The subject of many blog articles for good reason, it’s difficult to get a hot take on the ascendancy of misogyny online, but because I must have an opinion, I have tried anyway.
There’s this thing you always get as a girl, and it has two, infuriating parts. The first is men saying “hello” to you on the street. The second is other men saying “what’s wrong with saying ‘hello’ on the street?”.
Just in case you want an answer to that second question, it’s because I live in London. If someone is saying hello to you, they have malicious intent. If a man does it, I grab my keys.
Both parts of this process also happens online, with men calling you “love” or “sweetheart” online, then other men asking you what the big deal is. Except the agenda of it online is to silence you during debate. Patronize you to the point when you start doubting yourself and, finally, you retreat.
This tool, something I’m gonna call ‘mandebating’ (AY), grabs for the easiest possible way to make someone feel like shit. If your opponent is a woman, it’s twice as easy because you simply have to remind them they’re a woman, to prey on our learned and then instinctive passivity in a world that very much wants us to be passive. It’s super-effective online because women are well aware they are outnumbered: more men than women use Twitter. This gives them resources for creating a mob for ‘mobbing’. They can retweet your offending tweet or reply onto their timeline and it acts as a call to arms for their mates.
Why has ‘mandebating’ become such a common practice, and why -if you’re a woman- were you just nodding along to every word above? Because Twitter has gradually become an arena of politics. Political Twitter is a vast land, dominated by the left, but more importantly dominated by the non-incumbents of institutions of power.
What the hell does that mean?
Twitter is the home of the insurgents.
Social media is the only place that isn’t owned by Murdoch or Dacre, where you can isolate yourself from opposing opinion, where you can build a social movement that appears bigger and amplified when you and hundreds of others are retweeting graphics onto your timeline. Where twitterstorms seemingly become an indicator that all other polling is wrong. There is very little room for dissent, as because twitter has given itself the self-identification of being Against The Establishment, any dissent is merely from the foot soldiers of the enemy.
See, ‘brocialism’ is sometimes prescribed solely to the ‘hard left’, an inescapable characteristic of Corbynism innate to the movement.
Yet it’s actually not about Corbyn -he is, imo, a sincere feminist- or his beliefs at all. It’s not actually about being Left. It’s about that which I described above; insurgency.
Now, maybe that is wrong. Maybe there is something about being on the Left. Progressive men online, just as progressive middle class people do, sometimes develop a belief they are immune from criticism. If they are so de-facto progressive, just by supporting Corbyn, then how dare you accuse them of being a sexist. It’s just a distraction, a smear, from the Establishment. Take Eoin Clarke, who always brings up his MA in Gender Studies, after having called someone ‘darling’.
But that isn’t a belief in nationalisation talking at all, rather a defensive reaction.
It’s not just within Labour from which this permeates. There are two other major sources: the SNP and UKIP. The latter is a very nasty variation, because it has no belief in progressivism at all. Nothing to hold it back. It rears its ugly head out of genuine hatred of women and minorities, rather than using it just as a tool for their tribe’s advancement against the Establishment, which for them is the Liberal (and thus feminist, of course) Elite.
The SNP is a much different and altogether larger kettle of fish. It believes it is progressive but is virulently nationalistic. Rather than being defensive against anti-progressives, or ‘neoliberals’, it is consistently against unionists, for a better Scotland free from, er, this type of stuff I suppose. A good example is Wings Over Scotland, hating Westminster all the way from Bath, where he constantly attacks women on Twitter. Their Establishment is Westminster.
Each of these are all about defence of an insurgent movement that, were it not for those pesky kids, would be storming the neoliberals/liberal elite/Westminster right now, who have set out to prevent change. Their footsoldiers set out to smear the leader and his or her objectives.
To become ultra-defensive of the man or movement attacked and vilified by all outside Twitter would seem a natural response. Challengers are the Establishment, and they must be disarmed. And if the challenger is a woman, the best way to stop them is to remind them they are a woman. So “love”, they jeer, “you’re too pretty to be talking about this stuff!”.
A mass social movement can be a very good thing indeed. Bringing down the Establishment is something, I’m sure, we all aspire to do. Just don’t bring down women along the way, ay? We’ve never been allowed in either.