Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Women and the laughing emoji

This is about Facebook posts, so it might not make sense to people who don’t use that social media platform. It has to do with the “laughing” emoji that Facebook brought in a few years ago to accompany the standard “thumbs up” (or “like”) emoji that had been in use from the early days. Other emojis brought in at the same time as the “laughing” include a “surprised” emoji and a “crying” emoji. There are others too but the one that concerns me here is the “laughing” one.

I’ve written about women and the way that they can sometimes use social media on one earlier occasion, on 9 October last year, when I posted a piece titled, “Ever been mansplained? How about femmesplained?” That piece talked about how women will often stand on ceremony when they have a conversation with you. If you argue with a woman or counter something she has said she might say something like, “I’ve got a doctoral degree in English literature so you can just shut up.” Men don’t do this kind of thing. Men will argue with you no matter who you are, and bugger the consequences, but they won’t stand on a high horse and look down at you as though you are a pleb if they are better-qualified than you. Women do.

Lately I’ve been seeing another thing that women often do on social media. This is to use the “laughing” emoji on Facebook to ridicule something that has been written.

The other day I was on Facebook and someone posted an article, with a comment, about Julie Bishop, the former foreign minister of Australia. I commented saying that Bishop is my cousin and I gave some details about the family that I knew, including information about another cousin who is a genealogist. Then someone, who is a theatre critic, put the “laughing” emoji on my comment and said below, in a comment of her own, “So what is your point.” No question mark, just those words. I decided to remove my comment entirely in order to avoid an ugly confrontation. I saw her name and realised that in the past she had been a Facebook friend, but that now she wasn’t.

Then the next day the same thing happened again. I had put up a post on Facebook saying the following:
Not sure what Roger Waters has been smoking but the fact is that Australia allows tens of thousands of Asians and Muslims to become citizens every year. What is his problem?
This was in response to a story in which the English rock musician had been quoted saying that Australians are racist. A woman who is an academic, put the “laughing” emoji on the post. I didn’t take my post down but I did feel as I had before when this sort of thing had happened. I felt hurt.

It had appeared on posts in this way before, of course, this “laughing” emoji. And always it is a woman with progressive political views who does it. Conservatives are too polite to do something like this, although they might put up a counter-argument if they feel strongly about something they read on Facebook.

It is usually progressive women who use this particular item of commentary in order to signal their feeling of scorn in the face of what you have said. One woman who had done this I quickly unfriended because even though she had been enthusiastically “liking” posts of mine and even commenting on some of them, it became clear that she was likely to be nasty again on a mere whim. Another time that a woman had used this kind of emoji I had unfriended her, then about a week later she asked to be friends on Facebook with me again and I assented. (It would turn out that one of her friends would use the “laughing” emoji to criticise a post of mine again, later, and in that case I decided to unfriend her, and her friend).

Of course, women aren’t the only people who use the “laughing” emoji in this way. There was a man who did it to me once who had been nasty on a few other occasions and so I unfriended him. He is the cousin of an Australian historian and writer whose books I admire (and who is now deceased). He is, like the women I have described in this post, a progressive. In fact, he is very left-wing in his views, which no doubt gave him the feeling that he was justified in being as bad-mannered as he wanted because, presumably, he would end up being on the right side of history …

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