Kaitlyn Bristowe, ABC’s eleventh Bachelorette, has become the latest high-profile target of Twitter trolling. She was deluged with messages calling her a “slut” and a “whore” when she broke one of the dating contest’s unwritten rules by sleeping with a male contestant before the final stages – and then talking about it.
Predictably, media coverage has framed Bristowe as the victim of that old canard, internet misogyny. “Sexism is alive and well,” said Vocativ. “The sentiments behind the tweets are clear,” wrote The Huffington Post’s senior women’s editor: “You’re a woman and you acted in a way that I don’t like, so stop talking and stop existing.”
But was this really another horde of misogynist men attacking an innocent damsel in distress? Of course not. It doesn’t even pass the most basic common sense check: only 24 per cent of the Bachelorette‘s audience is male. And a brief glance through some of the tweets sent to Bristowe also cast doubt on the “evil men” narrative. I mean, see for yourself.
— Cheryl Olles (@cher825) July 7, 2015
— Lynn DP (@LynnD_P) July 7, 2015
— Tara Perry (@TaraPerry4) June 23, 2015
— KT (@_katiemaxwell) June 23, 2015
These tweets shouldn’t surprise us. Women are alarmingly quick to grab for the proverbial weave, and just like a real-world catfight, dirty tactics are the norm – as is foul, sexualised and degrading language.
Research from the Demos think tank has found that women are just as likely, if not more so, to use words like “slut” and “whore” as terms of abuse directed at women. Yet the media continues to present these stories as male-on-female cruelty, when the situation is, to say the least, more complicated than that.
Why pass up on the chance to play another round of pin the tail on the patriarchy?
British readers will remember the hissy fit thrown by feminists Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy MP over “misogynist Twitter trolls” in the summer of 2013. After receiving abuse on Twitter for their inane campaign to put a woman on both sides of the £10 note, these feminists succeeded in getting two of their trolls jailed under the Malicious Communication Act.
Leaving aside the bizarre Orwellianism – yes, we live in a world in which you can be jailed for tweeting nasty things – the story had an amusing twist: one of the jailed trolls, Isabella Sorey, was a woman. She had sent some of the most graphic messages to Creasy and Criado-Perez, including, “kill yourself before I do” and, “I’d do a lot worse things than rape you.”
That put mainstream columnists in an awkward position. As with Kaitlyn Bristowe, the story had been framed as innocent damsels under siege by rapacious, hateful men. But when it emerged that at least one of these hateful men was in fact a woman, Criado-Perez lamely tried to excuse her female troll, telling the BBC that Sorley must have “internalised society’s misogyny.”
Translation? It’s still your fault, dudes!
As usual, the truth resists political correctness. Women are more likely to be internet harassers than men. And they have been calling each other all manner of horrible things for millennia. They’ve even come up with a name for it: “trashing.” It’s often a way for high-status women to bully and ridicule poorer or less attractive girls; as ever, it’s all about social status and attracting the best quality husband.
The bad blood has gotten so bad that Taylor Swift has released a song called “Bad Blood” where she and her millennial mates, including Lena the sister-fister Dunham beat up a thinly-disguised Katy Perry because… I don’t know, feminism? Looks more like a playground spat to me, but I guess that describes most of what women do to each other when given a public platform.
Mariah Carey’s favourite movie Mean Girls was, if anything, a low-key version of the truth: research from evolutionary psychologist David Buss has found that women are hardwired to detect flaws in the appearance and character of fellow women. As the world’s preeminent hag specialist, your correspondent must agree.
There’s a reason Tina Fey’s character in that movie says: “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it ok for guys to call you sluts and whores.” Where do you think bros get the idea that it’s an effective put-down in the first place, ladies? Yep, you!
Promiscuous, attractive women are particularly vulnerable to harassment and ostracism by the sisterhood: multiple studies have shown that women are less friendly to promiscuous peers, and will even attempt to undermine attractive ones.
It can often seem as though women view attention as a zero-sum game. It’s not enough to win; everyone else must lose. Hence the development of an extensive repertoire of psychological tricks to make sure their slice of the pie stays the biggest.
For instance, look at what I call “bait and switch feminists,” who say outrageous things for a living then suddenly cry foul and turn into hopeless damsels in distress, shrieking about “threats” and “harassment,” when the inevitable consequences of their own deliberate provocations catch up with them.
The abstract of this academic article on female competition is neutral in its language, but paints a harrowing picture of how terribly girls secretly treat each other:
From early childhood onwards, girls compete using strategies that minimize the risk of retaliation and reduce the strength of other girls. Girls’ competitive strategies include avoiding direct interference with another girl’s goals, disguising competition, competing overtly only from a position of high status in the community, enforcing equality within the female community and socially excluding other girls.
In other words, if you’re a woman – especially an attractive one – the sisterhood is out to get you. That’s not to say munters are safe: there’s plenty of doll-to-troll invective out there too, say scientists.
It’s a bit like the gays, really: we love to bang on in public about homophobia, but the really nasty, personal insults always comes from other queens. Trust me – I’m normally the one dishing them out.
As for regular men, don’t stop the presses, but it turns out they’re nicer to hotties than they are to notties, which may be part of what’s fuelling female jealousy. Just ask Carly Fiorina who her most outspoken detractors are, or consider the abominable things said about pretty women who have the wrong politics – Ann Coulter, Margaret Thatcher, Sarah Palin – by women on the progressive left.
That said, for all the stories of misogyny, western men are nice to women generally, flocking to pro-female ideologies like feminism, chivalry and etiquette codes that favour women throughout the history of western democratic civilisation.
That’s why the only thing I was surprised by in this survey of misogynistic abuse on Twitter was the fact that women and men used the words “slut” and “whore” as terms of abuse roughly equally. I was expecting the terms to be far more common among women, given what utterly awful bitches they are to each other. But, no, it’s only about the same.
One silver lining in all this is that women are now sufficiently emboldened to call one another out, and that the more enlightened and self-aware women see and absolutely hate what’s going on in the world of girl-on-girl violence. Very often, when a feminist critic plays the victim or makes untrue claims, her fiercest critics will be other women.
So, anyway, the next time you hear a story about evil male misogynists slut-shaming a woman, take a closer look. Throughout history, slut-shaming has been driven by women, against women. And, if you do ever hear about a man calling a woman a floozie, chances are she was called a slut – or worse – by another broad first.