Wednesday, February 9, 2011

On Threats

[TW: Threats; Harassment; Apologism; Sexual Assault]

I pulled this from the neverending-comment-thread because I think it deserves highlighting for purposes of making a larger point. Commenter EDB5fold aptly noted:

For a frightening number of people (mostly men, who are more often than women socialized to respond to things they don't like with violence), identifying yourself as a feminist, or saying something that's ideologically in line with some part of feminism, is considered sufficient grounds for threatening your life. I won't separate some amorphous public concept of feminism from the lived realities of feminists.

To which I responded:

I'm very glad you brought this up because it is so common, so much a part of our lives, that I think it often gets overlooked. Rape/death threats are a fact of life for most feminist bloggers, especially high-traffic bloggers. I have received them in comment threads and via email, and nearly every feminist blogger I read has received them.

From what I have seen, this is not a phenomenon that MRAs experience, at least to the degree that feminists do. That, I think, underscores a lot of the male aggression entitlement issues that I have been talking about. The status quo in a rape culture is male violence against women.

Catherine Mackinnon has written, to paraphrase, that some wrongs are so common they are sometimes thought of as too common to be atrocious. And likewise, some wrongs are so atrocious they are assumed to be uncommon.

I guess I'm reminded of how sucky it is that rape/death threats are so casually treated by mainstream society as Just An Expected Part of Feminist Blogging. Maybe it's our just deserts for "hating men"?

[TW: Suicide, threats]

Indeed, when I first started blogging, an anti-feminist man sent me a few incredibly creepy emails encouraging me to commit suicide and outlining various ways I could do it. When I mentioned that at an anti-feminist, anti-gay blog, a commenter noted, 'Well, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar,' implying that I brought the threats upon myself.

Let's talk about this.

I am of course speaking from my own experience and from what I see as both a writer and reader of many feminist blogs and as a reader of MRA/anti-feminist/non-feminist blogs, but it's not often that I hear of feminists making veiled threats to MRA bloggers where we fantasize about them getting "rape[d] in the dead of night."

Indeed, I'm just not seeing large numbers of feminists going to MRA and other anti-feminist sites and celebrating, encouraging, and joking about sexual assault and violence against male and anti-feminist bloggers.

Many feminists would rightly be appalled at and condemn that sort of violent speech.

Yet, when people do it to feminist, such threats are so expected that it's often treated as unremarkable. That is the status quo.

What's the reason for this? Well, what does a feminist expect if she's going to espouse "man-hating" views, right?

If we think of some of the stereotypes of feminists, it becomes apparent that these caricatures exist not only to minimize feminist arguments, but to silence us and further justify the status quo of male violence against women. They perpetuate a culture where it's okay for some types of people to violate another type of people's boundaries.

Framing feminists as loud-mouthed screechy man-hating cunts, and that is indeed how we are widely framed in non-feminist circles, makes it easier for people to believe that we are somehow responsible for real or threatened acts of violence against us. Even if people condemn theats against feminists, many of them still say, well, honey + vinegar, remember ladies? Better watch your tone and make sure you are sufficiently non-offensive to hyper-defensive men who are, themselves, quite okay with aggression as long as they're the ones dishing it out.

Yet, what I've come to learn over the years is that while men are expected, encouraged, and entitled to be aggressive and angry and foaming at the mouth about anything from politics to traffic to football games, no political argument coming from a female feminist will ever be deemed sufficiently pleasant, accomodating, smiley, giggly, or civil enough if it's an argument against rape culture, patriarchy, or misogyny. Usually what happens is that criticisms of these wrongs are deemed much worse than the object of the feminist criticism.

And if, goddess forbid, a feminist actually shows anger, the non/anti-feminist will exaggerate it so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that's ultimately used to discredit hir.

It is no coincidence that these stereotypes about what feminists are like, and how responsible we are for threats and violence against us also parallel rape apologist narratives like "what was she doing drinking so much, anyway?"

Both preserve the status quo of "victim" being viewed as just an essential characteristic of women. Both preserve the status quo that some people's boundaries don't matter.

The feminist starting point is that our arguments are met with threats of violence from those along the political spectrum. The non/anti-feminist and MRA position is not, which underscorse the perversity of MRAs so often leeching the language of feminist equality to advance their so-often-resoundingly-anti-feminist agenda.

Accepting the proposition that feminism and non/anti-feminism are just two different-but-equally-legitimate ways of seeing things means accepting the propostion that pervasive violence and threats against women are just as legitimate as non-violence against women and respecting our boundaries.

"There is no neutral in rape culture."

Non-feminism is anti-feminism.

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