Monday, March 11, 2013

That One About the Hate Crime Proponent

[Content note: Gender-based violence, misogyny, dehumanization, mention of self-harm]

Well, these comments happened here over the weekend. "Avenger" dropped by to embiggen the anti-feminist discourse:
"I've stood and watched man haters get the stuffing beaten out of them. It's fun. I've never heard them 'roar', only whimper and beg while hoping that I might intervene. Na, he's a big boy I'm pretty sure he can take you 'princess'.. How hypocritical, "I'm just a girl"... How pathetic, I was glad when the guy blasted her in the face, shutting her entitlement ass up. So I bought him a beer and we laughed. Good times. I think I'll go out tonight and goad a man hater into a physical altercation. I like to mix it up."
And, he apparently wasn't finished. He had to come back and add:
"I'm so glad that chivalry is dead. We can finally beat the hell out of you man haters and feel no remorse about doing so. One time I hit a bitch right in the nose, open palm. I thought I might have killed it, so I left the area quickly. The paper had a blurb about the 'senseless' violence from the night before. So it didn't die, but will be forever scarred and live the rest of it's pathetic existence in fear. Good, one less man hater to infect the world. Take back the night, lol plenty of fun to be had at those gatherings, believe me."
His DISQUS profile has him making similar comments on Saturday March 9, 2013 at another site.  Not sure what got his boxers in a bunch that day.

Was he trolling? Perhaps.

Although, I prefer to leave these types of comments up on my blog because, actually, rather than the minimizing term "trolling," I prefer to call these types of comments by the more accurate phrases, "using the Internet to admit to having committed a gender-based hate crime against women and threatening to do so again" and "evidence in a potential criminal investigation."

Two, you know that little joke that men, non-feminists, and anti-feminists like to make? That one where they "jokingly" precede their "devil's advocate" musings against feminist arguments with statements like, "I'm gonna get clobbered for saying this" or "I'm just going to say this and run away"?

Well, Avenger's comments above, which are not rare for many feminist women bloggers to receive, illustrate another important reason why those jokes that pre-emptively assume that a feminist woman cannot handle a counter-argument without resorting to violence are remarkably unfunny and uncivil.  The "joke" is not funny, not cute, not fair, and not civil, because the lived reality for many feminist women is that making a feminist argument, even in explicitly feminist spaces, results in some sort of violent or aggressive verbal outburst from men.  

By implying that the reverse is true, that it's feminist women who regularly and frequently threaten to assault male critics, the "joke" erases this reality.  It puts women on notice to be on their best, civil behavior, because they've been pre-emptively framed as being violent and unable to engage in rational, civil dialogue.  It tells women to prioritize making the men in the conversation feel 100% comfortable and non-threatened, while disregarding the fact that "trolls" (or, Hate Crime Advocates, as I would call "Avenger") feel entitled to engage in aggression when they encounter even the most tepid feminist arguments.  (Like, seriously? My "What Would You Do if You Witnessed Bigotry" post? Really?)

Seems fair.

Secondly, I want to discuss these comments in my ongoing conversations at Family Scholars Blog about civility (that I also cross-post here in Fannie's Room).  Issues of civility, I think, are especially important to be mindful of in heated "mixed-company" conversations, and I think for that reason, my posts on civility tend to be engaged more by commenters at FSB at that forum than here.

There, many commenters have been receptive to my posts on civility. It's been the minority who have not, instead suggesting that I (or "people" in general) need to grow a thicker skin, that's it's stupid to expect more from people in a purportedly civil society, and that conversations about civility are PC gone too far.

Yet, I see small acts of incivility that go unchecked as degrading the humanity of other people and thereby, at least somewhat entitling larger acts of incivility.  If someone, for instance, sees no problem with inaptly calling a Christian a "wingnut" or calling a gay man a "homofascist," both degrading terms, on what basis does or can this person rationally object to "Avenger's" commentary?  Shouldn't we just grow a thicker skin, after all?  Shouldn't we just "expect" that people will act like this on Internet, and live with that?

Here, I think it's important to question the critic's suggestion that people who promote civility are weak and over-sensitive.  I contend that such critics, often people who don't even blog themselves, are ignorant of the extent of the aggression and hatred that many bloggers, especially women, face.  During my years of blogging, men have made veiled rape threats against me, have obsessively commented on my older posts telling me how "vile" lesbians "really are," and have left me explicit instructions on how I could and should commit suicide.

If a man wants to call me something, since that's something some men love to do, "thin-skinned" is not a word I find to be particularly accurate.

I continue blogging knowing that doing so means that I will continue enduring hostility. This hostility continues, I contend, precisely because so many people find basic civility and non-violence to be such a trivial matter deserving of contempt and mockery. The gist of my argument for civility is that people should be able to engage in debate, even contentious debate, without being personally attacked or threatened, either verbally or physically, in response. In an "anything goes" forum, which some libertarian-minded folks promote, I always wonder, whose voices are not being heard? Who is too threatened to comment? Who has stopped participating because they didn't want to endure abuse any longer?

I want the best ideas to win, not the best ideas of the people who can best endure hostility. That argument, I would think, is one that many people of varying political backgrounds could agree upon. If a person is openly contemptuous of the notion of civility, I admittedly question what they're even doing in spaces designed to foster conversation and debate.

Related: Men Call Me Things

[Note: A modified, shorter version of this post has been posted at Family Scholars Blog.]

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