A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

How to Catch a Misogynist

Earlier this week the amazing Erin Kissane published “How to Kill a Troll,” an insightful essay that proposes a multi-pronged approach to dealing with Internet trolls. Her final and perhaps most important point is that love, or the “willingness to be human, vulnerable, and rational,” might be the only thing that can truly get through to people set on anonymously bullying and harassing others (particularly women). The article, and the subsequent discussion, is a tremendous resource for anyone seeking to understand trolls and misogyny on the Internet.

As I point out in the comments there, the problem with many hardcore trolls is that the whole thing is a game to them. They’re not out to change hearts and minds. They’re in it for the lulz and they really don’t care what buttons they have to press to get them. Are they misogynists? Many are. Many are stupid kids who don’t give a shit. If they weren’t online, they’d be out burning ants with a magnifying glass. But they’re learning from the big trolls that it’s fun to pick on women because we make a lot of noise which equals maximum entertainment. And it’s so easy! Your material’s already been written for you by all the misogynist trolls who came before. You can tell her to make you a sandwich, pick apart her appearance, accuse her of being a prude, a whore, or OMG A LESBIAN. If you’re hardcore, you can threaten to rape her, or wish cancer on her nether regions. You can describe all the ways you’d like to hurt her with foreign objects. Trolls–the worst of them–do all these things and more.

But to be a genuine troll requires anonymity. That means people who engage in some of these behaviors in public, with their name attached, and no expectation of privacy, cannot be rightly called trolls. But I’m going to go ahead and call them misogynists. And they’re so easy to catch. All you have to do is place the bait like The Huffington Post did today:

Huffington Post Facebook Status

Is this troll-bait?

The comments are a mix of “Yes, it’s sexist! Duh!” and “Who the hell cares?” sprinkled with stuff like this (Note: All of these comments are public on Facebook and viewable by anyone who has “liked” the Huffington Post–the fact that they are public is the point):

Always fun when the ladies join in!

And stupid shit like this:

Haha.

And the winning entry before I got sick of reading:

We have a winner!

From the guy who thought this contributed to the conversation:

The mayor of the town, much like these two commenters, doesn’t get what all the fuss is about. He thinks people are just “humorless.”

What do I think? I’m glad you asked. Yeah, it sounds sexist to me. But I’m not nearly as interested in those two parking spaces as I am in how many people are willing to flaunt their misogyny in public. Are they brave? If we compare them to the elusive-yet-ubiquitous troll, perhaps. Or maybe our friend the troll is just smarter than his counterparts showing their asses in public with their names attached. But I’ll tell you one thing: some of these people scare me way more than any socially impotent Smeagol hiding in his lair beneath mommy’s sewing room tapping out hate and rape threats (and believe me, they scare me enough that I keep this blog anonymous). Why? Because they seem to believe their misogynistic horseshit at a level so deep that they’re not even ashamed. To some of these folks, putting down women is socially acceptable and hilarious. And to others, it’s just not worth getting your panties in a twist over.

These attitudes serve to (further) normalize misogyny, and they help create this environment we have where if a woman speaks out and says “I don’t think this is right,” she can expect to be a) bullied and/or b) told she’s overreacting. And that’s at the very least. I think we can do better.

Let’s talk about how. Maybe love is the answer, but I don’t know what that looks like in action. I’m open to suggestions.

15 responses

  1. Devin Daniels

    You’re doing this article no service by stooping to their level. The picture at the beginning of this article is designed with exactly the same mentality that the trolls have. Bluntly, it’s disgusting. You have no right to claim the high ground when you resort to such tactics. Good friends of mine are pretty close to the physical description you’ve given, and yet they’re far better people than you are. Ffs, you complain about how trolls are dissecting women based upon their appearance, and yet you’re obviously not above such attacks. The fact that you would think such a picture is funny is abhorrent and shows why third wave feminism hasn’t even come close to achieving the level of main stream success the second wave did. You can’t capture the hearts of the undecideds if you’re going to utilize the same attacks you’re accusing your foe of.

    Shame on you.

    March 23, 2015 at 9:22 am

    • “Misogyny? No big deal.
      Insulting misogynists? SHAME ON YOU!”

      April 21, 2015 at 4:30 am

  2. The White Hat Hacker

    I Honestly despise trolls! They’re the scum of the internet! They give all of us a bad name, no matter what. There seem to ‘areas’ of the internet, if you know what I mean? The artists, gamers, bloggers, etc. But no! I’ve watched entire communities crumble because of one person. One. It’s a terrible thing. Trolls are nearly useless! You would think that logically breaking them down would work. Cold logic works for me, but for so many others, it’s like the troll is a machine that spews garbage, unable to be reasoned with. You know what? I’ll go further. xBox Live. Forgive my language, but it’s pure HELL! Then COD. My gosh, COD. I have no words for it. None

    March 4, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    • Sorry it took a bit to get your comment up. I have them moderated…because of trolls. :-/

      March 5, 2015 at 8:27 am

  3. orangeblorenge

    Thank you!! And, I always wondered where the name of your site came from. Duh on me but so glad to have found your blog.

    January 19, 2015 at 1:45 pm

  4. soggy knees

    make me a sammich 2015 represent

    January 18, 2015 at 11:25 am

  5. Elizabeth

    I am so glad I found your blog.

    July 16, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    • So am I! <3

      July 16, 2012 at 5:10 pm

  6. Mandaray, I ran out of “Reply” on that thread, so I’m replying down here. Stoopid WP.

    That was kind a my thought: Let them come and spew their trash, and use it as an opportunity to discuss the issue. But I think I’ll create a Troll Gallery so people don’t have to fear the comments section. :)

    July 15, 2012 at 5:05 pm

  7. Thank you for another insightful post. What I found most interesting is the point you made about how insidious misogyny can be. Sadly, many people who read that story and the comments don’t even realize how misogynistic so much it is. Some people have become so used to misogyny that they don’t even recognize it for what it is. That being said, I do think there’s something very powerful about responding to hate with love. It throws people off guard and makes them stop and think. It’s also the best way I know to start changing the way people behave toward each other in general. I wish we didn’t have to fight this battle in every corner of our lives as women. I am grateful for the men who are respectful of women and I hope some commented on the article in defense of women, at least that’s my hope. I do think it is important to recognize the men who stand behind women and don’t engage in misogyny. But while misogyny continues to be prevalent, we must find more and perhaps creative ways to address it. My mother always said if you ignore the bullies they’ll stop, because then it’s no fun. Maybe that’s one approach. But I do believe that responding with love is always a good thing. Even if the person you are responding to doesn’t get it, at least you know you’ve done the right thing.

    July 14, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    • You know, it’s funny. While some commenters said, “Yeah, this is sexist,” not a single one that I saw responded to the outright sexist comments. Maybe they felt they way I did: I don’t know who these guys are, but if they’re willing to wave their misogyny around like a flag with their name and face plastered on it, I don’t necessarily want to get into a public fight with them. And that’s my conditioning speaking: Yeah, most of them are just blowhards and I don’t want to deal with trying to convince them that they’re wrong when they have no intention of learning anything. But then there’s that feeling of danger. I’m putting my name and face out there on FB. And it’s not hard to find me online. I don’t need to worry about one more threat in my life. This blog is anonymous for a number of reasons, but a big one is that I want to say my piece and tell my story and if I get attacked, I want a mechanism for distancing myself from those attacks. And I want some measure of protection against the actual psychos.

      But maybe, like some commenters, they just didn’t think it was a big deal. It’s like the Daniel Tosh thing and people saying, “This isn’t news! Why were we even talking about it!” Because if we don’t, we’re lost.

      And yeah, love. Once again, I have no idea how to do it when it comes to facing actual hate, but I’m sort of looking forward to the challenge.

      July 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm

  8. I like how several of the commenters make the statement that it’s “proven” women are worse drivers, and yet provide no evidence of this fact.

    Also I think anytime you have to defend your decision, law, or point of view with “Don’t get angry! It’s FUNNY! See how FUNNY it is?”, you have probably just made an extremely bad decision or law, and your point of view maybe needs an adjustment.

    As for how to deal with people like this…I have no idea. I’ve received responses like that any time I dare to state an opinion (usually one that goes something like “you don’t have the right to make me deal with your bullshit”) for years. (My particular favorite was when I made a comment on a YouTube video stating that, just because I was alone in a bar or restaurant didn’t give anyone the right to come up and talk to/hit on me. I was them subsequently accused of being heartless, cold, or “on my period”.) That’s just how the internet is, or has been for me. I’ve gotten used to just accepting the fact that you don’t defeat the trolls, you just ignore them, or give them enough rope to hang themselves with…which they usually do.

    That said, I have personally experienced what it’s like to fight trolls with more hate, and it is absolutely not the answer. They feed off it like roaches sucking on radioactive waste. These days I find neutrality works pretty well, as does vagueness or accepting their “points” and then turning them against them. Haven’t tried love yet. Probably because I find it too difficult to muster anything other than a repeating vision of introducing these kinds of people to the business end of a shotgun.

    July 14, 2012 at 12:29 am

    • Yeah, anger and hate definitely fuel the fire. Personally, I’m trying to imagine what it would take, faced with a real, live troll on this blog, to actually get myself into a place of love in order to respond with any semblance of it. As for those who wave their misogyny around on Facebook like a flag, the only thing I can think of that might counter it in some small way is to write about it here. I could bang my head against the brick wall of their ignorance, but that’s been futile in the past, and I have no wish to make a target of myself. I think we just have to keep countering the BS with our own voices and make sure the world hears us by whatever means necessary. When it’s not socially acceptable to be a misogynist prick, only pricks will be misogynists. Or something. :)

      July 14, 2012 at 5:54 pm

      • I agree. I think the best way to deal with trolls is either to cut them out of your life entirely, or simply raise your voice as loudly as they have raised theirs…but instead of doing it for hate, do it for love, or for something you’re passionate about. Spread a positive message while they’re spreading a negative one. If they come at you directly, absolutely defend yourself, and deal with it as best you can. But I like the idea of starting a conversation about their hatred right under their noses. Whether or not they’re smart enough to join in–and not just as a troll–is up to them.

        July 15, 2012 at 4:25 pm

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