Still Not My Imagination….

For those naysayers who think misogyny on the internet is all in our “pretty little heads” Feministing provides links to this article:

Misogyny Bares Its Teeth on the Internet

 

 

Anna Greer
August 21, 2007

 

A woman’s place isn’t in the kitchen these days but some malcontents are trying to make sure that it’s not on the web either. The internet is proving to be a hostile place for women.

Death threats, rape threats, verbal abuse, condescending and unwelcome comments about looks and intelligence are all par for the course for many female web users.

Last year a University of Maryland study found that web users with female pseudonyms are 25 times more likely to be harassed online than users with male or ambiguous pseudonyms. And, according to haltabuse.org, women make up 70 per cent of the victims of cyber harassment and stalking.

The internet is looking more and more like the Wild West than the decentralised utopia for which people might have hoped.

An internet war is being fought against the online feminist community by a hive of crackers and tech geeks who call themselves “Anonymous”.

Feminist forums have been hacked, passwords have been stolen, emails have been commandeered and used for whatever nefarious purpose the cyber miscreants wish. Websites such as Women’s Space and Gentle Spirit have been forced to shut down. One outspoken woman who blogged anonymously even had her photo put up on the net and a hunt was undertaken by members of “Anonymous” for her place of residence.

What many who engage in online “flamewars” – raids and attacks such as these – fail to see is that they’re messing with real people’s lives. The internet allows an incredible disconnect between reality and virtuality.

Everything seems to operate on the level of the abstract – it’s a game. The language used is militaristic, targets are dubbed “challengers” and the attacks are strategically planned. It’s literally revenge of the nihilist nerds.

This isn’t the first co-ordinated attack the group has launched and there doesn’t seem to be an ideological pattern to their actions. But it is no coincidence that it was so easy to mobilise Anonymous against women bloggers.

And it’s not surprising that those who joined the raids used methods such as vicious hate speech, threats of rape and murder and seeding comment threads with child porn in an attempt to silence women on the web.

Misogyny is quick to surface when there are no rules of social decorum to temper it. People have free rein to be bigoted and badly behaved without fear of real-world social ostracising.

I guess it’s not so different to the real world where humanism occasionally gets pushed aside in favour of mob justice and vigilantism.

To show how vile these messages can get, this is an example of a comment left on the blog Women’s Space: “I’d like to tie you down, take a knife, and slit your throat. I’d penetrate you over and over in all orifices, and create some of my own to stick myself in.” Shocking? Yes. Rare? Not on the internet.

The culprits can’t be traced because they often mask their IP addresses with an anonymiser, which hides their location and their computer information. Internet laws are notoriously fraught and even if you are able to find out who is responsible it’s difficult to prosecute.

Often there is little recourse – even though the attacks are clearly illegal – other than to weather the storm.

The forums at my site were once attacked and flooded with offensive images and threads.

I don’t know where the culprits came from but it took me hours to restore the forums and get rid of the offensive material. I no longer have forums on the site. Thankfully it was mostly just an annoyance more than a serious threat.

Whether the attacks are for kicks, to get a rise out of feminists or for a more sinister purpose doesn’t matter. The outcome is the same: women’s voices are silenced and their mobility, visibility and participation on the net is reduced.

The online feminist community will recover, however, and these attacks have given food for thought to women with a presence on the net. A strong supportive community is needed to deal with this issue that just won’t go away.

If women and their websites come under attack for their views there needs to be as much support given by other web users to ensure they don’t feel so intimidated they stop participating. That the internet also serves to build community means that this will be easy enough to do.

Anna Greer is the editor of the online feminist magazine Wo-Magazine.com.

6 thoughts on “Still Not My Imagination….

  1. tobeme,
    It disturbs me that many women I’ve met on the internet have to close down their blogs or continually move them or disguise them, just to be able to keep writing in spite of the harassment! So any time I can call attention to it, it’s time well spent.

  2. I picked up a stalker this year, only it is a woman. She lives in my local area and is ever lurking in the background waiting to find a new opportunity to get in touch with me in order to deliver more insults. She does the typical bullying tactics, insult, then nice, then more insults, baiting, etc.

    I got so tired of her that I thought of shutting down my blog for awhile, but Rabbi encouraged me to hang in there and not let jerks shut me up. So, I’m still here, but I also know she is as well. She hasn’t found me here yet, you’ll know when she does! She’s nuts, however, I was able to find out who she is and that she’s annoying, but harmless. Thank goodness.

  3. Yael,
    Yes, I had one woman that did the same. I refuse to let anyone take over this blog however and thank goodness for the delete button! Confronting annoying people head on is the only tactic that really works I’m sure. Each bully is a coward at heart.

  4. In a way, as freeing as the Internet can be in breaking boundaries, it can almost serve to increase this type of behavior. That one post about how the person wanted to slit the woman … I wonder how brave he’d be in uttering that if it were an actual note, or in person. Or if he even had a face to go with the online name (not that this would stop everyone).

    The Internet can also dehumanize us, making this type of behavior easier. Not that it excuses this behavior — if anything, makes this behavior worse, because it’s so much easier to be a coward.

  5. Heather,

    Yes, the article points out that the anonymity of the web makes such jerks bolder. They wouldn’t dare utter such things to anyone in person. Of course, it works that way for all of us in a way. Anonymity allows us to really say what we think when we wouldn’t dare to in person sometimes. Of course with everything there are those who abuse the privilege.

Comments are closed.