On sexism and vile names from Cretins
This is an expanded comment from one I made on Ice’s post.
She made an excellent post about rampant sexism on the internet and vile sexist abuse flung at women who post on the net here:
This got me to thinking about web misbehavior in general.
The biggest issue I believe is the anonymity of the web. It allows people to say things which are meant to be as hurtful as possible simply for the purpose of being hurtful. It is like 7th grade, but without the teachers to instill basic civility - or the sorts of kid who would simply punch a bully in the face.
I think that there are many parallels here to mob psychology and mob behavior. We have all heard about people turning into pure id within the anonymity of the mob.
It is magnified in some respects because with the anonymity of the web, the normal social cues that establish pecking orders are removed. As an example, the physician, in real life can talk about medicine and be taken seriously. In the web world, she is just more pixels, and unless “popular” or well known to an established web group as a physician, reduced to the equivalent of any quack. The quacks revel in the possibility of being taken seriously, when no one would possibly take them seriously in the real world. On the web, they can be doctors too! They react badly to actual physicians who show them up.
But that is just one example. On a political blog, people like to think that their opinions are just the same as facts. They revel in being taken seriously, imagining that their ignorant ramblings are profound, and being rewarded with the adulation of like minded rubes, even though no-one in their right mind would grant them any authority in the real world for a second. Along comes someone who bursts their bubble. This hurts!
Yes, the misogyny is real - however, this behavior, I believe usually, has more to do with flinging the most hurtful poo possible and getting away with it. The point for most of these troglodytes is just simply to cause hurt. They lost a debate, or were disagreed with, were faced with someone who was clearly more clever, a crude advance was rejected, or most importantly, they were not afforded the unearned adulation they crave from being in an online community. They feel threatened and angry at that. In the real world, they would have to take it. Online, they have, through anonymity, recourse to “hurt back” in vulgar and repugnant ways.
It is also the cliques of the 7th grade writ large. When a kid is ostracized, the most vile things are said. The goal is to cause pain and humiliation. Any difference from the group can then be singled out, magnified, and turned into a point of insult. Don’t be a gay or brown person who dares to disagree with the views of a wing nut. The most hurtful slurs will soon follow. If you are a Jew, they will call you a Nazi - it is rather more difficult to be more hurtful and spiteful than that. Then the pack draws down for the hurtfest. Partially, I suppose they are happy that they themselves are not the target of the attacks and partly, they too know how hurtful the language is and want to revel in it. Another component is that, since everything is based on the perception of the popularity of the web persona, they attach themselves like remoras to perceived web sharks.
In that sense, it is not about misogyny per se. Rather it is that the difference in the person being attacked is that she is a woman. Many of these cretins who fling such garbage are genuinely perplexed about the charges of sexism, not because what was said wasn’t sexist and vile, but rather because they do not see themselves as trying to bash all women. They see themselves as trying to hurt, and degrade as much as possible, a particular woman. The fact that they chose her womanhood as the point of ridicule or that what they are saying does actually attack all women, is not something that registers to them.
Some of those posters may well be ill-mannered adolescents. Most though are much older, regressing to adolescence, and reveling in the “freedom” to be as mean as they always wanted to be. Along with it comes the entire little pack psychology of being “in” and “being out.”
I should also add, that this is not to say that there aren’t those posters who are simply posting to be racist or sexist or homophobic in whatever manner. I think that in the long run, the difference in motivation is negligible compared to the hurt their words cause, however, there is a difference between a kid or regressed adult that got out of hand, and a dyed in the wool racist or woman hater.
The dyed in the wool woman haters and racists make themselves known by prolonged and frequent outbursts. The standard 7th grade regressions make themselves known simply for their outbursts during personal feuds. Of course, there is overlap there as well.