hostile, misogynistic everyday life

I know a lot of good men who, despite their best efforts, don’t really understand what it’s like to be a woman when it comes to personal safety. And, while I generally move through life assuming the best of people, in most respects, I also know (based on life experience) I need to be on guard when it comes to men.

On twitter today I experienced a solid example of how the littlest things can turn upsetting when it comes to interacting with men. It’s also an example of an exchange that could have many other explanations that don’t include the potential for violence. Therefore, it’s a good example of the kinds of everyday interactions women face all the time, at every turn, where we need to make the calculation, if I respond this way, will they get angry (which, offline, could lead to violence) enough that it will be scary? or, if I respond this other way, will it be worse?

Here are the series of exchanges.

This man followed me on twitter a while ago. I followed him back for a while, even though it seemed from his tweets we probably didn’t have a lot in common. I enjoy interacting with people who have different points of view.

Our interactions were cordial, even kind.

Should I “heart” the tweet, indicating I saw it? Sure. I think I even replied with a thank you, or something like that.

Then, a few days ago, there was this exchange:

The “fishnetspreferred” hashtag made me uncomfortable. But, y’know, it’s twitter, the wide-open Internet and we’re all adults here. At this point I start weighing my potential responses, if I don’t “heart” the tweet, will he take it badly? (too many men would.) If I heart it will that only encourage him to move farther along in that direction? In my experience that’d be pretty likely, so, no, I decided not to heart the tweet. I also decided to stop following him, taking the chance of sending a quiet message that, no, I didn’t like the tweet.

I didn’t spend many minutes on this decision, but I did have to think about it and decide which of the possible outcomes would be least annoying (or, in the worst case scenario, least scary or unsafe).

That shouldn’t be a big deal, right? So, his joke kinda fell flat because I didn’t heart it, who really cares? (I also thought, maybe he’ll just think I never saw it and it really won’t be an issue, or maybe, if I’m really lucky, he just won’t care…)

Then, today, I got another tweet from him. I want to say in advance that I’m fully aware the change in tone could be entirely unrelated to my not hearting his “flirtatious” (?) tweet. But I also want to say that it has been this 48 year old woman’s experience that men can get hostile really quickly when their advances are rebuffed. So, take this next tweet as you will:

If he hadn’t had that hostile first line, I think it could have been an interesting discussion. But, no, the hostility and misogyny of the tweet was clear.  I tweeted two responses. One, that I never called her stupid. And, two, that I was going to block him because his anger made me feel unsafe.

I’ll say again that I recognize there are all kinds of ways of reading this series of exchanges. But, in my experience (and that counts beyond just something “anecdotal” because I know I’m not alone in my experiences), this kind of escalation into hostility is typical if I don’t smile or laugh along with jokes that make me uncomfortable. (And if I smile or laugh, they’ll continue and get worse.)

I’m sharing this in the hopes that some men I know might continue learning how tricky it is being a woman out there in the world. If we women dare not smile and “encourage,” we end up being called “an unholy, judgmental snatch” (the choice of language for his insult is another indication about his lack of respect for women).

9 thoughts on “hostile, misogynistic everyday life

  1. See, this is what I hate about social media. I happen to disagree with you about Melania too. I dislike her and feel no need to try to save her. Feh! But you feel how you feel and I respect and love YOU. That guy dukedickhead is just an asshole. Why he had to latch onto your comment to rant about progressives, who knows. Is it because he is looking for opps to hate on them… is it because you hurt his widdle feels? Is he in lurve with the flotus? Wev, why can’t he start his own fucking thread instead of being a argument barnacle? I hate these argument barnacles so so much.

    • exactly. I mean, he could’ve been responding like that for a million reasons. but the change in how he talked to me was the kind of timing that leads me to believe the two things are related.

      and, yeah, I can understand not wanting to save her. because of all this #MeToo crap I’m especially tender about women who seem like they might feel powerless. blergh.

  2. His last comment there was entirely inexcusable, although I have to say that your reaction to the fishnets thing, in the context of a super-hero, was perhaps a tad over-sensitive. That said, I can’t blame women for reaching for the panic button whenever they feel threatened which is, we recently learned from the media, a lot of the time. It turns out your instincts, Heather, were on the money, because however innocuous the fishnets thing may have been, the guy was carrying the asshole virus the entire time.

    So at the risk of mansplaining: follow your nose. if you feel like there’s a risk, act like there’s a risk. What’s the worst that can happen? You might miss out on some rich lovely kind thoughtful woke Adonis. Take that risk.

  3. Oh, my goodness, look what you’ve done there — tried to turn me into a social pariah with your column, basically proving the point of my tweet, that maybe you should try to understand people and their worldview, rather that judge them through the filter of yours.

    And, hey, I am truly sorry if anything I tweeted made you uncomfortable, but a more appropriate response might have been to tweet me back to say so, or even via DM if you didn’t want the exchange public. But to turn your misinterpretations of my intentions into a newspaper column? Well, that’s your choice. But there’s really nothing here. It really seems as though you are using me as a prop for your own emotional baggage.

    Now, first off, to correct one one thing — I did not only just start following you and immediately start tweeting at you. I’ve been on twitter since 2010 and my memory is that you were among the first people I followed, as I followed basically anyone from Maine. Yes, I’ve tweeded my follower list several times over the years, and added some back in. I don’t recall exactly how you may have come and gone in all that, but even at the most recent re-follow, it’s been a couple of years, at least.

    And as to flirting with you? No. Anyone can read my timeline and see my replies to your tweets are no different than my tweets to any number of dudes. There is no flirting. Hell, my wife follows my twitter. I wouldn’t dare flirt if I wanted to! So, yeah, I know you tweet a lot about your misadventures with dating websites and how horrible and lecherous men are, and maybe there is something in your life experience I would not understand from mine that makes you think all men are on the make with you. But, really, again, if you think I’m flirting with you, that’s based entirely on whatever is going on in your own head, not on any actions on my part.

    Now, as to the #FishnetsPreferred hashtag, that was intended as a joke about the supreme and awful silliness of female super-hero costumes, with their fishnets, and high heels, and “boob windows.” I guess I thought that, since I presume most everyone on twitter knows what a big comic book fan I am (since I tweet about comics all the time) and knowing how you seem to lean in a strongly feminist direction (despite how often you tweet about trying to find a man) we could’ve had a good laugh together about that terrible, dated trope.

    And I am really, really sorry that you did not feel comfortable or safe in simply asking me what I meant if it bothered you. But if you had, I would’ve explained the above and stressed in no uncertain terms that never, ever, not once, not even for a second, was I in any way meaning to imply I’m over here on my end of the Twitter stream salivating to see YOU in fishnets.

    And, yes, I get that as responsible communicators, we are culpable at least in part for how people decode our messages. If there was room for you to misinterpret my intentions, that is at least partly my fault, and I apologize for not making myself more clear. But again, we’ve communicated long enough on Twitter that I really presumed you knew at least a little bit about me, my humor, and interests.

    But, once more, I must tell you that you unpacked something from my message that I did not mean to put into it, and because you didn’t give me any opportunity to answer for how it made you feel, but just assumed based on whatever goes on in your world that you knew what I meant, it poisoned all future communications. I mean, really, you should’ve put on your big-girl pants and just asked me, “Dude, what the hell was that all about?”

    So, we come to the final tweet you quote. And, yes, it was strongly worded. But the first part was not ME calling you a “snatch,” but trying to get across by assuming the “voice” of the person you were talking about, how very offended she might be, and how she might react to this very presumptuous, very demeaning idea you present that she’s some kind of victim. Maybe she is. But you don’t know. You have not one clue what that woman’s life is all about.

    So, I reacted to your tweet, where I might have let a similar tweet go, in part because we’ve interacted so long and so often, I thought we could speak openly and honestly to each other. And at least part of my reaction was based on what I’ve seen as an increasing trend in your tweets, which is an increasing trend in all tweets, which is an increasing trend across our entire country, typifying our increasing divide as a people, to isolate from and disregard, stereotype, and pre-judge any group we feel to be misaligned with our own narrow political predilections. I grow more and more frustrated by this trend every day. I’ve let a lot of your similar Tweets about Trump go unanswered, even though I felt them to be based on little more than the progressive hating points, that he is a racist, mysogijist, elitist, fascist, horrible Hitler of a human being. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of Trump. Personally, I think he’s a raging buffoon, but I also think a lot of the twitter memes about him are unfair, inaccurate, and politically motivated to created discord.

    We need to stop believing that all people must think and feel as we do, or else they are terrible, evil people, and then work to vilify them at every opportunity. We should treat with each other as individuals, not by group assignments. I’m not trying to get into your pants just because I’m a man. I bet you’re not a “feminazi” just because you espouse feminist values. And neither one of us should presume Melania Trump is the helpless victim of an abusive husband without really knowing her circumstances. And if we do tweet about how she needs saving without also tweeting the same of Hillary Clinton, based on the confirmed actions of HER husband and her own defense of same, are we really supporting strong self-reliant woman, or just proffering our own political views by using the personal lives of others (about which we know nothing) to score points. I think it’s arguable Melania Trump was demeaned and victimized more by your tweet than anything actually going on in her marriage. Who are you to presume you know what is best for her. How dare you.

    And THAT was the point of that — that we should all try to understand each other a little more before we start jumping to conclusions about aspects of people’s lives we know nothing about, and assigning motivations to them that are not true based on whatever we hear in the echo chamber of the political and social groups into which we increasingly isolate ourselves.

    But here you go proving my point. Instead of talking to me, or trying to understand me in my way, you block me and then have the absolute temerity to write a column about what an evil person I am.

    I mean, what you’ve done is basically no different than if some black guy I sometimes bump into the coffee shop, whose jokes I don’t always get, overhears and reacts to something I say in a way I don’t like, so I get up and leave and publish a column using him, by name, as an example of all the worst thing I can think to write about people who’s skin color happens to be different from mine.

    Luckily, we live in a world today where that would not go over well. But not so many years ago it would’ve got that guy hung from the nearest tree. Can you see the similarity to what you’ve done? Here, in the #MeToo era, you have people in these comments saying the worst about me. I’m REALLY surprised there’s been now backlash directed at me yet on social media. But I bet my boss has 14 messages in her voice mail right now demanding I be fired.

    Would that make you happy? Would you feel somehow victorious? Would you then feel more safely ensconced in your personal bubble political insight?

    My whole point here is that we — all of us — should try to understand each other’s lives and points of view more, to make assumptions less. And certainly, we must as a people stop with the snowflake attitudes of being on the lookout for slights, real and imagined, and just flat out invent them where they don’t exist.

    It is sad and unfortunate that you chose to lump me in with your feelings about all men, just as it’s pitiful that you chose to assign character traits to a woman you know nothing about, or cast unearned aspersions on officials so many others believe in, for reasons that have nothing to do with whatever group stereotype you might care to assign to them, as well. I’m so very sorry for whatever has happened to you in life that would cause you to react this way, just as I am deeply troubled by this sort of thing becoming an increasing trend across all of social media and our wider society.

    Really, you should have just talked to me. I’m sorry you didn’t. And now, I’ll probably pay the price for that.

    • Opp, one correction. I guess this is a personal blog. I thought the person who pointed this out to me was directing me to your BDN column. Didn’t notice on my tint iPhone 5 screen that’s not where I was. That’s my mistake. The rest of my reaction stands.

      • “maybe you should try to understand people and their worldview, rather that judge them through the filter of yours”.

        “Duke” here, to whom I will henceforth refer as “His Eminence,” (because the proper address of “His Grace” appears to be not at all fitting) thinks you should see the world through his filter, not your own. And as a special ducal delight, into your parlour, borne aloft on a velvet cushion embroidered with his family blazon, he sent the words “unholy, judgmental snatch,” in order to illustrate just what the filter of a Duke might look like.

  4. Pingback: post script to yesterday’s post about misogyny on twitter |

Leave a Reply