Collective targeted abuse

Catherine Bennett analogizes misogynist abuse of Rowling to the abuse of Salman Rushdie when the fatwa was issued:

Anyone who was around for the Rushdie fatwa may have been reminded of remarks by some eminent UK figures to the effect that, since he had caused actual book burnings and whatnot, he really should have known better. You often got the impression that a British-born target would have elicited more sympathy. “I would not shed a tear,” said the historian Lord Dacre, “if some British Muslims, deploring his manners, should waylay him in a dark street and seek to improve them.”

He wasn’t One of Us, and neither is Rowling.

In the case of Troubled Blood, not much changed after readers failed to spot any vilification of cross-dressers or of trans people. My colleague Nick Cohen’s reading is supported by early reader reviews on Amazon: “ignore the sensationalist headlines”, one writes, “this isn’t ‘that’ novel”.

But let’s abuse her anyway.

Maybe Rowling wasn’t trolling everyone via Strike, after all? Yes, but she is still JK Rowling, infuriatingly uncancelled by the latest Twitter charge sheet – and, maybe most galling of all, powerful and female. That’s enough, since nothing has been done to combat increasingly extreme and pervasive levels of misogynistic hate speech on social media, to guarantee an offending woman’s exposure to collective, targeted, sexualised abuse.

For the sake of standing up for those most downtrodden, fragile, vulnerable, at risk people of all…men. Women who refuse to agree that men are women if they say they are must face maximum level abuse; it’s only fair.

If you compare the online correction of male as opposed to female sympathisers with Rowling, what’s fuelling much of this new literary criticism is, as James Kirkup noted in the Times, dismally obvious: “It’s about people who hate women.” (Naturally, nobody immediately told Mr Kirkup to choke…) There were objections, but if the Rowling death hashtag was not rooted in misogyny, what explains the relentless rape speak, and the absence of similarly dehumanising insults when Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid in Harry Potter) volunteered his support for the author? That is, if it’s not the great misogyny facilitator, Twitter itself.

…The less easily her book could be represented as a suitable candidate for Goebbels treatment, the more last week’s indulgently curated insults added to the evidence marshalled by Laura Bates, and consistently indicated in earlier research, that the misogyny of the manosphere has permeated mainstream culture. In 2018, Amnesty identified Twitter as “a toxic place for its female users”. Now, regardless of earnest pledges to improve, the reach of its orchestrated abuse must be the envy of the most rabid subreddit.

So long as misogyny stays off the list of hate crimes, and endemic male violence against women remains a negligible political concern, it evidently suits both certain campaigners and this social media platform to keep up their contributions to the spread of professional, private and street-located hate.

We thought misogyny was going to fade away. We did not think it was going to come roaring back.

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