminists are ugly, and so on.  So those attacks are basically toothless against their intended target.

Another problem is that when you act like an ignorant, petulant child, you risk losing the support of those not already of the same mind.  Most people have a vivid memory of their school days, and the kinds of insults thrown around then.  Whether they're feminist or not, they recognize "You're ugly" as a child-level insult inappropriate in adults.  They recognize it as a way of avoiding dealing with the issue at hand.  Yes, there are mean adults who were never properly socialized in the first place and delight in verbally abusing others in their own families, at work, everywhere--but not the majority of adults.  Showing yourself to the world as an unsocialized bratty child works against you in most circles.

Except now in the anonymity of the internet, where grownups can go to play at being the bullies and mean girls of their schoolyard years and may not be discovered if those reading their posts don't bother to seek our their real identities.   But there are grownups on the internet who are no longer the vulnerable 6, 7, 8 year olds of elementary school, or even the vulnerable middle-school tweens and high school teens.  They grew up completely.  They can shrug off the "You're ugly" and "You're stupid"  and "You're aging badly" because...it's like being yelled at by a third grader who's mad at you because you won't buy him a candy bar.  They may not shrug off threats (since so many women and some men have been injured and killed by angry bullies) but they can prepare to meet those threats.  It is unwise to assume those you're threatening have no real defenses.

Feminism--the real thing, not what some people claim feminism is--is not going away.  Lying about it won't make it go away.  Childish insults thrown at feminists posting online won't make it go away.  Doxxing feminists online won't make it go away. 
Crude sexual insults thrown at feminists online won't make it go away.  Threats made to feminists online won't make it go away.   Feminism is about the basic human rights of half the human race, and that is not going away.   It's not going away online, or offline, or in politics, or in religion, or in business, or in science or in the arts.

Meanwhile, at least try to get out of third-grade mentality or prepare to be laughed at.  Because really...a grownup saying "You're fat/ugly/stupid/old..." as a serious response to issues of gender under discussion?   Ridiculous.   Yeah, yeah, tell it to the Marines.  Keeping in mind that I am one ("once a Marine, always a Marine.")   And I will laugh.

Yes, comments are disabled.  My birthday's coming up and I don't want to be bothered moderating comments on this topic.  Think what you please and post it on your own space.

Tags: feminism, internet, politics

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