Aggression Against Women Online

Want to be pissed off with the world? Here’s how, and how to rise above it too!

Photographer: Mike Martin, Models: P-J Model & Rexie T

Some people search online for cute kitten pictures to raise their spirits when they’re upset. Some look at images of babies, jokes, memes, peaceful landscapes, videos of pimple popping or present wrapping. Whatever calms/motivates/inspires you, chances are you can find it in spades just from a simple Google search. What happens though, when that very process of self-soothing or spirit-lifting instead returns offensive results that achieve almost the opposite effect? We all know about trolling and the sad, desperate people who seek to make their own lives complete by rubbishing others online, but sadly there is also a negativity which can infiltrate even the simplest of search engine queries.

If you identify as a feminist you might think that a sure-fire way to boost positivity would be to peruse some inspiring and empowering feminist memes, but, a word of warning, unless you do want to be really pissed off at the world, don’t type “feminist meme” into a search engine. The results are, for the most part, thoroughly depressing. In stark contrast to intelligent captions promoting equality and understanding, as one might be inclined to expect, the reality is a series of offensive and inaccurate memes, including such gems as a woman with her head in her hands above the caption ‘There must be some way this victimises me: Feminism 101’ and ‘Insulting men is okay, insulting women is sexist’. There are also more extreme memes promoting violence and using swastika branding and that’s just amongst the first few results – I found it too distressing to look at too many. In the interest of balance, there are, or course, more accurate and positive memes featured too, but these are sadly outnumbered by the offensive ones.

In an age where we rely on Google or similar for so many answers, this sort of situation could actually be damaging. How many of us resort to a top answer from a stock search when we’re looking into something in a rush? What if foolish or unaware people start to genuinely believe these memes are in support of, rather than set dead against, the feminist movement? Or think that the messages they’re conveying are accurate? Feminism and feminists are already misunderstood enough and such material which perpetuates negativity and misses the real point can only be damaging. Taking on Google isn’t really an option. Apart from the fact that search engines are vehicles rather than creators, publishing inaccurate, unfunny or offensive material online is frustrating, but it’s not a crime.

Photographer: Mike Brumby, Models: Flowerpot

Trying to find a positive slant amidst all this negativity, there is always the fact that clearly some members of the patriarchy feel significantly undermined or scared enough to bother to create these things in the first place. Perhaps all of us as feminists should take some solace - pride even - in that it says more about how insecure and threatened the authors feel than it does about the empowered women they’re slating. We can also use it as a catalyst to fight back. Anger and frustration, used in the right way, can be hugely motivating. So instead of taking umbrage and offence we could see this as an opportunity to spread the real word and educate others, to right those misunderstandings and address misconceptions, whether wilful or otherwise.

We can choose to embrace our pissed-off-ness and use it for good. Just don’t opt to look at this stuff if you’re searching for instant tranquillity and good cheer. You might be better off sticking to the cute kittens!

#Issue5 #JaneCorder #Article

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