Ironic Sexism Is Still Sexism

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Critical Hit
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

Except that, no: it’s not.

Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people make ironically offensive jokes: either they think we live in such a post-racist, post-sexist, post-discriminatory world that the act of mimicking historical abuses cannot possibly reinforce those abuses, on account of how they no longer really exist; or they secretly think the stereotypes which underlie offensive jokes have some basis in reality, and are therefore funny because they’re true. The former person can be anything from genuinely well-intentioned but oblivious to belligerently convinced that society has swung so far in the opposite direction that previously oppressed groups are now the beneficiaries of so much privilege that mocking them is only fair. The latter person, however, is almost invariably bigoted, even if they’re not consciously aware of it.

As such, there are really three types of people who tell ironically offensive jokes or make offensive remarks for fun: those who think bigots either don’t exist or are so vanishingly rare as to be meaningless statistical anomalies, those who are bigots but don’t realise it, and those who embrace their bigotry as the only logical truth. If that’s true, then it’s surely important to know the exact intentions of the people both making and responding to supposedly ironic jokes – otherwise, you run the risk of laughing at yourself.

But if the remarks themselves are functionally identical regardless of who’s making them, then how can you possibly know which ones are meant ironically?

The answer is, you can’t – and for those who’d like to contend otherwise, permit me a small experiment with which to support my case.

The following statements are all, word for word, sexist comments or messages I’ve received online from total strangers. Some, by the explicit admission of the senders, were intended ironically; others, also by explicit admission, were not. Some are from self-professed sexists; others are from individuals who violently objected to my labelling them as such. Some were sent in the course of a conversation; others were out of the blue. But all were sent online, by people I don’t know in real life – meaning that you, my readers, know as much about the senders and their potential motives as I first did on receiving them.

So tell me: which ones are ironic, and which are not?

1. im gonna rape you

2. you rant and whine like a true cunt

3. Most women need to be dominated. It might not be what they think they want but its what they need, trust me they eat that shit up.

4. God, what a feminist bitch!

5. you just sound like another bitter angry man-hating lesbian

6. Petal, you have no idea how pleasurable it is being fisked by a self-righteous tea-cosy-wearing Scots feminista called “Foz”.

7. it’s not really a sexist belief that women are mentally and physically inferior to men

8. You’ll never get a husband thinking that way.

9. You’re a fat bitch with a man haircut that never got laid so you turned dyke and you’re on a feminazi rage.

10. still an ugly slag, get some surgery bitch

Laughing yet?

I’m not.

Not because I don’t have a sense of humour – I do. It’s just that this isn’t funny. This is a tiny, tiny taste of what it means to be a woman online: I have folders full of this stuff, and I guarantee that most of the people sending it don’t think of themselves as being the least bit sexist or misogynistic . Oh, no: they’re just being honest, or – god help me – comedians. But the thing is, the ironic-offensive-humour-peddlers? They’re the minority. The vast majority of the offensive nonsense I receive – that all women receive – isn’t meant ironically. It’s either meant explicitly to intimidate and frighten, or  – just as chillingly – is nothing more than a deadpan, no-nonsense glimpse into the sender’s view of women. It’s the opposite of irony.

So when you joke about how I should get back in the kitchen and make you a sandwich, you’re not being clever or witty or post-ironic. You’re offering up a pitch-perfect imitation of the sort of abuse I routinely receive, and – at absolute best – are asking me to laugh at how weird, how implausible it is, that people used to think like this! Isn’t that just crazy?

What’s crazy, friend, is that you expect me to laugh at my own belittlement.

Bottom line: ironic sexism is still sexism. Not just because women can’t tell the difference, but because misogynists can’t, either – and they think that shit’s hilarious.

Comments
  1. Iain Hall says:

    Foz
    Being abused online is not at all restricted to women and most abusers seek the maximum reaction from their targets and therefore use the currency that they think will wind them up the most. Not giving them the satisfaction of an emotional response often works better than returning fire with equal fury.

    • fozmeadows says:

      Iain, I never said abuse was female-specific. What I’m objecting to is abuse that’s specifically targeted at someone’s personhood – their gender or race, for instance – rather than just being generic bile. And I disagree that not responding is the best approach, because all too often, that means giving your attacker exactly what they want most: your silence.

      • Iain Hall says:

        As I said they look for the best currency and if hey think that gender is your touch paper that is what they will use. Nor am I suggesting that you need be silent in response, just cold and unemotional in the way that you deal with them. Believe me I have had the lot over the years and the one thing I am sure of is that they never want your silence they want you to suffer, to feel hurt and uncomfortable.If the abuse is on your own pages then you can deprive them of oxygen by banning them or better still putting them in moderation and adding your response to their comments as an edit that only they can see. What ever you do is important to make sure that you control the rules of engagement if you want to end up ahead.

        • “If the abuse is on your own pages then you can deprive them of oxygen by banning them or better still putting them in moderation and adding your response to their comments as an edit that only they can see. ”

          You’re utterly missing the point, Iain. It’s not that Foz can’t cope with these witless trolls, it’s that the witless trolls so often claim that their targets’ real flaw is not being able to take a joke (which is what James Delingpole did, see previous post.)

          Foz’s point is that they’re not funny or clever. They’re just obnoxious, and there is no failure of humour on the part of women or anyone else they go after.

          And if you don’t mind me saying so, your ‘advice’ comes across as extraodinarily patronising delivered to someone like Foz who is bright, perceptive, clever and above all, a perfectly capable adult. You sound like a parent trying to teach a kid how to deal with the school bullies, and your role in this conversation is not of a parent to anyone in it. You’re not saying anything Foz doesn’t know, but you *are* saying it in a way that attempts to portray her as too clueless to understand the issues.

          She’s not. I’m not. You’ll find quite a lot of the people who hang around blogs like this are not.

          And also forgive me for pointing out that the abuse against women online is a order more severe, more dangerous, more pointedly gendered and more persistent than anything a cis-sexual, straight white man like yourself will ever experience. You may have experienced abuse. It’s not the same as what women get.

          • Iain Hall says:

            Ann

            Sorry if you think that I was being patronsing, that was not my intention at all but when it comes to online abuse I have experienced more of it at a greater level of intensity than a few unkind words and or bad jokes. Beyond that i have run my own blog about politics for the last nine years with many lively comment threads and more than my fair share of trolls and obsesives. I am just trying to share what I have found to be effective.

            And also forgive me for pointing out that the abuse against women online is a order more severe, more dangerous, more pointedly gendered and more persistent than anything a cis-sexual, straight white man like yourself will ever experience. You may have experienced abuse. It’s not the same as what women get.

            Come off it Ann online nastiness knows no gender and we poor humble blokes can and do cop it just as badly as women do. I’ve had my blogs and email hacked,multiple hate iain pages created I’ve been impersonated in online forums to missrepersent me, signed up to Gay dating sites called every name you can imagne so please don’t tell me that many women have had any where near the crap I have endured.

            • ” I’ve had my blogs and email hacked,multiple hate iain pages created I’ve been impersonated in online forums to missrepersent me, signed up to Gay dating sites called every name you can imagne”

              Oh I’ve had all that, mate (not the gay dating forums, admittedly – but then again, I don’t think that’s actually ‘threatening.) And I’ve currently got an admitted soccer hooligan tracking my every move. My crimes include the heinousness of calling out bad author behaviour and bullying. None of what you describe happening to you is as bad as this:

              http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170/

              http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.single.html

              And these ladies are white. Being a black or brown woman means it gets worse.

              You ran a political blog, so you knew from the start emotions would be high and polarised. But would you expect to be deluged with rape and death threats – credible threats – like Caroline Criado-Perez for the ‘sin’ of suggesting Jane Austen appear on a British banknote?

              Your response to me is ignorant, ill-informed and as patronising as hell. You literally have no idea what you’re talking about.

              “please don’t tell me that many women have had any where near the crap I have endured”

              Tell me, Iain, when was the last time you were actually sexually assaulted? Threatened with sexual assault just for walking down the street or being at work, or turning someone down for any reason for anything? Been mistaken for a prostitute lately for just waiting for a friend in public?

              Never? Then don’t tell me you have the faintest idea what ‘crap’ women endure. You’re a white cis-gendered straight man. You are on the lowest difficulty setting at the game of life, as John Scalzi put it.

              You don’t have a fucking clue. I suggest you spend some of your privilege savings and buy one.

              • Iain Hall says:

                Ann

                Oh I’ve had all that, mate (not the gay dating forums, admittedly – but then again, I don’t think that’s actually ‘threatening.) And I’ve currently got an admitted soccer hooligan tracking my every move. My crimes include the heinousness of calling out bad author behaviour and bullying.

                Well my “crime” was to suggest that online anonymity is not something of virtue and that many of those who think themselves as anonymous can be identified from the content of their commentary.

                None of what you describe happening to you is as bad as this:

                http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/women-arent-welcome-internet-72170/

                http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2012/10/sexism_in_the_skeptic_community_i_spoke_out_then_came_the_rape_threats.single.html

                How can you know that? I have given you only the most sketchy description of some of the crap that I have endured over my years of blogging.

                And these ladies are white. Being a black or brown woman means it gets worse.

                With respect Ann that’s rubbish, online obsessive haters are surprisingly similar no matter who their chosen targets are, no matter what the gender or race of their target happens to be. In my case the worst obsessive is a woman who kept reinventing herself under different pseudonyms(many male BTW)and got nastier the more often that she was rumbled.

                You ran a political blog, so you knew from the start emotions would be high and polarised. But would you expect to be deluged with rape and death threats – credible threats – like Caroline Criado-Perez for the ‘sin’ of suggesting Jane Austen appear on a British banknote?

                Yes I write a political blog and may experience has led me to believe that the issue with much online abuse is the easy anonymity of the online space strangely enough when you are dealing with people posting under their own names they are far more likely to be civil even when they are exploring and debating contentious subjects. For instance how many of the abusive comments that Foz cites come from people using their real names? Further how can you even be sure that they are coming exclusively from men?Women can be just as nasty as men online in my experience some are even worse.

                Your response to me is ignorant, ill-informed and as patronising as hell. You literally have no idea what you’re talking about.

                Oh Please, now you are patronising me! You know nothing of my story or the crap that I have endured

                “please don’t tell me that many women have had any where near the crap I have endured”

                Tell me, Iain, when was the last time you were actually sexually assaulted? Threatened with sexual assault just for walking down the street or being at work, or turning someone down for any reason for anything? Been mistaken for a prostitute lately for just waiting for a friend in public?

                🙄 In my long life I have had unwelcome advances, threats of violence (try a knife at your throat for a domestic parking issue!)actual assault. Admittedly never been mistaken for a prostitute but then I don’t think that old bearded men are a that much like the stereotype either.

                Never? Then don’t tell me you have the faintest idea what ‘crap’ women endure. You’re a white cis-gendered straight man. You are on the lowest difficulty setting at the game of life, as John Scalzi put it.

                Oh dear, you aren’t one of those “whiteness studies” wonks are you? Then you are living in the States aren’t you? In Australia I don’t think that the sort of race issues that you are so obviously concerned about work in anything like the same way. Strangely enough I think we find what we expect to find in life, you know the old glass half full, half empty dichotomy
                I know that the world ain’t anywhere near perfect but I personally start from the position that men and women are entirely equal in their humanity and there is nothing to be gained by either gender daemonising the other or having a pissing contest to see who is the most hard done by in life. If you take the position that all men are evil misogynistic agents of the patriarchy how does that further the cause of gender equality? Most men are decent and respectful of the women in their lives and you do your own cause no good service expecting them to constantly prove their virtue.

                You don’t have a fucking clue. I suggest you spend some of your privilege savings and buy one.

                Well I say that you are mistaken and that your concept or “white privilege” is utter nonsense.

                • fozmeadows says:

                  Iain, you’ve been commenting on my blog for a long time now, so I’ve given you more leeway than I might someone else, but by flatly denying both white privilege as a concept and the greater sexual and racialised threats faced by women and especially WOC online, you’re treading into banworthy territory. Nobody is trying to say you’ve never experienced awful things, either online or IRL; rather, we’re saying that, collectively and culturally, there’s a level of regular threats and dehumanisation that groups other than straight white men undeniably experience, and that trying to equate this with other forms of nonsexualised, non racialised abuse is a false comparison. If you’re not willing to concede this as a possibility, but continue to insist that a well-documented and very specfic type of abuse either doesn’t exist or is exactly the same as abuse experienced by other, more privileged groups, then under the terms of my comment policy, unless you walk away from this conversation, I will ban you.

                • Periwinkle says:

                  In Australia I don’t think that the sort of race issues that you are so obviously concerned about work in anything like the same way.

                  The targets are different, but the rhetoric is startlingly similar.
                  “The indigenous people should be grateful for the lifestyle we inflicted on them.”
                  “The immigrants are stealing our jobs.”
                  “The asylum seekers should go back where they came from.”
                  Judging from the One Nation party’s electoral results in 1998, these views were widespread then, and seem to remain common today.

                  I know that the world ain’t anywhere near perfect but I personally start from the position that men and women are entirely equal in their humanity […]

                  This statement is not accurate. People make this claim a lot, and whenever sociologists investigate, they find that we remain unconsciously and severely prejudiced. We deny this of course, so take the Project Implicit test before you do.

                  […] and there is nothing to be gained by either gender daemonising the other or having a pissing contest to see who is the most hard done by in life.

                  That’s funny, you’re engaged in just such a “pissing contest” right now.

                  If you take the position that all men are evil misogynistic agents of the patriarchy how does that further the cause of gender equality?

                  This is a strawman statement. Neither Foz nor any poster here has said or implied anything about “all men”. However, the trouble with ironic sexism is that people who claim to be allies try to be humourous in ways that make them sound like “evil misogynistic agents of the patriarchy”. There are quite enough of the latter without artificially inflating their numbers.

                • “Oh dear, you aren’t one of those “whiteness studies” wonks are you? Then you are living in the States aren’t you?”

                  No, and no. I’m in Australia, which doesn’t change a damn thing.

                  You’re lucky this is Foz’s blog. I’d have banned you a long time ago. As it is, I banish you from my thoughts. You’re not worth the aggro.

    • Periwinkle says:

      “Being abused online is not at all restricted to women…”
      Online abuse may not be restricted to women, but it is disproportionately inflicted upon inidivudals presenting as women. Foz discussed this two posts back, in her fifth paragraph, with citations.

      “Not giving them the satisfaction of an emotional response often works better than returning fire with equal fury.”
      No. When we see the outrageous, we should be outraged. The only risk with outrage is becoming incoherent or losing focus. (The mansplainers like to call this “hysterical” or “shrill”, as though men are perfect logical robots.) Every essay I see on this site is coherent and focussed.

      One of the great works of the American civil rights movement is Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail. It too is a thoroughly emotional work, full of reasoned outrage. Significantly, it is not addressed to his allies, or to his enemies. It is addressed to his tone trolls – those who kept telling him that, if he would only use the right message, and the right methods, he could obtain equality without all the messy beatings and fires and imprisonment.

      King wrote his letter in 1963. Events since then suggest that he was right, and the tone trolls were wrong.

    • People attack people to achieve silence. Silence is a lack of words. When someone has nothing to say, it is because they are incapable. If they are incapable, they feel defeated.
      Abusers want silence.

      • Iain Hall says:

        That is about the worst case of circular reasoning I have ever seen!
        Abusers want to see their victims suffer and in an online space that suffering can only be evident in an intemperate or pained response, silence does not satisfy in the same way at all.

        • fozmeadows says:

          You assume, wrongly, that all abusers and trolls want to see their victims suffer, when this isn’t always the case. Some just want their victims to go away, and derive their pleasure, not from that person’s responses, but from imagining how cowed and hurt they must feel when the person falls silent.

          When I speak up about sexism and strange men send me rape threats or tell me in detail how ugly and stupid I am, they’re not just trying to press my buttons – they’re trying to get me to shut up. That is literally, explicitly their goal: for people like me to either cease to exist altogether or, failing that, to keep our mouths shut. Just look at the hate campaign Anita Sarkeesian was subject to – it failed precisely because she brought it into the open and kept talking, rather than letting herself be scared into submission and silence.

          • Iain Hall says:

            Foz

            When I speak up about sexism and strange men send me rape threats or tell me in detail how ugly and stupid I am, they’re not just trying to press my buttons – they’re trying to get me to shut up. That is literally, explicitly their goal: for people like me to either cease to exist altogether or, failing that, to keep our mouths shut. Just look at the hate campaign Anita Sarkeesian was subject to – it failed precisely because she brought it into the open and kept talking, rather than letting herself be scared into submission and silence.

            Firstly how many of these abusers use their real names?

            Secondly how can you be sure that those making threats and giving you grief are actually men?
            Thirdly how can you truly know what motivates them?

            In my own experience rather than getting all emotional in response to various trolls I engaged them and tried to draw out their actual motivations rather than just assuming that they acted for particular reasons. My silence was not ever cited as a result they desired. Do you have any evidence that it was your silence that they sought or are you just assuming this is their motivation?

            • fozmeadows says:

              I’ve had people abuse me under their real names; some have been public figures who’ve argued with me on Twitter, others have used identities here that have linked back to their personal Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. So yeah, I’m pretty sure that those ones are men, and the rest? The rest, regardless of their usernames, tend to be pretty specific about the fact that they’re both male and superior to women, so I feel pretty comfortable classing them as male, too.

              As for knowing what motivates them: the ones that tell me to shut up tend to make their preference for my silence pretty clear. Once again, you’re trying to make your experience of being a straight white dude universal, ignoring the well-documented cultural context wherein silencing women is something that happens a lot, and that trolling – particularly overtly sexist, abusive trolling – is a big part of that.

              Also, telling a woman not to “get all emotional” over trolls? A THOUSAND TIMES NO FOR SEXISM.

              • Iain Hall says:

                Foz

                I’ve had people abuse me under their real names; some have been public figures who’ve argued with me on Twitter, others have used identities here that have linked back to their personal Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.So yeah, I’m pretty sure that those ones are men, and the rest?

                I doubt that “public figures” are going to be making “rape threats” and I bet that the citation in this piece that is form a “public figure” is this one Petal, you have no idea how pleasurable it is being fisked by a self-righteous tea-cosy-wearing Scots feminista called “Foz”.
                which strikes me as being an order of magnitude less nasty than your other examples. Can I suggest that you try as a thought exercise in sorting you examples of abuse by way of how sure you are of the identity of their authors?

                The rest, regardless of their usernames, tend to be pretty specific about the fact that they’re both male and superior to women, so I feel pretty comfortable classing them as male, too.

                What they may claim and what they are need not have any relationship at all.

                As for knowing what motivates them: the ones that tell me to shut up tend to make their preference for my silence pretty clear.

                Well that may be so but how many have been that explicit about what their aim is? Please think back or check your archive and consider what they have actually cited as their real desire. How many have been that explicit?

                Once again, you’re trying to make your experience of being a straight white dude universal, ignoring the well-documented cultural context wherein silencing women is something that happens a lot, and that trolling – particularly overtly sexist, abusive trolling – is a big part of that.

                No I am just asking if you have any evidence for your assumption of the motivations of those who have abused you online, forgive me for labouring the point but does your archive of abuse give any empirical evidence for the reasons that you have copped the crap that you are quite rightly denouncing here.

                Also, telling a woman not to “get all emotional” over trolls? A THOUSAND TIMES NO FOR SEXISM.

                Foz, I counsel EVERYONE of all persuasions not to get emotional about vicious trolls, they are a blight upon civil discourse in every forum in every online space. After all how can anyone consider good ideas about society if you can’t have civility and persuasion rather than hate and rancour?

                • fozmeadows says:

                  Iain,

                  This is your last warning. I’m exhausted by both your patronising tone and your continued obliviousness as to why it’s inappropriate. When you thought you’d been blogging for longer than me, you assumed I ought to defer to your experience; but since you’ve discovered that wasn’t the case, and that I’ve got the greater amount of experience, you’ve never once considered deferring to mine. This isn’t how you speak to a peer, or someone with greater experience, but how you speak to a novice. Throughout this conversation, I have done you the courtesy of assuming your self-reported tales of abuse to be both genuine and incidents which you’ve correctly understood; I haven’t tried to gaslight you by suggesting your ability to understand something as basic as an insult might be responsible for giving you a skewed perspective. All I’ve done is say, correctly, that you shoudn’t assume your experiences to be universal.

                  You ask me how sure I am that the people sending me sexist, misogynistic abuse are men – as though the natural uncertainty about someone’s real identity online must necessarily mean it’s impossible to ever make claims about the origins of gendered remarks, even when the abusers are consistently self-reporting as male, using male pseudonyms, and posting under their own male identities. Iain, seriously: what are you trying to achieve with this line of questioning? Are you honestly trying to suggest the possibility that majority of commenters who tell me, in detail, why women are inferior, or who make use of highly misogynistic language and slurs, might really be women disguising themselves as men for some unfathomable purpose? I’m not saying women never send online abuse; they do. I’ve been attacked by women online, though far less often, and thus far, I’ve never had to ban a female commenter. Stop trying to erase the relevance of gender as a component of the abuse I receive.

                  Stop trying to teach me, as though I’m a clueless inferior in need of your manly guidance. I will not “try a thought exercise” to see what type of commenter employs the worst language, as though this is some revelatory question I’ve never stopped to consider in my giddy whirlind of hysteria, because I ALREADY KNOW: people who use pseudonymns are more likely to use the most vile language, but they still identify as male, and given their clear misogyny, there is absolutely zero reason to suppose they’re lying about that – unless, of course, you’re so desperate to try and disprove the ubiquity of male sexism online that you’re clinging to some ludicrous notion that it could be just ANYONE telling a woman to go suck his dick. I will not waste any more hours of my life trying to provide you with “empirical evidence” about the motivations of online misogynists – and why should I bother listing their self-stated goals, after all, when you’ve already made it clear that people can “claim” anything, and that this is apparently grounds for you to discount it? – when a simple Google search would tell you that silencing women is both an objective and a side-effect of misogynistic trolling.

                  I do not want your “counsel” – I didn’t ask for it, and I sure as hell don’t need it. You are not some all-knowing dispenser of wisdom. It matters that you called me emotional as a negative, as something I should stop being, because historically, this is an insult levelled at women over and over again: that we’re too flighty, too emotive, not rational enough for intelligent discourse, and when combined with both your patronising, father-knows-best attitude towards me, that’s exactly what you’re implying, whether you mean to or not. Stop treating me like a child you need to educate, assuming at every turn that I’m only behaving the way I do because I haven’t thought about it properly, don’t understand the context of the insults I receive, am biased against rationality, when you’re the one without the commonsense and courtesy to admit the truth: that sometimes, some men are misoynistic shits online, and that women have to deal with them regularly enough to have a greater authority on the topic than you.

                  • Iain Hall says:

                    Foz
                    I mistakenly thought that you write a blog to debate the issues but my recent experience here has led me to the conclusion that its not debate that you blog for at all. Rather is now clear that what you seek to do on this page is to vent and rage at your many hobby horses. Well you can have that all to yourself. from now on. For someone so bright and clever who has been online since they were eleven you don’t seem to have learnt anything about the art of persuasion in online spaces.
                    Cheers and best wishes for the future none the less

                    • fozmeadows says:

                      Iain, I don’t debate issues that shouldn’t be up for debate. I will not entertain the delusions of sexists and racists, no matter how ‘polite’ they might be, nor will I tolerate being repeatedly talked down to by someone who assumes his views on topics he manifestly doesn’t understand are inherently more worthy than mine simply because he’s male, and older. I am under no obligation to try and “persuade” you of anything, least of all when you consistently make it an uphill battle. If you really respected my intelligence and my experience, as you claim to do, you might have occasionally done me the courtesy of assuming that I know what I’m talking about, and responded accordingly; instead, you demanded I produce endless chains of evidence before you’d even consider my points while derailing the rest of the conversation with a metaphorical wave of your hand and saying airily, “oh, but men have it bad, too!”.

                      In the course of this conversation, you’ve been asked to perform one single and seemingly simple feat of empathy: to imagine that your own experiences, while valid in your case, are not automatically universals. Yet over and over again, you have refused to do this, dismissing as irrelevant or unsubstantiated every perspective that hasn’t aligned with your own, often by suggesting that the commenter in question simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about, even when the subject under discussion is their own lived experience. The fact that you’ve done this without swearing doesn’t make the logic behind it any less obnoxious: repeatedly citing your own experiences, not as a counterpoint, but as though they can disprove the experiences of others, is neither respectful nor polite.

                      Be gone, and welcome. I have better things to do with my time than to repeatedly explain material you could easily research yourself to someone who thinks he has nothing left to learn.

                  • I actually think the mansplainers are more corrosive and silencing than the outright trolls, in that the trolls are (rightly) banned and mocked in most male-modded fora, but the mansplainers, considered (wrongly) to be so polite and reasonable, are allowed to carry on and on and on until women trying to discuss in good faith are finally driven absolutely fucking insane by the apparent lack of comprehension.

                    I honestly don’t know if this is deliberate or simply innate with these guys – I do know it’s an outright consequence of privilege and of being unable to engage with women with equals regardless of their protestations – but I have never been driven out of a discussion by trolls. I’ve left many because of these exhausting, ineducable, ineradicable men who bulldoze every thread by sheer weight of comments and torrent of words – none of which truly engage with what’s been said to them, and which are padded thickly with straw (to prevent them from ever feeling the impact of the hurt they are causing.)

                    I salute you, Foz. You have more energy and patience than I have, while being just amazingly clever at the same time.

                    • Angua says:

                      “I actually think the mansplainers are more corrosive and silencing than the outright trolls”

                      Jumping in late to say I completely agree. It’s also wonderfully ironic (or perhaps not ironic at all) that mr. Hall’s very first post was to carefully explain to Foz how she should not give her bullies the satisfaction of “an emotional response”. How is this not contributing to silencing?

                      Not to mention that as a tactic, it doesn’t work, even IF you are a cisgendered male (see: Scalzi). So it’s a crappy advice, anyhow.

  2. That didn’t take long, did it? The very first commenter tells Foz that she should ignore the meanies, or no, rather than she should be “cold and unemotional”. Get rid of that emotion chip, Foz, it’s making other people—oops, sorry, I mean this particular man—uncomfortable!

    Must be nice, Iain, to know exactly what to do in all circumstances and to know better than Foz, herself, what works best for her and to have the sheer chutzpah to come to her site and tell her how to blog better. Such confidence, such knowledge, such surety. I’m in awe, Iain.

    Just to be clear: the paragraph above is sarcastic.

    Sometimes, Iain, getting angry and expressing that anger is not just useful, it’s cathartic. Part of what Foz does on this blog, that I and many others get a lot out of, is to eloquently and wittily and precisely express her wrath. Foz’s rage doesn’t make me uncomfortable; it makes me glad I’m not alone. It makes me glad that there are people like Foz expressing that fury beautifully and incisively so I don’t have to on my own blog.

    Thank you, Foz. What you do here means a lot to so many of us.

    • Iain Hall says:

      Justine

      i have been blogging since 2005 and i have learned a few things over that time. i like to share and hopefully save others from the mistakes that i have previously made.

      Sometimes, Iain, getting angry and expressing that anger is not just useful, it’s cathartic. Part of what Foz does on this blog, that I and many others get a lot out of, is to eloquently and wittily and precisely express her wrath. Foz’s rage doesn’t make me uncomfortable; it makes me glad I’m not alone. It makes me glad that there are people like Foz expressing that fury beautifully and incisively so I don’t have to on my own blog.

      Cathatrsis is somewhat overated when it comes to an open ended actvity like blogging or other social media debates its a fleeting pleasure at best my point is that in most instances a strongand visible response is precisley what is being sought by the crass and offensive and if you don’t give them what they seek you take away their power.

      • fozmeadows says:

        Iain, I’ve been blogging longer than you. This blog is by no means my first – in one form or another, I’ve been doing this since the late nineties. Your system for dealing with trolls might work for you, but as has been repeatedly pointed out, it’s not the only way to do things – I’m not making ‘mistakes’ by responding differently.

        Whether or not you meant to be patronising is irrelevant. You assumed you had more experience than me, on what basis I’m not sure, and decided to try and correct me on how to do what I’ve been doing successfully since I was eleven.

        • Iain Hall says:

          Apologies if you think that I was trying to “correct you” that was not my intention but I could not help but think that the vehemence of your post meant that this is something relatively new for you. Personally I just don’t get emotional about such things because it seems so futile. Like you I wince at offensive “jokes” and attempts at a sarcastic put down but there is a limit to how often you can get angry about them its just such a waste of energy .

          • fozmeadows says:

            You are not the universal template for emotional responses. The fact that you, personally, don’t like to get worked up any more doesn’t mean anyone with a different perspective is naive, or inexperienced – it just means they’re not you. I’ve been putting up with sexist comments literally since childhood, and the type of gendered abuse I receive is only getting worse: so no, I’m not about to calm down and say, “Oh, well, I guess getting angry at everyone who thinks I’m an inferior human being is a waste of energy – might as well just sit back and live with the consequences.” I’m still angry because nothing has changed, and I will remain angry until things do change, because being polite to people who think I’m inferior won’t change shit.

            • Angua says:

              “I will remain angry until things do change, because being polite to people who think I’m inferior won’t change shit.”

              Can we have that on a T-shirt, please?

  3. Hala J. says:

    People can be disgusting, and they seem to be completely ignorant of just how much of an impact the things they spew out of their faces can have. Everyone’s guilty (or at least I am) of saying things with bigoted undertones—even in jest. But the difference is if you know it (and aren’t bloody proud of it) or don’t. None of those comments you listed were remotely funny or could be translated as “ironic”. People have a long way to go before they realize a loud-mouthed half-wit resides in their craniums instead of a functional brain.

  4. BE says:

    As a woman tech worker in a perfectly courteous yet male-dominated tech office, I find that the sexism is endemic and systematic and is reinforced by how everyone (male and female) seems to “play their part.” I could never figure out why my polite male co-workers treated me so coolly and never included me in lunch invitations or work discussions (even stuff I needed to know) and then I found out secondhand that they thought I was “stuck up” or even “bitchy.” This despite my being completely professional, polite and even smiling once in a while. It took months of sitting back and observing how the other women in the office treated the men, that made the light bulb go off. These perfectly nice, thoroughly modern men (who would be appalled to be thought of as “sexist”) were used to being constantly verbally stroked and fawned over by the other women in the office, especially the older women. They were constantly being called “sweetie,” “honey” and praised for their smarts and cleverness even in casual conversation. Actually, it got a little nauseating to listen to, but I had never really sat down and *listened* to these exchanges before. I guess, since I was a woman and didn’t stroke them all the time, and give them those constant little “hits” they got from other women, that I was interpreted as being “cold,” “stuck up” and a “bitch.” Could you blame them? These young men go from cradle to middle age (if not the grave) being constantly praised for being *themselves.* That, my friends, is male privilege. You didn’t ask for it. You don’t even know you’re enjoying it. But that’s what it is, and to the extent that everyone buys into it (male or female), sexism will continue to exist even among “nice people.” Because the woman who (for whatever reason) isn’t playing that role will always be “the bitch.”

  5. BE: Yes, it’s the complete obliviousness of these men to the fact that they are being coddled almost every step of their lives.

    That sad fact, of course, has been beautifully illustrated by Foz’s (and others here) exchange with the one male commenter, who literally cannot conceive a world outside his own ego.

    I know there are many men who aren’t like that. But dear God there are so very many who are. So my question is what do we do to raise our boys so they don’t turn out like that?

  6. Foz: Given that you are the mother of a son I thought it might.

    I don’t find it mysterious that men like that persistent commenter think the way they do. They get an awful lot of support for their exclusionary white male-centric view of the world. And I’ve seen enough white women feminists employing the exact same kinds of condescension toward women of colour. And men of colour towards women of colour and etc.

    But, yes, how do we disrupt those patterns when mainstream culture is so profoundly invested in the status quo?

    Other than blogging and tweeting and having these kinds of conversations and calling people on their limited understandings of the world. What else can we do?

  7. […] order to critique it is not actually critiquing it (for an excellent example of how this works, see Foz Meadows’ take-down of a Penny Arcade comic […]

  8. Willow Wood says:

    Reblogged this on Lemon City and commented:
    There is so much about Foz Meadows’s blog that I love and find comforting to see addressed. Her entire blog is a big stress relief for me, but I’m reblogging this particular post because it is something I struggle with constantly when around my family.

    Explaining that sexist/racist jokes are STILL sexist never sits well with them. They will always tell me, in a derisive and offended tone, that I need to ‘lighten up’ or, my favourite (not), ‘get off my high horse’ and learn to ‘take a joke’ or explain to me that they’re being ‘ironic’.

    I suppose they dislike it that I scowl at belittling and sexist/racist jokes because, for them, they would have to completely alter their way of thinking about humour. They would have to address that they’ve just said something that either reveals a little bit of their internalised misogyny, or that they are bigoted and not aware of it.

    Changing how one thinks about humour does require effort, but only in the beginning, like all things. If they TRIED to be conscious of the ‘ironic sexism’ that they’re perpetuating, they might find it easier not to give into the mindless rhetoric that bigotry is funny. It’s easy to just

    To quote Meadows’s opening paragraph: ‘All too often, gross remarks – be they racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise abusive and vile – are excused or condoned on the grounds of irony; that because they were meant to be humorous, they can’t possibly be offensive. And if somebody is offended, then they’re either oversensitive or incapable of laughter – either way, though, the problem is with them, not the joke-teller.

    Except that, no: it’s not.’

  9. Susan Lewis says:

    Reblogged this on idisagreecompletely and commented:
    This resonated with me for many reasons and then – I read the comments the writer had to deal with. Unfortunately, I was not at all surprised she had to put up with yet another man, explaining to her how she should be.

    Some people just don’t get it and I have to give the author credit for her patience. If the topic had to do with racism, I am sure the commenters would have agreed with her blog.

    But since it had to do with women, oh well then, we are still considered fair game on how we think and respond.

    We still have a long ways to go.

  10. I don’t really get it. I am a man, I know many men, and I know of no one who acts or speaks this way. This is certainly not to say they do not exist, but where the hell are these people? I can ascertain where they are mentally, but where physically? Small towns? colleges? isolated bedrooms in the burbs? I don’t get it.

    As you know, Susan, I love your writing, and am interested in you views. What I cannot understand is the attacks on you. If there is any help I can provide, please ask (use private email if needed)

    • Charles, they’re all around. Most of them don’t wear their misogyny openly in person and in public, because they’re starting to catch flak for it that “It’s just a joke,” doesn’t protect them from anymore. It’s the friend you thought you had until he posts the “some women rape easy” politician’s tirade about rape victims with “Totally agree” in the comment box. It’s myriads of dudes (and some women, but fewer), who seem perfectly, blandly inoffensive in person, but who turn into rage monsters on line.

  11. I disagree with the basis of this article. I don’t believe anything is above joking about, but I do believe there are times in which making an ironic joke is distasteful. Sometimes racist jokes, when done correctly, can bring acknowledgement and understanding to the subject, rather than be “just offensive.” The same applies to sexist jokes. Sometimes they serve to spread acknowledgement of sexism being a real issue.

    I believe it takes empathy and intuition to determine where, when, and to whom to tell these jokes to. Don’t tell a rape victim a rape joke, It can be that simple.

    • Periwinkle says:

      @Israel Angeles:

      Sometimes racist jokes, when done correctly, can bring acknowledgement and understanding to the subject, rather than be “just offensive.”

      To deliver a racist joke correctly, first make sure that your audience contains zero examples of:
      (1) Racists who think you’re being sincere, thus validating their worldview.

      (2) Well-meaning but unobservant people who think you’re talking about the past, not the present.

      (3) Actual victims of racism for whom your “joke” is indistinguishable from the intentional insults they hear from actual racists on a daily basis.

      I believe it takes empathy and intuition to determine where, when, and to whom to tell these jokes to. Don’t tell a rape victim a rape joke, It can be that simple.

      This is not sufficient. As with class (1) above, don’t tell a rape joke to a rapist. Your “joke” taken at face value suggests that there is nothing wrong with their behavior. So, construct a joke so outrageous that it no one takes it at face value? The evidence suggests that this is not possible in our current culture.

  12. […] In 2011, in response to the question of what to buy Gillard for her birthday, Farah’s tweeted response was “a noose”. Later that day, Farah also tweeted “Some people on twitter obviously can’t take a joke. Lighten up people”, as well as “no one said anything about suicide”. This reflects a culture in which abusive or vile, sexist, racist or homophobic remarks are excused and condoned on the grounds of iro…. […]

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