Sunday, May 24, 2015

Don't Read the Comments

Any writer, amateur or seasonal, knows the one golden rule: do not read the comments.

It is the initial advice fresh faced authors are told after they file their first piece and it is the mantra that veterans remind themselves of daily, regardless of how many years into the business.

Comments mean anarchy. For the most part (besides breach of publication policies) anyone can write anything; it is very hard for most writers to see their carefully crafted prose being torn apart by an anonymous reader who does not seem to grasp basic English grammar.

Ego aside, it is even harder for a writer to then not engage with these comments, in spite the need they may feel to defend their work, clarify a point, or just blatantly ask, “Did you read the article beyond the headline?”

It is just easier to not read the comments. Or, so this writer thought.

Recently I wrote an article for The Guardian on Shauna Hunt and her reaction to being a victim of an on-air “fuck her right in the pussy” bomb. The article was fairly straight forward, explaining why telling someone “fuck her right in the pussy” is wrong and demonstrated a broader picture of how women are often subjected to humiliation and degradation at football stadiums.

Until I actually read a few comments and realized maybe the issue wasn’t as straight forward as I though. That, despite all the advice I had been ever given, all the warnings I had been told, and all the common sense in my head, maybe there was more to my article than just my written thoughts.

So, I broke the golden rule and read the comments.

At first, like any writer, I was sickened by people’s reaction and annoyed that they did not immediately find me brilliant. But after combing through a few submissions, I started to realize that most people still did not understand the points I had made, but seemed to genuinely want to. I found there was a lot of questions asked and a lot of good discussion happening, even if I did not necessarily agree with all that was being said.

The point of the original article was to explain why “fuck her right in the pussy” is not an acceptable thing to say to anyone, ever. And, furthermore, why events like that a football stadiums make an unwelcoming atmosphere. People – both readers and those who have asked me directly – still seem to have a lot of similar questions and comments.

So, I am going to address those comments.

“Fuck” and “pussy” are just words.
They are just words, but a very big part of language is that words carrying meaning. There’s a reason why you would not say “fuck” and “pussy” in front of a three year old, because those words carry powerful significance. Semantics are important, “fuck” does not have the same connotation as “making love” or even “sex,” the same way “pussy” does not have the same connotation as “vagina.” “Fuck her right in the pussy” is deliberately to provoke because of the agreement of what those words stand for and represent. Those specific words are used because they are known to get a reaction. And that sentence is said for the sole purpose of provoking a response.  

They weren’t saying it to Shauna Hunt (or other reporters), they’re saying it to the camera.
Regardless of who their “intended audience” was, it is still a sexist, violent, and abusive comment directed at women, about women.  Just because people find it funny, does not make it any less defendable.

Men get it too and sometimes women say it.
Again, that does not make it any less disrespectful or humiliating. And, men too can be demeaned to abusive comments towards woman. Just like how women can also say sexist comments, even about their own sex.

People need to grow a thicker skin.
No, people need to learn how their language will affect others. Hunt told the men that she found their comments humiliating and offensive, and they continued to justify – and worse – defend them. All actions have consequences and just because you think it will have one consequences (having five seconds of fame while interrupting a broadcast), it may have another (violating a person’s right to feel safe and respected).

How dare someone say that on Mother’s Day to a woman!
This comment has been said a lot, as the events took place on Mother’s Day. However, it is important to not just think of women as mothers, daughters, sisters, etc.; rather, think of them as just regular ol’people. Women are beyond just the roles they play to men, a person should not be degrade because they are a human being, not because they are someone’s sister.

It was at a football stadium, isn’t it kind of expected?
That is the main problem: it is, but it shouldn’t be. People believe being in a football stadium entitles carte blanche behaviour. Whether sexist, racist, or just plain mean, it’s okay because it’s “part of the atmosphere.” We need to start changing, now. Being in a football stadium does not give up basic societal norms. A person would not yell “fuck her right in the pussy” on the bus, in a café, or at the grocery store, why would you do it at a game? 

It was a harmless prank.
It is not harmless if a person feels threaten by what is happening. Most language used at a football match (“fuck her right in the pussy,” aside) is meant to degrade and humiliate, as that is part of the competition side of sports. However, when it also degrades and humiliates the human spirit, we need to re-examine our use of language.

I don’t know what I would do if this happened to me.
Women should not have to be apprehension about verbal abuse; but they are, and that is the problem. A football stadium should be a safe space for healthy competition, not a minefield for woman hoping that today will not be the day that are verbally abused.

This has happened to me. Thank you for talking about it.
Like most things, it takes one person to stand up and talk about an issue to get the ball rolling. As a woman, I can empathize with Shauna Hunt; as a human being, I applaud her. A person should never feel like they can’t speak out if felt degraded or humiliated, same goes for a person should never make anyone feel like they are being degraded or humiliated.


Regardless of how much we wish “fuck her right in the pussy” was nothing more than a harmless, now-colloquial saying, it’s not. It’s sexist, chauvinistic, and downright hateful towards women. This, and other phrases meant to disgrace, demean, and demoralize women need to end.  

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