Here's a fun game. Go to any comment section on an online story/video/blog/whatever about or written by a woman and count how many posts it takes before you see a gendered slur or personal attack against said woman.
And by fun, I mean horribly depressing and soul-crushingly unoriginal and disheartening.
Words like "cunt," "bitch," and "slut" are tossed around online like sprinkles on a misogyny cake. And more often than not these words translate to, "I have nothing of value to say, but ew shut up woman I am man, hear me roar, you suck." Online criticism from jerks with nothing better to do is inevitable, but the harassment that young women get is more highly violent and sexualized, as shown by a Pew Research Ceter poll released last month. It's a sort of vicious pursuit to demonize and threaten women online in an attempt to silence them, just as people would do face-to-face.
For example, the viral video "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman" attempts to start a conversation about street harassment and cat-calling. Instead, the comments divulged into oh-so-typical victim-blaming with some of the highest-voted ones being "Also, she isn't even that hot? Should feel lucky she's even getting compliments. COME AT ME FEMINIST!!" and "All this video serves to prove is that the girl is an entitled bitch who hates men (a woman who didn't hate men wouldn't consider compliments to be 'harrassment')" and "For one she is wearing tight clothes revealing the curves of her body. Boobs jumping and all. What did she expect, men not to look? She is advertising herself." (All comments on first page of video.) Extremely riveting and in-depth discussions, dudes! Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Comedian Artie Lange got in trouble last week for randomly posting a bunch of racist, rape-y, and borderline sadistic tweets about ESPN host Cari Champion, including him going into detail about how he masturbates to the fantasty of her being his slave. The comments defending him claim that it's just his crude sense of humor.
The Instagram user byefelipe documents this particular strand of online harassment from men on dating sites, often showing the extreme hostility and violence they resort to when being rejected—a good insight into the tragic deflated male ego.
A closer-to-home example is when a City Paper contributor and my friend, Gabby Wathen, got caught up in internet hysteria the other week when a GoFundMe page she made after being charged $362 for a 20-minute ride from Uber on Halloween went viral. The page, which was created as a joke and reached its goal almost purely through donations from Wathen's family and friends, became an unjustified platform for people to attack Wathen, mostly on the basis that she was a young, attractive woman who felt "entitled" to strangers' money. Words about her appearance (She wouldn't have gotten money if she wasn’t hot! Typical pretty girl entitlement! Wah wah wah, I'm a child) and irresponsibility were thrown around as the outlets that reported this story-that-really-wasn't-even-a-story cast judgment on her without even trying to understand what was really going on. She wrote a blog post for City Paper clearing up the situation, but a comment on that post said: "Seriously, how can you support her? Doesnt seem like she contributes anything but reviews of raves and underwear runs ending in heavy drinking." A nice glance into how commenters will ignore facts (Wathen ran in her underwear to raise more than $500 for charity, ahem . . .) to villianize somebody and putting the blame on them instead of on shoddy reporting.
And it's impossible to ignore the backlash that feminist vlogger and critic Anita Sarkeesian received after criticizing the video game industry. The death and rape threats from angry video game fans (now lumped together as the "activists" behind Gamergate) flooded in. It got so bad so quickly that she had to cancel her talk last month at Utah State University's Center for Women and Gender, especially after one email that threatened a massacre. "Feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge," the email read.
There is some hope: Twitter announced that they would team up with the organization Women, Action, and the Media to create a form for women to report the gendered harassment they receive online. A press release WAM states they'll use this data to "work with Twitter to better understand how gendered harassment functions on their platform . . ." Some dudes are trying to hide behind their right to free speech, believing that this allows them to spew their hate without consequences. But people telling you you're being shitty is not a violation of free speech, and a media company telling you not to use their product to be an asshole is not a violation of free speech.
It'd be productive if we could instill the same rules we had when the internet was first introduced and these haughty commenters were probably like, 10 or something, where we'd have to ask our parent's permission before going online. If men are going to act like entitled babies, then we'll treat them as such.
It's hard being a woman on the internet, and it's hard because of a deep-seated fear of women speaking their mind in a society that tries so hard to keep them quiet. Don't believe me? Watch the comment section on this article.