#MisogynyAlert

Today, I was audience to yet another *taking down* of a misogynist on Twitter by a group of (I presume) well meaning women who started #MisogynyAlert with the aim of *intervening* when there is an incident of misogyny or abuse on Twitter.

The day I heard about #MisogynyAlert I was up in the air. Yeay! Some like minded people coming together to tackle sexism on Twitter – which would mean lot more reading material being shared, objections being raised and meaningful debates heard. Of course, not that *debating* with misogynists is going to change the world. I hoped at least, trying to talk sense to them, can help change one in a million. I’d have been happy with that.

Cut to today. This was the second *take down* I am witnessing. The urge to write about it increased exponentially. So, here we are.

So, how does this begin?

In general, both the *take downs* I’ve witnessed have been with some obscure no one on Twitter with less than a hundred followers. I refuse to believe that there isn’t enough misogyny among the popular, urban, English-speaking, non-Islamic ladies and gentlemen of the Twitter world.

Now, if I tagged the below tweet #MisogynyAlert, is the *team* going to pounce on Anusha and *intervene*?

The point here is that, perhaps there is a *choosing* of targets. Just perhaps. Or simply, is there a a gate-keeping of what misogyny entails. Will the team even engage with me to find out why the above tweet is offensive to me? Or just call me a humourless person?

Is this really intervention?

When I first heard of #MisogynyAlert from @Shobha_SV, I thought of it as an activity where women come in support for other women who are being abused on Twitter. Well, some misogynist tweets could be abuse in the general direction of the ladies and they must be subject to intervention too.

However, #MisogynyAlert is far from intervention here. It seems like a mere ganging up of educated, English-speaking, urban, young women against (generally) a lone man saying silly things. In an intervention, there is always a good intention. You do interventions for friends/ people you care about. So, as an intervention, it must be a civil talking session with someone who is misinformed and therefore saying objectionable things. #MisogynyAlert is hardly that.

The twisted Twitter behaviour

#MisogynyAlert is simply another of those Twitter hashtags. Everyone on it wants to say something witty and make themselves seem a smarter person. You’ll notice, most #MisogynyAlert tweets are RTs with mockery of the misogynist comment. A ‘do you want glasses’, ‘Dr. So and so has said it’ sort of sarcasm that does its fair bit in pissing off the person who has made the comment in the first place. It bullies. It begins a fight. And then there are also war cries. In essence, if you make a comment that offends us, we will bully you into oblivion.

The other twisted Twitter thing – trolling

The difference between this point and the one above is the sense of joy/ pride derived from being the bully. An intervention (again) is well-meaning. Where as #MisogynyAlert is just making a spectacle out of something someone has said (which is deemed offensive).

I’m afraid I have to take this one step ahead and wonder if we are indeed looking for misogynists to troll when bored. Pch.

Taking things out of context

When you have made up your mind to pounce on someone for having said something, it’s very difficult to stay within the debate and not go all over the place. The conversation that about women’s clothing inviting rape went into this. Look at the Atif Ali’s (the commentor/ offender here) response. Sums up why ganging up against someone is hardly the way.

And here. Calling a rapist a ‘bastard’ itself is #MisogynyAlert for me. So, who is going to fight my fight here?

Then some ifs and buts

Errr. “man making sexist comments is inviting a thrashing” in this tweet (which is what team #MisogynyAlert is doing), implies skin showing women can be raped, no?

Simple indeed. In some convoluted imaginary world! How is this even an argument?!

The logical conclusion?

Apparently, this means this.

In summary, as a feminist myself, #MisogynyAlert is far from the movement I want to be part of. Irrespective of the big names involved and the great press it seems to be getting, I will perhaps not even watch it anymore if it happens the way it happened today.

Not because #MisogynyAlert is a bad idea. But because it is the brand of feminism that applies on oppressors the same tactics they’ve been applying on women all these years. I’m not sorry to say, that’s not my feminism.

Feminism: Sexy v. Angry

Ellie Mae O’Hagan, The Guardian (Feb 25, 2013)

If you have the word feminist written anywhere about you (Twitter bio, blog header, curriculum vitae or just your broad forehead), it’s tough then having people believe that you are in reality not a bra-burning, man-hating, venom spewing, l3sbian. Much of feminism has till now been defined by anger. Then, the Tina Feys and Caitlin Morans happened to feminism. The (self-deprecating) sense of humour, far from idealist view about feminism and the ability to take a joke happened.

If we are thinking that’s great PR for feminism to have these funny, witty women, this is what O’Hagan thinks!

In my mind, if being sexy and funny are the two cornerstones of a new feminist movement, we may as well all pack up and go home now. At its core, feminism should be angry. It should be angry because women are still being taken for a ride. Like the women in The Feminine Mystique, we are being sold a lie of equality in a society where the odds are politically, socially and economically stacked against us.

Feminism’s most basic function should be to emphasise that sexism is not an accident, but an inevitable consequence of a society structured to favour men. Jokes about vaginas and reassurances that we won’t have to give up lipstick are not enough. To put it bluntly, a new feminism should not be afraid to piss people off.

Full article here.

Misogyny in folks tales

Harsimran Gill on Tehelka Blog (Feb 19, 2013)

My mother once said to me: “mullu mela selai vizhundhaalum, selai mela mullu vizhundhaalum, kizhiyaradhu selai than“. (Whether a sari falls on a thorn or a thorn falls on a sari, it’s the sari that is torn in the end). I’ve heard several stories that perpetuate this theory too.

In this blog for Tehelka, Harsimran Gill goes through folk tales from across the country to draw this common thread of misogynist tendencies among them.

AK Ramanujan, scholar of Indian literature and an expert in folk tales classified them along certain themes, including male-centric and female-centric stories. The former feature women as props, objects to be acquired, irrelevant to the story, other than as an object of desire; a shrew-like spouse to be tolerated. One of the most common themes in folktales across India is that of a king who comes across a woman, and struck with infatuation, proceeds to carry her off as a bride (often abducting her through deceit). His abducted bride though is almost always certain to fall ‘in love’ with him…

It is the female- centric stories however, that pose a more interesting challenge…They may be helpless victims making the best of their miserable lives to be ultimately saved only by supernatural intervention…The main purpose of the heroine appears to be rescuing men – fathers and husbands who ill-treated them once. 

Full article here. Must read.

What’s with high heels?

William Kremer on BBC World Service (Jan 25, 2013)

Recently, The Guardian published this response from Hadley Freeman for the question “Is it unfeminist to wear high heels?” While Hadley’s response and the following barrage of comments is another story, this post is about the absolute that is high heels. Being all of four feet and eleven inches in height, the high heels have always been taught to me as something that can make up for my inherent *short*comings.

So, when @madplays shared this BBC story (?) on high heels, I couldn’t resist sharing it here.

“One of the best ways that status can be conveyed is through impracticality,” says Semmelhack, adding that the upper classes have always used impractical, uncomfortable and luxurious clothing to announce their privileged status.

Full piece here.

Do women really talk more than men?

Amanda Marcotte on slate.com (Feb 22, 2013)

It’s the reason some stand-up comedians exist. It’s been the premise on which plenty of films have been made. Personally, I’ve been told several times that I talk too much. In this piece, Amanda argues that the general belief that women on an average speak more than men could be an unfounded myth, after all.

So why do people so readily believe women talk more? Part of the problem is that our prejudices distort our observations about reality. Consider that most Americans overestimate how much of the population is gay by a factor of 5 and overestimate how much of the population has illegally immigrated here by a factor of 6 or 7. They also overestimate what percentage of the population is on welfare. Traditional gender roles demand that women should be the listeners and not the speakers, so a woman who speaks as much as a man comes across as talking “too much.” 

Full article here. Must read.

Do you watch what you’re saying?

Kafila | Feb 11, 2013

Feminists have always held that language plays a very important role perpetuating in gender-based oppression. In this piece on Kafila.org, Anupama Mohan writes about phallogocentrism and the impact of language on societal values.

In English, the word seminal, which means something important and path-breaking, derives from “semen” and in contrast, the word hysterical or hysteria, which is a word that has for long been associated with peculiarly female physical and mental disorders (and often used for recommending women’s confinement), derives from “hystera” or the womb.

From there, she goes on to talk about the phallogocentrism, patriarchy, matriarchy, mythology, history, political correctness etc. to elaborate her point on the role of languages in the society.

Full article here: http://kafila.org/2013/02/11/the-languages-of-sexual-violence-anupama-mohan/

Women with sexual desire!

Kafila.org | Feb 11, 2013

In a piece about female sexual desire, Veena Venugopal talks about a woman’s desire, the need for it to be acknowledged in society and several pop culture references highly relevant.

In an early episode of Girls, one of the characters reads from a dating manual. “Sex from behind is degrading. He should want to look at your beautiful face,” she reads. To which the other asks, “what if I want something different? What if I want to feel like I have udders?”

Entire piece here: When women ask for it: Veena Venugopal

Virginia Woolf, on Pancakes and Porridge

From the Paris Review: Virginia Woolf, on Pancakes and Porridge. (February 7, 2013)

“When in a good and merry mood Trisy would seize a dozen eggs, and a bucket of flour, coerce a cow to milk itself, and then mixing the ingredients toss them 20 times high up over the skyline, and catch them as they fell in dozens and dozens and dozens of pancakes. But her porridge was a very different affair … It dolloped out of a black pan in lumps of mortar. It stank: it stuck.”

—From a series of sketches Woolf wrote for her nephews in their paper, The Charleston Bulletin. Illustration by Quentin Bell.