Whether you paid any attention to Christopher Priest’s rant about the Clarke shortlist or not, you should go read Cat Valente’s follow-up post, about what would have happened if a woman had said anything even half that scathing.
This is the reality women live with online, and sometimes in person. It isn’t even just a thing that happens when we yell at somebody, when we criticize something, when we get angry. It can happen when we say anything the reader doesn’t like. Express a political opinion? Post pictures of yourself online? Root for the wrong sports team? “Bitch, I hope you get raped to death like the ugly cow you are.”
Because for a frighteningly large segment of the populace, that’s what you say to shut a woman up. It’s a knee-jerk reflex, like swatting a fly.
How large of a segment? Who knows. Any number larger than “pathologically unwell people who are or should be seeing a mental health professional” is too large. And they’re loud. They swarm the internet, they take over the comment sections on various sites, they poison the water and drive out the good, and for whatever reason, we let them get away with it. We don’t band together like we should and say, start acting like a human, instead of something out of Lovecraft.
(I’m laying off the hyenas, out of consideration for my commenters.)
Sometimes we say it. Some of us do. I don’t do it often enough because, to be honest, I stay away from comment threads most of the time. When I see things like the response Jim Hines dissects, my hands go cold, my fingers start shaking, and whether I respond or not I spend the rest of the day chewing that piece of foul-tasting meat over and over and over again; it’s easier just to avoid the trap. But I need to go to bat for human decency more often. We all do. Again and again, until we’ve sent this malignance howling for the shadows.
Have I gotten death threats, rape threats, any of the hatred Cat describes? I haven’t, actually. But the sad thing is, I know that isn’t because I’m a nice person who doesn’t deserve it, a good, demure woman who doesn’t need to be put in her place.
It’s because not enough people are reading what I write. Give me a bigger microphone, and the sewage will come to swamp me, too.
We need to cut this shit out. The men who spew this kind of thing need to get over whatever misogynistic reflex makes them say it, and the rest of us, men and women alike, need to keep telling them so until they do. I don’t know how we do that — I don’t know how we get it through their skulls — but we have to try. Even the attempt is a form of support for the ones drowning in the bile, and they need all the support they can get.
For fuck’s sake, people. That is a person on the other end of the things you say. Remember that. And summon up the basic compassion to care.