• Wed, Dec 12 2012

Men Who Disagree With You Are Not Evidence Of Misogyny (Or Trolls)

misogynistic trolls

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.

Share This Post:
  • EmilyW2188

    Great post – I couldn’t agree more.

  • Dirtman

    Agree completely – though I thought she meant it was the other older guy that acted up, not the velociraptor-puppeteer. (Then again she might have meant the actual puppet. It wasn’t very clear.) It’s clear that the reason patriarchal men vocally disagree with strong women is because they feel their priveleges are threatened — i.e. that feminism is working. And it’s also clear that you can get lots more men, of all kinds, to yell at you if you are a jerk, man or woman.

  • Cee

    *nod nod nod* Agreed! I read that post on Jezebel and it stirred me the wrong way. One commenter who said something along the lines of your argument got bashed for this big time, but Jezebel cant post an article without getting bashed with being entitled, privledged, mysogynistic, -shaming. Huh, this post should go out to half the comment base on Jezebel…Anyways being a feminist is not about picking fights with random men at bars or engaging with a puppeteer. It is about standing up to someone who being mysogynistic.

  • Sabrina

    Agree wholeheartedly. I question what exactly her motives were by barging in on a stranger’s conversation in a bar. That is so disrespectful.

    • John Suni

      I don’t even think that’s necessarily the problem. It’s that she wasn’t interested in an honest debate. If she was, she would have said something like: “you can’t know that teacher’s unions are against meritocracy” or “teachers unions are trying to protect teachers and protect students right to a good education”.

      Instead she used snark to show a complete disrespect and dismissal for the person and tried to humiliate him. If a man had done this he probasbly would have gotten punched.

      If I had been in his shoes I would have said: “yeah, and I have seen your version of equality: “HIRE ME BECAUSE I’M A WOMAN! PASS A LAW SO 50% OF CEOS EVEN IF THEY HAVE ZERO EXPERIENCE ARE WOMEN” I trust your version of equality just as little baby”

  • Eileen

    I love this post, except for when you bash parrots. My parrot is the best. All he wants to do is eat raspberries and pomegranates and play with your jewelry.

    But seriously, who starts accusing someone of being misinformed when he’s speaking privately to his friends at a bar – and expects him to be nice about it? Didn’t we outgrow things like arguing loudly about politics with strangers in social places? This is the problem with Jezebel. Sometimes, they’re totally on, and other times, they’re high schoolers.

    • http://twitter.com/JenAshleyWright Jennifer Wright

      A little known fact: Eileen’s parrot is the only okay parrot in the entire world.

  • Larissa

    Fantastic post. I always find that you seem to clarify what others have made overly complicated. Like, “No, lady. That’s not actually the issue, and that’s not actually feminism, and for god’s sake the man had a velociraptor puppet on his hand, let’s get real here.”

  • Courtney

    Really great post. Jezebel seems to be going off the deep end into extremism. Whenever I see the same issues on this site they are always treated in a more sane and thoughtful manner.

    • Cee

      Yes!

    • Sabrina

      Yes, I find it harder and harder to read anything from Jezebel anymore. I used to check their site every day and now it’s more like once a week for a quick scan. They’re starting to pile on the man-hate a lot, and I just can’t get behind it.

  • NotQuite

    Was I the only person who read this part: “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?)”

    He didn’t attack her argument. He didn’t attack her reasoning or facts. The guy made assumptions about her as a woman and a feminist. He bashed her for being a woman who believes in equality and is arguing that will be the downfall of America. It wasn’t that he was yelling, it was that he was yelling about her being a woman. She wasn’t “useless” because of her theories on labor, she was “useless” because he assumed she supported Hillary (another woman). If the denigration of a woman for simply being a woman and possibly supporting a woman isn’t misogyny, I don’t know what is.

    • superjack

      No. Sorry. Wrong.

      Picking a fight with someone only then to discover that person is a misogynist doesn’t mean your fight had anything to do with misogyny.

      Moreover, calling her useless and saying she won’t amount to anything are not inherently misogynistic. They are, however, the kinds of things you say to someone who just interrupted and belittled you in a bar.

      Also, objecting to feminism is not synonymous with misogyny, either (though that’s because of a larger cultural confusion about the definition of feminism, but that’s beside the point/unfortunate).

      No one is saying this guy isn’t a prick. But the author congratulating herself as some kind of hero? No. That’s ridiculous. This argument occurred because she behaved like a twat.

    • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

      Did you not read the part she snorted and said “I shrugged and told him that I was too — because “meritocracy” is usually code for “white guys get the promotions.””

      I would argue that isn’t doing anything better than you claim of him. She got from him what she gave out, disrespectful gendered insults. He also didn’t bash her for being a woman, he bashed her for being a feminist. They are not the same thing. One is an ideology, the other a biological demographic.

  • http://twitter.com/classic_ashes Chris

    Who the hell is Jezebel and why should anybody give a damn? There’s a whole world of media out there that matters. This is not it. Though Ms. Wright has certainly and effectively voiced a good deal of common sense, I fail to see the usefulness of associating with this argument at all (I was led here by a friend’s insistence on facebook).

  • http://helloalle.com/ Alle

    Fantastic, amazing, perfect, etc. This is the best.

    The article on Jez really made me think “Really?” when I read it, too. And I started to get a little cross about it, honestly. Because I too am a woman of strong opinions. I too often voice those opinions, personally and professionally, in rooms full of people, many of whom disagree with me. Though I can’t make anyone agree with me, I can–and do–make them listen. Yelling “YOU IDIOT, YOU DON’T KNOW ANYTHING, I AM RIGHT!” is not the way to do that.

    Look. I know what getting shut down because of your gender looks like. I also know what getting shut down for being rude (or expressing yourself so poorly that you come off as rude) looks like, and this is totally a case of the latter. If you can’t make yourself understood without coming off as a jerk, that’s YOUR problem, not the world’s problem. Like I said, I express my opinions all the time. I am assertive, not aggressive. As a result, even when people disagree with me, they don’t HATE me.

    Women, let’s speak up more. Yes, there are some dudes (especially on the internet) who will be dicks to you because you’re a lady and ladies who aren’t silent or agreeing with them while giving them blowjobs = BITCHES. Ignore those guys. Those guys are the equivalent of the velociraptor puppet person, in that you aren’t going to get anything out of a well-reasoned debate with them. Besides, there are way worse things in the world than some idiot with an entitlement complex thinking you’re a bitch. Express yourself clearly. Defend your opinion. Remain calm and logical (this REALLY pisses people off, for some reason). And if, after all that, the other person still wants you to shut up and be “ladylike,” then fuck ‘em right in the earhole. They have issues that no discussion is going to fix.

    • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

      As someone who appears to be honest about her experiences, I’m curious, outside the internet, how often would you say your opinion has been dismissed solely because you’re a woman?

      As to the internet, just for clarification, do we agree getting dismissed because you’re the wrong sex isn’t limited to women?

    • http://helloalle.com/ Alle

      Mark, I work in a heavily male-dominated organisation. Many of the people I work with, when I came on board, had never worked with a woman before in any capacity but as a secretary or assistant, and told me as much right to my face. In the beginning I was told that I was in meetings to “Look pretty”–when actually I was running them. I was also routinely talked over, told to be quiet or told that I didn’t know what I was talking about, only to watch my male colleagues later say exactly what I’d said and be applauded for it. Things have improved a lot now. I have kicked down some doors on my own and demonstrated my worth. But it’s been much, much harder for me than it would have been if I’d had a penis.

      I have had other people in other organisations refuse to work with me because they’d rather deal with a man. In response to disagreeing with someone on a professional point, I’ve been asked what my husband thinks about my “attitude” or told that my boyfriend should teach me a lesson. I’ve been told to get back in the kitchen and that having a couple kids would “settle [me] down.” I could go on and on. These things would not, and do not happen, to my male colleagues. The fact that they have happened to me is eye-opening for them.

      I am going to disagree with you on your last point, at least in generalities. I have never seen men totally, absolutely, utterly shut down by women JUST because they are men. I have seen men shut down when they bring a “I know better than you, you feebly little lady” attitude to the table, or if they say some wacky bullshit. Which, fair enough. But even in the most hardcore feminist circles, I’ve seen men participate respectfully and be granted the same respect in return. At no point in time have “men with opinions” been something that’s viewed as improper or as a problem. Women with opinions, though, is a different story. So no, while specific men may get shut down, men in general do not. Not in the same way that women do.

    • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

      “I am going to disagree with you on your last point, at least in generalities. I have never seen men totally, absolutely, utterly shut down by women JUST because they are men.”

      Ever listened to a man talk about parenting within a group of women? Because what you described in your first two paragraphs sounds a great deal like the experiences of stay at home fathers. It also sounds precisely like what a man experiences when he tries to inject his experiences, experiences that don’t mesh with feminist theory, into a discussion on gender. You know, when men’s opinions and experiences (that contradict feminist theory) get dismissed as misogynistic because, well, they have a penis, not due to anything they’ve actually said.

    • Tom

      Mark, that is very true. The problem I see with most people, they don’t put themselves in the other person shoes. For the most part, what Alle said is true, but she only looked from the female in male dominance perspective. Not as you mentioned, role reversal (I loathe that term) but some understand it spoken that way. Great post!

    • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

      And unfortunately, that gynocentric focus has become the standard today. It is what drives policy, such as pushing title IX into the (male dominated) STEM fields, while ignoring all the (female dominated) humanities and arts fields, despite men already attending post secondary at lower rates then when women first started complaining about the inequities of education.

  • MR

    Yeah, nobody should categorize anyone – nothing sums up discrimination more. Sex Pistols, huh? I know what song I’d have on my… :) That first album is raw.

  • jiraf

    THANK YOUUUUU for this article. I stopped going to Jezebel because some of the writers there made my blood boil. They are f*cking nuts and -at the risk of sounding… I don’t know what, patronizing? holier than thou? its people like miss jaffe that give feminism a bad rep. “this is how a woman gets treated if she speaks up??” BARF. I live with 4 men (I am the only female -kind of weird how it came about) and I am never afraid to speak up and I have never been treated like this woman over here. Hey sweetie, you are just being yelled at because you are an ASSHOLE, not a WOMAN. We are not all angry bra burning over-sensitive paranoid nutjobs! We are normal rational people – women- who want to be treated equally. Even if it means being yelled at. You are taking a step backwards in the name of women everywhere! Stop Jezebel.

    • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

      Pretty much, she is part of the victim cult. She acts like some arrogant, entitled, know-it-all, then cries the victim when she’s treated like an arrogant, entitled, know-it-all.

    • Miss Lady

      Agreed. For some reason, Jezebel attracts the world’s angriest and the most mean-spirited people. And their stupid, mindless, scorched-earth vitriol is sickening. I could never respect someone who calls herself a feminist while she runs around picking fights with strangers and then plays the victim card.

  • DavidGaliel

    Wow. A grown up. How refreshing.

  • Napadavid

    Great post.. I recently subscribed to Jezebel cause I like Lindy West, but she wrote an eyeball bleeding piece today about some lame piece in a men’s rag that was objectifying women, blah blah blah… and that piece you slam really hit all the whiny, oh poor me, hate men notes, didn’t it? Thanx for slamming it…

  • http://twitter.com/JlnFrancisco julian francisco

    Wonderful. So being called misogynistic things and dismissed for being a woman don’t count as misogyny. Thank you for the information.

    • Shannon

      You are like a broken record, Julian.

    • http://twitter.com/JlnFrancisco julian francisco

      I know you?

    • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

      Please, point out where she was dismissed, let alone done so fr being a woman? I’d argue getting yelled at is quite the opposite of being dismissed. I’d also argue that throwing someone out of an event is more akin to dismissing them than being dismissed. So please, do explain yourself.

  • http://twitter.com/JlnFrancisco julian francisco

    So basically this is a site to mock and belittle the radfems from other quarters To set you apart from the man hating bitches elsewhere?

  • john

    Of course this is just one more lie of a story in a long list of lies written on a daily basis. Everyone one of these stories has the same theme. Strong, intelligent, reasonable woman. Angry, backward, overbearing man. I’ve yet to ever hear a story where the cro-magnum man is ever interviewed, as in, both sides of the story. Or if there really is a man in the fabled lies of the internet.

  • http://twitter.com/Mark_Neilg Mark Neil

    You left out in your assessment of the first story how it was she that relied upon sexist, racist stereotyping in her dismissal of his opinion. Last I checked, dismissing a meritocracy because it is just code for “white guys get the promotions.” is pretty damn sexist, as it assume racism and sexism in, presumably the white males doing the promoting (which is no longer the case, especially in schools, where men make up a very small percentage of the staff.)

  • AnotherSimpleMan

    We quit, and it’s liberating. We can now sleep with as many women as we like without feeling guilted into being exclusive, or even contemplating eventually getting married. It sucks when women are given even more special privileges in society than they already have, but the extra sex we can get more than makes up for it. The sucker males who end up married (and then drained in the inevitable divorce) are pissed off, but no problem – their wives were sleeping around on them anyways. It’s all good.

  • Miss Lady

    Excellent article – thank you so much! Jaffe is not so much a feminist as she is a trollish sh*t-stirrer – she herself admits to being “a bit mouthy” – and attention-grabber. She starts arguments with strangers and then, when they get angry, she cries “victim”. What a boor and a bore.

  • Miss Lady

    Not sure if my comment was actually posted. I apologise if this is a double post.

    Excellent article – thank you! Jaffe is not so much of a feminist as she is a trollish sh*it-stirrer – she herself admitted that she can “be a bit mouthy” – and attention-grabber. She verbally attacks strangers and then cries “victim”.