Laurie Penny on online misogyny

Laurie Penny in the New Stateman Take Back The Net: it’s time to end the culture of online misogyny:

Right now, the beginning of a backlash against online misogyny is underway. Some people claim that this backlash is an act of ‘censorship’. Some website owners claim that promoting and publicising sadistic misogyny is merely respecting the ‘freedom of speech’ of anyone with a lonely hard-on for sick rape fantasies. That sort of whinging isn’t just disingenuous, it’s terrifically offensive to anyone with any idea of what online censorship actually looks like.

As I write, there is a real fight going on to keep the internet as free as possible from government interference, a fight to free speech and information from the tyranny of state and corporate control. Without going into it too much here, the internet is full of people who have spent their lives, risked their lives and even lost their lives in that fight. To claim that there’s some sort of equivalence between the coordinated attack on net neutrality and digital freedom going on across the world and the uninterrupted misogyny of comment-thread mouth-breathers doesn’t just take the biscuit, it pinches the whole packet and dribbles ugly bile-flecked crumbs into the keyboard.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking, brain-aching. These people talk unironically of their right to free expression whilst doing everything in their power to hurt, humiliate and silence any woman with a voice or a platform, screeching abuse at us until we back down or shut up. They speak of censorship but say nothing of the silencing in which they are engaged. I have even been told, with apparent sincerity, that using the ‘block’ button on Twitter to prevent anybody who has posted threats of violence against me is actually an attack on the troll’s freedom of speech – no apparent distinction being made between the right to express your views and the right to have your ugliest half-thoughts paid attention to.

Regular readers already know how much we’ve written here over the years on cyberbullies and their enraged cries about their Free Speech rights being breached whenever somebody declines to publish their bile – bile which absolutely nobody is preventing them from publishing on a blog of their own.

Disingenuous doesn’t begin to cover the hypocrisy of the Women Need To STFU brigade.

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tigtog (aka Viv) is the founder of this blog. She lives in Sydney, Australia: husband, 2 kids, cat, house, garden, just enough wine-racks and (sigh) far too few bookshelves.

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4 responses to “Laurie Penny on online misogyny”

  1. Megpie71

    Trolls are free to speak. There is NOTHING which says I have to listen to them, though. I’m allowed to block them, I’m allowed to delete their comments from my blog, I’m allowed to killfile them on usenet, I’m allowed to mark their emails as junk, I can lock them out of my house, and hells, I’m allowed to stick my earbuds into my ears and turn up the volume on the MP3 player when they’re yelling at me on the street. None of that stops them from having spoken. But I don’t have to listen to them.

    Feel free to speak. But your right to speak does not oblige me to listen.

  2. SunlessNick

    Or oblige you not to answer with scorn and contempt should you deem it called for.

  3. tigtog

    I’ve only just caught up with Bora Zivkovic’s long, thoughtful and well-researched post about the current state of online commenting. Bora rebuts the contention that contrarians have any sort of “right” to disrupt discussions on anybody’s blog, and points to new evidence showing that allowing trolls to polarise discussions drives away substantive commentary from other commentors and loses the opportunity for readers and bloggers to learn from each other:

    There are seven billion people on the planet, many of them potentially useful commenters on your site. Don’t scare them away by keeping a dozen trolls around – you can live without those, they are replaceable.

    He’s pretty much said everything I wanted to say in the post I’ve been working on for Feminism 101 about comment moderation, with added crunchy science facts.

  4. Debby

    You know, for a while, I had a pretty hateful commenter. It wasn’t that he disliked what I was saying. He disliked me. A great deal apparently. His comments ridiculed me and ridiculed anyone who read and commented on my blog, calling them ‘sheeple’ and saying that if people knew me in real life, they wouldn’t like me either.

    I figure this: If I met a person on the street who verbally attacked me, I would walk away. I wouldn’t listen to it. If I wouldn’t listen to it, I don’t have to publish it. So I don’t.

    I told my brother to get his own blog.

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