It was the nasty feminazis who were really at fault

Clementine Ford tells us about a thing that happened.

[E]arlier this week, a woman posted a lengthy diatribe to Facebook calling out a man who had engaged in threatening behaviour on public transport. The woman described him harassing three fellow female passengers, pressing into their personal space and insisting they give him high fives. After intervening, she took a photograph of the man and shared it alongside her Facebook post. It was quickly reposted by numerous people, including myself.

Shortly afterwards, unqualified rebuttals started appearing claiming this man had an intellectual disability. This was soon framed as him being autistic, with numerous people (who were not there) deciding this meant his behaviour was harmless and it was the nasty feminazis who were really at fault. Abusive comments (including the belief that she should have been raped and murdered by Adrian Bayley) were then hurled at the woman who wrote the original post. In deeply unsurprising news, she was also besieged with ‘dick pics’ – because of course, the best way to prove that gendered harassment of women doesn’t exist is to send unsolicited photographs of your penis alongside violent commentary.

Since then, the story has appeared on a handful of particularly vitriolic and paranoid men’s rights websites with the spurious claim of autism continually repeated. This is despite the fact none of these sites can actually provide the man’s name or indeed testimony from anyone other than untested ‘witnesses’ (who’ve done nothing to prove they were there). The Daily Telegraph‘s Tim Blair eagerly jumped in with a piece, offering up the bulk of his evidence in the form of a link to a fact-free blog post on the pustular website, Age of Shitlords – and yes, that is a name men seeking to be taken seriously are legitimately going by.

Does that sound familiar? It’s Elevatorgate all over again. There were lots of men – and a few women – insisting that Elevator Guy was autistic, on the basis of absolutely nothing except their desire to exculpate Elevator Guy and culpate his target.

And so now, the kinds of men who abhor ‘social justice warriors’ and fervently defend their right to use words like ‘retard’ – indeed, the kinds of men who support Donald Trump, a walking clusterfuck of offence who not only admits to sexually assaulting women but is on camera mocking a disabled journalist – are suddenly leaping on the opportunity to discredit women’s experiences once again by pretending they suddenly care about the disabled community. Of course, none of them seem able to correctly define autism, with phrases like “mentally handicapped” and “mental illness” being used as catch-alls. But what does that matter when there are bitches to roast for being oversensitive attention seekers?

It must be nice to live in a world where the experience of being harassed on public transport (and in public, generally) is so rare and so neutered that you can easily assume those who assess a situation as such view the world through, as one man put it, “an extremely narrow gaze”. It apparently isn’t relevant that women are constantly instructed to take precautions that safeguard us from harm. That we are told to be on the lookout for strange men and avoid interacting with them. That if we don’t follow this highly sensible and not at all pointless advice that we are ‘asking for it’ and should know what to expect. None of this matters – because the moment we do take measures to protect ourselves and give a heads up to other women too, we are accused of demonising all men and ruining the lives of individual ones.

Heads they win, tails we lose.

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