Get out the ducking stool

This again. A woman has the unmitigated temerity to have a job as political editor for the BBC – a job that had previously always belonged to a man. Someone draws up a petition to get her fired, and – surprise surprise! – it attracts the usual torrents of sexist abuse. In other news, some grass grew today.

The majority of those signing and supporting the petition expressed concerns about what they saw as biased reporting of the Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn by Kuenssberg. However, some supporters on social media used abusive and sexist language in calling for the BBC’s first female political editor to go.

Of course they did. It is not possible for people to disagree with a woman in public without the torrents of sexist abuse appearing. (Then of course petitioning to get her fired goes a bit beyond disagreeing with her.)

Prior to the petition being taken down, former Independent on Sunday political editor Jane Merrick told the Guardian that Kuenssberg had faced an extra layer of sexist criticism. “She has been called a whore and a bitch on Twitter,” said Merrick. “Nick Robinson used to be accused of Tory bias but he never experienced this level of nastiness.”

“Of course, not all Corbyn supporters are sexist – far from it – but there is a core of hard-left misogyny that comes out against women when Corbyn is under pressure – such as the abuse against Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips. Jeremy Corbyn said back in September he wanted a ‘kinder politics’ so he should condemn these vile attacks against a respected and experienced journalist.”

I don’t think it’s hard-left misogyny, it’s just misogyny. It’s everywhere. It’s considered hip and funny to trash women, so lots and lots of people do it.

Laura Bates knows this.

The petition, which accused Kuenssberg of biased reporting against the Labour party and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, attracted abusive and sexist language among some of those supporting it, according to 38 Degrees executive director David Babbs.

While some have tried to argue that the problem is nonexistent, you don’t have to look very far to find evidence of abusive and misogynistic messages being directed at, or about, Kuenssberg.

Posts calling Kuenssberg a bitch, a whore and a slag are not hard to spot on social media. Others refer to her as a cow and a cunt. Some people write that they’d like to kill her. One post included a picture of a scene from Return of the Jedi with Kuenssberg’s face Photoshopped on to that of Princess Leia in the famous gold-bikini scene and David Cameron’s face superimposed on Jabba the Hutt. It describes her as “Cameron’s slave girl”.

She’s a woman. Women are there to be degraded and demonized. Everybody hates women.

The situation calls to mind the recent phenomenon of so-called “Bernie Bros”, which saw some grassroots activists using graphic and abusive misogyny and sexist online memes to attack Hillary Clinton (although this too was vociferously denied by Sanders supporters).

Not to mention the apparent Republican candidate.

This is a problem commonly attributed to the left, but nobody has the monopoly on misogyny – it is sadly too widespread for that. Whether sexism rears its head in the political conversations of stuffy and elite male-only club-rooms or in the feverish urgency of social media crusades and online petitions, the result is often the same: built-in methods to tackle systemic gender inequality don’t figure highly in the resulting campaigns and movements. You don’t have to be deliberately or directly sexist yourself to be part of the problem by attempting to diminish it.

Yes but it’s only women. Everybody hates women.

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