Feb 01 2014

“That can’t be sexual assault because it’s normal”

When I started I Blame the Patriarchy back in 2004, the idea was that I would out the gazillions of secret little misogynies hiding in plain sight in every woman’s life, and that, once revealed, they would all wither and die under the burning light of scrutiny, and women everywhere would be free at last.

Well, you can see for yourself how that turned out.

Fortunately, Laura Bates of the Everyday Sexism Project is having somewhat more success. She’s one of our favorite young feminist activists here at Spinster HQ. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out her TED talk on the origins of the project. She discusses debunking the liberaldude myth that “women are equal now more or less,” the torrential outpouring of rape threats she received as a result, how the project eventually began to inspire women to stand up to harassment, and how it led to real social change. A tear of inspirationalized joy will spring to your jaundiced eye.

Speaking of Laura Bates and online abuse, what gives with these “Spotted” Facebook pages about which Bates writes in the Guardian? Since Facebook suspended my account over a year ago (“Twisty Faster,” they cleverly figured out, is not my real name), and since I haven’t been a college student since the 80s, I have been pleasantly out of touch with the latest FB youth culture trends. This one sounds pretty ghastly:

“To the dirty skank… for gods sake buy some new leggings!! jesus christ! i can see your minge!” [sic] – ‘Spotted: Swansea University Campus’ (2407 likes).

These are the kind of comments that proliferate on university “Spotted” pages – Facebook pages encouraging students to write in with comments and messages about their peers, which are published anonymously by page administrators. […] Many of the pages veer into heavily sexualised and offensive comments about students’ appearance and sexuality, and female students are targeted with particularly misogynistic comments.

?“To the stuck up slut who looked at me as if I’d just slipped a finger up her grandma…” –‘Spotted: University of Portsmouth Library’ (7460 likes).

Some posts include images, seemingly uploaded without the subjects’ knowledge or consent. A current post on the ‘Spotted: University of Essex’ page (3955 likes) shows a young woman sitting at a computer, apparently unaware of the fact that her underwear is exposed above the waistband of her trousers, or of the fact that she is being photographed from behind. The caption on the photograph reads: “Nice bit a crack in the reading room.” [sic]

As a middle-aged crone who used to write English papers on a Smith-Corona, I have a hard time imagining how the modern woman of tender years manages to navigate the hostile waters of this ceaseless, judgey, hateful peer surveillance. The creep factor is off the charts.

I’m not saying this kind of thing didn’t have non-digital analogs back in the day. In high school and at college I was abused, mocked, and harassed like every other girl trying to mind her own beeswax. But nowadays the size of the audience, and the potential horror, is orders of magnitude more ginormous. When some asshole groped me at a frat party in 1977, maybe he told 5 of his idiot friends, but it was inconceivable that 7460 spiteful strangers would ever see a photo of my butt — complete with disparaging commentary — and “like” it.

My nieces are 8 and 10. I want to roll them up in bubble wrap. The thought of some cretinous teen jagoff posting stealth-shots of them on Facebook makes my lobe boil.

Since men perpetually insist that boys will be boys and are hardwired to engage in criminal behavior, the apparent solution would be to ship them all off to a charm school planet— or prison — until they turn 40 or so. The prison planet would have all the amenities, except no internet connection. Can you imagine an internet with no dudes? I can’t! The notion that I could go a whole day without receiving a rape threat, or a description of my physical hideousness, melts my processors. So far today I’ve gotten 3 harassing comminiques, like this one:

This is so funny. Ya’ll beardy bitches or what? :-)?Anyway, keep that dried up old prune of a pussy.

And 2 mansplains, like this one:

As a philosopher, I find the foundational roots of patriarchy theory to be severely lacking and the oppressor-oppressed dialectic to be far too simple a model to apply to such a complex issue, especially in creating essentially a warring chasm between the sexes – psychologically damaging to say the very least! There needs to be a transcendency [sic] of the Marxist dialectic here and an understanding of a rather different hierarchy – hierarchies that are immediately present as a result of the human condition and the social fabric of existence, if you will. I very much contest the notions of power and liberation in the feminist movement – power is a measure of control over one’s own life, and their ascendency towards self-actualization (and accountability also, I would argue), rather than an exertion of will over other people, in for example, the corporate or governmental spheres (with the employer-employed relationship or the Hegelian master-slave dialectic) [… 5 long paragraphs about Heidegger and “dialectics” and of course postmodernism, and finally an apology if he’s coming off as too aggressive, but he has his own model of Western feminism blah blah blah …]

And it’s only 8:00 AM.

I know it’s wrong, but I want to punch that “philospher” in the neck even more than I do the 4chan dickhead.


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  1. Comradde PhysioProffe

    That philosopher bullshittio is off the motherfucken charts. Can you imagine having to listen to that motherfucker in real life?

  2. Morag

    ” … 5 long paragraphs about Heidegger and ‘dialectics’ and of course postmodernism … ”

    Boys will be boys, even when they are educated men. I say he gets 5 years in the charm school planet/prison–1 year for each paragraph. His bunk-mate should be the prune-of-a-pussy-comment guy. Imagine! What would happen? Would they get along famously, or punch one another in the neck?

  3. Lidon

    Morag, I agree. Both of their language is vomit-worthy in every imaginable way. Let them have at each other.

  4. Jessie

    I see some dude took some undergrad courses in philosophy. I actually found the author’s blog and he’s a libertarian, right wing, 21-year-old MRA. Five years in the charm school is clearly not enough to deal with that astonishing degree of stupidity.

  5. ew_nc

    One has the desire, after reading this horror, to remove one’s lobes and bathe them in the purest spring water from the highest Alps, wrap them in the softest Merino wool, and never fucken look at the internet again.

    That being said, the talk Laura Bates gave was amazing, and so important.

  6. huffysnappy

    ” I find the foundational roots of patriarchy theory to be severely lacking and the oppressor-oppressed dialectic to be far too simple a model to apply to such a complex issue, especially in creating essentially a warring chasm between the sexes – psychologically damaging to say the very least!”

    Of course I’m not a misogynist, I’m a Nice Guy Philosopher who went to college. But finding out how my exercise of male privilege can exert psychological (and other forms of) damage on women hurts my feelings, which is the most important form of psychological damage there is. If a jaundice-eyed spinster aunt somewhere on the Internet blames the patriarchy, some man might think that he has the option of being less of an entitled, self satisfied arsehole who ultimately benefits from the sex/servant classification of women as a class. So no more of this feminism talk from women, please.

  7. huffysnappy

    Both of the above sentences ought to have been ended with exclamation marks. Sigh.

  8. Amanita

    As a philosopher! Ba ha ha! A ha ha ha HA! That’s rich! As someone who doesn’t have to validate her ideas by throwing around the imaginary designation “philosopher”, I laugh in your face, sir.

  9. quixote

    Off the charts is right. I was going on about this to somebody, and all he had to say was, “Oh no. It’s always been like this. It’s maybe just a bit more out in the open.”

    “Out in the open” bullshit. To begin with, people didn’t even think of some of the stuff which is normal now. Case in point: hairless pubes. Not learned from the porn of the time, no pressure from guys, no baldified women. It was not always the same. And that’s just one thing where there’s physical evidence to go by.

    To go on with, the abuse. Un-farking-believable. I don’t know how anybody stands it. The daily sexism of the bad old days was enough to stoke a lifelong howling rage. But then, at least, you were considered normal if you yelled “NO!” It’s way worse to get sneered at because you’re healthy enough to kick back

    And then, assume guys always were that horrible (which I don’t see. I think they learn it from the porn they watch and the porn back then was amateur stuff compared to the total sadist shit crap these days) anyway, where was I, oh yeah, even if they were that horrible, it makes a huge difference whether you have to hear about it or not. It the paleolithic of the 60s & 70s, it was not acceptable and not normal and not mentioned. If guys thought that way, you didn’t have to hear about it all the time. And once you did hear about it, you weren’t set up to think it was normal because it was all you’d even heard. That makes a huge difference.

    Anyway. I’m just ranting. It drives me nuts to see how far the goalposts have been moved and to see everyone act like they’ve always been there and there’s nothing anyone can or wants to do.

  10. speedbudget

    As a philosopher, I feel pretty safe in saying you, sir, are an asshat of the Nth degree.

  11. Twisty

    @Jessie I don’t know why, but I am kind of weirded out that you looked him up, and that, without even a name or anything, you actually found him. Crikey, the internet is creepy. For some reason it’s less alarming to think of all these online buttwads as instances of a single, disembodied blob, rather than as a gazillion individuals with Facebook profiles and whatnot.

  12. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Here is an interesting post by Janet Stemwedel–a professional philosopher–about that kind of logorrheic philosophical gibbering.

  13. Jessie

    It only took about two seconds. I just googled a section of the text.

  14. gingerest

    “foundational roots…a warring chasm” – look, it’s a big gap, or it’s a war. A chasm is a big hole. It can’t war. It can’t do anything but sit there, being some nothingness between two things.
    “hierarchies that are immediately present as a result of the human condition and the social fabric of existence, if you will. ” No, sir, NO, SIR, I will not. You may either have your hierarchy, or you may have fabric, but you may not have both, especially given you’ve already got your weirdly active chasm metaphor and your tree metaphor abandoned after their first mentions. Pick an analogy and stick with it, you pretentious boob.

    Thanks for letting me get that out of my system. More relevantly, I have a lot of trouble suppressing my interior monologue criticising the sartorial and behavioral choices of (usually young) female strangers. One might almost guess I was immersed in a woman-hating culture that encourages women to police and punish each other even before they’ve made each other’s acquaintance.

  15. Bushfire

    When I started I Blame the Patriarchy back in 2004, the idea was that I would out the gazillions of secret little misogynies hiding in plain sight in every woman’s life, and that, once revealed, they would all wither and die under the burning light of scrutiny, and women everywhere would be free at last.

    You did succeed somewhat. Unfortunately not all women have become Patriarchy-blamers since you started blogging, but many have. I don’t think all women are ready for this. Many would rather just keep going along as if nothing is wrong, refusing to believe that they are members of the sex class, despite all the evidence. I can’t say I blame them. But for those women who are ready for some intense (and hilarious and brilliant) consciousness-raising, this blog does a damn good job.

  16. josquin

    Agree with Bushfire.

  17. Ashley

    Honestly Twisty, those “spotted” sites remind me of junior high and how any and every small femininity fail was blown out of proportion and taunted etc to make you forget your strength or smartness and just feel like a failure as a sexxay female. I remember this shitty little dude in my 7th grade was having a tantrum once, yelling at the teacher (good luck with THAT as a 7th grade girl) and I calmly suggested a solution to his little complaints, not even being rude or facetious and he stormed past me and yelled in my face “grow some tits, bitch!” I was 11. That kind of crap that goes on in school, from junior high to college and with that “Spotted” shit- I feel like school is as much of a misogyny training ground than anything- AND a place where guys instill in girls the primary shame that females carry around all the time, that was mentioned in the video- you feel like YOU’re in the wrong somehow, so you don’t stand up when weird shit like being groped on a train happens.

    That was a great video. I wish I still liked people enough to make that kind of effort against sexism. that woman has some faith in humankind. Very enjoyable, inspiring and well-spoken, thanks.

  18. josquin

    Way off topic but I am feeling sad because I read the letter Dylan Farrow wrote about her father Woody Allen and the abuse he poisoned her with when she was a child. I believe her without a doubt. And yet people that I like and respect don’t now think Woody Allen is a raving asshole pedophile monster even after reading Dylan’s letter. Maybe you have to had experienced it yourself to feel the truth in what she wrote. IBTP.

  19. Comradde PhysioProffe

    Ugh, I forgot the link to Janet’s excellent blogge post:


  20. Twisty

    Thanks, CPP. Dr Free-Ride rules.

  21. Tiakristi

    “When I started I Blame the Patriarchy back in 2004, the idea was that I would out the gazillions of secret little misogynies hiding in plain sight in every woman’s life, and that, once revealed, they would all wither and die under the burning light of scrutiny, and women everywhere would be free at last. ”

    This. & agreed with Bushfire. This site has been a refuge for me after many hard days (and some defeats) against the patriarchy. Working in a domestic violence program, I see the casualties of it on a daily basis, as well as the abuser apologists, the victim-blamers, the “what about men who are abused?”, the judges who take children from a mother who sought shelter for safety because the abuser has the home & income, the police who refuse to sign a warrant because it’s “he said, she said”, the elected officials who want to take our funding because we’re a “special interest group”. Just fucking all of it.

    Then I stop at the gas station on my way home & get told I have a nice ass. I turn on the radio & hear “Blurred Lines”. I try to veg out on the internet & see my high school acquaintances fully entrenched in the mommy wars on Facebook. I try to watch a movie, but the women are either shells of characters, cruelly cariactured or just plain raped. My grandmother calls me to ask when I’ll meet a nice man & settle down.

    Sometimes, I just need a fucking break; and another person to confirm that I am not, in fact, crazy, but surrounded by patriarchal asshats.

  22. Crispy_Lettuce

    Novice blamer here. Twisty this site has helped me wake up to things I knew but didn’t have a framework to understand. I’ve mostly aged out of sexual harassment, but it was continual when I was young, working in engineering, and jogging regularly on city streets. When I complained about it to a boyfriend, his face brightened into a big smile and he said these men were just trying to “get with me”. As if I should be happy about it. As if he was happy about it, like it simply validated my attractiveness and thus enhanced his status.

    Now I see this behavior as pure aggression. Its purpose is to make women feel unwelcome, unsafe, and degraded. And for the perpetrator to show off to his buddies, because degrading a woman enhances his status. And it’s likely he actually gets off on violating women’s sexual boundaries, because that’s what “sex” is, right? There seems to be a class revenge element to a lot of the harassment as well, as it’s often men from disenfranchised groups eager to show they still have male privilege to use against me, a white professional. Some of the most invasive incidents happened when I was professionally dressed in airports.

    I find it sad that Laura Bates has to explain to incredulous women that unwanted sexual touching is legally defined as sexual assault. Then again I only recently became conscious of how much sexual assault was happening within my het relationship. Grabbing and groping done jokingly, and continued despite my objections. I did not really accept that I had a right to have sexual boundaries in a relationship, and that it was really not OK at all for the behavior to continue. Lots of internalized patriarchal norms here. It’s disheartening to face but I am glad to be waking up.

  23. birdie

    ” I have a hard time imagining how the modern woman of tender years manages to navigate the hostile waters of this ceaseless, judgey, hateful peer surveillance.”

    Somewhere someone called it an emotional apocalypse. Abuse every minute of the day, what fun. I thought at the time they were referring to the ever growing rates of serious mental illnesses amongst women, but now I suppose it was a mansplainer complaining about … whatever. Oh, and it’s not just on the internet. Once the dudes get hooked on the spotting thing, they ramp up the real harassment. Just enough not to get caught, and we know that can be … oooh, quite a lot actually. At least that is my observation.

  24. mybodyisacage

    First of all: I love my beard. Second of all, my “p*ssy” is not dry at all. Her name is Sophie, she is a blue mink Tonkinese, and she grooms herself fabulously, as all “laydees” should (sarcasm oozing). Although, I hear p*ssies have to be hairless these days, so I guess that given her silky coat, she’s not in the height of fashion (sarcasm dripping).

    It is enraging that scrotal sacs and their patriarchal cheerleaders have an endless vituperative spray of insults at their disposal that can be readily aimed at those without peens. The language reflects the culture, the language reiterates the culture, ad nauseam. For instance, ‘b*tch” has become synonymous with “female, or assumed to be female non-person” these days. “Hey bitch!” is, unfortunately, a common greeting everywhere from some hellish dudebro sports bar to a gay bar. Actually, yesterday, I was walking with my cat on my shoulders (the aforementioned Sophie) and was asked by a dudebro if I was a “guy or a bitch.” Yes, blamers, it has gotten this bad. Whenever dudes ask me this question, I know what they are really thinking: “Are you rapeable, or just fag bash fodder?” I tried to ignore him and I of course got to hear his question as to how many pus*sies I “had on me”. Durr hurr hurr.

    “B*tch” also still seems to be the insult of choice used by both men and women on women and those assumed to be women (genderqueer freak here). It says a lot about society’s hatred of women that this word’s use as an insult and as a normative greeting has now been conflated. This noun, when used as an insult, is usually prefaced by adjectives “old”, “ugly”, “fat”, etc, just to let us know we are in the sex class and our entire worth is based on if we are deemed pork-worthy by the all important het peen, as well as if we are appropriately in line with societal norms of femininity that many women as well as men place on all others they deem to be women. I do blame the patriarchy, not the many women who are insulting me, but I do wish I could give them a copy of Andrea Dworkin’s “Intercourse” the thirtieth time a woman near me at a coffeehouse giggles in the ear of her “girlfriend” (Ghod, I hate this expression for how it renders queer women invisible; have you ever heard another straight male refer to his male friend as his boyfriend? Of course not) that I HAVE FACIAL HAIR and that I HAVE NO “TITTIES” and why aaaannnnyy “girl” would want to look so “UGLEEEEE”. Insulting the appearance of women seems to be a universal sport shared by all of “humanity”. No matter their gender or sexuality, it seems that all manner of people delight in picking apart the appearances of those who aren’t “man enough” (ie cis and penis possessing) to be a human being.

    Meanwhile, we have no vocabulary to shut down both the patriarchal and patriarchy-pleasing. If we are called “smelly tuna” and try to use, for instance, Twisty’s description for male genitalia (“funk filled bratwurst”), they will just grab their junk and say “I’ve got your bratwurst right here, ugly b*tch!” Gay men will merely carry on about how rancid those without penises between their legs are, while their patriarchal apologizers, who call themselves “fag hags”, will “confide” that yes, what is between their legs is indeed smelly and horrendous, especially during that “time of the month” (I almost turned a table over the last time this happened, before I realized that it would really be best that I stopped not only attending straight clubs, but also gay clubs as well).

    Anything you can call a man in response to his nastiness is either taken as an “invitation” to further abuse you, or is, horribly, really just an insult against another woman. SOB= insulting his mother. “bastard”=insulting his mother. Calling him a “bitch” = implying he is less than a man…ie almost that horrible horrible thing that is a woman (puking sarcasm here).

    My friend likes to call men “dickless” or say that they have “small dicks”. NO, NO, NO, NO. This is completely falling into the patriarchal trap. We are, after all, considered subhuman because we don’t have dicks (or don’t have “real” dicks, or want them chopped, or identify as women despite their presence, revealing how useless they really are as a signifier of dooditude!). As far as “small dicks”, it seems that the bigger the dick, the more the woman is hurt if she has to get pronged. Men’s obsession with having big dicks, in their messed up world of universally masochistic women, really equals “Since mine is bigger, I can rearrange her internal organs and hurt her more, which she’ll find so hot, and that means I’m so manly, durr hurr hurr, so therefore being manly means I’m more of a man, and she likes it better because women like being hurt.” Too many het cis women key on the dick size thing because they have (correctly) identified that this is the one region on the manbody that men are self-conscious about (while those of us who aren’t cis men are told to be self-conscious about every inch of our bodies). The fallacy in this argument is that the bigger the dick, the more painful the pork, from what I’ve heard, is true. This means that the bigger the dick,, the more self-satisfied and sadistic the prick. Given that het women are encouraged by the P to drool all over a big schlong to the irrelevance of their own orgasm and potential furthering of their pain, this horrible circular mess is doomed to continue. Gay cis men and their worship of the phallus adds to this situation, as all too many het women feel like they have to compare themselves to the gay dudes, and all the fun (of course!) that the privileged gay guys are having that they can’t, because they live in a rape culture that hates women.

    I wish I could learn some good insults to learn on choads. Sure, fighting with the master’s tools blah blah blah, but I still need something to say all of these times when I’m enraged and feel trapped by the patriarchal nature of the language. This society–as reflected in the language–is based on dudes’ worship of SEX, which really means “het men dominating and hurting the sex class for their own sadistic pleasure, and the sex class pretending to like it as if their life depends on it, which it sometimes does, while gay men have their own fun and describe women as canned seafood”. I despise it, it’s in my face 24/7, and yet I’m supposed to just ignore it and smile. It makes me miserable, and sometimes I wish I could pretend it doesn’t exist and just watch a damned TV show, but I can’t.

  25. pandechion

    My ex-husband got his MFA during the era of semiotics, and sounds just like that guy. He was sure that the intensity of my feminism was a coping mechanism for that One Time I Was Raped, no matter what I said.

  26. Cyberwulf

    mybodyisacage – it is so, so true that yelling genitalia-based insults at men just encourages them to go “I got your [my glorious wonderful junk] right here”.

    In my (internet-based) experience, men really hate being called creeps, rapists, and paedophiles. “Creep” really sets some of them off to the point where they insist that it’s hate speech. When dealing with men who consider themselves paragons of progressive enlightenment, just calling them misogynist pieces of shit is enough to whip them into a lather. Bonus: they never want to have anything to do with you ever again, for how dare you impugn their image of themselves as Virtuous and Enlightened.

  27. quixote

    Hell, pandechion. What a massively insulting coping mechanism for the fact that he couldn’t cope with how women are treated.

  28. Serial Cereal

    “I am kind of weirded out that you looked him up”

    I gonna Wonka that.

  1. Sunday feminist roundup (2nd February 2014)

    […] “That can’t be sexual assault because it’s normal” […]

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