Online Harassment of Women: some links

Round four of the carnival goes live tomorrow. For terminal procrastinators (like me!) I’ve gathered some links to articles and essays about online harassment of women, in hopes that it’ll help you along in your post-crafting. Good luck with your writing/drawing/vlogging!

Guardian — How the Web Became A Sexists’ Paradise, by Jessica Valenti.

While no one could deny that men experience abuse online, the sheer vitriol directed at women has become impossible to ignore. Extreme instances of stalking, death threats and hate speech are now prevalent, as well as all the everyday harassment that women have traditionally faced in the outside world – cat-calls, for instance, or being “rated” on our looks. It’s all very far from the utopian ideals that greeted the dawn of the web – the idea of it as a new, egalitarian public space, where men and women from all races, and of all sexualities, could mix without prejudice.

On some online forums anonymity combined with misogyny can make for an almost gang-rape like mentality. One recent blog thread, attacking two women bloggers, contained comments like, “I would fuck them both in the ass,”; “Without us you would be raped, beaten and killed for nothing,”; and “Don’t worry, you or your friends are too ugly to be put on the black market.”

Guardian — Sexual Harassment Is Rife Online. No Wonder Women Swap Gender, by Jess McCabe.

Female gamers are used to putting up with sexist claptrap – both from the companies that design games and other players. So a study by psychologists at Nottingham Trent University showing that 70% of them chose to construct male characters when given the option by online games, should come as no surprise.

Anyone who has played video games with any regularity will know that character design is one of those areas where gender stereotypes run riot. Most pre-packaged characters are white, male and buff. Female characters are few and far between, and when they do appear they are usually highly sexualised or passive, or both. Game architects just don’t seem to be able to look beyond those pneumatic breasts.

But the study focused on role-playing games where you get to choose everything about your avatar, including age, shape, ethnicity and gender. Given limitless possibilities, why would women choose to change their sex in far greater numbers than men opting to play women?

New Statesmen — This Is What Online Harassment Looks Like, by Helen Lewis.

Sarkeesian is rare in sharing so much of the harassment that she has been subjected to — and it’s a brave choice for her to make. Every time I write about this subject, I get a few emails from women who’ve been through the same thing (and I’m sure there are men, too). They tell me much the same story: this happened to them, but they don’t want to talk publicly about it, because they don’t want to goad the bullies further.

If you were Anita Sarkeesian, how would you feel right now? She’s somebody with a big online presence through her website, YouTube channel and social media use. All of that has been targeted by people who – and I can’t say this enough – didn’t like her asking for money to make feminist videos.

xoJane — Sexual Harassment, Online Abuse, and the Contortions People Will Go Through To Not Believe Women, by Jess.

Likewise, responses to the new openness about online harassment start with denial. Anti-feminist women writers point out that they’ve never had rape threats (which is probably because they’ve never condemned rape apology, so people don’t think they have to be forced back in line), or they claim their worst insults come from feminists. Men like Brendan O’Neill in the Telegraph shrug it all off as hysterical whining about a little “coarse language” — why listen to the women who say the attacks they experience are genuinely vile? You only have a lady’s word for it, anyway. And sometimes a handy data analysis.

Basically, this is a side dish of gaslighting to go with your main course of verbal abuse. Denying that people’s experiences are real, or even possible, sets you up as the authority on their reality — what happens to them, how they feel about it. It’s a timeworn tradition for keeping abused parties doubting themselves, blaming themselves, and coming back, over and over. You’re supposed to think “god, maybe I am inventing a problem, making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with this. Maybe this is just the way things are.”

The Mary-Sue — The All-Too-Familiar Harassment Against Feminist Frequency, and What the Gaming Community Can Do About It, by Becky Chamber.

As for harassment, I know how hard it can be to speak up against a stranger. There is no phrase in the English language that is more patently absurd than the following: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I think we all know how laughable that is. At the end of a long day, when all you want to do is play a game and have some fun, ignoring a mouthy troll is often so much easier than facing him (or her) head on. But pretending that the problem isn’t there won’t solve anything. Don’t just mute the person. Report them. And if you’re feeling brave, tell them to stop. Tell them that whatever “joke” they’re making isn’t funny and that it’s not okay. Tell them this even if they’re targeting someone else. But if you are the one being harassed, then you also need to do the scariest thing possible: Tell someone else about it. That’s terrifying, I know. I’ve been there. But ignoring it won’t make it go away, and other people won’t know to back you up. In my eyes, Sarkeesian did the best, bravest thing she could do by making those comments public. You don’t need to be as public about it as she was, but tell your friends, at least. Tell your guild leader, tell a GM, post about it on the game’s official forums. Let people know what’s happening within their own community. Here’s another comment I have seen many times in response to the Feminist Frequency story: “I had no idea this was a problem.” Those are the people who need to know about this the most. As unpleasant as it is to find something like this lurking within your own house, becoming aware of it is the only way to solve the problem before the whole foundation rots out.

Tiger Beatdown — On Blogging, Threats, and Silence, by s.e. smith.

It’s concerted, focused, and deliberate, the effort to silence people, especially women, but not always, as I can attest, and particularly feminists, though again, not always, as I can attest, online. The readers, the consumers, the fans, may not always notice it because people are silent about it. Because this is the strategy that has been adopted, to not feed the trolls, to grin and bear it, to shut up, to put your best foot forward and rise above it.  To open your email, take note of the morning’s contents, and then quickly shuttle them to the appropriate files for future reference or forwarding to the authorities. To check on the server, fix what needs fixing, and move on with your day. To skim the comments to see what needs to be deleted, to know that when you write a post like this one, you will have to delete a lot of heinous and ugly comments, because you want to protect your readers from the sheer, naked, hate that people carry for you. To weigh, carefully, the decision to approve a comment not because there’s a problem with the content, but because you worry that the reader may be stalked by someone who will tell her that she should die for having an opinion. And when it happens to people for the first time, they think they are alone, because they don’t realise how widespread and insidious it is.

Ill Doctrine: All These Sexist Gamer Dudes Are Some Shook Ones, by Jay Smooth.

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Ill Doctrine: Why You Should Feed the Trolls If You Damn Well Need To, by Jay Smooth.

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Megan Purdy

Megan Purdy

Publisher of all this. Megan was born in Toronto. She's still there. Philosopher, space vampire, heart of a killer.