The comments thread on any article about feminism justifies feminismThat's about right, based on my experience of too many hours spent on reading the comments threads. Not all the comments are just plain misogynists but a very large percentage of them are. Then there are the comments about feminism as a cancer on the body politics, something more dangerous than wars and epidemics and extreme Islamist takeover fears (though at least the feminazis get properly squashed by that last nightmare).
That's the background to the most recent story about Emma Watson who played Hermione in the Harry Potter movies.* She gave a speech to the United Nations. The speech is well worth reading in its entirety, because though it's not deep in research or in information it makes the case for more need for women's and men's rights in this world quite well.
What happened next? This: The merry boyz at the hacker site 4Chan decided to show Emma who really is the boss in this world by informing all of us* that nude pictures of her would soon be made available. The justification seems to be in her daring to give that speech. As a deleted comment at Gawker supposedly stated:
“She makes stupid feminist speeches at UN, and now her nudes will be online,” one comment allegedly read, adding that the images are set to appear in under five days.And
The site threatening Watson was greeted with glee on 4chan and Reddit, where commenters explicitly stated their hope that the threats would force her to abandon her feminist campaigning. "If only her nudes got leaked and she had the load on her face. Her feminism kick would be over," a commenter wrote. "If this is true her recent feminism rally is going to be shutdown hard," wrote another. "Feminism," one 4chan user opined, "is a growing cancer."
There you have it. Now the 4Chan and Reddit brigades are not representative of all mankind (used properly, for once!). But we don't need very many people willing to smear someone's reputation on the Internet or to pass on false rumors about her death or to threaten her with death or rape to make public speaking on certain topics pretty expensive for women like Emma Watson.
Indeed, the only deeper motivation for all that I see is the idea of silencing such voices. If they only were silent! Mary Beard has written extensively on the possibility that the Internet harassment of women and of feminists is about silencing people by making the costs of speaking very high.
A shallower analysis suggests that the idea of nude pictures of women is somehow the proper punishment to feminist speech. A nude woman cannot be feminist, nudity is bad, it takes away a "good" woman's reputation. But why would the boys (and girls?) at 4Chan think so?
My guess is that some of them do think so, because women are either whores or Madonnas and as we know Virgin Mary never said anything except "your will shall be done" and whores are raucous. So silence is what good women should cover themselves with.
On the other hand, the move to publish nude pictures of Emma Watson (whether they exist or not) is also to declare public ownership of her sexuality. Any man can ogle at her and she cannot stop them!
The private and public ownership models of women's sexuality are used side by side on this old earth. Thus, we get the nude pictures of women who are deemed to be publicly owned and we get the color-coded burqas in Mosul under the Islamic State for married and unmarried women. So that everyone knows which ones have not yet been doled out to their proper private owners and are therefore available?
I'm probably over-analyzing the reasons that makes a bunch of teenaged boyz feel powerful on the net. But even if they are teenagers who haven't really thought all this through very carefully the outcomes are the same: A breach in that public/private ownership wall, the hope that someone's reputation can be ground to shards under the big boots, the unthinking equation of equal gender rights with feminazi thuggery and so on.
For note that the response from those who seem to disagree with Watson's message is not to discuss the message, to debate it, to suggest alternatives or different angles. It's just to punish Watson for speaking. It also suggests a vast lack of information about how the majority of women on this earth live and how limited their rights are and how little they are respected as anything but fertility resources. An American privileged point for misogyny.
This could be a storm in the teacup in the sense that we cannot tell how common the views and behaviors of the 4Chan people are. But that's the general problem with Internet debates, with what is stressed and with what slides by almost unnoticed.
For different reactions to these events, check out here and here.
*Added later: Even if the website threatening to release the Emma Watson nude pictures is itself a hoax as this article argues, the analysis in this post applies to public speech by women on the net.