Anti-social media

Under the hashtag #mencallmethings, feminists from Australia, the US and the UK have started naming the insults they are receiving via Facebook, Twitter and email.

Lots of the comments are explicitly rape threats, or death threats, or both.

Stuff is calling these hate comments “trolling”. I think it’s much more than that – I think it’s the playing out of power over around gender in the newer arenas of social media. And I don’t think it’s an accident that many of these threats are sexualised, because sexual violence continues to be a fundamental site for the oppression of women.

I welcome the idea that maybe we need to stop ignoring these threats – which has probably been the most common response so far – and do something about them. If I think about some of the responses I’ve had to public writing, they have been intimidating, hateful and often deeply personal. I’ve been sent rape poems, told I’m “on the rag”, and been told I’ve probably too ugly to get a man. I’ve had men sneer at me about being “triggered” when I’ve said I am not prepared to debate issues around violence against women when people are abusive.

I’ve had my name, place of work and some potted history of my life posted on men’s rights websites – which, for those of you who don’t visit them, are often pretty scary places.

The only time I’ve deleted a comment from here – I’d usually rather try and set up a respectful tone to debate things – was on a blog about rape culture called “It’s not rape if you yell surprise”. The male commenter simply wrote “SURPRISE”.

So feminists debating this who suggest we start thinking about abuse logs, reporting to the Police and moderating for hate are opening up a good discussion in my opinion. As is Aotearoa’s own National Council of Women, who are campaigning to get Facebook to remove pro-rape pages like “You know she’s playing hard to get when you’re chasing her down an alleyway” and “Riding your girlfriend softly ‘cause you don’t want to wake her up.” Seems like Facebook’s own guidelines should make such pages bannable, but apparently not.

Time we virtually holla-ed back, I reckon.

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