Rape threats happen. Death threats happen. People threaten friends, families, jobs, household pets. Stalkers go to considerable lengths to collect and exploit information. People who are open about this, who do talk about threats and stalking and danger, and they are out there, are punished for it. They get more abuse, they’re told that they’re making it all up, that it’s all in their heads, that they are exaggerating, entirely new hate sites spring up to speculate about them and talk about their ‘desperate ploys for attention.’ That’s what I have to look forward to for writing this piece, for laying out some of the costs of social participation for you, for openly discussing the thing which dare not speak its name, the brash, open hostility reserved for people who do not shut up.
This is a reality, and it doesn’t go away if we don’t talk about it.
On Monday, as the remembrances poured in, it was her status as a female trailblazer – as well as, by the way, an often disastrous yet perpetually reelected world leader — that found its way into much of the postmortem conversation. The Telegraph dubbed her “the ultimate feminist icon” while in Slate, Lionel Shriver recalled her “muscular feminism.” It was an unusual assessment of a woman who once said, “I owe nothing to women’s lib. The feminists hate me, don’t they? And I don’t blame them. For I hate feminism. It is poison.” Yet the persistent notion seems to be – sure, she was reviled to such an extent that people wrote songs wishing for her demise, but hey, she got a lot of attention and she was successful in a man’s world, so … partial victory, ladies?
I’m going to go with a “no, thanks” on that one. I felt much the same way in 2008, shuddering when a female friend declared that even if Obama didn’t win, we’d have a woman as a vice president — and isn’t that an advancement for women? (Spoiler: It is not.) Women in leadership who are frighteningly bad leaders are not a win for the team. A lady – any lady, like, say, the one who helped cripple labor unions and led her nation to record-breaking childhood poverty – is not now or ever will be cause for any sentence starting with the phrase, “Say what you will about her but…” something something feminism.
To put it simply, I AM TIRED OF TRYING TO EXPLAIN THIS SHIT TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT TO HEAR IT. Especially “jokes” like MacFarlane’s, which, to the layperson’s ear, barely register above microaggressions (if the kind of people who see no problem whatsoever with “We Saw Your Boobs” were the kind of people who used the term “microaggressions”). I am tired of trying to have an intellectual discussion about dog-whistle sexism in a culture where prominent politicians are still trying to grasp what rape is, and in a world where little girls are shot in the head because they want to go to school. Asking people to think critically about some hacky jokes from a dancing cartoonist? You might as well wear a sandwich board that says, “Yell at Me With Bad Grammar.”
I am tired of being called a shrieking harridan for pointing out inequalities so tangible and blatant that they are regularly codified into law. I am tired of being told to provide documentation of inequality in the comments sections of a website where a staff of smart women documents inequality as fast as our fingers can move. Like, you might as well write me a note on a banana peel demanding that I prove to you that bananas exist. I am tired of being asked to “cite sources” proving that sexism is real (that RAPE is real, even!), because there is no way to concisely cite decades and decades of rigorous academia. Allow me to point at the fucking library. We can’t cite “everything,” and our challengers know that. It’s an insulting diversionary tactic, it’s an attempt to drag us all backwards, and fuck it. Do your own research like the rest of the grown-ups.
Lindy West, “Sexism Fatigue: When Seth MacFarlane Is a Complete Ass and You Don’t Even Notice” on Jezebel.