Intensely personal missives of hyper-sexualized hate.


Conor Friedersdorf gets what the problem is with the kind of harassment women are subject to online, although he didn’t at first. He didn’t until he guest-blogged for Megan McArdle.

My stint running her page while she vacationed included the keys to the blog’s inbox. Even as someone who’d previously blogged about immigration in California’s Inland Empire, fielding insults and aggressive invective as vile as any I could imagine, I was shocked by a subset of her blog’s correspondence. To this day, I don’t know if I was experiencing a typical or atypical week. Perhaps in the abstract, there isn’t any threat more extreme than the death threats I’d received and brushed off as unserious. But I read emails and comments addressed at McArdle that expanded my notion of how disturbing online vitriol could be. And it took my actually reading them for my perspective to change.  

I’d never been exposed to anything like it before.

Later, when my duties included reading email sent to Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish, I discovered that gay men, too, are subject to this sort of comment that was previously invisible to me: not just over-the-top invective, but intensely personal missives of hyper-sexualized hate.

That is exactly right. Yet he says it’s the best he can do but it’s inadequate…

That’s the best I can do to sum them up, but it’s an inadequate description. And an excerpt wouldn’t much help, because to really understand how it feels to read these missives (to the extent that someone other than the intended recipient can even begin to understand), it’s necessary to experience their regularity. Instead of a lone jerk heckling you as you walk down a major street, imagine dozens of different people channeling the same hyper-aggressive hatefulness, popping up repeatedly on random blocks for hours on end. That’s what some bloggers had to endure over the course of years to make it.

See? Isn’t that exactly what I said in response to those stupid tweets by fleetstreetfox this morning? Yes it is.

I began to ask female friends if they experienced this same phenomenon. And not only were they close to unanimous in avowing that they did—many also cited a weariness at gendered online abuse to explain why they either shuttered their personal blogs and stopped writing for the public, or shifted their journalistic efforts to a traditional format rather than the more personalized blog format. This is the very time that people like Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein were building the personal blogs from which they would become successful national pundits. One wonders how many equally talented women we missed out on reading due to misogynists hurling vile invective at rising female journalists.

Oh, no, we don’t wonder that, because we can be perfectly sure none of them were equally talented, because they are after all women.

Sorry, bitter sarcasm. But this is why I find the line about “stop whining and just do a great job” so very annoying.

 

 

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Instead of a lone jerk heckling you as you walk down a major street, imagine dozens of different people channeling the same hyper-aggressive hatefulness…

    Ruth Orkin captured one part of such experiences very well in black-&-white film about 60 years ago.

  2. says

    That’s what some bloggers had to endure over the course of years to make it.

    Well, except that “making it” really has nothing to do with it.

    “Making it” doesn’t mean you no longer have to endure it, and enduring it sure as hell doesn’t mean you’re going to “make it,” so….

  3. geekgirlsrule says

    My husband didn’t get how bad it was, until after I got stuck in the middle of the PAX Dickwolves debacle a couple of years ago, when I made him moderate my site so I could take a break from the unceasing rape and death threats.

    He was horrified. He really didn’t understand how different it is for women.

    Bear in mind, this is for a blog that talks about geeky media. I’m not even talking about immigration or politics in general.

    The three things most likely to elicit said threats are A. Anything critical of the Penny Arcade guys. B. Suggesting that comic book heroines are hyper-sexualized or improbably clad for combat. C. Dissing Dungeons and Dragons, which is really one of the least fun RPGs out there, as far as I’m concerned, which is not to say (as I’m always careful to add) that some people don’t enjoy the hell out of it for reasons of their own…

  4. leni says

    While I want people to understand what it’s like, there’s something really annoying about it too. It’s like this: “Ohhhhhh, so what you meant when you said you received a non-stop barrage of disturbingly detailed rape and death threats was that you received a non-stop barrage of disturbingly detailed rape and death threats. Gee, I really get it now that I’ve been a proxy target. ”

    It’s not like I want to discourage people from understanding or disparage their “aha” moment, but at the same time *headdesk*. Arg! What the fuck did you think people meant when that’s exactly what they were telling you?! That it was more bullshit lady-complaining that only becomes legit when accidentally experienced by a straight man on blog-babysitting duty.

    Frustrating.

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