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So what sorts of things make some men so furious that they feel the need to send women they’ve never met literal death and rape threats on the internet? It doesn’t take much, apparently. A woman suggesting that it’s not such a good idea to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM. A woman making videos suggesting that there’s sexism in video games. A woman captured on video telling some men to shut the fuck up. A woman complaining about sexist jokes at a tech conference.
Add to this: a woman campaigning successfully to have Jane Austen’s face put on the Bank of England’s ten pound notes.
Over the past week, writer and activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who organized the campaign to get Austen memorialized on the bank note, has been harassed relentlessly on Twitter by assholes and misogynists and trolls for her efforts. Some of this harassment has taken the form of literal rape and death threats. One 21-year-old Manchester man was arrested and questioned in connection with the threats.
Similar threats and harassment were directed at noted British classics professor Mary Beard and female Members of Parliament.
Here’s a sadly typical example of one of the threatening comments sent to Criado-Perez from an account that Twitter temporarily banned — then reinstated.
And a more graphic example:
— ian mcquillan (@ianmcqui) July 28, 2013
And some even more graphic threats directed at female MPs.
And if you had any doubt about how little in the way of repercussion most of these harassers expected to get for their threatening tweets, some tweeted using what are presumably their real names. Here are some comments from one Ivan Garcia of San Diego, as collected by Hernández.
And here is his blog, where this fan of jazz, video games and threatening rape shares his poetry with the world.
The harassment obviously raises a lot of issues,most notably: Why the fuck does this keep happening? And: What’s the best way to deal with this sort of harassment — and these sorts of harassers?
Twitter has promised to add a “report abuse” button; some activists see this as a step in the right direction, while others worry that the “report abuse” button will be itself abused to shut down critics of harassment. Twitter’s record in dealing with harassers has not exactly been a great one; just ask Anita Sarkeesian.
British journalists and assorted bloggers have been trying to sort through some of these issues over the past few days. Here are some links to some of the more interesting pieces, from a variety of perspectives. (Well, I’m not including the pro-rape threat perspective.) Links aren’t necessarily endorsements.
First, for a little more background, see:
And here are some posts and pieces looking at the issues:
A button will not, alone, rid Twitter (or the wider world) of mysogyny and abuse. These are complex issues that will take more than a button to resolve. But ‘report abuse’ buttons have been known to be widely abused on other networks. ….
Introduction of a similar mechanism on Twitter ironically creates a whole new means by which trolls can abuse those they disagree with. The report abuse button could be used to silence campaigners, like Criado-Perez, by taking advantage of the automatic blocking and account closure such a feature typically offers. In that way, it could end up putting greater power in the trolls’ hands.
Why does it always come back to rape? by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter of the Vagenda Magazine, in the New Statesman
Rape is the popular choice when women become more visible than they apparently should be, and that’s because it’s easy. …. Whatever their opinion, however they conducted their arguments, however well-researched and nuanced their replies to criticism are, they’re women and male trolls could rape them and that’s what really matters. …
[Academic] Mary Beard got called a “dirty old slut” with a “disgusting vagina” just as [Member of Parliament] Stella Creasy was being tweeted “YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR BACK… I’M GONNA RAPE YOU AT 8PM AND PUT THE VIDEO ALL OVER THE INTERNET”. …
The message is that women’s vaginas are, literally, always up for grabs. If they’re young, the rape threats will come thick and fast; if they’re older, maybe the trolls will settle for insulting their vaginas and telling them that they were “sluts” in the past.
Withstanding rape threats has become a right of passage for female writers or personalities, just as making them as become a right of passage for cowardly and anonymous misogynist trolls. If you’re a woman who happens to possess opinions, and write about feminist issues (god forbid!), chances are you will be violently trolled. … the issue is not that women receive more criticism than men, but rather that it comes in more violent and vitriolic forms. Men will be attacked for their opinion, whereas women will be threatened because they have opinions.
[O]ne study showed that female usernames in chat forums received 25 times more abuse than male ones. In an experiment conducted by the University of Maryland, researchers found that “Female usernames, on average, received 163 malicious private messages a day.” So all else equal, if you’re a woman online, you’re going to be on the receiving end of more hate.
I believe it. I get a lot of shit from misogynists for running this blog — and the occasional threat — but what I get is nothing compared to the harassment similarly controversial feminist bloggers who happen to be women have gotten.
What women-hating trolls really believe, by Emma Barnett
First troll up was Peter from Whitechapel. …
“She was asking for it,” he told me. According to this nitwit, if you campaign about issues such as keeping a woman on English banknotes, you should “expect to receive rape threats”. I delved further.
“If you put your head above the parapet, like she has, then you deserve this type of abuse. It’s what you get when you are a woman shouting about something,” Peter told me, starting to get a little irate. …
Then Gary from Birmingham decided to call in [and] told me in no uncertain terms that “feminists like Caroline were undermining what it is to be a man” and needed “sorting out”.
“Men are predators,” he explained calmly. “And this [rape threats] is what we do.”
And here, after all this awfulness, is a piece that manages to be funny about it all: How to use the internet without being a total loser.