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Conflicted--is it cowardice, or picking my battles?

Via the awesome Jessica at Read React Review, I found myself reading this (sadly) incredibly accurate and so very well written post about oft used responses to misogyny in all its many and varied forms of expression.

In this particular case, the outrage comes from some utterly vile and threatening comments made to a 15yo girl who dared post a picture of herself holding Carl Sagan’s A Demon Haunted World on a subforum at reddit. (Nota bene: I’ve never read reddit and I have no clue how it operates.) Greta Christina quoted some of the worst offenders–I won’t, though I’ll tell you that if I were related to the girl in question I would have contacted the police over more than a few of them.

The thread that follows Greta Christina’s post is incredible–over 700 comments and counting. I have, as of right now, read less than 300 of those, and find myself more and more conflicted.

For example, Gutter (comment 229), says in part:

Would *you* click on a post titled “Look what my mom got me” when it’s pretty obvious from the thumbnail that she got Demon Hunted World? So why go on the thread? To specifically comment on the pic. The posters were the kind of people that you will see on *any posts where a woman show her face*. That’s not to say that woman should know better, but that she unknowingly tapped into a specific demographic of reddit/the internet. That girl wasn’t scared for life, and even learned about how internet forum works (eg : They are full of idiots). (link to another thread on reddit) Maybe you guys should go there tell her that she has to be a lot more outraged than she seem to be!

Really? So if a girl/woman shows her face, the only reason to post on that thread is to hit on her/threaten her/objectify her, and since she actually learned something and didn’t try to kill herself, then it’s fine to do any/all of those?

But wait, what if those comments were made to an adult–would the outrage over threats of bloody anal rape be even more out of place?

Which brought to mind the thread about male white privilege and rape culture at Courtney Milan’s blog a while back.

Which in turn lead me to this article about the very real abuse of women online–as in, threats of physical violence with real names and addresses posted online, as well as suggestions for ‘punishment’ or corrective actions for those uppity women who dare to speak out on these internets.

See, one of the points made clear to me throughout reading these is that we, as a society, are complicit with misogyny when we remain silent.

Not reacting to these instances is to imply, by lack of a negative reaction, that it’s okay not only to hold these views and that it’s natural to make these comments (i.e., “boys will be boys”).

Not reacting to misogyny for centuries has brought us to the point where reacting to instances of subtle misogyny is often counterproductive (because it obviously proves that we are delicate, thin skinned flowers who overreact to what is, obviously, a harmless joke, for cripes sake).

So it’s pretty clear that we should speak out, that we should always speak out.


When women do speak up, we often face negative consequences. Sometimes we can’t afford those consequences. It’s no mystery why women endured sexual harassment in the work place in silence for such a long time.

And not just when we speak up over instances of misogyny, subtle or overt, but when we speak up about…well, so many things. (And obviously, it can be–should be?–said that the fact that women get shit for reacting to injustice/discrimination/racism/sexism/fill in the blank, further proves the point that misogyny is appallingly prevalent in our society?)

And so sometimes we (I) grind our teeth and remain silent, telling ourselves that at times we have no choice but to let the small stuff go. That ‘keeping the peace’ for the time being in order to win the war vs fighting that battle is good strategy.

But a part of me fears that the truth is that I lack the courage to risk my safety to defend my convictions.


  • Hey AL, thanks for the shout out! What a nice meditation on the personal costs of political speech. I agree that so many of the responses over there were sad and mystifying, and even more depressing when you consider that, as in the case of the poster you quote, it seems that this person is trying to be thoughtful and non-offensive. But every little bit helps, even if it is only to show strength in numbers, or make oneself feel a little better. And unlike some people who mock online political activity, I think there’s a correlation between who is likely to speak up online and who is likely to take positive action, however small, in their offline lives.


  • Mireya
    January 9
    3:30 pm

    I am not sure I understand: are you asking if it’s cowardice or picking your battles because you didn’t get involved in this particular case, or are you asking because you don’t usually get involved in this type of battle?


  • Jessica, I agree. A person who is outspoken online will become outspoken in other areas of their lives–in the same manner that a person who learns to be considerate of other people’s feelings, online, will probably start behaving the same way at work, etc.

    Mireya, I’m asking because, even online, I often consider the cost to myself–security, comfort levels (am I ready to be on the receiving end of some of the abuse lobbed at women who are outspoken, online or in person?)–before speaking out.


  • Mireya
    January 9
    11:14 pm

    AL, with the amount of BS and crap from assorted a**holes you’ve had to deal in your line of work, frankly, I wouldn’t call it cowardice, I call it being smart. You don’t need the added aggravation, particularly when you can be proactive in other ways that don’t require outright confrontation of any sort.


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