Women make up half of the world’s population. Women are intelligent, successful, contributing members of society, and yet there are many who don’t see their worth or value their thoughts. If you are of this opinion, social media and the internet in general makes it very easy to share this. Part of the reason I don’t have much of an online presence is for fear of trolls and cyberbullies. My classmate, Sarah, felt the same way about starting a blog. Apparently, our fears are justified as “harassment of women online is at risk of becoming ‘an established norm in our digital society’”. Research in Australia found that almost half of women have experienced some form of abuse or harassment online. Men, not surprisingly, face much less harassment.
The recent Gamergate controversy has seen victims like Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian receiving multiple death and rape threats. Other recent female victims of online harassment include: Amanda Hess, a pundit who writes on a wide array of topics, Caroline Criado-Perez, a feminist activist and writer, and culture critic Sady Doyle. Doyle actually says she is lucky because she’s only received one death threat and not that many rape threats. How is that lucky?
Online harassment includes but may not be limited to: unwanted contact, trolling, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, doxing, revenge porn, and threats of physical violence, rape, and death. Jamie Oliver’s piece on online harassment spoke a lot about revenge porn. Revenge porn is when naked photos of someone are posted online without their consent. One can see how this could quite quickly ruin someone’s life, and shockingly enough there is no law against it in 27 states and it is very difficult to get the photos taken down. When a case comes to light in the media, it is portrayed to be the woman’s fault, who let herself have naked pictures taken of her. Why is blame being placed on the woman? It’s as if the one posting the photos is exonerated of any blame.
It seems as though women aren’t allowed to vocalize any of their thoughts online without the potential of being harassed. Our own instructor, Katia Hildebrandt, was trolled for tweeting a study on white privilege. “Gendered bigotry against women is widely considered to be “in bounds” by Internet commenters.” Many comments come from anonymous or fake accounts. Although anonymity can be beneficial when it’s used to “comfort and protect individuals who wish to express opinions in a psychologically “safe” environment,” it also protects the people who make unethical comments. Would these same people be making these comments if there name was attached to it so they could be held accountable? Probably not.