Category Archives: threats

How Melody Hensley is putting the bullies to shame

bully

 

Yesterday, a message arrived in my email inbox with the title “Are you happy to die a virgin,” a somewhat unusual question, I felt, not just because of its faulty premise but also because of its lack of the conventional question mark at the end. The email itself was equally blunt and illiterate:

You sound like a 40 y/o FAT VIRGIN living in a basement rotting away. Is manboobz.com your way of hide behind your own internal issues u refuse to face? Father issues???

Ah, here’s where the missing question mark went, along with some friends.

The sender appended a photo of an extremely obese Asian man at least 20 years my junior, mostly if not completely nude, along with the question (and I quote verbatim) “This this photo you??”

As hate mail goes, this isn’t particularly interesting and original. What got my attention was the sender: it came from the admin account at mensrightsmelbourne.com, an Australian Men’s Rights site taking much of its inspiration from Men’s Rights Edmonton (its website design) and A Voice for Men (its propaganda). So this wasn’t simply some anonymous internet troll sending me puerile hate mail: this is one of Australia’s most visible MRAs.

On the front page I noticed something else: A post with the title: “‘Twitter gave me PTSD’: Woman claims mean comments and ‘cyberstalking’ gave her an illness usually suffered by WAR VETERANS.”

The post – most of which is plagiarised directly from The Daily Mail, including the title itself – is an attack on Melody Hensley, a feminist and skeptic who is the Executive Director of Center for Inquiry in Washington DC. Hensley, who in the past suffered intense harassment from misogynists in the skeptic movement and other assorted assholes, is now facing a second wave of harassment as a result of saying publicly that the earlier harassment had given her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

That’s right: she’s being harassed for saying that harassment so fucked up her life that it gave her PTSD.

While much of the most vicious harassment this time is coming, as it did last time, from the misogynist wing of the atheist/skeptic movement, MRAs are jumping on board as well.

The “argument” of Hensley’s enemies? That she couldn’t possibly have gotten PTSD from “mean words” online. Men’s Rights blogger The Native Canadian put it this way:

PTSD from being a feminist on the internet? Yeah I bet she wakes up screaming at night because of all the mean words! Must be hard going day to day with flash backs of your friends being called “femnazi’s” right in front of you! How ever do you handle life? Fucking disgraceful b****. Let’s see her tell that to someone who really knows what living with PTSD is like. …

I’m sorry but I am totally shocked, I don’t know what else to say, other than, is there nothing sacred to these cat lovers?

And that’s pretty much the argument all of them make: based on nothing but their own vague notion that PTSD is a serious thing that only happens to soldiers, they’ve decided she’s a lying “b****” who is trying to steal the sympathy that rightly belongs to men. (Never mind that her comments on Twitter about veterans suffering from PTSD are always respectful.)

As Hensley has made clear, she’s not claiming that a few mean tweets gave her PTSD. On a page she’s set up to help raise money for research into PTSD she notes:

In July of 2013 I publicly disclosed that I had been diagnosed by my psychiatrist with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to more than a year of online harassment and abuse. The abuse -including death and rape threats- occurred on numerous websites and via email, phone, online postings, images, and videos.

Is it possible for this sort of harassment to cause PTSD? Well, according to someone who knows a lot more about the subject than me or The Native Canadian or the dude at Men’s Rights Melbourne or the staff writers at The Daily Mail, the answer is a clear yes. Caleb W. Lack, a licensed clinical psychologist and psychology professor who writes a blog called Great Plains Skeptic, and who is an expert on anxiety disorders, writes in a recent post on the Hensley controversy that

Bullying has long been known to have a severe impact on mental health, particularly if the bullying is repeated and prolonged. While research has traditionally focused on youth (as briefly reviewed here), more recent work has examined it’s impact on adults. as well, particularly in the workplace. Research focusing specifically on cyberbullying has found very similar results to “traditional” bullying, in terms of increased risk of depression, suicide, and anxiety. In youth, around a third of bullying victims display quite high rates of PTSD symptoms and rates are perhaps even higher in adults who are bullied.

So, given what we know about PTSD, and given what we know about the effects of bullying (cyber and otherwise) on mental health, I think it’s relatively safe to say that “Yes, you can ‘get’ PTSD from Twitter.” One needs to be careful, though, to be specific about this: it’s the bullying and harassment that could lead to PTSD or PTSD symptoms (as well as depression, increased suicidality, and so on), not anything inherent to Twitter itself. Twitter and other forms of social media are just a new tool to use to bully and harass others, but the underlying mechanisms and the results are the same as if these interactions were face to face.

The internet isn’t somehow apart from the “real world.” It’s a part of it, and actions on the internet have real world consequences. Unfortunately, the internet seems to magnify the power of bullies. But it may also magnify the power of bullying victims to fight back.

Of course, the bullies don’t want to acknowledge that what they are doing is bullying. Indeed, many of the worst bullies in the skeptic and Men’s Rights movements consider themselves “activists” — even though the bulk of their “activism” may consist of nothing more than harassing individuals. That may be part of what is driving the widespread refusal to accept that online harassment can lead to real trauma, including PTSD.

And that may be why the guy at Men’s Rights Melbourne — that is, a guy who sent me a crude, bullying email calling me a “FAT VIRGIN” — felt the need to weigh in on the Hensley’s case, and to insinuate ( in one of the few portions of his post that wasn’t plagiarised) that she’s making it all up.

But on some level the bullies know that they’re bullies. There’s no question that the new wave of harassment against Hensley is driven by one of the central dynamics of bullying — offline and on. Bullies love to pounce on anyone who shows signs of vulnerability, and Hensley’s announcement that she suffers from PTSD is a sign that the first wave of bullying got to her.

Happily, that’s not the whole story. What really seems to infuriate Hensley’s enemies is that she’s not acting like they think a victim should. She’s not shutting up and going away. She’s back on Twitter and responding to critics, because doing so gives her a sense of control over her bullies. She’s taking power away from them.

On A Voice for Men, Dean Esmay tries his best, in a barely coherent post, to paint her as a “professional damsel in distress” who deserves to be distressed some more. But the tweets of hers he reposts aren’t very damsel-like; they’re blunt and direct and they call out bullies by name. And when she posts them she knows she has the support of a lot of people who are as disgusted by the bullies as she is.

And while the bullies fulminate, she’s raising money for PTSD research. Because she’s an actual fucking activist, not a bully with a Twitter account, or a website, or a YouTube channel.

EDIT: There has been a lot of really good stuff written about Hensley and PTSD, particularly on Freethought Blogs. Here are some links to interesting, useful, insightful posts.

How could Twitter possibly cause PTSD? by Stephanie Zwan, documents some of the harassment.

What Melody Hensley Has to Teach You About Professionalism, an older (2013) piece by Zvan

Your Uninformed and Incorrect Opinions About Psychology, by Miri Mogilevsky

A Voice for Me – AVfM and Thunderfoot on PTSD, by Avicenna

PTSD and Me(lody), by Avicenna

Feel free to post more links in the comments!

NOTE TO DRIVE-BY ASSHOLES: If you want to talk about what a liar you think Melody Hensley is, don’t bother trying to post comments here. I mean, you can if you want; it’s just that it takes me a lot less time to throw them in the trash than it does for you to write them.

 

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After a feminist activist at Queen’s University reports being attacked, possibly by an MRA, the king of “fuck their shit up” responds with angry denial

Paul Elam: Anger is "pulsing through my veins like molten lava" at the very notion that MRAs are violent.

Paul Elam: Anger is “pulsing through my veins like molten lava.”

A student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, says she was attacked and beaten by a strange man after receiving threatening messages about her opposition to a Men’s Rights group on campus. On Thursday, Danielle d’Entremont posted a picture of her bruised face to Facebook along with this explanation:

Just walked out of my house and got attacked by a stranger. I was punched in the face multiple times and lost half my tooth. This was after a few threatening emails regarding my support for feminist activities on campus. I can’t say for sure if the two are connected, however the attacker was a male who knew my name.

The campus Men’s Issues Awareness Society (MIAS) – the group d’Entremont has been fighting – has condemned the attack, as has the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), which co-sponsored a talk the MIAS put on Thursday. The police are investigating.

Right now, this is pretty much all we know about the story. Not that it this has stopped MRAs from offering their very fervent opinions on the matter.

Before we get to them, here are a few of my own:

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Some of the comments I don’t let through

How comments are moderated at Man Boobz.

How comments are moderated at Man Boobz.

So I had to re-ban a couple of long-banned trolls today, who had returned with new names and slightly different IP addresses but who gave themselves away with their behavior. And that got me thinking about the people — well, the MRAs and PUAs and other such charming folks — who regularly denounce me as an evil censor of FREE SPEECH.

In fact, when I ban people, I do so for good reasons: one of the two trolls I banned today was a longtime MRAish commenter here who eventually creeped everyone out by boasting about having sex with underage prostitutes; the other was a man of many sockpuppets known for angry, abusive meltdowns full of slurs.

Anyway, so I thought I’d give you all a glimpse into my “trash” folder. Here’s a sampling of comments from would-be first time commenters at Man Boobz that I felt would not add anything to the discourse here. But in the interests of FREE SPEECH I thought I’d give these “ideas” an airing today.

TRIGGER WARNING for violent and offensive language. (Sorry about the quality of the last two; you can click on them to see larger versions.)

You people are such wankers. MGTOW is the best thing that ever happened. Personally, i despise women and would gladly see them all die horribly. This site is not only run bu a pathetic, wretched little scum, but populated by ones as well.Sad to say. But I see many good men get hurt by women. I feel not one drop of sympathy for any women who gets hurt, Beatin up or treated like shit. Cheers you dumb bitch.censored1censored2

Not all of the comments I trash are quite this awful. Some are only mildly violent or abusive. I tend to be a bit picky with people’s first comments, assuming that if someone posts a shitty first comment it’s not likely to get any better after that. There are a few banned commenters who stop by and try to post anyway, including one fellow who leaves endless comments trying to prove, as far as I can tell, that teenage girls are objectively hotter than women in their twenties and older.

And, of course, there are comments targeting individual women, whether these are giant cut-and-pasted rants about Anita Sarkeesian, vaguely threatening remarks aimed at other well-known internet feminists, or bizarre sexual comments about female MRAs from fans of theirs.

Once in a while I will get a comment from a feminist that resorts to violent language; I don’t let those comments through either.

And then there are the pictures people try to post in the comments. Below, one of the ones I actually let through, depicting me in a dress with some extremely tall dude. A quick Google image search reveals that it was originally posted online by regular A Voice for Men contributor Janet Bloomfield, in a blog post of hers from last year on Disney princesses. Stay classy, Men’s “Human Rights” Movement!

I don't actually own a dress like this.

I don’t actually own a dress like this.

Anyway, the pictures I don’t let through are worse.

A Voice for Men’s Honey Badgers ask: Why hasn’t Anita Sarkeesian been harassed MORE?

A Voice for Men’s so-called “Honey Badgers” — its little super-team of female MRAs, led by blabby Canadian videoblogger Karen “GirlWritesWhat” Straughan — have a new theory about Anita Sarkeesian. And it’s a doozy.

Sarkeesian, you may recall, is a feminist cultural critic who’s faced pretty much nonstop harassment from misogynistic internet assholes since she launched a project to dissect sexist tropes in video games. AVFM has contributed, in its own special way, to this wave of harassment, with articles describing Sarkeesian as, among other things, a “moneygrubbing liar” and a “queen bee … girl interloper” in the world of video games; AVFM’s Dean Esmay also held her partially responsible, along with an assortment of other internet feminists, for the suicide of one Canadian Men’s Rights Activist.

The principals at AVFM have blamed her for — either inadvertently or deliberately – bringing this harassment on herself by going to 4chan and posting about her project. (As I noted in a previous post, there’s no actual evidence she ever did this.)

The Honey Badgers, for their part, are certain that getting harassed by 4chaners was  part of her devious plan all along.

In a teaser for their internet “radio” show tonight, the “Honey Badger” known as TyphonBlue writes:

Like all professional damsels in distress, Anita Sarkeesian had to choose a good dragon. Just the right looming shadow to fall over her delicate and fragile sensibilities; just the right cackling stage-villain to inspire her cries of helpless horror.

She chose 4-chan. An internet forum known for it’s underbelly of foul-tempered and hair-triggered trolls.

Then, after accusing Sarkeesian of inviting countless rape and death threats upon herself (and only a portion of it from 4channers, I should add), the Badgers take their weird conspiracy theory one step further:

But we at Honey Badger Radio have noticed something… odd. The wave of so-called hate that Anita received from her carefully chosen dragon, wasn’t really all that bad.

Yeah. A year and a half (so far) of pretty much unending harassment and baseless criticism, complete with violent threats directed not only at her but at other women who have defended her — that’s nothing.

Compared to 4-chan’s usual scorched earth strategy–raizing [sic] everything to the ground and pissing on the ashes, Anita got a little singed, like she sat too close to a campfire.

So we have to ask… Did 4-chan white knight Anita? I mean, come on. Was that the best 4 chan could do?

Yes, that’s right. The Honey Badgers are accusing those who sent rape and death threats to Anita Sarkeesian … of “white knighting” her.

I can’t even.

Men’s Rights Jeopardy: I’ll take “Kill the B*tch” for two dozen upvotes, Alex.

MRAs: Perpetually furious

MRAs: Perpetually furious

So over on the Men’s Rights subreddit, a fella named dzogen came by to vent about his unfair divorce.

Seems his “freeloader and loser” of an ex-wife — a former drug addict — sits around the house eating bon bons while happily collecting $2500 a month in child support for the five year old kid they had together. Also, she treats him with disrespect. “Meanwhile,” the poor fella wrote, for an added dose of pathos, “I have to survive on PB&J.”

*cough*shitthatneverhappened*cough*

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Facebook: Page advocating murder of feminist blogger “doesn’t violate our community standard on bullying and harassment.”

facebookwthumbflipped

Several months ago, you may recall, feminist activists got Facebook to agree to remove blatant sexist hate speech from its site — much to the chagrin of many Men’s Rights Activists, like Paul Elam of A Voice for Men, who declared, in a post filled with alarmist rhetoric, that “feminist ideologues are co-opting Facebook, and they will root out any and all opposition to their worldview.” AVFM’s John Hembling, meanwhile, denounced the feminist activists as “fascists.”

Ever since then, Men’s Rights activists have been playing a game of “gotcha” with Facebook, trying to prove that the hate-speech monitors there only care about misogynist hate speech, and don’t actually care about hate speech directed at men. Every few days, it seems, there is a new thread in the Men’s Rights subreddit purporting to document this alleged “double standard.”

Ten days ago, for example, a Men’s Rights Redditor called dizzy_j got nearly 400 upvotes for a post complaining that “I reported three anti-men Facebook pages for gender-based hate speech today. Only one was removed.”  Six days ago,  DerDietrich got 580 upvotes for submitting this supposed evidence of a double standard. Trouble is, you can’t actually prove a double standard with a handful of examples.

But I would like to suggest an alternate hypothesis, which also fits the anecdotal data provided thus far by the MRAs, and provide an additional piece of anecdotal evidence that supports my theory and undercuts theirs.

My hypothesis is that Facebook is shitty at recognizing and dealing with hate speech and harassment, no matter whom it’s aimed at.

My evidence for this? Well, yesterday bloggers at Skepchick noticed a Facebook page targeting a specific feminist/skeptic blogger and asking if she “should … be murdered.” The anonymous poster — who identified her by name and posted pictures of her on the page — coyly avoided a literal call for murder, writing instead:

We should not ever break the law. Rather, we should advocate , through lawful land constitutional processes, to have the law changed so that it is legal to kill [name redacted by DF]. Alternatively, we should, where legal, request that [name redacted by DF] kill herself. Relevant laws should be changed so that suicide, and advocating suicide, is legal.

The Skepchick bloggers reported the page to Facebook for its obvious violations of the site’s harassment policies.

And they received this reply from Facebook (I’ve covered up the blogger’s name):

facebookharassnoteREdact

I think it’s fair to say that if Facebook can’t recognize a page calling for the literal murder of someone as harassment there is something very wrong with its system for dealing with harassment and hate speech.

The page has since been taken down, though it’s not clear if it was removed by Facebook or by the original anonymous Facebooker.

Get your act together, Facebook.

Jane Austen and the Rape-Threatening Men

The face that launched a thousand threatening tweets.

The face that launched a thousand threatening tweets.

NOTE: Today is Day Two of the Man Boobz Pledge Drive. If you haven’t already, please consider clicking the little button below and sending some bucks my way.

Thanks! (And thanks again to all who’ve already donated.) Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

So what sorts of things make some men so furious that they feel the need to send women they’ve never met literal death and rape threats on the internet? It doesn’t take much, apparently. A woman suggesting that it’s not such a good idea to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM. A woman making  videos suggesting that there’s sexism in video games. A woman captured on video telling some men to shut the fuck up. A woman complaining about sexist jokes at a tech conference.

Add to this: a woman campaigning successfully to have Jane Austen’s face put on the Bank of England’s ten pound notes.

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Drama! Men’s Rights Reddit threatened with shutdown after two of its mods are caught helping doxers

caught

Earlier this week, as you may recall, Men’s Rights Redditors pretended they were shocked – shocked! – that anyone might think that MRAs had anything to do with the doxing and harassment of that red-haired Canadian activist we’ve been discussing. Couldn’t be them! Had to be … trolls!

Then on Wednesday the Men’s Rights Redditors found a blog post by a woman claiming to be a “conservative feminist” with a recently minted doctorate who was working in her alma mater’s admissions office — and, she claimed, rejecting out of hand all the applications that she thought were “dripping with white male privilege.”

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So who exactly has been harassing that red-haired Canadian feminist? A not-quite-scientific survey

MRAs rarely let facts get in the way of their tantrums

MRAs rarely let facts get in the way of their tantrums

So the Men’s Rights subreddit has temporarily relaxed its policy of not allowing links to the terrible cesspool of lies that is Man Boobz to allow this post attacking me for detailing the disgusting threats and harassment a certain Canadian feminist activist has faced in recent days.

Most of the commenters flatly ignored the evidence of doxing and harassment that I included in my post — if they even bothered to read it — and simply invented their own story of what had happened. Instead of denouncing those who left death threats, they attacked me and the activist in question. And blamed all the ugliness on “trolls.”

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Canadian feminist activist receives death threats and other abuse after being targeted by Men’s Rights Activists

youtubeREDHangled

And so the MRAs have found yet another woman to hate.

Earlier this month, as many of you no doubt know, a Men’s Rights group sponsored a lecture at the University of Toronto. The event drew protesters, and the protesters drew MRAs with video cameras. One of the MRAs filmed a confrontation between a red-haired feminist activist and a number of MRAs who continually interrupted her as she tried to read a brief statement.

Her crime? She wasn’t exactly polite in responding to the interrupters. And so, after video of the confrontation was uploaded to YouTube, and linked to on the Men’s Rights subreddit and elsewhere, she became a virtual punching bag for the angry misogynists of the internet.

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