‘They are Feminists After All’ is a hand embellished wall hanging that I made in response to an article, and the sexist troll comments that it generated, that was written about a piece of my work. It also slated the work of Eleanor Haswell and Clandestine Collective, which we are both part of.
I’ve built up a wall in relation to criticisms of my work over the past five months. I realised that posting artwork online that explored controversial topics was bound to result in some form of backlash. I also realised that in order to continue putting my work online, I had to block out all overly negative criticisms, particularly those that were fueled by a hatred for feminism and a love for sexism.
Initially, when I first read the article, it did upset me, I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t. It was more as a result of frustration that my first ever ‘feminist’ piece of work had been unfairly slated and mocked. Then again, what do you expect from the people who sit behind their computers and disguise themselves as ‘trolls’, putting others down in order to improve their own mentalities?
On further reflection however, I suddenly came up with the idea of producing an artwork in response to the article, something that would capture it forever (particularly incase the article was ever deleted.) This is what led me to producing ‘They are Feminists After All’, my largest work to date.
Let’s take a look at this so-called ‘article’ (it’s not even worthy of that title.) Initially, it mainly focuses on Elle’s piece ‘Why are you so afraid of your own anatomy?’, using the work to slam feminism. The author also further tries to claim that Clandestine Collective being ‘female-identified’ means that we’re all involved in some big lesbian orgy, when in actual fact, it’s ‘female-identified’ in the sense that we are all female artists and this provides us with a safe space to work in.
The author then moves onto criticising my piece of work, ‘Good Enough to Eat’, which explores nudity and genitalia being taboo subjects in society. They summarise my work by stating “Feminists obsessed with female genitalia, which they are not afraid to proclaim “good enough to eat”? Yeah, there’s a word for that.” And what is this word exactly? As far as I can see, there’s no valid points being made in this statement, similarly to the entire article, which is just a mismatched cluster of insults stereotyping feminists as lesbians and idiots.
The part that I found the most interesting though, and what acted as the main inspiration for ‘They are Feminists After All’, was the comments on the article. They label our work as “DISGUSTING”, suggest that we shouldn’t be allowed to vote due to our age, and my personal favourite, claim: “Shouldn’t that be a graphic of an execution chamber? They are feminists after all”. For the record, politicized eighteen/nineteen year olds have more right to vote than middle-aged, white, middle class men who have to rely on being condescending, patronising and sexist in order to justify their medieval views.
One of the things that disappointed me the most in relation to the article was the fact that a lot of women were being just as critical and unfair as the men, with one woman telling us to “Grow up”. There’s some women that identify with ‘anti-feminism’ for their own personal reasons (I won’t even bother to get started on the joke that is ‘Women Against Feminism’.) In reality, it’s easier to side with misogyny, or even become a misogynist yourself, than it is to identify as a feminist. We only need to look at the horrific death and rape threats directed towards Caroline Criado-Perez, Mary Beard and others, to see the backlash that openly identifying with feminism can cause.
Online hate and criticism can be particularly difficult to deal with, respond to, and process. That’s one of the main reasons why I can’t stand websites like Ask.fm. A family member of mine who’s in her early teens, has had a bad experience with Ask.fm, receiving horrible messages that labelled her as ‘disgusting’ and ‘anorexic’ and told her that she ‘needed to put weight on’ due to her slim frame. For every nice message that you receive on a website like Ask.fm, you’ll probably receive double the amount of nasty and insulting ones.
The anonymous ask option on Tumblr is something that I’ve had bad experiences with. I’ve received some positive messages, but I used to also receive a lot of condescending and rude messages, particularly when I made comments about politics outside of feminism. Realistically, these anonymous ask options on websites like Tumblr and Ask.fm invite bullying. Yes, there’s the option to turn this off and only receive asks from those with registered accounts, but if someone is using one of these websites for the first time, they will have no idea about what they’re potentially letting themselves in for.
For anyone experiencing online hate, I’d definitely consider turning the anonymous asks option off (if this is an option on the website that you’re using) or disabling comments, even if it’s just for a short period of time. But, always remember, you’re the stronger and more powerful individual than the sad internet troll who sits behind their computer all day, getting their kicks from bullying strangers.