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Women journalists confront harassment, sexism when using social media
November 22, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Women journalists confront harassment, sexism when using social media You come to expect it, as a woman writer, particularly if you’re political. You come to expect the vitriol, the insults, the death threats. After a while, the emails and tweets and comments containing graphic fantasies of how and where and with what kitchen implements certain pseudonymous people would like to rape you cease to be shocking, and become merely a daily or weekly annoyance, something to phone your girlfriends about, seeking safety in hollow laughter.
posted by modernnomad (39 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am so sick of this shit. I'm sorry I don't have anything erudite to say; I'm just sick of the fact that women have to be on eggshells all the time, even when they're behind a screen.
posted by desjardins at 2:03 PM on November 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


Women journalists confront harassment, sexism when using social media

and in other news, water is wet.

It's probably telling that hearing that women are getting confronted with harrassment and sexism in a specific area makes me react with only a sigh and the thought "yeah, just like everywhere else in the world. Same as it ever was."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:08 PM on November 22, 2011


Man, I was hoping the girl's guide to staying safe online was going to have actual advice instead of just "don't be female online" which seems to be the advice a lot of people give. I mean it's more sophisticated than that, but not terribly much. I had a colleague who recently made a post about the exact kinds of stalking and harassment she gets as an outspoken librarian who is on the lecture circuit, pretty much the same as me. And I have to admit I was stunned that she was getting that sort of feedback from our colleagues, people we both knew. I've found that in the library world, speaking openly about this, since it is a feminized profession for the most part, has been really useful in getting people to feel deputized to do something about nasty inappropriate behavior.

and in other news, water is wet.

I think it has value to have people revisiting this in more academic looking [i.e. non-Jezebel] contexts so that people really can talk about how yeah I consider myself lucky because I don't get very many sexually-oriented or rape threats (my male colleagues at MetaFilter have received, I believe, none). I'm lucky to not be very freakoutable, but I think we ignore this problem at our peril. The more women feel that they have to live different online lives than their male counterparts because of fear of harassment and abuse, the more that our digital utopia is really just another way of creating playgrounds for the privileged. I mean, it already is in many other ways, but it's worth keeping an eye on and not just "what can you do..." shrugging.
posted by jessamyn at 2:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [35 favorites]


From a legal/culpability perspective, how does a quasi-anonymous threat of physical violence (like rape) differ from a verbal threat left on, say, a voicemail?
posted by eggman at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2011


I am sadly unsurprised. Also, somewhere between angry and tired of being angry because it Just Keeps Happening.
posted by rmd1023 at 2:26 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


From a legal/culpability perspective, how does a quasi-anonymous threat of physical violence (like rape) differ from a verbal threat left on, say, a voicemail?

Jurisdiction, mostly. Email, blog posts - they're free to send or make, from anywhere in the world.

A douchebag in Russia can leave a rape threat on the blog of a female blogger in New York. Clearly a crime, if it took place in New York, but did it?

Even if you deem that it did (and that is rarely a simple issue, which depends on the legislation in question), are you, NYPD cop, going to go through the extradition process for a guy who clearly had no serious intent to make good on his threat, because he lives in St Petersberg?

Not to mention how dismissive cops are about rape and rape threats generally.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:29 PM on November 22, 2011


HTWRT - Even if you deem that it did (and that is rarely a simple issue, which depends on the legislation in question), are you, NYPD cop, going to go through the extradition process for a guy who clearly had no serious intent to make good on his threat, because he lives in St Petersberg?

Of course, I understand that much.

Hypothetically, though--if you could prove that Jimmy "The Rapist" McCreepstalker logged on via IP Address XXX.XX.XXX and was the only individual with access to that terminal (i.e., not hacked), could a graphic rape fantasy/threat be considered a prosecutable offense?
posted by eggman at 2:43 PM on November 22, 2011


Not to mention how dismissive cops are about rape and rape threats generally.

Are police departments getting sued for this sort of thing? With any success?
posted by Anything at 2:48 PM on November 22, 2011


"Hypothetically, though--if you could prove that Jimmy "The Rapist" McCreepstalker logged on via IP Address XXX.XX.XXX and was the only individual with access to that terminal (i.e., not hacked), could a graphic rape fantasy/threat be considered a prosecutable offense?"

Hypothetically, it is certainly harassment and some cases have been successfully prosecuted, although none come to mind that are harassment from strangers (I'm sure they exist? hopefully?). However, cops will just about never go to the effort of acquiring customer data from ISPs based on an IP address for a rape threat, even assuming the process has been explained to them (I used to conduct investigations training for cops on this topic, which mostly consisted on telling them who they had to subpoena).

They do put a bit more effort in if it's child related, though...if that's any consolation.
posted by sawdustbear at 2:49 PM on November 22, 2011


Hypothetically, though--if you could prove that Jimmy "The Rapist" McCreepstalker logged on via IP Address XXX.XX.XXX and was the only individual with access to that terminal (i.e., not hacked), could a graphic rape fantasy/threat be considered a prosecutable offense?

It would, in my jurisdiction:

(NSW) CRIMES ACT 1900 - SECT 31

31 Documents containing threats

(1) A person who intentionally or recklessly, and knowing its contents, sends or delivers, or directly or indirectly causes to be received, any document threatening to kill or inflict bodily harm on any person is liable to imprisonment for 10 years.

(2) It is immaterial for the purposes of an offence under this section whether or not a document sent or delivered is actually received, and whether or not the threat contained in a document sent, delivered or received is actually communicated to the person concerned or to the recipient or intended recipient of the document (as relevant in the circumstances).

YMMV.

There would also be a charge for unlawful use of a carriage service (i.e., phone lines) which, in Australia, is a Federal offence.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:56 PM on November 22, 2011


There was a recentish thread on a similar topic. Not calling this out as a double, by any means, just linking some previous discussion (which was sadly derailed quite a bit).
posted by kmz at 2:57 PM on November 22, 2011


I'm still thinking it would be illustrative to have a side-by-side pair of ongoing feeds of 'hate mail received by men' and 'hate mail received by women'.

Perhaps spiced up with a donation link to some sort of legal fund.
posted by Anything at 3:06 PM on November 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


If indeed it is the case that some of these neanderthals could be taken to court.
posted by Anything at 3:09 PM on November 22, 2011


There are probably advantages in showing that online abuse is at least as predictable as spam by training Bayesian filters to recognize it automatically, probably via some blog plugin or web crawlers. You could have a centralized site for both reviewing and improving the filters results as well as for calling out the abusers.

In particular, there was an interesting comments about how frequently misogynist commenters might actually have some real world power because maybe their real world misogyny gets threatened online. You might therefore make some headway by doxing them.

There are various companies that might be interested in such technology too :

- Google should clearly be interested in identifying misogyny for advertising per purposes. They might also publish their results much like their transparency report on government censorship. It'd make a lovely 20% time project anyways.

- Online game companies should be interested in identifying misogyny to make their games more appealing to everyone, i.e. limit the misogynic jerks opponents.

There is probably even enough market in advertising consulting services to support a startup doing this.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:10 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like to imagine that Occupy succeeds, and that one of the side effects is a nicer society. It's been more than a full generation since women as equals started becoming law. It's time to be finished with the bad old ways.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm still thinking it would be illustrative to have a side-by-side pair of ongoing feeds of 'hate mail received by men' and 'hate mail received by women'.

My impression is that women get more of this sort of thing than men, so it's quantity as well as type. Maybe men just don't report it, but I suspect that is not the case.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:15 PM on November 22, 2011


My familial name is McCreepStalker. And let me tell you people that living with this last name is hard enough already without the gross implications some are spreading in this thread.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:40 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You have to do more to earn the hate mail as a man. Haters only mail those they perceive to be threats. Misogynists tend to see uppity woman as threats. They might see men that way too, but only men who challenge their gender assumptions (hence all the "faggot" hate) or have somehow been a bother (moderators).

I wonder what kind of virulent bullshit is in cortex's inbox?
posted by LogicalDash at 3:45 PM on November 22, 2011


I wonder what kind of virulent bullshit is in cortex's inbox?

Jessamyn already said, upthread: 'I don't get very many sexually-oriented or rape threats (my male colleagues at MetaFilter have received, I believe, none)'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:57 PM on November 22, 2011


This reminds of the stories about how civil comments become when newspapers switch their commenting system to Facebook's, which of course requires your real identity.
posted by exhilaration at 3:58 PM on November 22, 2011


This reminds of the stories about how civil comments become when newspapers switch their commenting system to Facebook's

Hmmm. Could all this nastiness be the result of facebook's "horrible comments bots?"
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This reminds of the stories about how civil comments become when newspapers switch their commenting system to Facebook's, which of course requires your real identity.

There is an improvement, certainly. But plenty of people are still assholes when their real name is attached. You still need moderators.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:22 PM on November 22, 2011


Turns out women journalists also cop harassment, sexism, when using media media
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:30 PM on November 22, 2011


It took 22 comments for a Kyle Sandilands sighting .... thanks David McGahan...

I would've banked on only about 10-12 comments myself.

Just a dead set pig of a man - and the most worrying thing might be that his offsider - Jackie O, as she calls herself - is a woman and just laughs right along as Sandliands makes these comments.
posted by chris88 at 4:46 PM on November 22, 2011


Jessamyn already said, upthread: 'I don't get very many sexually-oriented or rape threats (my male colleagues at MetaFilter have received, I believe, none)'.

Yes, that's why I asked what kind.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:49 PM on November 22, 2011


Why was this written by a man?
posted by Leezie at 5:21 PM on November 22, 2011


Yes, that's why I asked what kind.

My apologies.

Just a dead set pig of a man - and the most worrying thing might be that his offsider - Jackie O, as she calls herself - is a woman and just laughs right along as Sandliands makes these comments.

Just because you're a woman, doesn't mean you are incapable of being sexist against women. 'Jackie O' demonstrates this again and again.

I wish Sandilands would be eaten by rabid weasels. He is an odious toad. And to state on air "watch your mouth or I'll hunt you down" is the height of idiocy. I hope the journalist decides to file charges.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:46 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Presumably these guys should just serenade the object of their ire with a song like "Lyin’ Ass Bitch” by Fishbone because apparently most people around here think that's awesome.
posted by joannemullen at 6:34 PM on November 22, 2011


Case in point: a site I'm involved with ran a poll yesterday about gun issues. A gun-rights group noticed and sent almost 3,000 people over to comment and vote. When the comments began pouring in, I asked a carefully worded question about what limitations, if any, they were willing to accept. That set off a bunch of attacks assuming I was in favor of violating their civil rights, demands for me to reveal my knowledge of gun issues, a reference to the "fugly hag" woman legislator mentioned in the story and then finally a demand that I answer what I would do if an AIDS-infected intruder were at my door--pull a gun, wait for the cops or allow the guy in so I could be raped.

This question was addressed to me by name and mentioned the town that I lived in, which is publicly available but was an unnecessary mention in this story/comment field.

So, in the scheme of things, this is pretty mild--not, certainly, a direct threat -- but still creepy and once more evidence of how some people will reach for a threatening and sexual image no matter what the subject but if presented by a woman who they assume to be in opposition to them.
posted by etaoin at 6:50 PM on November 22, 2011


"Why was this written by a man?"

Because he saw something horrible happening to his colleagues and wanted to add his voice to many others saying that this is fucked up?

You know, as a generally dude presenting person, I still haven't gotten used to the power that male presenting voices really have to address sexism. I've watched a female presenting person give a well argued, articulate, and polite description of why a crowd of dudes was out of line only to see her dismissed and ridiculed before repeating almost word for word everything she said less politely to suddenly sad nodding heads. We laughed about it over beer later, but really it isn't funny, it sucks. I fail to see why it is a problem that male allies might find a respectful and non-dominating place on our side the fray, if only because there are a lot of people that will only ever be reached by male voices.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:31 PM on November 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


most people around here think that's awesome.

No they don't. You can go to MetaTalk and continue this there, but don't do this here please.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Naming and shaming might help. How about this:
  1. A mainstream media outlet finds ten women who have been threatened and are willing to press charges.
  2. The media outlet and the women work together to find the perpetrators, through subpoenas to ISPs.
  3. When a perpetrator is found, they get a choice:
    • Get brutally honest coverage of their trial, including the vile threats they made, word for word.
    • Do a softball interview in which they express remorse (all charges dropped).
  4. Publish the resulting articles, one per week for ten weeks.
posted by Triplanetary at 9:04 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am really sick and tired of everything always seeming to boil down to something like "die bitch die, how dare you exist." That seems to be the metamessage of all of this crap.

I dread popularity. Don't have it right now, thank god, but I do worry about someday posting something that turns out to be popular and then there come the rape threats. That one Sady Doyle look is so true.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:23 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


jenfullmoon -I don't blame you. A few years ago, a friend of mine had a short comedy piece published in the Sydney Morning Herald. It was the flip side of this issue - she was complaining about the patronising, overly familiar monikers applied to young women by every man and his dog. The piece was called 'Don't Call me Babe' (Google cache of her blog - can't find the original article).

It elicited an insanely strong response for what I though was a rather innocuous premise. The comment that sticks out in my memory is "OK. How about 'cunt'?"
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:55 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a stereotypically-female name, but am a guy and I've been active online for a number of years. It was amazing how people would start off with the usual rape threats, insults, "you must be fat/ugly/spinster", etc., then when a regular popped up to say "Ghostride is a guy", they'd all suddenly don monocles to argue with my ideas.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:17 AM on November 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I had a username (Scorpio with a number appended) for many years that people automatically perceived as male. The difference was definitely palpable; I was taken much more seriously. People were kind of flabbergasted to find out I was female since I was "smart." I haven't gotten much sexual harassment as a female online outside of dating sites. However, I really only post strong opinions here, which is a much safer place than the rest of the internet. I also don't game.
posted by desjardins at 7:42 AM on November 23, 2011


My impression is that women get more of this sort of thing than men, so it's quantity as well as type. Maybe men just don't report it, but I suspect that is not the case.

In my experience, this is true. I worked for a year reporting political news, and it was a column, so I was pretty free to express my opinion, which is left-leaning in the way that most American lefties tend to sound like particularly upset liberals. I got a few comments mocking me in the comments section, but they were mostly "Oh, you idiot liberals, all alike!" I never got any direct contact.

In the meanwhile, female friends who write the same sort of stuff instantly get directly contacted with overt threats of sexual violence. I have seen it happen again and again.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:08 AM on November 23, 2011


Are there any good datasets of messages identified as sexist vs. non-sexist available?
posted by jeffburdges at 12:22 PM on November 23, 2011


People were kind of flabbergasted to find out I was female since I was "smart." I haven't gotten much sexual harassment as a female online outside of dating sites. However, I really only post strong opinions here, which is a much safer place than the rest of the internet. I also don't game.

Back in my BBS days, I found out some people didn't believe I was female until they met me. They said that I was smart, rational, and undertood technology, so they just assumed I was lying about being a girl.
posted by Karmakaze at 4:04 PM on November 24, 2011


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