On Sexism

First, this article from the Guardian: Chvrches’ Lauren Mayberry: ‘I will not accept online misogyny’

The female member of a popular internet-based band I’ve never heard of talks about the sexist hate mail she gets, and her response to it.

I read that article, and then skimmed through quite a number of the 150 (at the time) comments on it. Then I commented at length on both the article, and the comments. I am posting it here so you don’t have to scroll through all the comments to find mine (and because my comment is the only one I really care about, if I’m being honest. :P)

First, awesome article! Thank you for standing up and saying, “This is not cool.” Because it’s not. Not at all, and more people need to say it.

I’ve read through (skimmed, really) a lot of the comments on this article, and there are several main responses:

1. This sucks and should not happen.

This is appropriate and totally true, however it falls short in that it does not propose a solution.

2. This sucks, should not happen, and I think the best way to deal with it is some kind of massive government re-education program, or the NSA (since they’re reading this anyway) should track down misogynists and smack them on the back of the head real hard.

True, and headed more in the right direction, but these solutions are impractical and rely on some kind of authority figure to fix it.

3. This sucks, but as a woman on a public stage, you just have to put up with it.

Obviously stupid and wrong. Yes, you are going to get bullshit harassment. No, you do not have to put up with it. You can call them out, like you’re doing here. And what’s more, your friends can call them out, your fans can call them out, people who have never heard of you (like me) but who think this shit is intolerable can call them out.

4. This sucks and you shouldn’t have to put up with it, but every time someone brings attention to this kind of thing, it happens more and gets worse, so maybe you should just keep it under wraps and hire a bodyguard.

Well, hire a bodyguard if you think it’s a good idea, sure. But I think this reaction may be the MOST insidious one, other than just straight vitriol. And here’s why: predators like to work in the dark. They like to be anonymous. They will feel like their intimidation is working if you keep it under wraps. It makes it seem like you’re ashamed of what is coming out of THEIR mouths and fingers. And, to their twisted minds, makes it seem like maybe some of it is true, like they’ve somehow scored a point.

No. No, no, no, no. If you look at history, you will see that as soon as an oppressed people starts to stand up for itself, there is immediate opposition. The oppression they were already experiencing gets worse, and worse, because the oppressors WANT TO KEEP THEM DOWN AND QUIET.

If you oppose this kind of thing publicly, it will get worse, yes. It will get worse because the people who do it want to shame you into submission. Because they believe that if they can make you shut up about it, then they have won. The way to get them to stop is to KEEP opposing them at every opportunity. To call them out every time. To say, “Not cool bro.” EVERY TIME.

If everyone who gives a shit about women and their rights stood up to sexist remarks and actions every time they witness them, eventually we will build momentum going the opposite way. Eventually equality, and vocal support of equality, will be the standard, not sexism, and not the wishy-washy attitude of, “well I guess we just have to put up with it.”

The key to winning ground against sexism is simple but not easy. It is simply never to put up with it. To always take people who make sexist remarks to task, with as little or as much forcefulness as seems necessary. In the end, making peer pressure work FOR equality, rather than against it.

Two relevant quotes that I’m sure you’ve all heard, just to round things out:

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” –Winston Churchill

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men [and women] do nothing.” –Edmund Burke