How To Keep The
By Emma A. Jane
Artwork by Elliott “Numskull” Routledge
Dear sexist dudes of the internet, we need to talk about misogyny online.
We need to talk about all the hating you’re doing on ladies because rape threats are becoming business as usual in the cybersphere… and it could seriously mess with your supplies of e-cleavage.
Not what you were expecting? Allow me to explain.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’re already familiar with all the usual arguments feminists like me use to try to convince dudes like you to stop being such a bunch of vertebrae-free e-thugs on the interwebs.
You know the drill. A bunch of you dog-pile onto Clementine Ford, Anita Sarkeesian or [insert the name of any woman who has the hide to get about online with an opinion] and us feminists respond with tired old chestnuts like:
“Yo, sexist dudes of the cybersphere! Using Facebook to tell feminists that you and your mates are gonna forcibly penetrate them is, like, totally gang rapey!”
Or: “Hey, gamergaters! Telling girl gamers they’re fat, ugly sluts when they call out misogyny online is, like, totally proving their point!”
Or: “Hey, Twitter egg with zero followers who keeps offering to cut out womens’ uteruses. Hurling this e-bile from big, anonymous cyber mobs is not just cowardly and sadistic, it’s criminal!”
Nah. I’m not going to go over any of that old stuff. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I really don’t think you’re the sorts of dudes who respond to well-reasoned arguments about ethics, equality or even good old fashioned legality.
My figuring is that if you were open to these types of persuasion, “cumdumpster” wouldn’t be an accepted synonym for “female”. Instead what we have is a situation where:
1) Young women are disproportionately targeted for particularly nasty forms of cyber abuse such as sexual harassment and stalking;
2) Accounts with feminine usernames cop an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day compared to masculine names which receive less than four;
3) More than two-thirds of female gamers say they play as men — with some going so far as to use voice modulators — to dodge harassment;
4) #Gamergate has become The-Hashtag-That-Must-Not-Be-Named because using it invokes a tsunami of violent Rape-glish from gamer dudes who deny there’s misogyny online;
5) The divide between online and offline attacks is collapsing due to practices such as doxxing in which targets’ home addresses are circulated.
But there I go again, just like the typical social justice feminaziwarrior I am. Will I ever learn? Well, yes. Because quite frankly I’m sick of waiting (Godot style) for you guys to enlighten up.
Instead I’m going to try brute pragmatism by appealing to your self-interest — specifically your interest in looking at lots of hot pictures of ladies online.
Before continuing, a disclaimer: in no way do I endorse your reduction of women to despised objects whose primary value lies in their sexual utility and who are told to show you their lady parts or GTFO.
All I’m doing here is trying to see things from your perspective. As such, I’m presuming you don’t want to wake up one morning and discover all the racy photos have gone the way of dinosaurs and dial-up internet. Yet this is precisely what could happen if you don’t quit the slut-shaming, the revenge-porning and the non consensual sext sharing.
I’ve spent the past six months interviewing women as part of a university study investigating how ladies feel and what actions they take after receiving threats and abuse on the internet. And one of my preliminary findings is that many of them are opting for some form of the withdrawal method. The one where they withdraw all their overtly sexy photos and videos, some going so far as to remove all visual representations of themselves from the internet.
This is a real shame… especially for you.
A significant number of women get a real kick out of taking photos and videos of themselves — some of which could be construed by you, as hot. At times, these experiments with sexual self-representation are private, designed solely for their creators’ enjoyment and consumption. At other times, however, they are shared — with a significant other, with a carefully chosen group or sometimes with all of Instagram.
Taking sexy selfies and sometimes sharing them is normal. Lots of normal adults of all ages, genders and body types do it for all sorts of normal reasons. It’s one of the many benefits of having access to photographic technology that doesn’t require the dark room assistance of creeps like Sy Parrish from the movie, One Hour Photo.
But you sexist dudes of the internet, are doing some really stupid things when women choose to do this totally normal stuff.
First stupid thing: some of you who have been entrusted with women’s private photos are not keeping them to yourselves but are sharing them with your mates or with the internet at large.
Second stupid thing: some of you who see a publically available image or clip of a hot lady think the appropriate response is to:
a) call her a fat, ugly slut who’s gonna get a raping;
b) proposition her with a dick pic (and then — when she ignores you or declines — call her a fat, ugly slut who’s gonna get a raping); or
c) all of the above with some extra raping thrown in for good measure.
Dudes! Again: what are you thinking? Do you not realise that if you want to keep seeing photographic lady hotness on the internet, you need to stop making life hell for the women who choose to post or share such material?
In political philosophy there is a thing, a social dilemma sort of a thing, known as the tragedy of the commons. Back in 1833, a British economist called William Forster Lloyd used the example of a group of herders sharing a common section of land for cattle and sheep grazing. His observation was that if each herder rationally pursued their short-term individual interest by letting their ruminants gorge themselves silly — the commons would eventually become overgrazed and useless for everyone.
I admit this is a dicey choice of metaphor because it frames you dudes as powerful animal wranglers and women as inanimate earth that animals like to graze on. But, given the low opinion so many of you have about my gender, consider it an attempt to put myself in your shoes.
The tragedy of this particular commons is that by indulging your urge to humiliate, shame or attack women who post hot images online, you are not harvesting said images in a sustainable manner. Instead, you are razing the landscape and salting the cyber-earth so that no new hotness will ever grow.
Sexist dudes of the internet: regardless of what you’ve read on 4chan, women are not idiots. They know that the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.
As such, some women are changing the way they represent themselves online. Many of the women I’ve interviewed are replacing their profile shots with heavily stylized images or images that don’t contain any humans at all.
That’s right, tough guys. One of the consequences of all your lady hate is a surprise boom in amateur pet photography.
The take-home message here is obviously “change-up, fools”. That said, you must understand that being nicer online will not automatically result in a resumption of pics of lady hotness.
One of the many things you need to get your collective heads around is that: you are not entitled to women’s bodies just because you want them.
If consent is a new concept for you, have a look at this handy 101 guide written by Emmeline May (aka Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess).
Dear sexist dudes of the internet, please cover your ears for a moment because I want to have a private word with those other dudes on the internet who really are not sexist.
Yo, other dudes. Let’s real talk about this. I know #notallmen, but I also know you guys witness bucketloads of this junk online all the time.
My request to you is please don’t simply stand by and stay silent.
Not because we’re approaching (or have passed) Peak Sexy Selfie. But because you are the sorts of dudes who respond to well-reasoned arguments about ethics and equality. And what is happening online right now is wrong. Some women are really suffering. Some are no longer able to use the internet in the ways they need to. And they need you as allies. They need you to help call out misogynist cyberhate for what it is and please help make it stop.
Sexist dudes, you can uncover your ears now.
Just to recap: internet + lady hate = no more sexy fun time photos.
I’m so glad we had this little chat.
Emma A. Jane is an academic, author and media commentator who is currently running a three year federally-funded research project into the impact of gendered cyberhate called Cyberhate: The New Digital Divide? Online misogyny, cyberbullying, and digital mobs are the current foci of her ongoing research into the social and ethical implications of emerging technologies. Prior to commencing her academic career, Dr Jane spent nearly 25 years working in the print, electronic, and online media.