Being blocked is not the same as being censored

Date

Clementine Ford

"Having the freedom to say what you like does not mean you have the right to be heard."

"Having the freedom to say what you like does not mean you have the right to be heard." Photo: Stocksy

Being a woman online can be exhausting, especially when it involves fielding constant tantrums from the boys and men consumed with the fear of what they see as the encroaching matriarchy. I'm often accused of being unable to handle "dissenting opinions", as if I'm not only obliged to stand there and listen politely as angry, self-righteous men vomit bile all over me but also marvel at the uniquely special mess they've managed to produce. Aren't you a clever boy!

Unfortunately, the amoebas who stalk the profiles and work of women who confuse and anger them are not the intellectual giants they imagine themselves to be, but simply another can of toxic waste languishing in a factory full of garbage. Now, I haven't participated in any formal debates since high school, but even I know that you'll need to impress the judges with something more than simply finding ten different ways in which to call a woman a "c---" with a "floppy vagina".

But in news that will surprise no one, these men don't consider it necessary to recognise the formal structures of 'debate' and 'disagreement'. Over the past 48 hours, my Facebook page has been swamped with an army of disease-ridden mice (their lacklustre ferocity is too impotent to label them rats) outraged not only by what they call the 'cancer' of my feminism, but also the fact I refuse to provide a space for them to conduct their childish tantrums in.

Chief among their grievances is that that I frequently ban people on my page. My fondness for the banhammer isn't a secret. In fact, it's listed right there in the House Rules pinned to the top of the page: "Nobody is entitled to be here, or be responded to. If you cannot follow these rules, you will be blocked. No ifs, ands or buts."

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When you run a page with more than 100,000 followers, you learn very quickly who's there for genuine engagement and who's more interested in forcing you to watch while they produce frankly pedestrian finger-paintings using their own faeces. At this point in the game, I can detect the putrid scent emanating from them before they've even finished unbuckling their trousers, so it's a fairly easy task to swing the banhammer and send them on their way. Preventing a grown man from taking a dump in your metaphorical living room might feel like oppression to those of them still wrestling with the anal stage of psychosexual development, but for those of us who've managed to establish some sense of social competency, it's just good housekeeping.

And yet, women still field these outraged accusations of being unable to handle 'critique'. We're 'hypocrites' who can't defend our ideas. We're scared of 'facts' and 'logic'. We're babies who need to be uniformly agreed with otherwise we'll be #triggered. Also, we need to learn to laugh at rape jokes.

Let me share some of the reasoned 'critique' that came my way earlier this week after a page dedicated to whining about feminism posted an article comparing me to Hitler and directed its commenters to my page.

"You're obviously mentally retarded, being a 'feminist' and all."

"I swear, all this chick needs is a good solid rogering in her arse, by like 5. No. 6 dude from across the world (no discrimination here) and she'd be happy again."

"If your (sic) feeling hurt because someone calls you and (sic) ugly fat discusting (sic) snowflake f---ing layde (sic) boy then get over it."

"There is not one 'woman' on this page that men would want to have sex with."

"Hitler does not deserve to have feminist called feminazis. Poor Adolf. He could have prevented this."

"I think women deserve equal rights, and lefts!"

"You're just craving some c--k and don't know how to say it."

"You shit-thick thunderc---."

"Shut up retard."

"Go sit on a butcher knife swine."

"A real man keeps his woman batered (sic)."

"Good job you slimey (sic) fat c---, I really do hope you are the next one raped."

This is a fairly typical cross section of the kind of commentary I receive on a regular basis. And because I am neither a masochist nor a doormat, I choose in most cases to ban and delete. This is something I'm often condescendingly instructed to do, because apparently naming and shaming them is unfair and mean and shows I'm no better than the people I criticise.

So I ban and delete. But then I'm criticised for being 'intolerant' and 'unable to withstand the real world'. Instead, I'm expected to tolerate such mindless, brain numbing verbal diarrhoea with good grace and encouragement. To choose otherwise is to commit the cardinal sin of silencing men and this, as we all know, is one of the greatest oppressions in the world today. How dare I decide who gets a voice on my own page? Don't I realise that Facebook is a public space and I can't just oppress their civil liberties like that? Whatever happened to FREEEEEEE SPEEEEEECH?

In both scenarios, the end instruction is the same: protect men from having to face up to the consequences of their actions. Women aren't allowed to fight back. We aren't allowed to stand up for ourselves. We aren't allowed to ignore them. We just have to sit there like good little girls, absorbing their hatred and anger and reassuring them of their supreme importance to the world.

Fuck that noise.

Listen. Having the freedom to say what you like does not mean you have the right to be heard. It certainly doesn't mean you have the right to be rude, abusive and (in some cases) genuinely threatening and then hide behind what you perceive to be your incontrovertible right to space. As I point out in my page rules, these men are free to say all these things in the squalid corners that form their own internet hovels, but I am not obliged to listen to it or acknowledge its existence. If people are blocking out your incoherent, aggressive rants, it's probably because they find no value in anything you have to say. Deal with it. You know, exactly like you expect women to.

Ain't equality grand?