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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.

Erebus Fri 25-Jan-13 11:25:45

Really, the only way people might be a little more circumspect in their online postings on forums is if they know they can be named and shamed.

I think I recall correctly, though, something about the vicious cyberbullying of a teenage girl where one perpetrator who was named turned out to be a 47 year old married father- and how seriously his outrage at having his anonymity breached was taken by quite a few people. I think it was in Canada?

People simply wouldn't post stuff if they knew they could be identified. You only need to read the bile on other forums to see what people think they can get away with and compare it with the generally polite and tolerant behaviours one sees in face to face interactions to recognise its that cloak of anonymity which 'permits' such poor online behaviour.

I think also that 'PC' has a lot to answer for. It drives genuine, honest debate about real, difficult issues 'underground'

In this instance, I do feel women are being silenced because by and large, the vitriol aimed at them is so personal, often they, not their opinions, are attacked. I am not surprised a Telegraph writer is taking the stand she is: she's writing for a paper, 'The Daily Mail for people with 'O' levels' grin which is a mouthpiece for a political belief system that thinks women's place is in the home, supporting hubby, unless that women has 'balls' like Mrs Thatcher, and behaves like a Bullingdon Club member.

We still, even in 2013, haven't reached a level of grown-up maturity that can recognise the important, nay necessary place women's voices need to have in modern debate. The 500 years of men-in-charge hasn't actually turned out to be an overweening success, has it?

Flickstix Fri 25-Jan-13 11:32:51

Oh the irony of mumsnet standing against the cyber bullying of women, have you visited AIBU recently?

Erebus Fri 25-Jan-13 12:09:57

Flick- thing is, when one posts on AIBU, we all know we have to be ready to defend our stance- and afaik, no one calls each other a stupid, fat f***ing c* or the like, do they? People might strongly challenge views, which I think is acceptable; what they don't do is necessarily attack the writer personally. Yes, sometimes well-known posters write something in one Topic and are 'brought to task' because they have contradicted themselves, or even maybe lied according to something they've chosen to put in another Topic, but which someone has read as well.

I must say what I see on MN isn't really what I'd call 'cyberbullying' and 'not being nice' isn't quite the same! I actually think that by and large, MN is intellingently well moderated.

I also ask questions on DIYnot, a site as you might imagine that is dedicated to DIY matters. It is almost compulsory to receive at least one post back telling you how fekken stupid you are for not knowing what size RSJ needs to be used etc. I ignore these because usually another poster reminds that twat that I wouldn't be asking if I knew, would I? .

TheFallenNinja Fri 25-Jan-13 12:14:23

Consider expressing a strong view, maybe not a popular one and almost instantly be called names, jeered, booed and accused of all sorts of nonsense. Consider this in an environment where it goes pretty much unchecked,day after day after day.

Consider that tittle tattling and twisting of words and meanings is broadly carried out with no consequence.

I give you, the House of Commons.

This is the example.

Flickstix Fri 25-Jan-13 12:14:55

I have seen downright bullying on mumsnet, women being called cunts, 'stupid woman', thick and backwards are names that spring to mind, and this is for voicing opinions. Don't get me wrong I think MN is fantastic and I do realise that AIBU is only a tiny area of the website, but my point is people in general appear to behave horribly towards one another under the guise of internet anonymity and even MN is not immune.

torychicetc Fri 25-Jan-13 12:38:25

Yes we need to keep our excesses in check. Mumsnet could never be a pub bar. It needs emphasising that we are not totally anonymous.And need to take that into account

NormaStanleyFletcher Fri 25-Jan-13 12:45:52

I think the important thing here is the nature of the attacks.

I have not yet seen reports of attacks on men threatening violence of a sexual nature (rape, give a good seeing to etc.)

I have not yet seen reports of attacks on men centring on their genitalia or whether they shave, or their sexuality, or the state of their leg hair, or whether they conform to the expectations of society’s view of their gender.

The attacks on women (that I have heard about) do seem to do this. Their sexuality, ‘personal grooming’ and ugliness is commented on or questioned. They are threatened with rape or other violence (“I will make you choose which of your children I will kill” is one I heard about).

Does this happen to men? Are they questioned about how much hair they have on their genitalia or their legs? The size of their penis?

That is the difference to me.

NormaStanleyFletcher Fri 25-Jan-13 12:49:08

And that Christina Odone thing where she says that if you are a woman you should basically suck it up or get out of the public eye is so depressing.

I DO NOT agree that women should just have to take this "because it is the way it is". We should challenge the "way it is".

Startail Fri 25-Jan-13 12:51:19

She's an adult, she can answer back or press the delete key.
Words off someone you've never met and are never going to meet are just that words. There are already laws about hate mail and inciting violence, racism and homophobia that can be adjusted.

It's totally different to cyberbullying in schools or amongst adults who know each other in real life, which clearly has to be tackled before it does real harm.

I think internet nastiness and stupid appearance based comments are something all women in public life have to learn to ignore.

But also and it's a huge BUT, we as women need to learn not to join in.

No way are our DPs, DHs and most importantly our DSs going to stop, until women stop judging other women too!

If we judge women purely on their weight or clothes in front of our sons and daughters, we have only ourselves to blame if they repeat the pattern.

Erebus Fri 25-Jan-13 12:52:36

“I will make you choose which of your children I will kill” shock but not surprise. See I think that poster should confidently expect the Police to knock on his door and for his caution to appear in the local papers.

I mean, if McAlpine can be allowed to find out his Twitter accusers in order to sue them, ordinary people should be allowed easily to find out the names and addresses (via the Police) in order to prosecute threats like that. I'd never type anything online I wouldn't accept being directly attributable to me.

FloatyBeatie Fri 25-Jan-13 12:53:26

Agree, Norma. It is the specifically sexual nature of the insults and the threats (as well as the extremity of these) that make women a target of especial verbal violence.

And the worst thing is that it matches the historic use of sexual intimidation to keep women quiet and to keep them out of physical real-life spaces. Think of the epidemic sexual attacks on women in Egypt at the moment, which is conceived of by men as punishing them for being on the street and/or being politically vocal. And the horrendous punishment rape in Libya during the "Spring" there (I'm sure there were many such, but one in particular had a lot of publicity.

I think it would be right to say that we have all faced low-level (or high-level) sexual intimidation in real-life spaces that was explicitly aimed to make us be quiet, butt out, etc? And online threats are disturbing because they remind us of that and tell us that even when we stay at home we haven't butted far enough out.

Erebus Fri 25-Jan-13 12:54:21

Startail you do have a point but it's very hard when everything about the female race is judged on appearance and whilst men continue to hold the purse and political strings, the culture of objectifying women will continue and women will, in order to 'get ahead', denigrate other women.

NormaStanleyFletcher Fri 25-Jan-13 12:57:18

I think internet nastiness and stupid appearance based comments are something all women in public life have to learn to ignore


Why should WOMEN have to put up with this when men do not?

Show me where that happens to men (the stuff I mentioned in the post upthread)?

How can it not be a problem that women are treated in this way? Because we have the vote? <<that's all you need to make you equal dear - pat on head>>

NormaStanleyFletcher Fri 25-Jan-13 13:01:49

It also reminds me of something I heard on the radio about the under-representation of women as broadcasted experts on R4. It was a quote from a woman who was an expert, but did not put herself forward for those shows where they need a couple of experts (to disagree with each other).

She said "why would I expose myself to that"

Who could blame her?

But this means my children are growing up seeing mainly male 'experts' and talking heads on television. WHat message does that send? That men know stuff and women dont?

FloatyBeatie Fri 25-Jan-13 13:04:48

I do feel torn, though, about how far it is appropriate to treat specifically misogynistic verbal violence against women online as a separate problem from the larger issue of the very poor state of online conversation generally. To an extent it is a separate issue, but the other ways in which people are silenced and hounded online are pervasive and very damaging. I'm thinking of the whole Suzanne Moore thing, and the ways in which, in some conversational contexts, anything other than a rehearsal of orthodoxy is treated to powerful cold-shouldering and orchestrated attack. Very obstructive, very silencing.

HardlyEverHoovers Fri 25-Jan-13 13:14:34

Erebus, just for the record I was recently called names very similar to the ones you mentioned on AIBU. The post was removed. Luckily I'm thick skinned, but it did make me reflect on the dangers of online anonymity and I wondered if that same person would have used that language if we had been sat talking in a cafe...probably not!

GirlOutNumbered Fri 25-Jan-13 13:16:41

I have never really experienced any form of online harassment or been aware of any until coming on mumsnet. The way some women talk to other women is shocking, just because they have differing opinions.

I have absolutely no doubt that these women would not say these things if they were in RL.

Erebus Fri 25-Jan-13 13:20:09

No they wouldn't use that language BUT the thing is, the post was removed because MN doesn't tolerate it. But it would be good if that poster couldn't then just name change and come straight back on.

I readily see that there's a problem with shelving anonymity, in particular in our current climate where there was serious discussion by our government of recording and monitoring all email, texts and phone conversations 'to stop terrorism'- it would mean that legitimate protest could be silenced easily, but I do think that given certain grounds, forum providers should be forced to divulge the details of vile posters to the police, and be made to do so easily and without fuss if a certain standard has been legally met for forcing them to do so.

StoicButStressed Fri 25-Jan-13 13:26:51

I have to be vereee careful here as do not want to out myself (reason I love MN is CAN discuss very personal issues, ESP re DC's, and I have done so in other posts), but I just CAN'T not respond to this with a personal experience (but forgive me if it's a tad oblique).

Amongst other things (Mama being the primary onesmile), I am a TV Presenter. In 20XY I had a primetime series on one of the 4 main terrestrial channels regarding the subject matter in which I am 'expert factual talent' (their lingo, not mine so no flaming please as am just trying to offer an experience here). Production company of said series had (as is very usual) screen-tested umpteen presenters for show. This included a male who has his own site (as do most/many other presenters/TV 'talents', including me). When series aired, he actually (& I still cannot get over the utter insecurity of this) posted comment on his own site along lines of 'who is better? Stoic or me'?

I was SLAUGHTERED. And NOT for my professional expertise/presenting skills/knowledge or ANYTHING like that... but comments around my appearance, my size, my pretty much everything. And LOTS of those comments WERE, unquestionably, ones that would NOT have been addressed to a blokesad. Probably the saddest thing was that this particular bloke - having STARTED thread - subsequently jumped in with a "well, I wasn't going to say anything, but since YOU all have, (insert vitriol of your choice here, as you prob won't be far off what he said!)..."

What a tragic wanker. And yep, def misogyny both from him and from some of his 'fans'...INCLUDING women. Depressing huh?

[Incidentally, the show was in top 10 ratings every week, so unquestionablly it was NOT about me/the series/the outcomes etc, it was SOLEY about me getting it over him; his not liking that; then a shedload of very, very, personal abuseangry]

There are some hideous comments on the Daily Mail website, a fair few are from women, but there are a large number of men who have serious problems with women. If you are ordinary/plain/slightly overweight/overweight or thin, then you can expect nasty comments about your appearance. If you are beautiful or pretty then you may get less nasty comments about your appearance, but you get lots of men posting what they'd like to do to you. The Daily Mail has articles slating working mothers, SAHMs, mothers on benefits, single mothers, blaming the riots on mothers..... No tabloid is perfect, but the DM, IMO, is one of the worst offenders. Their articles inspire anti-women, hateful comments.

I have seen some horrible comments on MN, heaven forbid if you are over a size 12, or wearing the wrong clothes, but thankfully for the most part MNers are a lovely bunch, or I wouldn't use this site.

tiktok Fri 25-Jan-13 13:45:19

Sometimes, the women on here can be nasty (and they may not all be women - we have no certainty of anyone's real ID on here and the occasional outing of a male pretending to be female for his own reasons is likely to touch the surface only).

But the self-policing on here is good - it is lightly moderated only, which is as most people want. Nastiness and poison is rare and quickly dealt with.

More often, someone posts something silly and tactless that presses someone's buttons, and that's the worst of it.

The very worst of the nastiness here is nothing compared to other stuff I have seen on line ( the sort MB reported) and there is some horrible stuff which anyone can read on mainstream sites.

MmeLindor Fri 25-Jan-13 14:02:37

Comparing AIBU threads with the sustained campaign of abuse towards women in the media is ridiculous.

For one thing, MNHQ is pretty quick at deleting personal attacks, particularly any really nasty ones. And there generally aren't vile filled comments of a sexual nature, which is common place on the forum that Mary wrote about.

We should not minimise it by saying she shouldn't read it, or care if they comment on her appearance.

The photoshopped a vulva onto her face.

If you want to know more about the website, read Cath Elliot and the links to other women who have also been abused online

Please don't tell me that it is unreasonable to not want to read comments like that about yourself online? And yes, it is silencing.

I thought about writing about the Suzanne Moore Twitterstorm recently, but didn't because I was wary of the responses.

I think there are two distinct areas of concern:

1. Misogynistic comments not being taken as seriously as eg racist or homophobic comments

2. The level of abuse online

I have blogged about online abuse, and education of our children - Our kids are the first Social Media Generation, using Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr... and whatever comes next.

For all those parents who dismiss Twitter as being ridiculous, or who don't understand why people want to share their lives with strangers on FB -- do you actually KNOW what your kids are posting online? And what the long-term implications for your child could be?

SonOfAradia Fri 25-Jan-13 14:47:17

Interesting Ms Blog article about online abuse of women

Written by a male blogger, with interesting advice about supporting female bloggers who come under attack.

Erebus Fri 25-Jan-13 15:18:32

Blimey, stoic- yes, what a wanker indeed! I imagine your line of work would also attract a certain sort of person who behaved like that more than in some other areas of employment, too.

It is also very true that, as with siding with the school bully in order not to become the next victim, women do join in in personal abuse against other women. If we 'stand up' to be counted we're called lesbians as a term of abuse. Or dykes. Or worse.

Q..." but there are a large number of men who have serious problems with women. If you are ordinary/plain/slightly overweight/overweight or thin, then you can expect nasty comments about your appearance. If you are beautiful or pretty then you may get less nasty comments about your appearance, but you get lots of men posting what they'd like to do to you."- and the most ridiculous thing is the vast majority of such posters will be sitting, fat, unwashed and unshaven in their Y fronts, crouched over their PC in their mum's spare room, aged 47!

I do wonder how things might change if every time you were about to hit 'send' or 'post' a 'yes/no' message would appear, saying 'Would you like your wife/mum/children to read what you've just written?'

tiggy114 Fri 25-Jan-13 15:25:30

That is horrible. I think Mary Beard is great. Her recent tv series on the Romans inspired me to begin studying again. Mary, if your reading this, i for one, love you. Some of those things are vile but as someone said, are mostly written by silly teenage boys. They feel threatend by an intelligent lady who doesn't wear tons of makeup and get false boobs just to please men.

Jux Fri 25-Jan-13 15:45:21

Part of the problem is that we are encouraged to be the bigger person: "Rise above it, dear, rise above it" (my mum). Or we minimise it (for instance, laughingly attribute it to teenage boys). Or we laugh at it, when it's not funny. Ultimately, any of these strategies may help an individual get past the event at the time, but none of them help one iota towards stopping it, or getting it taken seriously and dealt with appropriately.

MmeLindor Fri 25-Jan-13 15:51:54

Anyone saying that we should just ignore, and that men are subjected to abuse too, should read what Laurie Penny just posted on twitter.

(Warning. It's v offensive)


NormaStanleyFletcher Fri 25-Jan-13 16:01:29

Yy to mmelindor. If people object to a man's opinions I rarely see them doing it by threatening to harm their genitals. But maybe I am just sheltered?

coorong Fri 25-Jan-13 16:06:32

I was appalled at the attacks on Mary Beard. It reminds me of the attacks on Julia Gillard (Aust PM) by Tony Abbott. Abott couldn't attack Gillard's policies, so he attacked her as a woman.
It's sexist because had Nick Clegg or any other male made similar comments, you can predict they trolls wouldn't have commented on his sexuality or threatened him, but probably gone for his wife.
It's extraordinary that anyone can say, "oh just sit back and take it" - how far do we extend this idea - to assaults ("he pinched my bottom" - "oh he's only have a laugh")... and so it goes on. If it doesn't happen to men, it shouldn't happen to women, THAT'S EQUALITY

ShamyFarrahCooper Fri 25-Jan-13 16:59:43

MMe I'm just appalled at that. I'm appalled that it happens to women so much. We should not just have to get over it or accept it. If we do, they win.

watchoutforthatsnail Fri 25-Jan-13 17:20:59

happens all the time on here, not only in AIBU.

I have been bullied, the person bullying me has openly admitted to doing so, I have messaged and reported posts to MNHQ but have not had any response since i emailed them this morning.

Its an ongoing issue....

What is difficult to stomach, is that speaking up just marks you as being difficult, or other posters just laugh. It is very hurtful indeed to be laughed at when somone has admitted openly to having you as a target.

Until everyone adopts a zero tolerance on this kind of thing, not just paying lip service to it, nothing will change.

I have copied the thread... pg 14, from 2:43 pm onwards.

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 17:25:09
watchoutforthatsnail Fri 25-Jan-13 17:32:08

thanks... forgot to tick the box.

watchoutforthatsnail Fri 25-Jan-13 17:34:14

the post where he openly admits to targeting me is at 17:23.

They are a long running stream of threads, its been going on a while.....

reported, but no action taken. And laughed at by others. not nice.

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 17:38:42

I think it would be useful to have a definition on MN of what does constitute cyberbullying, in the eyes of MNHQ.

watchoutforthatsnail Fri 25-Jan-13 17:41:13

yes, if long standing targeting and harrassing is.
( if admittance to doing so is)

Or, if it should all be brushed under the carpet and allowed to carry on.

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 17:44:26

There are cyberbullying experts who would be happy to advise.

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 17:46:56

TSR is a similar website where cyberbullying is cracked down on instantly - and very effectively.

NicholasTeakozy Fri 25-Jan-13 18:28:51

Flickstix Fri 25-Jan-13 11:32:51

Oh the irony of mumsnet standing against the cyber bullying of women, have you visited AIBU recently?

I have never seen "you should be forced to fellate a row of bankers at knifepoint" on Mumsnet. That particular statement was made to Laurie Penny.

"You should have a dick forced into you" was aimed at Mary Beard. Not seen that one here either.

I got my arse handed to me when I started a thread asking why it seemed acceptable to post vitriol about women last year. Admittedly it was a minority, but there was some vile stuff aimed at me.

Comparing AIBU to what many women get aimed at them is, at best, an over simplification.

Nancy66 Fri 25-Jan-13 18:48:52

some of the comments about Samantha Brick that I read on here were amongst the worst I've ever seen online.

domesticslattern Fri 25-Jan-13 20:25:23

Like Nicholas I do think that comparisons with AIBU are wide-of-the-mark.

I was pretty weirded out recently when MN had a particular woman off TV for a webchat and I, not knowing much about her, googled her name, and the second, third and fourth hits were men discussing her genitals. She appeared on TV in short skirts, you see, and they were all salivating over clips of her crossing/ uncrossing her legs. This was accompanied by discussion about the sexual positions in which they would like to fuck her brains out.

Now I am very sexually open minded, but this really disturbed me. Not least as she was a professional expert in her area and traded on a rather wholesome image.

I wanted to ask her how she felt about this, but the webchat stayed very tame and I thought it would be bad manners to bring it up, TBH.

I don't know what the answer is. I am sure that it keeps women out of the public gaze. How can it not? I know that Question Time has great difficulty persuading women to appear, and surely this will not help.

Anyone who thinks that the AIBU comments on MN are so awful and represent the worst of cyber bullying obviously don't get out on the internet very much.

I belong to a few women's groups, where we don't bash men, and in fact rarely even mention them. They are just spaces for women to get together and celebrate being strong women. These spaces are bombarded with threats of violence, death, rape and insults so awful they make you feel physically sick. The people who post these comments hate women and want to cause as much fear and hurt as they can. I cannot begin to perceive why.

Occasional bitchy comments on MN pale in comparison to the misogynistic vitriol all over the internet. There are whole FB pages dedicated to rape, shut-shaming young teens, domestic abuse etc etc, and FB allows them to stand as free speech and "controversial humour". They are nothing short of hate speech, but because it's against women it's okay.

Honestly, those of you pointing fingers at women for online unpleasantness, go out and look around the internet a little. You will wish you hadn't. You can't unsee the deeply, shockingly and terrifyingly real hatred for women that exisits in cyberspace.

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 20:42:08

Annie, nobody is saying that the comments on MN represent the worst of cyberbullying: that would indeed be ridiculous, and nobody has said it.

But to deny that there is cyberbullying on MN is equally absurd.

Yes, there is some cyberbullying on MN, and it's sad that that is the case. But the question posed, as I understood it, was about the actual abuse of women on the internet. Which a little MN cyberbullying really isn't. Disagreeing with a something another poster has said and saying something personal and unpleasant back is wrong. But it's the person and their opinion that are being targeted. Not women as a group. It's a very different situation.

There is very real and very frightening actual abuse of women that goes on in cyberspace. It is absolutely chilling to be told by a complete stranger that they want to rape you until you bleed out and die, and then they will rape your daughters. And the only reason they are saying this to you is because you are a women who dared to express an opinion that women are worthy of respect.

The worst part of it is that it is so completely anonymous. This person who is threatening you with such violent harm could be your friendly neighbour, your colleague, your sports coach, your boss.

Lessthanaballpark Fri 25-Jan-13 21:09:53


This is American but it is exactly the kind of thing that you are talking about:

Feminist Frequency

It is about the online harrassment that Anita Sarkeesian experienced when she said she was going to do a video on women's representation in video gaming.

Personally I think it's a big issue because women are discouraged from putting themselves in the public eye in a way that men aren't and that is a factor in our under-representation.

herewegoloubylou Fri 25-Jan-13 21:28:47

I think it's an important principle that cyberbullying of any sort should not be minimised or trivialised, or dismissed as small potatoes.

MmeLindor Fri 25-Jan-13 21:49:59

I am sorry that you felt unsupported by MNHQ but I really think that the example that you gave here was not in any way comparable with the abuse aimed at Mary Beard, Cath Elliot or Laurie Penny (to name but a few).

I skimmed through that thread, and it was a disagreement between you and another poster, in which you pretty much held your own. I didn't see what the deleted post said, but I don't think it was anything like the examples posted on this thread, or that poster would be banned by now.

Yes, cyberbullying exists and it might happen on MNHQ from time to time, but I don't think anyone on MN has ever been threatened with rape, or has been suggested she needs a d*ck in her mouth to shut her up.

As I said earlier, cyberbullying is one issue. The particularly vile women-hating abuse is another level.

ParsleyTheLioness Fri 25-Jan-13 22:05:10

Christina Odone is missing the point. Women on the internet are treated to a different kind of cyber-bullying than men, who are rarely subject to the vile sexual threats and comments that Mary Beard has endured. This is the sort of thing I have heard men say, often in a "Well, you wanted equality, you've got it" way, when this clearly is not equality in the response to the different genders.
Yes, I believe its an attempt to silence and control women, as others have said. I have blogged about this on

Mary Beard, cyber-bullying and misogyny

breadandbutterfly Fri 25-Jan-13 22:08:15

Those of you who have compared anti-women comments to racism are spot on -it would not be acceptable to post comments threatening racial violence.

Incitements to or threats of violence should not be ignored just because thet are typed on the internet instead of in a letter or said face to face. They are NOT humour. Those who post this stuff should be prosecuted, as they would if they posted equivalent stuff about racial/ethnic minorities instead of women.

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

This article 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


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Very good post, Fastidia. Especially that last sentence.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.


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 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?

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 13:26:07

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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