Women and the social medias

Note I put “social media” since women have been on the internet for a long time. That’s not to say that women haven’t been harassed online for twenty odd years but that something recently has changed about the level of coordination and vitriol.

The Atlantic’s recent article about this phenomenon. It more or less follows the well worn paths, but there are some significant changes in the way social media is being leveraged against women:

Meanwhile, extortion of other victims continues. In an increasing number of countries, rapists are now filming their rapes on cell phones so they can blackmail victims out of reporting the crimes. In August, after a 16-year-old Indian girl was gang-raped, she explained, “I was afraid. While I was being raped, another man pointed a gun and recorded me with his cellphone camera. He said he will upload the film on the Net if I tell my family or the police.”

It’s little surprise that the Internet has become a powerful tool in intimate partner violence: A 2012 survey conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) found that 89 percent of local domestic violence programs reported victims who were experiencing technology-enabled abuse, often across multiple platforms.

None of this was of much help to Caroline Criado-Perez, a British journalist and feminist who helped get a picture of Jane Austen on the £10 banknote. The day Bank of England made the announcement, Criado-Perez began receiving more than 50 violent threats per hour on Twitter. “The immediate impact was that I couldn’t eat or sleep,” she told The Guardian in 2013. She asked Twitter to find some way to stop the threats, but at the time the company offered no mechanism for reporting abuse.

There seems to be some kind of perfect storm going on. Between news aggregation sites - Reddit now seems like the universal “forum of the Internet” - and social media providers like Twitter and Facebook there is now a universal shared communication mechanism by which people of like mind can do things to individuals anonymously. Combined with the ever increasing crassness of society (old man lawn) and the strange desire by young men to gross out women and the fact that it takes a whole more crass than yesteryear make women (or men) clutch their metaphorical pearls, we’re at the stage where death and rape threats are de jour. It’s why if you’ve ever had the misfortune to listen to Opie and Anthony and their talk radio ilk how they will make a sort of insult that takes a paragraph to write. That guy isn’t just a shithead, a cocksucker, or X/Y/Z stereotypical insult, it’s a string of profanity about how their going to chop his head off and [email protected]#$ him and then cum in his grandma’s dentures, or whatever, all said to riproaring laughter. But if there is anything about habituation making the man, all this sort of extreme crudity all day all the time has to one day rub off into real behavioral problems - which is undoubtedly why in this case Anthony was eventually fired for making racist tweets.

But why am I, of all mankind, 105
To so severe a fate designed?
Ungrateful! Why this treachery
To humble fond, believing me,
Who gave you privilege above
The nice allowances of love? 110
Did ever I refuse to bear
The meanest part your lust could spare?
When your lewd cunt came spewing home
Drenched with the seed of half the town,
My dram of sperm was supped up after 115
For the digestive surfeit water.
Full gorged at another time
With a vast meal of slime
Which your devouring cunt had drawn
From porters’ backs and footmen’s brawn, 120
I was content to serve you up
My ballock-full for your grace cup,
Nor ever thought it an abuse
While you had pleasure for excuse -
You tht could make my heart away 125
For noise and color, and betray
The secrets of my tender hours
To such knight-errant paramours,
When, leaning on your faithless breast,
Wrapped in security and rest, 130
Soft kindness all my powers did move,
And reason lay dissolved in love!

This was written in the 17th century. As for the rest that sucks if you’re being stalked. Crime statistics suggest that society has never been safer for man, woman, or child. I guess moral panic will always be appealing if you need to feel superior to your fellow x.

I don’t know for a fact, but I bet threats are far more common now than they were (for example) 10 years ago. Threats are a crime and do have an effect on their victims, even if the threatener doesn’t make good on the threat. I don’t think it’s “moral panic” to be upset when someone threatens you or your family with rape and murder.

It may be easier to harass others in this electronic age, but is it more common? You’d have to present figures. With the way these things work, I’m skeptical.

Human nature, it doesn’t change does it.

Moral panic is an apt phrase though.

OK, you bet! I bet whatever it is I have to to make me win this argument. Do I win now?

I’m not prepared to say what’s going on is “moral panic”. The relative absence of physical attacks compared to the number of verbal attacks - and when i say absence i’m actually saying i don’t know of any, one way or the other - doesn’t mean these attacks on women online aren’t real and damaging in every other way. That’s a very “mannish” way of thinking, where for guys language is just this tool to use in-between doing “real” things.

One thing modern young feminism is hyper sensitive toward is language, and while I should add that i’m not really well equipped enough about modern feminism to start making declarative statements about it, i’m only reflecting my limited encounters with feminist content. In many ways language trumps actual action, especially online, because once something is written down it can be endlessly deconstructed and interpreted, and is relatively easy to do so - where actions have to be investigated and reported. (IE, the company that says something sexist will be more prominent in the Twitter feeds than a company that does something sexist, or at least, that’s the appearance of things now.) The other thing about modern feminism is the expansion of agency and the validation of experience; so if something is offensive to you (as a woman) than that thing is offensive, regardless of original intent. There was this article on the Nation about “feminism’s toxic Twitter wars” which in the context of the attacks going on with women now seems like an incendiary thing to post, giving ammunition to the “parity police”, but if we can not do that, here are examples of people online flipping out because the language used by their own side wasn’t exactly correct.

The point from that example is that if using the wrong pronoun causes conferences to break down, how are online rape and death threats going to be interpreted? Hypersensitivity vs. The Online Army of Verbal Assholes seems like the shorthand equation for a nuclear bomb.

Language trumps reality.

It drove me crazy in school. Someone once told me that mothering instinct was a cultural imposition. I didn’t know whether to scream, or to cry.

Yea, as a guy, there are plenty of examples of such declarative statements like that in progressive academia that are just wrong, of the “gender is a social construct” sort. At least wrong if they’re taken to the limit, 100%, no exceptions. I understand why they are phrased that way - essentially because difference means inequality means discrimination - but i’m also not eager to fight on that regard either. As long as I can get a chance to preserve some difference I’m happy and not particularly interested in defining where difference resides; i.e., in my example, if i can get a “some gender difference is biological” i’m happy to stop there and let everyone else hash out the location of it.

That said i think this line of thinking is only relevant in the sense that the same women getting brutally attacked have been trained to deconstruct the hell out of their attackers’ statements. So these problems aren’t going to be seen as isolated incidents but part of a systemic disease (which they may be). Just to be clear about it though, since this stuff is radioactive, I’m not trying to make an argument that the women who are attacked by guys on Twitter are being hypersensitive about it and that it isn’t a big deal.

You’ll probably never win anything. But I think you’ve realised that.

Which part of the thread hurt your feelings? The part where my claims had evidence, or the part where the other guy’s didn’t?

“Media” is already a plural for “Medium”. Please excuse my inner grammar nazi.

What does Webster have to say?!

The singular media and its plural medias seem to have originated in the field of advertising over 70 years ago; they are still so used without stigma in that specialized field. In most other applications media is used as a plural of medium. The popularity of the word in references to the agencies of mass communication is leading to the formation of a mass noun, construed as a singular <there’s no basis for it. You know, the news media gets on to something — Edwin Meese 3d> <the media is less interested in the party’s policies — James Lewis, Guardian Weekly>. This use is not as well established as the mass-noun use of data and is likely to incur criticism especially in writing.

And Dictionary.com, fwiw:

In the 1920s media began to appear as a singular collective noun, sometimes with the plural medias. This singular use is now common in the fields of mass communication and advertising, but it is not frequently found outside them: The media is(or are) not antibusiness.


Grammar Nazis are, by definition, traditionalists.

It is worse recently. The tone has changed since, say the 1980s, 1990s. As a female I can think of some concrete examples of things that have been directed at me, and exactly how the tone has changed. And, I’m just a hobby gamer who’s worked in tech, certainly no one interesting on the internet. Someone could probably start a hashtag harassing just me, and well, someone would have to tell me it was happening as I wouldn’t even notice. I have been intentionally and systematically unplugging from social media. I am starting to think the people that live to pay attention to it all day are even worse than the grey-haired old gossip ladies that had withdrawal if any event pre-empted their daily soap operas. Everyone is a reality show now and they are all soaps. Ugh.

And the 17th century is a red herring. I think it is quite a logical argument to say that the public response to women in 2014 is worse than in say 1990, but both are better than in the 17th century. Though that quote clearly set the female up as a “bad girl” socially deserving no respect (she cheats). That attitude certainly exists today. It was written an upper class fop who loved to write that era’s “porn”. Who’s death at age 33 consensus has it as being of STDs due to his lifestyle, and who was also pissed his mistress was more successful. Heh. And, if you want to compare statistics on societal treatment of women your most relevant statistic would be rape. That statistic is incredibly unreliable and useless for many reasons.

Well, we didn’t have twitter back then. And Twitter is crap at handling abuse and impersonation issues.
Heck, stuff like Disqus is even worse… (you can have multiple identical usernames on there, the only difference being profile URL, hidden away at the bottom of the profile you get when you click on it)

Emails at least you can trace with reasonable accuracy, etc.

That’s all I ever wanted, and lord know where the line is, but I thought it was important to recognize one - to recognize that we operate under different biological imperatives, and that we are often wired quite differently.

“Busbecw thinks that one guy in the 17th century writing a hate poem means that harassment isn’t that bad” is indeed evidence of something, but not what you think it is.

I think this thread should be titled “People and the social media”. Threats of all sorts are certainly not limited to man-to-woman threats when it comes to the internet. The relative ease and anonymity of the internet makes it almost too easy to threaten someone.

It’s like you’re so afraid that you as a man will suddenly not be included in every conversation that you need to insert your gender back into conversations you’re not a part of at every opportunity.

You’re being reductive, you’re (intentionally?) completely ignoring the evidence presented by the article that this thread is about, and you’re trying to distract the conversation into being about something it’s not.

FACT: Women receive a massively disproportionate amount of harassment and threats on the internet that most men cannot even begin to imagine
FACT: The harassment and threats that women receive are overwhelmingly gendered in nature - attacking women for being women, not because of beliefs they may hold or arguments they may make

Trying to distract the conversation away from being about women, to being “about everyone”, is a thoroughly damaging false equivalence, actively prevents any sort of progress from being made since it pretends like the attacks because of gender don’t exist (since men do not get attacked for being men), and contributes to a atmosphere where women still feel like they can’t discuss problems they face online without being mansplained to hell and back by men who can’t stand being excluded from something.

I get skeptical when people start labeling things FACT. You might as well be pounding the dinner table with your fist.

Here’s your second google hit.

Sexism in Cyberspace: Men Receive More Twitter Abuse than Women

The short of it; while men do the most trolling, they are also 2.5 times as likely to be the target of abuse. Women, when they choose to harass someone via twitter, are also more likely than men to target women.

The same think tank produced the following finding.


That certainly jibes with my own work experience. Men are simple creatures - we look for the strong voice in the room, the pack leader, and we fall in. Women, women can be painfully cruel in ways that just don’t occur to men. Where we compete through acts of dominance, women do not.

Oh good grief, we attack each other all the time for being unmanly.