We can easily become desensitized to abuse

Mick Nugent has the latest post in Amy’s series, and it’s a Mars landing of a post. He gets it. (I know that’s an expression that some people dislike…but it does describe something, as does its obverse.) He gets what it’s like, and how it’s bad and harmful.

We should not tolerate, in any of our online or offline communities, any sexual harassment or abuse or threats of violence against women that we would not tolerate if they were directed against our family or close friends. On the Internet, many women face a pattern of online sexual harassment, including rape threats, in the technology, business, entertainment, atheist, skeptical, pop culture, gaming and many other online communities.

This can cause women to feel hurt and frightened, to hide their female identity online, or to retreat altogether from the Internet. And this can in turn affect other aspects of their lives. Our online identities and online networking are increasingly important to our social lives and careers. And our friends and employers may see this hate speech when searching online for information about us.

Most men have no idea of the relentless nature of this type of online abuse, and how devastating the cumulative impact can be. Because most men don’t get the same type of sexual abuse as women do, and because the Internet can seem to be an artificial environment, we can easily become desensitized to abuse that would outrage us if it was aimed at our sisters or friends or daughters or wives or mothers.

You may sincerely believe that people are exaggerating the scale and impact of this abuse, or that is prudish or victorian to be concerned about it. Or you may see it as a trivial problem that goes away when you turn off your computer. If any of these thoughts cross your mind, you should consider some actual examples of what this abuse really looks like, and imagine experiencing this from the perspective of the victims.

And then he provides a whole bunch of examples that illustrate the problem well.

This is a pattern of behaviour, not a series of isolated incidents. It is gradually becoming less acceptable to sexually harass or threaten women in real life. But that message has not yet reached the Internet, where anonymity and hostile debate and absence of oversight make it easier for us to evade responsibility for our actions.

There is also the wider context of sexism in general. If we as men faced this pattern of sick online abuse simply because of our gender, I suspect that we would urgently take action to tackle the problem. If we fail to take the same action when women face this problem, our inaction reinforces prejudice and discrimination against women generally. We may not mean to do that, and we may not even be aware of it, but the impact of our inaction remains the same.

Tackling sexism is a complex problem, with no magic answers. We should rigorously analyze the extent of sexism in our communities, both online and offline, and we should test and refine the best ways to eradicate it. But we must not deny that it exists, or reinforce it with prejudice and discrimination. Instead we should actively work to create inclusive, safe and supportive communities, in which we can live together as equals, regardless of our race, gender, sexuality or ability levels.

And he provides a bunch of references with links.

Touchdown confirmed. (Yes I’m going to be a Mars bore now. You’ll just have to get used to it.)



  1. says

    I like how he provides examples and evidence of the hate women disproportionately face online. So many people don’t really understand the scope of the problem.

  2. says

    But now there’s a “both sides” point-misser there insisting that everybody is as bad as everybody and it’s all the same thing ya. Asked for an example, he quoted me calling hoggle a vile little weirdo. Not a word about the thousands of words hoggle has posted about me, all of them absolutely fucking toxic.

  3. says

    Plus he didn’t point out that I didn’t originate “vile little weirdo” in the first place, I was quoting hyperdeath in the comment before mine.



    God I am so sick of creeps who do this. “Ooooooooh after hoggle’s been calling you filthy names for a year you said a mean thing about him oooooooooooh you’re totes the same.” blrglrkk

  4. Simon says

    Nugent’s post can now serve as the auto-response to those who repeat the “show me the threats” mantra in a birther-like fashion.

  5. Arnaud says

    Good post but for this: “Tackling sexism is a complex problem, with no magic answers”. The problem is not that difficult to solve and it’s all in the hands of us men. We should just not tolerate abuse of women done in our name. Which is what most defence of this kInd of behaviour amount to.

  6. John the Drunkard says

    ‘Us men’ is a bit insulting. ‘Our’ problem is our reluctance to see just how bad the abuse problem is, and our failure to distinguish it from our personal feelings about gender and sexuality.

    We are dealing with real sociopaths, or men corrupted into the image of sociopaths.

    There are nasty bastards out there, more light cast upon them is positive in itself. Everyone’s opinions about them tend to drift away from the direct, intuitive, revulsion they deserve.

  7. Godless Heathen says

    @John the Drunkard,

    No, they aren’t sociopaths. Way too many men participate in these types of behaviors for it to be attributable to sociopaths.


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