Cyberbullying and Online Harassment Against Women

Most people know that cyberbullying is a huge problem. It exists among many age groups, but it is particularly problematic and common in groups of children and teenagers. In a recent poll, 35% of 11- to 17-year-olds reported that they have experienced cyberbullying. This includes mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles, and can be administered on facebook, twitter, yik yak, youtube, tumblr, snapchat– the list goes on and on. However, cyberbullying does not only affect young people: it is constantly being used to target feminists online.

On November 12th, released a video of several well-known feminists reading angry tweets directed towards them. Take a look to see just how violent and misogynistic some of the tweets are:

The women who are featured in this video are in the public eye and are known for being opinionated on the internet. Because of this, they should expect to receive some criticism, but there is a huge difference between criticism and bullying. Bullying is defined as “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants,” and some synonyms of the word include “oppress,” “harass,” “torment,” and “dominate.” Looking at this definition alone, the aggressive tweets included in this video are clearly bullying, NOT constructive criticism. These comments are made to make the women they’re directed toward feel insecure and to put them down and shut them up.

However, many of the tweets in the video are not only forms of bullying, but also sexual harassment. This online sexual harassment is brutal, and can become dangerous. One of the most outspoken victims of this form of online misogyny is Anita Sarkeesian, a woman who was recently the target of a shooting threat in Utah. Without going into that specific story, it is important to know that she was the subject of a massive online hate campaign on all of her social media platforms, and the threats were specifically targeting her gender. She discussed this harassment in a 2012 Ted Talk:

All of the women featured in this post so far have been women with a large online following, who are very outspoken about feminism on a large platform. That being said, online harassment against women does not only exist in comments to successful women, it can happen to anyone. This is particularly prevalent on YouTube; on any video about feminism, for example, there will be dozens of misogynistic, hateful comments regardless of what is said in the video. (note: this does not exist exclusively in videos about feminism, they are just particularly prevalent in those videos). I looked at the comments on Laci Green’s “WHY I’M A… FEMINIST *gasp*” and here are just a few of the comments I found:

  • lol this is funny bitch shave ur pits thats just nasty.
  • “ima feminist because im a stupid CUNT!”
  • Does feminism mean i can smack a girl if she smacks me
  • Stupid fucking feminists. women always fucking whine and complain. Back in the day all you had to do was stay at home cook and clean while men busted their asses at work. Why thr fuck would you complain about that? Whats with all this nonsense about equality? The male is NOT equal to a female. There are biological and mental differences you fucking retards.
  • You’re a feminist because you’re an idiot
  • You’re not a Feminist. You are a Feminazi. A Feminist is someone who wants equal rights. A Feminazi like your self bitches about dumb shit on twitter and tumblr.

…And those are just the comments I found in about 5 minutes. People online are cruel, mean-spirited, and often violent, and it needs to end. That’s being said, there’s really no way to regulate hate on the internet. People can say what they want because they can be anonymous online. Also, freedom of speech allows people to say almost anything they want. The only way to fight back is to show these tweets, comments, messages, etc. to the world in an effort to bring awareness to the issue. One of the YouTubers that I follow, @marinashutup, has begun posting misogyninstic comments that she receives to twitter, using the hashtag #youtubemisogyny. Efforts like this may help prevent this trend in the future, or at least I hope it will. The fact is, most forms of cyperbullying are things that these people would never say in person, because they are incredibly cruel and mean… So why would anyone say them online?

One thought on “Cyberbullying and Online Harassment Against Women

  1. Really glad you wrote about this issue. I saw the mean tweets video and what really struck me was that one woman said she went to the police about a threatning comment and they did absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’d be able to continue writing if I got feedback like that so more power to these ladies for keeping up the amazing work they do, despite the haters! Can’t wait to watch this TedTalk too!! Thanks for sharing


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