Mascara Flavored Bitch Tears, or Why I Trolled #InternationalMensDay
Here are some recent news stories about women:
In Afghanistan, a 3-year-old girl was snatched from her front yard, where she was playing with friends, and raped in her neighbor’s garden by an 18-year-old man. The rapist then tried, unsuccessfully, to kill the child. Currently this little girl is in intensive care in Kabul, fighting for her life. But even if this little girl survives this horrifying experience, her parents tell the reporter, she will carry the shame and stigma of being raped for the rest of her life. The parents hope to bring the rapist to court, but as they are poor, they are certain their family will not receive justice. The child’s mother and grandmother have threatened to commit suicide in protest.
In Egypt,Raslan Fadl, a doctor who routinely performs genital mutilation surgery on women, was acquitted of manslaughter charges. Dr. Fadl performed the controversial surgery on 12-year-old Sohair al-Bata’a in June 2013 and she later died from complications stemming from the procedure. According to The Guardian, “No reason was given by the judge, with the verdict being simply scrawled in a court ledger, rather than being announced in the Agga courtroom.”
Washed up rapper, Eminem (nee Marshall Mathers), leaked portions of his new song, “Vegas,” in which he addresses Iggy Izalea (singer and appropriator of racial signifiers) thusly:
“Unless you’re Nicki
grab you by the wrist let’s ski
so what’s it gon be
put that shit away Iggy
You don’t wanna blow that rape whistle on me”
Azalea’s response was, naturally, disgust and a yawn:
This story was followed, finally, by a story on the growing sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby. Cosby has been plagued by rumors of sexual misconduct for decades. However, a series of recent events, including Cosby’s ill-conceived idea to invite fans to “meme” him and Hannibal Buress’ recent stand up bit about the star, brought the issue back into the national spotlight. As Roxane Gay succinctly notes “There is a popular and precious fantasy that abounds, that women are largely conspiring to take men down with accusations of rape, as if there is some kind of benefit to publicly outing oneself as a rape victim. This fantasy becomes even more elaborate when a famous and/or wealthy man is involved. These women are out to get that man. They want his money. They want attention. It’s easier to indulge this fantasy than it is to face the truth that sometimes, the people we admire and think we know, are capable of terrible things.”
I cite these horrific stories happening all over the world, to women of all ages, races, and class backgrounds, because they are all things that happen to women because they are women. These are all crimes in which womens bodies are seen as objects for men to take and use as they wish simply because they can. The little girl in Afghanistan was raped because she has a vagina and because she is too small to defend herself. Cosby’s alleged victims were raped because they have vaginas and because they naive enough to assume that their boss — the humanitarian, the art collector, the seller of pudding pops — would not drug them. And Iggy Izalea, bless her confused little heart, makes a great point: why is it when men disagree with women, their first threat is one of sexual assault? Why doesn’t Eminem write lyrics about how Izalea is profiting off of another culture or that her music sucks? Because those critiques have nothing to do with Izalea’s vagina. If you want to disempower or threaten or traumatize a woman, you have to remind her she is, at the end of the day, nothing more than a vagina that can be invaded, pillaged and emptied into.
But you know this, don’t you, readers? Why am I reminding you of the fragile space women (and especially women of color) occupy in this world, of the delicate tightrope we walk between arousing the respect of our male peers and arousing their desires to violate our vaginas? Because of International Men’s Day.
“There’s an International Mens Day?” you’re asking yourself right now, “What does that entail?” Great question, hypothetical reader. This is from their official website:
“Objectives of International Men’s Day include a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. It is an occasion for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions, in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and child care while highlighting the discrimination against them.”
When I opened up my Twitter feed on Wednesday, I noticed the #InternationalMensDay hashtag popping up in my feed now and then, mostly because my friend, Will Brooker, was engaging many of the men using the hashtag in conversations about the meaning of the day and its possible ramifications.
Now, I’m no troll (and neither is Will, by the way). Yes, I like to talk shit and I have been known to bust my friend’s chops for my own amusement (something I’ve written about in the past), but generally, I do not spend my time in real life or on the internet, looking for a fight. But International Mens Day struck me as so ill-conceived, so offensive, that I couldn’t help myself.
Within minutes I had several irate IMD supporters in my mentions:
I was informed that if you question the need for an International Mens Day, you actually *hate* men:
These men were outraged that I could so callously dismiss the very real problems men had to deal with on a day to day basis:
Yes apparently International Mens Day is needed because all of the feminists are sitting around cackling about the high rates of male suicide, or the fact that more men die on the job than women, or that more men are homeless than women. And since women have their own day on March 8th — and African Americans get the whole month of February! — then why can’t men have their own day, too? After all, men are people, right? Of course they are. But that’s not the point.
As a Huffington Post editorial put it:
“The problem with the IMD idea is that men’s vulnerabilities are not clearly and consistently put into the context of gender inequality and the ongoing oppression of women. For example, a review of homicide data shows that where homicide rates against men are high, violence against women by male partners is also high (and female deaths by homicides more likely to happen). Or, for example, men face particular health problems because we teach boys to be powerful men by suppressing a range of feelings, by engaging in risk-taking behaviors, by teaching them to fight and never back down, by saying that asking for help is for sissies — that is, the values of manhood celebrated in male-dominated societies come with real costs to men ourselves.”
Yes, the problem with IMD is that the real problems faced by men are not the direct result of the fact that they are men. Let me offer a personal example here to explain what I mean. I am a white, upper middle class, high-achieving white woman. According to studies, I am more likely to develop an eating disorder than other women. And eating disorders are very much tied to gender in that women face more pressure to be thin that men do. But does that mean there should be an entire day for white, upper middle class, high-achieving white women in order to bring awareness to the fact that we are more likely to acquire an eating disorder than others? No. Because the point of having a “day” or a “month” devoted to a particular group of people is to shed light on the unique challenges they face and the achievements they’ve made because otherwise society would not take notice of these challenges and achievements. Let me say that again: because otherwise society would not take notice of these challenges and achievements.
We do not need an International White, Upper Middle Class, High-Achieving White Woman Day because I see plenty of recognition of the challenges and achievements of my life; in the representation game, white women fall just behind white men in the amount of representation we get in the news and in popular culture. Likewise, we do not need an International Mens Day because, really, everyday is mens day. Every. Single. Day.
As more and more angry replies began to fill up my Twitter feed, I knew I should abandon ship. I would never convince these men that they do not need a day devoted to men’s issues since “men’s issues,” in our culture, are simply “issues.” But I couldn’t help myself. These men were so aggrieved, so very hurt that I could not see how they were victims, suffering in a world of rampant misandry:
I realize that giving an oppressed group of people their own day or month is a pretty pointless gesture. It could even be argued that these days serve to further marginalize groups by cordoning off their needs, their history, their lives, from the rest of the world. Still, after #gamergate and Time magazine readers voted to ban the word “feminism,” to name two recent public attacks against women, it’s hard for me not to see International Mens Day as an attack on women, and feminists in particular, like a tit for tat.
So yeah, I realize that by trolling the #InternationalMensDay hashtag I did little to promote the cause of feminism or to educate these men about why IMD might be problematic. But I didn’t do it to educate anyone or to promote a cause. I did it, you see, because sometimes in the face of absurdity, our only choice is to cloak ourselves in sarcasm and great big mugs of mascara flavored bitch tears.
12 thoughts on “Mascara Flavored Bitch Tears, or Why I Trolled #InternationalMensDay”
November 23, 2014 at 1:13 pm
I just discovered your blog when looking online for a Magic Garden DVD. Thank you for courageously voicing exactly why an International Men’s Day is offensive, unnecessary and absurd. When women speak out like this, they are sure to be called bad names. It’s like when men say they would love it if women catcalled at them when they walked down the street because attention from strangers is a compliment. Some guys just don’t get it and probably never will. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your blog.
November 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm
You and I are friends, right? You know I think you’re the coolest, and you know I can take a joke. OK, so I think I have to say it: you let me down here.
Look, the so-called “Men’s Rights Activists” are a bunch of idiots and deserve whatever they get, and insofar as #internationalmensday took part in their rhetoric of oppression (and there’s a lot of that going on, there), you’re absolutely right. No man needs to act like the current structure of this society is giving him an unfair deal. Clearly it’s not.
But that doesn’t mean you should try to shut up the people who are trying, however ineptly, to start a conversation that really seriously needs to be started. Because while you’re right that men suck up most of the cultural space on the internet and everywhere else, it’s simply not true that people are talking about men’s problems, as men’s problems, every day. I mean, if you think it is true, please give me some examples. Where, exactly, are the people talking about what Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the men who shot them all had in common? Where are the people talking about what Adam Lanza, Seung-Hui Cho, Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold, and Jared Loughner have in common? Where are the people talking about the fact that I’ve never lost a female friend to suicide? Where are the people talking about the fact that Eminem even exists? They are, basically, nowhere. When it comes to men’s problems, all of us, men and women, are continually told since childhood to shut the fuck up.
Amanda, I think you’re part of the problem.
What you just said was, essentially, Quit crying, you sissies. I know you, and I know you wouldn’t want to say that to your son – but you kinda just did. When you say that, because of privilege, men’s problems don’t deserve public discussion and recognition, you’re reinforcing the system that produces those problems. I can guarantee you that you won’t like the results. If we can’t talk publicly about masculinity – good and bad – you will certainly get the bad. That’s mostly what we’ve been getting, lately.
Men are pretty messed up right now, and it’s not in any way women’s fault. I worry about all my students, especially in freshman composition where they’re largely entering college pretty close to illiterate. But I worry more about the young men. As a group, they’re doing way worse than the women. Way fewer of them are even getting to college, and those who get there are much more likely to screw it up royally. ECU has, finally, started to acknowledge the problem with an effort at the Tutoring Center (http://goo.gl/IP3BIC ) . I don’t have the answers, but I know that we have to be able to talk about the problems, and I know it’s not easy – and that’s when people aren’t deliberately trying to sabotage the conversation. Don’t be that guy.
December 1, 2014 at 9:54 am
First of all, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I always appreciate a good, reasoned debate with someone who disagrees with my point of view. And yes, we are friends and I know you have a wonderful sense of humor.
But I do think you misread or possibly misunderstood the point of this post.
First, I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of how hashtags work on Twitter. The point of hashtags are to aggregate tweets on similar topics and themes. And when hashtags are used to political ends, they draw in both supporters and detractors. Sometimes those interactions are civil and sometimes they are virulently hateful. So me making jokes about #internationalmensday is not unusual in the context of Twitter culture. My jokes were, in fact, par for the course.
Second, I did not directly engage anyone with my initial tweets. I just used the hashtag. The men who came after me did so because they wanted a fight. They wanted to argue with the feminist troll. And they did. They called me a bitch and a cunt. They told me feminists are awful and feminists should die.
Third, you seem to be very confused about how, exactly, this hashtag was functioning on that day. Sure, there were men who were tweeting about all of the important issues you listed in your comment—machismo, rape culture, the need for men to accept that “masculinity” is not defined in a single way—but they were the minority, Brian. The vast majority of men using that hashtag were tweeting awful disgusting things about women and feminism. Most of the men using the hashtag were also very active in the now infamous GamerGate scandal. These were men who HATE women and use this hashtag as a way of saying “You women think you’re oppressed? Well what about us, you cunts!” This is just like when white supremacists complain about black history month.
Fourth, no Brian, I wouldn’t say such things to my son or my husband or my brother or my wonderful male students. Because they’re not hateful, sexist assholes. Those guys on Twitter, who make rape threats DAILY (by the minute) to Twitter feminists—and especially women of color—YEAH I AM going to troll their asses, Brian. Because someone needs to talk back to them. I was never saying “Quit crying, you sissies.” I was using sarcasm to add some levity to the hateful shit I see everyday on the internet.
So Brian, while I do appreciate this debate, I am, to be honest, incredibly offended that you would label me as part of the “problem.” I don’t rape women or threaten to rape them. I don’t yell crude foul taunts at women when I’m out for a run. I’m not responsible for the massive wage gap (which by the way, those #internationalmensday supporters call a “myth”).
What I’m saying Brian is this: why don’t you channel some of that righteous indignation at the assholes who make womens’ lives—in real life and online—a fucking terror? Brian, why don’t YOU be “that guy”?
November 24, 2014 at 3:40 pm
OK, one more and then I’ll shut up: you start this post by saying “Here are some recent news stories about women.” But I don’t really think those stories are about women — the women are not the problem in those stories. But men definitely are. Why aren’t we talking about that? We need to work on that problem. We need to talk seriously and explicitly about how to be a good man, and how not to reinforce the system(s) at work in any of those situations. I’ve definitely got my doubts about the motives behind #internationalmensday, but the ratio of trolling — from both feminist and anti-feminist angles — to serious, helpful discussion on that feed indicates to me that the mere idea of men talking about themselves as men is still scary to a lot of people — and not just the people you’d think.
December 1, 2014 at 9:59 am
Ummm Brian that is EXACTY what I’m talking about. Those stories I cited are about men making women’s lives miserable (or dead) because they are men in positions of power. Obviously that is what has to change. But that hashtag was NOT about making women’s lives better. That hashtag was very much about “what about us?” And that is NOT allyship.
December 2, 2014 at 11:09 am
Thanks for taking the time to respond. Let me first apologize for causing offense. You really are very good at trolling; if your intention was to make people really angry, well, it worked on me. I should’ve waited ‘til I calmed down to write back, though. I think the tone of my response would’ve been pretty different.
I do agree with you that I didn’t understand the context of the hashtag fully: I wasn’t there at the time, and if you just look at the aggregated top tweets on that hashtag several days after the fact (as I did), you’d see something fairly different from what you describe, and what this person describes. What I saw was a mixed bag – a lot of reprehensible trash, but also a fair amount of earnest and useful (useful for Twitter, anyway) stuff that you really wouldn’t see in the other 364 days of the year – stuff like this. But yeah, in that context, what you were doing makes sense. I was angry that you reached for the man tears (though, to be honest, I LOLed) – you know, the direct route to childhood wounds that shuts down any possibility of conversation. But you make it clear that they had already gone there, with the rape threats and name-calling, and in overwhelming numbers. So, sure, given that you were basically arguing with a bunch of sociopathic middle-school bullies, troll away. As you say, it’s basically a pointless exercise on both sides, but if you found it somehow cathartic, good for you.
I hope, though, that you’ll forgive me for mistaking the target of your original post above, since you spend most of it talking not about the toxic environment of the hashtag on Twitter but about the meaning and usefulness of the day itself. And there, while I do regret the tone of my above response, I hold on to the substance.
Likewise, we do not need an International Men’s Day because, really, every day is men’s day. Every. Single. Day.
Well, yeah, it is. As you and I were getting ready to leave town for Thanksgiving and I was thinking about your post, my social media, along with radio and newspapers, were dominated by two stories: the Ferguson non-indictment and the UVA fraternity rape allegations. Both stories about violence by men. And yet, in those discussions, that fact is invisible. Patriarchy operates through silence, y’know? I don’t think masculinity is a side issue in Michael Brown’s death. It’s right there in the middle. While it’s conceivable that a white female cop could’ve killed him, it seems pretty unlikely that, when she told the story of how and why she killed him, she would imagine the scene as a confrontation with Hulk Hogan. Whatever happened that day, it was all about the pathologies of growing up white male. Our teen-angst bullshit has a body count. But did anybody say that? No. Did anybody call for change to the way white men – as men – operate in the world? No.
The UVA situation was (and is) even more incredible. As an alum, I’m probably seeing more of it than you are. So, here’s a story about gang rape, for God’s sake, and aside from a few reasonable feminists who got totally ignored by both the administration and the local and national media, nobody’s saying anything about the perpetrators’ motivations and identities. Yes, we need to focus on justice for victims of violence – of course. But I really think that if you want men to, you know, stop raping people, you need to get them to engage in a conversation about why they’re raping people. You also need to present a better way to live in a male body. As long as we take violent masculinity as normative, and just be quiet about it, and don’t actually work to give people any alternatives, people are going to get hurt.
So it made me sad to see you denying the legitimacy of one of the very few forums where people could actually start that conversation. That’s much harder to do for men than for women, precisely because as you know only too well in our culture any questioning of masculine norms is shut down by threats of violence. Do you at least agree with me that men need a place to work out their shit? Right now, it’s pretty hard to think of, for instance, a blog on men’s issues that has anything close to the readership of Jezebel, or even Feministing. Richard Cohen lives on at the NYT. I do think we need International Men’s Day, and I do think it needs to be better than it was (at least on Twitter). So OK, Amanda, challenge accepted. As you know, I’m out there doing that work in class and in office hours every single day (and I know you are, too) — and next Nov. 19, I’ll be out there with you on Twitter.
December 2, 2014 at 5:29 pm
Welcome to the dark side, n00b.
December 24, 2014 at 3:30 pm
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December 29, 2014 at 1:52 pm
I just stumbled upon this blog only to find someone used me singing “Cry Me a River” at an MRA event, implying that I was dismissing the high rate of male suicide. For what it is worth, I was not in fact doing that, much to the dismay of MRAs who would love nothing more than to demonize me in order to continue their relentless rape and death threat and cyberstalking brigade. I was reading the MRA literature and when I came back into the conversation, the dude with the beard was talking about how there are more spaces for women than there are for men at CAMH (Center for Addiction and Mental Health). My first and only reaction was, what in the actual fuck does that have to do with feminism? So I sang Cry Me a River.
December 29, 2014 at 4:59 pm
Wow, so you’re the woman in the tweet above? Have you been trolled harassed since that video was placed online? Oh wait, why am I even asking that? Of course you were.
I’m so sorry to hear it.
Best wishes for a better 2015 for you!
December 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm
Yep. Within 12 hours of the video being released, my blog had approximately 500 hateful messages and/or threats, my fb was broadcasted around the world, I had rape and death threats sent to me, including ones with what they thought was my address, telling me to prepare to be anally defiled. I couldn’t even keep up with the youtube comments. Within a week, there were 300,000 views on youtube. They doxxed, cyberstalked, and threatened me with rape and death because I had the audacity to tell a dude to stfu. To this day, almost 2 years later, I still get hateful and threatening messages, and I’m constantly accused of mocking male suicide and pulling the fire alarm, despite evidence to the contrary. Of course it’s no accident that I’ve been accused of these things, since it’s all an effort to demonize me in order to justify the vitriol, hate and threats sent my way.
manboobz aka wehuntedthemammoth did a pretty good article summarizing what happened:
February 12, 2017 at 8:30 am
Thanks, needed a refill. Fallacies of relatives privation, ‘It’s OK when we do it’ and Chanty’s hypocrisy served pretty well.