General consensus dictates that the best way to combat trolling – the vile, faceless and purposefully provocative abuse that pollutes the internet – is to block and ignore. Reaction, upset and retaliation are the raison d’etre of these creatures (who are, no doubt, less cute or sexually confident than their inanimate plastic namesakes pictured above), and the only way to fight them is to shut off their access to the misery and anger that seems to make them stronger.
But a new campaign is challenging this, and encouraging women to share their experiences in defiance of the hatefully misogynistic abuse they’re bombarded with on a daily basis. Started by feminist blogger (and girl I’d like to be) Sady Doyle, Men Call Me Things – which originally just aimed to raise awareness of the level of abuse directed at women writers – has kickstarted the debate about whether abusers should be named, shamed, and even prosecuted for their online behaviour.
I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant ‘get-your-tits-out-do-me-some-justice’ type messages throughout my underwear agitating career, but fortunately neither I nor the lingerie blogging peers I asked have experienced the level of vitriol shared on the #mencallmethings hashtag. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s a problem. Check out the excellent Tiger Beatdown for some highlights that inspired the campaign: at best they make you wince; at worse, they’re frightening. And they expose something sinister about the sexism still rife in our culture. Should we just block-and-ignore the fact that there are this many people who think threatening rape is an acceptable way of shutting someone up? Might actually engaging with thist go some way to explain both the horrifying rate of rape in our culture, and the totally inadequate rate of conviction?
I agree that often block-and-ignore is the best strategy for dealing with faceless morons who find their Friday night release in the form of abstractly riling strangers. But when it is sexually aggressive and violently threatening abuse – especially when it impacts on someone’s ability and willingness to do their job – it shouldn’t be up to the victims to swallow it down and get on with it. When will these abusers be held to account?
Block and ignore, or name and prosecute: what do you think?