Uh...I'm coming across an awful lot of links to stories about female bloggers and online forum users being attacked with sexualized profanity and death threats...for everything from talking about politics to talking about being raped to discussing marketing strategies to discussing women's issues within an Athiest community.
There's no need for me to write a messy angry post regarding this issue, right? Do we really need one more? Would it really do any good?
It's just that I hear about this sort of thing happening constantly. And I realize that men get threats and attacks on the Internet too -- but towards women these often come in the form of threats of rape and sexualized violence. Some of these women in the links above received death threats and threats of rape for the simple offense of having opinions. Let that sink in for a second. They are being told that if they continue to voice opinions that others disagree with, they will have their life ended or be sexually violated:
"Watson joked with Dawkins about his hate mail, and said she also gets death threats. But Watson's death threats come with menacing threats of rape and sexual humiliation."
--"Dawkins, Watson and the Elevator Ride"
"An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they'd like to rape, kill and urinate on you."
--"A Woman's Opinion is the Mini-skirt of the Internet"*
"I got a death threat.
I got another death threat.
And then I got one telling me that if I went to a popular blogger’s conference in November, they would find me, they would kill me, and they would kill everyone around me."
--"Death Threats and Hate Crimes, Attacks On Women Bloggers Escalating"
"As I type this, I am supposed to be in San Diego, delivering a workshop at the ETech conference. But I’m not. I’m at home, with the doors locked, terrified. For the last four weeks, I’ve been getting death threat comments on this blog. But that’s not what pushed me over the edge. What finally did it was some disturbing threats of violence and sex posted on two other blogs… blogs authored and/or owned by a group that includes prominent bloggers."
--Kathy Sierra, quoted in the SFGate piece "The Attack on Kathy Sierra"
"The hate speech aimed at Kathy makes me sick. I am appalled by her experience and moved by her post. And I am sorry to confirm what many women online already know: Kathy Sierra is, literally, one among countless women assaulted like this online. I have no idea how many women have emailed and telephoned me about attacks via IM, IRC chat, message boards, email and blog comments. These attacks use language that describes detailed rape, dismemberment, profanity and indescribably sick images. The goal? Abuse and humiliation of women. These assaults are happening to women blogging in every corner of the Internet -- food bloggers, political bloggers, feminist bloggers, tech bloggers, entertainment bloggers and -- perhaps especially -- mommybloggers. The only predictor I have observed is that the more famous the blogger, the more lesbian, and/or the more not-white, the more vicious her attackers."
--Hating Hate Speech: Safety for Kathy Sierra and all women online.
And so a number of these voices get silenced, or the women significantly lower their profile. They leave the forums they regularly visited and contributed to, they shut down Twitter accounts, or get significantly alienated from the online/fan communities they knew as "home." I have no big answers for this situation. It's just very very real, sucks, and is happening to some woman now even as I write this. I've seen it happen on comic blogs, neighborhood blogs, gaming blogs, political blogs, marketing blogs...it's a situation of epidemic proportions. And it's significantly impacted me personally.**
It's very hard for me to write this but I feel I need to, in the face of constant stories of similar things happening to female bloggers of every field of endeavor. It's not like one or two gory stories but one after another after another. It's horrifying for me to contemplate what this situation is doing to smart female minds across the country and across the world.
"I'd like to say that none of this bothered me – to be one of those women who are strong enough to brush off the abuse, which is always the advice given by people who don't believe bullies and bigots can be fought. Sometimes I feel that speaking about the strength it takes just to turn on the computer, or how I've been afraid to leave my house, is an admission of weakness."
--"A Woman's Opinion is the Mini-skirt of the Internet"
If a female blogger tells you this is happening to her, please do not minimize the sense of danger or violation she feels. Women, support other women on the Internet -- you don't have to agree with all of them but for God's sake don't make this situation worse. And if a site you visit hosts or encourages this sort of abusive treatment towards women, send a message to the webmaster/mistress or forum moderator that this isn't acceptable.
And women this has happened to -- there are people who understand exactly what you have gone through. You don't deserve this...you didn't "ask for it." Nobody "deserves" to be treated this way. This is not acceptable behavior in a civilized society. This is a issue about treating people with common human decency; it is non-negotiable.
*I need to add here that referring to women's opinions as the "short skirt" of the Internet also means that a woman who has sex-positive opinions and/or presents herself in a way that is not considered traditionally feminist is also not "deserving" of such treatment as online threats of rape or death. These women do not have to be required to present themselves in a sexually conservative light in order to "qualify" for not being so threatened. Sex and eroticism in itself does not produce these sorts of attacks. These attacks are the result of sick minds who see the Internet as an easy and consequence-free method of taking out their impotent rage on assertive females.
**Not long after my Punisher one-shot was released, and I received a massive amount of sexualized taunts and several threats of violence and assault, I was too afraid to attend a comic convention because I thought I was going to get hurt or shot. I eventually went to the convention, but stuck by my husband like glue and didn't want to remain by my table or even admit I wrote the comic. At the time, I remember discussing this situation with somebody in the comics business and was told that all the danger was in my head, and that "nobody ever got hurt at a convention." It is thanks to the brave women I quoted on this site that I don't feel like the only female to have gotten so intimidated and afraid. I even hate admitting I got afraid, because it's like saying I'm weak and that "the terrorists won" so to speak. But I think it's good that I'm saying this now. It took me a long time to even have a Punisher item in my office because every time I saw the character, I just remembered this horrid period of my life. I realize that this is specifically what these people wanted to do -- to terrorize me to the point where I would never dare step into "their" sandbox again, or bring up topics that they found uncomfortable. It's just the same old song.