To the whiny dude-bros of Twitter

There are a few gems of internet wisdom that present themselves on a fairly regular basis – especially if you’re posting anything related to men’s violence against women, street or online harassment, or pretty much anything that negatively impacts female-presenting people.

  1. Don’t feed the trolls
  2. Lewis’ Law – Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.

As a women who regularly shares articles relating to violence against women, harassment and other similar topics on social media platforms, such as Twitter, I am all too familiar with both trolls, and the accuracy of Lewis’ Law.

The trolls I’ve encountered are all of the same, garden-variety misogynist, MRA-types. Their key tactic is to intimidate. They aim to silence women using harassment, threats and bombardment-style attacks. They’ll fill your ‘mentions’ without you even having mentioned them. They sit in wait, pouncing at any mention of The Things They Don’t Like. Like equality. And women pointing out inequality. Their tweets are the epitome of Lewis’ Law. And the idea of not feeding them is not one I necessarily agree with. Because their sole aim is to intimidate women into silence, and I will not be silenced by an anonymous keyboard warrior. Do I sometimes get a little shaken up? Sure. When you get rape or death threats, who wouldn’t? I block and I report, and I know that there are thousands of others out there who have each other’s backs and will stand together against the online trolls. And I won’t be silenced.

So here it is. An open address to the whiny dude-bros of Twitter.

I want to start by addressing a couple of issues that you all, so very predictably, bring up.

  • When I post an article about sexual assault, or street harassment, I am not targeting you, nor am I targeting the other “poor innocents”, you so valiantly claim to be standing up for. I didn’t tag you in the post. I didn’t mention you directly. So unless you have something to feel guilty about, I wasn’t talking to you.
  • Street harassment” and “finding a girlfriend” are two very different things. If you don’t know the difference, or you think following a woman you don’t know or shouting “show us yer tits” is the best method for finding a partner, I can’t help you. Nobody can.
  • If you’re getting mad at people who post about sexual assault, violence against women, or street harassment online, you’re getting mad at the wrong people. How about directing some of that anger at your fellow dude-bros who assault, beat or harass women?

That last point is particularly important. Research released recently shows that 87% of Australian women have experienced verbal or physical street harassment in their lives. Men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators, women are overwhelmingly their victims. And the consequences for women aren’t limited to a moment of fear – all though that moment of fear should be enough for society to stand up against street harassment. Women limit their movements, change their behaviour, and suffer the effects of street harassment long after some asshole decided to grope them or scream at them from a car.

So, whiny dude-bros of Twitter, here’s the thing. You can scream “NOT ALL MEN” at the top of your lungs to as many women online as you want. But it’s not going to change the fact that your fellow dude-bros are the ones causing the problem in the first place.

I’ve had several of you, whiny Twitter dude-bros, contact me in the last few days after I posted a couple of articles about street harassment. Some of you enacted that bombardment treatment that has become so damn predictable, despite the fact I didn’t tag any of you in any of my posts. Hell, I’ve never even heard of you before. Yet there you were, filling my mentions with your whining about me targeting innocent dude-bros, asking me how you could get a girlfriend without resorting to street harassment, and calling me a whore.

You got inexplicably mad at a women who posted something online about street harassment, that wasn’t directed at you, that didn’t mention you in any way, shape or form.

And you harassed her.

So, thanks, whiny dude-bros of Twitter, for always coming through with the goods and proving Lewis’ Law over and over and over again. You make us more determined than ever to keep posting about and fighting to end street harassment, online harassment, and men’s violence against women.

I Don’t Need To See Fifty Shades of Grey.

“Oh, you just take everything too seriously. Lighten up, for fuck’s sake. I loved it, I don’t think its offensive, and I don’t care if you do.”

I’ve heard about triggers. I’ve added the appropriate warnings to my writing, my posts on Facebook.

This was the first time I’d experienced one for myself.

I can’t even explain it. My whole body started shaking. My vision blurred as my heart pounded in my ears. It was as close to drowning as I think I can imagine.

And right now, everywhere I look, it’s around me. It’s on TV. People are “checking in” at the movies on Facebook. It’s every goddamn where.

I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey. I don’t intend to. And I won’t be seeing the movie. I’ve seen, heard and read enough about it to know I don’t need to see it.

Because I lived it.

Not the so-called BDSM aspects. There wasn’t any of that. But the circumstances were incredibly similar. I was about the same age as the woman in the story. The manipulation. The total loss of my sense of self. The loss of control. It was all the same.

It crept up on me. Quiet and sinister, until I didn’t even recognise myself anymore.

I don’t need to see it. I lived it.

To have found yourself in a situation so twisted that you feel completely powerless isn’t romantic. It’s not sexy. It’s not erotic. It’s not something that should be viewed as entertainment.

It’s terrifying.

There’s only a handful of people who know about this part of my life, an even smaller amount who know all of the gory details. It’s not something that’s easy to share. I don’t think it was obvious to anyone at the time, which makes me wonder if people will think I’m making it all up. For a long time, I had myself convinced I was making it all up, that it wasn’t actually abusive.

But then it happened. I’d mentioned I wouldn’t be seeing the film, and I was told to lighten up, because it’s “just a movie”. And that terror, that feeling of helplessness hit me like a truck.

That this film is being marketed as a bit of sexy Valentine’s Day fun worries me. That women seem to swoon over the main character, despite what seems to me as his obvious hallmarks as an emotion abuser makes me literally feel ill. Nobody should have to feel the fear that accompanies the kind of relationship portrayed in this movie. Nobody should want to.

I spend at least eight hours a day researching and writing about violence against women. I could point to countless studies that show how the messages we receive from movies and books and other forms of media influence the way we view gender roles and the status of women. I could write for hours about how abusive relationships evolve, and I could back it all up with solid, peer-reviewed evidence. I can list the key stats and figures about men’s violence against women off the top of my head. It’s all related. The critiques of Fifty Shades of Grey aren’t coming from a bunch of feminist killjoys. They’re coming from decades of research, results and facts. Fifty Shades isn’t just a bit of harmless fun.

I don’t need to read the books. I won’t be seeing the movie. And I won’t “lighten up” about it.

A few days ago, abuse survivor Brooke Axtell spoke at the Grammy Awards, and she said it better than I ever could:

Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse.

Where was Prime Minister Abbott’s White Ribbon?

Earlier this year, I wrote the following post:

“Today, May 7th, is National Domestic Violence Remembrance Day. A day to remember those who have died, and the ones left behind, due to domestic and family violence.

A day to remember those that we ignored, that we failed.

Now, it’s inevitable that someone out there will respond saying that we didn’t simply ignore these deaths. And on that, I call bullshit. Sure, we dedicated several column inches in daily newspapers, and segments on the nightly news to those that lost their lives. And then, when all the hand-wringing and discussions on how awful it was, we forgot. We moved on with our lives, without taking any action, until news of the next death broke. Then it became more collective hand-wringing, more wondering about why it had happened once more. And again, we moved on.

From each of these deaths that were reported in the news, there will be another that the media didn’t pick up on. For each of these deaths, countless more women and children will still be living in terror and danger. For each of these deaths that were reported from the beginning of this year, we made our comments about how awful it was, and we moved on: 

– Therese Brown, 52 years old. Died 3 January 2014.

– Victoria Comrie Cullen, 39 years old. Died 22 January 2014.

– Luke Batty, 11 years old. Died 12 February 2014.

– Margaret Tannous, 47 years old. Died 17 February 2014.

– Baby girl (name unknown), 11 months old. Died 2 April 2014.

– Fiona Warzywoda, 33 years old. Died 16 April 2014.

– Savannah, 4 years old, and Indianna, 3 years old. Died 20 April 2014.

– Woman (name unknown), 47 years old. Died 30 April 2014.

 

And these are just the tip of the iceberg, the deaths that have occurred and been reported on in the last five months.

Domestic and family violence is a national emergency. And a national disgrace. We need to stop the silence, the quick mention on the daily news, the forgetting. We need real, tangible action. We need political will. And for that, we need a leader.”

Today, just over six months later, and on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (or, White Ribbon Day), I can sadly add over sixty more names to the list of those who have died as a result of men’s violence against women and children. Over sixty more people that we, as a society, have collectively failed.

Today, on White Ribbon Day, I watched as the Australian Prime Minister – and self-appointment Minister for Women – walked into question time at Parliament House, White Ribbon-less. While almost other member of parliament was clearly displaying their White Ribbon (the global symbol of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), the Minister for Women, rather conspicuously, was not.

Prime Minister Abbott enters question time on White Ribbon Day - sans White Ribbon. (Source: The Guardian)

Prime Minister Abbott enters question time on White Ribbon Day – sans White Ribbon.
(Source: The Guardian)

At a White Ribbon Day breakfast yesterday, Prime Minister Abbott said “domestic violence has no friends anywhere. It’s just wrong, it’s never justified, it’s never excused”.

But the Prime Minister is wrong. The findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence against Women Survey (NCAS) suggest that men’s violence against women in Australia is excused. And people do find ways to justify it.

I have written before about the PM’s lack of action on men’s violence against women, and I will likely do so again. I will do it not because I wish to continually attack one man, but because this is a man who did appoint himself as the Minister for Women. A man who leads a government that continues to perpetuate sexism and inequality – two things that we know contribute greatly to men’s violence against women.

When Prime Minister Abbott speaks at a White Ribbon Day breakfast he is preaching to the choir. And he’s doing it in a room of media representatives who will report his words.

When Minister for Women Abbott walks into Parliament, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, without wearing the global symbol of that day that almost all of his political colleagues were, his actions speak louder than any of his previously spoken words.

 

If you, or someone you know, is experience domestic violence you can get 24/7 help by contacting 1800Respect via their website or on 1800 737 732. 

You won’t be known as “that girl who got tied to the tree”.

To the young woman who wrote the letter shared by The Advertiser,

I’m sorry that we, as a society, have let you down so badly.

I’m sorry that we have allowed this insidious culture to flourish; the culture that allows others to treat a person the way you were treated.

I’m sorry that what happened to you – sexual assault – was allowed to be labelled “bullying”, thereby denying you adequate justice.

I am so incredibly sorry.

But I want to thank you.

I want to thank you for speaking out.

I want to thank you for your courage.

I want to thank you for your determination to finish your education.

I want to thank you for not giving up, because the world needs people like you. People who are strong, articulate and brave – people who will speak out and say this is not okay.

To your family, I want to say thank you. Thank you for raising and supporting such an extraordinary young woman. Thank you for fighting for her.

Education and safety are fundamental human rights, and you were denied those rights by a society that doesn’t take these rights, bullying or sexual assault anywhere nearly as seriously as they should. You deserved better, and we let you down.

You won’t be known as “that girl who got tied to the tree”.

You will be known as someone with amazing strength. You will be known as someone who is eloquent and intelligent. You will be known as someone who is, above all else, brave.

You will be known as a survivor.

We are failing women. And it’s killing them.

Last weekend I was reading a story online about a family from a small town in rural Australia. A family that included three children. Three children who, along with their mother, were murdered by their father. The story allowed comments (that have since been removed), and although conventional internet wisdom suggests “Don’t Read The Comments”, I went ahead and read them anyway. Until I got to one that said:

“This wasn’t a case of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the repeated beating of a woman over a long period of time”.

It was a comment that blew my mind.

It was a comment that made me angry.

It was a comment that had gotten over 60 ‘likes’.

Today, VicHealth released the findings from the 2013 National Community Attitudes towards Violence Against Women Survey (NCAS). And those findings are horrifying. Horrifying, yet not surprising.

The eye-opening stats just seem to go on and on.

I suspect that in the coming days, we will hear more about these findings. And I hope we do, because Australia is failing. It’s failing its women. It’s failing its men. It’s failing its children.

The person who commented on the story about the family in that small town, and those who had ‘liked’ it, are not alone in their thinking. And those ideas don’t occur in a vacuum. They occur in a country that privileges men above women and tolerates misogyny.

They occur in a country where attitudes regarding men’s violence against women means that domestic violence remains hidden, victim-blaming is prevalent, and jokes about rape are considered funny.

The survey found that over a quarter of people believe that men make better political leaders. A belief that occurs in a nation where senior politicians and media personalities were the perpetrators of gender-based bullying against our first female Prime Minister.

The survey found that 12% of people believe that when jobs are scarce, men have more right to a job than women. A belief that occurs in a nation where our male Prime Minister named himself as the Minister for Women.

The survey found that there has been a decrease in the number of people who believe that violence against women is common. A belief that occurs despite police in New South Wales alone receiving an average of 94 domestic violence report every day.

The survey found that almost 1 in 5 Australian’s believes that a woman is partly to blame if she is sexually assaulted while she’s intoxicated. A belief that occurs in a nation where alcohol-fuelled street violence is “horrific”, but the rape of a woman is “an unfortunate reminder”.

We need to change, Australia. Because men’s violence against women doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It happens along a continuum.

When we ask “why didn’t she leave” instead of “why did he hit her”, we’re blaming her.

When we laugh at a rape joke, we’re telling the world that rape is okay.

When we excuse street harassment with “boys will be boys”, we’re telling women that their safety is not important.

As I’ve said before, when we tell women not to drink too much or not to wear a short skirt, we’re telling them to make sure that he rapes someone else, instead of telling him not to rape.

These factors, and many more, enable the climate in our country that lets men’s violence against women thrive. And each one of us is responsible for changing it – by not laughing at that joke, by not blaming that victim, by speaking up when we see or hear sexist attitudes.

And we need to do it fast. Because we’re failing women. And it’s killing them.

#YesAllMen wouldn’t have been a surprising hashtag.

The violent rampage of a man whose hatred of women was so deep that it drove him to kill was the catalyst for one of the most heartbreaking, powerful and disturbing trends I’ve seen on Twitter. #YesAllWomen saw women from around the globe share their stories of harassment, abuse and various types of misogyny that they had endured. The hashtag demonstrated the many ways our societies allow men to somehow feel entitled to women, usually at the expense of women’s health and wellbeing, safety, and even lives.

Of course, #YesAllWomen was met with the inevitable cries of #NotAllMen from those who felt slighted that so many women had spoken out about their feelings of pain and terror at the hands of men. Now, in the tens of dozens of tweets that I read, I didn’t see one that actually claimed that all men harass and abuse. Not one.

But, and I say this without trying to be provocative or sensationalist, I would not be surprised if I had seen a tweet that read #YesAllMen.

I’ve written before about those “safety” messages we as women get: don’t drink too much, don’t wear that short skirt or low-cut top, don’t walk alone. To me, those messages not only tell me to try to make sure he rapes someone else, they also tell me #YesAllMen. Those messages – given by friends, family, the police, security personnel, teachers and others – are given with the implication that any male stranger I encounter is a potential rapist, who will strike should I be too drunk, or showing a little too much skin. Those messages don’t come with a disclaimer noting that #NotAllMen are a bad. They are blanket warnings, covering any and all men and we have heard them our entire lives.

#YesAllWomen demonstrated the myriad of ways in which women are harassed, abused and assaulted on a regular basis. When women are consistently subjected to men who are total strangers hurling sexually explicit remarks at them as they walk to the train station, another who rubs up against her in a suggestive way on the bus, or decides, mid-conversation, that sticking his hand up her dress in bar (all things that have happened to me fairly recently), I wouldn’t blame them for thinking #YesAllMen. There is absolutely nothing in these actions that would suggest that these men aren’t capable of taking their verbal and physical assaults one step further. Coupled with those “safety” messages, I think #YesAllMen could be an entirely reasonable thought.

Logically, I know that it’s #NotAllMen. We all do. But logical thinking can be a funny thing. I know, for example, that I’m more likely to be raped by someone I know in a private house, than I am by a stranger on the street. But it’s what Tom Meagher so brilliantly described as the “Monster Myth” that so often rules the way we think. The “how not to get raped” messages we get from the media, from authorities, from those who are concerned about our safety, is to always be prepared and to protect ourselves from strangers, because #YesAllMen are potential rapists. And those messages have been so pervasive, in my life at least, that even though I know better, I will still employ every tactic I can if I find myself walking through a park with a man behind – keys between my knuckles, phone in the other hand, perfume ready to be sprayed into someone’s eyes.

Those “safety” messages lend themselves to the Monster Myth. They tell us that if we follow a certain set of rules, we’ll stay safe from the stranger lurking in the bushes. They tell us #YesAllMen. Likewise, the Monster Myth tells us that it is those men we don’t know who rape. Any man. #YesAllMen. It’s a vicious and useless cycle.

#YesAllWomen was a glimpse into the terror and suffering of countless women around the world. #NotAllMen missed the point completely. It was a reactionary hashtag that didn’t show that those who used it hate men’s violence against women. It showed nothing more than childish defensiveness that buys in to the Monster Myth, thus perpetuating the idea of #YesAllMen. If those who continually cry #NotAllMen were so concerned about being tarred with the violent brush, they would be better off speaking out against the things that enable men’s violence against women in all its forms, whether it be a rape joke, or their friend groping a girl in a bar.

We know that it’s #NotAllMen. We really do. But the ever-present Monster Myth and behaviour-policing “safety” messages tell us otherwise.