Women Bloggers and Sexual Harassment

I read a powerful article at Slate.com by Dahlia Lithwick, discussing the violent sexual harassment many women bloggers endure at the hands of men. The central question that the article explores is “whether the blogosphere is different for women and if it is, why.” This is another angle to answer Garlin’s question,  “Are you afraid of the internet?”

I will be quoting from this article frequently but please read it for your self.

The article opens up with a story of how a popular blogger, Sierra, shut down her site after receiving violent sexual harassment threats on her site. It got to the point where her attackers posted her social security number and home address on other blogs. In examining the coverage of this issue by Guardian, Salon, and the Washington Post, Lithwick finds it “a little bit depressing to hear it framed so often in the same tired old discussions of “are women tough enough?” or “are women playing victim?”

I agree with Lithwick and these discussions highlight the fact that no matter how “flat” our world gets, our isms however defined will be manifested online and have the potential to cause disastrous consequences offline. For me, a large number of my female friends have been victims of sexual harassment or stalker-like behavior via facebook or myspace. This article really expanded my horizon of how strong the desire is on the part of some men to silence women on the most personal of creative outlets.

Nevertheless, Lithwick summarizes the debate in other circles like Salon and the Washington Post, by pointing out that some men think a woman “crying” harassment is just a way to end the debate and how some women think victims of sexual harassment should buck up and quit whining. Both of these reactions are misguided but I suspect they are not in the minority. In response to these views, Lithwick responds,

“It’s not a gender fight unless we reduce it to one. If we can’t ultimately control for the hypersexualized criticism of women on the Web—and I doubt that we can—let’s at least try to understand why an otherwise-tough woman might be terrified by it.”

I know if I was Sierra, I would be horrified if some crazy person put up my personal address and social security number on the internet. To make matters worse, the anonymity of blogging causes people to say things they would never think of saying face to face. Anonymity aside, one of the points brought up in the article is whether or not sexual harassment varies, if at all, between the work environment and the blogosphere. I think it’s an interesting question I would like to get feedback on from the women.

Blogs will only continue to serve as a reliable source for honest analysis of current events. Men who engage in online sexual harassment (or any harassment for that matter) should consider themselves to be certified punks. Words matter and as Lithwick points out, “The Virginia Tech shootings are only the latest sobering reminder that violent writing can become violent action, and sometimes the difference is only obvious in hindsight.”

 Looking forward to your comments

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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