This morning I opened my email account to find another death threat. The sender said they knew where I live and work. They said they would be waiting. Within two months they would cut off my head and place it in a plastic bag, and my head would be their prize possession. My head – my body – their possession. My offence? Last week I refused to accept a sexist and demeaning message sent to me by a senior lawyer via LinkedIn. I tweeted it, along with my response. I believed I had the right – as I believe any woman has the right – to challenge sexism in the workplace and on professional social media.
Calling out a single instance of sexism in a professional space hit a nerve far deeper than I ever imagined. Why has one tweet that sought to challenge the objectification of women in professional spaces caused a furore? The truth is, I have committed a double transgression. Not only have I refused to passively accept being objectified; I have also refused to apologise for having the temerity to take a stand. What I did therefore was doubly threatening to vested power.
It is a tragic irony that the misogynist abuse I have endured is an attempt to reassert the patriarchal status quo, in which women in the public space are to be seen but not heard.
My tweet sought to assert that I refuse to be seen through my body. But instead my body, my image, my physical appearance, were micro-analysed and displayed. I was dismissed as a “glam lawyer”. Trolls described me as an “ugly ball-busting bitch”, a “munter”. You can imagine the rest. With depressing inevitability, people enjoying the privilege of an imbalance of power felt threatened by one (minor) attempt to argue for social change. It has played out in lurid Technicolor across the national media: the “most toxic debate of the year”, claimed the Daily Mail. “Where do YOU stand?” it asked readers.
The backlash has included the classic manoeuvre: reframing sexist messaging as innocuously harmless compliments. Why all the fuss? Should women not be grateful that they’re being complimented on their looks by strangers, particularly by powerful, senior men? Let me be clear: the compliments I receive from friends or family, and those I choose to give, are a private matter. I do not welcome unsolicited remarks about my body from someone I don’t know and who, in a professional context, is in a position of authority over me. Sexist comments are part of the process that seals and cements women’s subordinate position to men in the workplace.
Source and rest: Don’t let the abuse scare you: we can confront the sexists (theguardian)
(Excerpt etc. first posted on. Orig. attribution above.)