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If we got angry about this kind of thing we'd be angry all the time

Internet Harassment Is Way Worse For Women, Unshockingly


Not long ago, I had a conversation with my father about how literally every woman I know with an active presence online – whether it was as a journalist, as a gamer, or as someone active in a forum – had experienced violent and/or sexual threats.  This news often shocks men, as it shocked my father, because they don’t experience the same issues online. Yet harassment is a daily experience for women online, especially for those who are outspoken about feminism. Journalist Amanda Hess has chronicled not only harassment she’s experienced, but the statistics behind harassment that prove, truly, that women are harassed online far more than men.

Hess points to the following depressing data:

We are more likely to report being stalked and harassed on the Internet—of the 3,787 people who reported harassing incidents from 2000 to 2012 to the volunteer organizationWorking to Halt Online Abuse, 72.5 percent were female. Sometimes, the abuse can get physical: A Pew survey reported that five percent of women who used the Internet said “something happened online” that led them into “physical danger.” And it starts young: Teenage girls are significantly more likely to be cyberbullied than boys. Just appearing as a woman online, it seems, can be enough to inspire abuse. In 2006, researchers from the University of Maryland set up a bunch of fake online accounts and then dispatched them into chat rooms. Accounts with feminine usernames incurred an average of 100 sexually explicit or threatening messages a day. Masculine names received 3.7.

Less than four explicit or threatening messages per day compared with 100!  It boggles the mind.  Hess’s whole piece is worth a read, although it won’t leave you with any warm, fuzzy feelings and trigger warnings are firmly in place.  While women are often told that harassment online is a bunch of empty threats, our gender already spends too much time worrying about how to protect ourselves from assault (sexual or otherwise), so it’s hard to take any of it as “empty.”  Adding to the difficulty is that many police officers don’t even understand the platforms on which harassment is occurring:

Two hours later, a Palm Springs police officer lumbered up the steps to my hotel room, paused on the outdoor threshold, and began questioning me in a steady clip. I wheeled through the relevant background information: I am a journalist; I live in Los Angeles; sometimes, people don’t like what I write about women, relationships, or sexuality; this was not the first time that someone had responded to my work by threatening to rape and kill me. The cop anchored his hands on his belt, looked me in the eye, and said, “What is Twitter?”

For women who spend a great deal of time online and need to report harassment, having to work with officers that don’t understand the issues or belittle the danger of the threats just makes things worse.  It also doesn’t help women feel like they can report harassment because, after all, many people they’d turn to wouldn’t take it seriously.  And when you do spend a lot of time online, especially for work, it’s very hard to unplug and walk away.  As Hess says, “Abusers tend to operate anonymously, or under pseudonyms. But the women they target often write on professional platforms, under their given names, and in the context of their real lives. Victims don’t have the luxury of separating themselves from the crime.” When you’re harassed in a context where you’re using your real name, you know exactly how easy it is for your harassers to google your name, find your address, learn about your family, and if they want to, take a threat and turn it into something real.  Meanwhile, the harassers are operating anonymously so they can continue with their daily lives with no one who actually knows them any wiser to their behavior online.  It’s a sad situation and we are far from a solution, but maybe we’re on the way to at least having this issue taken seriously beyond the people who are harassed and their allies.  After all, a man in Toronto is facing jail time after being charged with criminal harassment for messages he sent to women via Twitter. We can only hope this is part one of a change in how people treat those who harass online.

(via Geekosystem)

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  • Anonymous

    Just do what men do and pretend to be the opposite gender.
    I kid.
    Unsurprisingly when people are afforded anonymity they drop all the masks and actually wallow in their ugly.

  • Anonymous

    You jest, but I’ve done that in the past.

    The difference is astounding.

    Our society is still deeply sexist.

  • Anonymous

    Ultimately, I feel that none of these threats will ever manifest but obviously that cant be said 100%, but I do think nothing will ever happen. I had some nasty things said to me when I had discussions with people about abortion and only time I was kinda concerned was when a IDF guy was getting threatening (to do with Israel and Palestine). But I just ignore it and I would say. Just to ignore all of it. Its cowards and weak men trying to make you yield, and make you scared.
    But obviously the female victims, like Amanda Hess do not want it going on. So I will respect that if they dont feel like they can ignore it, then obviously I will support actions to deal with it. But it will be harder in America for stuff, due to freedom of speech and trying to separate that and hatred. Orwell said, freedom is people saying things you dont like. But if it cant be ignored by them, and it comes off as more cyberbullying. Cyberbullying which is awful. Maybe it would better for a law to add the sort of bile, into a Cyber bullying act rather than Sexual harassment . Due to that really what I think it is.

  • Javier Vega

    It does happen even to a married Black man getting a racist reaction on facebook and twitter.

  • Sessifet

    Actually, a depressingly large number of people are entirely willing to show their ugliness under their real name (see Facebook, for example). In my experience it’s not anonymity that allows people to, as you say, drop all the masks. It’s lack of direct accountability.

  • Anonymous

    I have to look no further than my reputation score from Blogspot. I dare speak MY opinion and get multiple harassment responses and am forced to shut down my own blog. Mad dislikes to the people who try to brush off their hatred, bigotry, and ignorance with a “lol j/k” to try and get out of hot water.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Huh, I confess, I didn’t realize that there were that many people who were so open about aspects of their identity over the internet.

    On the other hand, I suppose between the growing prevalence of public accounts in things like Facebook, and the number of people who post things up professionally (and thus teend to give a real name and suchness information) that it is a growing reality…

    Oh question, do these statistics by chance have data on an average of how many harassers tend to act under a pseudonym over those who are open with their identities?

  • Vian Lawson

    For 20 years we’ve been told to “Just ignore it.” That’s what has brought us to where we are today. It hasn’t worked.

    You try ignoring daily and specific threats to your safety, your family’s safety and the integrity of your workplace. When you get a couple of threats over a couple of specific issues, perhaps that is possible. But when you get a continuous stream of people saying they know where you live and where you work, and are going to come over and personally fuck you (your family, your career) up? When you are doxxed and told there’s a bomb outside your house? When you start getting threatening phone calls? Ignore that at your peril, because for every 99 bloviating idiots, there might be one psycho. And one psycho can ruin your whole day.

  • Anonymous

    Doesn’t matter that most threats are possibly empty. It’s still terrifying and upsetting that just existing online can earn you that level of hate. And if supposedly “complimentary” comments yelled at women during street harassment has been proven to negatively impact thought process and productivity, imagine what deeply personal threats and harassment online will do.

  • According2Robyn

    That’s just the price of being on the internet. If you don’t like the heat, get back in the kitchen or whatever. Or grow up and have a thicker skin. Men don’t get worried about this stuff which is why they have all the internets. Anyway, not every woman is harassed, and personally I kind of like sexual harassment because it makes me feel pretty. And what about that one guy somewheres, who got death threats that one time? You know, the one with the neck beard on twitter. He proves that it’s not a gendered thing. So why do so many of my fellow women hate the first amendment and freedome itself? Because these so-called harassers have the right to be heard and if you disagree you should just go the hell to Russia. Besides, I think a lot of women are just pretending to be threatened to get attention anyway. I mean, they conveniently get rape threats and then links from enabling websites like this one and then they’re, like, millionaires from all that internet money. Suspicious, hmmmm? I bet they made it all up. Anyway, I’ve been threatened by harassers a bunch of times but hardly any of them ever actually killed me.

    There you go, trolls. Now you can take the rest of the day off.

  • Anonymous

    The man who hunted me (in person and online) for two years used his real name. Got two Orders of Protection against him. Guess how many times he got in trouble with the law? Zero.

  • Anonymous

    You mean “promoting” yourself to the status of a privileged member of society decreases your harassment? I am shocked, I tell you! (Hint: I am not shocked).

  • Jamie Jeans

    WOW, they really needed a study for this? Really? REALLY?!

    And part of me wonders how this online harassment works when it’s looked at through a racial context, especially since the article itself doesn’t seem to break down those numbers in terms of the race of the women harassed online.

    I can also speak from a somewhat personal experience that of the harassment I’ve experienced came about because my first name is Jamie and the trolls thought I was a woman, so they were more than willing to come after me for even things like fanfiction that I wrote, of all things. Soon as they found out I was a guy, the nature of their harassment changed or they stopped altogether.

  • Anonymous

    VERY, very good point regarding race. Where are those numbers?

  • Spasmolytic

    This is somewhat due to the fact that women are more hypersensitive and take things more personally.

  • Vetinari

    Well, yes, studies are important. Facts and figures are important tools, and there are plenty of instances where supposedly obvious observations aren’t necessarily accurate. And it’s always useful to be able to pull up actual researched data when discussing these issues.

    I appreciate that you were probably just pointing out the fact that this is a well-known problem by now (though I daresay that it goes unnoticed for more people than you might think), I just get concerned whenever I hear someone say “Did we really need to study THIS?”

  • Anonymous

    Women get more hate because trolls are typically misogynistic.

    If you think men are somehow less sensitive, you’ve never tried to post anything remotely contrary on an MRA blog.

  • Jamie Jeans

    No, women have to put up with a whole hell of a lot of shit including the policing of their bodies, their clothes, their lives, or else fall victim to harassment that they somehow brought upon themselves, instead of the dickweeds like yourself who should know better and treat them with a modicum of respect! >_<

    And guess what? Some DO have to take it personally because THEIR LIVES COULD POTENTIALLY BE IN DANGER, YOU SHIT.

    And this study just says women, without breaking it down along racial lines, so imagine the garbage that black women, Chinese women, native women, have to put up with and then multiply that by a good deal more due to basic, victim-shaming pricks such as yourself who hide behind false usernames!

  • Jamie Jeans

    In hindsight, yeah, it’s good to have solid numbers to point out and beat over the heads of trolls and other idiots. Facts are magic, as a friend of mine would say, even if morons would choose to ignore them.

    It’s just a bit of frustration that a study has to be done instead of just listening to women, like it has to be framed within a logical, scientific context because, well, those women are oh so ‘oversensitive’ and ‘emotional.’

  • Anonymous

    I think you meant to respond to our anonymous troll guest above, rather than me?

  • Jamie Jeans

    Yes, yes, sorry… >_< Cripes…

  • Skemono

    WOW, they really needed a study for this? Really? REALLY?!

    Yes, because without it MRAs and their ilk will whine “But men get harassed on the internet too!” or “I’ve never seen a woman being harassed, so it doesn’t happen!” (well, they’ll do it even with a study, but at least it’s there). Women’s experiences don’t count to those sorts, and they’ll demand to see numbers to prove that women have it worse. Preferably numbers that have been counted/calculated by a man.

  • Anonymous

    Eh, disquis gives some odd results sometimes.

  • Anonymous

    Unfortunately the most accepted response to such bad behavior is not to single out the individuals responsible but to retaliate in kind by hanging the blame on the entire demographic group thus promoting divisiveness and sewing the seeds of resentment ensuring that the divide will be politically useful for generations to come. Doesn’t accomplish a single positive thing.

  • Tiger Park

    If we factor in abuse on WoC online … well … this essay by a black womanist writer would give some perspective:

  • Bevin Warren

    I have to laugh at the dig at MRAs… While I dissagree with the intellectual content of Feminism I do believe in equality or opportunity and equity…But thats a big issue, If Feminists truely want to be on equal terms (in all regards) then they need to be willing to accept the existence (and need of) MRAs.
    Can men be hyper sensitive. Hell yeah, but across the world, across all societies there has been a default position of protecting females both their priveledges and their physical safety as they are the very direct means of continuing the species/culture. If you want to have Feminst groups to protect Female rights then you need MRAs to protect mens – and thats just equal.

    Anyway I think its disgusting how much women get targeted online for abuse – maybe some of it is caused by the victim and maybe the vast majority isn’t. I suspect the issues at play are incredibly complicated. I just hope everyone can have a positive online experience.

  • Anonymous

    I stopped caring about what was “most accepted” a long, long time ago. Probably back when I was fourteen, being stalked by a guy in his early twenties trying to cyber with me and wanting to meet me to have sex with me… and people online tried to cover it up and get me to not report him to the law for being a fucking pedophile.

  • Ashe

    Jesus christ, that’s scary. I’m sorry that happened to you.

    Two of my mother’s ex-boyfriends stalked her, one with intent to hurt. This shit is no joke.

  • Penny Marie Sautereau

    If you’re ACTUALLY stupid enough to believe that sexist tripe you’ve clearly never seen the butthurt ragefests boys will erupt into after a simple “Yo Mama” or “Your dick is tiny” jokes. Men are the most fragile sensitive creatures on earth.

  • Lien

    Well hopefully this article will hose down the ever so clever “Well men get harassed too, STOP BEING SEXIST!” defense i see in forums left and right…

    …Oh whom am i kidding. These type of guys are more likely the type of people who refuse to believe the earth is anything but flat, detached from reality and substituting it with their own.

  • FireFly

    Why should we have to ignore it?! You’re saying people should just roll over and accept unfair treatment? Accept that it’s common place to be objectified, bullied, to have people to attempt to intimidate and emotionally and mentally control you? Nothing changes if it’s just ignored! That “just ignore it” mentality is as bad as the mentality of the people who do the harassing!

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”
    -Edmund Burke

  • Saraquill

    What I find perplexing is the time I got jumped on for calmly voicing my intellectual disagreement with a certain series. I got the strong impression that those that piled were fancying themselves as progressives.

  • Abel Undercity

    Yes, yes, “not all men are like that.” Thank you.

  • Jake Mertz

    Hmm, sounds like we could use a real police force like Net Force. Of course, they’d be just swamped with harassment claims, which they couldn’t really afford to ignore, because women might actually be raped, and men might actually have their balls cut off, like I’ve seen people threaten other people with. At least a police force of ‘net experts would actually know what Twitter is.

  • Faradn

    How did you get According2Robyn’s login info, Thunderf00t? :)

  • Faradn

    How did you get According2Robyn’s login info, Thunderf00t? :)

  • Faradn

    Sorry if I’m being dense, but what are you talking about?

  • Faradn

    Sorry if I’m being dense, but what are you talking about?

  • Pink Apocalypse

    I’d like to see empirical evidence that ‘man hating’ is the wide-spread problem you assert it is. That’s essentially what you’ve done.

    Targeting individuals would not see any better results than ‘demographic blame’ would, despite what you seem to imply. Solving the problem requires addressing macro-level sociological sea-change in how western culture defines masculinity, which is essentially anti-feminine, homophobic, and violent in nature.

    Watch ‘Tough Guize’ as a rough outline to start studying this concept.

  • According2Robyn

    The how is not important. What’s important is my mission to stop all these damn wimmen from RUINING ATHEISM FOREVER.


  • Sessifet

    Gods, I’m sorry that happened. You’d think the law’d be some protection at least. :(

  • Sessifet

    When it’s an overwhelming majority of men who pull this shit, I’m not only sensible if I distrust them as a group, I’m *required* to be distrustful for my own damned safety. And that? Is not a problem I can fix. That’s a problem men *as a group* have to fix. Preferably without handwringing and going But Not All Men Are Like That.

  • Anonymous

    I do, at least on sports sites. I post as myself here and on other sites related to entertainment, food and comics (and I still get oh-so-much bull, especially on comics sites), but the level of hideousness on sports sites was so much higher that now I have a gender-ambiguous-but-plausibly-male pseud that I use just for them, I just want to talk about hockey and baseball, not get flooded with rape threats and more rape threats all day long.

  • Skol Troll

    Said the “guy” who hides behind the double-secret “Guest” login.

    You’re not even brave enough to troll with a screen name, hotshot.

  • Skol Troll

    There are better sports sites than the ones you visit. It’s probably sexist, but if you say anything nasty about gals on our board, you tend to get skewered. Sure, we’re all “over protective big brother” and it’s wrong in it’s own right, but that’s what we do. Plus, we we wish we could see more female opinions. Best of all, they’re way smarter and tougher then the rest of us jokers.

    So keep looking around (cheap ad: go to SBNation for your fave teams). The good ones are out there.

  • Skol Troll

    Thanks. I didn’t feel like working today.

  • Anonymous

    Though I should mention that SBNation is better than most, which is appreciated.

  • Foxfire

    I think you’re confused about what Freedom of Speech really is.

    It’s not an open license to disparage, harass and abuse others. That, whether verbally or physically is assault. If you think verbal assault is acceptable under your freedom of speech, then I for one am glad I don’t live in your country (assuming you’re speaking from the US, as you have bought up freedom of speech).

    No-one, female, male, child, adult, cat, dog, mouse whatever should have to dread looking at their inbox because of the horrible personal attacks that it contains.

  • Anonymous

    You would think, but I found out what most people know who don’t share the same privilege as me (white skin) from when they’re little; the “justice” system is FUCKED.

  • Anonymous

    It was very terrifying. Even when he would stalk me online, I wasn’t even on the mainland, I would be awake at night, enraged and having a panic attack at the same time. Not fun. But of course, the “best” part was finally getting up the courage to do something about it, only to have no one help you. WOW. It’s like people stand there, watching you drown. I can empathize with your mother; it’s a hopeless feeling, and it keeps you on edge. All. The. Time. Regardless of their intentions, even if it’s just some obsession. There is absolute reason to fear.

  • Gary Keyes

    Man, articles like this always makes me lose sleep over the Women in my life. My sister and my niece especially. My niece in particular because she’s 19 and online all the time (with friends and school). If she informs me of any odd behavior I always become alert and tell her to be wary. I grew up with a lot of strong African America women in my life, Mom, sis, aunts, etc and I was raised to have respect for women. And I give it as long as I get it in return–I just don’t understand this overwhelming hatred and fear of women some men seem to display online or off. It’s like racism, our society has fully come to terms with race and it seems to apply to the way the sexes treat one another (men way more so than women–unfortunately). Sad.

  • Illise Montoya


    It’s becoming more common as more of the professional world relies on the internet and digital devices to network, conduct business, and promote. I’m a writer about to get my bachelor degree for creative writing, and right now they’re drilling into our heads that if we want to get ahead in the entertainment world AT ALL, we have to have an internet platform. That means using our real names versus just our pseudonyms (which I happily use) so that other members of the industry can find us and reach us with ease. It stands to reason. You can’t get a job on a fake name, and writers in the entertainment biz often work remotely over the internet. Of course, it goes without saying that OTHER people can find us and reach us with ease as well…

    Personally I try to avoid using my full name and personal contact details whenever possible, but when the line between getting a job is having a transparent and public digital portfolio, sometimes there is no real choice for some career fields. Naturally, this isn’t the case for everyone, but for many people, yes.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    But arn’t there several artists and writers who go by a pen name who kept their identities secret?
    Such as Lucile Dupin who worked under the pen name of George Sand or the creator of the Nancy Drew series, Edward Stratemyer who functioned under the joint alias of Caroline Keene.

    I know even nowadays, a number of writers use false names when publishing their works to avoid the attention (C. Dale Britain, Richard Bachman)

    So I am kinda curious in this regard.

  • Lisa Liscoumb

    Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences. Too many people (both men and women) use the “I’m protected by freedom of speech” argument to mean that they can say anything they want without repercussions.

  • Illise Montoya

    Let me just clarify: I was talking specifically about writers in the entertainment business, meaning people who get into film, television, video games, etc. I myself am hoping to break into the video game industry which is why I have to put my name out there. Book publishing is kind of different. I know book authors write under pseudonyms and can still easily maintain anonymity. As I was saying, I myself write under a pseudonym and have done so for nearly six years.

    But things for writers in the entertainment business aren’t the same. Being a book author can be a very private experience given the small number of people they need to interact with. Submitting manuscripts is also very private. You don’t need a portfolio for that. Networking for a freelance book author doesn’t have the same connotations to it as it does for someone trying to get a stay-on job at a game developer or a TV show. Book authors network to gain allies in promoting their work. Entertainment writers network because the people they rub elbows with may someday help to get them a job. There’s more immediate urgency to it. Take that into consideration when nearly all networking these days takes place on the internet.

    Ten, twenty years ago things were perhaps different for entertainment writers. You didn’t have to put yourself out there as much. Digital portfolios weren’t very typical, especially for writers. We didn’t have all the tools we do now to work remotely. I even remember in high school that we were still being taught to use snail mail for cover letters and resumes, and that was just a little under ten years ago. A lot has changed since then. These days everything is email, and snail mail is optional in the job application process. What I’m trying to get at is that the entertainment industry has fully embraced new technology for many purposes: communication, creation, networking, and hiring. Honestly, that’s a good thing, because otherwise it’d be harder for someone like myself to make a breakthrough.

    Perhaps there are writers in the industry that have found a way to work around privacy issues and manage to network and apply for entertainment jobs without having to use their real names. I’ve met and heard from a lot of writing industry professionals in my creative writing degree program, though, and so far I have not encountered this. It’s just the way the industry works right now. I can’t comment on how visual artists do things, but I’d imagine it’s much the same way for those trying to get a stay-on job. When you’re trying to talk to other members of the industry and potential employers, they don’t really have the patience to deal with your super clever pseudonym. As I said in my earlier comment, you can’t get a job with a fake name.

    Also, Lucile Dupin was born in 1804, and Edward Stratemyer was born in 1862. They’re not really relevant examples as they didn’t even have internet. Also, I’m not even sure C. Dale Britain or Stephen King are fair examples to use because they were well established authors long before the internet became an integral part of the working world.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    Ah, my apologies, I misunderstood what you meant when you referred to Entertainment.

    Considering your statement, I confess I cannot think of any recent well to do writers I know of in thee past ten years who have maintained their anonymity, though that admittedly, could simply be because I have not picked up many new books in the last few years (Most of my local book stores have closed down sadly. With the one remaining, a Barnes and Noble, switching out half of its merchandise for toys and board games, and insisting that if customers want a book, that they must order it…Which hurts my browsing abilities) Even in the world of webcomics, alot of writers nowadays tend to use their real names, though that is more due to the sad fact that the internet makes it rather easy to steal someones work and claim it for your own…

    Having read biographies of authors who got their start and established themselves in the 70s, 80s and even 90s, it was largely a matter of you and someone representing the publisher you were trying to pitch to with whether they liked YOU mattering at least as much as whether or not they liked your work. (Jim Butcher even commented in an explanation of the process that his editor stated that sh would have probably thrown out the Dresden files if she didn’t have lunch and get to know him.)
    Things like ‘what name you have on the cover’ even now though, are not really a big deal so long as the publisher gets a percentage and they know where to send your cut of the money.

    As for how things are in the entertainment industry…I wont even pretend to be as knowledgeable on the subject as you are and I will bow to your wisdom. The only examples I can think of that match what I was referring to, are indie developers who have gotten away with anonymity by simply not having to give their name to someone.
    The biggest named example I can find of such, being Project Phoenix though even then I confess, these are people who knew eachother quite well getting into this and were familiar with eachothers work, even if anyone outside of the project are in the dark about several of the key developers.

  • Cecee

    Women get harassed on the internet and in life a lot more than men. My male friends always wonder why I tell them to be careful in unsafe areas and posting controversial things online. To them, it’s something that happens in movies and the news. I had male friends actually tell me they have never in their life thought of their safety, at least in terms of harassment. However, my female friends completely understand the dangers in real life and online.

  • Anonymous

    You might be interested in this, Horation.

    Steph Guthrie: Making the Cybermob Work for You!

  • Anonymous

    Wrong again retarded women – whine some more…

  • Anonymous

    Maybe your opinion is dumb?