Misogyny is a real thing. It is a real thing, it exists, there are societal biases against women all over the place (I tried to begin listing them, but I figured you didn’t want to read a 40 page long article). It is not a made up term. And there are many ways it manifests itself.
However, it is notable that none of those ways are evident in Sarah Jaffe’s “Memories of My Misogynist Trolls*” piece on Jezebel. The only thing the much discussed pieces seems to indicate is that if you pick disagreements with people they will yell at you. Just as people have been doing with other people essentially since the dawn of time.
Jaffe lays forth two examples as evidence that there is a rampant misogynistic bias against women who have opinions, and share them. Here is there first, which took place at a bar in Greenpoint during the third presidential debate:
When the crowd thinned out, we joined our other friends at the table and chatted a bit, and then I caught an earful of some guy pontificating, at the other end of the table, about how he actually agreed with Mitt Romney on teachers’ unions. (Item: by day, I am a labor reporter who’s well used to listening to white male quasi-liberals blathering about how teachers are the problem with our schools, maaaan, and if we just had merit pay all the problems that are actually caused by endemic poverty would just go away, but I digress.)
I admit that I can be a bit mouthy and I like proving blowhard guys wrong, so I leaned over and asked sweetly, “Who are you and how are you such an expert on teachers’ unions?”
His answer, which almost made me snort out loud, was that teachers’ unions are opposed to meritocracy! I shrugged and told him that I was too — because “meritocracy” is usually code for “white guys get the promotions.”
It’s such a terrible cliché that I hate to say it but: he snapped.
Dude, in his nice blazer, stood up and threw a tantrum worthy of a Park Slope toddler denied its organic vegan ice cream. He was yelling and I’m pretty sure stamping his feet, telling me that I was useless, I’d never amount to anything, that my feminism and support for Hillary Clinton had nearly ruined Barack Obama’s (the president who after that third debate went on to handily win reelection) career. (Another item: I was a volunteer on the Obama campaign from sometime in December 2007 up until election day, through three primary states and a hell of a lot of late nights. But you get that it doesn’t matter, right?)
My friends, who knew him, tried to calm him down; he sat back down once and then got up again to scream some more. The barback tried to push him back and the bartender shouted at him to leave. Eventually my friend took him outside and read him the riot act and I realized that I was shaking.
While it was happening, I think I smiled. I know that I repeated several times, “This is why I’m a feminist,” as the table full of women behind him stared. A few of them came up to me after he was gone, expressing sympathy, but I didn’t really get upset until later.
Right, let’s rehash. You went up to a guy you didn’t know, and before saying any pleasantries whatsoever, accused him of being ill informed when he was expressing his opinion, privately, to his friends. When he tried to explain his opinion to you, you nearly snorted, and made a blanket assumption about him and his politics, and were then shocked – shocked! – that this guy you had never met, in a bar, who you’d just belittled, yelled at you.
Presumably you were shocked by this because you had no way to anticipate that if you demean people you don’t know publicly, they might get angry. If that’s the case, the fact that you have so effectively mastered the basics of human literacy after your birth last week is an inspiration to us all.
Interestingly, if the genders in this story were reversed, I would think that this was a story about misogyny. If Jaffe had been expressing her opinion about teacher’s unions, and some guy she didn’t know broke into her private conversation with her friends to say “who are you and what makes you an expert?” and Sarah said “that guy was a misogynistic douche, assuming I wouldn’t know anything about that subject” I would say “yes. Yes, that is absolutely right.”
That, of course, did not happen.
This is certainly a story about gender, but not the way Jaffe thinks it is. If Jaffe had been a man who interrupted someone’s conversation and demeaned their opinion – in a bar, where people had been drinking, and thanks to the presidential election tensions were already high, although, to be fair, you do not find many tea-party members at bars in Greenpoint – he certainly would have been yelled at. There is a very high chance that a physical altercation might have occurred. And no one would have sat around patting man-Jaffe on the back to soothe him, because, well, it’s understood that if you provoke arguments with strangers that’s a possible outcome.
It may not be the outcome you like, or wanted – though I cannot imagine what that outcome would be, since conversations where people politely listen to one another’s opinions and change their minds and their hearts do not generally begin “who’re you and what do you know?” – but you should have been aware that was a potential outcome. You were not victimized, there.
One should be aware of that by virtue of being a human being who has been in social situations.
I am delighted when people identify as feminists – I’ll take them any way I can get them! – but the conclusion is as unrelated as if Jaffe had stared at a block of concrete and announced, “the color grey. That’s why I’m a feminist.”
You’re a feminist because you don’t like men yelling at you? That is not a reason to be a feminist. That is a reason to join a role playing community with a strong emphasis upon chivalry.
Being a woman and being a feminist does not give you a free pass to go around antagonizing strangers with no repercussions. Feeling shaky and victimized afterwards certainly doesn’t make you a feminist hero, it makes you a person who does not anticipate other people’s responses well. There is, to my memory, no episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show where she goads a guy into a bar fight and then, after he is ejected, sits at a table, tearily murmuring “I’m a feminist. A feminist” to her friends.
Probably because that’s not terribly inspiring.
*Like misogyny, the term troll also has a meaning, and one which seems wildly misused here.