Several days ago a fellow woman blogger received death threats. It’s not the first time that has happened and it won’t be the last. What is different is that that she went public with her story and it has prompted a very necessary conversation about the impact of cyber harrassment.
Having been writing publicly on the web for a few years now, I have been the recipient of some pretty vicious epithets and been offered several anatomically impossible suggestions for re-arranging my body parts. Fortunately, no death threats, but none the less, at a minimum, it feels creepy and and worse it can inhibit you from feeling free to express your thoughts because it may not be safe to do so.
There is a whole school of thought out there that says toughen up, this is what free speech is all about yada yada. I don’t subscribe to that line of faulty reasoning. Harrassment online is no more free speech than it is in the offline world. It is a crime and a violation of the victim’s rights. And just as it is in real life, women get the worst of it. Women bloggers seem much more likely to receive threatening comments, many of them couched in terms of sexually violent acts. Most of these writers would never dream of addressing a male blogger in that way.
As for those who say toughen up, if you want to play the game you have to put up with this crap, in a word, screw that. It isn’t acceptable to say that is the way it is and put up or shut up. Bullying is no more acceptable online than off and should not be acceptable to thinking, morally balanced people, so let’s put a stop to it!