Tag Archives: feminism

On Dentists, Doxxing and the Death of a Lion

The internet is a funny, scary place.

Photo Credit: gecco! via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: gecco! via Compfight cc

Over the past 48 hours, an Australian woman has been subjected to a torrent of the vilest imaginable abuse from fans of an American performer, whose work could be said to be misogynistic. The Australian woman made a public comment asking for her government to reconsider granting the performer a visa to enter Australia due to the content of his music (which features lyrics glorifying rape, sexual assault and violence against women) and when the performer announced, erroneously, on Twitter that this had resulted in him being denied access to the country, the woman endured thousands of disgusting Tweets. These Tweets were sent by fans (overwhelmingly male) of the performer – so, way to go with proving that listening to such music doesn’t encourage a person to feel, or think, or act in misogynistic ways. Or maybe the music speaks to a deep level of preexisting anti-woman sentiment in the fans’ minds. Maybe it’s both.

Here is a link to her Twitter feed, should you care to check it out. I’m not sure I’d recommend it, exactly, but it’s up to you. She shared several of the vilest threats she received, and also some of the supportive messages. It’s an education.

Also over the past 48 hours or so, a story about the horrific death of a lion in Zimbabwe has been making headlines globally. Lured from the safety of a national park, hunted, tracked and eventually slaughtered, the lion was skinned and beheaded and its carcass left to rot. The lion was named Cecil by the rangers in the park where it had lived since at least 1999, and it was part of a longitudinal study by Oxford University. It was a local ‘celebrity’, drawing tourists and those who wanted to marvel at its beauty and splendour. By all accounts, Cecil even enjoyed the company of people.  But it has emerged that an American man, known as a big-game hunter (and one who has had brushes with the law due to irregularities with his behaviour) had paid a hefty fee to hunt and kill ‘a lion’ – not necessarily Cecil, if the hunter’s account is to be believed – in the area, and had apparently believed his actions were entirely legal and above-board.

Except, when the animal was dead and it became clear that it was a collared lion, being monitored, the hunters made every effort to cover up their actions. They tried to destroy the collar., unsuccessfully They still skinned and beheaded Cecil, and left the remains behind. They made no effort or attempt to ‘fess up. The hunter returned home. The ‘guide’, who had been paid the hefty fee, pocketed it and turned away.

This situation is abhorrent. I, personally, condemn it in the strongest possible terms. I do not agree with the hunting of big game, whether one pays a ‘fee’ to do it or not, and whether or not this fee goes towards conservation. If one can afford thousands of dollars to destroy an animal in the name of ‘conservation’, why not simply go on safari to observe, take photographs, and pay your fee to preserve the animals? I do not agree that a lion which may have been more accustomed to humans than most deserved to be lured, tricked and tracked, shot with a bow and arrow and left to suffer for almost two days before finally being killed. I hate what this hunter has done with every fibre of my being, and he should be punished. He should never be allowed to take part in another hunt. The entire sport, when done in this way, should be abolished. (I’m not including hunting in indigenous communities, which is done to provide food, shelter and other necessities to maintain life, here; I’m talking about hunting as ‘sport’, whether paid for or not, simply for the ‘thrill’ of the kill).

But I do not stand over online harassment of this man’s family, staff and clients at his place of work, nor of the man himself. I don’t agree with vitriol being left on his website, or threats being made to his safety and wellbeing. If we condemn the abuse meted out to the Australian woman who dared to make a stand against misogyny, we can’t then turn around and shriek blue murder at a hunter whose actions happen to make us sick. Online abuse is online abuse; just because it’s being aimed at a ‘deserving’ victim doesn’t make it right. I hope that the family and friends of the hunter in question (and, grudgingly, he himself) are not feeling the same fear and stress that the Australian woman must have been feeling over the past few days – he deserves to be punished, certainly, and I hope he will be, to the fullest extent of the law. But his family and associates are innocent. They are as innocent as the solitary woman who said ‘no’ in the face of misogyny. I am not defending the hunter or his actions, which I believe to be abhorrent. I’m simply saying that in the clamour for ‘free speech’, we forget so easily the huge responsibility which comes with that privilege. We should use our freedom of speech to enact real change, and make meaningful commentary, and engage in true debate. If we sink to the level of online trolls, we have already lost.

The type of online abuse being suffered by the American hunter and the Australian woman is vastly different. She has been threatened with horrific physical abuse and threats of rape; he has received a few death threats among hundreds of largely clearly-phrased, well-written letters of condemnation. This, in itself, is a lesson. Women and men do not fare the same online. There are lessons we can learn, and things we can take from this situation – it’s an opportunity to begin a sea-change in how we conduct ourselves on the internet.

It won’t be taken, of course. I know that. Trolling will continue, and online hate will continue. But not, if I can help it, in my name.

A Slightly Feminist-y Rant

Recently, a woman I hugely admire posted the following Tweet.

Also recently, another woman – not known to me personally – announced that she was taking a break from Twitter because she had received a barrage of death threats, from men, simply due to a rumour that she was slated to take over presenting a TV show.

A TV show.

I don’t normally get too deeply into my feelings about feminism, and things like that, on this blog (I tend to keep that sort of stuff for Tumblr), but there are times you just have to say: enough. This is enough. In fact, it’s more than enough.

A year ago yesterday, the girls of Chibok were taken from their families and loved ones by a group claiming religion as a valid reason for their abduction. Nobody really knows what has happened to the majority of these girls and young women, but one can guess that they have suffered some sort of sexual violence, or been married off against their will. They may have even been sold into slavery. Nobody seems to care.

Image: change.org

Image: change.org

Earlier this week, a woman in my own country waived her right to anonymity in order to name the abuser who destroyed her childhood – a man who was her mother’s partner, but who made her suffer unspeakably for a very long time.

Another woman, again in Ireland, who took a high-profile case against her own father for years of abuse suffered at his hands (and who went back to court to argue for a more severe sentence when the original one handed down was decried nationally as a disgrace) had a pipe bomb placed beneath her car. Luckily she, her husband and her family survived without injury.

I could go on.

Why is this happening? Why do things like GamerGate happen, where women who have the temerity to work in a male-oriented environment become objects of vitriol by certain men, who feel entitled to threaten their personal safety and sexual autonomy to the point where these women have to leave their homes and uproot their families? Why is sexual violence bandied about online as a threat whenever a woman dares to have an opinion? Why don’t the people responsible for this sort of hate speech (because it is ‘hate’ speech, not ‘free’ speech) understand, or care, that their words cause fear and pain and disruption? I sometimes wonder whether the people responsible for this sort of threatening language genuinely don’t see it as ‘serious’; perhaps they view it as being no more realistic than threatening to smash someone’s head in during a pub brawl, where both parties know it’s simply ‘big talk’. Well, it’s not just harmless blather. It’s causing real pain, and real fear, and achieving nothing.

I don’t know. I just know I’m sick of it.

Deeply misogynistic, troublingly sexual threats are made against women in the public eye every day. Men might suffer people disagreeing with their point of view, or being called an idiot or all manner of offensive or upsetting names (and I’m not saying this is right, either) if they put forth an unpopular viewpoint online, but it is overwhelmingly women who suffer death threats, and whose personal safety is jeopardised, and whose privacy is violated. This is not right. It shouldn’t be acceptable. People are fighting back, and spending five minutes on the Everyday Sexism Twitter feed will illustrate that more than handsomely.

But sometimes I wonder whether any of it is working. Sometimes I wonder whether the men and women who stand up for equality between the sexes are actually being listened to. Does anyone remember the threats made against the actor Emma Watson last year when she launched the UN’s equality campaign, HeForShe? I do. Threats were made to ‘doxx’ her (post her personal information, like her address and telephone number, online, a common tactic against women in the public eye) and leak naked photographs of her. This sort of violation has happened to other famous women, for no reason besides – apparently – the fact that they are women, who are deemed attractive, and hence seen as ‘public property’.

I just don’t know how to wrap my head around a world like this.

I hope we do, one day, see an end to a way of thinking which assesses a woman’s beauty before her ability to do a job. I hope we see a world wherein a woman can declare her intention to run for President of her country without anyone feeling the need to comment on her unsuitability because she is a grandmother. I hope we live to see a world where women are seen as people, and not just pretty objects to be looked at. I hope I, personally, live to see a world where women are neither deified as ‘perfect goddesses’ by virtue of their roles as mothers or potential mothers nor reduced to the level of an animal if they dare to express their sexuality, or own their power, or live up to their potential. I want a world where women can sit, in equal numbers to men, in boardrooms and houses of Parliament and courts of justice in every country, and where their words will be listened to and considered with the same respect that would be offered to a man. I don’t want any more women to be able to share anecdotes of oppression from the workplace, of being ignored at meetings or having men take credit for their ideas or having implications made that their jobs are dependent on them staying single, or not having children. I want to see a world where women, all women, have choices, and where those choices are respected – and where, when criticism is levelled at them, it is levelled because of something they have said, or done, or stood for, not simply because they’re female, and where that criticism is respectful and refrains from sexual threat.

I want to see a world where a baby girl is welcomed with as much joy as a baby boy. I want to see a world where a pregnant woman does not weep with disappointment if her unborn baby is female, and I want to see a world where women are not pressured by their families and society to abort their female babies because they are seen as ‘a burden’ or ‘less honourable’. I want a world where girls are not forced into marriage while they are still children. I want to see a world where no woman is killed or oppressed for doing something which would not cause an eyelid to flicker if she were a man. I want men to stand with women, and to resist misogyny and sexual violence wherever they encounter it, and I want women to stand with men, resisting attempts to belittle them because of their gender – because that happens, too.

I want women to stand with other women, and not tear one another down in an attempt to gain traction with, or acceptance by, a man – or, indeed, for any reason.

I want a lot, I know. What I want more than anything is the courage to make a stand in my own life to bring these things about, in tiny increments, in everything I do. Perhaps that, I can achieve.

Eating my Words

In case you missed all the other times I’ve banged on about it, I am doing something very cool this weekend. My pitch is pretty much learned off. I’ve done my homework on the agent concerned. I have my shiny business cards ready to be handed out. I have a new writing pad, and a pen which works.

I am ready.

Image: gameface.lyricss.org

Image: gameface.lyricss.org

Well – I am now, at least. Yesterday was an entirely different story.

I woke up yesterday morning and realised – rather abruptly – that my hair was looking sort of meh. (Bear with me, here: I’m not going to bore you with the chronicles of my follicles, or anything like that; there is a point to my talking about my coiffure, I swear.) It had been a while since I’d had it cut, and my poor old wig had grown slightly too long to be called a bob while still being slightly too short to be called anything else. Also, it was refusing to sit nicely because it’s a recalcitrant brat with a devilish kink. It looked about as professional as someone wearing a bird’s nest (complete with bird) atop their head.

So, something clearly had to be done, and stat.

I walked into my local salon hoping they had a slot, and they graciously agreed to squeeze me in last thing just before they closed for the day. When the actual hair-cutting began, I did my best to condense my panic down inside my chest (I’m slightly phobic of hairdressers; whether it’s the feeling of scissors so close to my flesh or just the fact that I hate having my hair washed by other people, I’m not sure), and let the stylist clip away.

They had the radio in the salon tuned to a station that plays the sort of soulless, thunk-thunk-thunk music that I normally can’t bear. At one stage, even the stylist rolled her eyes and muttered, ‘kids’ll listen to any old nonsense these days, won’t they?’ and we proceeded to have a good old chat about the dearth of decent music in our brave new world and how ‘things were better in our day’, and all that other nonsense that people of a certain age are prone to.

Then, a warbly love song started to play, and the following lyrics caught my ear:

I know you’ve never loved the crinkles by your eyes when you smile
You’ve never loved your stomach or your thighs
The dimples in your back at the bottom of your spine
But I’ll love them endlessly

‘What on earth is that?’ I think I may have said, appalled. ‘One Direction,’ smiled the stylist, chopping away. ‘You can’t get away from them these days.’ We shared a grin. I continued to listen to the song, hating the way it sounded and everything about it and lamenting, internally, its focus on female physical attributes – and then I realised I was being completely unfair.

This, by the way, is One Dimension... I mean, ha ha, One Direction! Of course. I never thought I'd be sharing a photo of them on my blog, but I guess there's a first time for everything. Image: little-mix.wikia.com

This, by the way, is One Dimension… I mean, ha ha, One Direction! Of course. I never thought I’d be sharing a photo of them on my blog, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.
Image: little-mix.wikia.com

The song was about a girl hating her physical appearance – her thighs, her stomach, her back, her weight, and so on – and a young man telling her that those things don’t matter; he loves her not in spite of these things, but because of them. These are the things which make her special and unique to him.

As I was having my hair blow-dried (it’s fabulous, by the way – totally professional and utterly competent-looking, so let’s hope that rubs off on the brain beneath it), I was thinking about this. One Direction is probably the most influential band in the world right now for a particular demographic, and whether that makes you weep or not, it’s still a fact. So, if these five young men singing about how a girl’s physical ‘imperfections’ (gah, how I hate that term! As if a living, breathing body can be in any way imperfect) make her beautiful and unique and lovable can have any impact at all on the millions of teenagers who listen to, and idolise, them, surely it’s a good thing. Isn’t it? They might be doing a disservice to music – at least, to a person raised on The Rolling Stones, Neil Young and ZZ Top, they are – but they may be doing something very positive for girls’ self esteem.

And, on balance, isn’t that more important? Yes, of course it is.

But I wish it was as easy as this. I wish one song by one band (no matter how influential) could undo the years of conditioning and pressure that bring some, if not most, young girls to the brink of despair every time they look in a mirror. I really do.

However, I will admit that I was wrong to judge One Direction’s song so harshly and thoughtlessly; I have well and truly eaten my words. I applaud them for trying to put forth an image of femininity which is counter to that shoved in girls’ faces from magazines and TV and movies and hip-hop, and even though the sound of their music makes my ears metaphorically bleed, I hope their message finds a wide, and receptive, audience.

I really can’t believe I’m writing this. Vive la change, mes amis. Vive la change.

Nah. Rock and roll till I die! Image: pitch.com

Nah. Rock and roll till I die!
Image: pitch.com


Staking out the Weekend

I was recently given the most amazing gift. I’ve got to tell you all about it.

Image: adkwriter.wordpress.com

Image: adkwriter.wordpress.com

So, we visited some friends at the weekend, and (as well as having a wonderful time), they made my husband and I – or, well, me really – a present of seasons 1-3 of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer.’

No – wait! Don’t run away!

What do you mean, 'aaaargh?' Image: gautamsofficial.blogspot.com

What do you mean, ‘aaaargh?’
Image: gautamsofficial.blogspot.com

I know the topic of ‘Buffy’ can divide opinion – and, sometimes, it’s the people who’ve never watched the show who can have the loudest opinion – but I have to nail my colours to the mast right here.

I’m a fan.

I’m a massive fan of Joss Whedon, for a start; I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything he has had a hand in which I haven’t liked, at least somewhat. I love the way he writes women, and his imaginative use of myth and folklore, and the intelligent, complex humour that weaves its way through everything he’s made. So, it stands to reason that I’d be a fan of Buffy Summers and her ragged little Scooby Gang, battling to keep the world vampire-free.

However, I came late to ‘Buffy’. To me, the show is all about Willow being a powerful and sometimes rather evil witch, and Buffy’s complicated relationship with the vampire Spike, all of which comes well into the show’s development. Season 1 is all about Buffy’s relationship with the vampire Angel, of whom I was never really a fan – mainly because the show was all about Spike when I watched it – but I’m finally developing an appreciation for Angel as a character and as a focus for Buffy’s affection. It was moving to watch them fall in love, all the while with Buffy thinking he was human, until the inevitable moment when his true nature is forced to make an appearance.

In fact, I spent *cough* several hours yesterday watching one or two (or six) episodes, and it was huge fun to see all the characters as they were at the beginning of the show – young, and innocent, and in possession of the clunkiest high-heeled shoes and the frostiest lipstick known to man. It made me very nostalgic for my own 1990s teenage-hood, when girls went out to nightclubs dressed in slacks and jackets and nobody had mobile phones and the very idea of the internet was mind-blowing and most people listened to decent music and sarcasm was the lingua franca of everyone under thirty.

Sometimes, I really miss those days.

It was also great to see Willow the way she was at the show’s beginning – gentle, and quiet, and nerdy, and devoted to Xander, and totally unaware of her own magical powers. She was always one of my favourite characters (even when she was, you know, evil and set on destroying the world, and stuff), and watching the show would be worth it just for her.

Naaaaaw! Image: angelsrealm.com

Image: angelsrealm.com

It’s a strange experience, from a narrative point of view, to watch the show backwards – as in, to only be experiencing its beginnings now, despite knowing how the story arcs end and how all the characters develop. It makes my viewing experience at once brand-new and exciting, as well as bittersweet. It also makes me appreciate exactly how much the characters grow and mature, and how interesting their stories are. For me, Buffy herself was always a weary, sick-and-tired-of-saving-the-world-again type character, so to see her as she is in season 1 (a cheerleading wannabe, running away from her past, trying to date and have a normal teenage life, full of pep and snarky humour) is great.

But mainly what watching ‘Buffy’ does is make me really, truly crazy that ‘Twilight’ is the vampire story that most young people are familiar with these days. ‘Buffy’ is still popular, and still a part of the mental world of teenage audiences, but I do think it has largely been replaced by Bella Swan and her moping nonsense. How has this happened? How have we replaced Buffy Summers – a kickboxing, weapon-slinging, intelligent, brave, resourceful, fearless, duty- and honour-bound warrior – with Bella Swan, whose single greatest achievement is managing not to fall over while walking down a school corridor and having a crush on a guy who sparkles in the sunlight?

Gaaaah!  Image: twilight.wikia.com

Image: twilight.wikia.com

It makes me ferocious to think that role models for girls have regressed to the point where they’d rather read about a character who devotes herself – body, mind and soul – to the needs of a man than learn about Buffy, who is a self-possessed, confident heroine in her own right. Buffy doesn’t need anyone. Her relationships are her own choices, and she owns her mistakes. She bravely goes wherever her duty calls her, and she never backs down. She sacrifices everything she has in order to save the innocent. She looks like the kind of girl who could cause some serious damage (and, indeed, the actress who played her had a black belt in taekwondo); Bella Swan looks like she’d fall over in a stiff breeze. Bella Swan never thinks about anyone outside of her own small circle. Bella’s story – from what I remember of it, which isn’t much – is largely about herself, and Edward (the vampire who becomes her husband), and their family. They fight, sure, but it’s to save themselves. Buffy fights evil because it is the right thing to do, and because it is her responsibility, and even though it weighs heavily on her she doesn’t shirk it. She fights to save people who don’t even know they’re in danger, and she suffers for it.

But no. We’d rather squee over Bella Swan’s wedding dress than fangirl over Buffy’s prowess with a crossbow.


I know where my loyalties lie.

Image: italiansubs.com

Image: italiansubs.com

Feminism! It’s Everywhere!

So, this past weekend I found myself in Dublin city with a little time to spare. This, I have to say, doesn’t happen very often any more – even less so when I’m in the company of my husband – and we wondered what we could do to fill a few hours.

‘Why don’t we go and see a film?’ suggested The Husband.

‘What a wonderful idea,’ replied The Wife, with a sparkle in her eye.

My husband is a film fan, but not exactly a cinema – i.e. the physical movie theatre – fan. He knows, however, that I am both a film and a cinema nut. I was ridiculously pleased at his suggestion, so much so that I may actually have giggled and gambolled – just a little – at the thought of it, not only at the sheer delight of going to see a film but also at my husband’s loveliness in offering to bring me. So, off to the movies we went.

We were in the mood for a comedy, which was perfect, because the first thing to jump out at both of us from the listings screen in the cinema foyer was ‘RED 2’. We looked at each other, and immediately ran for the ticket line.

Image: totalfilm.com

Image: totalfilm.com

Some of you may have no idea what I’m talking about, so I’ll do a little ‘splainin’ here. ‘RED’ (it stands for ‘Retired and Extremely Dangerous’) came out in 2010, and was somewhat of an unlikely hit. Telling the story of several retired agents who once worked for, variously, the CIA, KGB and MI6 (sometimes an assortment of all three) who just can’t give up the old job, it was a darkly comic action movie with excellent performances from a stellar cast. I’d been vaguely aware a sequel was in the works, but I hadn’t realised it had been released. We were hoping, so much, that ‘RED 2’ would be a worthy successor to the original, and it was. I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a film in months.

But the humour, and the cast, and the story, and the concept behind the movie, are not what I want to talk about today. Instead, it’s the ‘f’ word. Yes – feminism. What else? ‘RED 2’ pleased my feminism-sensors, very much indeed.

Firstly: the movie has Helen Mirren in it. Helen Mirren.

Secondly: none of the female characters are required to get their clothes off, for any reason whatsoever. This was such a relief and utterly wonderful in every way.

Thirdly: none of the women are under forty, and the movie not only highlights this, but celebrates it. None of them look fake, or surgically enhanced, or anything less than their beautiful, natural selves. Hooray!

Fourthly: none of the women are for ‘decoration’ only; they all have skills, talents, strength, courage and chutzpah, and each of them is vital – in their own unique and interesting way – to the film and the storyline.

Fifthly: none of the women are ‘rewarded’ with a husband at the end.

Sixthly: I’m pretty sure it passes the Bechdel Test.

Awesome. Image: hitfix.com

Image: hitfix.com

Movies are an amazing art form. I adore them. Nothing thrills me more than a good film (besides a good book, of course). However, like a lot of people, the ways in which women are portrayed in films and the ways in which female characters are used in the film industry angers me, at times. Even as we sat waiting for ‘RED 2’ to start, we were bombarded with trailers for other movies, one of which (I deliberately forgot the name of it, as a form of personal protest) featured women as nothing more than bikini-clad toys; perhaps the finished movie has some redeeming features, but I intend never to find out. A recent movie I saw, which I loved, I have to admit, but which irritated me dreadfully from the point of view of its treatment of women was ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’. In this film, the men are the heroes, there is gratuitous female nudity and the women – despite the fact that they may be doctors, or capable of speaking a multitude of alien languages, or entitled to serve on the bridge of a starship – are all, primarily, beautiful distractions for the men. Objects first, people afterwards. That’s depressing.

It drives me mad when female characters aren’t treated with the same respect as male ones. It drives me mad when a film demands a woman’s nudity for no discernible narrative reason. It really drives me mad when a woman’s only role is to scream and stand around looking terrified, waiting to be rescued, and I hate films where a woman’s intelligence is ignored, or her ideas discounted for no reason besides the fact of her gender. Even good films – clever films, enjoyable and well-made films – can be guilty of treating female characters this way. Women (both on celluloid and in real life) aren’t perfect, of course – they can sometimes be shrill and annoying and silly and full of stupid ideas and they can be arrogant and unlikeable and even nasty – but so can men, because people are people. I really can’t understand why female characters are seen, so often, as ‘supporting’ characters, sidekicks to the male characters and not at all integral to the story. I wonder how many films exist which would work just as well if all the female characters were removed? More than we’d like to think, I’m sure.

Anyway. Go and see ‘RED 2’, particularly if you saw ‘RED’ and enjoyed it. There’s violence, and ‘scenes of extreme peril’, and I’m sure it won’t suit everyone’s palate. From the point of view of how it treats its women, though, I have no complaints. And, as well as that, it had me weeping with laughter at several junctures, so that can’t be bad.

Happy Monday! Let’s hope this is a good start to an even better week.

Enjoy the Silence?

It may come as news to most people, but yesterday was ‘Twitter Silence’ day. People were encouraged not to Tweet for a 24-hour period in solidarity with the women who’ve recently been experiencing horrendous abuse at the hands of online bullies, or ‘trolls’, on Twitter and on other forms of social media. Some of this abuse has truly been stomach-turning: women have been threatened with physical and sexual assault; their home addresses and personal information have been published online; at least one woman (an eminent professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge) was told a bomb had been planted outside her house. In response to this treatment, a day of silence was proposed, in order to ‘show what Twitter would be like if trolls over-ran this place [Twitter].’



I’m not sure whether the day achieved its desired effect, or whether it will make any difference to the lives of the targeted women – or, indeed, women on social media in general. All I know is, it has certainly generated a lot of news, and a lot of comment, which is probably a good thing. For me, personally, it demonstrated how difficult it is to make a stand on an issue which will suit everyone’s point of view, and which has any hope of gaining a wide base of support. I did send one Tweet yesterday, which I’d sent before I remembered about Twitter Silence; I hadn’t specifically pledged to take part, but I did think it was a good idea. I thought I might take part by default, by just ‘observing’ rather than actually making a conscious decision not to Tweet for a particular reason. During my observation, I was surprised to see how many people felt that the idea of boycotting Twitter for a day, taking part in a ‘silencing’, was the worst possible way to make a stand against abuse and bullying online. ‘Why would we silence ourselves,’ they argued, ‘when what these bullies want to do is silence us?’ As many women as took part in Twitter Silence also took part in ‘No Silence’, whereupon they went about their normal business on Twitter and made no attempt to curb their normal usage of the site.

I can see their point of view, too.

I think there’s a huge difference in ‘being silenced’, and ‘choosing to remain silent,’ though. I thought the idea behind ‘Twitter Silence’ was a good one, a principled and dignified stand against a tide of hatred that shouldn’t even be a part of public discourse in a civilised society. The women taking part weren’t ‘being’ silenced against their will; they were choosing to remove themselves from a forum for discussion where they felt their voices were being crowded out and ignored, and where their contributions were seen as meaningless merely because they are women. So, I had no problem with the idea of Twitter Silence itself – passive and peaceful resistance can often be a very effective way of getting your point across – but I respect the choices made on both sides, either to take part or not take part.

But the question remains: Why does this sort of thing even go on in the first place?

It terrifies me that women in the public eye can expect such vicious threats and disgusting attacks on their personal appearance, their safety and that of their families, simply by existing, and having the temerity to hold and express opinions. It terrifies me, too, that people feel they can treat one another so viciously on the internet, when – perhaps – they wouldn’t be quite so vitriolic if placed in a face-to-face situation. What makes communicating with someone on the web so different from having a telephone conversation, or a discussion in person? Why is it so easy for us to forget that the people with whom we communicate on the internet are people, plain and simple, deserving of respect and consideration? Could it possibly be because (and this is the truly horrifying thing about all this) treating others with respect and consideration is now passé, something which isn’t done any longer in this new world of ours?

I think the bullying mindset – I refuse to use the word ‘troll’, as some online bullies do, almost like it’s a badge of honour or something to be aspired to – has always been there. If a person who is inclined toward hatefulness thinks they can get away with harassment and bullying because they’re doing it anonymously, chances are high that’s exactly what they’ll do. ‘Poison-pen’ letters are nothing new! Sometimes, though, it amazes me how short-sighted people can be, or how completely incapable of seeing another person’s point of view they can be. I, personally, don’t see the point in engaging in behaviour designed to destroy another person, to intimidate or upset them, purely because you don’t agree with what they have to say or you don’t believe they should have a voice because they are female/differently abled/of a certain ethnicity or sexuality/any other completely meaningless distinction. I do see the point in engaging in protests designed to make political points, draw attention to important issues, and effect change, and I believe the internet can be the best tool we have to achieve aims like this, but I just wish it could be done in a spirit of mutual respect.

If we turn the greatest invention of the modern age into a place where all we do is spit hate at one another behind a veil of anonymity, what does that say about us? And how unutterably sad would that be?

Welcome to a new week. Let’s hope it’s the start of a new era, too.