A New Culture of Misogyny?


Sinfest. Used to be funny. This one’s just ironic.

My original piece on the BBC TV documentary ‘Blurred Lines’ was intended as a counter to the show, which was incredibly biased and one sided with only two, half-hearted opposing views being presented. This article is intended to be a more balanced examination of some of the issues presented in the show.

The central issue presented by the show is to claim that we’re in a new era of misogyny and sexism, made worse by the media, culture and – in particular – the internet.

To determine whether this is true or not, we first need to understand what is meant by ‘misogyny’ and ‘sexism’.

What is Misogyny?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines misogyny as:
Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

Feminism has its own definition – or definitions – of misogyny as it does with other terms. There doesn’t seem to be any particular, overall agreement on the term but it does seem to go beyond the commonly understood meaning from the OED.

Commonly referenced in online debates and arguments the Finally Feminism 101 blog describes misogyny more broadly as:

Misogyny is a… more personal and emotional prejudice, resulting in contempt, scorn and dismissiveness towards women who step outside the bounds sexism lays down as appropriate. Misogynistic anger openly displayed against women who challenge their sexist preconceptions is part of an intimidatory silencing tactics arsenal, and of course the perpetrators don’t display those tactics against women who stay within the notional boundaries – approval is the reward for behaving appropriately.

What is Sexism?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines sexism as:

Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Again, feminism has its own definition. Unlike misogyny’s feminist definition, the sexism definition is fairly consistent and is also found in arenas like racial discrimination. Within feminism, sexism is defined as:

Sexism is both discrimination based on gender and the attitudes, stereotypes, and the cultural elements that promote this discrimination. Given the historical and continued imbalance of power, where men as a class are privileged over women as a class (see male privilege), an important, but often overlooked, part of the term is that sexism is prejudice plus power. Thus feminists reject the notion that women can be sexist towards men because women lack the institutional power that men have.

This definition has come in for considerable criticism as it excludes sexism from women towards men, and has been used to excuse prejudice and bigotry towards men, but in this context that’s not especially relevant.

How can we examine this claim?

How can we hope to quantify something as subjective as misogyny or sexism? It’s a very challenging question to try and answer but we can make a few safe assumptions that might allow us to examine, at least, the truth of the claim that things are getting worse and – if they are – where the blame might possibly lie.

If misogyny has gotten worse, if sexism has gotten worse, we might well expect indicators stemming from that spread in various measures of gender equality, sex crime and similar concerns. We do have statistics on these factors that we can examine and, while methodologies have changed over time, some have remained the same for long periods of time.

So, are things Worse?

By any objective measure the situation for women has not gotten worse.

  • The World Economic Forum lists the United Kingdom as being 18th out of 136 countries in terms of gender equality, improving from a score of 0.7365 in 2006 to 0.7440 in 2013.
  • According to the British Crime Survey (chapter 4 Intimate personal violence and domestic abuse) sexual assault (against women) has dropped by around 1% since 2005 and domestic violence and stalking (against women) has dropped by 2.5% since 2005.
  • This is part of a longer term trend which has been noted across western countries, showing that sex crimes have nosedived since the 1990s. (The correlation of this to access to online pornography is well covered in Freakonomics and A Billion Wicked Thoughts).



Whatever the case when it comes to the subjective experience of misogyny and sexism, the statistics simply don’t support a conclusion that things are getting worse for women. It would be my suspicion that rather than things getting worse we are seeing a higher degree of sensitivity and an ongoing clash of gender influenced behaviour and expectations as we adjust to a wired-up world.

A Fundamental Problem

The assumption of misogyny on the part of trolls, smack-talking online game players, singing sports teams and off-colour comedians is not a safe assumption. Expression is not, necessarily, an indicator of true values.

You can think of much of this, but especially the trolling and smack talking, as being akin to acting. The Swiss actor, Bruno Ganz, played Hitler, but nobody would make the immediate presumption that he was a Nazi simply because he played the part.

When it comes to trolls and smack-talking in online games the motivation is similar. In both instances the person is trying to get a rise. Amongst trolls the reaction and distress is what they are after while in online games they are seeking to make their opponent upset in order to gain advantage or to cause them to quit.

This has been known for some time and it isn’t to say that trolling isn’t problematic but, rather that thinking a troll is genuinely misogynistic or sexist and to take it seriously on that basis is to misdiagnose the problem. Trolls are, often, sadistic, psychopathic or sociopathic but that is no indicator of any views whatsoever.

We’ve had all this straight from the horse’s mouth before. Trolls are perfectly willing to explain why they do what they do and genuinely holding misogynistic or other nasty views doesn’t seem to rate mention.

Troll/Activist Synergy

Since trolling first emerged as a recognisible phenomenon on Usenet the received wisdom has been ‘Don’t feed the trolls’. The trolls want attention, want a reaction and the bigger the reaction the better, if you deny them that reaction they go away. That has been true and it has been the only way to deal with the problem and preserve the value of internet anonymity and security.

So what has changed? Why are the Criado-Perezs, Suey Parks and Anita Sarkeesian’s of this world suddenly playing up the trolling and treating it seriously?

Criado-Perez’s profile and cause was advanced by taking the trolling seriously, it got her a great deal of attention, media appearances, sympathy and social and political capital to spend on her activism. Same for Suey Park.

Sarkeesian made $160,000 off the back of it, along with awards and becoming the go-to spokeswoman for women in gaming despite being revealed as a fraud, a thief (more than once) and being linked to exploitative junk science (handwriting analysis) and pyramid schemes. Being able to point at trolls and act as though they were serious allows her to deflect attention from these problems and to ignore the wealth of, in depth, legitimate criticism of her analysis and positions, to block comments on her videos and even to ignore people asking where she’s spent the money.

Nor has the vehement reaction to Sarkeesian been unique and nor is it gendered. Much has been made of the cheap and nasty flash game someone made where you could slap Sarkeesian around and the abuse she had gotten, but those with a memory may remember another person who attacked the gaming culture, Jack Thompson, getting virtually identical treatment.

There’s at least one study that shows men suffer as many threats and as much abuse online (or more), but it’s telling that I had huge trouble finding it due to the way in which the Google search terms are completely flooded with the singular concern over the threats made towards women online. Ditch the Label also found the bullying was equal, not directed especially at women.

Why Might Men be Resentful?

I think the above, in which I’ve striven to support my assertions and to present a more balanced view than the previous article demonstrates that what is going on is not what is being assumed by activists are two different things. If we can properly identify what is going on without the pre-existing assumptions we may be able to figure out ways to cope with or address the issues as they actually are.

Is there any legitimacy to the claims that men – or at least many men – are resentful, angry or upset?

There, I think, there are some things to be considered, but the existing feminism dominated paradigm is too fixated on the idea that men are bad and that everything is their fault. The problems men face aren’t taken seriously and these kinds of anti-male accusations end up contributing to the problem rather than helping to solve anything.

If men are feeling disaffected and besieged, it does not mean that they’re afraid or angry because their supposed privilege and power is being eroded. It can be – and I think is – down to genuine inequality, unfairness and the loss of respect and rights without a commensurate reduction in responsibilities.

What we have at the moment needs to be replaced with a genuine, properly informed dialogue that takes in both sides.

3 responses to “A New Culture of Misogyny?

  1. An excellent and thoughtful post.
    You write with conviction but also with balance, and your arguments are well sourced and moderate. But all the more forceful for it.

  2. Thanks for your Insights.

    I am so sick and tired of these (femminists) automatic Gag Reflexes – and unreflected politically correct Rubbish.

    We have now grown a Class of professional Activists and “Thought Leaders”, who just spew out what their Audience wants to hear (here it doesn’t matter if it’s the Left or Right, Femminists or whatever) …

    I had such high Hopes for the 21st Century … oh Brother was I wrong …

  3. It was just a hatchet job.

    It wasn’t journalistic, it wasn’t even honest. It was filled with nonsense like the part where she talks to some sociology professor who claims that sexist jokes makes men more likely to accept sexism at a societal level. These things are just thrown out there with little or no evidence or examination at all. One might as well say that violent video games and entertainment/movies make men more likely to accept violence at a societal level? Of course it doesn’t follow and such “research” tends to be based on little more than some surveys, and some extreme leaps in logic to draw conclusions. But that kind of nonsense was laced through the entire show.

    The program was filled with leading questions “is it a coincidence that the apparent rise in misogyny has happened in parralel with the rise of the online world, or is it something about the internet itself beyond its relationship with the media that has encouraged language that is hostile to women” Laced with assumptions, and just revealing the bias, it was just that kind of line of leading questions spewed over and over again before she gets another talking head on to try to build her case. The one guy who speaks against it was token, and he really gets almost no air time compared to the rest. After that statement she talks to laurie penny, who says to paraphrase that back in the day people thought you could be anyone could be whoever they wanted to be on the internet, but it turned out that if anyone turned up in any of those spaces and said yea but i’m a woman, or i’m a woman of color or i’m gay or lesbian then they started to get attacked for those things, so the internet was neutral for only those who pretended to be a white straight man.” She says things like that, and isn’t questioned. Its not mentioned that its not really like that if you turn up and start to scream about how things should be changed to fit you even if you have no genuine interest in the space in question. The default assumption is that the attacks just come from no where. The default assumption is that things like this don’t exist. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD-7w-LLNdw

    In another segment she has some woman drawing connections between online comments and media. Basically like a conspiracy theoriest loon who has covered their entire wall with print outs and newspaper clippings all connected together with webs of strings, she draws her arbitrary connections from self selected evidence, and kristy wark just stands there like this is legitimate material for a bbc program, its clownish really.

    Then there’s the anita sarkeesian segment, no mention of the problems with her entire narrative, a woman who quite literally was caught almost a year ago on video stating that she wasn’t a gamer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqJCCnued6c In effect her entire narrative was a lie, and people sniffed her out were not outraged for no reason, but wark paints her PR narrative for her, doesn’t question her at all, and just lets her spew her standard talking points about how patriarch is about keeping girls out of gaming. She claims men are afraid of women invading their spaces, but look at her, she’s a fraud who is trying to invade a space she has no interest in, attacks a community for personal gain, and then exploits the reaction again for her own personal gain, and wark is just party to this nonsense.

    It wasn’t a program with a fair examination of an issue, it was a program created to make a case, kirsty warks case about sexism, it wasn’t journalism, and it was just not something you should expect from a national broadcaster which claims journalistic standards. It was very revealing about the problem of warks kind of feminism, lazy and dishonest thought and zero intellectual integrity.

    Just to nail home how bad the program is, it took the “no girls on the internet” meme, literally. Its flashed on the screen at the end of one of the commentators segments to make a point, a false one based on blatant misunderstanding of what the meme actually means, something anyone under 30 should have pointed out, or a moments research on google would have revealed how wrong headed it was. But that’s the thing, kristy wark and her ilk don’t care about truth, if she can use the “no girls on the internet” meme to insinuate it means the literal to bolster her point, she will do it, its not about honest investigation.

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