When we thought 4chan had threatened to leak nude pictures of Emma Watson as retaliation for her United Nations speech on feminism last week, it was outrage-on-internet-business as usual. After all, women being verbally attacked and sexually threatened for speaking up is nothing new. Finding out that it was all part of a hoax, however, means He-for-She-gate is a full-blown meta-misogynist clusterfuck.
Rantic Media (also known as Social VEVO), the supposed marketering bros behind the threat – hoax or no, it was still a threat – swears that the goal was to bring attention to the sexism of 4chan and the recent celebrity photo leaks. But sexually threatening an outspoken woman to shine a light on how outspoken women are sexually threatened – well, that’s idiotic at best. The Emma Watson hoax was a cravenly opportunistic move to gin up attention using a real issue, a real woman and real fear that women and marginalized groups across the internet face constantly. That’s not marketing or consciousness-raising: it’s harassment.
And what was this intended to prove (other than, perhaps, some nebulous point about the media’s gullibility)? We all already know that 4chan is a cesspool. Using their tactics is like throwing a bag of garbage into the dump: you’re just adding to the stink.
The Rantic “firm” of men didn’t actually believe that women would be grateful, or that they were doing anything to further the conversation about misogyny online, nor about social media threats or celebrity privacy. The supposed hoaxers just wanted their 15 minutes, their 140 characters. The only thing Emma Watson’s harassers achieved was to remind women that our bodies and the sexual fear with which we’ve been instilled since childhood are usable as a joke. As a way to drum up traffic.
The takeaway from their “funny” hoax is supposed to be Everyone loves a sex scandal! – but that’s only true if you’re not the one being attacked, or you’ll never be the one being attacked.
Sexual harassment and online threats against women aren’t something to joke about or try out in service of some imagined greater good: believe me, no good came of this.
The one maybe-bright spot in this week-long Watson scandal is that clearly vitriolic sexism is finally seen as an outrage, and it might finally provoke action. Though, if the threat had been directed at a woman other than the squeaky-clean young, white, former-Hermione, I’m not sure that would have inevitably been the case.
But to the men who decided Watson’s sense of safety was worth throwing to the internet wolves so long as it meant making a splash: Why not try to reclaim that part of your humanity about which Watson spoke so eloquently in her UN speech? Instead of using women’s bodies and fear and sexuality to make money, get attention and feel like men, consider becoming a more “true and complete version” of yourself. And if that completed guy is still an asshole, do us all a favor and back away from the computer. Permanently.