This isn’t the normal content I usually post here, but I still feel the need to do so. On April 23rd, I sent the following tweet.
The article I linked, Anne Wheaton Tricked Gamergate Into Indirectly Donating to Feminist Frequency, is about how she donated $1 up to $1000 in the name of every GamerGate harasser who sent her a nasty tweet. It also mentioned how that donation was matched by two male followers, so that added up to $3 per tweet, up to $500, and $2 per tweet up to $1000. Since she met that cut off quickly, Feminist Frequency got $2500 in donations in the name of Anne’s harassers.
I didn’t think it was that inflammatory, and since I didn’t even write the article, I wasn’t expecting much of a reaction.
I was wrong.
Within seconds, I was sent a list of links. I flagged it as spam and didn’t click any of them. I blocked the sender and moved on with my day. A few minutes later, my phone started vibrating with twitter notifications. What in the world?
I spent the next hour blocking people dead set on drawing me into an online fight. These weren’t threats, mind you, but most, bar one, called me variations of stupid. One asked what flavor Kool Ade I liked, implying I was a mindless cult follower. There was only one civil response, but I didn’t trust him not to turn ugly if I replied to him. Since I didn’t respond to anyone, it died down relatively quickly, or so I thought.
The night of the 24th, I got another notification from Twitter, this time telling me that someone was trying to change my password. I’d write it off as coincidence if anyone had tried hacking my account before. I have no way of proving it’s one of the GamerGaters, but the suspicion is there.
I’ve written a few feminist articles and posts in the past. I usually get called a sexist, even when I acknowledge men can sometimes be on the receiving end of the same issues. I’m pretty sure a lot of the posts here about the differences in education or medicine for women versus men would flag me as a “sexist” in their books, despite the fact there’s so much data and history behind the information.
Most of what I’ve dealt with is minor. I haven’t had death or rape threats sent my way, yet. However, I have been called sexually degrading names, had my appearance insulted, told I was stupid, informed that it doesn’t happen, told I’m overreacting and other such things. Unless the commenter is willing to be civil and open minded, I block and don’t respond.
If someone decides to be persistent, I record all interactions in case I’ll need proof later and report them. If I feel like I’m in real danger, I’m not shy about contacting law enforcement.
I’m not alone in this experience, either. The Pew Research Center did a study in October, 2014 about online harassment across gender lines. They found that women are dramatically more likely to be sexually harassed and stalked than men. Even in areas where men outnumbered women, the difference never got higher than 3%. You need only read comments on well known, unmoderated woman-created content to see examples of that behavior for yourself.
I wish there was data on ability level, but that’s rarely included. It’s worth noting that the most common insult seems to be “stupid”, which relates directly to learning disabilities. Then again, that’s a stigma women and the LD community share in common. As disturbing as this behavior is, I look at it as blatant examples of why we must continue talking about it.
I’ve developed a bit of a thick skin in regards to this over the years, but it can be devastating to someone who already struggles with depression or other forms of mental illness. People have committed suicide over online bullying, after all.
It can be confusing and hurtful to some people on the autism spectrum, and if a dyslexic falls into the trap of responding to these trolls, they’ll gleefully use any spelling or grammar error as ammunition. I have personal experience with that last one.
The internet isn’t a safe place for any sort of non-privileged group or their allies, but that just serves as more reason to stay vocal. We also need to be smart about it. We need to take advantage of all security features available, be familiar with our legal protections, not click links unless it’s from a trusted source and be careful of how we interact with the web. Remember, the internet is public.
What we have to say is important, and we can’t let the bullies silence us.