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The spectrum of misogyny

reut-miso-e1350497963883Consider three separate, seemingly unconnected incidents that have risen to media prominence recently.

  1. The horrifying, systematic attacks on mainly white girls by gangs of Pakistani paedophiles in Rotherham.
  2. The abuse meted out to Zoe Quinn, a US video game developer and author of Depression Quest.
  3. The theft of naked photos from the social media accounts of prominent Hollywood stars, including A-listers like Jennifer Lawrence and Kirsten Dunst, and posting them online for all the world to see.

What drives a man to hack a woman’s social media presence and repost details about her personal life? What kind of mentality laboriously reconstructs compromising pictures from supposedly deleted data to leak, leak, and leak again? How depraved do you have to be to spend time grooming schoolgirls solely for the purpose of imprisoning, raping, and torturing them? All of these behaviours are on the same continuum, a spectrum of woman hate.

And some say feminism isn’t necessary.

The common root is more than just your standard misogyny, of the sort a lot of men have grown habituated to for over a century. The world where everyone knew their place, where men were men and women were sex/drudges is slipping into the night. And some men don’t like it.

At the extreme, violent end of the scale is the Rotherham abuse. While conceding nothing to reader-friendliness, Slavoj Žižek argues that the behaviour of the paedophiles concerned, be they convicted or not, is about asserting masculinity by damaging and breaking the girls they victimised. It’s positioned as ritualised revenge, as getting back at the dominant white, secular but occasionally racist culture that positions them as second class citizens (brown-skinned, Muslim). Sexual abuse is an affirmation of their maleness, of seizing the property of one’s adversary and using it as they see fit. “Their” women, their wives, sisters, mums and daughters already know their place, hence their is an element of the abuse “schooling” the white girls about their lot in life. There’s something in this, but I’m inclined to agree with Paul Cotterill: the material circumstances and lived existences of the abusers counts for more than ideological considerations. Paedophiles aren’t born sexual predators: they’re made.

Then there is predatory behaviour of the other sort. The hounding of Zoe Quinn and the hacking of celebrity social media accounts is also an attempt – a doomed one – to put women in their place. As I’ve argued before, the “new misogyny”, the harassment, creeping, stalking, name-calling, what have you isn’t just the result of a few disturbed people getting their hands on an internet connection. It’s deeper.

It’s symptomatic of a perceived emasculation crisis, of men on the one hand having to compete with women on an increasingly level playing field in the jobs market, of women becoming increasingly visible as actors and participants in their own right in areas traditionally marked off as men-only. Like video games. Like action-adventure films.

What better way to lash out than rewriting a woman as a sex object, be it through scurrilous allegations that Quinn’s game got good reviews because she slept around with industry journalists, or slapping naked photos of action heroine Jennifer Lawrence all over the internet? Everything else is stripped away. Their individuality. Their talents. The only thing that matters is what’s between their legs. Pathetically, the men who pile in to these feeding frenzies find validation; they really think they’re thumbing their nose to the feminist conspiracy.

Both types of abuse are born of decay. Women have been coming out of the home for decades. Girls and young women rightly expect to lead a life as meaningful and self-directed as that open to boys and young men. The redoubts of the women haters are crumbling as generation after generation are habituated to women in public life, to women in “male jobs”, to there being no essential differences in capability and capacity. There is no reason to believe this trend will not continue, provided it is actively preserved and defended as we go. Abuse of this character is a spasm of inchoate fury and fear, but hopefully it is one whose days are looking numbered.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid


One Comment

  1. Jon says:

    Another point some women hate other women,witness women editing the sun who use to print the leaked naked photos of celebrities ,like Rebecca,use too

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