meet the many faces of anti feminist trolling…
What is it that drives the internet's anti-feminist troll brigade?
The internet is a wonderful place that allows everyone, the world over, to share their views and implement change. Unfortunately, some of those views inevitably come in the form of aggressive and hurtful comments, aggression spewed out from behind a lonely computer screen. With every #heforshe, #freethenipple or #askhermore movement, there comes the backlash. And while it's easy to imagine that anti-feminist trolls resemble the sort of testosterone-charged gym dude that catcall from moving cars, as everybody eventually discovers, evil comes in many forms.
Of course there are men who think of tearing down a woman's rights and resorting to degrading and sexist comments as playful banter. On discovering that only 29% of people following our #freethenipple coverage last month were female, for example, i-D didn't have to think too long or hard to figure out why. "It's because we like titties!" pointed out one reader. "DON'T KNOW YET POST MORE PICTURE PLEASE", requested another. "If they want to see some male nipples I'll help out. Or do they want a snap of a D or DBag? Either way Happy to help equality", graciously volunteered some bro on twitter, missing the point somewhat but hitting misogyny right on the head with a huge obnoxious dick. A battle of ignorant statements and calls-to-arms ensued. One UKIP-supporting young man with the twitter bio "He who dares, wins! #LFC #England" kindly reposted our report on the freeing of the Icelandic nipple, but couldn't help himself when he took a shining to the girl in the accompanying image, commenting "great funbags " and perhaps not realizing the superb irony of his action. "She's stacked!" observed a further male. "You could hang a wet duffel coat on that nipple!"
But it wasn't just these banterous individuals that had something to say. Interestingly one teenage girl asked "so this is an actual thing now?!" with another adding "it's for attention. End of story". Weirder still was a smiling middle aged man whose twitter handle was genuinely @[his daughter's name]S_DAD. Nestled in a timeline of happy selfies with his young daughter sat internet-sourced submissions to @bobsbestboobs and the comment "absolutely gorgeous" in response to our free the nipple campaign imagery. One assumes he was referring to the breasts and not the movement, which, coming from a twitter account that literally uses the name of his toddler, is quite disturbing. Is it solely ignorance and a skewed moral compass that leads to such inappropriate conduct? Or are there deeper issues involved? Do some people really hate the idea of equality that much?
As highlighted in a recent This American Life podcast titled IF YOU DON'T HAVE ANYTHING NICE TO SAY, SAY IT ALL IN CAPS, many trolls are simply lonely people letting their own dissatisfaction and anger manifest itself in something totally uncalled for; often something tailored and cutting. When writer and comedian Lindy West spoke out about the issues of rape jokes, she was met with not only friendly jibes like "you're too fat to rape, but perhaps they'll saw you up with an electric knife" but also forced to suffer abuse from a fake troll-run account claiming to be her recently deceased father. As much as she tried to follow the common advice of DON'T FEED THE TROLLS, she found this particularly difficult to stomach so wrote a hefty response to the situation on Jezebel. Bizarrely, the next morning she awoke to an email apology. Her troll of many months was reminded that there was "a living breathing human being who is reading this shit. I am attacking someone who never harmed me in any way. And for no reason whatsoever." Well… yeah.
Isn't it ironic (don't you think?) that these anti-feminist trolls, seemingly so opposed to the points of view of many a woman, obsessively follow the work of feminist writers for the sole reason of destroying their arguments? Do they really have nothing better to do? They hate the messages these women are spreading (or perhaps just the fact that women are spreading messages rather than their legs) and yet they let it consume their lives. Have you ever heard of a feminist writer who passes her time stalking the words of anti-feminists and looking for a fight? Neither have we. We imagine they're far too busy campaigning for equal wages, despairing at rape culture and calling for an end to female infanticide. In an age where it's shocking that gender inequality is still an issue, we need more women speaking out and silencing the empty words of trolls, whoever they are, for good.
Text Francesca Dunn
Photography Ann Althouse