October 21, 2012

Today I Was Mistaken For A 17-Year-Old Girl

This is what they had to say about me:
Crazy Misogynist Idiot
This was in response to an article I posted on reddit about a 17-year-old american girl who put on a hijab and went to a mall for 2 hours. She describes being completely ignored by everyone, save for a 4 year old girl who asked if she was a terrorist. All because she wore a scarf on her head.

I have read about hundreds of horrifying accounts of sexism and seen thousands of sickening displays of misogynistic hatred (just dig around youtube for 5 seconds). But, as they say, it's never quite the same until it happens to you.

It was just funny at first - some dumbass thought I wrote the article just because I submitted it? No wonder he was so full of impulsive hatred. Perhaps he was trolling, or thought it was funny to brutally attack a woman for committing the crime of being born. But as I read the message a few more times, it dawned on me that this was simply an errant fool mistaking me for the opposite gender, yet the champions of feminism must get these kinds of messages all the time.

Of course, I am no stranger to controversy, having spent hours defending my bountiful collection of unpopular opinions about programming languages that no one should really care about. Hundreds of people have felt it necessary to inform me how horribly wrong all my opinions are, and how I'm so bad at programming the world would be a better place if I never wrote another line of code. So why did this message pierce my internet-hate-machine defenses - a message that wasn't even directed at me? Why did it make me think about what it would be like to be a woman and have my inbox full of this vitriolic misogyny every day just because I had an opinion?

In every technical argument, every hateful comment directed at me, they were all due to choices I made. If my opinions were, in fact, so terribly wrong, it was not because I was a horrible human being, it was simply because I made the wrong choices. When somebody calls you a bitch and tells you to bend over, they are not saying this because of choices you made, they are saying this because you are female. As if the fact that you lack a Y-chromosome gives them an innate right to belittle you and strip away your humanity. There is a difference between being told that you are a stupid idiot, and being considered subhuman. It is this subtle, yet infinitely important difference that many people seem to miss.

While I was still young and in primary school, I thought the only difference between boys and girls was that one had a penis and one didn't. It seems that society has failed to manage a level of maturity greater than that of a 9-year-old boy. In fact, when I was in kindergarten, we were playing a game, and the teams were girls vs boys, as usual. I noticed, however, that the girls were significantly outnumbered. In a bid that surprised even myself, I declared that I would join the girls team in order to make things fair.

I wish it were that easy, but supporting women's rights isn't necessarily about standing up for women - it's about letting women stand up for themselves. It's about treating them like normal human beings and giving them the opportunity to solve their own problems. It's about respecting them because of who they are, not simply due to their gender.

Perhaps one day, society can rise to a 9-year-old kid's level of sophistication.


  1. Note that the general reaction to that article on reddit is one of quick dismissal. Snappy jokes, attacking it as "silly and just her opinion", etc.

    The problem goes beyond the one guy who adds an overtly negative tone. It's also the enormous crowd of people tripping over themselves to actively discourage a outraged or supportive outlook.

    1. Yes, but I see that problem in, well, everything, including my articles. So I wanted to focus on the feminist consequences of that particular negative comment.