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Abuse aimed at women on the net - what do you think?

(98 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 25-Jan-13 10:54:59

This week, we're calling for your thoughts on women, the internet and cyberbullying. It's been a hot topic this week, with historian Mary Beard documenting the online abuse that she's experienced - abuse she calls "truly vile" and which is "meant to hurt and wound".

Jane Fae in the New Statesman says the attacks on Beard are motivated by "misogyny, intimidation and silencing"; over at the Telegraph Christina Odone reckons Mary should stick to lecturing undergrads if she doesn't have the stomach for it.  The columnist Suzanne Moore spoke eloquently at BlogFest '12 about her own experiences, while Mumsnet blogger WeekWoman suggested the hashtag #silentnomore, to encourage others to share their stories and stand up against the bullies - thread here for more info.

So what do you think? Are women being silenced - or is online abuse simply something that people with a high online profile - male and female - have to face? And what, if anything, can be done?  Post your URLs here if you blog about this - or if you don't (yet wink) have a blog, let us know what you think here on the thread.

kim147 Fri 25-Jan-13 22:09:31

This article www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/8746096/Starter-for-10-female-University-Challenge-contestants-subject-to-web-hate-campaigns.html highlights the "difficulties" facing female students on University Challenge and the vitriol some face online.

Jenny Harris, 22, who won the show last year as part of the team from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, said she was uncomfortable with the coverage she received.

She suggested the show's audience was prejudiced against female contestants.

"People can get almost a personal outrage if University Challenge women do not meet their standards of attractiveness, or nastily personal comments if they do," she told The Independent.

"An aspect of it is the idea that women shouldn't be showing off how clever they are, where this is more OK for boys.

"The fact that there are fewer women in pretty much every match, it looks like a male-dominated environment and is judged by the standards of one."

Marine Debray, 20, who represented Balliol College, Oxford, on the show admitted she had "a pretty awful experience" after her episode was broadcast.

"I got lots of friend requests on Facebook, loads of emails and had to turn up my privacy settings so that I couldn't be found online," she said.

"There was a guy who made a photo album of me intercut with photos of a penis.

"But my mentality was that it'll be over in five days and then they'll have someone new to latch on to – which turned out to be true."

alarkthatcouldpray Fri 25-Jan-13 22:20:37

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

FastidiaBlueberry Fri 25-Jan-13 23:16:37

"There are already laws about hate mail and inciting violence, racism and homophobia that can be adjusted."

Significantly, laws about hate mail inciting sexism or misogyny do not exist.

It's all part of male violence IMO. Lots of men really hate women and the internet provides them with an anonymous forum where they can express that and be supported by other misogynists. It's also a deliberate attempt to shut women up - if we're frightened of being tracked down by men who might kill us or our children, we're less likely to challenge them online.

FastidiaBlueberry Fri 25-Jan-13 23:18:11

Maybe Mumsnet's next campaign could be to have sexism recognised as hate-speak and treated the same as racism?

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 23:21:55

I think an MN campaign against cyberbullying would be incredibly useful.

As someone said upthread, the legal implications are often not appreciated.

FastidiaBlueberry Fri 25-Jan-13 23:23:24

Yeah whoever said that we should all have the same access to redress that Lord McAlpine had, was on to something

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 23:24:21

Good point, Fastidia.

Blackduck Sat 26-Jan-13 09:22:56

Christina Odone fundamentally misses the point with regard to Mary Beard - it wasn't the comments about her appearance that upset but the comments about shoving things up her vagina. And that piece by Odone is actually patronising the the extreme and is another example of a woman judging another on her appearance - oh, but I'll let her off because she's clever <sigh>

i'm part of a group on facebook that reports misogynistic (and i'm talking inciting rape and violence towards women and including awful images including of underage girls they don't have permission to use). facebook seems to ignore the report and find the page or image fine 99% of the time.

i find it stunning. i remember a page that was all about how to get away with raping her - facebook deemed it fine. another was about 'teen sluts' with photos of young girls that men had taken and that was apparently fine too.

you're not going to tackle individuals comments and cyber bullying whilst huge social network sites think it's ok to have pages inciting sexual violence against women and children. there is a multitude of pages and groups on there that are for and by paedophiles who exchange photos, films etc too.

seriously fucked up.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 10:39:30

read this this morning about Egyptian rape-mobs

Who was the person who made the connection between this real life sexual threat to women to make sure they keep out of the public domain and the online sexual harassment of women?

edam Sat 26-Jan-13 10:49:25

swallowed, has anyone tried reporting the comments to the police? Incitement to violence, threats of violence, can be crimes. I know there are new prosecution guidelines but a police force capable of charging someone with a crime for calling a horse gay or sending a daft text when an airport is closed should at least look at threats of violence against women.

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 26-Jan-13 11:05:35

That's true Edam isn't it.

Funny how they can control online behaviour when it upsets the powerful.

Sunnywithshowers Sat 26-Jan-13 12:01:07

I agree that abuse is a problem for women on the net.

In a smaller way, Mumsnet is sometimes targeted by trolls because it's predominantly a site where women talk to other women.

Women should not have to put up with this.

Maybe Mumsnet's next campaign could be to have sexism recognised as hate-speak and treated the same as racism?

I agree with this. It's unacceptable to target people because of race, disability, sexuality, religion ... just about everybody is covered except women. If sexist abuse were covered, it would still go on, just as racist abuse still goes on, but it would get taken down a whole lot quicker and would send a general message that it was unacceptable.

There's an interesting thread here which discusses the issue.

Darkesteyes Sat 26-Jan-13 22:05:33

Christina Odones attitude towards this doesnt surprise me in the slightest. I remember seeing past articles from her online which were disabilist.

FlouncingMintyy Sat 26-Jan-13 22:29:11

What I don't understand is why the net is so heavily moderated in some quarters (eg. Mumsnet) and not in others (eg. Facebook).

If the "hosts" of the comments could be held more accountable then there would be less abuse?

I have seen recent comments from the Administrator of another Forum where he is telling posters to behave or he will pass their details on to "The Authorities" (v Big Brother).

herewegoloubylou Sat 26-Jan-13 23:08:18

Yes, I agree, there should be much more accountability.

It's not entirely the same thing, but if you play video games online and happen to be female, you're in for a bad time.
This website (warning, there's bad language on there) documents some of the horrible, as well as just plain stupid, messages women get on Xbox Live, just because they happen to be female and online.

This sort of misogyny and hatred is common throughout the internet in all its forms, and most of it comes from the powerful shield that is anonymity. It's easy to attack someone from behind a username, when there are no consequences for you besides possibly getting banned and needing to make a new account.

That said, I would hate for everything to be attached to your real-life name. Gawker keeps trying to make me attach my account there to my google+ account, and I'm not having it. Walking the fine line between privacy and accountability is hard, and I personally don't have a solution. But something does need to be done.

MoreBeta Sun 27-Jan-13 09:12:19

The truth is that the sorts of comments that Mary Beard got are poresent on nearly every forum I go on. Women politicians suffer the same sort of abuse or indeed any women that happens to have a public persona.

However, what may surporise people is that this is not actually an 'intrernet' phenomenon at all. It is how men speak about women all the time when they are alone with other men. It really is not iunusual. It is not confined to the internet - it happens in locker rooms and indeed any space where men feel they can speak openly to other men without women being around to see or hear them doing it.

The internet is just another place where they can do it anonymously.

NormaStanleyFletcher Sun 27-Jan-13 09:51:22

Really beta? Men speak about shutting women up by putting a Dick in their mouth?

HMCheung Sun 27-Jan-13 09:57:25

L

catsrus Sun 27-Jan-13 11:32:46

I was once involved with a very friendly newsgroup (showing my age!) which was a fan group for a tv show. In those days you signed up with your real email address - and most of us only had one or two smile I disagreed with a 'friend' on there abut a plot line and the direction the show was going in and he began to cyber stalk me, sending foul sexually explicit fantasy emails to me and following me onto other newsgroups. It was a very educational experience.

Interestingly he was not anonymous as I knew his name - he was a lawyer in the US and prolific (and popular) in lots of online forums. I reported him to his ISP, sending the emails onto them but nothing ever happened - it finally stopped when he died (found dead in his appartment). I then had to watch the online community lament his death and say what a good bloke he was, leaving tearful comments on the obituary page set up by his family....

He clearly felt both entitled to say what he did and confident that I was powerless to do anything about it - all because we disagreed on a plot line confused

AIBU is nothing compared to that experience, believe me.

I've found a blog on the subject here.

One quote really sums it all up. "Germane Greer wrote many years ago that women have no idea how much men hate them. Well, thanks to the internet, now we do."

NormaStanleyFletcher Sun 27-Jan-13 13:06:34

Love that quote Annie.

HotheadPaisan Sun 27-Jan-13 13:56:19

Abuse based on threats of sexual violence should be prosecuted as other crimes are, ditto for harassment. A few high publicity cases would drive the message home.

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