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Jane Austen and the Rape-Threatening Men

The face that launched a thousand threatening tweets.
The face that launched a thousand threatening tweets.

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So what sorts of things make some men so furious that they feel the need to send women they’ve never met literal death and rape threats on the internet? It doesn’t take much, apparently. A woman suggesting that it’s not such a good idea to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM. A woman making  videos suggesting that there’s sexism in video games. A woman captured on video telling some men to shut the fuck up. A woman complaining about sexist jokes at a tech conference.

Add to this: a woman campaigning successfully to have Jane Austen’s face put on the Bank of England’s ten pound notes.

Over the past week, writer and activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who organized the campaign to get Austen memorialized on the bank note, has been harassed relentlessly on Twitter by assholes and misogynists and trolls for her efforts. Some of this harassment has taken the form of literal rape and death threats. One 21-year-old Manchester man was arrested and questioned in connection with the threats.

Similar threats and harassment were directed at noted British classics professor Mary Beard and female Members of Parliament.

Here’s a sadly typical example of one of the threatening comments sent to Criado-Perez from an account that Twitter temporarily banned — then reinstated.

https://twitter.com/CCriadoPerez/status/362499703285358592

And a more graphic example:

And some even more graphic threats directed at female MPs.

https://twitter.com/JonathanHaynes/status/361967658087890945

https://twitter.com/JonathanHaynes/status/361964227516309504

For many more examples of messages sent to Criado-Perez and others, see  Catalina Hernández’ blog I Will Not Put Up With This: here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

And if you had any doubt about how little in the way of repercussion most of these harassers expected to get for their threatening tweets, some tweeted using what are presumably their real names. Here are some comments from one Ivan Garcia of San Diego, as collected by Hernández.

jazzmanivan

And here is his blog, where this fan of jazz, video games and threatening rape shares his poetry with the world.

The harassment obviously raises a lot of issues,most notably: Why the fuck does this keep happening? And: What’s the best way to deal with this sort of harassment — and these sorts of harassers?

Twitter has promised to add a “report abuse” button; some activists see this as a step in the right direction, while others worry that the “report abuse” button will be itself abused to shut down critics of harassment. Twitter’s record in dealing with harassers has not exactly been a great one; just ask Anita Sarkeesian.

British journalists and assorted bloggers have been trying to sort through some of these issues over the past few days. Here are some links to some of the more interesting pieces, from a variety of perspectives. (Well, I’m not including the pro-rape threat perspective.) Links aren’t necessarily endorsements.

First, for a little more background, see:

Twitter under fire after bank note campaigner is target of rape threats

Twitter faces boycott after ‘inaction’ over rape threats against feminist bank notes campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez

Caroline Criado-Perez Twitter abuse case leads to arrest

And here are some posts and pieces looking at the issues:

A ‘report abuse’ button on Twitter will create more problems than it solves, by Sharon O’Dea

A button will not, alone, rid Twitter (or the wider world) of mysogyny and abuse. These are complex issues that will take more than a button to resolve. But ‘report abuse’ buttons have been known to be widely abused on other networks. ….

Introduction of a similar mechanism on Twitter ironically creates a whole new means by which trolls can abuse those they disagree with. The report abuse button could be used to silence campaigners, like Criado-Perez, by taking advantage of the automatic blocking and account closure such a feature typically offers. In that way, it could end up putting greater power in the trolls’ hands.

Why does it always come back to rape?  by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter of the Vagenda Magazine, in the New Statesman

Rape is the popular choice when women become more visible than they apparently should be, and that’s because it’s easy. …. Whatever their opinion, however they conducted their arguments, however well-researched and nuanced their replies to criticism are, they’re women and male trolls could rape them and that’s what really matters. …

[Academic] Mary Beard got called a “dirty old slut” with a “disgusting vagina” just as [Member of Parliament] Stella Creasy was being tweeted “YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR BACK… I’M GONNA RAPE YOU AT 8PM AND PUT THE VIDEO ALL OVER THE INTERNET”. …

The message is that women’s vaginas are, literally, always up for grabs. If they’re young, the rape threats will come thick and fast; if they’re older, maybe the trolls will settle for insulting their vaginas and telling them that they were “sluts” in the past.

If Every Male Troll Took a Walk in Women’s Shoes, Would He Finally Feel Our Outrage?  by Elizabeth Plank

Withstanding rape threats has become a right of passage for female writers or personalities, just as making them as become a right of passage for cowardly and anonymous misogynist trolls. If you’re a woman who happens to possess opinions, and write about feminist issues (god forbid!), chances are you will be violently trolled. … the issue is not that women receive more criticism than men, but rather that it comes in more violent and vitriolic forms. Men will be attacked for their opinion, whereas women will be threatened because they have opinions.

[O]ne study showed that female usernames in chat forums received 25 times more abuse than male ones. In an experiment conducted by the University of Maryland, researchers found that “Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day.” So all else equal, if you’re a woman online, you’re going to be on the receiving end of more hate.

I believe it. I get a lot of shit from misogynists for running this blog — and the occasional threat — but what I get is nothing compared to the harassment similarly controversial feminist bloggers who happen to be women have gotten.

What women-hating trolls really believe, by Emma Barnett

First troll up was Peter from Whitechapel. …

“She was asking for it,” he told me. According to this nitwit, if you campaign about issues such as keeping a woman on English banknotes, you should “expect to receive rape threats”. I delved further.

“If you put your head above the parapet, like she has, then you deserve this type of abuse. It’s what you get when you are a woman shouting about something,” Peter told me, starting to get a little irate. …

Then Gary from Birmingham decided to call in [and] told me in no uncertain terms that “feminists like Caroline were undermining what it is to be a man” and needed “sorting out”.

“Men are predators,” he explained calmly. “And this [rape threats] is what we do.”

And here, after all this awfulness, is a piece that manages to be funny about it all: How to use the internet without being a total loser.

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gillyrosebee
8 years ago

I’ve been rereading Stephen King recently. I reread Under the Dome to get ready for the series (ugh) and then had a craving for The Stand again. I’m on Dreamcatcher now. I’ve been in a kinda weird place emotionally and have been seeking the comfort of old friends from a literary perspective.

chibigodzilla
chibigodzilla
8 years ago

@dustydeste – Swears and sarcasm? In the same comment!

*fetches fainting couch*

katz
8 years ago

Joke’s on you, Quark: I store my vitriol in a glass container.

cloudiah
8 years ago

Hey, is anyone here watching Orange is the New Black?

gillyrosebee
8 years ago

I think you are projecting certain beliefs and ideologies onto me that I don’t have, cherry-picking comments and taking them out of context, and not engaging with my argument as a whole.

“I know I WROTE those things, but even though all of you READ them in exactly the same way with no doubt about the interpretation, you are all taking me out of context and misreading my intentions, and it’s totally unfair, WAH!!!!”

Do all the trolls share the same script?

David! Seriously, you need to do the laundry!!!

gillyrosebee
8 years ago

Informal poll, y’all:

Is this:

But just to reassure women who doubtless feel threatened by this – there is almost certainly no real-life threat.

combined with this

I did not say women should not take the threats too seriously, ever.

1. Gaslighting
2. Mendacity
3. Disengenuous fuckery
4. All the above?

tooimpurenangel
8 years ago
Reply to  gillyrosebee

4

gillyrosebee
8 years ago

Cheers, Briznecko, that sounds awesome! And I’ll second cloudiah’s request for the booklist! That’s one of the things I miss about grad school – great book talk!

BlackBloc (@XBlackBlocX)

Troll alert: Over 500 comments on a one-day old thread.

I guess this will be one of THOSE threads… the ones I don’t bother reading.

Nepenthe
Nepenthe
8 years ago

@BlackBloc

Indeed. It’s not even an interesting troll.

Kristineedscats
8 years ago

@gillyrosebee

That sounds like mansplaining to me. “I just want to reassure you little women there that you don’t have to be frightened.” The second part is just disengenuous.

gillyrosebee
8 years ago

Personally I like the wild abandon, naturalism, and darkness of the Bronte sisters.

I’m with you, SarahLiz (may I shorten your ‘nym?)! I am due for my annual re-reading of Jane Eyre. I never got all that excited about Heathcliff as such, but I very much loved the descriptive language of Wuthering Heights.

Speaking of which, any Kate Bush fans here? It was her birthday yesterday, so a belated happy Kate Bush day to anyone out there who loves her work!

gillyrosebee
8 years ago

So, I’m going to go make dinner, y’all. I didn’t want anyone to think that I was, you know, scared off by the troll blather or anything… 😉

dustydeste
dustydeste
8 years ago

I vote for disingenuous fuckery, but I’ll be upfront with you that it’s mainly because it’s fun to say that I choose it over “all of the above.”

sarahlizhousespouse
8 years ago

@gillyrosebee

Sure. You can call me SarahLiz. 😀

Michael Søndberg Olsen

Hey, is anyone here watching Orange is the New Black?”/blockquote> No, but I’m rewatching Orphan Black.

Michael Søndberg Olsen

And once again I uttertly fail at quoting

kittehserf
8 years ago

Slumber party? Slumber party?

Can I come too? I have STRAWBERRY FUCKING CHEESECAKE.

deniseeliza
8 years ago

@Cloudiah

I watched Orange is the New Black a couple weekends ago. It was GREAT. So funny, so sad, so touching. I am always impressed when a show can make me care about so many characters at once. Usually I have a hard time telling characters apart or even remembering their names.

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Hi everybody!

Regarding reading, I’m working on Acts of Faith, by Eboo Patel. I picked it up for world-building, not with the intent of actually reading for enjoyment, but I’m loving it! It’s by this guy of Indian descent from Chicago who’s Muslim and his ideas about religion, bigotry, and young people. He has some really cool shit to say about identity politics, and activism, and religion and racism in general. And it’s far easier to read than I expected!

I’m also reading O Human Star, a webcomic with queer and trans robots. I swear, it’s like someone said, “Hmmm, what can we make that’ll hit ALL of Rogan’s happy buttons?” and then made it.

deniseeliza
8 years ago

And they have a trans character who is played by an actual real life trans woman!

Robert
Robert
8 years ago

Oh, books. Christopher Moore. I’m up to Sacre Bleu. Lamb (the gospel according to Biff, Christ’s childhood pal) was the funniest book with the saddest ending I have read recently.

I also read Great Gatsby recently, for the first time. An ugly story, beautifully told.

And, for some reason, I was reminded of the only bit of Rand’s Fountainhead I actually liked. At one point, Howard Roark and Ellsworth Toohey are alone, and the latter tells the former, “Nobody can hear what you say. Now is your chance to tell me what you really think of me.” Roark, puzzled, replies, “But I don’t think of you.”

LBT
LBT
8 years ago

Oh, and in honor of Quark, a song. (Warning: it’s from South Park, so just assume you’ll be offended.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48XreePDi8k

hellkell
hellkell
8 years ago

Hate Quark? Nah, she will just get the Full Ruby treatment when she comes back. It’s about what she’s worth.

And if she’s read MBZ like she says, she will know that means.

gillyrosebee: 4 with an emphasis on 3

cloudiah
8 years ago

@deniseeliza, I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, so it is centered around the experience of a pretty privileged white woman, but from there it is a pretty sympathetic portrait of cis & trans* women of color, complete with well-developed back stories. It’s not perfect, just surprisingly good.

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