Tag Archives: Misogyny

Cheering Lauren Mayberry, who socks it to the trolls

I love the band Chvrches for two reasons. Firstly, because I spent the tail end of 2013 living in London, blithely dodging traffic while listening to ‘The Bones of What You Believe’, and secondly because its lead singer, Lauren Mayberry, is bloody brilliant at calling out casual misogynists. She casually, caustically flicks them back to their swamp.

Back in September 2013, she penned this righteous rant for the Guardian. In fact, it’s doing it a disservice to call it a rant – it’s a perfectly reasoned article. It asks why women in the spotlight attract misogynistic abuse, and why they should be expected to put up with it.

Before reading Lauren’s essay, I already knew the first answer to the first question. To some men, women who have the temerity to hold powerful positions – or indeed, any position that isn’t submissive, quiet or subordinate – are threatening. Such men try to negate women’s achievements and views by taking them down a peg or two, usually by reducing them to their appearance, or focusing on their possession of a vagina. I’m thinking here of the opponents of Julia Gillard, former Australian Prime Minister, who criticised her ‘big red box’ instead of her politics. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel, termed an “unfuckable lard ass” – by the Italian Prime Minister.  Just last week we had the Combover King Donald Trump, commenting that the Fox moderator who asked him tough questions “had blood coming of her….wherever”.

Back to today – when in typically fearless style, Lauren Mayberry posted a link to the misogynistic comments posted under the band’s new video. Leaving aside the most graphic and gross ones, the least sinister gist seems to be “you’re not allowed to call people sexists and then look nice in your video. Take yourself off and hide in a sack if you don’t want our abuse!” You see, if there’s one thing a misogynist hates more than an uppity woman who doesn’t know her place, it’s one who speaks about it publicly. The appearance of an articulate women – who happens to beautiful – having an opinion sends these misogynists into a rage.

Writing in 2013, Lauren wrote about the grotesque rape threats she had received – simply for being a woman, fronting a band. And, depressingly, she’s not the first – on an earlier blog, I compiled a not-so-nice list of women subjected to violence and rape threats for daring to have an opinion on stuff. These included Laura Bates, Lindy West, Lucy-Ann Holmes, and the Suffragettes.

Increasingly, rape threats and sexual violence have become the standard silencing techniques used to frighten women into submission. That’s why the “don’t feed the trolls” argument is invalid here – more women need to speak out, not less. It’s important to draw a distinction between men who don’t agree with a woman and can lucidly explain why (debate), and men who threaten to hurt and silence women for having an opinion (misogynists). I don’t think I’m exaggerating here when I call these silencing tactics an attack on free speech.

And that why it’s important to applaud the women like Lauren who do speak out. So these misogynists get the message – we are not going anywhere. To quote Lauren – bring it on, motherfuckers.

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Why I just deactivated my Facebook account – #FBrape

I reckon Facebook annoys most of its users from time to time. The surreptitious changes to your privacy settings, the new timeline, the relentless push towards a ‘share everything’ mindset. Until this week, my own bugbear was the insistent promptings to add my favourite films and books every time I log in on a pc. Facebook had even come up with some helpful suggestions (Dirty Dancing and Twilight), making me wonder if they think I am, in fact, a 14-year old girl.

Until now I’ve put up with these irritations because I have friends, family and colleagues on Facebook, and I’m mildly nosy. I like to see what they’re up to. Granted, there is the odd boring picture (I don’t need to see your dinner!) that doesn’t improve the quality of my life, but generally it’s worth it.

Fail
Fail

Today I deactivated my Facebook account. The #FBrape campaign of the last week made me re-think Facebook – what it stands for, and whether or not I want it in my life.

On the plus side, Facebook has very carefully defined its own parameters of what it deems to be acceptable behaviour. There is a ‘like’ button, but no ‘dislike’ button, because Facebook is meant to be a positive, sociable place. And it ostensibly does “not permit hate speech based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition”.

So far, so good. Where Facebook falls down is its inability (or unwillingness) to actually enforce its own standards. In my Twitter feed this week I’ve come across a plethora of vile images that have been reported to Facebook, including: a female child with two black eyes, a woman tied up, gagged and crying, and various pictures of girls who look unconscious, covered in blood. Facebook’s sanctimonious response has been a refusal to remove most of this content, because it is classified as ‘humour’.

One of the pages was apparently called ‘fly kicking sluts in the uterus’. I wonder if it would have been taken down if it was called ‘fly kicking pakis in the face’? I suspect it would have been – because racist content is rightly removed from Facebook as soon as it reported, which is where the raging inconsistency comes in. Race and gender are covered by the same clause in Facebook’s own standards – so either both racist and misogynistic content is not OK, or both are considered humour and tolerated. You can’t apply one rule for one and not the other.

Then there’s their other piece of inconsistent, anti-female behaviour: routinely removing pictures of women who’ve had mastectomies. You can’t share a picture of a woman who has bravely overcome breast cancer (because that’s offensive) but you can share a picture of gagged, crying rape victim (because that’s funny). To me, this just speaks volumes for the contemptuous view the company has of women.

To date, Facebook has yet to respond to the open letter, signed by 40 organisations, calling for hate speech against women to be recognised and moderated. They must assume that users are so hooked on their daily Facebook fix that they’ll overlook a small matter like gender-inspired hate speech.

I know that as only one person, deactivating my account will be a non-event for Facebook. But I want to make the gesture anyway – because I refuse to be part of a network that routinely trivialises violence against women.

FB