It’s not just the men

Just want to be explicitly clear about something if I have not been already.

I receive all manner of threats and verbiage in the comms box, which is why, if you have the inclination, if you trawl back through the archives, you’ll see I was asking for advice on setting up the spam filter.

I do get what seems to be an inordinate amount of sexual abuse, which I thought was the norm. Is it because I’m a female, or is it because I very deliberately have a photograph of myself on this site, in order that people may put a face to the name. One of the reasons I am not anonymous and believe me I’ve dallied with the idea on quite a few occasions, is in order to take ownership and responsibility for my words. When I make mistakes (like referring to Evan Harris in less than complimentary terms, I publicly apologise and try to move on).

I spoke to Helen Hasteley Lewis because she was specifically looking for a right-wing blogger and and my name was suggested to her. I oscillate wildly between left and right, but I think it’s certainly fair to say that I am conservative with a small c. Helen wanted to show that it was not just people like Laurie Penny who were subject to online sexual threats. This was then followed up by Richard Roberts in today’s Observer.

As I said in my previous post, in some ways, perhaps because I’m hardened, I don’t know, but though I find the stuff vile, (I had no idea what some of these terms meant) for a multitude of reasons that Freud and every single pop psychologist could have a field day with, I find the sexual stuff easier to deal with. I had one hilarious comment from a chap who gave the impression that he was in his late 70s who suggested that I implement a “spanking contract” with my husband. Yes, apparently there is such a thing, there are whole reams of websites devoted to domestic spanking and being “taken in hand” and he suggested that this might be the best outlet rather than blog and would ensure “ruddy good sex”. It was a scream.

Why do I get this stuff? Let’s be honest, it’s because I’m an attractive sensual woman with a certain joie de vivre. Or at least that’s what I’d like to think anyway.

But when I periodically check the spam filters which are programmed with certain words to catch these sorts of comments, I am shocked by the sheer volume and at times, yes it does shock, frighten and intimidate me. I am bawdy, but not coarse. I don’t tend to swear unless really pushed and if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know I’m often a bit “naughty” but never ever sexually explicit. I hate expletives and rarely use them, so it’s quite nasty to see that level of stuff. It’s not even “comment”, it’s just people with their own issues.

I am not a feminist by any contemporary definition, but I am what I would consider to be a feminist. I believe that true emancipation lies in men accepting women’s fertility and not attempting to suppress or override it. I think women have been sold an absolute lie in terms of myths about contraception and abortion, but let’s leave that aside for now.

Some of the nastiest, most insidious, most hurtful comments have been from women. The two people who have caused me the most online grief over the past year have been women. Their motivations are complex, but the stuff from the woman has been more threatening (the death at the hands of the rusty scissors comment was a woman) and more personal. It is WOMEN who have been spiteful, it is WOMEN who have threatened to carry this forward into real life and  it is WOMEN who have thought it acceptable to drag my children into this debate. It is WOMEN who have said “your baby makes me want to be sick” and WOMEN who have gone off on crazy vendettas.

The men tend to tell me how much they would like a good f*ck and then move on.

When I have blogged about the women, I have been accused of being on a pity fest and writing long rambling “woe is me posts”. Now I’ve added my voice to the getting in the neck from the men brigade, those who  have accused me of being full of self pity are suddenly the epitome of  concern and those on the other side are either disbelieving of me or think that all of us women who complain about this should “grow up”.

My faith and my husband help me to cope with all of this.  Other people perhaps do not have the same support structures. I’m able to put the sex stuff into perspective partly due to my marriage, but my husband is a protective chap and it breaks his heart and deeply offends him when he sees the sort of stuff that falls below the line. How would men feel if that were their wives or partners being sexually threatened by complete strangers? No-one should have to put up with it.

I don’t think it’s because of what I say necessarily, although that’s the hook. I think it’s because of the following

  • I’m a woman blogger
  • I promote orthodox Catholic views
  • I’m outspoken, there’s a perception I can take it
  • I’m attractive
  • I’m a (former) vicar’s wife thus “interesting”
  • The internet is full of dodgy perverts

Sexual threats are uniquely awful and unacceptable. But so are other kinds of threats, such as death threats, threats to publicly libel your family and attempt to put your husband out of a job . They were all equally vile and horrible and caused so much hurt and distress.

In January, my father had a massive heart attack which very nearly killed him. My mother was struggling to cope with caring for my father and her 98 year old mother who had lost the use of her legs and required 24/7 nursing. My daughter was suffering from a neurological condition which we still haven’t got to the bottom of. We had moved to a completely different area and lost our main social point of focus and community. My husband was in a temporary job on minimum wage. I’d had to defer my degree because of pregnancy related illness. Our house was a mass of unpacked boxes. Meanwhile life had to go on, I had a then 6 year old and a 14 month old. We didn’t know what the future held. Looking back, I am not quite sure how I managed to hold it all together.

In the midst of all this disruption came streams of  threatening unsolicited email and libellous blog posts. The women concerned were well aware of my circumstances, I explicitly outlined this in an email to one, begging her to leave me alone. You would think that a feminist would exercise pity and compassion and leave a struggling heavily pregnant woman alone. She did no such thing and later alluded to the fact I’d had a hard time as being definitive proof of how very ill I allegedly am.

But that doesn’t fit the narrative so well does it? Women being nasty to women? Feminists determinedly going for the jugular of a heavily pregnant woman, because they think she hates gay people and because they don’t like her religion or her support of it.

For those who are cross with me for perpetuating what they believe is a myth, all I can do is relate my experience. I don’t want to go into the realms of misandry but yes, I do identify with Laurie Penny and anyone else who attracts vile sexist comments. It feels like a verbal assault.

I don’t want to legislate for sexism as being yet another specific hate crime –  our freedom of speech is under enough threat as it is. There is no such thing as a right not to be offended, and I also believe that current anti-stalking and harassment laws are sufficient.

I don’t want to make this out to be a purely man versus women issue either. As I’ve said repeatedly, women have been every bit as vicious, but it’s a narrative none have wanted to hear.

Toby Young had a brief twitter spat that he blogged about last week. During the course of it he was called every expletive under the sun and jokes were made about his appearance. In response to a tweet from John Prescott that corrected his grammar, he jokingly suggested that he would “kill himself”. Some tweeters expressed disappointment that he would not take them up at their word and said that they were likely to urinate and dance on his grave.

Because it’s Toby Young, who is a man and therefore perceived to have a thick skin, those sorts of comments were deemed just banter.

We’re all human. When pricked we all bleed. What have learned from all this? That Satre had a point. None of the abuse has been pleasant, wherever it has emanated from. Let’s not get into pity-wars. But let’s also be clear, that those responsible for causing additional stress to a heavily pregnant, low-rent, non professional blogger, those who were threatening to take things into real life, who couldn’t get things into perspective and who were endlessly spying on my twitter feed, were women.

Let’s all play nicely. You wouldn’t greet a real life person with “you’re an ugly cow who needs a sh*g”, or “you’re a moron who knows very little about anything”. So don’t do it on the internet either. Proprietors and editors of the national press have their part to play as well. As long as Johann Hari stays on board at the Indy, we know that they don’t take online abuse seriously.

Logs and beams. It’s very easy to announce that online abuse should not be tolerated, so make sure your own house is in order. Ensure sites are swiftly moderated in order that abuse may be promptly removed and don’t employ columnists who are happy to endorse bitching, trolling and sniping, just so long as it’s not done by men.

37 thoughts on “It’s not just the men

  1. “In the midst of all this disruption came streams of threatening unsolicited email and libellous blog posts.”

    I appreciate that when life gets tough one of the best ways of mentally coping, if you’re a writer, is to sit down and write. About anything that’s crossed your mind.

    In January 2011, I find that your therapeutic writings included at least two homophobic rants AND a rant about how women who use IVF are treating children like property and aren’t fit to have care of pets, let alone babies.

    Did you seriously imagine that wasn’t a very, very hurtful thing to say? DId you care about the feelings of women who’d got pregnant, or tried to, by IVF? Did you want to hurt them, or did you imagine that no woman who’d used IVF would read your blog to be hurt by your attack on her, or did you just not think of them as people to be hurt at all?

    Email obviously steps over the line – the appropriate response to a blog post is a comment. And it’s possible that some of the blog posts written about your hateful, hurtful rantings were libellous. But if you set out to hurt people’s feelings, and succeed, you get a reaction. You don’t seem to care even now how much you hurt the women whom you attacked: so here’s a question – if you dont care how much you hurt people with your words, why do you feel you should be exempt from hurtful words right back at you?

    “Use every man after his deserts, and who shall scape whipping?” I won’t say you deserved to be ranted at – you admit yourself it was a period of great stress, and no doubt attacking others was a personal vent for you, a means of relieving stress. Certainly a mere verbal attack, no matter how horrible – and yours was pretty horrible – should never inspire a real-world retaliation, nothing can ever justify that.

    Someone else wrote, about this abuse that female bloggers especially receive, that they felt the best answer was for people to take personal responsibility. But your own name is on that blog post attacking women who use IVF; and yet you don’t acknowledge that here. Do you feel you ought to have the right to attack women but be exempt from attacks yourself? I find that hard to justify – if you’re going to be verbally vicious about other people, then I think you need to accept those people – and their friends – will be verbally vicious back at you. That doesn’t justify personal abuse and absolutely not threats of personal violence – but that post about the evil women who use IVF was so disgustingly vicious, so nasty, so brutal about how a woman who uses IVF shouldnt have a baby, that I’m actually genuinely surprised you could write it and not feel ashamed when you cooled down.

    1. Yonmei – I shall reply to your other comments later, when I have more time to write a considered response.

      I think you need to re-read some of my posts and discover my thoughts with regards to homosexuality. I am not sure how you consider a person who actually supported the notion that homosexual people should be able to enter into civil partnerships ‘Homophobic’. I would also like to point out that I am in no way scared of people with same sex attraction, nor do I wish to do them any harm.

      I categorically never said that women who use IVF are not fit to have care of pets. That is a wilful mis-reading through the filter of your own prejudices.

      As I said, no-one has a right NOT to be offended and you’ll find that in my posts about IVF, I gently explained my moral and scientific difficulty with the procedure. Many others agree with me. This was not set out with the intention of hurting anyone’s feelings but was simply me expressing my own views. Are you advocating that before expounding views one should consider whether or not anyone could be offended by them and if that is the case, keep them to oneself?

      I tend to talk generically about issues. It isn’t my intention to cause offence and I try to phrase things very carefully because I am well aware they are contentious issues. It isn’t fair to close down debate simply because some people may have a personal response. You seem to be saying that anyone who disagrees with me has the right to make personal attacks and in fact that is the deserved and correct response.

      My post was categorically not an attack, it was neither filled with hate, nor intended to hurt. Of course I care if people are upset, but then they can make the choice whether or not this is the type of blog that they wish to frequent. And though I can take robust criticism, ad hominem personal attacks not only detract from the point at hand and give the impression that the commenter has run out of ideas, but they are also incredibly hurtful. I was not attacking individuals, but stating why I don’t agree with a certain scientific process.

      Your verbal attacks are also laced with unpleasantness, you aren’t adverse to calling me negative adjectives like “smug, hateful, hurtful” and implying that I don’t love my children properly. On occasion on the NS you have accused me of things which are categorically untrue,based on your own prejudices and inferences.

      I have not attacked women who used IVF, if you look I’ve explained my difficulties with it. My post, as I remember, was very considered, and not vicious or brutal at all. I am surprised that you can weigh in with such aggressiveness, and believe me, I find the force of your comments incredibly aggressive and personal, I never call you derogatory or derisory adjectives, nor do I imply that there is anything wrong with you or that you need to change, but you are not adverse to doing the same to me.

      I strongly suggest that you do not regularly visit this site given that it clearly enrages you so very much and you are unable to look at it with an objective eye.

  2. Groan! I was just going to add a simple, supportive comment along the lines of the Gargoyle when I read yonmei’s comment. It spurred me to go back to your archive: admittedly on a brief scan, I can’t see anything intended to be directly personally offensive in the postings mentioned. Certainly, I’m sure someone committed to IVF might find them offensive; but only in the same way that I find offensive being regularly accused of worshipping a bronze age sky God. Tough on me and tough on the supporter of IVF. That’s what pubic debate is like.

    But the sort of things Caroline has talked of in the past (and indeed Laurie Penny) do cross some sort of line. It’s not always easy to mark that line, but when you’re trying to win an argument by wearing your opponent down with constant posts, tweets etc, when you’re playing the opponent rather than the argument, and when you’re speculating on their anatomy, you’re probably not on the right side of it.

    I suppose we all need to keep reminding ourselves that we are disagreeing with people, not CGI characters.

    And finally, that brief supportive comment: thank you for your blog and I hope that, despite everything, you find the strength to keep going.

  3. Caroline – “I find the force of your comments incredibly aggressive and personal”

    You made 11 posts in January 2011.

    One – “Betrayal” I both agreed and sympathised with.

    Two – “EMA, Marriage, and ‘Emancipation'” and “Unpicking Stanford” I welcomed as posts that I neither agreed with nor found hurtful/offensive. (Indeed, may I brag a little? I did manage to join the select band of Tweepers Johann Hari blocked before his downfall.)

    Two – “A special welcome” and “Sposi Novelli” I welcomed in a different way, as an informative window into a culture I know little about. (I did know about the blessing the Pope extends to newlyweds, but primarily from reading about it in Brideshead Revisited.)

    Two – “Christian Courtesy” and “Riddle Me This” I noted as lengthy defenses of the idea that Christianity is all about homophobia – that if you’re not being discriminatory towards gay people, you’re not being Christian, and so requiring B&B owners (for example) to refrain from discriminatory practices against gay people is somehow discriminatory against Christianity. It’s a familiar trope.

    And “Homophobic persecution” was the standard complaint from the religiously-minded homophobic bigot that now they’re not “allowed” to say what they like about us, because open expression of their bigotry now meets with more disapproval than they would have done 25 years ago. I have read the like many times. It’s hurtful, of course, to read how you would like to be able to be more public about how much you hate me, but it’s not nearly as hurtful as the rants I used to read 25 years ago back when open expression of homophobic bigotry was regarded as perfectly okay.

    Plus “Dear Posh” I noted as a rude intrusion into a stranger’s personal life, but a very standard one for bloggers.

    Then there were the two January posts that really made me unexpectedly angry, the two in which you ranted about IVF. THere was the one that was both homophobic and anti-IVF, “You’re breeding RAPTORS” and the one that was just plain mean about women who use IVF, “Words fail me.”

    I’d expected the homophobia when I decided to read all your January posts, because I thought it unlikely you would make it through a whole month without a bit of gay-bashing. I had steeled myself even to read through a pro-life rant, angry though those make me.

    Years ago, a close relative and their partner were trying to have children. I was very fond of them both, perhaps more fond of her than of him even though he was the relative-by-blood. You know how that happens sometimes in families. After a while – she didn’t tell us this for some years – she and he decided to try fertility treatment, and she had three rounds of IVF before she finally gave up. And then, within 18 months, they had split up – he wanted children, she couldn’t have them. There were other reasons for their split, there always are, but this was the big one. So when you write that you think a woman having IVF is like a mad scientist breeding raptors, or say that you think she’s unfit to have a cat or a dog – well, I don’t take it as the impersonal expression of hatred that you probably intended: I felt you attacking my kin. The people you assault as a group, verbally, are all individuals – all human beings with feelings to be hurt, with friends and family who care about them.

    I hadn’t meant to react aggressively and personally: if it’s spoiled the chance for a dialogue on your homophobia, I’m sorry. But I admit I am, even after a few hours away from the computer, not altogether sorry that you are faced yet again with the fact that no matter how smoothly you attack groups of people, no matter how smugly you pride yourself on how you’re always so nice, these groups you detest are all people, individuals, and while you think of yourself as condemning an anonymous group, you are in fact attacking the individuals which make up the group. If you’re unwilling even to consider that you are being hurtful when your victims tell you that you are, can anyone have a reasonable dialogue with you?

    1. Yonmei. I was defending the B+B owners, who, I felt, had been unfairly attacked and who were being prevented from acting according to their religion. The inference you drew was yours alone. I did not imply that Christianity implied discrimination or state that to have given the couple a room would have been Un-Christian, I was merely making a defence of the couple and explaining what motivated them. They had been accused of being un-Christian, I explained how the couple felt that they were not.

      You repeatedly incorrectly use tired words like homophobic and bigot, which demonstrate to me that you have no real understanding of their meaning. You seem to me to be incapable of tolerating other’s viewpoints or allowing them to exist, which is the hallmark of bigotry.

      I do not hate you, or anyone with same-sex attraction. I understand why you feel defensive but you are not being attacked. This just smacks of paranoia I am afraid, it has no basis in fact.

      You reveal your innate prejudices and resort to personal attack again. “I thought it was unlikely you’d make it though the month without gay-bashing”. You are clearly looking to find as much offense as you can, but there is nowhere I resort to “gay-bashing”.

      I have asked for concrete examples, sentences which demonstrate this, but you have been unable to give them, instead relying on your own subjective interpretation of posts.

      You take offence on behalf of others with regards to IVF. I find it difficult to sympathise with that attitude I am afraid, it lacks integrity.

      I did not compare women to mad scientists, but compared the process of creating life in a laboratory. That’s an important distinction. I also conveyed sincere sympathy for those suffering from IVF and stated that I could understand why they were tempted to go down this route.

      I condemned a couple who had conceived via IVF and then aborted the resulting healthy twin boys on the grounds of their gender. I made the point that if you did this with an animal, the RSPCA would be involved. It was, in my view, utterly reprehensible and irresponsible. It was not stating that couples who used IVF were not fit to be pet owners. That is a specious allegation.

      When you wilfully misinterpret what’s written, attacking straw men, instead of what’s actually there, then I am afraid it becomes impossible to have a reasonable dialogue with you.

      You are not the only one who has to steal themselves for long rants.

      I can understand that some people find it hurtful that others cannot sanction their actions, but that does not mean that important moral and ethical concerns cannot be discussed. If one works within your parameters then all debate that has potential to upset others’ feelings must be closed down, regardless of the wider effects on society. Someone may want to do something or behave in a certain way, but their desire does not render their act an automatic “good” in philosophical terms.

      Others’ hurt does not necessitate or require a threatening or abusive response.

  4. “I was defending the B+B owners, who, I felt, had been unfairly attacked and who were being prevented from acting according to their religion.”

    Really? What religion requires a host to turn away a guest from their door? Do tell!

    “, I was merely making a defence of the couple and explaining what motivated them.”

    We all know what motivated them to deny a couple who had booked a room in their guest house: homophobia. Unless you’ve come up with a religion whose faith requires its practitioners to turn away guests on a regular basis.

    “They had been accused of being un-Christian, I explained how the couple felt that they were not. ”

    But they were wrong. You won’t find a single verse in the Bible directing the owner of a guest house to deny someone hospitality because of their sexual orientation.

    “You repeatedly incorrectly use tired words like homophobic and bigot, which demonstrate to me that you have no real understanding of their meaning. ”

    You don’t appear to like being identified as a homophobic bigot. But your not liking it does not make you less bigoted or less of a homophobe. Indeed, it is a tired trope among homophobic bigots to assert that their objections to the lesbian and gay end of the human sexual orientation spectrum, are just normal, therefore they are not homophobic and not bigoted. That it’s a common defense by bigots to assert that what they believe is true and therefore not bigoted, doesn’t actually remove the bigotry.

    “You seem to me to be incapable of tolerating other’s viewpoints or allowing them to exist, which is the hallmark of bigotry.”

    *points* You appear to be incapable of tolerating the viewpoint of others. I have no difficulty “allowing” that your viewpoint exists: yet you can’t bear to allow that mine does. Which of us is the bigot?

    “You are clearly looking to find as much offense as you can, but there is nowhere I resort to “gay-bashing”.”

    Well, for example, your post about Elton John’s baby. I agree with much you say there – I find it dubious when a person old enough to be a baby’s grandparent, who will be over 80 when their child is old enough to vote, becomes a new parent. I find it dubious when a rich person buys the use of a poorer woman’s body to make a baby for them – whether that’s by “international adoption” or by surrogacy. Yet you just had having said that, to drop into a little gay bashing and explain how you feel same-sex couples are always inferior to mixed-sex couples as parents. Your notion that I “went looking” for offense is untrue – I carefully read through all your January posts and noted where I agreed, where I disagreed but found nothing offensive, and where I was fascinated and informed. I didn’t look at December or February because you’d specifically noted January as the source of a lot of negative blogposts and comments from women, and I was intrigued because frankly gay-bashing is so common from right-wing bloggers I would have been surprised for it to cause any special attention.

    “You take offence on behalf of others with regards to IVF. I find it difficult to sympathise with that attitude I am afraid, it lacks integrity.”

    I’m not asking for your sympathy. I was endeavouring to explain the cause of my anger. (And also, I guess, I located the source of that tide of negative comments you got – I think a lot of women, across the political spectrum, would be bitterly hurt being compared to mad scientists in a laboratory and told their desire to get pregnant and have a baby meant they were “commodifying” their offspring.) I don’t defend any over-the-top attacks you got: I merely point out that when you hurt others, you hurt people: hurt people often deal hurt in their turn.

    “If one works within your parameters then all debate that has potential to upset others’ feelings must be closed down, regardless of the wider effects on society.”

    If you work within my parameters, you have to accept that if you’re going to hurt other people’s feelings – don’t try to wriggle out of what you did by using the word “potential” – you may encounter the people whose feelings you hurt and they will endeavour to hurt you as you hurt them.

    The right thing to do in those circumstances (I think) is:
    – To consider whether what you said was justified even though it hurt people’s feelings.
    – If not, to apologise
    – If yes, to be prepared with a justification for what you said – why saying it was worth hurting people’s feelings, and why saying it in that form was worth hurting people’s feelings

    For example: I do not (having slept on it) think my angry rant about your anti-IVF posts was justified, and I apologise for it: I am sorry it hurt your feelings. I don’t think it was justified because (a) I’m pretty certain the person on whose behalf I was angry would be amused by now rather than hurt by your “OMG!RAPTORS!” post – ten years ago you could have hurt her, but not now: (b) You have no power to prevent women from accessing IVF, and I’m glad of that.

    But you’re not even at the stage where you can begin this process: you have not accepted the initial step, which is this: you have to acknowledge that the ugly things you say about women who access iVF, about lesbian and gay people, are hurtful. You may think you’re justified in hurting people to make your argument. But to make that justification, you’d have to begin by acknowledging the pain you cause: you would have to give up your self-soothing belief that really, you have lots of gay friends and so the nasty things you say about gay people aren’t actually hurtful: or that you don’t know any women who have used IVF (which may or may not be true – from what you’ve said, they might just keep shtum about it around you!), so it doesn’t matter what you say about them.

    Many homophobes who claim to have gay friends. Like racists who claim to have black friends. They may indeed know gay people who have refrained from making comments to them about their homophobic views. They may know self-hating gay people who agree with their homophobic views. But those aren’t your friends. Friends are people who can talk freely to you, and you evidently don’t know any gay people who feel able to talk freely with you.

    1. And you clearly have an insight into all my friends’ psyches to know that they can’t speak freely do you? You just know that they aren’t able to speak freely with me. Wow. Lucky you!

      This isn’t proving at all constructive Yonmei.

      Again and again you lapse into personal attack. But thanks for the apology.

      1. Well, Caroline, it seems to me that if you have gay friends who are really friends – who feel able to speak freely to you about your views on them – you wouldn’t be able honestly to act so surprised that your views are regarded as homophobic and hurtful, because you’d know – your friends would have already told you. Indeed, it’s possible that in loving your friends, you would have realised that you could not hold the views you do: you would think, not abstractly in terms of a religious right to turn people away from a B&B, but personally in terms of your friends being turned away.

        So you neither love these gay people whom you claim as “friends” enough to care for them as your equals, nor do they trust you enough to speak openly to you about their feelings. Presumably, because (as I’ve just discovered!) if they do try to speak openly to you, you claim that they are making “personal attacks” on you, and they – not thinking it worthwhile – drop the topic, or they continue to try to talk to you and you drop them. And, as you say, this is not constructive.

      2. How about the fact that my friends and I agree to disagree? That our friendships consist of more than discussing the issue ad infinitum?

        Who made you the arbiter of friendship?

        Or, how about the fact that they are not think skinned enough to care that my sexual ethics are different to theirs, we enjoy each other’s company and don’t feel the need to hector each other?

        Or maybe, they don’t consider me homophobic?

        But you clearly know better than anyone else based on your superior opinion and intellect?

      3. Oh, and I promise this is the last comment (unless you change your mind and decide to respond to mine!) – I wanted to share with you a post by a lovely Christian blogger, Slacktivist, on The intolerant antinomy revisited – on the absurdity of the intolerant complaining that tolerant people don’t tolerate their bigotry.

      4. “How about the fact that my friends and I agree to disagree?”

        Er… what about? You think your friends are your inferiors, that they ought to be discriminated against and that you are a superior parent to them and in a superior relationship: your friends disagree and think they’re your equals. Is that it?

        “we enjoy each other’s company and don’t feel the need to hector each other?”

        So you enjoy their company while you refrain from telling them about your claimed superiority so long as they rrefrain from telling you how much your bigotry hurts them. Unless you’re a telepath, you don’t really know how much they really enjoy being told that any complaint or protest from them about your bigotry is defined as their “hectoring” you.

        “Or maybe, they don’t consider me homophobic? ”

        Or maybe they do, and they just don’t bother to point it out, knowing that you will complain endlessly and claim they’re “hectoring” you?

        Hence, my point: if they were your friends, they’d feel free to speak openly to you.

        I find it interesting that rather than engage with me on the substantive points i raised, you’ve opted to argue with me about whether or not the gay people you know really regard you as a friend – and whether you can really say that people whom you’ve openly said on your blog you regard as your inferiors, in inferior relationships to your own, are your friends. You claimed that I was making a “personal attack” – why are you focussing on this issue rather than responding to the abstract questions?

  5. You’ve written up a storm here Caroline, it’s excellent. On the general topic I do tend to find women just as coarse and abrasive and highly predisposed to endless net vendettas. They are just as likely to be female chauvinist pigs to one another too.

    I really do have some sympathy for this whole “movement” against misogyny – it is part of a broader ugly on-line narrative that needs tackling somehow. Men tend to lead that online narrative as like it or not they dominate the net – I am rather fed up with the casual misogyny and “tongue in cheek” sexism that is often simply casual abuse of women. If you so much as dare ask someone to desist with use of the most abrasive and sexually demeaning overtures like the c and t word it invites in a whole world of hate as though you are spoiling “the fun” (the lack of manners). I’m sure I am guilty myself but I became more conscious of it recently and have made a genuine effort to avoid it. I have started to realise just how ugly it all is and how it also plays into the culture I wrote about a week or so ago.

    With regard to the above thread I would say this about Caroline. Having had an abortion I find the whole abortion debate incredibly hurtful and last year as debates on abortion raged across the internet it almost drove me to the depths of despair. As part of often far and wide reaching debates we all express points of view and are entitled to them but it’s a fact of life that we cannot discuss these deeply personal topics more broadly without touching raw nerves occasionally. That doesn’t mean that those broaching these topics are somehow inhuman. An example of this is that Caroline was one of the first people on the internet to read an emotional post I wrote on the topic of abortion and extend real and genuine pity for my circumstances. IN SPITE of holding orthodox views on abortion she went out of her way to connect with me on a level that you often do not find on the internet. The understanding and sympathy were genuine, heartfelt and embracing. Far more empathy and charity was found in her comment to me under that post than could be gleaned from a mountain of feminist or left-wing waffle on the topic proclaiming themselves pro-choice and “for women” in such circumstances. Believe me, I’ve looked. There isn’t an ounce of bigotry in or about the woman. Frankly if only there were many more Carolines to cover these sorts of social debates.

  6. Caroline.
    This is how women talk about me. How about you women start to pull you women sisters up on the hateful bile they spew at us men, eh?

    And you might also get them to stop the slander of calling men like me paedophiles, wife beaters and dead beat dads. A man who is a paedophile or wife beater is a criminal. So any such allegation that is baseless is slander, a crime.

    Here you go. This is what HATE SPEECH looks like.

  7. Caroline:

    Apologies if I am teaching you to suck eggs, but it *should* be possible for whoever hosts your blog to provide you with the IP address of whoever posted any particular comment.

    Now that we are all on broadband, these IP addresses don’t change every time one goes on line; they are fairly stable, meaning that the same person is usually at the same IP address unless they have several.

    Armed with that information, you do is a whois lookup (google the two word phrase), enter the IP address and you’ll get an address to complain to. If you’re lucky, some twit will have done this from their workplace.

    If you then complain, the abuser’s ISP can cancel his or her service instantly because posting abusive messages is a violation of their terms of service. It’s usually gross misconduct under most people’s terms of employment too.

    I would encourage you to investigate this avenue of response, because commenters do not have the freedom of speech to speak threats and obscenities. Neither should you be put to the task of deleting them. If they are repeatedly chucked off line, and if they utter actual threats resulting in a police visit or the sack, then a lot of these twits will be forced to grow up very fast.

    FWIW, I find you an attractive, absorbing and engaging woman on every level and I consider your husband a fortunate man indeed, who would no doubt agree! And I invite you to consider the likelihood that the online abuse about how ugly and horrible you are comes mainly from losers angrily aware of how untrue this is and of how far out of their own league you therefore are, and from losers who have no better argument than “I hate you”, or indeed losers who fit both descriptions.

  8. Sometimes one has to dismiss a source. Clarification is good, but you needn’t cast your pearls before swine in the end. I entirely respect your views and find your integrity an obvious fact. Those without your honesty are unworthy of discourse. Thank you for all you do and please have courage. Boldness in truth telling is defended by the angels.

  9. You’re right that it’s not just the men who do the harassing, although women do seem to be the victims more often (however, it’s pretty hard to gauge, since these kinds of comments usually end up deleted and only seen by the blogger in question, instead of being published.)

    All the stuff about you being pregnant, broke, ill and just having moved house – I think that that’s maybe one of the reasons WHY trolls have come after you. Trolls tend to pick on vulnerable people. An example: I used to use a forum for teenagers with various neorological disabilities and mental health problems. One of the users was an American girl diagnosed with cerebral palsy, ADHD and mental retardation. This girl had been abused as a child. There was one person who came on the forum just to be rude – he took particular pleasure in making fun of this girl’s trouble with punctuation and grammar (even though he KNEW that she struggled with these things because of her disabilities rather than just laziness.) She posted a poem about her experiences of being abused and he posted it on another forum for other people to laugh at. When she found out about this and was upset, he got REALLY aggressive towards her. It was horrible just to watch.

    He could have picked anyone on that forum for his target, but he DELIBERATELY picked out the person who would have the hardest time standing up for herself.

  10. You’re not attractive or sensual, you look like a dried up meringue. Your teeth are enormous and your hair and skin are the same revolting off white/yellow colour.

    1. Hello Sonneillon, with the following IP address:

      Except you’ve probably gone at great pains to hide that, given you know I’m logging IP addresses. Haven’t you anything better to do with your life? Still I see you hate me enough to have become a regular subscriber to my blog.

  11. Thanks for replying so quick too! You must be busy to reply to every negative comment you get.

    I read about you in that New Statesmen article, but failed to see why I should sympathize with a woman who claims to be a feminist yet subscribes to one of the most backwards, woman-hating religions ever.


  12. Dropped out of the conversation for a while, but good to see on my return that Sonneillon has moved it on to a new level of maturity.

    Never mind! I suppose, as one bronze age sky god worshipping woman hating homophobe to another, it’s par for the course.

    And, as noted by Sanabitur, what sort of loser thinks ‘meringue’ is a term of abuse? Yummy!!

  13. % APNIC found the following authoritative answer from:
    % [ node-5]
    % Whois data copyright terms
    inetnum: –
    netname: H3GAIPNET
    descr: 3G Mobile Service Provider,
    descr: Pyrmont, NSW
    country: AU
    admin-c: HT407-AP
    tech-c: HT407-AP
    mnt-by: APNIC-HM
    mnt-lower: MAINT-AU-H3GA
    mnt-irt: IRT-HUTCHISON3G-AU
    remarks: for copyright related incidents contact
    remarks: for spam related incidents contact
    remarks: for security related incidents contact
    remarks: -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    remarks: This object can only be updated by APNIC hostmasters.
    remarks: To update this object, please contact APNIC
    remarks: hostmasters and include your organisation’s account
    remarks: name in the subject line.
    remarks: -+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-++-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+-+
    changed: 20080805
    changed: 20081023
    changed: 20100428
    changed: 20110629
    changed: 20110812
    source: APNIC
    role: Hutchison3G Team
    address: 40 Mount St, North Sydney, NSW 2060
    country: AU
    phone: +61 2 9415 7999
    admin-c: HT407-AP
    tech-c: HT407-AP
    nic-hdl: HT407-AP
    remarks: For spam related incidents contact
    remarks: For security related incidents contact
    mnt-by: MAINT-AU-H3GA
    changed: 20110812
    source: APNIC

    So Soneillon appears to be a Hutchison 3G customer. Worth dobbing in I’d say?

  14. Hi Caroline! I am a new reader but am enjoying your site. As a practicing Catholic, I agree with what you blog about. As this post discusses, you’ve definitely been the victim of trolling quite a few times. The things these people say are reprehensible, and I can’t imagine what makes them think it’s okay to post them. But here’s the thing about Internet trolls (which make up a good percentage of the threats and nasty comments on this site): they feed off of attention. Their life online is devoted to provoking a response, and nothing makes them happier than when people respond in shock and fear. Your best bet to getting less traffic from them is to a) quietly delete obvious trolling comments, and b) don’t react to them. Otherwise, they will continue to spam your site with angry messages just to see what happens.

    Not that everyone making cruel comments is a troll–some definitely have strong opinions and want to debate them, they just have apparently never been taught a mature way to deal with opposing viewpoints. Keep in mind that no matter what they say, your level-headed responses continue to make you come out on top of the debates, whether they like it or not.

    Also, keep in mind that trolls are full of crap. They will make empty death threats to something as stupid as getting kicked off a message board. Don’t feed them, Caroline!

  15. “But that doesn’t fit the narrative so well does it? Women being nasty to women?”.

    One could almost ask “when are women not nasty to women?”.

    I conducted a small survey among women friends and asked if they LIKED their mothers. Not LOVED [which is almost an obligation], but only LIKED their mothers. The results were not unsurprising; most just plain did not like their mothers. One savvy woman – spotting the reason for my inquiry – pointed out that mothers were obligated to be the disciplinarians of their daughters. Consider the onset of menstruation. Fathers could be [and are] dense about the things that motivate their daughters; mothers not.

    Consider that in popular sayings, it is the mother-in-law who is the butt of humor.

  16. In Holland we say : “If you stick your head out of a corn-field, your head will get cut off by the combine” I think that is very true in your case: you have strong views, you’re a practising Catholic, unfortunately those 2 characteristics WILL attract certain elements. Sadly. But Jesus never said following Him would make you popular!

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