Face Making

Artist Gwenn Seemel’s bilingual blog about art, portraiture, free culture, and feminism.

Violent tendencies

2012 . 06 . 14 - Comments / Commentaires (14)

I don’t have a problem with men. Far from it, I really love most men, because most men are just people, living their lives. They are working to make the world—or at least their world—a better place, just like most women.

But there are some men I do have a problem with. These are the men who can’t stand a woman who has an opinion, the men who try to shut her up with violence:

I’ve had each of these things happen to me. Well, not the last one, but the rest of them have happened to me again and again.


The violence in these interactions is very specific. It is about me being a woman and them being a certain kind of man. After all, it’s not like these same men are disagreeing with other guys and then attacking them by describing sex acts they’d like to perform with those guys. No, when these men behave as they do towards me, they are being misogynists.

I understand that the violence which I endure is the price I must pay for being a woman who shares her opinions publicly in today’s world. And I recognize that if I would just shut up these bad people would cease to be a part of my life, but, somehow, that price seems steeper to me.

- The real danger in not standing up for yourself
- On saying no and saying anything at all
- On hating the straight white male

CATEGORIES: - English - TOP POSTS - Feminism - Philosophy -

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(14) Comments / Commentaires: Violent tendencies

-- Lynne Duddy -- 2012 . 06 . 14 --

Powerful. True. Good.

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-- Emily -- 2012 . 06 . 14 --

I agree, sometimes shutting up is was too steep of a price to pay!  Thanks for sharing!

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-- Katherine Curis -- 2012 . 06 . 14 --

Agreed!! Thank you

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 06 . 14 --

Thank you, each of you, for commenting.  It has made posting this article feel less dangerous-but-necessary and more empowering.

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-- Laroquod -- 2012 . 09 . 08 --

There are a lot of men who have been jerks to me online, and although they don’t (usually) put it in sexual terms, and thus it’s probably easier for me as a man (though never actually *easy*) to shrug off, they don’t give me any quarter when roused to their jerkiness and pretty much say whatever they think is going to dig into me the deepest, and I figure that is the same thing going through their heads when they abuse women. I always just think to myself, ‘Don’t have any hot buttons and nobody will be able to push them.’ Perhaps that advice doesn’t apply if you’re a woman due to the intensity of the targetting—I wouldn’t really know, but sorry you’ve had to go through it.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 09 . 08 --

@Laroquod: I’m not excusing any kind of violence, but I think there are a few key differences between what you’re talking about and what I’m talking about. 

For one thing, there’s the sexual nature of the violence towards women.  It’s not just another flavor of violence if you’ve ever suffered it.  The pain is very specific and more deeply disquieting than other assaults.

For another, the pursuit across several Internet platforms implies a certain amount of dedication to the violence.  And, similarly, the crossover into the real world gives the online behavior a more threatening feel, I think.

Again, I don’t think any kind of violence in online interactions is okay, but when it’s not sexual and/or obsessive I am able to do just as you describe and shrug it off.  In my experience, it isn’t easy, but it is easier.

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-- Laroquod -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

It’s hard for me to consider online words of any kind to be actual ‘violence’ and ‘assaults’ and I’m not sure I agree with that language, so I was not able to connect with that part of your response at all, but that doesn’t make you wrong in what you’re saying otherwise. I appreciate you explaining to me the difference in your eyes.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

@Laroquod: Sticks and stones only for you, huh?  I can understand that to a point.  But how do you tell the difference between “just words” and words that lead to more?  And if offensive words are allowed, will the perpetrator take that as a sign that he can go further?  When is the right time to call the police to make a report?  When he’s still writing vile things to me or when he is showing up at my art opening?  These are not rhetorical questions: these are boundaries that every victim of persistent harassment struggles to define for themselves.

Also, the first two behaviors on my list may not seem like violence to you, but they are an attempt to silence another person.  And there’s nothing quite so violent as that.

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-- Laroquod -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

Hi Gwenn, thanks for continuing to discuss this with me. It is my understanding that it is already illegal to threaten bodily harm and that includes sexual violence. So I would say as soon as that is happening it is totally fair and possibly a good idea to file a police report if you consider the threat to be credible and not just some passing crackpot. That decision would be up to you—I don’t pretend to have any criteria or experience, really. The fact that I can’t follow you in calling this stuff ‘violence’ is more a function of my pedantry—it doesn’t mean that I think threatening people is OK, but I consider them threats of violence, not actual violence. Just a definitional thing.

If for some reason I am not aware, classifying it as ‘violence’ makes it easier to successfully file a police report for a threat of violence, then I can certainly understand why you would do it, without really being able to agree that it is ‘correct’. It’s the English major in me I guess.

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-- Laroquod -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

P.S. I found this link about how it works in Canada. This sounds pretty fair to my ears, but of course, in order for it to be fair the police would have to actually take you seriously and enforce it as written.


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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

@Laroquod: It’s a little funny how you say that words are not violence even if they threaten physical assault, but then you hold the word “violence” itself up to a high standard.  Do words matter to you or don’t they?  smile

Calling these acts “violence” doesn’t make it easier to file a police report.  Nothing makes it easy to file a police report.  Reporting this behavior often has the same effect as tattling on the bully in grade school: the tormentor simply changes venues and ramps up the assault.  And even if the report leads to action, is getting the person arrested really a good idea?  It could result in them losing their job or other social repercussions that will only make the perpetrator more obsessed with attacking you.

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-- Laroquod -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

Alright—I don’t really want to belabour the definition here. I didn’t really mean it to be a big objection or for it to be a challenge to the points you are trying to make. In my opinion, the word violence denotes a physical act, whereas a threat of violence denotes a verbal act. I don’t really understand what you are saying in your first paragraph. I guess I just don’t get it.

Good points in your second paragraph though! Sorry we were not able to see eye to eye.

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-- Gwenn -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

@Laroquod: I was just saying that “sitcks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is your stance on negative comments online.  In that sense, words seem not to matter to you, but my use of the word “violence” does matter to you, and that seemed a little funny to me.

I understand the distinction you’re trying to make between physical and verbal abuse, but I think that “violence” means a negative forcefulness, physical or emotional. 

Thanks for commenting and engaging!

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-- Laroquod -- 2012 . 09 . 10 --

Oh, I see what you’re getting at. Interesting observation—I’ll have to think about that. Words do matter to me. I love words. Like I said, I’m a pedant, probably too much sometimes. Not sure why that doesn’t really apply as much in the case of people being very rude to me with their words—I guess I have just learned some compartmentalisation there? I would not want to give up my insult survival strategies or my love of words—I hope they are not in conflict!

Thank you too for engaging in a very enlightening way.

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