I recently got given a spanking by members of the regressive left, and it wasn’t the kind of spanking I enjoy either.
Surely by now you know the story of a young lady who was shopping in Woolworths, when a guy who lacks the intestinal and testicular fortitude to even attempt to strike up a conversation, snaps a photo of her from behind, posts it to the Woolworths Facebook page, and generally makes a creepy arse of himself trying to track her down; and that’s putting it nicely (Habib 2016). Incidentally, a charitable soul would say that perhaps he recognised that the produce aisle is not the right place to initiate courtship, but I’m eternally cranky.
This filtered into social media, courtesy of Channel 9 drawing attention to it, and people (quite rightly) pointed out that they were just making a bad situation worse. The whole thing stinks to high heaven, and none of the involved parties looks good, except (presumably) the young lady.
Now this is where I made my fuck-up; I subtweeted a person who will remain nameless, saying I hoped that people were as outraged over Alex from Target as they were over this. For those of you who need reminding, Alex was (at the time) a 16-year-old boy working at Target who had his photo taken and posted to social media, sans his consent or knowledge (Evans 2014). And then it snowballed into a fairly massive campaign of cyberstalking – cumulating in his details being splashed across the internet, being afraid to leave the house for harassment, and getting death threats (Bilton 2014). A child was subjected to sexual harassment, threats to his life, and a massive invasion of his privacy, just so we are clear.
Someone told me that the two were not equivalent, as the male of the species wasn’t subjected to the same unending objectification or reduction to the status of property that the female is.
From where I was standing, that looked like a flippant dismissal; something I hope is actually the result of the 140 character limit. There was a bit of back and forth, and I requested to be able to direct message this person, because 140 characters wasn’t enough to properly convey what I was trying to say (and I held that I was not receiving the messages in the spirit they were sent, for the same reason), and because our back and forth was starting to result in crossed wires. Direct messaging has a 1000 character limit – much better for that sort of thing. The request was denied, and I said ok, let’s let the subject drop. That was the end of it. For about five minutes.
Following this I received a trio of slaps from a second person who thought their opinion was wanted. First I was told that I was in a hurry to diminish the significance and degree of sexism towards women (I didn’t). Then I was told that using legitimate concerns about Alex to derail discussions about women has nothing to do with his well-being (I wasn’t doing that; I just said I hoped people weren’t being selective about their outrage). Then I was told I was using a child to point-score on a different issue (I wasn’t; he was the illustrative example). The next day a third person chimed in saying he hopes that I now understand.
Yes, I understand that a lot of “progressives” will downplay the sexual harassment of a child because that child is male. I also understand that harassment is somehow worse when it happens to a woman than it is when it happens to a boy – I don’t understand why (some collectivist rot about treating all women as a single amorphous mass without regard for their individuality), it just is and questioning that is bad. I also understand because I think that sexual harassment is vile regardless of the sex or gender of the victim, and we shouldn’t be making that vileness into a competition on the basis of said victim’s sex or gender, I am a bad person.
I set my twitter feed to private, blocked the people involved, and went to bed. I know this music; I wasn’t interested in hearing it through to the end.
Now, I’m sorry but why are we making this a fucking competition? The subjecting of an adult woman, who thus far remains safely anonymous (though she’s probably justifiably worried that she’s going to get found out), to a very creepy bout of almost-stalking is worse than a child being subjected to media-driven cyberstalking that destroyed his privacy, and resulted in threats to his safety, just because that child happens to be male? The two aren’t at all equivalent solely on the basis of the sex or gender of the victims?
No. That’s a load of pig shit. Just because women are subjected to continual objectification and men, allegedly, aren’t (pay no attention to Hot Dudes Reading on Instagram (Sullivan 2015), which is nothing but the objectification of men – and there’s no indication they gave their consent either) does not make what happened to Alex any less awful than what happened to this woman just because he is male. To claim that it does, frankly, is sexist.
Yes. Sexist. No, you don’t get to redefine sexism to mean purely institutional sexism, quoting power and prejudice until my brain haemorrhages in a bid to grasp the sweet release of death. That is declaring yourself to be a Good Person because you’ve redefined the terms of the argument such that you cannot be bad. It is a path of vile sophistry devoid of personal responsibility, and is utterly invalid. Even if we granted the premise – it’s not sexist, just horribly prejudiced (on the basis of sex) – I fail to see how that makes it any less morally repugnant.
Attitudes such as this directly feed into why men who are victims of sexual assault and harassment, especially at the hands of women, don’t see justice; their ordeals are seen as a joke. And I am speaking from personal experience on that.
I am adding this experience to the ever-growing list of reasons for why I loathe identity politics in general, and the authoritarian, or regressive, left in particular. It’s the second such incident on Twitter – the first involved my being screamed at because I dared to say that Islam is not a race (you can read about it here).
As noted above, I have since deleted all of my tweets on this subject. I know from bitter experience that it’s the only way to get any peace, unless I want to go totally dark for a few months.
But I stand by what I said originally; I hope that if you were outraged by what happened to Produce Aisle Woman – an act that was creepy as hell at best (seriously, do I have to actually say that? Isn’t it a fucking given?!) – then I hope you were also outraged by the treatment meted out to Alex of Target. If you weren’t or aren’t, and the reason you’re not is because he’s male, then your moral indignation would be more interesting to me if you weren’t so quite full of crap.
Note: The particular phrasing employed has been changed, although I’ve been careful to word everything in such a way that the meaning has been preserved. Names and screenshots are omitted to protect the innocent and the guilty (but I do have them). If any commenter tries to name names, the comment will be deleted.
Follow-up: January 2017
This whole thing happened in April 0f 2016, and the lady from the produce aisle has sunk deep into a well of obscurity. There have been no follow-up stories, no interviews, no media outlets finding her and doing stories on her months later; she continues to remain safely anonymous. Alex was the subject of a Cosmopolitan article over a year after the original incident. But I’m sure that some people will still try to make this into a competition that she wins because she’s a woman, and, in their worldview, women are weak and frail creatures that need protecting, while (at the time underage) guys don’t matter; these people are sexist vile moral vacuums.
Bilton, Nick. 2014. ‘Alex From Target: The Other Side of Fame’. The New York Times, November 12. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/style/alex-from-target-the-other-side-of-fame.html.
Evans, Dyna. 2014. ‘Who Is Alex From Target, and Why Is Teen Twitter Obsessed With Him?’ Gawker Media, November 3. http://archive.is/U2bvD.
Habib, Rachel. 2016. ‘When Did Stalking Become a Sweet Love Story?’ News.com.au, April 13. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/wtf/when-did-stalking-become-a-sweet-love-story/news-story/a008c24d1eba5fdb139b33af9f7d3790.
Sullivan, Rebecca. 2015. ‘Hot Dudes Reading Is the Greatest Instagram Account Ever’. News.com.au, February 10. http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/beauty/for-men/hot-dudes-reading-is-the-greatest-instagram-account-ever/news-story/c47dc68a99745fc122cf44be01c14f3c.