Suzanne Moore: Stupid Woman Columnist
Women suffer misogyny and gendered abuse online, did you know? Of course you did, because the newspapers, online publications and blogosphere have been full of this piece of information, recently, hammered home to us day after day until we get the message: ‘men do horrible, horrible, things’*.
When I first saw the tweets Laurie Penny shared what seems like ages ago now, from (I think) men insulting and belittling her I was genuinely sympathetic. I even acknowledged that this ‘abuse’ did include misogyny, a word I am loathed to use except in specific circumstances.
But I am not sympathetic anymore.
As does happen quite regularly, feminist writers and activists have got a bone in their mouths and they won’t let it go. Column after column has appeared by women journalists in the last week, repeating the line that misogyny is rife online, with the added ironic twist that these endless articles are complaining that (feminist) women are being ‘silenced’ by their abusers. It will be no surprise that the Graun has published the most on the subject. And, as a commenter on Moore’s latest piece asked: ‘isn’t it time we heard a man’s point of view?’ No, it seems, it isn’t.
Moore opens her piece with a description of the hate mail she has received over the years, and, for some reason she can’t explain, has kept in a cupboard:
‘In a rusting filing cabinet I have thousands** of letters. I don’t know why I keep them. Some are lovely, some funny, but most are hate mail. A letter addressed to “Suzzanne [sic] Moore, Stupid Woman Columnist” can still reach me. I have had death threats and calls to my home number and have had to involve the police.’
I am pretty certain that any high-profile journalist will receive a certain amount of hate mail over his or her career. Moore said her male colleagues have been surprised by the extreme nature of hers, but I know of men journalists such as James Delingpole who have received death threats. And you can’t get much more extreme than death, can you?
One of the ‘slights of hand’ then by feminist women writers such as Moore has been that they have somehow elevated ‘rape threats’ to the worst kind of online abuse a person can receive. And as I have written about on my blog, this is quite handy when you are trying to make out men as misogynists and ogres who terrorise women, because ‘rape’ in our culture is conceptualised as something only men do to women.
Moore, as most feminists writing on this subject have done, has linked these online interactions to ‘real life abuse’ women face at the hands of men. She writes:
‘Anyone who gets on a bus or just listens to the way people speak to each other cannot help thinking that woman-hating, as I said recently, is our cultural wallpaper.’
So the rhetoric of these feminist journalists and bloggers is being used to reinforce their worldview, the one which sees women as the constant victims of men’s ‘hatred’ for them. It is pretty well exactly the same as the discourse of ‘rape culture’ which says that women are raped by men because of all the ‘objectification’ of women in the media imagery and language. So, whether or not we agree with these articles, they are serving a purpose. They are planting the seed in people’s minds that women are the victims of misogyny and that discourse leads to action in the form of violence by men against women.
There is another word beginning with ‘m’ forming on my lips as I type this: ‘misandry’.
But oh, if we so much as dare suggest that this line that men are nasty abusers of women constitutes ‘man -hating’ we are called … misogynists. As Dorian Lynskey tweeted to Suzanne Moore earlier today:
Someone who Graunwatch admires enormously, and who, apparently Suzanne Moore also admires, Mark Simpson, has had a few things to say about misandry.
Simpson, in an article reviewing a book on the subject, termed misandry ‘the acceptable prejudice’ because nobody bats an eyelid when it is employed. He wrote:
‘Quiet Riot Girl has kindly brought to my attention the vogue online for dismissing anyone who suggests that men might face sexism as well as women with the retort: ‘what about the menz?’ And it isn’t just feminists using this school-ground approach.
It’s a rather telling phrase because it tries to project the childishness of the people deploying it against the ones they want to shut up. Ironically, it also seems to depend on the ‘patriarchal’ notion of shaming the whining boy who doesn’t just sup it up ‘like a man’.
Never one to miss an opportunity to whine – or annoy feminists – I thought I’d post this review I did a few years back of a book which argues that abuse and libel of men as a sex is not only acceptable but de rigeur.
Men, say the authors, have become society’s official scapegoats and held responsible for all wickedness, including that done by women they have deluded or intimidated. Women are society’s official victims and held responsible for all good, including that done by men they have influenced or converted’.
Maybe Mark Simpson is just a ‘self-pitying woman-hating cock’. But I don’t think so. And I don’t think Ms Moore has read his work carefully enough, or given it the respect it deserves, because Simpson’s thesis is a direct and strong challenge to Moore’s whiny, misandrist feminism.
He is also not very enamoured of ‘female columnists’. In a piece defending the beauty and androgyny of Andre Pejic, Simpson criticised Amanda Platell who he termed ‘an outraged female columnist’.
In the comments under his post, Simpson emphasised the way ‘female columnists’ such as Amanda Platell like to ‘pose as a defender of [their] sex, dressed in cliches’:
‘She’s just a hack columnist. A hack female columnist (writing for the Mail’s ‘Femail’ section) who likes to pose as a defender of her sex. Dressed in cliches.’
I know Simpson was not aiming this comment at Ms Moore, but it certainly applies to her, and all the ‘female columnists’ and ‘female bloggers’ who have emphasised their ‘femaleness’ in order to present themselves as victims of nasty men online and off.
Something else that Simpson pointed out to me in a private correspondance relating to Platell and Pejic, was that these ‘female columnists’ are not ‘silenced’ or ‘outnumbered’ by men. They dominate the broadsheets column and lifestyle sections. Almost all writing on gender in major newspapers is done by women. And if you include fashion and beauty the ‘female-dominated’ nature of this arena becomes even more marked. Mr Simpson, the leading theorist of masculinity of our times, does not have a column in a national newspaper. Ms Moore, complaining of women being ‘silenced’ by powerful men, has two.
While we are on the subject of ‘domination’ it is interesting to note that Suzanne Moore evoked a familiar figure from all of our psyches in her article: the female dominatrix. She wrote:
‘Other commentators face down the abuse or step in themselves. The last few times I have done this on Twitter I have not been polite and these guys – I am presuming they were male from their names – have apologised or told me they loved me. Since I get a Christmas card every year that says “I know when you see this is from a man you will be sick” I am fairly inured to it. Suffice to say, it comes as no surprise to me that dominatrices make the money they do.’
Here Moore is portraying ‘abusive’ men online as really underneath, just ‘submissive’ weak men. Apart from the *misandry* towards men who like to take the ‘bottom’ position in the sexual power dynamic, she is also suggesting that they deserve and want some kind of ‘punishment’ for their ‘bad behaviour’ from a strong woman.
Again Mark Simpson has already identified the ‘dominatrix’ within contemporay feminism. In an article reviewing a book defending masochism he said:
‘Ironically, the exclusion of masochism from the male psyche has produced a public scenario of their punishment and chastisement by women which continues today. The feminist is Ms Whiplash.’
Once again, I get the impression that Suzanne Moore has not read Simpson very carefully at all. And she certainly hasn’t taken on his ideas. She is just another illustration of his insights.
I however have read his work carefully and I have taken Simpson’s model of the feminist as ‘Miss Whiplash’ and written:
‘I am not saying feminists completely dominate men or ‘society’ in a sadistic manner. Rather that they take a punitive approach to anyone who does not go along with their dogma. If you are not a male feminist and are not masochistic in that way, you are seen as a ‘problem’ as a man, a problem that needs punishing.’
As Ms Moore’s article shows, men can’t win. If they accept their ‘punishment’ they are treated as pathetic and weak; if they don’t, they are considered to be nasty misogynists.
But does Suzanne Moore offer any ‘solutions’ to the ‘problem’ of online misogyny by men? She thankfully does not join the increasingly loud calls to stamp out anonymity online, saying:
‘I find the calls to end anonymity rather alarming and unworkable. We need to protect anonymity for it remains a weapon against repressive regimes.’
However I am unable to take Moore’s principled position seriously, when, on a number of occasions on twitter and by email she has accused me of ‘hiding’ behind my online handle and being a coward who cannot speak with my own name. Maybe she thinks some people don’t deserve anonymity because they are part of the ‘oppressive regimes’? I don’t know. But her position is not consistent.
Finally, Moore ends with a call to open up dialogue:
‘As difficult as it is, I want discussion opened up not shut up. This is a conversation we needed to have a long time ago. Let’s talk.’
This is the female columnist, who, on this very Graunwatch blog, has said to me: ‘do not speak to or about me ever again’. So when she says ‘let’s talk’ I think she is only opening the invitation to her fans and fawning supporters. I called this piece ‘Suzanne Moore: Stupid Woman Columnist’ quoting one of the ‘thousands’ of hate letters she has received over the course of her career. I of course don’t really think she is stupid. On the contrary she is very intelligent and very clever at getting people to think she is the ‘sensible’ voice of feminism. But she does not fool me. She does not ‘silence’ me either and I will continue to challenge her misandrist, victim feminism wherever I see it. I hope you do too.
* ‘Because men do horrible, horrible things’ is taken from an article by Moore in the Graun where she quoted her response to her daughter when she asked why Moore is a feminist
**maybe Moore does have ‘thousands’ of letters in her rusting filing cabinet from readers. But I expect she is exaggerating about the number of which are ‘hate mail’. If she has been a journalist for 25 years, say, she’d have to have received 40 hate letters a year every year for all those 25 years to make even one thousand. Just saying.