Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Another Feminist Pet Peeve: Woman-Bashing Commenting

One unfortunate side-effect of spending so much time in the cyberspace is the amount of misogyny I have to wade through. I just realized today that I had a more optimistic picture of the average way women are viewed in this world before this era of crappy comments threads almost everywhere (though not on this blog, thank goddesses and gods).

Any article discussing women, gender relations or feminism is bound to attract the hateful comments, and by those I don't mean comments debating the contents of the article but comments about What Is Wrong With Women:

If women work outside the home they are climbing up someone's thighs to get promoted, they are bitches as bosses, they are over-emotional, they suffer from PMS, they nag, they only want to grab men's good jobs while forcing men to keep the bad jobs (evidently women have no bad jobs).

If women don't work outside the home they are lazy bitches who fritter away all the money their hard-working husbands make and who then take those same husbands to the cleaners while also denying them access to the children of the marriage, if any. Oh, and they nag.

And women, of all types, are sneaky, practice mental violence and exploit their victim-status to queen it over the men. And they nag.

Imagine if I wrote like that about men! I wouldn't do it, of course, because I don't believe in reverse sexism any more than the old-fashioned sexism, but I would never get away with it. Yet these guys do seem to provoke no real outrage. I have read comments like these on Huffington Post, attached to various stories at mainstream news sites, on YouTube (OK, I give you the fact that YouTube commenters seem to come from some kind of green algae society but the sexism in the comments following women performers' songs is stunning.), and now even at the website of the Finnish state television.

Yet the mainstream argument is that it is feminists who hate men!!! Are all those knuckle-draggers invisible? Yeah, I know that we are supposed to pretend that.

Men are not the only ones writing misogynistic comments, or at least not under male pseudonyms, by the way, and they read no nicer that way. The basic rule in all of them is to compare the worst possible examples of women's behavior to the best possible examples of men's behavior and to conclude that women are Just Awful. And naturally feminists are at fault because without feminists women couldn't steal men's good jobs or take them to the cleaners in a divorce and so on. This works really nicely in countries such as Somalia, by the way.

OK. I must add here that those comments are not the majority of comments in most places, that there are always at least one or two arguing for a more moderate view or even attacking the misogyny and that it's quite likely that in many cases most of the woman-hating comments come from the same keyboard. But still. If those comments are allowed to exist without proper response, what is the message?

People who comment on anything are not a random selection from the population and I know that. Most people, I hope, do not share the values of woman-haters. Misogynists are attracted to any article with feminist content like bees to pollen, and this makes nasty comments especially frequent to people like me who do research on women. But one might think that articles with feminist content should be equally attractive to feminists. So where are all the counter-arguments?

And those who mutter that misandrist comments also exist on unmoderated comments threads: Yes, they do. But their proportion is minute compared to the misogynistic ones. Neither are desirable and both should be moderated (preferably) or responded to.