Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Victim blaming, attention seeking and Caroline Criado-Perez

Caroline Criado-Perez is good at getting herself noticed by the media. She’s the kind of person who gets hold of a single issue and won’t let go, even when others are telling her it’s not important. She lays herself in the firing line, even when she doesn’t need to. She’s an attention seeker. Feminism needs its attention seekers. She deserves our support.

Since Criado-Perez’s banknote campaign morphed into a very public confrontation with misogyny on twitter, I’ve been amazed at some of the responses coming from “nice guys” and “allies” alike. You don’t have to agree with the report button as a solution. You don’t even have to think the women on banknotes issue mattered (although the vicious reaction to that campaign’s success might suggest otherwise). I would nevertheless expect that when a woman is receiving rape and death threats and, rather than staying quiet, she decides to publicise this, she should get a more imaginative response than “ooh, you’re just doing that for attention!” No shit, Sherlock. Of course she bloody is. Good on her. Don’t agree with the proposed solutions? Fine, but don’t ever condemn Criado-Perez for shouting back.

Let’s take a look at some of the inspired pieces of advice that have come Caroline’s way today (not the rape and death threats; those are, apparently, just bo-ring now):

You’re just giving vile tweeters publicity.

Look at @CCriadoPerez timeline you see her retweeting all threats. Attn seeking and whipping up her 23k fans.

Just read the timeline of @CCriadoPerez. She isn’t a campaigner for what is good or right at all, she’s just another censorious bigot.

You had a valid complaint at first but now you’re just attention seeking. Is this about fame/money now?

You are Silly Woman of the Week. He [Toby Young] has every right to patronise you.

Stop whinging.

Yes, Caroline, shut up, won’t you? Those rape threats have only been sent to silence you so why not get in there first and silence yourself? Sorted! It seems a lot of people - smug people, people who quote Voltaire and John Stuart Mill and sit back, content, at their supposed free speech triumph - have no sense of irony. The whole point of shouting back isn’t to create silence -- it’s to challenge a culture which relies on most of the population voluntarily shutting the hell up, whether it’s out of fear, embarrassment or simply the desire not to make a fuss. Criado-Perez is making a fuss. She’s making a massive fuss and is, in the process, making herself more of a target. That this is happening should shame us, not her.

I look at Criado-Perez’s timeline and what I see is someone showing us exactly what happens when a woman refuses to play by the unspoken rules that most of us obey without even noticing it. This doesn’t mean most of us manage to avoid abuse. We get it all the same, but we modify our behaviour, limit our freedoms, don’t behave as equals, still feel impostors in space that is supposed to be shared. Criado-Perez has said “fuck that”. We should applaud such a stance. It helps to shine a light on what’s under the surface, on the real consequences of women speaking with as loud a voice as men.

I guess some people take a rather purist position on what activism should be -  self-effacing, behind the scenes, out of the spotlight, free from media manipulation or collusion. The route Criado-Perez has taken isn’t the only one or necessarily the most valuable, and it’s not even one that’s open to all of us. Many other women have suffered equally vicious abuse on twitter and no one has listened to their voices. Criado-Perez has been listened to and she’s made the most of this. Privileged people should look to their own complicity in the silencing of other women but that should never be an excuse to silence yet another.

I know many feminists who lay themselves on the line for what they believe in, courting both hostility from detractors and rejection by their peers. That in itself is a feminist act. Women aren’t meant to take up too much space, and they’re meant to be afraid. The amount of self-censorship required to be an “acceptable” woman is staggering. We can’t do it. We shouldn’t have to. Criado-Perez has been brave, honest and passionate enough to demonstrate this. She has more courage in her little finger than those whinging about her own supposed whinging. She has displayed far more stoicism than those who ostentatiously recast their own timidity as “bravely shrugging it off”.

If Caroline’s actions annoy you, listen to the voices of those trying to silence her. Note how loud they are. Ask yourself if this is their space. Ask yourself who’s censoring whom. And for one moment just ask yourself how much you’re supporting free speech by telling yet another woman to retreat back into silence.

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22 thoughts on “Victim blaming, attention seeking and Caroline Criado-Perez

  • Tim Wood says:

    Having been accused of trolling. . And as I saw the word pop past on a tweet from Caroline I asked her for a definition of it. . I wasn’t trolling I just disagreed with someone and there were no threats or swearing. .When lo and Caroline sent me a msg saying look at Caroline’s timeline for a definition. . I did. And was gob smacked someone could be allowed to write vile things like that on twitter. Or say that to anyone. There’s an up to 7year sentence for death threats. And for me there is no excuse for saying what this idiot said to Caroline.He should be prosecuted. As anyone should who thinks its ok to abuse someone like that. If you don’t agree then use a reasoned arguement . . Don’t abuse and threaten. . It’s not exactly intelligent is it. So no one will listen . .This is one instance when this guy’s 15 minutes of ‘fame’ will not be appreciated by his grandma or mum. Or aunty. . Or his dad for that matter. I personally don’t agree with chip on the shoulder feminists but that’s because not being one and being labelled a misogynist out of hand by them has happened to me . .Just because i don’t agree with the frankly aggressive approach by many feminists. They just aren’t very feminine sometimes. And being feminine is not a bad thing it should be celebrated by them . I love women. .But i couldn’t eat a whole one. . 🙂

    • Admin says:

      We rolled our eyes at you closing your comment with a sexist joke.

      We wish men who make sexist jokes would try and be a little more original.

      Feminism – look it up. It might not make you very comfortable, but that actually isn’t the aim.

      However, the rest of your comment shows good understanding, so this time, we won’t be ‘accidentally’ hitting the Trash button.

    • M.K. Hajdin says:

      If femininity were such a great thing, men would be competing with each other to be the most feminine.

      Actually femininity is shit. It’s about making women seem weak and silly so that men get to feel better and stronger and smarter than us.

      Tim, you were labeled a misogynist because you are one.

    • Nicole Warren says:

      oh Tim you were doing so well… until the sad, sad ending..

  • YES to every word of this. I’m sick & tired of being told I shouldn’t get so stressed about this crap.

  • Michael says:

    Brilliant article. This dynamic reminds me of the different factions that developed in and around the suffragette movement.
    Also the underlying dynamic in the abuse and desire to physically, sexually and psychically shut women up is best framed not as hate but as terror – an abusing man is someone who has never come to terms with the fact that he was born in bed with a woman.

  • Michael Coates says:

    I really hate the fact that people still need to be told things like this, as if it isn’t completely obvious already. Shows how far we still have to go as a society.

    All the same this is an extremely well written and thought provoking blog so good work.

  • Brian O'Keefe says:

    I believe things might be changing, this last few months I’ve seen young women on twitter shout out about, seemingly, routine, touching up/sexual assault on trains to such an extent that I now see British Transport police asking for such to be reported directly to them.
    As for the tolls, I see a correlation between the ‘lads’ culture misogynistic trash talk in pubs and what happens on line, it’s a long slow process but I believe they’ll fade away in time.

  • Dr Vleib says:

    Great article! I was inspired by Criado-Perez’s activist stance, in re-tweeting her abusers, to undertake a little activism of my own. I re-tweeted one of her troll’s comments to a group of men I follow, who have expressed revulsion at men’s violence against women, inviting them to tell us what men of courage say to cowards like the troll. Hilariously, the troll’s address was included in the ensuing tweetstorm about men’s experiences of, and opposition to, all forms of sexual violence. oh, the joy and power that comes from breaking the silence. How happy I am to be an outspoken feminist activist, and how proud I am that at the helm of this important conversation is a group of feisty, brilliant women (& male supporters). Long may teh feminist wave roll on!

  • Chris says:

    I just can’t get my head round those saying she should just ignore the threats…or block…or whatever.
    Beyond the main hope – that something can actually be done about these idiots – I’d like to say thank you to Caroline for opening my eyes. Of course, I’m not stupid, I was aware of twitter abuse in general. I guess anyone who opens their mouth on the interwebs might get a bit. Even in my tiny circle of twitter followers and a very occasional blog as well as in the comments sections of various publication, I’ve received a bit of abuse. But what I’m talking about is being sworn at, being called a moron, told to FOAD etc. While I might be sad that we don’t live in a more civilised world where we can debate ideas rather than shout at each other, surely it’s that sort of stuff that the “block” button is for.
    What’s happening to Caroline is NOT that!
    God, rape threats? Death threats? And can’t they also see that this isn’t some bloke (I can’t tell you how embarrassed I am to be male sometimes!) getting a bit over annoyed and saying something in the heat of the moment? Not that rape threats would be acceptable even then; and as if Jane Austen on a bank note could actually fire anyone to anger!
    There’s a whole debate to be had, of course about whatever is the matter with these people but…
    To those people telling Caroline to “keep calm and carry on” I want to shout “why the hell should she, or anyone else?” Perhaps they should try to imagine it was their daughter, wife, mother, friend.
    To Caroline and all the rest of you (not that you need my endorsement) I’d say keep on shouting!

    • Nolwenn says:

      Thanks Chris,

      It’s guys like you who remind us that we must keep fighting. My husband is equally appalled at this crazy behaviour. This is not ‘a bit of fun’ that we should just ignore. And you make a godd point: I have a daughter and if anyone was making that kind of threats to her I would be screaming to whoever was listening (and to quite a few who weren’t). We will keep shouting: trolls cannot be allowed for one second to think that they might win.
      Thanks again.

  • An excellent article. I have been genuinely shocked by how many people blame the people receiving the threats for essentially ‘making a fuss’. We should not be willing to accept a society where people can get away with intimidating people just because it’s difficult to deal with. It’s like a child at school being told to ignore the bullies. It never works, the bullies are empowered and the child feels lost and betrayed. We need to challenge this culture in all its forms.

  • James Thomas says:

    I had an ‘interesting’ conversation with the type of man you describe, who seemed to believe that Caroline had it coming (“If your timeline consists of hundreds of rape threats YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG.”) and that it was her own fault for making a fuss (“Being a feminist, probably. You have to remember that most people have more important things to worry about.”). Absolutely unbelievable that seemingly intelligent people can hold such ridiculous beliefs.

  • Aoife says:

    It’s the same old same old. We’re still getting told to act like ladies. Dignity, graciousness, rising above it, shrugging it off; that’ll show them, won’t it?Fuck off that’s BULLSHIT. I WON’T be a lady, I’m a woman.

  • Jane Middleton says:

    Fantastic article. There’s a great quote from Emmeline Pankhurst on the imperative not to be good quiet little girls:

    ‘You have to make more noise than anybody else, you have to make yourself more obtrusive than anybody else, you have to fill all the papers more than anybody else, in fact you have to be there all the time and see that they do not snow you under, if you are really going to get your reform realised.’

    I reckon Caroline’s done her proud.

  • […] what they want”, “you should just leave twitter”. This is called victim blaming. Stop victim blaming. If you choose not to participate in online media, that’s your choice. But don’t go […]

  • Elizabeth @LizJ73. says:

    Great article Glosswitch. First Caroline recieves rape and death threats then comes the victim blaming and then the ridiculous,untrue accusations that she is attention seeking for fame and money
    Im willing to bet that the accusations of wanting fame are coming from people who read those celebrity rags and so believe that everyone else is as obsessed with fame as they (the readers of those mags) are.
    The threats she and others have been horrific but then to victim blame and accuse her of wanting fame. I think the people accusing her of wanting fame are the ones who want that actually.
    The reason Caroline was in the press last week is because of months and months of campaigning and a supreme effort to make sure that at least one woman is on a banknote and to stop women being erased from history.
    The reason Caroline has been in the news this week is because of the abuse she recieved as a result of the fact that she made an effort to make a change. And because she is a strong intelligent woman.
    And while im at it i would like to address some comments ive seen calling her a middle class feminist who is only interested in other middle class feminists.
    As a working class feminist who has been made extremely welcome and supported by Caroline and the Womens Room and others i would like to confirm that people who have been making those comments are talking absolute rubbish.
    I also agree that Caroline has done Emmeline Pankhurst proud.

  • Elizabeth @LizJ73. says:

    Sorry i should have read that back before posting.
    It should read as
    The threats Caroline and others have been getting have been horrific but then to victim blame and accuse her of wanting fame reads to me that its the people accusing her of this that want that.
    Because they think that everyone thinks like they do.

  • Heckill says:

    Trolls who delight in rape and death threats, particularly rape, suffer from what I like to call “Big Dick Syndrome”. When a woman speaks up or tries to change something, some men feel inadequate (read dickless) and hence resort to violence. It’s not sexual at all, it’s a power trip.

    It may help if we could convince them that real power would be if their dicks could squirt out slightly more rational and thoughtful human beings than them. But they would need a female partner for that. I have no ideas at the moment.

    Great article BTW, thanks! 🙂

  • John Burns says:

    As I’ve said on other fora, real men are with Caroline 100% on this. The idiots who troll and victim blame and threaten are not worthy of the name. The tide is turning, but we all, men and women, need to keep the pressure on. Keep shouting back.

  • […] been called an attention seeker for retweeting some nasty things tweeted to her. Another blogger commented that “The whole point of shouting back isn’t to create silence — it’s to challenge a […]

  • […] been called an attention seeker for retweeting some nasty things tweeted to her. Another blogger commented that “The whole point of shouting back isn’t to create silence — it’s to challenge a […]