My Experience With Casual Misogyny
A couple of weeks or so ago I broke my usual rule on offering political opinions on Facebook and wrote the following: “Tom Cotton is an Ass.”
Why did I write this? I wrote it, because as a gay person, I was pretty offended that Tom Cotton felt it was appropriate to tell us that we are lucky we don’t live in Iran where they execute gay people, so we shouldn’t be so worried about our rights here in the US.
In response to my post, most people agreed that John Cotton is an ass. Had someone disagreed, I wouldn’t have thought too much of it. I have over 1000 Facebook friends. Not all of them share my views. But, one person wrote that he had spoken to Tom Cotton and Tom Cotton told him to tell me that I am a “fat cunt.” The person who posted this was a lawyer. I’ll call him FC.
As it happened, I was away from my computer for several hours. When I returned and saw what FC had written, I was a bit startled. After all, his language was so far beyond what I had written about Cotton, so beyond what is acceptable and so beyond what I would expect to read from another lawyer, that I was taken aback by it. My response was to simply delete the posts by FC, block him, tell everyone who had been following the conversation that the language was deleted and the person blocked, and moved on.
Let’s Look Closer
Let’s look at what FC chose to do. He chose to attack me as a woman, by calling me a cunt. And he chose to attack my looks by calling me fat. He did this simply because I called a politician an ass. This is exactly what women mean when we tell men that we face casual misogyny in the online world. Had FC said to me, you are an ass too. Well, I wouldn’t have thought much of it. But instead he chose a different approach. He chose to try to demean me through my gender and my appearance.
This, my friends, is sexism in its simplest form. An effort to silence a woman by insulting her looks, since looks are all that women should care about…right? How dare that fat cunt attack a man? Well, FC will do that man a favor and put that woman in her place. And by doing so, he will make her think twice about insulting a man in the future. Or so people like FC seem to think.
A Teaching Moment
As it happened, I spoke at the ABA Tech Show last week. One of my topics was how lawyers can use social media without getting in trouble. I told the audience about my experience. When I told the room of lawyers that someone called me a fat “c” they all gasped. That is because we, in polite society, recognize that this kind of language is not acceptable. But my point was well taken. Using such language online shows a lack of judgment. Such conduct is simply not something that members of the bar ought to engage in. Really, no one should be calling someone else a cunt. But my focus was on lawyers getting themselves in trouble via social media. Keep in mind, at that point, I hadn’t posted anything about my experience. Nor did I use FC’s name in my discussion.
FC Follows Me To Quora
I answer a lot of questions on a site called Quora. Today, while looking at the site, I saw that someone had edited a question to which I wrote an answer. The question had been about whether Obama could run for president again. A person name “CF” changed the question to read “Why is Jennifer Ellis a fatty?” Now, I imagine you will forgive me for assuming that CF is my good friend, FC. (In case it isn’t apparent, the person simply reversed his first and last name.)
Quora edited the post immediately so that it was restored and banned FC. FC didn’t have much of a presence on the site. So it looks like he really came along just to attack me.
Apparently, FC feels so strongly about Cotton and my calling him an ass, that he followed me to Quora so he could try to insult me some more. I guess my lack of a response wasn’t enough for him. It would seem that not only did FC want to insult me. But he wanted me to care. I suppose he wants me to hurt? I guess that says more about FC than anything else. And what it says is pretty sad.
The Problem For FC
The problem for FC is this. I don’t care that a random man on the Internet has called me names. I know I am heavy and I know I am not a cunt. So there you have it. Posting in other locations isn’t going to change my opinion of myself. But it might have an impact on how I choose to handle the situation. Especially if I start feeling as if FC is engaging in online stalking. Stalking will lead me to contact the office of disciplinary counsel in FC’s state. Not something I feel I need to do just yet.
This is, of course, assuming FC is actually a lawyer. Both his Facebook account and his Quora account were fake. But, with some effort, it wouldn’t be too hard for me and the others who have since unfriended him to figure out who he really is. If he gives us reason to do so. The ball, as they say, is in FC’s court.
I Let People Know
At this point, I decided that people needed to know what FC had done. I didn’t feel that I should let him get away with using the language he used towards a human being, a woman and a lawyer. I posted on Facebook to let people know about what had happened. Not too surprisingly, the responses came fast and furious. Aside from some jokes clearly meant to make me feel better people immediately started unfriending FC. They also thanked me for telling them. If they weren’t friends with him, they said now they knew who not to friend. On a Facebook Quora page, people immediately started telling me that they were sorry that I had to deal with such a thing. The phrase “You have arrived” in the title of this post, comes from one person who was responding to the idea that someone cared enough about what I wrote to follow me to another site. My response? “Woot!”
FC and others like him should take this post as a lesson. Your behavior online matters. How you treat people online matters. And if you decide to use misogynistic language, other people aren’t going to take it very well. FC may not ever see this post. But he may be wondering why he is experiencing a decline in his number of friends on Facebook.
And, apparently, I have arrived.