The Vagenda

Why I Pity Anti-Feminist Twitter Arseholes (and Why They Won’t Deter Me)

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(via Feminist Disney)

So recently, for the first time, I experienced something remotely akin to Twitter “notoriety”.  Not really a great deal, mind, and not amongst the kind of people I might have liked – if I had wanted any in the first place.  It all started when I was innocently putting together a presentation for work which talked about career progression in our department. I google image searched the word “assistant” and was  eye-rollingly unsurprised to see that 9 out of the top 10 stock images were of women.  I took a screen shot of the picture and tweeted it to @EverydaySexism and The Vagenda, because…feminism. Out of curiosity, I then google image searched “manager” and was vindicated when I saw the opposite search results, one woman amongst ten men.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Vagenda had retweeted me and was thinking some powerful happy sisterhood thoughts at the responses garnered, when I went to join a couple of friends for a drink at the pub below my flat.  Within about five minutes of my first glass of wine, my phone went bat shit crazy with notifications.  Naturally, with nothing better to do, the Twitter account @FeministFailures had found my tweet and retweeted it to their six thousand and something delightfully humorous followers.  I was inundated with such insightful and intelligent comments as:

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Here’s just a small selection for you.  I did, maybe foolishly, engage with one of these delightful characters who felt that I “opened myself up to being challenged”.  My only issue with that retort was that not one of the people laughing, retweeting, favouriting and ridiculing me were actually challenging my views in a meaningful way. None of them sought intelligent debate, nobody put forward an alternative view, all they did was seek to humiliate and mock. Certainly if anybody did challenge me intelligently I missed it through the storm of bullshit I was fielding.

I, as a socialist, feminist, northern working class girl living in a south-eastern small market town, will happily engage in political debate with anybody who fancies a good old chin wag thrashing it out, whether we have similar perspectives or not.  In fact I quite enjoy it and respect the ability to engage in debate with those of opposing opinions without resorting to name calling and ridicule. But when a group of people do nothing but seek to humiliate a person for their views, I get the red mist.

My first observation of the retweet from @FeministFailures was that they just didn’t appear to understand what I was outlining when I pointed out the #everydaysexism from this image search result.  They retweeted with their own image, which did nothing but reiterate my point since it showed that googling “garbage collector” and “sewer worker” brought up only men in an image search, so you know, reinforcing gender roles. Naturally their ability to misinterpret and misunderstand anything that doesn’t actually spell out the problem is actually absolute proof of how silly we feminists are, taking offence at the patriarchy.

The second thing I observed about this account, after being told by a hundred or so of their wittiest and most intellectually sharp followers was that if I was in my right to complain about such humdrudgery, then I should allow others to challenge my view.  This is fine, and as reiterated above, I have no objection to being challenged and offered an alternative perspective. Except barely one of the @FeministFailure followers did that. They lolled, they RT’d with an #SMH, they overused the emoji, and they heckled. Nobody offered me a reasonable discourse as to why I was wrong. In which case that Twitter account is there to do nothing but bully, humiliate and ridicule a group of people (feminists) found to be threatening in their eyes.

This leads me to my third and final point, and that is that after several days of wincing at my Twitter notifications, and now that the RT’s have quietened down and laughter has moved on to another feminist who is “failing”, that I pity these people.  How insecure, ineffectual and small must they feel to be threatened by a group of people who seek to redress an inequality, which whether or not they care to admit it, affects them too? Whether that is done through pointing to seemingly insignificant signs of a society obsessed with the idea of conforming to gender expectations, or through louder protest in blogs, newspaper articles, politics and Twitter, or through art, music and film, surely clamouring for men and women to be treated as equals shouldn’t be viewed as a threat but as a liberating cacophony of united voices?

I recently finished reading the great socialist tome The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, written in 1911 by Robert Tressell and focusing on a group of labourers in a small Kentish town who refuse to accept the logic of their erstwhile socialist colleagues when they point to the injustices that the capitalist system has piled upon them.  They verbally and physically attack the very people who seek to redress the inequality of a society run by the wealthy and for the wealthy. The very same system which causes the poverty-stricken, hungry, cold and miserable existence of the working classes in the early 20th Century who deride and mock socialist principles.  The labourers wait for opportunities to call their more liberated colleagues out on what they see as the absurd notion of socialism, only to find that the socialists can respond and when they do, those who have challenged the view are left wanting for a retort.

This reminds me of the very nature of being a feminist on Twitter today.  There are groups of people out there just waiting for the opportunity to shout you down, humiliate and ridicule, and tear apart your argument by laughing and ridiculing at best, by abusing and threatening at worst. Like Frank Owen in The Philanthropists, don’t let them kill your spirit. What they don’t yet realise is that one day, they will benefit from the actions of the very movement that they dismiss.

Maybe one day, my quiet campaign and seemingly insignificant Tweets will change somebody’s mind, on the other hand, maybe not. But I am willing to give it a go and feel absolutely no regret at sending out the Tweets that caused my mini-Twitter storm in a teacup.


9 thoughts on “Why I Pity Anti-Feminist Twitter Arseholes (and Why They Won’t Deter Me)

  1. I’ve encountered exactly the same thing and was accused of desperately trying to suck up to women or some such because I didn’t share backward values. I think the problem is that we’re dealing with people who are incapable of even imagining that their world view isn’t the only one possible – they are not intellectually equipped to handle any kind of challenge because that would require thought and analysis that is beyond them. I can’t think of another explanation.

  2. It doesn’t surprise me to hear it, I’ve seen acquaintances on Facebook doing just that to a male friend who defends feminist, a feminist. He was immediately asked if he only made such comments because his wife made him. It’s sad we still encounter such attitudes, but hopefully, by being persistent one day casual sexism will be as taboo as casual racism has (mostly) become. Although that mountain too still has some way to go before it can be considered conquered. Keep fighting the good fight! :)

  3. Thank you for this article, and thank you for those tweets. The insane reaction you get just proves how much we need them.

    Something else I noticed: I googled ‘assistant’ and manager after reading this, and the one guy in the assistant pile is shaking hands with a computer. It’s an ad for a virtual assistant, so the guy in the photo isn’t even supposed to be the assistant himself! I wouldn’t care so much, except that I’ve actually overheard the following at work: “I don’t understand why men apply for the assistant position … it’s a woman’s job.” (<– PERFECT example of sexism holding everyone back – both the women who want to be managers AND the men who want to be assistants!!)

  4. I identify with this… wrote a piece the other week which got picked up in certain circles and it was clear from the comments that people had decided what I’d written before they’d actually read it, or deliberately misunderstood it, or just took phrases out of context to pull apart. I have not engaged with a single one, because they had made their minds up already, and there is no way they would argue sensibly, but I tell myself that my piece is all part of a sea change in culture, that every little helps, and that I have maybe planted a small seed in one mind somewhere which could have an effect one day. Keep going, and don’t feed the trolls :) xx

  5. Sad sad people. I don’t pity people often but when I do, these are some of the people of my disdain, contempt and pity

  6. Thanks for this, and for your original tweet – the gender biases that entrap us all are everywhere! I am a man who is proud to call myself a feminist for, if I’m honest, entirely selfish reasons: I have two wonderful daughters who I want to see become whatever they want to be, and I genuinely believe that a world where gender equality is a reality will be good for men and women. Completely agree with your assertion that writing ‘clamouring for men and women to be treated as equals SHOULD be viewed as a liberating cacophony of united voices.’

  7. You mention what happens if you Google traditionally male roles, but you don’t deal with it do you. The fact is you only posted because you had found something which had a whiff of pro-man/anti-woman sexism to it (photos of ‘Assistants’ and ‘Managers’). So it’s all very well grinding on about how it your ‘everydaysexism’ affects both genders deleteriously, but as long as you – as a rep for feminists – post only examples which prop up your world view (‘women are disadvantaged’), you will attract the (I agree, very unpleasant) attentions of rabid misogynists who, when you cut through the poisonous froth, have a basic point to make. And that point is: sexism is a two-way street and neither carriageway is particularly clear right now. You could have made your point by searching ‘nanny’, or ‘nurse’, or ‘primary school teacher’, etc. where you would have come across exactly the same form of what you perceive as sexism, albeit the other way round. And, having trumpeted this shining example of everydaysexism, you could then have talked about how it was surely deterring men from going into nursing, becoming primary school teachers, etc. But you didn’t do that did you? Nope, you chose an example which poked men, and, if you poke misogynistic men (just like if you poke misandrist feminists), you should expect to get what you got.

  8. It is a crying shame that most people, be it men or women haven’t quite grasped the term and representation of the word Feminism. Taking it only for face value they fail to understand that it is challenging the predetermined social images and figures of what men and women should be, how we should behave. One particular problem that I take a lot of interest in, is that the percentage of diagnosed cases of depression and rates of suicide are sufficiently higher in men than in women within the UK. This i feel is a result of society strongly and subconsciously imposing the concept that if men are vulnerable, cry or speak openly about their emotions and worries, that they will be tormented by their mates. This ongoing and seemingly small problem has resulted in heaps of men that I’ve encountered with very deep traumatic issues. Whilst this is a bit of a tangent, I’d just like to point out that what a lot of people dont realise is that Feminism is fighting for all the issues of inequality that society has put in place overtime, it is to create a level world where men and women can ease the pressure off one another to fit into the old fashioned stereotypes. And it is an awful shame that the word itself is so misinterpreted as a fight for only women’s rights. Its men too. We want everyone to feel at ease in their position in society. Stop the hating, stop the trolling, stop heckling. The fact that there even is a twitter account under the name of feminismfailures signifies that we are still a long way away from achieving what we want. But we can’t let that stop us from giving it a good go