That someone could think to post a picture of a dead woman who appears to be shot in the head with the tagline, “I like her for her brains,” or a woman lying at the bottom of the stairs with the line, “Next time, don’t get pregnant,” is enough to give any optimist pause. Even worse is that such hateful misogyny could be considered humor. And the fact that up until now Facebook didn’t classify this as “hate speech” means that the people behind these images and pages had their sexism validated and accepted.
But this glaring, in-your-face misogyny may be the spark that pushes culture forward—there’s no arguing with these images, these court cases, these stories. Maybe it needed to get a lot worse—or more visible—for it to get better. For years, the most common anti-feminist talking point has been that American women don’t have it all that bad. That we should stop complaining and focus on women in other countries who are “really” oppressed.
But today, telling women that sexism doesn’t exist anymore is a really hard sell. Thanks to the Internet and the speed at which stories move—not to mention the vile sexism in most online spaces—any American woman who spends more than five minutes onlines hears about or experiences misogyny every day. And the absolute deluge of sexism—from “legitimate rape” and birth control controversies to rape jokes and high-profile domestic violence murders—makes it impossible for anti-feminists to call these stories anomalies in an otherwise equal society. What they really are is proof of systemic political inequity and cultural disdain for women.