How is this helpful?

It shows the Campbell’s Soup can qualities of the abuse

Examined en masse, gendered cyberhate appears to have come straight off a Fordist factory assembly line. It’s like looking into a cavernous warehouse full of indistinguishable products that have been mass produced using low-cost methods, standardised moulds, and automated machinery. As discussed elsewhere on this site, drawing attention to the mechanistic qualities of Rapeglish shows that – while the rhetoric in individual messages can seem horribly personal – such material is first and foremost about gender rather than about any individual woman and what she may or may not have done.

It will potentially increase awareness

Many people are not aware of the prevalence and noxious nature of contemporary misogyny online. The reality, however, is that cyber violence against women and girls (cyber VAWG) has become so ubiquitous, the United Nations warns that, left unchecked, it risks producing a 21st century ‘global pandemic’. (An overview of emerging research illustrating the full extent of the problem is available at the Women’s Media Center (WMS) Speech Project web site.) The generators on this site show the way multiple ‘small’ instances of gendered cyberhate can together constitute an extremely large problem. They offer a publicly accessible archive of gendered cyberhate available for use by interested students, researchers, and activists, as well as providing further proof (not that any more is really needed) that the average gendered cyberhater has all the imaginative ability of a really-not-very-imaginative person.

It speaks the unspeakable

The explicit and pernicious content of Rapeglish makes much of this material metaphorically unspeakable. Yet if it is not spoken – and is not spoken about – the problem risks remaining an invisible problem. The hard fact is that people who have never received or read any gendered cyberhate are unlikely to fully appreciate its true violence (and vile-ness) unless they are prepared to look at some examples in all their unexpurgated (non) glory.

It helps break the toxic silence

Regardless of the context, sexual violence and abuse is often surrounded by an insidious, oppressive, and toxic silence. Victim-blaming and shaming is endemic. The latter is generated not only by outsiders, but by women internally, in that those who have suffered abuse frequently blame and shame themselves for the harm others have caused them. Silence tends to protect perpetrators, to obscure larger social problems, and to serve as a petri dish for the cultivation of shame. While speaking publicly is not for everyone, under the right circumstances, it can benefit not only the speakers, but the listeners, as well. This site joins the broad (and often extremely fraught) feminist project of speaking out about gendered violence in all its forms.

It shows targets they are not alone

Rape threats and other sexualised vitriol often arrives on women’s personal devices when they are in private spaces. Many women report feeling isolated, vulnerable, afraid, and even ashamed. The generators on this site are designed to help remind individual targets that they are not the only ones getting ‘sit on a knife’ tweets and also that, while the technology is new, the lascivious contempt and threats of sexualised violence saturating the internet come from much older misogynistic traditions. These realisations won’t make the problem go away, but they might provide a helpful sense of community, support, and perspective.

It focusses on perpetrators

These generators represent part of a concerted effort to move the conversation about solving gendered cyberhate away from the people being attacked and towards those doing the attacking. The prevailing ‘wisdom’ about how to solve cyber VAWG is to suggest women change where they go, what they do, and what they say in the public cybersphere. Often they are advised – including by police – to simply take a little break from the internet altogether (because there’s nothing about the internet any of us need for our jobs, social lives, politics, hook-up commitments, online shopping responsibilities, or anything). Conspicuously absent from such conversations are suggestions that perhaps men take a little break from disagreeing with women’s political views by threatening them with ‘a good smashing up the arse’ (cited in Criado-Perez, 2013).

The current focus on women’s rather than men’s behaviour online must change. A useful model going forwards is the comedian Sarah Silverman’s top 10 tips for avoiding rape. These include: ‘If you are in an elevator and a woman gets in, don’t rape her’; ‘If you pull over to help a woman whose car has broken down, remember not to rape her’; and ‘Carry a rape whistle. If you find that you are about to rape someone, blow the whistle until someone comes to stop you’ (cited in Cohen, 2015).