Last week on Comment is Free Rowenna Davis wrote about how men’s voices still seem to be dominating online spaces. This week, Joanna Geary and other participants at SXSW Interactive have been reporting back on panel discussions that have taken place there with titles like Why is Professional Blogging Bloodsport for Women? and That’s Not My Name: Beating Down Online Misogyny. And yet despite the fact that numerous female bloggers have now spoken up about the amounts of abuse and harassment they’ve experienced in the blogosphere, there are still those who refuse to acknowledge that online misogyny even exists, or that women, particularly those of us who identify as feminists, receive way more than our fair share of abuse and vitriol when we venture into cyberspace.

Now admittedly, while I was away last week there were some pretty intemperate discussions taking place on this blog; tempers flared, things got a bit heated, and at one point I had to step in and remind people about my comment policy. However, I have to say, after reading through the comments on the tackling violence against women thread, I was surprised to see some posters claiming that Polly’s comment to AllyF was one of the nastiest, most shocking things they’d ever read online, and other posters arguing that radical feminist contributors were among the most abusive and aggressive they’d ever encountered.


At one point JayReilly even saw fit to declare that Comment is Free has no “abusive nutters”, and gave the impression that everything over on CiF is lovely and friendly and all we ever do over there is engage each other in stimulating, respectful, intellectual debate.

Well I’ve got news for Jay. He may take issue with the way the CiF moderation team works sometimes, but there’s a reason they’re employed, and it’s not just to piss him and his mates off.

I’ve been writing for CiF for nearly two years now, and as some of you are probably aware, in that time there have been a significant number of comments deleted from my threads. What people don’t know is that, nerdy librarian that I am, I actually managed to copy down some of those comments before they disappeared. Let’s just say I had a feeling they might come in handy one day.

So here, for your delectation, is a selection from the contents of what I like to call my “Nasty CiF” file:

“Cath-suck on my phat one, bitch”

“Why don’t you take the piss out of Eid or Ramadan, let’s see how well that goes down with your editors, eh? Then again, what other point of view should we expect from a filthy lesbian?”

“Go fuck yourself, pervert”

“You arrogant drone”

“I don’t look at Cath Elliot and read her rantings and exactly think “mummy”. And I doubt many men would look at her and listen to her and think ‘I want that woman to be the mother of my children’.”

“Cath Elliot: You should be ashamed of yourself for this article.. just what is your fucking hang up about men? Get your fuckin head together and stop trying to be sensationalist”

“Slightly off topic, but judging by the photo at the top, Cath Elliott is one of the ugliest women I have ever been unfortunate to witness.”

“what is truly annihilating the family is misandrist feminist media bitches like you”

“If there is a more stupid and pointless woman than Cath Elliot on the planet she should get in touch with the Guardian”

“I disagree, you ugly boring sac of pus.”

“I presume that is the picture of the dog at the top of the page? It is certainly very ugly and I would suggest the best thing would be to put the sock over its head.”

“Isn’t it amazing that women who are the most vocal abortion rights activists are L E S B I A N S. Irony at its finest.”

“From the way she demonizes men I shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Ms Elliott is a lesbian. Not that there’s anything wrong with that in itself. Merely that it goes a long way to explain such anti-male vitriol.”

“I find it highly unlikely that anyone has whistled at you for quite some time Cath, unless it was getting you to heel.”

“I had to check the date on this article; maybe I had fallen into a time warp. Has this tedious little lesbian been sleeping under a stone since 1971? Just move on, it’s not the least bit interesting any more. And looking at her picture, every self-respecting man will avert their gaze when passing her in the street. For heaven’s sake, don’t take your clothes off.”

“I can only imagine that ‘man’ that wolf-whistled at you and stared at your breasts was in fact a very butch lesbian. I mean, you’re hardly top-totty are you?”

“Seeing her picture I don’t expect the author of the article to be a frequent victim of harassment and whistling. Could that be her real problem?”

“I feel nagged into a homicidal rage just by reading your articles!”

“Utter garbage, Cath Elliott. Next you’ll be screaming that no-one (male, that is) has any right to disagree with you. That is, after all, your sexist agenda of control, manipulation and lesbian pro-homosexual misandry….You are merely pandering to your own hypocritical man-hating agenda. Thus it is you who is the abuser and you simply distort the abuse of women for your own perceived benefit. Like (male) politicians, you care nothing about (heterosexual) women in society, in effect……Thus you are manufacturing and touting a lie to cater to your own intended fringe group’s infiltration of society and dishonestly promoting homosexuality as a mainstream lifestyle. .”

“I am a frank person. I think your homosexuality makes you think funny. I know you have to be very careful about discussing reality these days, but homosexuality will alter the thinking of a human being from normal straight thinking to other kinds of mixed up thinking. It is my opinion you have these extreme reactions and radical opinions because you don’t think straight because you are homosexual. I am not trying to be mean or hurtful. I am trying to be factual and diagnose you like a doctor. Please don’t take what I say in a negative way.”

“Why is it always ugly women that are the strongest feminists?”

“keep your nasty, censorious, smug moral self righteousness to yourself and mind your own fucking business.”

“One of the most virulent male-hating feminists in the mass media. And if Cath Elliott doesn’t like it, perhaps she had better stop writing articles that spew out such hatred. Otherwise she must expect to have some of us on her back for as long as it takes to knock some sense into that thick skull”

In addition to these examples I’ve also had my suitability to be a parent called into question, and been accused of being too ugly for any man to want to rape.

Just to be clear, I’m not citing these examples in order to claim any kind of victim status, and I’m most certainly not trying to say that CiF or other online forums are too scary or intimidating for women to enter. I love being a part of CiF (most of the time), I only wish more feminist women would comment on there. No, I’m just trying to show that despite the blinkers JayReilly and other recent commenters here seem to be wearing, abuse and misogyny (and homophobia) are rife on the Internet, including on well-moderated popular newspaper sites like the Guardian’s Comment is Free.

In my view the only way we’re ever going to ensure that this kind of hate is marginalised, as it should be, is by making our voices louder, outnumbering the haters and the abusers and making sure our arguments and our points of view get a fair hearing. And while I’m a firm advocate of safe spaces for women, and believe that feminist blogs have every right to refuse to publish misogynist anti-woman comments, I don’t believe that retreating into women-only spaces and then refusing to engage outside of those places is the answer.

Which is why I try to do a bit of both.

Interestingly, when I’ve written about this issue for CiF in the past, a lot of the comments I got back were along the lines of  “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”, and I see that Rowenna Davis has received similar on her comment thread. Would that be from the very same posters who came on here last week and decided they’d never comment here again because some of the nasty feminists were so vitriolic their delicate egos couldn’t handle it?

Hmmm……I wonder.

Incidentally, I’m not defending some of the comments that have been made on this blog in recent weeks, and I would ask again that everyone have a look at the comment policy and try in future to refrain from personal abuse; but what I am saying is that if the blokes posting here think those comments are bad, they might want to spend some time posting elsewhere as feminist women, and see what sort of responses they get then.

‘Cos believe me, they ain’t seen nothing yet.