Misogyny: 1. dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.
End online misogyny (EOM) is a social media campaign and web resource committed to documenting, reporting and commenting online abuse, threats and other forms of harassment and bullying tactics aimed at, or specific to, our sex and/or gender identity.
According to their mission statement the campaign is run by a small team of passionate women who were inspired by act after witnessing the rape and death threats Caroline Criado-Perez received after campaigning to get the Bank of England to put a woman on their bank notes.
The experience of EOM suggest that when a woman holds an opinion, objectionable or otherwise, critics always prefer to attack the women in question rather than her opinion. These attacks will concentrate on her race and her appearance. Finally, it is clear that attacks on a woman will quickly descend into threats of sexual violence and even death threats. The aim of such attacks is to remind the woman expounding the opinion in question that her worth is irretrievably linked to her appearance; or, that her ability to express an opinion is dictated by male approval. After all, she can always be silenced through the use of violence. It is this understanding which underpins one of the hashtags that EOM frequently uses on Twitter #stillnotshuttingup
Perhaps inevitably, given the current crisis in western feminism, EOM’s interpretation of what meets their preferred definition of misogyny may raise a few eyebrows. Even so it offers a valuable resource to anyone interested in examining reports of the relatively recent phenomenon of online abuse.
The eventual outcome of Chambers v Director of Public Prosecutions (more commonly known as the Twitter joke trial) highlights the potential disconnect between risk and reality that can sometimes occur when 140 characters are taken at face value.
In Criado-Perez’s case, the alcoholic and agoraphobic sent down for tweeting threats almost certainly didn’t pose a genuine threat but, as the judge acknowledged, the difference that made the difference was that, in her case, there was a genuine victim. Crucially that victim had no real way of assessing how genuine any or all of those anonymous rape and death threats really were. Even though some questioned the necessity of custodial sentences it seems likely that this was intended to send a message to people who hide behind messages like this:
There is little doubt that online misogyny and abuse is a genuine issue to be addressed, the problem is that it’s difficult to establish a consensus on what can reasonably be considered to be abuse, let alone how to address it in an open and equitable society.
As Criado-Perez highlighted at the time there are very real free speech issues at stake. Opportunistic governments can exploit the phenomenon to restrict free speech and, as Chamber’s case illustrates, the fact is that, in this Orwellian age of political correctness, the perceived aggressor can sometimes turn out to be the real victim.
The fainting couch feminism phenomenon that increasingly undermines the credibility of modern ‘networked’ feminisim is a big part of this problem. Not only does it undermine and distract from genuine abuse cases, it can also be employed to shut down debate, deflect reasonable criticism and, as this year’s Tim Hunt case illustrated, can also manifest into brutal hate campaigns that cause significant detriment to undeserving victims.
EYE wouldn’t go as far as classifying myself as a victim of this tactic but my experience of the Guardian moderator’s extremely dubious interpretation of their own comment is free mantra has certainly been extremely enlightening.
This year EYEhas also had the opportunity to conduct two real time analysis of twitter feeds relevant to two high profile ‘abuse’ claims. Accepting that offence can be in the eye of the beholder, the ‘torrents of abuse’ being freely reported by the media were nowhere to see making it difficult not to conclude that the authors of these claims were potentially guilty of employing some silencing tactics of their own.
Which is why it was so exciting to discover a resource that actively seeks to document examples-of-online-misogyny. EOM’s stated mission is to assert their basic human right to access public and online spaces and be allowed to use their voices which is something EYE wholeheartedly support.
At End Online Misogyny our position is clear: the abusive language and misogynist sentiment evidenced here have no place in any type of debate, be it in academia, journalism, popular science, social media or the street. We know that the use of such language is designed to intimidate and frighten the listener into silence. Its aim is to assert ownership of public space by the aggressors with claims of intellectual and emotional superiority. At the same time, it seeks to make the subject of this language doubt themselves and their professional value; to remind them not to get ideas above their “station”; and to accept the superiority of he who shouts the loudest. As a result, we refuse to be intimidated and above all, we refuse to be quiet.
Judging by the first case study I came across, it’s clear I’ll struggle to agree with all of their perspectives but, from my perspective, the phenomenon of fainting couch feminism can also be used as a silencing tactic.
Misogyny: 1. dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. 2. disagreeing with and or criticising a radical feminist’s preferred narrative or perception of reality.
With this thought in mind, EYE thought it might be interesting to take a look at some of the cases the project has documented to see how they stand up to critical scrutiny outside of the safe space she-osphere. Starting with the story concerning the academic who first brought the site to my attention…. Dr Emily Grossman.