Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Only Verdict is Vengeance

Progressive bloggers have coined a number of terms for the reactionary trolls that sometimes invade our spaces. Thanks to bloggers such as the inimitable Melissa McEwan of Shakesville,, we have the use of such colorful terms "concern trolls," "mansplainers," and "dudebros." Right now, I would like to propose a new addition to this ever-evolving lexicon: the "Perseus." Allow me to explain.

I am an avid reader and commenter on the blog Sociological Images. This fascinating site features thought-provoking images from around the world, with commentary on their sociological significance. Officially, Sociological Images is not a feminist blog, or even a progressive one. However, many of the posts have a definite progressive slant, which reflects the authors' political orientation. And the comment section is typically a relatively progressive, feminist space.

Recently, however, Sociological Images has been discovered by a number of determined trolls, most of them anti-feminist. These folks swoop down on certain threads--usually the ones dealing with gender issues--and instigate long-running flame wars that derail any actual discussion.

Now, I love a good debate, and I also love having the last word. As a result, I have a tendency to get sucked into lengthy arguments with these anti-feminist trolls. Recently, I've been involved in a couple of skirmishes with a fellow who goes by the handle "Perseus."

A few days ago, Perseus posted some sexist crap in a thread about women and modesty. In response to concerns that elaborate modesty codes might be oppressive to women, he wrote, "You are only as oppressed as you want to be."

I am not making this up.

I posted a brief response, politely informing him that his argument was both inaccurate and offensive. In response, he asked me if I was replying to his posts simply because I had a "vendetta" against him.

So apparently, I have a vendetta against Perseus, of which I was previously unaware.

As my next act in this vendetta, I hope to vanquish this venal and virulent vermin by adding his name to my typology of internet and real-life trolls. Here, ladies and gentlemen, is the definition of a Perseus.

The Perseus is a particular breed of of self-styled intellectual, often encountered in the comments sections of feminist or progressive blogs. Like the mansplainer, the Perseus is always male; a female troll with similar characteristics may be termed an Andromeda.

The Perseus is characterized by his compulsion to debunk any and all feminist arguments. When he cannot accomplish this goal through logic, he resorts to sophistry and derailing.

A typical Perseus is usually quite civil. However, he will periodically indulge in a blatant show of disrespect toward one of his female interlocutors. These performances are usually completely unprovoked.

The truly fascinating aspect the Perseus is that he views himself as a champion of rational discourse. His most vociferous attacks are reserved for women whom he accuses of non-rigorous thinking. Invariably, the Perseus fails to see the painful irony of his attempts to raise the level of discourse through bullying and puerile insults.

Now, this may seem like a weirdly specific definition, which would only apply to Perseus himself. However, I have personally interacted with several individuals who fit this definition to the letter. It seems that the Perseus is indeed a distinct variety of troll, and that I'll be putting my new word to some good use.

The Perseus is not necessarily malicious, stupid, or mentally unbalanced. If anything, he is smarter than most, and reasonably well-intentioned. And yet it seems pretty much impossible to engage him in a serious discussion of gender issues. Which, frankly, makes me sad.

And now, my gentle readers, I'd like to know: have you met a Perseus type, or some variation on the Perseus theme? Do you think it's possible for a feminist woman to debate with a Perseus in a productive way? Or is the Perseus just a troll, pure and simple?

Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose. So, let me simply add that it is my very good honor to have you on this blog, and you may call me...Simone.


  1. Simone,
    I met the same Perseus as you did. I think he does not have bad intentions. I think that he is one of those who thinks that "enough has been done about gender equality and women should stop whining and reap the benefits of it."
    It's a common stance among highschoolers, i think.

  2. I came here from Sociological Images specifically to give props for handling this dude whenever he pops up. I don't think he needs the honor of his own entry in the troll encyclopedia; he and SI commenters like him seem to me to be classic mansplainers, armed with a vast arsenal of anti-feminist rhetoric.

    No, it's not possible to have a productive debate with this type of person, simply because they're not there to argue in good faith. They're there to be contrarian (just a step above "doin it 4 teh lulz"). Nevertheless I think you handle them admirably on SI.