It's ok to name your abuser
Daily Life columnist Clementine Ford explains in June why it is ok to name your online abusers. Courtesy The Project, weekdays on Ten.PT2M29S 620 349
Over the course of a few hours last night and this morning, I went through my public Facebook page to block and delete scores of comments calling me a whore, a slut, a dumb c---, a fat b---- who needs to get laid, a b---- who should kill herself and, in one memorable circumstance, a woman who needed to be shot in the face and put in a grave.
It's not unusual for me to field abuse like this, although it tends to be more of a constant drip than a deluge. The reason for this latest influx is because I reported a man for directing an abusive comment to me to the employer he had listed on his Facebook account (which also included an assortment of vile racism). The man's employer elected to investigate and made the decision to terminate his contract. They asked me to share this news with my followers, which I did.
Clementine Ford: "I'm sick and tired of women being held responsible for the actions men choose to take." Photo: Clementine Ford
Initial reactions were overwhelmingly positive, but I knew that was unlikely to last. For all the accusations levelled at feminists for 'trawling the internet looking to be offended', there is no one more vigilant than the perpetually aggrieved man who feels his freedom of speech is being taken away. It didn't take long before my page was flooded with men (and some women) leaving numerous comments complaining that I was an "evil scumbag slut whore" who had "ruined a man's life" and left his wife and kids (he has neither) destitute and hungry before Christmas, and that karma would be on its way to get me.
None of these reactions are surprising. For all their bleating about freedom of speech, these people don't seem to know what it actually means. It is not the glorious, consequence-free paradise they imagine in which they get to say whatever they like to whomever they like while enjoying the luxury of that person silently taking it with no pushback. For too long, speech on the internet has been consequence free. It has mainly served to support abusive trolls who, despite the frequency with which they appear to be pictured with families, seem to have nothing better to do than stalk women online to try and scare them into shutting up.
Sacked because of Facebook post: Michael Nolan. Photo: Facebook/Michael Nolan
Being called a slut on Facebook is certainly not the worst thing that's ever happened to me. It's definitely not the worst thing that's ever been said to me (a contender for which would be the email this morning which told me, "You deserve to be gangraped by a pack of aids infested n-----s. Die, f--king bitch.") So why did I decide to pursue retaliation against the man who said what so many others say to me every day?
Well, I did it because I'm sick and tired of men abusing women online and continually getting away with it. I can bear the brunt of this behaviour, but I'm angry about the number of women who tell me they can't. Too many women are harassed into silence by men who flounce about the place doing and saying whatever they like. When we complain, we're told to 'get over it' or 'harden up', two retorts that completely miss the irony of the fact that the most thin skinned, sensitive and retaliatory people online are white men aged between 15 and 35.
Here's how a typical interaction with the defenders and perpetrators of online abuse goes.
"Just block and delete them like a grown up!"
*blocks and deletes*
"Oh, so you're censoring people now? What, can't you handle debate?"
*attempts to engage in a meaningful discussion, explaining why harassment is unacceptable.*
"Get over it, it's just a word. I get called words all the time and I don't cry like a baby!"
*loses temper, resorts to name-calling*
"F--k you, you f--king whore. I should have known you'd resort to ad hominem attacks. You feminists are all the same, you just hate men because none of us will f--k you, fat dogs."
Facebook's methods for responding to abuse are useless, and the company has made it pretty clear that their scope for community standards lies squarely on the side of free use of sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic and ableist slurs. The only recourse possibly left to the women ritually targeted by gendered harassment is to try and create consequences for people in their everyday lives. The alternative is for women to remove themselves from the online world - a space which is not separate to the 'real world' but now intrinsically enmeshed with it - and be silent. And while I know that's the preferred outcome for the boys and men who have never been made to take responsibility for their actions, it's also complete bullshit.
Over the past 24 hours, I have been (unsurprisingly) berated for "ruining a man's life" and "causing him to lose his job". But I didn't force Michael Nolan to come to a post in which a woman shared a screencap of a man telling her she'd "jibber less with a c--k in [her] mouth" and make his support for that kind of misogyny known by simply writing "Slut".
I didn't tell him to include his employer's linked page on the Facebook account where he had also joked about migrants being lazy, unemployed welfare cheats and thrown around the word 'n-----'. He is responsible for the words he chooses to write and the views he chooses to hold. What's telling is how outraged and irate hundreds of people become when they get a whiff that a man somewhere might be being held responsible for his actions. That's not allowed! Women are just supposed to suck it up and let him do what he wants! Sure, it might not have been great what he said, but aren't you just as bad IF NOT WORSE for going out of your way to RUIN HIS LIFE?
I'm sick and tired of women being held responsible for the actions men choose to take. Don't report abuse because it might have detrimental effects on a man's reputation or career. Think of his family. What about his employers? Why are you doing this to him? It's not fair. Why can't you just suck it up and take the bullshit, misogyny and abuse that men think is their right to express every day? Why can't you just do that? Why do you have to be such a f---ing bitch about it?
Women have tolerated this kind of abuse for too long. But out there on the vast ocean of men's tears, the tide is turning. Get on the boat or drown.