Sexist Trolls

| 11/10/2011 10:12:33 AM

BloggingWhen 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. 

Bonita Lepauvre
11/27/2011 11:41:26 PM

This is just more proof that misogyny is alive & well in the world. I was not using my 1st name at 1st, so many assumed I was a man. The worst comment was that I could surely see the humor in calling Hillary Clinton and Dorothy Reno ugly. But now that I've 'come out' as a woman, the ugliest comments are indeed directed at me.

Julia Jones
11/19/2011 2:06:52 PM

No matter what opinions women bloggers have, there is always someone who finds fault based on the writer's femaleness. What is so disgusting about this persistent critique of women (feminist or not) is that the attitude has been passed down in history from the earliest civilizations. Natalie Dzerins states it best. She knows that we women bloggers are verbally abused not so much for our ideas but "for having the gall to have them in the first place." It just means we are humans with souls and opinions, not the incubators and caretakers we have been labeled in history. Check our my blog at for more on this!

paula langley
11/11/2011 6:56:18 PM

I don't even really think female bloggers need to be writing anything even identifies directly with feminism to be subject to irate attacks that become mysogynist or irate at a pretty accelerated pace. Anything that is seen as either threatening to or an attack on establishment/powerful men will be assumed to be feminist in origin and be treated accordingly. For some men (and I emphasize only some ) the impunity of having some chick disagree with them will just act as the trigger to blast out the anger. However, the best part is that many of the attacks will come form right wing women or hose who are power sympathetic who will defend their masters in the very strident, irate, irrattional tones that feminist bloggers/writers are frequently accused of using as evidence of their weaker intellect. So, dudes can be emotionally attached to a position or arguement and right wing women can do that but if you are a feminist you can be both accused of being heartless and too emotional in the same breath. If you are attractive feminist you must secretly want men to flirt with you and if you are deemed unattractive it is assumed you secretly resent the fact that men are not flirting with you. I imagine feminist bloggers and writers use some sort of personal threat assessment sytem to figure out how concerned they must be with the flood of replies.

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