#MenCallMeThings reveals what’s inside everyone’s Anti-Feminist Mailbag

As I mentioned this past weekend, recently there’s been some renewed discussion about online misogyny. On both sides of the pond, women bloggers have been speaking out about the sexist abuse they endure–often silently and stoically–for, as Jill says, “the crime of Blogging While Female.”

While commenters can be dicks all over the internet, it’s undeniably true that the hateful vitriol that fills women’s–and especially feminists’–inboxes and comments queues is often of a distinctly misogynist variety. And it’s so constant that it’s impossible to keep writing online if you don’t figure out to deal with it–how to brush it off or ignore it or ridicule it or cope in some other way. How to do anything besides the one thing that the online misogynists want you to do: shut up.

But it shouldn’t be that way. It really shouldn’t. That bears repeating since sexist trolling, harassment, and threats have become so normalized that putting up with such abuse is seen as, in Sady Doyle’s words, “a pre-condition for being a lady who talks about things, or for challenging sexism in any way.” As Jill wrote, “the fact that in order to succeed as a female blogger you need to develop skin like steel is…not ok.”

It’s not ok. And part of fighting it is revealing that it happens. Yesterday, Sady launched the #mencallmethings Twitter hashtag to do just that:

LET US JUST TELL YOU what we put up with, what we’ve been strong enough to endure, and even knowingly court; the given consequences we face for being anti-sexist and/or ladies on the Internet, which we’ve all put up with, without crumbling.

Trigger warning on the whole hashtag, I’d say.

Sharing these stories is important–not only to foster a sense of solidarity and support but also to reveal just how threatened misogynists are by women (and others) who challenge sexism online. That’s why we’ve traditionally showcased some of our favorite misogynist comments in the Anti-Feminist Mailbag. As s.e. smith wrote in a recent post on this topic, “This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it.”

Well, here’s the reality–now let’s talk about it.

Atlanta, GA

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. Maya has previously worked at NARAL Pro-Choice New York and the National Institute for Reproductive Health and was a fellow at Mother Jones magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. A Minnesota native, she currently lives, writes, edits, and bakes bread in Atlanta, Georgia.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/jgirl/ J

    I’ve been reading #mencallmethings and it’s pretty darned depressing and I’m really happy to see the discussion happening.

    However, one of the things I’ve been trying to do as a part of my feminist living, is avoid the use of gendered insults. Why is it not okay to call someone a pussy as an insult, but it is okay to call them a dick?

    Just a thought.

    • http://feministing.com/members/mjameson/ Matthew T. Jameson


    • http://feministing.com/members/robbieloveslife/ Robert

      Calling a guy a dick is seen as a compliment many times. This has a lot to do with who gets laid. For most guys a pussy = nice guy / soft guy and those guys based on what I see at work and in college are having the least sex. A dick = jerk / stud and these guys are having the most sex and get a lot of respect from their peers. From my own experience when a guy calls me a dick I know they may hate me but they respect me. That’s just the social culture we live in.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    I believe that most male trolls are motivated by jealousy. They can’t have the women they brutalize, so they lash out. Or they can’t have women they know personally, so they project.

  • http://feministing.com/members/sarahbee/ Sarah

    I have to say I agree with J regarding the use of “dick” – I don’t really think it gets us anywhere. Especially when we have such fun options: http://funnyfeminist.com/2011/01/12/gender-neutral-insults-everyones-an-asshole/ (I’m partial to cretin, sleaze, and dirtbag, myself…)
    Anyway, though I understand why the hashtag is #MenCallMeThings I also think there’s validity to the points some tweets are making that some of the nastiest attacks can come from women. But I think it’s awesome to bring the abuse out in the open like this! And this http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23somemensometimescallmethingswhenIdiscussladystuffbuttheymaystillbenice is the best response I’ve seen so far to all the dirtbags naysaying the hashtag. ;)

    • unequivocal

      “Cretin” is problematic in its ableism (in the same way that “moron,” “idiot” and “feebleminded” are).

      “Dirtbag” doesn’t bug me, but it is strongly gendered: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dirtbag

      On the other hand, it does always strike me as weird when we are concerned that the insults we are using might be offensive. I get it, and I agree with the underlying sentiment, but it is still kind of a strange thing to worry about.

      • http://feministing.com/members/sarahbee/ Sarah

        Thank you for pointing that out – turns out cretin had been wrongly defined to me and with dirtbag I certainly wasn’t thinking of any of the urban dictionary definitions but it really doesn’t seem to matter anyway because the more “old school” definition certainly seems classist. Any two ways about it it certainly seems to come from a place of privilege that I’ve never had to think that deeply about either one so I do appreciate the disruption of that when I failed to do it myself in this case.

        And I struggle with that same concept and agree that it does seem like a strange thing to worry about. I think for me it’s the idea of “flipping the script” that doesn’t bode well in any situation. Is that concern necessarily the most logical to apply to insults? Probably not. It would seem a lot more logical, based on what you’ve pointed out, to be concerned with the sentiment behind the insult rather than the insult itself. It’s likely that the reason that reactions focus on language rather than motivation is simply because on the internet words are far more accessible to our scrutiny than intent.

        I don’t think this happens often on the internet so I simply wanted to respond and essentially say you know what, I think you’re right! :)

        • unequivocal

          you know what, I think you’re right!

          I’ve been online for over a decade, and that might be the first time anyone has said that to me. =)

          • http://feministing.com/members/sarahbee/ Sarah

            Glad I could be the first and hopefully not the last! I truly appreciated your comment and the respectful way in which it was made – I think we need more of that. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/quietmarc/ Marc

    The reason why it’s “okay” to call someone a dick goes back to power dynamics. If all things were equal, it wouldn’t matter, but because we live in societies that -aren’t- equal, there’s extra baggage attached to words depending on their gender. Dick is okay, because it’s clear that you aren’t -also- insulting someone because they happen to be a man. the integrity of maleness being a good thing and something to value isn’t in jeopardy. Or at least, such is my understanding.

  • http://feministing.com/members/poet/ LK

    I agree that it’s necessary to speak up and raise awareness about misogynist trolling. So I applaud the initiative in principle. However, gendering the attackers by calling the hashtag “men call me things” is in itself sexist. Yes, a lot of misogynist abuse comes from men. But there are enough misogynist women out there who also engage in anti-feminist / anti-female trolling behavior. And feminism as a movement still has a “man-hating-feminist” stereotype to fight… so I’d suggest changing it to “trolls call me things”, or something along these lines.

    • http://feministing.com/members/ray984954/ Raymond Nash

      You do have a point, it’d have been better as trolls call me things, yes, but most misogynism is from men, not women. Both can be terribly disrespectful. I’m reminded of the 2012 election when Carly Fiorina commented on Barbara Boxer’s hair, now I know it is not quite the same thing but far more serious than that example, but she was not very nice when she commented on Boxer’s physical appearance, and often times women are attacked based on how the look, or how what men imagine they look based on commentary . With many awful things said about a woman’s appearance. When I first saw the hashtag, I was sorta like you, and I also thought well, they are not referring to me cuz’ I don’t make comments like that against women at least not knowingly, but then I recalled how I use to call the Republican Party, the word TprtyRethugnicunts. Now the last part is as you suspected, I was disparaging a political party with a sexist word, cunt, which is no different from me having the notion of disparaging someone by calling them, a bitch, or pussy, or at least suggesting a female part of the human body was a bad thing and something to use as an insult. Needless to say, I no longer use that name, it is not really what I want to say about a party I disagree with. using a moniker indicating female parts as revolting is not exactly the thing, but the terms I have come to know and use has been handed down and I have used them without thinking, just as a reaction to anyone I disagree with. I use the term TprtyRethugs now, because to me it is more accurate anyway and it does not bring a disparaging word about women into it at all. Thugs are a good disparaging name, as the name I think came about when there were unions just starting to protest and there were police and Pinkerton Agents and yes, thugs, hired badasses who were big and scary to go against the union protesters. And in some ways the Republican majority in the House are acting like thugs by voting in laws against womens rights.
      I tweeted a couple of things, harmless, and I thought supportive only to be hit with implications that I was one of the ones who would say such awful things women have to put up with, which I do not do, I was just making an obsevation. It had to do with how some men are dogs, and it was about men I have talked to through the years and their general attitude towards women and who really were Neanderthals, in their thinking and who felt women should be at home barefoot and pregnant. I felt I was lumped in with them because I pointed out my misgivings about men, as if I was trying to get on the woman’s good side of this for ulterior motives.
      I pledge right now to stop any and all I see, women or men engage in misogyny in its many forms. I know we all have blind spots, but I hope someone will point out to me(gently, please) if I engage in that kind of woman hating behavior.