Women writers speak out against online verbal abuse
Women writers and bloggers have finally come clean about the torrent of online abuse that they have to put up with just for doing their jobs.
And it really is a torrent.
Helen Lewis-Hasteley took up the cudgel, describing her experiences online (see WVoN story), and inviting other female bloggers to do the same.
Although everyone is subject to some abuse, it’s the sheer volume thrown at women bloggers that is, she says, like a “festering sore”.
She says “normal” net users have no idea what it’s like to “open the front door to a chorus of commenters howling at you about your opinions, your name, your appearance, your sexuality”.
If they did, she reckons we “might all have a little less tolerance, be a little less ready to excuse sexist abuse as part of the “rough and tumble” of blogging”.
The next day, journalist Laurie Penny joined in, recounting her experience in The Independent.
“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.”
Ray Filar commented on Liberal Conspiracy about the silencing effect on women’s voices that results from the exposure to online abuse:
“Silencing works by trivialisation of what women say, through mockery of what women say, through reducing women to sexual appearance.”
The Observer joined in on Sunday, focusing on the ubiquity of violent abuse directed at all women writers independently of their politics or the topics they write about.
Susie Orbach, a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst and writer, said of verbal abuse: “With sexual violence, what the victim is receiving is the self-hatred of the individual who is expressing that pain and upset that is inside of them in a very explosive manner”.
Then on Monday, The Guardian asked four women writers for their opinions about what should be done to stop online abuse, with Comment is free’s community co-ordinator Bella Mackie explaining how The Guardian moderates its debates (see WVoN coverage).
The question, however, still remains – what can we do to stop it? Pity the answer isn’t so easy but all thoughts warmly welcomed here on WVoN where, thankfully, there is no online abuse.