I was reading this article in the Washington Post today and there was a particular passage of it that caught my eye.
“Jessica Valenti is one of the most successful and visible feminists of her generation. As a columnist for the Guardian, her face regularly appears on the site’s front page… and she tells me that, because of the nonstop harassment that feminist writers face online, if she could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous. “I don’t know that I would do it under my real name,” she says she tells young women who are interested in writing about feminism. It’s “not just the physical safety concerns but the emotional ramifications” of constant, round-the-clock abuse. “
To which I made the following reply in the comments section:
“…if (Valenti) could start over, she might prefer to be completely anonymous.”
Hmm, says Valenti who is perfectly happy parading around on the beach in an oh so snarky ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ t-shirt.
Forgive my skepticism regarding that statement.”
Don’t bother looking for that comment. It was removed. I’m not sure why as it didn’t violate any commenting policy that I’m aware of, although other commenters calling each other names are allowed to carry on unabated. Whatever. I digress.
My point is two-fold and I must preface this with the obvious caveat that death and rape threats against writers (or anyone else) on the internet are terrible and are never condoned. That means anyone. Feminist, antifeminist, man, woman and anything inbetween.
My first point is that ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ encapsulates what exactly I find wrong with large swathes of internet feminism. On one hand, the message they espouse that they want to break down traditional gender roles and make it okay for men to cry and show emotion and then openly mock their tears on the other hand.
Oh, but it’s satire! It’s a joke! You can’t possibly think we’re serious! We’re just talking about misogynists and MRAs, not about all men. We love lots of men!
Yeah… except that it’s not I Bathe in Misogynists and MRA Tears, is it? How exactly are you supposed to infer the joke in a five word statement? Let’s break it down:
Men of colour are males
Gay/Bi/Trans men are males
Disabled men are males
Mentally ill men are males
Suicidal men are males
Boys are males
And your oh so snarky ironic little quote to stick it to the patriarchy mocks all of these men’s (as well as cis, straight white men) pain. Whether you intended to do it or not you’ve included all of these boys and men in your cheeky t-shirts and mugs.
And newsflash, it’s not their responsibility to get the joke.
David Letterman once said regarding his failed joke about Bristol Palin that if you have to explain a joke, it wasn’t funny. Clementine Ford tries to explain it away in this article, but Letterman’s observation stands. If you need to explain it, it wasn’t funny and I’m not sure that everyone sharing in the joke was being completely ironic either.
But this ties onto the second point I want to make, and since this one is more controversial, I want to preface it by again saying that death and rape threats against EVERYONE sucks.
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way I think ‘ironic misandry’ is specifically designed to rile and mobilize the trolls.
Why would Valenti et al. do this? There are two reasons I can think of. First off, reasonable criticism of internet feminist theory gets lost in a wash of idiotic trolling comments. There’s no further need to address them when you can just point at the trolls and paint that as your dissent. Reasonable discourse gets drowned out by the hooting morons.
Second is that trolls, love them or hate them, generate page clicks that otherwise wouldn’t be generated. A generic bland column? That’s fine. #killallmen is trending? Now everyone on both sides of the fight is flinging their shit in the comments section of your column. Everyone wins. Except feminism. Or anyone else, except the website owners and advertisers.
Anyway, back to the Washington Post article. I feel bad for anyone who contemplates retiring because the internet is full of asshats who can’t behave. But this isn’t a woman-only problem. In fact, according to this study, a majority of twitter hate is directed at men .
This isn’t a numbers game. Everyone who is prominent and who holds strong, polarizing opinions are going to get heat for it, whether man or woman, left-wing or right-wing. Painting this as strictly something women face, or women predominantly face is myopic and doesn’t serve anyone well.
It seems like everyone on the internet needs a resfresher course in public decorum. I also think clickbait trolling like ‘I Bathe in Male Tears’ needs to go away.