Tuesday, 6 August 2013

A World Without Trolls

It's agreed; we all hate rape trolls. But the clamour for #twittersilence and desperate apology by Tony Wang is where I get off the bandwagon. After all, if threats arrive through your letter box do you stop talking to the postman? A single threat of rape is terrifying and newsworthy across any medium, an instance of low level sexual harassment of the type documented by @everydaysexism is not, but the shockingly large numbers of the latter are part of this debate thanks to the aggregating power of Twitter. For making us aware and ready to act Twitter is the hero, trolls the villain.

There is a way to stop trolling of all kinds, but it asks more of us than nagging technology companies. First we need to be honest about where the trolls are and admit that, although sexism can be found at all levels of society, it's more prevalent and more violent at the lower end of the income scale. Next we must ask, what makes lots of men, but particularly poor men, resent women? The most obvious suspect is the only social space where the rich and poor spend any amount of time together: school.

Girls do better than boys at school because the behaviour school rewards is doing what you're told, the way you're told to do it. Boys are caught between this expectation to conform and cultural pressure to do the opposite, to be independent, risk-taking men. Girls don't face this dilemma; school and society at large welcome their submissiveness and they are rewarded with higher grades, grades that signify future wealth and job security.

Poor men, before they are men, are boys with low grades. The sets they are taught in are predominately, sometimes exclusively, male. Don't forget what it feels like to be in the bottom set; the clue's in the name: 'you're the bottom, you're shit, you're stupid'. We systematically humiliate working class children, boys in particular, so we shouldn't be surprised that they turn round and spit venom at the middle-class girls we praise to the skies.

If you doubt that this is the dynamic playing out here, take a look at this exchange on the Ask.fm page of Hannah Smith, who recently committed suicide:

Troll: “u ugly **** go die evry1 wuld be happy.”

Hannah: yes I may be ugly, but you obviously have an ugly personality to tell people to ‘go die’. Oh and btw I think you may need a dictionary love.”

Some people argue that 'someone's got to be the bottom', usually they're people who were near the top. But if you can't imagine an education system without humiliation as its bedrock then you aren't as clever as you think you are. And if you think that humiliation is somehow natural and right then you are committed to a world full of angry, jealous, nasty people. People shown no respect, show none to others. 

I've changed my mind. I don't hate the trolls, I hate the troll factories.

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