Emma Barnett: The Dappy syndrome - why are women attacking each other online to defend abusive men?
Published 23/01/2013 | 09:51
LAST week N-Dubz rapper Dappy (otherwise know as Costadinos Contostavlos), was found guilt of affray and assault by beating after an altercation in a petrol station. He now faces three years in jail.
The 25-year old rapper, who is the cousin and bandmate of X Factor judge Tulisa, was also cleared of two common assault charges after he was accused at spitting at two teenager girls - Serena Burton and Grace Cochran, both 19.
According to the prosecution, Dappy approached both of the girls who were sitting outside of the station shop on the pavement and tried to persuade them to get into his car with him and continue on to a party with him.
The court was informed that when the girls, apparently unaware of his celebrity status, refused his come-on – he allegedly grew annoyed and called them sluts. Dappy was then accused of spitting at them but missing – the two counts of common assault – which he denied.
Dappy, himself, told the court that the girls “had shown me disrespect, a lot”.
David Jenkins, a man also at the petrol station, duly stepped in to protect the two girls, and as well losing several teeth in the fight that then ensued between him and Dappy plus his chums, was the recipient of the rapper’s spit.
Regardless of what actually went on at the petrol station, which sadly sounds like the makings of many a boozy Friday or Saturday evening (Dappy plus gang arriving at the petrol station after a classy-sounding night in the VIP area of the Casino nightclub in Guildford), the two teenager girls have since been receiving death threats and other such abuse on Twitter by N-Dubz fans – many of whom are women.
One of the girls, Burton, went on ITV’s Daybreak to talk about the horrendous abuse she and her friend have been receiving since she gave evidence - such as 'Hope you and your mate die a horrible death'. However, death threats are so the norm on Twitter now, I bet you didn’t even bat an eyelid as you read that sentence – something worrying in itself.
But if the girls want to make the abuse end, they have very few options: they can report the offenders’ accounts to Twitter, block them or simply leave the site.
The current guidelines being drawn up by Keir Starmer, the British Director of Public Prosecutions, who is grappling with how to best to sensibly curtail and punish those people using Twitter to spread abuse, also don’t really do much for the likes of Burton or Cochran. Starmer’s framework takes in how many followers the abuser has – ie, their impact – and if, as is the case with most of these ardent N-Dubz fans, they are few in number – no prosecution can be mounted.
And unlike the British comedian, Noel Fielding, (who set his Twitter followers on a woman to try and make her attempt suicide last year) Dappy did not use Twitter might to set his fans onto the two girls. So again Burton and Cochran have little choice but to put up with it.
Incidentally Dappy also took to the microblogging site to put his side across: “Not guilty for spitting at the females but guilt of for defending myself from the 3 males.”
Sadly, the warped situation of women taking to Twitter or other sites to defend men who have or have been accused of ‘disrespecting’ women (to use Dappy’s choice of phrase) by abusing the very ladies who have spoken out, is now more the norm than a rarity.
One of the best and most high profile examples is the case of another music maker across the pond– the US artist Chris Brown – who assaulted his then girlfriend Rihanna.
Brown’s defenders were quick to surface all over the web – and this was to defend a man who had mounted a highly visible assault on a highly visible woman.
So why are women attacking other women so violently online in a bid to defend men who have or are accused of hurting women?
Laura Bates, the creator of the incredibly successful Everyday Sexism campaign, thinks it’s just not ‘cool’ to be seen as a woman standing up for other women until you are older. But even then – our own culture can prevent positive action.
“It’s part of the normalisation of sexism in our culture. Younger women think that you have to be older, ugly and angry to stand up for women and actually see standing up for abusive men as a way to get brownie points with those men that they respect in spite of their disrespectful actions to women.”
The irony that two teenage girls could take a man to court for allegedly spitting at them and then end up being the victim of digital death threats is too sad and too true in what should be the most enlightened time of humankind.
The internet was created to set information free – just as Twitter was. It wasn’t set up to play host to huge amounts of trolling and hate exchanges that go unpoliced and create all types of untold damage. Brilliantly, high-profile women such as the academic Mary Beard, are now fighting back – but will it change anything?
I am really not sure how things will change for the better anytime soon on the wild wild web, but just maybe, when a social media profile becomes as important as something in the real world denoting your identity – such as a driving licence – will people finally begin to behave online as they would and hopefully already do in the real world. With dignity.