When you start up an opinion blog, you voluntarily expose yourself to the world. If you also happen to be a woman, writes Helen Lewis-Hasteley at New Statesman (Nov. 3, 2011), you “open the front door to a chorus of commenters howling at you about your opinions, your name, your appearance, your sexuality.” To learn a little more about the state of internet misogyny and incivility, she asked several women bloggers to describe the comments they’ve received from online trolls. (For those of you fortunate enough to have escaped contact with a troll, it’s a person who posts intentionally inflammatory personal attacks in an attempt to get a rise out of their target.) Here are some enlightening highlights:
Dawn Foster, blogger at F For Philistine:
The worst instance of online abuse I’ve encountered happened when I blogged about the Julian Assange extradition case. As more people shared it on Twitter with positive comments, a growing trickle of abusive comments appeared. Rather than simply being negative, it was clear the commenters hadn’t read the post: just clocked the title, my gender and started punching the keyboard furiously.
The emails rarely mentioned the topic at hand: instead they focused on my age, used phrases like “little girl”, described rape fantasies involving me and called me “ugly” and “disgusting”. Initially it was shocking: in the space of a week, I received a rabid email that included my home address, phone number and workplace address, included as a kind of threat.
Eleanor O’Hagan, freelance blogger:
On the whole, I’ve managed to avoid the worst threats and misogyny that other women writers endure but I don’t think that’s luck or because my opinions are more well-argued. I think it’s because, very early on, I became conscious of how my opinions would be received and began watering them down, or not expressing them at all. I noticed that making feminist arguments led to more abuse and, as a result, I rarely wrote about feminism at all.
Natalie Dzerins, Forty Shades of Grey blogger:
Last night, I was informed that if all women looked like me, there would be no more rape in the world…. If there is one thing I have learned about being a woman with vocal opinions, it is that everything I ever do or say is wrong because of my physical appearance….
I do sometimes wish that I were a man though, so that if I were to get abuse, it would be for my ideas, not for having the gall to have them in the first place.
Source: New Statesman
Image by Anonymous Account, licensed under Creative Commons.