Published December 10, 2012
Not all Icelandic feminists. Just one feminist: Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir, who was recently honoured by Stígamót, the leading Icelandic organisation against sexual abuse and violence, as well as UN Women, a United Nations agency, for her activism against male on female violence. Since February, Facebook has banned her multiple times. Over the course of the year, the bans became more and more severe, starting with daylong bans and working their way up to a thirty-day ban.
Oh wow! A repeat feminist offender then. What did she do, threaten to castrate prominent members of society?
No, she took screen captures of internet comments disparaging women and collected them into a picture album on Facebook called Men Who Hate Women., She limited herself to comments left by men who identified themselves by name in public forums, such as on newspaper articles, which often require Facebook logins.
Aren’t all comments on news sites hate-speech towards women? That is, those comments that aren’t hate-speech towards people who have a different skin colour, way of speaking, or number of toes.
People who spend a lot of time on the internet are well aware of the cesspool that is every comments section on newspaper sites. However, it is quite easy to go through life never seeing that kind of thing. So Hildur decided to demonstrate just how much hate-speech there is. The picture album outraged many people in Iceland.
How bad were these comments?
I have no interest in printing terrible things about women in this column, but I would like to inform my readers. So here is one of the comments, but transposed from women to adorable animals: “Wait a second! Why did he attack the adorable fluffy kitten like that? ATTENTION: I am ABSOLUTELY NOT excusing violence! But I ask: Had the man been made so incredibly angry that he lost control? ALL men know that adorable fluffy kittens are geniuses at pushing our most sensitive buttons!” Here’s another, from a comment to a news-story about a man who sent erotic letters to his wife’s under-age niece: “This is just something he was not getting from his adorable sea otter, why isn’t the article about that, goddamn Icelandic Saint Bernard puppies!”
I’m guessing that at least some of the words you replaced were rather rude.
Yes. A lot of the comments are so reprehensible that there is no way I will repeat them, no matter how many fluffy baby animals I shoehorn in. Threats of sexual violence are not a joking matter, even if they are aimed at koala cubs.
Keep your penis away from imaginary baby animals!
The harshness of the language and the viciousness of the sentiment shocked people, so Hildur’s picture album was linked to and reposted all over Facebook. Many praised her for shining a light on the festering underbelly of Icelandic society while others felt that the charge of misogyny was too harsh for some of the comments, and a few responded by criticizing her looks and making violent threats against her. It caused such uproar in Iceland that she was interviewed at length in a prime time news show.
So she claimed society was rife with misogyny and in response she got violent threats. Well, that sure disproved her point.
She even got made fun of for not being styled properly—another way in which the fluffy animal analogy does not work. No one criticizes a baby bunny for not getting highlights in its ears. Now Hildur is the main bogeyman of anti-feminists. Whenever anything even remotely related to feminism is in the news, people will write disparaging things about her, an example of which brought on the latest Facebook sanction. She took a screen capture of one of those remarks and posted it to her Facebook profile. For that Facebook gave her a thirty-day ban.
She was banned for reposting disparaging remarks about herself?
The man in question wrote on his public Facebook page, “If I ‘accidentally’ ran over Hildur, she is probably the only person on earth I would back up over, and leave the car on top of her with the hand brake on!!!;) Put this in your ‘men who hate Hildur’ folder, Hildur Lilliendahl.” Facebook seems to consider reposting a comment to be harassment and as such not allowed, but actually making said comment is free speech.
So men are free to be misogynist, but other people are banned for exposing their misogyny?
To be fair, Facebook is in a terrible situation. It is like being the teacher in a classroom with a billion kids, millions of whom are screaming and yelling. All they want is that everyone behaves nicely, so they just tell kids to shut up and sit down. Unfortunately they do that even when people are speaking out about the reprehensible behaviour of others. As far as Facebook is concerned, this would all be so much better if we all just sat quietly and shared pictures of adorable baby animals.