Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fear and Loathing For Women in the Blogosphere

There's a lot to be scared of out there if you're a female blogger. From Slate today:

Sierra was a powerhouse blogger who in March shut down her blog, Creating Passionate Users, about the highly gender-charged subject of metacognition and computers. Sierra stopped bloging after anonymous critics posted graphic and sexually threatening material about her, both in the comments section of her Web site and on other blogs.

The posters (read them here) somehow confused death threats with debate on the merits of Sierra's views and policies. Some suggested that Sierra deserved to have her throat slit and to be suffocated, sexually violated, and hanged. Among the things Sierra wrote as she folded up her blogging tent: "I have cancelled all speaking engagements. I am afraid to leave my yard. I will never feel the same. I will never be the same."


Then again, I bet some of the stuff that's said and sent to bloggers scares the total bejeezus out of men bloggers, too.

So guys, you tell me -- have you been totally unnerved by something in the blogosphere that targeted you? I know I have had my nerves rattled bad on a couple of, uh "postings," and I'm not afraid to admit that it set me to worrying... for about a day. Then I got over it and went right back to blogging.

Still, I don't have the kind of high profile that some women bloggers like Michelle Malkin do. Just good to know what's waiting for you around the great corner of success though. I soooo can't wait to get there.

Blog on ladies, blog on.

12 comments:

Amber said...

This is why Take Back the Blog! is so important as an ongoing effort. Men bloggers who are dismissive need to understand that these are not actions of a few random assholes. It's one part of the larger culture of fear that women are taught to live day to day. It's not something one just "gets over."

More good reading: here and here and here and here

Grayson said...

Now's a good time to review Eleanor Roosevelt's many many words of wisdom, some being this oft-sited quote:

"We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot."

Sara said...

Maybe it's because of my experience with online bullying from my messageboard days (someday my partner in crime and I are gonna write that tell-all book about that whole messed up experience) but I find it pretty hard to be intimidated or askeered anymore by threats or nasty comments. I'm much more likely to simply assert my right to defend myself through choices that include geting that person kicked off their ISP or even arrested if their comments go too far and cross into harassment or stalking. And if they make up untrue shit about me *cough* then they had better brush up on their understanding of defamation law.

Online bullies are always toothless and impotent once you take away their ability to scare you. One of those painful lessons you can only learn the hard way, but once you do it all just becomes laughable and pathetic. But unfortunately giving in to the fear they want so badly to create merely fulfills their goal and costs the blogosphere valuable voices in the process--so that's why learning to stand up to it or ignore it is so important.

Amber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amber said...

Okay so never mind, I re-read your comment and you did address the point I was getting at. So here's just PART of what I originally wrote:

There is a different between "online bullying" and, say, death threats and stalking.

This is something that it's important to keep stressing.

Sara said...

I agree with you, but actual death threats and stalking are criminal acts that can be prosecuted appropriately. Rather than let someone force you off the internet, I say contact your local authorities or the ISP of the person making the threat (or ideally both so that they can work together) and give the person what's coming to them. It is not "free speech" to threaten to kill someone on the internet or to harass them with intent of creating fear of bodily injury or death, at least not in most states.

Sharon said...

I actually read this blog quite often, since user experience is my field. I kinda agree with sara - shouldnt she have persecuted the guy rather than gone offline? Isn't disappearing sort of defeatist? I am very curious to see what her next move will be...

Shelby said...

Eh, the worst I've had to deal with is angry exes taking random potshots at my sexuality or ding-dong or some such. I don't believe I've ever been threatened...but I ain't that important.

Amber said...

Persecuted? Or prosecuted?

Anyhow, if I recall correctly, she did contact the authorities.

And, I don't think it's at all fair to make judgments about what is and isn't "defeatist." We all cope with stressful - potentially life-threatening, FFS - situations differently. Blaming the victim ain't cool.

possum said...

It can be a mistake to underestimate the threat of a bully. In "To Kill a Mockingbird," Atticus Finch mistakenly assumes Bob Ewell is a bully who won't take action, but, as we all know, Ewell goes after Jem and Scout. Some bullies are very dangerous.

Sara said...

I certainly hope you don't think I am blaming the victim. Grayson asked for experiences and I shared my own. I went through a period of time when an online bully (which must be distinguished from real live bullies--one particular feature of every online bully I've ever met is that they can only act the way they do when couched behind the veil of anonymity and/or impenetrability that online existence allows some people, whereas someone who will bully you to your face is more likely to be willing to back it up with action) threatened some pretty scary things in my direction for over a year. After being terrified for a good long time, I eventually realized that he was never going to do the things he threatened because then he'd lose the ability to scare me, and that's what he really wanted all along. Once I started ignoring him and let him know firmly and clearly that if he crossed a legal line I would be contacting his local police, he largely disappeared. I would like to see response by others to similar online threats and initmidation aimed at stifling controversial voices, because I think it's important that we not allow the tactics of these people to be successful in silencing those with whom they disagree.

But until you've walked in those shoes, it's pretty tough to say what you'd do if you started getting serious threats of harm from someone who purported to know where you live and what you look like. I remember how much that scared me the first time, and I seriously considered disappearing from the online world altogether. I can see how others would choose that option, as much as I think it is a shame to see them go.

Amber said...

Sara -

Sorry, I should've been clearer; my comment where I referred to blaming the victim was in response to Sharon. I didn't get the impression that you were blaming the victim.