If you want to know what a misogynist is, listen to what Bob has to say
Misogyny, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a hatred of women.” That’s it. Nothing subtle, just a hatred of women. Unfortunately, the word is often applied in situations where it’s not really warranted. People may confuse chauvinism (“an attitude of superiority toward members of the opposite sex”) with misogyny, or simply not understand it means a person who hates, not just a person who thinks they’re better than someone else.
Learning the difference was important to me as a survivor of rape and domestic violence, because of how misogyny typically presents itself. The most frequent topic for misogynists is victim blaming, especially victims of sexual and/or domestic violence. We’ve seen examples of misogyny from conservative men and women, but I had never met anyone who claimed to be a liberal exhibit pure, unadulterated misogyny. Until this past week.
On Wednesday, my friend Christopher Warren posted an astonishing question to his Facebook page. He asked his friends who among us had ever been raped, and if we had reported it or not. What you have to understand is Chris does this a lot; he is a student of the world around him, and he often pushes his friends to think and react in a way they may not have before. Many friends responded truthfully, sometimes posting very short answers (like mine), others posting heartbreaking and powerful comments. It was an incredibly frightening thread, and yet, Chris made sure everyone participating felt safe.
My guess is, some time between the end of Wednesday’s conversation and Thursday morning, Chris realized the Facebook post may have triggered some unpleasant memories for the people who participated. Thursday, he shared another status, and began putting links to resources on his page. It was a very empathetic reaction to what might have been traumatic for someone on Wednesday. And it was on this post, the post thanking the people who answered so honestly, and pointing out that blaming or judging is never the right thing to do, that Bob appeared.
Bob’s first comment was “As insensitive as I know I sound, people that do not report an alleged sexual assault but whine and feel guilt about it 20 years later are very much part of the problem.” This rang warning bells not only in my head, but in the heads of other women on the thread. This sounded like misogyny. Was it? Or would Bob’s future comments clarify his language and choice of words (whine, alleged)?
The bells turned to tornado sirens as the conversation continued. Bob proceeded to blame the mother of the Steubenville rape victim for not wanting to subject her daughter to everything she knew would happen if they went public. He wrote “pfft” in regards to asking men to change; in other words, men rape, deal with it. Bob also blamed rape culture on “radical feminism in America.” And there it was. Feminism is toxic to a misogynist; women are horrible, and deserve to be treated as badly as possible.
It got much, much worse. Bob tried to assign blame to Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year old who committed suicide after being gang raped, for her own attack, writing:
Take the girl in eastern Canada that ended up killing herself. After being “raped” at a party by boys as drunk and younger than she, three days later she reported the “rape” once she found out the photos were making the rounds. Terrible thing but denying her accountability in this is not healthy!
At this point, I had to walk away because Chris enjoys civility on his threads, and I was feeling anything but civil. Misogyny is not just a casual belief, it is the support of violence against women. It is laughing at a meme that depicts a woman tied up and gagged as asking for it. It is cheering when a woman is beaten or threatened. One woman who was involved in the conversation had finally had enough and called Bob a “backwards troll.” I have to admit, I kind of agreed with that. Bob responded by calling her the word that rhymes with “bunt.” Another siren went off in my head.
That’s the go-to word, you see. If Rush Limbaugh could get away with saying that word on the air, he would scream it with great joy. That word is steeped in hate and violence. When my abuser would hit me, he called me that word. Anyone who enjoys misogyny loves that word. Chris removed Bob’s comment, and Bob later “apologized” by explaining he was tired of being called a troll. Well, gee Bob, when you pop into a conversation with survivors of rape and begin blaming survivors of rape, what do you expect? Roses and a pony?
Many of Bob’s comments read like a racist trying to deny his or her racism. You know, the “I have black friends, but” lines. Another example of Bob’s misogyny was his frequent and disdainful reference to feminism. I was asked if “they” told me in “feminist church” that “people opposed to feminism support rape.” I resisted the urge to throw my computer out the window.
Other women on the thread were posting brilliant, emotional and raw responses to Bob, including a woman who put Bob into the position of a rape victim. She walked him through the scenario, had him violently assaulted on the hood of a car, and posited what would happen if he called the police. Bob as the victim knew his attackers; they were friends of his and they had offered him a ride home from the bar. Bob’s response was:
Rape is a terrible thing but adding in militant feminist group think on the subject it’s a lot taking a dislike for texting to the point of shooting someone.
See what Bob did there? Bob told a woman who was trying to drag some empathy out of his misogyny that she was adding “militant feminist group think” to the conversation and compared attempting to find his soul to the Florida shooting of a dad in a movie theater.
This is misogyny. This is not chauvinism, this is not a casual problem, this is a man who represents hundreds of thousands of men and women in America (and millions all over the world) who think people like me are responsible for our own sexual assaults. Let me leave you with my final piece of evidence. Again, from Bob.
No one deserves to have their home broken into but we can help the situation by at least locking the door. There needs to be a respectable balance found between “victim blaming” and “just being a man” blaming.
It’s our fault, ladies, because we didn’t lock our vaginas. Welcome to Misogyny 101.