I think we need to boost Catherine Bennett, for making the connection, in a mainstream newspaper, between the male violence of MRAs and ‘incels’ and the male violence of trans activists (This article is published in the Observer, which is editorially independent from the genderist trash-heap that is the Guardian).
In the days since the Canadian man murdered 10 people, a good deal of attention, including glossaries of special terms, has focused on the peculiarities of “incel” online behaviour. Here, the standard misogynistic repertoire – “you deserve to be raped”, etc – is ornamented, a bit, with coinages such as femoids. But actually, so what? To many social media users, neither the language nor the sentiments expressed in posts such as the one above, however far along the woman-hating continuum, are likely to look radically out of the ordinary.
Apart from anything, Jack the Ripper, who would now be the toast of angry celibates, had the disembowelling idea 130 years ago. And further demonstrating that misogynistic tropes are by no means the monopoly of resentful male virgins, curators at San Francisco library are currently staging an exhibition featuring a display of dissident-silencing weaponry (axes and bats) and other hate-advertising artefacts.
Photographs of one vitrine, featuring a red bespattered T-shirt reading: “I punch terfs!” (trans-exclusionary radical feminists/women who disagree with me), may have struck a chord with anyone following the current UK debate about the government’s self-ID proposals. To date, threats, from one side, which echo, inescapably, some of those in the pro-Rodger playbook (“die in a fire terf scum”) have yet to generate comparably widespread concern, even after a woman was punched. Her assailant had earlier expressed the wish to “fuck up some terfs”.
For many prominent women, the violence threatened by Rodger fans must sound especially familiar. Caroline Criado-Perez, to whom we owe the new statue of Millicent Fawcett, is just one brilliant woman to have been rewarded, on Twitter, with sexualised menaces (”choke you with my dick” etc), which attracted nowhere near the appalled interest that now surrounds “incels”, as we should surely agree not to call these men, and not only because it implies that involuntary celibacy represents a special condition. It’s often called, for instance, “being single” and is what dating websites were invented for.
To agree to use the lads’ pet terminology, is, moreover, to suggest that something distinguishes them from legions of other threatening men expressing a similar wish to control, punish or just silence women and, critically, in similar language. Such as, to non-compliant sexual targets, “choke on my dick”. A glance at Twitter confirms how generously such abuse has been accommodated, even as the repetitive insults and threats indicate gendered hostility to women in general.
If sexism does not explain how rapidly the language employed against dissenting women (including some trans women) in the UK self-ID debate, degenerated, in some quarters, into generic-sounding obscenities (eg, to unco-operative lesbians, “choke on my ladydick”), perhaps it’s because social media has for so long facilitated the delusion that hate speech, as applied to women, is simply part of the landscape.
The very odiousness of the misogynist language that has become, according (pre-Rodger) to one academic, Emma Alice Jane, “a lingua franca in many sectors of the cybersphere”, may help explain, she argues, why the “ethical and material implications” of this form of hate speech have been so under-studied. Hate speech that persists unchallenged, by both – for their different reasons – reactionaries and progressives, is unlikely, anyway, to be corrected.
Maybe women should skim the Elliot Rodger plan for subjugating their sex, if only to appreciate that, once non-subservient women are expected to live with obscene online threats – and axe exhibitions and punching – at least some elements of his vision have surely been realised.