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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.

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.

AnnieLobeseder Fri 25-Jan-13 20:25:49

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.

AnnieLobeseder Fri 25-Jan-13 21:06:46

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.

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