Changing Women is very active on both Facebook and Twitter. Tweeting as @changingwomen, I often see many derogatory, vile and debasing comments about women. I have noticed that these comments mostly come from young men and women. @Changingwomen follows the search hashtag #realwomen and it is amazing to see the type of talk and ideas being tweeted and re-tweeted by many, many people.
The tweets could be as simple as not understanding what the ramifications of the tweets could really mean, they can be vile, or they can serious enough that they could potentially incite violent behaviour against women. Here is an example of some of the more mild tweets;
- “#realwomen don’t need a man to put them in they place, she knows her place and is always in it.”
- “#RealWomen will get on two knees for you & #RealMen will get on one for you <3″
- “I’ll fucking tell a bitch if her man is hitting on me; that’s what #realwomen do!!!”
- “#RealWomen dont care if you look through their phones.. They aint hiding shit”
- “RT @Team_Wolfson: A #realwomen dont care about the hoes her nigga got because she real enough to know they just hoes and she the main”
The really interesting thing is that when I reply in a positive, and hopefully non judgmental way to some of the most disgusting language and ideas I have ever seen, the conversation starts to change in a matter of 5 or so tweets. Mostly it is young black American women and men and who are tweeting this type of information under the guise of ‘realwomen’ because they think it is what is required of them. The first tweet back is usually with an angry tone and something like “WTF are you?”, or “you get off my tweets”. I remind them that if they are putting out this type of information in a public forum such as Twitter, then they need to expect that anyone may respond to them. Their tweets are not private, and can be seen by anyone using Twitter. When I question them on the tweets via tweet backs using the #realwomen tag, they tend to realise what they have been saying and start thinking about it. Nearly all of these conversations have ended with the tweepers following @changingwomen. I am now seeing this #realwomen trend spreading to other countries like Iran and Korea where there is not as much tolerance of equality for women and that is scary.
Unfortunately, my examples, don’t include many of the really abusive tweeted items so you cannot get a full impression – suffice to say some are so disgusting, I am amazed that people even think that they can be posted on the internet. Perhaps they have become de-sensitised.
Many of the young female #realwomen tweepers talk of other women in extremely degrading ways and are extremely angry when @Changingwomen challenges or questions them about their tweets. These young women put down other women as ‘them bitches’, or they threaten physical harm and repeat much of the language most often used by violent misogynist males.
Australian Sociologist Michael Flood defines misogyny as the hatred of women, and notes:
“Though most common in men, misogyny also exists in and is practiced by women against other women or even themselves. Misogyny functions as an ideology or belief system that has accompanied patriarchal, or male-dominated societies for thousands of years and continues to place women in subordinate positions with limited access to power and decision making. [...] Aristotle contended that women exist as natural deformities or imperfect males [...] Ever since, women in Western cultures have internalised their role as societal scapegoats, influenced in the twenty-first century by multimedia objectification of women with its culturally sanctioned self-loathing and fixations on plastic surgery, anorexia and bulimia.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny)
According to sociologist Allan G. Johnson, “misogyny is a cultural attitude of hatred for females because they are female.” Johnson argues that:
“Misogyny …. is a central part of sexist prejudice and ideology and, as such, is an important basis for the oppression of females in male-dominated societies. Misogyny is manifested in many different ways, from jokes to pornography to violence to the self-contempt women may be taught to feel toward their own bodies.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny)
Not all the tweets from the #realwomen trend are degrading, as many are not, however the vast majority of the tweets talk about a female stereotype that is a regression in equality not a progression. This stereotype is one that promotes physical beauty, sexiness, subservience to men and attainment of the ‘ideal’ female persona. There is a strong message that as a female you need to protect your man continuously from other ‘hoes’, other women who will try to take the man away. There is a lot of discussion about how a real women needs to behave in order to keep a man. Eg: ‘realwomen will do anything for their man’. This brings a strong sense of competition amongst these young women, and sometimes the tweets can get very nasty and threatening.
The #realwomen trend has another group of followers who follow a church group or religious belief, and these tweets are much less aggressive. They portray a traditionalist view of the female role in society, that of wife and mother and being subordinate to men as the natural order. Many of these young women argue that they are already equal in society and do not accept that their tweets are a product of social conditioning. They have the belief that they need to be physically beautiful to be attractive to men and this sexual attractiveness is a form of power. They think that this sexual power over men gives them power over other women because they are ahead in the competition to ‘get the man’. They do not accept that they are in fact, falling prey to the multimedia’s objectification of women, they are promoting the very behaviors that help to marginalize women and limit their ability to directly influence decisions and gain independence and equality. They are buying into a paradigm of the ideal women designed by patriarchal business structures that make money from dis-empowering women and reducing them to a consumer of artificially designed commodities. Many women so easily accept and believe that they need to look a certain way, that they must wear the latest clothes, be the perfect mother, have the right body shape and conform to an impossible ideal, that they are easy targets for mass marketing. It is so successful that many women feel compelled to conform to the latest fashion fad and will strongly defend their decisions when challenged.
By watching the #realwomen trend, what comes through in the tweets very strongly is the desire of many young men to find substance in the women that they know. This is interesting as I thought that they would think “Changing Women – hell yeah I want to change my women” in a way that promotes inequality and subservience. What I have found is the opposite. These young men are searching for guidance and substance in themselves and their relationships with women. Many are sick of the sameness of the ‘sexy chick’ that has more interest in competing with other women than working at improving themselves and the ability to have a meaningful relationship. Unfortunately, much of the misogynistic behaviour comes from women themselves who are perpetuating inequality for themselves and others without even realizing that they have fallen into an ideology of sexual prejudice and the oppression of females.
The real positive is that young men are searching for an alternative to the superficial female model and this gives enormous hope for a brighter future.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misogyny – accessed 31/12/2011
Dr Michael Flood – University of Wollongong Australia http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/ssmac/staff/UOW084229.html