Sunday, March 20, 2011

Women and the Internet

In 1970 Germaine Greer wrote "Women have very little idea of how much men hate them". Well on behalf of women everywhere I'd like to say a big thank you to the internet for making it abundantly clear.

A couple of days ago the popular and deeply talented comedienne Shappi Khorsandi tweeted "I never understand why people get so cross if they don't like a comedian. I never lose sleep over bands I'm not in to.". It doesn't take much research to figure out she's referring to the reaction she gets on the internet. And I should know because my work gets exactly the same reaction. Flicking through our videos on YouTube, or those of any female act, there are stacks of nasty comments and repeated evidence of comments which have been removed. I know at least once a week I take such remarks down from the videos I have posted myself, footage others have taken of me I just have to leave. Some are just straight attacks on our work, some criticise our appearance and some attack all women in comedy.

In some ways it makes no sense that people who purport to hate my work have taken the time to watch so much of it. If I see internet videos that aren't to my liking, I don't even finish watching them, I look up something else. And even the notion of making negative comments about comedy is odd. Clearly comedy is subjective, what makes you laugh varies from person to person. Because something doesn't make me laugh doesn't mean it's "not funny", it means it's not the sort of comedy I want to watch. So I don't.

But of course what's going on is not odd at all - it's just the joy of internet anonymity letting these men express the hatred Greer knew all about 40 years ago. Why should Shappi's, or my appearance even be relevant? Only if you think that as women it is somehow our job to be sexually attractive to all men at all times. Plus the comments so often come down to an issue of overt misogyny. "Women aren't funny", which makes as much sense as "men can't sing" or "gay people make bad dentists".

And I would add - before anyone suggests that it's just a random internet abuse issue - that my husband (a less experienced comic than me) gets no abuse whatsoever. He has never had a nasty comment added to a video or online review of him.

Most of these sites are moderated in some way but no-one seems to take down overtly misogynist remarks. And they appear on the same review sites that promoters check before deciding who to book for their shows. And below the video links I want to send out as showreels to people looking for acts. I'd like to imagine good promoters can see past this sort of thing but at a subconscious level all that negativity has to seep in.

And much as I'd like to claim it doesn't - it affects me too. It erodes my confidence. And it eats up my time dealing with it, deleting comments and getting myself back into a frame of mind where I can work.

Of course all those negative effects work the other way too, so if you've got a few minutes to yourself here's an idea for a random act of feminism - look up half a dozen female acts on YouTube or Chortle and say something nice! You might even enjoy the videos...


Fran said...

The trouble is we don't see enough women comedians on TV. The panel shows in particular really annoy me often having *all* men, if not, token women, token blacks etc. Also eg. BBC3 pulled Pulling but now has (yawn) "White Van Man" which will probably be funnyish but sooo predictable. Fran

Rebecca said...

I completely agree. It's incredibly depressing. Just - awful.

Although sometimes the idiots are too idiotic to not be compeltely hysterical. Found this on a blog I follow:

Cruella said...

Well I agree there should be more women on TV but I also can't help thinking that THE PROBLEM is still misogyny...


It is misogyny Cruella and it is sustained centuries old male hatred and male contempt for women. The only difference is that the internet provides innumerable men with the opportunity of openly expressing their hatred and contempt for women anonymously and without little or accountability.

Greer was right - women have no idea of the extent to which men hold women in contempt and/or hate us. I think it was another second wave feminist who said something along the lines of 'women unless you are able to listen to men's conversations with other men whilst you remain invisible you will never know the extent to which men hate you because you are a woman not a man!

But of course male hatred for women is never 'hate' is it - it is just humour or irony or simply 'the truth.' Reason is because men apparently are the only ones who are able to define what is and is not promotion of hatred and contempt.

Yes such sustained centuries old male hatred does have a negative effect on all women and no it is no that simple as telling us women to 'get over it.'

Men are never subjected to such intense hatred because they happen to be male - certainly they are criticised if they wear glasses or have little or no hair on their heads - but they are never subjected to such intense hatred because they are male!

So yes the problem is misogyny - or to say it in simple language - men hate women but we women must never say so because then the men label us 'man-haters' but male hatred of women is fine is it not??

Mary Tracy said...

What we need to do is set up an official "Feminist Defence Patrol" or something like that. Say a dozen or so feminists with accounts on YouTube and the like can then be called in and we, together, can force the misogyny out, one way or another.
Our mere existence will highlight how entrenched abuse against women is on the internet.