the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
Notes & Snapshots from Abroad
Recent Tweets @lenachen

Following up on my post about the disproportionate amount of hate directed at women who blog, here’s a guide to the five types of sexist comments that you’ll typically encounter as a female blogger. (Complete with real comments as examples!)

1. The Body Snarking Commenter. Examples:

Your face is so ugly that your cat is more attractive than you. [link]

I see in the pictures a rather ugly moon-faced girl who has given her size a weight problem. [link]

You are really, really fat… I mean, just look at your face in the mirror, jeez. [link]

There is a little-noticed undercurrent of misogyny that still attacks women who don’t conform to a norm, such as a beauty ideal. Ask any moderately popular female blogger; sooner or later, she’ll get a nasty comment about her appearance. Women who don’t pass the fuckability test are fair game for critique. If you are too short/chubby/flat-chested/oily-faced/unfashionable/otherwise inadequate, then someone’s going to tell you to shut the fuck up. Such low blows, however, are rarely directed at men. Though women are treated as undeserving of respect unless they conform to XYZ standard, men aren’t held to the same expectations. Don’t believe that women face particular discrimination because they’re women? Think for a second about the type of insults lobbed at guys: pussy, fag, queer, bitch. The worst way to insult a man is to imply that he possesses qualities of a woman.

2. The Resentful Commenter. Examples:

Lena is an idiot. She thinks because she went to Harvard and majored in sociology, she smarter than everyone. Fucking stupid. [link]

Ugh! You are so full of yourself! Diarrhea of the mouth! I’m un-following this stuck-up Harvard whore. [link]

You are not entitled to endless european travel, ice cream, and sex, let alone happiness. [link]

This sort of criticism is akin to calling a Black person “uppity” just because they dare to act like they’re as intelligent as Whites. Though name-dropping an Ivy League school is sure to bring these commenters out of the woodwork, they also appear voluntary when a woman reveals that her vocabulary shockingly consists of more than 200 words. These folks can’t stand the thought of a woman with a better degree, career, or life in general. Remember when Hillary was characterized during the primaries as an overly ambitious shrew? If she were a male politician, she’d be described as “driven”.

3. The Vengeful Commenter. Examples:

Your name will always be associated with being a whore and a degenerate. That will live on forever. You are damaged goods. Not employable. Blacklisted from every reputable company in the world. [link]

Enjoy getting fired after three months in every job when your employer finds out about this. [link]

You have no job opportunities because of your whorish ways that ruined your life forever. [link]

Closely related to the Resentful Commenter, this type of person writes fortune-cookie-style omens informing you that your future is doomed. Oftentimes, they show up just to remind you that failure is imminent. Thanks for the memo, guys!

4. The Racist Commenter. Examples:

You asian girls are such cockblockers and such haters sometimes. [link]

I want a 2 item combo. I want fried rice and double orange chicken. Thank you. [link]

Too many ugly pieces of Asian human garbage like YOU think you are American and claim to have been born here. [link]

At this point, this is getting pretty self-explanatory. This particular type of commenter also trolls blogs written by men, but on women’s blogs, they get to creatively incorporate sexual stereotypes. Think: sideways pussy and “me love you long time”. Let’s move on.

5. The Sociopathic Commenter. Examples:

Tape a plastic bag on your head kill yourself live on a webcam. Just make sure we can see your pussy getting wet while you die. [link]

suck my dick slut. its impossible for you to be raped because that implies your unwilling. [link]

I am gonna find you, if it is the last thing I do … you are the one in front of me that I need to fucking anihilate … Your own writting will be the path to your graveyard. [link]

And then there are some people who are just plain scary.

WHY SHUTTING UP ISN’T THE ANSWER

Now that you know humanity sucks, what next? The above overview of online haterade is pretty depressing, but I think it highlights an important reality that requires our attention: sexism and misogyny are far from dead. Consider what a somewhat apologetic “hater” says:

Lena,

I’m not a fan of yours, and I’ve posted nasty comments on your blog before. Now I regret having doing so, not having been aware of the extent of your pain … What you’ve experienced is human nature. It’s not pretty. There’s a lot of ambient, bitter hatred for female promiscuity (or the perception thereof) and your blog made you a lightning rod for it. The ambient hatred will never go away, and while it may not be virtuous, it’s a bad idea to provoke it by making a blog about your personal sex life. [link]

Though this commenter’s remorse made me feel slightly better, I disagree with the belief that it is “a bad idea to provoke” gender-based hatred by writing about sex (or any controversial topic, for that matter). While a female blogger, by virtue of her gender, is likely to attract more vitriol, remaining silent for fear of criticism only perpetuates the idea that you’re either a good girl or a difficult woman. And who wants to be the latter, right? Having experienced extremely cruel criticism myself, I know first-hand how much easier it is to simply self-censor or to click “delete” when you see a vicious comment. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how many people believe gender inequality no longer exists. Is it any surprise? Far too few women talk about this stuff! Rather than turning a blind eye to gender-based attacks, we should draw readers’ attention to them and actively agitate against this type of silencing.

Women, especially those with their own forums, must insist on the same respect given so easily to men. These small yet ubiquitous acts of shaming only become more effective if we try to swallow and ignore them. Since I’ve started posting some particularly atrocious offenses, I’ve seen more and more of my readers fight back against the misogyny they witness. Conversations, which might have never otherwise occurred, are sparked by a single troll’s comment. If women’s opinions and viewpoints are to be taken seriously, then they have to be considered on their own merit and not tainted by sexist expectations of how we ought to act. When we put our names to our writing, we must be able to trust that judgment of our work will be based on the quality of our arguments, not on our socially acceptable dress size or our agreeable nature or our willingness to go out with a stranger from the Internet. I will probably always encounter the occasional sexist remark and so will many of you, but rather than viewing it as disheartening, use it as an opportunity to emphasize that the struggle for gender equality is far from over.

  1. taratypes reblogged this from lenachen and added:
    Amen.
  2. flickeringice reblogged this from lenachen and added:
    new favorite blogger, and one...RIDICULOUS amount...media...
  3. ashleybethard reblogged this from lenachen and added:
    Amen, sista.
  4. lenachen posted this