For whom the troll tolls

By Clementine Ford

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been writing feminist columns for almost a decade now, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s this: men have an opinion on everything, and they’re determined to make women listen to it.

It may be (in fact, it almost certainly is) an ‘argument’ (and I use that term loosely, given how infrequently their arguments venture beyond sharing their assessment of your body, face and mental state) that you’ve heard approximately one million times before, but that doesn’t matter. You have a responsibility to listen, nod politely and even express glistening awe and admiration for it lest you want to be EXPOSED as a one-eyed She Witch who Cannot Handle Debate And Criticism.

They’re just so predictable.

Ignoring the belching whines of online trolls and man-babies has become somewhat of a pastime of mine. It amuses me to see them rant and rave at the apparently pro-active role I take in oppressing them. Their conviction I’m devoting vast amounts of energy to destroying their lives is doubly funny given I’ve never actively pursued any interaction with them at all. I don’t stalk their Facebook pages, trawl through their Twitter accounts or spend anything more than roughly three seconds thinking about them, yet they remain convinced that I’m hatching a master plan to destroy their lives through my apparently violent and aggressive policy of totally ignoring them.

Each week, my Facebook page is littered with new comments from aggrieved men who either link me to anti-feminist videos, demand I explain why I hate all men or who just call me a litany of names to make sure I understand how deeply they oppose my existence. My response is almost always to ban and delete, because I decided a long time ago that my time and attention was far too important to be wasted on angry men who cannot let go of their belief that women exist to flatter and please them, and that anything less is as bad as if not worse than the misogyny women have endured for millennia.

This refusal to engage with their asinine attacks and boring, petulant rantings about ‘feminazis’ isn’t taken lightly. Rather, it’s repackaged as proof that I’m ‘not interested in listening to opposing viewpoints’ and that I ‘crumble at the first sign of criticism’.

Firstly, dudebros, if that were true I would have scattered into ancient dust by now and secondly, you’re the sensitive little snowflakes who are so threatened by women speaking that you literally need to track them down online wherever you can find them not prioritising you or your needs so you can repeatedly yell words like ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ at them in the hopes they’ll shut up and stop hurting your little man fee-fees. Well might they rage incessantly about ‘safe spaces’, but I can honestly tell you I’ve never met a group of people more insistent on their right to be protected from opposing views than the young white men who genuinely seem to believe feminists across the world are in the process of building a giant vagina with teeth that will then be programmed to hunt them and eat them.

The truth is, we don’t owe men shit. We don’t have to listen to them as they waffle their boring, aggressively sexist views on gender equality at us. We are not obliged to give them our time and energy just because they’ve popped by to “well, actually” us. And we certainly have no responsibility to absorb their anger unquestioningly and without complaints.

One of the things I tell women when I deliver talks about this is that we do not, in fact, have to engage with them at all. We are allowed to block, delete and remove them from our lives and doing so does not make our feminism weak or shallow. If anything, it reflects the very feminist idea that women’s time and energy are precious commodities that are far too often mined for the kind of unpaid emotional labour that leaves us feeling frustrated, dismissed and undermined.

Anti-feminist men have not spent years studying their topic, beyond reading MRA websites and agreeing fervently with each other that feminists are ugly cows who are just angry they can’t get laid. They have no academic or social understanding of gender inequality, nor have they devoted any amount of time actually engaging seriously with women about our experiences of the world. The fact is, they’re nothing more than angry little turds who want to be given free reign to yell at us about how we’re wrong while we sit their and meekly listen along. But if you are a woman, you are already light years ahead of them in understanding why feminism is so necessary and what the reality of the world is like for people who are marginalised by the assumption that their gender is ‘weak’. Their insistence that you pay attention to them and legitimise their whinging with serious conversation is a bit like someone demanding that an astrophysicist ‘debate’ them about the universe because they’ve watched some science fiction films and they insist on being listened to about them.

Ultimately, the best thing we can do with these total wastrels (aside from ignoring them) is just to laugh at them. Margaret Atwood famously wrote that women’s greatest fear is that men will kill them, while men’s greatest fear is that women will laugh at them. There’s a lot of truth in that, if my experience of their thin skin and lack of humour is anything to go by.

So I say, spend more time doing it. Tease them, poke fun at them, laugh at them or ignore them – but never, ever, ever make the mistake of thinking you owe them anything of value. You’re worth far more than that. But they, my friends, are worth precisely nothing. In the end, maybe that’s what scares them the most.

Clementine Ford is a Melbourne based feminist writer and speaker. She writes a twice weekly column for Fairfax’s Daily Life. Her first book, “Fight Like A Girl”, will be released by Allen & Unwin in October.

Photo by Christine Pobke.

 

 

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