Internalized Misogyny Lives—Even in STI Support Communities – Rafaella Gunz
This is a follow-up to my article “Male Entitlement Lives—Even in STI Support Communities.”
After that article went live, I received a great deal of backlash. Of course I expected backlash—obviously not everyone was going to agree with my stance. Yet, I expected the backlash to come from the types of men I was referring to in the article. To my surprise, the bulk of it came from fellow women.
And at this point, I’ve come to realize that internalized misogyny coming from women is way worse than misogyny coming from men.
Here are some screen shots of messages and comments I’ve received from women in response to my article:
As you can see, I’ve been asked for “proof” of the harassment faced by myself and a myriad of other women (if that’s not a victim blaming tactic, I don’t know what is), I’ve received veiled threats (and yes, there were talks of finding out the home addresses of myself and another woman who had my back during this), I’ve had my journalism and feminism questioned, been cursed at, and even been told I was responsible for someone’s potential suicide because of my article. All this coming from women.
I find the bulk of these comments to be incredibly ironic. They were clearly more concerned with one secret, unsearchable group being named than the issue of harassment I was looking to bring to light—which they are just continuing to perpetuate. They claimed to fear for their safety while attempting to put my safety, as well as the safety of the women who stood with me, in jeopardy. These women chose to stand with and protect the men who constantly treat women like sex objects, instead of being on the side of the women brave enough to call out this behavior.
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Throughout this whole fallout, I saw countless women questioning what the big deal was, as harassment exists everywhere—both on and offline. But why, just because it exists everywhere, does that mean we have to tolerate it? Support groups should be a safe space, a place people come to in order to escape the hostilities they face in the real world. They shouldn’t simply be a mirror image of those other environments.
Additionally, many women claimed that this article generalizes all men (which, no, it doesn’t. Saying “men” does not mean every individual man) and said that some women also send inappropriate messages. Yet, in a patriarchal society, this simply doesn’t hold the same weight. Women are taught from a young age to never walk home alone at night, to never put their drinks down at a party, etc. The same cannot be said for men. So some individual women possibly harassing men cannot possibly be treated the same in a culture where 1 in 5 women will be the victims of sexual violence in their lifetime versus only 1 in 71 men. This type of behavior is, by and large, against women. That’s what the focus should be on.
The role of admins in support groups, or any other online communities dealing with sensitive topics, should be to make sure everyone feels safe, secure, and welcome. The admins claiming they can’t do anything to control the behavior of those in the groups is not only unacceptable for one in an admin position, but also untrue. Admins have the power to remove people and posts from groups. They have the power to message the individuals in question and provide warnings. And most importantly, they have the responsibility to make sure the rules they set up for themselves in the first place are adhered to by every member.
For the admins—again, women—to instead just tell people complaining to block those who make them uncomfortable is preposterous. It allows those doing the harassment to get away with it without consequence. It does nothing but protect the harassers and leave the victims feeling helpless, alone—and most significantly, not believed.
STI stigma is so closely related to slut shaming and victim blaming. In standing to fight the stigma of herpes, it only makes sense that you look to end slut shaming and victim blaming as well. And in order to properly be an advocate against these things, you must be able to trust, believe, and support women, even if you personally have never shared their experience.
Rafaella Gunz is a senior at The New School in NYC, majoring in journalism and minoring in gender studies. She has a passion for feminism and LGBTQ+ issues.