The one thing that changes the way a sexism complaint is received

Charlie Pickering tackles victim blaming on The Weekly.

Charlie Pickering tackles victim blaming on The Weekly.

If there's one thing women are good at, it's attracting hostility online.

Forget controversial opinions, women basically just have to turn up to the internet to be met with all manner of abusive comments or threats of violence. So it's no surprise that this treatment doubles down when women talk about misogyny or gender inequality.

This ritualised abuse of feminist women online (and off, to be honest) sits in stark contrast with the way feminist men are treated. To watch people's reactions, you'd think some of these men had discovered an entirely new civilisation and were our brave and intrepid tour guides through an astonishing new world.

Don't believe me? Here are some examples of the different way men and women are treated when they publicly oppose sexism.


1. Charlie Pickering v Zerlina Maxwell

Charlie Pickering delivered a reasonably good rant about rape culture this week on his ABC show The Weekly. His scriptwriter did a nice job skewering stereotypes about how women 'ask' to be assaulted by the way they dress and behave. Pickering finished by suggesting that a better approach would be to tell men not to rape (a great point that's been stated by thousands of feminists before him, none of whom are quoted in this segment). The segment finished with a neat song performed by Geraldine Quinn, Miranda Tapsell and Angie Hart called 'Don't Rape'.

Less than 24 hours later, the video had been written about in at least three news sources with comments posted urging for international recognition of the work and talking about how important men like Pickering are (not dissimilar to the reaction he got a few weeks ago when he said what tons of Aboriginal writers and thinkers had already said about Adam Goodes). So far, so usual.

Compare this reaction to the time Democrat strategist and rape survivor Zerlina Maxwell said exactly the same thing on air and was inundated with further threats of rape and violence. Is Pickering somehow more of a hero because, as a man, he doesn't have to be invested in challenging misogyny but chooses to do so anyway? Do we need to give medals to all men who take this stance?

2. John Oliver v any woman who speaks out against revenge porn

Oliver, aka my secret husband, went on another of his epic rants recently, this time against revenge porn. I watched as this video was shared by almost every single person I know, and not even my love for Oliver was enough to stop it from pissing me off.

Again, women speak out against revenge porn all the time. We write articles about it, make videos about it, campaign against it - and for our efforts, we're slut shamed, ridiculed and targeted. When I spoke out against Sunrise blaming the victims of revenge porn, I was sent hundreds of abusive messages calling me names like 'whore', 'slut' or 'c--t'.

I was told that it was my fault for posting nude images online (even though I've never been the target of a revenge porn attack, only an advocate for its victims). And yes, it's true that my post was shared widely, but I was also incessantly called an attention seeker - as if the only reason a woman would speak openly about this issue is to steal her 15 minutes of fame.

3. Matt McGorry v Caitlin Stasey


A photo posted by Matt McGorry (@mattmcgorry) on

When McGorry substituted his nipples for Miley Cyrus' in a photo posted to his instagram account, his intent was to lampoon the puritanical censorship of women's bodies. Supporting the #freethenipple movement, McGorry was quickly hailed as a feminist and online women's sites rushed to write about how amazing he is.

Compare this reaction to the treatment of Caitlin Stasey. Again, Stasey has been called a slut, a whore and an attention seeker. Even some feminists have criticised her for focussing on such a 'meaningless' issue.

4. Joseph Gordon-Levitt v. feminists in general

JGL is a total honey and I love him so much that I'll even forgive him for (500) Days of Summer. But after he released a video explaining why he was a feminist, women everywhere seemed to trip over themselves to signal boost it and talk about how incredible he was.

Really? It's incredible to call yourself a feminist these days when you are guaranteed literally no blowback? Women who say the same things are not treated anywhere near as kindly. For their troubles, they can expect the goon squad over at 4chan to try and doxx them, photoshop their heads onto those of porn performers (dehumanising both parties in the process) and childishly troll their public pages to call them names.

Look, don't get me wrong. We need men to speak out about men's violence against women. We need them to take a stand against rape culture. We need them to counsel other men not to participate in behaviour that's aggressive, predatory, violent or even just creepy. The more people speaking out about these things, the better. I'm not at all advocating for men like Pickering, Oliver, McGorry or Gordon-Levitt to stay quiet - far from it.

But we have to also acknowledge just how differently men are treated by the public (especially women) when they do take a stand against misogyny and garden variety sexism. In place of the rape and death threats sent to women, men are given ribbons and Good Bloke status. Instead of the sack-loads of patronising emails calling them stupid, men are given names like 'ambassador', 'champion' and 'hero'. While the women who pen feminist op-eds are subjected to dehumanising language about their looks, sexuality and mental health, the men who borrow and repackage their words are sent viral online, hailed as someone who 'gets it' and treated like visionaries.

This is a big problem, and it's one that needs to be recognised as counterproductive to the message of gender equality. No dominant group should garner praise for doing the right thing, particularly when that praise ultimately only reinforces a power differential.

By all means, share and enjoy feminist messages created by men. But for the love of god, stop acting as if they've invented the bloody wheel.