Mallory Ortberg, Misandry, and the Beauty of the Feminist Internet

The Los Angeles Book Review posted an excellent piece last week on Mallory Ortberg’s newly-released Texts from Jane Eyre, and it really gets to the heart of what I love about the feminist internet.

I turn to Ortberg’s work in moments when I have been patted on the head by older men who don’t see it a problem that they will never imagine me as more than a child; when I am told (overtly or implicitly) that whatever I do it will never be as important as what a man does; when yet another male talent is revealed as abusive and the world fails to respond. I turn to Ortberg when I, like her, feel rather proud to wear the “misandrist” mantel. I turn to Ortberg when I want to say to the men I love that “your request of ‘gotta hear both sides’ has been denied.”

Ortberg dismantles Male Genius so effectively that she allows her readers to create an imaginative space outside of male seriousness; this is her appeal. In the space she creates, Male Genius is not so much a powerful symbolic order as a self-involved and bumbling habit, one that we might easily leave by the snack table while we get on with the more serious business of living dynamic creative lives.

Mallory Ortberg, for those of you who don’t recognize the name, is the co-creator of The Toast, which anyone who follows me on social media should be well-acquainted with by this point. She writes snarktastic dialogue to accompany classic works of art, composes heartbreaking text conversations with ghosts, and imagines fictional worlds in which Lane Kim doesn’t have such an disappointing adulthood. (“Texts from J. Alfred Prufrock” still makes my day every time I read it.)

What I’m finding is that there’s a whole internet culture out there of women like this–some of them writers, some of them just people with Twitter accounts or Tumblrs–who are totally happy creating awesome things for awesome women and if men happen to read them, well, that’s cool too.

Take, for example, the misandry meme. I once had someone–a woman, a fellow feminist–tell me that joking about misandry isn’t doing the feminist movement any favors, that we should knock it off because it’s making people think we actually are man-haters.

Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. Here’s the thing, though: I don’t care. New examples pop up every day of women being put down, belittled, and ignored simply because of their gender. And sometimes, to be honest, I just need a break from that.

That’s the beauty of the feminist internet. It can be a place for activism, for eloquent arguments in favor of birth control and glorious rants against rape culture. But it can also be a place for humor, for laughing to keep from crying and, sometimes, laughing until you cry.

It’s a place where, for once, women can consistently win. More than that: We can win on our own terms. Mallory Ortberg isn’t just winning at a man’s game; she’s winning at a game they can’t even grasp the rules of.

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