Back in May, I posted an anti-street harassment cartoon to Femestella’s Instagram account. The cartoon was drawn by the one and only artist Gemma Correll (@gemmacorrell) and depicted a real-life interaction that happened to comic Louise Hung.
While walking down the street, the girl encounters a man walking his dog. The man says to her, “Bitch smiles at the dog but won’t look me in the eye.” The girl then thinks, “A dog would never speak to me like that. That’s why.”
It really rang true for me. I get lewd comments and stares about every other day. And before you ask, what I wear is irrelevant.
And it seemed to ring true for thousands of other women as well. When Gemma posted the illustration to her own page, it got more than 24.5K likes.
But the disturbing part is the incredible amount of horrific comments left by men on Femestella’s post (Gemma’s had her fair share as well).
And when I say “horrific”, I mean horrific. Men were aggressively attacking women, calling us whores, cunts, and more. Below are some of the most upsetting comments:
Of course, we know that social media has enabled, and even encouraged, users to abuse their anonymity to write things they’d rarely dare say out loud.
But these men were revealing their innermost thoughts. And they were angry.
I used the hashtag #MenAreTrash on the post and so many of the trolls attacked my use of the phrase. But reading their women-hating comments, all I could think is that these men truly were trash.
Obviously, I recognize that this is just a sub-sect of the male race. And I don’t truly believe that all men are trash. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate men because I am a feminist.
But these men clearly hated women. They hated us for rejecting them. They hated us for speaking up for ourselves. They hated us for taking away their power over us.
I know that these trolls existed way before Trump was elected (just ask Lindy West) and they will exist long after. But I can’t help wonder how much Trump’s election has increased the amount of comments, the amount of misogynist trolls.
We elected a man to the highest position in the nation and what used to be the highest position in the world (I believe that honor now belongs to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel). This is a man who brags about sexual assault and never apologies for his constant degradation of women. We talk so often about how he has empowered white nationalists and Nazis (we even have a self-proclaimed Nazi running for congress, Arthur Jones).
But what we rarely talk about is how he has empowered misogyny. He has given these men the go-ahead to say what they like and do what the like. He has told them that their hatred of women is acceptable. Because not only are men anonymously leaving comments on Twitter and Instagram, but they are also out in overtly flaunting their misogynist ideas in public.
I feel fortunate to live in a time when a new wave of feminism is erupting and women feel empowered to fight for their rights. But it’s terrifying to think that in 2018, we still have to fight this hard. That after 45 years of Roe v. Wade, we are still very much at risk of losing our autonomy over our bodies. That despite numerous studies proving that birth control leads to fewer teenage pregnancies, that free birth control is not a given. That despite the evidence that sex education also leads to fewer teen moms, we still have multiple states that refuse to accept the truth.
Reading the comments on our Instagram post, which continue to roll in two months later, are a stark reminder that we are nowhere near where we thought we are. Because let’s stop kidding ourselves, equal rights, and perhaps more importantly, equal respect, are a far cry away.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel (by far!), but when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her hanging with her kitty Tom or tweeting at Sen. Chuck Schumer.