Under no circumstances do I want to be seen as a victim. I have worked with victims of sexual violence and I don’t hold a candle to their experiences. Jess Phillips MP #everywoman
Jess Phillips is “sick” of people claiming that women make up stories about being abused on the internet, which is fair enough as far as it’s fair enough but in an age when MPs can embarrassingly interpret a simple insult as a threat to life, or worse still actually get caught on making up actual death threats, is it any wonder people can sometimes be a little dubious?
There is absolutely no doubt about the fact that Jess Phillips has received some offensive communication in electronic format, especially in the context that, in the absence of a court judgement, ‘offensive’ and ‘abusive’ are pretty much in the eye of the beholder.
The odd thing about all the claims and headlines about abusive tweets specifically targeting MP Jess Phillips is that so few of them have ever been put into the public domain.
The threats that is.
Obviously there have been plenty of headlines and extraordinary claims.
Particularly when it comes to the subject of rape threats and especially when it comes to the subject of rape threats communicated through the very public and open source platform of the micro blogging site that is twitter.
And as Phillips #everywoman book pretty much confirms, the only person who has definitely tweeted anything remotely close to a rape threat leveled at Jess Phillips MP is Jess Phillips MP herself.
You may accuse me of semantics for making such an observation given the fact that at least one extremely offensive communication was definitely sent to Phillips. But in fairness, given that her book dedicates an entire chapter to internet trolls, it does seem highly significant that the only two examples that she provides struggle to meet the definition of a ‘threat’ and were not actually communicated via social media.
Criticism: the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes (Example: “he received a lot of criticism”).
In my humble subjective opinion, even though Phillips does clearly conflate a significant amount of ‘criticism’ with ‘abuse’, an interview she gave to Sky News seems to offer the most reasonably realistic account of her experience.
“I suffered a huge torrent of very noisy abuse from men’s rights activists, which, very unfortunately, led to a very dark bit of the internet calling for me to be raped, bound and raped publicly.
The very dark bit of the internet that disgracefully imagined Phillips being publicly bound and raped can be sourced back to two posts on a relatively obscure and very long mens rights thread, hosted by a not entirely famous American discussion forum called Voat.
It her book Phillips describes how a man called Declan took a screenshot of the comments and emailed them to her. She then tweeted this to back up her claims about receiving ‘torrents’ of ‘abuse’. It’s not entirely made clear whether Phillips perceived Declan’s action to be a sinister threat or a helpful heads up but given that she didn’t pass his details to the West Midlands Police one presumes it is the latter.
The valid criticism related to the self identifying gender equality champion’s behaviour in Parliament a few days previously when she was considering an application to hold a debate highlighting issues particularly affecting men.
Phillips was unable to hide her contempt at the notion and Parliament TV captured her openly laughing at the notion, flippantly proposing that ‘every day is International Men’s Day‘ and concluding that she would only allow such a discussion when at least 50% of MP’s were female.
Her outburst received virtually no media coverage until Phillips began claiming she was being targeted by trolls which lead to dramatic headlines about ‘huge torrents of abuse’ and ‘barrage of rape threats’.
Anyone following her twitter feed will have mostly witnessed polite, constructive and contextualized criticism and a significant amount of support. Something which Phillips herself has acknowledged.
When one tweeter asked her for evidence to support her claims Phillips tweeted the only ‘rape threats’ in the public domain. In that moment she existed as both victim and aggressor by calling her doubter a ‘complete prick’.
For a Member of Parliament with two degrees, Jess Phillips can sometimes be extremely ignorant.
Image credit & Quotations: Jess Phillips / Penguin / Hutchinson Fair Use (Copyright, Designs and Patents Act): Criticism, Education & Parody