Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 4 April 2014

38 Degrees: an Avalanche of Irony

My attention was drawn, yesterday, to a petition doing the rounds on FaceBook. You are all, no doubt, aware of It is a web vehicle for posting petitions and getting them noticed and signed. It’s a lot easier than going door-to-door or standing on street corners. Its slogan is People - Power - Change. Sounds good, doesn’t it?

The link on FaceBook was on a subject that I’m interested in, because it strikes a chord with the feminist in me. It went like this:

No to Cybersexism - don’t let them win on

Women are going silent online to avoid abuse and threats, which can easily move over into their other, more physical realities, resulting in depression, rape, suicide and more. We...

I clicked on the link. Like I said, this sort of thing interests me. It interested me when I wrote this blog about the abuse that Caroline Criado-Perez took on Twitter when she campaigned for a woman to appear on the new designs for our paper currency. It still interested me when I wrote this blog about CC-P retiring her Twitter account.

Having clicked on the link, I got this notice:

This petition has been disabled because of inappropriate content

I cannot comment on the content of the petition because I wasn’t able to read it. An Oxford professor of my acquaintance, a woman that I would like to call my friend, and whom I admire greatly, signed the petition and shared the link. I trust her judgement. As I understand it, the petition was worded strongly, but why wouldn’t it be? A petition on this subject might well be instructive in pointing out some very unpalatable possibilities... facts, even. 

Cybersexism is designed to silence women. It is designed to intimidate women, to quiet them down, to curb their influence on each other, on men and on the World.

It is hugely ironic and massively disappointing to me that a petition to prevent the silencing of women has, effectively, been silenced.
I’m not even sure I have the words to express how horrible this is.

Remember that slogan: People - Power - Change.

In this petition women along with the men who support them, all of them people set out to empower themselves to change the single biggest shared environment on Earth, to change attitudes, to begin to eradicate bullying against half of its population. 

Someone at the site that bears the slogan People - Power - Change decided that these were not the people who should be empowered to change this aspect of the internet. Someone at the site that bears the slogan People - Power - Change decided to censor these women and the men who support their cause for change, to stop cybersexism. This surely is one form of the cybersexism that this group of disempowered people is trying to change!

How many more ways can I say this?

How wrong does this sound to you? left a helpful note beneath the cancellation notice it reads:

If you created this petition, you can sign into the site to access your dashboard, learn more, and fix this issue.

I wonder how many victims of cybersexism would have had an issue with the original petition. I wonder how many feminists would have had an issue with it. 

I wonder when straight talking women will stop seeming like such a threat. We aren’t the threat, we’re the promise of a better future.


  1. This incident led me to give up on 38 Degrees -- I just hope that Natasha can find another petition site with more backbone and a less censorship-friendly attitude. I was also annoyed that they made no attempt to contact those of us who had already signed; I found out that the petition had been taken down only when a friend tried to sign and was unable to.

    I noticed when I went to the 38 Degrees Facebook page that their current hot campaign concerns the claim that replica England football shirts are too expensive; they were also making a lot of noise about the fact that Ed Miliband has promised to strike down a law that limits lobbying (shouldn't their be a different word for "promise" when made by a politician? Something like "lie"?). Why does the government need to limit the actions of petition groups when they're doing such a good job themselves?

  2. I heard, this morning, from the originator of the 38Degrees petition on Cybersexism. She had this to say:

    Thanks to everyone for your support in this issue. I've not been that prominent (at all) online, so haven't actually had to deal with this, but I've been witness to a mass of cybersexism against women who are politically active. And the cybersexism most certainly wasn't limited to the online-sphere - a woman I know well and respect had threats and abuse in real life as a follow-up on what started online.

    I was only really able to formulate my thoughts in a poem. I didn't enjoy writing the poem and I don't enjoy reading it. It's full of what 38 Degrees called "swearing", because that's the violence that's out there. Those are the semantic instruments it uses and that provide the abusers with the opportunity to react to a piece of online content with content-less hate. And that's why so many woman prefer to steer clear of the cyber world of meaning and expression:

    The Silence – Letting the Fuckers Win

    "Spite is underrated. Sometimes, on dark days when I believe every awful thing mouth-breathing misogynists say about me online, when all I want to do is give up, I remember how important it is not to let the fuckers win."

    I had a voice and I had meaning.
    You read my prose and watched me leaning
    Into truth, arranging thought. I’d write
    Of politics. If not polite
    Then well-researched, my syntax tight.
    I upturned stones, I set things right.

    But I’m a female slut and whore
    To write of what I think and more.
    You felt obliged, at least I think
    That’s why you said my asshole stinks,
    I’m fat and gross, a retard cunt.

    “Your fault. You’ll have to bear the brunt.
    A public woman’s free for all
    To jibe and thrust against the wall.
    Don’t bawl. It’s only words they use.”

    So this is shaming, not abuse.
    I wasn’t scared to leave the house.
    Imagine me: a timid mouse?

    And when the calls came, and when my daughter answered the phone and he said he’d come and jam his penis in her so she wouldn’t be able to fucking breathe and then kill her and her fucking whore mother. That’s when I stopped writing.