Oh, hey Grazia. It’s been a while, eh? What? You didn’t miss us? Oh.
It’s been about three weeks since we tackled Grazia. Not because we were worried that the Vagenda was turning into a bit of a Grazia hate-fest (totally fine by us), but just because, sometimes, you need some space. And not the kind of space that we needed from the goddess that is Suzanne Moore after she wrote a piece about how good Cosmo is (i.e. the kind of space you need when you’re flatmate is sick in your bed, which is approx 3m x time long enough for her to change the sheets. By the way, Holly, I’m really sorry about that, especially because, here’s the thing, I KNEW I was going to be sick the minute I walked into your room during our party and yet I still lay down on your bed while you were talking with your friends. And even though my head was doing that spinny thing and I could feel the vomit rising in my throat and I still didn’t run to the loo. Soz babez. Again.)
No, I’m talking serious space like the kind you need in an emotionally abusive relationship. Grazia was bumming me out, and I was too busy at work to take some time out to get seroxat. But I’m back, baby, and boy do you have an issue tailor made to my purposes.
I’m going to skip past a load of this month’s content and get right to the issue that’s been burning worse than a third day of cystitis. Then I’ll do a nice little summary of all the other stuff tomorrow, because I’m nice like that.
The issue, or non-issue, depending on your viewpoint, is trolling. As anyone who reads a magazine or newspaper knows, journalists are OBSESSED with trolling. Whether or not this is because they are a selfish bunch who continue to give exposure to an issue which, in the main part, affects only them and the celebrities they write about, is for you to make up your own mind about. But that aside, one of the interesting things about this debate is how it highlights societal preconceptions about how women should behave. Namely, it’s assumed that we are one big fluffy fanny-owning hippie collective who should all be absolutely lovely to one another all the time, whether or not one of us is acting like a dick.
Call me an optimist, but I retain the faith that the vast majority of men and women know what is and isn’t good behaviour. So the majority of us know that likening critic Grace Dent a horse (as some total PR douche did this week) is really, really, fucking uncool (as a side note, Charlie Brooker once wrote an article in which he repeatedly called David Cameron a lizard. It was hilariously funny. What’s the difference? Was it ‘funny’ and not ‘bullying’ because he has a penis? Or because Grace Dent is super-awesome and David Cameron isn’t? I don’t know the answer, I’m asking you.)
Equally we know that, while extremely hurtful, this one incident doesn’t figure as highly on the scale of trolling as the absolutely tragic case where a fifteen year old boy went outside and hung himself in his back garden while his parents were out because he was the victim of cyber-bullying.
Cyber bullying is real phenomenon and one that we should be concerned about. But accusations of “trolling”, when referring to it in its mildest sense, are often used to stifle the need for frank and open debate. My mum always says that it’s often your friends, and not your parents, who end up calling you out on bad behaviour, and thus changing it. Which is why the prerogative to call a spade a spade, i.e. to point out when someone is acting like a total penis, is a prerequisite for any civilised society. And the internet is, in the main part, extremely civilised- which is why you’ll see forum users all over the web repeating the maxim “don’t feed the troll”, and you’ll find that a large part of it is policed by its users, who will automatically speak out against any unpleasant abuse. I mean, most of us aren’t idiots, right? And, while very few of us enjoy hurting people’s feelings, that is an entirely different beast to criticising their thoughts, opinions, and rationale. That’s just democracy.
Why is it that when women enter into a debate, they are either accused of ‘bitching’ or ‘bullying’, or worse: anti-feminism. If I call David Cameron a twat, does that make me a misandrist? How on earth are we ever going to beat the patriarchy (much of which is being propelled by women) if are constantly expected to be on the same team, all the time?
Which brings me to Grazia’s “no troll” manifesto. We had a little spat with Polly Vernon on Twitter, a few weeks ago, and so expected a ‘catharsis column’ at some point in the future. While she has deprived us of the oxygen of publicity for the time being, she has devised a “NO TROLL MANIFESTO” which is of some interest to us, mainly because it’s deeply hypocritical.
Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it.
THE NO TROLL MANIFESTO
1. I will not tweet, blog or post online anything that I wouldn’t say directly to someone’s face.
But writing about it in a magazine is fine, right? Because a magazine can’t be a troll, can it? Not a whole magazine, surely? I ask you this, Grazia: Would you happily go up to Jennifer Anniston and say, to her face, that her numerous failed relationships seem to indicate that there is something fundamentally awry in her character? Would you go up to Demi Moore and tell her she can’t look after her daughter properly? Or stop Katy Perry on the street and imply to her face that she’s a desperate loser for wanting her husband back. Well, would you?
2. I’ll always identify myself. I won’t tweet, blog, or post anonymously under a pseudonymn.
Does this mean you’ll start giving your celebrity columnists bylines, then? As in, you’ll say who’s actually writing the piece, rather than relying on ‘Grazia reports?’
3. I won’t resort to personal attacks
If putting someone’s marriage, or body weight, under a microscope and then dissecting it isn’t a personal attack, then what is? Oh, you mean us calling you traitors to the feminist cause is, but you bitching about the same five celebrities isn’t? Because they’re not people, right?
4. I won’t forget that the internet is public
Well, duh. Hence the frequent need for a pseudonym. Do you think we want the Grazia editorial team on our doorsteps threatening to disembowel us with a pair of carbon eyebrow tweezers? Does anyone want a troll in their house? No.
5. I won’t forget that there is a human being on the receiving end of every comment I make
This is the big one. Because, Grazia, these are human beings. They are women, with hearts and minds and blood and sinew. And you are mocking them, and revelling in their pain, in their precarious’ mental states, week after week. We may be trolls. Fuck, the internet may be chock a block full of trolls, but one of the biggest trolls, the one in most need of signing your manifesto, is you.
So please, Grazia, go and donate some money to an anti-bullying campaign, take a good long hard look at the shit you’re peddling to the young women in schools and colleges and workplaces around the country, the shit which makes them feel fat, and inadequate, and useless, the shit which fuels the fire and becomes the ammo used against them by bullies, on and off the internet. Then change it, and maybe we’ll stop trolling too.