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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.

Anonymouswasawoman Wed 06-Feb-13 19:54:22

RM76, your comment has resonated with me. I also suffer from a lot of trauma as a result of abuse, and as a way to cope I spend a lot of time online on hobby forums, and looking at funny youtube videos.
The thing is, every forum in which a lot of men post on WILL be full of unchallenged misogyny.
Youtube? The comments are vile, just as you describe. So many misogynists out there, writing any abuse they want, their comment often get thumbs up too.

"Don't read the comments" is something I often hear, but not a solution. Right now this shit isn't being challenged, it's considered normal.

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Tue 05-Feb-13 14:04:54

It's not ok for women to be insulted in this way, & by keeping quiet about it we are letting it happen.

Saying no to hateful cruelty doesn't make us strident or unwomanly, it makes us compassionate & fair to ourselves & other women.

I find it really sad that alot of people, women, can't see that. It shouldn't even be a debate.

Darkesteyes Wed 30-Jan-13 22:45:58

I posted this on the thread "God help is all" but i think it belongs here too.

DarkesteyesWed 30-Jan-13 22:21:21

JESUS i have just been to my fb home page and the hateful comments i have seen.
Apparently This Morning had a couple on there today who said it wasnt worth working blah <right wing propaganda> blah.
And the comments coming to my fb page are nasty sexist and mysogynistic to say the least.
An example...."Lazy sluts who see popping out sprogs as a moneymaker do not deserve child benefit" That is just one of the comments. Im so bloody fed up with this We have programmes like TM who are aimed at the same idiots who read things like Closer Heat and the Daily Mail. In fact one person on the thread linked to the Mail to prove their point.
Im so pissed off with fbs attitude to sexism and mysogyny i want to disable my account.
I did it once before 2 yrs ago but changed my mind several days later. I dont think i will change my mind this time.
Think this is my final straw. Why cant people see it FFS. Im so pissed off with the hateful mysogyny i see on fb from some users. I found this extremely upsetting tonight. End of the rope.

theodorakisses Mon 28-Jan-13 13:39:34

Mary Beard's reply was clever, dignified and never once asked for sympathy, simply offering a recourse to the comments. Sadly, it isn't enough. I thought she was a bit dismissive on Newsnight and could have been more sensitive but ffs, I don't hate her for it. She isn't a media mogul or a politician and was simply invited to give her views, which she did.

theodorakisses Mon 28-Jan-13 13:36:50

I agree. I don't know about GCSE but the IGCSE has a fairly large amount on cyber bullying. In addition, my husband's school, in Qatar has a cyber bulling procedure which is much easier to police as IP addresses are kept against the parents ID. Because it is easy to trace, it is on the decline and the local police are incredibly supportive. That is not to say of course that they don't find other ways but I guess the point I am making is that a monitored internet may be in some ways a good thing. Nobody likes censorship but, let's face it, the UK Police (and brave and noble people they are for doing it) trawl through the most heinous sites possible and often find the perpetrator. If threats of sexual violence were ranked with filmed acts of sexual violence and the funding was there, it would help. The internet has, whilst not exclusively created these people, certainly enables them to function. Does it all come down to money/funding or is the problem far more broad in terms of what we should "ignore" and what we should deem unacceptable? I really don't know but I am scared for the next generation. There doesn't seem to be any progress, just a technology that supports the already vile and dangerous people.

greencolorpack Mon 28-Jan-13 13:33:29

In certain forums where I had a female username I used to have to deal with lots of cyber bullying, usually along the lines I was stupid or brainwashed. And certain subjects, ie religious discussions about sex/sexuality/masturbation I quickly learned I could not comment on in any way because even if I kept things impersonal and objective you just know someone would come back with a personal taunt or question about myself personally and my own sex life. It meant I avoided certain subjects. I could never laugh at other posters dirty jokes lest they think I am up for that kind of conversation. I might laugh like a drain at something I read but I would never post "lol".

I'm in two minds about it. There is something very illuminating about allowing people the anonymity to post their true feelings. And in a combative, hostile situation occasionally I would come in and post something thoughtful or kind and would fail to respond to insults with insults and suddenly the tone of the whole debate would change... Where people feel respected and listened to suddenly all the stupid white noise and banter and sexist rubbish disappears.

I read the thing about Mary Beard, I think it's good to turn up the stone and look at all the creepy crawlies underneath and have a good debate about it. that's how I see those trolls, they are like creepy crawlies. Most sensible posters would know that those people condemn themselves with their puerile bile far more than they condemn Mary Beard et al.

NormaStanleyFletcher Mon 28-Jan-13 13:26:07

I really do think that there needs to be a campaign where the threat of sexual violence towards people on line (whether they say I will rape you, or you should be raped) should be treated under the criminal law as a serious offence.

Is there such a campaign out there already?

theodorakisses Mon 28-Jan-13 13:20:25

Yes, this level of attacking must be addressed, morally and legally. On a basic level, I think we ALL have to re-evaluate our behaviour towards others. I include myself in this, it's so easy to have a bitch at someone who doesn't agree with me online.

NormaStanleyFletcher Mon 28-Jan-13 13:19:37

Your post seems to be spectacularly missing the point Sausageggbacon.

It is the nature of the abuse that women face. Usually threatening physical and/or sexual violence (or as above saying that they are too ugly to rape), or talking about their appearance, genitals, grooming routine etc.

I don't see those things being used to attack men? Do you?

Sausageeggbacon Mon 28-Jan-13 12:45:01

Abuse comes from both sides, men verbally attack women and men on line and women will do the same. Both sides will employ hate speech and derailing tactics depending on how successful their arguments are. I would like to see both sides grow up but its not going to happen.

NormaStanleyFletcher Mon 28-Jan-13 12:23:44

OH RM - so sorry to hear what happened to you.

I wish there were something constructive I could say.

sad

theodorakisses Mon 28-Jan-13 11:56:29

RM, I am speechless. I can't think of anything to say except sharing your story with people like me helps spread the message of how big this problem is. Bastards, Bastards, Bastards, the Bastards.

RM76 Mon 28-Jan-13 09:47:21

The really horrible thing is how well this tactic works at keeping women off the net.

The men that post hate online insist that women hate them. I never hated men, but yes, I do fear them, and I think they hate women, nothing else makes sense of their behaviour.

I was abused by three different men as a child and attacked by one of them again as an adult. I've been left with PTSD and Agoraphobia which I've been making headway with.

I recently took up playing the drums for music therapy and to get over my fear of noise. I ventured onto the net even though I had been avoiding it because of all the hate that seems to be everywhere, my husband found lessons online and I went to youtube to view some footage. Dear God, you'd think I'd decided to take up male flogging!

The messages on all videos for any women who play drums are just evil, from kitchen jokes to comments about being too ugly to rape, none were removed by youtube.

On one, for the first time, I left a comment for a woman who was amazing, mainly because I thought I should say something supportive to counter all the fat jokes she was getting. I just said she was good. I received an instant reply from a man,

'what the F* do you know? Your probably just a fat C* feminist like she is, shut your fat F**** feminazi mouth bitch!' I'm not really sure what I was supposed to have done, but I'm not the only one, apparently women should not be allowed to play drums!

So much for the therapeutic effect of music! Now I have trouble even looking at my drum kit.

If they think abusing women in this way will keep them off the internet and out of the world, sadly, they're right, I haven't left the house in weeks.

theodorakisses Mon 28-Jan-13 09:16:24

I feel that some women, such as Katie Price, for example are viewed as fair game. the whole "Team Peter" thing led to a great deal of online hatred and abuse by women. Kerry Katona, whilst seeming to be a fairly loathesome individual also has suffered with severe mental health problems and had an horrific upbringing. Whilst I agree that these women have exploited the press and public and are bound to be judged, I am often shocked how, even on MN they are spoken about in such a derogatory way. Surely if all people, both men and women, not just the trolls, were a bit more controlled in their discussion and opinions about all women and remembered that they are human, the world would be a better place.

funnyperson Mon 28-Jan-13 02:51:27

The thing is that what is written or posted online reflects and affects the inner psyche.
Therefore abuse against anyone should be discouraged.
Online people hide behind anonymity so feel safe from prosecution.
Perhaps one could have online armour. This probably will sound silly to all but I have my parental controls permanently set at age 11 years with swearing violence etc excluded so that I (and anyone using my computer) feel safe when searching the net. Thus cyberbullies and undesirables if there are any, don't get through. Its not the whole answer I know, but it helps.

funnyperson Mon 28-Jan-13 02:38:51

Abuse is abuse. If online that doesn't make it any better. Worse probably as it can be reread and not just by the target but by the public- as in this case.
I have had to pull up dc not to swear online.

I suspect that what happened to Mary Beard is the tip of the iceberg. I deliberately havent read through this thread or looked it up as I dont want to.

The laws need revision to include a way to safeguard people against cyberabuse.

tobagoisland Sun 27-Jan-13 20:11:11

Christine Odone is missing the point here, as per her comment "Mary should stick to lecturing undergrads if she doesn't have the stomach for it".

Mary was reported as saying "This isn't just nasty comments about my hair or teeth - I'd have a sense of humour about that" and "... that's what Questiontime is all about - it's not agreeing, it's about disagreeing... But it has absolutely nothing to with my private parts.", INDEED programmes such as Questiontime are supposed to spark healthy debate on current affairs not be the catalyst for vile, sexually aggressive and depraved comments towards those women brave enough to appear on its panel of guests!

I have considerable respect for her robust stand against such wickedness, and hope this is only the start of a 'fight back' in respect of decency and genuine debate within the public forum.

Sunnywithshowers Sun 27-Jan-13 18:21:41

I agree it's not just online. I've been called a cunt for not wanting to go out with someone. And women are routinely subject to abuse in Parliament - even by our PM.

herewegoloubylou Sun 27-Jan-13 18:00:22

Very good post, Fastidia. Especially that last sentence.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 27-Jan-13 17:41:32

I totally believe MoreBeta.

Men really hate women.

Women are in total denial about it.

Of course there's the caveat about not all men, not all women etc. - even misogynists love their mums (some of them) but as a group, men have not been through the soul-searching about sexism that we as a society have been through (to some extent, only some, but at least a bit) about racism, homophobia, disablism and other hatreds.

Women won various basic human rights (which men as a group opposed us winning) and then we as a society decided to gloss over the long history and continuing presence of male oppression of females and pretend that it's all behind us now and we're all equal now. This has meant that the misogyny that was never really rooted out or held up in mainstream culture for us all to acknowledge and examine, was allowed to fester and grow without challenge.

The only people who challenged it - feminists - were denounced as man-haters - the very fact of noticing men's hatred of women, makes a woman a man-hater apparently. So men have been able to continue to have really disgusting sexist attitudes to women and get away with it. As Annie says, we know about it now because of the internet - men talking to each other and forgetting that women are listening. But most of us on witnessing the virulence of misogyny still prefer to believe that it's just a few bad apples with attitudes that come from nowhere, rather than a logical extension of all the cultural messages about women with which we're all bombarded throughout our lives.

MoreBeta Sun 27-Jan-13 17:23:19

Norma - sadly that and worse sometimes but mostly it is just casual sexist banter.

Not all men obviously but a significant minority do and in the same proportion in RL as you see on the internet.

I often wonder why some men hate women as much as they do. It illogical.

flippinada Sun 27-Jan-13 17:14:15

I'm coming in a little late to this discussion but IME it's been out there for a long time; I remember several incidents from when I first went online in the early 1990s (like catsrus, showing my age) it's just that as use of social media has become more easily available and widespread we know about it. It's more 'in your face'.

I do believe MoreBeta's comment that men talk about women that way when women aren't around to hear it.

Openmindz Sun 27-Jan-13 14:03:53

@NormaStanleyFletcher Some years ago I was having what I thought was a reasonable conversation with some co-workers, which were mostly female. One started spouting a whole host of anti male nonsense, which I objected to, admittedly going into a bit of an 'intellectual' rant. The response, "STFU gay boy" , she then said she was going to plant her p_ssy on my face and make me STFU. Now, I'm a straight man who enjoys cunnilingus, but to put it mildly ,she really wasn't my type. I objected , saying that it was out of order and disgusting, which the other male staff just scoffed at. Maybe I was meant to be flattered.

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.

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

Love that quote Annie.

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