Women with visibility on the internet receive a disproportionate amount of hateful comments and threats because the internet remains a male-dominated space. Women's visibility in online spaces challenges gender inequality and male privilege, and those interested in preserving the status quo believe that violence will silence women and drive them offline.
Everyone needs to speak up about the discrimination faced by women online. More than 2,000 game developers — the majority of them men — signed an open letter calling for an end to discrimination in the gaming industry following death threats made against feminist gaming reviewer Anita Sarkeesian.
You may feel helpless, but you can take action and know that it's not your fault. The following strategies have proven useful for other survivors, with some come from experienced bloggers and journalists.
Since not all situations are the same, different strategies have worked for different people. It's important that you recognise your comfort level and trust your instinct.
- Ignore them: Journalist Dawn Foster decided not to engage: "In the end, I discovered the best way to combat the abuse was to ignore it. If someone writes a derailing comment, delete it. Someone wishes rape upon you on Twitter, block them. Someone emails you self-righteous bile, don't reply: forward it on to your friends to amuse them during their coffee break. Nobody's entitled to a reply, contrary to what the trolls may think. "
- Report them: Columnist and fiction writer Bina Shah uses all the tools at her disposal, including reporting: "Be ready to report them if they threaten you with violence. Expose them. They expect you to cower with fear. Don’t do it. Show them who’s boss."
- Expose them: Blogger Cath Elliot wants to make sure abusers are seen for what they are: "I think it's imperative that women who write online continue to speak out about the abuse we're subjected to, and that we expose the Internet misogynists at every opportunity we get."
- Engage them: Journalist and radio host Emma Barnett used her show to interview two trolls, eliciting a positive response from listeners and internet users: "I’m hopeful that the huge reaction his unfathomable comments provoked will have shamed him into realising how awful his approach is. "
- Seek support: You're not alone in this, and getting others to witness and support you is important and can help you feel more secure in taking action: "[Critic] Anita Sarkeesian tweets just as much of the #lovemail she receives as the #hatemail, and that must be one of the things that keep her going."
- Go anonymous: Human rights activist Vani keeps her real name quiet: "I voice my opinions on a range of topics. But, I remain faceless and nameless. It helps me distance my life from my opinions because I know how crazy it can get there."
Protecting your personal details
Dealing with hate speech
|1||Look for relevant policies. Make sure that your internet service provider (ISP) and other services have policies that prohibit hate speech and protect your privacy. If they do not, switch to a provider that is more responsive to user privacy concerns and complaints.|
|2||Establish a comments policy and delete the comments that overstep the boundaries of your established criteria. Feministing's policy is a good example to get some inspiration. For journalists, request that media outlets follow this and other strategies in this section.|
|3||Require accounts in order to post comments. You can also activate the option to track IP addresses of commenters.|
|4||Subject comments to approval before they are posted publicly or establish a protocol for checking comments regularly and deleting those that do not meet your established criteria.|
|5||Enlist friends and colleagues to unpublish hateful comments. Save your energy for what is important and have trusted friends moderate the crap.|
|6||When writing for a platform that you don't own, report hate speech to the editor or publisher. If it continues to be a problem, they should consider closing the comments section on certain pieces or removing comment sections altogether.|
|7||Familiarise yourself with the terms of service or community guidelines of each platform you use so that you know when someone has violated them and how to report.||8||Reach out to your support network to encourage them to tweet or post support for you whenever they notice hate speech on your social media accounts.|
If you are being repeatedly attacked, consider seeking redress. Use the Related Rights section when going to authorities and familiarise yourself with laws in your jurisdiction. Be sure to bring all the evidence you have collected and any information about the abuser's potential identity and location.