[Content note: brief mentions of rape threats, death threats, suicide, harassment]
I recently caught a discussion hosted by Marty Moss-Coane on NPR's Radio Times about the extreme harassment women (in particular) face online with guests Amanda Hess and Danielle Citron. [If you'd like to hear the full thing you can here, but note that it does cover such potentially triggering topics as threats of violence and rape and other misogynistic attacks. (My apologies there isn't a transcript at the link, I usually try to link to both sound and text.)]
What I'd like to react to in particular is one of the comments a caller made. He shared a story about a time he sent a Facebook message and then later realized that he was being really strange and became this whole other person because of social media.
I'm tired of this line of thinking and I don't think that it was properly shut down on the program, so let me add my unsolicited 2 cents here. As I say over on the info section of FacebookSexism, "If you're a feminist, Facebook can be a minefield. If you're a sexist, it's your playground. But just so that we're clear, social media doesn't create misogyny, it merely reflects what is already there."
I mean this so firmly and so sincerely. We can't change the misogyny (and other bigotry) in our culture if we dismiss it by saying that "the Internet made me do it!" I understand that the nature of the Internet separates people from others' humanity and it increases the chance that they will say something shitty but it, in no way, creates those the slurs and hate that comes to the surface when someone is behind a screen. That hatred, that misogyny, that violent rhetoric was clearly already there.
It reminds me of the old trope about how "haha, person X becomes so racist when they're drunk." NO. They were always a racist, they only say that stuff when they're drunk because their inhibitions are lowered.
So, nah bro, the Internet didn't make you do it. (And it's interesting to me that the people who might make this excuse are probably the same folks who drone on and on about the super-duper importance of taking "personal responsibility" when it comes to abortion, welfare, etc.)
All of this feels particularly timely right now because I received my first "kill yourself" comment on Tumblr (ya know, the kind of comment I get here all the time.) I was really interested in the discussion shared between Moss-Coane, Hess, and Citron because it covered what recourse those of us who are harassed online have. But unfortunately, the law is years behind in this area, so for the meantime, we're going to have to deal with it.
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