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As well all know, everyone on the Internet is fat and ugly.
In fact, if you're a woman, it doesn't matter what you're writing or talking about, your appearance is part of the conversation.
I refuse to go back into the panting slathering trolls den of YouTube to pull specific examples of what is being said about me, but suffice it to say that I am really not qualified to post funny videos on the Internet when it comes to criteria of body size and shape and facial symmetry. And one time somebody called me a goblin.
One of my favorite examples of a woman's arguments being evaluated by her appearance, is the time Lesley wrote an article about sexism against female gamers that devolved into a discussion about the fatness of her hands.
One commenter seriously just wrote "Her hands are fat." We couldn't help but laugh about it -- it seemed like a parody of something, too over-the-top ridiculous to be real. Seriously, I just got off the phone with her and we laughed about it for like 10 more minutes.
But this This is Internet male syndrome. I don't know where this phrase came from or where I first heard it, but I instantly understood what it meant.
The evaluator's appearance, of course, is irrelevant. The point is that YOU somehow forgot to give HIM a boner, which as everybody knows is each woman's initial responsibility to the world. I wish I could find a screenshot of the man who made a response video suggesting the 5 young beautiful comedians in this video I made a few years back made his penis retract into his body. He seems to have wisely removed it before I was able to release the wrath of the xoJane community on him. Curses!
I don't know if these kinds of comments are hurtful to Lesley -- I see her as some kind of invincible super heroine with FEELINGS OF STEEL, which is probably not true. But they are hurtful to me, as someone who was raised to overvalue appearance and desirability and has not fully been able to shake the lessons that covert incest teach. Am I smart? Am I talented? Who CARES, if I'm not sexy?
And while my father, as a byproduct of his own sickness, unintentionally made me feel this way, this is how the Internet male wants me, wants us, to feel.
And that is the part that truly sickens me -- the sheer entitlement of acting as if a woman's purpose is to be attractive and boner-inducing to each specific male who may encounter her, however indirectly. As you all know, I like to be sexy! I like sexual attention, even. But that doesn't mean I think sexual desirability should be a prerequisite to exist in this world/have your voice be heard.
(Nor do I think it should work the opposite way; women who dare to embrace and exhibit their sexuality also deserve to be taken seriously, listened to and treated with respect. My tits and my brain are both exemplary, thanks.)
The basic, infuriating assumption of the Internet male, of course, is that the validity of a woman's ideas are contingent on her appearance first meeting with his approval, and trust me it's a losing game in a world where Christina Hendricks is "fat" and Megan Fox is "a dog." Your choices are to either strive to meet an impossible standard of universal attractiveness, thus wasting time you could be spending using your mind to better the world, or you waste that time fighting a battle to prove that what you have to say is not contingent on how well you decorate said world.
I'm willing to admit I get caught on the first option sometimes.Yes, it is true: The beauty standard is not some abstract concept that I am able to objectively ponder and then approach rationally. It is a bubbling witch's cauldron I've been stewing in my whole life. Realizing you're in the brew doesn't stop your ass from cooking!
So if I was just thin enough, my lizard brain thinks sometimes, if I just got veneers or applied my makeup correctly or used the right camera angles, I'd be unimpeachable and we could get on to evaluating my words and ideas. The second option is the more noble choice, but its just as exhausting and unlikely to see victory as the first.
So how do we defeat Internet male syndrome? By not participating in it, to start with. Because you don't have to be male or on the Internet to go for the easy low-blow of calling a woman ugly or fat (or too thin -- I've heard Ann Coulter called Skeletor quite a few times) when we mean that we disagree with them. At least in a public forum, keep appearance completely off limits. If you dislike someone or disagree with what they represent, force yourself to express why without resorting to physical judgments. Because when we ask women to meet an impossible standard of beauty just to exist, we all lose.
Oh, and those those who have been or may be victimized by Internet Male Syndrome, I find it helpful to think to myself, "If I met that guy in a bar, he would totally hit it." I mean, he WOULD! Just like all those dudes making stupid jokes about how nobody wants to see Linsay Lohan naked in Playboy would be thanking the sweet baby Jesus if those boobs were in their beds. Real Life Male is so much less discerning than the Internet version.