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Fighting rape culture 'Female journalists have quit the profession due to online abuse'

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Sadly, feminism has become a dirty word. Admitting feminist values is oft met with an eye-roll or mutterings about “wokeism”, writes Eve Tawfick.

The movement no longer stands as a pillar of strength for females seeking equality but has been reduced to a meme.

Similar to any in-depth ideology that has been reduced to meme level, the message of true feminism is often lost amongst the Facebook echo chamber.

International Women's Day 2022 (55292385)
International Women's Day 2022 (55292385)

Much like the motivational industry, which has been marginalised into the world of online #BossBabes and people flogging wax melts, feminism has become the badge of angry women with an aversion to soap.

On one social media post calling feminism “cancer” an angry woman is depicted with her first in the air. It has the caption “Third wave feminism says men are aggressive rapists”.

The post had thousands of likes and shares.

“Women want it all, they are never happy” said one Facebook user underneath.

Eve Tawfick making the sign of International Women's Day (55293133)
Eve Tawfick making the sign of International Women's Day (55293133)

The internet helped give birth to the "manosphere". The manosphere is a collection of websites, blogs, and online forums promoting masculinity, misogyny, and strong opposition to feminism.

The 2016 documentary film The Red Pill, explores the crop of controversial men's rights movements that have sprung up as a counterweight to third wave feminism.

Groups and films like these are nothing if not divisive, yet they are becoming more commonplace as women's voices become louder on issues such as sexual abuse and exploitation.

The majority of women do not think men are rapists, but acknowledge that rape culture exists. The idea that women see all men as sexual predators is reductionist at best, and belongs in a locked box along with with racism and Ann Widdecombe.

Female journalists, celebrities and influencers are often threatened with rape by men on a daily basis.

Amnesty International’s survey on women’s experiences of abuse and harassment on social media in 2017 said: “46 per cent of women responding to the survey who had experienced online abuse or harassment said it was misogynistic or sexist in nature and 36 per cent of women in the UK said it made them feel that their safety was threatened.”

The Guardian reported in 2020 that online abuse of females was “flourishing” and Plan International’s 2020 survey of online abuse said that 58 per cent of girls experienced online harassment.

If we truly want to break barriers, we need to start with the basics.

Abuse is often sexually explicit. The biology of woman is used against her both socially and in the workplace.

A woman’s work is so often tied to her physical appearance be it pleasing, or displeasing to an audience. Women like J-Lo, who defy ageing, are hailed as the epitome of success. Whereas women like Susan Sarandon are lambasted for daring to show cleavage over the age of 50.

Both of these examples display perfectly the conundrum of women. Her successes, however vast, are viewed through the lens of her beauty, her breasts, her tautness. That same beauty is also used against her through threats of sexual abuse. A woman can neutralise herself, but she can never escape the truth between her legs that acts as bullseye for misogynistic arrows.

Women live and work in a society that still bears the imprint of patriarchy from an age long gone.

Some people crave the old days, where a slap on the bottom and casual workplace sexism were just part of everyday life.

Others think that feminism has “gone too far” and serves to stifle male voices. Men say they can “no longer look at a woman’s breasts or give them a compliment” without the threat of a HR meeting.

To say that feminism hasn’t gone far enough would be ideologically obtuse, but in the same breath I think in some respects in could go further.

No, feminism shouldn’t mean the silence of men. But it should mean the end of rape culture, and sexually pointed insults.

I feel there is a middle ground, where the appreciation of the female form doesn’t have to feel exploitative or abusive and where women’s work is consumed and criticised based on merit alone - irrespective of her cup size.

I don’t feel the need to threaten Louis Theroux with rape if I don’t like his latest documentary, nor do I sexualise Keir Starmer or Boris Johnson when they give a speech.

Is it so much to ask for the same respect?

International Women's Day 2022 (55291707)
International Women's Day 2022 (55291707)

"Comments like this seem inconsequential, that we should just be pleased to be able to leave the house"

By Jenny Beake

Women supporting women is vital in all areas of life. I was inspired by seeing Eve Tawfick’s name in the Lynn News and it kick-started my ambition to write for the paper, writes Jenny Beake.

Sometimes seeing a woman doing a job, in whatever capacity, while juggling (all those balls in the air) a family life, is a strong message to all women that they can do that too.

Soroptimist International is a worldwide volunteer service organisation for women who work for peace, and in particular to improve the lives of women and girls, in local communities and throughout the world.

Eve came up with the idea to live on a food bank diet for a week and as usual roped me into it. I was happy to oblige and the article was put up online.

Comments under the article ranged from positive and negative for those who had read it.

Other comments were directed at the way we looked in the picture, our clothing and a sexually related comment that had nothing to do with the article or in my opinion relevant to the object of our endeavour.

Comments like this may seem inconsequential, that we should just brush it off, laugh it off, be pleased as females that we are even able to leave the house.

But they add up over time, like termites, slowly eating away, undermining and destructive, that without the tough exterior and thick skin of Janet Street Porter can legitimately affect us.

An article called Perspectives lists the kind of comments that females within the media have had to read and endure.

It states: “Gender based-threats and abuse online have forced some women journalists to reduce their social media presence or even quit the profession.”

Usually I just ignore the trolls just like any other bullies who need constant validation for being negative and unkind.

But I will always defend myself and the achievements of other women and think in any tricky situation; “How would Eleanor Roosevelt deal with this?”

The Lynn News has a Women’s Voices section within the online menu and it is always great to hear your stories.

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