Jane Austen and the Rape-Threatening Men

The face that launched a thousand threatening tweets.

The face that launched a thousand threatening tweets.

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So what sorts of things make some men so furious that they feel the need to send women they’ve never met literal death and rape threats on the internet? It doesn’t take much, apparently. A woman suggesting that it’s not such a good idea to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM. A woman making  videos suggesting that there’s sexism in video games. A woman captured on video telling some men to shut the fuck up. A woman complaining about sexist jokes at a tech conference.

Add to this: a woman campaigning successfully to have Jane Austen’s face put on the Bank of England’s ten pound notes.

Over the past week, writer and activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who organized the campaign to get Austen memorialized on the bank note, has been harassed relentlessly on Twitter by assholes and misogynists and trolls for her efforts. Some of this harassment has taken the form of literal rape and death threats. One 21-year-old Manchester man was arrested and questioned in connection with the threats.

Similar threats and harassment were directed at noted British classics professor Mary Beard and female Members of Parliament.

Here’s a sadly typical example of one of the threatening comments sent to Criado-Perez from an account that Twitter temporarily banned — then reinstated.

And a more graphic example:

And some even more graphic threats directed at female MPs.

For many more examples of messages sent to Criado-Perez and others, see  Catalina Hernández’ blog I Will Not Put Up With This: here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

And if you had any doubt about how little in the way of repercussion most of these harassers expected to get for their threatening tweets, some tweeted using what are presumably their real names. Here are some comments from one Ivan Garcia of San Diego, as collected by Hernández.


And here is his blog, where this fan of jazz, video games and threatening rape shares his poetry with the world.

The harassment obviously raises a lot of issues,most notably: Why the fuck does this keep happening? And: What’s the best way to deal with this sort of harassment — and these sorts of harassers?

Twitter has promised to add a “report abuse” button; some activists see this as a step in the right direction, while others worry that the “report abuse” button will be itself abused to shut down critics of harassment. Twitter’s record in dealing with harassers has not exactly been a great one; just ask Anita Sarkeesian.

British journalists and assorted bloggers have been trying to sort through some of these issues over the past few days. Here are some links to some of the more interesting pieces, from a variety of perspectives. (Well, I’m not including the pro-rape threat perspective.) Links aren’t necessarily endorsements.

First, for a little more background, see:

Twitter under fire after bank note campaigner is target of rape threats

Twitter faces boycott after ‘inaction’ over rape threats against feminist bank notes campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez

Caroline Criado-Perez Twitter abuse case leads to arrest

And here are some posts and pieces looking at the issues:

A ‘report abuse’ button on Twitter will create more problems than it solves, by Sharon O’Dea

A button will not, alone, rid Twitter (or the wider world) of mysogyny and abuse. These are complex issues that will take more than a button to resolve. But ‘report abuse’ buttons have been known to be widely abused on other networks. ….

Introduction of a similar mechanism on Twitter ironically creates a whole new means by which trolls can abuse those they disagree with. The report abuse button could be used to silence campaigners, like Criado-Perez, by taking advantage of the automatic blocking and account closure such a feature typically offers. In that way, it could end up putting greater power in the trolls’ hands.

Why does it always come back to rape?  by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter of the Vagenda Magazine, in the New Statesman

Rape is the popular choice when women become more visible than they apparently should be, and that’s because it’s easy. …. Whatever their opinion, however they conducted their arguments, however well-researched and nuanced their replies to criticism are, they’re women and male trolls could rape them and that’s what really matters. …

[Academic] Mary Beard got called a “dirty old slut” with a “disgusting vagina” just as [Member of Parliament] Stella Creasy was being tweeted “YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR BACK… I’M GONNA RAPE YOU AT 8PM AND PUT THE VIDEO ALL OVER THE INTERNET”. …

The message is that women’s vaginas are, literally, always up for grabs. If they’re young, the rape threats will come thick and fast; if they’re older, maybe the trolls will settle for insulting their vaginas and telling them that they were “sluts” in the past.

If Every Male Troll Took a Walk in Women’s Shoes, Would He Finally Feel Our Outrage?  by Elizabeth Plank

Withstanding rape threats has become a right of passage for female writers or personalities, just as making them as become a right of passage for cowardly and anonymous misogynist trolls. If you’re a woman who happens to possess opinions, and write about feminist issues (god forbid!), chances are you will be violently trolled. … the issue is not that women receive more criticism than men, but rather that it comes in more violent and vitriolic forms. Men will be attacked for their opinion, whereas women will be threatened because they have opinions.

[O]ne study showed that female usernames in chat forums received 25 times more abuse than male ones. In an experiment conducted by the University of Maryland, researchers found that “Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day.” So all else equal, if you’re a woman online, you’re going to be on the receiving end of more hate.

I believe it. I get a lot of shit from misogynists for running this blog — and the occasional threat — but what I get is nothing compared to the harassment similarly controversial feminist bloggers who happen to be women have gotten.

What women-hating trolls really believe, by Emma Barnett

First troll up was Peter from Whitechapel. …

“She was asking for it,” he told me. According to this nitwit, if you campaign about issues such as keeping a woman on English banknotes, you should “expect to receive rape threats”. I delved further.

“If you put your head above the parapet, like she has, then you deserve this type of abuse. It’s what you get when you are a woman shouting about something,” Peter told me, starting to get a little irate. …

Then Gary from Birmingham decided to call in [and] told me in no uncertain terms that “feminists like Caroline were undermining what it is to be a man” and needed “sorting out”.

“Men are predators,” he explained calmly. “And this [rape threats] is what we do.”

And here, after all this awfulness, is a piece that manages to be funny about it all: How to use the internet without being a total loser.

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon, Time.com, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on July 31, 2013, in actual activism, advocacy of violence, all about the menz, antifeminism, harassment, hate, men who should not ever be with women ever, misogyny, no girls allowed, oppressed white men, rape culture, rape jokes, sexual harassment, threats, twitter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1,018 Comments.

  1. Argenti- I didn’t like track either, it’s walking I like. Walking (especially with a dog) is the only acceptable form of exercise, IMO.

  2. The only sport I can play is soccer, and that’s just because I like running.

  3. @ Ally

    I spent the earliest part of my childhood in Libya, so heat is no problem for me, it’s cold that I can’t deal with. Which is ironic for a Scot – I think all those years in the desert thinned my blood.

  4. neuroticbeagle – I’m with you on the walking! I just wish this goddamn knee thing hadn’t happened.

  5. For the Dogs in Elk- I had to look up pictures of what the breed of dogs looked like.

  6. sarahlizhousespouse

    “I spent the earliest part of my childhood in Libya, so heat is no problem for me, it’s cold that I can’t deal with. Which is ironic for a Scot – I think all those years in the desert thinned my blood.”

    I wish my blood were thin. I grew up in the frigid north and now living in a hot climate is killing me. I can only get so naked before it’s just me, an empty ice cube tray and a worn out old box fan. Suffering. Together.😦

  7. That nose lick is very creepy in this context!

    And walking doesn’t like me, well, sometimes. And therein lies the problem. Somedays ten miles is a fun excursion, others I wake up all “can’t bend knee, wtf did I even do to it yesterday?!?”

    I require food, pecunium please teleport me any leftovers!

  8. Yummy! Potato chips! With a side dish of nearly falling back over when I stood up because my back decided to start the chorus of OW’s

    Time for bed then, g’night.

    (Totally worth it btw, I’ll be remembering Starry Night’s wonder long after my back gets over itself)

  9. Sounds like you two had fun🙂

  10. I blast a minute, including a literal one. But I’ll leave him to tell the story of the split milk if he wants, he was the one who actually witnessed it.

    Also, maple syrup vodka is actually pretty good. And gets way better when Hugo. Fucking. Schwyzer. comes up and you down a shot in one gulp.

    Seriously though, yes, I enjoyed my micro-vacation. Amazing how quick one settles into not having an ear open for bigotry to run from. Hell, my mother was all “speak up” earlier and it dawned on me that I basically have to yell here to be heard at all, between the TV, my father perpetually being on the phone, his GODDAMNED POLICE SCANNER.

    Well, mostly enjoyed it, but he got far more soaked than I did. It kinda decided to rain on us. But weather happens…failing to bring an umbrella and rejecting trying to share mine…yeah, I was tolerably wet, he’d have probably been freezing had it not been warm out. Things you learn in Pittsburgh, always ALWAYS carry an umbrella.

    Pecunium — you MUST tell the couch saga, if only to have people commiserate the drama of the many couches. (Also, because it’s pretty damned funny)

    Being able to shit around and not give a shit is a lovely thing. Not even like, rude behavior or whatnot, just…not waiting for the next random bit of bigotry, not worrying that expressing an opinion will result in being demeaned. All that shit that I supposed most people take for granted…

    Oh I didn’t tell you guys did I? My psych Tuesday was all “if he really cared he’d help you figure out work you can do”…being able to laugh at that instead of fume? Fucking awesome.

    Cuz me going to a Major City was a Major Deal. Totally not getting the part where he, unlike them, fucking gets my limits on dealing with people. Major City with “tour guide” who avoids the truly busy bits? Far more tolerable.

    Ok. Now I really am going to bed!

    Pecunium — I implore you to tell the couch saga epic and the story of the spilt milk! (The abridged couch epic, that only took what, twenty minutes? to tell me)

  11. Argh, why did I read that Hugo Schwyzer thing? Besides all the “woe is me, I’m so ashamed” crap in it, I think what really bothers me is that he writes it like an effin’ novel. He takes this horrible thing he did to a woman and he writes it like he’s a poor tragic character in a piece of fiction. Nothing there says regret to me at all, it’s just something that happened and all the mean feminists are just making a “fuss” about it (he actually says “fuss”, I kid you not).

    And then there’s the mention of all the students he had sex with, just thrown in there without a hint of self-reflection, just another thing that happened, except for the one that rejected him, which led to his downward spiral, and from the way he writes it, I can’t help but think that he’s blaming her for that, like if she hadn’t rejected him none of that would have happened.

    Just, what an absolute asshole.

  12. The “I’m so ashamed” would be one thing. Not remorse per se, but a comprehension that he fucked up. It’s the “pity the gelf me because I’m a victim of my horrible things”. Like he fucks up all over the place in serious ways, leaves a fucking string of victims in his wake if we count his students (who may or may not feel that way), and he’s the goddamned victim according to his version.

    And it isn’t just “I was really messed up, on a whole lot of drugs and drunk, and I did a really really horrible thing” no, it’s graphic vivid detail. He still can’t say he tried to kill her, just “unilaterally end [their] lives”.

    But the “face of male feminism” attempted a really squickily DV like murder-suicide, hid it, and still has no remorse? Just feminists making a fuss. If he gave one goddamned shit about feminism, whether he understood “the fuss” or not, he’d have taken a dose of STFU over a year ago.

    No, no chance that maybe we’re right in saying that he has no place being any “face of feminism”, nope, we’re big meanies who drove him to attempting suicide (you can google that one if you like). That alone is manipulative douchey behavior (the blaming part, not the attempt part)

  13. I’m definitely predicting more suicide threats in the future from him. Classic abuser tactic.

  14. And glad you and pecunium had fun, Argenti! Hope your back feels better.

  15. It’s back to its usual level of “I hate you you stupid human”, Totally. Worth. It.

    Katz — can I hope that anyone he publicly tries to tell will be noptopus about it?

  16. re sports: My (first) high school required swimming. Not sports in water, but swimming. You couldn’t graduate if you couldn’t freestyle 200 yards. We got taught breast, back, butterfly, crawl, and sidestroke. I wasn’t lucky enough to get it in a sensible time of year. I spent the six weeks after winter break in an outdoor pool.

    As to heat, I lived where summer temps get to 40C, Yeah, sports at 35 sorta suck, but better (for me) to be a bit hot, then to be starting hypothermia. No Body Fat.

  17. He means that less sentence, scrawny ass doesn’t begin to cover it! And yeah, I agree, 70° pool water might be warm enough if you aren’t freezing at 70° air temp.

    No, that apparently applies to everyone. Just checked and 60-70° gets a 2-7 hours before exhaustion or unconsciousness sets in. 45 min in the pool, need arm warmers at 70° with any breeze (or AC, I probably wear them as much in summer as winter). Not pleasant when not moving, ergo my hatred of the water polo thing. Laps I could do, cuz the whole exercise => body heat thing, but standing around in that? Fuck that shit, how is that in anyway productive anyways?

    Yeah ok, I just really hated that teacher. I blame the broken toe.

  18. The milk was… irksome. I bought a yogurt maker (because the trick I learned in my youth no longer works; stoves no longer use pilot lights, and therefore aren’t just the right temperature to let the yogurt beasties work).

    My beloved bought a jug of milk (because I asked her to). I set it on the counter (since one needs to scald milk if one is making lebneh, or greek style yogurts. for kefir/european yogurt use it at room temp).

    But the evening was busy and the room to get started wasn’t happening, so it sat on the counter.

    Until there was a middling loud crack, and I swore mightily. Why? Because the bottle had popped itself into three pieces.

    post-mortem, I think the reason is that it was bottled cold, and because I didn’t crack the seal it expanded as it warmed up, and the bottle couldn’t take the strain. So a half-gallon of milk got EVERYWHERE.

  19. Room to get started? I couldn’t find room for a coffee mug!

    As if the evening wasn’t interesting enough already…EXPLODING MILK!!

  20. This is totally random, but my brother just found our pogs and we’re trying to remember the name of the game? figures? from the same time frame. Little like, monster things, with numbers on their feet and power levels and higher number wins?

    Yeah, I know, not much to go on, but I figure if anyone can help us out here, it’s you guys!

  21. @Argenti


    Or is that gargoyle thing? I remember there being a card game with monsters, and the monsters were also like those pencil tip decorations.

  22. *Or is it

  23. No, not cards, little figurine things. Tiny, couldn’t have been an inch tall.

  24. Ahhh, Magic was the only tabletop game I ever played. I know Warhammer uses figurines, but don’t know much more than that, so I’m not sure if it’s the same system as what you’re talking about.

  25. Nawh, his war hammer figurines are downstairs. Taking up a good third of the only functional room in the basement. A good bit of the rest sums to throw out the goddamned CRTs!

  26. Lollll. My ol’ CRT’s in my basement too😛 I’ve been meaning to throw it out, but it just SOMEHOW never happens😛 Of course, that may be because this is a much better circumstance considering it was in my room in its box two years ago when we were in an apartment, so it still hasn’t reached the “annoying the shit outta me” stage.

  27. Oh it will, it will😄

  28. My middle school had a pool and so I got ‘getting naked with your classmates’ having blonde hair, (that green problem is no joke) plus I cannot tell you the degree to which black girls don’t want to get their hair wet. They spend time, energy, and money on that, and I went to public schools that heavily tilt black. We were all down there in the shallow end keeping our hair out of the water while the boys were ‘being athletic.’

    What’s that? None of the boys realized that we weren’t swimming because of our hair and having to extensively shave to be seen in public in a bathing suit? Well golly gee, maybe Hug[e eg]o Schwyzer would be nice enough to come try to kill us.

    I first started reading feminist websites when I got married and had a load of patriarchal bullshit dumped on my head so fast that it was kind of unreal, but every time I got linked to Schwyzer I couldn’t even finish the article. The mansplaining of feminism, with bonus felonies!

  29. A friend of mine seems to have gotten some rough treatment for a post he wrote at pharyngula about Schwyzer: http://coyot.es/crossing/2013/08/05/about-that-post-on-pharyngula/

  30. Read the comments on his OP, rough is an understatement. And his wording could’ve been better at times but I thought he was clear. Of course, I agree, which may bias me on that one. Double of course! I’ve tried, been on the receiving end of that sort of threat, and, once, the giving end…can I hope that someday Hugo. Fucking. Schwyzer. will understand how fucking horrible such threats are, whether you’re serious or not? Because “you drove me to this!!” is never okay, not from an adult anyways…a kid who doesn’t know any better way to ask for help I can sorta forgive, but it’s still manipulative.

    And this is Hugo. Fucking. Schwyzer. he’s got a doctorate in being a manipulative asshole.

  31. I saw that one go down, and it got pretty ugly.

    It’s a sensitive area; there is a significant stigma around suicide, and it is important not to add to it.

    But using threats of suicide to manipulate others is also an abuser tactic, and we do need to be able to talk about that.

    So, yeah.

  32. I’m having a really hard time not slapping a DSM diagnosis on Hugo, but let’s just put it this way – if he told me the sky was blue I’d go and check. At this point I think it would be wise to assume that pretty much anything he says in public is an attempt at manipulation, given his history.

  33. Cassandra — wary as I am of armchair Dx’ing him, oh hell yes about the rest. He’s long since used up his benefit of the doubt.

  34. I didn’t read Chris’ pharyngula post (I am not comfortable in the comments,and I don’t tend to follow blogs I don’t want to comment in), only his Coyote Crossing post, so how rough it got I was inferring: from knowing what he thinks merits comment.

  35. The post itself is, more or, less, what I’ve been saying since I asked you for more vodka. The comments…he’s increasing the stigma of asking for help when suicidal! And worse.

  36. I consider myself a feminist and obviously am appalled at the death/rape threats but I honestly think Jane Austen’s work is pretty terrible (and certainly not worth reading for any kind of feminist value today). Although the comparison is nowhere near as bad it’s a lot like putting Stephenie Meyer on future American currency.

    Couldn’t they have chosen another accomplished and progressive British women?

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