I write for a student newspaper with 1.3 million monthly readers. Its unsurprising that occasionally someone will disagree with a point of view, or even take offense, even though it’s tongue in cheek and generally approached with the expectation of humour. I’ll admit it, I probably crease myself up on a more regular basis than I do anyone else, but I’d imagine that the majority of the world’s level headed people would take a pitiful attempt at comedy over a conscious effort at aggression. The long and short of it is this: I’m sick of the trolls.
Any way you look at it, there’s a level of amusement behind the fact that people are honestly taking time to troll someone as small news as me. Up until this point, I have always just laughed and moved on. But there’s a difference between not really caring, and really not caring. Unfortunately, I seem to be regressing away from the latter stage. It’s convenient that this relapse times in with the growing prevalence of the “Why women can’t be funny” issue.
A quick Google and I’ve found a webpage declaring that, “women aren’t funny, they aren’t blessed with wit, like men, so they talk about their vaginas or periods or intend to shock- or if they don’t they are like Victoria Wood and cater to other bored housewives… female comedians are so unintelligent and devoid of wit, it is shocking… it’s not a natural state… women go for guys with an IQ around 5 points higher than their own. Men tend to care more about youthful looks that signal fertility.” The author? A woman. I think it’s time we re-consider what we think of as “natural” in the 21st century.
These opinions are by no means common, but they’re not exactly uncommon either. The evidence suggests that humans find men more funny than women. There are no more than 5 or 6 ‘famous’ comediennes, and, although I hate to partially agree with whoever wrote the aforementioned statement, a lot of their jokes revolve around negative appearance. They call themselves fat, we all laugh. What’s up with that? Why are we not empowering these women to be funny further than their arguably unfortunate appearance? People like Sarah Millican or Jo Brand or Dawn French or Miranda Hart. These women are intelligent. Don’t let them reduce themselves to nothing more than a body.
I personally choose not to write about my appearance, or love life, or bodily function. And yet I am at the receiving end of the exact same comments as any funny female who does. My first ever experience with a troll went along the lines of, “Let me ask you a question. Why are you so fat?” I was 14. My most recent, on an article about my university giving personal details to the police without a court order, was “Belle Johnson shut your damn whore mouth.” I wish I could see the connection between content and comment, but I don’t. I also can’t rationalise the unending connection between wit and promiscuity. Slut, whore, slag. All labels employed when commenting on the material women have worked hard to make funny. These are specifically female insults. I am sure there are men who are trolled, but I highly doubt its for being funny, or relates in any way to their sexual habits.
What I’m really getting at is this: no matter what your gender or your race or your upbringing, why does anyone feel that the mask of a keyboard and a computer screen obliges them to be derogative about another human. It’s not an equal playing field. As writers we expose ourselves, not only through our work. Pictures of me are frequently part of what I write, as are details about what I do and where I go in my day to day life. My writing is very personal to me and I work hard to form a unique style, which is then commented on anonymously. What’s more interesting to me than any of the comments is that when people do have the gall to attach their comment to a name, nine times out of ten it is male. When a troll addresses you by your full name, or mentions in a comment that they know where you live, it’s threatening, whether you’re female or not.
I’ll be honest, on the whole I do find comedians more amusing than comediennes. But I’m not trying to be either. I’m writing a little bit about what I find funny because it makes me happy. The internet is capable of a mature, even handed discussion. If anything I write makes anyone think, or is even offensive, I welcome that feedback. I voice my opinion, I would love to hear yours. Tell me why you’re angry, not that you think I should shut my damn whore mouth.
I’m told that acknowledging your trolls only gives them more power. Let’s be honest: trolls have power over you whether you admit it or not. That’s why I’m writing this piece. Not because I want sympathy, but because if I stop even one troll, then my writing has achieved something good. What do you gain by being anonymously foul? Does it make me any less funny? Does it make you any more?
One final question, which might just shunt everything into perspective, and then I’ll stop. How would you feel about your mother seeing what you’ve written to me? Mine has to, why shouldn’t yours?