Is That A Threat? The Slippery Slope From Disagreement To Harassment

GenderSocial Media 66 Comments

By Alison Leiby – I am a woman and I am on the Internet. It’s brave. It’s not “eat a burger in public” brave, but it’s still pretty admirable.

It shouldn’t be.

Last month I wrote a joke on Twitter. That’s not notable because I’ve done it literally fifteen thousand times. I spend all day every day writing jokes on Twitter. I like doing it, and it’s part of my job. What made this tweet different than all my other tweets (and please read that in your best Passover Seder voice), is that in the last few weeks I’ve received hundreds of negative replies from men ranging from from the tame “You’re not funny” comments to the harder to ignore threats suggesting they should rape me with a toothbrush.

If you’re wondering what kind of controversial, incendiary joke could possibly elicit so many aggressive responses, here it is:

I know — snoozefest. It’s not a particularly exciting joke. It’s not even that original, really (a fact which is upsetting in and of itself). It’s just a joke I thought of and tweeted one night before I went back to falling asleep during a rerun of Shark Tank.

Somewhere along the way an account with a large and conservative following retweeted it, an action that flooded my notifications page with people calling me “stupid” or a “moron” or, one of my personal favorites, a “retarded liberal.” Fine.

Last Monday evening, however, the replies went from annoying and insulting to violent and threatening. Men were replying to me and taking my joke to a horrific, new place. Some said they wanted to ban me from public places and silence me. Others said they wanted to lock me in their closet when they’re done with me. A few choice gentlemen suggested I, like their gun, have a “rough brush clean my holes.” If you want a tour of how hateful and negative humanity can be about women, just scroll through the replies to my original joke. It’s kind of like the It’s A Small World ride, but instead of different countries you just see different expressions of misogyny.

Beyond the violent and grotesque comments were the ones that prove many men feel the need to put a woman in her place and teach her a lesson.

One complete stranger even found me on Facebook and sent an unsolicited message saying, “I hope you lose ALL of your rights. Dirty feminist.” He searched me out on a social media platform that isn’t even where the original joke appears. A group of men harassed a young woman who agreed with my tweet, celebrating each time she blocked one of them. One truly stand-out nightmare found the Twitter handle of my writing partner and harassed her just for being associated with me. I started getting legitimately nervous. Did I really think that any of these guys were actually going to come find me and hurt me? No. Did I double check that my address and phone number aren’t visible on social media? Absolutely.

Beyond the violent and grotesque comments were the ones that prove many men feel the need to put a woman in her place and teach her a lesson. The average responder didn’t just call me a dumb bitch and move on. They repeatedly replied to me like a broken record until finally I blocked them. Several men, once blocked, took a screenshot of that action and began spreading that I could not take a joke. I can take a joke. I love taking jokes, that’s why I do comedy. What I can’t take is being called a “worthless cunt” five times by the same person and then admonished for not being “grateful” that another man respected me enough to call me “sweetheart.”

I tried not to take any of these new aggressive replies to my joke personally. You just can’t take every angry reaction from a stranger to heart. I have the thick skin of a comic and someone who doesn’t moisturize nearly enough, but I’m still a human being. It wore me down, seeing tweet after tweet tell me that women are objects, that we’re valueless, that we don’t even deserve the care and respect that people give lethal, inanimate objects. Try not internalizing that a bit. Try not letting those words start to get to you.

One friend of mine, after I told him what was going on and sent him a few gleaming examples, said to just turn it off for a while, to not look at it. I agree that’s excellent advice most of the time. It’s the old “Doctor, it hurts when I do this”/”Then don’t do that” approach. Don’t look at it and it won’t bother you. Unfortunately, this wasn’t some horrific hate forum I found while spiraling down an Internet k-hole of my own creation. These were pointed, gross comments being sent directly to me. If I wanted to avoid them I had to just log off Twitter all together. And they’d still be there waiting for me whenever I came back.

If you don’t like the taste of fish, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant, order the trout, and then call the chef a stupid bitch for serving it to you. So why do people do it on the Internet?

I’ve never understood the inclination to engage with something I don’t like — on social media or otherwise. That’s the beauty of Twitter. If you don’t agree with someone, you can unfollow them. If something upsets you, you can block it. We all have that luxury. If you don’t like the taste of fish, you wouldn’t go to a restaurant, order the trout, and then call the chef a stupid bitch for serving it to you. So why do people do it on the Internet?

Reading a barrage of violent comments and threats doesn’t make me want to retaliate. It doesn’t make me want to fire back at those guys with the same hate and rage that they spewed my direction about me and the rest of my gender. It makes me want to censor myself. It makes me hesitant to write certain jokes. Could this tweet make hundreds of men tell me I belong locked in their closet? Will this idea I’m putting out there also end in threats of rape or murder?

Women are taught from an early age to — in all aspects of life — try not to cause a scene. We’re not supposed to garner attention or make waves or do anything that might upset anyone. You know what happens when women don’t want to make a scene? They stop talking. And writing. And performing. And creating.

I want to make incisive, sharp comedy. That’s the goal. It’s really hard to generate that material when you start second guessing jokes because you’re scared of being harassed for your stupid female opinions.

Women are not the sole focus of internet hate and threats, but we certainly see the majority of them. It’s so much a part of our experience, that the conversations I had with my female comic friends regarding this particular instance felt almost funny in how casually we all talked about it. I kept texting screen grabs of the more horrific replies and saying, “lol, another one,” and “haha look this nightmare’s grammar” when one man told me I deserved to be bought and sold for his own use. Hate from men online just because you’re a woman with an opinion is par for the course these days. You learn to expect it. Part of me even thought that I should have known this would be the reaction when I wrote the joke. We start to believe that it’s our fault men are grossly harassing us because we’re the ones who put ourselves out there to begin with.

I don’t want to get caught up in the specifics of this joke and the horrible responses it got. It’s kind of pedestrian and obvious and stems from the unfortunately true fact that many women feel like guns are more valued than they are in society right now. What’s upsetting is that so many men took that statement as a springboard to making me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. And they felt fine doing this because I’m a woman. Two male friends of mine with much larger followings had tweeted similar jokes and didn’t see a fraction of the hateful responses that I did. And I’m sure they saw none of the same threats.

This isn’t the first time that a woman has been harassed online. It’s definitely not the last time, either. That’s really the problem. This is one small instance in an unending series of events. We need to stop accepting this behavior as an unavoidable consequence to writing on the Internet. Harassment doesn’t need to be just the cost of doing business.

I was even hesitant to write this essay at all. I thought about all of the cruel and crude things men felt comfortable saying to me and thought, “Well, they’re just going to say more, worse things if I complain about it.” Then I realized that I was afraid to sound “whiny” in writing about strangers physically threatening me. That’s how deeply ingrained these ideas are. That calling attention to a legitimate issue doesn’t seem worth it for what might follow.

It feels like this should end with an encouraging message to women to stand up for ourselves, to take to the internet and say what we want regardless of the consequences. To know that whatever horrible nightmares come our way we can persevere and continue to write great things. That we are an unstoppable force that will not be discouraged from creating in the face of disturbing physical threats.

That’s not my point.

My point is for men: Stop doing this. The only thing gained from you saying disgusting, aggressive, sexual, violent, and threatening things on the internet is that we now know that you’re part of the problem.

Please retweet!

About The Author

Alison_Leiby_ImageAlison Leiby is a stand-up comic and writer in New York. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s, Marie Claire, VICE, and many other publications.

She hosts the long-running comedy show It’s a Long Story at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater.

Follow her on Twitter @AlisonLeiby… that’s where we first got to know her and we are so glad we did.

  • Peggye Williams Mills

    I am so atone to her way of thinking that I come away from the article, more determined to fight misogyny on every front, than ever. The common bond among us all, much as men would like to ignore it, we were all born of woman. That trumps all. Women rule! (or at least, should)

  • Kendra

    I recently made a comment on an article takining about the duck dynasty guy saying that they should wipe the supporters of gay marriage off the earth. It was on a site suporting gay rights so I felt safe commenting that I would always stand behind my gay friends and family. The reaction I got from one man in particular was scary and even scarier when I noticed that we live in the same city. The next day I was scared and wondering if he was psycho enough to appear and harm me.

    • TheTruthHurts

      I’m sorry you experienced a wacko on the internet. Do you have a link to the article?

      For the sake of others reading, I have to disagree with your sentiment. Phil Robertson never said anyone should “wipe the supporters of gay marriage off the earth.”

      In context, he was clearly using hyperbole (OK, maybe poor, off-the-cuff English) to say that he didn’t want any elected officials who supported gay marriage in the US. “We have to run this bunch [liberals in congress] out of Washington D.C. We have to rid the earth of them. Get them out of there!” isn’t the same as “wipe [every gay marriage supporter] off the earth.” Since Phil has obviously devoted his life to being a Christian, he can’t call out gay marriage as being sinful, and advocate murder in the same breath.

  • Waltham Wahine

    my thinking is the ye doth protest too much. Threatened much?

    • Bryce Switalla

      Yep, I agree. All those ignorant, misogynists probably do feel very threatened, hence the need to threaten someone else.

    • Joe Channon

      Do you mean the post is a bit longer than it needs to be? If so, you have my agreement, almost every piece of writing ever published could be shortened a little and benefit from it. Brevity is the soul of wit, after all. On the other hand, if you are suggesting that she seems too defensive and the length of her writing is convincing you that she is insincere and what she went through was not that bad, I will be brief in my turn: Please consider that you may be wrong.

      • Waltham Wahine

        Huh? Her threatening replies is what I’m talking about

        • Lauren Balk

          Her WHAT. Dude, scrub your eyeballs and try READING this time. Good friggin’ god you losers are good at projecting.

          • Waltham Wahine

            Yeah, Joe call us when the shuttle lands…

          • TheTruthHurts

            Lauren, Waltham just agreed with the article. He’s saying the same thing you’re saying about him, only about the geniuses who wrote threatening messages on Twitter. They were projecting.

          • Slud

            If you had actually read Waltham’s comment you would see he is on your side. Instead you pitched a fit.

  • Sherrie Smith

    This is pretty much exactly how I expect gun nuts to behave, frankly.
    And they wonder why so many women are nervous about their gun fetishist – because we know they value their guns more than women and people of color.

    • TheTruthHurts

      Gun nut here. I own guns primarily so that my wife can stay safe. She now wants one, so she’s going to get one. I’m a huge cheerleader in that endeavor. No, the proper term for these people is just plain “nuts.”

      • Sherrie Smith

        Owning a gun doesn’t make you a nut. Thinking guns are more important than people, does. Threatening to rape a woman because she doesn’t believe guns should have more rights than women does.
        And, while I see your point about somebody being just plain “nuts” – what has happened the past decade or so is a massive political movement by people nearly rabid about this topic that actually impacts people. That’s the point when I’m allowed to lump them together!

        • TheTruthHurts

          Thinking guns are more important than people is insanity! I absolutely agree. The threats Alison talks about are repulsive, and the existence of even one person who would write such things defies explanation.

          However, I haven’t seen a massive political movement of people who “value their guns more than women and people of color.” There has certainly been an organized movement reacting to what I feel are unnecessary, expensive, overreaching, and unconstitutional proposals, but I don’t see the connection to racism and misogyny.

          Are there racists among such people? Sure. MRAs? Absolutely. But I’ll bet at least a handful of looney tunes ally themselves with just about any political ideology around.

          Maybe something didn’t make it through my echo chamber, though. What have you experienced that makes you question the motives of gun nuts?

          • Sherrie Smith

            Perhaps I’m making an assumption from this article that the people who had this backlash against her were GRA’s. Her article says that it was a conservative website… and unfortunately the conservative movement doesn’t have a history of being kind to women or people of color, and conservative gun owners seem to always be especially aggressive, and those same people always seem to be women-hating and racist.

            Many of the people I love own/carry/regularly use guns. But they almost all also support reasonable restrictions on firearms, and are fearless in the face of things like licensing, registration, background checks.

            But you’re very right – I am speaking to my own experiences. I’m not speaking to any kind of real data. I know that the loud-mouths get all the press. But there’s only one gun association that I know of… and it’s the NRA. And they are a lot of real wackadoodles who seem to think that we live in the wild west. When CHILDREN were gunned down at Sandy Hook the immediate reaction from this entire massive group of people was to protect their guns. There was no mourning. And there never is whenever we have mass shootings.
            I saw a tweet (by a man) saying that any debate about gun control ended with Sandy Hook because once we allowed our children to be slaughtered we will allow anything.
            I doubt groups of men threatened to rape that guy in retaliation for his profound thought.

          • TheTruthHurts

            I can’t argue with your experience, but from my perspective, conservatives like me tend to get painted with an interstate-wide brush. I’m a conservative gun rights supporter who frequents Drudge Report and the like (I do dislike Trump, if that’s a redeeming quality), and I’ve seen comments from both sides of the political spectrum (like there’s even a spectrum any more) that are sociopathic, racist, and sexist.

            It’s easy to stereotype right-wingers, just like it’s easy to stereotype women and black people. Indeed, the outliers make the headlines and give the rest a bad name.

            I can’t speak for the NRA, but the immediate reaction from the left after Sandy Hook was portrayed as furthering an anti-gun agenda. The righties I know decried the instant politicization of the tragedy. I’m a teacher with a liberal arts degree (which comes with a few liberal acquaintances), and my Facebook feed exploded minutes after the news hit (my tears hadn’t even come yet) with anti-gun propaganda. I actually expected it. The fact is, I still haven’t seen a single idea proposed that would have prevented Sandy Hook, besides better mental health care or more armed individuals at the school.

            There are laws in place to prevent things like Sandy Hook from happening, but they were all broken. I can’t argue that gun control supporters lost a lot of traction when existing gun control legislation failed completely in such a tragic event.

          • Sherrie Smith

            I think it’s important to point out that one chooses their political affiliation and religion, but do not choose their race or sex. For this reason I suppose I feel more justified in making generalizations about political affiliation than I do about somebody’s biology.
            I can tell you’re not a Trump supporter because you’re calm, clearly intelligent, and obviously think about things. Are there ANY candidates you like? Everybody seems really nuts this round to me, but I’m pretty far left on the spectrum.
            I will make the disclaimer that I am also very critical of an elitist left, which can get pretty holier-than-thou about a lot of stuff, and pretty snobby if they managed to obtain a masters degree.

            *sigh* In all honesty I don’t know what the answer is to the gun issue. It feels too late to do anything of real value… and at the same time I’m frustrated when absolutely nothing is done.
            America seems to go through killing phases. In the 70’s it was serial killers butchering women. In the 90’s it was school shootings. Now it’s just mass shootings at colleges and public places. Maybe the next phase will be militia groups going to other states and taking over their freaking parks and destroying the native habitat and artifacts like entitled douche-bags! (I’m Oregonian so pretty annoyed about that right now)

        • 37 Pieces Of Ric Flair

          Is there any thought a woman can express which *doesn’t* cause men to become rabid?

          • Sherrie Smith

            “You’re so right!”

  • Sharon Diehl

    I think your joke is right on, as well as your article. I post comments to articles by the rightwing religious faction that is intent on putting women under the boots of clergy and men again, and strip pregnant women of their basic civil rights. I receive the death threats, too, and the common “you should have been aborted” by the so-called “pro-life”. I call them the “pro-louts”.

  • Yisheng Qingwa

    Men are a disease.


    • TheTruthHurts

      People who call entire groups of people a disease are a problem.

  • I’ve been online since 1988 and the babbling boys (and sometimes girls) have always been like this. I have been threatened but I know the vast majority is just hot air. So I always block and move on. Jerks will be jerks. Jerks have the right to say whatever bullshit they want in a free society but we don’t have to give them any oxygen.

  • Lauren Balk

    None of these cowardly slimeballs in a sea of pus would have the stones to either say this rubbish to your face or actually act them out. They’re scrotumless little mamas boys, talking real tough through a friggin’ keyboard and computer screen, hiding in the dark like the roaches they are. (See, I’m one of those women who missed the memo that we’re supposed to be quiet and not make waves. I’m the one trying to turn over the boat.)

  • Jonathan Watt

    The behavior you’re being subjected to is abhorrent. Thank you for bravely continuing to put yourself in the line of fire by writing about this. As a man, I would like to take issue with you addressing your final point (“Stop doing this”) to “men” at large though. I and the men I know don’t think and could never contemplate acting in the way that these e-thugs do. I’m sure that’s true of most men, and that it’s a small percentage of very active assholes that perpetrate this stuff. No doubt the vast majority of them are male, but I suspect most of them are angry, immature boys, not men. Even the men among them would also seem to be too immature to really call them “men”. As for the rest of us, men or women, let’s continue to try and fix this crap. Maybe terrorism laws should apply?

    • SadieCon

      I’m glad you realize that it’s a problem, but I’m sure that she already knows that not all men are like her harassers. Every woman knows that not all men are rapists, but the reverse that not all women are rapists is also true, though you don’t hear it thrown around a lot. Feel free to wonder why or you could actually listen when a women tells you how life is with a constant barrage of misogyny. Addressing ‘men’ generally in this situation is just a more direct call to arms against how gender and society has educated and conditioned ALL of us to interact with each other. By saying ‘not all men’ you draw away from the main issue, which is that NO man should behave like this. It’s defensive on your part and it does nothing to ensure that it wont happen again. As long as you feel relieved of all responsibility, you don’t have to lift a finger, right? That’s what women hear when you say ‘not all men,’ its invalidating and disrespectful to everything Alison and any woman in a similar situation has had to suffer. I hope we understand each other on this.

      • Jonathan Watt

        “or you could actually listen when a women tells you how life is with a constant barrage of misogyny” – I took time to read this post and have listened in many, many other ways over the years.

        “you draw away from the main issue” – I really don’t want to do that. What I wanted to do was draw attention to what I see as a frequently occurring issue that hurts the broader cause, which I’ll try and expand on below.

        “addressing ‘men’ generally in this situation is just a more direct call to arms” – Quoting directly: “My point is for men: Stop doing this”. My own point is that as a member of the group that is *directly* addressed by that statement it’s hard not to read it as including me among the perpetrators. That’s hurtful given how much I abhor their behavior and way of thinking. (Maybe think of it using an unrelated analogy; perhaps Muslims seeing themselves repeatedly appear to be lumped together with “terrorist” who try to claim their religion.) When your male allies read it this way they feel alienated and that’s a bad thing when we all need to work against this crap (and especially in the case of this post which is addressed specifically to men). A small tweak such as “My point is for the men who do this” or even “My point is for the small number of sadistic, psychopathic men who have chosen women as the target of their sadism” would have made all the difference. The point I’m trying to make is absolutely not to detract from the message of this post, but to hopefully make future messages stronger.

        “As long as you feel relieved of all responsibility” – I don’t, and that would be to completely misunderstanding where I’m coming from. I would be very sad if one of my attempts to take responsibility and be involved was interpreted as me saying “not my fault – leave me out of this”.

        “its invalidating and disrespectful to everything Alison and any woman in a similar situation has had to suffer” – I really hope not.

  • TheTruthHurts

    I don’t think the joke is funny, but the responses Alison received are horrific. However, addressing “men” is ridiculous. Anyone who calls themself a man and writes such things is so cold-hearted, jaded, and evil, that no admonishment, shaming, or the like will change them. This is why I own guns.

  • Kat Slander

    Welcome to the internet. I get harassed, insulted and threatened on Facebook nearly every day because I’m a defiant liberal.

  • Xavier

    I’m not sure Allison will read this, but others might. I see a lot of hate on the internet, and misogyny is definitely a large part of it. In response to the hate, I see a lot of (righteous) anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings from the person or group attacked. Gun enthusiasts felt attacked by Allison’s tweet, so they reacted. Allison felt attacked by their response, and also reacted, writing this article.

    What I don’t see very often is an attempt to open a dialog. I see some monster threatening to rape a woman with his rifle, then the woman expressing her disgust, her disappointment, et cetera. Both sides are talking, but I don’t see either side asking questions. Maybe we feel there’s nothing to gain from questions; I hope that’s not the case. This article ends by stating misogynistic men are part of the problem. That’s something we already know, and something the misogynistic men have probably heard (and disregarded) before. I’d love to see an article asking why that tweet was so incendiary, and incited so much hate. At the same time, I’d love to see someone ask Allison after her tweet, “Why do you feel your rights are less valued than gun rights?” Sure, there would be useless, hateful responses in either case, but there might be some valuable responses as well. In any case, both sides talking and not listening … hasn’t been a productive answer so far.

    • Emily

      Xavier, how is this so hurtful for gun owners? The reasoning behind the joke is that there is less government involvement in gun ownership than there is with women’s rights. It’s easier to obtain a gun and ammo than it is to get an abortion and in some situations even birth control. The hurt party is not the group that already has the power, and access to more rights. The joke doesn’t imply that gun owner’s rights should be taken away, and since they are the ones with more rights, there should be no reason for gun owners to have hurt feelings. That being said, even if this was an out right insult to gun owners, that does not in any way justify the vile responses made. Explaining this as you did…gun enthusiasts felt attached and reacted, Allison felt attached and reacted is a ridiculous comparison and justification. There is no justification for the ugly and vile behavior displayed. And yes, misogyny is indeed part of the problem, which is obvious when reading through the tweets.

      • Xavier

        Hi Emily. You’re not wrong. I agree about the points the joke was trying to make, and I agree men are the group with the power in this scenario. But I also don’t think your stance gets us any closer to a discussion between the two groups. I’m not a woman, and will never fully understand the advantages I have as a man, and the things I take for granted. I’m not a gun owner either, so I don’t understand what caused them to react with such force and hatred, and the reasons I’d be terrified about even the IMPLICATION of my guns being taken away. I want to clarify: I’m not justifying any hatred directed at Allison, I’m saying people acted a certain way because they were threatened by SOMETHING. And “a strong woman” isn’t a good enough answer for me about why they felt threatened, it’s not specific enough and doesn’t get us closer to seeing what causes someone to react that way. We aren’t born hating women, we learn it. I want to know what social programming they’re operating under, which causes them to act that way. Ya know?

        • hobbsan

          “I want to know what social programming they’re operating under, which causes them to act that way.”

          And how on earth do you think you’ll get any closer to that though a dialogue with these people? The very reason they behave like this is because they lack the skills to analyze themselves and their surroundings.

          They even lack the communication skills to realize that nothing in the original joke in any way threatened their precious guns, so what makes you imagine their could be anything of value found in opening a dialogue with them?

          • Xavier

            Fair question. I think it goes both ways, right? Both sides think the other side is completely backwards, stupid, or worthless. Maybe some people are beyond hope or new ideas, I won’t deny that. But if we don’t at least TRY for a dialog, where does that leave us? If Allison is marginalized as “just some feminist on her period” and gun supporters are simplified as hicks who “lack the skills to analyze themselves and their surroundings” as you put it, we’ll be left with each group standing on opposite sides of the room with their arms crossed, shaking their heads at each other. SOMEHOW, we have to take the first steps towards a truthful, open discussion. Otherwise, I don’t see any way for progress to happen. Ignorant ideas are passed down until we’re shown wider perspectives. We don’t gain other perspectives unless we try to hear someone’s view besides our own, even if we think they’re wrong.

          • hobbsan

            Are you fricking kidding me now? This is why dialogue with some people is plain worthless. You apparently imagine yourself a very calm, rational and fair person but you are actually comparing the notion that women are humans, every bit as much as men, with the notion that “guns are part of my human rights bitch!!!!” Can you not even begin to see the problem with your reasoning here?

            What is needed here isn’t dialogue – that can be had with gun freaks who still manage to not send threats. What is needed for the others is a bit of schooling. Step one is to make these morons keep their mouth shut whenever they’d like to spew some vile threat out. THEN, we can start talking about things. Just like you stop a bully from hitting BEFORE you try to engage in a conversation about why they’re beating someone up.

          • Xavier

            This is an important topic to both of us, let’s keep it civil, try not to put words in my mouth. I’m not comparing women’s rights as human beings to the rights people have to own guns. I’m talking about both sides trying to meet in the middle, openly and calmly. Do I suggest we specifically start a dialog with a guy who threatens to rape a woman with his gun brush? No. Martin Luther King Jr wouldn’t start his “I Have a Dream” speech at a KKK rally, but his Dream message wasn’t about making “these morons keep their mouth shut whenever they’d like to spew some vile threat,” it was about preaching equality and peace. Keyword here is peace. His mission wasn’t to silence all racists, because that’s impossible, just like trying to silence all misogynists. His goal was to teach compassion to the whites in America. We can learn from that. It makes no sense focusing on the rage caused by male bigots, we have to start having a dialog with people who don’t understand women’s rights.

          • cath

            I am not sure that the issue is that these men don’t understand; I think the issue is that they don’t WANT dialogue, they don’t WANT to discuss, they don’t WANT to understand. It seems to me that when a man says a woman should be raped b/c he didn’t like her joke, he is not doing so in the hope of opening a discussion but in the attempt to silence her participation in discussion. While I applaud your desire to meet in the middle and come to understanding, I doubt that the pathetically misogynistic bubbas who were so violent and abusive in their comments are open to learning from MLK’s example or from any woman anywhere. I question whether they even have the mental ability to participate meaningfully in such a discussion, and I don’t mean that as an insult, just an observation of the apparent lack of intelligence in anyone who responds to a disagreeable idea with such malice, violence, and coarseness.

          • Xavier

            “It seems to me that when a man says a woman should be raped b/c he didn’t like her joke, he is not doing so in the hope of opening a discussion but in the attempt to silence her participation in discussion.” I think you hit the nail on the head, Cath. The men on the far end of the spectrum probably wouldn’t be receptive to Allison asking them why they’re so enraged by her tweet. Maybe the question couldn’t come from a woman, maybe that’s a take-away here. Maybe we need men to discuss misogyny more often with men, we need fathers to be more vocal with their sons about women’s issues. I don’t know if it’s possible to reach everyone who has bigoted views, but I DO know we have to start somewhere.

          • hobbsan

            There are more ways to be uncivil than to get upset about someone putting on a whole holier than thou show about a form of oppression and discrimination that they never have to suffer from. Like actually putting on that holier than thou show for example. So, maybe you should work on your own civility before you criticize mine.

            And referring to Martin Luther King Jr, I’m sure he would have been thrilled to accomplish a first step of getting the KKK to keep their mouth shut whenever they felt like spewing some vile threat, since that would make his goal to teach compassion to the whites in America much easier.

            “It makes no sense focusing on the rage caused by male bigots, we have to start having a dialog with people who don’t understand women’s rights.”

            Wow. Spoken like a truly privileged person. How nice and of you to mansplain that it “makes no sense” to focus on threats we women get for speaking up about whatever the frick might insult some crazy misogynist somewhere. How about this, you go about having all those super duper constructive dialogues with “people who don’t understand women’s rights” (’cause they’re so very very complicated to understand so the reason people don’t must be the lack of dialogue) and I’ll just stay here and admire the magic of you communicating misogyny away from a distance.

          • Xavier

            I don’t think this can go anywhere productive from here. I see more insults and acidity in your language than attempts to reach solutions. I wish you luck, hobbsan.

          • hobbsan

            Really? Maybe you’re just not asking enough questions?

            I find it rather funny (or sad) that you don’t seem to notice the apparent irony here. You went into this comment section trying to – very smugly I might add – promote a course of action that you have now proven you are incapable of making work yourself.

            For you it’s apparently enough to “see more insults and acidity in [my] language than attempts to reach solutions” to legitimize your saying “I don’t think this can go anywhere productive from here”, but you want others to use your method when encountering far more “insults” and far far worse “acidity”. You know what that is? Hypocrisy.

            The truth of the matter is that you’re not really that interested in solving the actual problem – you’re mostly interested hearing your own voice and stroking your own ego by saying things you think sound sensible, rational and empathetic all round.

          • Xavier

            I hear your frustration, and I acknowledge I’m far from perfect. I think you’re very wrong in your assumptions about me, but I don’t really want to sidetrack this discussion by talking about my personal character. Feel free to message me directly if you want to continue the dialog.

          • hobbsan

            Why on earth would I be interested in continuing this dialogue? Especially since you’re still not asking any questions. You’re just making statements. And mostly asinine such, at that. Like:
            “I’d love to see an article asking why that tweet was so incendiary, and incited so much hate. At the same time, I’d love to see someone ask Allison after her tweet, “Why do you feel your rights are less valued than gun rights?” Sure, there would be useless, hateful responses in either case, but there might be some valuable responses as well. In any case, both sides talking and not listening … hasn’t been a productive answer so far.”

            See, if you spent less time writing down your own theories about things and more time reading about them you might actually have learned that all of this has been done about a million times. There have been oh so many articles about men’s outrage whenever they fear their privileges are in danger and countless women (and several men too actually) have explained why our rights are less than some objects’ (it’s not about what we “feel” – there is such a thing as facts actually). The fact that it hasn’t been _more_ productive – because to say that it hasn’t been productive at all isn’t true – isn’t for lack of doing all those things you think are brilliant strategies. It’s because changing a system is fricking hard work and requires a multitude of different strategies – one of which is being firm, angry and unapologetic about it.

          • Xavier

            The only question I want to ask right now is if your name is Sandra Abi-Khalil, and whether you’re interested in a teaching moment with a male (me) genuinely trying to engage in a dialog with a female about women’s issues. If so, we can message in another channel of communication, and you can share with me the relevant facts and literature you feel I am smugly overlooking. If that doesn’t interest you, I think it’d be a sad waste of a teaching opportunity, but I can’t do much about that and I wish you the best. My name is Xavier Aguilar, I live in Seattle Washington, and work in Alki Beach. You should be able to reach me via facebook with that information. Otherwise, I wish you luck.

          • hobbsan

            If you are truly interested in learning there are several ways for you to do that without asking me to spend my time being your unpaid private tutor. You have a multitude of blogs and forums at your disposal, free of charge, and finding literature on the subject is a piece of cake. Hint: google. (There are also courses on the subject, but I don’t really know how much that costs so that might not be the best option.)

            Good luck!

          • Xavier

            “Unpaid private tutor” is a bit harsh. I was thinking a list of links or books, I don’t think that would take you more than 5 minutes to type out. In any case, thanks.

          • hobbsan

            Yes, if you’re fluent in Swedish it would take me just a few minutes to type out, since most of the blogs I follow are in Swedish. Googling what you might need though, I found this (in less than five minutes):

            Regarding a reading list, that would depend completely on your current level of knowledge and your academic comfort zone. You could of course start with Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex for example, but 900 pages of dense feministic analysis might be a bit too much if you haven’t read anything else on the subject.

            But again, if you google “feminism 101 reading list” here’s one of the top results:

            You’re welcome.

          • Xavier

            THIS is the comment I was hoping for about 10 posts ago. I still disagree with you about several points of our discussion, but these links are, to me, the first positive attempt to build a mutual understanding, which is my main goal. I’ll look at your links. Please, please, at least consider my suggestion for the future: If you disagree with an opinion you think is ignorant or has unexamined bias, go this route and share knowledge rather than exchanging angry words, EVEN IF you’re angry and don’t want to play a model minority. In the past I chose to all-out fight the immigrant label or the gay label rather than trying to educate, and it’s cost me a lot. You might disagree, but that’s been my experience.

            By saying these things, I realize I’m opening myself to being criticized again for mansplaining how to process your thoughts on gender, or being entitled, or privileged, or dictating cis male solutions, or whichever tropes you think might define it. This is the suggestion I’d offer to myself, or a friend, or a sister or brother. I don’t see myself as your teacher, just sharing what has worked for me.

            Fighting systemic oppression, a loud, forceful voice has been useful for me, dare I say necessary. In smaller-scale discussion like this, that same voice just hasn’t worked. People feel attacked and get defensive, or feel publicly shamed and lash out, or feel embarrassed and shut down, and so on. They stopped listening, and the movement gained nothing. The only win was I got an opportunity to vent, but it never felt worth it to me. Ideally, the aggregate voices opposing systemic oppression will reach that person eventually, but I always feel like it was a missed opportunity to make change happen sooner, at least as an attempt. These people were VOTERS, in social circles unconnected to mine. If you talked to another guy in a comment section the way you’ve talked to me in this one, I’m worried he might walk away with an attitude like “what a bitch” or some other typical thing, because he couldn’t see past feeling attacked. That’s HIS shortcoming, yeah, but it’s also someone who might’ve been reachable if slightly different words were used to check his privilege.

            If you don’t think it’s your responsibility to be a teacher to uninformed people, or think it’s ridiculous to tailor your voice to suit the groups oppressing you, I get that. You do you, I’ll do me. But save those links you gave me for future reference. You’ve already done the work, and maybe someone else in another comment section could learn from them.

          • hobbsan

            The thing is, I understand your point but I simply don’t agree. Some people are not possible to reach by being nice, which I have seen in hundreds of comment sections with super nice people trying to reach complete jerks by being so very nice and calm and communicative. What is worse is that bullies getting away with that attitude gives very problematic vibes to people who may read the discussion without being involved themselves. It legitimizes the bully’s behavior.

            Now, I’m quite sure we need calm and smooth people in the fight for any human right. The thing is, though, that I’m equally certain we need pretty darn angry and uncompromising people _also_. As far as I know, no fight against oppression ever got anywhere without having those voices as well. The suffragettes is the classic example of course. The suffragists worked for almost 50 years for women’s right to vote without gaining much ground at all. The hard, angry actions of the suffragettes managed to build on what the suffragists had already lain the ground work for and made it impossible in the end for the people in power to ignore the issue – something that was still rather easy to do as long as it were merely the sensible suffragists asking them nicely over and over again to please treat them as human beings.

          • Xavier

            Assata Shakur has a line about nobody in history ever gaining freedom by appealing to the oppressing group’s moral decency. It’s devastating, but she’s not wrong. I acknowledge the voice of reason isn’t sufficient by itself. I feel the same about a loud voice though. Different circumstances require different adaptations of the message. And yeah sometimes a productive discussion isn’t logically possible or physically safe. I also think people binarize “peaceful” messages vs “forceful” messages like it’s either/or, but the civil rights leaders I’ve been most inspired by are the ones who built successful hybrids: a proud voice too loud to ignore, but a voice that exudes compassion.

          • Shushanik Nalbadian

            Duuuude, you are a mansplainer of the highest order.

          • Xavier

            Wow I hadn’t thought about this conversation for months. Happy new year

          • Jack Kenney

            I must say, Xavier, after reading through this, that you really seem not to have a grasp of the concepts Alison and Hobbsan are trying to get across to you….as simple as they are. As open minded as I’m sure you’d like to portray yourself, your comments show a lack of understanding that is exactly the crux of the problem. As well, dialogue with people who are threatening you is not really an option.

          • Xavier

            What is the crux of the problem Jack?

          • PluggerCat

            If one side wants to lock me in a closet and use me as a toy and my side just wants to walk around with basic rights, how is agree to the middle ground good? What would that look like? What we have now maybe? Lots of harassment, rape not being a crime in WA state unless a weapon is used, less pay ans opportunities etc. but we can vote and work and have right to sue and such, so middle ground. In this case middle ground is just giving up and once they have that they will keep taking more and meeting in the middle each time just keeps giving them more and us giving up more.

            Most are beyond any discussion. People don’t change easily if at all once they reach adulthood. In stead of looking to have both groups give something up for “middle ground”, when the middle ground is still poisoned ground, we need to treat it as the disease it is and look at the causes and fix them.

            One major component is education. The right education. That teaches critical thinking and problem solving not just mindlessly passing tests. People with that background become much less likely to hold onto archaic beliefs like one gender or race or class being less human than another.

    • TheTruthHurts

      You can’t reason with crazy.

  • Cat Macdonald

    Keep writing. Keep creating. Keep doing it and know you are doing it because you need to and because we need you to. Thanks for being another strong voice.

  • HB

    Hang in there! Your article and your joke were dead-on! Frankly all they are doing with their terrible hatred-filled replies is proving you right. I don’t have Twitter, but I did scroll through the responses and the thing that stood out at me most is the fact that they actually started to compare women’s rights to gun’s rights, as if they believed that a gun should somehow have rights in the first place. I feel strongly about my running shoes too, but I’d never seek to compare them to an actual human being. What was meant as an ironic, satirical comment of the ludicrous way we treat women’s rights in this country was completely lost on them (ok so maybe a gun doesn’t ACTUALLY have more rights than a woman, it shouldn’t, but several supreme court rulings last year gave companies more rights than women). In their frenzied scrambling to protect their second amendment right (which of course was only added due to the fact that we were at war when that law was written in), they seem to have overlooked the current war going on to end women’s access to basic healthcare, reproductive rights, and equal pay. No, I’m sure as misogynist males or women that are ok with the status quo they don’t feel that infringed upon. But as a professional in a highly competitive career track I am constantly reminded of the inequality between men and women. What some men see as their basic rights (of course she will make the dinner and feed the kids if I am not home until late) they rally against when it’s reversed (what do you mean I have to feed the kids because you wont be home until 6? They’re your kids. Clearly you climbed on top of yourself and got yourself pregnant). I don’t care if they have the best intentions, until there is equality in the home AND at work, nothing will change. They don’t realize the trickle down effect of a woman having to give up more of her work time to take care of the kids, which cuts into her productivity or sleep (that time has to be made up somewhere), which makes her look unreliable, which makes her boss more likely to pay her less or fire her and less likely to employ another woman. And the stupid part is that applies to ALL women whether or not they want kids or a family because let’s face it, people still treat us like glorified baby makers. What they actually need to do is stand up, take notice of the fact that things are disproportionate, and make an effort to change it. Sorry, women get paid less because they don’t get paid for half of the work they do, something that only happens because they dedicate more time to taking care of things at home when their lazy ass husband is entirely capable of getting off his ass and helping out. We get paid less because men (not all men, but some) still see family and home care as a woman’s job, and they don’t do their part. And in the end it impacts all of us, not just those trying desperately to juggle families and work, because the stereotype that gets perpetuated is far-reaching and entirely false. Side note: Men are not the problem. There are MANY men out there that recognize and help rally against this issue. However, the way society has divided rights among women and men is disproportionate and it gives misogynists a platform to stand on.

  • TheTruthHurts

    What part of the Constitution guarantees the right to an abortion, again?

  • You’re so right, my friend. I had an incident happen a couple of weeks ago that I really wanted to write about. Hell, I even had the whole thing recorded and wanted to share it with other women and the world to see what it sounds like when a man won’t leave you alone or let you say no to his offers.
    The whole situation made me feel gross, but when I talked about it with other women it was a huge relief. And once I shared my story, they started talking about theirs, the ones they had kept hidden away because they were worried they would be belittled for their emotions.
    But even as I considered posting the recording online with my thoughts, I was worried in advance about replies I would get. I have literally NO following and yet I still felt scared that these hateful people would find me and try to tear me down. And it’s not just men. I’ve seen women post horrible things to other women as well – women who are scared to share their experiences and try to shame other women into the same fear. The thought of having to face that and not take it personally has prevented me from sharing my story. Maybe I’ll put it up and maybe I won’t. But this kind of response is exactly what keeps me silent.

  • Brenda Houghton

    Perhaps my humor gene is lacking, but I stumbled on the premise of her ‘joke’. A gun is an inanimate object and as thus has no rights. Is she saying she feels she has no rights? If so, I feel sorry for her for feeling that way, but would like to point out the
    inaccuracies in this belief. She possesses all the rights and freedoms available to all citizens of this country. Maybe I haven’t had enough coffee this morning, but I’m not able to think of one legal and/or constitutional right an American male has that I, as a woman, do not. Clearly, she exercises her freedom of speech. I do not condone the ugly responses she’s received, but surely she knows no one can take that right from her, especially not by simply making rude (and worse) comments. The only person who can shut one up is oneself.

    • Diana Bayer

      really, you can choose to walk away from a pregnancy you don’t want.

    • Diana Bayer

      a man can walk away from a pregnancy he doesn’t want, no problem, no shame. A man can rape a woman and walk away from it unscathed. if it goes to trial the woman gets all the heat. She is either a slut or a tease, or should have kept her legs closed.

    • Shushanik Nalbadian

      How off the point could you possibly be? Freaking wow.

  • BeaM

    The irony is that none of those disgusting men realized all they were doing was validating your original premise.
    They talked about you in ways they never would talk about a firearm – as a worthless, useless object that needs to be scrubbed harshly – to the point of causing damage – or thrown into a locked closet and left there because it won’t function as expected or required.
    Brenda Houghton (who commented 9 months ago) needs to get a sense of humor, or a sense of reality because the fact is, women have rights ON PAPER but the many videos of women walking down crowded streets getting degrading catcalls, the fact women make 78 cents on the dollar for equal work, the fact women have to fight for control over their own bodies if they get pregnant when they’re expected to pay for the health insurance men use on the pills they take to get women in the “family” way, and so many other FACTS of the realities women face every day support the premise of your “joke.”
    A certain sort of gallows humor marks the impotence felt by people living under tyranny around the world. Your joke is proof of how powerless women feel in our culture. It may not be tyranny but it’s just as hard to change or fight.