I feel like every time I talk to my (usually male, but not always) friends about harassment on the internet, I usually get a shrug and “well, that’s how the internet works.”
And you know what? For the longest time, I accepted that, thinking, “it’s just the internet; half these people are looking for a rise so they can laugh about it later with their friends.”
But then something started to not sit right with me. I knew about “trolling” on the internet, but some of the harassment I was seeing went beyond the run-of-the-mill teasing. There were death threats, rape threats and sexist/racist/homophobic slurs. I started to become more and more aware that this was usually aimed at women and gurls. I wondered: Why was there so much animosity for females on the internet?
A more recent example I can think of is Anita Sarkeesian, a writer for feminist frequency who started a documentary exploring the under-representation of women in video games. This unleashed a particular disgusting can of worms for Anita. She received death threats, rape threats, sexist jokes and slurs. Her YouTube page was filled with nasty comments. Her Wikipedia page was vandalized and filled with porn.
Thankfully, Anita has received positive feedback as well. She had managed to raise over $100’000 towards the project, and has declared that she will not stop despite the harassment; that it only proves the project is needed.
But, you know, I was stunned. I knew there would be some animosity, like any time someone tries to bring up sexism/racism/homophobia. But this level was stunning. And the sad thing is most of these dudes (because they have identified themselves as male) will honestly say they don’t hate women.
Let me say that again: Men, under the anonymous veil of the internet have threatened, harassed and ridiculed a woman for pointing sexism in the gaming industry. They haven’t watched this project, or read anything about it. They just realized it would criticize media aimed at them, proceeding to lose their collective minds over this. These men have the guts to say with a straight face that they don’t hate women?
It only takes so long before I start to get suspicious. Men can whip out their mothers, sisters or, god forbid, girlfriends in defense – but I will still be suspicious. Why? Because they are using the internet as a pathetic excuse to flaunt their misogyny. And also all sorts of hateful shit.
And no one is going to call them out on it. We have a system that allows men to hate women for pointing out sexism, congratulating them for ‘putting women in their place.’ This is silently encouraged by people who don’t stand up and say, “hey, that’s not cool.” If a person really respected women, they would stick up for them when they are being harassed, both online and in real life. But hey, it’s all part of internet culture, right? It’s not like the ideas talked about on the internet have any effect on real life, right? I find it really hard to believe that men who threaten and harass women online would be decent and respectful in the real world
I am so tired of women being afraid of their own inboxes for talking about the negative things that affect them. But this hatred only shows a lot of men are afraid of women like Sarkeesian. Because deep down inside, they know she is right. They feel like she is pointing the finger right at the hateful culture. That those women they have harrassed, stalked or threatened could just as easily be pointing the finger at them.
If these men had actual balls, they would be more like this guy:
If you have a few dollars to spare, please consider donating to Sarkeesian’s project, or even just sharing it. You can find the Tropes VS Women project, here.