#MisogynyAlert: A critique

by Guest Author


This blog post by Ranjani K. was originally posted on her blog. It is a critical analysis of the use of the hash tag #MisogynyAlert which emerged as a possible strategy to deal with online abuse at a National Consultation on Women and Gendered Online Abuse held by the Internet Democracy Project and Point of View at New Delhi. For more on the genesis of the hash tag itself, please read this post by Kiran Manral. We have reproduced Ranjani's post here with permission, as we believe it is important to acknowledge criticism, and build upon it.

Today, I was audience to yet another taking down of a misogynist on Twitter by a group of (I presume) well meaning women who started #MisogynyAlert with the aim of intervening when there is an incident of misogyny or abuse on Twitter.

The day I heard about #MisogynyAlert I was up in the air. Yeay! Some like minded people coming together to tackle sexism on Twitter – which would mean lot more reading material being shared, objections being raised and meaningful debates heard. Of course, not that debating with misogynists is going to change the world. I hoped at least, trying to talk sense to them, can help change one in a million. I’d have been happy with that.

Cut to today. This was the second take down I am witnessing. The urge to write about it increased exponentially. So, here we are.

So, how does this begin? #

In general, both the take downs I’ve witnessed have been with some obscure no one on Twitter with less than a hundred followers. I refuse to believe that there isn’t enough misogyny among the popular, urban, English-speaking, non-Islamic ladies and gentlemen of the Twitter world.

Now, if I tagged the below tweet #MisogynyAlert, is the team going to pounce on Anusha and intervene?

Call from women’s bank Madam I’m calling to confirm that you just used your card to spend Rs.50,000 at Zara?” Yes” Is the sale any good?”

— Anusha Yadav (@anushayadav) February 282013

The point here is that, perhaps there is a choosing of targets. Just perhaps. Or simply, is there a a gate-keeping of what misogyny entails. Will the team even engage with me to find out why the above tweet is offensive to me? Or just call me a humourless person?

Is this really intervention? #

When I first heard of #MisogynyAlert from @Shobha_SV, I thought of it as an activity where women come in support for other women who are being abused on Twitter. Well, some misogynist tweets could be abuse in the general direction of the ladies and they must be subject to intervention too.

However, #MisogynyAlert is far from intervention here. It seems like a mere ganging up of educated, English-speaking, urban, young women against (generally) a lone man saying silly things. In an intervention, there is always a good intention. You do interventions for friends/​people you care about. So, as an intervention, it must be a civil talking session with someone who is misinformed and therefore saying objectionable things. #MisogynyAlert is hardly that.

Because accdg to Right Honourable @iatifali, men understandably succumb to wily immoral wimmins minding their own beeswax. #MisogynyAlert

— Sabbah Haji (@imsabbah) February 282013

Err. It’s called time difference. MT @iatifali: We are not fools din raat ka farq hay Islamic and European mulk main #MisogynyAlert

— Sabbah Haji (@imsabbah) February 282013

Presumably unrest in your loins. #MisogynyAlert MT @iatifali: I said women should live according to Islamic rules to avoid unrest!

— Sabbah Haji (@imsabbah) February 282013

Why is no1 understanding that LustyLoins like @iatifali cannot help it when the girls walk by? Was that a pronounced hipsway? #MisogynyAlert

— Sabbah Haji (@imsabbah) February 282013

The twisted Twitter behaviour #

MisogynyAlert is simply another of those Twitter hashtags. Everyone on it wants to say something witty and make themselves seem a smarter person. You’ll notice, most #MisogynyAlert tweets are RTs with mockery of the misogynist comment. A do you want glasses’, Dr. So and so has said it’ sort of sarcasm that does its fair bit in pissing off the person who has made the comment in the first place. It bullies. It begins a fight. And then there are also war cries. In essence, if you make a comment that offends us, we will bully you into oblivion.

The other twisted Twitter thing – trolling #

The difference between this point and the one above is the sense of joy/​pride derived from being the bully. An intervention (again) is well-meaning. Where as #MisogynyAlert is just making a spectacle out of something someone has said (which is deemed offensive).

I’m afraid I have to take this one step ahead and wonder if we are indeed looking for misogynists to troll when bored. Pch.

@imsabbah Did you see the new bakra on #MisogynyAlert?

— Shobha S V (@Shobha_SV) February 252013

Oh man! Trolling misogynists is such fun! :-D #MisogynyAlert :-D

— Shobha S V (@Shobha_SV) February 282013

Taking things out of context #

When you have made up your mind to pounce on someone for having said something, it’s very difficult to stay within the debate and not go all over the place. The conversation that about women’s clothing inviting rape went into this. Look at the Atif Ali’s (the commentor/​offender here) response. Sums up why ganging up against someone is hardly the way.

@iatifali @imsabbah last year i worked with 15 boys who had been raped

— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) February 282013

@njlahori @imsabbah s0?what can I do?

— Sindhi chOokrO ツ (@iAtifAli) February 282013

And here. Calling a rapist a bastard’ itself is #MisogynyAlert for me. So, who is going to fight my fight here?

@iatifali Now drop it. We have different opinions on this and i believe RAPE is a fithy evil no matter WHY a bastard does it #misogynyAlert

— Nadia Jamil (@NJLahori) February 282013

Then some ifs and buts #

If a woman showing skin is asking to be raped, man making sexist comments is inviting a thrashing, right?#MisogynyAlert

— Vidyut (@Vidyut) February 282013

Errr. man making sexist comments is inviting a thrashing” in this tweet (which is what team #MisogynyAlert is doing), implies skin showing women can be raped, no?

@ahonatweets @iatifali Simple solution: cut off your penis. Who will volunteer first? #MisogynyAlert@vawawareness @rita_​banerji

— Shehla Rashid (@ShehlaRashid) February 282013

Simple indeed. In some convoluted imaginary world! How is this even an argument?!

The logical conclusion? #

#MisogynyAlert update. RT @iatifali for GOD sake! I don’t want to talk abt it anymore. I’m sorry for it.Can we close this topic now?

— Sabbah Haji (@imsabbah) February 282013

Apparently, this means this.

Moral victory. I get that some of you ridicule the concept of #MisogynyAlert. But so far, has worked 100% in offender backing off.

— Sabbah Haji (@imsabbah) February 282013

In summary, as a feminist myself, #MisogynyAlert is far from the movement I want to be part of. Irrespective of the big names involved and the great press it seems to be getting, I will perhaps not even watch it anymore if it happens the way it happened today.

Not because #MisogynyAlert is a bad idea. But because it is the brand of feminism that applies on oppressors the same tactics they’ve been applying on women all these years. I’m not sorry to say, that’s not my feminism.