I was reminded of this song by Christina Aguilera last weekend, and the lyrics made me think of the abuse that the Conservative MP Louise Mensch suffered for contributing to a debate on a parliamentary committee.
Now, I don’t normally agree with Louise Mensch – we are at opposing sides of the centre ground to have much in common – but I was very uncomfortable when I read some of the misogynist abuse she received after voicing her opinion on Rupert Murdoch. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with her views on the subject of News International, but why single her out for abuse (not debate) when there were two male Conservatives who took exactly the same line as her? Is it easier to attack a woman?
Then there was what the sneering, Times columnist AA Gill said about TV Historian and Cambridge professor, Mary Beard;
‘The hair is a disaster, the outfit an embarrassment. If you are going to invite yourself into the front rooms of the living, then you need to make an effort.’
Firstly, Mary Beard may not be conventionally attractive (by which I mean, clear skin and no wrinkles) but she’s not so hideous that she should not be allowed on television without a paper bag. Even if she was, does it matter? She’s presenting a history documentary, not American’s Next Top Model. Secondly, would AA Gill ever criticise David Starkey for his appearance on a history documentary? It comes back to the same point I made about Louise Mensch. Why single the woman out for abuse, when the same comment could equally be made about some men?
The Guardian conversation this week got me thinking about the level of misogyny online, and is there more misogyny now? Part of it comes down to the fact that on the internet you are hiding behind an avatar and a username, as I am doing right now – although my username is my initials and my last name, so unimaginative am I. Basically, this anonymity makes some people believe they can say what the heck they like, including racist and sexist comments. Also, the fact that the internet is so open means that you don’t need to be particularly tolerant to sign up to twitter or facebook and start posting bile. You just need a computer and an ISP. The hatred and misogyny has always been there, but they now have an audience of a couple of hundred rather than a few close friends. What’s said on the internet is a reflection of what’s said in society. So perhaps we should ask, why is society so misogynist?