Twitter Reveals an Ugly Underbelly of Misogyny

Sandra Fluke @ DNCSandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student shoved onto the national stage earlier this year when Rush Limbaugh hurled vitriol at her through the airways, took the mike at the DNC to remind voters of the stark difference between the parties on women’s health.

As speeches go, it was short (6 min) and it was focused. There were a few good (read -> zinger) lines. There was no hysteria, no whiny voice, no stridency.

Her words reminded me of the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, a future where America is run by a totalitarian Christian theocracy. For example:

During this campaign, we’ve heard about the two profoundly different futures that could await women—and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past. Warnings of that future are not distractions. They’re not imagined. That future could be real…. [It could be an] America in which access to birth control is controlled by people who will never use it…

Listen to the speech:

YouTube Preview Image

Fluke got Limbaugh’s attention because she testified before a Democratic hearing on women’s health. The Republicans — leaders of the House — had no women testify at an earlier hearing.

One of the more infamous lines from Limbaugh’s tirades (there were several) follows:

So Miss Fluke, and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex. We want something for it. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.

But he was just warming up:

What does it say about the college co-ed Sandra Fluke, who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the pimps.

That’s a deliberate — read that as intellectually dishonest — mischaracterization of her testimony. As I wrote at the time:

She reminded everyone (Rush wasn’t listening) that birth control pills are often prescribed to treat medical conditions such as ovarian cysts. Once-upon-a-time they were prescribed to help with debilitating monthly cramps (personal experience) and excessive bleeding (friends’ experiences).

But that didn’t stop Limbaugh and others of making up their facts, “facts” churned out of their own libidos.

As a warm up for the DNC, Bill O’Reilly weakly channeled Limbaugh last week during the RNC:

“When Sandra Fluke speaks next week, I wonder what they’re gonna drop from the ceiling?” He continued, “There’s only one reason this woman is speaking … so if you’re gonna drop something… ,” his voice trailed off, leaving the “something” hanging in the air, as it were. Um, was he implying the Democrats would drop contraceptives?

None of this is acceptable behavior.

But it was the reaction on Twitter after her speech that caused my stomach to knot.

We cannot remain silent in the face of such hateful rhetoric.

As I type this, I don’t know what we can do other than speak out and say “it’s wrong.”

WARNING: what follows is distasteful. Hold your nose. And if you have been a victim of sexual assault, just turn the page.

 
 

S.E.Cupp, “Co-host of MSNBC’s The Cycle at 3pm ET, author of Losing Our Religion.” NYC; 2,107 followers.

@AnnCoulter, “author.” 182K followers.

Benjamin Perkins, “Kicking coach… afl writer tipster.” Australia; 651 followers.

Nick Chaires, “Astonishingly clever, witty, hilarious & yet humble twitter-er-er.” Hollywood Hills, CA; 206 followers.

https://twitter.com/NickChaires/status/243537703856119808

James M. Holland, “professor of political science at the Univ of Akron.” Ohio; 158 followers.
@purelyfrank, “I’m a mans man…love chicks in heels.” 406 followers.

@ItsThatBriGuy, “Math is hard. Bankruptcy is harder.” Scottsdale AZ; 1,519 followers.

@ToddKincannon, “A lot of people hate me, which I genuinely enjoy.” South Carolina; 21K followers.

https://twitter.com/ToddKincannon/status/243576330388643841

@Political Poo-Poo, “If you don’t like vulgarity & humor w/ ur news, then don’t follow.” 399 followers.

https://twitter.com/WorkinClassAss/status/243626786129342464

@TxMike254, “We don’t need politicians in Washington DC – we need patriots.” Texas; 2,587 followers.

This problem — online and media-driven misogyny — is not insignificant. And it’s much bigger than Sandra Fluke.

Channel Howard Beale, but instead of yelling in frustration, speak up forcefully. Do not silently let these words lie uncontested, seeping ugliness until it becomes ubiquitous and an accepted norm.

Update 10:45 am Pacific
Cited in Slate: Sandra Fluke’s Speech Made Republicans Crazy. Which Is Just What the Democrats Want.

Update 11 am Pacific
A different sort of hateful rhetoric is on display in this editorial cartoon from March. No, I do not condone death threats; that’s not the way to combat misogyny.

Update 11:40 am Pacific
Here are some more tweets, including a few that express frustration.

I will continue to monitor and share. The pull is like watching a train wreck, I’m afraid. But these need to be preserved in infamy.

Part of me wants to point out grammatical errors and part of me remembers how poorly I can sometimes type on the iPad. But I would NEVER ever type “your” for “you’re.”

14 Comments

  1. Needless to say the tweets are disgusting; by extension they show how disgusting the people are who made them. That’s the long and short of it.

    More importantly, the decision to give Sandra Fluke a prime time speech was a stroke of brilliance! I think she did a masterful job. Bravo!!!!

  2. Thanks for the article Kathy.

    We’ve seen it for years now. I think of the trashing and rape fantasies called out by many online who bellowed them re Condoleezza Rice after two men began the attack on her on radio with their own rape fantasies. That was not even close to acceptable in any way.

    I think of Don Imus and McGuirk with their radio broadcast commenting on the women’s basketball team at Rutgers>>> that deteriorated into sewage talk. (I wrote an article for TMV about the sequence: Imus didnt start it. McGuirk did, by saying ‘… hard core ho’s’ — THEN Imus joined in and one upped McGuirk in vulgarity and slur with ‘nappy headed hos’ –and their faux ghetto talk went on from there to ‘jigaboos’ and etc. with McGuirk trying to outdo Imus and visa versa… riffing off each other.) Their convo set off more long strings of ad hominem attacks on the women players from men who joined in on comments strings across the internet.

    In 2006, when James Kim and his wife and 2 children were lost in the mountains in Oregon, a website was set up for people who wanted to pray for them to be found… and the wife and children were found. But the husband, a fine mind from CNET, had walked the stream hoping to find help and bring rescuers back to help his family. The comments on the website were 99% regardful and supportive, but there were three people who kept saying the equiv of ‘stfu, he’s dead you a-h….s. He’s just a ‘chink’. Who cares.’

    And more. It turned out that Mr. Kim did die trying to save his young family. And, I kept a transcript of the site, to write about, for the phenom of persons coming to attack a young family in such need, was at that point unprecedented, and the motives for doing so, were not those any reasoned person could grasp. Some say that those who make ill willed comments online are young. James Kim was young too, age 35.

    I think we can note that a string of comments often begins when a person of some public notoriety says something vulgar first. Then others join in and try to keep up.

    The sexual references, the sexual rape and sodomy fantasies that fly around those whom some dont like, are, well, seem to be a favored and predictable way of trying to debase others, whether men or women.

    And you are right that those who happen to come across such can counter. It doesnt always help, but often does help people to remember their better selves… and oddly too teaches others in earshot how to intervene as well. It’s what we teach our children when someone is demeaning someone. It’s what boy scouts and girls scouts and Eagle scouts are taught. To intervene in cruelty, violence, diminishing, bullying of others. There are lots of kids and adults with their heads on straight. They however, dont always/often get the press.

  3. Fascinating. No comments here, but I’ve got them over on my Facebook.

    Update: we must have all been typing at the same time!

    Thanks, Dr E, for the reminder that this sort of rhetoric is systemic. I only hope that it’s not too late to reverse the tide.

    I’ve started speaking up when acquaintances make jokes that put their wives at the negative center.

    I’m trying to figure out how to “speak out” on Twitter and Facebook so that I’m not exacerbating the situation. “Fact checks” don’t seem to work, unfortunately. You need a soundbite to fight a soundbite (emotion to fight emotion) but my experience is that most of these emotional and factually suspect soundbites take HUNDREDS of words to counter. :-/

  4. Ann Coulter’s comments are outrageous and disgusting. She is truly a revolting stain on society. Unfortunately we can’t just “Shout It Out”.

    [Note comments were broken earlier today. Or at least the login function. :-)]

  5. Hi Kathy — The commenting system was down for a while, so that might be why there weren’t many comments here this morning.

    Anyway, I didn’t think Fluke was that great a speaker (she was in some pretty high company as far as that goes), but I definitely thought her speech was on-point and quite relevent. I found the tweets kind of fascinating (in a horrid way). Once a person is publically decried as a “slut”, that’s the label that persists, truth be damned. As you recall and support with personal input (as can I), one of her main points was that hormonal BC is used to treat a significant number of medical conditions related to the female reproductive system, and many women use them as such. How this became a lesson on the evils of sluttitude is a question that can only be answered by the black hearts of those who make such accusations.

  6. @roro80: They actually have hearts?

  7. Thanks, Barky & Roro80 — didn’t know the commenting system had been down.

    And yes, Coulter was particularly offensive … and Limbaugh’s lies get repeated in perpetuity. What I don’t understand is WHY there is such a violently negative response to having insurance cover women’s sexual health (pregnancy prevention) like it covers men’s (viagra). And that’s BEFORE the point roro80 and I made way back when – that birth control pills are *hormonal* therapy used for far more than pregnancy prevention.

  8. And roro80 – I agree that it wasn’t the most polished delivery. Also, I wish that she and the DNC speechwriting team had not engaged in their own hyperbole with the comment about Ryan and ER. However, this is what he said in 2005 as he reiterated his opposition to ALL abortion, even when the mother’s life is at risk:

    This is not a political issue. This is a human issue… The health exception is a loophole wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it. The health exception would render this ban [on late-term abortions] virtually meaningless.

  9. What I don’t understand is WHY there is such a violently negative response to having insurance cover women’s sexual health (pregnancy prevention) like it covers men’s (viagra).

    Well, the obvious one is Men Rule The World! Bwahahahaha!!

    Yeah, THAT will test the commenting system! ;-)

  10. Comments like Coulter and her friends are evidence of significant character pathology…

    I love this link on Trolls… There are many different kinds of Trolls…

    After reading the post, returned to this link: Looks to me not only do have Trolls, but we have King and Queen Tolls…With Queen Ann leading the pack of this trollish assault…

    Mythology and Psychology of Trolls….

    http://www.mj-holmes.com/trolls.htm

  11. Sparrow, it’s interesting you use the word “leading”. That’s what the Right does so well: lead the rhetoric. These people openly coach their listeners and readers on exactly how to speak on call-in radio shows; how to write letters to the editor; how to post on message boards & forums; and how to tweet. It is highly organized, highly choreographed, and nowhere near the real definition of “grass roots.”

    That’s why they all sound alike, something that Joe G. Likes to point out in his Twitter feed all the time. Highly coached & orchestrated commentaries.

  12. The 1950′s are alive and well in the GOP these days. And nothing reminds of that freedom of speech is a double edged sword like hearing Ann Coulter’s opinion on anything.

  13. The right seems to have always had a bit of a ‘nasty’ streak but now they’re running scared.

    They have no rebuttal to what has been said about the Republican candidate… His history and policies… or the direction of the Republican Party so their ‘nastiness’ comes out just that much faster… And the nastiness comes out that much more often.

  14. OS

    Your comment on trolls, reminded me of the seriocomic definitions I read years ago. Some of the commenters above remind me of troll-like folks. Here is the list of definitions (sans appropriate cartoons). Enjoy. Note: No one here falls into any of these categories…well, hardly anyone. :-)

    The 18 Types Of Internet Trolls Posted By: Tamar on 11.23.10

    The first rule of forums, chat rooms and bulletin boards is: DON’T FEED THE TROLLS. If you feed them, they grow. If you starve them, they wither up and die.
    However, sometimes it’s hard to tell you’ve been trolled until you’re in a keyboard lather. Protect your sanity and reputation with this useful guide to 18 kinds of internet trolls.

    1. The Rabid Flamer
    This guy likes to make trouble for his own amusement. If nothing particularly nasty is going on, he’ll whip out his flamethrower and burn everyone in his path, especially denizens of parenting or pets chat rooms.

    2. The Priggish Grammar Troll
    No matter what the discussion is about, the Priggish Grammar Troll will ignore the argument and pick on the one word you used incorrectly, like “alot” or misuses of “they’re,” “their” and “there.”

    3. The Crybaby
    If someone says something mean to the Crybaby, she’ll become hysterical and swear she’s never coming back to the board. Of course, you’ll see her three days later when she slinks back for more abuse. The Crybaby often tells on you to the mods and swears she’s going to get you banned.

    4. The Never-Give-Up, Never-Surrender Troll
    This troll is ALWAYS right and will battle to the death to prove it. There’s no point in trying to fight her. If she can’t back something up with reality, she’ll make something up, just to show you how wrong you are.

    5. The Retroactive Stalker
    The Retroactive Stalker will go back in time to find every cragislist post you ever made until he finds something embarrassing you said, even if you posted it three years ago. After that, whenever you post anything new, the Retroactive Stalker will link to the old post(s) in an effort to discredit you.

    6. The Lame Teenager
    The Lame Teenager responds with clever sayings like, “I know you are, but what am I?” and “I’m rubber and you’re glue…” Warning: Sometimes the Lame Teenager
    is really a 40-year-old guy who can’t think of anything better to say.

    7. The Self-Feeding Troll
    This guy likes to argue, even when everyone else in the fo tells him he’s wrong. Without support from his nonexistent friends, he changes handles—or makes up new ones—to show the fo how loved he is.

    8. The Bored Hater
    This guy loves to make problems, usually out of sheer boredom. His posts are vile and hideous for no other reason than riling up total strangers. His arsenal includes racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance.

    9. Nellie McNeggerson
    Nellie likes to show her displeasure by negging every craigslist post you make, regardless of its content. If you say, “cool!” she’ll neg you. If you say “thanks!” she’ll neg you. She might even create multiple accounts so she can neg you four or five times.

    10. The Sharing Troll
    Also known as the TOU Violator, this psycho will find out your personal information and post it on message boards when you anger him. For example, when he’s being an ass to someone and you step in to tell him to knock it off, he’ll use your real name or post your address.

    11. The Profane Screamer
    If someone says something even remotely critical of the Profane Screamer, he’ll TYPE IN ALL CAPS, telling you what a @#$# you are and insulting your mom. The Profane Screamer is often a noob and often turns into The Crybaby.

    12. The White Knight
    If the White Knight thinks someone hurts someone’s feelings, he’ll put on his shiny armor and joust for honor and goodness … even if the “attacked” person tells him to shut up.

    13. The Expert
    The Expert knows everything about everything and loves to share his knowledge. He’s a lawyer, a doctor, a senator, a pro-ball player, a historian, an engineer … in reality, of course, he’s an unemployed temp living with his mom.

    14. The Spoiler
    The Spoiler likes to ruin people’s days. On the film forum, he gives away endings (“He was dead the whole time!”). On sports sites, he posts the final scores.

    15. The Fraud
    Also known as the Romance Scammer or the Deposed Nigerian Prince, the fraud takes pleasure in robbing people of their cash or self respect. If your friends warn you that something seems kinky, PAY ATTENTION!

    16. The Flooder
    The Flooder tries to break forums by posting the same lame thing (LOL! ROTFL!) over and over and over and over and over and over…

    17. The Liar
    The Liar is the most common troll. He loves to lure in brainless high-school girls by pretending he’s a romantic 20-year-old sensitive poet. The Liar is fairly harmless—as long as you don’t set up an IRL meet-up.

    18. The Stalker
    The Stalker is the only truly dangerous troll. He’ll hack your computer, post your SSN on the Internet and find you IRL. 4Chan is filled with Stalkers, but fortunately they usually only amass when someone hurts a kitten or yells at a little kid.

    http://www.smosh.com/smosh-pit.....net-trolls

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